Here is a transcript of the prepared speech former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson delivered Wednesday, assailing the Mendenhall administration, touting his record, spelling out his plans and announcing his quest for a third term as mayor:
I was honored to serve as Salt Lake City mayor for two terms from 2000 to 2008. During that time, we built a strong, highly effective team, with an extraordinary record of achievement.
Salt Lake City was then viewed nationwide as one of the top cities in which to live and work.
Money Magazine ranked Salt Lake City as “the Best in the West.” The U.S. Conference of Mayors named Salt Lake City one of the 10 most livable big cities in the U.S. Employment Review ranked Salt Lake City as fifth best place to live and work. Because of my strong advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, we received favorable recognition in the book “50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live.” Outside Magazine ranked Salt Lake City as one of 18 “New American Dream Towns.” And because of my pedestrian-safety initiatives, which saved lives, we received the City Livability Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
We were proud to host the world and show off our amazing city during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.
Now Salt Lake City is listed among the most dangerous cities in the country. Our city — my home for almost my entire adult life and a place I’ve always loved — is degraded, filthy in so many areas, unaffordable for most people, and experiencing the failures of homelessness policies that have wholly ignored best practices. Visitors to our city leave shaking their heads, asking, “What has happened to your city?!”
Is our city better or worse off than three years ago? The answer is obvious.
I was recognized as one of the greenest mayors, if not the greenest mayor, in the country. Under my leadership, Salt Lake City won the World Leadership Award in London for our environmental programs. I received the EPA’s Climate Protection Award and the Sierra Club’s national Distinguished Service Award.
Those awards were for walking the walk, setting goals and exceeding them, particularly with respect to a 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in city operations in just three years. We also created Salt Lake City’s Green Team and our e2 Businesses initiative, focusing on, and achieving, environmental and economic sustainability. We also got the university light rail line back on track and championed mass transit throughout the Wasatch Front.
Then we shared our successes as inspiration and a learning tool for mayors across the country, including at the Sundance Summit hosted and organized by Robert Redford, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, and me for three consecutive years. I presented in several other nations, including China and at side meetings at three United Nations Conferences on Climate Change about how we, in Salt Lake City, achieved such remarkable, real, replicable results.
The climate crisis poses an existential threat to life on our planet. We must all provide effective leadership in whatever ways we can to achieve meaningful and urgent climate protection measures. Under my leadership and with a passionate, highly competent team, Salt Lake City stood out nationally and internationally as a leading city in the climate protection movement. You can still see a multimedia piece I researched, produced and narrated on YouTube that describes the many innovative measures we took to set an example for other cities, stressing the importance of bold leadership to protect against climate chaos.
We implemented the nation’s most comprehensive restorative justice programs, focusing our criminal justice system not on punishment and retribution, but on pragmatic, constructive, humane solutions to problems that contributed to illegal conduct.
The last two Salt Lake City administrations have been content with having the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office assume the duties of the Salt Lake City Prosecutor’s Office. I will restore the city prosecutor’s office where it belongs and, once again, with new leadership in the Police Department, implement sensible, cost-effective, constructive restorative justice for the benefit of all.
Restorative justice is about finding solutions that benefit offenders, victims and the community at large, taking into account the interests of everyone concerned. Part of it involves diverting people from wasteful, dangerous, destructive jails and prisons whenever possible to opportunities, such as mental health and drug addiction programs, that turn lives around and cost far less than jailing and imprisoning people. It also involves restoring victims of crime, including restitution for the damage they have suffered.
Our restorative justice programs were recognized internationally, leading to Salt Lake City being among three cities considered for the World Leadership Award for public safety solutions.
The Salt Lake City Housing Authority, along with other major collaborators, joined in building or renovating over a thousand units of permanent housing for chronically homeless people, with wraparound services to help them succeed. We also supported adequate shelter for homeless people to come in from harsh weather and find sustenance and transition services.
As mayor, I will make certain there is a bed for everyone in our community. Housing and services for people experiencing homelessness will be provided, with responsible, accountable management — as we build a team with real expertise, following best practices, and collaborate with others who share our dedication to make it all happen. We will no longer be all-talk-but-little-action about our values and our compassion toward others. As an administration and as a community, we will, together, walk the walk and truly mean it when we refer to people in need as our brothers and sisters.
And we will ensure that people with serious mental health problems, many of whom make decisions to stay out in the freezing cold as a result of their mental illnesses, will receive mental health care. It is neither compassionate nor respectful of one’s civil liberties to allow mental illness to determine whether severely mentally ill people receive care and be rescued from exposure to life-threatening conditions, including subfreezing weather. This has been my publicly held position and passion for years. Yet when I’ve vigorously raised it, elected officials have dodged the issue entirely, causing many mentally ill people to go without treatment and undermining the quality of life for many in our community.
We created and grew the first citywide after-school and summer program, YouthCity, which has enriched thousands of lives and aided many families ever since.
I conceived and helped drive the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival, with the amazing work of Jerry Floor and his dedicated team of volunteers. That jazz festival was held annually for seven years and, because of our fundraising efforts and private-public cooperation, we were able to make the festival accessible to everyone free of charge, bringing diverse people from throughout our city and beyond together in joyous celebration and enjoyment — while offering world-class entertainment for each of the three or four days of the festival. After my term in office, the jazz festival was never again free of charge — and now it has been allowed to die. I will bring the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival back!
We pushed against more environmentally damaging highways, including the initial illegal Legacy Highway, and for expansion of public transit, particularly light rail, while battling against sprawl, as with my successful fight against what I called the “sprawl mall” planned to be out by the airport.
We provided exceptional city services, including the curbside cleanup program, which was, lamentably, terminated several years ago. Mayor [Erin] Mendenhall promised she would restore that program, but she has broken that promise. As mayor, I will restore that popular, beneficial city service for all of our residents.
We did all that we did in a fiscally responsible manner, never raising property taxes during my eight years in office — in contrast to the recent 4.9% increase in property taxes, on top of the enormous recent bond, at the behest of the current mayor, who often seems to have no fiscal restraint.
We also operated well within our revenues and actually increased the city’s reserves by more than 62%, which was unprecedented.
We also consistently had our sights on repairing and improving our city’s infrastructure, which had been severely neglected, increasing the investment in infrastructure over 100% as a proportion of revenues. One Salt Lake City Streets Division truck driver said to me at a recent police raid and eviction of a homeless encampment: “Our roads are crumbling. We should be out laying asphalt today. But this is what they have us doing!”
We prioritized affordable housing, spending over $46 million on housing, granting 170 first-time homebuyer loans, and creating 3,436 affordable units and 357 market-rate units. Today, Salt Lake City has become unaffordable for the vast majority of people. I will reverse this terrible trend and pursue innovative ways of providing far more affordable housing for people at all economic levels, directly building social and co-op housing if necessary, as other cities around the world do. We will be a national example of how to make an unaffordable community affordable once again.
Inclusiveness, and the valuing of diversity, was core to virtually everything we did when I was mayor. I received the Profile in Courage Award from the nation’s largest Latino organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens, largely because of my advocacy for sensible and compassionate immigration reform, my Family-to-Family Program to assist families impacted by the grandstanding INS raid of immigrant workers at the Salt Lake City International Airport, and my successful battle against Utah’s English-only law.
We aggressively recruited for employment positions and for seats on Salt Lake City’s boards and commissions so that, without compromising on quality, we diversified the city’s staff and boards and commissions in unprecedented fashion. During my term in office, 31% of appointments to city boards and commissions were from ethnic minority communities. We increased the percentage of the city workforce from the ethnic minority community by 37%. The percentage of city officials and administrators — with higher levels of responsibility and compensation — from the ethnic minority community increased 47% during my terms in office. And the percentage of the mayor’s office employees from the ethnic minority community increased 58%. We meant it when we made our administration’s slogan “Strength Through Diversity” — and it showed.
I vigorously advocated for marriage equality since 1996, when most politicians, including most Utah Democratic Party leaders, opposed same-sex marriage. As mayor, I issued an executive order guaranteeing equal rights for all Salt Lake City Corp. employees, regardless of sexual orientation, when the City Council refused to provide such a guarantee. Because I led the way on this issue of fundamental equity and dignity, I was named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top 10 straight advocates in the United States for — as they put it then — ”GLBT equality.”
When you look around Salt Lake City, you can still see many of the changes we brought about — including the lifesaving pedestrian flags and the middle-of-the-street traffic-calming parking along 300 South and 300 East. I worked hard to raise funds for the Celebration of Life monument, fountain and sculptures at Library Square, celebrating, honoring and encouraging lifesaving organ donations. Our vast improvements of our parks, including Liberty Park, Pioneer Park, and Cottonwood Park, continue to enhance the quality of life in our city.
When we were faced with a public health problem with the original magnificent Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park, we raised the money and solved the problem, reopening the popular fountain to the public. During the past several years, the Seven Canyons Fountain has been closed, with interminable delays by two administrations and a lot of money wasted on bureaucratic nonsense and expensive consultants. When I am mayor, we will expeditiously repair what needs to be repaired and open Seven Canyons Fountain for the public’s enjoyment once again.
We will also waste no more time in working out a development plan for the old Public Safety Building and the surrounding city-owned property, which has laid dormant — a public nuisance and eyesore — during the past two administrations.
Public safety and security are the No. 1 job for any city government. We constructively changed the culture of the Salt Lake City Police Department when I was mayor. Our police officers knew I respected and was grateful for them, but that I also insisted they conduct themselves professionally and respectfully toward those they encounter. They knew there would be full accountability for any abuses. As a private lawyer, I had represented plaintiffs in abuse cases against police officers. Yet the police union voted to endorse me when I first ran for mayor — upon the motion of an officer I had once sued!
I created and implemented the city’s first Civilian Review Board to investigate and make recommendations in individual cases where abusive misconduct by police officers was claimed.
I introduced the Crisis Intervention Team to the Police Department to make certain officers recognized mental illness and knew how to deal with it, including by de-escalating encounters. That important progress has been decimated, as reflected during the Mendenhall administration by the death of Megan Mohn, a homeless woman, at the hands of three Salt Lake City police officers, and the shooting of an autistic boy, causing life-changing injuries, after his mother called the police for help dealing with him. That tragedy cost the city $3 million in the settlement of a lawsuit by the boy’s family.
We also made our expectations clear that first responders are to utilize their training and experience in providing for the protection of those they encounter. That progress, too, has been reversed, as reflected recently by the failure of two police officers to provide any aid whatsoever for a man, Ryan Outlaw, who was bleeding to death while the officers waited over 8 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Appallingly, the mayor and the police chief have both stated that they support the two officers in their failure to render any help to Ryan, a Black man, whose father has reasonably asked, “What good is the training if the police aren’t going to use it?” That failure to render aid may be good enough for the current mayor and chief of police, but it is not at all good enough for me and, I submit, it is not good enough for the people of this community.
Chris Burbank, whom I appointed as chief of police (and who is here with us today), will tell you that I set a goal of 6 minutes or less for police response times in top-priority calls for help — and that the Salt Lake City Police Department routinely met or beat that goal. He’ll also tell you that I focused intensely on the issue, checking with him often to make certain that response times were meeting the safety needs of the public.
Now, the Salt Lake City Police Department has had a terrible record under the Mendenhall administration. Its average response times for Priority 1 calls from September 2021 through September 2022 were an astounding 12 minutes. In August 2020, the average Priority 1 response time was 18.5 minutes! Instead of doing whatever is required to meet its prior goal, the Salt Lake City Police Department leadership, which answers to the mayor, has lowered its own bar and has set an abysmal “goal” — seldom attained — of an average response of 10 minutes. A 10-minute response time goal may be good enough for the mayor and her chief of police, but it is not good enough for me nor, I am sure, for our community.
That’s an entirely unacceptable “goal” for emergency calls to the police —and is among the least ambitious of goals by police departments in the state of Utah. Chris Bertram, the former deputy chief of Unified Police Department, has said that a 10-minute goal “scares” him because one of his children lives in Salt Lake City. He has said a 10-minute goal is “not an expectation that the public should have.”
It took police an outrageous 28 minutes to respond to a 911 call about a suspected rape in progress. In another instance, an emergency call was made regarding an assault on an elderly woman. You can hear the women’s cries on the recording of the 911 call. The dispatcher said, “It looks like I do have officers on the way.” Yet police officers did not show up until more than an hour later! A man threatened employees at a Salt Lake City specialty clothing store that he was going to go get a gun and return to shoot the place up. An employee called 911 and reported the threat. One employee reported: “My mind just went to Atlanta, and Denver, and everywhere else where there’s been a mass shooting as of late. . . . Could this be it for me?” Of course, the employees thought police would arrive immediately. The police failed to show up at all before the store was finally closed. The owner said, “I was appalled. I was devastated and appalled and terrified for my employees.”
When confronted about the slow response times and the new extremely slow-response “goal” of our Police Department, Chief Brown said: “Salt Lake City is a safe community.” In fact, the city is so unsafe, former police officers are moving their families out of the city and businesses are having to hire their own security staff.
Chief Brown recently appeared for a press conference with Mayor Mendenhall, during which they misled the media and, hence, the public, falsely claiming that violent crime in Salt Lake City has decreased. They blatantly cherry-picked the data, talking about changes in three tiny areas of the city from one selected month last year as compared with the same month this year. That was an incredible deception. The very written report they were touting expressly states that violent crime has increased about 20% in the past two years, due in large part to more aggravated assaults.
Skyrocketing violent crime, combined with outrageously long police response times, means an increasingly dangerous, frightening city for everyone. The excuses simply don’t cut it: There are far more police officers in Salt Lake City now than when I was mayor, and the budget for the department has skyrocketed, with the current mayor capitulating to the police union to such an extreme that the police union head said that the recent negotiated contract, providing for a 30% increase for new hires, was, as he put it, “everything we could have hoped for — and more.”
With far more officers and far greater expense, the police response times are more than double what they were when Chris Burbank and I worked together. In one news report, Matt Evans, a retired SLCPD sergeant, said he has left Salt Lake City because of the city’s high crime and the inability of the Police Department to respond quickly.
A good friend of mine, at a location that is perhaps an 8-minute walk from police headquarters, caught a man stealing property from his car. It was broad daylight. My friend caught the man, who then pulled a knife on my friend. My friend got the knife away from the thief and assailant and, holding him down, called 911. After waiting in vain for 28 minutes for a police officer to arrive, my friend let the man up and he ran off. This is what policing has become under the present administration.
When I am mayor again, with better leadership at the Salt Lake City Police Department, we will once again set a goal of an average of 6 minutes or less for the police to respond to a Priority 1 call — and we will attain it, as we did before.
I initially ran for Salt Lake City mayor because I was passionate about the changes we could make — in environmental programs, policing and public safety, affordable housing, long-term community planning, the valuing of diversity, youth programs, restorative justice, community-building, and combating sprawl, pollution and corruption. After building a stellar team, welcoming innovation and creative solutions, and developing nonpartisan collaborations, as with the Alliance for Unity convened by Jon Huntsman Sr. and me, we achieved so many great things, many of which were acclaimed nationally and even internationally.
Now, our city is degraded — crime-ridden, dangerous, filthy in many areas, and cruel toward the members of the homeless community, without even a coherent plan from our mayor. Businesses are leaving or, like the business where we’re located now, Cake Salon, contemplating leaving because of the absence of effective leadership in the midst of this tragic deterioration of our city.
I encourage everyone to watch the video in my Instagram account of the owner of this salon, Randy Topham, recounting the disturbing experiences of him, his employees, and customers and the unresponsiveness of city government, including the Police Department, which has informed him that if he calls about illegal activity and he uses the words “homeless” or “transient,” nothing will be done about it.
As a practitioner and proponent of restorative justice, I am opposed to simply jailing or imprisoning people who can benefit from treatment or programming. But no one is going to get any help if we all just turn a blind eye to destructive, dangerous, illegal conduct, and allow it to continue.
When someone very dear to me was addicted to a terrible drug, she was headed toward the destruction of her life and her relationships. She got treatment and stopped taking the drug only after she was arrested and required to get treatment as a condition to avoiding more involvement in the criminal justice system. It transformed her life and her relationships.
Our families sometimes engage in interventions with our loved ones. If we truly mean it when we refer to people in need as our “brothers” and our “sisters,” our community must engage in interventions as well, helping people transform their lives with treatment, support and, if they are experiencing homelessness, transitional housing with effective wraparound services and treatment.
We must stop the cruel, inhumane, repetitive police raids and evictions of homeless people from their camps unless and until there are alternative options for them. I strongly advocate, and, as mayor, would implement, one or more central, secure sanctioned camps, following the successful example of Haven for Hope in San Antonio, with toilets, showers, laundry facilities, food, caseworkers and rules that must be followed — and eliminate the encampments that are being moved around by the present administration from one place to another to another throughout our community.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported the observations of one police officer: “Even when police or county health officials clear people from an area, SLCPD Captain Derek Dimond told city officials that officers know most campers don’t have other options and will likely set up somewhere else — and officers will likely be instructed to clear that space, too.” How insane is that? And without any other plan by our mayor or our City Council.
I love this city, which has been so severely transformed and degraded. I have tried, without success, to get the attention of, and the implementation of solutions — even the provision of safe public toilets —by the mayor and certain members of the City Council. Because of their do-nothing attitude, because of the mayor’s lack of candor and accessibility, and because of the deterioration of our city resulting from an absence of effective leadership, I have determined that, with the support of many conscientious people in the community, I am running to once again serve this city as its mayor.
As I did before — which is quite the opposite of what we see from the current administration — my administration and I, personally, will be open and entirely accessible to the people of our city, not only meeting one-on-one on a regular basis with community members and promptly returning phone calls and correspondence, but also, as before, holding monthly open “Saturday Meetings With the Mayor” at local businesses, attended by heads of all city departments, and monthly evening press and community conferences, at which anyone can challenge, question and inform us in an open, respectful setting. And if a resident wants to know information about city government, to the extent possible, we will provide the information. Unless necessary, we will not require a GRAMA request from the people we are to serve. City government will once again be open and transparent, as it was during the eight years I served as mayor.
I look forward to an open, fair and positive campaign about the relative records of achievement and capabilities of the candidates, in and outside of government, and an informative campaign that will allow voters to decide who is best suited to lead our great city toward a future we all deserve.