SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski will seek a second term to continue momentum on issues like affordable housing, the environment and transit, she announced Saturday.
"Today we are a stronger city, one that is taking on the toughest issues," Biskupski told reporters and supporters from the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building. She was flanked by prominent Democrats, law enforcement leaders and others as she formally announced her re-election bid.
The city's first openly gay mayor said she listened carefully to concerns she heard the last time she was running for the office.
"My team and I have never lost sight of what the residents care about the most," Biskupski said. The former state lawmaker wiped tears from her eyes after thanking her family for their support and at times drew cheers from supporters wearing green T-shirts and carrying signs with her name.
She pointed to accomplishments like a planned 2,500 homes for low-income Utahns, in what she called the city's first affordable housing plan in 25 years. In terms of public safety, crime has dropped to a five-year low, she added, and the city's police force has added victim advocates and social workers.
When Biskupski took office three years ago, she said, homelessness in the city "had hit a tipping point." Her office helped carry out initiatives to address the problem.
"She needs more time to continue what she started," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera. She said Biskupski, who previously worked in the sheriff's office, has shown she is dedicated to helping the city's homeless gain access to services and receive fair treatment from police.
"Operation Rio Grande is working," Rivera said, referring to the joint state and local government effort to curb crime and homelessness in the beleaguered neighborhood.
Former Mayor Ted Wilson told the crowd Saturday that those issues weren't as dire when held the office in the 1970s and '80s.
"We have people on the street that need the heart that beats in this woman," he said. Biskupski has fought other battles, Wilson said, including legislative proposals at the state Capitol that would have harmed nearby watersheds.
Biskupski also touted her administration's efforts to spur job growth in Utah's capital city, saying a new economic development office has helped to create thousands of jobs and support growing local businesses.
She noted that pollution was so thick in the Salt Lake Valley when she was sworn into office three years ago that she couldn't see the mountains from downtown that January day. The city is addressing the problem with more charging stations for electric cars, more frequent bus service and a long-term commitment to renewable energy, she said.
Several cheered when Biskupski said new extended bus lines will help commuters get to and from work, school and doctor appointments in the evenings and on Sundays.
Former state Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck called Biskupski a fighter who advocates for everyone and has helped elevate women and minorities to leadership positions.
"I want her in my corner," Chavez-Houck said.
Biskupski on Saturday did not make mention of the Utah Inland Port, a potential shipping depot in the city's northwestern corner to be overseen by a state board. She has criticized the board and called it unconstitutional because it can strip the city's power.
Among those who braved chilly, cloudy weather to show their support were Rosine Nibishaka, a student at Salt Lake City's East High, and Belvia Noudjougoto, who attends Highland High School.23 comments on this story
Nibishaka met Biskupski in the past through Future Scholars of Africa, an organization that connects first-generation college students from Africa with college scholarships, she said. The mayor has visited with her and other students in the group, giving them advice and helping identify grants, showing Nibishaka that "she's a really good person." Noudjougoto agreed. She said she is eager for Sunday bus service to begin and supports the efforts to reduce air pollution.
Ibarra said Saturday that the candidates vying for the job take similar positions on issues but differ on how to address them.
"Salt Lake City needs a problem-solving leader that can work in harmony with others to serve our city’s interests. Those are the skills I am offering our capital city,” Ibarra said in a statement.