The president and Congress are attempting to cobble together a huge tax-reform package before the end of the year. Locally, if you're a homeowner, your property taxes are due now. If you're a business and/or property owner in downtown Salt Lake City, you get to pay an extra "special assessment" tax that goes to fund the Downtown Alliance (DA). What is the Downtown Alliance? Oh, come on, you've heard of it!
Have you ever gotten a great deal on a meal during the annual Dine-O-Round? Ever ridden a GreenBike? Taken the free Jingle Bus during the holidays? I could go on, but trust me, if you've been downtown in the past two decades, you've been affected by the alliance.
The nonprofit DA is a partner of the Salt Lake Chamber. Their annual budget is about $2.5 million, which comes from special-assessment funds (40 percent) and advertising and attendance fees, partnerships and sponsors (60 percent). Businesses in the Central Business District are automatic DA members, and the goal is to help build a "dynamic and diverse community that is the regional center for culture, commerce and entertainment." Basically, the organization wants to draw more people to spend time and money downtown.
Despite a big mirror ball, New Year's "Eve" didn't work out. Creating a multi-location festival around downtown cost a fortune and was too dependent on weather. It's now going to be replaced with the one-night Last Hurrah event at The Gateway on Dec. 31. The outdoor mall's street will be open to pedestrians only, and will host family friendly activities, live music and DJs, as well as a pop-up bar for adults to party away the last night of the year.
The DA's most massive ongoing success is the Downtown Farmers Market. The fresh-food fest started back in 1992 to "introduce positive activities to Pioneer Park ... a space notorious for criminal activities." The market attendance blossomed but so has the area's crime rate. During the colder months, the food-and-craft vendors are open every Saturday indoors at the Rio Grande Depot through April. How we city folk found 100-plus farms and ranches to cart in their goods is a history lesson that began in the 1800s.
So get this: Every time you come downtown, into the heart of our capital city, know that property owners and businesses like me and City Weekly have paid an extra tax to woo you—and to make us all look good. You're welcome!