Mayoral candidates vie for primary vote | ParkRecord.com
Monika Guendner
Park Record

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Mayoral candidates vie for primary vote

Candidates reveal how they will benefit younger voters

The problem-solving lawyer. The long-time activist. The young environmentalist.

The three candidates running for Park City mayor appeared together for the first time Monday night at a public forum organized by Park City Action Network (PCAN) and hosted by Café Terigo. PCAN held the event in advance of the August 15 primary, which will forward two of the candidates to the general election in November.

In their opening statements, they worked to differentiate themselves by highlighting their strengths. Roger Armstrong, an entertainment attorney and Summit County Council member, emphasized his ability to problem solve and understand complex issues. Former Park City Mayor Dana Williams spoke about his lifelong resume of activism and his passion to continue the commitment to an inclusive community. Current Park City Council member Andy Beerman identified with the PCAN group members and their difficulties in establishing a financial foothold in Park City, and underscored his passion for local environmental issues.

Since voting occurs by mail-in ballot this year, beginning later this month, PCAN planned the event so early voters would be well-informed, said Sarah Hall, one of the organizers of PCAN.

According to Hall, PCAN wants their demographic to be represented when the city talks about its three critical priorities: affordable housing, transportation and energy. The format of the event focused on those three issues. Forum questions were posed by a facilitator, but attendees could speak to the candidates one-on-one before and after the moderated panel.

Housing and employment are two issues that hit residents in their 20s and 30s especially hard, said Hall. "There's so little to rent in this area, and a lot of people in our age group are not ready to buy."

The ultimate goal is to be able to live, work and play here, she added, and in the current market, millennials can only work and/or play here.

Park City School Board member and evening's facilitator, Andrew Caplan, asked the candidates about affordable housing.

Williams responded, "What are we going to do in terms of how we house the various parts of the workforce here … those are things that I think we need more public input on. I don't look at the government to solve the problems; I look at you guys to tell the government how to solve the problems."

According to Beerman, "Affordability isn't just housing. Housing is certainly critical. We need to take into account rentals … The secret sauce in the community is people. And if we don't have housing here, and we don't create opportunity for the next generation as a community, we're going to run out of people here, and we're going to lose our community feel."

Armstrong said the answer to affordable housing is not clear cut or easy, especially reaching the city's goal of 800 units. "There's not a lot of room to develop unless you go up … It's a hard goal to reach 8, 10, 12 units at a time," he said.

In an interview after the forum, Armstrong repeated, "The city's pretty well built out. It's not like there's vast tracks of land available where you could build large housing complexes." Developing or repurposing small clusters of homes throughout the city could be aided by adding height. "That's going to engender a lot of conversation," he added.

Caplan asked the candidates how they supported any or all of the city's three critical issues. While support for all three priorities seemed universal among the candidates, each man approached the priorities differently.

Beerman said the council listens when young activists promote their concerns. "Energy was a priority brought to us by the community. We had the under-35 crowd have an uprising and come to us and say we want you to take climate change seriously," he said.

Armstrong responded with a nod to the city-county partnership. "[The Summit County Council] worked on the problem to get people out of cars and specifically focused on coming up with alternatives that we tried to measure [such as] how many potential cars can we get off the road if we put in an e-bike share program?"

Williams talked about dealing with transportation, and took issue with "social engineering" ideas to get people out of cars, saying that employees should be able to drive to their jobs on Main Street and park downtown for free. "I think we have to be super careful with how it affects us as a community," he said.

Candidates were also asked about their proudest accomplishments.

Transportation was high on Armstrong's list. "[The county's] got parking facilities that we're designing, to keep traffic outside of the Basin, because if it penetrates the Basin, we've lost the battle," he said.

Williams referred to relationships with state and national legislators as among his proudest accomplishments. "The fact [is] that [U.S. Senator] Orrin Hatch would call me at my house, and talk to me about things, and we made it a point to see them two or three times a year. That needs to happen because we needed their help," he said.

Beerman listed Park City's leadership role on national issues, and its recognition at the Al Gore Climate Reality Training, as his proudest accomplishment. "We're sitting in a room of well over a thousand people being recognized for this grassroots effort and realizing how that's reaching out to other communities." he said.

Hall said she was satisfied with the turnout and outcome of the event. The candidates were respectful of the format and each other, and the crowd showed a thoughtful, positive attitude, she said. Despite the range of ages of attendees, the crowd of approximately 70 to 80 people included more people under 40 than PCAN sees at their new monthly events, which made this event a success for Hall.

"A lot of the plans they [the government] are making are for our age group. If they don't know what we want, they can't do it for us. We want to be represented," she said.

PCAN plans to hold at least one more forum featuring the three candidates for the two open city council seats.

Primary ballots will be mailed to voters on July 25, and must be returned by Aug. 14.