Guest opinion: Why I support Utah County Proposition 9

If passed, Proposition 9 will change the form of government in Utah County from a three-member commission to five council members and a mayor. Each council member will represent one of five districts in the county while the mayor will be elected by the entire county.

Over the last year and a half, I have participated in many discussions on the pros and cons of switching from a three-member commission to an executive-council form of government. I have also researched the issue independently and find myself a strong supporter of Utah County Proposition 9.

There is no data to support the claim that taxes will increase if Prop 9 passes. Cache County has had the executive-council form for 35 years and their taxes and fees closely match Utah County’s. Note, this may not be true today given Utah County’s recent tax increase. Moving to the new form will reduce the cost of government by over $250K, increase representation, and separate legislative and executive powers. All good things in my mind.

county revenue

Here are three important issues that the new form will address:

  1.  Friction between commissioners.

With a three-member commission whenever two commissioners meet there is the potential for Utah’s Open Meeting Act to be violated. The current system thus puts a damper on the ability for commissioners to build the personal relationships that are critical to having productive discussions on legislative issues. When personal relationships exist, it is easier to listen to opposing points of view and consider their merits rather than simply dismiss them. Better decisions are made when a variety of opinions are expressed and evaluated. The lack of good relationships between all commissioners inhibits the development of good legislation and can lead to poor decisions.

  2.  Commissioners share both legislative and executive responsibilities.

The two branches serve as a check on each other. If the mayor uses power in a way the council disagrees, they can limit it via legislative action. Veto power gives the mayor the ability to stop or slow down “bad” legislation. 75% of the council can override any veto. Splitting the legislative and executive functions implements a key constitutional principle and results in better not bigger government. Also, when executive authority is shared by three people it is difficult to know who to talk with to move the ball forward or who to hold accountable when there are execution issues.

  3.  Limited Representation

There are currently about 265,000 registered voters in the county, 24 cities and towns, and 625,000 residents. Yes, we currently vote for all three, but I believe the odds of influencing a single council member who is beholden to 1/5 of the voters and fewer cities and town is much greater than the current system. The proposed system guarantees that each area of the county is represented and implements another key constitutional principle.

In sum, the new form of government will not inhibit the creation of relationships between elected officials, is more aligned with constitutional principles, and will be a form that is more responsive to citizen input because of the increased representation and checks and balances – it is better not bigger government.

Rod Mann
Highland City Mayor