Op-Ed: Election shows West Valley City on right path
The good people of Utah's second largest city sent a strong message in Tuesday's election: West Valley City is on the right path.
Incumbents Steve Buhler and Steve Vincent battled for their City Council seats against opponents who wanted the city to change directions on items ranging from neighborhood code enforcement clean-up efforts to our economic development policies. Buhler and Vincent won re-election convincingly, with 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
In the past four years we have seen neighborhood code enforcement violations drastically reduced in the city and a 46 percent reduction of graffiti along major city corridors. The city's aggressive economic development and planning efforts have led to the turnaround of Valley Fair Mall, which today has the No. 1 Olive Garden in North America and the most high-tech movie theater in the country.
We've launched the half-billion dollar Fairbourne Station development, which leverages our new TRAX line and includes a new Embassy Suites Hotel.
Despite the Great Recession, we've seen more than 6,000 jobs created by new or expanding businesses in the past four years, including Petzl's North American headquarters. We attracted more than a billion dollars in private investment into the city last year alone.
But we also care about people, as evidenced by being one of the first to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and launching an English Language Initiative that has recognized nearly 1,000 immigrants who have completed English classes.
Ron Bigelow, a highly regarded statesman with years of service to our area as a legislator, was elected my successor. His priority is restoring trust in the police department, and he applauds our direction with Lee Russo as the new police chief.
He will work closely with him and City Manager Wayne Pyle to work through the fallout of our Neighborhood Narcotics Unit challenges. And speaking of police, let's not discount that crime is down 11 percent in the past four years (with police calls at Valley Fair Mall down 75 percent even below Fashion Place Mall now).
Perhaps the race in our city with the starkest contrast in visions was the at-large council seat. Phil Conder's platform was to replace Pyle and take the city in a different direction. Lars Nordfelt emphasized his desire to support Pyle and continue the positive direction the city is going. Nordfelt's vision won with a resounding 58 percent.
Pyle is one of the most talented city managers in the state. Working with him, I am pleased that our city brought on the first CNG fleet of garbage trucks in the state, and that we are on track to be the first city in Utah with a "no kill" animal shelter. Three new parks and the Ridge Golf Course were created in the last four years, with plans for more trails, a skate park and a Jordan River park. Expanded programs and improvements are at our Utah Cultural Celebration Center. And thanks to Pyle's team, the naming rights for the "E-Center" were finally secured after 12 years, becoming "The Maverik Center."
It has been an honor to serve the people of West Valley City and a joy to work with my impressive colleagues on the City Council and city staff. As history judges the past four years I hope they see past a handful of police officers that gave us a black eye and the boneheaded move by a well-meaning mayor who briefly used a pen name.
In the big picture, West Valley City is truly on the right path and the voters said so Tuesday!
Mike Winder is mayor of West Valley City until Jan. 7.