Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall delivered his “State of the City” address on Feb. 20 and Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn delivered hers on March 6. As in years past, we gave each mayor’s address extensive front-page coverage. We also published the full texts of their addresses on an inside page.
We highlight each mayor’s state of the city address because it recaps what each city has — and has not — accomplished during the previous year, and what goals City Hall has for the future. We also do it because such presentations are vital to maintain government transparency before the public.
For example, in her address last week, Winn openly discussed the difficulty of raising city property taxes 82 percent last year to meet budget shortfalls and fund several needed projects, and in Marshall’s Feb. 20 address, he covered a variety of topics, from finances to improving water and sewer line capacity.
State of the City addresses, including the governor’s yearly State of the State address, are the offspring of the annual State of the Union address by the President. Its basis is found in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 in the U.S. Constitution. It says, “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
George Washington gave the first State of the Union to Congress reportedly on Jan. 8, 1790. From 1790 to 1946 it was formally known as the “Annual Message” and was presented in written form from 1801 to 1912. From 1942 to 1946 it was informally called the “State of the Union.” In 1947 it officially earned its current name.
In the 19th century, the annual message was mostly a department and economic report. But that emphasis began to change in 1913 after President Woodrow Wilson revived presenting the message in person to Congress. Over time, presidents began to use the forum to push their platforms and speak to the American people.
Our nation’s founding fathers felt it vital for the executive branch to give a report to the legislative branch and wrote it into the U.S. Constitution. We acknowledge the mayors of Tooele and Grantsville for continuing to offer such a yearly report to their legislative branches — which are their respective city councils — and to citizens.
We emphasize that point because not since February 2016 has a formal “State of the County” address been presented by the Tooele County Commission. The return of such an address, especially with two new members on the County Commission, is highly encouraged.
It is also highly encouraged because the current three-member County Commission will be replaced by a five-member council and hired manager by 2021. Although the county manager won’t be elected, he or she should be held to the highest standard of transparency and accountability. A “State of the County” address would help achieve that goal.