More than a year after the request was made, Salt Lake County Attorney Doug Short's office has given the County Commission formal legal opinions on questions regarding light rail.
A group of light-rail opponents came to the commission last March with questions regarding whether the county had the legal authority to ask voters whether they would like the county to withdraw from the Utah Transit Authority transit district, establish its own transit district, withdraw from the light-rail route and even prohibit grade crossings for light rail in Salt Lake County.The answers: yes, yes, no, no.
Commission Chairman Brent Overson was not exactly a model of subtlety when announcing the receipt of the long-awaited opinions Monday. The commission chambers were decked out in streamers, with "Happy Birthday" signs adorning the commissioners' bench.
He lit a single candle on a Hostess Ding Dong, sang the obligatory song, and said, "Thanks for your fine work."
The choice of pastry, of course, was intended to send its own message to Short.
Short and Overson are famous for not getting along, and each has been eager to goad the other on. Next year, however, will mark the end of the rivalry. Though Short made noises about running for county district attorney, which will be a combined district attorney/county attorney position after this year, as well as for County Commission, he ultimately decided to do neither.
Light-rail opponents had considered trying to get the questions on last November's ballot, but without legal opinions that date passed without action. Now, with opinions in hand, they are considering whether to do it this November, though light-rail opposition has lessened considerably with the cold, hard reality with track installation underway.
Any action that the county took to withdraw from UTA would only apply to residents of the unincorporated county, and they could not withdraw from existing light rail or impede its progress.
The commissioners themselves have never been great fans of light rail.