Park City mayor’s message about coronavirus crisis criticized as ‘tone deaf’ to those struggling
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman wants the community to take a moment to catch its breath amid the shutdowns forced by the spread of the novel coronavirus, a sentiment he outlined in recent remarks at a Park City Council meeting.
He expressed a similar idea in a note to the community as concerns mounted, saying in a letter addressed to friends and neighbors that his advice is to “take a deep breath, soak it up, catch up on life, and take some time to reflect.” He called it a “pause” and said people can use the time “to catch up with family, call friends, get outdoors, or finish projects. This is a great opportunity to read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand, or break out the paint set that’s been collecting dust on your shelf.”
But there are many people in Park City struggling financially and reports of layoffs or reduced hours in various sectors with Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort closing during what is typically a lucrative stretch of spring-break ski vacations. The municipal government intends to address the sudden economic drop, but that work, officials say, must wait until after the acute issue of the spread of the sickness is under control. An economic resiliency task force was formed to begin crafting plans to boost business.
In the meantime, Beerman said in the letter, “as I walk around my neighborhood (Old Town), I see locals everywhere. People are friendly, smiling, and, perhaps, strangely calm. It’s what a healthy community should look like.”
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On Main Street, numerous businesses were temporarily closed even before Summit County on Wednesday issued a stay-at-home order that went into effect on Friday. There were just scattered people seen on Main Street at many times over the last week.
One of the businesses that has been closed is Flight Boutique, occupying a high-traffic location toward the middle of Main Street. The store closed on March 15 and there is no scheduled reopening. Three people were laid off, making them eligible to collect unemployment benefits. There are just the two co-owners left, and they are not earning anything since the revenue has dropped to whatever is earned from online sales, deliveries to homes and subscription boxes filled with clothes and other goods.
Blaire Isleib, one of the co-owners, said the note from the mayor, coming as the conditions were quickly deteriorating on Main Street, arrived at a difficult moment. She described the note as “frustrating” and “all rosy.”
“I do appreciate the sentiments. I think the timing is bad,” she said, adding that City Hall was not working with businesses through the middle of the week.
She also said the letter from the mayor likely was not received well on Main Street even as she said she appreciates the underlying message from Beerman. The letter was “tone deaf” to the public, the service industry and businesses, Isleib said.
“That’s not always the case for a lot of families in Park City,” she said about the advice the mayor offered in his letter. “… They are struggling. They just lost their income.”
She said the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of businesses in the Main Street core, has been helpful with information about state-level assistance that is available. She is unsure what current role City Hall could have in assisting Main Street. Isleib said suggestions in Park City for businesses to seek state help conflict with the spirit of the community.
“It’s not consistent with the Park City I grew up in,” she said.
The mayor, separately, addressed a question from Isleib during a Virtual Coffee with Council event, saying he once led the group that represents businesses in the Main Street core and has been a Main Street businessman. He said his time on Main Street included the downturn after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and weak snow years.
“I would hope that I have a grasp on it and an empathy for everybody, certainly. I make my living off of rental properties, which are all empty, and my commercial tenants are going to be given a rent abatement. So, I’m in the same boat as the rest of you,” Beerman said.
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A member of the Park City Council said he has seen significant progress in the economic recovery two months after describing June 1 as a key date.