Chess With Ralph Becker 

Stop & smell the vice on Main Street

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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