Commentary: Community can take back the Rio Grande neighborhood

Our neighborhood in downtown Salt Lake City has been in the news a lot lately.

As residents and business owners living and working in and around Rio Grande Street and Pioneer Park, we wish we could tell you that this was the first summer we’ve experienced problems of crime or violence. But this has been growing for the past four years. We know there are much easier places to live and do business in this great city. But we are not going anywhere. We are staying right here. Why?


Our commitment to the most challenging neighborhood in Utah is not an accident or happenstance.The conscious decision to live and work in the Rio Grande neighborhood is based on one underlying fact: we are a community. And that sense of community is more important now than it has ever been in the past. We fight the good fight every day. And we will not let criminals, drug dealers or gangs dictate our future. We refuse to give up on this historic neighborhood in Utah’s Capital City. We do not run away from challenges. We face them head on.

State, County and City leaders are engaged and participating with unprecedented collaboration to look for solutions – both in the short and long term. Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, Speaker Hughes, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski have all spoken out about the need to address complex and difficult challenges that are beyond any single entity’s control. We are grateful for their attention and the public commitments they have made. We urge them to work collaboratively and swiftly to secure our streets and protect our employees, customers, families and neighbors – including our homeless friends. But government cannot and will not solve this issue alone. We need your help.

Our community extends beyond those who just live or work in our neighborhood. You are a part of our community, too. You can make a decision right now to be part of the solution to this problem, by supporting the businesses in and around our neighborhood. It sounds simple, but the conscious decision to spend your money at a Pioneer Park business will help small businesses weather the storm and let criminals know they do not run our city.

When you shop at one of our businesses, attend the Downtown Farmers Market or catch a show at the Twilight Concert Series, your money does more than just buy a product. It helps to create a sense of normalcy and stability that is as powerful as any law enforcement effort. It is empowering to do the right thing and to stand up for something. It feels good to make a conscious decision to spend your energy and money in a way that matters. You can help take back this neighborhood.

We understand the temptation to describe our neighborhood in ways that garner media attention. And it is not inaccurate to say we are in crisis. But emphasizing the challenges, without providing concrete solutions only makes it harder for us to succeed. It may be tempting to wait out the storm, but we challenge you to instead make the courageous decision to help us take back the west side of downtown. You can be part of a positive change that comes from dedicated people rallying together to make a difference.

The community has done a great job urging our elected officials to act. But it’s time to step up and do more. Your patronage and presence in our neighborhood will help us take the Rio Grande area back from criminals, dealers and gangs. Together, as a community, we can do this.

From Matt Caputo, owner and proprietor of Caputo’s Deli; Jesse Dean, director of Urban Development at the Downtown Alliance; Alison Einerson, manager of the Downtown Farmers Market; Christian Harrison, chair of the Downtown Community Council; and Kestrel Liedtke, a co-owner of the Tin Angel Cafe.

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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