In eight short years, Salt Lake City has gone from Great Recession to Great Renaissance and I’ve played my part in our inspiring transformation. We’ve made remarkable progress, and together we can sustain our upward trajectory as one of America’s brightest stars.
Forging partnerships is the only way to make long-lasting improvements in the city we all love. Through community teamwork, we’ve made our city more beautiful, more vibrant, more welcoming and more just.
Energizing our downtown. Every major city has one or two institutions that make an outsized impact. In our city, that’s The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which invested greatly to build City Creek Center. We worked together to shape City Creek plans to best serve the community. Now the city, Salt Lake County, the LDS Church and community and business leaders are cooperating to extend City Creek’s energy further south to complete the new Eccles Theater, build the 111 Main office tower and create Regent Street as a lively, active link between City Creek and the Gallivan Center.
Our new EnterpriseSLC economic development strategy, forged through community outreach, will keep us at the vanguard of economic expansion that lifts all boats in our diverse community.
Reducing discrimination. After building a broad community coalition, I asked the city council to pass Utah’s first housing and employment protections for LGBTQ people. Other jurisdictions followed our example and statewide protections were adopted earlier this year.
This is an unassailable example of how methodical, patient and respectful collaboration can bring us closer together and strengthen our community. Working with our faith leaders, some of whom have diverging views on this issue, was particularly rewarding and reinforced mutual relationships.
Helping the homeless. The face of homelessness has evolved greatly since the Great Recession. In the past, most homeless people were single men and services were organized primarily to serve them. While we’ve been nationally recognized for reducing chronic homelessness, we must now shift our approach to better serve families, youths, single women, the elderly and others who are homeless for shorter periods of time. Each group has specific needs to be addressed individually.
That’s why Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and I organized two integrated, community-led commissions to find common ground for the common good. For the first time in a generation, everyone with a stake in the outcome — service providers, faith leaders, business groups, community members and government agencies — was brought together to jointly develop innovative, caring and sustainable ways to better the lives of our homeless residents and address community impacts. I hope to quickly implement recommendations coming later this year.
Protecting mountain watersheds. Because Salt Lake City has a unique responsibility to care for watersheds in the central Wasatch Mountains, I convened an effort to balance differing interests among recreation, business, environmental, government and community groups.
The resulting Mountain Accord promises to resolve decades of conflict with public-private land exchanges, a federal protection designation, trail improvements, environmental monitoring and transit improvements. This solid foundation will help preserve our stunning mountain surroundings for generations to come.
Let’s finish the job we started together. Our other efforts to improve our residents’ quality of life include the Capital City Education Program, 5,000 Doors affordable housing effort, Refugee Mentorship Program, GreenBike initiative and rebuilding North Temple to include TRAX and community amenities.
From recession to renaissance, we’ve taken tremendous strides together. Let’s keep up our positive momentum and finish the job we started eight years ago to become a truly great American city.
Ralph Becker is mayor of Salt Lake City and president of the National League of Cities.