Mayor Migraine | Private Eye | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mayor Migraine 

City Weekly does not support a third term for Ralph Becker

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Hmmm, tough question: Ralph Becker or Jackie Biskupski? I live in Murray. Can't vote. But City Weekly's offices are on Main Street, so we do have a horse in this race. And our horse needs a new rider.

If elected, this would be Ralph's third term. City Weekly supports term limits for elected officials and, on that basis alone, we do not support a third term for Ralph Becker. He's got good staff people. He's a nice guy. We get it. But it's time for Ralph to take a seat and enjoy Evita.

Some folks don't support Jackie because she "has no record." But neither did Ralph Becker when he became mayor—same as any other Democrat in the Utah Legislature (where both served) and where Democrats build resumes as easy as ants build railroads. Others say she's just the "anti-Ralph." But what's wrong with that? After all, Ralph greatly won his first election by promising to be the anti-Rocky—and former mayor Rocky Anderson wasn't even running.

Ralph Becker's ads say he brought life back to downtown. Slow down. He's reigned over robust downtown growth, but in his eight years as mayor, I've seen Ralph Becker on Main Street exactly twice. One time was when he zoomed past me on his bike. The other was when he was walking up the street to talk to me about city news-rack ordinances, which he pledged to fix in the first week of his first term. His words to me in my office were, "What good is a city government if it has ordinances it doesn't enforce?" but those rack ordinances are not fixed today, eight years later. So there's that.

And there's the badly handled dismissal of Police Chief Chris Burbank. There's the bike lanes on 300 South that, one year later, many bikers still avoid and which some others consider unsafe (small cars use them as frequently as bikers, it seems). There's parking confusion. There's generic west-side neglect. There's the potential closing of the popular, revenue-generating Glendale Golf Course. There's the prison relocation to Salt Lake City, which he, of course, says he is fighting. There's pissed-off dog owners.

Conversely, there's a great new theater coming to Main Street. Yeah, that's it. If there's more, do tell, do tell, because the third act is about to begin, and I want to know how this fictional mystery theater is going to end.

Because it was during the mayoral term of Rocky Anderson that the city embarked on a plan to get businesses back on Main Street via $10,000 inducements for moving here. City Weekly took advantage of that initiative (our landlord actually got the benefit of that money—not us) and we moved to Main Street in 2004 when few other businesses were investing in Main Street; even The Salt Lake Tribune had abandoned its historic Main Street digs. When we arrived, we were The Martian.

Truthfully, it was the liquor-law changes that greatly altered the night-time atmosphere, bringing a vibrancy to Salt Lake City. The 222 Building was built and filled. Main Street is now littered with clubs and restaurants that could not have otherwise survived. So when people come downtown, it's not due to nifty bike lanes; it's because one can finally get a drink with a plate of pork-belly sliders on an open-air patio. Thank former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for that.

Nor did Ralph spend the billions of dollars building City Creek Center. But that does beg the question—even though Ralph didn't help on the mall, why is the LDS Church, the mall owners, apparently so agog over Ralph? The church is officially neutral on political matters. Unofficially, it is not.

For example, when you see former Gov. Mike Leavitt on a Becker ad, you should know the LDS Church approves. Or, how about the recent Salt Lake Tribune commentary by Scott Anderson, president of Zions Bank (which was founded by the LDS Church), endorsing Ralph Becker? The last time two prominent LDS members endorsed a Democrat was, well ... never. To be fair, there are only Democrats in this race, but to be fair again, we should ask why conservative LDS Republicans support a liberal Democrat at all. And why not Jackie?

She's a little too openly gay, perhaps?

The LDS Church is more welcoming to gays these days, you say? Then return the real dollars sent to defeat gay rights via Prop 8 in California and explain how gay marriage affects religious freedom in any way, shape or form. That is their unfounded fear. Some peace accords have been struck, true, but a Jackie Biskupski mayorship is an major migraine for the LDS Church. Having an openly gay mayor—a lesbian to boot—of Salt Lake City would be akin to Stephen Hawking being elected mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. He's just too smart for that town, the same way Jackie is just too gay for Salt Lake City.

Some in the LGBT community don't support Jackie. That's to be expected. Everyone should be judged on merit, and it's silly for someone to vote for a gay person, just because he or she is also gay. It doesn't work anyway. I can sum up why that doesn't work in one word: Dukakis. Every Greek in America voted for Michael Dukakis when he ran for U.S. president in 1988. Look where that got the Greeks. We are still known only for bad-fitting hats and gyros.

Curiously, what amount of silver will Ralph Becker owe for the support of the hierarchy of the LDS Church (verily, those walls whisper), which, in any other race, he would not have gotten? It's not like he's been a friend to the church all these years. And, in politics, everyone eventually owes someone. So what gives? The left hand giveth—and it taketh from the right.

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About The Author

John Saltas

John Saltas

John Saltas, Utah native and journalism/mass communication graduate from the University of Utah, founded City Weekly as a small newsletter in 1984. He served as the newspaper's first editor and publisher and now, as founder and executive editor, he contributes a column under the banner of Private Eye, (the original... more

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