This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The first scrum of the 2015 Salt Lake City mayor's race was spirited, if not downright hot, as Ralph Becker touted his successes over the past seven years and challengers called into question those same results.
It was not a debate. But the Central City Neighborhood Council gave Becker and his challengers former state Rep. Jackie Biskupski, City Councilman Luke Garrott and community activist George Chapman 15 minutes each to sway voters at the Main Library.
Becker noted that he has never proposed a property tax increase, even in tough economic times. He added that he has steered Salt Lake City through those troubled times to be on the cusp of a boom both in building and attracting new business.
The mayor also touted his work on transportation, walkable neighborhoods and recreation opportunities that he said provide "an incredible improvement of our quality of life."
Becker said his administration has set the stage for a bright future. "The reason I'm running for mayor is to build on that momentum," he said.
His challengers were not convinced.
Much of Biskupski's presentation centered on homelessness and housing. "We are not paying attention to humanity," she said of the city's homeless population and the lack of affordable housing.
"We can't keep doing what we've been doing," she said of the area around Pioneer Park and the homeless shelter. "We need a mayor with a strong ability to collaborate for long-term solutions."
She criticized Becker for the drug trafficking around the shelter and said she would focus on early intervention so people wouldn't become homeless in the first place.
Despite the mayor's "5,000 Doors" program that offers incentives to developers to build affordable units, Biskupski said, Becker's administration was not friendly to young families.
"People need homes where they can have a family," she said. "But they can't find affordable housing."
City Hall needs an overhaul, according to Garrott, who is nearing the end of two terms on the City Council.
"We have a dysfunctional system in city government," he said, citing difficulties obtaining building permits, as well as capital-improvement projects that take years to complete. "The mayor has had two terms to fix it, and he hasn't."
Garrott also faulted the mayor for pushing through the $119 million Eccles Theater now under construction on Main Street. "People didn't want it," he said. "But the mayor was afraid to take it to the voters for fear they'd turn it down."
Not least, Garrott faulted the Becker administration for its lack of community policing.
"We need a new kind of community policing," he said. "Chief [Chris Burbank] wants officers in cars. But we need police in neighborhoods walking beats."
The most strident speaker of the evening, however, was Chapman, who said the mayor doesn't listen to his constituents. He pointed to the bike lanes on 300 South as an example.
"I will listen to the people of Salt Lake City," Chapman said.
The community activist focused much of his delivery on transportation. He derided the Sugar House Streetcar and told the audience that the administration was planning three additional such rail lines in the city. Chapman said such projects would significantly increase taxes on residents.
He also took issue with the mayor's "traffic calming" efforts, particularly on 1300 East, where, Chapman said, a reduction in lanes causes congestion and air pollution. "He's shifting traffic to quiet neighborhoods, Chapman said. "It's destroying neighborhoods."
He also took aim at drug trafficking around the homeless shelter and said Becker refused to hire more police or fund a day center for homeless people who want to escape the dangers in the area.
"Now the homeless wander into neighborhoods to get away from the shelter," he said.
A primary election is slated for Aug. 11. The two top vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 3 election.