Guest opinion: A year later, city leadership still doesn’t understand the frustration surrounding the Black Lives Matter mural |

Guest opinion: A year later, city leadership still doesn’t understand the frustration surrounding the Black Lives Matter mural

Jim Helfand
Aspen Springs

At the recent retreat attended by the city leaders there was an hour of discussion on the Black Lives Matter mural painted on Main Street last July. It got the attention of The Salt Lake Tribune, which reported it as a “lingering controversy” in its May 30 edition. I listened to the discussion and found it ironic to hear city leaders talk about the notion that, in their opinion, some people just didn’t get it when they criticized the process that was undertaken to paint Main Street with the BLM mural.

Those criticisms cited the fact that Park City’s police chief was never informed of the plan, nor were the businesses along Main Street and the public, among other issues. It was claimed that those who complained missed the point because it was not about the process, it was about the message. OK, so what was the message that those unsophisticated such as myself didn’t get? It was clearly stated at the retreat: It was that this country and this community is infected, for lack of a better word, with “systemic racism.” And that message was repeated by the mayor as he reminded everyone that the murals were not so much about “social equity” but rather about “racial equity.”

With all due respect, Mr. Mayor and those on the council of like mind, it is you who don’t get it. There are a lot of people in this community who do not believe that we are a country of systemic racism. We criticize the process because it was the process that led to the message, and the message is nothing more than your personal opinion.

How do I know your message did not represent the collective thinking of our community? Last September I wrote a letter to the editor to which the headline “Which is it?” was attached. The letter referred to the mayor’s claim in an interview with The Park Record that most of the negative complaints about the Black Lives Matter mural were from “outside the community,” and that 70% of the responses “from Park City and the Snyderville Basin” were positive. Contrary to that, but in the same story, the reporter stated that the negative responses “outstripped” the supportive ones. This apparent contradiction of facts resulted in my letter asking the question “Which is it?”

Privately, I asked the reporter how there could be such a dichotomy and he replied that the 120 “correspondences” he received from City Hall had the sender’s information redacted so that he could not attribute the count to “inside” or “outside” the community. His count was simply the raw numbers. Of course, Snyderville is no more (or less) a part of Park City than other Summit County communities, but that didn’t prevent the mayor from offering his own facts. And as to the process, there was no meeting of the City Council to authorize the mural, let alone spend the $15,000 to paint it and the other murals. The fact is that the City Council not only did not authorize such funding, it did not even know about it, according to Councilor Nann Worel. There are no City Council meeting minutes reflecting any such discussions. Yet, according to the mayor, “the City Council was in the loop, and there was no objection.” And finally, in what appears to be an after-the-fact rationalization, listen to Tim Henney’s contention that no apologies are necessary because the official position of Park City should be that the murals were simply the city’s affirmative support of the 1st Amendment rights of the artists who, after all, picked the subject matter of each of the murals entirely on their own. If you’re not in agreement with the systemic racism message, I guess you can fall back on the argument that what it was really about was 1st Amendment rights of the artists. Apparently the 1st Amendment rights of the other half of this community can go pound sand.

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