Salt Lake mayor wants improved air and mobility for residents


Emily Larson
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – Dozens of schoolchildren dressed in red, white, and blue gathered in Whittier Elementary school’s cafeteria Jan. 15 to hear the city’s Mayor Ralph Becker lay out his plans for everything from air quality to education.

Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker
Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker

“Since it’s been my experience that adults aren’t the best listeners, I thought you, as young up-and-coming residents and future leaders of Salt Lake City might be a better audience for this year’s State of the City speech, “ Becker said as he explained to the 4th-6th grade students his reasons for visiting their school.

Becker made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to speak about each issue in the context of fairness. Topics included air quality, mobility, nature, housing, education, economic prosperity and civility.

The mayor commended Whittier fourth graders for their involvement at last year’s State of the City speech. The class wrote and performed a song on the topic of air quality. Becker then commented on his discouragement at the results of his work on air quality last year.

“I was disappointed with the adult leadership in this state after my speech last year. I proposed five ideas for how we could make a real difference in our air quality,” he said. “I asked the governor and state legislators to take action or as an alternative, to let the towns and cities of Utah take our own actions. Not much happened.”

His five ideas included improving gas quality, providing additional public transportation, increasing the gas tax, improving energy efficiency of buildings and f allowing Utahns to make air quality rules that fit their lifestyles.

After expressing his disappointment, Becker suggested easy, energy-saving tips to that could help students make a difference. Ideas included walking to school, reminding parents to avoid idling cars, recycling,and taking public transportation.

In addition, Becker addressed the city’s issue of mobility . He said the cost of cars and the burden that transportation costs can have on families.

“If we want a city that treats people fairly. We have to make sure there are opportunities for everyone to get around. It shouldn’t have to be a requirement if every family owns a car,” Becker said. “Cars are expensive. We want people to have choices, and that’s why I’m working to get more streetcar lines and expand bus and Trax service.”.

Becker also hinted at the news of a housing project, intended to benefit low-income and disabled residents.

“Salt Lake City’s about to do something pretty big and new. We are working on a brand new program that will make sure housing is available throughout the city for those who most need a home,” he said.

Becker also said anew school in downtown Salt Lake City is needed. He’s working with the school board to address present and future needs

“Young people who are living downtown and having children won’t have to move out, just to be closer to a school,” Becker said, emphasizing the need for a new school.

Students voiced their concerns in the form of wishes, written down and placed in a fishbowl, from which the mayor randomly selected questions.

Some wishes included serious issues such as improved air quality and a place to live for everyone,. Others were more entertaining, such as 5th grader Maria’s wish for the cost of ice cream to decrease.

The mayor rewarded the students for their good behavior with a surprise visit from the Utah Jazz bear. He arrived in a cloud of confetti, shooting silly string into the enthusiastic crowd of children.

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