In less than two weeks Salt Lake City, residents will elect a new mayor. As the capitol city of a state with the fastest growing and most diverse economy, the impact of the job reaches beyond the small geographic area that is home to less than 7% of Utah’s population.
The good news for Salt Lakers is they have two excellent choices in councilwoman Erin Mendenall and state Sen. Luz Escamilla. For those voters still undecided, your clear choice is the candidate with clear vision — a vision for community vitality and economic prosperity.
Who has a vision to guide the city’s tremendous growth in a way that will continue our high quality of life? With buildings seemingly springing up overnight and a dozen planned high-rises, the city skyline will change dramatically over the new mayor’s first term. This growth represents economic success, but even success brings its own challenges. We need a mayor who can address challenges of affordable housing, a strained transportation system, the need for more public transit, the corollary impacts to air quality and the top constraint to growth: water.
Who has a vision for addressing the mounting humanitarian crisis in homeless shelters that are overcrowded, streets that are lined with aggressive panhandlers, the mentally ill and drug-addicted living in alleyways, with drug dealers and sex traffickers taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us? We need a mayor who can show real compassion by providing these individuals with the treatment they need rather than turning a blind eye. We need a mayor who is willing to make tough choices to keep city streets and parks safe for all residents.
Who has a vision and a desire to manage the city? The number one job of mayor is running day-to-day operations of local government. All the “boring” little things that make a big difference. Who cares about how long building permits take until you’re a family trying to repair your home or a business owner trying to expand your operations? We need a mayor who can attract tech business and manufacturing facilities by reducing wait times to match what Silicon Slope communities currently offer.
Who has a vision for both the east and west sides of the city and how to bind them together? We need a mayor who understand that a Grand Boulevard would provide a beautified entrance to downtown as well as provide a literal bridge over the freeways and railways that currently separate our city. Connecting the biking paths of the Bonneville Shoreline trail and Jordan River trail with east/west connectors would be both symbolic and functional. Speaking of the Jordan River, who has a vision for benefiting from this asset as other cities have done with their riverfronts?
Who has a vision for repairing the dysfunctional relationship between the capital city and state? We need a mayor that understands both sides have much they can work on together. We need a mayor who will focus time and energy on constructive problem solving. The inland port would be a great place to start. With a new speaker of the House and president of the Senate in the Legislature and a new mayor in City Hall, let’s figure out a meaningful resolution to the legal impasse and work in a collaborative way to guide sustainable development west of the airport.
Salt Lake City was originally built on vision and a legacy of hard work that made that vision a reality. We need a mayor who has vision and can harness collective efforts to build a prosperous reality for the capital city today.
Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.