S.L. County mayor sets trajectory toward desired future

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 12:35 p.m. MST

Gay Muir cuts Frank Turner's hair in Kearns, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Muir, who has been at this location for more than 50 years, was noted in Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' State of the County address.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jen Mafua's daughter Lovie had a small chance of going to preschool.

Mafua works full time to support her husband and daughter, and she pays child support for her two older children. She did not have the $100 per month required to enroll the girl at Gerald L. Wright Elementary's preschool in the Granite School District.

Other less expensive programs did not offer the same quality of education, she said.

Mafua applied for and was awarded a scholarship funded by Salt Lake County. From this, Lovie was given the gift of preschool education.

"It's excellent. She's a very smart girl. She catches on real quick," Mafua said.

Expanding the preschool initiative in Granite School District is one of the plans Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams laid out during his State of the County address Tuesday.

"We know that access to a high-quality preschool is a game changer," he said.

McAdams stood next to a replica of a rocket, borrowed from Salt Lake County’s Clark Planetarium, as he spoke about his plans for the county's future.

Moving forward, the county will preserve the resources it has, take advantage of public-private partnerships, make transportation more accessible and try to be a hub of innovation, he said.

The county's fiscal responsibility, ability to work across political party lines and economic growth provide a solid foundation on which to build, McAdams said.

The mayor cited Kearns barber Gay Muir and members of Ballet West as community pioneers who have shown the "pioneer spirit and commitment to excellence that is Salt Lake County" for the past 50 years.

"Let us harness these forces shaping our community identity and rocket toward the future we choose," McAdams said to a standing ovation in the auditorium of the Salt Lake County Government Center.

Salt Lake is one of six counties in the nation included in the National Association of Counties 2014 Community Dialogue to Improve County Health, McAdams said. Through a private grant, the association helps Salt Lake County hold discussions with communities and their stakeholders about the county's current and future health.

The county will use $12.5 million to "fix and refresh" the Clark Planetarium, finish building the Jessie E. Quinney Ballet Center and complete of most of the Jordan River Parkway Trail, among other projects, McAdams said.

The mayor also said he will ask voters to renew the zoo, arts and parks funding this year.

The county will also expand preschool offered in Granite District, serving an additional 600 students through a public-private partnership with Goldman Sachs, United Way of Salt Lake and Voices of Utah Children. The ultimate goal is for all Salt Lake County children to read at grade level by third grade.

The program allows the United Way of Salt Lake and Salt Lake County to pay back investors Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker, with interest, the amount they expect to save in special education costs.

On Tuesday, McAdams announced a similar pay for success initiative, Better Futures. Through the initiative, the county will recruit private and nonprofit partners to provide life coaching, jobs and housing to those released from prison.

"With Better Futures, we'll offer the opportunity of different options for ex-offenders so that they can become contributing members of society, provide for themselves and their families, and reduce costly trips through the revolving door of our courts and jails," McAdams said.

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