Does it really matter who runs the city to those who don’t live in Denver? CBS4 political specialist Shaun Boyd put that question to a mayor, a governor and former city council member who say this race impacts all of Colorado in some way.
Denver is not just the capitol of Colorado, it’s the epicenter of culture and commerce, or what former Gov. Bill Ritter calls the “anchor tenant of the state.”
“If Denver decides not to play, then the collaboration falls apart because it’s very hard to do things in the metro area if the anchor tenant is not on board,” Ritter said.
That’s why Ritter says the mayor has the power to influence the entire region. And no one understands that better than other mayors.
“The mayor of Denver is, let’s not kid ourselves, the first among equals,” Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy said.
Murphy is part of the Metro Mayor’s Caucus made up of 40 area mayors, including Denver’s. He says former Mayor John Hickenlooper’s legacy was making regionalism a brand. Its results are both tangible — sports venues, Denver International Airport and FasTracks — and intangible — the mayors made a pact not to poach from each other.
“It doesn’t do any good to grab somebody’s 200 jobs and take them to my community or vice-versa. It’s about bringing in business for all of us,” Murphy said.
That collaboration is more important than ever now as cash-strapped city governments struggle to deliver services. The area already has metro waste water. Former Denver city councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt says look now for shared fire, parks and public works.
“As the region continues to grow, I think metro governments will become increasingly important because it’s fiscally rational,” Barnes-Gelt said.
And while the mayor’s race isn’t a Mr. Congeniality contest, Barns-Gelt says personality counts.
“You have to be collaborative, you have to understand partnerships, you have to have a record of being team player,” she said.
Both Michael Hancock and Chris Romer insist they are very much team players, which matters for those who care about FasTracks alone. The Regional Transportation District project is $2 billion short. Denver’s mayor will need to be on board to finish it, as well as attract new jobs, build new venues and create new partnerships.