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Turbulent year frames Council actions in 2020

Year-end accomplishments listed for Council, Redevelopment Agency

December 30, 2020

Contact: Dan Weist
Council Communication team

SALT LAKE CITY – The year 2020 in Salt Lake City was calamitous, to say the least. There was a windstorm that took out more than 1,000 trees, earthquakes in March, a series of protests and rallies on equity and policing, and the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

In all, a total of 17 emergency declarations in one year. Yet the dominance of those events did not entirely overtake the City agenda. The list of what the City Council and Mayor initiated, advanced, and completed in 2020 encompasses the full spectrum of the needs and desires of any Utah City.

(Pre-Covid) SLC Council group photo from 2020

(Pre-Covid) SLC Council Photo from 2020

“As it turned out, 2020 was one of the single most difficult years in our City’s history. It has been gut-wrenching, exhausting, and lonely. I have gained more than a few gray hairs on my head, but my heart is full. We’ve worked with the Mayor’s Office to reach some landmark accomplishments,” said Council Chair Chris Wharton. “Thank you to all in our City who contributed to making us shine even when the days are dark.”

The Council and the Mayor rallied to the challenge of having to balance economic shutdowns with public health, meet civil unrest with police reform, and tackle political differences with collaboration and compromise.

A sampling of 2020 actions as either Council/Mayor or RDA:


  • Making generational strides in police transparency and accountability.
  • Banning the receipt of military equipment, investing in state-of-the-art bodycam technology, implementing a body-worn camera ordinance, strengthening the social worker co-responder program, expanding and improving the Police Civilian Review Board, replacing the Civil Service Commission with a more streamlined hearing officer position, and funding the Racial Equity in Policing Commission.
  • Putting into motion changes which address equity and other issues in the Police Department including ongoing conversations, and an audit that will inform the City’s first-ever zero-based budgeting exercise.
  • Supporting a Black Lives Matter mural at Washington Square.
  • Implementing budgetary changes which addressed accountability, transparency, and equity, reduced the proposed Salt Lake City Police Department budget by $5.3 million.
  • Setting aside $1.67 million for community investment priorities in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color.


  • Helping provide life-saving winter shelter for people in need by rezoning a Sugar House location to create a temporary shelter in early 2020; and rezoning a North Temple location to allow a second temporary shelter in late 2020.
  • Expanding the Downtown Ambassador program into the Rio Grande neighborhood and North Temple.
  • Investing in a public wi-fi infrastructure to bring the internet to low-income residents.
  • Locating 2.5 million in funding for the social worker program in a different department and added nearly $81,000 to hire four social workers faster.
  • Providing daily attention to encampments, services, and needs of the community.


  • Creating one of the first emergency pandemic relief funds for small businesses in the country.
  • Investing efforts into online meetings as a way to keep everyone safe and to respect the science of quarantining. The Council held true to government values of listening to the people at a time when technology and other circumstances could have limited public engagement.
  • Acting quickly and approving in the early days of the pandemic:
    • $1.1 million for rental assistance, rapid rehousing and mortgage assistance in response to the housing crisis (and then anticipated eviction crisis)
    • $1 million for a small business emergency loan program,
  • Working with federal, state, and county officials for use of federal pandemic assistance funding.


  • Expanding on multi-year efforts to support the construction of more affordable housing, initiating new efforts such as a combined housing review which aims to tie these elements together even more tightly and efficiently; supporting the creation of more affordable units, including:
    • Opening in 2020 were 723 new affordable housing units, thanks in part to more than $5.1 million in City financial support.
    • This was the biggest year on record for opening new affordable units.
    • 1,500 new affordable units have opened with City financial support since 2015.
    • In 2021, nearly 750 additional new affordable housing units are scheduled to open.

City Processes

  • Beginning the year by improving cooperation with the Mayor and her Administration. That act would become even more important as the year unfolded, and the City as a whole needed to react to numerous unforeseen events.
  • Striving to improve transparency and public engagement despite trying circumstances.
  • Accomplishing many firsts this year: first virtual Council meeting day (work session and formal), first annual budget deliberated, adjusted and adopted entirely remotely, one of the longest formal meetings on record with the largest # of comments, etc.
  • Acting on public input. The protests and rallies had a message. In an amazingly short time, Council leadership reacted, began to review policies, and shifted the budget to new priorities. Council changed course when circumstances called for it. Some of those changes included:
    • Completing a $326 million general fund budget concentrating on public safety spending and future practices, continuing road repair and other basic essential services, plus support for people and businesses affected by the current pandemic.

Other 2020 highlights include:

Raising of the new city flag

Council Member Wharton helps raise the new City flag

  • Adopting the Cemetery Master Plan, passed vacant/boarded building ordinance, and approving a loan for the 255 State Street project.
  • Establishing the foundation for a year-round public market at the State Fairpark.
  • Passing a dockless shared mobility ordinance.
  • Passing a budget without having to cut major services or layoff any City employees.
  • Breaking ground for a new water reclamation facility.
  • Holding the Council’s first entirely virtual meeting without an anchor location.
  • Hoisting a new City flag designed by the public.
  • Opening an expanded world-class airport, the largest public works project in Utah’s history.
  • Pivoting to the pandemic reality of massive reductions in air travel which created an opportunity to accelerate the Airport redevelopment project and save millions of dollars in the process.
  • Providing City services for a COVID-safe debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
  • Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first woman to vote in United States history—cast by Seraph Young in the 1870 Salt Lake City Municipal election.
  • Supporting a Council-initiated City employee devoted to the census count using marketing and outreach efforts to successfully reach hard-to-count populations in the City and surpass our 2010 self-response rate. This could result in more federal resources available to Salt Lake City.
  • Investing in a public wi-fi infrastructure to bring more available internet to low-income residents.
  • Adding more green space in places such as Allen Park, which was acquired using parks impact fees and Public Utilities funding.
  • Continuing road repair for 155 lane miles this year using Funding Our Future dollars.
  • Pivoting to the pandemic reality of massive reductions in air travel. That created an opportunity to accelerate the Airport redevelopment project, saving millions of dollars in the process.
  • Implementing budgetary, policy and legal steps brought a new large-scale renewable energy project closer to construction in 2021 which will allow the City to provide at least 50% renewable energy for municipal operations.
  • Providing implicit bias training for Council staff, Council Members and RDA.
  • Funding three studies this year at $100,000 each that have the potential to fundamentally change the City’s long-term operations:
    • Citywide Equity Plan and Training
    • Financial Risk Assessment
    • Gentrification Mitigation Study
  • Identifying objectives and geographic funding target areas for the 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan that will guide investment of approx. $30 million in grants from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.
  • Funding expansion of the YouthCity program to help bridge the gap in available childcare and digital learning.
  • Funding an apprentice program for high school students and young adults facing challenges to enter the workforce during the pandemic.
  • Adopting contracts between the RDA, City, and School District for the 9-Line Community Reinvestment Area and State Street Community Reinvestment Area to begin property tax increment collection and redevelopment activities.
  • Refinancing existing bonds saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

More info:

Learn more about the City Council year and ongoing items.

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