Opponents of Salt Lake County’s proposed $47 million bond for parks improvements argued unsuccessfully Tuesday that the measure should be removed from the Nov. 6 ballot because of procedural flaws.
But attorneys representing the county on the bond said the critics — Jeff Salt of the Jordan River Restoration Network, former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton and political activist Janalee Tobias — cited the wrong points of law in their arguments.
All the County Council needed to do was hold Tuesday’s public hearing, when the complaint was raised, and the process for putting the bond proposal on the general election ballot was complete, said Ryan Bjerke, an outside bond lawyer with the law firm Chapman and Cutler.
In the proposal, voters are being asked to approve issuance of $47 million in bonds that would be allocated to:
• Jordan River Trail ($11.5 million)
• A regional park in the southwest valley ($10 million)
• Parleys Trail ($9.5 million)
• Wheadon Park in the southeast valley ($6 million)
• Acquiring park property in Magna ($5.5 million) and
• Lodestone Park in Kearns ($5 million).
Salt argued that legal notices about Tuesday’s session were worded improperly and that bond language should have been available earlier for public review.
But Bjerke said the legal requirements Salt cited addressed a later part of the process — the actual bond issuance, if approved by voters.
Opponents also took exception to the fact a small brochure put out by County Mayor Peter Corroon to explain the bond proposal did not include an opposition statement.
“When you ask the public to vote, to put their greenbacks down, I don’t see why we can’t have opposition statements,” said Saxton. “Why can’t you put some information in it that would cause the public to think.”
Council attorney Jason Rose said the bond was small enough not to require a voter information guide, which could have included an opposition statement. Corroon noted that the council earlier rejected his request for $250,000 to educate the public about the bond.
That’s right, said Councilman David Wilde, because “We didn’t want an education piece because sometimes they become advocacy pieces.”
Still, Corroon felt “It’s our obligation to let the public know what’s on the ballot” and he said $2,700 was found in the county Parks and Recreation Division budget to put out basic information about the proposal.
Corroon also noted that supporters are mounting a privately funded campaign to promote bond passage and encouraged the opponents to act accordingly. Councilman Richard Snelgrove, a bond foe, agreed. “You need to organize a ground game, raise sufficient funds to prepare a fair fight,” he told opponents.
Salt said he still believed opponents were interpreting the law correctly but was not sure how they would proceed.
The first two of six community meetings to discuss Salt Lake County’s proposed $47 million bond for regional park and trails work have been scheduled for:
Sept. 26, 5:30-7 p.m. at Magna Recreation Center, 3270 S. 8400 West
Oct. 3, 5:30-7 p.m. at Lodestone Park, 5980 S. 6300 West
In other Salt Lake County business
Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw was only 11 years old in 1992, but already sensing he might be gay when Salt Lake County became Utah’s first government to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance.
Without that action, Bradshaw said he might not be where he is now, able to serve on the County Council as an openly gay man.
“I noticed at a young age efforts such as this by great leaders,” Bradshaw said Tuesday when the council approved a commemorative resolution honoring the 20th anniversary of the ordinance’s adoption and the man who fought to get the county to adopt it, David Nelson, now 50, of Millcreek.
“It gave me a lot of confidence through this life,” Bradshaw added. “It gave me confidence to know that I could live in a world where perhaps sexuality wouldn’t be used to discriminate against me. I could pursue a life in public service as an elected official. So it was very significant to me and thousands upon thousands of Utahns to feel welcome.”
Besides Nelson, the resolution also praised two county commissioners who originally approved the ordinance — Bradshaw’s current fellow councilmen Jim Bradley and Randy Horiuchi — and a third commissioner, Brent Overson, who defended and extended its provisions in 1995.