Park Record 2022 Voter Guide: Summit County Council Seat D
The Summit County Clerk’s Office mailed ballots on Tuesday and they should begin arriving in mailboxes soon. For the first time since 2016, the Republican Party has representatives running for a seat on the Summit County Council.
Ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8, The Park Record asked the two candidates running for Seat D, incumbent Democrat Chris Robinson and Republican challenger Holly McClure, to share their views on some of the important issues to help ensure voters are informed when they decide who will represent them on the County Council.
Click here to see election coverage of Summit County Council Seat E.
Please describe your background and how it prepares you for the office you seek.
Chris Robinson: I am about to complete 14 years as a Summit County Council member. This experience, coupled with my diverse public and private sector background in general business, real estate, production agriculture, water, renewable energy, land conservation, business law (I am not an attorney), and public lands, enable me to provide excellent leadership to the county. I have an accounting degree from the U of U and have spent the last 36 years as the CEO of The Ensign Group, a family-owned real estate and agricultural business.
In addition to chairing the County Council this year, I am currently serving as: the chair of the Central Wasatch Commission, the chair of the Utah Local Governments Trust, a co-chair of the Northern Advisory Council for the Colorado River Authority of Utah, a trustee of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, and the vice-chair of The Nature Conservancy of Utah.
I am an intent listener, a consensus seeker, an able communicator, a rational thinker, a problem solver, a hard worker, a peacemaker, an excellent time manager and a decisive leader. I seek to build bridges and find common ground.
These skills and experiences qualify me to continue to serve on the Summit County Council.
Holly McClure: After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Civil Engineering, I spent over a decade in the engineering and construction industry working for Bechtel. As part of that experience, I lived in China for seven years, working on construction projects for large multinational manufacturing companies. While living in the Bay Area, I worked in Silicon Valley as the head of project management for Y Media Labs, a tech startup agency, developing a variety of iPhone and Android apps. All of my work experience has been team and project-based, has involved solving and managing complex problems, and has been grounded in building real life solutions that work.
While living in Oakland, California, I served on the Parks and Recreation Board, whose focus was urban tree policy, parks, and after-school enrichment for underserved populations. I also volunteered for three years in support of the Our Kids program (www.okprogram.org) as a math tutor for middle school boys. The past year here in Utah, I was a founding member of a grassroots organization working at the state legislature to pass legislation to protect workers rights (SB2004) and to prevent vaccine passports and worker discrimination on the basis of health choices (HB60). My Oakland experiences made clear to me that volunteerism — not government intervention — is a far superior solution to social issues. My work in Utah on legislation gave me invaluable insight into how politics work at the state (level).
Between development, open space, nightly rentals, traffic, water use and more, Summit County residents have long expressed concerns about what’s happening in their communities. What do you see as the biggest threat to the quality of life in Summit County and how you would address it, if elected?
Robinson: The biggest threat to that quality of life is that it’s being over-loved.
Using its transient room taxes, the county funds the majority of the Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau, which is pivoting from destination marketing to destination management in order to promote sustainable tourism within our resort community.
Summit County has a generational opportunity to work with Park City and the east side municipalities, Wasatch County, MIDA, the Chamber and the business community, the resorts and other large employers, developers, the state of Utah (especially UDOT), and the federal government to develop, fund, and implement strategies that mitigate impacts on us locals and protect the natural environment while allowing our economy to remain vibrant and grow.
The county’s recent creation of High Valley Transit and securing both state and federal funding for its regional bus administration, storage and maintenance facility and bus rapid transit (BRT) along both sides of SR 224 is a great case in point and just the beginning.
We recently enacted a water conservation ordinance and received voter approval for our $50 million county-wide open space bond and are in the process of revamping the licensure of nightly rentals.
All of these strategies will help.
McClure: The single biggest threat to our quality of life is the belief that government is the solution to all of our problems. This is how we become just like California.
I understand why people are tempted by the idea. If the government takes responsibility for a solution, then people can avoid the messy problem of negotiation (a single decision can be imposed upon everyone); money isn’t an issue because taxation effectively means guaranteed, unlimited funds; and — fatally — people believe that government is a kind of machine, free of human failings with only a capacity to do good. Government is not a machine. It is made up of people, humans as flawed and as limited and as susceptible to evil as anyone else.
We need to recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect solution — there are only trade-offs. I see my role as mitigating the impact of government on the citizenry, not expanding it. We need governance that is people-focused and supports individual autonomy and responsibility, not governance that facilitates bureaucratic expansion. I would be in constant conversation with the people of Summit County and work to develop a governance culture of transparency, empathy and stewardship.
It’s no secret that there’s an affordable housing shortage in Summit County, yet the County Council and its partners have struggled to change the public’s perception of what it looks like. What should the County Courthouse look for when considering affordable housing developments? How do you plan to use your position on the County Council to make the issue more palatable for residents?
Robinson: In the past, our efforts have primarily mandated that a developer create 20% affordable housing in conjunction with the market rate housing or commercial development under consideration. The problem with this approach is the affordable housing so created doesn’t even offset the impacts of the market rate and/or commercial development. We never get ahead.
I believe the county needs, in partnership with Park City and the resorts and other large employers, to create a regional housing authority. We already own excellent and well-located land and have the ability to issue low-interest (tax exempt) debt and to partner with nonprofit and for-profit developers.
Most of this housing should be owned and operated by the housing authority, be “for rent,” and should be targeted towards the most in need (35% to 50% of Area Median Income) who are our service workers, deputies, firemen, teachers, nurses, and local government workers who provide the backbone of our community.
The majority of our residents are in favor of affordable housing when properly conceived so as to not further exacerbate existing traffic and congestion and that fairly treats the impacted neighborhoods.
McClure: I disagree with the assumption that Summit County residents are against affordable housing as is implied in asking how I would make this issue more “palatable” for residents. I haven’t met a single resident who isn’t aware of or concerned by rising housing costs. What I consistently encounter are people interested in solutions but who don’t trust our government to properly address the issue.
All of the nonsense around the Dakota Pacific project and the false assertion that we are required by law to create an HTRZ in return for “millions of dollars in state funding” has done nothing to instill confidence in the populace. Also unhelpful was a County Council member implying that residents of Lower Pinebrook are racist when they expressed concern about building a multi-residence condominium complex on a tennis court in a neighborhood where it is already impossible to park.
It isn’t clear to me that policy can solve affordability. For Snyderville, more inventory isn’t the solution when the incentive for an AirBnb is greater than the incentive to rent to a local. For North/South Summit, inventory doesn’t help when buyers coming from outside markets and working in the virtual economy can outbid the locals.
The County Council in August adopted the long-range transportation plan, which officials hope will address transportation needs for the next 30 years. The first phase includes a near $180 million price tag for 15 roadway projects and eight trail projects in the Snyderville Basin and on the East Side. Please provide your assessment of transit/transportation in Summit County. What project are you most excited about and why?
Robinson: Transit in Summit County has never been better with the advent of High Valley Transit. I was instrumental in helping organize and separate it from Park City Transit. I currently serve as one of its board members.
HVT has solved the “first and last mile” transit problem through its Micro Transit offering. Since its inception 16 months ago, we have made great strides in obtaining BRT funding and in breaking ground on our regional bus maintenance and operations center. We are working closely with Wasatch County to extend service into Heber Valley, as well as farther into Eastern Summit County.
The biggest transportation challenge facing the county is on the two portals to Park City, namely Quinns Junction/SR 248 and Kimball Junction/SR 224. To entice people to get out of their cars, we not only need to have world-class, friendly, convenient, efficient transit, but we also need to capture cars at convenient locations before they enter these portals.
I am most excited about projects that improve these two junctions and that afford us an opportunity to work with UDOT and the federal government to couple road improvements with active transportation/trails, park and rides, and transit hubs/centers.
McClure: I do appreciate that there is a plan in place, but I can’t say that I am particularly “excited” about any of the projects since we are now in crisis mode.
My basic assessment of transit/transportation in the county is, this is a can that has been kicked down the street for quite some time. Kimball Junction is the elephant in the room and needs to be addressed, yet here we are with a Council running the Dakota Pacific CUP into the end zone in spite of overwhelming public opposition.
An HTRZ carries a statutory requirement of increased housing density with the potential for 3,000 additional residents. Was this figured into the plan? The assertion that we can address the needs of the next 30 years is ridiculous. Did anyone predict the COVID exodus and its impact on the county? Other questions: Why aren’t any pedestrian tunnels included, specifically in the Silver Springs/Sun Peak areas? With both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley building on existing parking pads, how does this plan address getting skiers to and from the slopes without even greater gridlock? For our North and South Summit residents — are their needs being addressed equitably?
Representatives from the County Courthouse and City Hall have started a community conversation and listening series about Utah’s Olympic bid. Officials hope a 2030 or 2034 Winter Games would provide access to funding to advance areas such as transportation and housing. Please describe one step you would take to ensure Summit County is prepared for a future Olympics and two other priorities heading into a possible Games.
Robinson: I was privileged to serve as a trustee for the 2002 Olympics. They were a huge success. We garnered international attention and respect.
A second Winter Olympics comes at a different time and circumstance. We are firmly planted on the world map and we don’t need more notoriety.
Unlike many host cities, our 2002 Olympic legacy is alive and well. Our venues are still very viable and have trained hundreds of young Olympians.
The best way to prepare for another Winter Games is to complete the conversation and listening series and to arrive at a shared community compact on why we want to host another Olympics and our goals for doing so. This compact should outline how the Olympics will serve as a catalyst for funding and implementing some of our heavy infrastructure lifts.
Once (if) we have agreed upon a community compact, we should create: (i) a Summit County/Park City organizational structure to shepherd the process and to negotiate the outcomes we desire, and (ii) detailed plans for what we as a community need in order for the Games to be a win-win for all involved, especially for our residents who at present are suffering from event fatigue.
McClure: I’m no fan of Olympic bids. As far as I can tell, they cost taxpayers billions of dollars before and after the games, with no benefit. The trend of the past several years is one where cities have been declining to make bids to host for this very reason. The Olympic Committee sells hosting as a boon to both infrastructure and tourism, yet the evidence demonstrates that tourism actually declines in games years. Even if tourism did increase — are we suffering in Summit County from a lack of tourism? Further, the infrastructure put in place to support the games has ongoing maintenance costs that last in perpetuity. Most cities struggle to afford this. Beijing has been famously scavenging its beautiful “nest” coliseum for construction materials because its regular use doesn’t generate enough income to cover the maintenance costs.
That said, I am not running for County Council to impose my personal ideas upon the people of Summit County. If elected, I would participate in the listening sessions and would serve our residents faithfully in the capacity that they desire, but they should be aware that I would not personally champion an Olympic bid.
Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.
Robinson: I am a fifth-generation Utahn who understands the geography, demographics, and culture of both Summit County and our entire state. I have enjoyed serving the good people of Summit County these past 14 years, initially helping it transition to its current County Manager/Council form of government and helping lead it ever since. My public service and private sector career have given me a deep and broad on-the-job education and have afforded me many opportunities. I strongly believe in giving back and doing my part.
I’m a firm believer in councils where good, intelligent, well-intended people from different backgrounds reason together to arrive at vetted, informed decisions. I have a track record for being an active and contributing participant in such councils and deliberative bodies.
I decided to run for another County Council term because I offer a steadfast anchor and rudder in helping lead this county in the somewhat uncharted economic, cultural, climatic, and political waters that lie ahead. I am a proven, dependable, knowledgeable, reasonable, temperate, diligent, experienced, engaged, compassionate, and passionate leader. In spite of having a lot of demands on my time, I still very much enjoy the job and make good decisions on behalf of the county and its residents and have the time and skills to do the job well.
If elected, I will be honored to continue to serve this great county and its citizens.
McClure: I have nothing negative to say about Chris Robinson. I’m grateful to him for his many years of service on our Council.
One of the local news outlets quoted Councilmember Robinson as stating that he believes climate change is the number one issue facing Summit County. While I respect his position, I disagree that this is the most pressing issue.
For me, the most pressing issue is preservation of our quality of life and maintaining our unique rural and mountain community character.
“Focus on the data outcomes, on the academic achievement outcomes, on the rankings that we have. The school board is happy with the direction of the district,” said Andrew Caplan, school board president. “We can always do a better job, especially with things that aren’t our core expertise like building and land management.”
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