At-large seat in Salt Lake County is top race among four council seats

Candidates disagree on how to deal with one of top issues facing S.L. County

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 27 2010 11:00 p.m. MDT

Warren Rogers

SALT LAKE CITY — Candidates for an at-large seat on the Salt Lake County Council agree that the budgeting challenges created by the Great Recession rank among the top issues facing the county.

The consensus ends, however, when it comes to how each candidate proposes to deal with them.

Longtime Utah journalist and political newcomer Holly Mullen praises what she calls "careful budgeting" by Mayor Peter Corroon and the current County Council, and she promises to continue that.

Small-business owner Richard Snelgrove is calling for a more "thrifty and frugal" approach in the spending of taxpayer dollars.

And Constitution Party candidate Warren Rogers says the tax burden on county residents should go back to pre-recession levels of 2007.

The three candidates are battling for the six-year council seat being vacated by Jenny Wilson, who opted not to seek re-election.

Wilson has endorsed fellow Democrat Mullen in the race, though that's hardly a surprise. Mullen also happens to be Wilson's stepmother.

Mullen said her stepdaughter has been a valuable member of her "kitchen cabinet" in her political debut, as has Mullen's husband, former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson.

"It's been nothing but helpful for me in that regard," she said.

Mullen has been involved in Utah politics for several years, though never as a candidate. Having covered various levels of government during her nearly 30-year journalism career — most recently at City Weekly and the Salt Lake Tribune — has provided her with what she calls "a good, broad background on politics here in Utah."

"My whole former career was based on stories — hearing stories and telling stories," she said. "Quite honestly, the story right now that everyone is feeling is struggle and anxiety over the economy. People are struggling to make a living, to hold a job, to pay their mortgage. I have a real ability to feel that, to understand it and to translate that into some really effective county policy."

Mullen's campaign centers around what she calls "reasonable and responsible government," and she cites recent budget actions by the mayor and County Council as examples of that. Together they trimmed $164 million from the 2010 budget while maintaining crucial services and the county's AAA bond rating.

"We are at a very pivotal and difficult moment economically in the county," she said. "Salt Lake County, being the most populous county in the state, still has to provide services while really maintaining a very tight budget and very tight spending priorities.

"I see my role, if elected to the council, as being a very careful spender, a careful budgeter, yet still trying to provide what people have come to expect — seamless and vital services from their county government."

Mullen said she does not support the Unified Police Department fee assessed to residents in unincorporated areas of the county. The County Council approved the fee — approximately $174 on an average home — to offset a $13 million budget deficit created by plummeting sales tax revenue.

Mullen said she understands that the fee was necessary "to bolster public safety in a tough economy." But when sales tax revenues recover, she'll be open to reducing the fee and even refunding it to residents.

Snelgrove, a Republican, calls the UPD fee "poorly planned and executed" and blames the Democratic majority on the council for saddling taxpayers with an additional burden during tough economic times.

"This is the wrong approach," he said.

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