March 25, 2021
  • Opinion

Grading Mayor Mendenhall’s ‘report card’

Photo by Michael Hart on Unsplash
Photo by Michael Hart on Unsplash|||| Photo by Michael Hart on Unsplash|||| ||||
By Dorothy Owen

With the start of the new year, Mayor Mendehall issued the first “Salt Lake City Annual Progress Report Card.” The results are commendable.

Rather than letter grades, the report card uses a color-coded system of green (completed), yellow (in process) and red (delayed/not done). It addresses three broad areas of challenge: harnessing growth, promoting environmental resilience/stewardship and developing inclusive communities.

The report identifies 57 specific tasks that are distributed nearly equally among those three challenge areas, 27 of which were scheduled to be completed within the first 100 days with the remaining 30 tasks to be finished in the first year. Of the 27 tasks that were to be undertaken during the first 100 days, 55% were completed, 33% remained in progress, and 11% (3) had been delayed. Of the 30 remaining first-year tasks, 23% were completed while 40% were either delayed or not done.

All told, this is a remarkable achievement for a new administration, particularly since a global pandemic, an earthquake, a hurricane-strength wind storm, a homelessness crisis and widespread social justice protests caused massive distractions during this time. The outcome warrants well-deserved recognition that city governance is very demanding and requires a well-trained, supported and committed workforce reflecting the diversity of people being served.

Tasks related to environmental challenges appear most impacted by the tumultuous events of 2020, with 6 of the 11 objectives graded “red” and 3 of 11 graded “yellow.” Only two of these were completed — one being planting 1,000 trees on the west side. Of particular concern — and not completed — are the two Inland Port objectives addressing growth, environment and equity concerns.

While most objectives apply to all Salt Lake City residents broadly, a number are of particular importance to west-side residents, including affordable housing, homelessness, equity and inclusion. The report’s conclusion on the last two of these is especially commendable: growth was equitable (“for the good of every resident”), and communities demonstrated “inclusive opportunities for all.”

The report card also identifies several west-side projects. These include the successful tree-planting initiative in west-side neighborhoods, expanding youth programs in the northwest area of the city, holding roundtables to better understand west-side businesses and funding a year-round public market on the west side.

Also included are broader, far-reaching efforts such as changing west-side master plans, analyzing the “impacts of Inland Port development on transportation and the environment” and negotiating to ensure “Northwest quadrant development is leading-edge and reflective of the City’s social and environmental goals.”

For the coming year, the Mayor’s Office has released the framework of its second progress report card, characterized as an annual work plan to “recharge, reset, rebound.” The growth, environment and community framework continues, and a fourth area — supporting employees’ physical, mental,and economic well-being — was added.

This new plan expands to 124 objectives. To make navigation easier, objectives are grouped into 20 categories including innovation, community-engaged development, intentional equity and emergency preparedness.

To learn more, read the Mayor’s 2021 plan at  https://www.slc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2021-Plan.pdf.

Dorothy Owen is a board member of the Westside Coalition and Chair of Westpointe Community Council.