Salt Lake County's proposed change of government plan is seriously flawed because it will be more expensive, won't solve the problem of feuding public officials and will shortchange residents of the unincorporated areas, says Commissioner Randy Horiuchi.
"It's a skewampus idea," he said in a Friday press conference.Horiuchi said the plan has a flawed view of the separation of legislative and executive powers, which many proponents have trumpeted. County government does very little legislatively besides the budget, so "we will be impaneling a nine-member, $18,000-a-year-per-member council that will . . . effectively work one month out of the year."
The County Commission, including Horiuchi, voted last month to put the proposed change from a three-member commission to a nine-member council and single executive on November's ballot. As to why he favored putting it before voters even though he has serious concerns, Horiuchi said it's almost always a good thing to give residents a say, especially in something as important as a wholesale change in how county government works.
Regarding the cost of the change, Horiuchi noted that when Salt Lake City switched from a commission to a council/mayor form, both the council's and mayor's offices had only a few full-time employees. Those have increased to about 40, almost four times the County Commission's 11-member staff.
"The tendency will be for a new form of government to balloon," he said.
Horiuchi also noted that, while Salt Lake County has had its problems with commissioners feuding with County Attorney Doug Short, there are plenty of council/mayor cities - Salt Lake City, West Jordan, Murray, Draper - who have experienced or are experiencing their own destructive feuds.
"It is the people you elect who are the biggest determiners of the kind of government you're going to get," he said. "If you do not like what is going on in your government, vote the rascals out" instead of changing the form.
Horiuchi said he worries most of all about council members passing laws on unincorporated residents that won't affect themselves. Six council members will be elected by district, with three at-large.
"This is really bad for the unincorporated residents, because the main service delivery decisions of fire, police and planning and zoning will be made by council people that the unincorporated residents can't vote for or against, run against and will have no constituent relationship with," he said.
Horiuchi will not say formally whether he's against the plan, but all of his statements so far have been critical of it.
"Of all the people I know, I value the concept of change perhaps most of all," he said. "I have always been an advocate of fresh and new approaches to government. But to change for change's sake, or to change government because you're mad at Doug Short, is exceedingly short-sighted."