Where I Stand 2010: County and Local Offices
Every year, I spend a considerable amount of time studying each candidate and, if needed, attempting to contact them to get answers to specific questions. I would strongly encourage each of you to do the same. Here are my picks for the county and local offices.
Salt Lake County Council At-Large B: I was thankfully able to eliminate one candidate in this race almost immediately. Warren T. Rogers spends his entire campaign website talking about federal issues, but not one lick of anything about local things like the townships, transportation, the Unified Police Department and it’s fee… nothing. That kind of gross ignorance cannot be allowed in local governance. It comes down to a race between a well-known (and somewhat combative) journalist, Holly Mullen, and a Republican Party insider, Richard Snelgrove. I e-mailed both candidates some questions and didn’t initially get a response. After a public upbraiding and second round of e-mails, I had received responses from both candidates within a couple of days.
My main issues of concern center around working with Sandy on White City issues, getting along with the legislature, making a more effective transportation system, the Unified Policy Department fee, and a potential for UTOPIA service in the township. I’ll warn you now that you’re about to read some fine detail on where candidates stand on these issues.
Mullen wants to work with Sandy to try and get White City issues resolved, not a small feat given the bad history between the two. Snelgrove takes a more confrontational stance, using the county council to try and shame Sandy into doing the right thing. Sandy has already proven that it has no issues throwing other municipalities under the bus for its own gain, and it has made no secret of its ambitions to annex as much county land as possible in an effort to be a city of the first class. I really feel like Mullen’s approach here is the best.
When it comes to working with the legislature, I believe that both of them have plenty of contacts up on the hill, though I think that Snelgrove’s deep involvement in the Republican Party are going to get him heard much better. I also like that he wants to dump the county lobbyist in favor of council members doing it themselves. Any opportunity to save money is a good one, especially with that level of redundancy.
On transportation, Mullen is more-or-less content with the “all roads lead downtown” approach since it maximizes ridership with a somewhat weak commitment to getting better bus service in outlying areas. Snelgrove, meanwhile, is highly critical of Trax and its expenditures and prefers to rely on less expensive busing. I don’t particularly like either response all that much, though Snelgrove is open to making the bus routes more widespread to improve service. I believe he holds a very slight edge on this issue.
Snelgrove is very vocal in opposing the Unified Police Department and the associated fee that comes with it. He makes a good point that police and fire are core services and if we’re going to have a fee, it would be better to do so for auxiliary services such as the libraries. He kind of dodges, though, on how to undo what has been done. Mullen provides a much more concrete answer that she would prefer to shift the cost to franchise fees. Personally, I like Mullen’s approach better and appreciate the specific clarity she provides.
Neither candidate much cares for UTOPIA, and it’s a dangerous thing for any elected official to speak up in favor given the heavily-skewed negative press that the project has received. I had asked specifically if they would support the ability of residents to form a Special Assessment Area to bring the service to their area at no risk to county coffers. Neither wants to see any public money go into the project (agreed), and both are open to an SAA that doesn’t require any county funding commitment. Mullen is slightly more supportive, and that gives her the edge on this issue.
Overall, I feel most confident in Holly Mullen‘s approach to county governance, even though Richard Snelgrove would also be a good choice. It’s almost close enough to be a coin toss to me.
Salt Lake County Assessor: Honestly, this is one of those races where I had a hard time. I mean, I’m effectively picking a low-level bureaucrat instead of letting someone more qualified figure out who would do the job better.
Still, I’ll do the best that I can. Lee Gardner has been in office for over 15 years now. Whenever anyone has that much time in an elected position, it’s probably time for some change. Liz Fehrmann levels some serious charges of high office turnover and a lack of up-to-date technology that don’t sound like a pretty picture. Unfortunately, I don’t have any way to verify the claims.
Basically, I’m making an very under-informed vote for Liz Fehrmann because I believe that shaking up incumbency is usually a pretty good idea.
Salt Lake County Auditor: This race is, no joke, between a lawyer and an accountant. I did a double-take as well, because it seems like a no-brainer to have an accountant be the one to check the books and make sure that the money is where it’s supposed to be. I’m happy to vote for Jeff Hatch for another term as auditor.
Salt Lake County Clerk: Our current county clerk, Sherrie Swenson, has to go. She needed to go four years ago, and the need to can her now hasn’t changed one iota. She still lives in a Reality Distortion Field™ regarding the ineffectiveness of Diebold voting machines, she did an about-face on randomizing the ballot order to make elections more fair, and even insulted voters by claiming that randomization would be confusing and two expensive. As a tech guy, I can tell you flat-out that she’s blowing more smoke than Mount Saint Helens.
Jeremy Votaw is not only very acutely aware of the problems with Diebold specifically and electronic voting in general, he’s also a fellow tech guy that understands what Swenson apparently does not. I’ve also found him to be extremely responsive via Twitter and you know how I feel about communication. This isn’t just a case of wanting to throw a bum out; it’s a case of wanting to replace a bad elected official with a good one.
If you do nothing else this election, please cast your vote for Jeremy Votaw. If you don’t there’s no guarantee that the next one will count for beans.
Salt Lake County District Attorney: I feel a certain amount of shame in this race. In 2006, I endorsed voting for Lohra Miller. Four years later, I can see that this was a grievous error in judgement. The crazy house parties, rampant nepotism, and vindictive firings all paint a picture of an attorney drunk on power. Miller is an embarrassment to this county, to this state, and to the legal profession.
While I don’t enthusiastically support Sim Gill, we have to have a change in the DA’s office, and the Libertarian candidate can’t even be bothered to put up a website (or even a page) of what he’s running on.
Salt Lake County Recorder: This is a lot like the Assessor’s race. I don’t feel like I’m really qualified to pick someone for this office, and what information I do find is spotty at best. Neither candidate has a website that I can locate, so I’m relying on the information that the state has collected on candidates. Basically, you can pick from Maria O’Brien, a realtor, and Gary Ott, the Recorder for the last 10 years.
There’s already too many realtors in politics, so I’m going to pick Gary Ott for another term. There’s no strong case to be found for replacing him and he hasn’t yet hit the threshold of automatic replacement in my book.
Salt Lake County Sheriff: I was very happy to vote for Jim Winder four years ago as the Sheriff’s department very much needed some new blood. Now, however, the results speak for themselves. Cities have dumped the county in favor of their own police forces left and right and the move to the Unified Police Department was both expensive and unnecessary. I’m thinking it’s time to change the guard again.
I see no obvious problems with Beau Babka, so he has my vote to change things up in the Sheriff’s office one more time.
Salt Lake County Surveyor: Just like the Assessor and Recorder races, I don’t know why I’m electing this position. Unlike the Recorder’s race, though, I can actually find decent information on both candidates. Either seems to have the right qualifications, but Michael Nadeau has experience with federal GIS which gives him the slight edge.
Salt Lake County Treasurer: Both William F. Anderson and K. Wayne Cushing have extensive and impressive accounting backgrounds, so I feel like I get to pick the better of two goods. Anderson, however, has much more experience in municipal government, experience that I believe gives him the edge in the race. I’m vote for William F. Anderson for Treasurer.
Canyon’s School Board 5: School board is one of those races that nobody pays attention to, fewer care about, and even fewer cast a ballot more on more than whose signs they saw more frequently. It’s sad because these people are calling the shots on the school system. The race came down to a very narrow primary victory for Steve Wrigley and Melody Shock, our remaining choices.
Shock is a teacher at a charter school, and I feel like her approach is meant to be an “upset the apple cart” one. I can certainly appreciate this sentiment and have some own somewhat radical ideas of my own on how to completely change up the education system, but I don’t think we’re all ready for that just yet. I also found little in the way of specific ways to change things up.
Steve Wrigley has much more in the way of specific ways to reduce costs and better utilize building resources as the district’s student population shrinks. I feel like he’s really been thinking about and researching these issues and would be able to bring just enough “outside the box” thinking without isolating himself from the rest of the board. Change is good, but it’s best to move gradually rather than in big leaps.
I strongly believe that Steve Wrigley is the best choice for school board and I would encourage the voters in Canyons School District 5 to select him for the office.