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Colorado Mayors Discuss Local Challenges at State of the City Event

The Metro Denver business community heard from a panel of regional mayors about the strengths and challenges of their cities at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 State of the City event, presented by United Airlines. The event provided a platform to discuss the current state of the Metro Denver region and how local representatives are addressing local issues.

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The panel for the event featured a variety of mayors from throughout Metro Denver. The conversation was moderated by the Managing Principal of Civic Results and the Executive Director for the Metro Mayors Caucus, Heidi Williams. Panelists included Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade. The conversation focused on the three priorities the Chamber held during the 2023 legislative session: economic competitiveness, housing and sustainability. 

Prior to the panel, Mayor Mike Johnston provided remarks covering his first 10 days in office and priorities for his first year in office. 

Johnston outlined major challenges, saying “[The] Top priorities I’ll be focused on next year… the top among those is homelessness… also deeply focused on affordability and housing… focused intensely on the economic revitalization of downtown… and also of course focused deeply on public safety.” 

The mayoral panel followed Johnston’s remarks, focusing on economic competitiveness, housing and sustainability for the region. 

READ: Housing Affordability Crisis in Colorado — Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction See No Signs of Improvement

Beginning with economic competitiveness, Williams started the panel with a question for everyone, asking, “How can cities work together to retain, grow and recruit business along the Front Range?” 

Mobolade and Coffman both focused on working together with different cities and collaboration in their answers. “There’s a strong emphasis on making sure we’re not competing with each other… we’re one state,” said Mobolade.  

Brockett and Johnston both discussed transportation and workforce in their responses. “I want to call out regional transportation in this area,” said Brockett. “We just got a final grant to build bus traffic between Boulder and Longmont… as well as a regional bikeway,” Brockett continued with how improved transportation will help connect and build organizations and workers throughout the region. 

Johnston discussed how developing the region’s workforce will help businesses by providing skilled workers for jobs. He stressed the need for affordable housing as well, so workers can, “up-skill themselves for any stage in their career… in a way that doesn’t result in debt.” 

READ: How Modular Construction Could Ease Colorado’s Housing Affordability Crisis in 2023

The conversation switched to a deeper dive into housing, with Williams asking how they plan to work with their colleagues to address housing and homelessness, as well as issues like construction defects. 

“We want reform and we want relief,” stated Coffman in response to the question. “We are the first city to sign up for Proposition 123, so we are dedicated to increasing affordable housing.” Coffman also focused on getting more people access to treatment and aide for drug addiction, hoping this would help homelessness in the city. 

Mobolade started with, “I believe the ability to learn from each other… is going to be key,” stressing how other cities have solutions they can share for housing. A big topic for Mobolade was the “not in my backyard” mentality, known as NIMBYism. “We as government leaders have to think of new ways to educate and help our cities see… that these are real people who are affected by a lack of housing, and it has real consequences… to our city,” said Mobolade.

Both Brockett and Johnston focused on increasing access to starter homes and condos through zoning and permitting. “We’re past the point of teachers not being able to afford to live in town,” said Brockett. “Neurologists can’t afford to live in town,” making the point to stress that many people have no access to homes despite being in well-paying jobs. Johnston stressed the need to make construction of these units easier, “[the] permitting process is so impossible to navigate… and that is driving up the cost of housing.” 

READ: The Economics of Housing Inflation in Colorado — Exploring the Supply and Demand Imbalance

The final topic covered was sustainability, with Williams asking, “What is one program or policy in your city that you think your colleagues could utilize… to increase sustainability efforts?” 

Johnston centered on the electrification of fleets throughout the city, stating, “This also includes partners like the airport… we have our first all-electric fleets at the airport, so we’d love to see more of those rental fleets.” 

Brockett also stressed electrification by saying, “As the grid is getting greener and greener… the next phase is to electrify everything. This is a decades-long process… so it’s something we need to get working on sooner rather than later.” 

Coffman emphasized the water conservation efforts in Aurora, saying, “the city of Aurora is leading in terms of water conservation.” Coffman referenced the water conservation ordinance approved last year in Aurora, which limits the use of grass for homes and aesthetic purposes as well as water features. 

Mobolade focused similarly on Colorado Springs’ efforts to promote native plants, smaller lot sizes and increase walkability in the city. He stated the need for, “sustainability efforts to meet the future growth of our city.” 

The event was closed out by the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, J. J. Ament. Ament thanked the mayors for their participation. He also stressed the need to use incentives over mandates in passing litigation to help cities meet their economic competitiveness, housing and sustainability goals. “We like incentives, but the threat of not achieving a technologically or financially reachable goal, it creates an incentive but not the incentive we want,” said Ament. 

The Denver Metro Chamber’s 2023 State of the City event was presented by United Airlines. 


About the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:

For 156 years, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been a leading voice for Colorado’s business community. With a membership that spans the state, the Chamber is an effective advocate for small and large businesses. The Chamber’s family of organizations includes the Metro Denver EDC, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, the Colorado Competitive Council and B:CIVIC. For more information, go to