Quantcast

Op-ed: Mountain Accord commission would lack public accountability

First Published      Last Updated Nov 12 2016 03:00 pm

Over the last few years, many participated in discussions about the Wasatch Canyons called the Mountain Accord. The hope was that the Accord would provide a plan to mitigate the transportation woes in the canyons. The finalized Mountain Accord recommended that the federal government have more control over the canyons.

The executive board of the Mountain Accord has proposed that the Accord plans be implemented by a new commission with powers to enact the various recommendations. The new entity will be called the Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), and it will have the ability to bond, levy fees and implement the Mountain Accord. In addition, in order to fund the recommendations, Article VIII B discusses loan financing agreements that could obligate taxpayers for more than 50 years through the commission.




The commission will be managed by a board of four mayors (Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City). The commission will only allow more members with a unanimous vote of the four mayors. Mayors will have vastly more power outside of city councils with extraterritorial jurisdiction. This was the interlocal agreement (ILA) that Salt Lake City approved. Under complaints from the public, some are recommending that the ILA language be changed to increase approval chances at the County Council.

The biggest concern seems to be that the commission could levy fees that affect everyone using the canyons and everyone in Salt Lake County. The Mountain Accord says: "Specific options could include but are not limited to: recreation fees, congestion pricing, ski resort parking fees, U.S. Forest Service parking fees, tolling, single-occupancy vehicle restrictions, and elimination of roadside parking in the canyons."

Many are asking why should four mayors implement fees that affect everyone in the county or everyone who uses the canyons. Many are saying that the Utah Legislature should hold hearings. The recommendation to turn over the canyons to the federal government was sent to Congress without going through the Utah Legislature, the county council and many others.

Another major concern about implementing the Mountain Accord through the CWC is concern that the Mountain Accord executive board meetings were not always public.

The Mountain Accord Director, Laynee Jones, said that the board was composed of volunteers and is not a public entity and are therefore not subject to the Utah Open Meetings Act. Implementing plans that were made behind closed doors is a bad idea, and we should not reward Mountain Accord members for their bad actions.

The almost $8 million of taxpayer money that the Mountain Accord has spent on lobbyists, consultants, etc. could have been used to implement year-round canyon bus service. But, up until now, UTA has given the credit for adjusted winter bus service to the Mountain Accord, which adds another layer of government and cost to UTA services. Year-round bus service is still not offered in the canyons, yet Mountain Accords director's contract is providing her with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The CWC is a bad idea and should not be implemented. It creates an extra costly layer of government. It starts the process to implement fees on everyone that could use the canyons without a vote of the Salt Lake County taxpayers. It gives control of our Wasatch Canyons to the federal government and four mayors. It gives too much power to just a few.

The Salt Lake County Council will have a public hearing on the CWC ILA on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake County north building at 2001 South State Street, Council Chambers (N1-110).

Marie Pate Taylor is a former Salt Lake City Planning Commissioner, a member of AIA Government Affairs Committee and a ski patroller.

 

COMMENTS
VIEW/POST COMMENT      ()