Rep. Mel Brown pulls a fast one
January 29, 2007
While most Summit County residents this week were busy helping to host the Sundance Film Festival, and their attentions were diverted by a rash of horrible accidents on the nearby interstate, a bill was being introduced at the state Legislature to reverse the change of government approved by voters in November.
On the last day to file proposed legislation for the current general session, Representative Mel Brown (R-Coalville) introduced House Bill 348, which, if adopted, would prohibit counties from adopting a council-manager form of county government. The bill would also allow voters to repeal a prior change of government and would require county elections to remain partisan.
HB348 would effectively hand the election back to those who opposed changing Summit County s form of government from a three-member commission to five-member council.
At the risk of reopening wounds inflicted during last fall s bitter debates, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Brown s proposed bill is intended as an end run around the will of the majority of citizens in Summit County. The fact that it was slipped onto the table on the last day of filing is further evidence Brown knew the proposal would draw heat from a majority of the constituents it would most impact.
Brown s actions clearly indicate that he has no interest in representing the West Side of Summit County. For those who embrace democracy and fair representation in government, it is hard to understand why some residents, mostly those who live on the less-populated East Side of Summit County, are so adamantly against adding members to the existing commission. Perhaps, like Brown, who has long been entrenched in politics, they are worried about losing control. But broader representation and more involvement in leadership is exactly what the growing communities of our county need in order to meet the enormous challenges they are already confronting, including ensuring that growth doesn t outstrip essential resources and infrastructure like water, roads and schools.
One has to ask, if not the health and welfare of our citizens, what is Brown trying to protect?
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HB348 has a long way to go before it becomes a law. Hopefully, before that happens, Brown will come forward to explain his motives for trying to rescind the county s right to select its own form of government. As part of that explanation, he should reveal who else is supporting the measure.
In 2004, by a margin of 61 to 39 percent, Summit County residents voted to begin the process of changing the form of government by establishing a study committee. After a two-year, state-mandated process of research and public hearings, Summit County voters approved the shift from a three-member commission to a five-member council.
The question is: what part of "by a vote of the people" does Brown not understand?