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Moderate, Libertarian Face Off in Salt Lake City's District 7 Race

Next Tuesday, voters in the Sugar House region of Salt Lake City will choose someone new to represent them on the Salt Lake City Council. Incumbent Soren Simonsen is vacating the post after two full terms. Vying for the rare open seat are mechanical engineer, Kevin Paulson, and Attorney Lisa Ramsey Adams. 

Maggie Shaw chairs the Sugar House Community Council. She lives just above 1100 east in Sugar House, where Salt Lake City plans to route the second leg of the new Sugar House Streetcar. That’s the issue she says has her neighborhood polarized.

“I would hope that whoever gets the nod in November would make informed decisions based on facts, not hysteria when it comes to transportation issues and development,” Shaw says.

I ask Shaw what she personally thinks about the streetcar.

”I will enjoy this streetcar, but I don’t live right on the road where it’s being built,” Shaw says. “And I could understand the frustration and the fear that people have but also the decision has been made and I think it’s a time to heal and move on.”

In a four to three decision last May, the Salt Lake City Council adopted the 1100 east streetcar alignment recommended by a consulting firm the city hired to study the project. The decision came down days after a record number of area business owners and residents filled the city council chambers to voice their opposition.

Shaw says she doesn’t think those voices represent the district. But she adds the city could have dispelled some of their concerns had it laid out a broader transportation plan prior to the decision.

Kevin Paulson’s campaign signs that pierce the manicured lawns in Sugar House declare a vote for Kevin Paulson is a vote to stop the 11th East Streetcar.

“People should want these projects,” Paulson says. “They shouldn’t feel like they’re being railroaded by a city project that is forced from above.”

The streetcar decision got Paulson involved in the race. But he has other big ideas for the city. He wants to improve public transportation and air quality by inviting private transportation providers to compete with Utah Transit Authority.

“What I think you would see are smaller buses running more routes, more competitive pricing and more people leaving their cars home,” Paulson says.

Paulson, who nabbed an endorsement from the Salt Lake Police Association, is advocating for locally produced nuclear power, which he says will allow the city to control pollution and become energy independent. And he’s against spending on projects like the Broadway-style theater that’s slated to open in 2016.

But can a self-proclaimed Jeffersonian libertarian be effective on a left-leaning city council? Paulson thinks so.

“A lot of people that get involved in local politics and federal politics, their lives revolve around government,” Paulson says. “I think that they just haven’t considered some of these other ideas.”

Lisa Ramsey Adams calls herself a moderate, pragmatic voice with boots-on-the-ground experience. She’s sits on the Salt Lake City Planning Commission and volunteers for community organizations.  Adams agrees with Paulson that public transportation in the city is neither efficient, nor affordable. And like Paulson, she has qualms with the 1100 east Streetcar extension.

“If nobody in District 7 wants it, or it is a rare exception that someone wants it, I think my job as a city councilman is to vote against it,” Adams says. “Even if I think it’s great.”

But Adams doesn’t have a plan to overhaul the city’s transit system. She says she’d like to work more closely with UTA to come up with solutions. She’s cautiously optimistic about the city’s Broadway-style theater. And she’s passionate about finding a way to open a new daytime homeless shelter.

“We have some options like that but they’re pretty limited and I’d like to see something where people who are homeless have a place to shower, to wash their clothes, to have an address, so when they’re applying for a job they have something,” Adams says. “They need a place to be.”

Adams says she’s aware that many voters in her district would like to have a representative more liberal than herself, but she’s willing to have an open mind.

“And I’ve said to people, I won’t always agree with you, and I can promise you that,” Adams says. “But I’ll always listen to you and consider your point of view and I will always come to a conversation with the thought of, I might be wrong.”

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 5th. Residents in Districts 1, 3 and 5 will also be voting in councilmembers.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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