Four candidates for County Commission seat A shared the stage for a debate Thursday night at Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High School.
The debate, sponsored by the Tooele County Republican and Democratic parties, covered topics ranging from animals on private property to drug addiction and development. Transcript Bulletin Staff Writer Tim Gillie selected the questions and moderated the debate.
The candidates for County Commission Seat A are Jonathan Garrard, Constitution Party; Brendan Phillips, Green Party; Justin Bake, Libertarian Party; and Tom Tripp, Republican Party.
When asked about balancing the budget and tax revenue, Bake cited a business owner who said they had more problems dealing with the county than the state or federal government.
“I think the main problem in the county is it is very difficult to start a business,” Bake said. “We keep looking outward for all of these opportunities when we really should be looking inward for the innovators in the county.”
Garrard compared the county’s development challenges with housing density to growing crops.
“If you’re planting a field of corn, you don’t want to plant that corn every inch or you’re not going to get a good crop growing out there,” he said. “There’s specific space and requirements that make it acceptable for that growth to thrive in that area.”
During the development discussion, Tripp, a Grantsville City councilman, said he would support having local planning and zoning for communities in the county that are not incorporated.
“We have a very large unincorporated population in this county for the size it is,” he said. “I think we would do better to have more cities and give the local residents more control over what’s happening in their own neighborhood. I think there’s ways to do that.”
The debate also touched on issues related to animals, in which all four candidates expressed support for animal ownership rights and a hands-off approach by local government.
“When a lot of these rezones were approved, it was done knowing that these animals were there and knowing that these issues would arise,” Phillips said. “These shouldn’t really be issues that our government has to deal with. These should be issues that neighbors deal with.”
The debate touched on drug addiction and mental health issues, and the county government’s role in providing assistance.
Tripp said the majority of crimes committed in the county are related to drug abuse and addiction, including intoxication and property crime, like vehicle burglaries.
“I think we need to assist addicted situations to solve those,” he said. “We also need to make sure we protect our public.”
“So what is government’s role?” Garrard said. “It is to give information and resources. It’s up to us community members to actually implement that.”
On the topic of changing the form of government to a five-member county council with a manager, which is Proposition 6 on the ballot this November, Phillips said he supports it.
“Right now I think we have too much of our legislative and executive power centralized in the hands of a few individuals,” he said. “I would like to see that power spread out among a larger base of individuals, at least five.”
Bake also supported the change of government, which he said could bring more representation to unincorporated Tooele County.
“The unincorporated areas of Tooele County often times … take a backseat to the will of the incorporated areas where there’s a lot more political influence,” he said. “And I think that needs to change. And I think that’s the main thing that the county is looking forward to in a change of government.”
The entire debate was broadcast live and is available to view on the Transcript Bulletin Facebook page.