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Private Eye

Chess With Ralph Becker

Stop & smell the vice on Main Street

By John Saltas
Posted // September 21,2011 -

You’d think that with the University of Utah football team beating the Holy Crap out of Holier Than Thou BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall and his band of quitters, I’d spend an entire column boasting about the Utes at the expense of the Cougars. But, I’m not in the mood. Even I can suck only a limited amount of joy from a trainwreck. In fact, I feel just a bit sorry for those guys. Not that they lost—I’m sorry for them because I’m quite certain that those players weren’t quitters until Bronco got hold of them.

Coach Mendenhall’s system of faith first and first downs second just doesn’t cut it on a football field because, you know, God really doesn’t care about football. And Ute fans really don’t care to keep hearing that BYU players are cut of a superior cloth (such as the offensive line and the running backs, perhaps?), that if they live right, good things will happen (like seven turnovers) or that they are held to a higher standard (except when cheap shots to the head are called for, that is). Utah 54 BYU 10. ’Nuff said.

Downtowners know that Main Street between Second and Third South is not exactly pedestrian-friendly. The sidewalks are fine, but traversing that area is hardly a walk in the park—uh, well, maybe Pioneer Park, circa 1995. The chess tables that someone in city government thought would attract the next Bobby Fischer? They’re in disrepair (same with the stupid kiosks), and best suitable for rolling doobies.

Salt Lake City has no tangible policy regarding the welfare of pedestrians or merchants along that part of Main Street, nor policies to protect the truly indigent or homeless who have been pushed aside in favor of persons who engage in illegal activities. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank and his officers are doing a nearly impossible and thankless task. They’re fine—we see them everyday. But I never see Mayor Ralph Becker on Main Street. I couldn’t pick the members of the Salt Lake City Council out of a fruit bin, so I wouldn’t know if they walk our street. I doubt it.

All I know is that I’m forever getting e-mails from the mayor’s office touting something neat-o, like dog parks and bike trails (where Becker liberals can escape to avoid street people) or new Broadway-style theater plans and Leonardo exhibits (where those same liberals feel the pain of street people via song, dance and power points). I got tired of all that last week and sent the following e-mail to Becker spokesman Art Raymond:

Hello Art,

I get these e-mails several times a week. Thanks for that, but please take me off of your list. They no longer mean much to me since the two single pleas I’ve made to Mayor Becker and this administration have gone unheeded.

1. Salt Lake City Weekly is the only newspaper distributing in the downtown area still adhering to the street-rack ordinances that were enacted nearly 10 years ago. Our racks are legal per those ordinances, but many others are not—in size, color, logo display and location. We are playing by the rules, to our own ruin. The mayor told me right after his election that he would look into this and enforce the ordinance. He did not.

So, we’re going to say screw it, too, and do what we want downtown.

2. Our area of Main Street (the west side between 200 and 300 South) is a junkyard, and it’s the very area that city leaders tried to doll up with at least two beautification projects. It’s the area with the most daily foot traffic, but the city just looks the other way when tourists and office workers walk a gauntlet of never-ending surprises. We have flower beds that people piss in and chess tables from which a randy group of drinkers, idlers and drug dealers spend their days harassing passersby and often breaking multiple laws, in plain sight. This, too, is a problem at least three years old.

Nothing from the mayor on this. Homeless is homeless, need is need, and all 50 Main Street employees of City Weekly are sympathetic—but this is bullshit.

It was bad enough when people came into our building and pissed in the elevator—a regularity. Yesterday, someone raised the tolerance bar by taking a crap in front of our office door. Shall we clean it off for the next once-in-a-decade visit from the mayor? Or should we preserve it as a reminder?

Our company relocated to Main Street because we believed in the legacy that street has given Salt Lake City and the promise it can still deliver. We were the first business to relocate there as part of an incentive plan to bring new life to downtown. We have been central to the success of that plan, with much of our over $2 million annual payroll spent among Main Street merchants, old and new. We hope Main Street thrives—without us.

Because, when I am first able, I will move City Weekly from Main Street. I know, I know—the city doesn’t need us any longer, as it is filling up other empty buildings and building new ones. Which is fine with us.

The only thing we’ll leave behind is a note to all those new businesses to remind their customers to wipe their feet.

Take care, and thanks for removing me from your mailing list.

John Saltas
Founder, Executive Editor, Salt Lake City Weekly

P.S. Please pass this along to the Mayor and City Council. If not, it’s OK—they can read it in the next issue of City Weekly.

P.P.S. And the city’s parking-meter mafia is killing downtown, too.

Twitter: @JohnSaltas

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Posted // September 24,2011 at 15:07 Well said Mr. Saltas. However, we all know that the really really important segment of Main Street is between North Temple and First South. You know, the Mormon Vatican. Tis true. SLC's mojo Mayor Beeker couldn't care less about ANY other segment of Main Street or State Street or even West Temple.
Remember back in the day and, west Second South was Salt Lake's ghetto? Last I heard, west Second South was all hip and trendy.
You know, it just might have been SL's mojo Mayor Beeker that crapped on your doorstep. He is sort of a passive/aggressive little piss ant. Smarmy too. Golly, leaves one almost longing for the good old days when Sparky was the mojo mayor.


Posted // September 23,2011 at 23:48 The GOP, with Ron Paul in the lead on this particular point, may becoming amenable to legalizing drugs. Me, too. In fact, to solve the current Main Street vagrancy problem I propose a free uncut heroin distribution program for all addicts. They'd have to promise to use it out of public view, and if the dynamics of social Darwinism play out as anticipated, it could be an "OD and die" elimination program for undesireables. I've long thought that smack should even be administered for executions since we sure as hell know that it don't cause no pain.


Posted // September 26,2011 at 11:08 - Good bit of sarcasm here, Jim.

I was thinking, instead of poisoning them with heroin, we could just gather them all up and send them to work farms at the Goshute Work Farm Complex, located in the west desert, where they'll be expected to make any variety of American goods from jeans to toasters to vehicles to solar panels, with the intention of bolstering manufacturing in this country.

At the farms, they'll receive adequate food and housing, and will have access to medical, dental and mental health care, as well as any necessary prescriptions. There will be a minimum one year "sentence" for every bum collected, just long enough to dry them out and, hopefully, provide them with the confidence and skills necessary to perform well in our sorry little materialistic society. Those that are mentally deranged or otherwise incapacitated will remain at the farm, performing what duties they are able, even if it's only sweeping the foyer, and will be cared for throughout the remainder of their lives.

Those that would like to leave the program at the end of their first year must prove their willingness to do what they can to care for themselves and their family, hold down a job, and not further burden society by lounging drunk all day outside businesses and shitting in doorways and being generally unpleasant.

Once released, they'll be provided arranged job opportunities according to their skills and interests and will have six months at a halfway-type housing complex, free of charge, to save money for their own housing, while they grow accustomed to their new jobs.

Other amenities at the work farm include all manner of educational opportunities, especially in trade fields, as well as child care (includes school and day care) and minimal pay, to be automatically deposited into a personal account for later use. Counseling will be available to all "participants" for as long as they require it and returning to the farm is as easy as saying "Uncle".

Obviously, the farm and all related programs are self-sustaining via profits made on exported goods.

I think I've just blundered onto a good premise for a little dystopian fiction.


Posted // September 23,2011 at 11:37 If you invite a response from the guys that run the Native Amerian shop there on Main, you'll get some firey comments regarding the filth that lounges daily on that block.

I'm down in that area quite often and have nothing but distain for the scum hanging around there. They are all disgusting, filthy, low-lives with no intention of ever participating in society beyond begging and harrassing passers-by. And I include that scammer in the wheel chair you guys ran a little ditty on a few weeks back.

A good friend works in that area often and has seen drug deals (happens daily, all day long), people using drugs, people shitting in the alleys, people pissing in the bushes, on walls, in the planters, on the sidewalk, beggars harrassing people, and, on one special occasion, a used-up prositute with her legs spread open, sitting drunkenly in the planters, just in front of a street urchin, playing with her twat for him. Yummy.

I'd like to know why the urchins, users, beggars and liars like to hang out in that area. Other than AJ's shop where, until recently, they (urchins and bums) were able to use their tax-payer provided food cards to scam, with the owners of AJ's, money from the system, there's nothing there to entice them that I can see. I guess it's a nice place to be if you're a loser seeking the company of other losers.

The owners of AJ's scammed (embezzled) over one million dollars from Utah's horizon card food welfare system and yet, they are still in business. In fact, they're still able to accept horizon cards. Why? Why are they still in business and why are they still able to use the tax-payer system they were just busted abusing? They should be closed down. They should be tried and imprisoned. And then they should be deported. There's lots of scams to be had back in their home country. I'm sure they'd do very well there these days.

Yep. That part of main street is a junk yard filled with trash and the city leaders do not care and if I were you, I'd move too. Actually, if any of you can show me that Becker really cares about anything, I'll spring for ice cream.


Posted // September 22,2011 at 19:06 Great letter, John! You couldn't have said it better!
Where oh where has our boondoggle of a mayor, Ralph Becker been this whole time? He's neither here nor there, and doesn't really seem to care about downtown Salt Lake.
That said, things have been going downhill in downtown Salt Lake ever since, with these businesses leaving the area in droves: The Metropolitan closed their doors last week.
Not to mention the place is really dirty, smells bad, and is overrun by a bunch of degenerate, inbred, locusts everywhere you look.
You assholes on Main Street who have nothing better to do than to piss in flower beds, shit on Salt Lake City Weekly's doorstep, and dealing drugs in front of Sam Wellers can take a flying leap!
What a shame. What a fucking shame. It's too bad these liberal, schmuch-fucks had to run it into the ground, lol!


Posted // September 22,2011 at 16:26 Thanks, John, for saying in your paper what so many of us have said to the Mayor's office, the SLPD, and anyone else who would listen.
As General Manager for Keys On Main the problems on Main Street have been a constant thorn in my side. The SLPD has been as helpful as they are allowed to be when dealing with the problem, and I have nothing but gratitude for their continuing efforts to clean up Main Street. I wish I could say the same for the other public officials whose help we have asked for to no avail.
The crude comments, constant and sometimes aggresive panhandling, and general eyesores that exist directly in front of our club have actually gotten worse over the last year. Our customers have told us that it is becoming a deterent to visiting us, and visiting tourists from cities as large as Chicago have commented that Salt Lake has a worse homeless problem than they do. (I suppose this is a nicer place to live if you're homeless, I doubt Chicago spent the money to buy them chessboard furniture right in the heart of downtown.)
While I wish none of us had to deal with this problem, it's nice to hear a fellow suffering Main Street neighbor (especially one with your voice) add his two cents (which is the only change I'm willing to spare anymore).
Brandon Isenhour
General Manager
Keys On Main