Ryan Summerlin October 22, 2013
(1) The next mayor will be just the third in Park City in nearly a quarter of a century, following two consecutive three-term mayors in Brad Olch and Dana Williams. Please discuss which of the two best represents your vision for the city’s top elected position. What is one attribute of each of them you anticipate striving to emulate if you are elected?
I like the saying that ‘politics is a relay.’ Everything you do in government builds upon the success of those who came before. Park City’s next leader will be fortunate to inherit a well-managed and forward-thinking government. Mayor Olch had a strong business background, was a good negotiator, had an early vision for open space, and played a critical role in recruiting the Olympics. Mayor Williams had an activist background, led with a huge heart, made government more approachable, and has been a champion for sustainability. I am both a businessperson and an environmental activist. I am outgoing, yet analytical and data driven. I believe a healthy economy, social equity and healthy environment are all intertwined. Having worked closely with Mayor Williams, I share many of his goals for this community, yet would bring a new style and new generation’s perspective to the job. I will take a broad-based, regional approach and will work with a variety of stakeholders. The community values will not change with a new Mayor, but we will need a leader who will ‘anchor’ these values and continue to build upon our success.
(2) The mayor’s office is relatively weak within the form of government Park City employs, which tends to favor the City Council and the city manager over the top elected official. Please discuss how you envision pursuing your platform should you be elected to an office that offers little opportunity to directly decide policies.
The mayor’s role is about vision and leadership. The Council, City staff and community all look to the mayor to set a tone and to promote our community goals. The mayor’s job is to articulate the community vision and inspire residents to embrace that vision. The mayor’s governing strength is in his/her ability to build consensus among Council. A single vote is useless, but building consensus will move us forward. The mayor plays a lot of roles: ambassador, cheerleader, meeting facilitator, negotiator, and serves as the connection between the community and City Hall. A good mayor will energize the citizens, encourage them to participate, and build community involvement. Although the mayor needs a broad understanding of many issues, the mayor does not design policy or engineer solutions. An effective mayor will collect input, consider all options, guide the community/staff/council to achieve their best possible conclusion, and help to move those efforts forward.
(3) Bonanza Park, long seen as utilitarian, could someday be remade into an upscale district of shops, restaurants and residences. Please discuss your vision for the redevelopment of Bonanza Park, particularly in the context of Park City’s existing commercial hubs like Main Street. What sort of role may City Hall play in reaching that vision?
Park City has little land left, so future growth will come as infill or redevelopment. Bonanza Park is 99 acres between our entry corridors (Park/224-Bonaza/248) and currently contains 1.2 million SF of commercial/residential property. Under current zoning, it could grow to 4-5 million SF. The City has identified BoPa as ripe for a long term planned redevelopment. Outlined in the 2012 Bonanza Park plan, it’s proposed the district be developed as a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood with a variety of resident housing. The goal is to create a vibrant locals’ place to complement our historic downtown and keep support businesses local. It could also provide a home for mid-sized companies, an educational facility, and a cultural center. It would utilize the principles of mixed-use, mixed-housing, shared open space and walkability. It would be a non-resort-based district, with limited nightly rentals, living-wage jobs and diverse housing options without competing with the downtown or resorts. It’s ideally located to serve as a transit hub to connect our other commercial districts. Bonanza Park is an opportunity to use redevelopment to address current community needs and to shape its inevitable development to strengthen and diversify our town.
(4) An agreement has yet to be reached in the long-running discussions about the Treasure development on a hillside overlooking Old Town. Please outline what you see as being the best solution for the Treasure land. If you envision some of the development rights at the Treasure site being transferred elsewhere, please identify the location.
Treasure Hill is a great example of the complex and sometimes vexing decisions that Council/Mayor must balance. This project pits property rights against neighborhood compatibility. Treasure was first approved in the 80’s when Park City badly needed commercial projects and our problem was too little traffic, not too much. Today, Treasure retains these rights but is surrounded by a mature neighborhood which would be heavily impacted by the development. The current Council/Mayor is negotiating directly with the property owners seeking solutions to honor their rights while reducing negative impacts. I believe the best solution would be an agreement to transfer a significant amount of the density to more compatible locations such as commercial districts or one of our resort bases (my preferred choice). As an Old Town resident, I hate to see Creole Gulch developed; but purchasing it as open space is not a feasible option. My hope is that we reach a compromise to build a smaller project, recessed into the hillside, seek traffic mitigation solutions, improve skier connections to the downtown, and permanently preserve the remaining 100 acres of hillside.
(5) City Hall’s financial situation appears greatly improved from the lowest points of the recession, buoyed by strong sales taxes and an uptick in development since then. Please outline a fiscal strategy for the municipal government that you see as ensuring continued strength. In your answer, please discuss the prospects of a property-tax increase in the next four years.
Park City is fortunate to have weathered the recession far better than other resort towns. We have seen a double-digit recovery while much of the country is still struggling. A lot of our economic strength can be attributed to our close proximity to the Wasatch Front, but we also benefit from our economic diversity, sound fiscal management, and positive brand/momentum. Recently, the City implemented a new budgeting system called ‘Budgeting for Outcomes’ which allows greater flexibly to adapt to volatile markets. Unlike traditional incremental budgets—which can calcify and bloat—it’s a priority-based budget that connects our expenditures directly to our community goals and strategic plan. This allows the Mayor/Council to determine funding based upon citizen desires and requires each department to annually justify its requests. PCMC takes a conservative approach to debt, has an AA+ credit rating, and keeps healthy reserves. Park City has not increased its base property tax rate in decades, due to the strength of our sales tax revenues and real estate growth. I have opposed, and will oppose, any property tax increases without dire cause. I view them as a last resort, to be used only after cuts and alternatives have been exhausted.
(6) Sometime during the next four years, City Hall and the wider Park City community could be asked to support another bid for a Winter Olympics. Would you want Park City to have a similar role in a future Olympics as it had in 2002? If not, would you like Park City to have a greater role or a lesser one? Please explain.
Absolutely! The Olympic Spirit is still alive and strong in Park City. We are a town full of Olympians and future Olympians that continue to live and train here because of the world-class facilities and coaching. World-wide, there are limited venues suitable for Winter Olympics and very few of them maintain their facilities or enthusiasm once the games are over. The International Olympic Committee is reconsidering their traditional formula and desiring more sustainable Games. This could be done by ‘recycling’ Games sooner and using the existing venues before they become obsolete. Utah hosted a highly successful, compact, and profitable Winter Olympics—few hosts can say that! Park City played a critical role in attracting the 2002 Games, and would need to play a similar role should we hope to bring them back. I am currently serving as Park City liaison to Utah’s Olympic Exploratory Committee and would enthusiastically support our pursuit of another Winter Olympics!
(7) Park City’s economy has performed well in the years since the depths of the recession, appearing to outpace much of the rest of the state and the country. Please offer a hypothesis explaining the success of the past four years. Identify one economic development policy or program you would pursue at the start of the next City Council term.
Location! Location! Location! Park City has the benefit (access) and curse (growth pressure) of being situated near a thriving metropolitan market. Both Utah and Park City have tremendous momentum. The list of accolades is long, but two stand out: US News recently ranked Utah as the #1 place to live by 2032 and Outside Magazine just declared Park City the "Best Town Ever.’ Our amazing natural environment, easy access to a city and airport, and historic small town character all fuel our economy and add up to make Park City a desirable place to live/work/vacation. I believe our path to economic health and resilience is: 1) preserve our natural environment—it’s the #1 reason why people come here; 2) preserve our historic character—it keeps us unique and drives tourism; 3) diversify our economy by incubating and attracting multi-seasonal businesses that create local jobs with livable wages. I currently support all of these efforts, and would continue to make them top priorities.
(8) Park City leaders have long been proud that a middle class has thrived in the city even as it seems expensive real estate prices coupled with scattered job prospects would suggest otherwise. Please identify one program or policy that you would introduce meant to ensure the continued success of Park City’s middle class.
Every resort town faces a paradox: the better place you create, the harder it becomes to stay. With success come rising property values, increased crowds, traffic, and growth pressures. Park City has been proud to maintain the middle and working classes that form our community fabric. Maintaining our middle class will require good jobs, attainable housing, a strong educational system, and balancing resort vs. resident needs. As a local business owner, I struggled to establish a foothold and to support my mountain lifestyle-it’s not cheap living other people’s vacations. I am a proponent of local business and supportive of the next generation of entrepreneurs. I’m working with a group of investors and young entrepreneurs trying to form a Park City business incubator. This incubator would encourage and foster the growth of local business, hopefully creating new jobs and economic diversity. This is not a City project, but I believe the City should be supportive of homegrown/existing business development and encourage local entrepreneurs to incubate and thrive in our economy. If we can maintain our tradition of "scrappy" local business, we will create local jobs, live where we work, and maintain our small town character.
(9) Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.
A good mayor requires a diverse skill set, vision, and the ability to lead. Experience: I know this job. I currently serve on Council and have been sitting next to our Mayor for the past two years, learning. I have a deep understanding of the issues, the process, and am best prepared. Relationships: I have built strong regional relationships with Summit County, along the Wasatch Front, at the State level, and locally with the resorts, local business, City staff, and the environmental community. Leadership: I have a proven track record of leading and building consensus within and between challenging groups. I have done this in HOAs, with the Downtown Business Alliance, and on Council. I have been effective on council building support for open space, regional collaboration, and budgetary issues. Next Generation: I represent the next generation and will bring a new approach, new energy and a new toolkit to problem solving. At 44, I believe I occupy a ‘sweet-spot’ between new and old Park City with respect for our past and enthusiasm for our future. Me: I am outgoing, energetic, irrepressibly optimistic and passionate about Park City. I would be honored to be Park City’s next Mayor.