Editor’s Note: This is the transcript from Ben’s Salt Lake City Council announcement. He made his remarks at Fairmont Park on 23 June 2021.
Thank you for joining me here today. Thank you to my friends, my family, my neighbors, our Sugar House Community Council, and others. I’m excited to be with you and discuss my vision for the future of our neighborhood.
Fairmont Park is a special place to me. We’ve lived down the road for almost 15 years. One of the first things my wife and I did when we bought our home was to get a dog. His name was Samson, a German Shepherd, and if you’re a decent dog owner, you’re going to walk your pup. Walking Sammy was the best introduction to the district and a fantastic way to learn about Sugar House. Because you’ll get bored walking the same route, you’ll explore the community. From Tanner Park to Nibley Golf Course, Fairmont to Sugar House Park, and all points in between, I’ve come to learn this neighborhood like the back of my hand. While I am from Nevada, Salt Lake City, and more specifically Sugar House, is now home to me.
For those that don’t know much about me, let share some details of my life. I was born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated at University of Nevada, Reno, and I’ve lived in Salt Lake City since 1999.
Professionally, I’ve been a bartender for 20 years. Specifically, I’ve bartended at dueling piano bars for almost 20 years. Bartend long enough, you’re going to learn how to multitask and how to talk to people. In addition, I’ve worked as a newspaper stringer for seven years at the Salt Lake Tribune, so I know how to investigate, analysis, and report what I’ve experienced. I even hosted a podcast there. And now, as a communications writer for USANA Health Sciences, I know what it takes to breakdown complicated problems and make them digestible for a large swath of people.
All of these jobs have helped me learn about people, get to know their background, and build on common experiences.
Add my political science degree and enough historical biographies on my bookshelves to open a Barnes and Noble, I’m ready to officially throw my hat in the ring.
That’s why today, I’m officially announcing my candidacy for Salt Lake City Council District 7.
Here’s Why I’m Running
The theme of my campaign is simple: preserve, protect, and promote this wonderful community. District 7 is the soul of Salt Lake City, and we need to work together to preserve our neighborhood’s unique legacy while building for the future.
I selected this spot to make my announcement for a variety of reasons. Where we are standing right now reflects the challenges this community will be facing in the future. From Fairmont Park you can see the transportation needs and issues for the community. You can see the unprecedented growth in the area and where they continue to build and where they want to build. Right here, we have a wonderful public asset at the Fairmont Aquatic Center, a community pool for folks of all ages to enjoy. Down the road there are shops, restaurants, bars. Over there, old homes and golf courses.
District 7 is unique because it’s not just one neighborhood but multiple neighborhoods. We have Wilmington, Windsor Circle, Wilford, Garfield, Grandview, Beacon Heights, Dilworth, Highland Park, Nibley, Forest Dale, Yuma View, Westminster, Emerson, and the Country Club.
We’re a diverse, funky, desirable community that is the envy of other cities. And as we grow, the more we have to offer as a vibrant place to raise children, enjoy the outdoors, start a business, and celebrate a sense of community.
And while we’re the smallest district in the city, we have the highest population. And our levels of density present interesting challenges for the future. Let’s take the Fairmont being built right there.
The Fairmont building is the old Granite Furniture building. The only thing I know about the old Granite Furniture building is my wife’s grandmother’s furniture was bought there and James Franco filmed 127 Hours here. This building has been under construction for what seems like five years. And while the final product will be an improvement upon an abandoned warehouse, what does the influx of hundreds of new families to our community do to the neighborhood? How does this impact parking? Traffic congestion? What does this do for water consumption in Salt Lake City? Getting a table at Wasatch Brewery?
Admittedly, there is not enough housing in Salt Lake City and there is certainly not enough low-income housing to accommodate people at all income levels. The expansive growth we’re experiencing might be good for property taxes but it ain’t great for our psyche. I’m going to fight to make sure we can see a finish line to these construction projects and let all citizens know that future growth will be measured, deliberate, and for the benefit of the community.
We must make sure that new construction means more affordable housing in Sugar House because if we want an artisan community, we need to make sure artists can afford to live here.
And I think it’s time for us to redouble our efforts to address homelessness in our community, not because we want it out of sight, but because it’s the right thing to do. I believe in housing first. The causes of homelessness are secondary to the need to build more homeless centers in Salt Lake City to address this explosion of homeless folks. Life on the street lacks dignity. We can make a difference in the lives of the unhoused by taking the initiative and addressing this issue head-on, with compassion and a resolved commitment to support those organizations that are working to end homeless today. This problem won’t disappear. It’s going to require a public/private/nonprofit partnership with the resources to make an impact.
The Crown Jewel of Salt Lake
A theme you’ll hear throughout my candidacy will be this park. Dollar for dollar, I think Fairmont Park is the crown jewel in Salt Lake’s park system. I am biased—Fairmont is my park.
I love seeing folks using the pickleball courts, I love seeing dog owners take advantage of a fenced in dog park. It’s great to see folks enjoying the paths for walking and jogging, Hell, I even like the skate rats tearing up the skate park. It’s probably the only place where graffiti doesn’t bother me.
But most of all, what I really love to see if the open fields being used for team sports. Soccer games are 11 players against 11 other players. That’s 22 participants and potentially 22 families. I’ve seen two games going at the same time and three to five games a day. Start doing the math. That’s a lot of folks using our Fairmont Park.
Parks are the playgrounds for the community, and I will do everything in my power to protect these wonderful city treasures. If we’re going to continue to build, we better start planning for the impact more citizens utilizing these open spaces. Developers count on our parks as their future resident’s backyards. That means having enough water to keep the fields alive, police to keep citizens safe, continuous capital improvements for accessibility, expanded community activities like movies in the park and concerts, and anything that can bring our neighbors together.
As I’ve explored this race for city council, I’ve discovered that we’re not trying to provide solutions for today but crafting plans to create a better city for the future. Smart, forward-thinking decisions will shape the direction Salt Lake City will take. Will we be a town that doesn’t value police or firefighters? Or a city that gives our public servants the tools they need to do their job? Will we be a place that makes it difficult for young entrepreneurs to start a new business? Or a city that streamlines small business owners’ licenses, provides training, and access to funds to help grow the backbone of our economy? Will we threaten historic neighborhoods? Or will we preserve, protect, and promote our incredible shared heritage?
The future is filled with challenges, and I’m committed to taking these challenges head-on. This is my first run for public office and I’m learning everyday what our citizens need/demand. It’s aggressive representation, being present, listening, learning, and making every effort to be a leader for the community. I’ll promise you this: I might fall short, but it won’t be from lack of effort. I’m committed to winning this race and doing the best job for the district once elected.
Let’s Get to Work
And my role as councilman for district 7 doesn’t end at our borders. I’m committed to building relationships with other members of the council, partnerships throughout the city, and alliances with key civic and private individuals. And I promise to work with Mayor Mendenhall. But remember this—my commitment is to our district, our neighbors, and to advocate, represent, and fight for this community.
For these reasons and so much more, I’m running for Salt Lake City Council.
- I’m running because I believe in Sugar House and love this wonderful community.
- I’m running because I believe in small businesses and the opportunity for all to pursue their dreams.
- I’m running because I believe in open spaces and preserving our parks and trails.
- I’m running because I believe everyone deserves the dignity of shelter and not to be homeless.
- I’m running because transportation issues are more than bridges and roads but how we value those who use it and, more importantly, where we chose to build.
- I’m running because we’re going to protect our historic neighborhoods.
- I’m running because our civil servants, police and firefighters need our support to protect our city. They have our back—it’s our turn to have theirs.
- And I’m running because this district deserves a leader who will show up, do the work, and represent the citizens of District 7 to the best of their ability.
My name is Ben Raskin and I’m running for Salt Lake City Council. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Thank you.