County Council to ask nicely for prison board seat
The Salt Lake County Council really wants to have a county official on the board that will determine the future of the Utah State Prison.
But the council doesn't want to offend Gov. Gary Herbert by being too pushy.
Still, with recent word from the governor that he might name his six appointees to the 11-member board next week, the council decided Tuesday there was no time to waste.
So it is drafting a letter stressing that Salt Lake County deserves a seat on the board because it will be impacted significantly by any plan to move the prison from its present location in Draper.
The letter will not tell Herbert who to appoint, although the council clearly feels it should be either Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat who has publicly expressed interest in being on the board, or Council Chairman Steve DeBry, a Republican like the governor and a law-enforcement officer. His council district also includes the prison.
"We can write a respectful letter to the governor, recognizing that he's the authority, and in a proper way say this would have a major impact on Salt Lake County," said Councilman David Wilde, a Republican. "Whether it's Ben or [Steve], we should have a stake in it."
But as Democratic Councilman Jim Bradley pointed out, "We don't want to put the governor in a box choosing between the mayor or council. Leave it open to someone from Salt Lake County."
DeBry, a captain in the Unified Police Department with 31 years in law enforcement, concurred with that approach. He was especially skittish about seeming to be too demanding about getting a Salt Lake County representative on the board, which already is likely to have a representative from one of the counties being discussed as a future prison site.
"I don't want to offend Gov. Herbert by staking a claim," he said. "It's fine to tell him how we feel about this as a body. But we cross a fine line if we're directing the governor about who he wants on that committee. That's sensitive."
Councilman Randy Horiuchi, a Democrat, did not share his colleagues' eagerness to be demure.
"We need a voice from Salt Lake County so we don't get pummeled on this and get treated the way I think we'll be treated on this," he said. "I was going to ask [council attorney] Jason [Rose] to write a menacing letter because we have so much at stake."
Horiuchi ultimately went along with the council's decision to be more diplomatic.
McAdams applauded that strategy, noting he has been "comforted about what we've seen from Gov. Herbert," citing the governor's decision to reject the Snake Valley agreement that would have allowed Nevada to divert water to Las Vegas from the aquifer beneath the two states' border.
"We have no reason to expect less from him than we've seen in the past," he added.