Voters between a rock and a hard place in mayors’ race

By By Aaron Shaddy

By Aaron Shaddy

Monday night we got a glimpse of the opening shots of the Salt Lake County Mayor’s race. Incumbent Democrat Peter Corroon faced off against Republican Michael Renckert, a parole officer for the Utah Department of Corrections, in a debate about what each would bring to the county.

If an election is to be viewed as a referendum, then it probably helps to know what it is the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office does. The Mayor’s Web site gives a lot of pleasantries, but the details and implementation are often missing, with a lot of talk about ethical government and a lot less about programs.

The mayor’s projects include a plan to plant 1 million trees by 2017, but it hasn’t quite gotten off the ground yet. Lorna Vogt, Open Space Trust Manager and director of the program, estimated the number of trees planted over the past year at around 2,000. At the current rate of things, we’re looking at about 500 years until the goal of 1 million is met. And while trees are all good and well, planting one million of them seems a waste of resources.

The mayor also has a plan to reduce the water consumption of county facilities by 20 percent by next year. Here logic throws a wrench in the gears: If you plant lots of trees, water consumption is going to go up, not down. The county might not, strictly speaking, be the one using it, but water used for trees is not a reduction in county water consumption.

There are also some claims about better customer service from the government. The mayor’s project for 2008 states that he would like a 95 percent satisfaction rate from people interacting with the government, which a more realistic planner might deem impossible and a waste of effort in the first place. Seems like this might be a good opening for a political campaign against meaningless projects, and Michael Renckert probably has an alternative. Right?

Wrong. Taking a page from the Republican playbook8212;coffee-stained, dog-eared and smeared with lipstick though it may be8212;Renckert attacked Corroon for excess spending. An odd claim, as Corroon has not raised property taxes, his personal staff has actually been reduced in size from 20 people to 15, and the budget has remained stable. Moreover, Corroon made headlines a while ago by rejecting funding for a new soccer stadium, a smart move on his part, given that anyone who has attended REAL soccer games knows how sparse the crowd can be.

Not one to be daunted by facts, Renckert did some soapboxing about small government and traditional values, showing how he’d change county government by bringing back the national rhetoric of the 1980s. Although some of Corroon’s plans seem a little harebrained, Renckert offers nothing but the usual jargon. Taxes8212;bad. Government8212;bad. Traditional values, whatever that even means8212;good.

In the battle to define who is a greater fiscal conservative, Corroon wins by default simply by not having raised taxes. Renckert doesn’t seem to offer much on that front, or for that matter any front at all. If he wants an argument, he should dig a little into some of the silly things going on. As of now, the choice is between nothing and something, and nothing isn’t all too appealing.

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Kevin Merriman

Aaron Shaddy