Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis is painting himself as the cautious observer - like a dispassionate judge in the Olympic Games he hopes to bring to Utah - in the city's bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics.

"I really don't see myself as a cheerleader for the Olympics," he told the Deseret News during the first meeting of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee.His tone is even impressing traditional opponents."I'm still opposed to the Games," said Olympic opponent Alexis Kelner, "but I think DePaulis is going in the right direction."

While others turn on the glitz to impress the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is accustomed to pomp and circumstance from the city it must select, DePaulis is being less glamorous.

"I know that they expect to see the dog and pony show," he said, "but we want substance; we won't glad-hand what we can't deliver."

DePaulis wants a referendum vote if the USOC selects Salt Lake City to send before the International Olympic Committee in 1991 to "galvanize a consensus" among the people most affected.

"Before the international bid, the area should hold a referendum vote to establish the support of the people," DePaulis told the organizing committee during its first meeting Friday.

DePaulis likely chose his words carefully when he said "the area" should cast their ballots, because such a vote poses some problems. DePaulis has said that he is unsure who should have the opportunity to vote in such a referendum.

Should the vote be a local ballot? Not likely, since Utah Olympic venues probably would stretch from Bear Lake to Utah Lake. But would a statewide election be fair since St. George residents have little stake in the issue?

Regardless of who casts ballots, DePaulis is optimistic that the outcome of the vote, which he wants held during a November general election in 1989 or 1990, will be in favor of the Games.

Kelner, though, says a vote should be held now, before the USOC bid, because a vote after Salt Lake City is awarded the U.S. bid would create a "euphoria that would bias an objective vote."

The mayor also wants to put a great deal of forethought into the bid so that two major sacred cows are protected - the Wasatch Front's environment and the pocketbooks of Utah citizens.

DePaulis is wary that "things be done in the name of the Olympics which will permanently scar our environment." No Olympic venues should be in Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons, DePaulis has said. The canyons support vast areas of city watershed.

Finally, DePaulis aims to keep public money out of the $150,000 to $200,000 bidding process but admits that a $43,000 contingency of city money will be established to support the process.

The games will require an investment of millions in public money, but DePaulis said Utahns will get an exponential return on that investment.