The year 2002 was, by all accounts, one of the most eventful, historic years ever for Salt Lake City . From the glory of hosting the most successful Winter Olympics in history to the pain of Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping, we have experienced the full spectrum of human emotions over the last year.
We have tackled issues not of our own design, like the Main Street Plaza controversy and the reactivation of trains on 900 South. We have successfully finished major projects that were initiated by others but implemented by us, such as the Olympics and the National League of Cities conference. And, we have taken initiatives of our own, working to give our young people greater opportunities, to bring economic development to all parts of the City, and to set an example as to how local governments can help clean up our environment and reverse global environmental crises.
The last year has not been easy — not for me personally, and probably not for any of you. We have seen the messy, yet beautiful, process of democracy at work, the sometimes-challenging wheels of justice turning, and the ebb and flow of economic fortune. Yet, in the end, we can say that Salt Lake City is in remarkable shape — perhaps the best shape in recent memory.
For the first time, the world sees Salt Lake City for what it really is, recognizing our high quality of life, the amazing natural beauty that surrounds us, and the diversity of people who live and work here. Never before has there been such an amazing investment by our City in our future — in our young people, our environment, and planning for future growth. Not since the 1930s have we had such an easily accessible city, with greatly enhanced mobility freedom. Never have we so openly addressed the issues that divide us and engaged in a vigorous process of bridging those divides.
In these ways and many more, 2002 added strength to the solid foundation we have laid over the past three years. In many ways, we have taken our City in a new direction. We have opened up Salt Lake City government like never before, listening to and absorbing passionate, often differing, views. We have provided the means of engaging in hearty dialogue on many vital issues. We have forged remarkable new alliances, collaborations, and friendships. We have fought the fights that needed fighting. Also, most importantly, we have focused on the future, adopting a proactive approach and making judicious, front-end investments. Unlike most governmental entities in this country, we believe in taking a constructive, preventative approach, which will save taxpayers money in the long run, and prevent destruction — whether in our City's physical infrastructure, or in the quality of life of the people who live and work here. Just as timely replacement of a roof can save the deterioration of the rest of a building, so too does an investment in enriching programs for our youth pay huge dividends in later years — for our kids, our families and our entire community. It is that long-range, proactive view that drives so much of what we have done — and what we will continue to do.
It is time that government, at all levels, honestly confronts, rather than neglects, the grand opportunities we have to invest in building better lives for those government is supposed to serve. We commit to continue doing just that — every day, in every decision, and with every action we take.
Tonight, we will review the highlights of the last year, and discuss some proposed new initiatives for the future.
Hosting the Olympics and the NLC Congress of Cities
Though the 2002 Olympic Winter Games had been set in motion years before, we faced an enormous amount of planning, work, and uncertainty during the year before the event. Yet we kept City operations moving forward, while hosting the most successful Winter Olympics in history. That we were able to do this, enjoy enormous financial success, and do it all safely and securely, is a tribute to the incredible work by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and our amazing team here at the City.
Now, with an astounding international success behind us, we stand to reap benefits from the Games long into the future. The Salt Lake City area is poised to become the premier winter sports training and competition arena in the United States , and perhaps the world. Billions of TV viewers, as well as hundreds of thousands of visitors, saw how hospitable our City and its people are. We debunked the myths about nightlife — and daily life — in Salt Lake City . We proved we are — and relish being — a world-class destination city. People from around the world now know that, unlike anywhere else, in Salt Lake City you can stay in a 5-star hotel, enjoy dozens of extraordinary restaurants, take advantage of a vibrant nightlife, catch an opera or symphony orchestra performance, and still be skiing in 25 minutes.
In addition to the benefits of the Games arising from increased tourism and economic development, we will also enjoy countless legacies like our two new Olympic-sized ice sheets at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, the impressive Alan Houser sculptures here at Washington Square, the Olympic plazas at the University of Utah and at Gateway, highly-trained Public Order Units at our Police Department, and hundreds of new housing units, including magnificent new student housing at the University of Utah.
For all the hard work that John Sittner, Rocky Fluhart, hundreds of other city staffers, and thousands of volunteers put into the success of the Olympics, we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Everyone pulled together to show to the world that we are, indeed, a world-class host — and a world-class destination city.
Though the National League of Cities Congress of Cities did not have the international glamour of the Olympics, the Congress took a huge amount of work to host and attracted thousands of people from every part of the United States . With approximately 4,000 elected municipal leaders attending, along with family members and others, we were able to showcase the City's innovative programs, magnificent scenery, and warm hospitality to an important audience.
Even now, more than a month after the Congress, we continue to receive rave reviews for a job well done. Typical of the responses is the note Talitha Day received from the Deputy Executive Director of the National League of Cities, who wrote:
Thank you again for everything you did to make the 2002 Congress of Cities in Salt Lake City the absolutely best during the eleven years I've been at the NLC. It was THE BEST. Our delegates had a great time and learned a lot about a city that they probably didn't understand very well before arriving.
Our warm gratitude goes to conference organizer Talitha Day, who, characteristically, did an outstanding job, and to all the sponsors and volunteers who made the Congress such a smashing success. These achievements happen because of dedicated, passionate, hard-working people who are making a real, positive difference for our City — now and into the future.
In hosting both the Olympics and the National League of Cities Congress, we also worked closely with all of the members of the City Council. Thanks to our collaborative efforts, we were able, together, to host flawlessly these two enormously important events. For that, the residents of Salt Lake City owe you and your staff recognition and gratitude.
As youth programs are a major focus of the NLC and its Institute for Youth, Education and Families, our own innovative and exciting YouthCity program was a natural topic for many discussions at the Congress. Leaders from across the country asked, "How have you been able to create such quality programs for young people so quickly?" The answer is clearly the commitment of this administration, the support of most members of the Council, and the hard, dedicated work of Janet Wolf, Kim Thomas, Rosanita Cespedes, and many others, all tenaciously devoted to building new partnerships, raising money, and finding and building homes for essential programs.
The need for youth programs is enormous and immediate. Utah Kids Count estimates that there are only enough after-school programs in Salt Lake County to serve 10% of young people with working parents. Youth programs have a proven track record of helping young people stay out of trouble and build skills they do not receive at school. Over the last year, we have vastly expanded our comprehensive youth initiative, in cooperation with various private and public programs, to ensure that every young person in Salt Lake City has the opportunity to participate and excel in engaging, safe, rewarding activities.
In 2002, we opened new after-school programs at the Northwest Multipurpose Center in Rose Park and at Glendale Middle School . We launched our youth employment program, which has already placed 200 young people in jobs. YouthCity employment staff has reached an additional 575 young people, providing employment readiness guidance in resume writing, interview skills, and connections to employers.
In addition to job placement, training and mentoring are also essential components of an effective employment program. Pilot programs with partners Salt Lake County and Utah Power are yielding substantial, positive results.
We are changing lives for the better on a daily basis. And, with persistence and your support, we will continue to expand these terrific opportunities for children, for families, and for our entire community.
While youth programs provide a safe haven for after-school learning, another major priority of our Administration has been improved safety in neighborhoods, on the streets, and at our Airport. Over the last year, Salt Lake City saw a 7.5% decrease in violent crime. Over the past three years, violent crime has decreased city-wide by 12.4%. Over the last three years, preventable traffic accidents involving police officers decreased 70%.
These statistics are a barometer of the commitment of this administration to improving safety and security, and a benchmark of the remarkable work being done by our Police Department, under the leadership of our outstanding Chief of Police Rick Dinse. Under Chief Dinse's direction, the department added an exemplary leadership-training program this year. Based on skills taught by the US Military at West Point , the leadership program is designed to enhance the leadership skills of mid-level officers and improve department productivity.
Last year, Chief Dinse also created Uniformed Detective Squads to improve investigative response to property crimes in the City and worked closely with the minority community to make sure its concerns and needs continue to be met.
In the next few months, a new Police Civilian Review Board will convene to ensure fair treatment for both civilians and officers against whom complaints are lodged. For the first time in the City's history, an independent investigator will work with an independent board to provide input for consideration by the Chief of Police in making disciplinary decisions — and in formulating new polices. When operational, the board will help build greater trust between our hard-working police officers and the public.
While our police officers are on the front lines of our efforts to improve safety, the criminal justice system is also vitally important. In July, we opened the Salt Lake City Justice Court and, by the end of November, more than 39,000 cases had been filed with the new court. Under the excellent direction of Presiding Judge Zane Gill and Courts Director Mary Johnston, the wheels of justice are now turning at a much faster rate. Cases are heard in a more timely fashion, and our pioneering restorative justice programs have found a receptive home. Our programs dealing with issues such as drug use and domestic violence are geared less toward retribution and more toward problem-solving, restoring the wrongs done to victims, and providing treatment options. This is an innovative, constructive approach that will save money, build better lives, and help create a safer, more harmonious community.
Some of the cases our Justice Court is handling concern pedestrian safety, another major priority of our Administration. Since the Police Department, at our direction, started more aggressive enforcement of pedestrian safety laws in August of 2000, more than 2,500 citations have been issued. As part of a comprehensive program we call Reclaiming the Streets, this enforcement program is helping send the message that we are serious about making our streets safe for pedestrians.
Working with the Mayor's Office and under the creative direction of Tim Harpst and our Pedestrian Safety Coordinator, Dan Bergenthal, our Transportation Division has undertaken an unprecedented build-up of pedestrian safety infrastructure. Over the last year, we have installed an additional 180 pedestrian countdown timers, three sets of pedestrian activated overhead flashing lights, an in-pavement lighting system at the Gallivan Center , and triangular crosswalk approach striping at 19 high-traffic crosswalks. We have also added 37 new locations to our Adopt-a-Crosswalk program. Today, there are 107 locations with pedestrian flags across the City.
Pedestrian accidents decreased 16% throughout the City in 2002 as compared with the year before. In the Central Business District, where we have focused most of our efforts, there has been a decrease of 20% in the last year. With these programs and investments, we will continue to make walking more convenient and enjoyable, promote healthy living, generate more downtown pedestrian traffic, and undoubtedly save more lives.
A final major accomplishment in the area of safety was our success in making Salt Lake City International Airport the first major airport in the nation to screen all checked bags for explosives. In the post-9/11 world of airport security, baggage screening remains a major concern. Many airports still have only a partial system for screening passenger bags. However, through our intense lobbying of federal officials, a creative approach that creates no delays for passengers, and persistence, we have been able to set the standard for a multi-layered approach to baggage screening that provides a maximum of safety with a minimum of inconvenience. For their hard work on this and many other challenging projects, we commend Tim Campbell and all of those who work diligently on a daily basis to make Salt Lake City International Airport one of the best, and safest, airports in the nation.
Public Health and the Environment
Improving security, reducing crime, and increasing pedestrian safety are only part of safeguarding the well-being of our citizens. We must also work to improve public health through both education and environmental initiatives. In 2002, we undertook, for the first time, a public education effort, which we call the Mayor's Monthly Dose. With the generous assistance of the Salt Lake Radio Broadcasters Association, and with the enormous efforts of our terrific, hard-working Communications Director Josh Ewing, we were able to air more than 3,500 radio spots on public health issues, including drunk driving, organ donation, the dangers of tobacco use, and air pollution. As resources and staffing permit, we hope to expand this program by way of additional media campaigns and donated billboard space.
During the last year, we convened the Mayor's Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Policy Task Force. This is a team of nationally-renowned experts, local treatment providers, and family members who have experienced the tragedy of drug abuse. This group is currently working on its first round of policy recommendations, which we look forward to sharing with you soon. Once we have received their advice, we will continue our efforts with the school district to implement effective, research-based drug prevention programs that will result in a comprehensive curriculum, which already contains a successful program we helped to implement.
Research specific to our schools demonstrated this year that the ATLAS program, which we introduced to the School Board, is already reducing drug use among high-school athletes. The research, conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University , showed that nearly three-fourths of students involved in the program are less likely to use illegal drugs than before the program began, and more than 50 percent have a decreased desire to try anabolic steroids. We hope to see more successes like this as we work with the Task Force to implement other local policy changes that will help reduce the tragic toll that drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse have on our community each year.
Public health and the environment are linked in many ways. For example, in 2002 the Utah Division of Air Quality issued health warnings on 34 days due to poor air quality. For more than an entire month out of the year, healthy individuals were told not to exercise out-of-doors, and the young, the elderly, and individuals with health problems were told not to go outside at all. Furthermore, we learned this year from a BYU study that living in a high air pollution environment is as likely to cause lung cancer as living with a smoker and breathing second-hand smoke on a daily basis.
We must acknowledge these facts and take effective action to protect public health and ensure a cleaner environment in the future. This responsibility now falls especially on local government officials because of the inexplicable neglect of our environment and public health by our federal and state officials. To address these and other issues, we created, in the fall of 2001, a broad-ranging environmental program, "Salt Lake City Green." Now, after the first full year, Salt Lake City Green has produced remarkable results and is receiving national and international recognition.
In February of 2002, we launched our Local Climate Action Plan, which has two major objectives: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and to improve regional air quality. Our greenhouse gas reduction goal of 7% below 1990 levels by 2012 aligns Salt Lake City with 95 nations that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Lamentably, the United States is not now among those 95 nations.
One of our first actions under the climate action plan was to retrofit all the lighting here in the City and County Building with energy-efficient bulbs. That effort is saving over $33,000 in electricity costs per year. By reinvesting a portion of the monetary savings in Blue Sky wind power provided by Utah Power, we were able to make the largest yearly purchase of wind power in Utah . These two measures have resulted in a net savings to taxpayers of thousands of dollars, while reducing CO2 emissions by over 550 tons each year. In reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our Blue Sky Wind Power purchase is equivalent to driving 630,000 fewer miles or planting 116 acres of trees every year. The results of these energy-related projects are just an example of the energy, monetary, and greenhouse gas savings we will see as we continue to implement our Local Climate Action Plan.
We now have sophisticated emissions tracking software in place, which will allow us to identify CO2 — and other pollutant-reducing projects, set achievable yearly goals, and track our progress. For all the projects we have initiated and tracked so far, including the use of alternative fuel vehicles, lighting retrofits, purchase of wind power, conversion of traffic signals to LED lights, and methane recovery at our landfill, we have already reduced 1,028 tons of equivalent CO2 emissions and 6,487 pounds of health-endangering criteria air pollutants in a year. And we are just getting started!
Because of our innovative, effective approach to reducing green house gas emissions and dangerous pollutants, I was sponsored by the EPA to attend the United Nation's major yearly conference on global warming in New Delhi, India, and to make a presentation about the role local governments can have in reducing global warming — and in cleaning up our environment. For our work, the EPA has nominated us for the national 2003 Climate Protection Award.
Lisa Romney and Vicki Bennett have worked hard to make Salt Lake City Green's goals of environmental responsibility and sustainability practical and workable for city departments. In 2002, we put in place a comprehensive Environmental Management System and conducted a full review of the environmental practices of both the Public Utilities and Public Services Departments.
Several other projects were the result of collaboration between departments and Salt Lake City Green. Working with our amazing urban forester, Bill Rutherford, we were able to open the City's first tree nursery, which will grow 20-30 species of trees as we seek to add to our urban forest, already 71,000 trees strong.
Due to the impressive work of Debbie Booth and Public Services Director Rick Graham, Salt Lake City Green has led to more than a 60% increase in recycled materials over the last two years. Seventy-three percent of all city households have signed up for our voluntary curbside recycling program. This increase in recycling has dramatically decreased the amount of waste going to our landfill and saves more than 21,000 tons of equivalent CO2 from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Another final success for Salt Lake City Green and the Department of Public Utilities was a major reduction in the amount of water used in Salt Lake City last year. As a result of a sustained advertising, media, and public education campaign, water use dropped by 17% in Salt Lake City , compared with a 12% drop statewide. Through the tenacious and highly competent efforts of Stephanie Duer, our City's first Water Conservation Coordinator, we will see even greater reductions in the years to come. We are advocating low-water landscaping, with demonstration gardens planted at both the City and County Building and at the Airport. We will also set an example of water-efficient irrigation systems in our public parks. A current construction project in Liberty Park will replace a decades-old system with a highly-efficient, state-of-the-art system designed to minimize water use.
Overall, 2002 was a remarkable year of progress for Salt Lake City Green, with concrete results and up-front investments that will preserve our high quality of life, set an example for other cities and our federal government, and promote the health of future generations.
Mass Transit, Alternative Transportation, and Smart Growth
Nearly 50% of air pollution comes from automobile use, as does a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to deliver to our children the kind of place we enjoy today, we must find ways to decrease dependence on the automobile, implement wise growth principles, and provide mobility freedom for everyone, including those who are too young, too old, or too disabled to drive, those who cannot afford to drive, and those who simply want to ride transit or a bike to work.
Over the last year, we have continued our advocacy for the creation of an efficient, convenient regional transit system. With our persistent efforts and collaboration with other Wasatch Front communities, we are in an excellent position to create an exceptional, comprehensive regional transit system. We look forward to this expansion and are eager to see the light rail system being extended to our west side neighborhoods and the Airport, Sugarhouse, Davis County , West Valley City , and West Jordan . It is also worth noting that we now have a great opportunity, with the United States Court of Appeals ruling regarding the Legacy Highway , to work with our neighbors to the north to create commuter and light rail options that will meet the current needs of Davis County residents and anticipate future growth.
We are also making progress toward better transit within Salt Lake City . In November, we broke ground on the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub, west of Pioneer Park . When fully operational, the Hub will be the central node of our regional system, connecting at one point light rail, commuter rail, local buses, Greyhound, Amtrak, taxis, and bicycles. The objective is to provide convenient transfer between transportation modes and create options for those seeking to limit or even eliminate automobile use.
Construction also began on an extension of the University Light Rail Line, which will connect the University Medical Center , one of the largest traffic generators in the state, with the rest of our transit system. We are also working to encourage UTA to extend TRAX to the Hub, and expand TRAX service later during the night, especially on weekends, to better serve our Downtown area.
To get the most out of our expanding transit system, we must work to transform our community so that transit integrates with our neighborhoods. The benefits we receive from the transit system will multiply as we provide more residents and businesses with the option to locate where most destinations can be reached by foot, bike or transit. To meet this goal, we have proposed both a walkable communities ordinance and a transit oriented development ordinance. We look forward to working with you to develop these and other policies that will prepare our city for the future, and offer residents and businesses a wider array of transportation options.
Escaping the sprawling development patterns of an era that promoted automobile dependence also means promoting walking, cycling, and other forms of alternative transportation. This is part of the reason for our strong emphasis on pedestrian safety. It is also why we have worked so hard to make bicycling safer and more convenient. This year we added two more miles of bike lanes for a total of 44 miles in Salt Lake City . This includes a linkage of the east and west sides of the City along 200 South. This project, which had been contemplated for more than 10 years, was finally accomplished through persistence and creativity. In the past, business owners decried the loss of parking that would result from converting angled parking to parallel parking. However, using reverse-angle or ?back in? parking, we were able to increase the number of parking stalls while providing for the safety of cyclists and the unprecedented creation of a bicycling route from the University of Utah to the Jordan River .
Finally on the subject of transportation, two major accomplishments at our Airport should be recognized. First, this year, we commenced the first service by a foreign airline at our Airport. The new service, by AeroMexico, provides people from around the Intermountain West non-stop service to Mexico City and Hermasillo. A second exciting major expansion in air service is the newly announced non-stop service between Salt Lake City and Reagan National Airport in Washington , DC . That service will greatly enhance convenience for travelers flying to our nation's capital.
Revitalization of the Main Street Downtown Area
With all the improvements we have made — and will continue to make — in public transit and transportation systems, our Downtown Main Street area is now more accessible than ever. In fact, our Downtown is likely the most accessible downtown of any major metropolitan area in the country. Capitalizing on this newly enhanced accessibility and correcting misperceptions about a lack of parking and traffic are among the first and most crucial steps toward revitalizing our Main Street Downtown area.
This year, we took several important steps to dispel misperceptions about Downtown and to enhance accessibility for everyone. On 300 South, we created seven blocks of free, center-of-the-street parking, which added 145 new stalls. This project has been a smashing success. The stalls are full most of the time, and business owners report increased revenues due to the convenient parking. The project has been such a success that we will be working on a plan this year to make the parking a permanent fixture of Third South, with raised walkways, attractive landscaping, and permanent medians. We will also be exploring additional opportunities for similar parking and traffic calming elsewhere, particularly in the Central Business District.
Another major program implemented this year was the new Downtown Token transit and parking validation program. Working with the Downtown Alliance, Zions Bank, and UTA, we have realized a goal that has been discussed for years. Now, with a single token obtained by shopping or doing business Downtown, visitors can get a free hour of parking at a city meter, a dollar off parking at a participating lot, or a free ride on buses or light rail. More than 55 merchants distribute tokens and all seven major parking lot operators — that is about 30 parking lots — are participating. This program is an outstanding example of what we can accomplish, when working together, to make a real difference Downtown.
Though much remains to be done and challenges remain, we have seen many positive developments on Main Street this year. Seven new businesses opened during the past year or are scheduled to open in the next month in Main Street storefront locations. The Wells Fargo Tower , which was almost empty three years ago when I took office, is now at two-thirds occupancy. We expect to have almost complete occupancy in that landmark building this year. Several large tenants are currently negotiating for space, some with the active involvement and encouragement of our administration.
The Salt Lake Community College also opened a satellite campus on Main Street , bringing students and potential customers downtown, day and night. Nordstrom has not deserted us yet, and the Crossroads Mall owners are putting together another major proposal for Nordstrom to consider. The ZCMI Center is working on major plans for a new look, which we hope will be announced soon. And, we are in active negotiations with at least twelve prospective tenants to fill vacancies on Main Street .
At our request, in the fall, the City Council authorized funding for a Main Street Enhancement Strategy. The first phase of that strategy focused on a Light Up the Night program for the holiday season to encourage downtown visitors to walk around the downtown, take in the lights at Temple Square , and do some holiday shopping. The program featured fire cauldrons, a Jingle Bus, painted windows, live performers, music, and hot drinks. The public reacted with enthusiasm. More than 3,000 people rode the Jingle Bus to get from one shopping area to another, and several businesses, which we surveyed after the season, reported a 5-20% increase in revenue compared to last year.
This year, we will continue with the Main Street Enhancement Strategy, working collaboratively with downtown businesses, the Downtown Alliance, and the Main Street Malls to develop marketing and advertising strategies that will fill existing gaps in Main Street promotion and work to bring more customers to the Main Street area. Also, we are excited to work with the newly-created Downtown Development Council to find ways for all of the key players to work in concert, with a common vision.
Revitalization downtown requires filling storefronts, but it also requires creating events that create traffic for Downtown. Over the last year, events in Downtown have flourished. The Gallivan Center was the site for 261 events this past year, with a total attendance of over 447,000. The Utah Arts Festival returned to Downtown, with one of its most successful years ever. For the first time, we held a Mexican Independence Day Festival at the Gallivan Center . The Wednesday "Come Alive" and Thursday "Twilight" concert series grew even more this year, and several Main Street businesses, including the Globe Café, report that their business is better on some of those nights than it was during the Olympics.
Our second annual International Jazz Festival did so well that we will likely have to find a larger venue next year. World-class artists, like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Spanky Wilson, Freddy Cole, Chuck Findlay, and Ira Nepus, all told us this was one of the best and most enjoyable jazz festivals they have ever played. Now, Salt Lake City even has its own namesake jazz band. The Jazz Arts of the Mountain West Band took a new name: the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with, and have sincere gratitude for, Jerry Floor, Lisa Kalantzes, and the many others who have worked with me to create a nationally-renowned destination jazz festival in Salt Lake City .
All the indicators suggest that Downtown and is on the upswing. Despite a slow economy, we have worked hard to create an environment for success. Now, with more and more pieces of the puzzle coming together, our Downtown will again be a safe, thriving center of culture, entertainment, dining, and commerce, where we can all gather to enjoy the best of our community.
West Side Development
Just as special focus is required to revitalize our Main Street, we are also devoting substantial energies to improve the quality of life for those who live and work on Salt Lake City's west side. Over the last year, we have spent more energy and time on west side issues than on the Main Street Plaza and the Legacy Highway combined. Much of my time personally has been spent working on 900 South rail issues. Just two nights ago, at the invitation of Glenn and LaVern Russell, I spent the night at their home, which sits just 30 feet from the railroad tracks. Although I was aware the trains have an enormous impact on the families who live near the line, one cannot comprehend how unnerving and disruptive these trains are until experiencing them first-hand.
We have done everything, and will continue to do everything, we can to improve the situation along the Ninth South railroad line. We have sued Union Pacific in federal court and challenged the reactivation of their 900 South line before the federal Surface Transportation Board. Twice we were told that federal law and interstate commerce preempt the written contract entered into by Union Pacific and the prior administration. I have personally spoken about this matter with our Senators and Representatives in Congress, with US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and with the Administrator and Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
Unfortunately, Union Pacific is holding most, if not all, of the cards under federal law, and the city has little legal leverage. Given this situation, we have done the best we possibly can to negotiate with Union Pacific toward two major goals: (1) mitigation in the short term of the negative impacts of the line on residents, and (2) eventual removal or significant reduction of trains using 900 South. We have reached a tentative agreement that will largely achieve our first goal. The agreement clears the way for us to work with Union Pacific to eliminate train whistles by creating a quiet zone, add safety fencing, limit train speeds, and divert nuclear waste to other lines. We have canvassed the neighborhood to let residents know about the agreement, and we held a public meeting regarding this matter last night.
While working to successfully mitigate many of the negative impacts, we will also be working on efforts to reduce or, if possible, eliminate rail traffic on the line. This will not be easy, requiring the reconfiguration of Grant Tower at a cost of many millions of dollars. However, we are committed to making this happen and will work with the federal government, and anyone else who is willing, to find the money and make it happen.
While 900 South has clearly been a major concern, we have also made significant progress in other areas on the west side. Our police department has worked hard to reduce west side crime, with a resulting dramatic decrease of 23% in violent crime in the last three years west of I-15. Police presence and response times will improve with the mid-2003 opening of the new Pioneer Police Precinct. We also opened Fire Station # 9 during the past year, which has resulted in a decrease in medical response times of 3.7 minutes per call. This can mean the difference between life and death.
In terms of business development, two major projects are set to bring jobs and more retail shopping opportunities to the west side. The Ninigret Technology Park will expand in 2003, bringing an estimated 5,000 jobs to the area. Also, this year, a Wal-Mart Store will be built near 300 West and 1300 South. When completed, the store will allow west side residents reasonably-priced, convenient shopping options.
Over the last three years, we have also greatly expanded housing opportunities on the west side, providing funding for more than 1,000 housing units, including construction of 701 new units.
There is perhaps no more diverse, interesting part of our city than our west side. This part of our city deserves focus and continued support. Through the next year, we will continue to make the west side one of our top priorities, doing everything humanly possible, within the bounds of sound economics, to increase small business opportunities, continue to make the streets safer and friendlier, and work to reduce the impacts of the trains on 900 South.
As is the case in almost every major city in the United States , Salt Lake City has an enormous need for affordable housing. At all levels of the income spectrum, we are committed to provide both home-ownership opportunities and affordable rental options. In the past year, Salt Lake City has approved or brought on line 334 units of affordable housing throughout the City. In fact, since January of 2000, we have helped bring more than 1,300 units of affordable housing to our community.
As we add to our stock of affordable housing, we must also work to ensure that existing affordable options are not lost due to dwindling federal or state subsidies. Under the leadership of Luann Clark, our Housing and Neighborhood Development staff has identified every property that is at risk, and we are working with the owners of 142 units that are currently at risk to help sustain affordability and quality of the properties. We have invested $300,000 of the Housing Trust Fund to preserve 108 units of at-risk housing at the Capitol Villa.
Sometimes even affordable housing is not "affordable." When this is the case, individuals of all kinds turn to our community's homeless service providers. To underscore our support for these organizations and to listen to their needs, we have formed a working group of individuals who represent a variety of homeless services. We will be presenting the first step of our work together, a memorandum of understanding, during the next month.
New Initiatives for 2003
Through it all, 2002 has been a year of progress. Not only have we had many successes, but we identified several important new initiatives. These projects are by no means set in stone, and some are only in their earliest stages of development. All will require thorough public discussion. We present them this evening as an indicator of the direction in which we are going and to start the dialogue that will help develop our proposals.
First, we'll start with two events happening on February 8th. As many of you know, we'll be opening our new main library, which will set a new standard for community libraries in the United States . Following the opening of the library, we will work toward a mid-summer completion of construction of the open space on the east side of the block.
Also on the anniversary of the Olympics, we will host our first annual Main Event winter festival. The event will run Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th, based at the Gallivan Center . The festival will feature local entertainment, an illumination parade, a chili cooking contest, ice skating exhibitions, live music, and a headline event Saturday night with a nationally-renowned artist. This festival will help us create a new tradition, at a time typically slow for Downtown businesses, which we can all enjoy for years to come.
On the west side, we'll be working on three major new projects. First, we have created a new West Side Development Partnership. This is a group of residents, community leaders, and others who are working in the area who will work in a constructive manner with City government to develop new ideas, identify priority projects, and advise us as we endeavor to strengthen businesses and neighborhoods in the area. In conjunction with this new group, we are developing an inventory of all the businesses on the west side and working to help market those businesses to City residents. We have also identified and will continue to market City tools and resources to help new and existing businesses succeed.
We'll also be calling on the Partnership to help as we work aggressively to revitalize the Glendale Plaza , which holds great promise.
During 2003 we will also work to complete a plan to revitalize Pioneer Park , with the goal of obtaining substantial community input, designing an attractive land use plan, and obtaining funding for the project by the end of the year.
Farther west, we'll be kicking off the new landside development program at the airport, providing many long-term jobs in the construction industry. Work will begin on a new terminal access road in the spring, followed by construction of a new ground transportation staging area and employee parking lot. The project will also improve access to long-term parking and rental car areas. Overall, the landside program is expected to take three or four years, with an infusion into the local economy of several millions of dollars.
In the realm of economic development and business promotion, several new projects are on the horizon. First, we propose joining UTOPIA, a state-wide effort to build a fiber-optic network that will make available broadband Internet, data, and video services to every house and business in Salt Lake City . While the project is just getting off the ground, the prospects are very promising that Salt Lake City can enhance its reputation for being the most wired city in the nation, at very little cost to taxpayers. We look forward to bringing more details to you about this project as the UTOPIA inter-governmental organization moves into the implementation phase of its work.
While this high-tech infrastructure should help all businesses, no technology will help a business whose entry way is blocked due to road construction. Our Public Services Director, Rick Graham, is spearheading an effort to create new city policies and programs to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of road construction on small businesses.
A new environmental program we will be launching this month will also aid businesses. Called e2, this voluntary program seeks to recognize businesses that excel in combining environmental responsibility with economic progress. Participating businesses will undergo an environmental audit, meet high environmental standards, and be recognized for their commitment to a sustainable community.
Businesses and landlords will also benefit from a proposal to expand our residential recycling program to include businesses and multi-family residences. Though owners would pay a fee for the service, they would reap many benefits, including lower refuse removal costs. This program would allow us to make even larger reductions to the amount of waste we send to our landfill, and, as a result, the amount of natural resources we needlessly waste.
In 2003, we will embark on a plan to restructure water rates in order to encourage conservation, reduce waste, and to protect ourselves from future shortages. I have asked an advisory committee, which has been working on the issue for several months, to make final recommendations soon.
Two final environmental initiatives concern protections for our canyons and foothills. During the next year, our Public Utilities Department will be working to create a watershed protection education campaign, which will encourage recreational users of our canyons to "Keep it Clean." The campaign will work to reduce impacts on our precious watersheds and reduce the costs of treating water in the long run.
The Mayor's Office will also lead an effort to rework policies affecting the protection of our foothills. These valuable lands are threatened by development, overuse, and illegal ATV use. One possible outcome is the creation of a land trust fund to purchase valuable foothill property.
Finally, three new sites for YouthCity will be established in 2003. Refurbishment of the Boxing Building in Liberty Park begins next month, Fairmont Park activities will expand, and Ottinger Hall construction will begin in the summer. We will also be working to launch a new scholarship program, called College Bound. This program will be a partnership between the City and institutions of higher education — all working together to give opportunities to young people who might not otherwise even aspire to attend college.
As YouthCity grows, we should consider consolidating all of the City's youth and family programs under one umbrella division, with the object of increasing efficiency.
A small coalition of youth program providers, including the Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake County, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, and Utah Children, has been meeting to address the issue of sustainability for all youth programs in the city and the need for collaboration and information-sharing. We will be seeking your involvement with this effort in the coming weeks.
If we thought that the challenges of 2002 were over, we need only look ahead to a year of tight budgets and international uncertainty to know that our work is far from over.
All of the issues I addressed tonight and many more will require us to work together, to think outside the box at times, and continue to throw our hearts and souls into making this community a better place.
We do this not simply because we have been elected to do so, but because of our fervent and unrelenting desire to make a positive difference — to be able, at the end of the day, to say we have done the right thing — to say we have served the people of this city with integrity, passion, and energetic resolve.
We are all in this together — our administration, members of the City Council, City staffers, and citizens, who have given of their time, energies and passions to make Salt Lake City such a spectacular place.
Together, through our differences and an honest, open dialogue, we will continue to find common ground — and achieve uncommon success.
Let excellence continue to be the standard, not only for the work we do, but for the vision and values that drive that work — and for the quality of life we all want for ourselves, our loved ones, and for those who will come after us. Let later generations say of us, "They really were far-sighted. They really did care about the future of this place. And, they really did work hard and efficiently to make this a better community for everyone."
That is our charge — that is our endeavor. And we will do everything to make certain that is our legacy.