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Salt Lake City Mayor's Race Heats Up With First Televised Debate

Brian Grimmett

Candidates for Salt Lake City Mayor squared off Wednesday night on issues of homelessness, crime and the resignation of former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank.

It was the first opportunity for mayoral candidates to participate in a televised debate this election season. Live on KSL, they took turns challenging Mayor Becker on different issues including homelessness.

“For seven years, Ralph Becker has ignored the drug dealing and the homeless situation downtown,” said community activist and mayoral candidate George Chapman.

District 4 Councilman Luke Garrott added current conditions in downtown Salt Lake City are not tolerable.

“We have way too many homeless and we have a neighborhood that’s overrun,” Garrott said.

Businessman Dave Robinson and former state lawmaker Jackie Biskupski also participated in the debate.

Becker was quick to defend his actions as Mayor.

“We were the first city in the country to eliminate chronic veteran’s homelessness,” Becker said. “We are 90 percent of the way on our goal ten years ago of eliminating chronic homelessness in our city and in our region.”

Biskupski and Garrott both advocated for scattering homeless services out into other areas of the city to ease the burden on the Pioneer Park neighborhood. Becker said he’s waiting for the Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission to make a recommendation.

Candidates took on Becker’s handling of sexual harassment within the Salt Lake City Police Department. Former Deputy Police Chief Rick Findlay was found to have harassed several female officers in the department. He eventually retired. The ordeal ended with former police Chief Chris Burbank stepping down from his post. Biskupsi criticized the mayor for not getting involved sooner.  

“The mayor should have personally and I would personally have addressed this directly,” Biskupski said. “I would have made sure I met with the chief personally and directly and had conversations in order for this to be handled appropriately.”

Becker stood by his actions and pointed to specific changes he asked Burbank to implement in the department. 

“Because of his incredible service in this community, I gave him an opportunity to move forward and to institute those changes,” Becker said. “He failed to do that.”

The municipal primary election takes place August 11th. The general election is November 3rd

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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