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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker speaks Tuesday night in his first State of the City report.

Ralph Becker made it clear Tuesday night that there's a new leader in the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office, keeping his first State of the City report short, positive and the patting of his own back to a minimum.

"I have much to report on since the (inauguration speech Jan. 7) — at least another six minutes' worth — detailing all my accomplishments from my first week in office," Becker joked at the start of his report the Salt Lake City Council.

Becker packed those early accomplishments, the introduction of two initiatives and his goals for his first year in office, into a 20-minute address that was capped by a standing ovation from the standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 in the City Council chambers.

Much like his six-minute inauguration speech, Becker's brief remarks Tuesday were a departure from his predecessor, Mayor Rocky Anderson, whose annual State of the City reports never were shorter than 50 minutes. Anderson's final State of the City address clocked in at 1 hour and 40 minutes.

"I jokingly asked (Becker) before the meeting if it was a two-Dew speech, whether I was going to need two Mountain Dews to sit through it," Councilman Carlton Christensen said. "He assured me I wouldn't need them, and I had the confidence in him to leave them in the other room."

Christensen, a Republican and campaign co-chairman of Becker's opposition in the mayoral race, Dave Buhler, said he was impressed with Becker's remarks.

"I'm not sure we'll always be 100 percent in agreement, but I liked the direction," he said. "I liked the local nature of his speech, focusing on the community. I think that's encouraging."

Council chairwoman Jill Remington Love said Becker was collaborative in his State of the City address, calling members of the City Council for input on the initiatives he planned to propose.

"I'm excited about his leadership and his goals," Love said.

Becker credited Anderson and previous Salt Lake City mayors Deedee Corradini, Palmer DePaulis and Ted Wilson for their roles in shaping Salt Lake City into a city where the economy is thriving and diversity is embraced.

"I certainly have big shoes to fill," he said.

Becker announced a pair of initiatives Tuesday in an effort to begin filling those shoes — one designed to increase community collaboration in city government and the other a budget and management program.

Salt Lake Solutions will bring together city staff and members of the community directly impacted by decisions of city government to consider ideas and options and then "arrive at public solutions based on healthy dialogue and consensus," Becker said.

The program will be led by a steering committee made up of city staff and community leaders to rally support for community projects that likely would not be achieved without combined support of the public and private sectors.

One of the first community projects for Salt Lake Solutions will take place in the city's Euclid neighborhood, where a Victorian home known as the Fisher mansion is built on the bank of the Jordan River, Becker said. The city purchased the property to complete a segment of the Jordan River Trail.

"The Fisher mansion project potentially meets multiple community objectives: advancing historic preservation, tying together our waterways and urban trails network, expanding cultural offerings, showcasing environmental stewardship and offering public access via bus from TRAX and a bike path," Becker said.

Public and private partners for the project soon will be identified, he said. The group will meet to consider alternatives and then agree on recommendations for the use of the property.

"These Salt Lake Solutions partners are the people who make it all happen," Becker said. "They reach a partnership agreement outlining their individual commitments and a project timeline, and dreams become reality."

The other new initiative is CityWorks, which Becker called "an information-driven budget and management program that ensures our city government is responsible, accountable and cost-effective."

The police department will be the first to be evaluated through the program, which will take two to three years to be implemented throughout the city, Becker said.

The mayor also reemphasized his commitment to education, the environment, equality and public safety, as well as a vibrant downtown.

"I am energized by the challenges and opportunities ahead for Salt Lake City," Becker said. "I am excited to work with the 3,000 city employees who really make this city run. Our potential is as vast and impressive as our mountains."


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