RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC REQUIRES REGIONAL COLLABORATION, ACCORDING TO MAYORS AT DENVER METRO CHAMBER’S ANNUAL STATE OF THE CITY
Denver, Arvada and Lone Tree Mayors Discussed Economy, Homelessness and Budget Woes at Virtual Event
Although metro Denver has seen COVID-19 cases decline, the region is still in the midst of a pandemic that requires a collaborative response from citizens, local governments and the business community. That was the sentiment shared by three mayors, including Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the City on Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020.
Mayor Hancock gave the keynote address at the virtual event, which had over 550 attendees. Then, Kelly Brough, Chamber president and CEO, moderated a Q&A discussion where Mayor Hancock was joined by Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet and Arvada Mayor Marc Williams.
“Our goal is to bounce back better than before,” Mayor Hancock said, noting that the suddenness of this economic downturn presents different challenges than the nation experienced during the Great Recession. “We will bounce back, but it’s going to take all of us.”
Homelessness is one of the issues that Mayor Hancock said called for regional and statewide solutions. Denver voters will decide in November whether to raise the city’s sales tax by 0.25% to help pay for homelessness services, including housing, rental assistance and supportive services.
Mayors Millet and Williams talked about their municipalities’ contributions to county programs, as well as the Metro Mayors Caucus’ fund of last resort to help local nonprofit organizations in their efforts to house and help families avoid eviction.
“(Homelessness) is impacting all of our communities and it’s more visible,” said Mayor Williams, who is chair of the Metro Mayors Caucus.
Mayors Hancock and Millet also discussed their cities’ priorities as both Denver and Lone Tree face sharp declines in sales tax revenue as a result of the pandemic. They also called for the next federal relief package to include direct support for state and local governments.
Lone Tree depends heavily on sales from Park Meadows Mall, which has reopened but is seeing fewer shoppers as people turn more to online purchasing.
“We rely on people coming in and out of our community to shop, to dine, to receive health care services,” Mayor Millet said. “The way people are spending money is different today, and we wonder if it’s going to be a long-term change.”
Brough noted the connection between a city’s revenue and the business community. “If we can keep businesses up and running, it actually helps the government,” she said.
Arvada has actually experienced a 3% increase in sales tax revenue over this time last year, because the city doesn’t rely on a shopping mall and includes some big box hardware stores, which have been busy as people complete home improvements during the shutdown, Mayor Williams sad.
All three mayors called on citizens to continue to wash hands, keep a social distance and wear facemasks, so our region isn’t forced into a second round of closures. Mayor Hancock also encouraged businesses to allow their employees to work remotely for as long as possible until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Brough thanked the mayors for their leadership and willingness to work with the business community. As we enter election season, we may see more divisiveness, but hopefully, we can get beyond that as leaders, she said. “The takeaway here is that working together is what makes us successful.”
Other speakers included David Eves, Chamber board president, and Jeff Dolan, vice president of external affairs for the Mountain West Region of Comcast, the event’s presenting sponsor. Comcast announced at the event that the company would donate $150,000 in cash and in-kind services to Denver’s small business and nonprofit relief funds.
Other supporters of the event included Gold Sponsors Plante Moran and Southwest Airlines; Premier Sponsors BOK Financial, Danone North America, Denver Water, FirstBank, Husch Blackwell, The Denver Post, The Kenney Group and Xcel Energy; and Chamber Trustees Boettcher Foundation, CenturyLink, FirstBank, HealthONE, U.S. Bank, VF Corporation, Wells Fargo and Xcel Energy.