State of the County address: Mayor Ben McAdams plans to 'harness forces' for growth

January 14, 2014
Author: Whitney Evans

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams stood next to a replica of a rocket as he spoke about his plans for the county's future.

"Let us harness these forces shaping our community identity and rocket toward the future we choose," McAdams said to a standing ovation.

The mayor unveiled his plans for the county in his State of the County address Tuesday at the Salt Lake County Government Center. Moving forward, the county will preserve the resources it has, take advantage of public-private partnerships, make transportation more accessible and try to be a hub of innovation, he said.

Salt Lake County's fiscal responsibility, ability to work across political party lines and economic growth have provided a solid foundation on which the county can build, he said.

"We either act to create the future we choose or react to the future that chooses us," McAdams said.

The county has allocated $12.5 million to "fix and refresh" some of the county facilities, including the Clark Planetarium, the construction of the Jessie E. Quinney Ballet Center and the Jordan River Parkway Trail. McAdams plans to put a renewal of the Zoo, Arts and Parks funding up for a vote.

He talked about an expansion of preschool opportunities for the poor, which would serve an additional 600 students through a public-private partnership with Goldman Sachs, United Way of Salt Lake and Voices of Utah Children, with an ultimate goal to have all Salt Lake County children reading on grade level by third grade.

The county will also launch an initiative called "Better Futures," partnering with the private and nonprofit sectors to help those released from prison secure employment, training and housing.

"With Better Futures, we'll offer the opportunity of different options for ex-offenders, so that they can become contributing members of society, provide for themselves and their families and reduce costly trips through the revolving door of our courts and jails," he said.

With the help of former Salt Lake City Councilman Carlton Christensen, McAdams has launched a partnership with Utah, communities and the county. As part of this partnership, the mayor promised a streamlining of 911 service that would have dispatchers from all police agencies in the county using the same software system.

"It's unacceptable for a citizen of this valley — in 2014 — to sit on hold for 13 minutes — as happened last year — while confusion reigns among dispatchers who struggle with a patchwork system. Especially since Salt Lake County stepped up to fund the solution," he said.

McAdams announced the launch of a 311 calling system for Salt Lake County to provide citizens with a resource for questions ranging from business licenses, to fixing potholes to graffiti removal, and requested other mayors to support and "join our effort to streamline the interactions our resident have with the government, regardless of whose job it might be — to offer a single source for information and answers to their requests of local government."

The county also recently launched a project to help communities grow in a sustainable way. As part of this, it has developed technology to help communities envision growth options and how it would affect zoning, housing, transportation, health care locations and other parts of community life.

Together with Wasatch Front Regional Council, the county will offer grants to communities to make them "more walkable and transit-oriented," McAdams said.

Taylorsville has already taken advantage of this grant with the updating of its shopping center, he said.

Finally, the county will partner with Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, the Utah Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service, Metropolitan Water District and others to keep mountain water clean and preserve the recreation and outdoor appeal of the Wasatch mountains and canyons, he said.

"The future is hurtling towards us; 2014 must be a year when we recognize that as a metropolitan network, we are actors, not subjects. We have everything we need — assets, experience and values — to ensure a bright future," he said.


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Jerilyn Stowe
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