This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I believe it's critically important to re-elect Ralph Becker as our mayor.
This election isn't about Becker, the candidate. It's about Becker, the planner who gets things done. Re-elect our mayor for his vision of a thriving city, a vision he's bringing to fruition. His opponent, Jackie Biskupski, offers no new and convincing alternatives.
You may be disappointed with the mayor's off-key skills as a communicator; you may be angry about one of his policy decisions. But our city has undeniable new vitality, and Becker has brought us here. In four more years, he can bring us even closer to living in a sustainable, livable model city.
Becker mishandled the Chris Burbank fiasco; no one doubts this. The mayor had an insubordinate department head who ignored sexual harassment. Becker needed to act sooner and with more grace. Nonetheless, Interim Chief Mike Brown brings fresh ideas to downtown policing; morale in the department has vastly improved.
Other issues antagonize. Why is that new theater so big? Why can't we respond more effectively to drug dealers and the homeless? How about street redesigns that increase biker safety but inconvenience motorists?
If we look at the bigger picture, our economy is humming, an impressive recovery from the Great Recession. Downtown draws young people in droves. Neighborhood businesses in Sugar House and elsewhere are flourishing. Betsy Burton, the force behind Buy Local First, fiercely supports Becker's re-election.
Biskupski demands a more business-friendly administration, but she certainly can't point to a city in trouble. To the contrary, the city is booming. The CEO of Zions Bank, Scott Anderson, argues in a Tribune op-ed that Becker's "leadership is essential… if you care about our city's continued prosperity and momentum."
The mayor has done well on women's issues. He's created partnerships with the LDS Church to protect LGBT rights, and City Councilman Stan Penfold and other LGBT leaders support Becker despite the fact that Biskupski is a pioneering member of their community. Becker will need to do still better to respond to an electorate asking for (in his opponent's words) a city government "more inclusive, more diverse, and more reflective of the needs of all our neighborhoods."
Ralph Becker is pragmatic. He's a sincere, honest man who works for the common good and resists the demands and quid quo pro donations of special interests.
Becker can talk forever about policy a wonkiness that makes for less than crisp answers in debates. This same deep understanding of what makes a city great generates his stream of big ideas. He balances protecting green space with promoting economic growth, and he's gained endorsements from businesses large and small as well as from the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.
This all leads to Becker's pivotal role in negotiating the Mountain Accord that rarity, a compromise signed unanimously by all stakeholders, from ski resorts to land developers, from the Forest Service to Save Our Canyons. To finish the deal, we'll need congressional action, environmental impact statements, and public comment.
Biskupski hasn't been involved with the Mountain Accord. She expresses doubts about the project and misrepresents its contents. Without the fuel of Becker's passion for the Wasatch, the Accord may fade away. We could return to fending off endless sequential requests for development instead of seeing permanent protection for 80,000 wild acres in our mountains.
Becker won the mayor's office as a planner with an armful of blueprints for our city. He's still looking far down the road, a future that includes a net-zero airport, bold action on air quality, transportation and renewable energy and completion of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to safeguard our mountains and our watershed.
I urge you to re-elect Ralph Becker as our mayor. If we like the city we've become, he needs the chance to finish what he's begun.
Stephen Trimble is a Salt Lake City writer, photographer and conservationist. He teaches in the Honors College at the University of Utah.