Erin Mendenhall – Salt Lake City 2019 Mayoral Election Candidate Survey

General Candidate Statement: Erin Mendenhall is a two-term City Councilwoman, proud mother of three, and Chair of the State Air Quality Board. She represents the 5th District, where she has lived for nearly twenty years. She served as City Council Chair in 2018. Erin graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah with a degree in Gender Studies and just recently graduated from the U with a Professional Master in Science and Technology. Prior to joining City Council, she co-founded Breathe Utah, helping to create curriculum used to educate tens of thousands of Utah schoolchildren on air quality issues.

Public contact info: [email protected]
Website: erinmendenhall.com

Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidate Erin Mendenhall, photo courtesy Mendenhall for Mayor.
Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidate Erin Mendenhall, photo courtesy Mendenhall for Mayor.

Mayoral Candidate Questions:

Salt Lake City has not had an update to the Transportation Master Plan since 1996. What is your vision for transportation in Salt Lake City, and what would you do to get a new transportation master plan in place?

Salt Lake City is due for a new Transportation Master Plan, one that keeps up with the robust commercial and residential growth both the city and region are experiencing. Such an update could bolster the city’s recent Transit Master Plan, leveraging mutual priorities to expand our multi-modal transportation needs. Undertaking any new master planning process requires financial and talent resources, extensive community and stakeholder outreach, and a political willingness to not only adopt, but implement the plan.

As a Councilwoman, I have worked on several master plan processes and, as Chair of the Council, brought new revenue to implement phase 1 of the Transit Master Plan.

We need growth to pay for growth by way of impact fees. This is a huge missed opportunity by the current Mayoral administration, which has returned more than $3M for lack of requisite Impact Fee Facility Plan documents that allow the funds to be spent on appropriate growth-related projects. As Mayor, I will prioritize these updates and work with the City Council to ensure we are using those dollars wisely.

What is your vision for cycling (both road and mountain biking, commuting and recreation) in Salt Lake City? What would you do to make that vision happen (planning, budget, infrastructure, education, safety, economy, etc.)?

Part of the draw of living in Salt Lake City is as access to our amazing foothills, mountains, and the trails they hold. Thoughtful integration of mountain-bike trail access to safe, paved bike lanes in the city, act to strengthen our city. We can do more to make cycling more accessible for recreation and commuting. Our alleyways are an underutilized community-connectivity asset and should be a priority as we grow. Alleyway improvements don’t necessarily mean a big price tag; other mid-sized cities have taken creative and collaborative approaches to beautify these oft-forgotten arteries.

The forthcoming SLC Foothills Trail Master Plan is a major effort that will impact our trails for the next decade, taking the current 20-mile system to 121 miles. In order to implement the vision, we know we will need significant capital. I would like to restart a community conversation about a recreation bond, as was considered in 2015. In addition, County Transportation grant money should be applied for with each phase of implementation.

Climate change is endangering the planet. Car and Truck Transportation is responsible for approximately 23% of the US CO2 output according to the EPA. And, transportation accounts for approximately 50% of PM2.5 emissions according to UCAIR. Salt Lake City is moving towards carbon free electricity generation. What will you do to move towards a carbon free transportation system in Salt Lake City and consequently obtain better air quality? How do biking and walking fit in your plan?

We have to make public transportation cheaper and easier. Period. The new revenue our City Council created last year allows Phase 1 of the Transit Master Plan to hit the streets this August. As Mayor, I will prioritize funding for implementation of Phases 2 and 3, that collectively work to better connect the West and East side and providing new North-South routes. I have lead the Council’s request that the bus fleet serving our new routes be electric buses and believe we can get there in future phases.

As wonderful as these new, circulator-style buses will be, we know we cannot afford to build out bus service to cover the entire city’s needs. City-subsidized ride sharing connections to transit stops and more safe-route options for biking, scootering, or walking, are all good investments we can make.

Complete Streets are streets for people of all ages using all types of mobility. Salt Lake City has a Complete Streets Ordinance that was passed into law in 2011. Yet the ordinance is often ignored, or circumvented (for example on 100 S, 700 S, and 2100 S). Salt Lake City recently passed the Funding Our Future Bond and implemented a city and county sales tax that will go to fund transportation. What would you do to ensure that the ordinance is strengthened and followed, especially in regards to those streets reconstructed with the bond?

The evaluation of traffic flow and cycling-expansion opportunities should be evaluated with every street reconstruction, making streets better serve our multi-modal future.

Being in city hall for almost six years and a cyclist, myself, I have listened to many community voices on different sides of the Complete Streets conversation. I know there are streets being designed for new bike lanes (like 2700 South) with neighbors who strongly oppose such a design, but who favor a bike lane on Stratford, the next parallel street. When we rebuilt 1300 South, we needed to shift the bike route off 1300, North onto Paxton and Lucy Avenues to ensure safe width for bikes and cars. I believe these kinds of accommodations are reasonable and that it’s important to work toward connectivity and safety through a community-wide conversation.

UDOT Roads are important corridors for bikes as well as cars. What would you do to work with UDOT to ensure that UDOT and SLC implement bike facilities on these roads such as State Street (see Life on State)?

The Life on State visioning project is an incredible opportunity to transform one of our key ‘gateways’ to the city. Having UDOT at that table is key to it’s future implementation and success. As a long-time participant in Wasatch Front Regional Council planning and funding efforts (as a member of Regional Growth and Transportation Committees), I have worked alongside UDOT representatives and would welcome theopportunity as Mayor to grow UDOT’s engagement in Salt Lake City’s strong, multi-modal future.

The 2015 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan guides bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Salt Lake City. What will you do to ensure its rapid implementation? Are there improvements that you would like to make to the plan?

New Salt Lake County Transportation Sales Tax dollars are an incredible opportunity for cities like ours, with strong Bike-Ped master plans, to receive grants for implementation of projects. The city recently received over 3 million dollars from this grant to build out sections of the 9-Line Trail, greatly leveraging our own local investment. As Mayor, I will ensure that Salt Lake City is taking every opportunity to submit strong applications for future grants that will help us implement the Bike-Ped master plan.

Salt Lake City currently does not have a formal Vision Zero program. What will you do to work towards Vision Zero (zero fatalities) for cyclists and pedestrians in Salt Lake City? Would you commit to establishing a formal Vision Zero program? What would you like to see in regards to speed limits in Salt Lake City?

As Mayor, I will convene a committee of interested stakeholders and SLC transportation experts to review Vision Zero opportunities–including speed limits–for Salt Lake City. Pedestrian and cyclist safety is critical, particularly amid such population and transportation growth.

What do you think of the new shared electric scooters in Salt Lake City?

They come with many benefits and tradeoffs! They are fun to ride, but not necessarily fun to encounter as a pedestrian. They seem to move more people in and around the city, supporting more businesses and increasing vibrancy, but also can be pedestrian or ADA obstacles when strewn on the sidewalk. I believe we will have scooters around the city far into the future and should accommodate for their presence–both when parked and in motion–in our future public right-of-way infrastructure projects, especially in the downtown core.

What is the biggest issue for cyclists currently in Salt Lake City and what will you do to address it?

The majority of Salt Lake City streets are in ‘poor’ to ‘worse’ condition. Potholes and other decaying roadways are a serious hazard for cyclists. As the Council Chair in 2018, I worked to raise ongoing revenue for streets maintenance and to place the $87M bond on last year’s ballot. Even with all of that investment in our streets, we still have a long ways to go. I will work with the community and our bonding ability, as available, to help our city move our streets back toward health.

Do you ride a bicycle? Tell us more about how and where you ride.

I do! I live in the 9th & 9th neighborhood and am able to ride to the grocery store, restaurants, my kids’ school, city hall, or just along McClelland Trail with my family for fun. We like to take McClelland Trail to Westminster College and let the kids climb on the outdoor climbing wall, then ride back home.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I came to politics because I love people, I love Salt Lake City, and I wanted to bring my experience as an air quality advocate to policy for our community. I currently serve as Chair of our State Air Quality Board and am a co-founder of Breathe Utah, a 501(c)3. I went back to get my Masters in Science and Technology with an emphasis on environmental policy so I can strengthen our policies with a better understanding of current scientific research and the opportunities it affords.

As a mother of three amazing kids, I want Salt Lake City to be a place where they want to spend their lives, with healthy air and a vibrant and thriving community that is diverse, welcoming, and active. We live here, as Salt Lakers, because we wantto, not because it’s the cheapest or easiest place to stay. That collective intention is part of what makes this place so special and inspires me to want to serve as your next Mayor.

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One Response to "Erin Mendenhall – Salt Lake City 2019 Mayoral Election Candidate Survey"

  1. Jim D   July 2, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I disagree with some of her responses, but I agree that it’s definitely time (way past due) to revisit a recreation bond. SLC should be leading, not letting cities like Draper, Lehi, Fruit Heights, Boise, etc. etc. etc. be more progressive in the construction of mountain bike facilities.

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