I believe Cedar Hills should continue to participate in the Utah League of Cities and Towns. ULCT is comprised of elected officials and staff from cities throughout Utah. Their purpose is to support cities and towns by providing them with training, giving them legal advice, and representing their interests with the state legislature. I have personally attended their training meetings and received legal advice from the league, and always found it to be extremely helpful. Likewise, membership in ULCT is regarded as highly valuable by the former council members, former mayors, and staff I have talked to.
Recently, council member Rob Crawley wrote a blog post in which he calls for withdrawing our membership from the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT). Council member Jenney Rees wrote about why she supports ULCT and I agree with her thoughts on this issue. I would like to add my own thoughts that specifically address the concerns Rob raises:
Rob is unhappy that that ULCT supported the gas tax that the legislature recently passed. He opposes the gas tax increase because (a) it's a tax increase and (b) the money mostly ends up with UTA.
Regarding UTA, Rob is mistaken here – none of the gas tax goes to the UTA. 70% of the gas tax goes to the state for state highway projects and 30% goes to cities and counties for local road projects. UTA gets its funding primarily from sales taxes in the counties it serves (65%), as well as fares from riders (16%) and some federal funding (17%).
Regarding the tax increase, it is my opinion that being fiscally conservative doesn't mean never supporting a tax increase. Rather, I believe part of being fiscally conservative is paying for the services we all use and ensuring that we plan properly for the future. Roads are not free, and funding for transportation projects has fallen due to the tax not being raised for 19 years. Inflation and more efficient vehicles have eroded our transportation funding to the point that the legislature needed to do something to ensure we had a stable source of revenue for highways and roads. If we do not take care of our roads now, we will pay far more in the future – it is much more expensive to replace a road than to keep up on its maintenance. The gas tax increased by 5 cents a gallon, or $1 to fill a 20-gallon tank. Paying a little extra in gas tax now is much better than having to pay large bonds later to pay for a crumbling infrastructure. Thankfully the legislature acted, and I don't think either the ULCT or the state legislature is out of touch with the basic values of Utah.
The gas tax increase will be very helpful to Cedar Hills, as we will receive additional funding for our roads. We need this funding to keep up with regular maintenance, and would have had to consider raising funds another way had this not passed.
Rob complains that the ULCT was educating residents and says that they are "self-appointed elite group of city leaders". He thinks that ULCT is "a group that caters to big business and the liberal state agendas."
I find this to be an odd complaint. Rob clearly feels it is his duty to educate residents and to lobby for his point of view. Every elected official does this. I'm not sure why he feels the elected officials who make up ULCT shouldn't do this. As for whether ULCT is comprised of “elites”, they are simply elected officials and staff from cities throughout Utah. They are doing their best to represent the interests of cities with the state legislature, so that they do not pass laws that harm our interests. I find it hard to believe that the mayors and council members of cities throughout Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country, should somehow all come under the thrall of big business and a liberal agenda.
Rob is unhappy that the ULCT supported Proposition 1.
This proposition was designed to allow residents to vote on a county-wide sales tax increase to fund transportation – 40% to counties, 20% to cities, and 40% to UTA. This was a contentious issue and it was voted down in Utah County but approved by some other counties. Opposition in Utah County was primarily against UTA receiving money, given some of their poor practices in the past. While this is understandable, UTA did pledge to use the entire amount to increase rail and bus service. I believe this is a needed part of our transportation infrastructure. The Utah Foundation has done a study indicating that Utah County population is expected to more than double by 2050, and we won't be able to build enough roads to escape the congestion this will cause.
Regardless of how you feel on this issue, however, it is important to remember that ULCT represents all cities, not just Cedar Hills. The membership will sometimes choose to support an issue that our residents disagree with. This is not a sufficient reason to withdraw our support. There are many other issues where they have taken stands that are beneficial to Cedar Hills. One example is helping to ensure a change to GRAMA was defeated that would have cost the city tens of thousands of dollars and a likely tax increase. Moreover, all the legal advice, training, and other support we receive from ULCT is well worth our small $5000 yearly membership fee.
Rather than be short-sighted and withdraw from ULCT over spurious accusations and anger over one issue, I believe we should continue our membership. The benefits of our membership are well worth the price.