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.
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.
This is the second of several planned blog posts about a proposal the American Fork City Council is considering to extend fiber optic connectivity to every residence and business in American Fork as a utility. You can find a more detailed description of the proposal itself in the previous post, where I also explain my head start in knowing about the proposal.
Before we go further, I should interrupt for an apology. I hoped to post this before I left for Lake Tahoe (hence the photo) for a week at the end of July. Now it’s not even August any more, and I’m finally posting it. Sorry about that.
This post explores the expected benefits to residents, businesses, and the City itself, if we build the fiber system. This is one important angle from which to view the proposal. Another will follow in the next post: good and bad reasons for opposing it.
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: These questions were submitted in advance via the Internet.
What would you cut in the current budget to increase road funding? (Order: Barnes – Simpson – Frost – Shelton.)
What will you do to help fix our neglected streets and sidewalks, especially in the older part of the city? (Order: Simpson – Frost – Shelton – Barnes.)
Lehi is doing a great job of attracting major new businesses. How can American Fork do better? (Order: Shelton – Barnes – Simpson – Frost)
Each candidate had one minute for each response. Note the response order above with each question, because candidates aren’t named before every response.
Candidate Kevin Barnes after the October 21, 2015, meet-the-candidates event at American Fork High School.
Kevin Barnes hasn’t studied the budget enough to know where there are cuts big enough to make a difference. He’s heard a lot of opinions, but the numbers are too small to make an impact. He spoke of living together in a community and reaching a consensus as to spending. We have to keep maintaining the roads, but also everything else the City has to do — police, fire, water, sewer. Other cities think they have the worst roads, too. American Fork is attracting the right kind of businesses.
Allen Simpson talked in general terms about the budget process but declined to identify specific cuts. We’re going to have to spend some money we haven’t spent yet on roads. Maintaining roads properly reduces long-term costs. We have to decide how much money we’re willing to spend on them (but he offered no opinion of his own). A resident recently told him that her son discovered that everyday purchases are a little more expensive in American Fork than in other communities.
Brad Frost said he wouldn’t cut anything, “because I would have already.” He said the council’s priority has been infrastructure — roads and the utilities under them. He said the 2013 road bond vote gave the City clear direction not to borrow for roads, but to pay as we go. That will take a lot of patience, including with such things as maintaining major streets and not rebuilding cul-de-sacs. The City used property it already owned to expand the cemetery, rather than buying property. 300 jobs are coming at an oil company at the south end; CVS is coming. American Fork has a great model for economic growth and a great location.
Rob Shelton said he’d cut the City’s phone bill in half. Some employees have the City paying for both a land line and a cell phone for them. The City’s phone system is antiquated. Also, accepting credit card payments without charging a convenience fee to defray credit card processing fees costs the City over $80,000 per year in convenience fees. We need to decide if that’s worth the price. He identified some road projects the CIty has done itself, more cheaply, instead of using contractors. He’s very analytical and likes to roll up his sleeves. He listed some businesses that were looking at leaving American Fork to expand, but decided to stay, and noted that businesses are moving from Lehi to American Fork, because American Fork has planned better for growth and has grown more slowly. “I think we’re very competitive with Lehi.”
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.