October 10, 2021

Victoria Petro-Eschler, City Council D1 Candidate

Victoria Petro-Eschler, City Council D1 Candidate
|||| |||| ||||
By The West View

What qualifies you to represent your district?

I have lived here since 2013 and run a music-based nonprofit that gives our community’s kids a safe place to be after school. As our district’s Historic Landmarks Representative since 2017, I effectively use my master’s in political science and refined experience advocating for the people and places I love.

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

Homelessness - I propose we implement a three-year crisis management plan that focuses on bringing order to the current situation, offering hope to those who are homeless and security to the residents of our communities. We need to conduct a clear needs assessment, gathering data on the actual state of the crisis, and generate a comprehensive plan for addressing it. As part of the plan, the city needs to outline the issues that are within the city’s purview and capacity to address and clearly outline the work the county and state will need to supplement. During this crisis management stage, the infrastructure must be developed to address the various constituencies within our homeless community. Once the crisis is stabilized and infrastructure is built, the following timeframe needs to be marked by a sustainable action plan and specific MOU’s between the county, state, and city to ensure future management of the issue.

Economic Development - We are home to the most innovative (and often most delicious) entrepreneurs in the city. The tamales from the Smith’s parking lot alone deserve their own storefront. I want to work for an economic development strategy that creates abundant opportunity for local business owners to grow their ideas to prosperity. Equitable opportunities should be the norm for our district. As a Westside council member, I will ensure that the RDA and Economic Development department invests in us, rather than trying to fix us or save us, as can be the default. I am excited at the idea that the growth of our neighborhood could mean walkable eateries and coffee shops and boutiques. I am determined to ensure that our residents can be part of the growth and see a sustainable future for themselves here!

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

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.

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

As the executive director of a small nonprofit, messaging is so important. As our program grew, there was the pressure to “get to the point” and rely on stereotypes as the basis for asking for money. This accepted practice paints the Westside families we serve as coming from poverty or being disadvantaged. Other nonprofits who work in Westside schools talk about our kids as being “disadvantaged” or “underserved.” It is a popular and accepted practice, but I always knew it was not right.

Early on, I recognized my privilege to do the work I do, serving the most amazing young people and their families on the Westside through afterschool music programs. I chose not to define them by deficits - rather by the promise they hold. I talk about how we remove the barriers to their success. The result is that my grant applications require more explanation and I need to sometimes clarify with funders, but the kids I work with and their families and our community are never painted as charity cases. Instead, I get to let everyone know our greatness, leading from our promise and inviting investment to our area.

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

Responsiveness to my neighbors is the single most important promise I make to them. I give my personal cell phone number to everyone I meet - it’s on all my literature, my website, and my social media. Beyond that, I have created wonderful relationships with the community councils. Though imperfect, the community council system has served us faithfully and will factor heavily into remaining responsive to the community. I will have regular community meeting opportunities and email / postcard distributions to keep constituents informed as well.

Beyond anything formal, I am still going to be a mom to three kids who attend elementary school here. I will still be running my nonprofit organization that will continue to serve your students. I will still be running into Smith’s with no makeup on and harried because I have no milk for my kids’ cereal. I am running because I am us; and that will not change just because I add a new job title to my résumé. I will always make myself available to my neighbors.