When a politician is attacked from all sides, there is a good chance he is doing something right. At least that is probably what Denver Mayor Hancock must be thinking right now.
Under siege from clowns to the left and jokers to the right, Hancock continues to do the important work of governing Colorado’s largest city and the state’s capital and economic hub.
A perennial thorn in Hancock’s side, Democratic Socialist Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca has led charges to weaken the authority of the Denver Mayor’s Office and recently encouraged people to sue the city after a sweep of a homeless encampment.
Of course, this is the same CdeBaca who refused to voluntarily take eight furlough days in solidarity with city staff during the height of the coronavirus shutdown. Maybe she thought she couldn’t afford to after she got caught trying to pay her wife with city money in a nepotism scam last year.
Or maybe she was too busy breaking campaign finance laws and sweeping in multiple contributions in excess of the limits put in place for candidates.
Or she may have been concerned about a recent ethics complaint filed against her by an officer she berated and belittled. Voicing concerns about law enforcement policies, particularly those affecting Black communities, is both legitimate and proper. Making derogatory accusations based solely on race is not.
While CdeBaca continues to attack his administration from the left, Hancock must deal with incoming from right-wing critics like conservative talk radio host Steffan Tubbs. This past week, Tubbs released a new “movie” titled “Denver in Decay.”
Hancock is not ostensibly Tubbs’ target. The video seems more broadly aimed at, as Sisyphean Republican candidate Casper Stockham put it, “progressive liberal control over the inner cities for 60 to 70 years.” But Tubbs lends considerable camera time throughout the production to Penfield Tate and Jamie Giellis, two candidates Hancock beat last year en route to his third term.
It also included plenty of conservative dog whistles. One interview subject sported a shirt with the lettering on the NFL logo replaced with IDC (“I Don’t Care”), a right-wing reaction to protests by sports figures. At one point as a speaker says “it’s not pretty to look at,” the camera cuts to a Black woman gyrating in front of the State Capitol.
The film concludes with Stockham issuing a dire warning that, “This is going to spill over to the suburbs. If we don’t stop it now, it’s coming to your neighborhood.”
Of course, the fright tactics from the right and the left ignore much of Hancock’s actual record.
For example, he has walked a tightrope between compassion and law and order when it comes to the city population experiencing homelessness. He supports enforcement of the city’s popular camping ban – recently upheld on appeal as constitutional – but also confirms that to create balance the city must provide access to services and help people in need.
And this year he has done much of that work from the confines of the coronavirus command center, locked away with city leaders combating the pandemic and directing emergency preparedness. He did emerge, though, to march arm-in-arm with peaceful protesters in early June.
Heading into the fall, Hancock will need to call on his leadership skills more than any time over the past nine years. While he previously helped steward a period of exceptional economic growth, the pandemic has left many businesses on the brink of collapse. Even as the City of Denver continues to implement necessary health policies, those businesses will look to Hancock’s administration to provide some measure of relief.
Looking to the right and looking to the left, Denver residents “wondering what it is I should do” may find themselves looking back to Hancock thankful they are “stuck in the middle with you.”
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, healthcare, and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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