In offering herself as the best candidate to be the next mayor of West Valley City, City Councilwoman Karen Lang explains that she knows how to get into the halls of power through the back door. That’s a claim that is almost certain to be true.
But the other candidate, former Utah legislator Ron Bigelow, is more interested in opening the back door. And the front door. And all the windows. That, in a city that has been having as many problems earning the public trust as this one has, clearly recommends in favor of Bigelow to be the next mayor of the state’s second-largest city.
The mayor’s seat on the West Valley City Council is open this year because the troubled incumbent, Mike Winder, is not seeking another term. That decision followed — though, Winder insists, was not caused by — the scandal that broke when it was revealed that the mayor had been placing in local publications articles praising the city that he wrote under an assumed name, unbeknownst even to the newspapers’ and websites’ editors.
Winder said his efforts, for which he later apologized, were due to a feeling that West Valley wasn’t getting its due in the press.
Or maybe it was. Maybe it was just that too much of its due was bad — particularly the scandals involving the police department, including one fatal shooting of a civilian, later ruled by the district attorney to have been unjustified, by two members of a drug squad later found to be so rife with malfeasance that scores of cases had to be dropped.
Bigelow, a certified public accountant, is running on the promise of bringing an auditor’s sensibility to the office. Set out everything, he says, as clearly as possible, so that people see the costs and the benefits of every decision.
He is eager to give the newly hired police chief a chance — as long, Bigelow says, as it is all done in the open, with a maximum of public participation and understanding.
Lang, meanwhile, stunningly dismisses all the problems with the police department as being the fault of “a couple of bad apples,” and is more concerned about how the city can overcome its feelings of inferiority by talking itself up.
Lang’s business, operating a greenhouse, is about beauty and openness. But it seems to have led her to a feeling that, in local government, serious flaws can be covered up, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, by planting more vines.
Another telling contrast is that Bigelow is keen on improving the city’s outreach to its rapidly growing communities of immigrants and non-English speakers, while Lang seems to feel that dealing with diversity is another thing that West Valley City is already dealing with quite well, thank you.
With two years on the City Council and a decade on the city’s planning commission, Karen Lang clearly has a better picture of how West Valley City really works. But Ron Bigelow offers a much better vision of how it should work.