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In a meadow by the Jordan River, Jackie Biskupski on Thursday took aim at Mayor Ralph Becker's reputation as an environmentalist and said his efforts have come up short.
She said the Mountain Accord a long-range plan for the Central Wasatch that Becker has trumpeted as a highlight of his administration remains a work in progress and poses risks if not completed properly.
Biskupski endorsed America's Redrock Wilderness Act legislation that would protect 9.2 million acres in Utah and wondered why the mayor has not done the same.
Biskupski said her environmental sustainability plan focuses on three areas: clean air, conservation of water and protection of watersheds.
Clean-air initiatives are one of the hallmarks of the Becker administration. But Biskupski said much more needs to be done, including incentives for green building, incentives for new enterprises in renewable energy equipment, implementing new cleaner-burning fuel standards, and expansion of bus service, among a host of other things. (More can be found at jackieformayor.com/environment.)
"Air quality affects all of us, irrespective of city boundaries," she said. "It is imperative that we have a mayor who is committed to working with other Wasatch Front leaders, business owners, and our state government to find solutions [for air pollution]."
She added that Salt Lake City under Becker has not done enough to conserve water or protect watersheds.
Biskupski was flanked by environmentalists Deeda Seed and Mike Reberg, who sits on the board of Save Our Canyons and helped negotiate former Rep. Jim Matheson's Wasatch Wilderness legislation.
Seed said she was supporting Biskupski because the candidate backs the Redrock Wilderness Act.
"We need a courageous leader in Utah who will stand up for Utah's wildlands. She did it in the Legislature and she will do it as mayor," Seed said. "Mayor Becker has not publicly expressed support for the Redrock Wilderness Act."
The bill, reintroduced in Congress year after year for a quarter century, has never received a vote.
Reberg downplayed the Mountain Accord as not a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, as Becker has described it. Reberg said it is an ongoing process that will continue to require strong political will and leadership if the Wasatch are to be protected in the face of growth pressures.
"Becker has pride of ownership," Reberg said of the agreement between many cities, Salt Lake and Summit counties, the state, and area ski resorts, canyon users and conservation groups that seeks an environmental impact study from the federal government.
"I'm afraid if the city needs to pivot on Mountain Accord, he won't be able to accommodate that. But Jackie brings fresh eyes," added Reberg.
Matt Lyon, the campaign manager for Becker, said after reviewing Biskupski's plan online that she is offering nothing new.
"Ninety-plus percent [of her proposal] the city is already doing," Lyon said. "None of this is new."
Lyon noted that Becker has worked with city and county representatives on the Wasatch Regional Council and the Legislature seeking clean-air legislation and programs. The mayor also launched the HIVE discount mass-transit pass and also is known for his advocacy of bicycles.
Lyon added that "Ralph is the only person who can get the Mountain Accord done" given his relationships with local, state and federal authorities.
Not least, Lyon said Becker is known for his support of wilderness throughout the state, including the Wasatch and southern Utah.
While many of Biskupski's environmental initiatives don't appear much different from Becker's, she maintained her efforts would be broader and more inclusive. Biskupski said collaboration within Salt Lake City and across the Wasatch Front is key to success.