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Rolly: When Mayor Biskupski speaks, I'd like to listen — if I could just get in

Published February 9, 2017 6:28 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Monday, I was invited by a member of Salt Lake City's Rotary Club to the group's Tuesday luncheon at a downtown hotel.

I was told that Mayor Jackie Biskupski was the speaker and, as a columnist, I might find her comments interesting.

By Monday night, though, I had been disinvited.

I was told in a second phone call that Biskupski had insisted that no news media be allowed at the event; the club chose to honor her wishes.

Turns out, I'm now told, it was all a big mix-up.

My first thought was to suggest an amendment to Utah's anti-discrimination law to include journalists as a protected class.

My second thought: Biskupski was speaking to a room of about 150 well-connected people. I probably know about two-thirds of them. So if I really wanted to learn what she said, I could call two or three of them and ask them to take notes.

That's what I did.

No big deal. Biskupski, who campaigned in 2015 partly on bringing more transparency to City Hall, spoke mostly about her strategy to deal with the homeless crisis and didn't say anything that was new. So the "no [news media]" edict was a bit puzzling.

She was introduced by Amanda Dickson of KSL Newsradio, but Dickson was there as a Rotarian, not as a news person.

I also was told that the mayor's security guard stood at the door during the speech, perhaps to ensure that undesirables like me were kept out.

Biskupski spokesman Matthew Rojas tells me that my ultimate shunning — after originally being invited — must have been a result of miscommunication with some Rotarians. He said the mayor's office had asked that her remarks not be recorded, but didn't say reporters were banned, although that's what I was told.

Rotary President Shahab Saeed later said it was all his fault, and he apologized. He said the mayor's office requested no news release be sent before the speech, but did not say news media were not allowed.

When the management committee was alerted that I had been invited, some expressed concern, misinterpreting the mayor's request. Saeed said he then made the decision to request that I not come, and now he sees it as a mistake.

Speaking of transparency • Among the first to directly contact residents on and near Simpson Avenue in Sugar House — after news broke that a homeless resource shelter would come to their area — was not a city official but a real estate agent offering to sell their homes.

Within one or two days of the news conference announcing the shelter locations, residents received a flier from a real estate agent offering to give them a free valuation of their homes.

Since then, a number of agents have offered their services as well.

Meanwhile, residents say they have had a hard time getting city officials to respond to their concerns, although David Litvak, Biskupski's deputy chief of staff, did meet with them last weekend.

Trade war would damage Utah • With President Donald Trump's plans for financing a border wall with Mexico sparking fears about a trade war, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an analysis and found that Utah would be the seventh-most impacted state.

The study used five metrics, with some given more weight than others. Here's what it discovered:

Utah ranks 36th in exports to Mexico as a percentage of total state exports. It ranks 28th in exports to Mexico as a percentage of the state's GDP.

But it ranks first in imports from Mexico as a percent of total state imports, sixth in imports from Mexico as a percent of the state's GDP and 15th in percent of jobs supported by trade with Mexico.

WalletHub determined Texas would be the most affected state, followed by Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico and Kentucky.

Derek Miller, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, said any kind of isolationism by the United States hurts the state's economy.

The Beehive State has $13.8 billion in exports annually, "which means $13.8 billion in imported money," Miller said. Last year, the value of Utah's exports grew by 9 percent, he said. It was one of eight states with positive export growth. And while Trump talks about the U.S. trade deficit, Utah is one of five states with a trade surplus.

"We are the fourth fastest-growing export state in the United States," Miller said.

Specifically to Mexico, Miller said Utah's exports have expanded from $250 million a decade ago to $850 million last year.

Miller co-wrote an open letter with Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie to Utah's congressional delegation, expressing worries that Trump's immigration and trade policies could jeopardize the state's jobs and economic well-being.







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