Foster grandparents help out in preschool classrooms
Today I joined Janice Jenkins at a Utah Community Action Head Start preschool. Janice is a "foster grandparent" Senior Corps volunteer with Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services. Janice says she just loves the kids and loves the work she does with them - helping them to read. Janice brought me into the classroom with her where I got to meet and play with the kids.
The county's Senior Corps program has many volunteer openings for more foster grandparents, and in other programs where seniors can be of service throughout the community. Learn more at www.slco.org/aging.
2017 budget explained
At Salt Lake County, we operate a fiscally responsible, balanced budget to fund services like parks, programs for youth and seniors, health programs, arts and culture venues, road maintenance, and public safety. Being careful stewards of tax dollars and accountability to the people who pay the bills are cornerstones of my administration.
Residents deserve to see how tax money is spent in an easily accessible way. To help achieve this, my finance team creates a "budget in brief" every year to provide details on our approach to budgeting and where the money is spent. Read the 2017 "Budget in Brief"
New homelessness plan
I recently joined state and city leaders to announce a new homelessness plan that has the following components:
- Four homeless resource centers to replace the
one-size-fits-all emergency shelter in the Rio Grande area. Two facilities will be constructed in Salt
Lake City, capped at 200 beds each, and a third resource center will be located
outside of Salt Lake City. The family shelter in Midvale, which is now open
year-round, will be the facility that serves homeless families with children.
- The resource centers will serve distinct
populations of adult women, adult men and single men and single women in
separate areas of one facility.
- Alternatives to shelter have been carefully
considered over a period of several years and will help ensure that demand for
emergency shelter lessens over time.
- If implemented as planned, the state
anticipates being able to responsibly close the Rio Grande shelter by June 30,
More information on the new plan released by the state of
Utah is available on the Utah House of Representatives blog.
The public will be invited to give input on possible
locations for the third facility. A schedule of public meetings will soon be released. A site selection recommendation committee—with members from the public, private
and nonprofit communities—will submit a recommendation to the State Homeless
Coordinating Committee by March 30, 2017.
I am grateful to all parties who are working tirelessly to
give us solutions that will minimize homelessness in our state and keep all
neighborhoods safe and welcoming.
Opportunity Ahead: 2017 State of the County
My 2017 State of the County speech focused on opportunities for all county residents, specifically in the areas of good jobs, safe, affordable housing, access to quality healthcare and education, and recreation and fun. We have made great progress in these areas but our work is not done yet.
County government is showing that it can step up to the challenges of a rapidly changing world. In the coming year, I want every county agenda item to be one that expands opportunity. Anyone who feels the the economy has let them down and that no one cares about what happens to their lives or their families, I say watch for Salt Lake County's opportunity signs.
Salt Lake County will welcome refugees, celebrate diversity, support individual initiative and be accountable for every tax dollar we spend.
My favorite part of this year's State of the County was when I got to welcome refugee teens who are being resettled here, joining our community. I told these kids, who have escaped extreme hardship, that they are welcome here and make our community stronger. Read my speech here.
Criminal justice solutions
Anyone who spends time in the Rio Grande area of downtown
has seen the problem. Drug use and
homeless individuals intermingle on the streets and sidewalks. Criminals
exploit the chaos to sell drugs and commit other crimes.
Since the state of Utah adopted the Justice Reinvestment
Initiative a little over a year ago, penalties for buying drugs shifted from
prison time, to county jail time. But money to either build more jail beds or
offer treatment beds has not materialized. Officers responding to illegal drug
use and purchases have no placement options for those they arrest.
We cannot jail our way out of drug use on city streets, but
we must have adequate jail space and drug and alcohol treatment beds to
encourage people suffering from addiction to choose treatment over the threat
The state legislature has not adopted meaningful Medicaid
expansion, but they did pass a scaled down version to fund help for our state’s
most vulnerable citizens, the homeless and those involved with the criminal
justice system. I’m now asking state lawmakers take the $30 million they authorized
for the federal Medicaid match, and apply it to our existing needs. It would
help pay for residential drug and alcohol treatment programs and give these
people a chance to recover from their addictions and return to more stable
This past October, Salt Lake County behavioral health,
sheriff, and district attorney teamed up with Salt Lake City Police and mayor
to run Operation Diversion in which eligible arrestees were offered treatment
or jail. Many who chose treatment have continued in their programs and are
taking meaningful steps to recover. Operation Diversion was an experiment with
positive results. We need financial support in order to put the theory behind
the Justice Reinvestment Initiative into practice.
Salt Lake County will continue to support and carry out
state policy, but without the complete package of legal changes and funding,
the chaos we see on the streets of our capital city will continue and likely