#1. Work with fellow council members to become a more active and idea-driven body.
I would like to see the St. George City Council be a more vibrant and pro-active body. I will get involved in issues and projects coming before the council long before they are on the agenda. I will ask questions and challenge preconceived ideas. I will work with my fellow council members to come up with imaginative solutions and exciting plans. With my help, I hope to see the city council become the city council St. George deserves.
#2. Implement zoning and other protections for the Historic District.
I will work to put protections in place to ensure our Historic District remains quaint, charming and human-scale. Unlike successful historic districts in other southwest cities, the two by three block area designated as our Historic District has no special zoning statutes. Its only protection is an ill-fated law meant to protect the area by implementing a Historic Preservation Commission. This commission failed to stop the four-and-a-half story Main Street Plaza Building from going in, and has voiced their approval for new large-scale developments currently being discussed for the center of the Historic District. A simple update to the zoning in the area, similar to other cities, would go a long way towards protecting this precious asset.
#3. Launch program to promote new local businesses downtown.
I will be releasing a white paper on July 24, 2015 with my ambitious plan to give young, locally-owned businesses a leg-up and help them get established in the Historic District downtown (thus also helping accomplish the goals of Action Item #2).
#4. Give property tax credits to renters to support low income residents.
St. George can be an expensive place to live. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of career opportunities for younger full-time workers. Instead of giving away free property tax deals to large corporations to come to town, I would like to see a program that would address the problem from the other side: give property tax relief to low-income individuals who are working. This program would help them get established so they stay in town and thereby raise the pool of available workers. A larger population of working-age people will attract businesses to locate here. Moreover, given younger people tend to spend a greater amount of their income, the economy of St. George would see a boost. The state of Utah has a similar program for the elderly. I would propose using city funds to expand this program to renters and younger people who are working.
#5. Develop a plan for the city to become debt free as soon as possible.
Our already rich city just raised sales taxes from 62 to 63 cents per $10, or nearly a 2% increase. Excited by this windfall, the St. George City Council took out a loan in order to spend this increased revenue right away - allocating $2.3 Million for new pickleball courts and discussing other ways to spend the next ten years of this tax up front. So now, not only do we have the harm of a tax increase, we have the added harm of debt spending and the interest expenses this entails.
If elected, I will be a voice of greater fiscal responsibility. Like anyone, I would like the city to invest in our future and spend money to do what we can to improve our standard of living. But we can and should do so within our budget. Not only will I fight against adding any additional debt, I’ll list out the city’s debts smallest to largest and propose a plan to pay them off as soon as possible. Once debt free, and realizing the interest savings, we will have an even greater ability to invest in our city’s future and enjoy our prosperity.
#6. Explore privatizing city-owned businesses, beginning with one of the golf courses.
For many years I lived near a popular lake in downtown Minneapolis. There was a parkway around the lake where millions of people each year would walk. Along the trail was a concession stand run by the city. This stand cost the city over $100,000 a year to run for a couple decades. Ten years ago the city decided to lease the building to a local couple to run instead. The lease terms were that the couple would pay all the costs and give the city half of any profits. By the end of the first summer the city received a check for their half - over $300,000. Not only did the city save money, the quality of the service to the park-goers was greatly enhanced.
I believe this story highlights a truism: the private sector will always provide a better service at a better price than the most well-intentioned, well-funded, government body. Because of this fact, all city services that can be reasonably provided by a private organization should be left to the private sector. I will look at all the services that St. George provides, beginning with the golf courses, and fight to privatize those that could provide a better service independently and save the city money doing so.
#7. Work first hand to find cost savings in city departments.
My neighbor, a long-time resident of St. George, told me a story about working for Clint Snow, mayor of St. George in the 1950s. During his tenure the city put in the highway that would become St. George Blvd. According to my neighbor, Mayor Snow, often daily, would drive over to where the road crew was working and inspect their work, including checking the depth of the tar himself. That is the kind of city council member I intend to be. What I know from running my own businesses for the past 25 years is that one of the most important aspects of success is proper oversight. As a city council member, oversight would be one of my main responsibilities, a responsibility I would take very seriously. I will personally sit in city water trucks while the guys are out doing their work, I will observe the level of customer service being given by city office staff, I will engage with department heads about setting productivity goals, and more. This, so that when I approve the appropriation of taxpayer money, I am sure it is being spent as wisely as possible.
#8. Reduce the amount of city business taking place in closed-door meetings.
Utah’s Open Meeting Law sets forth very specific rules limiting the types of closed-door meetings that local governmental bodies can have, including what can and cannot be discussed in these meetings. It has been well publicized that the current city council has not always followed these guidelines. In that the city council is nothing more than the representatives of the people of St. George, having anything but the most limited discussions without the public’s knowledge seems wrong (and happens to be illegal). As a city council member I will refuse to participate in any unnecessary private meetings, and anything discussed in a closed-door meeting that should have been said in public, I will publicize. You have my word.
#9. Implement term limits for all elected city officials.
It seems to me that St. George has more than it’s share of talented, honest, and civic-minded people. For this reason, it seems pointless to have any one individual serve in public office for an extended period of time. A lack of rotation of office holders can only serve to bread cronyism and complacency, whether perceived or real, whether intentional or not. I will fight to limit the service of all elected officials to two consecutive terms in any one office.
#10. Encourage more rotation in upper-level city positions.
What is true for office holders holds true for upper-level city positions as well. On the city council I will insist that all candidates for upper-level positions be career-minded enough to see their position in St. George as a step to a similar position in a larger city. This will help insure that cronyism and complacency do not become a problem as well as give mid-level employees more possibilities for advancement.