Estimated read time: 22-23 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Five Salt Lake City Council districts are up for election this year.
Most Salt Lake City voters got their ballot in the mail last week, and this coming November Utah's capital city could see some new representation.
Ranked choice voting
Salt Lake City is one of several Utah municipalities turning to ranked choice voting for the upcoming election. The process was approved by the City Council in April, and lets voters list their preferred candidates rather than choosing only one.
The candidate who receives the majority of first-preference votes is declared the winner. However, if no one wins a majority, the candidate with the least first-preference votes is eliminated.
First-preference votes for the eliminated candidate are deemed null, the voters' second-choice candidate is then elevated, and a new count is tallied — if a candidate receives a majority in the updated total, they are declared the winner. If there is no clear majority among the remaining candidates, the process is repeated until there is.
Ballots need to be postmarked by Nov. 1 or dropped off in a ballot box by Nov. 2.
Meet the 19 candidates running for Salt Lake City Council
The following districts are up for reelection:
- District 1 — From I-15 and 900 West to 8525 West, and from I-80 to 2500 North. Includes the Rose Park and Jordan Meadows neighborhoods, the Salt Lake International Airport and Utah State Fairgrounds.
- District 2 — From I-15 to 7455 West and from I-80 to 2100 South. Includes Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods and the Jordan River Parkway and trail.
- District 3 — From I-15 to North Campus Drive and from South Temple to the border of Davis County. Includes the Avenues, Capitol Hill and Marmalade neighborhoods, Temple Square and City Creek Canyon.
- District 5 — From 900 South to 2100 South, and from I-15 to 1300 East. Includes the Ballpark and Liberty Wells neighborhoods and Liberty Park.
- District 7 — From 500 East to Foothill Drive and parts of 1700 South to parts of 3000 South. Includes the Sugar House neighborhood, Brickyard Plaza and Sugar House and Tanner parks.
The Deseret News reached out to all 19 candidates in the race, asking for a short statement, three issues they are prioritizing and their campaign website. Districts are presented in numerical order, and each candidate is listed in alphabetical order within their respective district.
The District 1 debate featured candidates Richard D. M. Barnes and Victoria Petro-Eschler. Councilman James Rodgers stepped down in early October to focus on his family, leaving a seat open.
The debate started with both candidates agreeing that the city's current approach to homelessness needs work, although they had different ideas for solutions — Barnes pointed to a bed and breakfast-type solution in England, while Petro-Eschler wants to see a "three-year homeless crisis plan."
The candidates then moved to talk about understaffing within the Salt Lake City Police Department, and Barnes called the defund the police movement a "horrible mistake." Petro-Eschler said the movement had terrible marketing, but there were "kernels of truth" to it.
On the issue of high rental and housing costs, Barnes said the free market will work itself out, while Petro-Eschler said she hopes to bring developers to the table and that a mixed-use strategy is the solution. Both candidates also expressed reservations about the location of the new Utah State Prison, but acknowledged it's a reality for District 1 moving forward.
Blake Perez declined to participate in the debate.
"A debate about our district, put on by organizations that don't have a stake in our neighborhoods, is not where my campaign chose to put its time the very day ballots began hitting mailboxes. That evening, I chose to speak with voters directly — at their doorsteps — instead of spending time participating in a debate that wasn't even targeted specifically to viewers in the district," Perez said in a statement.
- Air quality.
- Housing affordability.
"I'm running because I want to improve and protect the health, well-being, and prosperity of our District 1 neighborhoods. Whether you live in Rose Park or Westpointe or Jordan Meadows, you deserve to breathe clean air, your children deserve to have safe, green spaces to play in, and affordability should not be an obstacle to putting down roots here in our community. As the former chair of the Rose Park Community Council, I have a track record of delivering results that have helped to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. As a former transportation planner for Salt Lake City, I know why a keen eye on our budget matters. My experience as a community organizer leading important projects for our community and experience as a city staffer gaining a better understanding of our city's process will make me the best councilmember for our district."
Richard D. M. Barnes
- Supporting the police.
- Protecting the environment.
"I believe that I can represent we the people of SLC District One as your ambassador on our Salt Lake City Council because this is my home. I know this area, and have also visited a lot of airports, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, and natural areas, and am continually studying geology and other forms of earth science and history. I have served as your District 23 Republican Legislative Chair for a very long time. My wife, Brenda, and I often enjoy live theater performances, movies, and the visual arts as well. I also teach/have taught heraldry, flag design, Viking Runes, and other topics, and enjoy creating my own art as well.
"Please select me as your number one, or at least number two choice on your ballot."
- Public Safety.
- Economic Opportunity.
"I am from New York, but grew up as an Army brat in Europe. Shortly after moving here in 2013, I realized I wanted to put down roots in SLC. I've been devoting myself to community building since then. I decided to run after the bridge fire earlier this year. When the bridge burned and creosote fell from the sky and neighbors wondered why their asthma was acting up, there was a notable void in communication from the city. I am running for this position to make sure our voice is not just heard, but listened to and responded to."
The District 2 debate featured candidates Alejandro Puy, Billy Palmer, Nigel Swaby and incumbent Dennis Faris, who was appointed in May after Councilman Andrew Johnston stepped down to become the mayor's director of homelessness policy and outreach.
The debate began with talk of food deserts, with all candidates agreeing the district needs more grocery stores, and that gentrification is a big issue. And while all candidates agreed on the recent pay raise for the Salt Lake City Police Department, some went after the council for not implementing it earlier, and promoting a rhetoric that contributed to officers leaving.
Candidates found agreement that the city's homeless strategy needs rethinking, although the solutions varied, and that education is integral to conserving water.
Daniel Tuutau did not participate in the debate, citing a prior conflict with the Utah Opera Chorus, and was performing at the Capitol Theatre.
- Affordable housing, gentrification, and displacement.
- Homelessness, housing, mental health, and its complexities.
- Crime, safety and policing.
"If elected, I promise to be a council member who will listen to the community, a council member who understands our everyday issues and advocates to make our city look west. For me it's about action and solutions, it is time to get things done. Some of the issues I am focused on are homelessness, crime, affordable housing, gentrification and displacement, safety, community policing, roads, potholes, speeding, lights, and parks."
- Affordable housing for all incomes.
- Community policing.
- Street safety.
"Born on the west side, I grew up in our neighborhoods and was shaped by our community. I share the same frustrations, but offer more than a list of complaints. I have presented a shared vision for the Westside and real solutions for our future.
"With ranked choice voting, I ask voters to compare all the candidates and their records, plans, and endorsements. You'll find I have the longest history serving our west-side neighborhoods. You'll see that I have the broadest experience, the most comprehensive plans, and the deepest ties to our community. This has earned me the most support among our westside community leaders because I'm best positioned to be an effective advocate and fight for all of us on the City Council.
"Please visit billypalmerSLC.com and rank Billy Palmer #1 on your ballot. Most importantly, please vote!"
- Community participation and inclusion.
- Economic development.
- Public safety: Homelessness and public services.
"I am not a career politician looking at this as a stepping stone to other bigger and better things. I am just a neighbor who wants to see the best for our west-side community. My campaign is based on the principles of strengthening individuals, families and businesses. Any decision that contributes to those principles will be good for our district. My top priority is better representation by getting more community involvement. Working with the Pacific Island Business Alliance has shown me how important it is to get marginalized people to the table where decisions are made. And honestly, everyone living west of I-15 has been marginalized in one way or the other. With a better presence of community involvement, we can better address other pressing issues such as economic improvement, public safety, affordable housing, the inland port and our parks and streets."
- Affordable housing.
- Public safety.
- Community green space.
"Dennis Faris is the Councilmember for Salt Lake City District 2, and was appointed to the City Council on May 13, 2021 to replace Councilmember Andrew Johnston. Dennis is a veteran who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the first Gulf War after high school.
"In addition to working as the Business & Community Engagement Liaison for Volunteers of America, Dennis served as the chair and the vice chairman of the Poplar Grove Community Council for over 10 years, and was a founding member of the Westside Coalition, bringing together all six west-side community councils to work together on issues. Dennis also served as a board member of the River District Business Alliance, and helped provide leadership to reorganize the Salt Lake Community Network."
"Dennis has lived in the Poplar Grove neighborhood for 18 years with his wife Katherine, his son Myles, and their sweet pup, Sophie."
- Public Safety.
- Homeless Issues.
- Inland Port.
"Residents tell me public safety and homelessness top the list of challenges to the city. To me, public safety includes crime, fire and auto/pedestrian safety. We have an officer shortage in Salt Lake City and a problem with both jail space and prosecutions. The first step is to rebuild our police force. Salt Lake City should lead when it comes to salaries and that should help with recruiting experienced officers from other departments. We should expand the Ambassador program to get more uniforms on the streets. We should hire private security to protect public property like parks and other real estate assets. The latter two steps will reduce calls to police, reduce fires and send a message to criminals that Salt Lake is no longer a good place to do business."
The District 3 debate featured candidates David Berg, Casey O'Brien McDonough and incumbent Chris Wharton.
The debate was centered around housing prices and development, with candidates taking on issues like high-density building, low-income areas and affordable housing. Berg targeted Wharton several times for the city's metrics for affordable housing and accused him of taking money from developers. Wharton defended the city's metric and encouraged constituents to look at his campaign's financial disclosures.
The discussion then moved to homelessness, acknowledging that the district doesn't have a homeless shelter but still grapples with homelessness. O'Brien McDonough likened the city's approach to a revolving door that isn't effective. The candidates also touched on public safety, drought and air quality, and consensus remained elusive.
- Public safety.
- The environment.
"My job as your elected official is to talk to you, understand what you want and don't want, understand what you care about, and represent you accordingly. I must ensure that you are as well informed as possible, that you have as much opportunity to make comments and have your voice heard at every level of our city government. I must be constantly engaged with you so I know what you are thinking and so I know you are as informed as you want or need to be. If I believe there is a plan or proposal that is a good idea, then it is my responsibility to inform you about it and convince you it is the right thing to do. If I can't convince you, I may express my disagreement, but in the end, I must always vote in the way that best represents your wishes and desires. You are my constituent and my purpose is to represent you. Property owners, developers, business or other interests are important to our district and should always be considered, but you and residents in our district must come first, not money or special interests."
- Affordable housing.
- Public safety.
"Chris is the City Councilmember for District 3. He is also an attorney and small business owner. As a sixth-generation resident of Salt Lake City, he has deep roots in the community."
"Chris uses his skills as an attorney to advocate for clean air and defend the city's watershed. Chris has also supported unprecedented investments in affordable housing and in other equity initiatives throughout the city. He has prioritized neighborhood safety at all levels from 911 response times to traffic calming initiatives. Chris has also been a champion for arts, parks, trails and historic preservation."
"At the same time, Chris set a new standard for accountability and responsiveness to residents. As chair of the City Council in 2020, Chris helped lead the city's response to the pandemic, the earthquake, and the hurricane-force windstorm."
"Chris lives with his husband in the Marmalade District."
- Electoral reform to get corrupting money out of politics.
- Addressing the roots of homelessness with compassion and a housing-first approach.
- Clean air and water.
"SLC faces difficult issues but with determination and innovative solutions I believe we're up to the challenge.
"We need to move toward publicly funded campaigns like those in Denver and Seattle. Our current system puts too much emphasis on pursuing the almighty dollar, at the expense of constituent concerns and priorities, which too often take a back seat to priorities of large developers and monied interests."
"For truly affordable housing we need to switch to measuring affordability using FPL — Federal Poverty Level ($12,880-$26,500), which better represents the reality of those caught in our housing crunch. SLC currently measures affordability using AMI — Area Median Income ($64,600-$92,900), a reflection of the wealth gap and income inequality within our city. We can build more housing while also preserving our historic places, neighborhood character and green space, especially if we first focus on infill and adding to underutilized properties."
The District 5 debate featured candidates Amy J. Hawkins, George Chapman, Sarah Reale, Vance Hansen and incumbent Darin Mano.
The candidates kicked off the debate talking about homelessness, focusing on Mayor Erin Mendenhall's recent decision to stop the development of a homeless shelter within the district. Generally, candidates agreed that the proposal lacked transparency and that the city should not build an additional shelter in the area.
Champan took a tough-on-crime approach, differing from Reale and Mano who emphasized compassion. Hawkins said homeless camps allow "drug dealers to hide in plain sight," and the solution is affordable housing.
The debate then shifted to public safety, with Mano pushing back on what he called a narrative that he doesn't care about crime, and that he supports further funding for the department. Chapman pointed to a lack of support from the city and county as a root to the department's woes, while other candidates agreed that identifying why officers are leaving is key.
Candidates found some consensus on housing prices, agreeing that some mix of high-density development could help, with the exception of Chapman, who opposed any kind of high-density buildings.
The debate closed with all candidates agreeing it is time for District 5 to have a public library.
- Increasing public safety in our neighborhoods and repairing our city's relationship with its police force.
- Working to make unsheltered homelessness brief and rare by creating opportunities for affordable housing and supporting our homeless resource centers.
- Creating safer and more accessible street crossings, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
"I'm running to be a strong voice for our community. My record of volunteer service and accomplishments shows that I do the work: leading the Ballpark Community Council for three years during a spike in violent crime, securing $500,000 from the city budget for safer street crossings and sidewalks, and fighting drug addiction by getting $150,000 of state funding for opioid education in Utah schools."
"In 2020, District 5 saw a 62% increase in violent crime, and a 250% increase in homicides. Over 100 officers have left our police department. In August 2021, the average time it took to respond to life-threatening emergencies was over 17 minutes. As the only candidate with an A+ rating from both our Salt Lake City police officers (FOP Lodge 29) and Equality Utah, I have the values and skills necessary to repair our city's relationship with its police force."
- Housing and homelessness.
- Arts parks and public spaces.
- Neighborhood development and transportation.
"I'm Darin Mano and it's been my honor to represent District 5 over the last 2 years. I'm ready for a full term on the council with (hopefully) fewer global and local emergencies. As the incumbent in this race, I am ready to get things done now. I have strong relationships with my colleagues in the council and mayor's offices who already see me as an urban design expert. Most importantly, I'm a problem solver and focused on solutions instead of problems. I'm more interested in talking about how to fix the issues we are experiencing than I am in finding someone to blame. As an architect, I'm trained to quickly learn about new issues, comprehend opportunities and constraints, and balance competing priorities in order to find the best possible solution. I'm the best choice on your ballot this year so please mark Darin Mano #1!"
- Police, crime and drugs.
- Open up the city to more single-family housing.
- Air quality.
"WE WANT TO REVERSE DEFUNDING SLC POLICE which the city council claimed and publicized in 2020. The city lacks over 100 officers to answer 911 sometimes resulting in 50 calls on hold and doubled response time."
"WE WANT TO ALLOW HOUSING IN MORE AREAS OF THE CITY and open up for housing, the tens of thousands of acres/80% of Salt Lake that does not allow housing. Only 12% of the City is zoned single family and that neighborhood character should be protected."
"WE WANT THE CITY COUNCIL TO STOP IGNORING DRUGS in parks and near schools, insist that the jail book and keep incarcerated drug dealers and use recommended drug dogs and walking police park patrols."
"WE WANT SLC TO ANALYZE PROJECTS FOR IMPACT ON AIR QUALITY to not increase pollution and speeding in adjacent streets. Salt Lake City should force UTA to implement $1 bus fares."
- Planning for growth with purpose.
- Climate change: Air quality and drought.
- Finding long-term solutions and support for our unsheltered population.
"When I started this campaign, I decided to walk every street in District 5. I wasn't canvassing, but walking, to see and learn about the district. It took over 40 days, and I covered 86.1 miles. So, if you live in the district — I have walked down your street."
"I am running to be an advocate for the residents of District 5. My greatest skills are in building bridges and connecting people and ideas together to find solutions. With an engaged community, we can plan for growth with purpose, tackle complex issues and find creative solutions — together."
"Let's Get Reale: I'm running to work for the residents of District 5. To truly represent them. To listen, to advocate and to take their voice to the city. To work with you. To work for you."
"I see you, I hear you, I've walked your street."
- Health and housing.
- Public safety.
"The reason I am running for office is to make a difference in the community, to try my upmost to leave it a better place for the future generations. I believe that everybody from all walks of life if they meet the legal requirements should be able to participate in their communities and run for office. Talent lies in many places and one way to bring it out would be to use the most unlikely assets."
The District 7 debate featured candidates Ben Raskin, Rainer Huck and incumbent Amy Fowler.
Both Fowler and Raskin agreed that cutting budgets is not a solution to effective policing, and Fowler pointed to the City Council's 2020 vote to increase pay for the department's officers. And both candidates pointed to alternative policing — things like increased social workers, more mental health resources and better training — as ways to improve community trust. Huck took a different tone, saying the city needs "a higher quality police force, less numbers" and expressed support for eliminating unmarked cruisers and SWAT teams.
The debate then moved to homelessness, zoning and development and high-density housing. Huck called his "homeless campus" a "perfect solution," while Fowler cautioned there is no "one-size-fits-all solution" and said the city needs more funding. Raskin pointed to more affordable housing as the answer.
All candidates agreed the city's Sugar House neighborhood is growing too fast, with Raskin calling for a moratorium on high-density development, echoed by Huck, and Fowler admitting she couldn't afford the house she currently lives in if she were looking to buy now.
On the issue of drought, Huck and Fowler clashed on ways to conserve water, while Raskin said developers need to prioritize water conservation when building.
Fowler said green building standards and encouraging walkability and bikeability "so people get out of their cars and stop driving" are key to reducing air pollution, while Raskin hopes to see more electric vehicles, more trees and more efficient buildings. Huck echoed Raskin on the potential for electric vehicles to reduce pollution.
- Public transportation.
- Public safety.
- Housing and homelessness.
"For the last four years I have advocated and worked for District 7 and all residents of Salt Lake City. I helped ensure the maintenance and improvements of Fairmont Park and the creation of Allen Park. I am a huge advocate of public transit and walkability in our community and pushed for the funding of both traffic calming measures throughout the district and phase two of the McClelland trail. And, I continue to work for the safety in our communities. I passed an increase in compensation for all of our first responders and succeeded in securing funds for a new alternative response model pilot program. And, this is just the beginning. I know there is a lot more work to get done, and I hope to be able to do it over the next four years."
- Improving and expanding our police department.
- Reducing homelessness.
- Preserving and protecting our open spaces, parks and trails.
"I'm running because I care deeply about our community. I'll be a responsive, engaged leader and make sure Sugar House is dynamically represented at City Hall."
"We have big challenges. Now is the time to focus on improving/expanding our police department, reduce the number of unhoused in the city, fight to protect/preserve our open spaces, streamline business licensing for local entrepreneurs, and work to expand community events throughout the district. This is an exceptionally exciting time for Salt Lake. Together, we can champion local businesses, improve municipal services and public safety, and become a model for other historic neighborhoods."
"I'll work tirelessly for District 7 and all Salt Lakers. It's time for a change — it's time to Start Askin' for Raskin."
- A homeless solution that will work: The homeless campus.
- Police accountability and transparency.
- Work towards racial harmony, not division.
"The Salt Lake City Council is badly lacking in diversity of thought and thus does not represent the interests of many constituents. On July 20th, Mayor Mendenhall and the entire council declared 'racism' to be a 'public health crisis.' I know it's become quite fashionable these days to blame everything on racism, but for a government to make such a declaration indicates they might have a bit of a tenuous connection with reality. All this institutional racism, together with the teaching of Critical Race Theory (which is anti-white racism in disguise), will have the effect of Balkanizing our country, which always leads to disaster."
"If we want to talk about real public health crises, how about homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness, obesity, cancer, heart disease, neurological diseases, and many other more pressing issues."