An Education, Fairness & Opportunity Blueprint For a Socially Just Great American City
Diversity, equal protection, accessibility, and economic fairness are fundamental to a just and thriving community. Salt Lake City has made great strides as a caring city, with a focus on access to justice and equal opportunity for everyone. Our city recognizes that people need a home, access to education and technology, a strong sense of safety, and food security in order to move up the socioeconomic ladder.
From the earliest days of his time in office, Mayor Becker has championed policies and projects that focus on fairness and opportunity. Some of the highlights include:
- Creating Utah’s first non-discrimination ordinance & officiating the first LGBTQ weddings in City Hall: Guided by Mayor Becker’s leadership, Salt Lake City passed Utah’s first non-discrimination ordinance, which makes it against the law for landlords and employers to deny someone housing or a job based on sexual orientation. This followed on the heels of Utah’s first “Mutual Commitment Registry” that allowed same-sex couples to be formally recognized by City government. On the day that Judge Shelby’s overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, Mayor Becker had the great pleasure of officiating at the marriages of 35 couples at City Hall.
- Establishing and advancing the Capital City Education Program: Over the last eight years, Mayor Becker has worked to bring city government, education, and business leaders together to develop goals, programs, and accountable metrics to make Salt Lake City’s schools a beacon that attracts and retains families to live in our City. The effort has brought all segments of our community together to define our specific roles and provide the tools to give every child the opportunity he or she deserves to be successful in our society and community. The Mayor’s program focuses on bridging unequal advantages children face through early-learning disparities and family dysfunction, and on paying more attention to the phases of learning that school-age children experience.
- Addressing difficult homelessness issues: Last year, Mayor Becker and Salt Lake City received national attention and praise from the White House and across the country for our community’s success in reducing chronic homelessness of veterans to a functional zero. Salt Lake City adopted the Housing First concept and worked with the Veterans Administration, the Salt Lake City Housing Authority, and others, to build or renovate a variety of housing facilities for homeless vets, and to provide easy access to mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and employment services. To build on this success, Mayor Becker teamed up with Salt Lake County to create community-led panels to take an in-depth look at whether services available to the homeless population are adequate, and to determine if these services are in the best locations. Mayor Becker also appointed the City’s first-ever homeless-services coordinator to provide a stronger connection between service providers, public safety agencies, businesses and residents.
- Monitoring and activating Pioneer Park: To help address issues related to homelessness and crime in and around Pioneer Park, Mayor Becker introduced a Salt Lake Solutions effort to install cameras in the park to deter crime, document activity, and allow quicker police response to incidents. At the Mayor’s direction and with the aim of encouraging positive activity, the City is working to bring more events to the park, such as the Twilight Concert Series and Farmers Markets.
- Instituting a living wage for SLC employees: In 2015, Mayor Becker recommended all City employees be paid a living wage . With the approval of the City Council, this has been in effect since July 1, 2015.
- Strengthening our approach to community policing: Mayor Becker proposed, and the City Council approved, the hiring of a specialized team of caseworkers within the police department to provide one-on-one case management services for the homeless, individuals with addiction, and those with mental disorders. This helps keep people out of jail who shouldn’t be there, connects individuals with services they need, and frees police officers to focus on addressing and deterring crime.
- Bringing gender balance to municipal leadership positions: Before Mayor Becker took office, Salt Lake City had just one female department director. Now women make up more than half of all department directors and leadership positions in the Mayor’s office. Salt Lake City does comparatively well in some areas of gender equity – on average, women earn 90% of what men do in Salt Lake City, compared to only 70% nationally – but we have much to do to ensure women have the same opportunities to succeed and thrive. We must improve general safety, equal pay, support women in leadership roles, and support women’s education.
- Increasing services though Youth City, Arts, and After-School Programs: Mayor Becker has increased the budget for the Youth City program by nearly 25% in recent years. Additionally, he restructured the Artways program to leverage its funding to support existing programs and serve nearly three times as many children than before.
- Implementing the 5,000 Doors Initiative: Mayor Becker launched this initiative at the beginning of this year with a goal to build 5,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years, and we’ve already reached 10% of this goal. The Mayor believes that residents should not have to spend half of their incomes on housing, and with our vacancy rate at less then 4%, it’s critical that we add more affordable housing as quickly as possible..
- Developing Mentoring and Support Programs for Refugees: Salt Lake City has a unique refugee population with diversity, culture, and entrepreneurial skills. With hundreds of refugees resettling here each year, Mayor Becker launched a Refugee Mentorship Program to pair volunteers with refugee families living in the area. The goal is to mentor and aid the families in life matters such as health care, education, and finance to help them succeed and prosper.
Mayor Becker’s Fairness and Opportunity Blueprint
Mayor Becker pledges to continue implementing an aggressive agenda to ensure that all of our residents have access to excellent educational resources, affordable, high quality housing, and economic opportunity. His Administration will focus and refine efforts to engage underrepresented populations to find better ways to combat poverty and disenfranchisement. Here’s what Mayor Becker wants to accomplish in the next four years:
- Complete the 5,000 Doors Initiative. Leveraging private and public resources, this Initiative will coordinate the completion of 5,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years. Salt Lake City should be a place where everyone can have an affordable place to live, in all neighborhoods of our City.
- End the digital divide and ensure access to high speed Internet. Today, access to the Internet is nearly as important as having electricity or running water. Just as one’s income should not be a barrier to having these necessities, it too should not be a barrier to having an Internet connection. With Google Fiber coming to Salt Lake City, Mayor Becker will implement a strategy to ensure that residents who may not have the resources or ability to access the Internet from home are able to do so.
- Ensure access to Pre-K. Expanding access to pre-kindergarten education is widely accepted as one of the most effective ways to improve education outcomes. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that financial investments in pre-k have some of the highest payoffs of any public policy. Salt Lake City has already partnered with the Salt Lake City School District to make pre-k opportunities available through some Community Learning Centers, but more can be done. Mayor Becker will build on this success and continue to identify new and future funding streams and public/private partnerships to make pre-k available to every student potentially attending a Title One school.
- Increase the number of community learning centers. To remove barriers and provide family opportunities, the Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake City Corporation, and numerous non-profit partners teamed up to provide social services and family opportunities through Community Learning Centers. In addition to providing high quality learning opportunities, these services typically include access to health, dental, and optical clinics, family learning and childcare classrooms, and integration of families into the school environment. Community Learning Centers have had a proven success at engaging families and parents in their child’s school and improving education outcomes. Salt Lake City has partnered with the School District to create and support Community Learning Centers in Glendale and Rose Park, and has plans to expand services at the Marmalade Library, Sorensen Unity Center, and Sorensen Multi-Cultural Center. Mayor Becker will continue to work with the School District, the business community, and our non-profit partners to ensure every family attending a Title One Elementary School has access to a nearby Community Learning Center.
- Give all Salt Lake City children the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. We owe it to the next generation to make sure they have time to be outside for a myriad of reasons, including mental and physical benefits, understanding the natural cycles of the Earth, and appreciating the place they live. Mayor Becker’s “SLC Explores” program will give kids from all of our neighborhoods multiple opportunities to explore, discover, and enjoy our natural places in Salt Lake City and the surrounding environment.
- Care for and reduce the number of those who are homeless. Mayor Becker has taken the lead to develop the most comprehensive and collaborative effort Salt Lake City has ever taken to address the issue of homelessness. Mayor Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams – with the participation of service providers, business groups and community members – have authentically engaged the community to determine if we have the right mix of services that homeless individuals need, and to consider if those services and facilities are in the best locations. Mayor Becker is committed to implementing the findings of these groups and to reducing the number of homeless people in our City.
- Identifying public accommodation protections for the LGBTQ community. As a City we have made great strides towards protecting our LGBT friends and neighbors. While we have guaranteed that you cannot be denied housing or employment due to sexual orientation, members of the LGBT community can still be denied service by both public and private entities. This is the next step in ensuring LGBT couples have access to the rights they deserve, and Mayor Becker will work with all stakeholders to develop a plan to ensure that they do.