The system doesn’t make a difference. It’s who fills the seats that matters.” Aside from the overwhelming support of analyzing our form of county government, this was the most common statement I heard when my curiosity was piqued. Would the framework of a different system present better opportunities for our county to improve? Or would it simply just be another way of serving up the same dish?
You know, it’s true about good people being able to make the best of any circumstance. After watching my wife in action around the community and our home, I don’t doubt for a second that the best of us really can take any situation and make it work swimmingly.
When we go to the polls, we love the thought that we had some sort of say in who operates our government. But if you’ve ever performed a job interview, there’s one indisputable fact no matter how well it goes: Sometimes we make bad hiring decisions. It is inevitable. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at interviewing people. It doesn’t even mean the person who was hired isn’t amazing at something else. Voting is no different, except that the decision isn’t just yours, and you are committed for four years.
If we’re honest with ourselves, there is simply no work to do in evaluating government if we operate under the assumption we will elect all the right people every cycle. The real work is in evaluating which system best protects the interests of Tooele County’s citizens under a scenario of having all the wrong people in the seats.
A five-member council elected by district and having a professional to handle executive operations is the best option. Consider this:
Electing our 3-member commission at-large doesn’t systemically help represent everyone in this county. Most often, the incorporated areas end up holding 100 percent of the seats. This is a direct result of the fact that the higher populated areas carry most of the vote, and they get to pick all three. Others may cast a vote, but the likelihood of changing the outcome is very slim.
With five districts, smaller communities will be able to concentrate their voting power into electing their council member instead of having their vote watered down over a larger area. They would have a greater chance of determining the outcome of their election, which also means they secure a greater voice within the council. Accountability is there more than just election time.
The number three isn’t best for anything. Legislative decisions can be made too fast, and often by two people. While managing county operations, even though one commissioner might oversee certain departments, they can be overridden by two others. This sets the stage for political gaming where we don’t need it. It also creates a scenario where county employees must potentially train a new boss every election cycle.
A county manager is accountable to council members elected from all 5 districts of the county. This helps protect everyone’s interests. If you had a county mayor, they would primarily cater to the populated areas and work against the council. If our councils appoint the manager, we take politics out of the workplace. No elections or political gaming, just performance. They must be accountable every day they work. If they are not, then by statute the council may reprimand or fire them. Nothing is done one on one, and the decisions are made by the collective body. If one council member tries to coerce the manager to their will, the council member may be removed from office. All is transparent.
The council-manager form is the most popular local government system in the nation. It is celebrated as being one of the most effective in preventing corruption. It is easily the fastest growing and has proven to save counties money because things are run so efficiently. Join me in voting “Yes” on Prop 6 for a better form of government. It provides the best protections under the worst circumstances and will thrive when Tooele County is at its best. Please learn more at www.tooelecountyProp6.com.
Erik Gumbrecht is a member of the Tooele County Form of Government Study Committee and a resident of Tooele City.