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Restoring faith in police a prime issue for West Valley City candidates

Published August 6, 2013 1:01 am

Contenders agree at community event that mending reputation of police department embroiled in controversy will be job No. 1.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City • With the police department embroiled in controversy, restoring confidence in law enforcement is among the priorities for candidates for city offices here.

But other issues also are important to the candidates and citizens of the state's second-largest city. Also discussed at a West Valley City candidate meet-and-greet on Monday at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center were economic development, taxes, the budget, crime and transparency in government.

Ed Konopka wanted to know how the candidates would resolve issues with the police and also had questions about ordinance enforcement. He also considers financial issues important.

"I'm happy our budget is less now than it was couple of years ago," he said. "We've all had to tighten our belts, and government should too."

As the mother of four elementary-age children, Becky Hall, wife of state Rep. Craig Hall, said she's interested in public education. And Mike Markham's priority is having elected officials and residents work together to improve the image of West Valley City.

The mayoral spot and three council seats are up for election in West Valley City, which has a population of about 133,000. Seven candidates are running for the city's top elected spot. Incumbent Mayor Mike Winder announced in May that he will not run for a second term.

The candidates for mayor include three sitting West Valley City Council members serving their first terms — at-large member Don Christensen, who is a retired educator and school administrator; Tom Huyhn of District 1, a Realtor; and Karen Lang of District 3, owner of Oakbridge Greenhouse. Christensen's term is over at the end of the year; the terms of Huyhn and Lang run until the end of 2015.

Also in the race are Ron Bigelow, former Utah state budget director; businessman Jeffrey Mackay; Margaret Peterson, who served as an at-large city council member for 17 years before choosing not to seek a sixth term in 2007; and Alex Segura, an electrical controls engineer and a co-founder of the Utah Minutemen Project.

Running for the at-large council seat now held by Christensen are Phil Conder, chair of the West Valley City Planning Commission; Joe Garcia, a planning commission member who works for a credit union; and Lars Nordfelt, a math teacher.

An Aug. 13 primary will narrow the mayoral and at-large fields down to two candidates each for the Nov. 5 general election.

The candidates for the District 2 seat are incumbent Steve Buhler and Jeff White. In District 4, incumbent Steve Vincent and Mary Jayne Newton-Davis are facing off. There will be no primary is these races.

A high-profile issue in the races has been the West Valley City Police Department, which is under fire for the alleged actions of its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit — the subject of investigations into accusations of corruption and evidence mishandling — that prompted prosecutors to throw out dozens of cases.

The department also has been criticized for its handling of the unsolved 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell and the fatal shooting in November of Danielle Willard by plainclothes police detectives during an alleged drug bust.

Priorities of the mayoral candidates include:

Bigelow • Restoring confidence in the police, expanding jobs, solving local traffic problems and fighting tax increases.

Christensen • Improving accountability in the police department and the rest of city government, business recruitment, continued reduction of crime and creating volunteer opportunities for residents to help make neighborhood clean and safe.

Huyhn • Restoring public trust in the police, fostering a business-friendly environment, cutting spending and avoiding tax increases.

Lang • Making city operations more streamlined, helping businesses grow and improving transportation with effective traffic flow and mass transit.

Mackay • Restore credibility in law enforcement by contracting with the Unified Police Department and having a full-time mayor run West Valley, rather than a city manager, which would give elected officials more control and save money.

Peterson • Changing the culture of the police department, improving education and bringing more business to the city.

Segura • Streamlining government, correcting problems in the police department and making government more open and responsive to residents' concerns.

In the at-large council race, Conder lists as priorities promoting positive growth and making changes to fix problems in the police department.

Garcia says encouraging economic development and job growth and correcting problems in the police department are among his goals.

Nordfelt says sustainability through recycling, mass transit and other steps; openness in government; and instituting policies to deal with problems in the police department are among his priorities.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC