Salt Lake City Council finally broke through the maddening inertia delaying implementation of a long-term solution for the homeless crisis by steamrolling Mayor Jackie Biscupski.
The council, obviously frustrated, turned the city’s Redevelopment Agency upside down and shook out $30 million to create more homes for low-income people (aka, affordable housing). Individual members, including Derek Kitchen, Erin Mendenhall, and Charlie Luke, flat-out accused the mayor of “lacking leadership” in the crisis. They say the raid was the only way to light a fire under the mayor’s office that has done little of substance since Biscupski began her somnolent regime 10 months ago.
The city needs to find or build 7,500 affordable housing units. Meanwhile, Biscupski hasn’t moved forward on finding sites for four new homeless shelters, a process that is bound to require lengthy public hearings.
The launch of Operation Diversion (basically a police sweep with a heart) in the Rio Grande/Pioneer Park homeless vortex that has arrested or offered drug treatment to 130 people is only a short-term band-aid on the homeless problem, and, in fact, it may just be pushing it into neighborhoods surrounding the downtown. Businesses as far out as 700 East are reporting an uptick in stairwell and sidewalk campouts.
“I was very caught off guard,” the mayor told the Deseret News, apparently not realizing that admitting that only confirms she’s been asleep at the stick.
Biscupski fears the council’s diversion of Redevelopment Agency funding doesn’t take into account any “ripple effect” of their actions.
Aa ripple effect is exactly what the city council is hoping for—one that will get the city moving towards alleviating the homeless crisis in a real way.
Biscupski campaign slogan was “It’s time for change.” Exactly.