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State of the City draws Parallels between Past and Present

PARK CITY, Utah. — Park City Mayor Andy Beerman took a virtual audience on “a journey through time” during his third annual State of the City address last night, highlighting that the city has faced crises many times before and expressing confidence it will prevail again as it combats current challenges.

Beerman began his address with a video highlighting the year that was 2020 – from a bustling Sundance to the sudden, near-total shutdown of the county and ensuing negative fallout on economic, educational and public health fronts.

Calling it ‘the year of big little things,’ Beerman thanked frontline workers for their contributions, mentioning teachers, health care workers, bus drivers, public safety workers and bus drivers. While 2020 was “a year of hardship, tragedy and frustration,” he pointed to silver linings such as people slowing down, getting outside more, and working from home.

To illustrate the long-running nature of municipal problems that feel newly intense to many residents, Beerman read news quotes and headlines and asked audience members to guess when they were published. A newspaper editorial cautioning the city not to ignore housing shortages came from 1993. And a headline decrying Park City’s slide into becoming “another Aspen” turned out to have been published in 1976.

Coincidentally, that’s when Aspen began building affordable housing – and that city now has more than 2,000 affordable units, Beerman said. “It turns out, we might have wanted to be a little more like Aspen back then.”

Those historical links to some of the most difficult, complex problems the city currently grapples with remained a theme throughout the evening, both in Beerman’s address and in the hour-long city council session that followed.

The city’s top priorities, which both the mayor and council members highlighted repeatedly, include increasing social equity and affordable housing for residents; improving public transportation to align with growth and usage patterns; achieving net-neutrality and reshaping tourism to be more environmentally sustainable; and moving toward a “car-optional” lifestyle for as many residents and visitors as possible.

The council spent significant time discussing the economic challenge of increasing affordable housing. Councilwoman Becca Gerber urged community members to contact city council to express support for making it a priority, explaining that achieving goals costs money. Councilman Max Doilney said the entire community benefits from economic diversity, and that he hopes people see value in building a community where not everyone looks the same and has the same job.

And councilman Tim Henney talked about finding ways the city can compete with the private sector more often to buy parcels of land and repurpose them for community benefits such as affordable housing.

Councilman Steve Joyce, who like councilwoman Nann Worel did not participate in last night’s virtual meeting, posted comments on Facebook today regarding funding for the planned Arts District, which was not a topic of much discussion last night, but which has sparked recent conflict over its price tag and planned funding methods:

“Park City Council’s discussions about the Arts and Culture District continue. This week we are doing our first deep dive in how to pay for the project, which depending on what you include, can cost up to $130M. As a city councilor, I have been disappointed at how little input and feedback we are receiving on the city’s biggest and most expensive project. At a minimum, please look through our package to get some details. Ideally, join us by Zoom on Thursday, Feb 25th, from 3:30-6:00. Details are here: https://www.parkcity.org/…/current-public-meeting-info…
You can submit eComments from that page or email Council_Mail@parkcity.org. Because this is a work session, we may or may not have time for public comments during the meeting. Thanks!”

For those who missed it, last night’s address can be viewed here.

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