This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
July 28, 2006
Salt Lake City Main Library
When I first ran for mayor, I considered myself simply a resident, a citizen, a community-activist, with passionate concerns about what was happening in our city, our state, our nation, and our world. That's how I still view myself.
I worked in my law practice to help bring about positive changes for people with mental illness, for people whose rights were abused while they were incarcerated, for homeless people, for people who lost their savings in underinsured financial institutions, and for victims of malfeasance by those whose professional standards demanded that they exercise greater care toward those they are supposed to help.
Outside of my law practice, I worked, proudly, as President of the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah for the vindication of constitutional rights and liberties; as a Board member of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah for the provision of better family planning education and services; as a Board member of Common Cause for political reform, including a ban on gifts by lobbyists to legislators; as the founder of Citizens for Penal Reform; and as a 15-year Board member and President of Guadalupe Schools for the provision of greater educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged young people.
During the course of my community service, I witnessed elected and other public officials enriching themselves as they exploited their offices. I saw important public policy decisions being made by elected officials who seemed to have no interest in reading and learning about the matters on which they exercised enormous impact.
On a national, state, and local level, I watched as few, if any, did anything at all to stop horrendous genocides, to stop the poisoning of people by toxins in our air, or to bridge the huge gulf between the haves and have-nots in our world and in our nation.
Locally, I saw a disregard of the rights and freedoms of people who were members of minority political parties, people who were not members of the predominant religion, and people from the ethnic and racial minority community.
I experienced first-hand, as a single father, a lack of enriching, affordable after-school and summer youth programs. I responded with great sadness as our local and state elected officials neglected, year after year, the crucial issues of poor air quality, automobile dependence, political corruption, sprawl development, destruction of open spaces, global warming, and dependence on foreign oil, which has led us to a tragic, unconscionable war and self-destructive foreign policy. I was frustrated by the neglect of opportunities for a safer, healthier, more sustainable local community, nation, and world by those who were more concerned with short-term profits than with people and our planet.
Most fundamentally tragic, I witnessed a dangerous culture of obedience, where change, differences, and dissent are disparaged as being divisive -- a culture where hypocrisy so often prevails, as purported religious and family values are recited as if by rote, while in daily lives -- in the real world -- inhumanity has prevailed, including complacency -- and hence complicity and culpability -- in connection with the killing of innocents, the degradation of our planet, the stupendous disparity of wealth, the undermining of life-enhancing education, and a mind-numbing condescension toward and discrimination against those who do not share certain religious beliefs, who do not have the correct sexual orientation, and who do not enjoy, through the accident of birth, the perks of status, inheritance, or citizenship.
I wanted to do more -- to have a greater impact -- so I ran for mayor.
Working with some of the greatest public servants anywhere, including the greatest get-it-done Chief of Staff imaginable, Sam Guevara, we have helped transform this community into a more welcoming place for everyone, a safer, healthier, more sustainable place, which serves as an example for municipalities elsewhere.
Under the passionate and capable leadership of Janet Wolf, we have built from scratch, in the face of bizarre opposition from some City Council members, a world-class, city-wide after-school and summer youth program that is helping families and changing many lives for the better. YouthCity is consistently given short shrift by the City Council during the budget process, yet it is perhaps the best investment we can make in our city's future.
With the tremendous support of Lisa Romney and Vicki Bennett, as well as the enthusiastic support of the fantastic Salt Lake City Green Team and many others in the community, we have built a phenomenal, comprehensive environmental program, with a climate protection campaign that garnered our City the World Leadership Award for the environment and which has inspired aggressive action to reduce the emission of global warming pollutants in cities and states around the world.
Through the dedicated, passionate, hard work of Archie Archuleta and Mark Alvarez, we have made certain that, in every way possible, people of all ethnic origins, races, sexual orientations, and faiths or of no faith know they have an equal and respected place at the table of city government and of our community. Our terrific staff in Human Resources, including recently-retired Phyllis Caruth, and the heads of all city departments have helped our City make enormous strides in increasing not only the number of employees from the minority community but also the salaries and levels of responsibility in the jobs held by these employees. The percentage of minorities employed by Salt Lake City has increased by 31% since the beginning of our administration. Perhaps most telling is the fact that the percentage of minorities employed by Salt Lake City as officials and administrators has increased 90% and the percentage of minorities employed as paraprofessionals has increased by over 84%.
With the generous help of Jim Sorenson, the Alliance for Unity, Jon Huntsman, the LDS Church, and several others, and through the persistent efforts of Kay Christensen and our incredible Public Services Director Rick Graham, we are able now to move forward with the construction of the Sorenson Unity Center -- where programs, facilities, and services will enhance a historically under-served part of our City -- a tremendously positive component of the resolution of the wrenching Main Street Plaza conflict.
For their excellent legal work on so many diverse and often complex matters like theMain Street Plaza litigation and negotiations, I am grateful to the outstanding lawyers in the City Attorney's Office, led by Ed Rutan, the best city attorney anyone could hope for, and a great friend.
With Sim Gill's tireless, creative, highly-competent leadership of our City Prosecutor's Office, and with a Justice Court bench and staff that has demonstrated consistently a commitment to excellence and the highest principles -- even when facing some of the members of the City Council who have been entirely unsupportive and unappreciative of the Justice Court's significant contributions -- we have built a model system of criminal justice -- restorative justice -- that actually deserves the word ''justice''. It is a system that, rather than stoking the rage to punish, seeks to solve problems, get to the root causes, and reconcile and restore victims, offenders, and our community -- while saving taxpayers money.
Although it hasn't always been easy, we have honored the principle of collective bargaining -- remaining the only municipality in Utah to do so. Working with leadership in three unions -- and the current leadership is exemplary, as it acts respectably and tenaciously on behalf of union members -- we have negotiated contracts, rather than ever having to resort to a Council-imposed compensation plan, every single time these past 6 1/2 years.
With Tim Harpst and Dan Berganthal's talented and creative leadership, we have made our city far more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, being recognized last year as the most improved city in the country for pedestrian safety.
Due to the best library director in the country, Nancy Tessman, the outstanding architects Moshe Safdie and Steve Crane, and the other architects at Valentiner Crane, and our excellent Library Board, we were able to create a world-class Library Square, with open space on the east side that complements the source of so much of our city's pride, our Main City Library. It took a 1 1/2 year fight to get the open space approved by our City Council, but we did it, still with the ever-strange, consistent opposition of one of the Council members.
That open space was just a few of the 390 acres of open space acquired and preserved by Salt Lake City in the past 6 1/2 years, due in large part to the steady, far-sighted guidance and stewardship of Leroy Hooton and Jeff Niermeier, for whom later generations should be extremely grateful.
With the incredible energy, hard work, and stamina of Jerry Floor, the entire Floor family, the Jazz Arts of the Mountain West family, generous sponsors, and an entire community of music lovers, we have built the finest destination Jazz Festival in the nation. As is clear to the tens of thousands of people who have attended, Salt Lake City is a better place because of the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival.
We have greatly enhanced our City's forest, with Bill Rutherford, our city forester, providing inspiration to all who have the privilege to know and work with him. And our city's planning and community development have excelled as never before under the guidance and outstanding leadership of Louis Zunguze, who I hope will always be a dear friend.
With an outstanding Fire Department, under the best Fire Chief I can imagine, Chief Chuck Querry, and a remarkably improved Police Department, now under Chief Chris Burbank, whose integrity and dedication to public service is recognized by all who have worked with him, Salt Lake City is a far safer, more secure community, increasing the quality of life for each and every one of us. Although crime is a function of many factors, we know our lives are much improved when response times to fire and police calls are significantly down, and serious crime is at a 14-year low, with a decrease of 7.5% from 1999 to 2005.
Our Redevelopment Agency, the RDA, although thrown into some considerable chaos by the new management dynamic resulting from a by-laws amendment passed by the RDA Board, has helped bring about significant positive development of our city, much of which would never have occurred without the RDA. I am sorry, however, that the RDA Board has sought to essentially manage and administer the RDA by committee, a recipe for a lack of accountability and far less than the best possible results. I hope the RDA Board will accept its own responsibility for many of the RDA problems, rather than trying to foist it upon hard-working staff members. Also, one must wonder how many years it must take for the RDA to get out of the business as a slumlord and develop its property on State Street in the heart of our Downtown.
We have banned gifts to city employees (except City Council members and employees of the Council Office, who are not under my jurisdiction and who the Council has not seen fit to subject to a gift ban); we have proudly flown the rainbow flag over City Hall during the Pride celebrations; we have provided extraordinary constituent service with a remarkable Community Affairs staff -- Diana Karrenberg, Barry Esham, Annette Daley and Gwen Springmeyer -- who, along with the beloved Pauline Peck on our help line and the amazing Yolanda Francisco-Nez managing our front office since the very first day, are thoroughly committed to community-building and problem-solving, making this a better community every day through their hard work. We have instituted affirmative action in our employment, recruiting, retention, and promotion policies and practices. We have consistently advocated for public funding of expanded light rail and commuter rail. We have fought against sprawl, including our successful fights against the misconceived original Legacy Highway and the sprawl-mall. We have expanded in unprecedented ways essential public dialogue through the Bridging the Religious Divide and Freedom Forums initiatives. We have more excellent, community-building events than ever before, like the Jordan Park 4th of July Celebration (thanks to the wondrous Talitha Day and her terrific staff). And our Salt Lake City Arts Council, under the leadership of Nancy Boskoff, has helped bring more great free Gallivan Concerts and public art to our city.
Much of the toughest, most challenging and complex work, such as the Union Pacific train line closure, is due principally to the outstanding, tenacious, committed work of DJ Baxter, who, even in the face of baseless criticisms by uninformed, politically-motivated people, stuck it out, always with an eye toward the long-term goal. As we are moving forward with the closure of the 9th South UP line, the nay-sayers now have a lot of crow to eat, and apologies are due to DJ, for the obstructions they tried to throw in DJ's path. DJ is another person in this administration who has made enormously positive contributions that will make Salt Lake City a better place for many generations.
We have hosted dozens of US mayors at the Sundance Summit: A Mayor's Gathering on Climate Change. We have presented on our climate protection campaign at two UN conferences in New Delhi and Buenos Aires, at conferences in Australia, Sweden, and London, and in numerous cities throughout the US.
We were named by Outdoor magazine as one of America's New Dream Cities, by the book 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live as one of the most gay- and lesbian-friendly cities in the country, and I was honored to be named one of the top ten straight advocates in the nation for the GLBT community.
We have proudly advocated on behalf of immigrants and their families -- and for a major overhaul of our immigration laws, recognizing that our federal government and corporate community has, in actuality, invited and enticed undocumented workers to come to the US to work at low-paying jobs and that we, as a nation, have a duty to recognize that fact and the great contributions made by immigrant workers by creating a path toward workers' permits and, eventually, citizenship. That advocacy has resonated nation-wide, as reflected in the recent receipt of the LULAC Profile in Courage Award and the National Association of Hispanic Publications President's Award.
We successfully delivered a Message on Peace, Human Rights and the Environment from Salt Lake City to Torino, Italy without the use of any fossil fuels. We have improved parks, sidewalks, streets and public services, all while, with the steady, hard work of my great friend Rocky Fluhart and his extraordinary Management Services staff, building up healthy reserves and refraining from any major tax or fee increases. We have, due in large part to the terrific work of Diana Karrenberg, appointed members of the minority community to approximately one-third of the positions of Salt Lake City boards and commissions. We have engaged thousands of people in healthy, uplifting, community-building initiatives like SLC Reads Together and SLC Gets Fit Together. And we have initiated the promotion of a quaint, identifiable Broadway Blvd. district.
We have created unprecedented access and transparency in City government, with News & Community Conferences, Saturday Morning with the Mayor, and One-on-One With the Mayor gatherings, as well as full internet disclosure of all city employee reimbursed expenses.
Throughout much of what we have done since he came on board, Patrick Thronson has been there, helping get out the word -- and far more. Much of what we have been able to present to the community -- and to the nation -- has been due, in large part, to the brilliant, tenacious work of Patrick, as outstanding a communications director as any mayor could ever hope for.
We have worked to bring real results to drug prevention programs and have advocated to achieve effective drug education, treatment and harm reduction programs, while speaking out against the phony, ineffectual, destructive so-called ''war on drugs.'' I am grateful to the volunteer members of the Salt Lake City Mayor's Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Coalition, to Abbie Vianes, and to Luciano Collona, whose national reputation for his advocacy for real, pragmatic results in the areas of substance abuse education, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction is richly deserved. Our work was recognized a few months ago by the Drug Policy Alliance, which gave me its Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy. That award is given to those who best epitomize loyal opposition to drug war extremism.
We have worked to revitalize our Downtown and, with the extraordinary work of Rosemary Kappes, the Salt Lake City Housing Authority staff and board, and Luann Clark, to provide more affordable housing than ever before. There are now more offices and residential units filled in our Downtown than ever before. I will always be grateful to Allison McFarlane for the great work she has done, and for all she has accomplished, for long-term economic sustainability in our city. Her competence, hard work, and good humor have served all of us exceptionally well.
Salt Lake City is a world-class city, where I have been privileged to serve as mayor for over 6 1/2 years. I took on the challenge of running for and serving as mayor as a concerned, activist citizen. I have always viewed my job as mayor as a service to the community and hope that, regardless of whether residents disagree with me on any particular issues, the people of this great city will understand that I have always worked incredibly hard, I have always done my best, and I have devoted just about all I have to what I believe are the highest principles.
Even in the face of popular or political opposition, I have always sought to keep in mind the importance of providing straightforward, honest, principled leadership -- the sort of leadership we often sorely miss from elected officials -- officials who are too often led by polls or political expediency, rather than by an informed determination of what is the best long-term course.
I've valued my time as mayor, I've come to love the people with whom I work every day, and I've found great satisfaction in what we have accomplished -- and in what Salt Lake City has become. Although it saddens me in many ways, I have decided I will not seek a third term as Salt Lake City Mayor.
I have made this decision because I want to spend my remaining days working on grass-roots advocacy and organizing in the areas of human rights and global warming. As our nation -- and indeed our world -- have proclaimed ''Never Again'' ever since the Holocaust, we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear, again and again, toward many millions of people -- many millions of our brothers and sisters around the world -- as they have been murdered, raped, tortured, and run off from their homes. We have witnessed much of the same with respect to the most urgent problem facing our world -- global warming -- with elected officials dithering while they rely on fiction rather than science to justify their unconscionable inaction.
A clear thread that runs throughout the history of genocides, sexual slavery, climate change, and other human rights tragedies is the fact that our elected officials are generally not leaders. Rather, they respond to what the polls say or what we the people demand -- so long as we demand it effectively and in large enough numbers. Our elected officials need to know we care -- and that if they don't act to stop human rights abuses and the exacerbation of global warming, they will pay a significant political price. Hence, it rests upon us to lead -- to organize -- and to make a positive difference by pushing our elected officials to do the right thing.
Two weeks into the Rwandan genocide in 1994, President Clinton's National Security Advisor told a human rights worker, ''Make more noise!'' He said the phones weren't ringing and that, without a manifestation of Americans caring about the genocide, intervention to stop it would not occur. Although Romeo Dallaire, UN military commander in Rwanda at the time, said it would only take 5,000 troops to stop the genocide, no one in the US made noise, phone calls weren't made, the US and UN failed to intervene -- and 800,000 people were butchered in 100 days. The same was true when two million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; when the genocide, including use of concentration and rape camps, occurred for 2 1/2 years in Bosnia; when Saddam Hussein actually had chemical weapons and was using them against the Kurds -- during which time the US rewarded him with an additional $1 billion in agricultural credits -- ; and, now, for four years, in the Darfur region of Sudan, where untold tragedy has occurred with abysmal inaction by the US and the UN.
So, I plan to ''make more noise'' -- and hope to help others give vent to their humanity and their outrage by ''making more noise.'' Through grass roots advocacy and organizing, I believe and hope we can make this a better, safer, healthier, more sustainable, and far kinder world.
Thank you for allowing me the honor and privilege to serve as your mayor -- and let me invite you all to ''make more noise'' with me in the coming years.
I love you and I love our great city!