Salt Lake County's Democratic mayor acted a little more (capital R) Republican. The County Council's Republican majority acted a little more (small d) democratic. And the voters of the county now get their chance to decide if they want to borrow $47.5 million to spruce up their park system.
Who says bipartisanship is dead?
Mayor Peter Corroon, who is not seeking re-election this year, had wanted to go out with a large commitment to improving the county's parks and trails. To that end, a couple of months ago he submitted a wish list to the council totaling $123 million and asked that the question be placed on the November ballot. But the Republican majority on the council balked, arguing that it was too much money, and would result in too much of a tax hike, to even be considered.
One could argue, as we did in this space at the time, that the question of how much is too much would be most properly decided by the voters, who did not need the council to protect them from themselves.
But the Republicans were right about one thing. It was a lot of money. Well beyond the psychologically significant barrier of $100 million. Large enough that it might frighten even voters who value parks and trails and would be willing to pay for them just not that much.
So Corroon went back to the drawing board, prioritized his list, and returned with a much smaller set of projects. They include $21 million for trails Parleys and Jordan River $10 million for a regional park at a location to be determined in the southwest quadrant of the county, and the rest for park development in Magna, Kearns and the county's Wheadon Park in the southeast of the county.
Moving the question along to the voters acknowledges that Corroon also had a good point about how it could be a very good time to proceed. As the mayor says, both interest rates and construction costs are low in this slowly recovering, post-recession economy. Waiting until the economy has roared all the way back if it ever does would seem a mistake because building facilities, buying land and borrowing money would all get more expensive. Maybe a lot more.
The bond issue as it now stands would cost the so-called "average homeowner" in Salt Lake County an estimated $6 a year in extra taxes. A $500,000 business property would pay $22 more a year.
It will now be up to Corroon, who is freed from the duties of campaigning for himself, to sell this plan to the voters. And it will be up to the voters, as it should be, to balance the costs and benefits and decide the question.