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Saturday, October 31, 2009
My Second Vote for City Council (an Endorsement)

I get two votes. The first is utterly predictable. Here I explain the second.

When I go to the polls on Tuesday in American Fork, I'll have two votes to cast for city council, because two seats are available. In theory, I could vote for just one candidate and leave my other vote unused. That's not a bad option, I suppose, if you only like one of them, want to do your mathematical best to help that one win, and if you don't really care who wins the other seat. But I am not in that situation.

My First Vote: No Surprise Whatsoever

No one will be surprised to learn that my first vote will got to my wife, a.k.a. MFCC, a.k.a. Council Member Heidi K. Rodeback. She's last on the printed ballot, due to alphabetical order, but she can't blame me for that, because her maiden name begins with H, and that would put her at the bottom of this ballot, too.

More to the point, I'm pretty sure she'd get my first vote if she weren't my wife . There's a brain in there, and she knows how to use it. She studies significant issues carefully and in depth, diligently seeks to understand all sides of an issue, communicates tirelessly with constituents, and understands the importance of hard work and professionalism in government. She has a spine, and she's not afraid to use it.

I don't always agree with her, but that's fair. She doesn't always agree with me, either. I don't mind that in an elected representative, if it comes with all the aforementioned good stuff.

The Candidates for My Second Vote

Now that that's said, will you think me a little more objective in my analysis of the remaining three candidates, one of whom gets my second vote? I've watched and studied them carefully.

All of our city council candidates are fine people, I'm sure . . .

Marc Ellison's commitment to the US Constitution reminds me of my own, and I share his distaste for political correctness. I also share his distaste, generally speaking, for corruption and for undue influence of "special interests" -- whatever those might be in this case, and when and where it actually occurs. However, specifically speaking, I'm acquainted with all six of our current elected officials and have watched their work more closely than most, and I don't think that sort of misconduct is occurring among the current batch of officials.

I share Ellison's distaste for excessive taxation, too, but I don't find his blanket tax-related condemnation of all incumbent candidates to be appropriate or convincing. He also wants honesty in government, as do I. And I'm looking for wisdom, relevant knowledge and experience, and sound judgment.

Jess Green is a seasoned local politician who seems to remind some long-time American Forkers of the good old days, back when he was mayor and the average American Fork family had 1.5 horses and an acre for them to graze in. I wasn't in American Fork then, so maybe it's no surprise that I'm unmoved in this instance by nostalgia for the past, which wasn't as beautiful as we paint it. Green is an intelligent and thoughtful man who shares or even exceeds my own love of books. He is a fine conversationalist. He is capable of sternness and of gentle diplomacy, and he is fonder of those American Fork Junior High students with whom he works than they could imagine. I find his political platform sparse and shallow, and I'm not particularly fond of his campaign persona, but I don't have much difficulty remembering that there's a good guy underneath it.

Dale Gunther has business and financial knowledge and experience that the City needs desperately, because it doesn't exist at that level among City staff. He is tireless, thorough, sensible, and very generous with his time, both generally and in his role as a city councilor. I have found him willing to communicate, to listen to my views when they differ from his (as they have on certain issues over the past four years), and to explain his own. In all of my civic dealings with him, I have found him to be honest, candid, and disinclined to sing his own praises. Importantly, he has a stable political temperament; he is reasonable and gracious with his fellow city councilors and others even when they strongly disagree on important matters. For example, I have watched him and MFCC take diametrically opposite sides of major issues and dig in there, but neither felt compelled to question the other's integrity, intelligence, or commitment to the city's welfare.

I disagreed with Councilman Gunther over last year's property tax increase, as did both of the challengers in the race, but it was an honest disagreement, and I could see his side of the issue. I can live with some of that in my elected officials, if they have other substantial virtues. If all I knew of him was that he is a banker by trade and a very big wheel at the Bank of American Fork, and if I were unduly attached to thoughtless stereotypes, I might be suspicious of his motives. But knowing him, and having watched him, I can truthfully say that the only self-interest I have seen in his activities as an elected official is one that I unashamedly share: a strong self-interest in living in a well-governed, sensibly-managed city. That works for me.

Finally, I Get to the Point . . .

Whether or not you agree with what I have written, at this point you won't be at all surprised to learn that my second vote in American Fork's city council race this year goes to incumbent Councilman Dale Gunther.

I obviously don't know exactly how the votes will shake out on Tuesday, but the competition for my votes in this race -- even my second vote -- never got close this year. I scrutinized each candidate carefully and tried to help my readers do the same, but from the first, before the primary, I thought I saw exactly two strong candidates of superior ability and temperament. That is still what I see, and I will be quite content to vote for them on Tuesday. I think that is what most other voters see, too, and I will be pleased and more than a little relieved if these two heavy-lifters each win another term on the American Fork City Council. I expect they will.

Mark Steele comments (11/3/09):

Thanks for your detailed thoughts on the race.

I agree that Jess Green is an honorable man and loves American Fork. I wouldn’t vote for him, though. I find his criticisms of the current mayor interesting (why isn’t he running for that job?), given that the incompetence of his administration in the 1990s twice led to the city being unable to get the Harrington School to use as an expanded city hall and city center -- first, in not having the foresight to work with the school district in purchasing the property; second, in making basic errors in using eminent domain, so their attempt was expensively overthrown in court. So now we have a lifelong disgruntled owner, willing to let the center of our town decay, and a stymied city government without political capital or money to rectify the situation. So, in spite of good things Jess has done over the years, this is enough to tell me, no second chance.

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