It looked like a campaign kick-off announcement Tuesday at Salt Lake City hall, where Mayor Ralph Becker unleashed a detailed package of goals that he hopes to accomplish if he wins a third term in office.
Never mind that his campaign has been open for business for months, and that in August he survived a primary election attack from four challengers, one of whom, Jackie Biskupski, soundly defeated him.
Now it’s between Biskupski, a former state legislator, and Becker, who said on Tuesday that he’s done sitting on the sidelines taking lumps from Biskupski, who has accused Becker’s administration of lack of transparency and failing to stimulate economic development.
“I have sat back long enough as I’ve been accused of not listening and not being collaborative,” Becker, who was backed by a throng of supporters on the east steps of city hall, said. “My style may not be slick or flashy, but enough is enough with that campaign attack.”
Becker laid out his “blueprint for a great American city,” a five-pronged plan that involves creating opportunities for education and affordable housing, shepherding economic development by creating an economic development corporation, moving toward becoming a more environmentally friendly city and improving air quality, advancing efforts to build more rail projects downtown and in outlying areas, like 900 south, and creating more open space for dogs and people.
On economic development, Becker noted that when he began his first term eight years ago, the Great Recession was in full swing. Since then, Becker says the city has entered the “Great Renaissance.”
Cranes are arcing across the skyline, the skeletons of new buildings are rising and Salt Lake City, Becker says, has never been healthier.
“What exactly would she like to change about the prosperity we’re now facing in Salt Lake City?” Becker asked of Biskupski.
Biskupski says she would work more closely with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah to develop opportunities for economic growth.
“I will bring in a strong economic development director with a team with diverse backgrounds that will work in a much more collaborative way with the Redevelopment Agency than we are seeing today,” Biskupski said.
Becker called Biskupski’s campaign rhetoric “misleading, mean-spirited and divisive.” Biskupski, though, said Becker’s attacks on Tuesday indicate that it is the mayor has taken a negative campaign tone that she will resist.
The campaign event marked the beginning, at least for Becker, of what is expected to be a contentious march toward the Nov. 3 general election.
In the primary, Biskupski handily beat Becker, receiving 46 percent of the vote to his 31 percent. Becker’s campaign tactic—reserving funds and energy for the main bout in November—seemed to shine through during the primary, and appeared to be reflected in the September campaign kick-off event that looked and sounded more like something for June.
In the money race, Becker has raised $502,259 to Biskupski’s $290,510. But where Biskupski spent all but $71,000 on the primary, Becker still has $379,151 waiting to burn.