Election 2013: District 5 race pits advocate against organizer
By Christopher Smart
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Oct 19 2013 07:47PM
Public safety tops the issue list for City Council candidate Erin Mendenhall, who is running for election in District 5, where longtime Councilwoman Jill Remington Love is retiring.
The district sits in south central Salt Lake City. For Bill Davis, a community council stalwart running against Mendenhall, growing Salt Lake City’s population, and therefore the economy, is key to the capital city’s future success.
"We have as many cops and firefighters as we can afford," Davis said. "The city needs a better vision of economic development. That’s where taxes come from."
But Mendenhall, who organized a neighborhood watch east of Liberty Park because "she got tired of the drug traffic," said she would like more police in her area.
"We need safe, vibrant neighborhoods to live, work, walk and play in," she said. "As a council person, I would facilitate dialogue between police and neighborhoods."
A clean air advocate, Mendenhall said she will make completion of a citywide transit master plan a priority. She is "not comfortable" with the proposed 1100 East route for the Sugar House Streetcar extension but would like Salt Lake City to look closely at implementing a circuit bus route around the city. Mendenhall believes that would be more efficient than the current Utah Transit Authority system, which often requires time-consuming transfers.
"An accessible and user-friendly transportation system should be a key component to air quality and growth," she said.
The city must improve its public outreach on transportation decisions, such as the 1100 East alignment of the streetcar, she added. "At the community council meetings, I never saw anyone [from the Becker administration] with information on the streetcar."
Davis also would like improved mass transit and better air quality. But he would prefer to see Salt Lake City take a greater leadership role along the Wasatch Front when it comes to clean air. "The city has to be part of a bigger solution."
He doesn’t favor the implementation of a local fuel tax to augment mass transit, as the council has discussed. "A fuel tax could deflate the market," he said. "You have to be very careful."
Davis does like the streetcar plan for 1100 East. "The streetcar [route selection] was an open and transparent process," he said, adding that opposition "was ginned up and based on misinformation."
In addition, Davis said he would not have voted for the 13.8 percent property tax increase the council adopted. Rather, he would have followed Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposal to seek more public input and, perhaps, alternative revenue sources.
Mendenhall said she would have voted for a smaller tax increase, noting city streets are in dire need of maintenance.
Although she supports the $116 million Utah Performing Arts Center (UPAC), she would not have funded it with the tax monies that are now retiring the Energy Solutions Arena bond and will be redirected to the theater. Those funds, Mendenhall said, could have been better spent on other things, such as city employees, who have not had raises.
Davis, too, has concerns about UPAC. "People don’t think that was done in a straightforward manner," he said. "It should have been brought up for a [public] vote."