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Thursday, January 5, 2006
Things to Watch for in American Fork

I suppose that quite a number of American Fork residents who are interested in their city government, as I am, are watching the new Mayor and partly-new City Council . . .

I suppose that quite a number of American Fork residents who are interested in their city government, as I am, are watching the new Mayor and partly-new City Council to see what changes will appear, especially in the short run.

In the short run, here are some things I'll be interested to see:

  • The announcement of City Council committee assignments and other responsibilities. For example, who will chair the Finance Committee? (The smart money is on Councilman Dale Gunther, who has more experience in finance than the rest of the Council put together, I believe.) Will rumors of moving to Roberts' Rules of Order for Council meetings materialize, and will this lead to the appointment of a parliamentarian on the Council? (Councilman Shirl LeBaron would seem to be the obvious choice.) Who will be named Mayor Pro Tem, to fill Mayor Thompson's shoes in his absence? (I'd bet on either Councilman LeBaron or Councilman Storrs.) Will someone on the Council who really understands public relations be assigned to shepherd that long-neglected cause? Which of the Council members particularly interested in the arts will draw that assignment (Councilman Gunther or Councilmember Heidi Rodeback)?  And so forth.
  • Tuesday's joint public meeting of the Council and the Planning Commission focused on hammering out a productive working relationship between the two bodies, including some practical measures to insure that all staff work is done on a site plan before it comes before the Council in a work session, to be placed on the Council agenda for a vote in a regular meeting. I have heard developers and Council members alike (as recently as this week) express great frustration at the confusing, inconsistent, somewhat unpredictable, largely undocumented process of getting a site plan approved, or even getting on the Planning Commission agenda. Will the checklist discussed Tuesday (to be completed before an item is put on the Council agenda) stick? How soon will it be available (and easy to find!) at the City's Web site? Will this significant leap toward professionalism require additional staff, and if so, where will the Mayor and Council find the money for that?
  • Will the steady progress I expect towards greater professionalism at the City generally actually occur? Which staff will thrive in the new regime and which will show themselves, or have to be shown, the door?

In the longer, but still relatively short, term, I'm watching to see:

  • How effective will the new administration be in convincing voters that the City has done its homework and has come to the best decision, when it comes time to vote on a general obligation bond issue to fund a pressurized irrigation system or some other solution to our water future? This will be an early test of the new government's credibility, as well as a good test of its commitment to and capacity for effective public communication.
  • A frequent, rather obvious alternative to increasing tax rates is increasing various other fees. (If you don't believe me, just look at your cell phone bill.) Will the new administration study impact fees, recreation center fees, library fees, etc., in surrounding communities, to see if ours are comparable? And if ours appear low, will there be increases, in pursuit of quick revenue? (Will anyone at all seriously suggest that, in some cases, lowering fees might increase revenues? And are there any cases here where that would be true?)
  • Will I soon be able to read the City's Municipal Code and other basic documents at the City's Web site, instead of having to bother something at the City Administration Building every time I have a question? Will the Web site generally become home to better, more current, far broader, and easily accessible information about all aspects of working with the City?
  • Word on the street is that one conscientious city resident, who has videotaped every City Council meeting since the discovery of electricity (or so it seems) has proclaimed that, with the new administration, he no longer feels the need to do so. How long will this last? In any case, anyone who has been to at least as many Council meetings as most Council members for a number of years probably deserves some kind of award.

Finally, if I may venture a few predictions, they are these: Progress in many significant areas will be real but slower and more difficult than anticipated. (Duh!) At least one senior employee will resign, under pressure or otherwise, or fail to have his or her contract renewed. (Sorry, no names.) And the new Council and the new Mayor will get along pretty well for the duration, not just at the beginning.

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