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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Criminal Justice Funds Allocated by Council

During our budget discussions, the Salt Lake County Council passed a tax extension for criminal justice reform. This $9.4 million from the expired jail bond had $3.4 million appropriated during the budget to fund part of the sheriff and DA's budgets. The council wanted to allocate the remaining $6 million for criminal justice reform.

Council Member Jenny Wilson and I organized a two-day retreat on January 12 and 13. We brought together the Council, Mayor, DA, judges, mental and behavioral health specialists, and the Sheriff for a roundtable discussion to align our priorities. Throughout the retreat we agreed that we needed to focus on evidence-based outcomes for all criminal justice programs. We also know that taxpayer resources are scarce and we needed to make sure that we got a return on our investment by focusing on the root causes of recidivism. After a lot of discussion, we came to a general consensus of how to prioritize some of these criminal justice funds:

$100,000 to audit, evaluate and develop options to oversee Indigent Defense contracts

$200,000 for the Community Corrections Center and Receiving Center planning process

In two weeks we will hear from our sheriff and behavioral health director and look at which programs the remaining $2.7 million should go to. I've been an advocate of more detox beds, mental health and substance abuse programs in conjunction with probation, and data to make sure the money we put into programs is making a difference.

This will be an annual process where we identify our criminal justice priorities and allocate funds each year for specific programs and processes to help with our major jail overcrowding problem and high rate of recidivism. I am grateful we have such great criminal justice experts in our county to help us look ahead and improve in this arena.

Here is the Salt Lake Tribune article on this issue.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SL County Council Passes Resolution Encouraging Citizens to Attend Caucuses on March 22

Today the Salt Lake County Council passed a resolution encouraging county facilities and programs to make accommodations for citizens to attend their neighborhood caucus on Tuesday, March 22.

The resolution, sponsored by Republican Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, aims to make it as easy as possible for residents to clear their schedules and attend these grassroots political meetings where delegates are elected. These delegates may choose their party’s nominees in offices ranging from county mayor and council members to state legislators and governor. Thousands of Republicans and Democrats all across the state attend caucuses held every two years. Both parties will be having their caucus meetings on March 22, and some will be holding presidential primary elections that night.

“Neighborhood caucuses allow every voter a chance to participate in the most grassroots political process that we have,” said Newton. “Salt Lake County won’t have scheduled rec games that night, county-sponsored library events, or other programs that could create a conflict.”

With bi-partisan council support, and support from the mayor’s office, county departments have adjusted programs and facilities to be able make it easier for voters to attend caucuses, but facilities will still remain open as usual.

In addition to Salt Lake County taking steps to make caucuses more accessible, the resolution also encourages other governmental entities within Salt Lake County to limit activities and events on March 22 to allow the residents an opportunity to attend.

Thanks to my Democrat colleague, Arlyn Bradshaw, for jumping on board to help sponsor this resolution.