Jack Thomas | ParkRecord.com

Jack Thomas

Park City Mayoral Candidate

Jack Thomas

(1) The next mayor will be just the third in Park City in nearly a quarter of a century, following two consecutive three-term mayors in Brad Olch and Dana Williams. Please discuss which of the two best represents your vision for the city’s top elected position. What is one attribute of each of them you anticipate striving to emulate if you are elected?

Each of our two past mayors has made an important contribution to Park City. Brad was a driving force behind bringing the Olympics to Utah and assuring Park City’s important role in them. This brought us into the international spotlight and has been a major ingredient in our success as a world class resort.

Dana served as mayor during the Olympics, playing the part then – and forever since – as an ambassador to the world. He’s raised international awareness of Park City as an environmental leader, promoting clean energy and sustainability and has assured the continuation of the trails and open space initiatives. Dana has made city government more open, approachable, and responsive to the people.

As mayor, I will emulate Brad in joining eagerly in any efforts to secure another Olympics. I will emulate Dana in keeping city affairs open and transparent. I’m a strong believer in government of and by the people and will assure that the public is informed and heard at every stage in the process.

(2) The mayor’s office is relatively weak within the form of government Park City employs, which tends to favor the City Council and the city manager over the top elected official. Please discuss how you envision pursuing your platform should you be elected to an office that offers little opportunity to directly decide policies.

According to the Municipal Code and state law, the mayor is CEO of the city. He doesn’t have the authority to direct the actions of individual employees, but has power to inquire into any city activity. In the past, the mayor has always worked closely with the City Manager and senior management to help set the city’s priorities.

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In addition, the mayor presides over city council meetings. He can both set a tone of transparency and responsiveness and assure that the process by which major decisions are made is fully open to the people.

I am a listener and a learner. The same must be true of city government. It has no charter to come up with assumptions about what the people need without asking them, and no right to spend their tax dollars on frivolous projects. It is the responsibility of the elected officials to ascertain and follow the will of the people. It is not enough for a politician to claim that her election constitutes a mandate to make expensive decisions without public comment or sufficient information.

(3) Bonanza Park, long seen as utilitarian, could someday be remade into an upscale district of shops, restaurants and residences. Please discuss your vision for the redevelopment of Bonanza Park, particularly in the context of Park City’s existing commercial hubs like Main Street. What sort of role may City Hall play in reaching that vision?

Mark Harrington, our City Attorney has advised us that, because an application is pending before the Planning Commission, it is inappropriate and unethical for city officials to comment on the future of Bonanza Park. I will say, however, that I am glad a solution has been found that puts to rest the issue of moving the Rocky Mountain Power substation.

(4) An agreement has yet to be reached in the long-running discussions about the Treasure development on a hillside overlooking Old Town. Please outline what you see as being the best solution for the Treasure land. If you envision some of the development rights at the Treasure site being transferred elsewhere, please identify the location.

Again, based upon the City Attorney’s advice, it’s inappropriate to make any specific comments. I will, however, share my views on the general topic of transfers of development rights (TDRs).

TDRs offer an opportunity for developers and planners to move development from one part of the city to another where that much density might be more appropriate. In some cases, this could be a benefit to the community. The technique, however, is sometimes abused when planning authorities create fictional development rights, thus manufacturing value and conferring wealth on a favored developer.

(5) City Hall’s financial situation appears greatly improved from the lowest points of the recession, buoyed by strong sales taxes and an uptick in development since then. Please outline a fiscal strategy for the municipal government that you see as ensuring continued strength. In your answer, please discuss the prospects of a property-tax increase in the next four years.

I can see no reason for a property tax increase in the next five years. We just approved and instituted an increase in the resort city sales tax that will generate substantial additional revenue.

My fiscal strategy is very simple: Park City must learn to place needs before wants and to discipline ourselves to do the fiscal equivalent of "measuring twice" so we only need to "cut once." All too often, the claim of being a world class resort has been used to justify extravagance.

I’m not advocating austerity, just sensibility. In our environment of wealth and abundance, it is hard to keep the need for a sustainable lifestyle foremost in our minds. Park City can never be all things to all people, no matter how great our revenues. Intelligent planning applied to our fiscal strategy will eliminate costly mistakes and keep us focused on our community vision.

(6) Sometime during the next four years, City Hall and the wider Park City community could be asked to support another bid for a Winter Olympics. Would you want Park City to have a similar role in a future Olympics as it had in 2002? If not, would you like Park City to have a greater role or a lesser one? Please explain.

I loved having the Olympics here and will work with the organizers of a future bid to bring them back. We have built the best facilities in the world and a large number of cool international athletes who practice on them every day.

It also makes environmental sense to bring the games back, rather than having more facilities constructed in another mountain area. I think we had the right mix of games and events, we handled the crowds and traffic well, and learned a lot about staging international events. Bring it on!

(7) Park City’s economy has performed well in the years since the depths of the recession, appearing to outpace much of the rest of the state and the country. Please offer a hypothesis explaining the success of the past four years. Identify one economic development policy or program you would pursue at the start of the next City Council term.

I think that we did well by some measures, though many people are still struggling. Our resort economy seems to have done well, with high occupancy and skier days, but that is probably due to a wide range of room rates, our proximity to the airport and the fact that visitors can come here without renting a car.

We need to continue the efforts that Dana emphasized to expand to a more active summer season and become a destination for meetings and conferences.

With that said, we also need to diversify our economy into additional clean industries. Park City has long been home to hundreds of telecommuters, but we must also find ways to benefit from new technologies. As a government, it isn’t up to us to invent new products or services, but to present an environment of opportunity in a community where business owners will want to live.

(8) Park City leaders have long been proud that a middle class has thrived in the city even as it seems expensive real estate prices coupled with scattered job prospects would suggest otherwise. Please identify one program or policy that you would introduce meant to ensure the continued success of Park City’s middle class.

I do not agree with your premise. I don’t believe that people who would be considered middle class anywhere else in America are thriving here. I fear that the true middle class are moving out of town, along with our children and our seniors.

(9) Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.

Unlike my opponent, I am a fourth-generation Parkite. I raised a family here and have been part of the community for over 20 years, participating in a variety of civic organizations and activities.

I have a relevant education, with a BS in Geography and Planning and an Master of Architecture from the University of Utah. I’ve used my education to gain experience working in every neighborhood in Park City. People are familiar with many of my projects, including the Egyptian Theatre and St. Mary’s Church.

To be successful in my business, I have had to work with the community and understand and act according to shared values. This has given me a deep respect for my neighbors.

I’ve served Park City for eight full years on the Planning Commission and recognize that our community values of small town, sense of community, historic character and natural setting are non-negotiable.

I believe that our community ought to evolve and be prosperous. But I do not confuse prosperity with profit. Prosperity offers opportunities for a smart business person to make a profit, but does not guarantee it.