WEST VALLEY CITY As Utah's second-largest city gears up for next month's primary election, many of the candidates are talking about the same thing: growth.
Four people are taking on three-term incumbent Barbara Thomas for West Valley City's one open City Council slot, a four-year at-large seat. That field will be narrowed to two in the Oct. 4 primary.
Challengers are trying to oust Thomas for wide-ranging reasons, citing the need to better manage that growth, more fiscal accountability or the desire to improve the city's image.
West Valley City, like the rest of Salt Lake County's west side, is facing rapid growth and a rethinking of the way business, transportation, housing and industry fit into the city's general plan. West Valley City is in the process of creating a project that aims to revitalize its city center, around 3500 South and 2700 West, near City Hall and the struggling Valley Fair Mall.
Candidate Mario Cisneros, 41, who owns a printing company in Murray, said growth should be careful, planned and controlled or it runs the risk of leaving residents alienated.
"I think (growth) should be slow and steady, and I think it should be well-thought-out," he said.
He said cities too often find themselves at the end of a period of quick, unplanned growth, "and then they wonder how they ended up where they did." He wants to see thoughtful development "so that the communities look like communities rather than industrial areas."
Cisneros' previous political experience includes serving on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Thomas, 56, said growth, especially in terms of bringing new businesses to the city, allows city leaders to keep services cheap for residents.
"The primary issue is revenue versus services that we want to provide for our citizens," the retired American Express trainer said. "The concern is always what money comes in from sales taxes. . . . We have stayed away from raising taxes so it's a concern we have to address."
Utah's sales tax system gives half of the sales tax raised in a city to that city, and the rest goes to the state. Thomas said businesses bringing in sales tax is a better way to increase revenue than increasing property taxes.
Thomas has been a council member for 12 years. Before that, she spent seven years on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Winder Dairy vice president Mike Winder, 29, said he has three major goals: fiscal conservatism, economic development and a tougher stance on crime.
"The first thing we can do is stop the big projects that are driving the debt up, like buying existing golf courses," he said.
He said that as a local businessman, he is well-qualified to revive economic development. And he touts his youth as an advantage in what he said is one of the nation's youngest cities.
"The incumbent's been there 12 years," he said. "We need fresh change on the City Council to move West Valley City forward."
Winder's previous political experience includes four years as the city's business development manager. He has also been involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the city's Historical Society and Sister City Committee.
Jeremy Castellano, 30, a TV news photographer, said his major concerns are the city's image and the public's role in decisions that affect residents' lives.
"I'm kind of concerned about the USANA Amphitheatre. A lot of the residents north of that can hear every concert," he said. "I'm concerned about the image of the city. That's a big reason I decided to run."
Among his top concerns, though, is how West Valley City and its residents will be included in discussions about the Mountain View Corridor. He worries that the part of the proposed highway expected to run through West Valley City could cut off neighborhoods and cause problems for residents if they aren't involved in the planning.
"I think there should be more public input and a little more accountability for issues that go on in the city," he said.
Castellano has no previous experience in politics.Candidate David J. Allen could not be reached for comment.