Few fireworks in Coalville
October 28, 2008
A familiar refrain from some vying for seats on the Summit County Council is: more openness is needed in local government.
At a campaign forum Monday in Coalville the county was criticized by several candidates who claimed the government is too secretive.
Hoytsville resident Bill Wilde agreed with the criticism in an interview after the debate.
"We’ve had some real issues with public meetings," said Wilde, who was one of about 60 people who watched the debate. "I hope it changes."
Too often deputy county attorneys unduly influence members of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission at meetings in Kamas and Coalville, he lamented.
"The lawyer runs the meeting and that is not right," Wilde said. "They put public comment right at the last and you’d have to be blind not to see that."
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Government students at North Summit High School helped organize this week’s forum.
"The politics of the presidential race are more intriguing but it’s the County Council races that are going to affect us the most," said 18-year-old Hannah Rosenthal, a senior at North Summit High School. "I really don’t know which I am more interested in."
Rosenthal said she will vote Nov. 4 for the first time.
"Both the parties are confusing," Rosenthal said when asked about her political views. "Both groups have policies you can agree with."
But engaging the nearly 40 students enrolled in his government courses can be difficult, said Russ Judd, a teacher at North Summit High School.
"It’s hard to get the kids interested in any kind of government I remember when I was a kid, the number one thing we were worried about was being drafted into Vietnam. So we were real active in government and we wanted to vote because that was a direct impact," Judd said.
The form of government in the county will soon change and this year voters will elect the first five-person County Council to replace the three-member Summit County Commission, which is currently comprised of all Democrats.
Voters can pick candidates for four- and two-year terms on the board and each representative serves the whole county at large.
In the contest for seat A, a four-year position, Park City Democrat Sally Elliott touted her experience serving the past four years as a Summit County commissioner.
"I have not put my head in Park City sand," Elliott said Monday. "I’ve been out all over the county working for you."
Her challenger is Woodland Republican Bill Miles.
"I have some deep roots here to represent you people," Miles said about his birthplace in Coalville. "I think I’m very, very qualified to represent the people of North Summit."
The County Council seat B race pits Snyderville Basin Democrat Claudia McMullin against Grant Richins, a Republican from Henefer for a four-year seat.
McMullin said her skills come from a career in law and serving four years on the Basin Planning Commission.
"It’s that experience that makes me want to be a county councilperson," McMullin said.
Richins, a retired educator, countered that he has experience serving on the Henefer Town Council, Henefer Planning Commission and the North Summit School Board.
"I know that there are many problems facing us as a county," Richins said. "I hope that none of us are looking at representing one particular group."
Silver Creek Democrat John Hanrahan and Park City Republican Tom Hurd are locked in the race for seat C, which is a four-year council term.
"Growth and development is going to be a huge issue for us," Hanrahan explained.
But Hurd said the downturn in the economy could most greatly impact county taxpayers.
"We’re in possibly the worst economic crisis since 1929," Hurd said. "When these things start to happen you have to start being more fiscally responsible."
Three candidates are facing off for seat D, which begins as a two-year term. Basin Democrat Chris Robinson is against Park City Republican Alison Pitt and Jeremy Ranch resident Gary Shumway, a member of the Constitution Party.
"It’s important to be involved," said Robinson.
He boasts that a conservation easement on about 10,000 acres he owns in North Summit protects the rangeland from development.
Pitt said rules for developing land on the East Side are unclear and must change.
"The code ought to be clear and predictable, not only for the property owner, but for the neighboring property," Pitt said.
Because Robinson owns land in Summit County and Pitt is a corporate attorney in Park City, Shumway says voters should support him because he is least likely to bump into conflicts of interest as an elected official.
Pitt and Robinson would have to recuse themselves from discussions, Shumway said.
Two South Summit men Kamas Republican Dave Ure and Samak Democrat Steve Weinstein are campaigning for seat E, also a two-year term.
Ure is retired member of the Utah House of Representatives who touts his political chops.
"I do have that respect but I also have an outside opinion," he stressed.
Weinstein, meanwhile, admits it’s his first time campaigning for public office.
"I can do the job that I’m applying for," Weinstein told voters. "What you’re deciding on is who is going to help guide this county into the future."