The Salt Lake County Council, on a bipartisan vote, recently approved transferring budget responsibilities from the county auditor to the county mayor's office. In retaliation, County Auditor Greg Hawkins is threatening a lawsuit to prevent the change. Is this just typical county machinations or an indication of changes to come?
Pignanelli: County officials were upset with the former auditor, Jeff Hatch, and pushed for this change two years ago. They held off as a courtesy to the newly elected Hawkins. However, the trend of this internal disagreement is in the right direction. The weird county government structure originated in the Paleozoic era needs to be dumped.
Webb: Salt Lake County government has far too many elected officials. Its executive branch is extremely weak because power is divided among several elected people. Executive branch authority should be centralized in the mayor's office. The buck should stop there.
Imagine if, in the federal government, in addition to the president, a half dozen other top positions were independently elected. We could have a Democratic president and a Republican U.S. attorney general or secretary of state. What a mess that would be. The federal government would be even more dysfunctional than it now is.
That's the situation today in county government. The mayor doesn't really have control. We have plenty of checks and balances with separate executive, legislative and judicial branches. We don't need executive power chopped up among a bunch of different officials with different agendas and priorities. So giving budget responsibilities to the mayor is a small step toward modernizing county government.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com.
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