SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – A war of words is blowing up, centered around Operation Rio Grande in Salt Lake City.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes says he’s had it, and Tuesday he came out swinging.
He says Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is working against the efforts to clean up crime in the area. She says she is letting the process take its course.
This frustration is boiling over just two weeks into the multi-jurisdictional operation.
“Our big road block right now is this mayor. She, for some reason does not want to see that safe space created,” said Hughes, (R) Draper.
That safe space requires closing down part of Rio Grande Street near the homeless shelter.
Hughes says it would be a controlled area where the homeless community could congregate in a safe setting and have access to resources.
Hughes says Mayor Biskupski has the authority to do it now, but she’s dragging her feet.
“In multiple meetings where she has been resistant to the idea, she has come around and said that she supports it. And, every time we get to that place, within a day she then opposes it again.”
Hughes also says Biskupski is going behind the back of the coalition.
“Mayor Biskupski, not only does she oppose closing that street, but she called the services providers last night and put them in an awkward position. And said are you ready with all your services, are you ready to step up right now, are you ready for unknown liability. None of those things are in play right now.”
Mayor Biskupski, and her team didn’t respond to a request for an on camera interview, but on Twitter she responded saying:
We are supportive of a safe space/ closure. Salt Lake City is required to do this in a legal and transparent way.
She says the city council should also be allowed to provide policy guidance on this.
Hughes says time is of the essence.
“I think it’s urgent, because as we see the drug dealers coming back into the area, and they are starting to come around these service providers, we are going to lose ground.”
There is also contention over the budget. The city is being asked to cover $10 million of the total $67 million price tag. Hughes insists that is reasonable.