(Courtesy photos) Chris Wharton and Phil Carroll
It’s the runoff between the veteran and the millennial in Salt Lake City’s council race for District 3.
Phil Carroll is 73 and Chris Wharton is 33. They were the top two vote-getters in the primary, in which Carroll grabbed 32 percent of the vote to Wharton’s 33 percent.
The city’s housing shortage tops agendas for many in City Hall, as vacancy rates slide below 2 percent, leaving lower-income groups in crisis. It’s also a priority for both Carroll and Wharton.
If elected, Carroll said his top three priorities would be affordable housing, homelessness and community livability — including parks and trails.
Carroll has spent a career building affordable housing through the nonprofit Community Housing Service, which he founded in 1995. It has created 1,200 housing units statewide, where residents pay 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities.
“It’s what I do,” he said of affordable housing. But he laments that during the downtown building boom of the past five years, few new units have been designated as affordable.
Wharton, an attorney in private practice, agrees that things must change. Like Carroll, he said he would implement new zoning regulations to require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable housing.
| Courtesy of Chris Wharton Chris Wharton, a candidate for Salt Lake City Council.
So-called “inclusionary” zoning has been contemplated by the City Council previously, but with a great deal of pushback from the development community.
Wharton said he would also like to make the building approval process easier for developers who agree to build affordable units. “We are clearly not committed to a policy for developers to move through the process more quickly.”
Hand in hand with affordable housing on Carroll’s list is homelessness. The current strategy to build three new resource centers/shelters is a good one, he said. But we shouldn’t wait two years until they are built.
(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Phil Carroll is making his third bid for Salt Lake City Council. He is president of Community Housing Services Incorporated.
He would open storefronts now to start training employees and coordinating programs. “Why are we waiting two years?” he asked. “There is a learning curve here. Why not get the staff up and running now?”
It’s clear that one of the biggest challenges the City Council will face in 2018 is interacting with the administration of Mayor Jackie Biskupski. The relationship, according to most observers, is dysfunctional at best.
Wharton said, as a divorce lawyer, he often deals with people who are at odds. He has had success, he said, bringing people together through negotiation and mediation.
“The residents of Salt Lake City are tired of the inefficiency that is being caused [by the friction],” he said. “There are going to be two new people on the council. You are going to have the opportunity to hit the reset button.”
“This is crazy. We have to open up channels of communication,” he said. “It is in no one’s best interest if [the mayor] fails. Let’s sit down and see how we can succeed.”
Sustainability also is at the top of Wharton’s priority list. As such, he would work to protect the foothills, trails and open space.
Just as important, he said, is clean air. Salt Lake City should move to make all its buildings and vehicles carbon neutral. Beyond that, the city must work with the state Legislature to update building codes to make new and existing structures, which are significant polluters, more green.
“It’s been 10 years since we’ve updated the building codes, and there have been many innovations,” he said of energy efficient products. While the Legislature has been reluctant to improve codes, Wharton said, times are changing. “Air quality is becoming a nonpartisan issue.”
Carroll wants to maintain parks and trails and build more of them — even if it means raising taxes or fees. He is also concerned that although there is an apartment building boom downtown, there is no plan for a new park or additional recreation opportunities.
“If we are going to create a downtown neighborhood,” he said. “We’ll need a recreation facility downtown.”
Wharton has served two terms on the Salt Lake City Human Rights Coalition. He was chairman during one of those terms. He has served on the board of directors for the Utah Pride Center. Wharton also has done pro bono legal work for the ACLU and the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project.