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A week ago, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker lauded his economic development plan, panned his opponent for criticizing the rejuvenated economy and challenged her to reveal a program of her own.
On Tuesday, Jackie Biskupski did just that, rolling out an economic development plan under the heading "A Better City For Everyone." But it could have been called a blueprint for a business-friendly American city.
"I will plan for growth strategically and sustainably," she said, "with the input of the people who live here."
Her proposal includes such things as dialing back fees, most notably impact fees, and reconsidering fees and time limits for parking. Biskupski said she also would simplify the business-licensing process.
Despite increased fees and taxes during the past decade, "Salt Lake City is not keeping up with the expense of running the city," Biskupski said. "Basic infrastructure is in poor repair, and long-deferred maintenance projects are piling up."
The way forward, she said, is to create a better business climate and a more vibrant economy.
"We aren't staying competitive, because our impact fees are higher [than other cities on the Wasatch Front]," she said. "What you will find is that we are developing businesses at the University of Utah that are not deciding to locate in Salt Lake City because of impact fees and planning and zoning."
Pillars of her plan also include incubating new businesses as well as attracting established companies.
"Small-business owners should feel the city is their partner and advocate," she said. "I will eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that wastes their valuable resources and interferes with their ability to be successful."
Biskupski also emphasized her proposal to work closely with the Governor's Office of Economic Development as well as the Economic Development Corporation of Utah that have been successful in bringing new business to Utah.
"The [Becker] administration," Biskupski said, "has not taken adequate advantage of these two state agencies and their resources."
In keeping with the business-friendly theme, Biskupski, a former state legislator, said she would better align zoning codes for business districts and streamline planning and zoning departments.
Economic development must include areas west of Interstate 15, she said. She proposed creating Redevelopment Agency projects areas on the west side, as well as expanded bus routes to serve the communities in Districts 1 and 2 that include Glendale, Poplar Grove, the Fairpark area and Rose Park.
Not least, Biskupski said she would work to establish inclusionary zoning which mandates development projects include a certain percentage of "affordable units" as well as incentives "to increase housing opportunities for our lowest-income residents."
"We are gentrifying our downtown rather than diversifying it a direction I intend to reverse," she said. "Our economic-development plan will include projects that have a rich cultural mix of shopping experiences, ethnic restaurants and diverse entertainment options."
In a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon, Becker said that Biskupski was giving short shrift to "the tremendous prosperity we're experiencing during my administration."
Businesses continue to move to Salt Lake City, he said, including Google Fiber and Goldman Sachs, because of the "relative ease of doing business with the city."
Downtown is thriving for the first time in decades, Becker said. "Our Salt Lake City public-private partnership with the Eccles Theater [and] the 111 S. Main [high-rise office building] is one example of how we're creating a blossoming economy with smart city decisions and investments."
He also cited a Gallup poll from March that labeled Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, No. 1 in job creation.
'A Better City for Everyone'
Key points in mayoral challenger Jackie Bis- kupski's economic plan for Salt Lake City:
Impact fees • Reduce fees that Biskupski says are higher than in other Wasatch Front cities.
Business licensing • Streamline the process.
Development • Incubate new businesses, improve coordination with state economic development agencies, and explore redevelopment projects and expanded bus service in west-side neighborhoods.
Zoning • Better align zoning codes for business districts, require housing developments to have a certain percentage of "affordable units" and streamline zoning and planning departments.
Parking • Reconsider fees and time limits.