First published by the Deseret News
Campaigning to be Salt Lake City’s next mayor these past few months has been like falling in love with our city all over again. It’s given me a chance to meet and connect with voters in neighborhoods across the city and constantly rediscover what makes our community so special.
I first entered public service 13 years ago when I learned that the air quality in Salt Lake City was so bad it could take two years off my newborn son’s life. Like any parent, my first thought was to walk away and take my son somewhere with cleaner air. But instead of walking away, I decided to stay and get to work. I co-founded a nonprofit, Breathe Utah, and now I chair our state’s Air Quality Board. I am also in my second term on the Salt Lake City Council.
I believe each of us has a responsibility to step up for our community. We all want our children and grandchildren to be able to afford to live here when they grow up and build healthy, happy and productive lives. Living with compassion and looking after our neighbors are two of my core values. Whether they have a home or not, they are our neighbors and we can’t turn our backs on them.
I was proud to help create the city’s first shelter exclusively for women, but it’s clear we won’t have enough beds for everybody without a better plan after the Road Home closes. We can’t leave those neighbors out in the cold, and we need to work with the state and county to create a temporary emergency shelter for those who won’t fit into our new homeless resource centers. If that cannot be done in time this winter, the Road Home should not yet be closed. We must put our humanity over our politics and have a mayor willing to acknowledge such realities.
Working in partnership is important, in no small part because the city can’t afford to confront every challenge on its own. It is important that our next mayor has a proven record of being able to work with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Gov. Gary Herbert. I was as frustrated as anybody when the state stole Salt Lake City’s land-use authority and tax revenue to build an inland port, but instead of letting my anger drive me away from the negotiating table, I built strong working relationships with Gov. Herbert and the Republicans who lead the Legislature and earned concessions that will help protect city residents. We still have a long way to go, but I promise I will never let toxic partisanship get in the way of earning results for our city.
At this unique moment, with hundreds of millions of dollars in road work necessary to bring meaningful improvement and real changes needed to improve the quality of our air, our city can’t afford to be cavalier about its resources. As mayor, I will be a good steward of our city. Our taxes should be fair and not a penny more than they need to be, and as our city grows, I believe growth should pay for itself and that we should be getting more out of the growth of our city than we are now.
In the right hands, our growth can help us nurture equity and expand access to economic, educational and cultural opportunities for everyone who calls Salt Lake City “home.” We need to move our city forward together, and to do it, we need a mayor with a proven record of delivering results for our city. After 12 years of mayors who were former state legislators, we need a mayor with real experience in City Hall. That’s why I’m running for mayor.
For more information visit the campaign website at erinmendenhall.com.
Erin Mendenhall is a candidate for Salt Lake City mayor. The general election is on Nov. 5.