Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office is hosting a Facebook Live event Thursday night that it bills as exploring gentrification’s effects on the city — two days before a community-organized forum tackles the same topic.
Hancock is set to be joined from 6 to 7 p.m. by a panel of five handpicked guests who will take questions submitted by the public via the social media platform. The setup offers an online filter that is likely to foster a discussion friendlier to Hancock than at the gentrification summit that the Denver Community Action Network is organizing Saturday at Shorter Community AME Church, without the mayor’s participation.
Mayoral spokeswoman Jenna Espinoza said the mayor’s choice of a live-streamed online event, instead of a community meeting in which Hancock would face questions from attendees, wasn’t intended to limit the scope of questions.
“We’ve never done this before with the mayor, so it’s hard to know just what the volume will be in terms of the questions we receive,” Espinoza said. “We will be looking at them in terms of what will provide a robust conversation — we’ll try our best not to limit them.”
The two events are the latest organized in response to the controversy over a sandwich board sign displayed by a Five Points Ink Coffee location just before Thanksgiving that read, “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” Protesters saw the tongue-in-cheek sign as mocking the rapid change that has transformed that neighborhood.
The community activists behind Saturday’s daylong event — called Gentrification Summit: Our Communities Are Not For Sale — have taken the mayor and other city leaders to task recently, arguing that their policies have contributed to the pricing out of longtime residents amid Denver’s development boom.
Hancock disputed the activists’ charges in a recent interview with The Denver Post.
Among the scheduled participants in Saturday’s summit are Kayvan Khalatbari, who has filed to run against Hancock in the May 2019 election, the Rev. Timothy Tyler from Shorter Community AME Church, Ink protest organizer Tay Anderson and Lisa Calderón of the Colorado Latino Forum.
“The expected outcomes of the summit,” according to its Facebook event page, “include the collective development of a citywide policy platform that we can all fight for, recruiting and promoting progressive candidates who will truly work for those who are most impacted or at-risk of displacement, and activating an expansive network to create change through direct democracy initiatives.”
Calderón has suggested that Hancock “is trying to get ahead of our gentrification summit” with Thursday’s live-stream. Espinoza says it was planned as part of his increased focus on discussing what the city has been doing to address the negative effects of gentrification in the wake of the Ink controversy.
At the mayor’s online event, Hancock is set to be joined by Jeff Martinez of Brothers Redevelopment, Tracy Winchester of the Five Points Business District, Denver Housing Authority executive director Ismael Guerrero, Five Points property owner Norman Harris Jr. and Jennifer Newcomer of Shift Research Lab.
Community events and live-streams each have pros and cons, Espinoza said, “but I think our goal is just to try to reach as many people as we can.” Video of the conversation also will be available on the mayor’s Facebook page for viewing later.