Ben McAdams

Mayor

Salt Lake County, UT

Ben McAdams was sworn into office as Salt Lake County Mayor on Jan. 7, 2013. Mayor McAdams pledged to work collaboratively, across party lines, to find efficiencies in County government and to be open and accountable to citizens.

During his tenure as County Mayor, he has championed education, helping the county become the first in the country to partner with the private sector to offer greater access to high-quality preschool for low-income children. Mayor McAdams has also emphasized economic development and job growth, partnering with cities to attract business while being a careful steward of taxpayer dollars. He has also supported greater access for businesses and residents to transit, trails, and open space.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

Salt Lake County has seen homelessness expand and, as the opioid epidemic has also grown, the area surrounding our main homeless shelter has been unsafe for the public and for those experiencing homelessness. There were no easy solutions to address the challenges that are complex and diverse. In order to effect the system it required stakeholders from the criminal justice, law enforcement, homeless services, nonprofit, faith, and philanthropic sectors to work in a more sophisticated and organized manner. There is no easy or quick fix and collaboration at the highest level is required to effectuate the changes needed.

Solution

Mayor McAdams convened Salt Lake County's Collective Impact on Homelessness, a coalition of stakeholders from state, county and city government together with over 30 providers of homeless services to reform how services are delivered and better help those experiencing homelessness to overcome crisis and regain a greater degree of self-reliance. By working as a coalition, we have secured financial support from state leaders who are investing unprecedented funding in our efforts to realign the system (includes securing $30 million in state funds to reshape the emergency shelter system), and to provide treatment as well as other stabilizing resources to ensure that homelessness in Salt Lake County is rare, brief and non-recurring. Work has also involved two Pay for Success initiatives launched in early 2017 (Salt Lake County's 'Homes not Jail' effort and REACH initiative to improve outcomes for individuals with moderate to severe substance use disorders), as well as getting to the final stages of negotiating an expansion of Medicaid.


Problem

The Salt Lake County jail suffers from high incarceration and recidivism rates, unable to provide the necessary services and level of supervision for all those incarcerated. Furthermore, a high percentage of those entering the prison system require additional resources from social services or behavioral health needs. These offenders often struggle to re-enter their communities and permanently leave the criminal justice system. They leave jail with limited work history, low levels of education and skills, and complex physical and behavioral health needs. Research has shown that community-based resources and treatment services are critical to offenders’ success post-release. 

Solution

Mayor Ben McAdams proposed a new plan to replace a collection of individual programs with an integrated system called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative with the goal of reducing incarceration and recidivism. This program calls for a partnership of using data to drive criminal justice reform at the systemic and individual level, getting people in the right program and the right level of supervision to succeed in the community. All four independently elected branches of County government (Sheriff, District Attorney, Mayor and County Council) now share an understanding of the interrelation of the criminal justice and human services systems, and a commitment to use data to make decisions. By implementing a tool to screen for risk to recidivate and behavioral health for everyone booked at the jail, the county will be able to connect prisoners to the appropriate resources and services they need to increase their ability to successfully reenter society when they leave. 


Problem

The Central Wasatch Mountains are “ground zero” for millions of Utah residents and visitors alike to obtain clean drinking water, experience a variety of outdoor recreational activities, and, for some, to earn a paycheck. It’s a checkerboard of land management jurisdictions, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Salt Lake City and Metropolitan Water Districts, private property owners, the ski, lodging and restaurant businesses, the Utah Department of Transportation and Salt Lake County. As growth has accelerated along both the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back, population pressures on the watershed and natural environment have increased. Over the past few decades, more than 80 studies have partially examined the Wasatch but until now, no effort has built a comprehensive plan that seeks to balance the many competing uses and systems.

Solution

Mayor Ben McAdams helped lead the Mountain Accord initiative, an effort to bring as many stakeholders together as possible to collect and review data and gather public comment on four main areas: environment, recreation, economy and transportation and to see if consensus could be achieved to move forward from a blueprint to an approved environmental impact statement. The result was a set of agreed-to actions to influence local, regional and statewide planning and to initiate efforts to enact meaningful protections for the Central Wasatch in the face of growing pressures on this iconic and cherished landscape. Mountain Accord was a grassroots, bottom up, data driven activity that had to be supported by all of its signatories, including elected officials, private property owners, the ski industry, the environmental community, the transportation authority and others.

 


Problem

Government often focuses more on treatment than prevention, which leads to solutions that are more costly to taxpayers and less effective. In education, this has led us to spend more on special education, dropouts, and jail--giving us less to spend on tools that help at-risk kids learn how to contribute.

Solution

Mayor McAdams is using Pay for Success Bonds to fund high-quality preschool for at-risk kids. Private investors buy these bonds from the government and get paid back if the preschool programs succeed in saving taxpayers money from fewer at-risk kids using more expensive programs like special ed. This pay for success model gives government the tools to fund an ounce of evidence-based prevention on the front end out of cost savings on the back end--and it helps elected leaders focus on what works best to achieve outcomes.


Problem

Each year, the Salt Lake County community invests $42 million in government and private funds on the complex issue of homelessness, helping Utah’s Housing First initiative to dramatically reduce chronic homelessness. Currently, resources are invested without coordination either among funders and service agencies or between them. Efforts of funders and service agencies are disconnected, and no one has a common understanding of the problem, shared solutions, or common ways to measure progress resulting in isolated pockets of efficiency and impact.

Solution

Salt Lake County is coordinating a system-wide effort to identify gaps in current homeless services and improve services delivery to individuals and families experiencing or at risk for homelessness. The County is also organizing broader community efforts around these outcomes by developing an innovative, integrated set of supportive finance strategies, including an innovative portfolio approach to related Pay for Success projects, a public-private funding collaborative, and an initiative to coordinate Community Development Block Grant funds region-wide. The Mayor is also determined to make the resulting data widely accessible online through a public dashboard, now in development, which will demonstrate accountability to residents.