Mayor Attacks Poverty

Mayor Attacks Poverty

Economic forces have made it increasingly difficult for many families to reside in Colorado’s largest city, so CCLP is encouraged that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock detailed policies that could forge pathways from poverty in his recent State of the City address.

Hancock’s speech in front of hundreds of people on Monday focused on affordable housing, homelessness and job opportunities for marginalized residents – all concerns that are at the core of CCLP’s mission. He also threw his support to Colorado Families for a Fair Wage to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. CCLP is a coalition partner of the campaign, which is working to put the minimum wage initiative on the November election ballot.

In addition, Hancock announced that beginning in August, the city would eliminate a check box inquiring about criminal history on job application forms. During the last legislative session, CCLP took the lead on a bill that would have “banned the box” on employment applications for most private employers in the state. Although the legislation did not pass, CCLP continues to support any effort to remove this barrier that prevents people from finding gainful employment because of their past mistakes.

Furthermore, Hancock announced a plan that would ask voters to increase property taxes and impose a new development-impact fee to create or preserve more than 6,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. During the last legislative session, CCLP developed a bill that would have invested up to $40 million in affordable housing. While our legislation did not pass, we are heartened that Mayor Hancock recognizes the seriousness of the problem in Denver.

Hancock’s address acknowledged that Denver has become unaffordable for many of its residents and workers in recent years due to rising housing prices and stagnating wages. He emphasized that while the city’s economy is booming in many respects, everybody should have an opportunity to enjoy the prosperity.

“Progress doesn’t have to leave anyone behind — it should bring everyone along,” he said.

According to CCLP’s 2015 Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado, a family of one adult, one preschooler and one school-age child would need a household income of $57,400 to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, health care, child care and transportation without assistance. That figure is far beyond the reach of many working families in Colorado. Meanwhile, CCLP’s State of Working Colorado 2015-16 report shows that median wages in the state are still down from 2007 and have remained stagnant since the so-called “economic recovery.” Unfortunately, these trends could force many families to choose between paying rent, buying groceries or attending to their health care needs.

Because these issues are critical to CCLP’s mission, we applaud leaders who are attempting to take down barriers to employment, health and well-being on a local level.

– By Bob Mook