Riverton Mayor Dale Gardiner still doesn't know if a 3rd District judge will allow him to run for the Salt Lake County Commission two-year seat. But that hasn't stopped him from taking the offensive against the other candidate in that race - former commissioner Tom Shimizu.
A court challenge to the legality of Gardiner's candidacy, filed by disgruntled Democrat Bernard T. Price, who says he should be the party's rightful nominee, is pending.Still, that seemed like the last thing on Gardiner's mind as he fired the campaign's first salvo against Shimizu during a speech to the South Salt Lake Rotary Club Thursday.
Based on his remarks, Gardiner's campaign strategy is clear. He plans to turn the tables on Shimizu by hammering on taxes - an issue that's likely to dominate most state political races this fall.
Gardiner told Rotarians that residents of Riverton have not seen city tax rates increase in the seven years he's been mayor. Meanwhile, Salt Lake County taxes were hiked twice - with Shimizu's approval - during his previous tenure as a county commissioner.
He said Riverton imposes no franchise tax on residents' utility services and criticized Shimizu for lobbying state legislators to give counties the right to impose their own franchise taxes.
"Just look at my record. I've never raised taxes, unlike Tom Shimizu," Gardiner said. "And unlike Tom Shimizu I've never gone to the Legislature to lobby for more taxes."
During his term as mayor, Riverton has built a new City Hall, renovated the old building into a senior citizen's center, constructed a new library, built a new swimming pool and opened a new fire station.
Those projects were done without tax hikes and without bonding through the formation of partnerships with the private sector and with other government entities, Gardiner said.
The same partnership approach will work in county government, he said, providing more services to taxpayers at lower cost. He suggested trimming the county payroll through combining employee positions to further reduce spending.
Third District Judge Pat B. Brian has set a July 22 hearing on Price's challenge of Gardiner's candidacy.
Price claims Democrats erred when they nominated Gardiner to replace Commissioner Dave Watson as their two-year commission candidate after Watson ended his re-election bid following his pleading guilty to drunken driving and misdemeanor drug possession charges.
Price claims he should be the rightful Democratic candidate because he and Watson were the only two Democrats to file for the seat.