How Salt Lake City’s mayoral candidates want to make your life better

From bikes to parks, music to Major League Baseball, Mayor Erin Mendenhall and former Mayor Rocky Anderson share their lists for lifting the quality of life in Utah’s capital.

From paving the path for more bikes to making street construction a little less painful, the highest-profile candidates for Salt Lake City’s highest office say they have the road map for improving the quality of life in Utah’s capital.

As the faceoff between Mayor Erin Mendenhall and former Mayor Rocky Anderson heats up, we wanted to know from the candidates: How would you make life here better if voters send you back to City Hall as mayor?

We also asked Salt Lake Tribune readers how they thought the quality of life could be improved. Here’s what they told us they wanted:

• More affordable housing — preferably town houses that are for sale, not for rent.

• Additional bike lanes, including protected bike lanes.

• More permanent housing for unsheltered Utahns.

• Better, cleaner roads.

• Less noise and light pollution.

• More frequent and expansive public transportation options.

• A smarter traffic grid with fewer stoplights and more roundabouts.

• An end to growth.

• More small neighborhood parks and cleaner parks.

• More starter housing, such as condominiums, for young families.

• Pressure on owners of vacant properties to either develop their land or sell it.

• Let businesses stay open later.

Rocky Anderson’s ideas

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rocky Anderson talks to a woman experiencing homelessness near the railroad tracks on 800 East on Thursday, June 8, 2023.

The campaign of the former two-term mayor has focused largely on painting Mendenhall as a failed leader who has not risen to the challenge of confronting crime and the homelessness crisis.

Anderson said quality of life includes the basics, such as being and feeling safe, having shelter and food, and being healthy. It means not having to see others suffer, having confidence that laws will be enforced, and knowing the government is trying to address the root causes of crime instead of focusing only on punishment.

“We all have to feel that we’re able to live in our community and move about without fear,” he said. “When I was mayor, we had a safe community.”

Beyond crime, Anderson said, it means living with a sense of community, having the opportunity to engage in recreation, and fostering the ability to take advantage of the area’s unique resources without conflict.

If voters grant him a third term, Anderson, among other ideas, wants to:

• Return the duties of the city prosecutor to City Hall and revive and expand comprehensive restorative justice programs.

• Improve access to parks and public spaces by cutting down the number of illegal homeless camps through the creation of a legal campground, where unsheltered Utahns can clean up, get something to eat, access services, and begin a path out of homelessness.

• Ramp up permanent supportive housing development.

• Pursue available “legal remedies” against those who have made Utah’s air dangerous. Fight the proposed expansion of Interstate 15, and incentivize no-emission vehicle use.

• Improve the fitness of residents by reviving and expanding the Salt Lake City Gets Fit Together program he started as mayor.

• Improve the foothills trail system by soliciting additional public feedback, do a better job maintaining parks, and relaunch Liberty Park’s Seven Canyons Fountain as a water feature.

• Crack down on noisy parties in neighborhoods by issuing citations.

• Bring back the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival, pursue community-building music festivals and promote opportunities for artists at community events.

• Install art throughout downtown.

• Ensure road construction projects are well-coordinated and completed as quickly as possible.

• Be accessible and transparent.

Erin Mendenhall’s ideas

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the unveiling of the Hoberman Arch at Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.

In her quest for a second term, Mendenhall has pitched herself to voters as a problem-solver who is more interested in building relationships than picking fights.

Quality of life, the mayor said, comes down to a simple question of whether people want to live here.

It’s a matter of residents feeling comfortable and safe, having a job that pays a livable wage, and having access to fresh food, recreation, culture and entertainment.

The city’s explosive growth in recent years has largely been driven by the quality of life, Mendenhall said, but that growth has also strained the housing market.

“It’s also not something we can just turn off,” she said. “It’s something that is our job as city leaders to work to create balance and ensure that we’re using the growth to benefit all of our residents.”

If voters give her another term, Mendenhall, among other ideas, wants to:

• Create a “green loop” — a park network integrated into more than five miles of downtown streets.

• Improve access to green space with high-quality amenities.

• Close downtown’s Main Street to vehicle traffic.

• Support additional tiny-home villages for homeless Utahns and back state-funded legal homeless camps.

• Continue to enforce the city’s decades-old ordinance against unauthorized camps.

• Push for Utah and Davis counties to amp up their financial help on homelessness by opening their own resource centers.

• Make the city more walkable and fully accessible by bike and transit.

• Support neighborhoods with activities such as free concerts.

• Improve air quality and fight climate change with more trees, carbon-capture systems, energy projects and transportation projects.

• Continue investing in affordable housing preservation and creation, including permanent supportive housing.

• Support existing businesses in the city and attract new businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, retailers, coffee shops and day care centers to the west side.

• Help the city attract assets such as Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League.

• Focus on equitable investments across the city.

Salt Lake City’s election will be conducted by ranked choice voting on Nov. 21. (The city will not host a primary with other Wasatch Front cities Tuesday.) Ballots for the fall general election will start being mailed to voters Oct. 31.