Over the last year, I personally knocked on the doors of and spoke to thousands of people in Salt Lake County. I stood on their doorsteps, sat in their living rooms and listened as they shared with me their struggles, triumphs, and concerns. I quickly learned we had a lot in common.
The county will face a lot of hard decisions in the next several years – all centered on how we will manage significant growth and massive population increases.
These decisions will affect each and every one of us. Our regional growth will affect; affordable housing, accessible and quality care for our most vulnerable residents. It will have an impact on our air quality, open spaces, and transportation.
You deserve more than just a sound bite or sentence on how county leaders plan to lead out on the issues that matter to all of us.
More than bricks and mortar
For many, stable housing is the foundation for a stable life. Our homes are where life happens – our ups and downs, and everything in between.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve spoken with thousands of Salt Lake County residents about the clear need for more affordable housing.
Whether it was young people struggling to afford their first home, grandparents living with their children to keep a roof over their heads, tenants facing eviction with limited notice, or homes being repossessed due to mortgage defaults - too many hard-working people and families are having to fight just to get by.
If we want Salt Lake County to continue to be a regional leader for thoughtful growth, something has to change.
As your Council Member, I’d commit to prioritizing policies that will improve access to affordable housing.
The Affordable Housing Compact
I want to work in partnership with developers in the County to see an increase in designated affordable housing units in new build projects. To support this process, I’m committed to a review of the County’s portfolio of land and properties to identify locations that might be suitable for the kind of re-development that works for our communities.
Tenants’ rights and protections
One of my first actions would be to initiate a full-scale analysis of tenants’ rights and protections under County laws. We need to strike the right balance between protecting the financial interests of respectable landlords and ensuring that tenants are not being unfairly harassed or ejected from where they live. I’m not convinced we are there yet.
Shared ownership models help first-time buyers on a modest income the opportunity to buy a home. The model provides the option for buyers to purchase between 25 and 75 percent of a new home. A capped monthly rent is then paid on the outstanding equity of the property. The buyer would then have an opportunity to buy the home for the remaining balance due on the property at a later date.
This type of model has been deployed in cities across the country. I want to work with developers and the nonprofit community in Salt Lake County to explore this opportunity for individuals and families.
Salt Lake County sees over 100 properties per month enter into foreclosure. In a foreclosure no one comes out on top, families are forced from their homes, and lenders often struggle to recoup the full value of the properties being repossessed.
We can do better - which is why I’m committed to bringing together lenders, nonprofits and people who have been affected by foreclosure to identify possible solutions.
People Facing Homelessness
I believe that no one should have to sleep on the streets. I know that’s saying a lot, but it’s what I believe.
In 2018, the Point-in-Time Count, a count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals in Salt Lake County was 1,804 individuals, 620 families with children, 103 unaccompanied youth, and 180 veterans. This cannot be acceptable when we have the means and resolve to change this.
In June of 2019, three homeless resources centers are set to open around the county. These centers are designed to efficiently and swiftly provide services needed to significantly reduce the number of homeless individual and families in our region. The centers will offer short-term stable housing, with help looking for longer-term housing, and provide critical wrap-around services to help individuals as they begin to rebuild their lives. The resource center model is a good one.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done for these centers to succeed. An explicit commitment from our elected officials and community leaders will be paramount to the success of the centers.
Should I have the honor to serve as your next County Council Memeber, you can count on me to be a champion for the success of these centers. I will also work diligently to address the factors that contribute to the likelihood of experiencing homelessness. As mayor, I will prioritize:
Finding solutions to reduce the number of foreclosures in our community and work to make housing more affordable;
- Creating and fostering existing partnerships to increase access to permanent and transitional housing;
- Increasing the capacity of the county’s behavioral and mental health programs;
- Continuing the work to expand Medicaid and improve access to affordable healthcare for every resident. Too many people find themselves facing homelessness after a medical or mental health crisis.**
To prevent homelessness, we have to think big. The housing supply must meet the demand for every income level, access to affordable healthcare is vital, and quality support services are a must. We need to bring cities, townships and big business to the table to work together to ensure no one has to sleep on the street and that ending homelessness is a top priority in Salt Lake County.
Big challenges, big opportunities
Climate change is the most far-reaching and time-sensitive issue we are currently facing as a society. Salt Lake is experiencing warming at twice the global rate. Actions we take in Salt Lake County that release greenhouse gases and affect the Earth’s climate also contribute emissions to the local airshed.
We should applaud the sustainability efforts the County has taken to date, including aggressive performance standards for new construction and major renovations, one of the largest solar energy installations in the valley at the Salt Palace, along with extensive lighting upgrades. These are moving the needle, but more needs to be done to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and aggressively combat climate change. We must do more, and we must move faster.
Should I have the honor to serve as your next County Council Member, the county’s dedication to sustainability and efficient energy management will significantly increase. Good energy management is a top priority for me and will be present in our public goals, dashboards, annual budgets and will be the shared responsibility of all staff and our outreach programs to residents and businesses.
While renewable energy and performance requirements are essential to success, the most cost-effective opportunities come from managing operational energy efficiency and supply to the facilities we already have.
The County urgently needs to dedicate additional resources, including a more extensive professional team to actively manage the full-scale energy consumption required by hundreds of county facilities and fleet vehicles. Thoughtful energy management pays for itself many times over by reducing local government’s annual overhead costs. Reducing the county’s energy consumption is not just fiscally responsible, but it reduces carbon footprint and improves local air quality.
The City of Salt Lake recently passed an ordinance to require benchmarking (a measure of annual energy use) for its own buildings and the commercial buildings within its boundaries. I want to see the county do the same, increasing transparency and accountability about its energy management goals. Energy performance benchmarks help find innovative ways to reduce costs and prevent air pollution. By understanding the make-up of its full carbon footprint, the county can establish realistic performance goals and the budgets and tactics needed to achieve them.
Today’s buildings are more sophisticated than ever, and a smart mix of skilled labor and analytics can leverage limited staff time to identify common issues proactively.
We can have clean air, we can reduce our carbon footprint - we can do better!
On National Coming Out day I had the honor of joining the team at the Utah Pride Center for lunch. I remember sitting with a young person from Ogden who talked about the experience of couch surfing after needing to leave their home at a young age. Whether navigating homelessness or healthcare, we can better serve LGBTQIA individuals. I’m proud of the 100% score I received from Equality Utah in my congressional race.
In my work in Facilities Management, I’ve seen a shift in understanding and committing to building a safer environment as we construct new spaces and renovate the old. All gender bathrooms are now standard business; they address many gaps in accessibility and safety. New county buildings and renovation standards can do the same.
I am committed to finding ways Salt Lake County can do more to support the LGBTQIA community in meaningful ways.
That starts by bringing people together. Simply having the conversation matters – thoughtful discussions can change not only hearts and minds but policy too.
With such a wide range of issues that need to be addressed within the LGBTQIA community, I feel they can’t be addressed by one email – or by one council member. It’s going to take more than that.
These issues are deeply personal and important to me. The challenges these communities are facing must be given the attention they deserve.
If I am elected as your next your next Salt Lake County Council Member, I will convene an LGBTQIA coalition at the county. The coalition will have representatives from the many identities within the LGBTQIA communities, the Mayor’s Office and subject and policy experts from our community. I believe the communities themselves should drive the input and recommended outcomes.
Here are some of the issues I will ask the coalition to consider.
Gender justice in our policing Individuals in our LGBTQIA community are often wary of engaging with law enforcement even when they have been the victims of crime. Working with law enforcement to do a better job of training first responders can build trust and make all of our communities safer.
Access to Healthcare I will work to support affirmative and inclusive access to healthcare through the many health services programs run by our county health department. I want to expand connections already beginning between county health services and the University of Utah’s PReP Clinic. No one should leave the STD/I testing clinic without knowing about this important resource in our community. And inclusive and affirmative healthcare goes far beyond just that. We know that members of the LGBTQIA community experience discrimination in health care settings. I will work for equal access to health care through all county health services.
Homelessness We know that LGBTQIA youth are also more likely to experience homelessness. Making sure there is a place in our homeless resource center plans to serve the needs of these kids is another concrete step we can take to sustaining lives.
Suicide The suicide rate for LGBTQIA youth in Utah is shocking – and preventable. I will dedicate resources and work with subject matter experts to do everything we can to decrease the number of young people who feel there is no way out.
Hate Crimes Legislation We can do more to send a message to individuals who purposely target specific groups of people to inflict harm. I will be outspoken to push the state legislature to act on Hate Crimes Legislation and will work to ensure the county is doing everything possible to support these efforts.
From our rec centers to our libraries, to our art spaces, and to the way we do business – you can count on me to show up for the LGBTQIA community. I’ve been doing just that nealry 20 years.
Our Open Spaces
Our open spaces and canyons belong to all of us.
Many of you have expressed your concerns about the future of our canyons. As skiers, hikers, nature lovers, or individuals living in gateway communities you’ve shared your concern that we are loving our canyons to death. A number of proactive measures should be taken to protect our canyons for future generations.
Should I have the honor to serve as your representative on the county council, I will work to:
- Support and fund regional solutions for mass transit to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles heading up our canyons
- Protect our watershed
- Make wise land use decisions with the existing infrastructure
- Push for frequent bus circulation and other forms of mass transit to our canyons
More broadly, protecting and enhancing open space in the valley is critically important to our quality of life.
I support enhanced trail connectivity, bike lanes, and improving the walkability of our communities. Any future development, especially on the west side of the valley, should have a clear plan for active transit and connectivity to existing trail systems.
I would also work to build support for an open space bond. It’s been over a decade since Salt Lake County last passed an open space bond, and it’s time we do it again.
Developments like the Inland Port rightly raise a number of questions in our community. I would push the Inland Port Board to work closely with the neighboring communities to plan and implement a recreation and active transportation master plan for the area.
Decisions being made about our canyons and open spaces are bigger than the needs or desires of any one municipality. I’m passionate about building consensus and finding solutions to protect and enhance one of our greatest natural resources.
The Daughter of an Immigrant
As the daughter of an immigrant, I have been deeply concerned about the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment; hate speech, violence, and the xenophobic beliefs coming out of the White House on an almost daily basis. I’m not alone. The fear is felt by many in our community. In a recent conversation with Maria, a member of the Latino community, she told me, “We feel under siege.”
We know this fear has real-life, tragic consequences in our community. The recent brutal attack on Luis Gustavo Lopez or the reluctance of members of our community to call law enforcement for fear of exposing their own immigration status, even when they are the victim of a crime, require elected officials to stand and be clear – This is not acceptable. The future of Salt Lake County is one that will include ever-expanding diversity. Programs designed to support and make all feel welcome and safe are a top priority for me. I will commit real funding and support for programs that provide opportunity and reflect the true values of our region.
The Office for New Americans and Refugee Services runs a truly innovative program called United for Citizenship. This program works to help the over 22,000 permanent residents eligible to naturalize become citizens, just like my own father did in 1983.
This program and efforts to make Salt Lake County welcoming are a step in the right direction, and there is more we need to do. Especially when it comes to supporting immigrants who don’t have the benefit of legal status and refugees seeking asylum amongst us.
Over the last year, I found that even in our most conservative communities, ideas about immigration and the desire to see individuals seeking refuge in our country as an asset and crucial to the foundation of who we are as Americans uplifting. I worried that in a “red state,” I would confront the racism I see propagated by our President. It was simply not the case. Attitudes about immigration are different here; I will work hard to find ways to continue to support new Americans and those who want to be, as we continue to grow and expand our diverse region.
I Show Up
It has been so encouraging to speak with so many of you already; I’m personally calling, emailing, texting and reaching out over Facebook because I want to hear from you. If we’ve met, you’ve likely heard me use the quote, “we all do better when we all do better.” Paul Wellstone was my Senator when I was in college in Minnesota and continues to be a guiding force for my political ideology and what I believe a candidate running for office owes the folks they are asking to support them.
Here’s what you will get from me. I am a person who believes in the power of showing up. I know you do too. As members of the SLCO Central Committee, you show up and I thank you for that.
These last few weeks have been incredible. A mother and member of the group, The Addict’s Mom (TAM), reached out and asked if I would meet her and a group of mothers for dinner in Sandy. They come together and support each other through the loss of, or near loss, of a child to addiction. The talked to me about the struggles of getting access to care, about the experiences their children had in our jails, and the work they are doing to raise awareness and end the stigma associated with losing a loved one to addiction.
A week ago, a part-time paramedic invited my family to visit the new fire station in Bluffdale. He talked about the challenges of piecing work together as a part-time paramedic in both Bluffdale and South Salt Lake. Many departments hire part-timers to get out of paying benefits. He is saving lives in our community and doesn’t have access to healthcare through either employer.
I got invited to a Women of the World event hosted in the county building. This organization supports refugee women in our community. I was deeply moved by the stories of the women recognized at the event who are not only new Americans but are also new leaders in our community.
And one of you invited me out to a Senior Center in Midvale to talk politics and help me develop a deeper understanding of the challenges on the horizon for our aging population in Salt Lake County as supportive programming has been reduced in recent years.
I am in this race because I want bold leadership that sets out a clear and unequivocal vision for the future of Salt Lake County. One where working families are put ahead of corporate interest, where mental healthcare and addiction treatment services are put ahead of incarceration, and where we are working in collaborative ways to improve our air quality and protect our environment.
I haven’t had the chance to meet some of you in person yet, but many of you in the 2nd Congressional District know me well. They don’t know me because they saw me on TV or heard me on the radio or read an article in the paper. They know me because I have stood on their doorsteps, sat in their living rooms, had a meal together, cried together and talked about what they wanted and needed in a leader. I knocked on thousands of doors, attended hundreds of events and talked for hours on the phone. I’m excited to meet all of you – and won’t stop until I do.
Paul Wellstone also said, "The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Let’s make our shared vision of the future a reality.
You can count on me to keep showing up.
Changing Our Approach to Criminal Justice
Incarceration in the place of proper treatment fuels economic inequality, racial injustice, and poverty. Salt Lake County has the right partners in place to move forward with criminal justice reform. I would be proud to stand alongside our district attorney and sheriff as they work on a comprehensive agenda that includes alternatives to incarceration, leading on transparency, and being accountable to all residents of Salt Lake County.
I will work diligently to keep our community safe. Incarceration is a fact of life. But who we incarcerate can change. Violent offenders who are a risk to our community must answer for their crimes. I will also be a strong partner to continue efforts to expand alternatives to incarceration. That means:
- Ensuring support for programs that offer alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.
- Continuing to support access to treatment beds - We must break the cycle of incarceration as a penalty for addiction or a need for mental health care and build the pathways to treatment and self-reliance.
- Supporting Drug Court, a program designed to achieve a reduction in recidivism and substance abuse and increase an offender’s likelihood of successful recovery.
- Providing public defenders with the means and resources to ensure caseloads can be properly managed.
- Supporting training for law enforcement officers on best practices when mental health is a factor in non-violent crimes.
- Growing opportunities for restorative justice practices across the county.
Together we can work to make treatment, not jail or prison, the standard response for people with mental health or addiction struggles. I’ll fight for the resources to make this happen.
The Status of Women
At times, the status of women in Utah feels grim.
- Utah regularly comes in 49th or 50th when it comes to pay equity among the states.
- Utah has a low incident rate for all categories of violent crime - except sexual violence. Women and members of the LGBTQ* are the most likely victims.
- Domestic-violence-related deaths account for approximately 30 percent of murders across the nation. In Utah, it’s 44 percent. Again, women and members of the LGBTQ* community are the most likely victims.
- The Salt Lake County jail houses a higher proportion of females (25.3%-26.7%) than the national average (14%)
At the county level, there is a lot we can do to change the lives of women. If elected to the County Council, I would:
- Support and fund a current pay equity assessment at the county and implement policies to correct pay disparity based on gender.
- Explore putting policies into place that require pay equity for corporations who have been given tax breaks to build and operate in Salt Lake County.
- Increase the Salt Lake County Health Department’s capacity to support and work with organizations like the Utah Collation Against Sexual Assault, expanding outreach and prevention efforts.
- Create a working group with members from law enforcement and community groups to understand why we incarcerate a higher number of women and work to find solutions to the problems that lead them there.
These are just a few of the issues women deal with every day. If we work together – we can do better. Every woman has the right to feel safe, supported and inspired.
I was honored to be included in 11-year-old Beatrice Teigen’s “Great Girls of the World” coloring book. Her art is currently on display in downtown Salt Lake City.
Young girls are paying attention to the women in their lives and the women they see in their communities. Let’s make sure we are showing up for them.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment
In early December, a mom from the group The Addict’s Mom (TAM), reached out and asked if I would join her and some other members of the group for dinner in Sandy. I sat at the table with 14 women who had all lost or were in the process of losing a child to addiction.
I listened to the challenges they faced - navigating access to care, working to find quality and affordable treatment options, the relief some expressed when they got the call from jail because at least they knew where their child would be sleeping that night.
Just last month, I watched a good friend suffer through the aftermath of the attempted suicide by her 12-year old son. He suffers from mental health disorders, and her insurance doesn’t cover the care he needs. These situations are unacceptable.
I am running for Salt Lake County Council because there is more we can do to help individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders.
With me, you’ll get a council member committed to supporting and expanding access to mental healthcare and addiction treatment services. I will work to find ways to secure the resources needed to reduce the wait time families and individuals in crisis face when seeking care.
Salt Lake County’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) is doing incredible work to divert individuals from incarceration when what they really need is treatment. They have two pilot programs that work to help residents suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders. These kinds of programs are not only what good government should be doing to care for our most vulnerable; it is what we have an obligation to do fiscally. The programs not only save lives, but they also save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars a year. I will work to expand these pilot programs – because it’s the right thing to do.
Did you know our region has a shortage of Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)? We simply don’t have enough trained professionals to meet our communities needs. I will work to expand partnerships with local colleges and universities to create incentives for people to enter the workforce as qualified providers.
I will work to increase the number of Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT) the county provides. These teams serve as our first line of defense to help law enforcement determine the best outcome for an individual - short-term incarceration or getting them the care they desperately need.
I want to expand the county’s Drug Court program, and I support the expungement efforts by CJAC. They have started work on a new program that helps those who have struggled with adduction get a second chance with a clean slate.
Access to healthcare and the need for mental healthcare in our community are the very reasons I ran for office. I will not back down from this fight.