Design: Joshua Joye
With the mayoral election only days away, the race has become a high-profile contest as nice guy Dave has been making the “subtle” distinction between who is a doer and who is a dreamer. While Dave readily admits that, for the most part, both he and Ralph share the same common concerns and solutions to the problems at hand, it’s only Dave’s intelligently designed to-do lists that will see the city through its post-Rocky period. Ralph, on the other hand, with his maze of ideas and basket of blueprints, challenges Dave’s can-do attitude with a dose of realism and a surly picture of downtown rising. Ralph’s main charge to Dave’s idealism is that planning (and lots of it!) makes perfect.
If you haven’t been keeping up with Salt Lake’s political sitcom, then you have been missing out on some wonderful programming. First, a bit about their Utah credentials: both candidates are Utah boys through and through. Dave was born and raised in Salt Lake and received a Masters in public administration from BYU while Ralph has distinguished himself at the University of Utah with a Masters in geography/planning. Ralph has also served his civic duty as a garbage man, firefighter and park ranger for the National Park Service. Dave, on the other hand, has stayed behind the scenes and has worked in various governmental capacities as a member of the University of Utah Board of Trustees, Utah Heritage Foundation Board of Directors, etc. for the past 20-plus year of his life. Both also currently hold adjunct professorships at the U in architecture and planning, and political science, respectively.
The four main issues that rub our prickly politicians raw are education, environment, community and revitalizing downtown. While both agree that school vouchers will hurt the children and might reduce educational standards through a privatized free-for-all, their main disagreement over education stems over what area of focus to concentrate on. For Dave, community-centric father figure, education begins at home and furthermore is strengthened and bolstered by strong community support. As the old African proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” or in Dave’s estimation, a community. If we strengthen our communities, everything else will follow. Ralph takes a more bureaucratic approach to education, as he believes that those educating the future business leaders of tomorrow should be held accountable for whether they succeed or not. In Ralph’s educational establishment, it’s monthly meetings between principals, the mayor and city government, coupled with business partnerships, that will open the floodgates of opportunity to every child, rich or poor, black or white. It’s unclear as to how the cause of better communities will trickle down to effect the idealized intellectual endeavors of kids or how cutting out teachers and parents from these monthly meeting between administrators of education and business partners will work to secure a better tomorrow or even concern among those getting taught.
Buck for buck, Ralph has Dave beat on the issue of the environment. Dave focuses his green grip on recycling, whether it’s expanding its reach or making more glass recycling facilities. While this is an admirable goal, it doesn’t go far enough in linking the “go green” mantra with neighborhoods, communities or the city as a whole. Granted, Dave also wants LEED certification on city buildings and is trying to spearhead a “save the trees” initiative, these all seem like he is angling for small fish in a big pond. Ralph, on the other hand, makes a strong “greenprint” for an integrated structure of renewable energy, alternative transportation, water conservation and much more, the idea being that sustainability should not only start in our fair city but that it affects our home life and the way we live and interact. The main charge levied against both, however, is how does someone do it efficiently without getting bogged down in the big, business politics that have so far retarded a sustainable turn?
Finally, in the area of downtown and community, both seem to make similar stances in that you can’t have the above benefits of education and environment without the strong foundation of a great downtown and thriving neighborhoods and communities. Interestingly, on Ralph’s website, the separate hyperlinks describing his community plan and his downtown ideas both link to the same page. For Ralph this means open spaceways, affordable living, clean, drug-free, walkable neighborhoods and communities, as well as a focus on sustainability, art and culture and a night life that will make Salt Lake, “Sin” Lake City (or at least a bit more livelier and interesting to be downtown nights and weekends). Not surprisingly, Dave wants the same things as Ralph but his focus is more on an expansive downtown with its own cultural and nightlife district, a TRAX line with far-reaching fingers and a commitment to local business that will provide the backbone of a culturally interesting city.
With the gap between the supposed political extremes closing rapidly, Ralph and Dave have a lot more in common than in conflict. Both are strong supporters of the community and have a vested interested in seeing downtown flourish, both share similar ideals in education and both are committed to lowering the shoe size of Utah’s carbon footprint. For more information regarding their platform, politics and what each political personality is up to, check out daveformayor.org for Dave Buhler and ralphbecker.com for none other than Ralph Becker. Don’t forget to vote for mayor of Salt Lake on November 6th. Check out slco.org/clerk/elections/ for the location of your polling place.