UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – If you are a resident of Utah County, it seems like overnight hundreds of political signs concerning Proposition 9 have popped up. But what is Prop 9?
Utah County residents will vote on Prop 9 on whether or not they are in favor of adopting a Mayor-Council form of county government. Currently, Utah County does not have a county mayor (like Salt Lake County does) but rather has three county commissioners in Bill Lee, Tanner Ainge, and Nathan Ivie.
If Prop 9 passes, Utah County would move to having an elected county executive (the Utah County Mayor), and an elected county council consisting of five members.
The five members of the county council would be elected by geographical districts and would need to reside within the district they are elected to. Each district would have around the same population.
Two of the current Utah County Commissioners, Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie, are in favor of Prop 9. The other county commissioner, Bill Lee, is opposed to it.
Lee warns against the increasing size of government and argues that a county mayor would have too much power.
“It’s a consolidation of power into one person, which is the mayor,” Lee told the Daily Herald. “The mayor has a lot of power. And to me, that’s problematic.”
One of the main groups in opposition to Prop 9 has created the website, NoToPropNine.com. There they call the proposition a ‘brainchild of politicians and campaign consultants who stand to gain the most if (Prop 9) passes’.
Those opposed to the proposition say that if it is passed, it will only expand government and will create an unnecessary ‘county king’ saying ‘the Founding Fathers always intended for the legislative branch to be the most powerful, not the executive. Prop 9 would create a powerful full-time mayor who will likely expand their office and county government, just like has happened in Salt Lake County’.
No to Prop Nine also says that if it passes, higher taxes will ensue. They use the example of Salt Lake County who has a county mayor and says that in the past six years, their county budget has increased by 50%.
In addition to Ainge and Ivie being supporters of Prop 9, other local leaders in support of it include Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson, Orem Mayor Richard Brunst, Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, District 7 Senator, and Lt. Gov. Candidate Deidre Henderson, Congressman John Curtis, and Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith among others.
On the pro Prop 9 website, it states that ‘it is time for us to change our county form of government to one that is more responsive to the needs of a growing area, one that includes a separation of powers for better checks and balances and through regional representation’.
BetterUtahCounty.com says that with the way Utah County’s government is set up now, it lends itself to some abuses of power as there is a lack of checks and balances due to the combined executive and legislative powers.
The supporters also say that if the form of government were to change in Utah County, no tax increase would be required.
In a recent Facebook post, Ainge says that the topic of changing Utah County’s form of government has been something he has ‘studied and personally experienced for the past two years’. Ainge says that he supports the change of having one full-time elected executive compared to the current three-headed executive. Ainge says that leading up to election day, he will be available through town halls and phone calls to discuss why he believes Utah County needs to adopt the executive-council format.
Prop 9 is on the ballot this year because, in 2019, the Utah County Commissioners voted to create an independent committee to make a recommendation on the best form of government for the county. After a series of public meetings, the committee unanimously recommended that the county moves to an executive-council form of government with a full-time mayor. As a result, the Utah County Commissioners approved Prop 9 being placed on the 2020 ballot.
Other counties with an executive-council form of government include Salt Lake County, Cache County, Grand County, Morgan County, Wasatch County, and Summit County.