Residents of council District 1 in Salt Lake City are gearing up to choose a new person to represent them. Sixteen-year incumbent Carlton Christensen is retiring this year.
It’s a Saturday morning in Rose Park, a neighborhood in Salt Lake City’s 1st district. Soccer players are in the middle of a game at Riverside Park. People are walking their dogs along the Jordan River Trail.
Blake Perez comes here often. He chairs the Rose Park Community Council. I asked him what will be on voter’s minds this November when they go to the polls.
“Carlton Christensen’s not on the ballot?” Perez jokes.
Perez’ friend and community council member Corkey Reeser says people will be thinking about economic development.
“We want more, I don’t want to say commercialization by any means, but more local stores being able to open up and succeed,” Reeser says.
Economic activity is expected to improve around North Temple with the new airport TRAX line that opened this spring. Anecdotally, local businesses say so far sales are up slightly, and they’re seeing a more diverse clientele.
I stop by the Rose Park Community garden and chat with volunteer Meg Buonforte. She’s joined by two, maybe three others in the large plot between rows of cabbage and peppers.
“We’re hoping the new city councilman will be able to see the benefits of it as Carlton did and,” Buonforte says. “We need new members so visibility would be great and just some support so that it doesn’t go away.”
I leave the quiet garden and walk toward 600 North where Corkey Reeser points to a busy intersection on 800 west and 600 north. That’s where she says needs to be a pedestrian-activated crosswalk to slow traffic coming off of the freeway.
“We’re running into a lot of issues between the state and the city because nobody wants to take responsibility for the intersection there,” Reeser says.
Perez says it’s a becoming a major safety concern for the community.
“We’ve seen accidents there just a few weeks ago,” Perez says. “It’s a very, very dangerous corner and that’s the entrance into our community.”
The friends say what they need is a louder voice, and more people willing to speak out about issues like these.
Although he couldn’t speak specifically to that particular intersection, District 1 candidate Kevin Parke says he’d like to be that voice. Parke is an escrow officer and 14-year resident of Rose Park. After witnessing a shooting at his son’s baseball game, Parke says safety became a big concern. He believes improving safety comes down to better funding, community outreach and an active neighborhood watch.
“But mostly it comes down to supporting the police department,” Parke says. “Giving them the tools that they need, making sure that in an era of very tight budgets that while you can’t write them a blank check, you need to make sure that they get what they need.”
Parke says despite the shooting incident, his neighborhood has low crime rates and a lot of economic potential. That’s the message; he says will attract developers.
“Let people know what a jewel it is,” Parke says. “But also don’t be afraid to go after those businesses ,to go after maybe a big box store in the area. There is a lot of undeveloped ground.”
District 1 Candidate James Rogers is a local business man who’s lived in the district for 33 years. He worries economic development has halted along North Temple since the completion of the Airport TRAX Line.
“So I would love to see at a local level, where, it turns out to be like a 9th and 9th area,” Rogers says. “Where people can walk with their families, come take the TRAX line go down town and go to nice quaint little restaurants and boutiques and shop with their family and then go home.”
Rogers, who speaks Portuguese and Spanish says a major aspect of economic development on Salt Lake City’s west side is getting more local business owners and members of the community talking.
“It’s the melting pot of Salt Lake,” Rogers says. “You’ve got so many different ethnicities and religions. It’s just a wonderful place to live. So I think that I would have that advantage, especially with the Latino community, bringing them together and uniting our neighborhoods. “
This year, the Salt Lake City council approved an $8 million property tax increase.
The additional revenue will pay for overdue maintenance as well as keeping police and fire departments at current levels. Incumbent Carlton Christensen opposed the increase. Parke and Rogers say they support Christensen’s decision. They both agreed the increase will be too hard on residents who are already facing tax increases in the Salt Lake City School District and Salt Lake County.
The Salt lake City General Election is November 5th.