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Rocky praises ‘inspiring’ S.L. Valley residents

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Another throng of Salt Lakers filled Pioneer Park Saturday morning, looking for fresh fruit, flowers and some reassurance about the future. For the latter they encircled Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

But before taking questions, Anderson used his monthly "Saturday morning with the mayor" forum to praise the residents of the Salt Lake Valley.

"It was so heartening, so inspiring," he said, "to see such a diverse community coming together" for the vigil held Friday night at Sugarhouse Park. "Thousands of people just lit up the whole hillside with candles."

Salt Lakers are "standing up against the terror, and not letting it undermine us as a community or as a nation," he said.

Then Anderson addressed the fears that Tuesday's attacks on the Eastern United States will be visited on Utah during the 2002 Olympics.

"There has been a massive planning effort and intelligence effort going on for two years," he said. The Olympics will take place "for a very discrete period of time and a very discrete area," possibly making it more manageable for security forces.

At the same time, the city will be "allowing healthy, lawful expressions of people's views," in free-speech zones such as Pioneer Park. "This park will be available every day and night throughout the Olympics," Anderson promised, to let protesters have "a healthy dialogue." Then the mayor repeated his oft-stated worry that violent demonstrators will infiltrate peaceful groups during the Games. So, when police order protesters to disperse from any place, he said, they had better do so or face arrest and jail.

After that no one else asked about the Olympics. Instead Steve White, a Salt Lake artist and teacher, stepped forward to take Anderson's microphone — and plead for his cause.

"All of our public parks are open to artists," White began. In Utah and Colorado he has organized youth art gatherings — poetry readings, concerts, photography and painting displays — and he wants more of them now in Salt Lake City. "The most important thing we can do is give these kids a voice" so they can "express themselves in positive ways," White said. "Let's sing, let's dance, let's do skits and plays" in city parks, and display visual art on downtown streets.

The mayor recently drafted an ordinance to encourage artists to use parks and sidewalks to show off their work, be it sculpture or music. He eliminated all mention of licensure, saying, "this is absolutely absurd to require people to get permits" and pay fees.

The First Amendment guarantees such free expression, Anderson said; the ordinance exists only to require artists to stay away from business entrances and crosswalks. Still, the City Council will have to enact the new law, and it's not likely to come up on the agenda till November.

"I hate bureaucracy," the mayor said.

Anderson went on to introduce a bureaucrat he hopes will help solve a problem that has confounded Salt Lake City for decades. Frank McCrady, director of Housing and Neighborhood Development, administers the city's loan fund for small-business owners.

"We're hoping to entice businesses to get off the fence, to expand or to locate in an area they may not have considered in the past," McCrady said, referring to the west side of the city.

The mayor added that if would-be entrepreneurs "are coming up against bureaucracy, Frank is there to take people by the hand" through the loan-application process.

Next, the mayor introduced Lisa Romney, the city's environmental affairs administrator. She's working on everything from expanded recycling to putting 100 bike racks around town. And "anything that you can come up with," Romney said, should be called in to her office at the City-County Building.

Anderson seems far more enthusiastic about citizens' ideas than about procedures followed by municipal staff. He's widely criticized for taking an idea and running with it, past the doors of the city Planning Division and straight to the City Council for enactment. The Saturday mornings with the mayor supply those ideas, besides giving Anderson a soapbox to stand on and broadcast his strongly held views.

This time his main message was about finding relief from several days of sad news. Anderson urged Salt Lakers to take part in local events; attending concerts and festivals isn't disrespectful to those who lost loved ones in last Tuesday's disasters, he said. "In fact, it's showing a recommitment to . . . our community."

E-mail: durbani@desnews.com