Monday’s inauguration of Mayor Michael Hancock had something for everyone.
If you were a newly elected city council member, you were busy being sworn in for four years of public service.
If you were a police officer, you were busy monitoring protesters and arresting one.
If you were a religious leader, you were busy leading prayers on the steps of Denver’s seat of government.
If you were a goose, you might be on your way to goose heaven… but your human friends protested against the city policy that sent you there with signs reading, seriously, “Goose lives matter.”
If you were newly minted City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, you received the loudest cheers of the day and sat in protest after Hancock’s address while most stood and applauded.
And if you were Mayor Michael Hancock, you echoed your campaign talking points and made bold claims about the city’s housing policies.
“Protecting and improving the affordability of our homes is the guiding principle that informs and shapes all our work and our policies,” Hancock said in prepared remarks. “The American dream should be a dream for all, and when the market refuses to respond, we must step in to ensure that it becomes an attainable reality for all.”
His administration will pursue a “menu of options” including land trusts and buying more land for affordable housing, Hancock told reporters after the ceremony. He also hinted at a $15 minimum wage for all Denverites (not just government workers) to unleash social mobility.
Transportation also made the mayor’s agenda. He told the crowd of 300 or so that “streets must change to make way for more transit riders, bike riders and pedestrians.” It was a reference to his administration’s plans to repurpose space for cars — a simpler feat without an election looming, he told Denverite.
Denver’s homelessness crisis underlined the spring elections, and protesters made sure it underlined the inauguration.
The ceremony was at times a cacophony of protesters yelling cuss words at Hancock and chanting disruptively while the mayor was on the mic.
Hancock said things like: “We will not rest until those who are experiencing homelessness can themselves rest with a roof over their heads. We will go beyond an emergency response, and pursue a rapid housing response, ensuring our residents are healthy, housed and connected.”
Advocates shouted back, questioning why his administration bans urban camping. They made sure the crowd heard how many unhoused people died last year in metro Denver — 233, according to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Former mayoral candidate Kalyn Rose Heffernan was on hand to chew out Hancock publicly. She called the mayor’s commitments “political theater.”
“You can’t say that housing people is a priority when you’re criminalizing folks who are experiencing homelessness for surviving,” Heffernan said. “It’s totally an oxymoron. It’s contradicting and we don’t buy it. But you can tell that he has to talk about it because there is so many of us demanding some action and so we’ll keep pushing on him and until we can’t anymore.”‘
Denver police officers arrested one woman, Caryn Sadaro, for “disruption of a public event,” according to Lieutenant Ken Chavez. Sadaro yelled obscenities at Hancock and shouted, “End the urban camping ban!”
Heffernan and others were equally disruptive if not more, but Sadaro was arrested because she made an “overt action” when she advanced toward the stage to protest, Chavez said.
Hancock acknowledged the protesters in his speech, saying he hears their grievances and is ready to be a mayor “for all of Denver.”
Will Hancock face a more combative city council?
Thirteen city council members took an oath of office Monday, including newbies CdeBaca, Chris Hinds, Amanda Sandoval, Amanda Sawyer and Jamie Torres.
The mayor relies on the legislative body to pass policies he wants to see enacted, and some have bones to pick with Hancock. CdeBaca is the most vocal, and her decision to remain seated after the mayor’s speech likely previews her posture toward the city’s top executive.
Hancock played down the symbolism after the event. The press blows “personalities” out of proportion, he suggested.
“I don’t need to fight with anybody, man,” Hancock said. “We’re going to lead the city and when we have disagreements try to work through them.”
The new-look council holds its first legislative meeting tonight.