As Salt Lake City’s mayoral race enters its final week, state Sen. Luz Escamilla and City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall have been debating the issues.
The candidates have talked about issues like infrastructure and roads, affordable housing and air quality — in short, things that directly affect Salt Lake Community College students’ daily lives. However, while student-age residents (20-34 years) make up nearly 30% of the population, this group has the lowest voter turnout.
“Student votes are critical for two main reasons,” says SLCC political science professor Perparim Gutaj. “First, nurturing a ‘voting culture’ early on will make our democracy healthier in the long run. Second, students will become direct agents of change and shape election outcomes by voting the candidates that pledge to tackle issues important to them.”
A study by the University of Utah found Salt Lake City is estimated to gain over half a million residents in the next few decades. With the population increase, crowded roads, housing shortages and air quality issues will only be exacerbated.
On the issue of transportation, the candidates agree that the city needs more public options and want to increase access in partnerships with Utah Transit Authority. However, they differ when it comes to tackling affordable housing.
Escamilla is pushing for less red tape, with more units per complex being considered affordable. Mendenhall, on the other hand, made a firm commitment to increase single room occupancy housing and accessory dwelling units.
On the issue of air pollution, Mendenhall told the Salt Lake Tribune, “As mayor, I would bring my decade of experience to expedite our carbon reductions on every possible front and leverage our contract negotiation with Rocky Mountain Power as an opportunity.” Mendenhall also pledged to plant 1,000 trees on the west side of Salt Lake every year, if elected.
Escamilla responded with, “…everything from affordable housing to the inland port should all connect to sustainability and getting us to 100% emission-free and the 2030 goal.”
The 2019 Salt Lake City mayoral election will be Nov. 5. Visit SLC.gov to find the nearest location to cast your vote.