Salt Lake City Mayoral Race – Dave Buhler

Some people have asked why I didn’t ask about a particular issue. My questionnaire is in no way meant to be exhaustive, but rather issues that are important to me. If you have a particular issue you’d like answered, I encourage you to contact the candidates directly.

Here is Dave Buhler’s response:

1. What is your plan for action to rejuvenate Main Street and Downtown? This does not include the City Creek Center or plans by the LDS Church. How do you plan to encourage locally-owned business development?

Downtown revitalization will be a high priority of mine, as it has been during my 7+ years on the City Council.

And while you don’t want to talk about City Creek, I think it is important to start with that project because it represents an unparalleled private investment in our downtown. I have been working for several years with the developer (Taubman) and the property owner (LDS Church) to ensure that the new City Creek Center includes mixed uses including substantial housing, that the blocks are pedestrian friendly and include open space and that they provide connections to the surrounding blocks. These efforts have been largely successful, and if nothing else, the amount of new housing this will bring downtown will help all of downtown (as residents look for places to shop, dine, be entertained, etc.)

As Council Chair in 2002, I led the Council in developing a comprehensive policy statement for downtown, that was adopted in January 2003. As Mayor, I would work with the council to update and implement this vision. I have also worked to encourage development in south Main downtown, for example, bringing Channel 2 to Main Street, and finding a way to facilitate the construction of the new 222 South Main Office Tower. Both of these projects have or will bring people to downtown to patronize the shops, restaurants, etc. I have also supported a number of housing projects that have increased the number of people living downtown.

I mention these only to point out that what I will do will be similar to what I have already done.

Unfortunately, the City administration was asleep at the switch and allowed the Newspaper Agency Corp to relocate out of downtown to West Valley City, taking their hundreds of jobs with them. I will work with all of our businesses, locally owned and otherwise, to make sure they know that we are vitally interested in their success in SLC. I will be in their offices, accessible, and listen to them and help them work through the challenges they face. Government should be a facilitator, not a hindrance, to business.

I discussed at some length my views on locally owned businesses on the Vest Pocket Coalition website (for the full text see ). As the economy becomes ever more global, so does the importance of embracing and supporting those things that make our community unique, and that includes supporting locally based merchants, manufacturers, and businesses of all types. The definition of economic development is whether or not new dollars are brought into a community’s economy or, instead, taken from it. When we spend our money at local businesses all of the money stays in the community, while national chains send their profits elsewhere. Locally owned businesses invest back in their community and contribute to it in any number of ways. The jobs created by local businesses are often careers, rather than minimum wage jobs. Locally owned businesses enhance our quality of life, because each and every one is unique and doesn’t follow a set formula. Thus each adds to the vibrancy and richness of our community. And buying local can also be good environmentally as transportation costs are less if the goods or services are produced locally.

As a member of the City Council I have consistently supported policies aimed to help local merchants and businesses including creating the Business Advisory Board, revising the sign ordinance to allow “A-frame” signs in the public right of way to help local merchants, and changing zoning ordinances to allow outdoor dining. I spearheaded and served on a council subcommittee that revised our policies for small business loans. By setting new criteria and delegating the granting of loans to the administration (previously, each one came to the City Council for approval which unnecessarily added red-tape and the length of the process). Since making these changes the City has done a much better job and increased by more than ten-times the amount of loans to Salt Lake City businesses compared to the previous eight years. I will continue and expand upon these initiatives as SLC Mayor.

2. Pioneer Park has consistently been a target of Mayor Anderson for revival. Do you feel the park is in need of revival? If so, what would your plan be?

As a member of the City Council I have supported appropriating nearly $1.5 million for improvements to Pioneer Park. While this is less than proposed by Mayor Anderson, it would provide significant upgrades including helping it to better host the wonderful Farmer’s Market there sponsored by the Downtown Alliance. Given needs in parks and other city-owned facilities throughout the City, I cannot justify spending more than this amount right now in Pioneer Park.

3. Historic preservation has traditionally taken a backseat to economic and developer demand in Salt Lake City. Do you feel this is a proper course of action for a city? What are your own feelings on Salt Lake’s historic properties? What would you do to protect or rid the city of them? Do you believe the RDA (Redevelopment Agency) has been a success in Salt Lake City? Should a government entity like the RDA be able to claim “economic hardship” in order to demolish historic properties in Salt Lake City?

I am a big advocate of historic preservation. (I served on the Board of the Utah Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s, and sponsored legislation in the Senate that made the historic preservation tax credit more workable for homeowners.) Salt Lake City’s historic buildings are something that set us a part from other cities, and can provide a competitive advantage in differentiating us. Property owners, of course, also have rights which must be respected. As in most things, there are times when the proper balance must be found between competing rights and desires. On the City Council I voted to reject a fast-tracked application to remove the historic designation of a home in the Avenues (requested by the homeowner and the Mayor) and have supported several new historic district studies and a city-wide preservation survey now underway. As these studies and surveys are completed, I will work with the neighborhoods to find the best ways to implement them.

Redevelopment Agencies, also known as RDAs, are an important economic development tool for cities. Like any tool, it can be used properly or improperly. Overall, the RDA has been a success for Salt Lake City. Under Utah law, the City Council is the RDA Board of Directors. During my 7+ years as an RDA director, I have consistently supported using RDA tools to support local businesses, including the main street grant program which has aided such businesses as Sam Weller’s, Lamb’s Café, Big City Soup, City Weekly, and Bennion Jewelers, and more than a dozen other locally owned businesses. The RDA has also been very involved in supporting increased housing downtown as a way to aid the vibrancy of downtown and support businesses. The more we can increase the 24/7 population, the better it will be for all types of businesses in the downtown area.

RDA tools must be used carefully, however, to make sure that they are actually helping to create new wealth in the community and not merely using the power of government to subsidize some businesses at the expense of others. For example, I would not support using the RDA to subsidize big-box retailers. (In fact, I am proud of the fact that when Walmart and Lowes came to Salt Lake City, it was without any city subsidies, and in an area where the fit the current zoning.)

As Mayor I will be actively involved in the RDA, working closely with the RDA Board and management, to ensure that it is an integral part of our economic development efforts. I will also work to make sure that locally owned businesses are represented, have a seat at the table, and actively participate as members of the Redevelopment Advisory Committee (RAC). I would like to see at least one joint meeting annually between RAC members and the Business Advisory Board.

RDA’s should support historic preservation. For instance, I supported the original plan to preserve the Brooks Arcade, which was vetoed by Mayor Anderson. (In fact, I made the motion to override his veto, which failed without the necessary 5 votes.) As a result, we had to settle for preserving the façade, which was better than nothing but not as good as the original plan. I also supported RDA funds to assist Big-D renovate the Fuller Paint Building as their corporate headquarters.

I am only aware of one instance where the RDA has worked to remove a historic building–a small home–and that was only after every other alternative had been explored. In this case, it was necessary to revitalizing a challenging area of the city and a rare exception to our overall record of supporting historic preservation.

4. Liberty Park has received a lot of city funding while the Tracy Aviary has been largely ignored by the city. Promises of shared funding have also not been kept. What will you do to balance the attention of city funding for public facilities? Do you think the city needs an aviary?

Well, I disagree with the premise that the City has ignored Tracy Aviary. During my time on the City Council we have done more to assist Tracy Aviary than has been done for decades. For instance, I supported placing a $1 million bond issue on the ballot in 2003 to provide a needed infusion of money for capital improvements. The City Council also appropriates $250,000 a year to support Aviary operations, and appropriated nearly $500,000 in one-time money in 2007 to assist the Aviary. I am not aware of any unkept promises regarding “shared funding.” As a young boy, I grew up on 5th East, across the street from Liberty Park, and near the Aviary. So it has been a part of my life for many years. I would hate to think of SLC without it. But long term, there needs to be a private-public partnership of investment if the Aviary is going to survive and thrive. As Mayor I’ll work with the Aviary Board, the City Council, the business community and the public, to forge a realistic plan for the Aviary’s future.

5. Please tell me how you balance compromise and conflict, diplomacy and leadership.

My leadership style is to listen, study, reason and think, carefully consider all views, and collaborate and find agreement where possible to reach solutions. Leadership includes arriving at the best conclusion and then advocating for it and winning support, but only after listening, discussing, collaborating. Examples of my leadership on the City Council include dealing with the Monster House issue, devising a way to provide fair benefits for all SLC employees (which it appears that SL County is about to replicate), and the Salt Palace expansion. When you listen to people, you learn from them, and it also builds a relationship of mutual respect that is so important in order to win support for your position and get things done. My leadership has been recognized by my colleagues on the City Council which have voted me into leadership positions three times (Vice Chair in 2001, Chair in 2002 and 2006), and by the fact that three council members are openly supporting my candidacy for mayor.

When I served in the Senate I also forged a record of bi-partisan cooperation (as Rep. Becker acknowledged when we had a joint appearance at the University of Utah). As a leader you must be willing to take and make a stand, but your stands are more sound if they are arrived at after careful study, listening, and consideration. A certain amount of conflict comes with the job, and I have also demonstrated a willingness to take a stand on controversial issues as a member of the City Council. The same thing can be expected from me as Mayor.

6. What is your priority list for your attention? Do you believe national and international problems should ever override your local focus? How do you prioritize public interest verses private commercial concern? What comes first for you?

A new partnership between the mayor and our schools can help extend educational opportunities to every child in the city and enable them to be self-sustaining, contributing adults. My approach to that priority:

  • Supporting our neighborhoods means supporting our schools. Strong neighborhoods create strong neighborhood schools and vice versa.
  • We have a strong educational infrastructure that needs to be maintained. We have the advantage of a school district that aligns with the city’s boundaries and a proactive school board, with great public support, that’s had the vision to invest in our neighborhood schools.
  • As the home of many colleges and universities, we have a unique opportunity to partner with higher education center increase the opportunities we offer our young people.

Strong Neighborhoods
Salt Lake City has great neighborhoods in every part of the city. To protect and support them, we need:

  • Increased safety, including reduced property and gang-related crime
  • Improved infrastructure, including streetlights, sidewalks, and neighborhood and regional parks
  • Increased home-ownership through innovative government support and private initiative
  • Protection of the character of residential neighborhoods
  • Initiatives to meet the specific needs of west-side neighborhoods.
  • Support for neighborhood businesses

Vibrant Downtown
Downtown is about to be re-invented with over $1 billion in private investment. The city needs strong leadership to deal with the changes we’re facing, balance the interests of everyone who’s affected, and spread prosperity from downtown through our citywide business community. My commitments:

  • Proactively work with the business community and other stakeholders to implement the goals of “Downtown Rising.”
  • Clearly define and strengthen a downtown cultural district.
  • Clearly define and strengthen a downtown entertainment district.
  • Increase the city’s convention business by maximizing the use of the expanded Salt Palace
  • Increase downtown housing options and affordability.
  • Make public transit and TRAX a priority, including the creation of more lines downtown
  • Develop the northwest quadrant to bring more residents closer to downtown

Salt Lake City must be a wise steward of the trust and resources of our people today and keep faith with future generations by protecting open spaces and the environment. My commitments:

  • Increase the city’s inventory of open space from the foothills to our neighborhood parks.
  • Create an Office of Sustainability to better coordinate the city’s environmental efforts.
  • Operate a city government that’s accessible, accountable, and collaborative.
  • Protect our taxpayers by spending tax money prudently and proactively.

As mayor, the public interest must override private concerns. Policy should be set on what benefits the city as a whole, rather than on what benefits a particular private party or concern. However, sometimes it is in the public interest to support private investment in the city, as a way of keeping it vibrant and to provide the tax base necessary to provide services to our residents and visitors to the city.

My focus will be on SLC 24-7, not national or international issues, politics or policies. Of course I will speak out and get involved, particularly on national issues, when they have a direct bearing on our city (such as federal funding for the city). For instance, I have actively worked to address with the federal government and our congressional delegation a contamination in our ground water which, unless addressed, could effect an important water source for Salt Lake City.

7. Do you believe municipal fiber-optics are an essential part of an advanced city infrastructure?

As you know, Salt Lake City has fiber-optic infrastructure, however, it is privately owned. This is important infrastructure for business, education, and citizens. I opposed putting city tax dollars at risk to participate in UTOPIA. I prefer to encourage private investment and competition. However, I am willing to re-look at the issue in the future if a compelling case can be made that the city should become directly involved in providing or expanding this infrastructure.

8. Are you in favor of Utah’s liquor laws? Do you think they are appropriate for all areas of Utah? What role does government play in moderating adult behavior?

Liquor laws are established by the Utah Legislature, not Salt Lake City, with one exception that I will address in a moment. When I served in the Legislature I demonstrated a willingness to take a fresh look at our liquor laws, and as it relates to our business climate and tourism, I would be willing to engage state policy makers in the future. For instance, one of the first bills I sponsored as a Senator and was successful in passing provided for credit-card and check purchases at state liquor stores (prior to that, it was cash-only). I was also interested in amending the proximity laws as it relates to restaurants, although I abandoned that effort when it became clear that I could not muster the necessary support. The one area that the city regulates is the ordinance that restricts bars or private clubs to one per block face. That policy should be reconsidered. Government only has a responsibility in governing adult behavior to the extent that it negatively effects others or the community at large.

9. How do you intend to bridge the gap between belief systems in Utah?

The Mayor can help by treating everyone with respect and leading out in providing civil discourse and by looking for opportunities to demonstrate that people have much more in common than what divides us. ALl of us should be careful to show respect for others in all of our communications, recognizing that in America everyone has a right to freedom of thought and religious expression or non-expression as the case may be. This is how I try to conduct myself.

10. What are your opinions of the Utah legislature, and how do you intend to make sure Utah’s capitol city has a working relationship with the legislature?

I have been involved with the Utah Legislature for many years–8 years in the state executive branch, 4 years as a State Senator, and 7 years working in Utah Higher Education. I know many of the legislators personally, and have good relations with members of both political parties. There are many good people who serve there, and while I disagree with some of the conclusions they arrive at, and at many more ideas that are proposed that are never enacted, I have a good feel for the legislature, how it operates, and how to get things done.

As a Council Member I have worked hard to advance the City’s interests on the Hill. It often has not been easy, since our Mayor seems, at times, to go out of his way to unnecessarily antagonize members of the Legislature. As Mayor I will make legislative relations a top priority because I have seen too many times how the Legislature can either help our hurt our city. I won’t always agree with their priorities or approach, but there needs to be a constructive and respectful relationship between the Capital City and the State Capitol.

11. All the mayoral candidates appear to be in favor of “Buying Local” according to the Vest Pocket survey. Where is your website hosted? If you have a business website, where is that hosted?

My website is hosted locally, currently at a temporary site, but soon at JibeMedia. I am also using a locally owned ad agency, Love Communications.

2 thoughts on “Salt Lake City Mayoral Race – Dave Buhler

  1. I am glad that Mr. Ashdown is asking the tough questions here locally. However, I would like to see these same kinds of questions asked on a regular basis from both of our Congressmen and Senators. Watching C-SPAM only gives us part of the story.
    Thanks Pete for taking the time to share what is happening in Northern Utah.

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