A new citizens group on the horizon
January 11, 2013
Summit County residents are hoping to organize a group that will serve as a liaison between residents and the Summit County government.
The first meeting to discuss interest, potential plans, and possibly a name, for the group is at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 17 in the Richins Building auditorium, located at located at 1885 W. Ute Boulevard.
"Anyone is welcome to join. I want there to be 100 percent transparency. There won’t be anything said in that meeting that can’t be heard," former Planning Commission Chair, and group spokesman, Bassam Salem said.
Salem said he’s been sensing frustration from residents who feel as though the Snyderville Planning Commission isn’t listening to them, and does not represent their interests. He added that he doesn’t believe that’s true, but that the Planning Commission is between a rock and a hard place.
"They have rules and laws, and developers have rights," Salem said. "So the Planning Commission is trying to make sure the best interests of the community are balanced with the rights of the developers."
After Salem left the Planning Commission, he said he was approached by several people asking him for help in bridging the gap between the government and the constituents.
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"We thought we could try to create an amicable organization that has at its mission to create something that is friendly, constructive and beneficial to everybody, both to the Summit County Planning Commission as well as to the public, and not have this very antagonistic tension that has existed in the past," he said.
Salem stressed that he doesn’t want to be a part of anything antagonistic, which isn’t constructive for anybody, and said he is willing to act as a mediator to build a good relationship so the Planning Commission feels like it’s getting "good input from the citizenry in a sensible way."
Likewise, he wants residents to feel they are being informed of what’s happening in the Planning Commission and that they are being included in the process.
"We can organize so it’s not just little communities who are always against whatever particular development is in their neighborhood, which is typically what happens," he said. "And we can leverage the fact that Park City is made up of lots of home owners associations (HOAs). That gives us a convenient structure to reach all these folks."
Salem also plans to use social media to inform as well as gather information from their membership.
"For example, what if we create polls and ask them what they think about things? And then as their representation, we can go to the Planning Commission and make that representation and show them the findings," he said.
A similar group exists in Summit County called Citizens for the Alignment of Growth and the Environment (CAGE).
CAGE President Sancy Leachman said she is very excited and supportive of the new group.
"It’s a much bigger thing than what we’re able to do in CAGE right now," she said. "It will be great if they can get a better infrastructure than we have, and if they have the capacity for social media."
CAGE has wanted to expand to a strong website and use social media to communicate better than through e-mail, as well as enlist the HOAs, she added.
"But the problem with that is, it’s a slow process. You don’t build something like that overnight. It takes time," she said.
For now, CAGE will continue to exist simultaneously, and possibly in a mutually beneficial manner.
"We want them to be as powerful as possible, so we’ll do anything we can to bring people we’ve got into their group," she said.
However, Leachman added that if the new organization tells people what to do, or is highly politicized, CAGE will distance itself from it.
"I think the thing that’s powerful about cage is we don’t try to tell people what to do," she said. "Everyone has the right to their own opinion. We give people information that is backed up by data, and let people decide for themselves. So if their organization started to become highly politicized in some way or another, it would be very difficult for us to join forces with them."