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Police, higher ed and community involvement are among WVC priorities

Published February 5, 2013 7:57 pm

State of City • Mayor details plan to get more residents involved in city boards and neighborhood associations.
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West Valley City • To improve the quality of life in the state's second-largest city, Mayor Mike Winder and other elected officials plan to pump up police presence in public places, work to increase the number of college graduates and develop a sustainable plan to accommodate future facilities needs.

Other goals, which Winder announced Tuesday in a State of the City address, are to get 132 residents, or one-tenth of 1 percent of West Valley's 132,000 population, involved in city boards or neighborhood associations by the end of the year; enhance programs to help transitioning neighborhoods and encourage homeowner reinvestment; and have each department find ways to make West Valley "unique, meaningful and interesting."

A common theme in the six goals, chosen at the West Valley City Council's annual strategic plan retreat with feedback from the public, was a focus on neighborhoods, "because at the end of the day it is our homes and those around us that affect us most," Winder said.

He noted that only 12.8 percent of adults in the city have a college degree, less than half the state average. Elected officials, he said, want to encourage young people to seek a degree and attract more college-educated residents by cultivating partnerships with schools and supporting programs that foster employment and housing that will attract graduates.

Those with a college degree on average will earn over a million dollars more in their lifetime than those without, Winder said, which has a significant impact on city sales tax receipts.

"Only 1 percent of college graduates receive public assistance, only 3.6 percent of college graduates live below the poverty line, and only 2.9 percent of jail inmates have a college degree. In the current recession, the unemployment rate for college graduates is half the state average. There are enormous societal, financial, and demographic benefits to having more college graduates in West Valley City," he said.

Winder also hopes that one-tenth of 1 percent of West Valley's 132,000 population — a percentage suggested by Peter Kageyama in his book, For the Love of Cities — become community leaders and neighborhood builders.

The mayor said city finances are healthy and business is booming in West Valley City. He cited as proof the 400-plus building permits issued in 2012; the 50 ribbon cuttings by ChamberWest at new businesses; the 60 percent increase in auto traffic at Valley Fair Mall on Black Friday last year over the previous year; and the more than 5,000 new jobs created in the past three years.

Winder conceded that people worry about safety but said that nationally, West Valley's crime rates are average for a city of its size.

"But most importantly, our city continues to get safer," he said. "There were 11 percent fewer crimes committed in our city last year than in 2009."

Using a theme of "Go West" Winder said West Valley City's officials and staffers are working "to make sure the star of the west still beckons."

He said: "As the author of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien penned Bilbo's Last Song, he scrawled 'I seek the West, I seek the West, And fields and mountains ever blest.' As we continue to hasten the ascendency of West Valley City, may the paths and parks, homes and shops, fields and mountains be so ever blest."

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC