An appointment council finalized last week the 11-member citizen committee that will conduct a study to determine if Tooele County’s three-member commission form of government should continue or be changed.
The council wisely chose the maximum number of allowed members to serve on the committee. Members are from Tooele and Grantsville cities, Stansbury Park, Erda, Rush Valley and Vernon. Each is acknowledged for their participation. Although it could be argued the committee is not complete without representation from Lake Point, Stockton, Ophir, Wendover and Ibapah, its members do hail from incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county.
With the committee, chosen from a list of approximately 50 citizen applicants, now in place, a lot of questions pop up. A big one is how does the study committee begin?
We may soon find out. The committee will meet for the first time at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 in the Tooele County building. As required by state code, the meeting, and all future study committee meetings, are open to the public.
After Feb. 8, the committee will have one year to do the study and present its findings to the county commission and public. The study’s purpose, which was put into motion by county voters in last November’s General Election, is to essentially determine whether or not the current county commission form of government provides proper, effective and representative leadership.
If the answer is not, the committee may recommend the three-member commission be changed to another form approved by the Utah Legislature, like an expanded county commission with five to seven commissioners retaining both legislative and executive powers, or a county council with legislative authority and an appointed county manager or elected mayor with executive authority.
The criteria through which the study committee may apply its findings and reach its conclusions are presently unknown. Except for some allowances spelled out in state code, such as the county is obligated to provide meeting facilities, clerical and staff services, printing and copying, and sufficient funds for independent legal counsel and professional consultants, the study committee doesn’t have a specific set of guidelines or procedures to proceed.
Instead, the committee has to determine on its own what to do and how to go about doing it. In terms of planning that may sound simple. But to properly collect and organize a credible body of data that will withstand public scrutiny won’t be easy to achieve. For example, how does the study committee factually — not subjectively — quantify quality leadership, decision-making and representation by the three-member county commission form of government? Furthermore, how is quality in that question defined?
Because its findings may cause a change in county government that could last for years, the committee’s responsibility in this challenging process is immense and demands objective, professional diligence. There is little room for error.
Thankfully, the process and all committee meetings are open to the public. And thankfully, no change will take place without voters having a final say. All citizens are urged to closely follow, and even participate, in the committee’s study over the next year. We’ll follow it closely, too.