The Utah League of Cities and Towns reached out to their members and asked for their input on what new legislators should know about local government. Here are their answers, summed up well by Mayor Silvestrini: “We want to be partners, not adversaries.”
Q&A With Utah League of Cities and Towns
From Jeff Silvestrini, Mayor, City of Millcreek
My hope for new legislators is for them to know, as I have learned, that Utah local government leaders are exceptional people, dedicated to serving the residents of their communities. There are so many remarkably smart and talented people in elected office in cities and towns all around our state. We like to be seen as a resource to legislators, as we have unique perspectives about our residents’ needs and we know the nuts and bolts of serving our communities and providing necessary services.
Local government is hard at work tackling issues of planning smart growth, meeting transportation needs and improving air quality, in addition to providing critical public safety and infrastructure. We are challenged by the lack of funding for affordable housing, drug treatment and mental health issues, which stress our ability to address property crime and homelessness.
We want to be partners, not adversaries with the legislature and we want to have a dialog with you and collaborate to arrive at the best policy decisions for our state. We prize local control because that matters to our constituents. We dislike unfunded mandates, which compete for dollars needed for providing the many critical services we provide. We have practical experience, which we love to share, if given the opportunity, to help you make good policy at the state level. Let’s get to know each other. Working together, we can make things better for everyone.
From Emily Niehaus, Mayor, Moab
For me (and with great anticipation of our next governor’s leadership), it’s worth saying over and over and over again that rural Utah is the heart of the state, while the governor and the legislature are the head. Rural Utah pumps the blood that fuels the state with recreation, oil, gas, minerals, food, and more. Our rural cities organize the distribution of these resources. In return, cities need a return on this investment in our state in the form of funding for housing and further economic diversification efforts. Housing IS economic development…especially in rural Utah.
From Nick Castleton, Mayor, Eureka
Much of rural Utah feels they are being left behind. We need to extend needed infrastructure into rural communities. Most rural communities do not have natural gas, and many don’t even have cell phone coverage. Internet access is often slow or non-existent. We need a plan and financial backing to bring all of Utah into modern day reality.
From Robert Hale, Mayor, Midvale I have a quick list of suggestions for new legislators from the perspective of a municipal leader:
1- Get acquainted with us as we work to learn more about you and your priorities.
2- Attend city council meetings to hear our concerns and share yours. You have an open invitation.
3- Participate in ULCT’s legislative policy meetings to discuss key issues.
4- Meet and become familiar with our municipal advocates.
5- Update local leaders on developments of key interest to them and their residents.
We look forward to a positive and collaborative working relationship with you.
From Andy Beerman, Mayor, Park City
Local government is non-partisan and focused on local issues, most of which revolve around building and maintaining a healthy community. Each city/town is surprisingly distinct and faces its own unique challenges. Growth and economy are central issues, but local officials are also expected to balance these with issues like traffic, school capacity, housing, safety, and parks/open spaces.
Uniform regulations, although preferred by industries, rarely fit local needs. And de-regulation does not necessarily equate to economic health. Park City is a good example: Our town is nestled on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, with a commercial district that is also a national historic district, and with limited ingress/egress. This creates unique safety issues, creates mixed residential/commercial neighborhoods, and access is constrained by the terrain. Effectively governing this sometimes requires very specific regulations to maintain a sense of community, ensure safety, and still manage 4 million annual visitors to a town of 8,000 residents.
Despite the (overstated) belief the “Park City is highly regulated,” and that “regulations hurt the economy,” Park City has the highest home values in the state and a thriving economy. Local governments look to our state legislature as a critical partner to provide tools, funding, and framework for us to thrive, while respecting our roles and need for local “customization.” Please consider local officials as a resource, an ally, and a partner in building a better Utah, one community at a time.
From Tasha Lowery, City Council Member, Draper
The great thing about our state legislators is that they all live in cities and towns. They drive on local streets and shop at local stores and hike on local trails. Our state representatives are equally invested in our local success because it has a direct impact on their own daily lives. As the new legislature comes into session, we at Draper City hope they bear in mind that just as we elected them with hope and trust to be good stewards of our amazing state, we also work each day to guide our diverse cities in good faith.
Just as we grant the legislature broad agency to make important decisions that impact all of us for years to come, we also hope for their trust to be the authorities in local issues, from land use to zoning. If there are times that local government may differ in opinion with the state legislature, we hope for the opportunity to be heard, and to engage in honest and open dialogue that results in decisions that are best for all of our constituents. As we work diligently to build reliable roads and plan for economic prosperity, we hope to been seen as trusted partners and long term allies, as we all come together to create a Utah that sustains us long into the future.