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Chris Romer Headshot

The "Cupcake Truck" and Denver's Future

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Many Denverites, myself included, look forward each day to the arrival of the "Cupcake Truck" -- a business on wheels that delivers delicious treats to workers and residents across our city. Yet, earlier this year, the Cupcake Truck was curbed. Its small business owners tried to do everything right. They met with the city zoning office, got the inspections and permits they needed and paid city fees. And still, they were put through a maze of rules and regulations that eventually kept them off the streets.

Our campaign for mayor mounted an online petition drive on behalf of the Cupcake Truck, and more than 1,500 Denverites responded. They understand that you can't foster entrepreneurship and court new businesses if City Hall persists in drowning them in red tape. Fortunately, the public pressure worked and the Cupcake Truck is back on the streets.

It's a small story that makes a larger point. If we want to put people back to work, our city government needs to work with businesses, not against them. It is critical that we change the attitude at City Hall about attracting business to Denver. We need to expect more of city government -- by cutting red tape and streamlining regulations so that we keep businesses here and bring in new ones.

Expecting more of city government isn't enough though. Businesses won't come to Denver unless they have access to an educated workforce. In today's economy, we know that good education equals good jobs. And that's why we also have to expect more of our schools. We have to expect more than a 47 percent drop out rate. We have to expect our teachers to be prepared to raise student achievement, and they should expect to be rewarded when they succeed. And we have to expect more involvement from our parents: whether it's a commitment to reading five hours a week to their children or setting aside time every night to help with homework.

By expecting more, we open up new opportunities for all of our children to grow and thrive. I've seen it happen. When I was 28 years old, I saw the disparities in education that were holding some of our children back. That's why I started the Colorado I Have A Dream Foundation, to help low-income and underprivileged kids get the education they needed to go to college.

That spurred my life-long commitment to improving education for all of our children. And one of my key lessons came when I saw how few advanced classes were being offered in our city schools -- especially among low-performing students.

I asked why we weren't challenging these kids? Why did we assume these children weren't capable of taking Advanced Placement classes and high level math? So we overhauled the curriculum at a local charter school and put in calculus classes for seniors. And sure enough, with extra instruction and support, these kids conquered calculus. They proved that raising expectations leads to results.

In the global competition for businesses and jobs, we need to extend this principle to every one of our schools and every one of our students across Denver. There's no student that can't be challenged and no school that can't improve.

As we expect more from our government and our schools, we also should expect more of our business community: to enter into public-private partnerships that help preserve our parks and open spaces; to mentor and train our young people for careers in their growing industries; to help us recruit new companies to Denver and to support cultural programs that make Denver such a diverse and vibrant city.

We will create opportunity for businesses to thrive in Denver by providing them with an educated workforce and cutting red tape and needless regulation. And in return, we expect them to invest here, to grow here, and to pay decent wages and benefits. Here's one example:

When Sue Allon, the CEO of the Allon Hill company, told me she needed a hundred workers to meet the demand of her new business, I was shocked to find out there was no system to link up local businesses with our community colleges. So I went to the Community College of Denver, and we devised a program that has graduated scores of students directly into the workforce.

By connecting the needs of business with the curriculum of our local schools, we were able to provide jobs for over a hundred Denverites -- and help a local business grow. Those are the kinds of success stories we need to create across Denver. As much as we love this city and what it stands for, we can't run in place -- because in today's global economy, running in place means falling behind. Let's not be afraid to expect more from our government, our schools and our business community. It's only by expecting more that we'll be able to accomplish more, like making sure that the Cupcake Truck keeps making its rounds on the streets of Denver.