Kim Carson (D) and Jacqueline Smith (Unaffiliated, Write-In)
1. Please describe your background and why you are seeking a seat on the Summit County Council.
CARSON: My husband and I chose Summit County 25 years ago to live and raise our family. I have been deeply involved as a parent, volunteer, employee, recreation enthusiast, and public servant. I want to use my experience and passion for Summit County to preserve what brought us here so many years ago.
After working in corporate sales and as Executive Director of the Park City Education Foundation, I was elected to the Park City Board of Education in 2002. I served for two terms, including four years as President, managing a $50+ million budget. We developed a comprehensive strategic plan involving community, staff and students, completed a major capital projects plan with no tax increase or additional bonding and built Park City's first LEED certified building. I was also directly involved in negotiations, superintendent hiring and review, policy development, and relations with the District's approximately 650 employees and 29,000 constituents. I will use this experience to develop positive working relationships to engage our County with other governmental groups and citizens to develop innovative and effective policy to address issues facing all of Summit County, including planning for growth, budgeting, economic vitality and the protection of our environment.
SMITH: I am a strong advocate for citizen responsibility and involvement in the community. I am seeking office to give the county a choice for Seat C. With Duane Schmidt stepping out of the race, we need a fiscally responsible choice for the county council. You can WRITE IN - SMITH.
I was the executive assistant to Robert L. Rice, philanthropist, and office manager for Rice Industries, overseeing the accounting and budgets for 32 corporations in 7 different states for 18 years. I helped create the EFT programs used by Zions Bank today by collaborating with the bank to fit our unique needs. I analyzed at month end each corporation to discuss ways to increase the bottom line.
After leaving, I became a full-time mother. My husband and I own CRS Mechanical Contractors. We have been involved in understanding the different requirements of the building and zoning laws here in Summit County.
I am currently adjunct faculty for Monticello College, a unique liberal arts college here in Utah. I am the Secretary to the Republican Party in Summit County, and co-founder of The STAR Forum, an educational group specializing in history and government. Seeing government run properly is a passion of mine.
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?
CARSON: Budgeting to priorities is key. I would like to make adjustments to the County's strategic planning and goal setting calendar to insure that development and review of goals is completed immediately prior to the start of the budget process. All departments should be represented in the planning process, along with citizen input. This provides the foundation for budget discussions. As the County grows in both population and as a tourist and business destination, we will have an increased demand for services. If revenue increases through new growth, sales tax, grants and fees aren't enough to cover the increased costs, a complete evaluation to determine areas to cut, possible tax increases, and/or other revenue opportunities are necessary.
John Hanrahan proposed that the preliminary budgets and subsequent drafts be placed on the website to provide for public input from the onset. This is a positive step towards transparency in the budgeting process.
SMITH: Considering I just helped push through an initiative to stop a tax increase, my answer will be clear. I will not raise taxes. We have the biggest budget of any county in the state per capita. We can easily continue to provide the services a county government should be providing to its citizens without increases in taxes. We must however, stop spending our precious taxpayer dollars on non-essential services. We have a diverse community. While we have the greatest wealth in the state, we also have people in our communities that are on fixed incomes, or have lost jobs during this tough economy. It is imperative that we maintain the balance between raising enough money for our needs, and keeping things affordable for those that live and work here.
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?
CARSON: Per state law planning commissions are required to have an estimate of need for moderate-income housing, and a plan to provide a realistic opportunity to meet estimated needs. Affordable housing has been identified as a priority by our community and is in the Council's Strategic Plan. Affordable housing is critical to maintaining a balanced community. I support affordable housing requirements in the development codes, but incentives should be based on multiple criteria, not just affordable housing. I support a multi-pronged approach, including on-site units, fees-in-lieu, land donations, and grant opportunities. The 2012 Affordable Housing Needs Assessment provides a broader look at the needs within our community, identifying categories of need along with estimates of potential demand for each category. This will provide flexibility and more opportunity to prioritize existing resources to the most critical areas of need. The programs must be reviewed frequently to ensure progress toward the established goals.
SMITH: 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 to change guidelines on an ad-hoc basis. If change is desired, we should address the specific needs, hold open meetings to discuss with the public, and amend policy. As an example, I pass the Tech Park frequently and feel we would have had a better outcome if the County Council had not varied from our written guidelines. That has been the case with many issues in the County over the past four years. 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 and the relevant business leaders.
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?
CARSON: Addressing needs in all areas of the County will constantly need to be addressed as changes occur. The County Council can help foster discussions on issues, including ones that deal with the separate municipalities. One example is with planning. The Eastern Summit County Planning Commission is meeting with representatives from each city to determine its capacity and desire for growth. The ESCPC will then use this information to guide its updating of the General Plan and Development Code. One size does not fit all. Other areas where I would like to encourage more cooperation are in economic development and environmental sustainability efforts.
While there are significant differences throughout the county, the two sides are very complimentary and interdependent. The variety provides strength to our economy, recreation options, housing and lifestyles. We need to respect our differences, and work together to support the preservation of our agricultural and mountain resort communities.
SMITH: 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. However, each side of the county contributes to the lifestyle of the other. 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 countywide approach for the residents that is clearly articulated and implemented in an impartial way. One option that I would strongly support is to place the Council seats in districts within the County to increase participation from the East and West side of the County.
5. What role, if any, should the county play in the acquisition and preservation of open space?
CARSON: Summit County plays an important role in open space preservation, and open space plays an important role in Summit County. It helps to preserve critical wildlife habitat and provides recreational opportunities. It removes land from development pressures, which reduces impacts on our infrastructure and environment. It protects view corridors, which are vital to preserving our mountain resort community. It is also an important tool in helping farming and ranching families maintain their lifestyles by preserving the land but allowing for continued use through conservation easements. The County has played an important role in securing open space through purchases, development agreements and the creation of the Basin Open Space Advisory Committee. I support the continued involvement of Summit County in working towards preserving open space for the benefit of the entire county and future generations, including working closely with the county planning commissions, BOSAC, Summit Land Conservancy, and other governments.
SMITH: Open space is important to many of the residents of Summit County. The Summit County Council will be required to negotiate to purchase property for open space that was previously slated for private development. Whenever taxpayer dollars are used for Open Space we need to go out of our way as a Council to hold open meetings and solicit public input when the application is received on a strategically important location. In the past four years, we have been accused of cronyism in the transfer of density and impropriety in the acquisition process and have been forced into costly litigation. As a firm believer in open and transparent government, I advocate a fully transparent process for this important County objective of preserving important open space parcels and guarding our gains.
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?
CARSON: Issues surrounding the film studio are very complex and involve a lawsuit dating back to 1986. The County had worked for years to try to resolve it, and the developer was now involving the Utah State Legislature, which was urging resolution. Rather than go to court, which could possibly have cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, or receive state mandated zoning, the Council worked towards an agreement. Due to the "closed door" nature of the negotiations, only those directly involved know exactly what took place, so it is not appropriate for me to make judgment. Going forward, we need to update our General Plans and Development Codes to ensure they are clear and concise, and reflect the values of our community to preserve and protect our communities and withstand legal scrutiny. Cooperative planning and strong relationships with other governmental entities, such as Park City and neighboring counties, are critical.
SMITH: I believe that government closest to the people is best. I was very torn by this issue. First the State Legislature should not interfere in local matters of zoning and planning. However, I also believe strongly in property rights. This is private property, and it would be incumbent on the property owner to convince their neighbors why a specific zoning change should take place. The only people that should be allowed to voice their opinion on the matter should be those most affected by the zoning change. The project would have brought seasonal jobs to our county, and would have complimented the movie industry with The Sundance Film Festival. Ultimately, I believe that handling this at a local level is the only option.
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?
CARSON: The previous commission form of government served the county well for years. With growth and an increased demand for services, the Commission was no longer efficient in providing the required level of service to the citizens of Summit County. While there are adjustments that will need to be made as the new form of government evolves, it is a structure that can provide a much-needed increased level of expertise in county management. This allows time for the council to focus on priorities such as visioning, policy and legislative matters. Strengthening relationships with constituents and other governmental entities is also important for providing effective County governance. As state law changes, there may be areas that can be explored for efficiency and cost reductions. I worked very effectively with this same form of governance during my 8 years on the Park City School District Board, including 4 years as President.
SMITH: This new style of government is not working as we had hoped. We need to move to an elected manager position, so he is more accountable to the people, such as a County Mayor / Council form of government. An executive and a legislative body, will bring more checks and balances to the county government, and create transparency. Allowing the people to choose their manager is critical. Currently, our manager leads the Council down a path that is not always in the best interest of the taxpayers, or rubber-stamps the current council.
We will have better representation when our council understands the people in the areas they do not live. Options include moving to a 3-seat district and 2 at large council seats, or dividing the county into 5 areas each with their own representative to help solve this problem.
8. Please list your top policy priorities and differentiate your platform your opponent.
CARSON: Top priorities include facilitation in the updating of both of the county's general plans and development codes. This needs to be done in cooperation with the county's municipalities to ensure that we have comprehensive and cohesive plans that serve to enhance our community. Issues such as water supply/quality, traffic and transportation, recreation, affordable housing, environmental and economic impacts will be primary in these discussions. Economic vitality is key. I will work at the local and state level to bring more resources to Summit County to support this effort. Our environmental sustainability program needs to be supported and expanded, involving all departments and education for constituents. I will practice fiscal responsibility and seek out new efficiencies. My primary goal will be to serve our community, not promote my own agenda.
Good relationships are critical. I have a proven track record of developing positive working relationships with constituents, staff and governmental entities to achieve goals and innovative, effective solutions. Attending council and commission meetings since filing for office has prepared me for today's issues. As your councilperson, I will bring a responsive, respectful, and civil approach as I conduct the county's business, and focused commitment to the needs of the whole county.
SMITH: My opponent has proven herself to put spending on a path of unsustainability in the Park City school district. Pick a SPENDER, or WRITE in a SAVER. www.WriteInSmith.com . The choice is clear.
I believe in the proper role of government, and recognize the difference between essential services and non-essential services. A friend said, "One of the great effects of adversity-personal or public-is the compulsory reassessment of priorities it prompts In America, government was intended to serve a very narrow, well-specified role."
We can make the changes without people losing their jobs, unless they are not doing their jobs. The county department heads will need to streamline and be more efficient. The proposed 2013 budget includes requests for a 20.1% increase over last year's budget. Our public sector cannot grow if the private sector is not.
We are in a budget/financial crisis. We make it worse by raising taxes. Let's talk "disinterested." It means: Not influenced by considerations of personal advantage. This is public service. Duane Schmidt stepped out of the race, so Summit County citizens deserve a choice. I have shown consistently my hard work in saving the taxpayers money. I will be a disinterested elected official.