Summit County Council, Your Money, and an Audit

Map of Utah highlighting Summit County

Image via Wikipedia


At a time when focus is on national issues, I have decided to look at some things closer to home.  I am still aware of these national issues, and the state issues at hand, however, where can I have the most influence?  Closer to home.  I recommend to each of you to look at your city and county governments.  Find out how they are set up, and if they are even Constitutional to begin with.  I attended a meeting of the Summit County Council recently, and left almost sick to my stomach. 

Wednesday night I attended a public meeting of the Summit County Council.  One purpose of this meeting was to have public input on a $25 million (now $20 million) bond for open space.  Funny thing was, it had already been voted on by the county council prior to the meeting.  What is the point of holding a public meeting about open space, if you have already voted on the measure?  In my opinion, it was so “the little people” could feel heard. 

I saw a problem with the meeting right off the bat.  First of all, the public notice gave the address as a Coalville location, when it was in fact in Park City.  So is this public meeting sufficient when the notice was incorrect? 

People got up and gave their reasons mostly in support of the open space.  However, two people made what I saw as very valid arguments against.  First of all, the economy.  We are all suffering right now, and adding more taxes is not what we need in our county.  In a time when government spending is out of control, our state is making great efforts in reducing the budget, not increasing it.  And here in Summit County, it’s seen as a “trivial” amount of money for each taxpayer.  What would you do with a few extra hundred dollars in your pocket instead of being robbed by the county?  If I don’t have a right to build a beautiful trail, and then steal the money from all of my neighbors to pay for it, how does the county?  The problem is the council sees this as a non-issue because they spend money like drunken sailors.  However, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “that would be unfair to drunken sailors, because they are spending their own money.” 

The other reason, came from Gary Shumway, who is currently running for a seat on the Council.  Why would the council  even consider a bond for the ballot when the county is under investigation?  (The article from ABC 4 News)  Do we know the results of the investigation?  Could Summit County end up owing money?  Then we have a bond, and a bill we owe the state for the audit?  Also, there is a juicy article in The Park Record that begins … 

A probe into how Summit County has administered a controversial development program is underway on Capitol Hill.  

The flap is over rules that have allowed builders to transfer valuable development rights from one parcel to another. Some state lawmakers say they began questioning county officials about the program last year when they were tipped off about the controversy by a landowner. The rules that governed how development rights were transferred were abused, the property owner claimed.” 

To see the full article click here: 

I did not fully understand all of this until it was explained to me.  If you are like me, you’re not a huge landowner or developer, and it may not be something the average person pays attention.  

What exactly is happening to the density rights created by open space?  Who benefits from this?  Does anyone on the council directly or indirectly benefit?  Property values increase when density rights are given, so are the value of those parcels being properly assessed?  Is it possible that the land the density rights were given remained undervalued by the County Assessor and thereby people avoided taxes?  And that could be the reason Summit County is under audit, because if we have undervalued our property, and paid less in taxes, then less money has gone to the state and our county for our schools.  We’ve got to put an honest assessor in this office.  These are things someone should look into. 

But the most sickening thing about this is the attitude of the council.  One council member, Dave Ure, had excused himself by the time the real circus began.  The debate wasn’t over how the money should be spent, what projects were the most important, or even the cost of the projects.  The gist of the dialogue was, how much will the tax-payers stomach without throwing the measure off the ballot entirely.  And one person in the crowd (a lobbyist or analyst for the council) actually said that the problem wasn’t with the Park City people, but THE WORKING CLASS, that just doesn’t get it.  Should we call them Lords and Ladies now?  We ended aristocracy in 1787.  

Do you feel outraged?  I hope outraged enough to make a difference in November on our County Council, and other county offices to stop the spending and this ridiculous bond (pronounced tax). 

There are solutions: 

The first thing we should change is our style of government.  Our county government would not pass constitutional muster.  Our legislative branch (the council) also holds the executive power.  The County Manager that was just hired was appointed by the council.  That would be like the State Legislators appointing the Governor of the State.  We have no checks and balances in our county government.  Of course the County Manager is going to go along with whatever the council proposes, because they hold his job in their hands.  We must make this an elected position. 

As far as open space, many people in our group have talked about other solutions.  There are ways to create open space without ever taxing anyone. 

Tonight at the Council Meeting, they will be discussing the transfer of density rights. 

Take a long look at what’s going on in your area.  Look at your school boards, your city government and county governments and help Save The American Republic right in your own backyard.