Last night, the group Friends Interested in Dogs and Open Space (F.I.D.O.S) gave candidates running for Salt Lake City Council an opportunity to speak and answer questions on how they felt about dog parks; specifically to comment on the future of dog parks in the city. Each candidate agreed that dog owners (and dogs) need more options within city limits, though they disagreed on the extent of the options.
My focus was in Councilman Soren Simonsen since I live in District 7, though my interest was in all candidates since they need to work together to accomplish any one goal.
Soren talked about the over-use of the Parley’s Gulch/ Tanner Park off-leash area. It’s even more over-used now that the Parley’s Trail or PRATT project is coming though the park, and there is ongoing construction shutting down parts of the park (Find more information @parleystrail or http://parleystrail.org). The discussion mentioned a small dog park being planned as part of the rejuvenation of Fairmont Park (finally!) as well as looking at pieces along the Jordan River trail and an area near 1700 North and Redwood Road for possible designation as an off-leash dog park. It was acknowledged that more people are looking for areas to exercise with their dogs as opposed to standing around in small, confined dog parks (though those do work for some people). A previous owner of 2 dogs who have now passed, the wounds are still fresh, so Simonsen is looking to get another dog by the end of the year.
I have always been a fan of Soren Simonsen because of his background and current practice in planning and land use, and broad perspective of the challenges of having more maintained and quality open space for adults and pets. His background makes him ideally suited to make decisions in our community. He suggested “getting creative” with how these parks would be maintained, and suggested a system like the Adopt-A-Highway program where a group takes after certain areas through community service. He also talked about how the city might need to experiment with the rules in certain parks, or a registration process where if dogs pass behavior tests, they would be allowed certain privileges in specific areas. Again, these are things to look into, not necessarily things he wants to do.
Lisa Adams is running against Simonsen. I don’t understand where she thinks Simonsen is lacking in representing my district, to want to replace him. From the debate I heard on KCPW (podcast) she seemed to focus on “kids” and “more police” though she didn’t say specifically what she wanted to do differently, or what Soren had done wrong. A question was asked whether she would support certain off-leash hours for parks so people could get their dogs exercise. Since she is a runner, she did not think this would be a good idea as it could be dangerous for runners. She seems to be targeting an older crowd who she claimed Simonsen doesn’t communicate well with (he likes email), and keeping taxes low, which I agree with, though I don’t know how she plans to keep taxes low, or if she knows what kind of decisions in the Council in terms of land-use will ensure this.
I was also particularly impressed with Stan Penfold (running for District 3 = Avenues-ish). He was asked a question about aggressive dogs and responded that he felt there were no bad dogs, just bad owners. He spoke in detail about his rescue dog Ollie and how he had changed his life though it was obvious he had a rough up-bringing. As Executive Director of the Utah AIDS Foundation since 1999 and his background as a former chairperson of the Greater Avenues Community Council, Stan has experience with the diversity of our city and it’s intricate dynamics. He’s endorsed by Mayor Ralph Becker so I think he has a pretty good shot at winning.
In District 1, Current councilman Carlton Christensen is running for re-election against Leslie Reynolds-Benn. Carlton is the obvious choice, in my opinion, as he knows the reasoning and laws behind many of the decisions as they stand. He’s an advocate for the light rail on North Temple, a sustainable SLC, energy efficiency, improving the quality of local parks which are tied to better health, good budgeting practices, and responsible growth in the community. Carlton is also endorsed by Mayor Ralph Becker.
Leslie is running on a platform of reducing gangs and prostitution in North SLC. When asked about dogs, she made vague references to wanting everyone to have freedom, being afraid of dogs off-leash (she does not own a dog), and didn’t express anything specific about how she feels about the dog parks the way they are, or how she would like to see them. I’m honestly not sure why she came to the meeting. She also forgot several questions asked to her and didn’t seem to do a very good job listening to the people who she is supposed to represent.
I applaud Leslie’s activism in her community, her bi-lingual fliers reaching out to more members of our community, and her commitment to addressing gangs and prostitution, but I do not believe being on the Council and having to address budgeting concerns (and a host of other issues) is the best match for District 1. I do believe however that Carlton should take her concerns seriously and address them, as they are legitimate concerns.
I encourage you to vote early, as it is more convenient. Find locations here.