A bit of significant citizen history happened in Tooele County on Feb. 2.
On that day, the Tooele County Government Study Committee submitted its final report to the Tooele County Clerk’s office for a mandatory review by the Tooele County Attorney’s office.
The 64-page report recommends that the current, three-member Tooele County Commission be “abandoned” and replaced with a part-time, five-member county council elected by district and an appointed county manager who works at the behest of the council.
The report and its recommendation for a change of government, comes after the study committee, which is comprised of nine citizens from across the county, reportedly spent over 2,500 man hours since Feb. 8, 2017, conducting meetings, research, analysis — and writing the report.
In the report, the study committee notes it anticipates that the change to a council/manager form of government will result in a shift in the candidate pool from “career-seeking” individuals to “community service minded, altruistic-charitable citizens” who are not dependent upon full-time county income.
The report now faces a review by the County Attorney’s office to check for possible statutory or constitutional problems. If any are found, the study committee may go back and revise its report. After that, the study committee’s recommendation won’t take effect unless local voters approve it in a future election.
A bit of significant citizen history has indeed occurred. But something more needs to be acknowledged here.
When the study committee met for the first time a year ago, it was urged by legal counsel to strive for a high degree of transparency throughout the process. After extensively covering the study committee, we can say its members and the process by which they followed, kept transparency at the forefront. In fact, the study committee often went above and beyond the call of duty to keep the public informed.
Also, the study committee and its report truly represents an achievement for citizen, grass-roots activism. If you recall, it was Spring 2014 when the Tooele County Council of Governments proposed for such a study to be done in the wake of the county’s financial crisis of 2012-13. The county commission didn’t embrace and encourage the study, so the proposal didn’t get far. But it did come back a year later as a grass-roots citizens’ initiative. More than 2,000 petition signatures put Proposition #14 on the November 2016 General Election ballot.
In that election, more than 11,500 local voters — a 65-percent mandate — said they did want a study committee appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in the form of government for Tooele County. By January 2017, nearly 50 citizens applied to serve on the committee. Eleven got the job, the highest number allowed by state code.
The nine remaining study committee members have completed an important task that was born from citizens’ desire. Their work, all of which was without pay, was conducted with a high-degree of transparency, professionalism and commitment. Each study committee member is acknowledged and thanked for their valuable community service.
Now the next step is to see if the study committee’s recommendation ever makes it onto a ballot. It is hoped voters will have that opportunity to choose.