SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and challenger Jackie Biskupski squared off in a debate Thursday that covered issues ranging from the renovation of the airport to police dealings with the homeless.
The debate taped at KUED-TV was one of about a dozen held in the race.
Becker, who has served as mayor since 2007, is a former state lawmaker who spent five years as the Democratic leader in the Utah House of Representatives.
Biskupski is also a former state lawmaker who became Utah's first openly gay legislator when she was elected to the House in 1998. Since leaving office in 2011, she has worked in the office of the Salt Lake County sheriff on policy issues and special projects.
Here are some of the topics addressed at the debate:
HOMELESS POPULATION AND POLICE
Business leaders and residents in the downtown Pioneer Park neighborhood have called on leaders to address the homeless population and related crime.
Becker said the city has been recognized for a program that provides housing to the homeless that officials say has cut down on the number of people who experience prolonged or repeat periods of homelessness.
He said the city has also retooled the way it polices neighborhoods by beefing up bike patrols and adding more officers.
Biskupski said much of the crime in the Pioneer Park area is drug-related and the city should partner with other law enforcement agencies to tackle drug trafficking.
Biskupski brought up a backlog of about 800 untested rape kits in Salt Lake City. Police said the kits were not shipped to testing labs if there were issues such as a lack of evidence or a victim who didn't want to pursue charges.
After learning of the backlog last year, the City Council voted to require that every kit be tested.
"It shouldn't take an ordinance of some sort to make sure that we are processing evidence in our city, especially in a situation like this." Biskupski said,
Becker acknowledged the city has had challenges with testing but said police have been trained to be supportive of victims when responding to a sexual assault.
Becker and Biskupski discussed how they would keep the renovation of Salt Lake City International Airport on time and within its $1.8 billion budget.
The project is merging the airport's three terminals into one master terminal, with half opening in 2012 and the rest in 2022.
Becker said the construction cost is not coming out of the city's budget but is being paid for from a separate fund using federal money and fees passengers pay for airline tickets, rental cars and other things.
Biskupski said it was short-sighted to extend the TRAX light rail system to the airport in 2013 when officials knew the overhaul was in the works.
"We built it anyway and now we have to spend millions of dollars ripping it out and moving it," she said.
Becker said the light rail line was designed with the eventual extension in mind and will drop passengers off at the new terminal's main entrance.