Richer throws hat in ring while rebuking critics
In declaring his candidacy for a second term, Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, a Democrat, Tuesday recalled a quotation from Harry S. Truman. The former U.S. president once advised aspiring politicos to get a dog if they want a friend in Washington, D.C.
"I did get a dog," Richer joked during a telephone interview.
Though The Park Record first revealed last week that Richer intended to run again, Tuesday he made it official.
Candidates for two County Commission seats and elected posts overseeing seven departments in the County Courthouse must declare their intentions to run between March 7 and 17. Democratic Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme will also likely seek a second term.
Richer’s declaration does not surprise the Summit County Republican Party, said Park City resident Bruce Hough, vice chair for the local GOP.
"We have people to run," Hough said.
But Summit County Republicans could have a difficult time getting elected this year in an area where residents have consistently bucked statewide trends and elected Democrats. After Democratic Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott trounced Snyderville Republican Steve Osguthorpe in the 2004 County Commission race, former Summit County GOP chair Randy Ovard said it could take several election cycles before a Republican holds another seat on the board.
In 2007, Democrats hope still to dominate the three-member County Commission.
"I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished," Richer said. "On a lot of the accomplishments, we have made some really good beginnings what matters in the end is completion and pushing the ball over the goal line."
If re-elected, Richer says he would spend the next four years attempting to implement several programs. Commissioners recently spent $200,000 to study transportation conditions at Kimball Junction and devise a 25-year plan to alleviate gridlock.
Richer also touts the re-alignment of Old Ranch Roach as another first-term accomplishment. He is also proud that Snyderville buses are carrying more riders and traveling farther into residential areas.
Lawsuits still plague county
Richer has been criticized for allegedly failing to deliver on his campaign promise in 2002 to settle some of the lawsuits that name Summit County as a defendant. Twenty-five different plaintiffs are currently suing the county.
But 15 of those lawsuits involve "legal actions that want us to either set aside our zoning laws or are appealing land use decisions," Richer stressed, adding that 10 of those suits were filed by the same group of Salt Lake attorneys.
"[Attorneys Michael Hutchings and Bruce Baird] have certainly said, both in the media and in court documents, that it is their goal to have all of our zoning laws declared illegal, which would give them the ability to develop however and wherever they want," Richer said. "It would be easy to give in, but it wouldn’t be right for Summit County. Our economic vitality and our quality of life are dependent upon our public land use policies."
Most of the lawsuits against the county involving disputes about water were filed by Summit Water Distribution Company, its private competitor in the Snyderville water market.
"They want to, in effect, sue our public water system out of existence," he said, adding that Summit Water officials have refused attempts by the Summit County Commission to settle litigation.
Meanwhile, because 1,000 acre-feet of water was recently reserved for the East Side, tensions have subsided between residents in eastern and western Summit County that began to stir when the Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline was constructed from Peoa to the gated Promontory subdivision, Richer said.
"I don’t think we have a lot of acrimony in the county, if you were to factor out the very vocal and very public acrimony from those who are suing us," he said, adding, "I don’t hear a lot of discontent from the everyday citizen."
Richer wants county to be ‘user friendly’
Next month, the Summit County Commission is expected to support placing a proposal to change the county’s form of government before voters in November. The county would operate more efficiently with a five-member governing board, Richer claims.
Voters this year will likely decide whether to change the County Commission to a five-member council and hire a manger to oversee administrative duties.
"What is healthy is a discussion about how we do business and how we can do it better for the citizens," Richer said. "I am a supporter of more professional government and whatever that entails."
County commissioners are also attempting to better train their employees to interact with the public, he added.
"Our citizens require and expect a professional level of service," Richer said. "We are running a city out in the Junction Snyderville city is actually bigger than Park City."
Election Day is Nov. 7. For information about how to file as a candidate in county, state or federal races, contact the Summit County Clerk’s Office at 615-3203. Again the filing deadline is March 17.
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The Park City Police Department last week was summoned to Snows Lane to respond to a complaint about three skiers or snowboarders who were reported to be “ducking ropes and avoiding patrollers.”