Stan Penfold represents the third district on the Salt Lake City Council and he’s the only councilman running for re-election this year. But significant change in city leadership is still on the horizon, as three other members of the council have decided to step down.
Gwen Springmeyer says she couldn’t be happier with her idyllic slice of life in Salt Lake City’s upper Avenues. She chairs the community council there.
“I like it because it’s a self-contained neighborhood,” Springmeyer says. “There is a bank. There is a dry cleaner. There is a long list of restaurants. You can do Yoga. You can buy ice-cream for your children.”
District 3 spans east from the affluent Federal Heights Neighborhood near the University of Utah, west to a more diverse, industrial section of town just east of I-15.
Springmeyer and I paid a visit to a tennis court in her neighborhood.
This one in Reservoir Park is well maintained by city workers. The paint is vivid. There are no cracks on the surface.
It’s quite the contrast to a less visible tennis court at Lindsey Gardens. This one is covered in graffiti with plants growing up through the cracks on the surface of the court.
The council’s rational for approving an $8 million property tax increase this year, was partly to address backlogged maintenance like this. But Springmeyer says she’s not sure how to feel about the city’s tax hike because she doesn’t know what it’s going to pay for.
“I would really like to see a list of what’s going to take place after the tax increase money starts coming in,” Springmeyer says. “I’d really love to see that…..And there are things I’d like to make sure are on that list.”
Over the course of the economic recession, maintenance on things like tennis courts, parks and streets took a backseat to other city needs.
District 3 Councilman Stan Penfold says he would have preferred the city make that list before approving a tax hike, which he voted against.
“We’ll probably end up seeing the tax increase spent on other infrastructure needs and not necessarily things like replacing the brick wall behind our cemetery which is a historic feature in our neighborhood,” Penfold says. “People really care about that. It’s really visible. And it’s crumbling. It’s not on the list of things we’re going to fix.”
Penfold says the city could have partnered with the state to fund improvements to things like streets that carry mostly commuter traffic.
“But if we just go ahead and say to the residents we’re going to fund it ourselves, you kind of lose that leverage and that bargaining opportunity with the state to say, hey we think you should participate too, because we are the capitol city,” Penfold says.
The west end of Penfolds district is a railroad corridor with a lot of small-scale warehouses and modest homes.
But he says that area is improving. The Salt Lake City Marmalade Branch Library is under construction. Penfold says the block will be a community gathering place.
“The important thing is to make the neighborhood walkable,” Penfold says. “How do you have a destination so that people feel like, I don’t’ have to get in my car and travel to get some groceries or have a little bite to eat or a coffee.”
Penfold, who chairs the city’s redevelopment agency, also initiated a rezone of the area from industrial to residential, which he says will attract smaller businesses and more homes.
Most residents in Salt Lake City’s 3rd district applaud Penfolds performance in his first term.
Sherman Clow on the other hand is posing a challenge. He’s vying for Penfolds seat to take back access to downtown amenities he says Avenues and Capitol Hill residents are losing. Specifically he takes issue with the big blue parking meters downtown.
“In the middle of a recession they spent millions on new real cool meters,” Clow says. “I like smart phone apps and I think being able to use a credit card is good. But then they extended the hours into the evening which has really hurt a lot of local businesses downtown.”
Clow says some of the decisions Salt Lake City officials have made are making life more complicated and costly. He adds, the Avenues has poor bus service. He says it’s easier for someone who lives in the south of the valley to enjoy an evening in downtown Salt Lake City than someone who lives in the avenues or Capitol Hill.
“They could take the TRAX in, they can enjoy downtown,” Clow says. “They can take a late night TRAX out back to their car. But in the avenues, especially in the evenings, if you’re not on the bus by 6:30 pm, you’re lost. You’re taking a cab or walking home.”
With transportation, city maintenance and other issues on their minds, voters will decide on November 5th whether to give Stan Penfold another term in office or elect Sherman Clow to represent their economically diverse district.