2012 State of the City Address, Mayor Ralph Becker
Mayor Ralph Becker
State of the City Address, January 17, 2012
Happy New Year – and welcome to 2012. I am excited to begin a new year, and a new term as Mayor. Great things are happening in Salt Lake City.
Over the last four years, our pursuit of success in sustainability, social justice and neighborhood and downtown vitality has helped shape our collective vision for how we live, work, recreate and progress in Salt Lake City.
“Livability” has emerged as a unifying theme for framing our priorities. We have focused on making our City one of the greenest, most inclusive and economically viable municipalities in the country. City employees, neighborhood and civic advocates, business owners and organizations, religious and social institutions, and many others in our community have coalesced to advance our common goals:
We have worked together for social equality, public safety, access to and protection of natural areas and recreational opportunities;
We have focused on open government, efficient and accountable use of taxpayer money, and engaging residents in the decision making process;
We have pursued urban agricultural opportunities, strong education systems, a healthy downtown and neighborhoods, and diverse cultural offerings.
We have responded to important and urgent matters of city business, including an unprecedented economic recession and City budget reduction – without raising taxes; passed the Public Safety Building bond; completed a Parleys Historic Nature Park Plan; re-engaged the construction of a light rail line to the airport; and addressed the effects of the Chevron Oil Pipeline spills.
In 2011 we marked the opening of our new North Temple viaduct; broke ground for the new Public Safety Building; and celebrated the re-opening of Liberty Lake. We moved forward on the Sugar House Streetcar by securing critical federal dollars in partnership with South Salt Lake and Utah Transit Authority. We opened a newly renovated Gallivan Center. We saw the opening of the magnificent Natural History Museum and The Leonardo science, technology, and arts experience in the old main library. We installed new solar parking pay stations; opened the 9Line Trail and expanded our bikeways. And last month we formally began the design phase for a new performing arts center. At the same time, we increased our commitment to assisting the growing homeless and hungry in our City suffering from the economic downturn.
As we look at the positives – amidst the challenges – we can proclaim that Salt Lake City is experiencing a renaissance – or as a recent Salt Lake Tribune headline dubbed it, a “Boom, not Doom” in 2012. We are ascending to a new kind of urbanism that embraces accessibility, sustainability and sophistication.
I’d like to introduce you to some of the priorities of the Livability Agenda:
Accessibility is how we get around and how we access opportunities for success in our community and region.
The way we get around Salt Lake City is central to our identity as an urban space. Accessibility to the downtown core, to the University of Utah and our airport, to our neighborhoods, and to adjacent recreational areas creates opportunity for connection – connection to one another; to local businesses; to entertainment and the arts; and to our natural world.
An accessible city is also a city that offers the protection of basic rights for all residents through equal access to government, housing, justice and education.
Accessibility to quality education and the lifelong benefits that education offers can be enhanced as we continue our partnership with the Salt Lake City School District and collaborate with our post-secondary and higher education institutions.
Salt Lake City School District is indeed one of the state’s leaders in education. Yet despite our strengths, we face the challenges of an achievement gap and falling high school graduation rates that persist among ethnic and income classifications. We, as a City, believe we can – and should – support the school district in its efforts to meet these challenges.
Working in partnership with the school district and other partners, we will continue our support of Community Learning Centers and work to improve literacy through expansion of the Early Childhood Learning Action Team and introduction of a college-readiness and college application assistance program.
I will propose to the Council that we increase support for after-school programs and summer employment for our youth through an expanded grant system. Salt Lake City has recently engaged the Salt Lake City School District to grow its after-school programs, and we are exploring the potential of a youth conservation corps at the City.
Every student in Salt Lake City should access and reap the benefits of educational opportunities. We look forward to working with our education partners to reach these common goals.
Sustainability is how our community plans for and acts on our community’s sufficiency and prosperity – for today and tomorrow.
Salt Lake City’s unique urban brand embraces a tradition of self-sufficiency and a sustainability philosophy that promises to preserve both our natural environment and our economic viability – two components that distinguish our unmatched livability.
Salt Lake City’s efforts and ability to attract and sustain big businesses do not minimize the role of smaller businesses and support for neighborhood business districts like the River District Gardens around 9th South and 9th West. These vital, vibrant business nodes provide goods and services for residents and visitors on a very local scale. Building on four years of revamping our business assistance programs, Salt Lake City will pursue additional initiatives to bolster our local business community.
As we work to sustain a vibrant economic climate, we must also work to protect and sustain our watershed and the character of our spectacular, natural setting. We should use our capacity for innovation and creativity to make Salt Lake City the finest example of wise resource use in the nation.
It is time to comprehensively address the Wasatch Canyons. Public and private partners must all come together and reason to protect our watershed, establish mountain transportation systems and wilderness areas, and balance uses while protecting natural resources. Our mountains, the lifeblood of our Valley, face unprecedented demands. Our residents, businesses and governmental entities should forge a consensus that guides us for the next generation.
Salt Lake City will continue to take the lead on a regional effort, in partnership with the Wasatch Front Regional Council and state agencies, to address unacceptable air quality. We will continue to model sound approaches to improving air quality in our region through initiatives like the Clear the Air Challenge, efficiencies in our vehicle fleet and buildings, and the idle-free campaign and ordinance. Action, not rhetoric, will improve air quality.
Sophistication is the setting for the creative culture to flourish and expand for a world-class city.
More than any other factors, artistic and cultural offerings define a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. Arts and culture create physical and emotional spaces that become a “sense of place” for residents and for visitors from the region and throughout the world. Enhancing these offerings and promoting them to new audiences will stimulate economic activity, attract and retain businesses, increase residents’ satisfaction, and enhance the livability of Utah’s capital city.
I firmly believe that municipal government should play an active role in supporting both infrastructure needs as well as the human capital that generates the creativity and unique energy of Salt Lake City’s longstanding tradition of arts and cultural offerings.
We will continue our valued partnership with Salt Lake County as we work together through our interlocal agreement to develop and execute a marketing and branding strategy for the arts in our Cultural Core.
I will ask the Council to fund an “arts incubator” program for individual artists and emerging arts organizations that will give “breathing room” for artists to explore and share their work.
A “Storefront Studios” public-private partnership will encourage artists to engage with the urban streetscape, both downtown and in neighborhood business centers. This initiative will connect artists with owners of vacant street-level properties so they may access prime retail space on a short-term basis that could serve as temporary studios, performance spaces or galleries.
The expansion, coordination and evolution of our arts and cultural facilities are key to our urban ascendance and sophistication. We will partner with Salt Lake County to coordinate and expand venues in the Cultural Core. We will continue our support for the Capitol Theater renovation, the planning and development of a Utah Film and Media Center, and seek the best use and restoration of the Utah Theater.
And we will continue to move forward with the Utah Performing Arts Center. With support from our City Council and valued input from artists, business and community leaders and arts organizations, we will undertake the design of an arts facility that enhances our cultural offerings and strengthens Salt Lake City’s position as the region’s center for art and culture.
Now, let me share with you some exciting news.
Tonight I am pleased to announce that after more than a decade of discussion and aborted plans, the Salt Lake City International Airport will begin a massive reconstruction.
The Salt Lake City International Airport was not built to be a hub. Today as the number of passengers has increased annually to over 21 million, it is by all measures a “large hub airport” – and it must be redeveloped to meet the needs of our region.
While still boasting top honors in on-time departures and receiving accolades for excellence, our airport’s aging facilities, seismic risks and need to accommodate growth, demand capital improvements. We need a new airport.
This presents us with an opportunity to express our ascendancy in a number of ways: through innovative methods for engaging stakeholders during design and construction; by emphasizing an ecologically sustainable design that will meet exacting energy and environmental design standards; and by showcasing many of the unique attributes of our culture. Visitors to the airport should experience a wonderful gateway to Salt Lake City, to our state, and to the Intermountain West.
To help guide our Airport redevelopment, I will ask the Salt Lake City Airport Advisory Board to lead a comprehensive public engagement effort to ensure community participation in decision making. I believe we can build on the successful stakeholder engagement processes that helped develop the Public Safety Building and other important projects.
This is not just reconstruction of one terminal or a single concourse. This is a monumental undertaking – with an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion and a potential 8 to 10-year timeline – that will place no additional burden on Salt Lake City taxpayers. Funding for the redevelopment will come from land and ground user fees at the airport. Groundbreaking for the new airport should begin sometime next year.
The airport redevelopment will incorporate approaches like the re-use of water, photo voltaic power sources, built-in design solar elements, recycled materials, and a myriad of other sustainable elements. We can start, literally, from the ground up to build an airport that promotes efficiency, service and design without impacting our air quality and health. In fact, while our new Public Safety Building will be a “net zero” building in its energy use, I want to see our new Airport be a “net-positive” project: a project not just bereft of negative impacts but one that positively contributes to the health of our residents, visitors and environment.
As we think about how people use and interact with the Airport, we will build on what I see as one of the most enjoyable aspects of the current structure: the artistic and cultural displays, particularly the landscape photography and archeological artifacts that are spread throughout the terminals. Let’s showcase our mountains, the Great Salt Lake, and the deserts to the south and west; let’s show off our heritage and our history; and let’s brag about what our city and region has to offer today as a cultural, recreational, and economic hub.
Maureen Riley, director of our Airports, has been working diligently for the past several years to plan for and execute this redevelopment project. Maureen has led strategic discussions to win the support of our airline partners. Maureen’s strong leadership and financial management, her tactical planning – including the concession renovations to be completed this August – have paved the way for this region-building opportunity.
In the months and years ahead we will work together to further define, shape and protect Salt Lake City’s unique character. We will work together to achieve the kind of sophistication, sustainability and accessibility that defines our place – and also our people.
I look forward to that opportunity. And, I look forward to working with you, our City Council members, to advance in a timely way the endeavors that will move Salt Lake City forward on our path as a Great American City.