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A $150 million recreation bond proposal by Mayor Ralph Becker may be in trouble, according to a new survey of Salt Lake City registered voters that shows opponents outnumber supporters 48 percent to 39 percent.
A second poll revealed that Salt Lake City residents favor by 50 percent to 44 percent a quarter-cent sales-tax increase for roads and mass transit.
The Salt Lake County Council must determine by Aug. 18 whether to put the transit sales tax proposal before voters countywide.
While Salt Lake City taxpayers appear ready to pony up for transit, they look less likely to endorse Becker's recreation initiative, "Connecting You to Nature." The proposal includes, among other things, remaking the Glendale Golf Course into a regional multipurpose park, improvements to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and a connector from it to the west side's 9 Line: an old rail corridor converted to a cycling/jogging path.
The question put to 662 registered voters for The Salt Lake Tribune by SurveyUSA asked: "Do you support or oppose an open space recreation bond that would increase property taxes by approximately $60 on a $250,000 home?"
The results show the proposal failing in all demographic groups, except the 18-34 age category and Democrats. In both groups the bond had the support of 51 percent, with about a third opposing it.
The survey did not ask respondents questions on specific projects outlined in the recreation proposal.
The poll was conducted July 13 through July 21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, whose District 2 encompasses Glendale, said he was disappointed in the survey results.
"This proposal is truly a people's bond. Salt Lake City undertook a good-faith effort to see what people wanted in recreation," he said. "When we get a chance to explain what's in there, I wouldn't be surprised if the results are reversed."
The council has until Aug. 18 to modify the proposal. LaMalfa said there will be substantive changes to the proposal if it goes to voters Nov. 3.
To get on the ballot, the bond must be endorsed by five of the seven council members.
It appears to be a tough sell for District 1 Councilman James Rogers, who represents Rose Park and other communities in northwest Salt Lake City. He said the bond proposal does not add such things as soccer or lacrosse fields or swimming pools.
"It's about the Jordan River, it's about nature and it's about walking," he said. "But I've talked to a lot of people, and it's not a broad-based approach."
Replacing the Glendale Golf Course, which is independent of the general fund, with a park that must be subsidized is questionable, Rogers said, when existing parks lack amenities such as benches and pavilions.
Erin Mendenhall who represents District 5, the greater Liberty Park area said she favors the bond.
"This would be a sea change in our urban recreation that would help attract large businesses," she said. "It creates the type of environment their employees want to live near."
She said the survey could have been skewed by the Salt Lake City mayor's race. All four of Becker's opponents have criticized the proposal as being too expensive.
But many of the projects in the proposal, Mendenhall said, have come through the west-side master plan that reflects a lengthy public process.
District 7 Councilwoman Lisa Adams, who represents Sugar House, said that though the Becker administration sought nput, the process was rushed.
"We need more data from more people," Adams said. "There is not enough information. I feel like we're riding down a dirt-bike trail and don't know where we're going."
She said the bond also would create an additional $3.3 million expense annually for operations and maintenance of the new parks and trails.
District 6 Councilman Charlie Luke, who represents Yalecrest and other east-bench neighborhoods, said he, too, believes a lot of people feel left out of the proposal.
"The focus [of the proposal] was so narrow, it left out a lot of user groups," he said. "And adding $3.3 million to the budget is not responsible."
A spokesman for the mayor said the administration is confident the proposal is consistent with what the public wants, and noted that it was drawn from various other community master plans.
"This is the ultimate democratic exercise," said Art Raymond. "It will ultimately and appropriately be decided by voters."
The council will continue its recreation-bond discussion at its regularly scheduled work session Tuesday afternoon in City Hall, 451 S. State.