On Friday I learned from a concerned citizen something that sounded so crazy I didn’t believe it. He told me that all state of Utah funding for the Mountain Accord was now coming from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). What’s GOED’s mission you ask? According to their website, “The mandate for this office is to provide rich business resources for the creation, growth and recruitment of companies to Utah and to increase tourism and film production in the state. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development accomplishes this mission through the administration of programs that are based around industries or “economic clusters” that demonstrate the best potential for development.”
Holy crap. And it’s true.
If you listen to Mountain Accord supporters they’ll tell you the impetus behind Mountain Accord is protecting watersheds, wildlife, and our mountains. They’ll put the complete environmental spin on the program and downplay the transportation aspects. If that was the case why isn’t funding for the program coming through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)? What’s DEQ’s mandate? “Safeguarding human health and quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment.” Wouldn’t a Mountain Accord funded through that organization make a little more sense if the powers that be were interested in an environmental solution?
So, how much money is GOED putting into Mountain Accord? $3 million this year and a total of $22 million between now and 2017. This compares with a total of $5 million being put in by all other organizations, including Park City and Summit County. People in Mountain Accord like to say that we need to stay in the process so we can have a “seat at the table.” That’s great but realize that GOED’s chair at the table is 88 times bigger than ours in Summit County.
GOED has also been given a seat on the Mountain Accord Executive Committee, which I guess isn’t surprising since they have all the money. The issue with that, of course, is that any disputes, like say Park City and Summit County not wanting a tunnel but Salt Lake County and Sandy do, are decided by a consensus of the Executive Committee. Of course, they also added “an environmental representative to the board as well. But that’s like your favorite baseball team trading for Clayton Kershaw and a player to be named later. Which is going to have all the power ? The player that makes the most — or in this case the one contributing all the money.
So where does that leave us? At least all the pretenses are gone. We now know this is chiefly an economic plan, with a few environmental pieces inserted in order to try and appease the right people. It’s really a shame as there were some good ideas in the Accord but the truth seems to be slowly rising to the top. Perhaps our theory that this wasn’t a plan to manage growth but instead was a plan to encourage growth wasn’t so far fetched.
I’ll be patiently waiting for the second act of the Mountain Accord where cost is no object and growth targets must be met. It will likely include a train up Parley’s, a tunnel through to PCMR, and 5 new hotels north of Highway 40. Whatever it takes to get as many people here as fast as possible.
I’ll look forward to Governor Herbert standing on top of PCMR, gazing down at Park City, with a banner behind him that says “Mission Accomplished.” His speech will begin with the words, “sometimes you have to destroy the village to save it.”