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Proposition 9 will not benefit Utah County residents

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Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee discusses a plan to ask Gov. Gary Herbert to make a mask exemption for K-12 schools in Utah County during an interview at his office Provo on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Proposition 9 is a bait-and-switch. Proponents want Utah County voters to follow Salt Lake County’s decision to adopt a mayor-council form of government.

They claim the change will save money and arrange for separation of powers. A closer look, however, reveals that Proposition 9 does nothing more than pay lip service to these time-honored principles in exchange for the votes of the unsuspecting. Utah County must vote “No” on this misleading and ill-fated ballot proposal.

Over 20 years ago, Salt Lake County voters were sold the same promise of spending cuts if they ditched their county commission for a mayor-council form of government. They took the bait, and taxpayers have borne the financial burden ever since.

While the Utah County Commission has maintained only three support staff throughout the decades, Salt Lake County now has over 30 full-time staffers working for the mayor and council. This costly bureaucracy includes several deputy mayors; one of them, according to Utah’s transparency website, receives yearly compensation and benefits totaling over a quarter million dollars.

Salt Lake County voters are now stuck paying for a bloated county government. Their county’s large population should offer the lowest-shared tax burden in the state. But last year, the Utah Taxpayers Association reported that Salt Lake County charges its residents $740.30 in taxes and fees per capita. That’s more than double what Utah County charges.

Voting “No” on Proposition 9 will save Utah County taxpayers from suffering the same fate of Salt Lake County taxpayers.

Second, Proposition 9 consolidates all executive power in one mayor who also has the ability to supersede a legislative majority on the county council. It will take four of the five county council members to override the mayor’s veto. The mayor’s legislative veto and line-item-budget-veto are significant tools to maintain one man rule over county government politics.

Never mind who voters might elect as county council members to check the power of the mayor. Proposition 9 only allocates council members a $20,000 stipend with no benefits and no staff. It effectively deprives them of the time and resources to be an independent branch of government while earmarking a $120,000 annual salary, full benefits and staff to the mayor. Proposition 9 essentially gives the mayor all power to railroad council members who dare oppose his agenda, rendering the county council nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Proposition 9 makes a mockery of separation of powers. Conversely, our three-member county commission divides executive power between the three commissioners who also check each other’s power, creating more balanced outcomes.

And that’s not all. Separation of powers is inherently built into the commission form of county government by dispersing executive powers to seven other independently elected officials, including the county attorney, sheriff, clerk/auditor, treasurer, assessor, surveyor and recorder. Proposition 9 is a flawed attempt to fix a separation of powers problem in the county that doesn’t exist, and instead consolidates nearly all power into a mayor, akin to a county king.

Finally, if you are still unsure how to vote, consider this: no independent study has been conducted on the costs associated with Proposition 9.

In fact, on June 20, 2019, the chairman of the Utah County Good Governance Advisory Board admitted they didn’t have the time nor bandwidth for a more thorough study on ultimate costs.

Notwithstanding, our Utah County political elite want to use incomplete data as the basis for a significant change in the county form of government for over 600,000 people. This is irresponsible, reckless and a breach of trust with the voters of Utah County.

We ask Utah County voters to join us in voting “No” on Proposition 9.

Bill Lee is a Utah County commissioner and chairman of the Stop Prop Nine Political Issues Committee. Visit www.NoToPropNine.com to learn more about the No to Prop 9 campaign.