In Depth: Becker and Christensen hope to survive primary

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

As Jenny Wilson and Dave Buhler continue to top pre-primary polls, two candidates, Ralph Becker and Keith Christensen, inch their way behind the frontrunners for the race of Salt Lake City mayor.

Becker and Christensen’s hopes could be dashed as the Sept. 11 primary nears, where the nine candidates for the post will be cut to two. The top two candidates will then fight for the leading spot during the general election on Nov. 6.

Experience

Ralph Becker’s political involvement with the state began as State Planning Coordinator under Governor Matheson in 1983. Becker also served on the Salt Lake City Planning Commission and the Salt Lake City Housing Appeals and Advisory Board.

Becker is a member of the Utah State House of Representatives — a post he has held fore more than 10 years — he currently represents a district that includes much of the Avenues.

On the other side is Christensen, who served as a member of the District 7 City Council for eight years. While on the council, Christensen was appointed as a member of the board that helped bring the 2002 Winter Olympics to Utah. He also helped get the University TRAX line off the ground.

Christensen has also served as chair of the Salt Lake Department of Airports Authority Board, Essential Air Services subcommittee and the International Air Routes subcommittee. He is also a member of the Utah Nature Conservancy Board. Current Mayor Rocky Anderson is supporting Christensen as his successor.

Issues

A primary issue for both candidates is education.

Becker’s goal is to make sure teachers have the tools and resources to help students succeed, according to his official website, www.ralphbecker.com. Becker hopes to ensure that Salt Lake City schools provide their students with the opportunity to achieve academic excellence.

“Education is one of my top priorities, because there is nothing more important in society, than we give every child the opportunity to succeed,” Becker said. “That comes only from a strong public education system.”

Christensen specifically hopes to institute a private partnership program and team up with leaders in the local education system to provide students with mentoring.

“If you look at the root cause of crime, you’ll find that it comes from kids who don’t succeed in the education system,” Christensen said. “Salt Lake needs to be safe and livable, and that ties right back to education.”

Continuing on his focus of public safety, Christensen is aiming, as mayor, to equip every police car with a networked computer.

Other issues Christensen places a strong interest in include transportation and mobility. Christensen hopes to make Salt Lake City as bike friendly as possible and plans to promote further extensions to TRAX lines.

Becker places a large focus on the environment and has created a blue print, aiming to protect open space, fund hiking and biking trails and advocate for public land policies.

“It’s important that we do everything we can to improve environmental conditions like air quality and addressing climate change,” Becker said. “I’ve been teaching about the environment since 1986. It’s all part of who I am.”

Christensen also emphasizes the environment and has pledged to make the city’s municipal operations carbon neutral in four years.

Hot topics

As for issues heating up the local political scene, Christensen said the new ordinance that prohibits protesters from picketing within 100 feet of a home is “overdone.”

“(The ordinance) is OK to a reasonable point, but modifications have gone too far,” Christensen said.

Becker said he feels that any protest ordinance should be carefully reviewed.

Christensen also said that new regulations that limit a certain number of bars on the same city street are “outdated and need to be looked at.”

Becker referred to his website, where he said “Liquor laws that are difficult for tourists and locals alike to understand and that at times seem arbitrary and harmful to local businesses.”

Salt Lake City and the U

Becker has been an adjunct professor since 1986 at the U’s College of Architecture and Planning, where he teaches students about lands use.

His ties to the U extend further: he received a master’s degree in geography from the U in 1982 and later, a law degree in 1977.

“I’m the candidate who brings the ideas and the experience,” Becker said.. “I believe Salt Lake City to be a great American city.”

Christensen, on the other hand, received a bachelor’s degree in management and finance from Brigham Young University in 1975. However, three of his children have graduated from the U, and he said he is a “complete convert” and even cheers for the U during football games against rival BYU.

Furthermore, Christensen is a member of the U’s Crimson Club and the U’s Health Sciences Advocates.

He also sponsors a golf tournament to raise funds for Primary Children’s Medical Center every year.

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Broadway Centre Cinemas hosted a free public screening of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” on Monday night as part of Ralph Becker’s mayoral campaign.