SALT LAKE CITY — Another candidate has officially jumped into this year's race to be mayor of Utah's capital, just days after Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski bowed out for a "serious and complex family situation."
Previously the longtime chairman of the Downtown Community Council, Christian Harrison made his formal campaign announcement in front of the Salt Lake City-County Building on Wednesday, the first day of spring — a day he said was fitting because it reflected his "bold, constructive optimism" vision for Salt Lake City.
Harrison, 46, joins an already crowded race, where six others have already filed paperwork to campaign, and there could be more.
"I know we can do better, and that we must do better if we are ever going to meet our incredible potential," Harrison told a cheering crowd of supporters.
Harrison, who up until January served for 13 years as the Downtown Community Council's chairman, laid out his vision for Salt Lake City, which he said has no room for politics and looks ahead decades.
"It's a vision of a government our citizens can trust to put aside playground politics and get to work on the hard things we are facing," Harrison said. "A vision of a plan that protects and empowers the next generation, that looks 40 years down the road, not just four."
Harrison laid out a multipronged vision, with focus on creating equal opportunities, bridging the divide between the mayor's office and the City Council, and tackling issues like the Utah Inland Port Authority, which he said shows the city needs to join forces with other cities to "take back control" from the state.
"From the inland port to sales tax, from air quality to quality of life, the state of Utah regularly interferes in the internal affairs of cities across our great state," Harrison said.
To do that, Harrison called for a movement to push an amendment to Utah's Constitution to clarify local control, whether that be through the Legislature or a ballot initiative.
"To thrive, cities need to innovate, and that's just not possible when our relationship with the state is not clearly defined," he said. "An amendment that will guarantee cities the right to govern themselves."
Harrison also said the city needs to "take control of our finances" by establishing a public bank, which he said would leverage city assets to fund projects "that align with our values and our priorities and then channel the interest those loans make back into our neighborhoods."
Harrison also said "we need to reboot City Hall" so that it's "free of the tyranny of playground politics." He hinted at the clash between Biskupski and the Salt Lake City Council on issues including the inland port, saying he would open "the doors between the mayor's office and City Council" to help the city fire "on all cylinders."
Harrison also said the city needs to "heal" from physical, linguistic and socioeconomic divides, calling for a government that is better equipped to help immigrants, people with disabilities and people "struggling to make ends meet."
He also pledged to lead with an eye to the far future and being more prepared for big issues, including if a major earthquake were to hit the Wasatch Front, impacts from climate change, or rapid population growth.
"Right now the plan is prayer," Harrison said. "Praying the 'big one' doesn't strike in our lifetimes. Praying climate change isn't as bad as predicted. Praying that somehow doubling our population doesn't deliver twice the people, twice the cars and four times the headache."
Christine Passey, who has run unsuccessfully to be a state lawmaker and who worked in Biskupski's office as a coordinator for disability rights before she said she left because of policy differences, threw her support behind Harrison, saying he impresses her with his attention to detail and inclusiveness for people with disabilities.
"He definitely knew his stuff and had a vision for it," Passey said, crediting him with having specific ideas so early in the campaign.Comment on this story
Passey said she worked for Biskupski's campaign before the mayor appointed her in her office, where she said she "saw what went well and saw what went badly."
Harrison joins several other the candidates who have announced campaigns, including former state Sen. Jim Dabakis, David Garbett, former executive director of the Pioneer Park Coalition; David Ibarra, a prominent Latino businessman; and former Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold. Freelance journalist Richard Goldberger and Aaron Johnson, a veteran, have also filed personal campaign committees.