Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul spent last year speaking to many constituents, but he decided to take a cue from the city’s youngest residents when he started considering what he should focus on this year.
Most children told him what you’d expect kids to say, like an 8-year-old who suggested the city should allow kids to have free candy every day. Their positive and often humorous comments served a purpose, though. They reminded him people should be more compassionate and focus on sharing to improve things. It’s the foundation for one of Paul’s biggest focus for the coming year, which he outlined Thursday during his state of the city speech, titled, “Be Bold!” at the Sheraton Denver West.
“I want to address childhood hunger in our city,” Paul said. “There is no excuse for children to go hungry in Lakewood. Yet it happens every day. I believe our kids are our greatest asset.”
Addressing this concern will involve consulting with Lakewood organizations to ensure there are no hungry kids in the community, Paul said. It was one of numerous topics Paul touched upon during his remarks. He also spoke about topics including TABOR refunds, the quality of city’s services and land development.
Alluding to the Parkland shooting and the outpouring of activism from students there, Paul said young people are providing, “a lesson after yet one more school shooting.” His comments calling for more action from adults earned him applause.
“Every child deserves to go to school and feel safe,” Adams said. “Teens across the country are becoming the next generation of leaders and they are telling the nation they are tired of classmates dying while adults do nothing.”
Throughout his remarks, he recalled the city’s history while detailing how the city will move forward. It’s an especially meaningful task as the city will celebrate its 50th birthday since incorporation next year.
“Let’s use this anniversary to focus our thoughts on what this city will look like over the course of the next 50 years,” Paul said. “Let’s think about what we can and must do to ensure that 50 years from now, our children are still filled with hope, compassion and a spirit of collaboration.”
Focusing on the affordable housing crisis will be key for Paul.
The affordable housing issue extends beyond Lakewood. It’s a concern for Denver and its eastern neighbor, Aurora. During his address, Paul said he want to find solutions for affordable housing with help from his neighbors.
“While it’s true that our cities may have their own boundaries, the reality is that we are all connected and have the same kind of concerns,” Paul said. “I believe that it’s the responsibility of the mayors across the metro area to jump in and tackle this issue as a unified force.”
Growth and change are nothing new to Lakewood. As Paul pointed out, Jefferson County was one of the fastest-growing counties in the country by the late 1960s with the population increasing by more than 80 percent. The area saw another surge in growth, this time in the form of a housing boom, in the 1990s. Concerns still remain.
“Growth and change in Lakewood and across the state is certainly causing anxiety and we’re all feeling effects,” Paul said. “Whether it’s traffic, lack of housing options or long lines at the grocery store.” Finding solutions for this will require acting, “not in haste,” Paul said, or to, “capitulate to the loudest voices.” He recalled the city’s past transformations amid sudden growth as a reminder that these challenges can be overcome.
“We can and must do this again,” Paul said.
Paul has some reservations about the proposed homeless housing campus.
An initial application for a massive, $120 million homeless camp project located in land near the Federal Center — which is right behind the hotel where Paul gave his remarks — was approved earlier this year. Since the project is happening on federally-owned property, the city has little say in its development.
Paul said the city understands there are needs and gaps that need to be addresses in the homeless population.
“However, the size and scope of what is currently being proposed does not follow the multiple plans our residents have previously envisioned for this site,” Paul said. “I have great hope that we can involve all stakeholders to find thoughtful and courageous solutions to address this while honoring the community plans.”
Following these remarks, Paul said that while discussing growth it’s important to understand long-term impacts of new policies affecting people’s ability to live in the city.
“Let’s not make it harder for those most in need of housing options to call Lakewood home,” Paul said. “Let’s find solutions that balance the needs of those already here and allow future generations to thrive.”