Dave Robinson – Answers to Cycling Utah's Salt Lake City 2015 Mayoral Election Candidate Questionnaire
I own a couple small businesses here in Salt Lake City. One is a home building company (cityblockliving.com); the other is a consulting company (SS Consulting LLC). I am familiar with many aspects of the city and have first hand experience as to what is working and what is not. I am in and out of City Hall on a regular basis. While out and about, I interact with the homeless population and drug addicts. I also participate with several aspects of our travel and tourism industry. I represent or have represented over 3,000 acres of private lands in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons with a focus on land conservation, eliminating conflict and great public access. I have sat on Mayor Corroon’s transportation committee. I sit on the FCOZ mapping committee and I sit on the Economic group of Mountain Accord. It is my first hand experience with Mayor Becker regarding canyon issues that initiated my Mayoral candidacy. I feel a moral and civic responsibility to shed light on Mayor Becker’s misrepresentation and dishonest dealings in the canyons. Mayor Becker’s dishonest actions have literally cost us taxpayers millions of dollars and have moved us further away from sustainable open space and watershed protection and appropriate recreation in the canyons. Please review answer number 10 below for more information.
Mayoral Candidate Questions:
- What is your vision for cycling (both road and mountain biking) in Salt Lake City?
What would you do to make that vision happen (planning, budget, infrastructure, education, safety, economy, etc.)? My vision for cycling in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area is balanced and yet far-reaching. We need to continue promoting and growing the urban daily bike warrior, to safely ride his or her bike to work, school and play. The area that I see that has tremendous growth and recreation potential is in our surrounding foothills and canyons. We have these great, built in natural amenities that I believe are under-utilized. We can look at Galena and Sun Valley Idaho as good examples of trail and mountain riding while respecting the environment. As a City and as a State, we need to provide year-round dispersed recreation. Cycling is a great sport and necessary partner. The US Forest Service, Salt Lake City and private landowners own much of our surrounding mountain lands and they need to be at the table in a cooperative manner. Although the Forest Service plan has not included a strong cycle component, their plan needs to be updated in order to accommodate such. Salt Lake City has often deterred recreation components due to their “watershed” protection. We need to take a critical look at their objections and restrictions. We need to have an open and honest discussion about what “watershed” means. There needs to be an acknowledgement that most of the water from the surrounding canyons flows to the Great Salt Lake, that most of our drinking water comes from Deer Creek and Jordanelle and that those areas allow and welcome the type of recreational uses we are suggesting. I believe Salt Lake City has hindered sustainable recreation for far too long by using un-true sound bites. They have not allowed open and honest dialog and scrutiny of their restrictions. We will also need the cooperation and participation of the private landowners. Agreements will need to be in place, which allow cyclists and others to cross private lands on existing roads and trails, much like the Cardiff Canyon Special Use Permit. We need to extend bus service in our canyons year-round and make sure the canyon buses can accommodate cyclists, much like the ski buses accommodate skiers. The hiking and cycling community will need to come together to work out trail systems, which are distinct and separate from one another. The ski resorts and backcountry groups such as Backcountry Alliance must be included to further their outreach for year-round, non-motorized and dispersed recreation. New trails on Forest Service lands will most likely require NEPA studies and permitting so we best get started soon.
- What is the biggest issue for cyclists currently in Salt Lake City and what will you do to address it?
Safety! We have clearly identified millions of dollars of waste in the City, initiated and implemented by Mayor Becker (See answer 10). We can prevent the wasting of those funds and reallocate them into education for the novice and beginner riders. One sees often the novice cyclist who can benefit from public education campaigns regarding helmets, proper lighting, rules of the road, etc. In addition, we can initiate a campaign, educating the motorist on the 3’ law and other important safety considerations. These educational campaigns can be promoted through a bike safety blitz each spring as cyclists are hitting the road more frequently. Additional funding for such campaigns can come from private foundations and health institutions that have interests and passion for such efforts.
- What will you do to grow the cycling economy of Salt Lake City (i.e. bicycle based business and industry, as well as communities that benefit from bike improvements)?
Many years ago I lived in Ohio and interned with a successful show barn. Members of their family had helped start the All American Quarter Horse Congress, which at first was viewed as a crazy idea; a horse show in Ohio in October. However, over the years, that show not only became the industry’s premier, but it has become one of the top conventions in America, drawing over 600,000 annual show attendees and providing an economic boost to Columbus and the state of Ohio of over $110,000,000.00 annually. One can assume that a cycling event will not attract such huge numbers, but I relay this to show what a single idea and committed people can do for a community and state. Promoting successful cycle events and recreation will stimulate start-ups, ideas, growth and business re-location to Utah, much like the Outdoor Retailer convention has brought related businesses and innovation to our City and State.
- UDOT Roads are important corridors for bikes as well as cars. What would you do to ensure that UDOT and SLC implement bike facilities on these roads?
Salt Lake City and UDOT obviously need to work together since they have jointly managed roads within the City. Another party that I would bring to the table is UTA. Salt Lake City and UDOT need to ensure safe bike routes on the roads and UTA needs to provide more space and racks on the buses. I have seen several times where cyclists heading north, wanting to hop a bus, are declined ridership due to not enough bike racks on the bus. I would also work with UTA to educate their drivers further regarding cycle safety.
- Regarding the attached proposal 10,000 Wheels for Affordable Transportation, what are your thoughts and would you commit to working to implement this if you are elected?
There are many important issues facing Salt Lake City; from homelessness, to affordable housing, to clean air, to economic growth and more. What I really like about cycling is that it is an opportunity and part of a solution to important issues we are facing. There are many favorable components of the 10,000 Wheels that need to be implemented. The expansion of the HIVE pass or something similar is important to offer to our surrounding communities. If we really want to get people out of their cars, we need to incentivize them to do so.
- Regarding the attached proposal for a comprehensive recreational cycling plan for Salt Lake City, what are your thoughts and would you commit to working to implement this proposal if you are elected?
Yes, see answers 1 and 5
- The 2015 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is in draft format and is with the SLC City Council. What will you do to ensure its implementation? Are there improvements that you would like to make to the plan?
There are some great elements in this plan and the cycling community should have the City’s full support. The City should help resolve land ownership issues along the mountain bike and commuting trails, such as Bonneville Shore Line and others. Unfortunately, I think Salt Lake City has politicized the connectivity between North Salt Lake and City Creek near the gravel pits. This tremendously important trail would take cyclists off Beck Street and their dangerous interaction with dump trucks and semis. Instead of Salt Lake City being a participating party, Mayor Becker has failed the community group he claims to represent. He has failed to strike a compromise with Staker Parson, much like Mayor Becker has failed with private landowners in the canyons and watershed. See question 10.
- What will you do to work towards Zero Fatalities (i.e. Vision Zero) for cyclists and pedestrians in Salt Lake City?
See answer 2 above. My brother, who is one year and ten days older than me was killed in an auto/pedestrian accident, leaving behind a young wife and four little kids. Such an event is life altering and tragic and a constant reminder that the vehicle will most always win. Everyone can feel bad, but the human body is still dead or maimed. We need to do everything we can to protect our pedestrians and riders.
- Do you ride a bicycle? Tell us more about how and where you ride.
I mostly walk, take public transportation and I swim for exercise. I feel much more safe on the sidewalk or bus. (See answer above)
10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes. Please read the following:
Those of you in the cycling, backcountry, hiking, watershed, environmental and travel industry; we need to have an honest discussion. We need to communicate beyond ones political affiliation, beyond past relationships, and beyond long held notions.
I am not peddling propaganda. I am not trying to be divisive or mean spirited, but I am here to tell you that Mayor Becker, Jeff Niermeyer and Laura Briefer, the very people we have entrusted and empowered to preserve the backcountry, to protect our watershed, to ensure long term access to the high country have failed us. Their failings greatly decrease your current and future recreation potential for enfettered biking, hiking and backcountry access in the mountains.
Between Great Western Mining Company, Cardiff Canyon inholdings, Patsy Marley, Argenta and Albion Basin, Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura could have preserved in perpetuity over 3,000 acres of high priority lands for much less than they have spent on ridiculous litigation. Instead of permanent conservation, they repeatedly choose litigation and conflict, spending millions of dollars of taxpayer and water rate money. The result of their calculated actions and waste? Failed land conservation, wasted public monies and the escalation of land prices in the canyons.
But wait, you say. I trust the Mayor, Jeff and Laura. They are our friends. They fight the fight and we support them. Yes, I know and as a result, they abuse your trust, they frivolously spend your money, and they insulate themselves from scrutiny and accountability.
In an effort to be precise and thorough, I will relay to you my first hand experience in working with Mayor Becker, Jeff Niermeyer and Laura Briefer.
1- Great Western Mining Company. The Great Western property consists of approximately 1,800 acres, 320 acres of fee simple and 1,500 acres of subsurface that straddles 3 counties (wasatchcanyonsfoundation.org). Salt Lake City could have purchased this entire package of land for $250,000.00, but chose not to. Another party purchased it, only to have Salt Lake City sue them for ownership of 69 acres that the City claimed was theirs. Instead of the City calling Great Western and negotiating the dispute, the Mayor, Jeff and Laura chose litigation and spent over $100,000.00 in attorney fees. Eventually, Great Western owners made the generous donation to the City of the 69 acres of fee simple lands, plus 69 acres of subsurface. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura claim victory, but since when is spending $100,000.00 to get 69 acres smart, when you could have had the entire 1,800 acres for $250,000.00? The remaining Great Western lands now appraise for $1,700,000.00, the lands are not owned by the City and it will cost the taxpayer and or conservation group full value to retire the lands to public use. Estimated loss to taxpayer: $1,700,000.00
2- Cardiff Canyon In-holdings. (Cardiffcanyon.org) Nearly 300 acres of prime land in Cardiff Canyon were offered for sale for $3,300.00 per acre. The City declined to purchase. The land sold to new owners who were also shareholders in a small irrigation company in the valley that Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura were suing. The land and water owners proposed that they give the 300 acres in Cardiff to the City for free and in return, the City would drop the lawsuit relating to the irrigation company. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura refused to communicate, stating that they “do not negotiate with terrorists”. The result? The shareholders prevailed at the State Supreme Court with a 5-0 ruling against Salt Lake City, setting off the largest water loss in the history of the City. What did Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura do? Presented a letter from their legal counsel to the City Council claiming that a 5-0 ruling against the City by the State Supreme Court was actually good for the City. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura then hired multiple lobbyists to push legislation to offset the ruling. Years later, their lobbying efforts for this issue continue to fail. During this time, Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura also refused to purchase 100 acres near Donut Falls for $1,500.00 per acre. An adverse party now owns that land and it appraises for $6,000.00 to $8,000.00 per acre. So Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura turned three simple transactions into a complete and utter loss. Instead of successfully retiring hundreds of acres of prime backcountry land for $1,100,000.00, they incurred a 5-0 Supreme Court loss, hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, millions in increased land values and forcing over 3 billion gallons of water to waste each year. The minimum cost to the City and taxpayer is $3,200,000.00.
3- Cardiff Canyon Special Use Permit. Cardiff Canyon offers some of the nations best backcountry skiing in the winter and great hiking during the summer. There are well over 1,000 acres of private in-holding lands in Cardiff, surrounded mostly by Forest Service property. The decades old public vs private conflicts in the area were well known and only getting worse. Citations had been issued, frequent personal and physical threats were made and on-line instructions were posted to “pack heat”. Conflict was escalating. I met with Ms. Cathy Kahlow from the Forest Service to discuss the situation and to work toward some type of resolution. After months of working closely with the landowners, the Forest Service, the Wasatch Hiking Club and the DWR (Division of Wildlife Resources), a special use permit was agreed to and was signed by the US Forest Service and Cardiff Canyon Owners Association (Cardiffcanyon.org). The special use permit guarantees public access across 1,200 acres of private lands via existing roads and trails. This collaborative permit has proven to be tremendously successful. The one protesting party? Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura.
4- Patsy Marley. The Patsy Marley property consists of approximately 25 acres, is located in upper Town of Alta and is renowned for its spectacular canyon views and wildflowers. Although Salt Lake City was obligated to provide water to this property for cabins, Salt Lake City refused to do so. A lawsuit ensued, spanning many years and resulted in Salt Lake City spending over $1,500,000.00 in outside legal fees. Although the landowners proposed specific and reasonable land trades out of the canyon, ensuring that the property would be preserved as open space and watershed conservation, Salt Lake City refused the offer. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura’s solution? Build several cabins and a large parking structure on the property. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura of course claim “victory”. When I questioned Salt Lake City attorneys Shawn Draney and Scott Martin about this, they laughed and said, “We made those landowners spend 6 million dollars and ten years of their lives to get what they were always entitled to.” The cost to taxpayers? At least $1,500,000.00 in outside legal fees, the doubling of lot values in Albion Basin and the development of pristine open space.
5- Argenta. Argenta is a 320-acre parcel in Big Cottonwood canyon (wasatchcanyonsfoundation.org) that is loved by the backcountry community. Salt Lake City passed on the opportunity to secure this property for approximately $50,000.00 in back taxes. A private party stepped in and paid the back taxes and once again, Salt Lake City chose litigation. This time, Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura are spending your money, arguing for a dissolved mining company who has not paid taxes in decades, who is not a current entity and whose shareholders are dead. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura refuse reasonable solutions and they have spent close to $140,000.00 of your money in legal fees. There is now an accepted appraisal of the property of $480,000.00 with an increased value to $1,500,000.00 once the litigation is resolved. Due to the absurdity of the City’s position, the Wasatch Canyons Foundation stepped in to facilitate resolution. They contracted with the taxpayers to purchase the lands, the purchasing funds were committed, settlement documents and quit-claim deeds were signed and the US Forest Service was set to be the eventual title holder. All that was needed, was Mayor Becker to drop the litigation. What was Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura’s response? Subpoena the Foundation, including Peter Corroon, John Bennett and Sally Elliott. What better way for Mayor Becker to send a message of intimidation loud and clear to other non-profit and community groups? The message of course is, do not question or interfere with Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura’s nefarious actions in the canyons. In addition to the subpoenas and intimidation, Mayor Becker accuses the taxpayers of criminal fraud and states that they should be in jail! Mayor Becker of course accuses this, knowing that the county attorney had stated a year prior that no fraud had been committed. The loss and cost to taxpayers? Close to $2,000,000.00 for land that could have been secured for $50,000.00.
6- Albion Basin. Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura have claimed for years that there is no water available to the remaining lots in Albion Basin, therefore, the lots have little or no value. Instead of purchasing these lots, eliminating the development potential, they once again chose litigation. The result? Another loss at the State Supreme Court. Their response? More litigation; this time suing the State Engineers Office along with the landowners. The affect on the market rate of the lots? A doubling of value. Cost to taxpayers? Hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The median income per person in Salt Lake City is less than $30,000.00 per year. Mayor Becker makes $165,000.00. Jeff makes $220,000.00 and Laura makes $120,000.00. In addition, they have $1,500,000.00 annually to spend on land purchases in the canyons. Plus, they have a stable of outside attorneys that they have paid nearly $5,000,000.00 over the last 6 years, without counting in-house counsel. So Mayor Becker, Jeff and Laura are costing the taxpayer nearly $3,000,000.00 per year, or $250,000.00 per month or $9,000.00 per day for their “expertise” to manage and protect the watershed. Yet, when asked about their failings, Laura tells us “It is complicated and not that simple”. A reasonable person can conclude that if three people making over $500,000.00 per year, 15x the average resident, cannot find a better way than wasting millions of dollars of other peoples monies, then those three people should not be in the positions that they currently hold.
It is not a stretch to show that Mayor Becker, along with Jeff Niermeyer and Laura Briefer have spent or cost us taxpayers, outdoor enthusiasts and others close to $10,000,000.00 over the last handful of years to support their non-sense. Mayor Becker, through his “leadership”, has drastically increased land values in the canyons, has divided outdoor communities, has wasted millions on litigation and failed at true conservation and watershed protection.
Due to the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction granted Salt Lake City by the State of Utah and due to Mayor Becker’s waste, abuse and misrepresentation of millions of dollars, I believe this rises to the level of a Legislative Audit. We need to have a clear understanding of where our taxpayer and water rate monies have been spent. Too much is at stake. I hope you will join me as I request a full Legislative Audit of Mayor Becker and Salt Lake Public Utilities from the State Legislature.