Opinionated @ CFE

Where I Stand 2012: Salt Lake County Offices

Oct
30

These are my picks for Salt Lake County offices as part of a continuing series of who I’m voting for this election cycle. As a resident of an unincorporated township, these offices are especially important to me as they are, in effect, my city government.

Salt Lake County Mayor: Ben McAdams

This is probably one of the most difficult races I’ve had to weigh in on. This is one of the few occasions where I think we’re getting a chance to pick between the better of two goods, so I don’t have a clear choice to be made. While I believe Mark Crockett’s political positions match my own most closely,  general temperament concerns me. Several high-profile Republicans have opted to cross party lines and endorse Ben McAdams. More than a few of them have alleged that the campaign has threatened them with intra-party reprisals for doing so. Among them is Steve Urquhart, someone who I know to be honest and unlikely to make up something like this. I’m also a bit concerned at his adversarial tone in the campaign including during the GOP primary.

Ben McAdams leans a good bit left of where I do, but he’s a competent manager, and I believe he will carry out his executive duties exceptionally well. Given that the county is often providing services to and working jointly with cities throughout the county, I think his experience building consensus is going to be a much better asset to county government than matching my ideology so rigidly.

Salt Lake County Council At-Large C: Joseph M. Demma

The big question facing the county is between contraction in the face of wall-to-wall cities or an attempt to preserve things largely as they are. The shrinking direct tax base lost to incorporation leaves the remaining islands of county land in the position of incorporating, being annexed, or seeing a tremendous tax increase to pay for municipal services to an ever-shrinking base. While I’ve been very happy to not be a party of the city of Sandy (and it’s sales tax-obsessed mayor, Tom Dolan), I can see the writing on the wall that this is likely to end up changing Real Soon Now(TM) as Millcreek moves towards incorporation and drives the final nail into the tax base. As such, I’ve got to support the candidate that acknowledges this eventuality and tries to get ahead of it.

The county needs to move away from the 20% of the budget stuck in municipal services and focus more on its duties to provide the services delegated to it by the state. I’ve met Joseph Demma and think he’d do well carrying out this vision. Jim Bradley has left me with the feeling that he wants to keep things as they are. While I get that this is a popular idea for hold-out communities like mine (White City), I think we need to take our lumps now and move forward.

Salt Lake County Council 6: Max L. Burdick

This one has the same issues as the at-large race with a twist: I’ve known Paul Recanzone, one of the candidates, for a number of years and we share a passion for broadband policy. Outside of this, though, I don’t know that we can find a lot more common ground. The county doesn’t have a role to play in education (that’s handled by school districts), labor laws (that’s a state function), or the state code (a function of the legislature), but he takes positions on all of them. What about incorporation of townships? Parks and trails? The Unified Police District and Unified Fire Authority? I’m left with a feeling that there’s a lot of passion, but not necessarily for county issues. It doesn’t help that Paul leans a lot further left than I’d like either.

I’ve been happy with Max Burdick’s work so far, and I feel he’s on board for the county to make the upcoming transitions into a more focused role.

A Lack of Communication in the Salt Lake County Council At-Large Race

Oct
11

As a resident of an unincorporated township, I have a special interest in who gets elected to the Salt Lake County Council. After all, I depend on the county for police, fire, garbage, plow, and a host of other municipal services. Sadly, I’m finding that the two candidates I’d like to choose from don’t appear to be very interested in my vote.

On September 30, I e-mailed both Holly Mullen and Richard Snelgrove a series of questions about their candidacy. (I had already eliminated the Constitution Party candidate as entirely unqualified for the office.) As of this writing, I have received no response from either of them. Did I send offensive questions? Did I ask too many? Are they not relevant to the office which they seek? Check them out for yourself and you decide:

1) I currently reside in White City Township, an island surrounded by Sandy. Because of the close geographical proximity to Sandy and dependence on city businesses for darn near everything (gas, groceries, etc.), it almost feels as if we’re a non-voting part of the city. What role do you see the council playing in working with Sandy to insure that the needs of White City are being met?

2) Do you have any opinions about UTOPIA? If residents wanted to form a Special Assessment Area to bring UTOPIA services to their neighborhood, would you support or promote it?

3) While I appreciate the novel way in which the Unified Police District fee is being used to collect revenue in a level way from all property owners, I have concerns that this kind of creativity could provoke a negative response from the Legislature. Do you think any changes need to happen regarding the service fee? If so, what would you propose to augment or replace it?

4) As mentioned above, the legislature can sometimes pass bills targeted at restricting actions by local governments that they do not approve of. Do you currently have a working relationship with anyone in the Legislature so that the county is better heard?

5) It appears that most mass transit in Salt Lake County takes an “all roads lead to downtown” approach. I’m concerned that while this may maximize ridership, it sharply reduces usability for anyone not going there. At the same time, it seems like there’s a news story every few months about how money is being spent unwisely on personnel costs, primarily at the top. What kinds of measures will you propose to improve the operations of UTA?

Huh. Those seem like perfectly reasonable questions to me, but neither Mullen nor Snelgrove will respond. That leaves me to figure out what kind of elected official they would be based on their campaign websites and public profile. This, however, doesn’t end up being helpful at all.

Mullen doesn’t even bother to have an issue section on her website. No, I’m not making that up; go see for yourself. How can a candidate seeking an office to represent over 1M people not even be bothered to state her policy priorities? Combing through the blog on her site yields very little in the way of tangible positions. Most of it is thanking her supporters (who I can only imagine are either hardcore partisans or have the magic decoder ring required to see where she stands) or touting her various endorsements. Occasionally, you’ll find something about a relatively small portion of the job of running the county like old age services or open spaces. There’s nothing on townships, nothing on the policing fee, and nothing on any of the other core services managed by the county. Is Mullen expecting to coast to victory on her name recognition or party identification? It sure seems like it.

Snelgrove at least has the courtesy to list some issues, but it’s a somewhat incomplete list as well. Yes, I’d rather not see a county-funded hotel either and I like open spaces, but what about transportations, townships, and getting along with the legislature? There’s also the partisan attacks and constant complaining about liberals. News flash: not everyone is a partisan, and slamming a party with a thin majority in the county isn’t exactly a winning strategy. I’m also not impressed that Snelgrove goes on the attack about tax increases, yet fails to mention the deep cuts that the county made just the year before. Selective truth-picking isn’t a good quality.

For both of them, I have little hope that constituents will be heard after the election. They appear to both be content with the close supporters calling the shots. Failing to respond to an inquiry from a voter does not bode well for the future of the seat.

UPDATE: Both of them got back to me after a second e-mailing. I know campaigns are busy, but I don’t like how this bodes for future communications attempts.

Bad Behavior has blocked 555 access attempts in the last 7 days.