David Rodeback's Blog
Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Monday, November 2, 2009
My View of American Fork's Mayoral Candidates
Well, most of it. There's no endorsement here, just a prediction. It comes after I list issues which I find useful or not in distinguishing between the two candidates.
Over and over again, in this election season, I've been asked about American Fork's mayoral race. For whom will I vote, and why? Who do I think will win?
Two days ago I endorsed two city council candidates here at the blog, but I will not be endorsing a mayoral candidate. I will tell you some of my thoughts on the subject; perhaps that will help you make your own choice, if you haven't already. First, I will list several things which do not usefully separate the candidates in my mind. Then I will list a few thing which could have separated them, but don't. Finally, I will mention two things which do separate them, at least for me.
By the way, someone asked how the candidates stack up against those ten principles I've been discussing off and on over the past few weeks under the title, "If You Want My Vote." If I score each mayoral candidate according to the list, ignoring the last item about October surprises (because the campaigns are not over), and giving each candidate either no points, half a point, or a full point on each of the other nine items, both candidates score either 8.5 or 9.0 out of 9.0 possible points. These are credible candidates.
Because both incumbent Mayor Heber Thompson and challenger James Hadfield are, by my criteria, well-qualified candidates, I can look at issues and personalities and try to decide whom I would prefer as a civic and political leader.
Criteria that Are Not Useful
Some of these are important; in these the candidates are indistinguishable, at least to me. Some of them are completely irrelevant, so I don't care where the candidates are the same of different.
Criteria Which Could Have Been Useful, but Aren't
They could have been, that is, if one or the other candidate had chosen to make them useful.
To be sure, the vote on Tuesday may be a direct reaction to a tax increase and five failed bond issue proposals, or the fruit of discontent with pressurized irrigation (bills, roads, or otherwise) or road maintenance. But the actual mayoral campaign, based on the candidates' statements, hasn't really been about those subjects at all. They've talked about them a lot, but they have basically said the same things. These issues will not determine my vote.
If you're thinking that I haven't left much that might be useful in determining my vote, you're right. There are numerous important issues on which the two candidates essentially agree. There are two on which they disagree.
Useful: Pursuing American Fork's Interests with Other Governments
At the risk of simplifying and possibly exaggerating, I note that it's possible to argue that making some concessions to get along with our neighbors is good for government and for life generally; this seems generally to have been Thompson's posture during his term. It's possible to argue that we ought to dig in our heels more and not let Pleasant Grove, Highland, UDOT, or others take advantage of us; this is Hadfield's position.
You might agree with Hadfield that Thompson to some degree gave away the store in a border negotiation with Pleasant Grove, in water-related dealing with Highland (as city council candidate Jess Green, not Hadfield himself, claims), and in working with UDOT on the location of Vineyard Connector. Or you might think the outcomes were reasonable, Or you might prefer your local politics to be calm and conciliatory, insofar as possible, finding these things not worth fighting over. You might think it's time to dig in our heels a little more.
If you really do care about this issue, Hadfield is your dig-in-the-heels candidate, and Thompson is your calm-and-conciliatory candidate -- though on any given issue, they might quite easily switch roles. They're both mature, intelligent adults, and neither is one-dimensional.
Useful: Full-Time Mostly-Volunteer Mayor or Part-Time Mayor and Full-Time City Administrator?
By statute American Fork has a part-time mayor, who receives a small stipend, and a full-time, professional city administrator, who would be underpaid at $100,000 per year in the current market. Before Thompson took office, the city council showed the city administrator the door; strictly speaking, he was not replaced. Some of his responsibilities fell on a chief of staff and a budget officer whom Mayor Ted Barratt managed to put in place without making them subject to approval by the city council. In effect, however, Mayor Thompson has assumed the city manager's role, for the most part.
On one hand, Thompson asserts his executive experience and cites the savings to the City in salary and benefits as he works full-time to run the City. He receives only a very modest stipend based on part-time service. He considers himself fully capable of managing both the full-time managerial and the part-time mayoral role.
On the other hand, this is the big reason why Hadfield is running. He thinks city management -- which he has watched as an insider -- has suffered. He says increased efficiency of several kinds under an effective city manager would more than offset the cost. He thinks we should comply with our own ordinance, or change it if the present system is what we really want.
I dislike shoe shopping, but I have to do some soon, so how about this metaphor? If you think the cheaper Thompson shoes are just as good, or are not as good but still a good deal at the price, you'll be inclined to vote for Thompson. If you think the Hadfield shoes, which are more expensive up front, are the wisest purchase in the long run, you'll vote for Hadfield.
Whoever wins the mayoral race, we'll find out what the city council officially thinks of this issue next year, when either Hadfield presents a city manager for the council's approval, or Thompson doesn't. Either way, if the council is not happy, some political hardball could ensue.
So now you know which issues loom large for me in this race, and which issues don't. I fully expect most voters to care less about my issues and more about things I've said don't help me decide in this case, such as tax increases. If I must guess, I think Hadfield will win, and the margin won't be particularly narrow. I don't think Ed Cameron's endorsement of Thompson will be enough to overcome what seems to be widespread discontent with the incumbent. But bear in mind that I have no polling data (primary results don't help much), so I'm just guessing. We'll know tomorrow night if I'm right or wrong.
However you choose to vote, and for whatever reasons, and unless you voted early, don't forget to vote Tuesday. As you do so, you might take a moment to reflect on a happy circumstance: these two mayoral candidates are good people and credible candidates. Both of them. That doesn't always happen in politics.
Copyright 2009 by David Rodeback.