I recently went on a ride-along with a detective from one of our city police departments. I wanted to see firsthand the challenges faced by people living in impoverished neighborhoods in Salt Lake County. It was an eye-opening experience to see how school resources, family life, and neighborhood attributes all can impact the overall success of families in our county. It also motivated me to work harder to help our county residents build better lives for their families.
While there are many policy approaches to improve prospects for Utahns in these kinds of communities, one I want to highlight here is tied to opportunity.
While there’s an appropriate role for government, I believe the best way to fight poverty is to more effectively connect people with economic opportunity. A really exciting new policy tool to do just that is the designation of “Opportunity Zones.”
Are you worried that with the rising real estate market, your property taxes will automatically go up? Don’t worry… the Truth in Taxation process in state statute doesn’t allow this to happen. That means that a government entity can’t collect more than they’ve already approved and that the tax rate will go down if your property values increase.
One of the central functions of Salt Lake County government is assessing and collecting property taxes. This creates the revenue source that funds a variety of different functions of government in our community. There are actually five steps in the Salt Lake County property tax process. Here’s a quick primer on each of them.
One of the most important duties of the county is ensuring public safety for all our residents. That’s why criminal justice is one of my priorities as a County Council member. Adequate resources in our county jail to take dangerous criminals off the streets, as well as tools to help others who have made mistakes move toward rehabilitation and reintegration as productive members of society, are just two of the key roles of our county.
I’m also deeply committed to criminal justice reform. We’ve long known that merely locking people up doesn’t necessarily lead truly fixing the cycle of criminal behavior that is a part of life for some of our residents. This is particularly true when it comes to drug abuse. It’s important that we find ways to help people take responsibility for their actions and be held accountable, but then empower them to improve their life. The goal is for any county resident who exits our criminal justice system after paying their debt to society to never enter the system again.
That’s why I’m encouraged by the great work in the county’s Intensive Supervision Probation program. This program takes a high risk/high need population and couples their substance abuse treatment with other aggressive interventions like home visits, worksite visits, and more. The goal is to create a more powerful relationship between the case managers/officers and the participants in the program.
One way our county Criminal Justice Services and Behavioral Health Services experts measure outcomes is through “risk scores” of program graduates. This risk scores can help indicate the likelihood of someone reoffending in the future. For graduates of the Intensive Supervision Probation program (also called “ISP”), we’ve seen a 45% reduction in risk scores.
Eighty six percent of graduates are receiving a clinical assessment, and 73% are actively engaged in treatment. We’ve had over 600 referrals in the program since it started in July of 2015.
One success story involves a client who was married with two young daughters. He struggled for several years with an addiction to meth, and had several run-ins with the law. He finally hit rock bottom when his children began getting bullied because their father was a drug addict. Unless he made some drastic changes, he would risk losing his family. This client agreed to go to Volunteers of America for detox, in order to be at a place where he could enter treatment.
After more than a year at a residential treatment facility, he finally graduated from his treatment program, having beat his addiction. He reconciled with his wife and kids, got a full time job, and was able to pay for an apartment for him and his family.
These are the success stories that give me hope that we can make tangible differences in our community by empowering residents who are ready to change their lives.
We’ll continue to track the outcomes of this program and report back to the public, but I’m excited by the promising results so far. When you look at approaches like this in the context of our state and nation’s opioid crisis, these tools are particularly encouraging. In fact, over one third of all ISP participants are working on recovery from an opioid addiction.
We’ll also always be looking at innovative new approaches to drug addiction, in the broader context of reforming the criminal justice system and reducing recidivism. In the meantime, hats off to the people running our Intensive Supervision Probation program, as well as the clients who have succeeded.
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s worth looking back at the noteworthy events that have helped shape our county, and some of the initiatives my office is working on.
Last year I wrote about issues I wanted to work on for 2017, which included intergenerational poverty, criminal justice, suicide prevention, and budget transparency. I’m pleased that we’ve made progress on each of these fronts, and I want to update you on each of them.
After learning as much as I could about intergenerational poverty and its impact on families in Salt Lake County this year, I asked my colleagues on the County Council for their support to launch a county task force to address the issue. With their support, the council-driven Intergenerational Poverty Task Force was started and is looking at the county’s role in empowering families to break out of the cycle of poverty.
This group brings together directors from county entities like Human Services, Behavioral Health, Regional Development, and the mayor’s office, as well as representatives from the state’s Workforce Services and Human Services departments, local school districts, and more. This coalition will look at the current anti-poverty efforts within Salt Lake County and assess how we’re doing in addressing intergenerational poverty specifically. It’s vital for county and local leaders to lead this charge in our communities if we really want to make a difference empowering people to break out of the cycle of poverty. You can learn more about the state research behind intergenerational poverty here.
With the County Council’s budget deliberations now completed, the only remaining step is to hold a public hearing to receive public comment on the budget, and then take the final vote. Numerous complex and controversial issues were discussed this budget cycle, including the Mayor’s proposal to close the Salt Lake Valley Transfer station on January 1, 2018, as part of his 2018 budget.
Closing the transfer station outright in this manner would have a very sudden and negative impact on residents in South Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, and the cities/townships who are part of Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District (Taylorsville, Magna, Kearns, Herriman, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek, White City, Copperton, Emigration Canyon, and the unincorporated areas). Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District operates on a calendar year budget and their Board has approved and finalized the 2018 budget. The closure in January would have put their organization in a crisis mode since they would have had no time to properly prepare.
In October, former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott passed away. He was a good man and a true public servant, and I always knew him to be one who showed kindness and a smile to everyone. I know his family and friends are mourning his loss, and also honoring his life. The Salt Lake County Council passed a proclamation to offer our gratitude for all he did for Salt Lake County, and I wanted to share it below for all of you.
PROCLAMATION OF THE SALT LAKE COUNTY COUNCIL
RECOGNIZING THE SERVICE OF FORMER COUNTY RECORDER GARY OTT DELIVERED TO HIS FAMILY
WHEREAS, on behalf of the citizens of Salt Lake County, we wish to express our deep sorrow over the passing of former County Recorder Gary William Ott on October 19, 2017, and;
WHEREAS, Mr. Gary Ott was elected as County Recorder in 2001 and contributed to the preservation of property rights for county residents for many years, and;
WHEREAS, Mr. Gary Ott was an accomplished individual who graduated from Utah State University and served in the Utah National Guard and the U.S. Army while stationed in Germany, and;
WHEREAS, His life was dedicated to the best interests of the community and his family. He was proud of his time spent in the military serving our country, and;
WHEREAS, Gary Ott was a kind human with a great sense of humor and enjoyed hearing the laughter of others, and;
WHEREAS, The County of Salt Lake along with Gary Ott’s immediate family are blessed to have known him and been a part of his life, and;
NOW, THEREFORE, The Salt Lake County Council, in recognition of Gary W. Ott’s many contributions to our County and its citizens, do hereby express our deep appreciation for his dedication to Salt Lake County and extend to his family our sincere sympathy upon his passing.
You can also read his obituary here.
Every June, Salt Lake County goes through its mid-year budget process to true-up the projected revenues for the county, certify the official tax rates, and take care of any other housekeeping items for the County’s finances. We also review requests for adjustments to our budget.
Three issues came up during this process that generated a lot of discussion among County Council members: Bonanza Flat, money from our Tourism, Recreation, Cultural, and Convention fund (TRCC), and $47 million in transportation funds.
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:
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]