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At midpoint of her first term, SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall reflects on progress and challenges ahead

Erin Mendenhall
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In her State of the City address, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall focused on air quality, homelessness and other issues facing the city.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall knows the challenges of the past two years — including the COVID-19 pandemic and a “spiraling housing market” — have been tough. But during her State of the City address Tuesday night, she said residents have been “rising to the occasion.”

“The grit and the grace of the people of this city have [shone] as we have weathered these stormy times,” Mendenhall said. “But tonight, I need to ask you for more. More vigilance, more patience, more compassion and more kindness.”

The mayor said that would be needed to tackle what she views as some of the most pressing issues facing the capital city, including air quality, affordable housing and homelessness.

Mendenhall also touched on some tension with state leaders in addressing those challenges, particularly around homelessness. She said Salt Lake residents are “generous, compassionate people,” but that generosity has been taken advantage of.

“I am calling on the leaders of cities and towns around the state, and indeed all Utahns, to reach out to their representatives on Capitol Hill and urge them to increase the state’s investment in its homelessness and housing crisis,” she said.

Since she got her start in politics as a clean air advocate, Mendenhall said she looks at every issue with air quality in mind. She said her administration has been working to improve Salt Lake’s air through a variety of programs, like planting trees, installing more air quality monitors and working to increase access to public transit.

She acknowledged, though, that it’s a complicated issue with no quick fix.

“But complexity cannot be a justification for timidity,” she said. “Having so many factors beyond our control requires not only boldness and ambition, but also creativity and resilience.”

Mendenhall closed with a message of togetherness.

“Masked, unmasked, vaccinated, unvaccinated, housed and house-less, activist and elected,” she said, “we are all Salt Lakers.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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