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In Salt Lake City, everyone should feel welcome and protected and believe they have an equal chance to succeed.

That's what Mayor Ralph Becker said Wednesday before a rapt audience of youngsters at Whittier Elementary as he laid out his vision for 2015 in the annual State of the City Address.

The 40-minute speech was short on specifics but the mayor did ask the youngsters to help their parents, teachers and friends make Salt Lake City a better place.

"Take pride in the community where you live as though you will be mayor someday," Becker said. "This is our city."

In stark contrast to his bare knuckled 2014 address that threw down the gauntlet to state leaders on air quality, Wednesday's presentation was more of a civics lesson. And it was a rosy one at that.

The mayor told the students to think of city government as the sun with rays of fairness shooting from it that symbolize air quality, environment, transportation, housing, economic development and civility.

"Last year, my State of the City address was all about air quality," he said. "However, I was disappointed in the adult leadership in this state after my speech."

Becker told the kids he had proposed ideas for improving air quality — cleaner fuel, more bus service, an increase in gasoline tax, and improved energy efficiency in buildings — with little success.

He then asked them to walk or ride bikes when they can, remind parents not to idle cars, to recycle paper and plastic and to take the bus or trains when possible.

He also advised that they turn lights off when they leave a room, not to leave water running when it isn't being used and not to leave power cords plugged in when not charging a device.

The students had been invited to write down a wish for Salt Lake City. During his speech the mayor drew a half dozen of them on small pieces of paper from a large fish bowl. The students wished for such things as clean air, homes for the homeless, fewer deaths and lower prices on ice cream.

The mayor also touched on affordable housing as "one of the basic needs that we all have." He told his young audience that Salt Lake City was about to embark on a new program to make housing available throughout Salt Lake City "for those who most need a home — including people with disabilities and people with lower incomes."

The administration will announce specifics of the program in the near future.

Another ray of sunshine, the mayor said, is economic prosperity.

"We want a city where stores and restaurants are busy with customers, and where people have good-paying jobs," Becker said. "And we want families to have enough money to do what they need to do and enough for some fun things also."

And the last ray of sunshine, he told the kids, is civility — working together even when people disagree.

"Civility is so important to me that I even created a Civility Pledge," he said. "It's a promise to behave nicely and treat others with respect at all times."

The grand finale was a special appearance by the Jazz Bear, who hugged the mayor and shot confetti over the cheering young audience.

But City Council Chairman Luke Garrott, who is challenging Becker for the mayor's seat, scoffed at the election-year timing of Becker's housing proposal.

"For eight years, Ralph has done little to advance affordable housing in the city," Garrott said. "By his own numbers we now stand thousands of units behind where we should be."

Garrott also criticized the mayor's economic platform.

"Many residents and local businesses have not seen the sunny days Ralph talked about today," he said. "Whether struggling for better wages and jobs, more affordable housing and transportation, or against big retail crowding out local business, there are many left behind in Ralph's 'resilient economy.'"

Not least, the council chairman raised concerns about Becker's vision for Salt Lake City.

"A 'liveability agenda' should begin with our working-class residents," Garrott said. "Ralph has focused on top-dollar amenities and big legacy projects like the Performing Arts Center which benefit the few, while the many are struggling to get by and getting priced out of the city."

But other City Council members ­­— Erin Mendenhall, James Rogers and Charlie Luke — said Becker hit many of the right notes.

Affordable housing will be high on the council's priority list, this year.

One topic that the mayor did not broach was that of the use of lethal force by police.

"This was not the venue for that discussion," Mendenhall said. "But it is something that needs review."

The address got rave reviews from Whittier Principal MargeryParker.

"The kids were very excited about this," she said. "It makes all the civics studies make sense."