Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
West Jordan rejects ‘strong mayor’ question on November ballot

One councilman points to his employer — Salt Lake City — as an example of problems with strong-mayor system.

First Published Aug 01 2014 06:29 pm • Last Updated Aug 04 2014 09:02 am

West Jordan city leaders have rejected a plan to let residents vote on changing to a strong mayor form of government in November, with one councilman pointing to Salt Lake City as an example of the special-interest corruption and dysfunction that he said would come from dumping the current system in which the day-to-day city operations are run by an appointed manager.

The change-of-government resolution — which would have asked voters whether to put an elected mayor in charge of running the city — was defeated 4-2.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Mayor Kim Rolfe, who was elected last year, said he has no public position on the switch because it would appear self-serving, but supports putting the question to voters.

"I absolutely believe that’s something citizens should decide with their vote. I don’t believe that the council should not allow them to have their voice in this issue," Rolfe said Friday.

He joined Councilman Jeff Haaga, who sponsored the resolution, in voting for it. But the other four voting council members rejected it.

Wednesday night’s council meeting was the last chance to put the question before voters in November.

"It’s dead this year," Rolfe said, but quickly added that he believes it will re-emerge to go on next year’s ballot.

"I believe there’s a large segment of the population that will bring it forward with an initiative. They need 3,000 signatures," Rolfe said. "I believe that will happen immediately. That’s what I hear. I think it’s already underway."

The strongest arguments against changing the form of government came from Councilmen Chad Nichols and Justin Stoker.

Stoker passionately opposed the switch, warning that putting too much power in the hands of a single individual — namely the mayor — is an invitation to bureaucracy and corruption. He cited Salt Lake City, where he works as a civil engineer, as Exhibit A.


story continues below
story continues below

"Every day I see the conflict, the dissolution, the bloatedness of the government under a strong mayor form of government," Stoker said. "It inevitably asks for corruption or special interests to take over that one seat. It only takes a well-funded special interest group to fund one election to take over 50 percent of your government.

"I don’t mean to single out Salt Lake City but the current mayor of Salt Lake City spends more of his attention on environmental issues and bicycles than he does on the needs of his residents because it was environmentalists that got him elected and he’s got a half million dollars in his campaign account from environmentalists."

At one point the mayor cautioned Stoker about making comments he might not want on the record and he concluded his comments shortly after that.

Stoker and Nichols also said the proposal hasn’t had nearly enough discussion, warned of increased costs and unintended consequences, and said they haven’t heard residents clamoring for a change in the form of the government.

"I’ve only had one constituent [during my] 4½ years on the council, [who] approached me and said we need the strong mayor form of government," Nichols said.

And Stoker says the issue is too complicated for an electorate that doesn’t want to get down into the weeds of government.

"I would venture to bet that if we were to put it to the residents, only 5 percent of the total population of our city would truly understand what was put before them. The lack of education there is just profound," Stoker said. "None of this has been discussed with anybody, let alone the public. The public hasn’t had a chance to weigh in on any of this."

Haaga pushed back strongly against those remarks.

"You say 5 percent. With all due respect, councilman, I believe our residents are smart. I believe they’re educated, and they can make a decision. To say that we have some special gift — that’s offensive to me."

He mentioned a petition initiative years ago to change the government that finally was scuttled when city officials tied the movement up with expensive court fights. "Trust me, there’s hundreds, thousands of people that want a [strong] mayor," said Haaga.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.