Saturday, January 15, 2011

West Side story?


I left the following comments on the Open City Hall site. I thought I’d share it with you in the interest of “Writing for Change.” What do you think? Am I city council material? Read, enjoy, and be inspired to “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


I receive regular e-mail invitations to comment on current proposals on the site Open City Hall. Here is a recent response to a proposed redevelopment plan for Salt Lake City’s West Side. Visit the site and register to comment on current issues that may affect you. it’s a great way to stay up to date, put in your two cents, and maybe even be inspired to get involved. What do you think? Am I future city council material? Please comment, and maybe even follow or subscribe.

“I have resided in Salt Lake for 26 years, lived in several neighborhoods, and was twice homeless, for a total period of five years.

Local and state officials say they want to create walkable, sustainable, green communities, and have recently been better about asking us what we want. Still, I'm concerned that much input is often ignored, and the will of the few takes precedence over the people’s rights when it comes to issues of widespread consequence, such as proposed redevelopment plans for the West Side? I offer the following ten suggestions, based upon my experience and observations over more than a quarter of a century here:

Any development/redevelopment plan should include:

1) Government transparency and frequent dialogue with residents of affected communities, resulting in…

2) …a responsible plan based on full consideration of sincerely solicited public input.

3) Retention and support of small, local businesses which have enhanced and sustained the community for decades.

4) Preservation and rehabilitation of unique historic buildings, rather than demolition, especially when there are neither allocated funds nor any solid deal to redevelop the “blighted” property.

5) Local government commitments to stop pandering to interests whose motivations are not congruent with the best interests of the city as a whole.

6) Affordable housing; better opportunity to own a home.

7) Preservation, creation, and improvement of parks and green spaces.

8) Conservation of natural resources, especially water and air quality.

9) Better, around the clock, public transportation.

10) Constituent education, empowerment, involvement, and stewardship.

Let me expand upon these suggestions and add a few additional points.

Don’t use eminent domain to impersonally condemn active, profitable businesses, or occupied residential properties.

Tax consistently and fairly. Give relief to those who support this city, love it, and want to maintain its unique appearance, small town feel, and quality of life. Don’t tax small businesses out of business.

Eliminate the sales tax on food.

Regulate financial institutions more stringently, to assure predatory practices and excessive fees aren’t bleeding people dry.

Hold corporations liable and responsible for their impact on communities and the environment. Many companies need to address and solve the problems they create, such as increased waste, pollution, and traffic, and sub-standard labor practices.

Become less dependent on federal government. Don’t defend state’s rights while begging Uncle Sam for money. Use our “Rainy Day Fund” and other revenue surpluses.

Don’t slash essential social services, education, and arts in a crisis. Instead, look for “porky” programs that can survive a trimming of fat.

Hold all citizens to consistent standards of ethics and law.

More accessible and frequent transit means a greener city, with cleaner air and water. Transit improvement to outlying areas should not reduce service for residents of Salt Lake proper. UTA officials collect the largest salaries compared to similar positions in this country, while customers pay more for less. Elimination and changes often seem to occur at their whim. Walking is often quicker than taking the bus or light rail. For example, the only day I have time to shop–Saturday– there is no bus service near my residence to my preferred stores. Similar inconveniences have almost convinced me to buy a car again.

The most convenient or most profitable solution is not always the best.

Give citizens information and offer opportunities. Challenge us with responsibility. Then we will produce and implement solutions.

History has proven that we cannot rely on higher powers to do what’s right, at least not until we compel them to do so. Grass roots government, with the help of all citizens, need to make those changes that the world needs now.”

J Phillip (John) Wilkes


SLCC-Community Writing Center volunteer/Trained Writing Assistant/Co-mentor of “Gay Writes,” a DiverseCity Writing Series group.

MrW’s blogs:

Mister Write

The Rio Grande Report


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