It’s official: Local voters will decide in November if the three-member Tooele County Commission — the county’s principle form of government since 1896 — stays or goes. But when citizens vote this fall, will they fully understand what they’re voting for — or against?
As we reported in the April 10 edition, Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead had finished his mandatory review of the Tooele County Government Study Committee’s report. He concluded that, except for some “obvious false statements” regarding charts and commission compensation, the report meets legal requirements and would not require any revision.
The 64-page report, submitted to Broadhead on Feb. 2 after a year of work by the nine-member citizen study committee, recommends that the current three-member 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.
In the report, the study committee noted it anticipates 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. It is also believed by the study committee the change will create broader representation.
With Broadhead’s review finished and the report’s findings and recommendations passing legal muster, it now falls into the hands of local voters where this proposed change must be finally decided after more than three years of process. But with November’s general election nearly eight months away, there are a couple of vital points that should be considered.
When the government study process was first proposed and debated in 2014, we vigorously encouraged it to move forward — but only if it was done with complete transparency and public access. In February, we published an editorial that commended the study committee for being committed to transparency and for going beyond the call of duty to keep the public informed while the study was underway.
But we also urged in 2014, and in subsequent editorials, that if a study is undertaken, its data must be comprehensive and rock solid, stand for a high degree of professionalism, and be able to withstand exhaustive public review and hearings.
We feel that the study committee has also fulfilled that challenge. But we would like to add that the study’s findings and recommendations should undergo an intensive public information campaign to educate voters well before they go to the polls in November.
Possibly changing Tooele County’s form of government is a serious matter that, if approved by voters in November, will have short- and long-term impacts — and pros and cons — that need to be fully explained beforehand.
With nearly eight months to go, this newspaper commits to help explain those points as Election Day nears. Likewise, citizens are encouraged to take it upon themselves to carefully review the study committee’s report at studytooelecounty.com. The website not only features the entire report, but also is a comprehensive document of record since the study committee began its work in February 2016.
Read and learn. Become informed. Fully understand what you’re voting for — or against.