I’m excited to formally announce that I am running an unaffiliated write-in bid for Summit County Council Seat E.
The tipping point for running was that there are seven positions up for election in Summit County and all races are unopposed. That’s not how it should be. Elections are a time when we should be debating ideas. We should be talking about how things are going and what we need to do better. I’m running as a write-in candidate which means that my name won’t be on the ballot. If you like my ideas, you’d need to write my name in. I know that’s hard.
It’s an uphill battle to actually win. In this case, though, the journey really is the destination. I want to win, but if I don’t, I want to know how to help a field of unaffiliated candidates run in the 2020 election with their names on the ballot. We need choice in Summit County. In my mind, this is the first step to better elections.
That said, I am not happy with how things are going in Summit County. We need change. So, I am running THIS YEAR for a number of specific reasons. I’d love for you to check out my website at www.joshmann.com for details. Here are the highlights of what I am hoping to accomplish if elected to Summit County Council Seat E.
We Need Better Communication
I don’t believe the County Council communicates well with the public. Instead, many people are blindsided with developments that happen across Summit County. They are left wondering how developments like Kilby Road happen. They wonder how buildings pop up out of nowhere. The truth is that those decisions were made years before and by the time the paint has tried, it’s way too late to change things.
I believe we can communicate using a blend of old and new methods. I want to meet you at coffee shops and diners across Summit County on Saturday and Sunday mornings to listen to you, to tell you what’s happening, to explain what I know. I want to hold online chats every week after our kids go to bed — so you can actually attend then. I want to ask you what’s important during those chats and enable you to easily ask questions. I want to provide a weekly newsletter of what decisions were made and what decisions are coming up with the County Council and Planning Commission. I want to make it easy for you to affect change.
I want you to be able to drop by my porch and chat or invite me over to speak with you and your neighbors over dinner. There’s a lot of issues in Summit County and working through them starts with better communication with your County Council. I believe I can make that better.
I’m for Low-growth and Low-development
I’m for low growth. I want a smart approach to development that ensures tomorrow’s Summit County will be as good as today’s. Open space is one of the great facets of the County; however, we’re letting it slip away. It is true that there is a lot of entitled lands where development rights are granted. Yet, the Summit County Council is making decisions that exacerbate the loss of open space. For example, there is land between Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and Burt Brothers where the County Council has discussed destroying the open space and building 600 to 1,000 apartments. It’s called the Cline Dahle Parcel. My chief concerns with erecting 600-1,000 apartments on the land are student safety due to the amount of traffic, the loss of open space, and questions about where the additional water will come from for that development.
In a case of a development like this, what also happens to our schools? The County Council can’t talk formally about this, but I can right now. My guess is it would add 400-800 students district-wide. Where do they go? If half of those are elementary school kids, that would mean adding 200-400 additional kids to Jeremy Ranch Elementary — which is already full. It couldn’t support that. We’d have to add on to Jeremy Ranch, shift school borders dramatically which would affect hundreds of kids and their friends, or build a completely new elementary school.
I’d rather the School District spend that money on tearing Treasure Mountain Junior High and build a needed school where kids can actually walk down the hall without bumping into other kids. What I don’t want is the County Council to make a rash move that takes away from open space, endangers kids, takes away water from residents, and then negatively impacts schools. Yet, that is where we are heading.
A similar reduction of open space could happen on the proposed Marketplace Commons on Highway 40. Marketplace Commons includes one hundred seventy-eight residential units, a hundred thousand square feet of commercial space, and five hundred parking spaces. It would likely include a hotel, grocery store, and drug store according to the developer. It is the definition of urban sprawl and it’s being considered in anticipation of growth that may come. What it would ensure is that we begin the building of a strip-mall down Highway 40.
I want to questions these things. I don’t want to allow something to be built in anticipation of what we think things will be like in 20 years. We see where that has gotten us to date. We need to slow down and make good decisions.
A New Transportation Culture is Needed
The old adage is that everyone is for buses because they hope everyone else will ride them. I believe Park City and Summit County push buses because they have some hope that everyone will ride them. I think that is extremely wishful thinking and wasteful.
In some areas, and at some times, buses work great (Park Meadows, 4th of July, Sundance, etc.). Yet, many of the times I pass buses, they are nearly empty. An empty electric bus is worse for the environment than no bus.
I don’t believe we are a people of buses. We live here because of the outdoors. We live here because of our trails. I’d like to see a different focus from Summit County with regard to transportation. I’d like to see us take advantage of our paved trails more and make our busses more usage based. I would like our roads and paved-trails designed in a way to make biking a primary form of transportation. To that end, I want the County Council to organize a group-buy of e-bikes so that more residents can experience how fun it is and how these bikes can transform our commutes. It really is magical.
I also want to find ways to pair our buses with usage. Many people love the idea of riding the bus to the resorts for skiing but are they going to load the car with ski equipment, drive to a park and ride 5 minutes away, unload their car, wait for the bus, load their gear on the bus, spend 10 minutes more on the bus than they would have in the car, and then arrive at the resort? Probably not.
We need to find ways to get buses into the neighborhoods on weekends during ski season. Could we rent school buses from the school district on the weekends and have those go into the neighborhoods? Could we repurpose the Kimball Junction Circulator? Is there some other way?
In my perfect world, we’d expand our paved trails. We’d find a way to put e-bicycles in the hands of as many people as possible. We’d design our roads and trails so they are safe for riders. Our busses would go into the neighborhoods to provide an easy way to maximize usage. We’d cut back on bus service where it doesn’t make sense.
Budget, Finance, and Choices
Over the last 10 years, our population has risen by 16%. Over that same period, our Summit County budget has risen over 95%. The question is whether that growth in spending is sustainable. At some point, taxes will need to be raised, on top of all the other taxes increased top continue this trend. That’s on top of the extra taxes you are paying because your property is valued more.
I believe we need to take a step back and talk about NEEDS versus WANTS. We need to make sure our money is being used wisely.
My salary could be better used elsewhere
I view the County Council position as a service to the community, but the current rules dictate that a County Council person makes about $40,000 per year. My wife and I are fortunate enough to have jobs that provide well enough so that we can take care of our family without the salary of the County Council position. So, if elected, I will donate my first two years salary to the Children’s Justice Center, Park City Educational Foundation, North Summit High School, and South Summit High School. In years 3 and 4, if nothing changes for my family, I’ll donate the salary again. I think those organizations could use that money.
To wrap it up, thanks for reading this far. We have a lot of challenges in front of us. I don’t proclaim to have all the answers but I do promise to do my best. I also promise to bring both a critical and innovative eye to our problems. As important, I promise to find ways to make it easy to hear you and respond.
Oh, and for the kind soul who asked what would happen to the Park Rag if by some chance I would win, you should expect it to carry on. Just like Dread Pirate Roberts in the Princess Bride, I believe another Dread Pirate Roberts would step up and want to steer the ship.
For more information, please see www.joshmann.com
Note: The physical Park Record newspaper article announcing my candidacy on 9/12 states that I am a “Republican Challenger.” That is incorrect. I am an unaffiliated candidate. I am in the middle — like most of you. I am working with the Park Record to correct this.