The signs are down, the votes are counted, the money is gone, but November’s election lingers on. Displeased with the upcoming change of county government, voted in by a majority of the voters, "our" Representative Mel Brown wants a "do-over" with House Bill 348.
Brown’s ill-conceived bill would only allow the traditional, and outmoded, three-person commission. It would also take just 10 percent of the voters in the last governor’s election to place the question, again, directly on the ballot, a fairly easy threshold.
But our change of government did not take place in the dark. It was not easy, or should it be. Voters overwhelmingly voted to look at a different form in 2004. To de-politicize the process, an appointment board then appointed a study committee. That committee spent a year doing their job, and forwarded a recommendation to the Summit County Commission. The commission voted to put the question to the voters last fall, where the people spoke for change.
Mr. Brown told me that a five-person council would never agree to put a question on the ballot that would change their authority and number. But, that’s exactly what this County Commission did last year. That’s the difference between a politician and public servants.
So why is Mr. Brown so threatened by a larger council, and an appointed manager accountable to that council? I served on the commission from 1999-2003, and the job can be overwhelming. We needed more professional, full-time managers to oversee our day-to-day executive functions, the $40 million budget, and over 300 employees. Other independent, elected officials would sometimes help, but more often hinder our policy decisions. A professional, accountable manager does not have that option.
Brown points the finger at the dysfunction of Morgan County’s expanded council (with no manager) as proof. I work in Morgan County. So far, everyone I’ve talked to thinks the larger council is better than the traditional "gang of three," as one person put it.
So Summit County has joined Morgan, Grand, Wasatch, Cache and Salt Lake’s efforts to be more responsive and professional. Hmm, maybe it works? Perhaps his motive lies closer to home, in Summit County, where it seems he represents those who voted for him, but not those who didn’t.
Brown’s other angst, and excuse, is that counties should not be providing municipal services; areas should incorporate. Perhaps Mr. Brown should spend his time writing legislation that would direct growth into existing, or new, towns, while preserving agricultural open lands.
Mr. Brown’s show of power is putting out heat, but no light. Let’s hope that our other legislators recognize a step backward when they see it.
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