They may not always be pleasant for the candidates, but vigorous political campaigns foster community spirit and raise the bar for civic dialogue. Park City's current mayoral and City Council races are evidence of a dynamic engaged community and all of the candidates deserve credit for participating.
Those who live in the cities and towns on the east side of Summit County are not as fortunate. Three of Summit County's six incorporated towns cancelled their municipal elections this year, the result of recent state legislation that allows service districts and smaller jurisdictions to skip election day when there are no contested races.
Wait! What?! Cancel an election?
That's right. The citizens of Kamas, Francis and Henefer are sitting out this election cycle. And they won't be asked to review their town councils' performances for another two years.
Some might say the lack of challengers means that the current elected officials are doing a mighty fine job. They may be right. But as long as no one is asking tough questions or forcing the incumbents to articulate their policies, there is no way to measure whether the mayors or council members are meeting the evolving needs of their constituents.
We are not suggesting it is the incumbents' fault that they are the only ones willing to step forward to serve their communities. But they might look closely at the lack of local civic involvement and ask themselves what that portends for the future, when they are ready to pass the mantle of responsibility on to others.
Community leaders in Kamas, Francis and Henefer should kick off a proactive effort to spark interest and encourage involvement as soon as possible. Some avenues to consider include hosting community discussions, offering leadership seminars and good old fashioned neighborhood canvassing to invite public input.
Coalville and Oakley, on the other hand, do have contested races. Coalville, to its credit, had a wide field of contenders for the mayor's post, which was narrowed in a spirited primary. Voters in the county seat will have the opportunity to choose between two mayoral candidates and three council candidates.
Oakley too has a mayoral contest, though it would be hard to tell as neither candidate has taken the time to actively campaign. There are also two candidates vying for a seat on the town board, who have likewise remained quiet on the campaign front. Nevertheless, all of their names are in the phone book, so Oakley residents can and should pin them down on their platforms.
The upshot is this. Park City residents are enjoying a season of civic pride and active involvement in charting their community's course while several of the towns on the East Side are missing an important opportunity to evaluate their present status and to brainstorm about the future.