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The City Journals

Air quality discussion dominates second stop on Wilson’s town hall tour

Apr 30, 2019 05:08PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

The mayor of Salt Lake County (SLCO) wants to know how far residents are willing to go, right now, in the name of air quality. She says she is willing to “put regulation on the table” if it is the will of the people, and foresees a future “in her lifetime,” where, instead of owning two or three cars, a single family will breezily get by with one vehicle, more fully accessing a more connected, clean transit system.

Wondering where this news came from? Check out the series of Salt Lake County town halls – coming soon to a town near you, or at least somewhere near you in the county lines.


Draper second in County’s five town-hall lineup

SLCO continued its cross-county town halls April 25. The tours comprise Mayor Jenny Wilson’s and a cadre of county employees visiting five geographical sweet spots across the County, spending a few hours in each site, visiting with as many residents as possible in a few weeks’ time.

This time the Draper Senior Center was the location, a follow-up to the meeting a few days prior at South Jordan’s Equestrian Park and Event Center. Draper residents and others from neighboring Sandy and as far away as South Jordan attended the meeting.

Draper, Sandy, and as far as South Jordan 

Susan Edwards, Draper resident and public engagement coordinator for Canyons School District, described the town-hall tour as nothing short of “fantastic.”

Retired Sandy resident Deb Sussman came to the event to express her “two cents” about having more off-leash areas for dogs and more bike lanes.

Also-retired South Jordan resident Bob Paxton asserted his protest of “high density in the valley [being] against the will of the people.” As a local skier for more than 50 years, Paxton also bent the mayor’s ear about transportation and other issues involving Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, key agendas for the mayor.

Draper resident and businessman Robert “Sully” Sullivan came “to hear the mayor’s plan for cleaning up the air.” Observed Sullivan: “We need a grand plan. We’re not getting any smaller.”

Agenda big on communication

The town-hall format, flexing a bit from the session a few nights prior, allowed residents about an hour to mingle, visiting table-top displays of SLCO services and speak with program managers, and visit with Wilson in a one-on-one or small group format. After that, the last hour was reserved for a presentation by the mayor and her answering a few questions.

In attendance at the event were Utah State Sen. Kirk Cullimore, Utah House Reps. Suzanne Harrison and Jeff Stenquist, County Councilman Max Burdick, Draper Council members Tasha Lowery and Alan Summerhays, and Sandy Councilman Zach Robinson.

Stenquist shared his family’s personal experience interacting with the Paratransit Service offered by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), in addressing an audience member’s question.

The question, asked by a resident new to Utah from California, showcased the power of the County’s facility being a benefit to residents. The resident expressed exasperation in trying to come to the Draper Senior Center via UTA’s free Paratransit Services for residents with physical, cognitive, or visual disabilities. The address of her residence, per UTA, she said, disqualifies her for the free services, which are restricted in terms of residents’ proximity to urban areas.

It turns out that the woman can access the transportation services of SLCO’s Draper Senior Center, the very location of the event. This information was volunteered by a resident in attendance at the meeting, attesting to the value of town halls for multi-directional information.

From air quality to transit to growth

The Draper Town Hall was so well attended, by residents, SLCO elected officials, and Draper-area elected officials on local- and state-bases, that time was shaved on the group question-and-answer session. But quality trumped quantity, in terms of the Mayor’s surfacing intriguing policy inputs.

In answering a question from the County’s own surveyor and Draper resident, Reid Demman, Wilson indicated some of the Draper Geneva Rock location would make an “ideal” location for a transit center. “It’s 2020, and we have a lot of needs in this quadrant,” the mayor said.

“Are we willing to pay the price?” Wilson asked the rapt audience, in terms of what personal sacrifices all are willing to make in the name of air quality. 

“What I’d like to see this valley do,” she said, pausing, “is be a one- or two-car family… as opposed to a three-car family. Wouldn’t that be a great goal?”

Acknowledging that the total elimination of cars during her lifetime is not realistic, the mayor indicated that making a transition away from reliance on traditional vehicles is something she could champion.

“How far do we want to go?” she asked a near-full room of residents, employees, and officials in attendance. “If we demand change, I will put regulation on the table.”

With regards to air quality, Wilson indicated exploring having select SLCO employees be able to “work from home on Red-Air Days.”

The reference to “Red-Air Days” maps to the State of Utah’s Department of Air Quality’s definition of “red” indicating anywhere from unhealthy to hazardous air.

Wilson’s taking an inward look at human-resources policy is a step forward from March’s “State of the County” speech. When City Journals directly asked if her administration were making any specific changes to be a more air-quality-responsible employer, there were no specific indications at that time.

In that same speech, the mayor introduced her Office of Environmental Services, to improve air quality.

The creation of the new office seems to be having an impact.

“Every business needs to do this too,” said Wilson, pitching the work-at-home for air-quality idea.