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Rolly: When Mayor Biskupski speaks, I’d like to listen — if I could just get in

First Published      Last Updated Feb 09 2017 10:54 pm

On Monday, I was invited by a member of Salt Lake City's Rotary Club to the group's Tuesday luncheon at a downtown hotel.

I was told that Mayor Jackie Biskupski was the speaker and, as a columnist, I might find her comments interesting.

By Monday night, though, I had been disinvited.

I was told in a second phone call that Biskupski had insisted that no news media be allowed at the event; the club chose to honor her wishes.

Turns out, I'm now told, it was all a big mix-up.

My first thought was to suggest an amendment to Utah's anti-discrimination law to include journalists as a protected class.

My second thought: Biskupski was speaking to a room of about 150 well-connected people. I probably know about two-thirds of them. So if I really wanted to learn what she said, I could call two or three of them and ask them to take notes.

That's what I did.

No big deal. Biskupski, who campaigned in 2015 partly on bringing more transparency to City Hall, spoke mostly about her strategy to deal with the homeless crisis and didn't say anything that was new. So the "no [news media]" edict was a bit puzzling.

She was introduced by Amanda Dickson of KSL Newsradio, but Dickson was there as a Rotarian, not as a news person.

I also was told that the mayor's security guard stood at the door during the speech, perhaps to ensure that undesirables like me were kept out.

Biskupski spokesman Matthew Rojas tells me that my ultimate shunning — after originally being invited — must have been a result of miscommunication with some Rotarians. He said the mayor's office had asked that her remarks not be recorded, but didn't say reporters were banned, although that's what I was told.

Rotary President Shahab Saeed later said it was all his fault, and he apologized. He said the mayor's office requested no news release be sent before the speech, but did not say news media were not allowed.

When the management committee was alerted that I had been invited, some expressed concern, misinterpreting the mayor's request. Saeed said he then made the decision to request that I not come, and now he sees it as a mistake.

Speaking of transparency • Among the first to directly contact residents on and near Simpson Avenue in Sugar House — after news broke that a homeless resource shelter would come to their area — was not a city official but a real estate agent offering to sell their homes.

Within one or two days of the news conference announcing the shelter locations, residents received a flier from a real estate agent offering to give them a free valuation of their homes.

Since then, a number of agents have offered their services as well.

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