ASK THE MAYOR
Welcome to our Ask the Mayor page.
Here residents can ask a question and receive a response from Mayor Norm Searle. As questions are asked they may be posted to this page along with the answer. To ask a question, click on the button below.
If the form is not responding you can also email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: Dear Mayor,
I am wondering if there should be a policy or ordinance with regards to the panhandling or beggers that are consistently in the Walmart parking areas, McDonalds and other places of business. Some cities have ordinances prohibiting such activity. After watching channel 5 investigations on "Beggers" I am reluctent to provide any assistance to the above mentioned. I think it is sad that with the unemployement rate hovering at 3% in Ut and "Help Wanted" signs in numerous locations it seems that these people can earn more "on the street" rather than working. I suggest Riverdale adopt an ordinance making it illegal to panhandle or beg within the city limits.
Answer: Thank you for your question and for sharing a concern that is common to most of us who live and shop in Riverdale. First let me say that if the motorists/shoppers who confront panhandlers would donate to the homeless shelters and not give money to the panhandlers, the problem we are faced with would practically go away. However, there are some who like to give to the panhandlers for one reason or another and that is their choice to do so. Ordinances to prohibit panhandling on public right of ways infringe on the constitutional rights of the panhandlers. Businesses have the right to prohibit panhandling on their property, if they choose to do so.
The following is an email from our Riverdale City Administrator, Mr. Rodger Worthen, which I received following your "Ask the Mayor" question.
Mayor- This is a question that has been presented before to many Cities along the Wasatch front. Our good State Legislature back in 2010 attempted to address the issue and the law was struck down in the courts. In brief, the state enacted a law that prohibited people from sitting, standing or loitering near a roadway to solicit a contribution or employment. Three homeless people challenged the constitutionality of the law and it was struck down by a federal judge for being overly broad. In a March 15 order, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart in Salt Lake City granted the plaintiffs’ motion seeking to order agencies statewide to stop enforcing the law. State attorneys argued the panhandling prohibition addressed traffic and public safety concerns, but Judge Stewart found Utah’s law is too sweeping and infringes on constitutionally protected rights.
I pasted a few links below that may help provide more information to answer the submitted Email question. The last link from UtahValley360 is a really good article on how to deal with panhandling from a perspective of encountering them along our streets.
Thank you Mayor-
Following the overturn of the Utah State Legislature’s 2010 panhandler law, cities and towns have been very careful on how they deal with panhandlers. I have been concerned with this issue for some time, but have been cautioned by our legal staff to take any action that would result in a lawsuit against the city.
After receiving your "Ask the Mayor" question, I have talked with our police department, and city staff concerning the problem of panhandling. Our "always ready" police department has already taken quick action to work the problem, in such a manner as not to violate the constitutional rights of the panhandler. If you take a look around the city, at this time, you will see very few, if any, panhandlers. We are working to protect the rights of the shopper as well as the panhandler and to maintain a good image in our commercial district and will continue to do so.
Thank you again for bringing this question to my attention. We have taken a real hard look at this problem and hopefully, we can make a lasting difference!
Question: Dear Mayor,
As a concerned parent (with many others), I am looking for some answers regarding a situation that is happening at Riverdale Elementary. First, let me say I am writing to you because the "school", the "district" and the "city" are stating it is not their problem to deal with. On the asphalt, in back of the school, the snow is being pushed up against the curbway by the basketball court and the portables. It is also right by the entrance to the tennis courts. Many parents have asked the school to remove the mound of snow becuase it is a throughway for children and families (who are walking to school). The school custodian told parents that it is not their responsibility and that we should walk all the way around the tennis courts to the playground to get to the building. A lot of families walk to school from the back entrance (up through the little alley way). The snow mound has become icy and hard to climb over. There is a gentelman that has to push a stroller e veryday with an infant through that mess. Today, he had to lift it over the mound. The day we had the slushy, ice/snow mix, it left about a foot of water in that same area on the pavement because of the snow being pushed up that way. Many kids/families had to walk in it (and many fell). If the city owns that section, right by the entrance to the tennis courts, maybe someone could come over and break up the snow mound. It's not large at all, but we all would like it cleared away, so we can get to school. Thank you for your time.
Answer: Thank you for "Asking the Mayor!" I have looked into the situation at the school where the 'snow pile/mound' blocks access from the 4300 South walkway. The district plow drivers have a very limited amount of space to place the snow they remove from the playground. Following a snow storm, the district drivers pile a significant amount of snow east of the city tennis courts onto the grassy area thus blocking access to the school from the 4300 South walkway. A few days following the snow storm, the district returns with heavy equipment and pushes the piled snow further away from the playground onto the grass next to the tennis courts. When they do this it usually opens access from the walkway to the playground. I have talked with Melanie Johnson, Principal of Riverdale Elementary and also with the school custodian about blocking the access of the school children from the 4300 South walkway to the playground. They both have agreed to work with the district to keep approximately four feet of space open, along the east side of the tennis courts to allow children and parents access to and from the walkway. The school custodian agreed to coordinate this with the school district snow plow drivers. I have not responded promptly to your question, on the city website, as I have been waiting for a good snowstorm to see if what we agreed to will actually happen. The past couple of snow storms have not been heavy enough to have large amounts of snow removed. I will keep an eye on this situation as I am at the school two days a week.
While informing our City Administrator, Rodger Worthen, of the problem at the school, he suggested extending the walkway from 4300 South to the school playground and also to the paved trail that loops the Riverdale Park. With Proposition One recently passed by the voters, there will be additional monies available for roads, trails, sidewalks, etc. This new section of trail would help resolve the current snow pile problem. This is a great idea that would benefit school children as well as park users. Money for the walkway/trail extension would have to be in our next year’s budget cycle, which begins on July 1, 2016.
Question: Dear Mayor Searle,
I've lived in Riverdale for many years. The area south of the city offices was once a local peaceful retreat, a place where you would take your entire family to enjoy the local "outdoors". However, over the past few years there has been an increase in offensive and downright illegal activities taking place around that area, specifically around the disc golf course. Loud music, swearing, smoking, open alchohol containers and inebriated people, and even the occasional marijuana smoking are becoming commonplace. While the city has done an excellent job with trash receptacles and appropriate signage, with no (or infrequent) law enforcement presence these illegal acts continue and proliferate.
Is this something the city will review this winter in hopes of having new code or code/law enforcement present for this next summer? Is a different approach to policing this area something the city can budget for? An occasional officer on a bike down the trails
a few times a week during peak times will certainly send the message that the trails and disc golf course area are not forgotten and that illegal activities won't be tolerated in Riverdale.
Thanks for your support in helping keep Riverdale a safe, fun place to live and recreate.
Answer: Thank you for your question and bringing your concern to my attention. I am aware that we do have problems on the river trail, but this is the first time that I have been told that there are numerous and ongoing problems near the disc golf course. We had problems near the 4300 South trailhead, (formerly Kayak Park) 1 ½ years ago, when the ‘swimming hole and rope swing’ were present. I read a Facebook comment from a young mother who was bypassing that area, with her children, because of the illegal activities. The police chief was notified of this. Officers in plain clothes then frequented the trail, even on weekends, issuing approximately twelve citations for alcohol and smoking violations. Things have been much quieter at that location. Numerous problems at night have occurred for the residents living near the same trailhead prior to eliminating the ‘kayak feature’ and repairing the damaged sewer crossing feature which filled in the swimming hole. Surveillance cameras were installed in the trailhead parking lot and near residents’ homes. Nightly patrols in the trailhead parking lot to enforce the trail/park curfew has made a difference. The neighbors are much happier now. The problems experienced along the trail are not unique to the trail. I am told by the police that we actually have more problems in our city parks than we do along the trail.
The police do random bike patrols on the trail. The animal control officer is also on the trail looking for problems with off-leash dogs. Off-leash dogs are currently a problem that needs extra attention. Some residents, particularly those with children are not using the trail because of fear for the dogs. Police need to continue to patrol all trailhead parking lots to ensure the curfew time is met. I agree that we do need to step up our police presence along the trail and we will certainly work at doing that. Surveillance cameras along the trail are an option. Our annual police budget is approximately 2.8 million dollars a year, so we will probably not be adding numbers to our police force. We will need to work smarter to ensure the river trail and our parks are free from illicit and illegal behavior.
You cited many different illegal activities taking place near the disc golf course. I would be curious to know how many of these types of activities are seen at the disc golf course and other trail locations and not reported? We are all aware of the Neighborhood Watch program which can be very effective when neighbors look out for each other. I believe that a Riverdale Crime Watch Program would go a long way to clean up problems along the trail and throughout our city. Most trail users and residents have cell phones with them. To make a phone call after observing an illegal activity, would help immensely to reduce crime in our city. I would suggest that the police dispatch phone number, 801-629-8221, be programmed into residents cell phones. I have also memorized this number so that I will have it readily available. Remember, our police officers are ready and look forward to responding to your call! If not on a call they can respond to any location in the city in about two minutes!
Question: Dear Mayor,
The December newsletter has an article called Wintertime Reminders; one reminder in particular about parking on the street that states: "City ordinance requires that cars be parked off the streets during snow storms and winter nights."
I have a question and a suggestion:
1. What is meant by "winter nights"?
2. I would like to suggest a timeframe, like December thru February and any other time it snows, instead of how the city ordinance reads now. I think that would be more definitive and people would know exactly when they should not park in the streets. I see cars in my neighborhood, parked overnight in the street all the time, especialy before, during and after a snowstorm. I notiiced the last two storms we had, the snowplow had a difficult time clearing the snow around these vehicles.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to the citizens of Riverdale and appreciate all that you and others do for us in Riverdale City.
Answer: Thank you very much for bringing this concern to my attention. You are right that the term “winter night” used in the city newsletter article is vague and not definitive. The term “wintery night” might be more appropriate. I have listed below two of the city ordinances that apply to parking on streets when snow removal is necessary. Neither ordinance mentions “winter nights” and really only apply when the need to remove snow is necessary. With the changing weather patterns we are experiencing, it might not be appropriate to designate certain time periods, such as December thru February, to not allow overnight parking on city streets. Last winter, there were very few snow storms after the 1st of January, if any, and to not allow any overtime parking on the streets would not have been necessary. Just a word on towing of vehicles left on the streets. When it is determined by snow removal crews and the police department, that a vehicle is a nuisance, our police officers make every effort possible to get a vehicle off of the street before having the vehicle towed and impounded Towing and impounding of a vehicle usually results in hundreds of dollars in fees. Thank you for sharing your question and concern!
Norm Searle, Mayor
In order to adequately remove snow and to avoid property damage as far as possible, it is necessary to keep public streets and highways clear of all parked vehicles and other obstacles left on or adjacent to the travel way during snowstorms. Therefore, when snow removal becomes necessary, no person who owns or has possession, custody or control of any vehicle or other object shall park or place such vehicle or object upon or immediately adjacent to any street travel way until the street is cleared. This prohibition does not apply to physicians or other authorized emergency service personnel. Any such vehicle or object so parked or placed is declared a public nuisance. (1985 Code § 12-4-4)
6-4-7: NUISANCE; IMPOUNDING:
Every vehicle found stopped, standing or parked upon the public streets of the city where prohibited by section 6-4-4 and subsection 6-4-5A of this chapter, or where prohibited by any law of the state, and every vehicle abandoned in the streets is hereby declared to be an obstruction in the street and a public nuisance. Such nuisances may be abated as provided in chapter 3 of this title. (1985 Code § 12-4-8)