Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock gives 2020 State of the City address.
(The Center Square) – Mayor Michael B. Hancock said Denverites have “shown resolve” in the face of the COVID-19 and subsequent economic crisis during a virtual State of the City address on Monday.
“We asked you to put your daily lives on pause to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” the mayor said in a message broadcast from the Denver Museum of Natural Science.
“I am proud of Denver’s resolve and response to this pandemic,” he added. “We were among the first to take the painful action to stay at home and mandate face coverings.”
Hancock issued a stay-at-home order for the city and county on March 23, which was supported by Gov. Jared Polis. The city’s order came just days before a statewide order that took effect on March 25.
Hancock’s order initially didn’t classify liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries as “essential” businesses, leading to people rushing to stores to stock up on alcoholic beverages. The stay-at-home order was later amended to exclude liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries from closures.
“Everyone did what was necessary to save the city,” Hancock said. “Now, this is far from over, and I’m asking you to stay the course.”
Denver has had more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 400 deaths since March, according to the city’s data.
The mayor said mask-wearing isn’t political and defended social distancing practices, because “we do not want to become the next national hotspot.”
Hancock explained that despite the city’s “strong” financial standing, it projects a $227 million shortfall because of the economic crisis.
“Our strong financial practices over the last decade provided a reserve to help mitigate the impact of a moment like this,” he said. “But due to the pandemic’s disastrous disruption of the city’s revenue streams, we do have a $227 million budget shortfall to tackle, and it will mean hard cuts.”
Hancock also advocated for continuing unemployment benefits and more federal aid, saying “our local recovery must be supported if there’s going to be a national recovery.”
The mayor addressed law enforcement reforms and continued “efforts to listen and dialogue earnestly with the community.”
“Slogans aren’t actions, and we should be careful with calls to ‘defund’ the very programs and initiatives that make Denver an innovator in reform, with a police department that has dedicated and experienced officers who know how to combat crime,” he said.
Hancock also spoke out against racism, drawing comparisons to COVID-19, and announced a new initiative called the Denver Institute of Equity and Reconciliation.
“Like COVID-19, the impacts of racism don’t discriminate – it infects and impacts all of us,” the mayor said, adding that “racism is a public health crisis.”
“We must finally address it like we do every public health crisis. We need the vaccine,” he added.
The institute will use public-private partnerships “to become the national leader in research of racism, bias, inclusion, practices of reconciliation, and development of programs and trainings for law enforcement, and the public, private and education sectors,” Hancock said.