I’ve been concerned for years that there is too little significant journalism dedicated to American Fork anymore, since the demise of the printed American Fork Citizen several years ago. Sure, there’s coverage of high school sports scores and anything striking or scandalous that news editors somewhere think will interest a broader audience, but that’s about it.
This isn’t good for good government (the local version), and it’s a missed opportunity to build a sense of community in a rapidly growing and diversifying city.
My friend and neighbor Danny Crivello did well to keep reporting some news at AFCitizen.com for years after the (Provo) Daily Herald swallowed our local newspaper, but one guy in a different, demanding career can only do so much for so long. (What he did, he did well, and the community owes him thanks.)
A few weeks ago, outgoing three-term American Fork City Councilor Rob Shelton, who has expressed similar concerns in the past, gave me a sneak, confidential peek at a new project he’s taking on to stay out of (in?) trouble when his city council term ends.
It’s not confidential anymore, and I can finally say this: I am delighted. Thrilled. Practically ecstatic. And grateful, come to think of it.
He has acquired AFCitizen.com from Danny Crivello and is making it a going journalistic concern. He’s pulled in some experienced journalists (meet at least some of the team here), and the first new stories went live there last week, on Friday, October 13. (I gather he’s not superstitious.)
Today American Fork City Council candidate Austin Duke submitted the required notarized affidavit at the City Recorder’s office to withdraw his name from the November general election ballot.
He cited “unforeseen personal and family considerations.”
He finished fifth among nine candidates in the September 5 primary election, which advanced six candidates for three available seats on the council. In withdrawing he endorsed three of the candidates who finished ahead of him: Clark Taylor, Ernie John, and Tim Holley. These, he wrote, “are committed to what I believe is good and wise local government.”
Here is the statement he posted on social media and sent to AFelection.info:
Cards on the table: I plan to vote yes on renewing the PARC tax for ten more years. In this post I’ll explain. I’ll also list and respond to some of the reasons I hear for opposition or skepticism about its renewal.
(We’re on the opinion and analysis side of AFelection.info now. If you only come for information, be advised that any information you find below is marshaled to persuade, not merely to inform.)
What Is the PARC Tax?
Several years ago, the Utah Legislature made it legal for cities to charge an additional 0.1% sales tax, if the funds are dedicated to park, recreation, arts, and cultural (PARC) programs. That’s one penny on ten dollars. It has different acronyms in different cities; you’ll see it called a RAP tax too. In the 2014 election American Fork voters approved such a proposal, about 55% to 45%. I voted for it then too.
Since then, over $6.4 million in PARC tax revenues have flowed into American Fork. Most of this came from out-of-town shoppers. We’ve seen substantial upgrades to Art Dye Park, among others, as well as a flowering of arts programs. (For example, the latter includes a series of free chamber music concerts, which begins this October in the American Fork Library rotunda.)
Overall, so far, 60% of PARC grants have gone to parks and recreation programs; 40% have gone to arts and cultural programs. Details are available at afparc.org.
Why I Vote Yes to Renew the PARC Tax
I have several reasons for liking the PARC tax, apart from my own, my family’s, and my neighbors’ enjoyment of all four letters in the acronym: P, A, R, and C.
The PARC tax is up for renewal in American Fork. It is an additional 0.1% sales tax voters first approved in 2014. So, if you spend $100, you will pay 10 cents. There are some questions around the sales tax that I hope to answer here along with sharing my own personal experience being on the board of one of the organizations which received grants from PARC funds.
What is the PARC Tax? How does it work?
The process starts by applying for a grant. Applications are then reviewed by the PARC Advisory Board of Directors, and a recommendation is made to the city council. The city council can then adjust and vote on an allocation resolution, as it did on April 27, 2021. (Later, the city council approved adding the Timpanogos Chorale to the list of grant recipients.) The city council then is responsible to hold the groups accountable to use the money as they outlined. New applications are submitted each year.
How is it spent?
About 60% is going to the parks and recreation. About 40% is going to arts and cultural events. There is some information available on the website, but it appears to be out of date. It includes up to 2020 but not 2021.
Brian Thompson, chair of the PARC Board, said that grant money was used for capital expenses, such as musical instruments, in the past, but going forward that won’t be allowed. Only operational expenses will be covered. He also said the Board is encouraging groups to become more self-reliant and less dependent on tax dollars. It is worth noting that there is no compensation for being on the board.
A significant portion of the PARC funds given to arts organizations is used to pay salaries. PARC funds allocated to the parks do not pay salaries. The city either uses outside contractors or provides its own labor for those projects.
I last posted about American Fork City’s proposed citywide fiber optic utility about three weeks ago. At the time I had some unresolved, long-standing concerns (though I have favored the proposal since before it went public).
Since then, I’ve read some documents, including the City’s service agreement with LightHub Fiber, an interlocal agency through which the utility may be created. (Trust me, no one will want the movie rights to that document.) And I’ve spoken at length with City Administrator David Bunker.
I have new information on a couple of points, which changes my view of one part of the question. I’m also ready to close the loop on those unresolved concerns.
One of the items on American Fork voters’ ballots right now is the question of approving a general bond issue in an amount up to $8.5 million, to purchase land for a new fire station in the northeast quadrant of the city, to build that station, and to purchase land for a third fire station on the south side while land prices are still only very high, so we don’t have to buy land later, when we’re ready to build and the prices are truly ridiculous.
I’ve had my eye on this issue since before it was publicly announced, but I’ve spent my limited blogging and politics time on other things, including the city council race and a proposal that isn’t on the election ballot, to fund and build a citywide fiber optic utility.
The fiber proposal is understandably controversial, and it’s complex enough, with enough different interests and considerations needing to be balanced, that I’ve said publicly more than once that it’s “not a no-brainer.”
By contrast, the fire station bond is very nearly a no-brainer. I’ll summarize my thoughts about it here, point you to some other sources which are doing a nice job publicizing the matter, and finally, at the end, geek out a little on the ballot language for this proposal, which may be the most-read material on the subject but is hardly transparent.
The American Fork City Council continues to weigh the proposal to create a new utility to extend fiber optic connectivity to every residence and business in American Fork. I’ve spoken with members of the city council and others about it in the last couple of week, some briefly and some at greater length. Without presuming to speak in detail for any of them, I thought I might offer a more general update.
In the early weeks of 2019 the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) approached American Fork City officials with an invitation for American Fork to join UTOPIA. The City weighed the offer and declined — but that set some other things in motion.
City leaders began to assemble legal, financial, and technical experts with experience in similar projects around the United States and beyond. Essentially their question was, Is there something better we could do to position American Fork for the future?
I’ve been so busy with work that I almost forgot about last night’s hearing before the regular American Fork City Council meeting, about the possibility of bonding to build a citywide fiber optic utility. (LightHub Fiber is the name to remember.) Someone mentioned it the night before, or I’d have missed it.
I thought I should put in my two minutes’ worth, since that’s how much time each person is allotted. I was one of eight who spoke. Five were in favor of the proposed utility. Three were opposed, including a controversial Kaysville city councilman, Dave Adams, the only one who had to be reminded of the time limit.
I expected that other proponents would speak about the benefits, but I’ve said quite a bit about those already, so I decided to go in another direction. Perhaps it was an unusual direction. Kinda felt that way.
This is the third of my planned blog posts about a proposal the American Fork City Council is studying to extend fiber optic connectivity to every residence and business in American Fork as a utility. It’s not on the November ballot, but incumbent candidates will cast key votes as city council members.
The first post gave a quick overview and also mentioned my service on an ad hoc mayoral task force, which examined the proposal deeply from several angles and reported recommendations and concerns to the American Fork City Council. The second post listed several key benefits we can anticipate, if we build the system.
We all come to matters of local, state, and national government from different perspectives. While I favor the proposal and believe the City can execute well enough in this case, it’s possible for intelligent, well-meaning people (among others) to disagree.
I’ve been collecting reasons people have cited for opposing the project. Here I’ll list that collection, add a few more I haven’t heard yet but probably will, and tell you briefly what I think of each. Some are better than others.
"As the dust settles on the primary elections, I want to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who believed in me and supported my campaign for American Fork City Council. Your encouragement, volunteer hours, and kind words have meant the world to me."
"None of our laws or regulations was put in place by evil people seeking to annoy the rest of us. Some might be outdated. Some might need upgraded. Some should probably be eliminated. But understanding why it was there in the first place is a good first step in not re-causing whatever made it necessary in the first place."
Today American Fork City Council candidate Austin Duke withdrew his name from the November general election ballot, citing "unforeseen personal and family considerations" and endorsing Clark Taylor, Ernie John, and Tim Holley.
There are nine candidates for American Fork City Council in September’s primary election. The top six will advance to the general election in November, to compete for three available seats. Terms are four years. Here are notes on interviews with the candidates. Updated August 24, 2023 (one candidate added)