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Sandy voter guide 2021

Mayoral candidates answer questions; see who’s running for council slots.

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Mayoral candidates

Mike Applegarth

Occupation: Executive director for the Sandy City Council.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

In Sandy’s form of government, the mayor is not the land-use authority. That job belongs to the City Council. The mayor’s job is to oversee the professional staff and planning commissioners who must provide independent recommendations to the City Council based on their various expertise and code requirements. The mayor should not complicate or politicize these decisions by encroaching on the City Council’s authority. There is a reason the Legislature has separated those powers and duties.

Sandy is built out at its borders. Most of our development challenges will be with smaller, multifamily, infill proposals. Respecting the lines of authority and equipping the professional staff to provide all relevant information (pro and con) to the City Council is the best way to balance the need for affordable housing and existing community preservation. Better information leads to better decisions.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

Policing and infrastructure are the two biggest issues Sandy faces in the next four years.

Early in my career, many people considered law enforcement as a career. Now, given cultural upheaval, the ubiquity of drugs, and increasingly violent conditions, the law enforcement labor pool has dramatically decreased. Local governments are competing against one another for qualified officers. To ensure that our communities remain safe and that we do so without bankrupting our general funds, local governments must work together to seek a regional solution to police compensation and benefits. The sad alternatives include having the Legislature impose a solution, or reducing other optional city services in order to cover the necessary costs of law enforcement.

Most people do not realize how fragile the public infrastructure has become. Underneath any public roadway is a maze of aging water and sewer pipes, gas lines and electrical connections. Maintaining and improving this critical infrastructure is not as “sexy” as promising people more parades or pickleball courts, but failing to invest now will cost us much more in the long run.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

Sandy has spent its CARES Act funds and a large portion of the first tranche of rescue plan funds on public safety compensation. I support those decisions.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

I am a twin.


Jim Bennett

Occupation: Co-founding partner of Canonizer.com, a website designed to find consensus amid controversy.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

My father used to say, “You can’t repeal the law of supply and demand.” Given the overwhelming demand for housing in Sandy, the only way to sustainably create affordable housing is to match the demand with a commensurate supply. Since Sandy has no more room to grow horizontally, the only solution is to grow vertically, which is terrifying to many who fear that high-density housing will change the character of the city in negative ways, as it already has in sprawling developments that have popped up in too many backyards.

High-density housing should be focused in the downtown Sandy area as part of the 25-year master plan for The Cairns. That’s an area that has the infrastructure to accommodate a large-scale walkable urban community that would relieve the pressure to scatter high-density apartments in the shadow of single-family homes. Eliminating high-density housing altogether is unrealistic and likely illegal, but focusing high-density housing in areas that make sense improves the quality of life for everyone in the city. Those who enjoy urban living will have great options, and those who don’t want apartments in their backyard won’t have to worry.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

Two challenges: Restoring functional city government and economic development.

For the first, Mike Edmonds, a former member of the Sandy City Council who is supporting me, pointed out that Sandy had long been considered the model for how good city government is supposed to function.

“I didn’t think we could lose so much of that so quickly,” he told me, “but we have.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s reporting on the internal dysfunction on the City Council highlights the reality that this council has contributed to the problem, and nearly all of my opponents in this race are either current or former council members. The ones who broke it are not going to be the ones to fix it. I can provide the fresh perspective necessary to get Sandy back on track.

On the second, empty storefronts are cluttering up the city, and the mayor has both the opportunity and responsibility to serve as the city’s ambassador to the business community to shore up the sales tax base. I’m the only candidate in the race with the right mix of public- and private-sector experience who can engage with that community and keep business from leaving while bringing new businesses into the city.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

Federal aid would be very helpful in revitalizing Alta Canyon Recreation Center, which would be my first priority for one-time funds. The mayor should also be the city’s chief lobbyist, and none of my opponents can match my experience in that area working with both Utah and Washington, D.C.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

I can do a flawless Mick Jagger imitation. My mother really, really doesn’t like it.


Brooke Christensen

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom and City Council member; former global supply chain manager.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

Sandy needs to focus on strengthening our neighborhoods and protecting our existing housing stock while working to bring in affordable, single-family housing options. In Sandy, we have a lack of “starter” homes, we need to actively find builders who will build quality affordable homes. As a mature city, we have few open spaces left, which makes zoning changes extremely important as we look at how to handle the remaining spaces.

To build on Sandy’s impressive legacy and keep our high quality of life, we need to ensure we properly fund police, fire and other departments that keep our city running while keeping taxes low. As mayor, I would also focus on programs that create community connections such as community coordinators, emergency management groups, youth City Council, resident input groups, VIPs, neighborhood watch and citizen academies.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

Public safety funding and aging infrastructure are the biggest issues facing Sandy.

Approximately 70% of our budget goes to personnel costs. As our city grows and the cost of living increases, so do payroll costs. That, coupled with a low unemployment rate in Utah and a shortage of public-sector employees, creates many staffing issues. Sandy needs to pay employees a wage competitive with surrounding cities so we can continue to hire the best people. Funding these increasing costs will need to be addressed in the upcoming years. As a council member, I have started addressing these issues by creating the South Valley Sports & Tourism Committee. This committee is made up of hotel and other business owners and funded through room taxes. The goal being to bring in visitors to bolster Sandy’s sales tax revenue and in turn pay for many of the city’s increasing costs.

Sandy also has many infrastructure needs such as: Public Works shop and outbuilding, Fire Station 31, Parks and Recreation Building, Alta Canyon Sports Center, sidewalks and water pipes. We need to put a plan together with costs and possible funding methods. This needs to be presented to Sandy residents for feedback and possible voting on how to address these issues.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

Sandy recently signed a contract with Google Fiber providing high-speed internet to all residents. Sandy may need to use these federal dollars to ensure it gets to each resident. The city also has water infrastructure needs that we may be able to leverage matching funds to double our impact.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

Most challenging and beautiful trip: Horseback trip in Wyoming to the most remote place in the lower 48 states.


Marci Houseman

Occupation: Mountain West regional success manager, Lexia Learning, and City Council member.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

Our city is at a crossroads, and it is essential that we plan for responsible growth in Sandy. Because of the quality of life and welcoming community we offer in Sandy, people will continue to want to live here. We need to consider where we can accommodate growth while preserving the feeling of community in our neighborhoods.

As I consider solutions, I will lean on the best practices defined by many experts, including the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Two of those best practices are zoning changes and transit-oriented development. Far too many lifelong residents have children who want to live in Sandy but cannot afford to do so. Sandy must make homeownership a possibility for the younger generation.

The other end of the housing spectrum is also a concern. We have many lifelong residents who would like to downsize to a smaller home due to mobility issues or the preference for a home that requires less maintenance. I support the innovative approach of zoning with these needs in mind. I also believe there is an opportunity to consider the redevelopment of certain areas of Sandy through mixed-use zoning.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

One of the biggest challenges our city faces is economic redevelopment. As a city, we must focus on recruiting and retaining diverse industries that will contribute to the economic well-being of our city. We must invite innovation within our city as we work to redevelop those areas that have experienced a decline. An often overlooked component of economic development is education and skill development. By partnering with others, we can help residents take advantage of education and mentorship.

Another challenge we face is a void in leadership. Over the years, Sandy has been widely recognized as one of the best-managed cities in the state. Widespread collaboration generated extensive revenue for our city that allowed Sandy to keep property taxes low. We need a return to leadership with a vision and a commitment to keeping property taxes low.

I am a leader, and I have a plan. While serving on the City Council, I have taken the opportunity to immerse myself in understanding our current situation so that I can craft a vision for our desired future as a city. My conversations with department heads, city employees and residents continue to shape that vision.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

As we consider how to appropriate leftover funds from the CARES Act, I want to challenge us to look for innovative ways to invest in local businesses, education and infrastructure. For example:

• Purchase from local businesses for employee appreciation gifts.

• Encourage volunteer efforts in our schools.

• Expand access to recreation.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

I grew up in a military family and called many communities home. My favorite outside of the United States? Panama.


Ron Jones

Occupation: Retired

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

I do not accept the premise that “affordable housing” should be a goal of local government. Consistent with sound zoning, the free market should be left to determine real estate values and how, where and when real estate is developed. Zoning should always be locally controlled and focused on the interests of existing citizens, never imposed ideologically from above (social engineering) by state or federal government programs. There should be no zoning laws imposed, as has been done in other states, that, in a transparent attempt dictatorially to change the character of our suburbs, militate against single-family housing in favor of multifamily dwellings. Quality of life will flow from the rigorous maintenance of law and order, reasonable taxes and the provision of a decent range of dependable public services. Local government should be as small as possible. Leave the people alone.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

To quote the immortal management guru Peter Drucker, only three things can be known about the future: (1) It can’t be known; (2) It will be different than today; (3) It will be different than you expect. The right answer, then, is not for government to attempt to predict future challenges but to be prepared with a solid, principled, philosophical understanding and structure of government that, within the necessary limits imposed on what government can and should do, will enable it to respond optimally to whatever challenges may come. Personally, I will always be focused on creating and maintaining an environment fundamentally conducive to the well-being and best interests of our existing citizens — law and order and adequate policing — always a preeminent concern. Said Sir Thomas More: “If the law be down, such a wind will blow in the land that no man can stand.”

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

What strings are attached to this money? Federal funds, never given without conditions, are always a thinly disguised attempt to buy local control. I will never be in favor of giving away local control of our lives and communities for a mess of federal pottage.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

Find the truth in the methodology of argument.


Kris Nicholl

Occupation: Business owner and City Council member.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

We’re growing, everyone around us is growing. Most of that growth is internal. The demographic of people needing less-expensive options for a home continue to change in significant ways. I often hear from parents concerned about their children not being able to afford a home. People whose parents need a smaller, one-level home, reasonably close, have few if any options. Sandy is 97% built out. That scarcity has a dramatic effect on cost. There are multiple pieces to tackling the issue of meeting diverse housing needs while preserving our existing neighborhoods and quality of life. Having higher density and walkable communities close to mass transit, the freeway and shopping is one piece.

Additionally, state law recently changed to allow for accessory dwelling units (ADU), or what many call mother-in-law apartments, throughout the state. In Sandy, these cannot be separate buildings and must meet several standards to help address impacts on surrounding properties. This option provides the following: significant limits to negative impacts by providing housing widely dispersed throughout the city, owners invested in quality renters, and double the impact for affordable housing by providing a space for a renter, and income to help meet housing expenses for the owner.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

Growth is one of our biggest issues. As our families and community grow, we must be deliberate, careful and creative in finding ways to meet the needs of our expanding community while maintaining the desirable attributes and quality of life of our citizens; a quality of life that I grew up with and will fight to continue.

I have built a reputation for listening to people and doing my research. Just in the last few weeks, that led to my proposal that protected our foothills now and into the future. I will work diligently to provide clearer and streamlined ways for citizens to be more involved in growth decisions. Significant and meaningful input from residents is important in making growth decisions, and I believe it will reduce divisiveness and build a stronger community.

Budgeting is another critical area. We must prioritize adequate funding for public safety. Being safe in our community is the most fundamental quality-of-life issue for residents. This is currently one of the most challenging, as departments throughout the state struggle to recruit and keep qualified personnel. Growing and supporting a strong and healthy business community is also key to a strong and healthy tax base.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

Working within the constraints of the CARES funding, they were used to address expenses related to the pandemic and will be used to fund recent pay increases for our police.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

Once, my husband, a firefighter, came home with a bomb (deactivated of course) in his trunk.


Linda Martinez Saville

Occupation: Retired.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character, and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

First of all, everyone wants responsible growth and development. Growth is inevitable, and we need to embrace strategies and planning to reduce its impact. We need to protect single-family neighborhoods by only allowing higher-density developments in suitable locations where the infrastructure can be built out or currently supports it. There is a demand for higher-density housing that tends to offer lower-priced housing that appeals to younger families and older couples.

I will bring back the community coordinator concept in some form, create innovative crime prevention programs with their assistance, and our police officers’ involvement in the community. I will also increase and support the efforts of our code enforcement officers as they work to prevent blight in the city.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

1. Creating a positive, respectful, productive and inclusive working environment that allows all employees and residents to question and offer suggestions to improve the delivery of city services.

I will do this by working to change the culture through training, information sharing, open-door policies citywide, and implementing the concept of continuous improvement.

2. I believe that average citizens do not understand how local government works or how and where their tax dollars are used. This creates issues and misunderstandings when city officials are preparing budgets and allocating tax and other revenues.

I will do this by creating a web portal that is exclusively dedicated to transparency in all things budget-related. There will be a person dedicated to helping residents understand the process and a web-based calculator where people can see how the cities portion of their property tax is distributed within the budget. I believe that when residents have this information, they will be more supportive of how their tax dollars are used and the city government overall.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

The city is already using funds from the rescue plan to fund police pay increases. Any other funds that are available I am sure will be allocated in a responsible manner that benefits the city and its residents.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

I enjoy my daily therapeutic housecleaning routine and taking time out for family and friends.


Monica Zoltanski

Occupation: Small-business owner and City Council member.

As the Salt Lake Valley continues its booming growth, what are your solutions for affordable housing, preserving community character and creating a high quality of life for city residents?

Growth should create a more vibrant, healthy and connected community, not choke the best things we love about our neighborhoods.

As mayor, I will encourage a sensible pace for growth that does not overwhelm our traditional residential neighborhoods. I will guide new growth to The Cairns district around transit hubs and the Interstate 15 corridor and work with state and federal representatives to secure our fair share of funding so Sandy can incentivize sustainable building, walkable communities, affordable housing and connectivity.

I will support investment by those who tailor their projects for success and are sensitive to the scale of the surrounding neighborhoods. I will support innovative housing solutions to meet the needs of our community, particularly those who will create small-scale, single-level housing for seniors. There are many people in Sandy who are ready to turn over their home to the next generation of owners but not if it means they have to leave the city they love.

I will work proactively to attract responsible builders who demonstrate our community will be enhanced, rather than consumed. Generally speaking, I prefer we invest in maintaining our quality residential areas then chase after new ones.

Besides affordable housing, what are the two biggest challenges facing the city in the next four years, and what are some specific programs or policy changes you will introduce to solve them?

As a council member, I have prioritized maintaining our high-quality public safety services at a cost we can afford and promoting government transparency. I will continue to do so as mayor.

I will send stable public safety budgets that demonstrate our commitment to public safety personnel. By avoiding whiplash budgeting from year to year, our police and fire professionals will know they can build a long-term career in Sandy. Having the most experienced and best trained police and fire officers makes our city safer by deterring crime and avoiding problems. I will increase funding for more time-intensive community policing and responsive neighborhood traffic enforcement in residential areas.

I will also promote community participation in local decision-making. As a council member, I’m known as an active, engaged representative who makes time to inform and offer context to residents who might not be aware how one decision impacts the next. Whether you’ve lived in Sandy 40 years or are a new resident, everyone should feel informed and have a chance to weigh in. I will use new technology and old-fashioned neighborhood meetings to empower residents to participate and build a sense of civic pride in our community.

What are your ideas for investing federal pandemic aid in the city, including funds left over from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan Act?

To maximize this rare surplus, I’d leverage Sandy’s rescue plan dollars to achieve something we’ve deferred too long — completing our $20 million Public Works Department renovation and investing in the backbone of our city’s aging infrastructure that serves residents with fleet and road maintenance, snow removal and bulk waste pickup.

What is a fun or unique fact about you?

My first job was at age 12, delivering newspapers down a country road from the basket of my balloon-tire bike.


Sandy City Council candidates

At-large seat

Steven Calbert

Rebecca Colley

Aaron Dekeyzer

Brooke D’Sousa

Evan Tobin

Kristen Wray

District 1

Katie Johnson

Ryan Mecham

Jeffory Mulcahy

District 3

Bekah Craig

Jim Edwards

Zach Robinson

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