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Becker muses on climate change, parks and eliminating traffic signals

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 5:00 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker speaks in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News Archives) Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker speaks in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker said cities are leading the charge to implement policies that attempt to ward off the effects of a changing climate, including adoption of water-smart strategies and ways to reduce carbon emissions.

During the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting Monday in Dallas, Becker was among nine mayors who unanimously endorsed a resolution urging that full funding be restored to a key conservation fund.

The vote, which unfolded as part of the Mayors for Parks Coalition, calls for Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund at a full $900 million and direct $40 million for the resurrection of the urban parks and recreation program.

The resolution notes the importance of urban parks and promoting adequate open space, noting the role they play in healthy lifestyles and sense of community.

Becker, who is on the board for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said the two areas of focus at this year's conference have been education and a rededication of the effort aimed at climate change.

"It is a priority issue. It is not one of those issues that is a second-tier issue or back burner issue," he said in a telephone interview. "We are now seeing in every region in every area across the country the consequences and effects of climate change, whether that is salt water intrusion and rising sea levels along the coast, whether that is storm intensities or weather in places like the Rocky Mountains where we are seeing decreases in our snowpack."

The conference has become an event where Becker said Salt Lake City can showcase what it is trying to accomplish in terms of watershed protection and curtailment of air pollution but can also learn from others.

As an example, he pointed to this year's transportation forum that featured an Indiana city that had taken out all its traffic lights and put in a series of roundabouts and other measures to handle traffic flow.

The idea, Becker conceded, intrigues him as an option for Salt Lake City, which struggles with traffic and pollution-trapping temperature inversions.

"That is a notion I want to bring back to Salt Lake City," he said. "We all know the challenges we have with traffic synchronization and the issue we have with traffic movements and the safety problems around those."

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