SALT LAKE CITY — In another early announcement, a second candidate has stepped forward to challenge Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski in 2019.
Local businessman David Ibarra, 66, made his formal campaign announcement on the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building Tuesday, where he reflected on the role Salt Lake City played in his upbringing and how he climbed the ladder from poverty to business success.
"I spent so much of my childhood exploring the city streets as if they were my own personal playground," Ibarra told the Deseret News, reflecting on how he is "grateful" for his success, even though he came from a "difficult background."
Ibarra's father came to Utah from Mexico as a migrant worker to pick fruit in Spanish Fork, where he met and married his mother, from Salina. After the two later divorced, his father was drafted, and his mother decided to "give us up to the foster care system," Ibarra says in a campaign video posted on his Facebook page.
From the time he was 1 year old until he was 14, Ibarra said he spent his life in poverty and in foster care with his brother, Mickey. As a minority child, Ibarra said he experienced prejudice.
But Ibarra said he'd learn to be an entrepreneur, after his first job as a dishwasher. Eventually, he and his brother would become successful businessmen.
The well-known Democrat and business consultant founded the Ibarra Foundation, which has awarded 127 scholarships and has so far fully funded 89 college graduates.
Now, with a passion for Utah's capital, Ibarra said he's looking to do even more.
Despite efforts to address homelessness over the past several years, "people still sleep in doorways" throughout the city. He said people visiting Utah for his consulting business used to tell him, "Your city's so clean and it's so safe," but now "they don't say it anymore."
"Our city's dirty," Ibarra said. "We're not like we used to be."
Ibarra said he'd do more to clean up Salt Lake City's streets. He credited Salt Lake County and state leaders for making progress on homeless issues, but didn't give Biskupski any credit — noting he will use his "leadership skills" to make Salt Lake City a better collaborator and partner than it has been.
"It pains me that giving Salt Lake City a seat at the decision-making table is something our partners have to do, not something they want to do," he said.
"We are the front room of the state of Utah," Ibarra continued, "and while we have got to absolutely continue to be the protector of the rights of our citizens and social justice, economic justice and environmental justice, we still are part of the city and we can articulate our beliefs without screaming, yelling, getting mad, and taking our ball and leaving the game."
Ibarra did not mention Biskupski by name, but he seemed to reference criticisms of the mayor for ending negotiations with state leaders to make changes to legislation creating the Utah Inland Port Authority, a new government entity Salt Lake City leaders have decried for usurping city land use power.9 comments on this story
"I believe we can be a better partner, and we don't have to obstruct," Ibarra said. "I don't know everything — nobody does. But the one thing I do know, is I know how to put together a team of talented, experienced and passionate people that will help lead and serve our city with me, and that's the No. 1 quality that I can bring to Salt Lake City."
Community leaders including Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, former Salt Lake County Mayor Rocky Anderson — who previously endorsed Biskupski, but withdrew his support after she was elected following frustrations with her transition strategy — and Josie Valdez, former vice chairwoman of the Utah Democratic Party, backed Ibarra at his announcement event Tuesday.