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Residents of Orem feel well-represented

They say council members don't favor own areas

OREM — It doesn't bother John Weiss that most of the Orem City Council members live in the same area of town.

It doesn't even bother him that three live in the same neighborhood, Northridge, which is one of the wealthiest areas in town.

Weiss, a neighborhood chairman in central Orem, says the council fairly represents all Orem residents, regardless of economic or social status. Besides, he says, it is rare that something happens in his neighborhood that requires the council's attention.

"They did put in a crosswalk on 500 South and 400 West, but that's about the only thing that has transpired here in the last year," Weiss says. "Things are pretty much under control."

That sentiment is shared by most neighborhood leaders who live in central and south Orem, despite the fact that only one council member lives in south Orem.

Unlike Provo, which has council members representing different geographical districts, all of Orem's council members are elected to a citywide seat.

In Provo, some residents want to convert one of the three citywide seats into a seat for a central district. There are currently three citywide seats and four district seats in Provo.

The Orem City Council has decided against similar proposals twice, including one last year.

Orem Councilman Bill Peperone understands the argument for district representation but doesn't think it is necessary in Orem.

"Orem doesn't vary much," Peperone says. "We don't have an east side where all the expensive homes are and a west side where the low-income homes are. But there is value in having the council spread around."

Councilwoman Judy Bell, who lives just blocks from Peperone in the Northridge neighborhood, says she spends more time in south Orem than in her own neighborhood. She says resolving problems in south Orem — like providing more housing for Utah Valley State College students — is her top priority.

"No one is representing a portion of people; we represent all the people," Bell said.

Peperone and Bell both agree that there are as many disadvantages as advantages to district representation. Council members representing a specific area sometimes only look out for their precinct, Peperone said. And it is difficult to unseat this type of council member.

"Not pitting one area against another is important so all areas are heard," Mayor Jerry Washburn said.

Washburn attributes the success of the current council to representatives who take the time to visit neighborhoods and talk with their constituents.

He said council members meet regularly with neighborhood chairmen and hold town meetings to learn about different issues in the city.

"I think we are very fortunate to be enjoying the harmony on the council. This is a wonderful city," Washburn said.