Denver Mayor Michael Hancock can no longer escape the fact that many of the citizens of the Mile-High City are increasingly viewing him as bought and paid for by some of the worst high-density developers in the country. That reputation has become so prevalent that he and The Denver Post believed it had to be rebutted. The Denver Post has become so financially weakened that it is dependent for its survival on the municipal government.
The Post somewhat quietly abandoned its iconic building between the State Capitol and the City and County Building for unincorporated Adams County. The large building has been rented sub silencio by the municipality thereby saving the Post from having to close. Thus, the paper is no longer in the position to do anything but be a cheerleader for Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper, the prior mayor of Denver.
Under the heading “Is Denver Mayor Michael Hancock too friendly to developers? Here’s what he thinks,” reporter Jon Murray offered up an extended single soft ball question with no follow up. Murray noted that Hancock was “seen as developer friendly” and that “developers have donated heavily to your campaigns.” Noting that developers “are the ones who are savvy” and “the system kind of favors them” he asks whether there are “things that you plan to try to even the playing field for people who feel like developers are running this town.”
The approximately 500-word answer could be summed up as: No, I have no plans to even the playing field because (1) I am powerless and (2) back in 2011 Denver needed business development. He protested that “I would never sell my integrity — for anyone . . . . not just for me but for my family.” One wanted to ask how that squared with his administration starting off with claims he was a regular “John” for prostitutes working for “Denver Players/Denver Sugar” but no follow up questions were apparently allowed.
He noted secondly that people just didn’t “understand the process” and that “the mayor does not decide where development goes and does not engage in the permitting process. Someone may bring a design to me and I may offer an idea to them, but this is their project, and we stay out of it.”
Wow! It is clear that it is not the public that does not understand “the process” but it is Mayor Hancock who is utterly clueless how the system is supposed to work and how it really works. Assuming the “we” in the quote refers to is the government of the City and County of Denver the mayor is correct that under his aegis the city is little more than a rubber stamp for developers. He goes on, sadly, to note that in his mind all that needs to happen is for a developer see a market need and declares “we need the space.” Game over.
His Honor does not appear to understand that Denver, like virtually every other city in the country, actually has a “Zoning Code” as well as “Master Plans.” We understand he has never read them but it would be nice if he were at least vaguely aware of them. He might also be shocked to find out that there is a “Denver Community Planning and Development Department” headed up by an executive director (Brad Buchanan) and even an 11-member Denver Planning Board that must approve real estate projects before they go on to the City Council. He is apparently unaware that he appointed Mr. Buchanan, as well as each and every member of the Planning Board, and that they are all total developer cronies and hacks and Mr. Buchanan is himself a developer.
The Mayor also appoints members of dozens of board and advisory panels. They all have been systematically stripped of anyone who ever indicated any affinity to parks and open space or even suggests that Denver might want to do a little planning for parking or traffic.
We, of course, understand that he actually did not choose any of these people but they are chosen by Oakwood Homes CEO Pat Hamill and the boys and girls over at Colorado Concern who fund all of his election bids. Perhaps they have an autopen for his signature for all such appointments, so as not to overburden his Honor.
It is consistently rumored that Mayor Hancock spends most of his time when in his office watching ESPN and that his staff has had to put “parental controls” on his office computer to prevent him from going to sites like Ashley Madison.
If you found reading Michael Wolfe’s book Fire and Fury on how the Trump White House works depressing, the relatively short interview by Jon Murray with Mayor Hancock printed on December 12 is even worse.
The 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is said to have noted that: “Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” The Denver Post did all of Denver a disservice in showing us how Mayor Hancock and his city government actually operate. We all have had our fears, but apparently the reality is even more difficult to stomach.
Mayor Hancock is, of course, highly favored to be re-elected as mayor for a third term next spring. People really do get the government they deserve.