Park City mayor: Look for silver linings during coronavirus shutdown
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman on Tuesday briefly spoke about the atmosphere of the community amid a broad business shutdown as steps are taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying Parkites are realizing they have more neighbors and roads are not busy as they were prior to the disease’s arrival.
It was at least the second time in a week the mayor has spoken publicly with a similar perspective. Beerman, a first-term mayor who served on the Park City Council prior to his mayoral victory, has attempted to soothe nerves in the community as people worry about the steep drop in business and the health concerns. The comments on Tuesday were made during an online appearance dubbed a Virtual Coffee with Council, an effort by Park City leaders to better engage the public.
“Isn’t it amazing how safe the streets feel right now, the lack of traffic and how quiet things are. You can hear the birds again,” Beerman said.
Beerman later said people need to be kind and generous as he also conceded there will be hardships. He said Parkites have a chance to “look for the silver linings.”
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“To wave to their neighbors on the street, to enjoy the quiet and down time we were all craving just a few months ago. The fact we can actually hear the birds outside and we’re seeing moose and deer walk through the neighborhood. We’re getting time with our families. We’re getting time to get caught up in life. We’re learning new ways to work and be productive. Those are all opportunities,” Beerman said.
Beerman’s comments hearken back to the issues that were at the forefront of City Hall just weeks ago, prior to the spread of the coronavirus. Leaders were engaged in talks with rank-and-file Parkites about crafting a long-range vision for the community. Many Parkites during the so-called visioning exercise wanted City Hall to better address issues like growth and traffic. Many have also expressed concern with the city’s busyness.
The mayor at a recent City Council meeting also addressed the topic, saying then that the slowdown is possibly an opportunity to see a Park City prior to the boom years. He said at the recent meeting Park City has a “moment to catch our breath” and rethink priorities.
It seems that many Parkites, particularly those who are financially independent, may agree with the mayor’s talk about the reduction in traffic and the city’s quietness. Numerous members of the workforce, though, could be left with questions about their future in a community where affordability was difficult even before the sharp drop in the tourism-based economy as the mountain resorts closed to combat the spread of the disease.
Beerman appeared alongside City Councilor Tim Henney as they spoke and answered questions for upward of an hour. They covered a broad range of topics as people asked questions in a virtual setting. Beerman said the municipal government continues to operate and said City Hall is financially strong, describing there are reserves in the budget that could cover shortfalls in tax revenues. He also said City Hall could delay capital projects to free up funds if necessary.
Henney fielded a question about the financial situation of people who work in Park City’s large service industry. He spoke about assistance programs offered through the Christian Center of Park City. Beerman, though, added it is unclear what sort of assistance tools will be made available through the federal and state governments. He said City Hall will hold off until it understands what gaps in assistance need to be filled.
Beerman also spoke about the lack of a City Hall role, or authority, in the relationships between private-sector landlords and their tenants. There are worries that the people who are no longer working will struggle in coming weeks with their rents.
Beerman said he is aware of landlords offering relief of some sort, but he also acknowledged the landlords earn a living off the rents they collect.
“I’m hearing a lot of landlords express a willingness to do that in this community. And I think that’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s probably good business at this point. If we’re going into a recession, tenants aren’t going (to) be easy to find. So, I encourage people to do the right thing, do the pragmatic thing, and support their tenants in ways they can,” Beerman said.
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A Park City crowd gathered on the sun-soaked turf of Dozier Field midday on Monday in tribute to George Floyd, the black man whose death in police custody in Minneapolis triggered widespread protests in the U.S.