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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New blog!

I have redesigned my blog page to be a little more visual and user friendly. Please click this link to follow my posts from now on! Thank you for your interest in making Salt Lake County a great place to live, work, and raise a family!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Don't miss your neighborhood caucus on March 22!

Some of my constituents have asked me to give more information on Neighborhood Caucuses. A caucus is a meeting sponsored by political parties where you and your neighbors from your voting precinct meet together once every two years. At this meeting, a few delegates are elected by you and your neighbors to represent your precinct at the political party's convention where candidates for office are chosen. This is the most grassroots political process that we have.

Anyone can attend a caucus meeting. However, in order to participate in voting or running for a seat, you must live in the precinct and be at least 18 years of age by the general election date. At the Republican Caucus, you also must be a registered Republican or affiliate as a Republican. (Democrats do not have an affiliation requirement.)

Both parties will be holding their caucus on Tuesday, March 22. Registration starts at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7 p.m. Generally a caucus will last about two hours. They are a great place to get info on candidates, to be involved in the political process and to get to know your neighbors. If you've never been before, don't worry... there are people there who will help you register and tell you which room to meet in. The precinct chair will conduct individual precinct meetings and will walk you through the process. You don't have to be well-versed in politics to go and participate.

Find your caucus locations.


If you are elected to be a county delegate, you will need to plan to spend most of the day at the SL County Republican Convention on Sat., April 16 at Cottonwood High School. County delegates will select candidates for the state legislature and county offices.

If you are elected to be a state delegate, you will need to plan to spend most of the day at the State Republican Convention on Sat., April 23 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. State delegates elect candidates for statewide office (governor, auditor, attorney general, etc.). They also elect federal office candidates (U.S. Senate and Congress).

If you are elected to be a Precinct Chair, you will have a vote at the quarterly Central Committee meetings and help organize the caucus meetings in the future. There are other party officers elected such as vice-chair, secretary and treasurer.

This year caucus attendees will also get to vote in the presidential preference primary.

To save time, you can pre-register for the Republican caucus here.

For more information on the Salt Lake Republican Party Caucus


If you are elected to be a county delegate, you will need to plan to spend most of the day at the SL County Democratic Convention on Sat., April 9 at Cyprus High School. County delegates will select candidates for the state legislature and county offices.

If you are elected to be a state delegate, you will need to plan to spend most of the day at the State Democratic Convention on Sat., April 23 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. State delegates elect candidates for statewide office (governor, auditor, attorney general, etc.). They also elect federal office candidates (U.S. Senate and Congress).

Democrat caucus attendees will be voting in a presidential preference poll.

For more information on the Salt Lake County Democratic Party Caucus

Don't miss attending your Neighborhood Caucus on March 22!
To find out your precinct or legislative district

Monday, February 8, 2016

Is the Equestrian Park a good use of taxpayer dollars?

We have switched to a new blog format and you can find the most recent post about the Equestrian Park here.

What should be the future of the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park? The taxpayers of Salt Lake County subsidize the Equestrian Center in South Jordan $900,000 per year. Is that the highest and best use of this area and our taxpayer dollars? During the budget session last December I asked that our Community Services Department, which oversees the Equestrian Park, to prepare cost alternatives for the Equestrian Center.

The Equestrian Center has been steadily losing more and more money every year. The County realized a few years ago that something needed to change since taxpayers’ operating subsidy was increasing, so it awarded a contract to the very capable SMG management company. SMG currently operates the Salt Palace, South Towne Expo Center, and several equestrian centers around the country. Even after almost two years under SMG’s management, the park is still on pace to lose millions more.

There are significant issues with the park that are beyond SMG’s control. There is a serious concern with deferred maintenance. Over the next five years infrastructure investments from $3.5 to $4.5 million will be needed, including new stalls. As if the millions in deferred maintenance isn’t enough, millions more are needed for the construction of a new building on site to make the park a more attractive place to hold events.

Whenever I vote on anything that comes before the council or evaluate a County program, I ask myself, “Is this the proper role of government?” Our parks and recreation department is there to promote health and well-being for the residents of Salt Lake County, which is a worthy cause. We try to provide recreational activities to help keep our community active and healthy. We don't provide opportunities for every person's individual recreational preferences. What about water sports? What about snowmobiling? There are plenty of fun recreational activities, but taxpayers shouldn't and can't fund everything. We put tax dollars into amenities that are in high public demand, make fiscal sense, and encourage families to have healthy lifestyles. That is something we will need to look at as we explore options for this facility.

Parks preserve open space and are visited hundreds of thousands of times a year and can be used by all of Salt Lake County’s 1.1 million residents. Our golf courses are some of the best managed in the state and, in addition to preserving open space, turn a profit. The County subsidizes parks, on average, $5,000 per year per acre. The Equestrian Park is a revenue generator, but is being subsidized at $7,500 per acre. That is 50 percent more than the County subsidizes an acre of a public park.

Some may say that we should just invest in the Equestrian Park so that it will turn a profit. We will be looking at this, but preliminary numbers show we would have to put millions into the facility. Denver has a great Equestrian Center. Some have said we should invest in something similar for Salt Lake County. Denver put over $800 million dollars into their center.

I've had people say that the Equestrian Center provides other economic benefits that we just aren't considering - hotels, restaurants, shopping. We will have the economic impact measured in the coming months, but preliminary studies show there is a neglible economic impact. We are continuing to explore this.

Whenever an organization or program is overseen by Salt Lake County or any government we must continually review what the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars is and let that guide our response. I know the Equestrian Park is an important place for some of our Salt Lake County residents. We are looking for some answers and will be anxious to see the upcoming recommendations by the Mayor's staff in April. They will give us several scenarios and the fiscal impact of each. Personally, I will be doing all I can to keep this area open space. We will have more info in coming months.

Click here to read the Deseret News article on this issue

Fox 13 coverage of the Equestrian Park

Here is the budget line item showing the $900,000 subsidy:

Some people didn't believe that the Equestrian Park was really losing so much money, so I've included the actual 2016 budget:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Urban County Caucus

Several months ago I was talking with some colleagues about the role of Salt Lake County within the Utah Association of Counties (UAC). This conversation continued at the annual UAC conference when I asked county commissioners from Davis, Weber, and Utah counties if they would be willing to meet as a group of urban counties to discuss unique challenges that come with larger populations. They accepted my invitation and several other counties also wanted to be involved – Washington, Cache, Uintah, Tooele and Summit.

Two months later UAC and Salt Lake County hosted our first Urban County Caucus meeting on January 20. Governor Herbert attended and even brought Lt. Governor Spencer Cox with him. We had the opportunity to talk about criminal justice issues, Medicaid expansion, and economic development. Representative Eric Hutchings also attended to talk about the Justice Reinvestment Act. I was elected as chair of the new Urban County Caucus and will be continuing conversations with these counties so we can learn from each other.

UAC has been a valuable partner with counties in the past and with all 29 counties as members, it’s a great place to speak with a unified voice when fighting for a particular issue. But because Utah has such a diverse geography, it means that each of the counties have different concerns as well. For example, Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, and Utah Counties have very little public lands (with the exception of some National Forest lands), but to the south, east, and west of us, virtually all of the state is owned by the federal government. Those counties don’t have the same criminal justice, public safety, transportation, and growth issues that the larger counties face. While our issues may be different, it’s nice that we can support each other and speak with a unified voice at the Legislature.

Here is the SL Tribune article on this event.

I also interviewed with Utah Policy about the Urban Caucus.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Criminal Justice Funds Allocated by Council

During our budget discussions, the Salt Lake County Council passed a tax extension for criminal justice reform. This $9.4 million from the expired jail bond had $3.4 million appropriated during the budget to fund part of the sheriff and DA's budgets. The council wanted to allocate the remaining $6 million for criminal justice reform.

Council Member Jenny Wilson and I organized a two-day retreat on January 12 and 13. We brought together the Council, Mayor, DA, judges, mental and behavioral health specialists, and the Sheriff for a roundtable discussion to align our priorities. Throughout the retreat we agreed that we needed to focus on evidence-based outcomes for all criminal justice programs. We also know that taxpayer resources are scarce and we needed to make sure that we got a return on our investment by focusing on the root causes of recidivism. After a lot of discussion, we came to a general consensus of how to prioritize some of these criminal justice funds:

$100,000 to audit, evaluate and develop options to oversee Indigent Defense contracts

$200,000 for the Community Corrections Center and Receiving Center planning process

In two weeks we will hear from our sheriff and behavioral health director and look at which programs the remaining $2.7 million should go to. I've been an advocate of more detox beds, mental health and substance abuse programs in conjunction with probation, and data to make sure the money we put into programs is making a difference.

This will be an annual process where we identify our criminal justice priorities and allocate funds each year for specific programs and processes to help with our major jail overcrowding problem and high rate of recidivism. I am grateful we have such great criminal justice experts in our county to help us look ahead and improve in this arena.

Here is the Salt Lake Tribune article on this issue.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SL County Council Passes Resolution Encouraging Citizens to Attend Caucuses on March 22

Today the Salt Lake County Council passed a resolution encouraging county facilities and programs to make accommodations for citizens to attend their neighborhood caucus on Tuesday, March 22.

The resolution, sponsored by Republican Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, aims to make it as easy as possible for residents to clear their schedules and attend these grassroots political meetings where delegates are elected. These delegates may choose their party’s nominees in offices ranging from county mayor and council members to state legislators and governor. Thousands of Republicans and Democrats all across the state attend caucuses held every two years. Both parties will be having their caucus meetings on March 22, and some will be holding presidential primary elections that night.

“Neighborhood caucuses allow every voter a chance to participate in the most grassroots political process that we have,” said Newton. “Salt Lake County won’t have scheduled rec games that night, county-sponsored library events, or other programs that could create a conflict.”

With bi-partisan council support, and support from the mayor’s office, county departments have adjusted programs and facilities to be able make it easier for voters to attend caucuses, but facilities will still remain open as usual.

In addition to Salt Lake County taking steps to make caucuses more accessible, the resolution also encourages other governmental entities within Salt Lake County to limit activities and events on March 22 to allow the residents an opportunity to attend.

Thanks to my Democrat colleague, Arlyn Bradshaw, for jumping on board to help sponsor this resolution.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

AAA Bond Rating

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams praised his fiscal management team and the Salt Lake County Council after receiving notice that Fitch Ratings, a national ratings firm, has assigned new, higher financial ratings to Salt Lake County bonds, including its transportation tax revenue bonds and its sales tax revenue bonds. Salt Lake County is one of 41 counties nationally—among 3,140 overall—to earn this distinction.

“This confirms the county’s financial health and also sends a strong signal that we’re a good long-term investment. It speaks to our determination to be a government with a fiscally-responsible balance sheet and a careful eye on budgets,” said Mayor McAdams.

Chief Financial Officer Darrin Casper says the county has been notified by Fitch Ratings that not only will it retain its triple-A rating on its general obligation bonds, but that several categories have been upgraded to either AA+ or AAA. Casper said that with such an excellent credit score, Salt Lake County will pay less interest and save taxpayer dollars when it enters the market with an upcoming issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $22 million as the second stage of parks, trails and open space expenditures. Salt Lake County voters approved a $47 million parks and trails bond measure during a 2012 election.

“Salt Lake County remains one of the top 41 counties nationwide for financial strength.  Sound, conservative fiscal policies have made this possible, along with prudent financial management by elected officials of both parties and our competent staff,” said County Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove.

“I’m proud of our fiscal management team. They serve the taxpayers well in how they manage governmental operations and the financial world clearly is taking notice,” said McAdams. “Once again, Salt Lake County is demonstrating what it means to be a thriving metropolitan area that focuses on efficient and responsive government.”

See the SL Trib article on this great news!