Salt Lake Mayor Becker taking comfortable stroll along campaign trail

Published: Thursday, Oct. 27 2011 8:28 p.m. MDT

"I believe the city should be concentrating on its core responsibilities — streets, public safety, clean water, picking up the garbage, those sorts of things — and not trying to expand its horizons into ventures that it's not prepared to handle," Kimball said.

A theater capable of hosting first-run Broadway shows would be a nice addition to Salt Lake City, he says, if a private developer wanted to come in and build it. The city, however, shouldn't be involved as a partner, Kimball said.

As for bike lanes, Kimball is OK with them, too, as long as they don't get in the way of vehicle travel.

"(Becker) has grand plans of expediting the increased accessibility of bicycles on the streets and moving the cars over," Kimball said. "If he (is re-elected), it will be a sign to him to go for it."

Somebody, he says, had to step in and say some in Salt Lake City want more emphasis placed on roads for cars, not bikes.

And as it turned out, that person will be turning 80 next year.

"I have good health," Kimball said. "I think I still have some tread left in me."

A relaxed race for Ralph Becker

The absence of a high-stress campaign has allowed Becker to spend more time focusing on the job he was elected to do.

His door-to-door visits with Salt Lake City residents are more laid back, a chance to meet with his constituents and listen to their concerns rather than launching into a campaign spiel.

"I'm working as hard as I have at any time in my career," Becker said, "but it's different because there are parts of the race I just haven't had to spend much time on."

Fundraising, for example, has been nothing like four years ago, when he raised more than $700,000 to emerge from a crowded field as Anderson's successor. Four candidates raised at least $500,000 in that race.

With much less effort, Becker has raised about $418,000 in his re-election campaign. As of Sept. 1, he had spent just $174,000 of that.

Kimball has spent about $3,000 — including $1,000 of his own money.

Becker's experience also dwarfs that of his challenger. Prior to being elected mayor, he served from 1996-2007 in the Utah House of Representatives, including seven years in leadership positions.

Among the first-term achievements Becker says he's most proud are the Mutual Commitment Registry, a mechanism by which employers voluntarily can extend health care and other benefits to their unmarried employees' domestic partners — including gay couples.

Becker also worked with the City Council to "normalize" Salt Lake City's alcohol policy, doing away with the law that only two establishments can sell alcohol per block face.

Other accomplishments include working with the Utah Transit Authority to begin construction on a light-rail line to the airport; securing $26 million in federal funding for the Sugar House streetcar project; introducing transparency and open government initiatives; facilitating the opening of The Leonardo and the start of construction on a new public safety building; and increasing bikeways in the city by nearly 50 percent.

"This is a time of really momentous change, and my hope is to continue to play a role, to facilitate those positive changes," Becker said.

"I hope, as a city, we can do a lot of great things by truly engaging the community in Salt Lake City, with our neighbors and with our partners at the state and federal levels," he said.

Contributing: Richard Piatt

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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