Mayor Rocky Anderson has long had the support of this newspaper. He was an attorney for us in his life before public service and has since entrusted my family with the care of his dog, Sebastian. We fundamentally agree with the manner in which he runs Salt Lake City. But not always.
Thus, as an old friend and associate, I must impart that I diametrically disagree with him on three key issues currently on the table of his administration and before the City Council.
I do not agree that Nordstrom should be allowed to move to Gateway. The Gateway pact, with size restrictions on such big-box retailers, was set in place to protect long-time Main Street and downtown merchants. Changing the rules of conduct at Gateway at this time sends the clear signal that Salt Lake City once and for all concedes that Main Street is of secondary importance to city planners.
You want chopped liver? Imagine how much of it Meier & Frank could buy with its $20 million downtown investment dollars. They believed there would be two major retailers downtown. Forgetting the contribution of Meier & Frank in deference to Nordstrom is a slap.
Personally, I happen to like Gateway. I shop and eat there and spent a good part of the Olympics there. I’m not privy to how Gateway is doing financially, but my own guess is that it’s doing as well as can be expected for a new venture. And it’s doing so without Nordstrom.
Conversely, there’s no denying that Gateway subtracts from a vital downtown. Now, politics and machinations once again pit large institutions like Nordstrom, united with politically savvy developers like the Boyer Company, at odds with the historic, smallish and less influential downtown institutions that still survive downtown.
The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency recently awarded City Weekly $20,000 to move to Main Street. While gracious, that sum hardly offsets the additional costs of moving 35 employees and doing business there. Why should we invest in Main Street if the city itself cannot muster the courage to honor and support that investment? Maybe we should move to Gateway where there are no traffic cops.
I also disagree with the mayor that parking fees need to be increased to address budget shortfalls, moving from 25 cents for 20 minutes to just 15 minutes. A normal business might try lowering fees to attract volume. So, Rocky, now is the perfect time to embrace your reputation for firing people. Get rid of $500,000 in the form of those cranky meter maids of both sexes. Every day, consumers are ticketed while nearby parking slots go empty. I’ve got 10 years worth of them myself.
If the city must raise parking fees, it should at the same time take the clock off of the meters altogether. Allow people to pay for as much time as they need or want. Earn city revenue fair and square. Curtail the ticket-writing, revenue-generating frenzy or watch downtown wither.
Everyone knows that parking needn’t be free, but we don’t like cutting short business or shopping only to find a ticket on the windshield.
Finally, Rocky, don’t even mess with golf fees. With a glut of area golf courses, it’s lower fees that will attract more golfers, thus more revenue, not the other way around. Remember what happened to Deedee? Golfers are still pissed. Golfers vote, and I’m a 14 handicap.