George Pyle: Where Biskupski lost me, familiar news from afar and an honor that got away

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announces sites of four planned homeless shelters, Tuesday December 13, 2016.

As the odometer rolls over, some bits left over from 2019:

As Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski prepares to leave office, it is sad that my strongest memory of her administration is how she lost me.

In December of 2016, the mayor held a news conference to announce the choices she and other city officials had made — after a closed-door process that made no one happy — for the location of what were to be four new homeless service centers that would replace the benighted Road Home shelter on Rio Grande downtown.

It was an utterly thankless job, because nobody wants a homeless shelter next to them. It is just one of those assignments that seems designed to make life difficult for politicians, one that different levels and branches of government are often eager to put in someone else’s portfolio so that, when they fail, it will be someone else’s fault.

The fact that the city spent a ton of money and that much of the selection process had to be redone would just be one of those things except for the fact that, when a reporter from KUTV asked the mayor about any downside for the neighborhoods that were to receive the new centers, her answer was to scold the reporter in particular, and the press in general, for not getting behind the effort.

"I’m hoping that you who serve in the media will not be out running around looking for reasons for us to fail, but to find good reasons for us to succeed,” she said.

Sorry, Madam Mayor, but that’s not what the press is for. We ask what’s wrong with any idea. If we find a problem, well, forewarned is forearmed. If we don’t, then the plan has passed a useful test.

Things kind of went downhill from there. For the city’s role in the whole homeless project and for the Biskupski administration. And that’s really sad, because this mayor clearly had her heart in the right place on some big issues, particularly the biggest, air quality, and doing what little a city can do to improve it, such as move the city toward the use of renewable energy for its own buildings.

Biskupski chose not to run again, she said for personal reasons, which might well have included an inkling that she wouldn’t win. So now, come Monday, Salt Lake City will have a new mayor. Good luck to the new mayor, and the old one.

* * *

All news is local:

One of my favorite work avoidance tricks is to go online and read newspapers that I used to work for, or once wanted to work for. Among the later is The Kansas City Star, home of a few old friends and some familiar issues.

Among them is the fact that the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is eliminating all fares on its city bus system. Sure, let someone else go first. But, if it works in Kansas City — where everything is up to date — the Utah Transit Authority should take note.

Also, The Star has done some important reporting and editorializing on an issue that sounds familiar to Salt Lake Tribune readers. That is the troubling evidence that women who report being sexually assaulted on college campuses, particularly at the University of Kansas in nearby Lawrence, are not getting the attention they deserve from law enforcement.

The difference is that while much of the blame for similar problems at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University has fallen on the schools’ own police departments, the accusations at KU are that it is the city police that isn’t doing its job.

Which might lead one to think that my theory — abolish college police departments and turn the investigation of real crimes over to city police or county sheriffs — has a flaw.

An honor deserved but missed:

You know those contests that radio stations used to have (maybe they still do) with the sometimes rapidly read disclaimer that “employees of (call letters) and their families are not eligible for prizes.” Just to keep everything on the up-and-up.

That is sort of what happened when we decided who should be The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utahn of the Year. The winner, Jazz owner and bigtime businesswomen Gail Miller, was clearly deserving.

But I would have voted for the Huntsman family, on the grounds that their $150 million gift to create a new mental health center, coupled with the success of Tribune owner Paul Huntsman in turning The Salt Lake Tribune into a nonprofit community asset, were perhaps the two biggest accomplishments of the year.

But giving the big prize to the guy who owns the place is just, well, not done.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, was not eligible to be Utahn of the Year, either. Shucks.


Twitter: @debatestate