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2 of 3 mayoral hopefuls clash

Two of the three candidates for Salt Lake County mayor said Thursday they believe the mayor's job should be nonpartisan, but that was about the extent of their agreement during the one-hour debate at Westminster College.

The debate, sponsored by a local radio station, found Merrill Cook and Peter Corroon saying the mayor's race should be nonpartisan. Republican candidate Ellis Ivory said he's proud to be a Republican and the two-party system works better here than in some countries where dozens of candidates can be on a ballot.

All three candidates took similar positions on raising taxes — they wouldn't — although they differed on ways or desirability of cutting the $750 million annual county budget. Cook said he could go through the budget and find $40 million to $50 million that could be cut without cutting human services, which he said needed an annual $10 million boost.

Corroon said he didn't consider it wise to say 10 percent of each county budget category could be cut without using the county's auditing department to find the best areas to cut.

Ivory, a retired home builder, said he has studied the county budget for a month and did not offer a specific plan to cut the budget other than to say as county revenues increase, spending should be held down. He said in the 1990s he and his employees figured out ways of cutting $2,000 off the cost of each house they built, and he believes the county can do something similar.

Cook said the county government, in the past four years, has been run under an "entitlement of privilege" and that must be stopped, and the best place to stop it is in the mayor's office, so other departments will join in any cost-saving efforts.

During a public question-and-answer session, Ivory denied a couple of times his former position as head of the state's largest home-building business would mean he would have a conflict of interest representing the public and dealing with developers in the fast-growing county.

Ivory said he would not be swayed by developers. In answering a question about a number of signs supporting him placed on undeveloped land in the county, he said he didn't know about the signs and didn't want to know where they are or who owns the land.