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State of the City

An Annual Address by Mayor Bob Murphy


Mayor Bob Murphy's final State of the City speech focused on the hallmarks of his eight years as mayor and his vision for moving forward. Delivered March 5, 2015, the annual speech and community luncheon raises funds for nonprofit organizations in Lakewood.

Details of the 2016 State of the City address will be announced early in 2016.


Presented by FirstBank

Hosted by

  • Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District
  • Alameda Gateway Community Association
  • Lakewood-West Colfax Business Improvement District
  • West Colfax Community Association
Mayor Bob Murphy's 2015 State of the City speech

Watch the video above, or read the text of Mayor Murphy's speech below.

State of the City will also air on Lakewood8 cable TV during March at these times:

  • Sundays: 4 a.m., 4 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
  • Mondays: 2:00 p.m. 
  • Tuesdays: 3:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: 5:30 a.m., 5 p.m.
  • Thursdays: 3 a.m., 7 p.m.
  • Fridays: 2 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 9:30 a.m., 8:30pm
Text of the Mayor Bob Murphy's 2015 State of the City Address


Mayor Bob Murphy speaks at the 2015 State of the City addressThank you all for coming out today to hear about the state of the city that means so much to all of us.

This is my eighth State of the City address, and there are a few of you here today who have been a part of every one of them. To you, I'd like to offer my thanks, and my sympathy. This is a wonderful tradition begun by Mayor Steve Burkholder in 2006. We started by recording it in our studio for play on Lakewood8, then we tried it “live” in City Council Chambers with cameras running – can you say “awkward.” Finally, with the early help of the Lakewood Foothills Rotary Club and now with the sponsorship of our business organizations, we've done it live, in this format, for the last six years now.

A very special thank you to George and Bill. In a city blessed with so many who care so deeply about their community, George and Bill simply stand out for their “can do” attitude. I want to thank Alameda Gateway, Lakewood-West Colfax BID, WCCA, and 40 West. Raising money for nonprofits today is truly meaningful for our community because of the important services they provide to our residents.

Thank you to FirstBank, our hometown bank, for once again being the title sponsor, the only one in the history of this event. By the way, FirstBank is underway with a significant expansion of their corporate headquarters, part of more than $200 million – yep, you heard me right – $200 million being invested in the Colfax corridor right now. I want to thank FirstBank for the confidence in and commitment to Lakewood represented by their new investment.

Eight years ago, I ran on the campaign slogan: “Moving Lakewood Forward.” Three short words that were long on vision, determination and acknowledgement of a community in transition. Three words that represent a goal shared by virtually everyone in this room today, and, I believe, by a majority of our city. Three words that represent a fundamental philosophy: Are we looking ahead to ensure we are constantly adapting to a rapidly evolving world, or are we stuck in some kind of vague memory of an idyllic past, where change is bad, and saying “no” to everything is the only answer?

When I graduated from high school, like all of you, we had a ceremony, got our diplomas, threw our mortarboards into the air, hugged, shook hands, talked about how we would all be inseparable for life. I knew it was a watershed event. It was scary to think about change, and, hey, high school was fun! But when I walked across the field home from that ceremony to the little apartment I grew up in, I deliberately did not look back at the building where I had spent three terrific years. As good as it was, I knew it was over, and it was time to move on to new challenges and new adventures. As strange as it may sound for this old history major to say, I don't look backward. I always look forward to hopefully helping to make new history.

Well, despite the skepticism of a very few, have we moved Lakewood forward or what! That's “we,” as in my fellow City Council members, City staff, the business community, neighborhood associations, volunteers – again virtually everyone in this room and so many more.

Just less than two years ago, we celebrated the opening of the W Rail, the first line of the new regional FasTracks system. In hindsight, it was the culmination of many years of planning and literally countless meetings between RTD, staff and our neighborhoods. Looking forward, light rail is more than just a new transportation choice. It is the linchpin of Lakewood's goal to grow in a sustainable manner over the coming decades. We know that in the future we will have more people living here, not fewer. We also know that our city is built out, in the sense of no large open areas remain to construct new homes. More people on the same amount of land obviously means a bit more density –yep the “D” word! I said it. I must be term-limited!

We have shown great foresight in preparing for this inevitable growth pattern. It won't be in our beautiful single-family neighborhoods, which are in many ways the very identity of Lakewood. Hey, I live in one. I get it! This growth is going to occur near the light rail stations and along busy corridors like Colfax where years ago we zoned for more density in preparation for this trend. We are already seeing the demand to live near rail, with more than 2,000 new residential units currently in the development review pipeline.

New businesses have arrived along the line, and we are seeing new investment from existing businesses too. One of the great milestones of the last few years was the opening of the OrthoColorado Hospital and St. Anthony Medical Campus at a light rail station right behind us. Finally, world-class health care is available right here at home. The medical campus quickly has become our second largest private employer with over 2,000 jobs, with more coming if CEO Jeff Brickman has his way – and I know he usually does! Just as importantly, St. Anthony is a wonderful community partner, a relationship we look forward to for years to come.

Next month we'll celebrate another milestone by dedicating the brand new global headquarters building at Terumo BCT, Lakewood's largest private employer with over 2,500 jobs – and still growing. This represents part of a $45 million investment by Terumo in Lakewood right at the Oak Street light rail station.

I firmly believe that part of this extraordinary investor confidence in Lakewood is due to our consistently strong financial performance – another achievement I am very proud of. When we close the books on our 2014 financial statements, it looks like we will have, once again, spent less than we brought in, thus adding money to our City's fund balance for the 10th straight year! Through the largest recession in the last 70 years, we have accomplished this with no layoffs, no furloughs; we have provided our deserving employees with performance-based raises every year, we've lowered taxes and we've invested tens of millions of dollars back into our community. And we have very little debt. Now that's a business model and a track record to celebrate!

Through it all, we also brought transparency to a whole new level by developing the Lakewood Ledger so anyone can go online and follow every penny of taxpayer expenditures.

So often we hear people say, “Why don't you run government like a business?” Maybe it's the career hotelier in me, but I have always said that we are an organization of 900 dedicated employees providing quality of life services to 147,000 customers like you. Just as in the hotel business, great service is delivered by well-trained, highly motivated, and, yes, happy employees.

One of the grandest moments of the last eight years was the 2010 Denver Business Journal Award, designating the City of Lakewood as the best place to work in metro Denver. It was entirely unexpected and incredibly rewarding because the outcome was a result of surveys and feedback from our employees themselves who were the folks who actually entered us into the contest that one and only time. These are the people serving you each and every day.

Under the leadership of City Manager Kathy Hodgson, we have an exceptional organizational culture. We are progressive, we are collaborative, we encourage creativity, yet we are also financially prudent, extraordinarily professional, and we care deeply about each other and about our community. We work together, we laugh together, and, particularly over the last two years, we have cried together.

The tragic loss of Agent James Davies in the line of duty in November 2012 was the worst event any family, friend, police department or city could possibly endure. It was an experience that continues to profoundly affect our organization. But, as I said in 2013, we are proud, and we are resilient, and I can assure you that, despite unimaginable pain, our Police Department is stronger than ever.

Last July, we got another reminder of the danger our dedicated police agents face during every shift when Agents Kimberly Collins and Jonathan Key were shot in what appeared to be an ambush situation while responding to a domestic dispute. Fortunately, Agent Key has fully recovered, and we hope and pray that Agent Collins will be back protecting all of us before long.

So often we talk about the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of a Police Department that has sent 70 agents on to become chiefs or sheriffs throughout the country. We don't often talk about another critical component of community policing: compassion. Let me give you one example of something that happened recently.

One of our agents, who doesn't want to be singled out, responded to a shoplifting call at a Walmart store. A father had no money to buy a present for his daughter's 16th birthday. He made a bad decision by trying to steal a couple of CDs to give to his daughter. Our agent gave the offender the appropriate summons for his crime, then the agent paid for the CDs while saying, “Every girl deserves a present for her 16th birthday.” I know some may disagree, but, especially in light of the national attention on police right now, it's the kind of response that exhibits the “heart” that makes me even more proud of the men and women of our Lakewood Police Department.

The word “proud” describes so many of the accomplishments I have had the good fortune to be a part of during my years of public service to Lakewood. By “accomplishments,” I mean events that have changed our community for the better. In 2001, we had the courage to accept that Villa Italia was not going to survive. Then, under the guidance of former City Manager Mike Rock, we had the vision to partner with Mark Falcone to create Belmar, which ultimately became an extraordinary new urbanist downtown in a suburb that never had a traditional one. Today, it is a national model for sustainable suburban redevelopment. Belmar continues to adapt and evolve with new stores, new residential offerings, and now their first hotel is beginning to rise out of the ground.

About the same time, we had the courage, as I often say, to put the words “Walmart” and “urban renewal” in the same sentence to revitalize an area at Colfax and Wadsworth that had deteriorated for over a decade.

Courage also came to us when Greg Stevinson approached the City to annex into Lakewood the land that would become Colorado Mills, the Denver West Village and so much more. Greg had a vision of a place that offered the highest quality of regional retail, service, employment and residential opportunities that would attract people from throughout the metro area. Just as importantly to Greg, the product of his vision would help support the community in which it’s based. Today the cumulative result of Greg's vision employs over 15,000 people, who earn an aggregate of almost $900 million a year. The yearly economic impact is staggering: over $1.4 billion to the region. Part of that impact includes about $40 million in annual tax contributions to the state of Colorado and $11 million in taxes each year to Lakewood. I would like to now simply say: “Thank you, Greg!” Thank you for your passion and dedication to Lakewood and Jefferson County, including 21 years of service on the county's open space board!

The success of Colorado Mills as part of this vision has been incredible. The mall continues to add high-profile stores such as H&M, Michael Kors and Coach, and it is setting record levels of sales, year after year.

The pivotal event that changed everything for Lakewood was the voters' decision in 2005 to add one penny to our sales tax. That was an effort I had the privilege of spearheading. In living rooms and ballrooms throughout the city, I presented a “Tale of Two Cities”: one at the existing 2 cents and one at 3 cents. The contrasts were stark. One scenario had us continually shutting down services most would deem essential; the other presented a vision of growing prosperity and improving quality of life. I'd like to think we've kept our promise to the voters by being extraordinary stewards of that extra penny they so generously granted us. As I said earlier, we have put money into our reserves every single year since the voters granted us the increase, while also expanding services in police, parks, streets and the arts and starting to rebuild our infrastructure.

This effort succeeded because we engaged the entire community in the conversation. From neighborhood plans, corridor plans, comprehensive plans, even citywide rezonings, civic engagement is part our culture in Lakewood. We want to hear the opinions of residents and incorporate those thoughts into our visionary documents, and those documents are better as a result. This tradition of involving community members in virtually every important decision is one of the factors that led to another proud moment. In 2011, on our very first try, Lakewood was designated as an All-America City. Not only that, but we also received the first-ever All-America City Diversity Award, a tribute to the efforts by my predecessor, Mayor Steve Burkholder. The signs at our borders say: “Welcome to Lakewood. We are building an inclusive community.” That means, very simply, the welcome mat is open to everyone here.

Our delegation to the All-America City event was enriched by members of Jefferson County's first Boys and Girls Club, established at O'Connell Middle School in 2010, another important milestone!

These are extraordinary accomplishments, game changers really, but we don't rest on our laurels here in Lakewood. That's what sets us apart. We always look forward toward new ideas, and we're not afraid of creative risk-taking.

Some might say investing in the arts is a bit of a risk. But, like most communities, we've always invested in the arts. Just look at the many offerings from our wonderful Heritage, Culture & the Arts Division, with concerts in the park, and art galleries, the Heritage Center, to performances at our crown jewel, the Lakewood Cultural Center. And just look where those investments are taking us now with the growing synergies within all the arts groups in Lakewood. Forty West, the Edge Theatre, Belmar's Block 7, the Lakewood Symphony, the Lakewood Arts Council and our HCA are all working together to promote the wide variety and high quality of art and performance here. Across the Denver region, arts and cultural activities provide over $1.8 billion annually in economic activity, and now Lakewood is receiving more and more of our share of this investment in cultural tourism.

But, as is Lakewood's way, we are always looking to do more. Today I can announce we have an agreement in principle to collaborate with Artspace on a new development in the 40 West Arts District. Council will take action next month. Artspace is the nationally renowned developer of permanently affordable live-work space for artists. To date they have produced 38 projects throughout the country from New York to Seattle and St. Paul to El Paso, and every one of them has proved to be a dynamic catalyst for their neighborhood.

This same 40 West neighborhood just saw the purchase of the JCRS Shopping Center by Broad Street Properties, another stimulating investment by still another wonderful community partner. Now called the Lamar Station Plaza, the center is already acquiring new tenants and will soon adopt a new look, but thankfully one component will remain the same. Casa Bonita, a Lakewood landmark for over 40 years, is going to stay, attracting new generations of “South Park” fans.

Casa Bonita is just one example of how the past and future are always inextricably intertwined here in Lakewood. There are many more:

  • The century-old Associated Railroad has transformed into the gleaming new W Line that will soon connect us to the world by rail when the East Line to DIA opens in just one year.
  • Historic Colfax Avenue, once the glorious combination of a transcontinental highway and neighborhood main street is now undergoing a renaissance.
  • Every October, we honor our agrarian heritage with Cider Days, but now we also look ahead to planting community gardens in places such as Ute Trail Park and the Gray Street garden. In 2014, in our very first year for an urban farm, the partnership with Sprout City Farms at Mountair Park produced more than 6,000 pounds of vegetables for families in northeast Lakewood, and now we're looking to expand the farm.
  • And this year Colorado Christian University celebrates its 100th anniversary, more than 50 of them right here in Lakewood. And how will they mark the occasion? With a nostalgic and fun look at the past I'm sure, but also with a bold new $100 million investment in the future. Last fall they dedicated the new Terry Leprino classroom building, and now, new residential halls are rising along Alameda. Already an international leader in preparing students for career, life and family, CCU has chosen to launch their next century from their beautiful campus right here in the heart of Lakewood.
  • The Federal Center also has a rich history, going back to its role as the Remington Arms Plant providing munitions for our World War II effort. Many of the early arrivals to what would become Lakewood settled near there and built homes, which were actually called “Rems.” The Federal Center grew into the largest concentration of federal agencies outside Washington D.C. Today, more than 6,000 employees are working at 28 federal agencies.
  • Now, the Federal Center is also looking forward to reinvesting in their future and their facilities. Part of that plan is to divest their land north of the Federal Center Light Rail Station and invest that value into improving an important Federal Center building that provides jobs in Lakewood. The land would then be available for Lakewood to transform it into a unique community asset. Our vision for the new Federal Center Station Neighborhood is a sustainable live-work village that will employ thousands of people while hundreds more will call it home. This year, City Council plans to complete that transaction, create a governing authority and seek quality development proposals from the private sector. This will ultimately be our most significant development project since Belmar.
  • Red Rocks Community College also symbolizes this theme of the past meeting the future to help move Lakewood forward. Red Rocks was founded the same year as Lakewood: 1969. They were once a more traditional community college where students got their two-year associate degree and perhaps took that on to another college to get a bachelor's degree. That tradition continues today with Red Rocks serving as the largest source of students transferring into the Colorado School of Mines. However, Red Rocks is now also constantly looking ahead, adapting to the rapidly changing needs of employers with a dynamic, responsive new curriculum. Red Rocks is always on the forefront of today's workforce needs and tomorrow's educational and vocational opportunities.
  • Red Rocks and the Federal Center are also on the forefront of sustainability, and they collaborate with us on many joint efforts. This year, Lakewood will reach another milestone when we adopt our first-ever Sustainability Plan. As I said earlier, when we decide to move forward, we involve our residents and businesses, and this plan is the result of a work group of nearly 100 people working closely with staff for a year. Numerous citywide open houses provided valuable feedback, and now we are moving forward to become a leader in the state and the country with this robust and detailed plan.

You know, I've mentioned investment several times today, mostly in terms of dollars. But our most important capital here is, of course, our people. Our incredible City staff of whom I've already spoken. Our Advisory Commission for an Inclusive Community providing thoughtful guidance to City Council on issues important to the public. Our dedicated volunteers at the City who together contribute a combined 50,000 hours yearly to our parks, open spaces, Police Department and cultural activities. Think about it. That amounts to $1 million in wages donated free to Lakewood. And they do it purely out of love for their hometown. Communitywide so many people have such passion for giving back, and for that, we are so thankful.

As much as we express pride in our successes and our prosperity, we must at the same time continue to acknowledge the many great needs we have, right here at home. In 2012 while introducing a three-year plan for a new concept called Lakewood Linked, I asked the question: “What can we all do, together, to make life better for all residents of this community?” I can announce today that as part of my Lakewood Linked initiative, the new Lakewood Faith Coalition is a key partner in strengthening Lakewood and building community. This coalition grew from the idea that churches already provide so much to their community, such as one Lakewood church cooking and delivering 500 Thanksgiving dinners and another running a literacy program in several neighborhood elementary schools. How could we make it easier for those churches to spread their good works and have even more impact in the community? When we asked leaders from all the faiths to talk about those questions, 82 people showed up. Now there are over 35 churches collaborating to build partnerships with neighborhoods, businesses, schools, nonprofits and the City. They are working together to multiply the power of one, spreading their impact more deeply and broadly through the community. Under the leadership of Pastor Reg Cox, great things are happening, and the LFC will soon debut a new website to provide a platform for every organization to help those here who are in need.

This kind of collaboration also is at work with the new Jeffco Prosperity Project, which has a laser focus on breaking the cycle of suburban poverty. This project embodies collaboration across numerous agencies such as the school district, the county and many more. These groups are dedicated to addressing a grave need in improving our community.

While preparing for today, I did something I've never done before: read over speeches of the last four years. An occasional cringe, but mostly kind of fun. In 2011, I asked you to envision a new Colfax, centered around the energy and economy of the arts, and maybe even including up to 1,000 students at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

Today, 40 West is already one of only 12 officially designated Colorado Creative Districts; RMCAD could have 1,600 students enrolled; Artspace could be building a project within the next few years; galleries are popping up, like the recently opened Gallery 8025 at The Abo Group building, site of the historic Lakewood Lanes; and this coming August, the first West Colfax MuralFest will bring talented muralists from throughout the region to transform the walls of seven more buildings into beautiful and lasting works of art.

In 2013, I talked about the new businesses, new residents, the new vibrancy coming down the tracks with the imminent opening of the W Line. As I described earlier, look where we are today, less than just two years later.

Last year, I tried to challenge us to think big, to not just accept change, but to embrace it. Last October's courageous decision by City Council to pass landmark construction defects legislation set the bar very high for the state Legislature and every other city, and once again, put us out front as thought leaders in the region.

In a few months, it will be a new dawn for Lakewood and for me personally. Due to the natural process of term limits, we will have a new mayor and at least four new members of City Council. I have the enormous satisfaction of being able to look back over 21 years of service with no regrets. I have the satisfaction of being a part of truly moving this great city forward, the honor of being one of just seven mayors in our city's history, and of hopefully carrying on the tradition of leadership and vision begun by Mayor Jim Richey in 1969 – may God rest his gentle soul.

I know enough now to know there is no end to “Moving Lakewood Forward.” No finish line, no medals, no ribbons, no 19th hole to pause for a beverage and say, “We did it!”

What has set us apart, allowed us to always succeed, yet strive for more, is a continuity of strong leadership at all levels in this City. We've had just four mayors in the last 32 years. Now that we've secured the services of Kathy Hodgson for the remainder of her career, we will have had just two city managers over a 30-year time span.

Lakewood voters have always chosen thoughtful, enlightened city councils who look forward toward positive change. If I may take the liberty of offering some small advice based on whatever wisdom I have been able to accrue these past 20 years, this would be it: please listen carefully to the candidates this fall. If form holds true, there will be distinct differences among them in both tone and vision. We have enjoyed steady forward progress here, precisely because of our continuity of strong forward-thinking leadership. We've come too far to reverse direction now.

We have enjoyed a strong continuity of business leadership as well. I've mentioned Greg Stevinson, Mark Falcone, Jeff Brickman, George Valuck and Bill Marino, but that is just the beginning. John Ikard and FirstBank have been stalwart supporters of this city. No one has been more supportive of our community and done more for our youth than Fran and Ray Baker. Just two years ago, the Gold Crown Foundation celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Field House. Literally tens of thousands of young people have come through their numerous programs at their complex on Harlan Street.

And thank you to our small business owners such as Joe Margotte at Chicago, Kathleen and Jim Curtis at Village Roaster, Nina Rockley at her music store, John Gunzner at Front Range Lumber, to name a few. All of you are so deeply invested and involved with everything we do together.

Then there are those I've always called “my true heroes,” the neighborhood leaders who work so hard every day, not for glory or recognition, but just to make their neighborhoods a better place to live. To Maddie Nichols, Kathy Hasfjord, Linda Sundine, Judy Davis and Lois Witte, to so many of you out there, and especially to the memory of Fran Yehle, I offer my sincerest thanks.

To my family, Ina, Erin and Cole, thank for your sacrifice and unwavering support. Cole was six years old when I started. He's 27 now.

Finally, I extend my appreciation to all my fellow City Council members with whom I've served, particularly my fellow mates from the Class of 2007: Tom Quinn, Adam Paul, Cindy Baroway and Karen Kellen. Look where we are in this city: new light rail, new hospitals, thriving arts, shopping and employment districts, financially strong with new people and new jobs arriving daily, attracted by our unmatched location and unlimited opportunities. Yet we've preserved and enhanced the same qualities that brought us all here: a safe community with beautiful neighborhoods, miles of parks and open space and a broad spirit of optimism, collaboration and positive engagement. No longer, as I said in 2010, is Lakewood just poised for greatness. Now we have truly arrived.

But our work isn't done. Oh no, in fact I pledge to you on behalf of everyone at the City that we will be working hard every day, striving to continue moving Lakewood forward toward the goals we all share.

It has been the proudest, most humbling, yet ultimately the most fulfilling experience of my life to work so closely with all of you in service to this community. I thank you deeply for the privilege.

Thank you for being here today!

Thank you for caring so deeply about Lakewood!

Have a wonderful afternoon!