Last year, we made the argument in an editorial that annual “state of” addresses were a worthwhile undertaking for leaders of even the smallest towns, on the rationale that citizens deserve at least one update per year recapping the accomplishments and obstacles of their local government. Last week, Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall took up that challenge, delivering a thoughtful, eloquent State of the City address filled with specifics on projects his administration has accomplished and problems it is still working to solve. It was the first time such an annual address had been given in Grantsville.
The speech was not only delivered orally to the Grantsville City Council, it was included in a monthly newsletter the city distributes along with water bills and posted on the city’s website. It was also reprinted verbatim in the pages of this newspaper. Chances were good that a high percentage of Grantsville residents read the mayor’s speech and appreciated the time he took composing it, even if they weren’t in attendance to hear it live.
In essence, Marshall was expanding on a tradition dating back to 1790, when the first State of the Union address was given by President George Washington. That tradition echoes today in State of the State speeches, such as the one given by Gov. Gary Herbert last month, and in addresses by smaller divisions of government across Utah and the nation. In Tooele County, Mayor Patrick Dunlavy should be credited with institutionalizing the State of the City address, which he has given each year since taking office. His annual speech will be delivered at Tooele City Hall on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.
The one notable exception to the popularity of these annual updates remains Tooele County. For the past several years, we have unsuccessfully urged Tooele County Commission Chairwoman Colleen Johnson to deliver a State of the County address. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate, lengthy oration. A simple recap of business completed and challenges ahead would suffice. The speech could be delivered directly to department heads and the public — debunking the excuse that because the commission has no legislative body to address, such as a city council, it’s under no obligation to provide this update.
In truth, no local government is required by law to give an annual “state of” address. Nonetheless, we appreciate these speeches for the opportunity they give us to hear directly from our leaders, in their own words, about the issues affecting our communities.