In case you’ve been living under a rock, the primary election for Salt Lake City mayor is Tuesday, Sept. 11. This issue looks in depth at the Salt Lake City mayor’s race (see “The Mayor Bunch”). Below, we asked the four front-runners what their “big ideas” for Salt Lake City were:
What should Salt Lakers be most concerned about?
Ralph Becker: Air quality and climate change. It’s a health, livability, and economic issue in the short term and a cataclysmic issue for our world long term. This is not to say we don’t need to address the basics as well: public safety, quality services, efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Dave Buhler: Electing a mayor who has experience working with people to actually get things done for the good of the entire community.
Keith Christensen: Go along to get along politics. Salt Lake City has made great progress over the past eight years. Mayor Anderson has done some wonderful things for the city. But Rocky is no political insider. It’s why people trust him. If Salt Lake City wants continued progress, we cannot settle for a political establishment insider. Jenny Wilson has said this is “a natural next step” in her career. Ralph Becker says this is his “perfect job”. Salt Lake City is no stepping stone. Serving the city will be my highest priority, not setting myself up for a better job.
Jenny Wilson: We live in an incredible city and are moving in the right direction in so many ways. Salt Lakers should be most concerned about keeping this momentum and progress going. If we keep Salt Lake moving forward, we can build it into a truly world-class city with a vibrant downtown, top-tier education, and environmental stewardship that’s second to none.
What local issue is being ignored or overlooked by the political establishment?
Ralph Becker: Community engagement and voter disenfranchisement, particularly on the west side of Salt Lake City. We have to embark on a city-led civic engagement effort by reaching out to all geographic parts and all communities in our City and engage in a voter empowerment project.
Dave Buhler: Salt Lake City’s government has a structural deficit—our expenses are growing faster than our income. To have a sustainable city budget into the future, we must grow our economy and make sure our tax dollars are being spent wisely. Otherwise, we will face cuts in services, tax increases, or both. I have raised this issue as a member of the City Council and if elected mayor I will work to solve it.
Keith Christensen: I hope my opponents, who are all currently elected officials, take no offense at your question. I come from private industry and have never made my living in politics. If Rocky has shown us anything, it is that the political establishment constantly overlooks Salt Lake City’s needs. There are so many issues being passed over, but I’ll name a few: environmentally friendly transit (bikes, buses, and TRAX), bolstering education, cutting down on violent crime and cleaning up our air are not getting sufficient attention from the establishment on Capitol Hill.
Jenny Wilson: Salt Lake’s west side has been ignored and neglected for far too long. There is tremendous potential there for both economic and community development, but negative stereotypes and lack of political will have relegated west Salt Lake to an underdog status it does not deserve. Also, there is a need for a reorganization our city’s planning department that must be addressed.
What is your “big idea” for Salt Lake City?
Ralph Becker: A network of dedicated bikeways, separate from auto traffic, that connect the city both north to south and east to west.
Dave Buhler: Being a reasonable guy who, as mayor, will actually listen to people, work with the City Council, work with the business community, legislature, higher education institutions, and other communities—all of which impact the success of our city.
Keith Christensen: Continued progress. Mayor Anderson has raised awareness. I want to continue that progress by cleaning up our air and making Salt Lake a safe and livable community for everyone. We deserve a mayor who can manage the complexities of Salt Lake City and still fight for important issues. You shouldn’t have to choose between a candidate who is right on the issues, and one who can accomplish the management functions. My management and administrative experience are unparalleled in this race. I will put that background to work for you from day one, putting that $660,000,000 budget to work for you.
Jenny Wilson: Downtown revitalization needs to include more than just new retail; we need to cultivate a diverse economic base if downtown is to thrive in the long term. That’s why I’m so intrigued by the concept of a creative economy—an economy that includes the latest cutting-edge industries and the creative professionals they employ. A strong creative economy promotes many forms of economic development and fosters diversity, collaboration, and even environmental responsibility. Downtown will need a balance of retail, housing, entertainment, and creative professionals if it to fulfill its true potential—and promoting a strong creative economy is crucial in this effort.