This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Instead of hiring a new executive director for its Redevelopment Agency, Salt Lake City may give that job title to Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
Biskupski, the City Council and top staffers are weighing a realignment of official powers over the city's urban-renewal agency that would make the mayor its top executive, a post now vacant after she fired D.J. Baxter in January.
Newly proposed changes to the bylaws also would shore up Biskupski's authority over RDA personnel, including hiring, firing and setting compensation, while rebalancing her duties and those of the council, which acts as the governing RDA Board.
"Some people would say there is a power shift here," said Councilwoman Lisa Adams, who heads the RDA Board. "But I think it has more to do with the lens you look through."
Adams said RDA Board members are seeking to "make sure we lose no legislative powers."
Biskupski spokesman Matthew Rojas said the draft changes which get a public airing Tuesday were part of a wider campaign at City Hall to strengthen economic development.
"The RDA plays a major role in economic development in our city," Rojas said. "This is about aligning all the tools we have with the goal of having a more effective and strategic approach."
While Biskupski eventually may hold the title of RDA executive director, Rojas said, she still intends to hire someone to manage the agency day to day.
The mayor, Rojas noted, promised to reorganize and consolidate city efforts devoted to business promotion and elevate them to a full city department, led by a member of her Cabinet. Biskupski launched a nationwide search for a director of the new Department of Business and Economic Development in February.
The new bylaws would also alter how the RDA handles internal rulemaking and how it interacts with its advisory council.
Katie Lewis, the city attorney assigned to the RDA, said bylaws would align city ordinances with recent changes in state law, which specifically assigns the RDA executive director's job to city mayors.
Former Mayor Ralph Becker served as the RDA's chief administrative officer while delegating daily duties to Baxter, who took the RDA helm in 2007 under Becker's predecessor, Rocky Anderson. The new bylaws would eliminate Becker's old RDA title.
Though billed as addressing the separation of powers between the mayor and council, Rojas said, the proposed bylaw changes are being developed jointly by the parties.
"Nobody is springing anything on anybody," he said. "The City Council, acting as the RDA Board, will continue to have a strong voice. There's no attempt to limit that voice at all."
Adams hopes the changes will clarify chains of command over RDA employees, which she added have "led to confusion in the past."
"We're trying to make it so there aren't so many bosses," she said.