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Resident committee to study West Jordan’s form of government

Jun 05, 2017 02:54PM ● Published by Tori LaRue

Nine residents will study Utah government forms and present their findings to the city council later this year. (West Jordan – City Hall Facebook)

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com
 
Deciding to seek more resident input before adding a change of government question to November’s election ballot, on April 26 the West Jordan City Council confirmed the appointment of nine residents to a study committee.
 
The Forms of Government Ad Hoc Committee will discuss West Jordan’s current council-manager form of government and compare it with other Utah forms of municipal government before recommending a change of government question for the November ballot or advising against one. The committee’s findings will not be binding, and the city council may or may not adhere to its recommendations.
 
Bart Barker, Joel Coleman, Adam Gardiner, Kathy Hilton, Chad Lamb, Joe Martinez, John Price, Randall Rasmussen and Michael Toronto applied for the committee and were appointed to it. The committee appointments came after the city council passed and then rescinded a change-of-government question earlier this year.
 
On Jan. 25, the council passed a resolution that put a government change question on the November ballot. The question proposed a change to the council-mayor form of government. This change would remove the mayor as chairman of the city council and instead make him the head of the executive branch of government, giving him more say in day-to-day city operations.
 
West Jordan’s current form of government, the council-manager form, allows a city manager to oversee city operations. The city manager is a professional appointed by the city council.
 
The original resolution was intended to “let the public have a choice” in their form of government, according to its initiator, Councilman Dirk Burton, but residents said it fell flat because it only gave them two choices. Utah law outlines three other kinds of city governments: the six-member council, five-member council and charter forms.
 
A charter government would allow the city to build its own form of government. In the five- and six-member council forms, the mayor is the CEO of the city and chairperson of the council, and responsibilities may be added or subtracted from the mayor’s job description by a vote of the council.
 
No one spoke in favor of the ballot question during the Feb. 22 and March 8 public hearings. Several members who are now on the ad hoc committee—including Hilton, Barker and Coleman—expressed concerns.
 
Coleman asked that a citizen advisory committee be established prior to putting a question on the ballot.
 
“Maybe some of us citizens could take some time and thoughtfully go through the different options that we have and talk about the potential ramifications—the positives of changing and some of the negative ones—and come back to the council with an official recommendation,” he said on Feb. 22. “That would be really a great process to go through, even if we end up right where we are here in plenty of time to meet the deadlines for the elections and so forth.”
 
Barker invited the council to give residents more notice about change of government discussions and decisions.
 
“I would encourage the city council to do whatever they can, if it goes forward with any ballot measure, to provide significant notice to the public of public discussions and of the information they need to make a decision,” Barker said.
 
After listening to resident feedback, the council rescinded the original resolution on March 8. The vote passed 4-1 in favor, with Burton casting the negative vote, Mayor Kim Rolfe abstaining and then-Councilman Jeff Haaga excusing himself because of a “conflict of interest.” This removed the change of government question from the ballot.
 
At the same meeting, the council approved the formation of a citizen advisory committee to prepare a government-change recommendation for the council.
 
At the May 10 city council meeting, Lamb said he and the other members are excited to start exploring the government possibilities within West Jordan. The committee will present to the council later this year.
 
Although the resolution that created the committee does not specify a date by which the committee must report, the committee would need to present by June 5 for its findings to influence the November 2017 ballot. Deputy City Clerk Carol Herman said the council would have to adopt a resolution by June 25 to get any government change question placed on the ballot. Prior to the June 25 meeting, the city would have to hold two public hearings, each with a 10-day notice.

Residents who are not on the committee are encouraged to voice their opinions on West Jordan’s form of government during the citizen comments segment at upcoming city council meetings.
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