This morning, KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher interviewed Summit County Council candidate Craig Williams. Mr Williams is challenging incumbent Chris Robinson for a seat on the County Council. He raised three key points of what was wrong with the current Council and how he would address those issues. Unfortunately, in our opinion, he was wrong on each account.
East Side Issues Not Addressed
Mr Williams first charge was that he had met with councils and mayors from the east-side of Summit County and they said east-side issues were not being addressed. He then pointed to the fact that many County Council votes are 4-1 and that he hoped with his election those votes would swing to 3-2 and more represent the east-side. There are really two issues here. First, the east-side and west-side of our county are very different. The fact is during the 1980’s the east-side ruled the county due to natural resources. Now, the pendulum has swung to the west-side due to tourism. If you’ve ever attended a council of government (COG) meeting, they aren’t pretty. There is yelling. There are accusations. There is animosity. Recently, our two newest Council members Kim Carson and Roger Armstrong have been able to bridge some of that animosity; however, due to inherent differences it is very unlikely that a resident of Park City will be able to make much more impact than has already been made.
Second, regarding 4-1 votes, three years ago we would have agreed with Mr Williams. We started the Park Rag project because we thought all the County Council members voted alike. We then attended two years of County Council meetings and confirmed that they do; however, not for the reasons we thought. They often vote alike because the issues are cut and dry. It’s not like Council Member Dave Ure, who often represents the east-side, is the only one who considers the east-side. In fact, most actions aren’t an east-versus-west thing. The value that Mr. Ure brings to the east side is not his vote, it’s in his discussion. For instance, I learned during a meeting from Mr. Ure that a major issue on the east-side is that a family will have owned say 100 acres for 80 years. The parents are aging and they want to divide that among their 8 children but due to current rules, it’s hard. Those comments, that influence and educate the rest of the council, are the things that help the east-side of our county. Being purely a Republican, especially from Park City, isn’t going to help the people of Coalville or Kamas one bit.
Mr Williams then said that the County was on financially shaky ground and he would turn that around. The Park Rag is for fiscal discipline. In fact we’ve heard people within the county say things like that only costs $30,000 so it’s not a big deal. As tax payers that makes our blood boil. Yet the charge here is that the County’s budget is up substantially since 2012. That is true. In 2012 the budget was $44 million and now it is likely to be in the $50.7 million range. That’s a 15% increase! However 2012 is a convenient year to use as a comp. In 2011 the budget was $50.5 million. OMG between 2011 and 2014 that’s a 0.396% increase (in 3 years). The truth is that government should always use tax-payer money efficiently. The fact is that in 2012 the County needed to cut back expenses because revenues were down. Since then, revenues are back up and projects like roads, that went neglected, need to get back on their maintenance schedules. This isn’t to say that the Park Rag won’t be watching upcoming budget talks intently but to cherry-pick statistics doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest.
General Plan Should Be Binding Law
Mr Williams finally states that General Plans should be legally binding. The General Plan is a document that guides development — like saying “we the citizens of Summit County don’t want a Dairy Queen at the base of our chair-lifts”. OK, that’s not really in the either the Eastern Summit County or the Snyderville Basin General Plan. Yet, that brings up the first point of why this is such a bad idea. Have you seen the East Side General Plan? It has been reworked for the better but it is still a mess. If it were law, with all of its contradictions, omissions in some places, and specificity in others, a company like DR Horton (the biggest residential home builder in the US) would use its teams of lawyers to build whatever they wanted. General Plans are just not air-tight.
So, you might say let’s make them air-tight and use them as binding law. Good idea but the problem is two-fold. First, the General Plan is designed to be an user-friendly document that tells citizens what can be built where. Reconciling that with making it legally stringent is not going to happen. The second issue is that we already have a development code. THIS IS THE LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENT that says “slopes of driveways can’t be steeper than X” and “1 home per 20 acres of land in rural-residential zoning”. Can you imagine trying to reconcile two documents that were both legally binding, that covered all the land development possibilities in Summit County? Having sat through 200 hours of Planning Commission meetings covering just one General Plan, it would be impossible. That would leave us with two documents (development code and general plan) that wouldn’t sync up exactly and would leave loop-holes for the lawyers so big they could easily pull their money-trucks through. Now if Mr Williams had said that the General Plans for the east and west sides should both have simply stated “Refer to the Development Code” then we may have got behind it. As is, though, his argument shows a complete lack of understanding of the complexities.
As has been stated before, the Park Rag doesn’t endorse candidates. You have your own hot-buttons and issues that matter to you. However, we can categorically state that the hot-buttons that Craig Williams brought up this morning on KPCW show a complete lack of understanding that could be gained by attending a few meetings. There was nothing in this morning’s interview that gives us faith that he fully understands these issues, let alone, that he could solve them.
Update: You may also want to read “Was Yesterday’s Article on Craig Williams Fair?”