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Candidate questionnaire — Soren Simonsen

Question 1: Mayor Rocky Anderson has said the city needs to increase it's police force by 90 officers by 2010. In order to do that he will need the City Council to allocate the funding needed for these new officers. Adding that many more officers will be wildly expensive for the city and may require tax increases. As a council member will you support adding so many more officers to the force? Would you support tax increases for more police officers?

Answer: Having a strong police force is important to the safety and security of salt lake city residents. I support increasing the size of the force with trained and dedicated officers over a period of time that does not unnecessarily strain the city's fiscal health. I support continued efforts for improved traffic safety projects and community policing efforts that help decrease the security and enforcement requirements through greater prevention efforts. I also am interested in continuing exploration of a consolidated public safety and emergency services plan for the valley that may allow us to work with other cities and agencies in delivering these services more effectively and efficiently.

Question 2: Downtown remains a concern for many residents. Do you feel the city is doing the right things to help revitalize downtown? What would you do as a council member to help downtown?

Answer: Misguided planning and economic development practices over many decades have driven out residents and local merchants that are the life blood of any vibrant business district. We need to better address design qualities in the downtown area to support a pedestrian environment. We must do more to incubate, invigorate and retain local merchants and small businesses. We must eliminate policies that unnecessarily drive up land values and effectively eliminate expanded affordable housing opportunities. We must not look at the downtown as a series of isolated development projects, but as a connected urban fabric. All players must be involved and engaged in a collaborative process that is open, inclusive and considerate of the broad range of downtown issues.

Question 3: One big issue that could soon become an issue in District 7 has been people tearing down traditional homes and replacing them with monster homes. Some say new, bigger homes are needed to attract families to the city and maintain property values. Others feel these large homes are ugly and aren't compatible with the city's traditional neighborhoods. What's your opinion? How should city government handle this issue?

Answer: Neighborhood preservation is one of the most important things we can do to attract and keep families in the city. As a member of the Salt Lake Historic Landmarks Commission for over six years I have helped administer policies for infill and redevelopment of the city's oldest historic neighborhoods. The regulating policies for design compatibility in our historic districts are a model for design issues in many of our other older neighborhoods where compatibility issues have been particularly divisive. Completion of the city-wide neighborhood preservation plan is an important initiative that will help us prioritize and provide funding for ongoing development of policies and implementation strategies. I am the only candidate who can bring professional experience in design and compatibility issues. I will work closely with residents to identify and implement appropriate and balanced policies.

Question 4: There has been much talk about developing the city's Northwest Quadrant, which lies west of the airport. Some see this area as a place where tens of thousands of residents could eventually live in master planned communities. However, there are some concerns. Some want the area preserved as natural open space. Others say it's too costly to put homes way out there. Police and fire services in the city are already stretched thin and putting houses five miles west of downtown would further strap public safety and other services like public utilities. Still, proponents maintain the city needs to add more residents so it remains Utah's largest city and keeps it's political clout in the face of other rapidly growing municipalities. What's your vision for the Northwest Quadrant? If you favor development how will the city pay for it?

Answer: The wetlands and shore lands of the Great Salt Lake are unique and vital part of our localized ecosystem. Their protection also has global ecological and biological significance. The potential for development in this area must be carefully considered — there is so much at stake and only one chance to get it right. There are many progressive planning strategies such as Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) that have been effectively used to balance open space conservation and property development rights in other regions of the United States. My strong leadership and understanding of issues and policies will help ensure development and open space issues are handled correctly, both in this area, and in other sensitive open space areas in Salt Lake City.

Question 5: Some people are saying City Hall is hard to work with because Mayor Anderson and the City Council don't get along. Is the push and pull between the council and mayor a problem? Explain why or why not. Is the rift more the fault of the council or the mayor? As a council person will you seek friendly relations with the mayor or do you think city government works better if there is some tension between the two houses of government?

Answer: In a city as large and diverse as Salt Lake City, I can't imagine there will not be some disagreement over certain issues. At all times, I believe disagreements must be handled with respect. I believe it is imperative to look at all sides of an issue before leaping forward. It is important to channel discussion towards progress and try to build consensus and partnerships in the process. I am confident that I can build bridges within my diverse district and that I can work effectively with community stake holders, other city council members, the mayor's office and eve other local, state and national elected officials to provide effective leadership on key issues and opportunities for our city.