Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker focused Tuesday's laudatory State of the City remarks on local bright spots from the past year and initiatives that will come to fruition in 2013.
Among the milestones set for this year's calendar are the unveiling of a design for the future Utah Performing Arts Center, adoption of a bike share program, completion of the state-of-the-art Public Safety Building and opening of the airport TRAX line.
Schematics for the performing arts center by architect Pelli Clarke Pelli will debut next month. A known bike enthusiast, Becker called the solar-powered bike share system that will open this spring the first of its kind in the western states.
The airport TRAX line is set to start carrying passengers come summer, about the same time the innovative Public Safety Building, complete with a plaza for community events, opens its doors.
"The building will be an architectural and engineering feat as the first net-zero public safety facility in the nation," Becker boasted. "Our architects tell me the building is on track to outperform many of the most energy efficient buildings in the country."
Becker complimented growth in the urban rail system, which he reported came in ahead of schedule and under budget.
Complete with a video presentation showcasing the city's highlights, Becker commented earlier in the day that Tuesday's speech was one of his longest. It marked the beginning of the second year of his second term.
The video showcased the construction and development advancements, energy initiatives and community events that Becker said has been called a "great renaissance."
The mayor framed his comments about Salt Lake City's progress in "livability" within an analogy comparing the area and its people to a healthy human body. The speech addressed downtown growth as the city's heart; transportation as its circulation system; education and entrepreneurial growth as the brain; city residents as the muscle; and physical appearance and location as the skin.
Among the blemishes Becker sees clouding the city's complexion: poor air quality and distracting billboards.
Becker promised briefly in the speech to continue aggressively pursuing public transit, pedestrian and pedal options, as well as idle-free and "clear the air" efforts. To reporters, Becker expounded on the need to couple the city's efforts with those of other municipalities.
"Our air quality is completely unacceptable," he said. "What we do certainly has an impact, but air quality doesn't know city boundaries."
As far as billboards are concerned, Becker again denounced the large advertisements and illuminated, digital billboards a "blemish" on Salt Lake City's skyline and natural surroundings.
The full room gave a long standing ovation to City Council members Carlton Christensen and Jill Remington Love, who Becker praised for bipartisan efforts as he announced they will not seek re-election. Christensen, a Republican, has served on the council for 16 years, alongside Love, a Democrat, who has served 12 years.
Becker also praised new businesses; advancement in the area's several institutions of higher education; effectively planned commercial and community development; focus on emergency preparedness; burgeoning business in proximity to City Creek Center; efforts of the Downtown Alliance; and residents' engagement in local government.
"We look to a bright future with a prognosis of good health," he concluded.
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