Park City mayoral candidates spar over arts district and address Olympics, climate change

Andy Beerman and Nann Worel remain poised as they answer set of wide-ranging questions

The two Park City mayoral candidates, incumbent Mayor Andy Beerman and Park City Councilor Nann Worel, discuss a wide range of issues during an election forum on Monday at the Santy Auditorium. Topics included a planned arts and culture district and climate change.
David Jackson/Park Record

Note: A video recording of the forum is available here.

The two Park City mayoral candidates on Monday appeared together at an election forum that covered an exceptionally wide range of issues, seeming to agree on the overarching items but challenging each other on some of the particulars, during an event held just as voters are expected to begin receiving ballots in the mail.

Incumbent Mayor Andy Beerman, who is seeking a second term, and Park City Councilor Nann Worel answered a string of questions about topics like how the municipal government should address silver mining-era contaminated soils and the prospects of a second Winter Olympics in the state.

The two were poised throughout the 90-minute event, held at the Santy Auditorium in front of a crowd of several dozen and hosted by The Park Record, KPCW, the Park City Chamber/Bureau and the Park City Community Foundation. Neither was rattled as they moved between disparate topics, and it did not seem that either of them would have made significant political gains by the end of the midday event.

Beerman is attempting to reverse the results of an August primary election that Worel won by a wide margin. Worel is trying to fend off an incumbent who, four years ago, captured the mayor’s office by mounting a comeback after a second-place primary finish that year.

In one of the notable back-and-forth moment, the two addressed City Hall’s concept to build an arts and culture district on municipal land stretching inward from the intersection of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive. Leaders have spent months in talks about the estimated $65 million pared-down budget and the details of the development itself, which is envisioned with the Kimball Art Center and the Utah offices of the Sundance Institute as the anchors. It is not clear whether the discussions will re-launch during the campaign, but the project is among the highest profile the municipal government has ever pursued.

Beerman confronted Worel on the dollar figure, asking her directly when, in her estimation, the budget went astray. The challenger answered when the figure topped $100 million. The number has been modified over time.

Worel said the vision for the arts and culture district is shifting with leadership changes at the Kimball Art Center and Sundance. She said it is time for the sides to return to the talks to consider the changes since the discussions started in a previous mayoral administration, adding unspecified other parties could be involved as well. Beerman responded that the project would bring economic benefits, create activities for Parkites and that it would be what he considers to be a generational project.

They briefly addressed the future of contaminated soils in the community, a legacy of the silver-mining industry that drove the economy from Park City’s founding in the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. A City Hall concept to build a storage facility known as a repository along the S.R. 248 entryway inflamed the community earlier in 2021.

Beerman and Worel spoke broadly about the topic. The mayor said a project was put on hold amid the opposition and other options are under review. He said more talks are needed. Worel argued the elected officials were moving forward earlier in the year without the backing of Parkites and City Hall needed to heed the broad pushback.

The two touched on climate change, something that many in Park City see as someday threatening the ski industry that powers the economy.

Beerman called a changing climate the greatest long-term issue in Park City, saying it impacts how City Hall prepares for droughts and wildfires, and ski seasons will be impacted.

“Climate change is not coming. It’s here,” the mayor said.

Worel noted the importance of the idea of sustainable tourism as she spoke about climate change and said officials must address the issue without delay.

“We need to start that conversation yesterday,” she said.

The possibility of a future Winter Olympics was addressed at the Santy Auditorium.

The challenger said a broad discussion about the bidding for a Games is overdue, indicating lessons from the 2002 Winter Olympics need to be reviewed and saying the eventual talks need to be focused on Parkites as topics like traffic, crowds and security are broached. She mentioned the possibility that funds tied to an Olympics could be tapped.

The mayor, a member of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, said a second Games could be different from the event in 2002, noting an emphasis nowadays on the athletes and the climate. He said a community discussion is needed regarding an Olympics.

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