Guest opinion: Local elected leaders plan best for their communities – and the public agrees



Change makes us uncomfortable.  Whether it’s upgrading from an old lounge chair or a laptop, it takes some effort.  Yet, if the right choices are made, the result can be a future of greater ease and efficiency.

Last month we shared data that Utah residents are anxious about population growth 1 and the majority of them believe Utah is growing too quickly. In this decade so far, Utah has added approximately 402,000 residents, which is roughly the equivalent of today’s population of Salt Lake City, West Valley City, and Lehi.  In a survey conducted by Y2Analytics commissioned by the Utah League of Cities and Towns and other partners which included residents from 9 of the fastest growing counties in Utah, 63% of residents expressed strong concern that growth was occurring too fast.   Driving their anxieties are the perceptions of a lack of planning and infrastructure and “broken promises.” Government leaders, developers, and others who hold keys in planning our communities all have responsibility in the actual or perceived failure to deliver the proposed outcomes.

However, the data indicates residents also understand the benefits of growth, stating they depend on community leaders to implement plan and articulate a vision for the future.  Who should be responsible to plan for the long-term needs of a community?  Those surveyed ranked these organizations in the following order:

Mayors and council members (40%)

Neighborhood councils/community groups (21%)

Utah State Legislature (18%)

Developers (14%)

The Governor (13%)

We then asked who residents most trusted to plan for the long-term needs of their community. The number who trusted mayors and council members the most jumped to 58%. Additionally, 22% of respondents said neighborhood councils/community groups, a combined 11% said the legislature or the governor, and 2% said developers.

Our elected city leaders are aware of the trust and expectation that residents place in us. Mayors and council members are working diligently to protect the character of Utah’s unique communities, a character that is as diverse as Utah’s landscape… from its red rock deserts to its mountain forests.

Additionally, the data tells us that residents overwhelmingly expect local government leaders to plan for the long-term needs and infrastructure of their communities, more so than other elected officials or stakeholders.2 Residents also trust us to communicate with them about those plans and will hold us accountable if they perceive that we are not doing our jobs. We know that with great power comes great responsibility.

To that end, we will make a concerted effort to use communication platforms (including ULCT’s own social media pages) to keep you, our residents, apprised of progress in community planning. We invite you to follow the hashtag #CitiesWork to see frequent messages on growth and other municipal issues. ULCT members will share stories of cities working to design transportation connectivity, plan for a variety of housing types for residents of all ages, promote strong economic development opportunities, and other ways to prepare for the future. We’ll share the plans and progress from urban centers like Ogden, resort towns like Moab, fast-growing suburbs like Spanish Fork, and communities that fit all of those characteristics like St. George. We’ll also talk about the planning occurring in rural communities. While communities of all sizes face challenges from growth, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning for growth.

As we approach the 2019 legislative session, the 1,380 mayors and council members from Utah’s 248 cities and towns take our responsibilities seriously to plan for the future. We respect the roles of state leaders, stakeholders, and the public and we urge all of them to respect the responsibility and tools that we have for cities to work. Additionally, we intend to collaborate with state elected officials, stakeholders, and the public on the outcome of preparing for Utah’s population growth while preserving our quality of life.


  1. Y2 Analytics 2018 housing and growth survey commissioned by ULCT, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Salt Lake County. Margin of error +/- 1.8%.
  2. Y2 housing and growth survey