Ex-mayor Anderson says he running (again) to defeat homeless crisis
Jun 22, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Jun 23, 2023, 11:07 am
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
Editor’s note: KSL NewsRadio host Taylor Morgan, who Anderson spoke with, currently works with Anderson’s campaign through his company Morgan and May Public Affairs.
SALT LAKE CITY — After a 15-year hiatus, Rocky Anderson said he is running for mayor of Salt Lake City for a third time in November mainly running because of the homeless crisis.
Anderson told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Taylor Morgan he wrote to the current mayor, Erin Mendenhall, about his experience dealing with individual homeless people.
“I said nobody’s providing them outreach services,” he said. “We’ve got to do far better for them, and it would also be doing far better for all the businesses that are incredibly impacted in many adverse ways by the homelessness crisis and also our residents.”
“I took a picture of a guy shooting up heroin three mornings in a row on the bench outside the front door to the Judge Building on Third South and Main,” Anderson said. adding that he sent the photos to Mayor Mendenhall. “I said this city has become a filthy place.”
Winter, homeless and the mayor
Anderson said he saw last winter that the homeless were suffering.
“We had people on our streets dying of the freezing cold, getting frostbite and having their fingers and their toes amputated — and that is an absolute crisis, and it was ignored,” Andeson said. “In fact, it was exacerbated by the mayor because she didn’t provide any adequate shelter for all these people on our streets.”
Anderson said Mendenhall further “exacerbated” the problem by sending in police to move homeless people from place to place.
“And in the process, confiscating their survival gear like tents, sleeping bags, and clothing,” he said. “That is what got me going. Our city — everybody has been negatively impacted: our residents, businesses and members of the homeless community.”
When he was mayor, there was never a time when shelters were not available for homeless people, according to Anderson.
“But we have had incredible growth. In fairness, over the last 10 to 15 years, especially the last 10 years, we were the fastest-growing state in the nation, according to the [US] Census Bureau,” Noriega said. “We have expanded in a way, in growth that perhaps you didn’t experience.”
“Well, we’ve had … about 20% growth since then, maybe less than 20%,” Anderson said. “But that doesn’t mean that the fundamentals need to be ignored. Our streets are crumbling, our parks have not been well-maintained. They turn their back on treasures like the Seven Canyons Fountain, the Rotary Play Park [and] the International Peace Gardens.”
“Affordable housing, by the way, is directly related to our homelessness problem because if people can’t afford their rent, they’re displaced and they become homeless,” the former mayor said.
Anderson referenced a recently released study on homelessness in California. The report states that 22% of people in California reported that lost or reduced income was a reason for losing their last housing.
“We need to stop pouring millions of dollars into private developers’ pockets to wring out a few affordable housing units,” Anderson said.
Utah now has a shortage of about 43,000 units when taking into account people making 50% of the average median income, according to Christina Oliver, the director of the Utah Department of Workforce Service’s Housing and Community Development Division as reported by KSL.com.
“When the mayor talks about affordability, we don’t know — Are these just studio apartments, are they like down at the Ramada Inn where she’s poured $2 million of what should have been our infrastructure money — and they still don’t have one unit open,” Anderson said. “It was promised that they would be open by the time the winter overflows close.”
Affordable housing alternatives
Anderson said the city needs to build or even bond for affordable housing that is architecturally beautiful and appeals to mixed-income residents.
“(A place) where everybody’s going to want to live — upper-middle class all the way down to 30% of average, median income and below,” he said. “You can get that mix and make it affordable for everybody when you take the profit motive out of it.”
Anderson referenced Vienna, Austria, where more than 60% of the city’s 1.8 million inhabitants live in subsidized housing.
“We can honor the public’s interest in having a beautifully built environment of which we can be proud, rather than these hideously awful apartments that have been shooting up all over our city that are mostly unaffordable,” he said.
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.