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Debate on new county plan heats up

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The traveling road show informing residents about the proposed change in form of Salt Lake County government is heating up.

For months Bruce Jones, chairman of a committee that came up with the proposed plan, has been making the rounds of civic clubs, government groups, community councils and specially arranged meetings to talk up the plan to change county government from a three-member commission to a nine-member council and mayor.But now, three weeks before the election, Jones is becoming more active. He and others concerned with the plan seem to be popping up all over.

Monday, Lynn Price, a member of Jones' committee, and Karen Nielsen, former county Democratic Party chairwoman, held a press conference announcing the formation of "Citizens for Sensible County Government," a group opposing the change.

Tuesday, Jones and Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, another member of the committee, appeared before the Salt Lake Rotary Club over potatoes and pudding to inform Rotarians about the plan.

On Wednesday, Jones, Dolan, Price and Dan Berman, another member of the committee, held a discussion in commission chambers on the same subject.

Many more appearances are anticipated.

"This is important," Jones said. " . . . Finally, Salt Lake County can do something proactively instead of just reacting to issues."

Jones is a strong proponent of the new plan, but some members of his committee are less so. Price actively opposed even putting the issue before voters, and Dolan, while supporting putting it on the ballot, is not terribly excited about the plan itself.

One of the most curious of all points of debate on the plan is that both sides - proponents and opponents - point to representation as the reason it should or should not be adopted.

Jones says the plan would improve representation of county residents because with only three commissioners, all elected at large, Joe Average in, say, West Valley City feels removed from county government. Having a council member coming from and representing his area would give him a greater voice. Community councils would be able to participate in the process of nominating and electing a council member.

According to the plan, six council members would be elected by district, with three at large.

On the other side, County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi, who opposes the plan, says residents are better represented with the current form. Three at-large commissioners represent the county's interests, whereas districts would create turfdoms and short-sightedness. What's more, the unincorporated areas would be under-represented by having, possibly, no council members coming from those areas.