Rep. says bill won’t target Summit County | ParkRecord.com

Rep. says bill won’t target Summit County

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Hiring a manager who is not accountable to voters to oversee the executive branch of county government worries newly elected state Rep. Mel Brown.

But voters in the Republican’s district, which includes most of Summit County, say replacing the 3-person Summit County Commission with five councilors and a hired executive officer makes sense.

Fifty-one percent of the electorate supported Summit County Proposition 1 in November, which means in 2008 the county is slated to transition to a controversial new council/manager form of government.

The process to change the form of government began in 2004 when more than 60 percent of the county’s voters wanted to form a committee to study whether more representatives and an appointed manger would better serve burgeoning communities in Park City and the Snyderville Basin.

But while people on the West Side supported Prop. 1, most voters in every precinct in eastern Summit County last year opposed the ballot measure.

While Brown insists he respects the decision to change the form of government in Summit County, he says citizens need a way to repeal optional plans like the council/manager form if the plans fail.

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His House Bill 348, which would prohibit other counties from adopting the council/manager option, also authorizes voters to petition to repeal new forms of government after they’ve been in place for at least two years.

Members of the study committee who recommended the form of government in Summit County change refused to include a mechanism in the plan for citizens to repeal the new form of government if it fails, Brown said.

The lawmaker took issue this week with a Park Record editorial that accused him of sponsoring the legislation to sabotage the change of government approved by Summit County voters.

HB348 helps look out for his constituents in Morgan and Wasatch counties who might regret having adopted optional forms of government in those areas, Brown countered.

"The people in Morgan County, as a people, hate it," Brown said about the county council that governs Summit County’s neighbor to the north.

Wasatch County residents changed their 3-member commission to a county council with a hired executive.

"We have a lot of processes in the state where recalls take place," Brown said in a telephone interview Monday. "The people ought to have a right to repeal it."

If HB348 is passed during the Legislature’s current general session and registered voters totaling at least 10 percent of those who voted in a past election petition to repeal a new plan, the proposed repeal must be placed before voters.

"If a majority of voters voting on the proposal to repeal the optional plan vote in favor of repealing the optional plan is repealed," HB348 states.

Meanwhile, because he’s watched the political process erode in counties where optional forms of government were enacted, Brown says HB348 requires county officers be chosen in partisan elections.

"Political parties have ceased to function in Morgan County," Brown lamented.

When reached Tuesday, state Rep. Chris Johnson, a Salt Lake City Democrat who represents areas in the Snyderville Basin, couldn’t comment about HB348.

"I haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to [Brown] about what he really intends with it," Johnson said, adding that several constituents have contacted her about the legislation.