Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Are Salt Lake County residents ready for a new form of government?

By Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Feb. 19 11:21 p.m. MST

 Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is backing legislation that would enable residents of unincorporated areas of the county to select a common municipal council encompassing communities from Emigration Canyon to Magna.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is backing legislation that would enable residents of unincorporated areas of the county to select a common municipal council encompassing communities from Emigration Canyon to Magna.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — About the only thing people in unincorporated Salt Lake County agree upon is that the status quo isn't working.

It's why there is a renewed effort to incorporate Millcreek Township into a city.

It's why an East Millcreek neighborhood that is contiguous to Holladay wants to annex to that city.

It's also why Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has proposed a third option: legislation that would enable residents of the unincorporated county to select a new form of government, a municipal council. The proposal also envisions that the county mayor would be the area's executive officer while municipal services and administration would be provided by the county.

"What brings us to the point we are today is the age-old debate within the community that has pitted neighbor against neighbor and, I believe, has been detrimental to the progress of our unincorporated residents," McAdams said during a press conference Wednesday in the Salt Lake County Council Chambers.

The conversation has simply reached a stalemate, he said.

"It's no surprise to me there is a stalemate because what we are presenting our residents with are two imperfect solutions; we're forced to choose between having high-quality regional services and direct representation in directing what those services are," McAdams said.

"We're forcing our residents to choose between boundary protection and higher taxes. Those are tough choices for people who are weighing things they want on both sides of the debate. I believe it's time to present new options and new solutions."

The Community Preservation project envisions "better government but not more government," he said. The proposed legislation would create a vehicle to protect boundaries and encourage economic development in their communities in terms of jobs and tax revenue to support key services.

McAdams said residents could enjoy the benefits of direct representation and efficiently priced regional services. The proposed municipal area would encompass the east canyons, Millcreek, Granite, White City, Kearns, Magna and other communities now in the unincorporated county.

Under the plan, the County Council would remain intact as the countywide government oversees services such as public works, health and animal services. The Unified Police Department and the Unified Fire Authority would continue to provide public safety services.

"There will be peace in the valley," predicted Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, sponsor of the yet unnumbered bill that aims to preserve communities, provide direct representation for residents of the unincorporated county and allow for the efficient delivery of municipal services from a common tax base. The bill has not yet been released to the public.

"We need to value townships. We need to give them a government of their own. We need to protect their boundaries. We can't continue to go on like this," Mayne said.

If the Utah Legislature passes the bill, voters in the unincorporated county could vote as soon as 2015 on the change of government, which would go into effect in 2016, McAdams said.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said the Salt Lake County Council is the municipal government for residents of unincorporated Salt Lake County, more than 135,000 people who live in more than a dozen townships and communities.

"When you live in the unincorporated parts of the county, you feel a little bit like you go home, you take all valuables out of your house, go out and lay them on the front lawn and just really, really hope that you have good, honest, friendly neighbors that aren't going to take everything from you. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't," Hutchings said.

Jeff Silvestrini, longtime chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council, was more pointed in his criticism of the township model.

"Our Founding Fathers would be horrified by the model we have. It's really taxation without representation," Silvestrini said.

Silvestrini said he believes McAdams has carefully studied the issue leading up to the previous Millcreek incorporation vote, which was rejected by voters in 2012 by a margin of 40 percent to 60 percent.

Under the current system, residents of Millcreek Township share many of the same frustrations as residents of other townships and communities in the unincorporated county, Silvestrini said.

"We want some stability in our boundaries. We want to be able to preserve our communities intact and be protected from annexation. This proposal would accomplish that," he said.

If the bill fails, Silvestrini said, he would still support incorporation of Millcreek, largely over concerns about a lack of direct representation and boundary preservation.

Meanwhile, backers of a drive to incorporate Millcreek Township say they will deliver more than enough signatures to the county on Thursday, kickstarting another effort to place a question before voters whether to establish Millcreek City.

Spokeswoman Mary Ann Matheson Strong said McAdams' plan creates a patchwork city of the remaining areas of Salt Lake County and does not preserve communities.

"We want to have our own city, Millcreek City. We don't want to be in a city with areas all over the county. We want to have our own mayor, elected by us, not appointed or self-appointed as in the mayor's plan," she said.

Backers of the Millcreek City proposal hope to have the incorporation matter before Millcreek township voters later this year, Strong said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

Related Stories

Utah Legislature 2014

April 18, 1988
Recommended
1. 1conservative
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT,
Feb. 19, 2014

The best answer by far would be to have just one county government and eliminate all the different city governments. Have a council or a board setup by region and by population.

Of course it would eliminate a lot of the "kingdom building" that goes on in the various cities such as nepotism, over-promotion by the city leaders, etc., which WOULD infuriate the big wigs at the city government.

Sometimes local residents think that if they could "just get control" they can do better for their particular neighborhoods and areas.
Truth is, I've seen cities incorporate over and over in this valley, but I don't see much difference in what actually HAPPENS once they do incorporate.

Sometime, (if you are really bored) you could go onto the website that shows the various salaries of local government leaders and add them up.
Do you REALLY think all those bosses' salaries are making the community that much better?

2. Good_Wise_Judgment
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 19, 2014

I agree with 1conservative's assessment. The whole Salt Lake Valley should've been one city. Sadly, that train has left the station and because of poor public policy choices in the past, we are still dealing with this issue in 2014. In the end, the County should get out of municipal management business, but I do think they offer cities great regional service options. The main problem is there are too many conflicts-of-interest by having a County Mayor represent all the residents in the SL Valley and THEN watch after the special municipal interests of residents in unincorporated County. Hard to serve two masters.

3. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
Feb. 20, 2014

This proposal is too contradictory with powers that will undermine all the city's and local governemtn in the county. This man is trying to incorporate all of SL county into one city and it won't work, to have a 2 tiered state government system, the county and the state residents rights will be abolished with a massive city government controlling the whole county.

Conflicts of power and controls is to massive for too few people to control at the county level. Independent city and county government must be maintained with councilmen of cities and county in constant conflict. This proposal stinks of communism and propaganda controls and individuals rights diminished by a government to massive to care about individuals rights. Cost is an irrelevant issue, rights and freedom comes first.

What we need to do is abolish the UPD and UFD and put law enforcment back in the hands of local city government. Local government made a big mistake finance and combine UPD and UFD into one giant state law enforcement agency with no local, county, or state oversight. They have gone out of control violating individuals property and constitutional rights with no loyalty or trust in the people.

4. Flashback
Kearns, UT,
Feb. 20, 2014

My2cents, I disagree. Having all the local fifedoms in law enforcement is just plain stupid. Criminals know no bounderies when they commit crime. They will do it in Murray just as easily as Taylorsville. I am in favor of a metro police department for the whole valley. It is a better allocation of resources and manpower. That means do away with all municiple police departments, Salt Lake included.

Individual departments are a huge drain on a city and are the biggest part of the city budget. Why do you thing Midvale and T-Ville joined with UPD.

By the way the T-Ville police department that you apparently pine for was one of the worst at violating rights as you put it, and giving tickets for minor offenses such as not stopping on the stop line at a stop sign.

5. StateTheFacts
SAlt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 20, 2014

McAdams is visionary and sound. For the past twenty years and now for the foreseeable future people in this VALLEY don't live in boxes drawn by imaginary city boundary lines. SL Valley Metro should compete with the Denver Metro areas to effect real economic growth, stabilize government services, taxes and expenses. Reference to kingdom-building in this valley is a major source of wasted and duplication of tax payers money. It's time SL Valley steps up and consolidate government services at the same time provide truly effective regional service such as the UPD and UFA. Go Mayor McAdams!