In late November, the Deseret News published Jay Evensen's well-reasoned proposal for a consolidated city-county government. He correctly defined the problem - and a good solution. However, 14 cities in an urban county whose population is under a million suggests that Salt Lake County people must truly love government and will resist eliminating any. Too bad for us taxpayers; other than providing employment for a multitude of mayors and staffs, fire and police chiefs, assistants, dispatchers, clerks and those who build their plush city halls, the present system seems to have little merit.
But the cities seem to fulfill our need for a sense of community. City council members, in particular, are usually responsive and available to ordinary citizens. County government is more distant and arrogant. Last year's state Legislature recognized that the commission system no longer works in Salt Lake County, densely populated with almost wall-to-wall cities. A proposed bill would have allowed county residents to choose fellow citizens to study the issue and design a new government with the checks and balances of separate legislative and executive functions. To avoid mandatory change imposed by the Legislature, the commissioners promised to come up with their own proposal. They then developed a half-baked plan but reneged on their pledge to present it to the citizens, bad as it was.Consolidating 14 city governments into a single Salt Lake County system would be hard to sell. But most everyone agrees on the need to make county government responsive to ordinary citizens by replacing the County Commission with a government that separates executive and legislative responsibilities. One possibility to model county government after the cities: an elected "executive," the equivalent of a mayor, who would appoint the sheriff, assessor, recorder, etc., subject to approval by a county legislature, and a legislature that would consist of the mayors (or their designees) of each city in the county. People in unincorporated areas would also elect representatives. Each city or area would have votes in the county legislature in proportion to its population.
Salt Lake City