Salt Lake City

2015 State of the City Address

Good morning, everyone.


When I was your age and in grade school, I was a wiggly, active little kid. Are there any wiggly, active little kids here today?


Oh good, that makes me feel better!


When my parents and other adults would ask me what my favorite class in school was, can you guess what I said?


I said RECESS. Yep, I always loved recess, but – shhh, don’t tell anybody – I also loved social studies. I hope you all have at least one class besides recess that you love. My fascination with social studies eventually led to my career choices, so keep that in mind … even if you don’t tell anyone for a while.


Okay, so you might be wondering why I’m here and what my job is. Am I right?


Well, I look forward to telling you.


First: I am here because part of my job as the Mayor of Salt Lake City is to report – once a year – on how our city is doing. So every year, I deliver what is called a State of the City speech to the City Council, who are here with us today, and to the residents of Salt Lake City.


When I say “State of the City” to you, aren’t you a little confused? State and City are two different things, right? We adults sometimes make stuff so confusing. The word “State” in “State of the City” means CONDITION, so the State of the City speech is a report on the condition of our city. And it’s a pretty big deal. We’ll have some fun together this morning, but I want you to also know that the message of my State of the City speech is very serious and I think very important.


Since it’s been my experience that adults aren’t the best listeners, I thought you – as young, up-and-coming residents and the future leaders of Salt Lake City – might be a better audience for this year’s State of the City speech. Last year, I was DELIGHTED when a class from Whittier trudged through the snow to come hear me deliver my speech at the University of Utah, so this year I decided to come to you.


I also came to you because this city is yours. I’m the caretaker of Salt Lake City right now, but you are the future stewards. You will live in and care for this city long after I’m done being Mayor, and I want to challenge you to look at and think about Salt Lake City in some new ways.


That’s why I’m here.


Second: What DOES the Mayor DO? That’s what I want to talk about today. I think if I explain my job to you, it will be a very natural way for me to report on the State or condition of the City.


So here’s how I describe my job: It has two parts.


The first part is to ensure that we deliver the services and provide the facilities that people need every day. This includes police protection for our communities, fire stations and emergency services, parks and fields for kids, snow plowing in the winter, garbage pickup every week, street and sidewalk repairs, parking spaces, and lots of other basic city functions.


The second part of my job is planning for the future. A lot of what I do and think about are ways to ensure that Salt Lake City residents have the future they want.


That’s my job, and I’ll explain it in more detail in a minute.


Right now, I want to take a quick break and give you directions that go with this speech so you can follow along.


One is that when you hear me say the word “BEAR” – in any form – I want you to growl, like this [the Mayor growls!]. We’ll do this just for fun, so that I know you’re listening. And I want all the adults to growl along with us! If you growl really loudly, you might get a SURPRISE at the end.


And two is that I am going to stop throughout my speech today to reach into this fishbowl and share some of the wishes you wrote for Salt Lake City.


Getting input from you is part of my job too. I have made it a big part of my time in office to get ideas from residents and to listen to what people want for this great city of ours. I love hearing ideas from different people, and I love hearing their reactions to my ideas. So that’s why I asked you to write down your one wish for Salt Lake City. I want to know what dreams or wishes you have for our city.


Let’s take our first wish.


Okay, so now let’s talk more about what the Mayor does and about the state of our city.


I want you to picture the sun, which is like a big circle with rays shooting out from it, right? We’ll use the sun as a symbol for Salt Lake City government this morning. And for right now, I want you to imagine the center of the sun – the big circle – and then later we’ll add the rays.  


At the center of the sun is an aspect of Salt Lake City government that I want to highlight today and that’s FAIRNESS. Fairness – and I mean fairness in the way all residents are treated – is something that guides us as we conduct the business of running the city and as we work to make our city one that is livable for everyone.


I’m pretty sure you all understand fairness. Raise your hand if you ever felt like something or someone was unfair to you? Raise your hand if you ever tried really hard to be fair – to a sibling or to a friend – but they still thought you were being unfair? Well, welcome to my world!


I bet you all would agree with me that fairness is very important. As Mayor, I want Salt Lake City to be a city where everyone feels welcome and protected, and where everyone has an equal chance to succeed. And so that’s why I wanted to highlight fairness today. It’s often like our sun; the goal of achieving fairness shines a spotlight on everything we do in the City, and it drives how we make decisions and plan for the city’s future. We want fairness to be as evenly distributed throughout the community as possible. When people are treated unfairly, I can’t BEAR it.


Okay, let’s grab another wish from the fishbowl.


Now let’s talk about the different rays of the sun. I want you to picture several different rays shooting out from the sun. I want to talk a little bit about each of these and about how we try to make sure that fairness is part of each one.


They are:


ü  Air quality

ü  Nature

ü  Mobility, which is how we get around

ü  Housing

ü  Education

ü  Economic prosperity, which is how well we’re doing as a city

ü  Civility, or how we behave and treat each other



Air Quality


Let’s talk about my first ray of the sun:  Air Quality.


Last year, my State of the City address was all about air quality. In fact, it was ONLY about air quality. You might remember the song about our bad air that Ms. Moore’s class wrote and performed. Well, they came to my State of the City speech last year and performed the song there. They were a huge hit!


However, I was disappointed in the adult leadership in this State after my speech last year. I proposed five ideas for how we could make real improvements in our air quality. I asked the Governor and State Legislators to take action or – as an alternative – to let the cities and towns of Utah take our own actions. Not much happened. I didn’t have good luck with the adults last year, which is part of the reason I’m here talking to you this year.


I still believe my five ideas are the right course of action for cleaning our air, so without going into detail, let me remind everyone what they were:


1. Improving the cleanliness of our gasoline so our cars pollute less.

2. Providing more bus and train service so people don’t have to drive as much.

3. Increasing the gasoline tax so that drivers who use the roads pay for the roads.

4. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings so they pollute less.

5. Allowing Utahns to make air quality rules that best fit Utah.


Air quality is not going to improve on its own. We have to take action. And we have to do it together. Air is one of the few things that does not live in one neighborhood or another. We all breathe the same air, and we all share responsibility for our air quality.


I need your help on improving our air quality. Remember what I said about fairness in the way people are treated? Pitching in to do your part to clean up our air is one of the best ways we can take care of our neighbors and each other.


You may have heard some of these ideas before, but here are some ways YOU can help:


·      Buddy up with a friend or neighbor and walk to school or ride your bike, instead of getting a ride in a car;

·      Remind your parents not to leave their cars running while standing still for longer than 2 minutes;

·      Recycle paper, plastic, and glass;

·      Take the bus or Trax to get downtown.


If you tackle this list, you will be doing A LOT to help clean up our bad air. And that will help protect our wildlife and BEARS too.


There are other things you can do to help limit our energy use, which helps our environment overall:


·      Turn off the lights when you leave a room;

·      When you turn on the water, run it only as long as you need it;

·      Don’t leave power cords plugged into the wall unless you are charging something.


If you think you and your family members can do one or more of these ideas, please stand up …


Wow, thank you! That was a nice showing of support, thank you!


I would like to share with you that Salt Lake City government – which has about 3,000 workers, who sit in a lot of different buildings and drive a lot of cars – is trying to take more proactive steps to reduce energy consumption in all city facilities. We are doing some of the things I just listed. In fact, City government is committed to leading by example.


Let me give you one example: Another measure we’ve taken in City government is to conduct more of our regular daily business online. Where it used to be that if someone wanted to get approval for building a new building, they would have to come downtown to city hall and show us their plans on paper, now we can do it all electronically. We have estimated that one-third of these plan approvals are now done online, which is saving people from driving an estimated 312,000 miles and emitting 458,000 pounds of carbon monoxide each year just to come to City Hall. Every little bit adds up! 


What we’re doing to be more energy aware in City government will help us be better caretakers of the environment, but it also saves the City and taxpayers money.


Let’s grab another wish from the fishbowl …




Okay, so now let’s go back to the topic of our natural environment. My second ray of the sun is Nature. I want to talk about what we have around us outdoors that we can enjoy – and that we should take care of. Like air, keeping the outdoors clean and safe is one of the best ways we can take care of our neighbors and our community and make sure that everyone has access to the beauty around us.


We are lucky enough to live in a place where outdoor fun is all around us. We are surrounded by mountains, deserts, and a river and streams that run right through our valley. There are lots of places we can go and play outdoors – whether we’re kids or adults. There are places we can go to just enjoy the beautiful scenery or to have picnics with family or friends.


The outdoor places in our city are full of surprises. There are even some that people BARELY know about. Right near here, on 8th South and 5th East, there’s an aquifer – a natural source of water – where people go and fill their bottles with water that comes straight from the ground. You will be getting a special water bottle today as a gift from the Mayor’s office, and I encourage you to go and fill it up at the aquifer.


While we’re on the topic, I’d like to say a quick word about the importance of water: Water is the lifeblood of our community. We live in a very dry place, where water is precious. Most of our water comes from our mountains, and most of that comes from melting snow that we capture when it runs off the mountains.


We have relied on melted snow for our water supply for a long time, but we have to be careful. The more pollution we humans create by how we live, and the more pollution that some of the big factories around us create, the less snow we will have in the future. And the less snow we have, the less water we will have. We need to be smart about how we live and we need to take care of our mountains, or else we will put our water supply in danger. It’s kind of like “The Lorax” – we have to speak for our water like the Lorax spoke for the trees.


This year, I will be talking a lot about connecting school kids like you to nature. I will be encouraging you to explore and enjoy more outdoors. It’s not only beautiful, fun and where your water comes from, but the outdoors is where your air gets replenished … and it’s where the moose and BEARS live too!


Time for another wish!



Mobility is the next ray of the sun.


Mobility, or how we get around, is very important. A lot of people know me as the Mayor who rides his bike to work. It’s true, I ride my bike all over the city – and I’m usually dressed like this. I’ve worked pretty hard in recent years to make biking easier and safer in our city.


People ALSO know me as the Mayor who wants to add more streetcars, and have our buses and Trax trains run more frequently and for longer hours. That’s true too. Transportation modes – like buses, streetcars and Trax – are what we call public transit choices. I will continue to work very hard to provide more public transit choices for getting around our city – not just because it gets cars off the road and helps the air, but because it is a fairness issue.


More public transit choices give more people access to schools, jobs, and downtown events. If we want a city that treats people fairly, we have to make sure there are opportunities for everyone to get around. It shouldn’t have to be a requirement that every family owns a car. Cars are expensive. We want people to have choices, and that’s why I’m working to get more streetcar lines, and to expand bus and Trax service.


We have a few more wishes and a few more rays of the sun to cover.




This next ray of the sun is something all of you can understand and relate to – it’s about housing, or having a place to live.


Having a place to live that is affordable – meaning your family has enough money to pay for it – is one of the most basic needs that we all have. Salt Lake City is about to do something pretty big and new. We are working on a brand new program that will make sure housing is available throughout the city for those who most need a home – for example, people with disabilities and people with lower incomes.


This program, which we plan to announce in the next couple of weeks, is especially important to me, as Mayor, for two reasons: First, because it keeps people living in the city, and I like that. I think a strong city has lots of neighborhoods with stores and restaurants and, of course, lots of different people who can afford to live there. And second, this is a really special way the city can treat people with fairness – by making sure there are places to live that cost a reasonable amount of money for people who don’t have a lot.


We’re a little more than halfway through my speech, so who would like to stand up and wiggle for a minute? Is it wiggle time? [Mayor leads and MODELS wiggle time!]


Feel better? I do. Wiggling is one of those BARE necessities!


Okay, before we hit on the next ray of our sun, let’s hear another wish.


Are you ready for another wish?




Education is our next ray of the sun.


Maybe the most important part of fairness is making sure that everyone of you – and all the other school kids in Salt Lake City – has the opportunity to get an education. Schools are really important. The School Board and the Salt Lake City School District are doing a great job of ensuring that we have new schools where we need them.


One of the places where we need a new school is in our downtown, which is an important neighborhood. Downtown Salt Lake City now has a growing population, which is great. We want people to live in the central core of our city. With the great efforts of the School Board and the Salt Lake City School District, we will be working to ensure that we have multiple school options for our downtown families, so that young people who are living downtown and having children won’t have to move out just to be closer to a school.


Superintendent of Schools McKell Withers and School Board Chair Heather Bennett are with us this morning. Thank you for all your great work. Education leaders like you – and like the administrators and teachers here at Whittier – are helping to shape the future leaders and citizens of our city.


Okay, time for one of our last few wishes.


Economic Prosperity


Now we’re on the second to last ray of our sun, which is economic prosperity.


The term “economic prosperity” is one of those big adult terms. It’s a fancy way of saying whether we have enough money to do what we need to do – which is very important. Let me try and make it easy for you to understand economic prosperity for Salt Lake City.


Just about everything the city does takes money. When economic prosperity happens, it means we have enough money to do the things we NEED to do and also the things that we as a community WANT to do. Just like in your family.


The city collects money called taxes from businesses and people in order to pay for all the things we NEED to do – like support police and firefighters for our neighborhoods, and also snowplows and garbage trucks. Those are just a few examples. And when we budget our money efficiently, we can do the things we WANT to do as well. Examples of things we WANT to do are more programs that ensure fairness, like the housing program I mentioned, or some of the cool things you can see and do in our city – like the Leonardo, where I hope you’ve all been to visit, or the new performing arts center that is being built downtown.


We want a city where stores and restaurants are busy with customers, and where people have good-paying jobs and can live comfortably in their homes. We want businesses to have enough money to grow, and we want families to have enough money to do what they need to do AND enough for some fun things also. If we can achieve this, in an environment of fairness, then I can BARELY complain.


Okay, only one more wish.




Our final ray of the sun is the idea of civility – or how we behave and treat each other.


I enforce civility as a rule, which I would compare to your school’s anti-bullying rule. It’s the same thing. Civility means working together cooperatively even when we disagree, and it means that in dealing with others, you always treat them with respect. This is the standard we hold ourselves to in city government.


Civility is so important to me that I even created a Civility Pledge, which is something we ask people from the community who work with us in City Hall to sign. It’s a promise that they will behave nicely and treat others with respect at all times.


I want to acknowledge our City Council member, Charlie Luke, for his antibullying efforts on behalf of kids – AND for the civility with which he conducted Council business during his term as Council Chair last year. Thank you, Charlie.


You guys have been a great audience, so thank you for BEARing with me.


I love the wishes you shared with me, and – like all the ideas we get in City Hall – I will make sure we take yours into account as we make decisions for our city.


I hope you learned a few things today about how the city works and what the Mayor does. And if there was one thing I would want you to remember about your city government, it is that we want to make things as fair as possible. We have our jobs to do – delivering city services and planning for the future – but we try to do those with the spotlight of fairness shining on our work every day.


Let me leave you with one final thought: In this room, there is very likely at least one of you who will be a Mayor or who will run for public office someday. But I’m hoping that, no matter what, all of you will get involved in your communities. So, as you go through your school years, and hopefully continue your education, I encourage you – actually, I challenge you! – to take pride and ownership in where you live as if you were going to be Mayor one day. This is your city!


Thank you.