Park City Council Candidate Liza Simpson
October 26, 2011
The Park Record submitted identical sets of questions to each candidate running for the Park City Council. The questions and the candidates’ answers are printed below.
The Park City Police Department aggressively patrols the roads, pulling over thousands of drivers over the course of a year as the officers attempt to curb speeding and other traffic violations as well as reduce drunken driving. Please discuss the successes or failures of the Police Department’s traffic patrols and whether police resources are best used in that fashion.
Patrolling neighborhoods is a very appropriate use of resources. It is an important element of our community policing. Our officers learn about the neighborhoods, and residents get to know the officers. This enables officers to better spot potential issues. Traffic patrol focuses on making streets safer, and when the tickets are analyzed, in the words of Pogo: "we have met the enemy, and he is us." Most of the tickets are issued to local residents. In 2010 the Department issued 225 traffic violations. That does not seem like aggressive patrolling to me. Impaired drivers are a danger to everyone on the road. Other aspects of community policing may seem unimportant, like graffiti removal. But this year the Police Department has taken over 60 reports of graffiti, and studies show that cleaning up graffiti, and addressing other community clean up issues, lowers crime rates.
The Park City Council has voted for City Hall raises in recent years, including agreeing to an increase in the salary a City Councilor is paid, even as pay increases have become much rarer in the private sector. Please discuss how you would craft City Hall salaries for both staffers and elected officials. Do you envision regular pay increases at City Hall amid the uncertain economy?
No. The City has a very balanced method for calculating compensation for City Staff, with the goal of being fair and competitive. The method compares total compensation, including benefits, with a number of cities. The goal is to attract and retain employees who can best serve our community at the high service level our community members and visitors expect and deserve. This Pay Plan is part of the Budget process, and along with the Budget, is examined carefully. In the challenging economy of the last few years, Council has directed changes. For example, some funds for salary increases were changed in 2011 to a pool for performance based bonuses. City Council (and the Mayor, City Manager and City Attorney) declined benchmarked increases in 2010, and the increase in 2011 was calculated using 2009 data, resulting in a small increase for the City Council and Mayor.
Development issues in Old Town continue to bedevil City Hall years after heavy investment started in the neighborhood, with property owners generally wanting looser regulations and the preservation community desiring tighter restrictions. Please outline a platform that protects the historic nature of the neighborhood as well as ensuring the rights of property owners.
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Old Town is an area that has virtually no homeowners associations.
In many ways, the City functions in that role. So the involvement of residents in the crafting of the future is vital. In the process of updating the General Plan, and the Land Management Code, we have asked the residents to share concerns and successes. A recent design charette brought over 100 residents to discuss the challenges. There are many pieces to keeping Old Town a vibrant residential, historic neighborhood and a retail and entertainment destination. In 2009 we updated the Historic District Design Guidelines, and made changes to the Land Management Code. Now we are working on the new General Plan, and addressing Old Town as distinct and different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has different needs. line> recognizing those differences, and planning for those differences, we can be successful in keeping Old Town healthy, historic, and economically healthy.
Park City has a long-running work force housing program, a result of a line of thinking that holds the community is better off if people of varying incomes are able to live within the city limits. Please describe your commitment to City Hall’s work force housing program. Are there additional brick-and-mortar projects you want the municipal government to pursue, or do you envision the days of City Hall work force projects soon being over?
I believe that diversity is essential for a community to be healthy. The discussion in the past has referred to firefighters, teachers and nurses. The reality of our resort economy is that the housing need is there for other professionals as well: retail managers, restaurant staff, ski area employees. Our Community Housing needs will continue to change as we evolve. Redevelopment efforts in the future will see the City as a partner to ensure that Community Housing needs are met. One possibility that was envisioned when the China Bridge garage was built, is another level on top of that structure. That could be Community Housing. We are also in discussions about City owned property in Lower Park Avenue, and contemplating partnerships there. Seasonal housing needs are different, but just as real. The City just received a Federal Grant to address seasonal housing for Transit Department employees.
The Bonanza Park district centered along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard is seen as a place of major redevelopment in the coming years. Please discuss your vision for the district and how a redone Bonanza Park would fit with the rest of Park City’s commercial nodes. What danger is there of Bonanza Park siphoning away business from the established districts like Main Street?
Properly planned and built, there is little danger of Bonanza Park siphoning businesses from Main Street. Main Street is a retail and entertainment district. There is a need for our business community to grow, and many small businesses are forced to start up in outlying areas like Kamas because of the cost of space. A perfect example is the Starving Artists Gallery.If a space that fit their budget had been available in town, that unique and local business would be here.We also have a need for small retail, offices, galleries, and specialty shops. In some ways, the Ironhorse portion of Bonanza Park is a good example of a vibrant district serving needs not met by Main Street. I think the two districts will be complementary rather than in competition.
Park City leaders have for years taken pride in City Hall’s ability to balance the municipal budget without increasing property taxes. Officials have cautioned, though, that a tax increase might be necessary in the coming years, a result of dwindling development-related revenues as well as inflationary pressures. Do you envision a tax increase being necessary during the next City Council term? Please describe what your thought process would be if faced with a decision to raise property taxes.
Any discussion about property tax rates must be thoughtful, informed, and involve everyone who is impacted. We publish the Citizen’s Budget every year in an effort to keep our community informed about our financial status. I believe healthy communities should talk about their financial future and prioritize spending in a way that reflects the community vision. Unfortunately, our property tax has no inflationary component, and instead we have benefited over the years from our explosive growth. That growth was unsustainable, and resulted in reactive rather than proactive planning. I believe we should have regular and thorough conversations about property taxes, and sales tax revenues. Then we can balance the financial burden across all stakeholders: residents, second homeowners and visitors. We all benefit from the capital projects, healthy economy and other efforts funded by various income streams. My thought process would balance all revenues and expenditures.
City Hall and the Sweeney family are continuing negotiations in hopes of striking an agreement for the Treasure land that would protect some or all of the acreage from development. Please discuss your preferred solution to the Treasure question. In your answer, please describe your opinion of the overarching idea of a ballot measure to finance a Treasure conservation deal.
I am very proud that our City Attorney thought of instituting the hearing officer as an alternative appeal body for this project, enabling the City Council to sit down with the developers to find a solution. While a number of residents would like to see nothing built there, we have to balance the probable high cost of that with other needs of the community and Main Street. If Park City is going to continue to have a healthy resort economy, we are going to have to continue to evolve. An enhanced resort base and better connection to Main Street would benefit the entire community. I have heard loud and clear from many residents who are unwilling to bond for a conservation deal in the amounts that have been discussed. So we need to continue to work to find a solution.
The national economic uncertainty wrought by the recession persists, even as Park City has enjoyed a bounce over the past year. Please discuss your overall outlook for the Park City economy. What measures could City Hall take to ensure the city’s economy does not retreat from the gains since the depths of the recession?
Even before the national economy imploded, the City spent a fair amount of time studying sustainable economic concepts. The Save Our Snow event demonstrated to many that we need to look clearly at our economic future. We have discussed and will continue to explore: high altitude training, think tanks, cultural tourism, leadership training, partnerships with higher education institutions and alternative energy research groups. We want to think of anything that would be low impact, sustainable and at the same time fit with the Park City brand, and our sense of community. For example, we probably don’t want to encourage a large manufacturing company to locate here. We also need to continue to support our existing businesses. The HPCA infrastructure plan is a perfect example, as is the redevelopment of Bonanza Park.
Please differentiate yourself from your opponents.
I believe more in what brings us together than what sets us apart. I have spent the last four years studying and learning. I have learned about environmental issues, and intergovernmental issues. I have acted as an advocate for seasonal housing, community housing, sustainability and the economic health of the community. I began my first term believing my role to be a bridge builder between City Government and our community. I believe that my commitment is to both, to better the communication and services that the City provides. The best resource available to me in serving our community is you. I have learned when struggling with some of our tougher issues, that after I have done my homework, and feel that I clearly understand what the competing sides of an issue are, my next step is,and should be, to reach out further into the community. We have an incredible brain trust in this City, and you all have so much smart insight to offer. I want to tap into that more often and reach out to you, the community "experts", to help us find solutions that work.