Mayor Ralph Becker, 2013 State of the City Address (with video links)
2013 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
MAYOR RALPH BECKER
JANUARY 22, 2013
Good evening. Thank you to the Council, to Department and Division Directors and other City employees. I acknowledge dignitaries and our partners in and out of government.
And thank you, especially, to our City snow plowers who helped all of us navigate our way through Snowstorm Gandolf.
When I asked our Public Services Director Rick Graham if there was someone from his crews I should specifically acknowledge for efforts to plow our City out after the big storm. Rick replied, “I don’t have one name for you, Mayor. I have the names of 90 plow drivers who all did extraordinary work.” Thank you.
Tonight, in this beautiful, historic Chamber, I report on the state of our City. I am happy to tell you the State of our City is strong, healthy and evolving. (And I’m I'm thrilled to state that we survived the End of the Earth, according to the Mayan Calendar.) Tonight I will share with you some highlights of our City’s accomplishments in 2012 and a preview of the exciting new progress you can expect Salt Lake City to make in 2013 and beyond.
2012 was quite a year. Through the efforts of dedicated, skilled and innovative City employees, we have accomplished a great deal. Let’s take a brief look at what 2012 was all about for Salt Lake City: [video clip]
You can understand why Lane Beattie of our Chamber of Commerce refers to this era in Salt Lake City as a great renaissance. These are the best of times for our City; we have much to be grateful for.
For the last few years, we have equated “livability” with Salt Lake City. When I meet with residents of our City, particularly those who have chosen to move to Salt Lake City from other parts of the country, they often explain that the livability of our City was a major factor in their decision to locate here.
As I began my second term last year, I presented The Livability Agenda, a comprehensive set of goals and approaches for this Administration and residents of our community. This agenda directs us as we continue to strengthen and foster the livability of our city.
Tonight I want to explore a variation on the theme of Livability we will be developing throughout this year: Salt Lake City as a Healthy Community – a community that, because of its healthy attributes, exudes livability; a community with a vibrant heartbeat, strong circulatory system, an active brain, sturdy muscle, radiant skin and an enduring soul.
THE HEART OF THE CITY – DOWNTOWN
Just as our own hearts are central to life and vitality, downtown – the heart of Salt Lake City – generates vibrancy, strength and energy.
With the opening of City Creek Center, 2012 was charged with energy. At the same time, nearly 40 other storefront shops and restaurants opened downtown, and we are seeing reinvigorated street activity. Ten new businesses are on deck to open within the next few months.
Thanks to a burgeoning residential population, new businesses and flourishing event venues, the nighttime streets of downtown are filling more and more with patrons enjoying our City.
A key partner has been Jason Mathis with the Downtown Alliance. Jason’s creative ideas, energy and hard work have enlivened the heart of our city. Whether it’s initiating the increasingly popular EVE festivities, expanding the Downtown Farmer’s Market or being a champion for the New Performing Arts Center, Jason has been a tireless advocate for all good things that make up our Downtown. Thank you, Jason.
Next month we will unveil the schematic design for the New Performing Arts Center. With input from public outreach efforts downtown and throughout the city, world-renowned architects Pelli Clarke Pelli, with local firm HKS, have created a design that will enhance our blossoming city center.
Not only will this new downtown public venue contribute to strengthening our cultural and artistic lives, the New Performing Arts Center will also be a major economic driver, activating both Main Street and Regent Street and creating a magnet of activity to draw people from across our State and region to downtown Salt Lake City. This facility will be an attraction for our City and will complement the magnificent City Creek Center.
And speaking of City Creek, we particularly thank the LDS Church for its vision, investment and commitment to high-quality development in the heart of our City – it's paying off for all of us.
Salt Lake City’s civic campus will continue to expand in 2013 with the opening of our new Public Safety Building. Complementing our 1893 Romanesque castle known as City Hall and Library Square with its two standout structures (the beautiful Main Library and The Leonardo), the new Public Safety Building and its public plaza will be home to community activities, festivals and events – uncommon for public safety buildings.
In addition to providing a safe and highly effective workplace for our police and fire departments, the building will be an architectural and engineering feat as the first net-zero public safety facility in the nation. Our architects tell me the building is on track to outperform many of the most energy efficient buildings in the country.
We look forward to introducing the public to the City’s newest civic building this summer.
As you can see, the heart of Salt Lake City is healthy and is indeed getting stronger all the time.
TRANSPORTATION – OUR CIRCULATION SYSTEM
Like our bodies' bloodstream, good circulation is essential to a healthy city. Our Livability Agenda cites ease in mobility as the means to positive connections and a competitive economy. The accomplishments of our regional rail system are renowned across the country and the world, thanks to the vision and effectiveness of Utah Transit Authority. On behalf of our whole City, I express our appreciation to Michael Allegra and his predecessors for rocketing Salt Lake City into the 21st Century.
By the end of 2013, we will have witnessed the largest expansion of an urban rail system in the nation – all accomplished under budget and ahead of schedule. Light rail and commuter rail, including the soon-to-open Airport TRAX line and the recently opened commuter rail to and from Utah County, give us options that other cities around this country can only marvel at. Our rail system will serve as an efficient – and sustainable – circulation system for decades to come.
And, utilizing the City's successful grant in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER program, in partnership with South Salt Lake City and UTA, we will open the Sugar House Streetcar and Greenway by the end of this year.
The streetcar will not only provide a new neighborhood circulator, but will provide a critical link in the PRATT Trail system, connecting the Bonneville Shoreline Trail at the mouth of Parleys Canyon with the Jordan River Parkway and Trail.
Already $450 million of private sector investment is taking place along the Sugar House streetcar line in Salt Lake City and similar investment is occurring in the City of South Salt Lake. We look forward to unveiling this addition to our circulation system in 2013.
A healthy circulation system includes arteries, veins and capillaries. For Salt Lake City, our bike and pedestrian networks fill out our circulation system. In 2012, we increased the number of bikeways, added cycle tracks, connected the Jordan River Trail to Davis County and made many other improvements. But this is just the beginning.
In 2013, we'll pedal forward in the Year of the Bike. You'll see a whole new level of improvement to increase education, participation and safety for all travelers.
Salt Lake City and the Downtown Alliance are working together to launch a unique bike share program. It will be the first of its kind, not just in Utah, but in the western states, and is scheduled to debut this spring.
The program will include a network of fully-automated touchscreen bike share stations, stocked with bikes available for checkout, day or night, seven days a week.
Our streets are the lifeline of our City; circulation for vehicles, bikes, pedestrians and transit will enable Salt Lake City to be a model for our region, state and nation. Just last week St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman told me he wants to bring a delegation from his region to Salt Lake City to see what we've done and how we've done it.
THE BRAIN – EDUCATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATION
Great cities are smart, innovative and entrepreneurial. It takes brainpower to achieve success as a thriving, livable city. Salt Lake City’s brainpower is fed by our education resources and the innovation and entrepreneurship of our people.
We are blessed with the state’s flagship University and other increasing and expanding higher education institutions, and innovative, eager, developing entrepreneurs all around us.
Not only has the University of Utah joined the big leagues with PAC 12 membership, but we've seen the University emerge as one of the nation’s top two institutions for startup businesses. That energy and brainpower not only catalyze our City, but also spawn new research and innovation that transform our quality of life.
One Salt Lake City startup company, AvanSci Bio, is working to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment with its micro-dissection device used to produce DNA samples for genetic testing.
Another startup company, Navillum, developed a process that ultimately doubles the efficiency of solar collectors.
Much credit for Salt Lake City’s innovative success belongs to the University of Utah. In fact, Business News Daily reported, “delegations from institutions and state and foreign economic development boards [are] descend[ing] on Salt Lake City to suss out the U’s secret startup sauce.”
That “secret sauce” leads to new jobs and economic growth right here in our Capital City.
Last summer our Economic Development division partnered with the University of Utah to present a conference on crowdfunding as a new source of financing emerging technology companies. The conference was the first of its type in the country to feature this potential new source of capital.
You can expect to see more economic development partnering efforts like this from the City in the year to come.
Our City swells with educational and economic opportunity as we see the LDS Business College expand on the west end of downtown, offering degrees in the medical field, business, IT and design.
Neumont University will soon be opening its doors on Main Street in the historic Tribune Building, offering not only innovation labs and classrooms for computer science education, but also six floors of on-campus housing for its students.
Westminster College, with its broad array of graduate and undergraduate programs, has merged into and fully engaged in the Sugar House community, creating activity and a strong student connection to this unique, growing urban center.
Utah’s largest college, Salt Lake Community College, will unveil its Center for New Media at the beautiful South City Campus this fall, focusing on innovation in the arts, communication and the digital world. The South City campus also hosts Salt Lake City School District’s Innovation High School.
A solid public education system is essential to the brainpower and to the economic success and livability of our City. We are fortunate to have a farsighted Salt Lake City School District led by Superintendent McKell Withers, who embraces our City’s changing demographics, and also recognizes there is much to do to address challenging graduation rates and ensure that all students are college and career-ready.
Numerous partnerships help the City support and strengthen educational opportunities for our kids’ and our community's future. With the Capital City Education Plan developed by Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake City School District and the University of Utah, and with input from parents, non-profits and the business community, we have pioneered a cultivation model that centers around supporting the family and engaging students from birth to career to lifelong learning.
We've worked diligently for five years to convene partners and play an integral role to improve educational opportunities and outcomes in Salt Lake City.
These changing economic times have their challenges: too many job losses and continued stresses in the housing market have cast shadows on the outlook for individuals and families. But, at the same time, opportunities are flourishing for those who focus their education and training in areas of need, especially in our growing local technology sector.
We have heard, and continue to hear, from new and expanding Salt Lake City businesses hungry and in search of skilled, local talent to help in building their success. Many available jobs are being filled by folks from outside our region.
For those seeking opportunities, I ask you to be strategic when seeking advancement in your education. The institutions in Salt Lake City are equipped to educate and train Salt Lake City’s labor force. Great opportunities are here and await you.
Now that we’ve examined the City’s heart, circulation system and its brain, we turn our attention to Salt Lake City’s muscle.
PEOPLE – THE MUSCLE OF OUR CITY
From the time of our first settlers more than 150 years ago, we have proven to be a strong, enterprising people in Salt Lake City. Today that is as apparent as ever. Salt Lake City is reaping the rewards of a people that care, are ambitious and hardworking and look out for each other. Our neighborhoods are rich with engaged residents and businesses.
Residents in close proximity to our downtown can fulfill their needs – work, education, shopping, government services, entertainment and recreation – relatively easily.
Other neighborhoods are in the process of developing vibrant commercial centers so that many services are available within an easy drive, bike ride or short walk. And that should be our goal – for generations, Salt Lake City has benefitted from our continuing heritage of self-sufficiency and intelligent planning and commitment. Our muscular efforts are paying off big time.
Here in Salt Lake City government, we realize the responsibility of intelligent planning and commitment not only to our residents, but also to our own employees. We have worked to promote the health and wellness of our employees – and lower their health care costs. With the muscle of our City organization, in partnership with PEHP, we will be opening a new employee health clinic in July.
The clinic will employ a primary care physician who will focus on disease management, preventative care and wellness. City employees and their covered family members will experience ample time with a provider who will help them determine if lifestyle changes are needed to enhance their health and wellbeing.
And 2013 will bring a renewed focus on food policy and local government’s role in supporting a healthy, sustainable food system in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Task Force, comprised of a diverse group of individuals and organizations, has been flexing its muscle, working toward improving food policy in our City and finding opportunities to expand urban farming, preserve open space and empower residents to live more sustainably.
A Community Food Assessment has been conducted to identify the barriers to our community food access, outline areas for improvement and offer best management practices. The overarching goal is to develop a sustainable and equitable local food system capable of providing healthy food – food that literally builds the muscles – of all City residents.
THE SKIN – THE PHYSICAL APPEARANCE AND SETTING OF OUR CITY
Some say beauty is only skin-deep. Well in Salt Lake City, we know that isn't true. The inner body of our City, whether it is our heart, our circulation system, our brain or our muscle, looks mighty fine.
But we should not forget that our skin, our outward appearance and assets, do much to make Salt Lake City special.
Our mountain setting is unparalleled for any city in this nation. The soaring peaks jutting 7,000 feet above our Valley floor are our treasured surrounding and sustenance.
We must protect our watershed, our opportunities for a range of mountain experiences – including solitude – and our many resources. If, through poor decisions, we lose that natural heritage, we will forever regret it. Under my watch, that will not happen. I will work with all our government and business partners to ensure that we are not foolish and waste away this fundamental part of what it means to be and to live in Salt City.
There are blemishes that need to be restored, like the Jordan River. Like the underappreciated Great Salt Lake. Like the air we breathe – sometimes with difficulty. We will continue to advance aggressive measures in transit, bikes, pedestrian access, idle-free initiatives and Clear the Air efforts, and work regionally with other jurisdictions to address shared challenges. Salt Lake City is doing its part. And there will be more to come.
And, some folks may wonder why I am against the hundreds of billboards and their possible conversion to bright, digital structures in Salt Lake City. It is simple: we have a gorgeous natural world bestowed upon us, and a magnificent downtown skyline. Billboards unnecessarily degrade that skin.
Our scenic, visual treasures deserve our attention and effort.
THE SOUL OF OUR CITY
Our outside treasures encapsulate the soul of our City – the intangible element that, despite our challenges, keeps us moving forward.
What has led to the Salt Lake City renaissance in the midst of this troubling economic era? Why has Salt Lake City benefitted while other cities have struggled? Certainly, to date we've had some luck: no Katrina or Sandy or Newtown tragedy. But, we've had our oil spills and Trolley Square shooting. And, we will have unexpected calamities to respond to. I hope we don't; but those events are inevitable.
In the past few years, we have strengthened our focus on emergency preparedness. For the first time in the City’s history, my Administration has a team working full-time on emergency preparedness and disaster management. Our emergency management team is doing amazing work behind the scenes to get our community ready. Our whole Administration and I are working regularly to be as prepared as possible for the catastrophes we may face.
Perhaps the largest disaster we face is one that we see daily yet struggle to recognize. The crisis of climate change – or “global weirding” as Thomas Friedman puts it – is upon us already. It is here, and we are working hard to adapt to, address, and be resilient for the enormous impacts of climate change on our watersheds and urban forests. This creeping crisis deserves our attention as much as any other matter before us today.
We can address natural challenges and inevitable crises – and prepare and work to find solutions – because we have a soul; a spirit of caring and cooperation. We see that soul in every arena, and it certainly distinguishes Salt Lake City government from the paralysis and gamesmanship we see in our federal government. While we strenuously debate our different opinions about how to deal with environmental challenges, budgets and policies in City government, we make decisions together and move forward. I thank our employees and you, our Council, for considering proposals from me. And hopefully, I'm listening and supporting many of your ideas as we advance together.
This year will be the final year on the Council of two of our of City's finest, longstanding public servants. After 16 years of service by Councilmember Carlton Christensen and 12 years by Councilmember Jill Remington Love, the two will not be seeking re-election.
These two epitomize the ideals of elected officials and public service. From different parties, they listen and take the best from ideas that come from the public and their colleagues on the Council. They work towards solutions and don't let their egos or blind ideological game-playing get in the way of finding answers and ideas that come from any and every corner.
They are civil and respectful in word and deed. I ask you to share appreciation and acclaim for them now. Members of Congress could learn a thing or two from Carlton and Jill.
Throughout 2012 I have met and visited with many people who also model the best of our society and community.
If all of you could experience my job, as I get to interact in so many parts of our City, with so many open hearts and great souls who do so much good for their families, their neighbors and our community every day, you would be as excited and appreciative for the soul of our City as I am.
Last year, as I entered my second term, I spoke about “ascendant urbanism;” maybe this term is a little esoteric, but it connotes our aspirations for Salt Lake City – a City on the rise in the constellation of Great American Cities.
We've experienced great fortune in the past several years: surviving well the most serious economic downturn in many decades without a general fund tax increase. We are charging into the 21st Century with optimism and anticipation of great things to come.
It has happened with keen, creative and disciplined effort. And, it has happened because Salt Lake City has been able to work together with public and private sectors realizing common goals and civilly making decisions.
Finally, it has happened with Salt Lake City recognizing its role as a strong and healthy component of our region. New opportunities for regional actions and efficiencies are before us with our favorite son, newly elected Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
The collaborative approach we see here – whether in the most visible manifestations like our rail system and new buildings, or in less visible ways, such as preparing for emergencies – is a model we need to continually emulate and re-create. We have worked well with our local neighbors and state and federal partners. We have found allies in business and non-profit enterprises.
We look to a bright future with a prognosis of good health. [video clip]
We have much to accomplish, and we will do it together. Through collaboration, we enjoy the process more and see better results. I look forward to the coming months and years with you to help Salt Lake City be the model of a healthy, vibrant, livable Great American City.
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