by Chanel Ward
Montbello High School opened its doors to host a mayoral forum Saturday afternoon, where once again Mayor Hancock held his platform solely without his opponent Jamie Giellis.
The Weekly Issue/El Semanario Publisher, Chris Frésquez and Publisher of the Denver Urban Spectrum, Rosalind “Bee” Harris welcomed the community and recognized the sponsors in both English and Spanish. Mayra Gonzales, a Spanish language interpreter with the Community Language Co-Op worked as the Spanish interpreter for the forum.
“This is very critical and important for our communities, both of our publications have been publishing for over 30 years in the city of Denver,” expressed Frésquez. “This is a critical time for us to get out and vote!”
The Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), along with the Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association, CLLARO (Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization), the Denver Urban Spectrum, MUSE (the Montbello Urban Spectrum Edition) and The Weekly Issue/El Semanario presented the forum.
“I believe there’s nothing more demonstrative of how you respect and honor people than by showing up.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
CLLARO CEO, Michael Cortez and Kiera Jackson, a member of the Black Chamber of Commerce and lifelong Montbello Resident moderated Saturday’s forum.
“Mr. Mayor, as you listen to people in Denver neighborhoods and especially historically overlooked communities like Montbello, what have been the greatest disappointments residents have expressed to you over the past eight years and how would you plan to address those disappointments in the next four years?” asked Cortez.
Mayor Hancock first thanked the room of about 60 community members, sponsors and Montbello High School for hosting the forum. “I believe there’s nothing more demonstrative of how you respect and honor people than by showing up,” he said.
“I have been an elected official now for almost 16 years and I have walked into some of the most hostile, challenging rooms and the reality is that’s what you’re called to do when you step forward to the glory and honor of service, even when it’s uncomfortable you show up and you answer the questions. So, I am proud to be here at Montbello High School, among the Oilers to be a part of this conversation.”
Jackson presented Mayor Hancock with the next question:
“Gentrification and displacement are all products of the economic upturn; how would you lead the city to intervene in the housing market to ensure equitable development and make it possible for residents to stay in their communities?”
Mayor Hancock replied: “Gentrification is not one of those blunt force objects. It’s blunt when you realize what happened, but in reality when you really break it down and begin to peel back the layers you’ll realize that gentrification is a slow moving methodical process that’s occurring over time and it’s only noticeable when you look up and all of a sudden you realize that the residents that once lived here are all gone and it’s a different demographic that’s moved into the area.”
“So, here’s the reality, we created a program called NEST and it’s in Montbello today. We have to understand what’s happening in Montbello and what it’s creating. The transition of residents formulate strategies that come into the neighborhood to help protect those vulnerable residents, including small businesses and our low income residents who own their homes, so we can protect them as best we can,” Mayor Hancock explained, while also admitting that not all neighborhoods are the same and require a tailored approach, “a detailed analysis is very important, that’s the job of NEST.”
NEST is an impact team designed to better support residents and businesses facing significant changes to their neighborhoods. Former Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D. is the Director of NEST.
“In Montbello today, for example is our financial empowerment centers and there here to help people deal with being overwhelmed with debt, being overwhelmed with changing cost of living in Montbello,” he said. “Our goal is to help insulate residents from the changing economic conditions and making sure people are able to stay in their homes and by figuring out how gentrification occurs helps us to guard against displacement.”
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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