“Today is the first day of spring — a season known for its bold, constructive optimism — making today the perfect day to share my vision of Salt Lake City and of what’s possible for this eclectic, beautiful, magical city I love,” Christian Harrison opened with at yesterday’s press conference.
Harrison’s vision is one “of world-class neighborhoods stitched together into a world-class city” and of a trustworthy government, “one that sets aside playground politics and gets to work on the many challenges we face as Salt Lakers and Utahns.” Harrison also indicated a plan that protects and empowers the next generation — that looks 40 years down the road, not just four.
For the last 15 years, Harrison has lived in Salt Lake City and has worked as a social innovator, a nonprofit professional, a tech entrepreneur, and a community activist. And for the last last 13 years, he has served the people of Salt Lake City as president and chair of the Downtown Community Council.
While Harrison said he has felt fortunate and blessed over the last decade and a half, he also said we as a community can do better if “we are ever going to live up to our incredible potential.”
Here were his focal points:
1. We Need to Heal Our City
Our city is divided. Physically, linguistically, socioeconomically. A divided city is a weakened city. Our immigrant neighbors, our neighbors with disabilities, and our neighbors struggling to make ends meet — they all bring something amazing to the table.
● Citizens of Salt Lake City speak dozens of languages — our government must learn to speak the languages of our neighborhoods.
● Our neighborhood councils need to be empowered — that means funded and staffed — not only to give greater voice to our neighborhoods but also to provide a launchpad for a more diverse generation of politicians.
● And we must recognize that our building and business codes are doorways to economic opportunity — and they’re too often closed to folks who lack funds to hire lawyers… Closed to folks who lack the time needed to personally chase paperwork for days, or weeks, or months… We need building and business codes that are open doors of opportunity.
2. We Need to Take Control
From the Inland Port to sales tax, from air quality to quality of life, the Utah State Legislature regularly interferes in the internal affairs of cities across our great state. To thrive, cities need to innovate, and that’s not possible when our relationship with State leadership is so poorly defined. That’s why Salt Lake City needs to lead a coalition of cities and citizens and legislators from around the state to pass a local control amendment to Utah’s constitution, an amendment that guarantees cities the right to govern ourselves.
We must also take control of our own finances, establishing a public bank. The Public Bank of Salt Lake City would leverage our city’s assets to fund projects that align with our values and priorities — and then channel the interest those loans make back into our neighborhoods. This widespread practice of smart governments around the world is an idea whose time has come for Salt Lake City. Control of our laws, our lands, and our finances will grant us the freedom to innovate, and to set our course with confidence.
3. We Need to Reboot City Hall
The good people who maintain our parks, fix our potholes, and craft the policies and programs that make it all possible demand and deserve a workplace that is free of the tyranny of playground politics.
● That starts with paying our staff a living wage and improving working conditions all around.
● It means opening doors between the Mayor’s office and City Council — between everyone, upstairs and down.
● And it will take a mayor with a clear and well-articulated vision, one who shows up and does the hard work of governing — who attends the meetings and makes the calls. We’ve got too much work to do to not be firing on all cylinders.
4. We Need to Face Our Future
While we are tackling the problems of today, we need to lay the groundwork so we’re ready for the big problems of tomorrow. Right now, the plan is praying. Praying the “Big One” doesn’t strike in our lifetime. Praying climate change isn’t as bad as predicted. Praying that somehow doubling our population doesn’t deliver twice the people, twice the cars, and four times the headaches.
● Future-facing cities tackle big problems, head-on.
● Future-facing cities make good, incremental development legal and profitable.
● Future-facing cities make choosing to walk, ride, or roll a viable and attractive alternative to driving.
● They prepare their neighborhoods to not only fight drought, but to deal with monster rain storms and torrential flooding.
Future-facing cities are ready for the hard things and our readiness allows us to grow with the confidence that what we build today will stand the test of time!
5. His Values
I’ve spent the last few months on a listening tour, hearing from city council members, county officials, state representatives, current and former city employees, and everyday citizens. We’ve talked about the pressing issues we’re all worried about:
● Air quality
● Housing affordability
● Our homeless neighbors
● Transportation independence
● The inland port
And in every discussion, we circle back to what differentiates me, and they ask me what am I for …
● I’m for building resilient systems rooted in optimism
● I’m for sound policy and hard work
● I’m for bringing everyone to the table
● I’m for choosing to shape change — not resist it
That’s how we walk into the future, together, ready to face whatever comes our way. People ask me what I’m for — I’m for Salt Lake City!