October 10, 2021

Billy Palmer, City Council D2 Candidate

Billy Palmer, City Council D2 Candidate
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By The West View

What qualifies you to represent your district?

Aside from my 50 years living on the Westside, what makes me most qualified is my experience fighting for and empowering our neighborhoods, and my relationships within our community. That history matters and it’s why I’ve earned the support of our Westside elected officials and community leaders. 

Identify two key issues that you are concerned about. As a city council member, what specific actions will you take to address those issues?

Among the many issues facing the Westside and our city, we need a broader vision that understands how our social and economic challenges are connected so we can truly address their causes and find real solutions. Community empowerment and equity should drive our policies on affordable housing, homelessness, development, and public safety. 

On homelessness, we must approach the issue from a human level, redefine how we measure capacity, and innovate better solutions because everyone knows what we have now is not working. We must make our resource centers more robust, increase the number of beds available for individuals and families, improve coordination among service providers, and develop further outreach and wrap-around services to deal with those individuals who refuse to enter shelters due to trauma, mental health, or addiction. 

Our housing policies must provide options across all incomes. We cannot concentrate all the city’s low-income housing on the Westside. Our city must develop and incentivize inclusionary housing projects to offer affordable, mixed-income housing, giving people their neighborhood of choice and developing a viable consumer base to foster, attract and support businesses on the Westside. Through home ownership and economic growth, we can empower our community and make a more equitable city.

As our city grows, we must also focus on public safety and sustainability. As our city grows larger, our transportation and infrastructure priorities serve as real measures of equity. Our Westside neighborhoods deserve equitable infrastructure, which includes our roads, bridges, power grid, Internet access, sewer system, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Our Westside neighborhoods deserve a transportation system that is affordable, accessible and convenient. Our Westside neighborhoods deserve safe streets for everyone who uses our roads and sidewalks.

These key issues of community empowerment and equity are where I’ll focus my efforts as your next council member.

What is your background, and what motivated you to run?

I’ve lived on the Westside my whole life. My childhood included evictions and homelessness, but I learned the value of community through YouthWorks and have been fighting for the Westside ever since. I’ve heard many longtime Westsiders reflect on what we’ve lost, and many newer Westsiders want to see those same things return. We need a council member with a history rooted in the Westside, who has a real record getting things done, and who can offer an inspiring vision for our Westside. With support from our community leaders, I decided to run because Westside neighborhoods and families deserve more. 

Identify an example where you had to make a choice between doing what was right and what was popular/politically expedient.

In Utah, I often find myself advancing social causes that are unpopular in this state. Launching the Poor People’s Campaign to fight against poverty, Marching for Women’s Rights, co-founding Racially Just Utah to fight against the school-to-prison pipeline, protesting for Marriage Equality – most of my community-based advocacy work has been against the grain here in Utah. Much of it is before movements have gained their momentum, like my hosting radio conversations on sexual assault or lifting trans voices on KRCL. These examples show a strong moral compass, and my record shows I will always do the right thing for our Westside neighborhoods and community. 

If you are elected, how will you engage with your constituents to know their needs/concerns?

Much of my advocacy and community work has been centered on the Westside and has always been intentionally based within our community. The nature of this work is driven by the needs and concerns of our Westside community. The development of the Glendale Library is an instructive example of how to envision and develop a project on the Westside: you reach out to people where they are and engage them in meaningful conversations. I was part of those conversations and know that community needs and concerns informed the building we now enjoy. 

The process of community engagement involves understanding our community and having relationships rooted in our Westside neighborhoods. Communication has to be more than the occasional email or notice on your water bill. We need a council member that reaches out to neighbors and cares about what they say. If elected, I will press the city for better outreach and engagement systems in our city, I will always reach out to neighbors directly, so I stay true to our community, and ensure that Westside vacancies on city boards and commissions are filled. Community engagement will be a major focus for me because I believe representation matters and community engagement is how we all have a seat at the table.