In his State of the City report to the City Council this week, Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis avoided lofty goals and dreams and emphasized the ordinary instead - like repairing potholes in the streets. And that's the way it should be.
There is little room on the political agenda of a city for big national and international issues. And while things like hosting the International Winter Olympics occasionally can grab the headlines, that's not what most people routinely expect from their local elected officials.Local government, because it is government closest to the people, must reflect the more mundane day-to-day concerns of citizens. That is the purpose and function of cities and towns and those elected to provide leadership.
Local taxes, condition of the roads, police and fire protection, garbage pickup, planning and zoning, building permits, city laws and ordinances, upkeep of parks and public facilities, livable neighborhoods - these are the kinds of concerns that deeply affect residents on a personal basis.
That's why it is peculiar and unfortunate that local elections tend to attract fewer voters than statewide or national balloting.
Like many communities, Salt Lake City has problems of urban blight, flight of citizens to the suburbs and decaying older homes. The mayor wants to emphasize programs that will enable people to rehabilitate or purchase homes, thus encouraging people to remain or return to the city.
Certainly, any city that becomes merely a collection of steel and concrete can turn into a ghost town, particularly after dark. People are what give a community its character and vibrancy. If they are to stay in the city, people must have adequate housing and feel safe while walking the streets.
DePaulis is right when he calls for officials to pay attention to the basics in government. That is what residents want and expect. And that is what is absolutely necessary to keep the city attractive and viable.