This election, Tooele County’s citizens have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to choose how our county’s government is structured. A five-member council with a professional county manager will provide a more responsive government better equipped to manage our rapidly growing county. A five-member council provides more representation. An appointed manager provides professional management administering our government.
A council-manager format is like a business, with the council acting as “board of directors” and the manager as “CEO.” The council establishes policies for the county, approves ordinances and budgets and approves all new development. The manager executes the council’s policies.
The three-member commission is a remnant of the past, when counties did far less than they do now. Today, Tooele County is a large, complex government. A three-member commission acting as both legislature and executive is not equipped for such a complex organization. As Tooele County grows, we must modernize our government.
If we were creating a county “from scratch,” we would never consider a three-member commission. No government uses this format. Cities do not have three mayors. A five-member council choosing a qualified manager best serves our county.
Following state law, voters overwhelmingly approved a study committee. This committee evaluated Tooele County’s government, looking for ways to improve representation, efficiency, and effectiveness. The committee reviewed the county’s current structure, consulted with other counties, and sought public input. After considering all factors, the committee determined that a five-member council with an appointed manager is best for Tooele County. This proposal is the result of thoughtful consideration and is not simply a reaction to past actions. It is clear that changes ought to be made — changes tailored for Tooele County and her citizens.
Five is greater than three. A five-member council provides more representation. Electing members by district ensures that all areas of the county receive representation. Each member will live in a district, and remain responsive to each community.
We already choose our state legislators by district, and five counties in the state select at least some of their council members by district (Cache, Grand, Morgan, Salt Lake, and Wasatch). This proposal, therefore, is not unproven territory.
A five-member council is less susceptible to corruption. When three people make up the commission, only two have to agree on any action. This approach does not sufficiently safeguard our rights nor does it wisely spend taxpayer money. A five-member council provides those safeguards by ensuring adequate debate and consideration.
Appointing a manager provides professional management from a qualified person. The council provides oversight, and may dismiss the manager for poor job performance. An appointed manager does not deprive voters of input any more than the appointed county offices that already exist, such as the planning commission or emergency services director.
Government agencies at all levels use appointed professionals to carry out policies. There is a role for appointed managers and a proper way to balance public representation with professional experience. The three-commissioner system does not do this. A commissioner cannot be fired but may only be removed in an election.
Three commissioners sharing managerial duties breed inefficiency and corruption. A single professional manager carrying out the policies of an elected council is far more efficient and safeguards our interests.
This is a momentous decision for Tooele County. We are able to choose how our government is structured. While the service of all past and present county commissioners is appreciated, the proposed five-member council is a better alternative. Do not be fooled by misleading claims. This proposal has been carefully and thoughtfully considered, and is the best choice for our future. Upgrade our county. Vote YES on Proposition 6.
Elliot Lawrence is a resident of Grantsville. He is an attorney who specializes in local government matters.