Christopher Robinson, Democrat
October 2, 2008
1. The two entryways into Park City, S.R. 224 and S.R. 248, are under stress from traffic increases, with backups at Kimball Junction being especially worrisome to officials in Summit County and commuters. Please talk about your preferred solutions to the two entryways, with particular attention to how the expensive projects could be funded. (150 words)
Solutions to these problems will be planned and funded in cooperation Park City, UDOT, UTA, and the Feds. The County’s 25-year transportation/capital facilities plans address SR 224. Park City leads on SR 248 solutions. The initial focus should be on trip reduction strategies like expanding public and private transit (including more routes), carpooling, park & ride lots, bus stop benches/shelters, transit hubs, preferential lanes for transit and HOV’s, and enabling more non-motorized transportation (bicycles & pedestrians). Travel demand management solutions like directional lanes are good options. Additional capacity (travel lanes) may also be necessary. Projects should be prioritized based upon regional need and available funding. The County’s portion of funding could come from having new development fully mitigate its impacts, vehicle license and impact fees, sales taxes, and private sources. Significant funding will also likely come from UDOT and the federal government.
2. Foreclosures are on the rise as real-estate sales slump in Summit County. How would you respond as a councilperson if faced next year with an economic recession? (150 words)
Lower real estate values will likely translate into lower assessed values and lower property tax receipts. Impact and use fees might also decline. Our resort economy could also easily suffer as consumers have less discretionary income to spend on travel and vacations, let alone retrenchment by locals. The current County Commission has asked for a recession contingency plan asking with each department proposing an 80% contingency budget (i.e., 20% cuts). This would be a good starting place for doing a thorough triage examination of the budget and for prioritizing cuts that are the least disruption to county services. A value-based approach that weighs the greatest bang for the buck would be much better than "blind," across-the-board cuts. I would also work closely with the Chamber Bureau and other business interests to foster the implementation of strategies to generate new business which would help offset lost revenue.
3. You’re vying for a seat on the Summit County Council, which will replace the County Commission when it disbands in 2008. Voters decided to change the form of government and a significant difference will be the hiring of a county manager to fill the executive role. If elected you’d help decide who is hired as the manager and could help divvy up powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. Please discuss traits important in a manager. (150 words)
By law, the minimum qualifications for the manager are at least a bachelor’s degree in public administration, public finance, or similar degree and five years administrative experience. We should seek broadly for a very well educated and experienced executive. In addition to a strong resume, we need a strong leader who can organize a team using primarily the excellent cadre of existing county employees and who can relate well with the other seven elected county officers and the five county councilors-any three of whom could fire him or her. We need a great communicator who understands and is sensitive to the needs, values, background, history, and concerns of the whole county, who listens and synthesizes well, and who can act decisively when needed. The new manager will need to be expert in building consensus, in diplomacy, and in people skills–on top of excellence in management, finance, and administration.
Recommended Stories For You
4. The new Summit County Council will function as the legislative branch of government in Summit County. How is the role of a county councilperson different from a county manager, and what do you see as the positives and negatives of the five-member board versus the old three-member panel? (150 words)
The new council’s role is mainly law and rule making, taxing, reviewing with veto-power appointments, executive orders and budgets, providing advice and consent on appointments, and serving as the board of final appeal for administrative decisions. By contrast, the county manager oversees all departments and divisions (except those falling under other elected officials), enforces and executes the rules and laws, prepares and implements the budget, oversees county assets, negotiates contracts, purchases goods/services, appoints/removes department heads, recommends persons to fill positions on boards and committees, and directs/settles litigation. The existing three person County Commission combined the executive and legislative functions, resulting in a fulltime job for each commissioner. It has served the county well and its dissolution will be bitter-sweet. But the council-manager structure allows for a topflight professional manager and opens up the county council to well qualified people who can’t devote fulltime service to the County.
5. Discuss your knowledge of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act and explain whether you believe elected officials in Summit County regularly obey the law. When is it appropriate for the Summit County Council to close a meeting? (150 words)
This Act requires that actions of political subdivisions of the state (such as Summit County and its boards and committees) be conducted openly–that the people’s business is done in full view of the public. In general, when a quorum (simple majority) of the members of a public body meet, the meeting must be open to the public and adequate and timely notice (agenda, date, time, and place of meeting) must be given. In general, a public body may vote (by two-thirds majority) to close a meeting to discuss personnel issues, pending or imminent litigation, financial terms of real property transactions, security personnel or devices, and criminal misconduct allegations. In such closed meetings, only discussions can occur. Any decisions must be approved in an open meeting. I have no reason to believe that the County has not complied with this Act. I am committed to complete compliance with this Act.
6. Summit County was sued by a private competitor when it entered the water business by forming Mountain Regional Water Special Service District several years ago. Should officials have formed the public water provider? (150 words)
In general, water service is best provided by local government, rather than by the private sector. Local government is able to "take the larger view" in regionalizing facilities allowing for greater operational and managerial expertise, economies of scale, and necessary safeguards and redundancies to ensure reliable, quality service. Prior to Mountain Regional, numerous private water companies of varying sizes and capabilities served the Basin, some of which were failing–potentially causing a disruption of service or an inability on the part of innocent lot purchasers to receive water service. The county rightfully stepped in to "roll up" these struggling companies and to consolidate/upgrade a "patch-work quilt" of water infrastructure. The process hasn’t been cheap, but in the long run, it’s been the right decision.
7. Significant changes are being discussed for the Eastern Summit County General Plan and Development Code. Some eastsiders claim the current zoning rules are too strict and prevent them from benefiting economically from the development of their land. Others say most development should occur in cities and rigid codes are necessary in unincorporated Summit County to preserve its rural flavor. What is your vision for residential and commercial development in eastern Summit County? (150 words)
Poor agricultural returns and land values have prompted some farmers and ranchers to want to cash in. In some cases, the current code is too restrictive. The staff and planning commission held four open houses this past summer to solicit public input on the vision and goals for the eastern part of the county. I attended three of these meetings which were a good first steps, but more "visioning" needs to occur to really coalesce and find balance between the disparate opinions of unfettered "give us our property rights" on the one hand and of "protect our rural, agricultural way of life" on the other. Then the general plan and land use/development codes should be amended to reflect the consensus. In general, I’m in favor of simplifying the procedure for minor subdivisions and of providing incentive mechanisms to preserve open space through cluster bonus and transfer of development rights tools.
8. The Summit County Commission has debated whether to allow Walmart at Kimball Junction to expand into a Walmart Supercenter. How would you vote if asked to expand the store by about 60 percent and are there any areas of Summit County where other big-box retailers would be appropriate? (150 words)
Kimball Junction is not the right place for "big-box" retailers because it’s our front door, it’s already too congested, and big-box is generally incompatible with the flavor of a quaint resort town. My understanding is that the Snyderville Basin Planning Commissions’ unanimous decision in favor of the Walmart expansion was based upon the premise that Walmart was merely exercising its legal right to expand a pre-existing, non-conforming use. In other words, the County had no legal basis for denying Walmart’s application. If, after due investigation, it became apparent that the County was not legally obligated to approve the application, I would oppose Walmart’s expansion at Kimball Junction. Additional big-box retail may be appropriate in the area around Home Depot, but it would have to be carefully studied. The additional sales tax from truly new retail sales dollars would be of interest, especially in these trouble economic times.