I read Paula Smith’s “My Response To an Unknown Author” today. You can find her response HERE. Her response was a very succinct response to the accusations and tone of the letter from an unknown author. This letter is a response to the 2 minute speeches (and in my case, also the follow up questions) given at the Delegate Forum presented by the Chamber of Commerce (you can find my speech and follow up questions HERE).
There are a few things I would like to add, especially since I believe a few lines were directed to me generally, and at least one specifically. As with Paula, my responses will be in bold, followed by the word ANSWER. I will not go over every point, since Paula did such a wonderful job.
I recognize that people vote with feelings and not always with facts. Buzz words like lower taxes, transparency, inflated budget, and cut waste tend to generate the cheers and applause of audiences. Playing to the crowd’s emotions is always a campaign tactic intent on generating votes.
ANSWER – While playing to the crowd’s emotions is always a campaign tactic, the fact that there are so many delegates running shows that there is a great amount of discontent with the direction the city has been taking. Added to the censorship that has occurred (and somewhat) been rescinded in the City Council Chambers, emotions are already high among a majority of the population (especially those that have been paying attention).
I am amazed that so often, when asked “what waste”, “where is the lack of transparency”, or “what part of the budget is inflated”, no specific answers are given
ANSWER – You’ve never asked me. I would tell you, as I tell so many constituents, that we, the general public, aren’t given the line by line budget. In the summary of the this years budget, it does talk about the $660,000 allocated to replace the aging armored vehicle used by SWAT. When asked about the requested vehicle between the two public hearings on the budget, Chief Whitehead told the St. George News (found HERE) that, “having an armored vehicle could be useful in a dangerous situation.” Not life saving. Not mission critical.
In the two hearings, it was also stated that St. George City had the only SWAT team in the county, and that on multiple occasions they have had to borrow an armored vehicle from other agencies. Those two statements conflict. If you’re the only SWAT, why does another agency have an armored vehicle. I happen to have friends on the Sheriff’s department. They have a SWAT team, and has supplied the armored vehicle when requested.
I bring this up not to bash on our police. I agree they need to replace their armored vehicle. I questioned (and still question) if the funds could not be allocated over several years to place less of a burden on the tax payer. On that point, if the city knew the vehicle was aging out, why didn’t they start saving for it earlier?
The real reason I bring this up is that we don’t get to see the line by line budget (meaning it’s not transparent). And if the police department is requested this “nice to have” $660,000 addition, you know “nice to haves” are existing across every department (waste and inflated budget).
1. The City of St. George has the 2ND LOWEST TAX RATE IN THE STATE, as provided by the Utah State Tax Commission for 2022.
ANSWER – Yes, we do. AND WE WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY!!!!!!!
5. We heard a candidate say that the City has an out of control budget of $520 million dollars. “we need to cut that budget.” Does this candidate realize that the City has a Water Utility, and Electric Utility, a Regional airport, and a Regional Water treatment Plant, all funded by sources other than property tax.
ANSWER – This is a shot directly at my response to the question and answer session. One thing I can not stand in life is untruth. If the complete facts are not given on a subject, they are by default untrue. The only reason I bring up the $520 Million Dollar number is that starting about four years ago, the city, in their budget summaries started showing the number as a combination of the Capitol Projects Budget and the General Budget. Before that, Capitol Projects Budget was a separate line item near the end of the complete budget packet, and the focus was on the General Budget.
Why does this matter? For this year, it matters because on the budget summary for 2023-2024, the city shows only an increase in the budget of 3.7%. If you separate the two budgets, the General Budget increased 17.9%. I’m VERY aware that the Capital Projects Budget is being used to obfuscate the growth in the cities General Budget (making it non-transparent and obfuscated by design).
This type of hidden truth was used when the city attempted to raise taxes last summer. At the Truth In Taxation meeting, the budget was presented in a way to intentionally lose the audience attempting to follow the presentation. Added to that, the phrase, “we support our emergency responders” was repeated again and again. If they were so important, why weren’t they funded first? Because a tax increase on the back of the emergency responders was an easier sell. And when the tax increase failed, yet the city had committed to the 5 year plan, low and behold, the city was able to find the funds to give the promised raises before the end of the 2022-2023 budget, proving the funds already existed and were miss-allocated.
We need City Council members who do their homework, speak the facts, and believe in and practice civil dialogue. We as a community are built on a spirit of cooperation, not divisiveness. We look after each other and work together. We recognize that there are qualified, committed, honest and integrous people working for the City for our best good. Imagine how it affects City employee morale when they hear statements from the candidates that show little or no trust in their skills, motivation, efforts, etc.
ANSWER – I completely agree with this statement. The problem here is that many of the delegates in this race have done (and are continuing to do) our homework, and showing up with facts. Many of these facts show light on practices that should not be happening. We are here to try and fix issues that we see. That’s why we have elections. That’s why elections matter. Amd to be absolutely clear, at no time have I shown disdain for the hard working employees of our city. The closest I’ve come has been with the discussion of the police budget, and I’ve been very clear that the only reason I’m using them as an example is because the city chose to cite their budget on the summary of the budget.
Of course, the tone of this anonymous letter openly attacks those that are running in a way that is not based on facts. Or at least not all of them. Again, obfuscating the truth.
Our quality of life is impacted, for good or bad by those that sit in the Council seats.
ANSWER – That’s why so many of us are running. We don’t agree with many of the decisions currently being made.
If I don’t vote, then a small group of loud voices who likely don’t represent the majority of our residents, can steer our city where I don’t want it to go, and I can’t blame anyone but myself.
ANSWER – As you stated, if you don’t vote, that’s on you. Not voting is a vote. Elections matter. The majority will show their will. It may or may not be what you individually want, but if you’re involved, and express your views with others, WE THE PEOPLE (the majority) will decide the direction of this city.
Please please please, VOTE, AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO VOTE.
ANSWER – Every day of this campaign.