At Tuesday’s meeting, the Council welcomed Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes for a discussion of homelessness, drug use in the Rio Grande district, and Operation Rio Grande. The Council thanked them for the State’s commitment to addressing the serious issues happening in the downtown area, and used Tuesday’s briefing as a chance to learn more about their immediate and long-term goals.
“We’ve all seen this issue as so much larger than any one branch of government or any particular government responsibility. This is a very complicated process, but as a City Council and as a City we are committed to transparency. We’re committed to the process,” said Council Chair Stan Penfold.
Lt. Governor Cox spoke about the State’s interest in working with the City to close a portion of Rio Grande Street in order to create a safe space for individuals experiencing homelessness, free from the drug dealers and other criminals. The Council has approval over certain property transactions, though there are some legal questions about closing a road to the public for two years, as the State proposes. The Council will continue to discuss this concept in coming meetings.
Also discussed was the prescription opioid epidemic which is contributing to heroin addiction and drug dealing in the Rio Grande district. Lt. Governor Cox stressed that it is critical that all players act now and act collectively. Otherwise, the funding and planning the City, County and State have put toward opening Homeless Resource Centers to better serve homeless residents will have been in vain. “If we don’t get this right in the next two years … everything we’ve invested in starting in 2019 will be an abject failure. We can’t screw this up,” he said.
Part of those 2019 investments include the $21 million Council allocation for adding affordable housing units to the City’s housing stock. “I talk about your affordable housing plan everywhere I go. Because we don’t do this without that piece. It’s critical,” Lt Governor Cox said. Later in the Council’s Work Session, the Council discussed proposed requirements that the new Homeless Resource Centers must comply with in order to operate in the City. These requirements, also called “qualifying provisions,” include rules about the maximum number of people who can stay at the resource centers, keeping the grounds clean, prohibiting people from lining up on public sidewalks and streets, and more. For a detailed report about the proposed requirements, click here.
The Council will hold public hearings about the qualifying provisions on Tuesday, September 19 and Tuesday, Oct 3 at 7 p.m. at the City & County Building.
The Council also: