A look at preliminary primary election results at vote.utah.gov and utahcounty.gov reveals a lot of lopsided margins, but also a pair of races that may be too close to call for a week or two. Here’s a quick look at the races I mentioned a few days ago in my idiosyncratic little election guide. Continue reading
I’m no longer a registered Republican, so the only races on my 2018 primary ballot are for Alpine School Board and the Utah State School Board. We’ll begin with those, then move on to several Republican primary races
(Please note that we’re firmly in the realm of opinion and commentary here. If you’re looking for information without opinion, this post is not for you.)
I’m penciled in as the moderator of another school board debate before the general election, so I won’t tell you how I plan to vote. Also, I don’t know yet. But I will offer some thoughts on each candidate, based mostly on the debate I moderated on May 9 (audio here). My notes may guide you and me in different directions — not that you’ll ever know — and that’s fine with me.
I recommend that you listen to audio of the May 9 school board debate and visit candidate websites and social media accounts for further information. An earlier post here at afelection.info has links for local and state school board candidates.
This post features audio from the May 9, 2018, local and state school board debate at American Fork Junior High..
We start with two apologies. First, it has taken me six weeks to post this audio, and now we’re within a week of the election. Election Day is Tuesday, June 26, and those mail-in ballots have to be postmarked no later than Monday, June 25. On the other hand, it could have been worse; another week later, and it would be after Election Day. Second, my recorder ran out of memory space, due to an oversight on my part, so I lost a few seconds of one candidate’s answer to the penultimate question, and all of the responses to the final question (essentially, how are you different, and why should we vote for you?). If someone else has audio and wants to offer it, I’ll happily correct the omission.
Come to think of it, a third apology: I was too busy moderating to take photos for this post. Alas. Again, if someone has some good ones to share, let me know.
Details and Housekeeping
The American Fork Council PTA sponsored the debate. Yours truly, David Rodeback, was the moderator. Questions were submitted before and during the debate, and I added a few of my own. Attendance was about 50.
The audio is not of professional quality, but it is usable. I’ve done some noise suppression, adjusted volume levels, and deleted segments of dead air, plus some bits of chatter from, ahem, the moderator. Substantively, the candidates’ answers are unedited.
In the first audio segment — the least important — I explain the format and do some housekeeping.
Alpine School Board Debate
The primary ballot has three candidates for Alpine School Board, District 3; two will advance to the general election. Each voter gets one vote on the race.
The candidates are Sarah Beeson, Kara Sherman, and ‘Afa K. Palu — with names as printed on my ballot, and in the same order.
Please tell us your name and why you’re running for school board. (Beeson – Sherman – Palu)
What experience in your life, professional or otherwise, would you like the voters to consider? (Beeson – Sherman – Palu)
What have you done to prepare specifically for service on the Alpine School Board? (Sherman – Palu – Beeson)
In education, everyone seems to want something, and certainly there are many needs. How will you balance the needs and wants of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and others? (Palu – Beeson – Sherman)
The district has a clear vision for learning. Are you familiar with it, and are you hoping to support it or to change the vision, or somewhere between the two? (Beeson – Sherman – Palu)
Is there too much, too little, or about the right amount of federal control of our public schools? (Palu – Sherman – Beeson)
Is there too much, too little, or about the right amount of state control of our public schools? (Palu – Sherman – Beeson)
What do you want to accomplish as a member of the school board? List your top two, three, or four priorities. (Beeson – Palu – Sherman)
What should we do better to address the ongoing demographic challenges posed by a steadily growing population over the next ten, twenty, or thirty years? (Sherman – Beeson – Palu)
Pick one of these topics and give us your best thoughts: (Palu – Sherman – Beeson)
- promoting school safety
- teacher retention (someone asked specifically about special education teacher retention, if you want to go there)
- the importance of the arts and humanities in public education
What makes you different from your opponents? Why should we vote for you? (Sherman – Beeson – Palu)
Utah State School Board Debate
The candidates for Utah State School Board, District 9, are — again as listed on my ballot — Kami Alvarez, Joylin Lincoln, Avalie Muhlestein, and Cindy Davis.
Please tell us your name and why you’re running for school board. (Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis)
What experience in your life, professional or otherwise, would you like the voters to consider? (Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis)
What have you done to prepare specifically for service on the State School Board? (Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis – Muhlestein)
Why do we have a state school board? Is it better to have an elected board instead of an appointed board, or just a state superintendent? (Lincoln – Davis – Muhlestein – Alvarez)
Follow-up: Do you support or oppose making the state school board a partisan election? (Lincoln – Davis – Muhlestein – Alvarez)
Common Core was adopted almost a decade ago and has been controversial ever since. Some love it, some hate it, and the current board said it would cost too much to fix. Would you vote to change it, and if so, how? (Davis – Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln)
Should a member of the State School Board work to move control away from the state to the local level? If so, how? (Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis)
What can you do on the state school board to help retain good teachers and to attract good teachers to the state? (Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis – Muhlestein)
Some school districts in Utah have dramatically increased teacher pay in order to attract and retain teachers. What if anything should the state do to help poorer districts compete for teachers? (Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis – Muhlestein)
(I’m missing a few seconds at the end of Mrs. Muhlestein’s last response, but I’m including what there is. Closing statements are also missing. Again, my apologies — and if someone has decent audio to offer, I’d be pleased to post it.)
We try here to separate information from commentary, and to label the latter clearly. So I’ll soon post my own thoughts in a separate post, focusing on the races in which I get to vote, but also mentioning other (Republican) primary races affecting American Fork.
I’ll say this for now. I liked all these school board candidates, for reasons I’ll explain soon. And I still haven’t decided who gets my vote in either race. But I’m getting there.
To help your own further research, this earlier post has links to additional information about the candidates.
Warning: This post contains my own opinions. If you’ve come to afelection.info only for candidate information, such as contact information, our Q&A, or John Mulholland’s notes on his candidate interviews, and you don’t care to encounter my personal views, thanks for stopping by. Please use one of the links I just gave you to back away now.
For the rest of you, here are my quick thoughts on the races which appear on my ballot for the 2017 primary election in American Fork, including a race that’s there by mistake. If you want more commentary and analysis, see my notes on the mayoral and city council debates.
US House of Representatives, Utah District 3, Republican Primary
This race should not be on my ballot, and my vote won’t be counted if I cast one, because I am not longer a Republican. I do favor a closed primary, by the way, in which only Republicans vote to choose the Republican nominee. And I like that the signature method of getting on the ballot has given us — well, them — a solid alternative to Chris Herrod.
If I were voting, I’d favor Provo Mayor John Curtis over former state legislator Chris Herrod and newcomer Tanner Ainge. All three have credentials. Most of a million dollars of out-of-state money has been spent trying to convince voters that Herrod and Ainge are each the only true conservative in the race — spent by factions for whom truth and transparency are only two of the weapons in the arsenal, and apparently not the favorites.
I prefer a solid conservative record of governance (Curtis’s) over loudly-proclaimed conservative principles. (No, I don’t think Herrod is right when he claims Curtis can’t be a conservative because he supported Bus Rapid Transit.) I prefer in-state money to out-of-state money. And I prefer a productive, reasonable temperament to an unproven temperament (Ainge) or a proven record of uncivil behavior (Herrod, according to people I trust who’ve worked with him).
I also prefer workhorses to show horses, so Mayor Curtis will be a big step up from the Congressman he proposes to replace.
American Fork Mayor
Current Councilman Brad Frost is light years ahead of fellow Councilman Carlton Bowen and longtime resident Daniel Copper. We’ll wonder why we have to have a general election at all. I’m voting Brad Frost on the basis of experience, productivity, temperament, hard work, and not the slightest trace of ideological poisoning, among other things. He shows up, he does the math, he connects numbers and principles to the realities of governing, and he communicates well. This distinguishes him in an otherwise weak field.
More thoughts on this race are in my very candid notes on the mayoral debate.
American Fork City Council
We can vote for two city council candidates; four will proceed to the general election. This is an especially strong field of candidates; we should be grateful to them all for that. It would take some effort to cast a bad vote.
My votes go to Staci Carroll and Barbara Christiansen, with a wish that I had a third vote for Ernie John. These three lift themselves above other good candidates by their experience in local government and their extensive knowledge of city issues. A key factor in my two preferences among these three is their excellent communication (actual communication, not just skills) and the fact that they’ve been attending the council’s Thursday work sessions too, which cannot be watched online, not just attending or watching the regular Tuesday evening meetings.
That said, you’re not casting a bad vote, if you vote for incumbent Jeff Shorter, Kyle Barratt, or Doug Richards. As I said in my notes on the city council debate, we’d have rejoiced to have any of them in some of our previous city council races. I like them all — and in Councilman Shorter’s case, that’s a big change for me.
As regards the other two candidates, Bill Houlin dropped out of the race. As far as I know, Aaron Clegg hasn’t dropped out. But he’s basically been a no-show. That and the fact that all I know about him is that he has been endorsed on fliers touting Carlton Bowen and Chris Herrod . . .
Well, you never know whether he actually fits that unimpressive mold until you get to know him, his temperament, and his views. A similarly toxic right-wing faction backed current Councilman Kevin Barnes two years ago, until they found out that he didn’t fit their view of the world and didn’t want their endorsement. As soon as I got to know him, I became an eager supporter of Councilman Barnes, and I still am. We’ll talk about that in two years, if he runs again.
Anyway, maybe a vote for Aaron Clegg would be a bad vote. Maybe it wouldn’t. How would we know?
Watch for these four to emerge from the primary, not necessarily in this order: Staci Carroll, Barbara Christiansen, Ernie John, and Councilman Jeff Shorter. The contest in the general election will be a delight, with such a field.
My friends, we’ve had over 4,500 page views at afelection.info during this primary election cycle, as of this morning. This leads us to think that our efforts to help connect voters to candidates are working. Thanks for reading!
Thanks especially to the candidates — to all of them for running, and to most of them for helping us here.
Thanks to John Mulholland for his interviews and his notes on them, and to Rod Martin for those “Learn Before You Vote” signs. (If you want one before the general election, holler.)
To the people who’ve stopped me on the street or called or e-mailed me, wanting to know for whom you should vote . . .
Those of you who want to hear my reasons flatter me.
Those of you who want only the names, not details, scare me a little. (Only a little, because I know you to be good people.)
To all of you, vote as you think best, of course . . . but vote!
Preliminary voting results for American Fork City Council (from the Daily Herald, because the county doesn’t have them up yet) are these:
- Brad Frost (incumbent): 2,198
- Kevin Barnes: 2,057
- Robert Shelton (incumbent): 2,028
- Allen Simpson: 1,080
So Frost, Barnes, and Shelton take the three available seats. This is the result advocated here at afelection.info, and the margin is gratifying.
Proposition 1 (a county-by-county measure to fund roads and transit with a 0.25% sales tax increment) predictably failed by a large margin in Utah County. It appears to have passed in several counties where it was on the ballot, but failed in nearly every county (excepting Weber County) which is served by UTA — counties where 40% of the proceeds would go to UTA.
Many American Forkers watched the Orem City Council race with interest, because Debby Lauret, who led the American Fork Chamber of Commerce for several years, was making her second bid for city council. This time she won, finishing second in a field of six candidates for three seats. Congratulations, Debby!
All the candidates deserve our thanks. Serving on the city council is a lot of work with few rewards, and campaigning, though a shorter gig, is no picnic. Let’s also thank Councilman Clark Taylor, whose term will soon end, and who did not seek reelection. Few people ever see most of the heavy lifting a city councilor does, but I’ve seen some of his.
I think the voters deserve thanks too. Someone will whine about the turnout, because someone always does, but more than 2,000 American Forkers went to the polls. I’m inclined to thank voters for cutting through the rhetoric — some of it quite deceptive — and choosing three excellent, reasonable, highly qualified leaders. Believe it or not, good sense brings its own economies.
Thanks to Kelly Smith and her American Fork PTA Council, the American Fork Chamber of Commerce, American Fork Hospital, the American Fork Youth City Council, residents John Mulholland and Brian Rawlings, and everyone else who worked to inform the voters.
Thanks to you too, our readers here, and to the many people to passed around the information they found here, by social media, e-mail, in print, and by word of mouth.
Eleven days before the election, Rod Martin texted me. He wanted to talk about doing something more to help inform the voters. Ten days before the election, we met after a meet-the-candidates event and decided that he would get some signs made to point to some web content. The web content would be my job. The domain afelection.info was available, so we decided to put it here. By Wednesday, six days before the election, some of the content was ready (thanks to WordPress) and the signs were printed.
Between then and Election Day (inclusive), we had 1,168 visits to the site by 816 unique users, almost all in American Fork. 3,058 page views tell us that many visits were to multiple pages, and an average session duration of about four minutes tells us people were reading. Above all, these numbers tell us that voters care about the facts, which is a very happy thing.
Both Rod and I have been surprised at the number of American Fork voters who have gone out of their way to thank us — many of them in person — for doing our very small part this year. Our favorite recurring themes were expressions of satisfaction that someone was putting out accurate numbers in context and clearly explained, against some of the other numbers that were flying around; and this welcome refrain: “I read every page.”
We also thank you for urging us to keep the domain and the site and do this again in two years, for the next municipal election, and for the welcome offers of help in doing so next time.
We may post some content before the next election cycle, if we think there are things the voters should know but aren’t hearing about what’s happening at the City. We’d welcome help with that too.
In any case, we’ll do our best to be a reliable source of information in context, and to explain complicated things clearly. As we have already done, we’ll supply some general, nonpartisan information and some analysis and commentary which will likely be . . . less nonpartisan.
If we see a spade, we’ll call it a spade, even if other folks — presumably nice folks — are convinced they see a rake or a hoe or a rainbow. We’ll never manage fully to detoxify our local politics, but we think good data helps good people make good decisions. Slowing down the spin and adding context and perspective are good things.
So keep your sign or return it to Rod at World Class Auto, and we’ll use it again.
Meanwhile, may we respectfully suggest that it’s time to start recruiting fine candidates for the 2017 election, and time for possible fine candidates to start preparing seriously, if they’re not already?
Best wishes to all. Well done. And thanks again.
Unless I’ve missed something, there are two things on my ballot tomorrow in American Fork: the local city council race and Proposition 1, with funding for streets and transportation (including UTA, in counties where UTA exists).
Here’s how I’m voting and a brief account of the reasons why. More discussion of American Fork city issues is at afelection.info; I won’t repeat it all here. But tell your friends.
American Fork City Council
I’m voting for incumbents Robert Shelton and Brad Frost. Both are fine city councilors — hard working, intelligent, with their heads in the details. Both have a healthy respect for the complexity of the job and for the need to hear and balance competing interests. They play well with others — which is not universal on the council. Both of them have been eager to talk and listen and explain, on the many occasions when I’ve turned to them for information or to offer my own thoughts.
Councilman Shelton has mastered the numbers. He’s a huge asset in financial matters — as good as former Councilman Dale Gunther, perhaps, though less prone to entertain with exotic aphorisms.
Councilman Frost is as concerned for public communication and for American Fork’s image in and out of the city as anyone I know, and as determined to protect and improve both. He’s doing dogged work to protect our interests in American Fork Canyon. And when he says he loves the city, he’s not just blowing political smoke. He loves it as much as anyone I know — in deed, not just word.
In the last few years, these two and their compatriots on the council and the staff have managed to cut the City budget by $1.8 million. They’ve demonstrated a healthy willingness to reduce staff in some areas in order to add needed staff in other areas without raising taxes. And they have dramatically increased funding for roads. (Rebounding sales tax revenues have helped.) There is careful management of road projects in conjunction with things which need to happen with the pipes under the roads. (Some challengers always suggests this, as if it’s a new idea we should try.) And they’ve helped the City quiet to restructured some departments to solve problems and improve services. We’re making progress in the transition from large town to small city.
Which brings us to the challengers. I have one vote left.
Allen Simpson seems like a good man, and he’s been personable when I’ve spoken with him. His past service to the City well exceeds that of one of the last election’s challengers (and victors), and he’s been open to correction when he gets the numbers wrong, which puts him far ahead of the other 2013 challenger (and victor).
However, AFCitizens endorses him. He’s passing out their flier. And he’s still parroting some of their bad numbers and bad logic.
I judge him more harshly for the numbers, because he calls himself a statistician.
Worst of all, when I listen to him at length on diverse issues, I find that the plow of information and understanding is set too shallow (forgive the agrarian metaphor in suburbia). I judge him more harshly for this, even as a challenger, because he says he has attended city council meetings for 20 years.
Worse, the ideological plow seems to be set a little deeper, but not by much. It’s bad that it’s deeper than the practical plow, and it’s not good that it’s still not very deep. As a result, the connections between his opinions and the realities of governance are only intermittent.
He’s not an ideal candidate, but he could probably navigate the learning curve and become a competent and useful legislator over time.
Kevin Barnes served (without pay) on the Planning Commission, which is huge. The people I know who have worked with him at the City speak very highly of him. AFCitizens has halfheartedly supported him, because he’s not an incumbent, but he certainly does not endorse them. He knows some important parts of the City’s operations deeply, and he has a healthy respect for the complexity of the organization and many of the issues we face. He doesn’t throw ideological bombs at quality-of-life programs. He comes across as a warm, intelligent, sensible, witty bundle of cheerful leadership.
You saw this coming. My third vote goes to Kevin Barnes. A few weeks ago, I thought it might be close. It’s not.
Proposition 1 proposes to raise sales taxes by one-quarter of one percent (a penny on four dollars). In counties where UTA exists, 40 percent of the revenue will go to UTA. The rest will go to roads and such.
Opponents say Prop 1 is just a gimmick to shovel money to UTA, which is notoriously wasteful. The same people tend to say we’ll need mass transit in the future, but we don’t need it now. They say the trains and buses are often nearly empty. (When I ride, they’re almost always nearly full, but there or other times and routes, I know.) Here’s why I’m voting for Prop 1 anyway.
First, I’m biased. I like public transit and have relied on it when I have traveled to or lived in Washington, DC; New York City and Long Island; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Boston; San Diego; Portland; and Moscow. I’ve also been riding Frontrunner to work for the last six months. I love Frontrunner. I usually get 40 minutes of some sort of work done while sitting on the train, at the beginning and end of the work day. It’s very productive. And when I drive to work every so often — usually, when I’m driving home — I wish I were on the train getting some work done, instead of sitting unproductively in traffic.
We could debate our present need for mass transit. I think the need exists, and even now the system helps a lot of people who don’t necessarily have to own a car to live here. But it’s not the slam dunk it will be in a decade or two or three, when the population of these valleys has doubled.
Sure, we’ll need it then, they say. But where do they think it will come from then, if we’re not building the system now? I don’t mean grabbing up right-of-ways and building things. I also see us on a learning curve, learning not only how to operate an extensive mass transit system, but also how to govern it. The sooner we learn these lessons, the better and the cheaper they will be.
As to governance, there have been some major growing pains. But I am much encouraged by a conversation I had the other day with Utah State Auditor Dougall, who is not known as one of the Utah Transit Authority’s most devoted fans. He told me a number of very encouraging things which have been implemented in response to past troubles, to increase transparency, to give local governments more influence over UTA, and to encourage and enforce greater fiscal accountability.
So I’m comfortable with the learning curve we’re on, and I favor building more mass transit now instead of later, and I think a sales tax increment is a good way to raise funds for both mass transit and roads. Our roads need the help. Our local governments need the help.
One more thing. They say it’s wrong to subsidize mass transit, and we should let the market decide what is needed. Quite apart from large externalities (apologies for intruding economics into politics), please look around you today at the roads, bridges, traffic signals, public parking lots, traffic enforcement, and multi-billion dollar freeway reconstructions which surround us. Think about the government mechanisms to license drivers and register cars. Consider the cost of measures we take to promote air quality, which is a problem largely due to cars.
Now tell me we’re not already subsidizing automobile transit far more than we’ll ever subsidize mass transit.
Opponents want the legislature to take UTA funding out of the proposal. Then maybe they’ll vote for it. Call me a commie (you wouldn’t be the first, but you wouldn’t be right either); I prefer it with UTA funding built in.
Vote as you think best, but vote!
We realize this isn’t what everyone does in politics, but if you’re going to read the information and analysis you find here at afelection.info, we want you to know who we are, what we want, and what we’ll be doing here, so you can evaluate it properly.
Who We Are
We are David Rodeback, who’s doing most or all of the writing; and Rod Martin, who paid for the signs you’ll probably see around town, which say “Learn BEFORE you vote – afelection.info,” and who weighs in on the content and approach of these posts, among other things. Several other helpful folks have provided facts, opinions, and encouragement.
We are not affiliated with or funded by any candidate or campaign. No candidate approves what we post here. Some candidates may like it, but probably not all of them.
What We Want
What we want is simple: good local government. We think this depends on blowing away the chaff — the deception and misinformation which sometimes spreads systematically about key issues — and electing the best available candidates to the American Fork City Council and as as Mayor of American Fork.
For example, in the 2015 election cycle we want you to be able to evaluate the truth and accuracy of a report that American Fork residents have the fourth or fifth highest tax municipal tax burden in Utah. The study is fatally flawed, and the flaw is pretty obvious, but one PAC doesn’t care, and one candidate is passing around their fliers. We won’t just explain; we’ll give you a link to the study, so you can check it yourself.
When you see a graph showing (but carefully not actually saying) that American Fork has the highest property tax rate among cities in Utah County, we want you to know the full picture before you vote — because good people with bad information make bad decisions. We want you to realize that they left cities with higher rates off the graph. We’ll leave it to you to wonder why. We ‘ll give you a link to official documents with the needed information.
When they complain that water rates are unnecessarily high and blame this on the incumbents, we want you to understand the truth, which is . . . well, different.
And if you just feel like you don’t know the candidates very well, we’ll give you bite-size audio chunks of the candidates answering questions at public meet-the-candidates events. We won’t hide any of the audio — though we’ll delete some of the housekeeping, the Pledge of Allegiance, and so on. We’ll provide some notes to help you keep track of what’s going on in each chunk, such as a list of questions and the order in which the candidates answered each question.
What You Can Do
Learn before you vote. Then vote as you think best. (If you voted early, we’ll assume you knew the candidates already, at least well enough to pick three of the four with confidence. But you’re still welcome here.)
You have the opportunity to comment on virtually anything at this site. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but you don’t have to agree with anything here to have your comment approved. You just have to be civil and relevant — and the test for relevancy is pretty generous.
If you like what you find here — or just want to discuss it more widely — please post links on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. We’ll give you some graphics to help with that.
Back to Where We Started
If you want more chatter from the same people, David Rodeback’s old blog about politics and everything else is still at LocalCommentary.com. He blogs occasionally about politics and government (not specific to American Fork) at FreedomHabit.com and about books, writing, religion, and other topics — also occasionally — at BendableLight.com.
Or drop by Rod Martin’s business, World Class Auto Repair, on Main Street in American Fork.