1. On a scale of 1 to 10, with the many city priorities you will face as mayor, where do you rank the Great Salt Lake and why?

At an 11. I have said I think the two most important issues facing us right now that need immediate attention is ending homelessness and housing everyone and saving the Great Salt Lake. I am extremely concerned with the health of the lake and all of Utah and we have such little time to drastically act. It’s alarming when scientists say that Utah may be unlivable if the lake fails with toxic dust clouds that lay at the bottom of the lake. We have no choice but to save the lake and act now.

2. What’s your plan for assisting in saving the Great Salt Lake—what actions will you take to ensure more water makes it to the lake in the future?

68% of Utah water goes to alfalfa farms in the desert that contributes almost nothing to our local economy and people as most of the alfalfa gets shipped overseas. This is unstainable and we need to assist the farmers in transitioning to different crops. A lot of the water doesn’t even make it to the farmers as it gets lost through inefficient piping and infrastructure. The Lake is a Utah concern and as Mayor, I would do everything to bring coalitions together, leading from the city, to work with all parties to protect the lake. I support the recent lawsuits from Sierra Utah and other environmental groups against the inaction of the state. I would ask the EPA to step in on a federal level and declare the lake an ecological disaster as we need all hands on deck immediately.

3. What actions have you taken in the past to help protect the lake?

In addition to cutting back on my own personal water use I’ve been involved in community activist groups involved with Saving the Lake. Progress is always lead from the ground up and the community groups have championed the cause of saving the Great Salt Lake so well. As a business owner, we have also implemented better technology to recycle water and mitigate waste. Additionally, one of my plans is to rebuild the original historic Great Saltair and I am already working with architects to recreate the original blueprints. I see the Great Saltair as the cherry on top of saving the lake and giving us all one more thing to look forward to once the lake is saved and healthy water levels. I think it’s important Utahns reconnect with the lake on a personal level and environmentally conscious recreation is the perfect way to do that. A rebuilt Great Saltair would be an international jewel of both Utah and our famous lake.

4. How do you view the inland port projects and the impact it may have on the lake?

The inland port has been a disaster from its inception. It should have never been built so close to the lake and so close to the communities on the westside. It is very telling that it is also known as “The Polluting Port”. I support the port being moved away from city limits, away from the lake, and away from any area that it can have an environmentally negative impact. As mayor I would take any and all steps within my power to shut the project down which will only have further disastrous effects on pollution and water usage.

5. What do you want residents under your watch to do to help save the lake?

I’ve been a community activist as long as I’ve been a Salt Lake City resident. I ask all citizens of Salt Lake City to become active participants to the issues that affect us a people, and the effort to save the lake is one of the most important things people can do to impact the efforts to protect their community. It’s important they get involved and stay informed, that they write their leaders and demand immediate actions, that they vote with the lake in mind, and support lawsuits from environmental groups. If they own houses and yards, that they convert to xeriscaping and sustainable water usage. I don’t think it has been fair that individuals have been blamed for the lake’s decline when Alfalfa farmers and corporations like US Magnesium have been the greatest water offenders.

6. What should the state and federal government do to help save the lake?

End farm subsidies, support legal action to sue the state of Utah for the wholesale of our water resources to corporate, industrial and farm interests. Call on FEMA and the EPA to declare a crisis and intervene on the behalf of the people of Utah and the destruction of this vital public resource. I think it has been obvious that the State of Utah has been ineffective in protecting the lake or doing anything substantial. It is an insult that the Governor has told people to “pray for rain” instead of act as the executive of the state. I support the immediate action of the EPA to step in and take over the entire situation as an ecological disaster that needs federal resources and immediate attention.

7. Because treated wastewater is an important source of water to Great Salt Lake, in some cases, water recycling and water conservation methods that are effective elsewhere can actually decrease the flow of water to the lake. What initiatives do you envision for encouraging sustainable water use while also protecting the supply of water to Great Salt Lake?

When 68% of our water resources go to fund agriculture, I think it’s important we focus on the biggest piece of the pie first, before we look at the crumbs. Although we should all do our part to save as much water as possible the real solution is to push the state to stop using our water resources, help transition farmers, and hold corporations accountable for neglect and waste. No company should be taking anything out of the lake. It’s important that we look at the uniqueness of the lake, what is working, and abandon what isn’t working. It must always be data driven and focused on real results. How much are we adding to the lake? What methods of water recycling are having the biggest impact? We must listen to scientists, engineers, researchers, and environmentalists and quickly find the best solutions that work for our particular lake that is unique in the world.

8. How would the depletion of the Great Salt Lake affect the future of your city?

The better question is how wouldn’t it affect the city. Scientists have repeatedly said that the lake collapsing would make large portions of Utah unlivable, with arsenic dust clouds and toxic storms. The vast majority of Utahns live along the Wasatch Front right next to the lake. Our capitol city is right next to the lake in a valley that already sees some of the worst air quality in the world. We are staring down at the very near possibility of nightmare scenarios that are hard to even comprehend with climate change and the impacts that will have. We must act, we must avert disaster, and unite all of us together to avoid environmental collapse. All of Utah cannot pay the price to maintain unsustainable farming practices for a small fraction of agricultural interest groups.

9. What does sustainable development mean to you, and what do you see as your role in ensuring that future development is sustainable? 

Right now, the entire Salt Lake City government is working for real estate developers. Large portions of the state legislature too. We are seeing the largest real estate construction boom in the modern history of the city at the exact time we need environmental restrain. What’s worse, is they are overbuilding, with developers gaming the market and controlling supply and demand, spreading false vacancy numbers to justify overbuilding. This corruption must end now. We must become sustainable by using historic preservation and restoration which is the greenest form of construction. We must recycle our buildings as well as our water and reuse what we already have. Real estate construction is one of the biggest uses of water and we can cut that waste tremendously by reusing the buildings we have, for the real number of people who need them. 

10. What is your personal relationship/history to the Great Salt Lake?

As an appreciator of our history who has gone to great efforts to protect our cultural and historic gems both as an activist, a business owner and a candidate, I look back on the days when we worked with our environment to add to our people’s lives. At the turn of the 20th century, the Great Salt Lake was a prime recreational destination and the main destination for that recreation was the Great Saltair. I have long dreamed of restoring this piece of Utah history to its fullest potential. I’ve already been working towards making this project a reality to emphasize the lake’s utmost importance to Utah culture, the personal and spiritual connection we all have to our environment, our lake. All of our breathtaking natural resources that make Utah one of the greatest places in the world. I have a deep personal connection to the lake through the Great Saltair, that history, and as proud environmentalist and lover of all of Utah’s natural beauty and historic wonders. 

Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidate

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