It is time again for municipal elections in American Fork, and although we didn’t have a primary, both the mayoral and city candidate races are contested. The three top issues, according to residents, are growth, taxes, and code enforcement.
For mayor we have two candidates, Tim Holley and current mayor Brad Frost. We also have three city council candidates, incumbents Staci Carroll and Ryan Hunter, along with challenger Carissa George. Candidates appear here in the order they were interviewed.
Tim Holley – Tim Holley for Mayor
Tim Holley works in IT sales, is in the Marine Reserves, and runs a karaoke spot in Provo. He had one in Salt Lake City but had to shut it down during Covid-19. He appreciated Provo not having a mask mandate, although his employees wore them and he encouraged patrons to. Tim found Salt Lake’s rules harsh and inconsistent, and there was a real problem with the homeless blocking access to his business.
When talking about growth, Tim said he knows why people are attracted to this area. But if we are going to keep adding more and more homes, especially high density, we need to ensure we have proper infrastructure and that we plan ahead. Tim asserted that American Fork has the highest taxes collected per resident of any city in Utah County and one of the highest in the states. He admitted though that with all the sales tax and commercial fees that American Fork collects it doesn’t mean that residents are paying a higher tax rate.
Tim does question some of the expenses though, such as $100k for a new bathroom structure at Quail Cove. He does feel that there is a lack of transparency with some of the financial reporting and said that it can be difficult for the average citizen to understand where money is going or how it is used. He would like to see the city have an outside audit focused on waste. Tim said it was an investment to decrease inefficiency.
Regarding enforcement of code, Tim would like to see more follow up with enforcement and have deadlines set when things need to be completed. He believes that the city needs more of a “can do / no excuse” mentality.
Brad Frost – Brad Frost (votebradfrost.com)
Brad Frost is currently serving as mayor and is running for a second term. Previously he served on the city council. Brad is proud of what the city has been able to accomplish while he has been mayor. He talked about how the city was able to improve infrastructure and how the pipes near the high school were found to be ones that don’t just crack when they break, so the priority was moved up.
Brad has tried to set a tone of civility and fostering positive relationships with staff and residents. Communication with residents, staff, the county, and other mayors is very important. He is proud of how the city handled COVID-19. It was a fluid situation and the budget was greatly reduced to prepare for a decrease in sales tax revenue. Many of the city employees couldn’t just work from home. Fortunately that didn’t happen and the city was able to continue services, including serving 40,000 meals curbside to seniors, so they didn’t have to go shopping. They were even able to hold a parade around the city to give people some sense of a community feel, instead of the normal Steel Days.
Regarding growth, Brad said that we have had steady growth at about 2.6% a year but is increasing. The plans for higher density focus around the train station and the freeway. He said that the city has the water for more residents and is currently comparing water usage of developments with raw land. And with the drought, he said that residents have responded well and conserved.
When asked about transparency, he said that everything they see is available to the public such as general budgets. There aren’t plans to have organizations that receive PARC money be more transparent, such as seeing in more detail how much leaders of these organizations are paying themselves with these funds. Currently, you may find administrative fees but that includes things besides personnel.
Regarding code enforcement, Brad said that he doesn’t want to have the city be predatory. He wants issues to be raised through complaints before they are dealt with instead of code enforcement officers looking for problems to cite people over. Brad did say that health and safety issues are handled quickly and proactively but admitted that many of the overgrown trees that block sidewalks are not handled promptly, even when reported. He hopes to see this issue improved.
Staci Carroll – Staci Carroll
Staci is finishing her first term on the council and works for the BYU Marriott School of Business over diversity and inclusion. She is most proud of helping the city increase its savings. The previous cap was at 25% but was recently raised by the state to 35%. This year, American Fork was able to budget 32% of the general fund as savings. Staci has also been an advocate for extra training for the police, especially regarding mental health and crisis intervention.
She also has been helping rewrite the city code for high density housing near the Frontrunner station. It now requires that homes not look all the same and streetscapes must be walkable and lower density as it moves away from high density areas, like the train station. She said that traffic loads really depend on the street. State Street is very busy and the state is planning on expanding it.
When asked about taxes, Staci is very much in favor of the PARC tax. She has seen it really improve our parks and be valuable to the various arts around the city. Staci said that the city has pushed back on groups like the Timpanogos Arts Foundation, TAF, requiring more financials, and the last was quite comprehensive. According to Staci, John Miller also stopped getting paid and then separated his groups from TAF.
(Disclosure: The author was removed from all of TAF and Miller’s groups several years ago after raising some concern to the city council that he had no access to finances despite being vice-chair of the board for several years and asking for them many times.)
Ryan Hunter – voteryanhunter.com
Ryan has lived in American Fork much of his life and was even able to buy his family home that his grandparents built. He works in business development for SIRQ Construction. Ryan was appointed to the council after former councilwoman Barbara Christiansen passed away earlier this year. He has felt a duty to help carry on her legacy. Ryan believes strongly that elected officials should vote on issues, barring a conflict of interest, instead of abstaining.
Ryan likes to focus on a long term perspective. He believes that growth is inevitable and we can’t kick the can down the road. What decisions can we need to make now to save ourselves trouble later? The city has used parking to control much of what is built, but every development that is approved sets a precedent for the next one. We should put the high density residential by the freeway or transit center. Building more homes doesn’t necessarily take more water, and we should have metering for secondary water.
Regarding taxes, he asked who should own the assets purchased by the PARC tax. Should residents be able to check out music from the library? If a music group spends $100k on instruments and equipment, should the public have access to them? He did mention that people in need can check out a wireless Internet hotspot from the library for temporary internet access at home, but was unsure of the details. He does want the city to own the fiber but doesn’t want the city running an ISP.
Regarding code enforcement, he thinks the city needs to prioritize it. He is glad the city bought a concrete lifter to help fix some of the sidewalks.
Carissa George – TheTreehouse@gmail.com
Carissa is the mother of 2 young children and graduated in Business Management at UVU. She worked for a while as a process fixer at Target, where she would work with teams and find better ways to do things. Carissa is now a stay-at-home mother but is ready to take her turn with public service. She loves it here in American Fork but feels that there are some things that could be improved. As a city councilwoman she sees herself as more of a conduit or facilitator to help residents get what they need.
Voting is an important right for people and citizens need to be educated about the candidates and issues. That is why she started doing some Vote Like a Mother posts on Instagram, where she talks about what the position does and the candidates running for it in the general election.
She also believes that growth must be intentional and that we need to be inclusive. For example, there are no special needs playgrounds in American Fork. Perhaps older, white, religious males are overrepresented in city government.
Regarding taxes, Carissa insists that we need more oversight and transparency. Residents should easily be able to see where their tax dollars are being spent, especially with the PARC tax.
Regarding code enforcement, the city could also use Facebook and Instagram to communicate with residents better. More banners and signs could also be used to help inform residents. City Council and city leadership can be more proactive in resolving concerns about city codes that are violated to help ensure the safety of our community.