How Denver's mayor is helping save taxpayers' money and time

In our series American Voices, we look at how national issues are playing out on the local level. Denver voters elected Democrat Michael Hancock as mayor in 2011. Soon after, he launched Denver Peak Academy, a program that trains city employees to improve the way government works.

After five years, the academy has helped save Denver taxpayers about $22.5 million.

So how did he do it?

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock  

CBS News

"I'll tell you it's really the very basic: Turn to the people who are the experts, and those are the city employees who are on the front line, and ask them, how can we weed out redundancy, waste and do a better job for our customers. And you know what, our employees have just responded phenomenally," Hancock said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

According to the city, the wait time at the DMV is down to about 20 minutes from 80 minutes, it takes 20 minutes to obtain a business license versus two hours in the past and processing food assistant applications now take one day instead of six.

Hancock said he has an internal consulting firm with close to 6,000 employees who have been certified and trained in the city's processes.

"When I have a challenge and we're looking for a solution, I turn to them and say, 'Give me five or six of them from different departments, send them in. Help us find solutions,'" Hancock said.

He offered the example of dealing with traffic in the growing city.

"Traffic is one of those where you've got to become more multimodal. You've got to give people choices based on how they want to move about the city, and so we built roads 100 years ago for automobiles," Hancock said. "People are saying we move about our cities differently now: bicycles, pedestrian, transit, our bus systems, and so we have to build our roads today or at least begin to transform them to more of a multimodal system."

Hancock also worked to address affordable housing in his growing city with his administration establishing a $150 million affordable housing fund. He started an initiative to provide financial assistance to tenants facing eviction.

The mayor, who's the youngest of 10 children, said he learned to be diplomatic very quickly and ask for input. He also said he decided to let the adversity he encountered in his life empower him.

"There's a line in one of Will Smith's movies, simply, 'When you want something, go after and get it, period.' I don't know where that resiliency came from within me. Maybe it was watching my mother try to raise 10 children as a single parent, going through the difficulty that she went through that really gave it to me to say, 'We're going to fight. I don't want to come back here, and I want to make her proud.' Maybe it was those moments I was growing up saying, 'No, we can do better than this.' And I was watching. I was fortunate to have people come in my life that lifted me and really helped me to move forward," Hancock said.

Denver is one of the cities vying to be home to Amazon's second headquarters.

"We're going to put our best foot forward. At the end of the day, we're going to continue to be Denver regardless of what happens," Hancock said.