I was born in the East Central community right here in District 4. My brother and I were raised by a single mother who worked hard to try to keep us out of poverty, and as I entered middle school at Bryant Middle School, we were able to purchase a house in the Central 9th neighborhood on Jefferson St.
Jefferson St. was not a great place for kids. For most of my life there, the largest building on the block was an abandoned appliance store. The only place for groceries within walking distance was the 7-11. One of my most vivid memories was from when I was 11 years old, as my brother grabbed his camera to take some quick photos of the meth house burning down across the street.
Through the determination of our mother, we made it work. Life on Jefferson St. softened a bit in the following years as more families moved in, but when I turned 19 it was ready to find a place of my own. I moved even deeper downtown, to a tiny apartment a block from the homeless shelter on 200 South.
While living near the shelter, I got to know a few of my neighbors experiencing homelessness. I spent a lot of time at the neighborhood convenience store and found myself chatting with them often. I began to think more and more about the political climate here in Salt Lake City, and I wondered to myself what was the point of government if not to protect the most vulnerable in our community? I don’t have all the answers, but I think I have enough of the right questions.
Throughout my life I have worked a number of low-paying jobs in the hospitality industry, putting me in an income bracket lower than the average resident of Salt Lake. As I started looking for a new apartment, it became clear to me that my class of people wasn’t meant to live downtown. Eventually, I spoke to an office manager who told me I was number 700 on the waiting list to get in, but if I happened to call on the day someone was moving out, I could jump ahead in that line.
Every single day, Monday through Friday, I called that office asking if they had any availability. I would have called Saturday, too, if I’d realized the office was open that day! Day after day, month after month, the answer was no. Finally, after four months, I got the answer: “We have an opening. If you can get down here in 30 minutes, you can have it.” I had just got off work at my second job. I didn’t have a car. I ran the mile to new building and signed a lease, sight-unseen.
In 2015, my mother sold her house. Central 9th had become a thriving little neighborhood and she made a profit on her home, but even with the extra cash, she found herself priced out of her own neighborhood. It’s a story I’ve seen again and again, as one of our aging residents lets go of their home, and finds themselves pushed out into the suburbs… or out onto the street. Thankfully, my mother was able to settle at a nice apartment in West Valley City, but her rent today is more than her mortgage ever was.
I believe very strongly in giving back to my city, and in 2013 I was elected chair of the Central City Neighborhood Council, a local nonprofit community organization representing residents and business owners here in District 4. I also served for four years on the Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission, listening to and working to elevate the voices and concerns of marginalized communities to the Mayor’s Office. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in these roles.
It’s because of the thousands of conversations I had with residents, standing in their doorsteps or during public meetings, that I’ve decided to run for Salt Lake City Council. Time and time again, I’ve heard the same issues, while we’ve all seen certain problems continue to spiral out of control. I’m running for city council because I want to cut out the “middle man,” I spent many years listening to your concerns and reporting back to the city. Now is the time to take your ideas and run with them.
For more information, check out the Issues page to see where I stand on some of the critical questions facing our community. If you’d like to volunteer, I’d love to have your help to make sure we talk to as many of our neighborhoods as possible. If you have any questions, please visit the Contact page, or just give me a call at (801) 413-3167.
I hope I can count on your vote this August.