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Trio grilled on Salt Lake issues

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Mayor Rocky Anderson was chastised for not playing well with others.

Challenger Frank Pignanelli was grilled on his position regarding federal immigration agents riding with city cops.

And Molonai Hola, praised by his opponents for being a nice guy, was faced with questions about whether he has the political savvy to be Salt Lake City's next mayor.

Those were just some of the issues raised during a Salt Lake City mayoral debate Monday night at the Salt Lake City Public Library.

Sponsored in part by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, downtown revitalization also was a big issue. And once again, the three candidates showed they have very different approaches to boosting downtown business.

Anderson said he plans to focus on more entertainment options, new businesses and more downtown housing. The mayor said he believes downtown has more "life" and is more "vibrant" than before his administration.

Hola said he would rather take a more "Mom and Pop" approach, giving development money to help encourage small local businesses.

Pignanelli said he favors more downtown family housing that is owner-occupied and not just rented. Because downtown is supported by people who work there, he said he would try to bring in larger companies that can offer more downtown jobs.

On the issue of Nordstrom, all three agreed the retailer should be allowed to move to The Gateway but differed on the consequences.

Hola said he would let Nordstrom move but that he felt Nordstrom would "regret" that decision after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals its redevelopment plan for Crossroads Plaza.

Anderson said he had strived to reach an understanding with all parties but would allow the move.

Pignanelli said while he would permit the move, he felt The Gateway had made a promise to the city that it would not take away from Main Street business. He said he would ask Gateway managers to return the approximately $15 million in incentives to the city.Anderson was asked about the exodus of disenchanted city staffers. He said that was an issue during the "first few months" of his administration and said he now gets along with those under him.

Over the last three years, Anderson said only seven staffers have left or were fired. Pignanelli said, in speaking with former city staff, he heard stories of a mayor who stifled enterprise.

Anderson also was criticized by some in attendance for tarnishing Salt Lake's relations with other cities. He made no apologies for his stance against the Legacy Parkway nor hurt feelings among fellow mayors.

During public questions, Pignanelli was pressured by several people to take a stand on the issue of allowing federal immigration agents to ride along with Salt Lake City police officers. Anderson said he put a stop to the practice. But in rebuttal, Pignanelli accused Anderson of flip-flopping, having apparently told a police officer's association the opposite. Anderson strongly denied the accusation.

When asked to answer "yes" or "no" on the immigration agent issue,Pignanelli said he would listen to those in the Hispanic community who were concerned. Pignanelli's answer drew shouts from a few in the audience.

Hola was asked if his lack of political experience would hurt his chances in the election. Hola said he openly admits he has no political ties or experience, but said he would rather focus on how he built a business from the ground up.

"I'm not an expert at running for office," he said. "I'm an expert at running an office."

E-MAIL: gfattah@desnews.com