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My view: Millcreek should become its own city

By Anna Clare Shepherd

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Salt Lake County employee Ken Venables takes pictures during the grand opening ceremony at the Millcreek Community Center Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Some Millcreek residents are looking to make the area its own city.

Steve Fidel, Deseret News

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Sheryl Ginsberg, an East Millcreek Community Council member, recently wrote a My View op-ed that contained accusations and inaccuracies concerning Millcreek becoming a city ("Don't incorporate Millcreek Township," July 25). She begins by referencing a letter by Jeff Silvestrini — Mount Olympus Community Council chair, chair of Millcreek Township Council and past chair of the Association of Community Councils Together — that expresses his opinion. Ginsberg, however, ignores Silvestrini's compelling and persuasive arguments in favor of Millcreek becoming a city.

Silvestrini writes that he has observed as a community activist and leader for nearly two decades that unlike cities, Millcreek has only volunteers as advocates in the power circles of government; that Salt Lake County government does not, and really cannot, advocate just for Millcreek, and its responsibility is to the whole county; and that becoming a city will end Millcreek's constant legislative battles to protect its boundary and keep our community together.

His entire letter is a must-read for anyone interested in this issue (July 12 issue, Millcreek Journal, Page 5 ).

We would like to address the following inaccurate statements in Ginsberg's editorial:

The statement that becoming a city will increase taxes: Property tax notices arrived in the mail just this week. The county has significantly increased taxes in the unincorporated areas. The promise that the police fee would be temporary is now forgotten. It is being permanently added to the property tax. This property tax increase exceeds the certified rate. Therefore, state law requires they hold a "Truth in Taxation" hearing. It is scheduled for Aug. 2. Historically, taxes for municipal services in unincorporated Salt Lake County have risen many times faster than in nearby cities. (Source: Utah State Tax Commission, July 16, 2012.)

The statement that creating a new city would be a duplication of government: A municipal government already exists for Millcreek as for other unincorporated areas in Salt Lake County. Becoming a city would simply transfer that government to Millcreek. The independent incorporation feasibility study shows that we can transfer this municipal government without raising taxes. All city expenses will be covered plus $1 million designated for economic development at the same price we now pay for our county municipal government.

The statement that requiring citizens to initiate petitions eliminates the threat of annexations: Actually the law (SB73) requires that property owners, which include businesses, initiate petitions and clearly defines the path to annexation. Business owners and residents may be highly motivated by more attractive city tax rates and other advantages of local municipal government. Several groups have declared their intent to initiate such petitions should the vote fail in November. And the Legislature annually considers modifications to annexation law. Only cities have permanently secure boundaries.

The statement that recent polls show the majority of Millcreek citizens oppose becoming a city and that proponents are a small minority: The oft-quoted 2008 poll is hardly "recent." Much has changed (e.g., the notorious Temporary Police Fee imposed on unincorporated residents, its permanent addition to property taxes, the feasibility study validating our ability to become our own city and take our seat at the table with all cities). Many more are now committed to forming a city. During the much more recent signature-gathering campaign, 8,293 signatures were submitted — well over 20 percent of those on the county's active registered voter list. Every voting precinct was represented. Volunteers found that, overall, 94 percent of those they contacted signed the petition. This indicates overwhelming support. Over 86 percent of Salt Lake County residents live in cities (2010 census). No city has ever returned to unincorporated Salt Lake County.

The Future of Millcreek Association invites all members of community councils and citizens of Millcreek to join in making the City of Millcreek the best it can be. Becoming the City of Millcreek is the only way to control taxes, improve vital services, preserve heritage and keep intact the charming neighborhoods of Millcreek.

Anna Clare Shepherd, chair of the Future of Millcreek Association, and 22 other Association members signed this My View.

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