By now you’ve likely heard about the unexpected announcement that single men will be housed at the homeless resource center abutting the Jordan River Trail. Last week, more than fifty elected officials in Salt Lake County called for public dialogue about the homeless populations through a joint letter. Below is the letter in its entirety:
The public discussion around Utah’s suicide epidemic is yielding results. I joined KSL’s Doug Wright twice over the past week, to discuss the alarming rate of suicide among teens in Utah. (You can listen here).
I’ve written before about the need for a three digit crisis line, and was grateful to work with Rep. Steve Eliason and Sen. Daniel Thatcher as they ran legislation to start that process in Utah. I was also thrilled last week to see Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart introduce legislation in Congress to do the same thing at the national level.
Roughly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood. That’s not just nationally, that’s right here in Utah. These numbers demonstrate the stark reality of child abuse, and reinforce why it is so important for the community to spread awareness and take steps to end child abuse.
Last week the County Council passed a joint proclamation with Mayor Ben McAdams’ office designating April 2017 as Child Abuse Prevention Month. By doing this, we want to help bring attention to the 3,708 confirmed child victims of abuse in Salt Lake County alone last year. All children deserve to grow up in homes where they are safe and nurtured, and free from any form of abuse. We appreciate the Family Support Center for bringing this to our attention and for being at the event to join us in the recognition.
We also contributed $2,500 to Prevent Child Abuse Utah (PCAU), a group that educates Utah children about how to recognize signs of abuse. I sit on the board for PCAU, and I’ve been deeply impressed with their work. They visit schools around the state and educate children using easy to understand, age-appropriate concepts. Sadly in some cases, it is a parent or relative who is abusing the child. This education can help prevent that.
Last fall the Salt Lake County Council was asked to pass a resolution to create the Central Wasatch Commission - a product of Mountain Accord - under the auspices of increased coordination between local governments for the benefit of the canyons. This body would involve mayors from Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy who would look at transportation needs in the canyons.
As I looked at the first attempt, I became extremely uncomfortable with the broad powers that would have been granted this new government body, including: levying fees, bonding, acquiring property, and engaging in contracts.
While these actions of themselves are not problematic, without proper checks from legislative branches it was not something I was comfortable with. A partnership between Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Sandy, and Cottonwood Heights to collaborate on transportation solutions and other needs for the canyons should include more robust checks and balances from the legislative branches of each of those governments.
Fortunately, after months of discussions with stakeholders and community members, the Council was presented with a new, revised version of the Central Wasatch Commission. The new version included an at-large member of the County Council as a commission member, and also requires the commission to come back to the legislative branch (our County Council) as well as that of cities before exercising the powers mentioned above.
The canyons are some of our greatest resources here in Salt Lake County. We are inspired by the breathtaking views as we enjoy sports such as hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and rappelling. There are also watershed areas that provide drinking water for some residents in the valley. Because the majority of the canyons are still part of unincorporated Salt Lake County, we have planning and zoning jurisdiction over them.
Because of this planning authority, much time has been spent exploring various ordinances for the canyons. In fact, many commissions have spent the past few years reviewing zoning ordinances and giving input on this area. Over the past few months the County Council has reviewed recommendations by several planning commissions on two different ordinances: the Foothill Canyons Overlay Zone (FCOZ) and the Mountain Resort Zone (MRZ).
Residents in Salt Lake County enjoy a great quality of life, in part thanks to the outdoor recreation opportunities available through open space. I am a strong proponent of the benefits of recreation and open space to individuals, families, and the community as a whole.
I represent the county on the Jordan River Commission, and served as chair last year. I’ve been privileged to work with the people on the commission to preserve and enhance the open space around the river. Seeing this flourish as a resource for families, bikers, and all other outdoor enthusiasts has been a rewarding part of my public service. These amenities encourage physical, mental, and emotional health and well being for all.
In Utah, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused in some form by the time they turn 18. This, among many other statistics and anecdotes, was shared this week during a legislative committee hearing. The sobering facts were part of the discussion around H.B. 137, a bill which would have made child abuse prevention education opt-in instead of opt-out.
There will be a number of issues important to Salt Lake County residents that will arise during the upcoming legislative session, some of which the Salt Lake County Council will be actively involved with. As residents of Salt Lake County we enjoy some of the best elements of living, working, and raising a family in Utah—but we also see some of the greatest challenges facing our state.
Homelessness is one of the most important and challenging issues we face in Salt Lake County. Anyone who has taken a drive through downtown Salt Lake City—particularly near the homeless shelter operated by The Road Home—has seen firsthand the number of people without a home and in need of food and shelter.
With Utah’s legislative session starting in just a couple weeks, there will be many important issues debated that impact Utahns in profound ways. One issue I plan to be personally involved with is the effort to create a statewide crisis intervention line. I blogged about the need for this resource last year, explaining why such a tool would help more Utahns get help they need to prevent the tragedy of suicide.
As we begin a new year, I see great opportunity for Salt Lake County to work as a regional government, collaborating with state and local partners to help address complex issues.
There are a few issues I feel are particularly important, and I’ll be focusing on them in the coming year: intergenerational poverty, criminal justice reform, suicide prevention, and improved transparency over the county budget.