Residents will have the opportunity to vote for a new form of city government this summer - a form that would add two additional seats to the City Council.
After nearly three hours of intense discussions, council members decided Wednesday to hold a city election Aug. 1 to ask voters if they want to adopt a mayor-council form of government with seven council members - four elected from districts and three elected at-large.The form would be similar to that in Sandy.
"This form is not different than the form of government we're used to in the federal government of the United States," said South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis. "It would bring our city government in line with the national government and the state government."
The city currently operates under a council-manager form of government, which gives no clear separation of power, Davis said. But the mayor of nearly 12 years said that because of restructuring of the City Council, the city has been operating more like a mayor-council form since 1966.
The new form would "more accurately reflect the way we actually are working," he said.
"I think it's a change that should have been made long ago . . . especially with the growth and change in South Salt Lake," said Jay Fawson, a state representative who lives in the city. Fawson was one of a room full of residents who mostly supported the new form.
"I believe it will give more people the opportunity to participate in our government and I believe that's important," said David N. Pearce, a resident who participated in a petition drive that garnered 575 signatures in support of the new government form.
But Councilman Melvin E. Olsen, calling this the "most significant vote that citizens will make in the next 10 years," questioned the voters' understanding about which of the many proposed forms would be the best. He called for a February 1990 vote, giving consultants time to present the possible alternatives and consequences to the voters.
"We've not gotten near into the depth tonight that we should concerning this issue," he said. But residents and council members voiced strong disagreement with Olsen.
"Let's let the people of South Salt Lake decide. In reality, they're the best consultants. They're not stupid. They're not ignorant," Davis said to cheers from the audience. "We don't need to delay this for two years to have more study."
Many residents at the meeting said they believe the proposed form provides the best of both worlds because it produces council members elected from each of four districts (divided by population) and provides for three at-large members that would be elected by the entire city.
"It will force representatives to be accountable to you and to your neighborhood as a whole," said resident John Goldhart.