Salt Lake Mayoral Race – Keith Christensen

Keith submitted his response to my questionnaire after Jenny Wilson’s was posted last week. I did set a date for returned responses, but only Ralph Becker and Dave Buhler met the deadline. Keith was the only candidate who had the opportunity to read other candidate responses before submitting his own. Please keep this in mind when reading his answers. Keith Christensen’s website is located here.

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?

Main Street has been hurt by poor planning in the past. From the widening of sidewalks on Main Street that eliminated parking, to poor estimations of the impact of TRAX on retailers, decisions made about historic Downtown have historic ramifications that can run decades into the future. The city needs leadership to make certain that Downtown and Main St. are more safe and livable in the future.

There are a few things we can do to ensure this:

Remember, Main St. is not one block. Your question points it out perfectly. People often talk about Main St. as if revitalizing the area is a one step process. City Creek fixes it all in some minds. It is not that simple. Main Street must be approached on a block by block basis. The potential uses of Main between South Temple and 100 South (City Creek Center) will certainly not be the same as Main between 200 and 300 South (Wells Fargo building, City Weekly Offices, Sam Weller’s, etc..) As mayor, I will focus our attention on each individual block of Main Street, ensuring appropriate redevelopment.

Improve transit options for Downtown.

  • TRAX (despite the detrimental impacts upon Main St. businesses) is wonderful for commuters and shoppers making their way downtown.
  • Bus routes that enhance public transportation use, especially for our future downtown residents.
  • Invest in a bicycle-friendly Downtown. It’s environmentally friendly, and also mitigates some parking and traffic issues.

Develop greater residential space. Though the City Creek Center and the redevelopment of the downtown area will bring greater residential components to the area, more can be done. As a city, we need to formulate a housing policy for the city, and focus a great amount of effort in an effective residential plan for downtown.

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?

Columnist Paul Rolly recently commented that on a short stroll through the park, he was asked if he wanted to buy illegal drugs on three separate occasions. The park is in dire need of a full makeover. As a city, we cannot afford to band-aid problems that require significant investment to solve. Though I applaud some of the things the council has moved forward on in the past months, more must be done.

I support Mayor Anderson’s approach to Pioneer Park. I believe the time has come to give Pioneer Park a facelift, giving it a sense of place, making it a part of a livable, safe downtown. Right now, it is an area that simply has not fulfilled its potential.

Most importantly, a strong, continued undercover police presence at the park is essential. Drug dealers and buyers should be vigorously prosecuted. Besides enforcement, many other improvements must be made. We need to have a stage for concerts, lectures, and community events. We need a playground area where parents are not afraid to take their children. We can turn a portion of the park into an off-leash area for dog owners. We literally can mold Pioneer Park into a place that our City can be proud of. But band-aids and half-hearted efforts simply will not do the job. Pete, you know as well as I do, that in business, the only thing worse than spending too much money, is spending too little to get the job done.

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?

Our city has so much heritage and history to show. The Mormon Pioneers, and the many that followed, have given us a rich legacy. As Mayor, count on me to preserve our legacy and heritage, leading the search for workable solutions for the community, the developers, and owners. Too often, these situations are approached in a zero-sum fashion, but frequently, the situations can be resolved in a win-win for all involved. It simply takes leadership, communication, and effort to get the job done right.

Historic preservation, whether of parks, buildings or any other cultural asset matters to me as resident, not just as your mayor. I’ve helped preserve buildings for adaptive reuse for example when I was a councilman, such as finding ways to fund the historic Eccles-Browning Warehouse and Cornwall Buildings to make way for the Artspace Projects. Maintaining our built legacy is essential, and I will work with all concerned to strengthen ordinances that protect all of our cultural resources.

The Brooks Arcade situation was very unfortunate, as you and I discussed. Working as a community, we can make certain that our city is a modern marvel for both its impressive infrastructure, and its historic treasures.

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?

The community at large must speak out on this issue. The only pertinent reason for the city to have an aviary is for public interest. If we can establish that there is a level of interest high enough to maintain Tracy Aviary appropriately, then I will find a way to do so.

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

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore M. Hesburgh

There would be no need for diplomacy without leadership and a vision. Over the course of my life, both as an attorney (practicing for a dozen years, recovering for 20), and now with my businesses, I have learned to deal with this daily challenge successfully. That success has largely been built upon the fact that I listen to those around me, take the best advice I can find, and move forward with that vision. In my role as Mayor, I would take the same approach. The mayor is no dictator. As the Olympics proved, there is no limit to what this city can accomplish when we work together.

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?

My focus is Salt Lake City. My top priorities are:

Education. Our city has the most diverse population in Utah. It is marvelous. But this remarkable diversity brings a unique set of challenges to our city. I welcome these challenges, and I am convinced our city is better for it. As we discussed, I have a plan to improve education in our city through a public-private mentoring partnership called “Read by 3”, focusing on literacy.. You can read more at In essence, we can do more for the future of our children through education than any other area. As education improves, so does opportunity. As mayor, I will work hard with our community to make certain that when opportunity knocks, our children are ready and waiting to answer!

Crime. Our city has benefited from crime reduction for the past few years. We can do more. As mayor, crime prevention will be a hallmark of my administration.

There is a direct correlation between dropout/graduation rates in America and drug crime. In Salt Lake City, 86% of our crime is drug related. Therefore, it behooves us to address education, as I have set forth above. This will have the net effect of improving education, while dropping crime rates. That is something we all can look forward to.

Mayor Anderson’s restorative justice program has been a success. I will continue and build upon that strong foundation.

Our police force is truly second to none. As mayor, I will make certain that our police have both the personnel, and the physical resources necessary to adequately perform their function.

Enhancing Quality of Life. Our environment, our economy, our transportation system. These are fundamental building blocks of a livable city. We can do much to improve our quality of life through making the right decisions. With proper leadership in these areas, our future is bright.

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

Yes, and our city council missed a great opportunity.

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?

Our liquor laws certainly could use some tweaking. Thought the Legislature sets liquor laws for the state, our city ordinance relating to restaurants and private clubs proximity to one another is archaic and is significantly negatively impacting our city. It is poorly constructed, and overly restrictive.

Mayor Anderson has attempted to engage the City Council on this issue, but it appears they are uninterested. This issue is important, however, and I will proactively work with the Council to institute appropriate changes to our ordinance.

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

I believe there is far more that unites us than divides us. We all want a more safe, livable community. We all desire a vibrant downtown. We all would like the west side to blossom to its full potential. We all breathe easier when our air is cleaner. These concerns unite us, but only if we cast aside some of our more petty differences, and work as one.

As mayor, I recognize unity is not achieved by one person. It must be a community effort. That is why I have begun assembling a coalition of mayors along the Wasatch Front. I have met with more than 20 mayors, letting them know that, if elected, I want all the mayors in our Wasatch Front Community to join together in confronting the problems of our day. Education, Crime, and Environment are all important to our community. Together with this coalition, we can tackle the major issues, working to make the Wasatch Front the most livable community in America. It can be done!

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?

It has certainly been a “rocky road” to the legislature for some time now. I am prepared to engage the legislature in discussion about Salt Lake that have for too long, and for partisan reasons, been ignored.

Obviously, there is a distinct difference between the capitol city, and the majority of legislators on Capitol Hill. That need not be an obstacle, however. Diversity of thought should not be an impediment to productive discussion of the issues that matter to Salt Lake.

When it comes to the legislature, I will speak passionately on behalf of our city, while maintaining a relationship of trust and respect with legislators. Having spoken with many of them over the past few months, I can tell you that such trust and respect will be mutual, and beneficial for Salt Lake.

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?

That’s above my pay grade. My campaign technology expert told me to leave him alone and let him do his job. Usually, that’s good advice.

5 thoughts on “Salt Lake Mayoral Race – Keith Christensen

  1. Nice dodge on the last question. I hope he’s smart enough to know how easy that is to find out. It’s Host Pro, Inc. A subsidary of Micron Electronics(For those of you who don’t know how to look it up).

  2. I like Keith’s responses. He is always able to hit at the heart of the issue and I think his business background will be a HUGE benefit to our city. I work in state government and know first hand the benefits we enjoy from leadership that comes from “outside” the public sector. As I met the candidates, it seems we have a big palette to choose from, but Keith is the only one who has the right “composition” to bring his vision of SLC to a reality.

  3. unum, I picked up on that too. Why not just be upfront about it?

    The funny thing is, I just read the Deseret News profile on Keith from a few days ago and it quotes Jack Garn, speaking about Keith, saying “He’s always got a straight answer.” I guess that depends on what your definition of “always” is . . .

  4. Mr. Christensen,

    AS part of the mayoral race, it would be most appreciated if you would bring to the public forum you management plans for the nearly 4000 full and part time City employees. In doing so, consider addressing some of the following issues.

    Have you surveyed the division heads or their employees for insights?
    What management stype will you employee, top down, consensus based, etc?
    Do you have a social agenda such as Mayor Anderson, if so what is it?
    How will you rehabilitate damaged divisions?
    How will you balance the infrastructure needs against the recreational needs?
    How will you syncronize the traffic signal system to the posted traffic speeds, with State and County roads?
    How will you reestablish lost good will with the State, County and regional governments?
    How would your administration differ from that of Mayor Anderson?

    There are likely 2000 of the 4000 employees that will vote; holefully you will have told them what your intentions are.
    Best regards and thank you.

    Gaylord Smith, Project Manager
    Salt Lake City Engineering
    Home 535-6344
    cellular 641-1278

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