Amy Roberts: Park City is like a macadamia nut. It takes time and effort to crack it.
By the time this newspaper hits the stands/the world wide web, the results of the primary election for City Council will be known. The mail-in ballots are being tallied as I type and the pool of seven candidates will be dwindled down to six. In November, the six left standing will be cut in half to fill the three open seats.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a primary election for City Council. Generally, having so many people willing to step up and represent their community is a good thing. At this level, it’s considered a civic duty. No one is doing it for the paycheck.
But the more I read and learn about some of the candidates, I can’t help but wonder if there is another motive. It seems logical to assume you need to be involved in your community and have lived in it longer than one ski season to truly understand the issues, the people, and the collective goals we hope to achieve. If you don’t volunteer or work in Park City, if you don’t have kids in the school district or you haven’t adopted a pet from Nuzzles & Co., do you even really live here?
I work closely with City Council members professionally and know each of them personally. They don’t half-ass their jobs. Most of them devote full-time effort to their part-time position. There’s a lot of late nights and weekend work. There’s no overtime pay, but there is plenty of criticism. It’s a pretty thankless job followed by a measly paycheck. To do it well, you have to really want to make a difference. You also have to be fully integrated and engaged in the community. You can’t solve problems you don’t know about or pass a budget for things you don’t care about or create policy to improve lives for people you don’t know. Understanding takes time.
For the same reasons an immigrant who has only lived in this country for a few years is not eligible to run for Congress, someone running for City Council should be required to be a resident of town long enough to have a firm grasp on the issues. Currently it is only required that candidates live in Park City for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the election to be eligible. A more suitable length of residency is not required by local law, but it can be mandated by our votes.
I don’t think you have to be born and raised in Park City to appreciate or care about the issues we face, and no doubt, some people are very quick to adapt and be embraced as a local. But that only happens because they’ve made the effort. They didn’t just learn about a local fundraiser and assume they were informed. They recognized that in Park City, you also have to help collect items to donate the event, attend and invite your friends, help decorate, volunteer for cleanup duty, and agree to be next year’s chair. Acceptance is earned by full immersion. If you want to represent us, we want to know you are a part of this community and invested in it. Otherwise, you might as well just be another tourist renting our neighbor’s Airbnb.
The voters in Park City are bound by their sense of community, their proud history of being the state’s black sheep, and their tradition of thumbing their noses at anyone who thinks he knows what’s best for us before he’s even tried to become one of us.
Hopefully that will be made obvious by the six candidates left standing.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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