Analysis: Park City heads into unpredictable election with an eclectic candidate slate and unorthodox ideas
Mayoral, City Council contests offer just a few figures who are well known in community political circles
Should Park City residents — those who live in the community on a full-time basis — not pay property taxes to City Hall?
And what about people who live in the Snyderville Basin, which is outside the Park City limits, being granted the right to vote inside the city?
The concepts are two highly unorthodox ideas that have been broached in the City Hall campaign as the candidates head toward a primary election to whittle the field for the mayor’s office and the two Park City Council seats on the ballot.
Although the ideas, one brought forward by a mayoral candidate and the other by someone seeking a spot on the City Council, likely seem absurd to many of Park City’s traditional voters, they can also be seen by some as refreshing angles in the politicking. The ideas drift far from the usual ones bantered about during a campaign, such as development, traffic and the Park City economy. Those long-running issues will almost certainly be heavily debated through the campaign, but an especially eclectic slate of candidates shows that the 2021 election could become a curiously unpredictable contest.
The mayor’s office is the top prize on the ballot. The incumbent, first-term Mayor Andy Beerman, is competing against City Councilor Nann Worel and investment banker David Dobkin in a primary election. The top two finishers in the primary will advance to Election Day in November.
The field for the City Council spots includes eight candidates. One of the incumbents, City Councilor Tim Henney, is seeking reelection while Steve Joyce, who holds the other City Council seat on the ballot, opted against a reelection bid. The other candidates are: Thomas Purcell, Jamison Brandi, Jeremy Rubell, Michael Franchek, John Greenfield, Daniel Lewis and Tana Toly.
Some of the challengers were essentially unknown to the broad electorate until they filed the necessary paperwork at City Hall to launch the campaigns. It remains unclear what sort of inroads they made during the primary season, which has largely been driven by the efforts of candidates on their own rather than by debates or other events that bring them into the same room in front of voters. The appearance of some of the candidates at the Marsac Building during a recent City Council meeting centered on the possibility of City Hall building a facility to store soils with contaminants from the silver mining era was a rare opportunity to hear from several candidates at the same time.
The unpredictability of the election this year flows from a field that itself was unexpected at the outset of the campaign. There was only limited chatter about candidates prior to the opening of the period when the campaigns were formalized. Once candidate paperwork could be filed, there were regular surprises as the mayoral and City Council ballots filled in. At the close of the filing period, there were enough candidates to force primary elections in both of the contests.
Beerman and Worel essentially come from the mold of mayoral candidates of the past 30-plus years, having risen through the ranks of the community. Beerman was a City Councilor, a Main Street leader and a businessman prior to his election as mayor. Worel was a member of the Park City Planning Commission before she won elected office and is a leader in the not-for-profit sector.
Dobkin, though, is a new arrival to Park City who wants to bring a high-finance background to the Marsac Building. It is Dobkin who has offered the idea that full-time Parkites would pay no property taxes to City Hall under his budget proposal. He argues property taxes paid by full-time Parkites account for a small percentage of the overall City Hall revenues. The loss of those revenues can be offset elsewhere in the budget, the candidate says.
The City Council slate is even more disparate, with only some of them having backgrounds in the tradition of winners from the past. There are no candidates, as an example, seeking to ascend from the Park City Planning Commission, which has served as a springboard to the City Council for years. Toly, who brings a background of Park City Historic Preservation Board and Historic Park City Alliance service, seems to have the most conventional resume for a City Council candidate. The others, from across the spectrum of Park City, would add their individual experiences to the five-person City Council, whether it was, in the case of some of the candidates, on the sidelines of the basketball hardwood, in a whistle-blower role or behind a bar.
In one case — a platform plank that resembles, in its unusualness, the one from Dobkin regarding property taxes — Brandi has spoken about a concept that would allow people who live in the Basin to vote in City Hall elections even though they live outside of Park City. A service industry worker, Brandi has attempted to justify the concept by explaining that people who live in the Basin pay taxes inside Park City when they shop or dine there.
Dobkin and most of the City Council candidates will need to quickly convince voters that they have the smarts, skills and knowledge of Park City to serve during what is expected to be a crucial four-year stretch for the community that will involve decisions on major developments, the hoped-for continued economic recovery from the pandemic and the initial planning for a Winter Olympics should the Games of 2030 be awarded to Salt Lake City with Park City playing a role alongside the host city.
They also must hope that 2021 is a year Park City voters see a need for widespread change at the Marsac Building after election cycles that went in favor of incumbents or candidates who generally supported the overarching City Hall agenda.
If the voters want change, there could be openings for candidates who otherwise could have been set aside by the electorate in previous years.
But if that is not how the election plays out, the unorthodox ideas outlined by some of the challengers will likely be forgotten by the time the Election Day winners are sworn into office in early 2022. And, under that scenario, yes, Parkites will need to continue to pay property taxes to City Hall and, no, Basin dwellers will not have a vote in Park City elections.
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A former mayor of Park City, Jack Thomas, recently testified at a Park City Planning Commission meeting regarding the concept for a major development at Snow Park, essentially praising the overarching vision but cautioning the review will likely be extensive.