Outside Ninth & Ninth restaurant Publik Kitchen, Utah AIDS Foundation executive director and former Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold announced Thursday, Oct. 4, that he will run against Jackie Biskupski to become Salt Lake City Mayor.
“Everybody says this is early,” Penfold said. “But the big election — the primary — happens in June, so not so far away.”
He said he is running because he loves the city and its people.
“I love the people of Salt Lake City,” Penfold said. “And I love my neighbors. I love the young couple who moved in with the new baby. And I love the older couple whose family moved here generations ago, and they are living out their final years in the same neighborhood they’ve lived in their entire lives, next to the young couple with the new kids.”
“I love the diversity of Salt Lake City,” he continued. “I love the new immigrants of the Liberty Wells neighborhood and the young people of East Downtown, and the hipsters and the artists of Central Ninth. I love the people who are reviving the west-side neighborhoods like Glendale and Poplar Grove. They bring soccer and amazing food to share.
“I love the gayborhoods of the Marmalade and the University and Sugar House and Ninth & Ninth, and pretty much every neighborhood in Salt Lake is a gayborhood anymore. And that’s a good thing.
“I love that we live side-by-side and that we care about each other, and that we enjoy each other, and that we truly enjoy the uniqueness that makes Salt Lake City a wonderful place to live.”
He said he is different from the current administration because he listens.
“What we really need in Salt Lake City is leadership that listens and leadership that really cares,” Penfold said. “My campaign for mayor will look different because frankly, I am different. I know how to listen. I want to listen. I actually receive great joy from listening and sharing and creating things together. So that is why I am kicking off this campaign by listening. I will be coming to a neighborhood near you soon, to listen. And I want to hear from you. I want to hear from the wonderful and diverse neighbors who live here in Salt Lake City. And then, I know how to make things happen.”
He went on to list some accomplishments he made while on the city council.
“I know how to work with others to get things done. I know how to do a free-fare transit day where everybody said it could not happen. I did it,” he said. “I know how to plant trees and grow community gardens. I know how to help small businesses.
“I know how to partner, and I know how to help people come together to do impossible things like rename six miles of a street in Salt Lake City.”
Penfold is largely credited for being the person who got the city to rename part of Ninth South from Ninth West to Ninth East “Harvey Milk Boulevard,” after the San Francisco politician who made significant change in California and became a beacon to the gay community nationwide before being killed by fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
Penfold had endorsed then-incumbent mayor Ralph Becker in the election that Biskupski won. He left the council in January after eight years, expressing frustration with Biskupski’s leadership. Then he was rumored to have formed an exploratory committee to run for mayor back in April of 2017, only 16 months after Biskupski took office. He told The Salt Lake Tribune back then that the mayor was often confrontational and “quick in equal measure to take credit but pass along blame.” He also said her administration lacks transparency.
A Utah Policy poll released last month found 56 percent of likely Salt Lake City voters said it was either “definitely” or “probably” time to elect a new mayor other than Biskupski. Asked, “Should Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski be elected to another four-year term, or is it time to give someone new a chance to serve?”, 29 percent said it was definitely time to elect someone new and 27 percent said probably time. Only 34 percent supported the current mayor, with 20 percent saying maybe and 14 percent saying they definitely would re-elect Biskupski. Nine percent were unsure. The poll by Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 203 likely voters and had a 6.8 percent margin of error.
Biskupski is the first openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City and was the first openly lesbian legislator in the state, first elected in 1998.
Penfold left the crowd with a favorite quote from Prior in Tony Kuschner’s play, Angels in America:
“He speaks at a time of darkness in the country and absence of those who govern. He speaks in a time of severe neglect of leadership and responsibility. In a time of government ignorance and incompetence. In a time of much anger and anguish. Very much like today.”
“We are not going away. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. We are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you more life. The great work begins.”