Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Questions surrounding Aug. 13 municipal elections
Pignanelli: While some politicos close to the initiative are pleased with the results, most veteran observers are doubtful. They are noticing who has not contributed so far (i.e. major Republicans). The requirement for 10 percent of voters in 26 of 29 counties is a logistical nightmare that will cost at least $600,000 to achieve and a minimum of $500,000 for media. Further, Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans is focusing his high-energy persona against changes to the status quo. Evans' intense opposition is a significant development because opponents now have a recognizable leader.
Webb: Citizen ballot efforts are very difficult in Utah; few are successful. But this one is going well and has great momentum. Utah's mainstream Republican and Democratic leaders strongly support the effort, along with a clear majority of citizens.
Here's one reason the system needs to change: I attended two meetings in the past week with separate groups of terrific people seeking to influence the Legislature for very good causes. Both groups believe a majority of legislators want to support their efforts, but many lawmakers are worried about upsetting their delegates.
So the strategy of both groups, between now and the next legislative session, is to obtain lists of delegates in targeted legislative districts, profile each delegate, find some who are likely to support the causes, and then ask those delegates to call/email/text their legislator and ask them to vote favorably.
So what's wrong with this picture? All the focus is on delegates. The general public is left out. Vast power is concentrated in the hands of delegates, who can make or break a lawmaker's political career. Legislators and members of Congress are often more concerned about the views of delegates than about their constituents in general. I've been a delegate myself for many years, so I know how it feels to have my vote count vastly more than votes of ordinary citizens.
We need to empower all citizens, especially because numerous surveys show many delegates don't reflect mainstream values. A preponderance are decidedly more liberal or conservative than voters in general.
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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