Mayoral race is a tough call

By By Sabina Imanbekova

By Sabina Imanbekova

The upcoming Salt Lake City mayoral election is a race none of the competitors are likely to win by landslide. Ralph Becker, Jenny Wilson, Dave Buhler and Keith Christensen all possess strong local business background and a hefty civic duty capacity.

Ralph Becker, whom I spoke with at the Kayo Gallery meet-and-greet, concedes that all of the competitors are qualified and capable. A particular leadership style, Becker says, can weigh in on a constituent’s decision, but that is difficult to see in action until after a hopeful is elected to office.

Of course, we can try to predict the candidates’ future administrative approach based on their past trends and current affiliations.

Wilson is married to the CEO of Venafi, a technology company based in Draper. Becker co-founded Bear West, an environmental planning and consulting firm. Buhler has worked at a testing and licensure firm as a vice president of Experior Assessments. Christensen, an attorney and real estate developer, manufactures aircraft integration parts through Christensen Industries, Inc., and operates a chain of convenience stores in Utah and Idaho.

With such impressive credentials, visions and endorsements at play, the decision in this contest may prove difficult to make.

One of the salient candidate qualifications is public service and leadership experience, and none of the contenders are lacking.

Ralph Becker has more than ten years in the Utah State House of Representatives, as well as positions on planning committees and advisory boards.

Buhler has served four years in the Utah State Senate and two terms on the Salt Lake City Council, increasing open space and the police force, supporting fair benefits for City employees and opening a west side fire station. He sits on the Utah Advisory Board for the Trust For Public Lands, the board of directors of the This Is The Place Foundation and the National Leadership Council of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Both Buhler and Becker are adjunct professors at the University of Utah.

Keith Christensen has completed eight years on the City Council — twice as chair. He is a member of the Utah Nature Conservancy Board, Equality Utah and more. Keith also helped start the University TRAX Line and the Gateway Project, and has donated his time to the YWCA, Primary Children’s Medical Center and Angel Flight.

Jenny Wilson — currently serving her first term on the Salt Lake County Council — may be the greenest of the bidders, but she is no less accomplished than her counterparts. Former chief of staff to Utah Congressman Bill Orton, Wilson worked with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and has actively advocated health insurance for children through the Covering Kids campaign. Her record involves the lobbyist gift ban, campaign finance reform, the establishment of an “open space” definition and staunch gay and lesbian community support, such as domestic partner health care benefits.

I don’t want to sound like I am quoting the candidates’ official election websites verbatim, but this information is extremely pertinent in the decision-making process before the September primary, and as a large portion of the voting demographic, students should know the candidate qualifications before heading to the polls.

In addition to their administrative qualities, the four mayoral front-runners promise ambitious innovations to the city and display endorsements from major politicos and organizations.

Courting the approval of former Utah Sen. Bill Steiner and former Utah Gov. Olene Walker, Buhler promises to improve the educational and neighborhood infrastructure and create an Office of Sustainability to guide the city’s environmental efforts.

With the support of Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and the Women’s Campaign Forum, Wilson will address the challenges and viability of various neighborhoods and locally owned businesses, appropriate resources for crime prevention and facilitate parking and housing expansion downtown.

Becker pledges to bolster the quality of public schools, develop a network of urban trails and uphold the city’s environmental responsibility. Becker’s endorsers include Utah Reps. Jackie Biskupski and Christine Johnson, and Utah Sens. Scott McCoy and Ross Romero.

Christensen vows to invigorate downtown, provide for public safety and improve the educational system in a non-partisan incumbency atmosphere. He is supported by current Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Farmington Mayer Scott Harbertson, Utah Sen. Jake Garn and members of the Steering and Finance committees.

Given the contenders’ extensive rsums, endorsement networks and vision similarities for Salt Lake City, it becomes ever harder for a voter to pick a mayor who will most closely represent his or her own aspirations for the city.

As the election date nears, it’s apparent that this is going to be a tough call to make. While I will most likely be voting for Becker in the September 11 primary, all things considered, your choice is as good as mine.