Penfield Tate: Denver’s poor planning drove him to run for mayor
Author: Joey Bunch - October 3, 2018 - Updated: October 4, 2018
Penfield Tate III’s entry into the Denver mayor’s race this week presents a major challenge to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s bid for a third term next May.
Though a handful of names have surfaced to potentially take on Hancock, Tate is a well-known former state legislator who’s seen as capable of raising the money and building the political coalition necessary to win.
Hancock’s recent attention to the problems of gentrification is one of the primary reasons Tate decided to get in the race, he told Colorado Politics Wednesday afternoon.
“In response to that, I’d been talking to people and got a clear sense that people in Denver are looking to go in another direction,” Tate said.
Tate, a partner at law firm Kutak Rock LLP in Denver, announced he was getting in the race Monday. Wednesday, businessman Kayvan Khalatbari said he was dropping out for personal reasons, citing his family and health.
Before Tate, Khalatbari was considered to be Hancock’s toughest challenger of those saying they might run. That field includes Lisa Calderon, Kalyn Heffernan, Marcus Giavanni, Ken Simpson and Stephen Evans.
Hancock has not formally announced his re-election bid, but he is building up a sizable campaign war chest for the race.
Hancock’s campaign provided a statement to Colorado Politics in response to Tate’s entry into the race.
Mayor Hancock and the people of Denver have a lot to be proud of. Denver is an exciting place to be — our economy is thriving and our neighborhoods are safe. The Mayor has made rec centers free to kids and seniors, created more housing for the homeless, and improved access to city services. Mayor Hancock is excited to campaign on his work to increase funding for affordable housing, make it easier to get around town, improve our park system, and create a more equitable city by protecting our most vulnerable communities and increasing access to opportunity for all. He’s focused on addressing Denver’s biggest challenges, supporting key measures on the fall ballot, and electing Jared Polis and other Democrats to office.
After the neighborhood gentrification issue blew into a four-alarm controversy last year — sparked by a coffee shop in Five Points bragging about its role in reshaping communities — Hancock stepped up.
In his State of the City address in July Hancock announced a new Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team, called NEST, to take on gentrification. This week, he announced state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, will lead the office.
“They will jump in with residents and local businesses to understand their needs and blunt any threatened loss of culture, character and community that investment can cause,” Hancock said in his July speech.
But Tate said eight years is a mighty long time to wait to get started on a city planning matter that’s devastated neighborhoods by driving up home prices and driving out longtime small businesses. The lack of attention is the frustration that’s driven a desire for a change in leadership from the Denverites he’s talked to, Tate said.
“One of the more frustrating conversations I’ve had is people saying, ‘Why do you want to run, Pen? It’s too late; the city is already lost,'” Tate said. “We’ve been overdeveloped in a not very attractive fashion.”
Tate said the city has to re-engage neighborhoods in the planning process and make the work more transparent for everyday citizens, not just for developers.
With the NEST program, “I think the city is going to have a credibility issue,” Tate said. “In the minds of many, they’ve been ignoring and steamrolling neighborhoods over the last eight years for the sake of development.
“Don’t get me wrong. We’re going to grow. We’ve got to grow … but we have to have a plan. We don’t have a plan. Even this [NEST] plan sounds like a reaction to a situation, but a reaction is not a plan.”
Tate said he would be rolling out a series of policy proposals on other issues, including affordable housing, homelessness and crime, which he sees as neglected issues under the current administration.
Tate passed on hammering Hancock over a sexual harassment allegation this year that a lot of political insiders think will hurt his once-lofty political trajectory. Hancock, who is married, publicly apologized in February for sending flirty text messages six years ago to a female detective who, at the time, was assigned to his security detail.
But he did comment on the matter.
“A number of people I’ve talked to feel like me, we’re disappointed in what the mayor has admitted to doing while holding office,” Tate said. “They want government to do better than that.”
Tate, 62, grew up in Boulder. His father, Penfield Tate II, was the Boulder’s first black council member and still the city’s only black mayor.
The younger Tate graduated from Colorado State University in 1978, before getting a law degree from Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1981. He began his law career with the Denver regional office of the Federal Trade Commission.
He later served as an aide to Denver Mayor Federico Peña. From 1994 until 1996, he was vice chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. He served two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives before he was elected to the state Senate in 2000.
Then-Mayor John Hickenlooper appointed Tate to the powerful Denver Water Board in 2005.