Free Fare Friday
Today I joined Salt Lake City Council members and Utah Transit Authority President Jerry Benson to announce UTA trains and buses will be free this Friday, December 22. The purpose is to encourage more people to try out public transit, learn the routes, and hopefully learn how we can drive less to improve air quality.
I joined this effort because I know inversions can be frustrating and scary. Like many Utahns, I’m frustrated when my kids tell me they had to stay indoors from recess, due to the smog alerts. I don’t like it when visitors come to Salt Lake and can’t see our snow-capped mountains and blue skies. We’ve known for years that the primary pollutant is PM 2.5 – tiny particulate matter that is emitted from burning fuel.
Vehicles account for 57 percent of wintertime air emissions – that’s the gasoline-powered cars and trucks that most of us drive. It makes sense that the fewer number of those vehicles that are on the road during an inversion means less pollution going into the air we breathe. If more of us are able to leave our cars at home and take transit, we can make a difference in lowering the pollution and breathing cleaner air.
Immigration Reform Roundtable
Today I joined members of the local business community, faith groups, and elected officials to discuss why Congress needs to act now to protect young people from being deported. One of those young people is Ciriac Alvaraz Valle who shared her story with us today. Ciriac is a Utah student who was brought here when she was just five years old. She follows strict rules to regularly renew her permission to be here – in the only country she’s ever known. Ciriac only has 650 days left until her status expires, and there are thousands more like her. If Congress doesn’t act on DACA, she will be forced to leave her home.
The clock is ticking for thousands of Dreamers in Utah who are working, studying, serving in our military, and contributing to the only home country they have ever known. Providing a path for them to stay and continue to build their futures can and should be something that unites us. Finding a solution for Dreamers, many of them well-educated, talented, and hard-working is a win for our economy as well.
Take a look at the positive economic impact immigration has on our local economy.
Salt Lake Tribune story about the event.
Utah Dreamer Ciriac Alvaraz Valle speaks to local leaders at the Immigration Reform Roundtable
Season of giving
This holiday season, two county agencies –
Youth Services and
Aging & Adult Services– are accepting gifts for the people they serve. Giving trees with ornaments that name requested items are located in the lobbies of the north and south buildings of the Salt Lake County Government Center at 2100 South State Street. The gifts received over the holidays are used year-round to help kids and seniors get by with basics, like sweatshirts, backpacks, and toothpaste.
A complete list of
Youth Services’ needs can be found online. Unwrapped gifts for youth can be dropped off at any
Salt Lake County library throughout the valley, or in my office located in the north building of the county government center until December 15th.
If you’re able to donate to
Aging & Adult Services, consider hygiene items or gift cards to Smith’s, Target, or Wal-Mart. Those gifts are accepted at Aging & Adult Services on the first floor of the south building at the county government center until December 13th.
I know not everyone is able to give a little extra this holiday season, but for those who can, I hope you’ll consider helping some of the kids and seniors Salt Lake County serves.
Legal action against opioid drug makers
Yesterday, I joined District Attorney Sim Gill, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, and families affected by the opioid crisis to announce Salt Lake County’s intent to pursue legal action against drug manufacturers. Salt Lake County is experiencing a public health crisis because of the widespread addictive drug use – most of if starting with legally obtained medication prescribed by a doctor. Many victims then turn to heroin because of the high costs of pain pills. Meanwhile, drug companies profit to the tune of $11 billion in 2014 alone.
We are joining the legal fight to get the drug companies’ attention. The terrible effect opioid pain pills is having on Utah families is unacceptable and tragic. At the news conference, we heard from Dennis and Celeste Cecchini whose son Tennyson died in their arms on the bathroom floor of their home. His addiction started with pain medication he was prescribed ten years prior due to a hockey injury. We also heard from whose daughter and step-daughter both struggle with their addiction and are now receiving treatment.
I am grateful to these families for sharing their stories. Now is the time for action, so there will be less heartbreaking stories to tell.
Dennis Cecchini shares his story at the news conference.
A Utah solution for health care
A long-sought action from the federal government to let Utah offer Medicaid health insurance to the poor, the homeless and those battling drug addiction has come through. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services granted the state’s request for a waiver to provide $100 million in Medicaid funding for thousands of poor Utahns to receive health care.
In 2016, the Utah Legislature passed a bill that would give coverage to several groups, including the chronically homeless, low-income families with children and individuals addicted to drugs who are in the criminal justice system—approximately 10,000 Utahns.
The Medicaid waiver will immediately provide money to expand the number of residential treatment beds for individuals arrested through Operation Rio Grande. A total of 240 new treatment beds will come online by early next year. Treatment as an alternative to jail will ease jail overcrowding and offer a way out for people trapped in a revolving door of crime, arrest, court, and release back onto the streets. It will also help reduce victims of crime and lessen the burden on first responders and hospital emergency rooms.
My responsibility as mayor is to help keep the public safe and allocate precious tax dollars on those programs and services that deliver results. Our partnership with Governor Herbert, members of the Utah legislature, Salt Lake City and others has produced a critical win for everyone I represent in Salt Lake County. I’m proud of our ability to make progress on challenges we face with homelessness, opioid addiction and access to health care.
Read the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune articles about the announcement.