Voters may view Election Day as a respite from months of ugly campaigning and news reports on particular candidates or issues. For the newly elected and the winners or losers of particular ballot measures, the morning after takes on an entirely different tack.
Take Ralph Becker, Salt Lake City's new mayor. Becker hit the ground running Wednesday, preparing for his transition from state lawmaker/urban planner/candidate to mayor of the state's capital city. Becker has long championed ethics and openness in government, which should bode well for Salt Lakers and others who interact with city government. His long experience as a state lawmaker should help to build bridges with the Utah Legislature. We congratulate Becker and look forward to the fresh approach outlined in the "blueprints" that were the central theme of his campaign.
Financing the construction of a new public safety complex needs to be one of Becker's top priorities. Salt Lake voters narrowly rejected a $192 million bond to be repaid by increased property taxes. Most people acknowledge the existing public safety facilities are outdated and substandard, but some were obviously scared away by the price tag of the bond, which also would have funded fire stations and training facilities. Mayor Rocky Anderson's 11th-hour criticism of the size of the bond may also have deterred voters concerned about their existing property tax bills and the uncertainty of the national economy.
Utah voters soundly rejected school vouchers, which may put the issue on ice for some time to come. Voucher opponents would do well to contemplate new reforms for the public school system. If vouchers aren't the answer to public school reform, what do they propose?
Meanwhile, voters in Sandy, Draper, Midvale, Alta and Cottonwood Heights narrowly approved a split of the Jordan School District along east-west lines. The fallout of this vote may take years to resolve and could ultimately have more impact on the future of public education in Utah than the voucher issue. First, a lawsuit on the constitutionality of the split is pending. There also is the messy matter of division of assets physically located in the boundaries of the new school district. According to one feasibility study, launching the new 33,500-student district will cost approximately $26 million.
The other X factor in the mix is whether the Utah Legislature will come up with a building equalization formula to ensure that communities and cities that remain in the Jordan School District aren't walloped with huge property tax increases to address their rapid growth. West Jordan voters wisely rejected forming a stand-alone school district, largely because there were too many unanswered questions.
Statewide, voter turnout was just over 33 percent, according to state election officials. The voucher issue stirred a lot of interest statewide, but two-thirds of the state's eligible voters stayed home on Election Day. Utahns could do a lot better.