The Salt Lake City-County building hasn't been remodeled in the six months Mayor Ralph Becker has been in office.

The mayor's office is still located at the south end of the hall on the third floor, and the offices of the City Council remain at the north end.

There's still as much physical distance between the two branches of Salt Lake City government as in years past, though those who occupy the offices these days don't seem to notice.

"Every time I leave Mayor Becker's office, having met with either the mayor or someone on his staff, I'm struck with how different it feels," said Jill Remington Love, a second-term city councilwoman. "It feels like we're all on the same team, and we have the same goals we're trying to accomplish."

The way Becker has gone about building — and in some cases repairing — relationships inside City Hall and beyond its walls ranks among the mayor's greatest accomplishments in his first 180 days in office, Love said.

"I cannot say enough about how collaborative this mayor is," she said.

Similar comments can be heard a mile-and-a-half to the north at the state Capitol.

"I have enjoyed my working relationship with Mayor Becker and have appreciated his efforts to be more collaborative with the Legislature," Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said.

Becker was aware during his mayoral campaign that, if elected, he would inherit an office decorated in hostility by his predecessor, Rocky Anderson.

Always opinionated and often controversial, Anderson was a popular mayor among a progressive base of Salt Lake residents. But he often butted heads with a moderate City Council, and he made plenty of enemies in the conservative state Legislature.

With that in mind, Becker included coalition- and consensus-building — particularly with the Legislature and neighboring communities — in the "180-Day Action Plan" he presented shortly after advancing in the primary election.

The plan outlined five E's — education, environment, equality, engaging the community and excitement downtown — that he said would "serve as the foundation and starting point of the Becker administration."

A review of the objectives Becker listed during that October news conference indicates that the mayor has made at least some progress toward all of them.

He has been able to check off a handful of clear-cut tasks, such as establishing a city registry for domestic partners and appointing an education partnership coordinator.

Many of his goals, however, are long term, such as strengthening security and neighborhood safety and addressing problems in the city's long-troubled planning division.

"We set up an incredibly ambitious agenda for the first six months," said Becker, who was sworn into office Jan. 7. "I feel really good about what we've been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time."

The mayor credits "very dedicated city employees and the cooperation and support of the City Council" for helping his administration get off to a strong start.

Several of the successes Becker considers highlights of his first six months weren't included in his 180-day plan, because they were unexpected.

Putting together a budget was made more difficult for the first-year mayor due to a slowing economy and rising health-care and fuel costs. Becker began with a $23 million budget gap — the largest in the city's history — between department requests and city revenues.

Delta Air Lines' plans to merge with Northwest Airlines led Becker and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to jointly form the Air Transportation Promotion Alliance, bringing together state legislators, city officials, transportation leaders and members of the business community to discuss Salt Lake City International Airport's future as Delta's Western hub.

Given his aggressive agenda and the surprises that have occupied his time in his first six months, Becker said he believes "we've done about as much as we could do."

But not everyone agrees with that assessment.

Last week, the Greater Avenues Community Council criticized the mayor for taking too long to restore transparency and accountability to the planning division.

Becker promised during his campaign to retool the planning division to address residents' frustrations over customer service and planning procedures, and to restore the public's confidence in the division. Members of the Greater Avenues Community Council say that isn't happening quickly enough — and Becker agrees.

"I really feel like it hasn't happened as quickly as I would have liked," the mayor said, "but it's happening."

Becker said several changes have been made in an effort to improve the planning process, including the hiring of Frank Gray in June as the city's director of community and economic development, which includes the planning division.

"I think we really have the right people in place now," the mayor said. "We're already starting to see the benefits of that, and I think that's just going to flourish over time."

Another criticism has come from advocates for low-income people and those living in poverty. Bill Tibbitts, director of the Crossroads Urban Center's anti-hunger project, said he was disappointed that Becker didn't include goals to address poverty issues in his 180-day plan.

Tibbitts and others want Becker to deliver on campaign promises to preserve and expand access to low-income housing.

"(Becker) hasn't backed away from those comments," Tibbitts said, "but there hasn't been any action."

Despite their critiques of the mayor's start, both the Greater Avenues Community Council and the Crossroads Urban Center view Becker with hopeful eyes.

"His administration has been more receptive to talking about what the city can do to alleviate poverty than the previous administration," Tibbitts said. "Six months is not enough time to know for sure how deep that commitment is."

Love, for one, believes Becker is worth betting on.

"If there are specific initiatives that he maybe hasn't gotten to, I think he will," she said. "I think he has the right team in place to address the issues we need to address."

Mayor to answer questions at town-hall meeting July 17

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker will speak and answer questions about his first six months in office during a town hall-style meeting at 7 p.m. July 17 in the auditorium of the Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South.

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