Rocky puts focus on gay rights
In assessing the quality of life in Salt Lake City, Mayor Rocky Anderson used traditional instruments: taking stock of the decrease in crime, the positive attention paid by national media, the planned expansion of transit.
Next in his State of the City address Tuesday night, he ventured where most mayors don't: He spoke of the status of gays and lesbians and declared they are "consistently marginalized" and treated as "second-class citizens."
"Society's treatment of gays and lesbians has made life tragically difficult and painful for them, and has too often deprived our community of the valuable perspectives and resources they offer," Anderson said at City Hall during the start of his 50-minute speech.
While the mayor said the city has made strides in including the gay community - he named his executive order offering health insurance to city employees' domestic partners, the city's inclusion in a book on gay-friendly cities and his being named a top straight advocate for the gay community - he said obstacles remain.
As proof, he pointed to the cancellation of the movie "Brokeback Mountain," a love story between two gay men, in Larry Miller's movie theater in Sandy. And the mayor, like many letter-to-the-editor writers, noted that Miller's theater is showing "Hostel," which has been labeled as misogynistic and sadistic.
"Apparently some members of our community find this despicable, sick, women-hating film more acceptable than a beautifully rendered love story - on the sole ground that the people portrayed as loving each other are gay men," Anderson said.
Like the mayor, City Councilwoman Jill Remington Love is considered to be a gay advocate in the city. She said she agreed with the mayor's sentiment about the status of the gay community.
"Gay rights is the civil rights issue of our day," she said.
And she was glad the mayor didn't renew his criticism of the council's plan to trump his health benefits executive order and offer health insurance to employees' adult designees, including domestic partners.
"I don't think our benefits package in any way takes away from the gay community," she said.
Council Chairman Dave Buhler praised the mayor for highlighting the city's successes, including a crackdown on methamphetamine and a campaign that urges people who witness drug overdoses to call 911.
"We all have much to be proud of in Salt Lake City," Buhler said. "It [the speech] was more of a review of the past than a call to action."
Anderson did call the council to approve two of his priorities the council has questioned before: renovating Pioneer Park and adding landscaped medians to 300 South from 300 East to 400 West.
"I don't know if he didn't get the word," Buhler said.
The council put around $1 million in federal and city money toward Pioneer Park last year, and Buhler said he doesn't see the council allocating more. Calling the park a "jewel waiting to be polished," Anderson said the city can afford a more extensive overhaul. Previous estimates have put the cost at $6.5 million.
The council also previously funded improvements to 300 South between Main Street and 200 West, which will be constructed this year. Anderson wants to expand the project to cover between 300 East and 400 West.
Buhler, who has argued against the 300 South project in the past, is willing to put more money toward it if this year's experiment goes well.
"Providing we can find the money," he said, "I'd be willing to extend it further."
Highlights of 2005 accomplishments
Serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, larceny and auto theft, are down 3.5 percent.
Recent independent audit called the fire department one of the best in the country.
All city-owned traffic lights with pedestrian signals have countdown timers.
22.1 million passengers used Salt Lake City International Airport, 20.1 percent more than in 2004.
The number of minorities hired in full-time city positions increased 34 percent since 1999. The number of minorities hired for administrative positions was up 80 percent.
Complaints against police officers are at a five-year-low.
Plans for 2006
Persuade the City Council to invest in at least a three-year renovation of Pioneer Park to include improvements for the Farmers Market, a health-and-fitness track, an off-leash dog area, a garden and an indoor/outdoor pavilion.
Persuade the council to continue to fund renovation of 300 South to include landscaped medians from 300 East to 400 West.
Continue the Salt Lake City Gets Fit Together program in the spring to get residents to increase their activity level.
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