After attending the meet the candidates event at the senior citizens’ center, to me they divided into three groups of three candidates.
The Only Tax When It’s Absolutely Necessary Group
There was the ‘only tax absolutely necessary items’ group including Ken Sumsion, James Boden, and Jeff Shorter, as listed together on Ken Sumsion’s brochure.
I may have missed Jeff Shorter at the meeting, but I thought I made it around to all the tables and didn’t see him or any signs for him. James and Ken, however, seemed to be 100% focused on not spending a dollar more than necessary. What is necessary?
James told me “Infrastructure and Safety.” He went on to detail that infrastructure is roads and utilities. When I asked about other public things like Parks and Rec, I felt he brushed it off, noting that that was what the PARC tax was for.
I have some serious concerns about funding for things like the Library, Rec Center, Parks, City Celebration, etc., if they are elected. If you are in the camp of not paying taxes on principle, these are probably your guys. I find my community experienced enriched significantly by the amenities mentioned above that cost me relatively little in taxes.
I also found Ken to be quite overbearing, though James was quite pleasant to talk to.
The Good Intentions, Little Experience Group
There were also three there with good intentions, but little experience.
Elizabeth Gray won over everyone that I talked to with her enthusiasm, and has a valid reason for running, noting the many problems in the community infrastructure, particularly south of the freeway. Having said that, she’s never attended a city council meeting much less a committee meeting. I would encourage her to get involved to understand the workings of the city first and run again in two years, at which point I would see her as a viable candidate.
Christina Ballard was very pleasant when I talked to her but didn’t seem to have a grasp on most of the issues. Kudos to her for getting involved, but I would recommend that she also attend some city council and committee meetings as well as reading Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell before running again.
(I would actually recommend reading Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell for all candidates and voters. It was a book that explained the financial landscape locally as well as on a global scale in plain, practical terms and helped underscore the importance of understanding how the forces of economics work in the interplay between citizens, business, and government.)
Her plan to fund the needed infrastructure was to cut residential taxes and make up for it with business taxes. Tempting if you see businesses as money factories, but when you realize that businesses will either pass the tax increase onto consumers (causing people to shop elsewhere) or simply not do business here if they can get a spot in the Costco lot across the border, then it changes the conversation significantly.
Austin Duke also struck me as a good, community-minded person, though again weak in experience. His stated reason for running was that Rob Shelton was the only councilmember with a financial background and he believed that someone on the council should have that. I agree with his premise, but it’s easier for a well-rounded non-financial person to get financial advice than for a financial guy to get advice on all other issues. Once again, I would encourage Austin to get more City experience and run again in two years. I would love to have someone with his friendliness and good intentions on the council if combined with an understanding of how the city operates.
The Balance and Experience Group
The last set of three seemed to be more well balanced than the others.
Clark Taylor, in his first run as an incumbent (he has served multiple terms, but never consecutively), knows the city well and is approachable.
Ernie John has been the water master for many years and run that well as well as has been on several committees. He seems to understand the need to balance not only roads and infrastructure, but the other aspects of city government with the tax needs of the city.
Tim Holley was the most impressive candidate I talked to in that he has intentionally familiarized himself with city government since his run for mayor two years ago. Relatively new to the community — less than a decade — this Marine who is starting his family and putting down roots here ran for mayor when there was no one opposing Mayor Frost, mostly to give people an option and open dialogue. Since then, however, instead of fading into the background, he has attended council meetings, committee meetings, and has as good a grasp on city workings as anyone I’ve met who has never held office. I’ve also been able to observe Tim personally and trust his character and motives.
These last three will likely get my vote, as I value balance and experience over draconian tax policy. I hope that the three lacking experience will immerse themselves in city government in the next few years, so that when the council comes up for election again we have an excellent pool of candidates who are good, experienced, and enthusiastic to choose from.
Bryce Shelley is a lifelong resident of American Fork. He has taught science in the area for over 15 years and enjoys gardening, biking, and eating fresh produce.