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Salt Lake City Council race heated

Experience or new blood?

It's a familiar question for voters and one Avenues residents will be kicking around as they head to the polls Nov. 8 to pick a City Council representative for the next four years.

In one corner is one-term incumbent Eric Jergensen. In the other is Janneke House, who is seeking to win in her first bid for elected office.

Jergensen, 45, is touting his experience — four years on the City Council and several years as chairman of the Capitol Hill Community Council before that. That's compared to House, who at 23 has held jobs or internships at the city, county and federal levels beginning when she was 16.

With Jergensen pushing experience, House is touting her status as a Democrat and maintaining she is someone who can get things done quickly.

While city council races are officially non-partisan, House has been highlighting the party issue. Her fliers are covered with donkeys and note she has a "proud Democratic legacy." The fliers also play up the fact that House's grandmother worked "in the Carter White House."

Not to be outdone, Jergensen has mailed letters listing several big-time Democrats who are supporting him. Notable Avenues and Capitol Hill politicians like Rep. Ralph Becker, former state Sen. Paula Julander and former Rep. Frank Pignanelli have all thrown their support behind the incumbent, a Republican.

House has a big-time endorsement of her own — Mayor Rocky Anderson, who recorded a message for House encouraging District 3 residents to vote for her in the October primary.

Anderson's former spokesman Cliff Lyon is now working on the House campaign, and several other Democrats — including the four Democratic members of Salt Lake County Council — have endorsed House.

Whether the Democrat-Republican issue will sway voters remains to be seen.

Jergensen has made several votes that would belie his Republican status and many say if people just looked at Jergensen's voting record they would think he is a Democrat.

He supported spending money to lobby in favor of the city's living wage efforts, worked to create the city's first Human Rights Commission, helped push the city's initial Open Space Fund and was the lone City Council member who voted to front a multimillion-dollar loan to put a sprawling private club on Main Street.

And while Jergensen might have a record that people in the Avenues — generally considered fairly liberal territory — like, House has been critical on three major fronts.

She said the City Council, and Jergensen specifically, were slow to act on the issue of curbing monster-home building, didn't do enough to protect 80 acres of open space along the North Salt Lake border and hasn't been supportive of Anderson's push to extend benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.

On the benefits front, Jergensen, along with council members Jill Remington Love and Dave Buhler, are working on an alternative plan that would extend benefits to a larger group of dependents such as siblings living together or adult children and their parents.

Jergensen, like other council members, says he favors a broader plan giving benefits to a wider range of dependents. Anderson has said some council members want the broader plan so they can avoid the gay rights issue he was trying to bring out with his executive order.

Regarding monster homes, House says: "This has been an issue for a long time and not only in Utah but nationwide they've had these kind of problems. When this was going on in the Harvard-Yale area, why wasn't anything done in the Avenues?"

Jergensen notes the issue has only recently come up in the Avenues and he pushed an ordinance several months ago that put a stop to monster-home building. That ordinance was passed by the City Council and repealed a week later, after council chairman Dale Lambert changed his vote.

Despite that setback the city has prepared an ordinance that should curb most of the issues related to monster home building that will be before the Planning Commission Nov. 9, Jergensen said.

"We're developing an ordinance that will solve the problem for the entire city," he said. "We acted in a timely manner."

The disputed 80 acres of open space that North Salt Lake wants to develop inside of Salt Lake City is zoned as open space. In fact, it was Jergensen, through his work in crafting the area master plan, who helped make sure the 80 acres was set aside as open space.

Now that North Salt Lake is taking the development issue to court, House said Jergensen and others should have taken more precautions to make sure the area couldn't be developed.


E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com