Jim Dabakis: Salt Lake’s West Side dissed again? Tax increase and the prison?

The Mayor worked to get a tax increase if prison goes to West Side–should the revenue go to build up the long neglected West Side?

The Salt Lake City Airport site for the new prison is wrong. Dead wrong. The proposed site is near I-80 and 7200 West. The Prison Relocation Commission is looking for a 500 acre patch, the airport location has about 4,000 acres from which to choose.

In March of 1853, Governor Young established a territorial prison. On the outskirts–of civilization. That area today contains Sugarhouse Park. By the 1951, the city had engulfed the area so the state moved the prison off to the fringes, Draper. Now, Draper is surrounded. So, the state is ready to move the prison again.

We should either rebuild in Draper or we should build farther out than the Salt Lake City site. The state should be thinking ahead 75-100 years, the Salt Lake site may look remote now–but our population is expected double in by 2015. What appears to far out now will be just fine in a few years. The SLC site has a much higher value than to house the prison.

Here are a few issues to consider before we move the prison:

If it is a higher economic purpose that motivates the move away from Draper–is the state going to fulfill that higher purpose? If the state just auctions off the land for mini-mansions, big green lawns and strip malls–we should just leave Draper as the home to the prison–rebuild there.

Will the pressure be so great to pay off the new prison debt that the state will make a quick deal with developers for a quick buck?

Or, given this land, will the state have the patience to go with a big vision, 10-20 year plan? For example, creating a campus for 10-15 ‘Adobe’s’ to build facilities in Draper? With buildings, infrastructure and brain power contributed by our institutions of higher learning. One Adobe is 1000 jobs that pay 75K a year plus benefits–without any pollution. Ten ‘Adobe’s’ on a campus and we are talking about an economy for the 21st century.

But, does our governing authority have the patience and foresight to think long term?

The same is true of the Airport proposal. It is not the best or highest purpose of that land for the next 75 years!

That patch of land needs to be an environmental showcase. With imagination and zip, with vision from the city, with attention and focus, the airport site and the Fairgrounds should be magnets for clean, well-paying economic growth! The west side is the future of the city–not the dumping ground. Let’s use the vigor, dollars and imagination that is being expended now by the city on the ski resorts transportation issue and refocus that energy to building the west side. Many interests besides the city are involved in the latest schemes to build tunnels to connect the ski resorts. Fine, let the city have a place at the table–but, that’s not the city! Let others spearhead and push that idea. Meanwhile let’s have Salt Lake City come home and take care of SLC–our long neglected west side!

As the Mayor fought for a sales tax increase for city residents if the city gets the prison–maybe all of that increase should go to develop the west side as an economic powerhouse–after all, if the west side hosts the prison–fair is fair–shouldn’t they get the benefit of the tax increase?

We could, with city energy, focus and determination build the jobs that will sustain Salt Lake City for the next 100 years–on the west side! The $75K a year, clean jobs–if we had that as our focus, the energy and the plan!

Originally posted on The Dabakis Factor.


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