Incumbent, Claudia McMullin (D) and Suzanne Pollard (R)
1. Please describe your background and why you are seeking a seat on the Summit County Council.
MCMULLIN: I moved to Park City in 1999 after an epiphany on a chairlift, quitting my law firm job, and selling my NYC apartment. I became involved in the community as result of being in Leadership Class 8. First, I was appointed to the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission in 2003. Then, in 2006, my husband and I created the No Vote/No Voice get out the vote campaign. After 5 years on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, I was elected to the first Summit County Council in 2008. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on the County Council for the past 4 years.
The first County Council accomplished a great deal including preserving over 1,500 acres of open space (Hi Ute & Stoneridge), passing a $20million open space/trails bond, settling the longest and most bitter legal disputes, negotiating a new solid waste contract that provides curbside recycling to 80% of the county at a projected $900,000 annual saving, and surviving the biggest recession since the 1930s without impacting services. I am running for re-election because there is more critical work to be done. I have the proven track record and vision to lead the County for another term.
POLLARD: I have lived and worked in Park City for 25 years, and have an understanding of the County and the way it has evolved. I have been involved in a number of community organizations including the Summit County Mosquito Abatement Committee, State and County Delegate, the PTA, Our HOA, and helped advance several youth skiing initiatives in Park City. Like many County residents, I came here for the skiing and stayed for the wonderful lifestyle.
The County Council will be my full time priority and commitment. I will collaborate to bring a clear vision of budgetary priorities to the Summit County Council. A decisive plan in a positive direction with strong leadership will eliminate arbitrary decision making and put Summit County back on track to a responsible, sustainable budget and responsible development. In the past four years we have over spent the budget by 2.6 million dollars and costly litigations.
2. How do you plan to balance the county's budget while maintaining the level of services residents have come to expect, such as well-maintained roads, public safety and planning? For instance, would you consider raising taxes or do you think there are still ways to cut expenses without jeopardizing services?
MCMULLIN: The 2009 budget (passed by the County Commission) over-estimated revenue creating a shortfall in 2010 that was covered by a transfer from reserves and later ratified by the voters. The 2011 budget was balanced by conservatively estimating revenue while cutting expenses, freezing salaries and reducing jobs. Through sacrifice of employees, expenses were cut 10% - while demand for services remained the same and revenues declined. In 2012, we budgeted for a surplus but included Service Area 6 and Municipal Fund tax increases. If these taxes are frozen, we may have to amend the 2012 budget to reflect $1.6 million less revenue. Luckily, budget to actual 2012 indicates revenues greater and expenses less than projected to date. Thus, the road maintenance costs incurred in 2012 may be covered. For 2013, if these taxes are frozen, the County will forgo road projects while cutting expenses in order to lessen the service impact.
POLLARD: A balanced, sustainable budget is of the utmost importance and the services that are the responsibility of the county such as public safety, roads, and planning must be our priority. We must be exceptional at those tasks and have a secondary list of priorities in a robust economy. We must have monthly or quarterly budgetary reviews to assure we are on budget. Any excessive line items should identified sooner than later. With careful review, spending can be pared and efficiencies found. If we constantly monitor the budget, forecast future expenses and seek to get the maximum value for our taxpayer dollars we can easily avoid the crisis management we have had in our County Budget in the past four years without any reduction in services.
3. In light of the fact that the county's previous affordable housing plan has been revoked, do you believe it is the county's responsibility to encourage the construction of affordable housing through development incentives or should the market dictate what types of units are built? If affordable housing is important to the county, how would you propose ensuring it is built?
MCMULLIN: Utah law requires the County to estimate the need for moderate income housing and plan to provide a realistic opportunity to meet estimated need. The Snyderville Basin Development Code contains a moderate income housing requirement for all new development. Park City similarly requires affordable housing. The East Side Planning Commission is currently addressing affordable housing need in its General Plan revisions. The 2011 Strategic Plan identifies affordable housing as a priority. Legally, the County must require and encourage the construction of affordable housing. The 2012 Needs Assessment (which covers the County as a whole) does not identify a total number or type of units but, instead, shows a snapshot of potential demand for housing in different categories and identifies the greatest need for households making less than $50,000 per year. It will be a policy question for the next Council as to whether to encourage development targeting lower income levels.
POLLARD: The County has a detailed General Plan that includes affordable housing guidelines implemented after the last needs assessment. The challenge is that the Council has not followed its recommendations. As a member of the County Council, I will not vote for anything that changes guidelines on an ad-hoc basis. If a change is needed, we should address that need and amend policy. As an example, I pass the Tech Park practically every day and feel we would have had a better outcome if my opponent, as a member of the Planning Department when it was proposed, and also as a member of the County Council when it was approved, had not varied from our written guidelines. Affordable housing goals require a balance of market and needs based policies. They must be clearly articulated and followed after the Council receives input from County residents.
4. Are the needs of the East and West sides of Summit County being equally addressed, if not what would you do to remedy that? If elected what specific issues would you target in order to cater to their diverse interests?
MCMULLIN: The County Council strives to acknowledge and address the differing needs of the County – Snyderville Basin, North Summit and South Summit – globally through strategic planning/visioning and separately as issues impacting distinct areas come before us. We understand that the Kamas Valley is experiencing growth pressure while North Summit seeks to attract more growth to expand its tax and employment base. We applaud the East Side Planning Commission's process of re-writing the General Plan in a coordinated effort that includes the towns and cities on the East Side with the goal of providing a regional planning effort. If elected, I will work to insure that requisite resources will be provided to insure that this important work results in a meaningful merger of the needs of all entities such that growth and agriculture can be balanced in a manner that increases the revenues for the cities and towns without overburdening County services.
POLLARD: Many Counties have a diverse demographic like Summit County, where the rural interests of the East County seem to be at odds with the tourism and lifestyle interests of the West County. In my career, I had the opportunity to travel the world to see how other places have balanced these issues. I have also lived in Park City for 25 years, and have a home in Oakley so I understand the different sides of the County as a resident and as a property owner. It is the role of the County Government to balance those interests in a fair and positive way. The Council has established a County Economic Development Task force to bring the stakeholders together and discuss the issues. I think more needs to be done to develop a holistic approach for the residents that is clearly articulated and implemented in an impartial way.
5. What role, if any, should the county play in the acquisition and preservation of open space?
MCMULLIN: The County plays an active role in acquiring and preserving open space through supporting open space bonds and working closely with the Basin Open Space Advisory Committee (BOSAC), Utah Open Lands, and Summit Land Conservancy in targeting priority properties and negotiating with property owners. The acquisition and preservation of our precious open space remains one of this community's top priorities. This is borne out by the fact that during this country's worst recessions since the Great Depression, the Snyderville Basin voted by a huge majority to pass a $20 million dollar open space/trails bond. With these funds, the County Council (working with BOSAC) has been able to preserve over 1500 acres of critical open space – including the 290 acre Nadine Gilmore Stoneridge parcel and 1268 acre Hi Ute Three Mile Canyon. The County should continue to play a leading role in the continued acquisition and preservation of open space.
POLLARD: Park City has a long history of successful acquisitions of open space. The county should play the role in whatever the majority of its constituents want it to play. In the past this has been implemented through donations, and open space bonds that the citizens have voted in. The County Council must insure responsible purchases of quality open space utilizing your money and in strict accordance to the conditions of the bond.
6. The county was recently involved in a controversy about the development of a film studio at Quinn's Junction. In that instance, the developer tried to get around local land use regulations by asking the state Legislature to create a special zone to accommodate his development. The county ended up compromising its stand through a legal settlement with the landowner. How do you feel about the way that issue was handled? What would you have done differently?
MCMULLIN: The lawsuit against Summit County (dating back to 1986) asserted entitlement to 800,000 sq. ft. of commercial density on the 29 acre Quinn's Junction parcel and sought uninsured punitive damages. Every attorney (including me) advised settlement. Fighting and defeating the legislative threat to upzone this property would not have resolved the lawsuit. In addition, Park City wanted to control development of this parcel. We delayed settlement while Park City negotiated with the developer to attempt to locate the movie studio somewhere else in the County. Eventually, Park City and the developer agreed that the parcel would be annexed into Park City and a movie studio would be developed. The annexation and development agreement went through a public process – at least 3 hearings – before the Park City Planning Commission and the Park City Council. Park City maintains design control and negotiated non-compete protection for Sundance. The lawsuit was dismissed. A win-win.
POLLARD: The Quinn's Junction film studio was a debacle from the get go. Not being privy to the intricacies of the history back to MIDA, I can say the final stages with the state Legislature trying to circumvent local zoning regulations cannot and should not ever be allowed. It would set a president that would negate local laws and regulations.
Assuming that the County was correct in its perception that the Legislature was going to take action, it was the county's job to negotiate the best deal possible. But I understand that the personal involvement of Council members resulted in its annexation into Park City. The County then lost out on future tax revenues and we still ended up with a film studio. Rather than having Councilors personally involved in negotiations, I would have done what any business would do and retain the best attorneys to bring back a better proposal.
7. Is the county's new council/manager form of government working or was the previous commission more effective? How do you plan to go about making the county council more efficient and representative of its constituents?
MCMULLIN: I firmly believe that the Council/Manager form of government trumps the old Commission form. First, the Council/Manager form allows lay people with less time and financial resources to hold office – the Commission form was a full-time (mid paying) job and the Council is part time (low paying) so that Councilors can still maintain another profession. Accordingly, the Council/Manager form attracts expanded breadth and depth of experience in your leaders. Second, because the Manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the County, the Council was able to review the organization holistically and plan strategically. The Council identified areas needing improved efficiency and potential cost-savings including health insurance, property & casualty insurance, and solid waste and recycling. The Council also created a budgetary review committee to recommend ways to improve budgetary reporting and revenue forecasting. Finally, the Council form allows the Council to create a cohesive vision for the community.
POLLARD: Obviously, this would not be a question, nor would we have referenda on the ballot to take power away from the manager if it were working well. It is not a simple answer of either new or old, but we need to look at what executive power needs to be shifted to the council. The old commission of three commissioners handling executive and legislative duties wasn't working either.
Making the council more efficient and responsive is our ultimate goal. We could look at having an elected executive, like a mayor. We might want to look at districting the council members for better representation over the county. Another option could be a larger council with an administrator. What we might need is a study to see which is most effective and gives the taxpayers the best representation at the lowest cost. We need to continue to progress.
8. Please list your top policy priorities and differentiate your platform your opponent.
MCMULLIN: First: regional planning – devising a blue print for Summit County (Snyderville Basin, North Summit & South Summit) including master planning the east side of Interstate 40 and lower Silver Creek Pad I and supporting coordinated planning with the cities and towns on the east side. Second: improving our relationship with the Legislature so that we can harmoniously co-exist without fear of legislative interventions. Third: sustainability including a landfill study and environmental cleanup of the east side of 40. Fourth: better communication and customer service including easy accessibility to key information (including budget) on the website, consistent messaging, and hiring a PIO.
My opponent's “Platform” is all negativity and factual misstatements. Under “Budget” and “Communication/Transparency”, she asserts that litigation has increased when, in fact, lawsuits have decreased 50% since 2008. She opines that the Council erred in denying the Stoneridge application because it led to litigation. Stoneridge was correctly denied because it didn't meet Code requirements. Preserving the parcel as open space is a terrific outcome. Under “budget”, deficit spending and unbalanced budget claims are nonsense. Legally we must balance the budget and the 2012 budget includes a surplus. My platform differs from my opponent's because mine is positive and pro-active.
POLLARD: Voters should see a sharp contrast between my platform and policies and my opponent's. She seems to believe in government for the moment, in temporary solutions like the CORE or "borrowing" from the rainy day fund.
I, however, believe the County Council needs a clear vision of our future. We need to prioritize a few essential "needs" to serve in an exceptional manner, and then have as secondary priorities the "wants" we can afford during a robust economy. By being efficient and paring the budget in non-essential areas, I want balanced budgets and to make sure that any tax increases are truly last resorts, to be imposed only when all other avenues are exhausted. We need to plan multiple years at a time to provide stability and security in jobs and taxes.
I believe that government should seek private sector solutions whenever possible. For example, partnering or offering incentives to a company that operates cemeteries could bring jobs and revenues while providing services for Snyderville residents. My opponent, on the other hand, wants to consider a new cemetery district tax.
The difference is clear; I value your tax dollars and I will be a strong advocate for our citizens.