Growth is a fact of life in American Fork, as it is on the Wasatch Front and in Utah generally. My conversations with members of the American Fork City Council included much discussion of growth and its challenges. That’s also a topic on which they often hear from residents.
This post will look at the challenges of growth generally, then focus on two perennial concerns: striking a difficult balance between regulating and facilitating development, and promoting civic engagement among the residents of large new neighborhoods.
On Saturday morning State Auditor John Dougall moderated a meet-the-candidates event at American Fork Hospital. It was part of their Pancakes and Politics series, which is sponsored by the American Fork Chamber of Commerce.
No one in the area has more credibility in the moderator’s role than John Dougall. And the free breakfast was good too. About 40 people attended, not counting the candidates and the moderator. The audience was noticeably older than Wednesday evening’s.
The format was a bit different from Wednesday evening, and some of the questions seemed a bit redundant, but there was more discussion of some key issues, as well as some treatment of issues which didn’t arise on Wednesday evening.
All four candidates were there: incumbents Brad Frost and Rob Shelton, and challengers Allen Simpson and Kevin Barnes.
My audio recording of this event is not of professional quality (that’s no surprise), and there’s a fair amount of background noise. But it’s easy to follow. I’ve broken it up into four segments of about 20 minutes each. For each segment, I’ll list the topics and the order in which the candidates responded.
Here’s a link to audio of a few questions and candidate responses at last Wednesday evening’s meet-the-candidate event at American Fork Library:
In this segment, each candidate asked a question of the other three candidates. The questioner had one minute to ask the question and offer his own comments. The other candidates had one minute each to respond.
Candidate Kevin Barnes after the October 21, 2015, meet-the-candidates event at American Fork High School.
Question by Kevin Barnes: How do you feel about quality of life issues being funded by taxes and the City budget (e.g. a swimming pool, a library, and a golf course)?
Kevin Barnes: I’m in favor of them. They usually don’t pay for themselves; they take some tax money. But I think these things are part of what makes American Fork American Fork.
Rob Shelton: Most of them have been voted on by the residents, such as the recreation center, the library. Even though they’re funding by the City, it’s important that they be accountable. Recently the rec center has taken less City funds, and the new head librarian is getting grants to supplement the budget.
Brad Frost: What Rob said. I live here because I love it. I could live in rural Utah where I have none of these things, but I live here in part because of the fun I have here. These programs are a real benefit to residents, and they help to attract businesses. You do have to be wise, prudent, and balanced.
Allen Simpson: I love the pool. I love the rate that I pay. My concerns about buying and paying for these are ameliorated when the citizens vote on them. I like the quality of life in American Fork.
Question by Rob Shelton: How do you plan to be able to work with the members of the council, when you’re only one vote, to accomplish the good of the community and serve the people?
Brad Frost: You become a part of a team, with the mayor, the City staff, and the residents. It’s important not to isolate yourself as a councilman, and come in with accusations and bullish opinions. You’d better learn how to work with other people. Dale Gunther taught us, when we disagree, as soon as it’s over, we shake hands. Some on our council can’t do that.
Allen Simpson: Every councilman has a vision for the city. I’ve admired that. Each current councilman has communicated with me. I have a history of working well with people.
Kevin Barnes:The key is being able to work together. I get along with people. I can listen. I don’t have my mind made up on every issue. I need to learn some things; that’s part of this job. It’s not always easy to stand up and make a decision, but that’s what council members are paid for.
Question by Brad Frost: Our economy is strong, at least in Utah, and a lot of development, commercial and residential, is coming. It’s important to understand your role in development, how to facilitate it, how to encourage good development. How would your experience be an asset with the new development that’s coming to the city?
Allen Simpson: I don’t have experience as a developer. But experience in the insurance industry helps. I’ve been very good at knowing who to look to for advice. That’s where I would have to go.
Kevin Barnes: I served on the Planning Commission, where projects start and have to be approved according to the rules of the City. My experience of life includes seeing a lot of development in American Fork.
Rob Shelton: I work with investments, including quite a bit of work with developments. This was valuable when Dick’s Sporting Goods came to town and wanted to negotiate. We’re also getting the only Field and Stream west of the Mississippi. I served for eight years on the Board of Adjustments, solving development problems.
Question by Allen Simpson: My first three questions were taking. We need more involvement. How would you increase citizen involvement?
Kevin Barnes: We need to use volunteer whenever we can. The mayor is always urging Scouts who attend council meetings to come to the City when it’s time for their Eagle projects. We need to continue to encourage public involvement. We have a lot of volunteers.
Rob Shelton: I wanted to do just that, three years ago. I wanted to broadcast city council meetings online. We did that for the first time last week. Our council packets, the City budget, and other documents are now available online. We need to be out in the community, listening to residents’ concerns.
Brad Frost: “I believe that most people in the city look at their leaders, and if they feel comfortable with them, they tend to disengage.” We have a lot of volunteers — the Steel Days Committee, youth, etc. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts, like the budget, “we have crickets in the room.” (Nobody’s there.) We need to continue to encourage people to get involved.
In my one-on-one interviews I asked members of the American Fork City Council what concerns they hear from residents. Interviews take different directions, but I also asked most of them, “If your term ended tomorrow, what have you done or accomplished of which you’re proudest?” In some cases, they disclaimed any personal credit and described […]
David, thank you for another stellar round of posts. I really appreciate and enjoy your reporting and insights. Looking forward…
I like Mike! A good man, doing good things and if it ain’t boke, don’t change the Sheriff. He has…
You're welcome! Glad it helped.
Thank you for posting the audio in easy, well-organized formats for me to catch up on and educate myself about…
You're welcome! Thanks for your kind words and for adding your own view.