When the Tooele County Council of Governments first proposed the idea in Spring 2014 for a study to be done on the current three-member county commission form of government, we editorially welcomed it — but with a proviso.
COG’s proposal didn’t get far, but did come back a year later as a grass-roots citizens’ initiative, which collected more than 2,000 petition signatures and put Proposition #14 on last November’s General Election ballot.
The momentum of that grass-roots initiative wasn’t lost by Election Day, with more than 11,500 voters — a 65 percent mandate — saying they did want a study committee appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in the form of government of Tooele County.
That victory immediately put into motion a process that is dictated by state code with deadlines. As explained in last Thursday’s front-page story headlined, “48 citizens apply for government study committee,” that process is underway. A five-member appointment council is now vetting those applications.
To meet state code requirements, the appointment council has until Jan. 26 to pick 7 to 11 local citizens to serve on that committee. At first it may sound like an easy task. But if the effort is to select a committee that represents the county’s rural and urban areas, Democrats and Republicans, women and men, the selection process won’t be easy.
Further making the selection process difficult is perhaps trying to select at least one member from each of the county’s main areas of urban and rural population: Tooele City, Grantsville City, Wendover City, Town of Stockton, Town of Vernon, Stansbury Park, Lake Point, Erda, Rush Valley and Ibapah.
As appointment council chairman Kim Halladay said at last week’s meeting, “This task [completing the study] is enormous. I hope we find great people to do it.”
The study is a huge responsibility, fraught with challenges to conduct and conclude professionally. Yet, Halladay and the rest of the council will find “great” people to do it. The county abounds with such citizens who will enthusiastically contribute for the next several months to produce a credible study that will withstand hard scrutiny.
Which brings us to the proviso: Our support of the government study process in 2014 was predicated on the study committee being comprised of broad representation. Furthermore, the study’s data must be comprehensive, fact-based and be subjected to exhaustive public review before further action is taken. That proviso still stands.
The three-member commission form of government has existed in Tooele County since 1896. Yet, the finished study may recommend a change because the study committee concludes it is needed to improve representation and service to the people.
With the overall process just getting started, any conclusions may not be known until later this year. And thankfully, local voters will have the final say if the committee recommends a change.
Halladay is correct. The study is an enormous task. But only a study committee that broadly represents the county, and is committed to finding the facts, stands a chance of getting it right. May the appointment council choose well.