Changing our Form of Government: Why?

Background

Davis County operates under a full-time three-member Commission form of government. I’ve heard many voters express concerns about this form of government. The most common concerns expressed are about the lavish six-figure salary Commissioners enjoy and imbalanced representation between different areas of the county. Those are valid concerns, but to me the most urgent concern is the lack of separation of powers. The Commission is both the executive and legislative branch of government at the county level. No separation of powers means no oversight.

For example, last September, two Commissioners (including my opponent) decided they wanted to boost the county lobbyist’s pay by 40%. Normally when the executive branch wants to spend money they have the legislative branch providing oversight, looking for conflicts of interest, etc. But since the Commissioners are both the executive and legislative branch they passed it in two minutes with no public discussion about whether it was actually necessary and how the extra lobbyist money would be spent.

This is just one example. It’s time to have a serious conversation about whether that lack of transparency and oversight is acceptable for a county as large as ours.

I am not advocating for a specific form of government. I am suggesting voters decide if we should study a change. A different form of government may address some common concerns people have with the Commission, such as lack of separation of powers/oversight, lavish salaries, and imbalanced representation.

If I’m elected and voters are in favor of a change it may very well result in the elimination of my role or significant change to the office. I am more interested in good governance and public service than I am in turning this position into a career.

What form of government would we change to?

The state requires counties to pick one of four forms of government (defined in 17-52a-2). The options for Davis County are:

  • A three member full-time Commission (what we have now).
  • A five or seven member expanded Commission.
  • A three to nine member part-time council with a full time elected county mayor.
    • Council members can be elected from specific districts to provide more balanced representation.
  • A three to nine member part-time council with a full-time manager appointed by the council.
    • Council members can be elected from specific districts to provide more balanced representation.

This video briefly covers some of the differences between councils and commissions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS3W3wtCY_M.

How would the study/change process work?

State statute is also very specific about the process a county must go through to change forms of government (17-52a-302):

  1. The Commission submits a ballot question to voters on whether to form a Study Committee.
  2. If voters approve, an independent and unpaid Study Committee is formed to study the change and make a recommendation.
  3. If the Study Committee recommends a change, their detailed proposal is subjected to public comment and ultimately submitted to voters.

If I’m elected I will work to complete the first step in this process.

Has this been done in other counties?

Yes. Many counties both big and small are operating under alternate forms of government, including Salt Lake, Cache, Summit, and Morgan. Voters in Utah County will vote on a change later this year.

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