Park City candidates briefly address polarizing Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street
City Council challengers say they did not support process that led to social justice works
The field in the Park City Council primary election on Tuesday briefly addressed the Black Lives Matter mural that was put on Main Street in 2020, an indication there continues to be simmering emotions about the polarizing work and the process that led to the creation of the mural and others with social justice themes at the same time.
Seven of the eight City Council candidates attended a forum hosted by the issues-oriented activist group Future Park City at the Mustang restaurant on lower Main Street. One of the leaders of Future Park City, Angela Moschetta, inquired about the process undertaken by City Hall prior to the creation of the murals on Independence Day last year. There was intense criticism afterward about what was seen as a lack of publicity prior to the appearance of the murals as well as questions about whether the mural was designed to align the community with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Moschetta has previously criticized the process. She asked the candidates on Tuesday whether they supported the City Hall process. Six of the seven candidates who attended said they did not. The one who did support the process was Tim Henney, who is the only incumbent member of the City Council seeking reelection this year.
Henney later in the event provided additional comments, saying the mural was a “beacon” and a welcoming message. He said he supports diversity and said he has seen more Black people and other minorities on Main Street than in the past. He acknowledged he has not spoken to Black leaders in Utah, though.
The other candidates at the event did not explain in any depth their reasoning for withholding support for the process.
The murals, particularly the Black Lives Matter work, caused a splintering as supporters and those who question the movement mobilized. The Black Lives Matter mural was vandalized shortly after it was created, spurring a community conversation about race.
Some people — both supporters and opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement itself — raised concerns at the time about the process prior to the creation of the murals. There were especially worries that the plans had not been widely publicized before the murals appeared while there were also questions about the use of taxpayer monies.
The controversy continued into this spring and the summer. Moschetta in May confronted Park City leaders about not involving Black people in the planning of the murals. Mayor Andy Beerman cut off Moschetta during the May meeting in a rare move to end someone’s public input. He claimed her comments amounted to personal attacks.
Social justice issues generally have not been crucial to City Hall elections, which for decades have tended to focus on topics related to growth, such as development, traffic and the economy. Latinos are the only minority group living inside the Park City limits in any significant number. Candidates over the years, including those currently competing in the City Council election, have appeared to support the broad ideals of social justice.
The forum on Tuesday was a rare opportunity for the public to see most of the candidates in person and together. City Council candidate Thomas Purcell was not in attendance.
The event was held as the balloting continues in the vote-by-mail primary election. Voters will advance four of the eight candidates to Election Day in November. The primary is Tuesday. The voters on Tuesday will also drop one mayoral candidate from a field of three. The candidates for the mayor’s office are incumbent Mayor Andy Beerman, City Councilor Nann Worel and investment banker David Dobkin.
Some of the candidate highlights from the forum included:
• John Greenfield saying he supports the concept of public-private partnerships in housing projects designed for the workforce rather than City Hall pursuing projects on its own. He added that City Hall’s housing efforts should focus on essential workers and families.
• Daniel Lewis indicating he has experience with direct lines of communications and that he would “ask the tough questions” and use “compassion” as a member of the City Council.
• Jeremy Rubell describing himself as someone who has the ability to relate across the socioeconomic spectrum and to work as a bridge builder.
• Michael Franchek claiming that he and his son were “terrorized” by the Park City Police Department, a reference to a claim he has made that an officer violated his constitutional rights. He said he wants better training for the police.
• Tana Toly wanting to learn why some Parkites do not frequent Main Street and raising the question of the way to ensure people at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort get to Main Street.
• Henney conceding City Hall several years ago pressed an idea to hire a firm to provide free rides covering short distances before the proposed program was ready. He said the process should not have occurred as it did.
• Jamison Brandi saying he would continue to work in the service industry if he wins a seat on the City Council, adding that the community needs to balance full-time Parkites and visitors as it addresses the concept of sustainable tourism.
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Park City Council members have directed staffers to continue working on a plan to develop affordable housing on a site 1 ½ miles south of City Hall on Marsac Avenue. Staffers are recommending the city release a request for proposals (RFP) to find interested entities to participate in a public-private partnership to build the project.