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Mayor Mendenhall Releases 2021 Report Card; Outlines Achievements and Priorities in her 2022 State of the City Address

Last week, Mayor Mendenhall released her 2021 Report Card, showing how the City fared on achieving the goals she laid out in January 2021.

We encourage you to check it out– particularly the “Air and Energy” page which details many of the projects we have worked on.

See the Mayor’s 2021 Report Card here.

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Then this week, Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivered her third State of the City address.

In addition to acknowledging the challenges of 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness, and affordable housing, the Mayor detailed significant progress on air quality and environmental initiatives.

She praised the determination residents and business owners have shown throughout the pandemic and other challenges the City has faced.  “The City has shown tremendous resilience and grit; and incredible grace in trying to help others through this time,” she said. 

With environmental achievements, the Mayor described historic progress:

From transitioning the City to net-100 renewable energy to expanding free public transit and planting trees, Salt Lake City is making significant efforts to improve the City’s air quality. 

These are the kind of steps I dreamed of as an air-quality advocate — our city is taking unprecedented control of its energy future,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “Every tree we plant, every mower we swap out, every public-transit ride, every energy-efficient upgrade and every net-zero building that goes up – combined with the 100 percent renewable energy that will soon flow into our city – we are making history together.”

That progress has come through four key approaches: removing pollution, investing in better data, reducing the volume of emissions created, and working to deliver 100 percent renewable energy to the entire city by 2030.

Here are a few highlights as they relate to sustainability from her speech:

Removing Pollution

  • Mayor Mendenhall described the commitment she has made since coming into office to plant 1,000 additional trees every year in Salt Lake City’s Westside neighborhoods. “It’s easy to underestimate the impact these trees can have. It may look like simple beautification, but those 2,000 trees we’ve planted [in 2021 and 2020] will grow to generate half a million pounds of new oxygen, and take 20,000 pounds of pollution out of the air each year. And they’ll do it in the neighborhoods that need it the most . . . It’s my hope that these trees will be just the beginning.”

Producing Better Data

The Mayor highlighted several projects the Sustainability Department is helping lead across the city:

  • One is a partnership with the University of Utah on installing 7 black carbon air quality monitors across the city and analyzing their results. Black carbon is a particularly harmful type of PM2.5 pollution that comes from diesel emissions as well as wood smoke, and this information will be helpful in assessing where we have differences in pollution burden.
  • Another is a partnership on the Salt Lake County-led project that is installing research-grade air quality monitors on electric buses so that we can better capture real-time pollution differences across the valley. Salt Lake City will be debuting a map in 2022 with this information.

Reducing the Volume of Pollution the City Creates

This is the area where SLC has focused on many programs over the years both on air quality and energy. Highlights from the State of the City include:

  • The RDA’s new Sustainability Policy, approved by the City Council in December, requires all new buildings funded by RDA money to be emission-free, operating without on-site combustion of fossil fuels like natural gas or propane. They will also need to source their electricity from renewable sources.
  • Taking ownership of the C-PACE program so that commercial buildings being constructed in Salt Lake City can finance renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements that they may not otherwise be able to. In 2022, the Hyatt Regency at the Salt Palace will open, becoming the largest C-PACE financed program in the country. Last year, we also helped facilitate the financing of a new airport hotel, which is achieving a 30% reduction in energy use over baseline due to C-PACE-enabled energy efficiency enhancements.
  • Supporting the gas-powered lawnmower exchange to give Salt Lake City residents, particularly on the Westside, the opportunity to swap out their polluting gas-powered mowers for clean, electric models. We quadrupled Salt Lake City resident participation over previous State-run exchanges and last year removed over 500 mowers in SLC alone, which will eliminate 4 tons of pollution annually. We plan to host another exchange in 2022.
  • Launching an Air Quality Action Program that asks eligible City employees to work from home on Mandatory Action Days. Fewer cars on the road means less pollution in the air.
  • The Mayor noted the importance of personal responsibility in choosing cleaner ways to get around. Taking public transit, or, if you can afford it, choosing an electric car, are the best ways to reduce air pollution. Her administration is working to make that easier by creating bus shelters, extending the S-Line Street car further east to Sugar House, and announcing Free Fare February.
  • She acknowledged that transit options are still out of reach for many SLC residents in terms of convenience and we need to make it easier for people to get around without a personal vehicle. That’s why the City launched an on-demand ride service program with UTA last year, beginning on the Westside.
  • While the pandemic slowed the roll-out of the Tickets for Transit program, the Mayor described the conversations and partnerships she’s putting in place with private event organizers so that your ticket to a game or concert will double as free fare on UTA.
  • An exciting teaser is also that the Salt Lake City Airport is working to make permanent a pilot program whereby your boarding pass would double as free fare on the Airport Trax line.
  • We’re also working hard to accelerate our timeline to convert City fleet vehicles to all-electric.

Taking Control of our Energy Future

In her speech, the Mayor noted that the biggest move local government can make is by influencing the kind of electricity that comes into the City to serve all of our customers.

The Mayor touched on other important City priorities in the State of the City. We encourage you to watch and share your feedback!

To learn more about what Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability accomplished in 2021, see our Year in Review.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivers the 2022 State of the City address for Salt Lake City.
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