Gov. Norm Bangerter is continuing to characterize former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson as a big-spending bureaucrat who tripled taxes and turned the downtown area into a ghost town.
In a speech to a professional Republican women's group, Bangerter said Wilson and the Democrats' campaign strategy seems to be to portray themselves as Republicans.The governor warned: "Don't let the Democrats cloud your vision."
Bangerter said the differences between himself and Wilson are striking. First, Bangerter pointed out that he spent his entire life as a self-employed small businessman - an experience that taught him what it's like to work long hours, meet a payroll and deal with government from a citizen's perspective.
Bangerter said Wilson, on the other hand, has spent his entire adult life on the public payroll as a school teacher, assistant to Congressman Wayne Owens, Salt Lake County social Services director and college professor.
"There's nothing wrong with a career in government, but when that's been your entire experience, it limits your perspective," Bangerter said. "Do you want a businessman or a bureaucrat?"
Bangerter went on to criticize Wilson for his "proven track record of increasing government." The governor said that during Wilson's 10 years as mayor, the city's general fund grew by an average of 8.5 percent. Even adjusted for inflation and population, Wilson increased spending by $100 per resident, he said.
"Guess what? While I've been governor, we've reduced spending by $100 per person," he said.
What's more, Bangerter said, Wilson did not increase spending through economic growth. He did it, according to the governor, by tripling Salt Lake City's franchise tax from 2 to 6 percent during his time in office.
"Instead of increasing government, during my three years we've reduced it," Bangerter said. "Spending has been cut, in real terms, an average of 2 percent a year for over 7 percent total."
Finally, Bangerter hammered Wilson's record of economic development. He said the once-thriving downtown area is a virtual ghost town. He said some merchants blame the downtown beautification projects that eliminated parking spaces; others attribute it to city fees, taxes and increased parking meter rates. Still others point to the "comedy of errors" surrounding the Block 57 redevelopment, Bangerter said.
"About the only businesses operating now are pawn shops," Bangerter said.
Bangerter was quick to add, however, that Wilson was instrumental in landing two major developments - the Triad Center and Select Telephone and Technologies.
"The Triad Center has not only hurt many small businessmen and women who invested their life savings to acquire retail space based on (Triad founder and owner Adnan) Khashoggi's plans and promises, but also tarnished Utah's image nationally," Bangerter said.
Select Telephone and Technologies, Bangerter said, received a multi-million federal grant that was to be administered by Salt Lake City.
"At least it was supposed to be administered," he said. "While Wilson and his people weren't looking, the funds disappeared and no jobs were created. It now looks like the taxpayers of Salt Lake will have to reimburse the federal government for the grant."