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While "the signs are everywhere" that Salt Lake County is thriving, Mayor Ben McAdams pledged Tuesday that the county will expand innovative efforts to ensure that future generations inherit a physically and financially healthy place to live.
"You've probably heard the old Chinese proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago," the Democratic mayor said in his annual State of the County address. "It is my hope that the next generation to live in our valley will thank us for the trees we plant together this year."
To accomplish that goal, McAdams said, the county is pursuing several initiatives to reduce air pollution. It also is taking steps to establish more "walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and commercial centers," he added, with parks and cultural facilities "where friends and families get together, get healthy, have fun and nurture strong family bonds."
McAdams said a truly healthy community takes care of everyone, even those with behavioral, mental-health or substance-abuse issues. He reiterated the county's previously expressed support for Gov. Gary Herbert's Healthy Utah plan, which would expand the health safety net to include more of these people.
"It is fiscally sound, allows for cost containment, keeps Utah tax dollars here in Utah and, most importantly, is the right thing to do for our uninsured residents," the mayor said. "Today I repeat that call: Pass Healthy Utah and give our residents access to health care."
McAdams' remarks generally were well received by Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove, although he cautioned that measurable achievements have to come from whatever initiatives are undertaken.
"It all must be kept in the context of fiscal responsibility," said Snelgrove, leader of the council's 5-4 Republican majority. "Prudent decisions now forestall tax increases in the future. We can't be going off on tangents. We want to pursue things of good value to the citizens of Salt Lake County and to do a few things well rather than many things poorly."
Then, he added, "The mayor is headed in a generally good direction. … He has the public's best interest at heart."
Democratic Councilman Sam Granato agreed.
"I was very pleased with what [McAdams] said. He's spot on," Granato said. "We need to think outside of the box. We need to prepare for my children today and everybody's grandchildren tomorrow."
Granato largely represents the unincorporated area of Millcreek. One of McAdams' prime endeavors this year is to secure legislative approval of a Community Preservation Act, which would protect unincorporated area boundaries and the tax base needed to deliver services there while giving individual communities the right to "self-determination [and] local planning and zoning control."
The mayor vowed to build that tax base through efforts such as the county's participation in the Global Cities Initiative a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that is designed to help county businesses find export markets for their goods and services and, later, to encourage foreign direct investment in the county.
The county also will increase its involvement in "Pay for Success" initiatives that leverage private financial support to address issues that help more county residents become productive members of society.
Launched with an effort to get more low-income children into preschool programs, Pay for Success could be applied this year to three other areas of concern maternal and child health, reducing recidivism at the county jail and providing housing for the homeless.
"The goal of Pay for Success programs is to help people in need," McAdams said, "by supporting innovative service providers … working to address some of the biggest social needs in our community efficiently and effectively, relying on data and evidence to produce results."
He said results in these areas, and in other county programs such as maintenance of county facilities worth more than $1 billion, will be documented on a new feature of the county's website a "Dashboard" that will openly mark where things stand so the council can make informed decisions with taxpayer money.
"Our legacy for future generations," McAdams concluded, "is a healthy community defined by healthy places and people, a wide range of opportunities and an effective, responsive metropolitan-area government."
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