Rocky Anderson: I’ll make Salt Lake City a safer, more compassionate place

As the new mayor, consistent with my core values, I’ll build the best city team.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson speaks during a debate with Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Michael Valentine on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.

During and since my transformational college days, after a lot of introspection and inquiry, I’ve set basic ethical guideposts for how I seek to live my life. Those guideposts, which have remained essentially unchanged, are: Treat others (people and animals) with love and compassion, do what is possible to reduce the suffering of others and treat Mother Earth with deep respect.

I include as “others” those of future generations whose lives we will impact by our actions or inaction today.

Those are still my personal aspirations. I haven’t been perfect, particularly in connection with my impatience to get more and more done to assist those who are in need. But I endeavor to live my life according to that personal creed, even when that commitment carries with it personal or political costs.

It’s why I focused so much of my law practice, my nonprofit work and my service as Salt Lake City mayor on challenging abuses of power that have harmed, or are a threat of harm, to people now and in the future. My values led me to much of what I did as a lawyer, including:

  • Successfully fighting for depositors in Utah thrift and loan companies when they were at risk of losing their life savings because they trusted there was an adequate guarantee of safety for their deposits by the state, when, in fact, undisclosed by the state, the so-called guarantee was underfunded.

  • Obtaining justice for victims of excessive use of force by police officers.

  • Representing women who suffered immensely because of sex abuse perpetrated by men in superior positions of power. It was heartening to expose powerful men who thought they had escaped accountability for such abuse, including a high-ranking federal judge who resigned on the day we filed our complaint.

  • Fighting successfully to save Brewvies and obtain a large award against the state when the state’s then-Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, in an unconstitutional abuse of power, sought to potentially destroy the business for screening “Deadpool,” a film shown throughout the world.

  • Fighting to expose and hold accountable jail officials, on more than one occasion, for the abuses and unnecessary deaths of incarcerated people.

The same values drove me to spend thousands of hours of service as a member of the boards of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the Haitian Orchestra Institute and as president of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Guadalupe School, Utah Common Cause, Salt Lake Academy of Music and Citizens for Penal Reform.

As mayor, I was guided by the same values as we fought for social, economic and environmental justice, when we:

  • Created an internationally renowned SLC Green initiative, achieving a 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in city operations, then presented our successes around the world to help drive similar climate protections actions by municipalities.

  • Implemented an unprecedented restorative justice program, focused not on punishment for offenders but on problem-solving (and dismissal of charges), such as drug and mental health treatment, victim-offender reconciliation, restitution and counseling, with follow-up, for offenders.

  • Created YouthCity, a world-class after-school and summer program.

  • Made unprecedented investments in affordable housing and supportive permanent housing for chronically homeless people.

  • Pushed for preferences in city contracting for companies that paid a living wage and provided for employment nondiscrimination regardless of sexual orientation.

  • Fought successfully against the state’s English-only law.

  • Fought against sprawl development and an illegal, environmentally damaging new highway.

  • Implemented pedestrian initiatives that made Salt Lake City the most improved city in the U.S. for pedestrian safety.

Driven by the same values, when elected again as mayor, I and my team, in collaboration with other governmental entities and the business and philanthropy community, will:

  • Eliminate homeless encampments throughout the city and provide a sanctioned campus with showers, laundry, meals and case management to transition people out of homelessness.

  • Build mixed-income, nonmarket housing that will be permanently affordable.

  • Expand public art and opportunities for local artists.

  • Once again, implement successful pedestrian safety initiatives.

  • Bring back the community-building free-of-charge Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival.

  • Implement citywide 24/7 affordable child care.

As the new mayor, consistent with my core values, I’ll build the best city team and, with a get-it-done attitude, make this a safe, welcoming, clean, creative, compassionate city where everyone will have a better quality of life.

Rocky Anderson

Rocky Anderson, father of one son, practiced law primarily in the fields of commercial and civil rights litigation, was executive director of High Road for Human Rights, and served as Salt Lake City mayor from 2000 to 2008.