“I am the mayor of a small city with an $18 million budget. Our city council spends two full days in budget workshops and then many hours in subsequent meetings, as they meticulously review each individual line item and make modifications. In contrast, the full UTA Board spent only two total hours on this massive $600 million budget, did not review line item details, and basically rubber-stamped management’s proposals.”
— North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor in a Jan. 5 commentary in The Salt Lake Tribune
Before he was killed in an attack in Afghanistan last week, Brent Taylor fought the battle of Utah Transit Authority.
The North Ogden mayor — who wore the hats of father, soldier and politician — couldn’t seem to do anything halfheartedly. When Taylor was chosen to represent Weber and Box Elder counties on the UTA board last year, the old guard at the transit agency was so unnerved they tried to deny him the appointment. They claimed it violated nepotism rules because his father was a FrontRunner train operator, and it took a ruling from State Auditor John Dougall to force the board to seat him.
Once he was on the board, Taylor did something other board members almost never did. He started questioning management’s financial decisions. He challenged UTA’s plan to borrow $88 million when it was already $2 billion in debt. He questioned why UTA drastically discounted passes for Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University students.
Ultimately, he fought to dismantle the board and replace it with a more functional system, and the Utah Legislature did exactly that while he was overseas.
Taylor’s tenacity in the face of so much bureaucratic inertia says mountains about a man who was taken too soon from his wife, his seven children, his fellow North Ogdenites and the entire state of Utah.
Politics for Taylor was about problem solving, not building fiefdoms or protecting turf. It’s that attitude that led the Republican to join with Oscar Mata, a former executive director of Weber County Democrats, to form “Weber County Forward.” As with UTA, Taylor and Mata were looking to replace the county’s three-commissioner government with a better system of checks and balances.
Utah will never know how far Taylor’s star would have risen. Three days after his commentary ran in The Tribune in January, he announced that he was taking a yearlong leave from being mayor to serve in Afghanistan. “Service is really what leadership is all about,” Taylor said in his Facebook announcement.
True enough, but leadership is also about courage. Brent Taylor was never afraid to do what is right.
The angels better be ready. Heaven just got a new reformer.