Name: Van Blair Turner
Occupation: Owner of Fire House Floral and the Hook & Ladder restaurant
Previous political experience: Two terms on the Salt Lake City Council; service on community councils
• Why do you want to represent District 2 on the Salt Lake City Council?
I want to continue on with the good programs we've been working on over the years, for instance the master plan of the 900 South tracks, the removal of the tracks; the tire recycler, re-moving it out of the neighborhood; work on the new library we're trying to bring down here in Glendale; continue working on our infrastructure with a strong emphasis on public safety, police and fire, which support me.
• What do you see as the largest issue for District 2, and how do you propose to tackle it?
One of our biggest issues in the master planning of the northwest quadrant and trying to build this new city that's out west in my district addressing the environmental concerns and how to accommodate the tremendous growth out west with new roads and infrastructure. The other would be to bring more housing opportunities, more job opportunities and hopefully get some more small businesses in the neighborhood to make it more walkable.
• What can be done to encourage retail development within the district?
I think we need to encourage it more on Redwood Road. We've found that works out well at about 1300 South, California Avenue area on north. I think that corridor is really going to blossom. We've put new sidewalk, curb and gutter and lighting there to try and help with the facilities. We've got the warehouses going in, and those people have to eat. We need to continue working on the 300 West corridor. We've got Sam's Club coming in, Costco outlet and other stores of that nature, but we can't forget about our local neighborhood businesses as well. We need to encourage them through use of a local loan program and hopefully get their plans expedited through our city so they won't have to wait so long to open their business.
• Salt Lake City voters will decide whether to approve bonding for up to $192 million to pay for new public safety facilities. Do you support this bond, and why or why not?
I do support it. The council unanimously supported putting it on the ballot. It's actually five buildings that will be built. We have obsolete buildings, especially in our emergency operations. We need to replace the police station downtown. We need an east-side precinct and fire facilities on the west side.
• Plans for the LDS Church's City Creek Center development call for a skybridge across Main Street to connect shopping areas on the second level of the outdoor mall. The City Council amended the city's master plan to allow for such projects to be considered. What is your opinion of skybridges in general and specifically for the City Creek project? If elected, will you support the skybridge being built?
We don't really have a policy for skybridges. We haven't had this issue come before us except for on this project. The rest of the skybridges, at Gateway, are on private property. In this case, I think it ties the two together better. I think because the view corridor has been changed with the light rail going down the middle of the street. When you talk about putting up to 900 housing units on those two blocks, it makes a lot of sense for the people who live there to get from one side of the street to the other. The only caveat is it has to be planned in with the rest of the project. It has to be open, not a fortress mall. We gave a whole list of things for the Planning Commission to consider before we'd consider it. I will support the skybridge if it meets our requirements.
• The City Creek Center development is seen as a significant step toward the revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City. What other steps need to be taken to achieve that goal, and how do you propose to do that?
One thing we're working on right now is light rail to the airport. We're spending an awful lot of time on making sure we get better public transportation. The other thing is we can't neglect the blocks around the City Creek Center. To the south, we need to look at those blocks and see how we can open them up and help them tie in more. I think we've done a good job on part of Main Street. We've got new buildings going in, and I think we just need to tie that corridor together, all the way down to the Grand America and the hotels down there so it's kind of a free-flowing area. We've got a new entertainment district we're working on. That will be a big plus and bring people downtown. We have to continue to put more housing down there and create a 24-hour urban environment.
• A Dan Jones & Associates survey commissioned by Salt Lake City showed that 78 percent of city residents say Pioneer Park should be renovated to become a more welcoming place. How do you propose to accomplish that?
We put a lot of time and effort into the park. We came up with this idea of staging different activities. It's very difficult to do it all at once, so we put in some of the infrastructure. We're trying to change that into more of an open, pleasant area, a bigger grass area that can accommodate more activities like the the Farmers Market and other daily activities. The people around there would love to be able to enjoy it like you do in other parks. We do have crime issues there we need to address. Both of the mayor candidates have said they would make that a priority. It's going to take activities, and it's going to take money to put the dog park in and other things to bring people to that area. I think we've got a great opportunity there. The block is completely revitalized around the park. It only makes sense to make that park the center of the community. People at Gateway would love to have a place to come, walk their dogs and participate in activities there. It's a jewel in the middle of our city. We just have to make sure it's programmed so we can all use it.
• Why should voters choose you over your opponent to represent District 2 on the Salt Lake City Council?
I think voters know what I can get done. They know the leadership responsibilities I've had with the Redevelopment Agency and on the Salt Lake City Council. I've been able to direct resources into District 2, and I think the average person down there believes things have gotten better there in the last eight years. We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us. We've had a lot of growth in housing. We've tackled some big projects. I like to listen to people, get all the information I can, then step back, take it down to City Hall and do the right thing for our community.