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Candidate questionnaire — Leslie Benns

Question 1: Mayor Rocky Anderson has said the city needs to increase its 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: We managed to add ten new police officers this year without raising taxes. I would hope we could add ten per year to get us closer to the needed level. Right now, the police are receiving more than double the number of calls per officer than they did thirty years ago. This is resulting in diminished services. If we want to increase those services, we will have to be willing to pay for that.

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: I'm excited about the LDS church's recent development plans in downtown and look forward to seeing the plan in full. I believe we can satisfy both the needs of the non-LDS convention goers and residents while at the same time honoring the flagship role the LDS church plays in this community. I would also like to see the development of the proposed culture block south of the LDS-owned property as well as full transportation services including light rail, automobile with accessible and affordable parking, as well as busses and taxis in that area so people can take advantage of the employment, retail, entertainment and residential opportunities. I'm committed to a community that works for everyone.

Question 3: One of the biggest issues in District 1 is the neighborhood conflicts that arise between Spanish-speaking immigrants and long-time locals. Do you think the city is doing enough to help solve this problem? As a council person how would you help solve this issue?

Answer: I believe this is an education and then enforcement issue. The city isn't in the business of education, but the churches are. The LDS church is doing an excellent job of assimilating their non-English speaking residents. I am working with a local Catholic church that holds two masses in Spanish each Sunday, an Episcopal priest overseeing Episcopal Spanish-speaking services, and will contact the new pastor of a local Spanish-speaking Pentecostal church, to educate the Spanish-speaking immigrants on local housing codes. In the meantime, the original residents need to understand the plight of their new immigrant neighbors and reflect on how they themselves lived in their "coming up" years. I personally shared a bed with my grandmother until the age of seventeen, while my parents slept in our home's only other designated bedroom with the crib of my youngest brother. My two remaining brothers slept on the sleeping porch. We accepted that as normal.

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: Now, is not the time for the development of the Northwest Quadrant. We have other areas in District One needing planned development, beginning with North Temple, which has been an eye-sore for generations and is now attracting undesirable activities and businesses that do not reflect the character or values of our residents. I endorse Neighborhood Housing Services yet-to-be released proposal for the Revitalization of North Temple, a transit-oriented development plan. District One and, more specifically, Rose Park, suffers under an undeserved and entirely mythical reputation in the press and the city. I believe realtors should be touting it as the next "Sugarhouse," for young couples starting families.

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: Yes, it is a problem and the needs of our residents are neglected. I believe both parties contribute equally. To that last question, my answer is, "Both". While I believe some tension is necessary for thoughtful decisions and compromises to develop, I believe that the outright animosity, partisanship, and stubborn-mindedness present in that relationship now needs to be abolished so that our city can move forward with the job of serving our residents. Once again, I'm committed to having a community that works for everyone.