I haven’t written an Op-Ed piece in years, but after reading Chris Warton’s words in the October 5th City Weekly endorsing his ‘boss’, current Mayor Mendenhall, I feel I have to correct him and point out the flaws in his argument that we should all vote for her. Chris is my representative at City Council and my wife and I have a warm space for him in our hearts. When the day came that gay marriage became legal in Utah, my dear Mormon friend and attorney called me immediately and said “Get down to the County Clerk NOW!”. Despite a winter snowstorm outside, we raced down there with so many other couples, filled out our forms and waited to get married. We were second in line behind Jim Debakis and his former husband, and when it was our turn to pay the fee we were asked “Who married you?”. Oops, we forgot about that minor detail but heard that a multitude of religious folk and officiants were downstairs waiting to marry anyone needing assistance. There stood Chris in a smart suit and bowtie, and with a few words and an invisible magic wand, POOF! We ran upstairs with our paperwork signed, and the rest is history. Fast forward from 2013 to now and my wife and I are grateful for that day and Chris himself but even more grateful for Rocky Anderson for fighting for our right to be married long before Chris had facial hair.
As our City hall representative in District 3 we generally agree with his voting record about our City and it’s future. I’m not sure he was old enough to vote when Rocky ran for office, but I’d like to point out that if Rocky was such an awful leader, how did he get elected to serve two terms for our city from 2000-2008? Chris points out that during his term he fired many staffers and picked fights with everybody. I applauded his ‘kick-ass’ style as he is a guy who doesn’t stand for laziness or mediocracy in his own life and in the people who work for and around him. Many of those employees could not keep up with the huge amount of work needed to move our city from ‘sleepy town’ to what has become one of the fastest growing cities in America. I served under him as a volunteer Planning and Zoning Commissioner and often listened to his vision and insight that our city was rapidly becoming much more diverse in population and the separation of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ was becoming more and more obvious every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate our current Mayor. I currently serve under her as volunteer Chair of the Historic Landmarks Commission in helping to preserve our precious historic neighborhoods, buildings, etc. We agree that this is something that adds to our local beauty and helps to preserve parts of our historic culture and creativity. I have never sat down and had a conversation between us and I don’t know her other than what we all see or read about her in the news. I give her props for financial management and having a terrific staff, some of whom were hired during Rocky’s term. But, and this is a big one, she is a complete failure when it comes to helping to solve the unsheltered issues we’re facing. I’m afraid she’s been caught in innumerable falsehoods, from the number of people who died on the streets here last winter to the amount of affordable housing units she’s helped to create. Rocky has spent the last few years actually ON the streets, befriending the men and women, the ‘have not’s’ of our city. He’s been there in snow storms and horrible heat not just dropping off water bottles but assisting folks in getting them to the right social services, helping to get an ID at the Fairpark, a job or housing. Mendenhall’s response to the fast growing numbers of unsheltered is to push them from one block to another. And how this is done is horrific. Random volunteers like my wife collect clothing, food, tents, blankets and such and distribute it to the street people. When the abatements come down, and they come quickly, all of the personal belongings these people have amassed is bulldozed and thrown in dumpsters, leaving them again, with nothing. Those that have jobs and must leave their shelters while they work, come ‘home’ to nothing once a street has been cleared. No one has tallied up the financial cost of these abatements, let alone the human cost.
Last winter here was especially brutally cold. Our Mayor failed to provide an emergency shelter downtown. First United Methodist Church on 203 S. 200 East stepped up and said ‘we’ve got heat, let them come here for shelter’! Volunteers rallied a wonderful group of folks who worked with the church to be open from dark to morning, providing food, bathrooms, water, and mats to sleep. It was wonderful and saved lives. Rocky was at the church night after night serving coffee and taking the time to get to know the guests. Mendenhall offered no support, but when the cry for help was noticed by the press, she asked the volunteers to also volunteer at a local rec center she was going to open as an emergency shelter, never offering to staff it with her paid employees. Chris Wharton, Mayor Mendenall and other members of the City Council stayed warm and dry in their homes.
We are team Rocky because he will get Sh-t done like he has before and we will all benefit from his passion and experience with the less fortunate in our City. And maybe we’ll see you on the streets this winter serving coffee and offering real assistance, too in your smart suit and bow tie? And for those of you reading, it’s too late to register to vote. PLEASE encourage others who give a Sh-t to get to the polls this Nov. 21st and vote ROCKY!