Eight candidates are vying to make the final ballot in the race to be the next members of the Tooele City Council.
Of those, six will advance beyond the primary election on Aug. 13 to fill three seats on the City Council. City Councilman Dave McCall is the only incumbent running for office; City Councilman Steve Pruden did not seek reelection and City Councilman Brad Pratt withdrew from the race.
Beside McCall, the other candidates are Wayne Anderton, Justin Brady, Jeff Saunders, Ed Hansen, Jon Gossett, Tony Graf and Ryan Peacock.
The candidates were asked to provide written answers to questions about population growth, economic development and city services, with a 150-word limit to respond. The responses from each candidate, ordered randomly, are included below. The responses were edited for length, spelling and grammar.
Question: The population in Tooele City, and the county as a whole, continues to grow. What role should Tooele City government play in fostering and directing growth, and what areas of housing are the greatest need in the community?
Saunders: Tooele City should revisit their master plan and plan ahead for future growth. We are having an issue with affordable housing. We need more high density condo/townhome and multi-dwelling duplex and multiplex units in town to bring the rents and house payments down. These are the things I would work on if elected.
McCall: The population in Tooele City according to the state of Utah is projected at 80,000 by the year 2040. That’s Tooele City, not counting the county, which is projected to reach about 160,000 the same year. The City Council, working with the mayor and staff, have requested a study to review the city’s infrastructure to ensure we can handle the growth and enhance economic development. Supply and demand is the issue with housing; we have a shortage of homes and the result is higher home values.
Anderton: Tooele City needs to develop long range goals and plans that will steer the city forward in a direction that is healthy and prosperous. It is also important to have working relationships with other jurisdictions and entities so that we may achieve success.
Affordable housing is what we need most, but affordable is relative, because what one may consider affordable may be too costly for another. We need to decide what we want — is it high density, single-family units, or mixed use that will provide what we need? The issue we have is our water resources are being stretched to their limit and our infrastructure is aging faster than we can replace it.
Brady: Tooele City plays a significant role in fostering and directing growth. Growth should be addressed in the master plan. I have read the current master plan for Tooele City and it is unacceptably outdated. We have put ourselves in a position where growth has outpaced the plan for our community. We have failed to prepare properly. The master plan should constantly be evolving and addressing growth, water, infrastructure, transportation, housing needs, etc.
I will ensure we have a master plan which addresses and directs growth to benefit the overall community. We need a wide variety of housing types and prices in our community. There is a misconception that high density development is the only option to address the housing shortage. I disagree. It is important we maintain a wide variety of housing options in our community. This should include single family homes, town homes, apartments, etc.
Gossett: The city will need to focus on our growing infrastructure needs. This is key in planned continued growth. The city has the ability to direct future growth, what type and where it goes. We need to be wise, have a clear vision and look to the future. What do we want our city to look like five, 10, 20-plus years down the road? It will require methodical planning. As far as fostering growth, we need to be a city that is efficient and easy to work with. Affordable housing continues to be a huge challenge and will continue to be into the foreseeable future.
Peacock: Tooele City government plays a big role in directing the city’s growth, but it doesn’t have the only role. The government is in charge of planning, zoning, and preparing for the growth the market dictates, trying to balance the needs of homeowners and renters. The city should promote local businesses and work to bring more industry to provide jobs for an increasingly diverse workforce.
But Tooele City government isn’t responsible for the growth we’re experiencing. The market has dictated our growth. The secret is out: Tooele is a great place to live. People from all walks of life are coming to live here, so there isn’t just one type of housing we should focus on. The city government’s job is to make sure growth doesn’t change what makes Tooele special. We have always been a unique area and the right planning can keep it that way, even as we grow.
Graf: Protecting and promoting the safety and tranquility of our residential neighborhoods must always be our top priority. This is done most effectively through proper zoning regulations, sufficient funding for adequate police and fire protection, and the delivery of water, garbage collection, sewage, and other necessary services. I will also promote affordable housing for young families, individuals, and senior citizens through appropriate zoning.
Tooele City needs to be proactive in addressing future growth. This means updating the City’s general plan. A well-structured general plan anticipates future traffic conditions, economic conditions, social conditions, public services and utilities, and housing and zoning. Tooele residents are struggling to find affordable housing. Tooele City can address this issue by allowing for apartments, duplexes, triplexes, and senior housing in zones which have minimal to no negative impact on owner-occupied and single-family neighborhoods. These types of neighborhoods need to be preserved and protected at all costs.
Hansen: Tooele City will need to be proactive in focusing on growth. We need to plan ahead and make sure we have the needed infrastructure to handle future growth. As a city, I believe it will be important to remember our roots when planning for our future. There are those within our city limits who want a rural atmosphere and there are those who are excited about the growth and what it may bring. It will be important to have balance and represent everyone. On the question of housing needs, we will need to find solutions for affordable housing.
Question: Many residents have commented on the need for commercial and industrial development. Aside from property tax incentives, what should city government and the Redevelopment Agency do to foster economic growth in the city?
Brady: It is imperative we market our community better and demonstrate the advantages of building in our community. We have skilled workers, land, and resources, which are conducive to commercial and industrial development. City ordinances and building codes should also be re-evaluated to determine if we are making it challenging for businesses to be successful and build in our community.
We can offer other incentives such as discounting many of the fees associated with building permits. Financial incentives should only be offered after determining the long term economic benefit the business will have on the community. We need businesses which bring high paying jobs back to our community and provide services to keep our citizens shopping locally.
Saunders: We need the city to be more business-friendly and transparent when it comes to dealing with new businesses and inspections. I’ve heard many frustrations from business when it comes to dealing with the city. Some say it is the worst city to do business with. We need to let businesses advertise and help them work on their store frontage to make it inviting and attract new customers.
We need to make the city the most business-friendly city and a joy to work with, so businesses want to relocate here. We need to promote the shop local campaign and bring a farmer’s market downtown to bring customers to the area. We need to recruit manufacturing jobs whenever possible. We need more high paying jobs in this city and community and the city needs to attract those businesses to town.
Anderton: Tooele City and the RDA should work to create an environment that promotes and supports businesses we currently have; this could happen through reinvestment opportunities. We need to develop a culture companies want to be a part of. For this reason, some businesses will be willing to build here regardless of tax incentives. Coordination with other jurisdictions on community development and transportation is important to meet our own needs.
Traffic through Lake Point is one example of a need to work together. One alternative to tax incentives are in-kind incentives such as discounted building permit fees. Another is the development of business support services; this would include ways to help startups find capital. We need to showcase all our assets including the USU extension and Tooele Technical College. Businesses want an educated workforce. This is an area we have a great advantage because of the educational opportunities close to Tooele.
Peacock: The city already does a lot to attract business, from promoting the city at business fairs to working with individual companies to bring in more industry, but there are limitations. Some nationwide corporations won’t even consider opening a store or branch in cities with less than 50,000, 75,000 or 100,000 people. And when they do, much of the money they make in the community leaves the community.
I believe the future of business in Tooele is already here, in the people of Tooele. The city should cut red tape which slows down or discourages new small businesses and should do everything it can to promote small businesses already here. Let’s unleash the entrepreneurial spirit already present in our community and help Tooele grow by helping its residents grow their businesses. The combination of national, regional and local businesses will help Tooele and provide a solid base for the city’s growth.
Graf: Commercial and industrial development is important to grow Tooele’s tax base. Tooele City and the RDA should revisit the signage code to allow businesses to better market themselves. Marketing and advertising are the lifeblood of a business, and if the City is committed to growing local businesses, it needs to expand the available marketing options.
Additionally, creating a business advisory board will help commercial and industrial development. The experts on growing and attracting local businesses are local business owners. Consistent feedback from local business owners will assist the Tooele City Council/RDA to make good decisions relating to growing local businesses. Finally, a bid system should be implemented allowing local businesses to compete for contracts to supply Tooele City with goods. This would allow local businesses to earn additional revenue if their bid is the most competitive, and the money spent by the City would be reinvested into our community.
McCall: The City Council and RDA are working to attract industrial development, commercial retail and established restaurants. One of the issues we face with economic development is our population. Although we are growing, we are still short on the number of rooftops needed to attract a large number of big box stores and companies.
Hansen: We need to develop a reputation of being the type of city when it comes to commercial development, that attracts them and keeps them by supporting them with open arms. Not all commercial development will ask for tax incentives, but many will. We need to be willing to put some on the table, but not give away the farm. As a city we should be known for our ability to work well with not only the businesses that are coming, but supporting those who are already here.
Gossett: Tooele has a unique situation. We as residents would love to see more stores and restaurants to increase our options for shopping local. Being so close to Salt Lake City, many make the drive for items they need by going around the mountain. Higher population numbers are imperative for some of the larger retailers.
Unfortunately, tax incentives do come into play. One of the things we can do to make our city attractive is by being easy to deal with. We should do all we can to welcome new businesses and listen to their needs, and do what we can to foster their success. Tooele City is uniquely set to grow our industrial development in the industrial depot.
Question: Tooele City government provides a variety of different services to residents and taxpayers. Of the services the city provides, which need to be improved, and are there any services the city should add or eliminate?
McCall: The council is working with the mayor and staff to ensure we improve the city’s street department equipment. We have a lot of outdated equipment that needs to be replaced such as snow plows. I would not add or eliminate any services at this time.
Peacock: The question is not quite phrased correctly. The city government doesn’t provide services to the taxpayers, the taxpayers pay for services from the city. That’s a big difference. The money that governments use is not the government’s money, it’s the taxpayers’ money, and all elected officials should remember that. Because elected officials are merely stewards of the people’s money, they have a responsibility to spend that money wisely and for the benefit of those who paid it.
I will look at every city department and find out where the money is going. Are we spending money on successful programs and services, things that really benefit the community (like street repairs and public safety), or are we putting time, money, and effort into pet projects or services we don’t really need? I am sure, with a little investigation, we’ll find some things we can change.
Gossett: Public safety should always be our highest priority. The police are currently understaffed, and that should be part of any ongoing discussion. We should make sure that our first responders are equipped to handle anything we require as a city. Many of the calls that come in are in one way or another linked to prevention. We need to find a way to incorporate more prevention locally to reduce the number of calls that come in. Prevention is what I do. I look forward to the challenge of looking for solutions. There is plenty of room for improvement in all departments. The city budget is something I have been reviewing and look forward to delving into.
Saunders: I think the biggest concern for me is having the city take care of the common areas in town. There are a lot of places in town where the weeds grow and they maybe only get mowed or trimmed once or twice a summer. It makes the town look trashy. We need to beautify our parks and common areas so they are a jewel for our community. This is something I would focus on if elected — spruce up Main Street storefronts. Finish and maintain the parks. Have crews attend to the weeds a couple times a month. Let’s make Tooele great again.
Brady: We need to improve our city code enforcement in our community. There are many areas in the community which are poorly maintained and do not meet the city code requirements. For example, there are many areas where the weeds are uncontrolled and make the sidewalks unusable. It is debatable who is responsible for some areas and it needs to be clarified so they can be maintained properly.
Public parks need to be improved and maintained better. For example, several years ago the Gleneagles soccer field was redone with new top soil and grass seed. It has been poorly maintained and all the work done is unrecognizable. Tooele City should add more walking, biking, and running trails in parks and throughout the community. This is a service which would benefit the overall health and well-being of our community.
Hansen: First responders should be our first priority, followed by improving our infrastructure. The police department and fire department need to be given the tools to keep our community safe. We will need to continue hiring new police officers to handle the coming growth. Much of our infrastructure is aging and will need to be upgraded, repaired or replaced. We will need to have a long-term plan to accomplish all these things within budget. We are seeing a rise in the homeless population. I would like to be involved in finding a solution.
Anderton: Recycling is an area I think we can do better, but for this to happen, we need citizens to buy into the idea and participate. This will help minimize any subsidy Tooele City may be paying to keep it going. Recreational opportunities could be improved, not only for citizens and visitors, but companies looking to locate their business here.
New services can be costly to start and maintain and before any new service is added, we should actively seek public involvement and ideas. We can do this with a questionnaire in your water bill to be returned with the payment, town hall meetings, a Tooele City Facebook page, or any other social media outlet. I think it is important to give Tooele City citizens an opportunity to have an active role in their government.
Graf: Tooele City is losing the battle against opioid addiction and secondary crime that accompanies the opioid epidemic. Opioid addiction is increasing crime in Tooele, affecting our workforce, and resulting in the loss of life. One of the most effective methods in treating addiction is inpatient treatment programs. However, no public inpatient programs exist in Tooele City or Tooele County to help those fighting addiction.
In addition, while private groups and organizations exist in Tooele who offer free or low-cost addiction counseling, no single point of contact is in place to assist family, friends, or those struggling with addiction to find help fight opioid addiction. In order to successfully combat opioid addiction, Tooele City should prioritize working with the state and the county to obtain an affordable public inpatient treatment facility. Finally, the city should create a referral system for addiction counseling programs that currently exists within the city and county.