During Mayor Ralph Becker’s terms, Salt Lake City’s downtown saw the development of City Creek Center. Office spaces filled with new employees as companies such as Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo expanded their Utah presence. But at the same time, small businesses experienced frustration over zoning issues, malfunctioning parking meters, new bike lanes and baffling street parking redesign.
Utah Stories asked Mayor Jackie Biskupski about plans for encouraging and accommodating small and locally-owned businesses. The following are our questions and the Mayor’s edited responses.
Utah Stories: What is your overall philosophy about city government’s role regarding small and midsized businesses?
Jackie Biskupski: I have a strong vision for Salt Lake City that will foster a startup and small-business friendly environment. Small-business owners should feel the city is their partner and advocate. Specifically, I plan to streamline our planning and zoning departments to ensure more efficient, effective and customer service-oriented approaches. I want to curate employment centers that allow businesses to grow within the city rather than relocating to suburbs.
U.S.: Mayor Becker oversaw bike lane expansion and changes to downtown street parking that were met with mixed reviews from local business owners. What are your plans regarding these issues?
J.B.: A strong bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is essential to improving our air quality and to making a more livable city. I plan to extend the GreenBike program west, as well as into high-use areas such as parks and other key public locations. I will develop projects based on a balanced Transportation Master Plan that incorporates TRAX, bus service, bicycles, and automobiles.
U.S.: Do you plan to change the downtown parking meters or parking regulations?
J.B.: The cost to park downtown rose dramatically under Mayor Becker. First, the hourly fee doubled from $1 to $2 per hour. Second, the hours of enforcement extended from 6 to 8 pm. Finally, the Mayor’s new budget, adopted by the City Council, increased the fine for an expired meter from $15 to $25 and adds a $50 fine for failing to pay at a parking meter.
I support returning to 6 p.m. as the end of parking enforcement at the parking meters. I support slowing the increase in parking fees. And I support implementing a quality-control program to monitor the performance of the parking meters.
U.S.: During the campaign you said that city fees for businesses were too high. What are your plans for them?
J.B.: Salt Lake City currently has an employee fee; a fee charged to employers each time they hire a new employee. I believe we should encourage hiring, not penalize it, and will work to eliminate this fee. I will stop the wild growth of city fees by freezing annual automatic fee increases, and increase transparency around fees by publishing, annually, a list of changes to fees.