A crowd of more than 700 people greeted Ralph Becker with a warm reception on a chilly Monday, showering Salt Lake City's new mayor with applause before he took the oath of office and treating him to a standing ovation afterward. Full story published in the Deseret Morning News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and aired on KSL Channel 5.
Becker, a longtime member of the Utah House of Representatives who served most recently as Democratic Minority Leader, was sworn into office at the Salt Lake City-County Building by his brother, William W. Becker, who became a notary for the occasion, with his other brother, Don Becker, at his side. In addition, Utah Poet Laureate Katharine Coles was invited, and read an original poem crafted for the occasion, called "Arrival":
Who knew where we would end?
We took the plains in passing,
Following our hunger
Through a harrowed land.
In this, we are alike—
All of us arriving
Together, each alone,
The prairies passing us through
Until we came so far.
The valley, laid out, open,
Will turn to spring, then summer,
Green and gold at our feet
And we’ll be sailing the mountains
Riding the rim of sky,
Full of ourselves, and dizzy,
Almost into heaven.
Now, at our daily work,
Hands on the wheel or keyboard
We lift our eyes to the hills
That delivered us, and sing.
-- Katharine Coles
I decided to include this poem because it pays tribute to the pioneers who founded the modern-day state of Utah.
Following the formalities and more applause, Mayor Becker proclaimed Monday the beginning of "a new era" for Salt Lake City. "I am honored and pleased to assume the helm of our city government in a place where the mountains soar, where the economy thrives, where historic neighborhoods enrich and where the community spirit welcomes," he said.
Becker was joined on the east steps of the City-County Building by members of the Salt Lake City Council — including Luke Garrott (District 4) and JT Martin (District 6), who also were sworn into office for the first time, and Van Turner (District 2), who begins a third term on the council.
Becker called the inauguration the beginning of a partnership between the city administration and the City Council, vowing that "together we will succeed." The new mayor promised an "open, inclusive, transparent and engaging" dialogue among city elected leaders.
The mayor also cited several positives in the city upon which the new administration and City Council can build, including an "unparalleled natural setting for any city in the U.S.," being the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the church's estimated $1.5 billion investment in downtown with City Creek Center.
Salt Lake City also has much to accomplish, Becker said, emphasizing the importance of a "first-class education" for every child, protection of the city's natural resources, a vibrant downtown, safe neighborhoods, improved air quality and regional planning and communication. "With our efforts, Salt Lake City will set the standard for excellent transportation, clean air, quality living spaces, economic opportunities and justice for all," he said. "Together we will move Salt Lake City onto the elite list of great American cities."
Full text of Becker's inaugural speech HERE.
Now-former Mayor Rocky Anderson, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah, Salt Lake lies within his House district), also were in attendance for the inauguration, which kicked off an afternoon celebration that included the opening of a pair of visual-art exhibits and a tree planting at City Hall.
The celebration offered a sneak peek at Becker's "blueprints" in action, showing that he intends to deliver on promises he made during the campaign. In his "Blueprint for Neighborhoods and Gathering Places", Becker touted the importance of increasing and promoting artists' work downtown. Becker also pledged to implement a citywide tree-preservation and planting program in his "Blueprint for a Green City".
Many City Council members also expressed enthusiasm for the new mayor, particularly for his much less contentious leadership style. They look forward to what one called "considerably less angst". Rocky Anderson's administration was characterized by volatility and instability. Click HERE for a Deseret News article providing a timeline of Andreson's major accomplishments - and his frequent key personnel changes.
Commentary: Conspicuously muted was any reference to Ralph Becker's controversial "Human Rights Initiative", which is notoriously gay-friendly. The initiative mandates that all enterprises doing business with the city have gay non-discrimination policies, establishes an official registry for domestic unions, and specifies an enumerated list of protected classes. This is merely an extension of his equally gay-friendly voting record in the State House. The now-defunct Actwin gay-rights monitor awarded Becker a letter grade of "B+" for his voting record on gay issues, which translates to "pro-gay". Fortunately, before the Actwin website went offline, I recorded Becker's voting record on gay issues and documented it HERE. All the local media seem to be giving Becker a free pass on this issue.
However, pro-family activists should not take comfort from Becker's de-emphasis of the subject from his inaugural address. Recognizing the controversy of his "gay" agenda, he's merely decided to promote his "green" agenda first. But as soon as the spotlight generated by his inauguration and the customary political honeymoon dims, he'll slip his "gay" agenda into the forefront once again. Vigilance is prudent.
But nevertheless, the voters have spoken, the deed is done, so now we sit back and give Ralph Becker a fair chance to strut his stuff in the classic American tradition.