2021 Election: City Council and Mayoral Candidate Audio

Thursday saw American Fork mayoral and city council candidates gather to discuss their merits as candidates and their views of numerous issues. The American Fork Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, and the president of its board, Seth Holdaway, moderated. The audience numbered about sixty — more that we usually see at such events. I hope this foretells good voter participation in our 2021 election.

Members of the All About American Fork group on Facebook submitted the questions online before the event. None came from the audience at the event, but numerous key issues were raised, and there was ample time before and after the formalities for one-on-one conversations with candidates.

Housekeeping

The audio clips below, one per question, comprise the entire substance of the event. I’ve edited out various sorts of housekeeping, bits of dead air, repetition of questions by the moderator, a few false starts, etc. Beyond that, I did a bit of noise reduction and adjusted audio levels. Full recordings are available on request.

I used a pretty good digital recorder, which sat on a padded folding chair in the first row, so the audio quality, while imperfect, is considerably better than <cough> my photography. Someday I’ll master the lighting at that venue, maybe, but Thursday was not that day, and none of us wants to wait for me to learn to color-edit images.

Formats

Opening statements were three minutes. Answers were one minute, with the possibility of a thirty-second follow-up by any candidates who wanted to say more, not always in the same order. Closing statements were two minutes.

We try to separate information from commentary at AFElection.info, and this is one of the information posts, so any commentary or analysis will follow soon in a separate post. That said, I will add a few notes of my own below, where something caught my interest, if I think it might be useful and doesn’t unduly favor or disfavor any candidate. Learning more about city government is a good reason to attend these events.

The Chamber of Commerce has posted video of the event — which I have to say looks better than my photography — at its YouTube channel. Thanks to the Chamber for that and for sponsoring these events, whenever we have an election.

City council and mayoral terms are four years, and it’s worth remembering that these municipal elections are nonpartisan. Now let the decent audio and lousy photography commence.

City Council Candidates

Staci Carroll and Ryan Hunter are incumbents. Carroll seeks reelection to her second term; Hunter was appointed several months ago to finish the late Barbara Christiansen’s term. Carissa George is the lone challenger. Two seats on the council (of five) are at issue. Voters will vote for up to two candidates, and the two with the most votes will win.

Opening Statements

Order of speaking (excluding the moderator):

  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George

Notes:

  • The Utah League of Cities and Towns is little known outside local government circles, but significant within them.
  • Staci Carroll reports that the City’s rainy day fund is currently at 35% of the annual budget, the maximum allowed by state law. (Ahem. I first typed that as “rainy day fun,” which would be different, I think.)
  • Carissa George mentions her podcast. It’s called I Totally Relate, and it’s readily available on the web.

Question: Primary Function of City Councilor

Order of speaking:

  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George

Notes:

  • The interconnectedness of issues, offices, agencies, and governments is a recurring theme this evening.
  • Ryan Hunter’s observation that governing and managing are different roles, and the city council’s role is to govern, not to manage, is a valuable insight.

Question: Working Relationships with City Staff

Order of speaking:

  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll

Question: Increasing Revenue and Controlling Expenses

Order of speaking:

  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter

Notes:

  • Mompreneurship has been a word since at least 1994, and it’s been a thing for a lot longer than that, though I don’t recall noticing it before.
  • Where else could you have gone on Thursday evening to hear folks talk enthusiastically about lining sewer pipes?
  • Comparing municipalities taxes, fees, and such is tricky, as Ryan Hunter notes, in part because some cities subsidize certain services and functions with tax dollars. For good or ill, this obscures real costs. American Fork subsidized water bills until about the same time the pressurized irrigation system came online, to avoid unpopular water rate increases. Ending that by itself increased culinary water rates — but general tax dollars were no longer used to subsidize water bills, so the net (direct) effect was neutral. In theory such subsidies can serve legitimate policy goals, but there is also virtue in tying individual costs as closely as possible to individual decisions, such as how much water to use.

Question: Road Repairs and Traffic Congestion

Order of speaking:

  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George
  • Ryan Hunter
  • Staci Carroll

Notes:

  • Ryan Hunter mentions “fiber [optic] infrastructure,” which will be the subject of a later question for these candidates and another for the mayoral candidates.
  • Big things are happening, in terms of roads and traffic, south of the freeway, to serve what is mostly new (and partly future) development. Candidates mentioned other similar projects, but not this.

Question: Water and Water Shortages

Order of speaking:

  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Carissa George
  • Ryan Hunter

Notes:

  • Recycling sewer water as irrigation water is an idea I hadn’t heard before in American Fork. The city has an ample supply of culinary water, even for build-out, but irrigation water is less abundant.
  • Meters are coming soon for pressurized irrigation users; this is a state mandate. The technology didn’t exist to meter irrigation water reliably and affordably several years ago, when the system was built.
  • The USU Extension will be happy to tell you more about xeriscaping. So will SLC.gov.

Question: Developers and Permitting

Order of speaking:

  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter

Notes:

  • American Fork City’s reputation for being difficult with developers goes back at least a generation, and it usually comes up at election time. I’m not in that world, but there are rumors both of gradual improvement and of ongoing opportunities to improve.
  • The City’s Development Code isn’t the same as its Municipal Code, but it’s equally riveting reading. I can’t get to either online at the moment, so I offer no links here.

Question: PARC Tax

Order of speaking:

  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter

Notes:

  • The City’s PARC Program has a website.
  • Because the PARC tax is a 0.1% sales tax increment, much of American Fork’s revenue from it comes from people who shop in American Fork but live elsewhere. Pinning down the percentage would be a complex and expensive study, but unofficial estimates I’ve heard lately put the nonresident contribution at 50% to 70%.
  • The word agreeance is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I am a language snob. But I looked it up, and as it turns out, it really is a word — an old word, which hasn’t seen popularity since about 1840, until <cringe>lately</cringe>. My disappointment is profound. But even my dad’s neckties came back in fashion somehow. (Am I having fun here? I’m not sure. Are you? Thanks for reading.)

Question: Technology Infrastructure

Order of speaking:

  • Ryan Hunter
  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Carissa George
  • Ryan Hunter

Notes:

  • The possibility of citywide fiber optic connectivity as a public utility in American Fork may be one of the largest and most interesting issues in American Fork politics in the next few years, as it was just before the pandemic.
  • (But for now, don’t get me started.)

Closing Statements

Order of speaking:

  • Carissa George
  • Staci Carroll
  • Ryan Hunter

Mayoral Candidates

Mayor Brad Frost is running for reelection to his second four-year term. Challenger Tim Holley is a new face in American Fork politics.

Opening Statements

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost

Notes:

  • An interesting contrast: Brad Frost is a lifetime resident of American Fork. Tim Holley has lived in Hawaii, Atlanta, and Australia.
  • Here’s a link to the Utah Lake Commission.

Pandemic Response and Future Crises

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost

Notes:

Affordable Housing and High-Density Housing

Order of speaking:

  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Notes:

  • Neither candidate mentioned cottage housing, but some of it exists in American Fork, and more of it could. Find more information on the general topic here and here.

Retaining Police, Firefighters, and EMTs

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost

Notes:

  • Relative old-timers in American Fork may remember a time, about a generation ago, when police officer pay in American Fork wasn’t competitive, even locally. We spent a lot of money on training, only to see better-trained officers leave for better pay elsewhere. We relied heavily on younger, relatively inexperienced officers and on officers who either didn’t want to move or couldn’t (for whatever reason) move to comparable jobs elsewhere. As a direct result of losing many of our best-trained, most experiencesd officers, much of the money which could have been used for better police pay was used on legal fees instead, to defend the City against lawsuits.
  • American Fork has paramedic service now, not just EMTs. This transition and the transition from a volunteer fire department to an all-professional fire department were high-profile issues several years ago.

PARC Tax

Order of speaking:

  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Notes:

  • See my notes on the PARC tax question in the city council section above.
  • John Mulholland has recently written in a guest post at AFelection.info of his concerns about transparency in the expenditure of PARC tax funds.
  • Bear in mind, PARC is not park. It’s Parks, Arts, Recreation, and Culture.

Traffic Congestion

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost

Notes:

  • Some major streets in American Fork are state roads, it is true. Some others are county roads.
  • Again, MAG is the Mountainland Association of Governments, based in Orem. You may have seen notices about their open houses on transportation plans, among other things.

Water Issues

Order of speaking:

  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Notes:

  • A billion — 1,000,000,000 — gallons of water is a lot of water. This year, American Forkers saved approximately that much irrigation water through drought-conscious behaviors.
  • Also a lot: the amount of water the Timpanogos Special Service District pumps into Utah Lake every day: 20 million gallons (20,000,000), per the mayor’s report.
  • I didn’t know until this evening of the possibility of converting sewer water to irrigation water with just one additional step of treatment. The TSSD serves eight cities in north Utah County and parts of two more — but it’s on the outskirts of American Fork.

Property Acquisition

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Technology Infrastructure

Order of speaking:

  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Notes:

  • “Dark fiber” is usable fiber optic cable which is presently dormant. It can be sold or leased for public or private use.

Your Unique Qualities

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Increasing Revenue and Controlling Expenses

Order of speaking:

  • Brad Frost
  • Tim Holley

Closing Statements

Order of speaking:

  • Tim Holley
  • Brad Frost

For More Information, and Thanks

I’m told that ballots are in the mail to registered American Fork voters, as I write this. AFelection.info has links to candidate information elsewhere, such as campaign websites, and well as some discussion (with more coming) of the PARC tax‘s proposed renewal. We usually present analysis and commentary separately (except where it doesn’t favor a particular candidate), for those who want information without opinion. We happily consider guest writers, within the editorial aims and standards of the site, if you have something substantive to add.

If you’re in the habit of perusing my perennial, unapologetically opinionated Election Guide … it’s coming here very soon, if it’s not already posted when you read this. Here’s a link (when it’s available): [coming soon]

Final thoughts: Thanks to everyone who’s running for office. Whether you ultimately win and go on to serve or not, we’d be in a world of hurt without you. To the rest of you, who aren’t running, thanks for caring about our local election.

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