Salt Lake City mayoral candidates Dave Buhler and Ralph Becker fired shots at each other over the airwaves Friday afternoon during a KRCL radio debate, each targeting the other's record in public service.
"Dave advertised himself during the primary as this nice, reasonable guy," Becker said, "and we've certainly seen a different side of Dave since the primary. I think he has fabricated (and) misrepresented information about me and even about his own record."
Becker's comments came in response to an e-mail question from a KRCL listener who chastised Buhler for "negative billboards" that are "condescending" to Becker and "insulting" to potential constituents.
Buhler, a two-term Salt Lake City councilman, defended his advertising, which has labeled Becker as "the dreamer" and himself as "the doer."
"I think my campaign has been very positive," Buhler said. "I am pointing out the differences (between the candidates). I think that's important for people to know."
After the primary trimmed a crowded field of candidates to two, Buhler began issuing weekly "to-do lists," promises to which he says voters can hold him accountable if he's elected. Until this week, he also has used those lists to compare his record, both as a member of the City Council and the state Senate, to that of Becker, who's spent the past 11 years in the state House.
"We both have public records, and that's fair game in the campaign," Buhler said. "I don't think that's negative."
As he has in previous debates, Buhler pointed to the sparse number of bills Becker has sponsored in the Legislature as a sign of ineffectiveness. In Becker's 11 years as a legislator, most spent as House minority leader, he has sponsored 14 bills that have become law. Buhler compared that to his own legislative record: sponsorship of 36 bills that became law in four years.
"I think that's a legitimate issue to raise," Buhler said, "and I'm not at all afraid to raise that."
Becker said he has led the way on several major pieces of legislation including the Quality Growth Act of 1999 but has remained in the shadow of Republican legislators on those issues so his Democratic affiliation didn't get in the way of good policy.
The candidates also squabbled over who's more to blame for Utah's stringent liquor laws.
Buhler touted legislation he sponsored that allowed purchases at state liquor stores to be made with credit cards and checks. He then took a shot at Becker over his failure to sponsor any bills to change Utah's liquor laws.
"I think that if he wanted to change the liquor laws, he ought to at least try," Buhler said. "To say (he) voted for them, great, you're supposed to vote. But to actually get something done, you sponsor a bill and work with (other legislators) to get it passed. That's where you can have a real impact."
Becker fired back by pointing out that during Buhler's time on the City Council, he has not spearheaded a change to the city ordinance that prohibits more than two liquor establishments per block face. Becker said working to change that ordinance will be "one of the things I do upon going into office."Buhler's latest to-do list, released Friday, focused on improving neighborhoods. In it, he proposes to create a voluntary second round of neighborhood cleanup; prioritize funding for street lighting and sidewalk repair; empower community councils by allocating $10,000 annually to each community council to use for "neighborhood quality of life projects"; create "miniparks," dog parks and community gardens; and create neighborhood retail nodes throughout the city, similar to the 9th and 9th neighborhood, utilizing new CDA legislation.