Salt Lake County's mayoral candidates mostly agreed to agree Monday in a debate hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Incumbent Democrat Peter Corroon touted his accomplishments and steady leadership throughout his first term and reminded those in attendance that "there were a lot of negative things going on in Salt Lake County government" before he took office a reference, seemingly, to the tumultuous term of his predecessor, Republican Nancy Workman.
"Over the past four years, we've worked to make changes," Corroon said. "Passed election reform ... banned candidate donations from anybody who does business with the county ... and enacted tighter fiscal controls."
Corroon said the county has gained national recognition during his term as a leader in job growth, and though he defers credit for this, said his administration has worked hard on "creating an atmosphere where businesses can do well." He also highlighted his advocacy for resource conservation with the addition of solar panels to the roofs of the county-run Salt Palace Convention Center and Clark Planetarium, and a new water management system at golf courses and parks that has netted over $200,000 in savings.
Republican challenger Michael Renckert, currently a field supervisor for Adult Probation and Parole at the Utah Department of Corrections, describes himself as a "fiscal conservative" and promised that quality of life issues and public safety would be high on his list of priorities if elected to run Utah's most populous county. He also pledged to make the county more attractive to new businesses by streamlining the start-up process, which he said currently is full of bureaucratic hurdles.
"I want to create a one-stop shop for anybody trying to start, expand or improve their business," Renckert said. "One office to sit down and discuss the issues, look at their business plan and schedule necessary appointments ... instead of going through different hoops."
Both candidates agreed that accommodating the booming growth of the area will be one of the main challenges of the next mayor, and both promised to put long-range development and transportation planning efforts near the top of their to-do list. Each candidate acknowledged current economic turmoil and posed very similar strategies to respond to it. Renckert warned that raising taxes during a time of recession could lead to a "depressed" economy, which Corroon said will be reflected in his new budget, due to the county council on Oct. 28. That will be "flat," with no new spending, a potential of reduced capital project funding, and the possibility of expanding the current soft hiring freeze into a hiring cap.
A question posed to both candidates by Tom Guinney, co-owner of the Gastronomy restaurant chain, queried where Salt Lake City fit into their visions of the future of the county. Corroon and Renckert both noted the power of Salt Lake as both the state's capitol and center of culture and arts, and promised to be supportive of growth and development within the city while working very closely with the whole of the 16 municipalities in the entire county.A September Deseret News/KSL TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates showed Corroon ahead of Renckert by a margin of 57 percent to 21 percent.