Commentary: A divided Salt Lake County cannot stand

Steve Derby

There have been several articles recently published containing quotes and narratives from legislators, city officials, and others proposing to divide Salt Lake County. The talk of splitting our county just brings animosity and frustration for the vast majority of elected officials and citizens. In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Leaders of this county must reach out to one another by communicating, collaborating, and compromising for the greatest good of all of our residents, not just a select few. In my opinion the proposition to bifurcate our county is foolish and not fully thought out. Should California be allowed to secede from our union as some have proposed? NO! If Salt Lake County were divided would the new county then want to split again if an area within wasn’t happy? If a geographic area of a city isn’t happy with funding should they dissolve their city or attempt to detach and create their own city, where would it end? The costs of creating a new county would be astronomical with tax rates that are unthinkable.

The few elected leaders of the “split the county discussion” have focused their concerns on housing, transportation, and too much being given to the Eastside of the County, simply put, this is false.

First, the issue of housing and density is one that is contentious in all areas of the state. This issue was recently before the County Council last June as the Olympia Hills development was approved. I was the lone dissenting vote on this initiative. When this item first appeared on an agenda I immediately reached out to city officials to get their input.

During debate, I argued that there was no adequate transportation infrastructure in the area, specifically east and west. I questioned what the impact would be on public services and safety. I asked if this was the smart location for a project of this density. I was concerned that we had not contacted the city officials in the areas impacted by this initiative. It was ironic, and I was aghast, that not one elected official or representative contacted me or showed up to speak in this council meeting to express their concerns before the vote was taken. I tried to be the voice of reason for residents in my District, in the end the vote was 8-1.

It seems disingenuous to now say, as stated in recent news articles, that the Council doesn’t listen to the community, when no city official initially spoke against the project!

Second, we do have a transportation crisis in the Southwest part of the County. But, it is important to recognize that the bulk of transportation money is dictated by the Legislature. Perhaps the legislators calling for a county division can exert that energy on coming up with proposals for ensuring we have the appropriate funding needed for our County. Additionally, city leaders might need to look at housing and commercial projects they are approving in their respective cities that add congestion.

I am the only Councilmember who lives South of 7800 S and West of I-15. My entire family and I sit in that congestion moving east and west from the freeway every day.

I have been working tirelessly to represent and advocate for you, working with my colleagues and the Mayor’s office to rectify this dilemma. I proposed, and the Council unanimously supported, ensuring the County Transportation Advisory Committee has geographic representation. Meaning, that every Council District in our County is represented, this had never been done before. This Committee prioritizes your tax dollars for funding certain transportation projects. Recently the County established a working group for the new “4th Quarter” funding enacted by our cities. This committee works to ensure monies were divided amongst the areas of the County based upon established prioritized criteria of need.

To say southwest Salt Lake County is neglected and not adequately represented is an absolute falsehood. Let me give you a few examples: The JL Sorensen Rec Center in Herriman is one of the largest facilities in the valley and serves the most citizens. I am working closely with South Jordan City to find a solution for rec center needs when the Marv Jensen Recreation Center closes next year. Bingham Creek Park is going to be the crown jewel of any park in the state of Utah and more than doubles the size of Sugarhouse Park; having park and open space for generations to come. Wardle Fields Park in Bluffdale is the most used and popular park in the County. There are new county libraries planned in South Jordan and Herriman. The County Council approved funding to help put in a dog park in Riverton, at their request. We have placed a District Attorney office, Viridian Library Event Center, and a County Health Dept. building in West Jordan. We will continue to provide that which is needed in this part of our county which is growing so rapidly.

It has been my desire to work collectively and collaboratively with all stakeholders on transportation and housing issues. We need to come together to find solutions with an agreement for the greatest good of the whole. It is cliché, but true, T.E.A.M.: Together Everyone Accomplishes More! Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together as friends and neighbors to ensure the highest quality of life in our County; we deserve nothing less!

Steve DeBry represents District 5 on the Salt Lake County Council.