Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall reviews her annual report card, a public accountability document examining the goals she has set in 2021, Thursday outside the mayor’s office in the Salt Lake City County Building. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)
Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Erin Mendenhall’s second year as mayor of Salt Lake City may not have been as intense as her first year in office, 2020, but she found there were many moments that made 2021 feel like an extension of that.
This is especially true given that 2021 ended with an increase in COVID-19 cases in the city and across the state due to the omicron variant. The year also presented new challenges, such as staff shortages and increased drought.
Despite all of this, Mendenhall believes the city has been able to not just survive, but thrive amid these challenges in 2021. So, as she revealed an update on the goals she set for 2021 last January, she’s ready to give herself a high mark on her Salt Lake City 2021 review.
“I think this is the first time I’d give us an A,” she said Thursday outside her office in the Salt Lake City-County Building.
The report offers an assessment of the progress of the projects and goals outlined by Mendenhall in his 2021 State of the City address.
There were 141 defined goals across all aspects of city government, including housing, crime, infrastructure, and the environment. About two-thirds of these goals are marked as completed, while most of the remaining goals are marked as “in progress.” Only about 16 were marked as incomplete.
Mendenhall said, of course, there are items the city may not have liked, but she argues that dozens of items on her list were things the city had never done before.
“It’s remarkable what we’ve done,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of the employees of Salt Lake City Corporation for having the vision to put this plan together with me in the first place, but really for pulling it off as well as they did.”
So what was she most proud of?
- Citywide crime is down 5.4% from 2020 and 1.3% from the five-year average. Robberies are down 18% from 2020 and 25% from the five-year average, according to Salt Lake City police data. However, it should be noted that these statistics show that the total number of violent crimes has increased by 4.8% compared to 2020 and by 13.8% compared to the five-year average, due to the increase in aggravated assault and criminal homicide, which the mayor had sought to reduce.
- The city invested in 300 affordable housing units in 2021, the most in the city’s history.
- It has made “great strides” in connecting residents of West Salt Lake City by partnering with the Utah Transit Authority to launch a new microtransit program for residents of those areas. Mendenhall said she hopes to expand it to other parts of the city in the future.
- The city has supported small businesses by providing access to a $4 million community grant pool. It has also provided grants and loans to 38 companies close to construction projects, such as the 300 West project.
- The city’s Tech Lake City and BioHive initiatives continued with partnerships with the life sciences industry.
- City officials have completed a Foothills Trail Master Plan. However, plans to build more trails were put on hold in September due to growing erosion concerns. The mayor said Thursday that an independent review of the project was underway and provided no update on that pause.
- The city updated its overall sustainability policy and its redevelopment agency launched a new policy to only fund projects that meet certain sustainability goals.
- City officials planted another 1,000 trees on the west side of town.
- The city has increased its municipal index from the Commission on Human Rights, becoming the first city in Utah to reach 100. The score is based on “the laws, policies and municipal services that are inclusive of the LGBTQ people who live there and work on it,” according to the Human Rights Campaign. Salt Lake City was rated at 75 in 2020.
The report card shows the mayor struggled the most with certain sustainability and homelessness goals.
For example, four of his eight reuse goals were marked as incomplete. The city did not continue its wood reuse program in 2021 after 13 tons of wood was provided to artists and community organizations after the 2020 windstorm toppled more than a thousand trees in the city. city.
The city also hasn’t completed plans to prioritize the use of compost from the city landfill, strengthen its waste recycling ordinances, or explore ways to “promote the voluntary reuse of materials to help low-income homeowners to improve their housing and reduce the cost of home ownership”. .”
Mendenhall outlined a plan to support a homeless winter shelter supported by other cities, the county and the state. That didn’t happen last year, and the city opened an emergency homeless shelter in a former motel last week. The city also fell short of the goal of creating a representative homeless council, as the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness already has a similar group and the bulletin says the city “will support these efforts instead of duplicate them”.
The mayor has marked his role in a small home project for the homeless in Utah. Mendenhall said Thursday the project is now in the hands of the city council; she hopes that the housing development will take place as soon as possible.
I couldn’t think of being in office at any other time in my life that would be better. This is an incredible moment in our city.
–Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall
The full bulletin of all 2021 goals and their current status can be found on the city’s website. It essentially wraps up the first half of Mendenhall’s term as mayor of Utah’s largest city.
She describes the first half as “resilient” as the city absorbed the punches thrown by natural disasters – a major earthquake, destructive storm and major drought – and a seemingly endless pandemic during her tenure, and continued.
“We keep picking ourselves up and we’re stronger than two years ago,” Mendenhall said. “I mean that as a community too. Our character has been exposed – it was already there. Crises don’t create character, they can expose it – and what I’ve seen of our people is remarkable.
“They’re so strong, creative, community-driven and they’re innovating and inventing all the time. … It’s incredibly inspiring,” she continued. “I couldn’t think of being in office at any other time in my life that would be better. It’s an incredible time in our city.”
This year marks the start of the second half of his current term as mayor. She is expected to provide her 2022 goals next week during her annual State of the City address scheduled for Tuesday.