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The City Journals

SoJo the ‘gold-standard city for our state,’ pronounces Mayor Ramsey

May 02, 2019 03:16PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

“Whenever I hear the mayor speak I am struck by her warmth and caring for our community,” observed Merilee Rowley, president and chair of the South Jordan Chamber of Commerce and principal broker of Selling Salt Lake. (Photo Credit: South Jordan Chamber)



By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

The name of the South Jordan Chamber’s most recent event and the perspective of Mayor Dawn Ramsey are perfectly suited. 

Both have an emphasis on “Vision.”

Wednesday, March 20, nearly 200 guests attending the SoJo Chamber’s annual “Vision Dinner” were treated to an inspiring, information-packed “State of the City” address by Ramsey.

Although not officially listed on the “Paint the Town Red” dinner, Ramsey told those in attendance about the successes, challenges, and opportunities South Jordan has enjoyed and will yet grow from.

“We have it good here in South Jordan!” an exuberant Ramsey said, even dubbing the city “the gold-standard city for our state” and indicating that “2019 holds the promise of even greater things.”

Ramsey emphasized the city being safe, smart, sustainable, and strategic—for the benefit of the about 85,000 current residents and what she estimates will be another 5,000 new residents annually joining the South Jordan community.

Safe SoJo

In terms of safety, Ramsey was clear: “We continue to make public safety a top priority.”

The prioritization is clearly paying off. According to SafeWise, South Jordan is the ninth-safest city in the state, and the only top-20 ranked safe city from Salt Lake County.

Ramsey also knows that sometimes dangers come from within. She considers the new partnership between the South Jordan Police Department (PD) and the storied QPR (Question-Persuade-Refer) Institute, where complimentary suicide-prevention courses are offered monthly, to be a major milestone for combatting suicide, and, teen suicide, in particular. 

“To me, that South Jordan is offering that? That is a very positive thing,” said Julia Moncur, a South Jordan resident and an ambassador for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).

While all QPR classes are offered free for residents every month, safety, as all know, does come at a cost. 

The new South Jordan Public Safety Building and Civic Plaza, which opened in January, for example, carried a nearly $13 million price tag and required an increase in property taxes for residents. In her speech, the Mayor praised city management for “keep[ing] our property taxes among the lowest in all of Salt Lake County.” 

However, according to data City Journals obtained from Salt Lake County Auditor’s office, So Jo’s property tax rate over a five-year aggregate falls in roughly the middle of Salt Lake County’s rates, and is higher than all South Valley communities and all member-cities of the Southwest Mayors Council, except West Jordan. According to SoJo-provided 2018 data from the Utah Tax Commission, when property taxes are bundled with the costs of municipal services, SoJo again somewhat in the middle, though significantly outperforming South Valley’s Herriman and Riverton, and slightly besting West Jordan.

Smart SoJo

In terms of being a smart city, Ramsey tapped her roots in education as a tireless PTA advocate, to give insights into how her administration is impacting local education. “We have a highly educated population that values both family and community,” she noted of the city population at large.

Ramsey’s new initiative, “Showcase and Lunch with the Mayor” is a modern-day mobile civics class. Buses take students on a field trip of the city. Students then meet with South Jordan senior staff to learn how government works, and, hopefully, become inspired to make their mark on their community, as residents and, perhaps, someday, as professionals. Ramsey, in partnership with the Jordan School District, launched the program last month, hosting two separate bus tours, one for the area’s high school students, and another for elementary-age children.

Sustainable SoJo

The mayor indicated the near-future will see more transit-oriented development (TOD) in Daybreak, along the Mountain View Corridor. 

Locating municipal services within Daybreak will also, in the future, “cut down on vehicle trips, will be more efficient, and will have a direct impact on our congested street corridors and air quality.”

The mayor cited the city’s apt management of the Glenmoor Golf Course transition from a public entity to a private one as a positive—finding a way to preserve the open space and golf amenity, without raising taxes.

Located just west of Glenmoor and north of Daybreak will be an even more profound open space—the 160-acre Bingham Creek Park. The park speaks to the concept of sustainability by being a “generational park”—developing to its fullest potential after perhaps 30 years.

SoJo’s sustainability shines with near-term pilot projects. This year, the city will conduct a water-reuse pilot project “as a way to create long-term sustainability.”

South Jordan will also lead the way in working with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) on a pilot program to leverage an “app” where residents not very close to a TRAX station or a bus line could electronically “hail” an Uber or Lyft, then have the cost of the trip bundled into their transit charge. UTA Spokesman Carl Arky confirmed a fall timeline for what he says is a “potential” project and indicated that, if it advances, “The cost of the service is yet to be determined.”

Seeking to have South Jordan continue to develop “centers” with jobs and a retail base, the mayor noted the city’s growth in high-paying jobs from 1,600-employee Ivanti, which just outgrew its headquarters and is currently constructing a new building in South Jordan.

More dubious, in terms of sustainability, is the city and the Jordan School Board agreeing to extending mammoth SoJo-located employer Merit Medical’s tax-free extension for the promise of 2,400 jobs – which do not hold a guarantee of being high-paying. City Journals’ multiple calls to multiple departments of Merit Medical about the status of the job promises and what has been deemed a $56 million tax benefit went unanswered.

Strategic SoJo

Ramsey has been a mover and a shaker within the region, the state, and, arguably, the nation. She personally serves on 19 boards and commissions and represented the city and state nationally at the first-ever women mayors conference.

Her “Think Regional, Act Local” mantra is a guide for the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council, which has recently unified communities from Copperton to Bluffdale to more strategically plan transportation, housing, open space, and other development for regional good.

“Traffic, air quality, housing affordability, and other issues don’t stop at city boundaries,” observed Ari Bruening, a resident of South Jordan and president of the Envision Utah metropolitan planning organization. “We look forward to her contributions to Envision Utah as she joins our Board of Directors.”

A full-time mayor and ‘the best staff in the state’

In her “State of the City” address, without actually saying it, the mayor made sure that all in attendance became aware of the benefits the city is realizing by not just her serving as a “full-time mayor,” but also from the strategic outreach from members of the city’s staff.

Anyone driving along Bangerter Freeway must realize how nice the intersection experience is at 11400 South. Thanks to Ramsey’s vision and execution by City Manager Gary Whatcott, South Jordanians can expect to see a similar type of underpass treatment at 10400 South, versus “a tall, walled overpass, like the kind you see at 9000 South.”  

“As someone who crosses this intersection everyday, I'm grateful to know that traffic will flow more smoothly, and in a way that showcases the members of our business community who have invested in that location,” said Merilee Rowley, president and chair of the South Jordan Chamber and principal broker with Selling Salt Lake.

Rowley said she was “particularly impressed with the mayor’s ability to create a win for our city” with the 10400 South underpass, which will soon undergo expedited construction, again thanks to the city working with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

“We have accomplished more than many people thought possible,” Ramsey said.