American Fork: 4 Candidates, 3 Seats, 2 Public Events, 1 Friendly Request

Election Day is two weeks away, early voting starts today, and this is my first blog post about the American Fork City Council election. Granted, there was no primary, but I’ve still been slow doing my homework this year.

This post is informational (except, arguably, for the “1 Friendly Request” at the end). I’ll post some event notes, commentary, and recommendations after this week’s candidate events.

4 Candidates, 3 Seats

We’ll be choosing three candidates to serve four-year terms on the American Fork City Council. Each voter may vote for up to three on the ballot, and the three with the highest vote counts win. There is no districting in this race; all candidates run citywide.

There is no substitute, in terms of conscientious voting, for personal contact with local candidates. Here are the candidates, with the contact information I have for each. (If I’m missing something, please let me know, and I’ll add it ASAP.) They’re in alphabetical order by last name, not necessarily in the order of my preference.

Kevin J. Barnes

Brad Frost (one-term incumbent)

Rob Shelton (one-term incumbent)

Allen Simpson

Again, if someone has information which is missing here, please forward it to me.

Two Events (and a Bonus for Some)

For the general public there are two meet-the-candidate events this week, plus a bonus for voting-age students at American Fork High School.

On Wednesday, October 21, at 7:00 p.m. at the American Fork High School library (or media center or whatever it’s formally called), candidates will answer questions posed by the public before and during the event. In one segment, candidates will ask each other questions. You can also meet the candidates informally before the event, beginning at 6:30 p.m., and after the event until 9:00 p.m. Cookies are expected. This event is sponsored by the American Fork Council PTA and the American Fork Youth City Council. (Full disclosure: I’m helping with this event.)

Submit questions in advance for this event using this online form:

The address is 510 N 600 East in American Fork.

On Thursday, October 22, at 12:00 noon, voting-age students at American Fork High School are invited to lunch with the candidates. There will be pizza. This is also in the AFHS library, which is an interesting place for pizza, if you ask me.

On Saturday, October 24, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., the candidates will be the featured guests at the American Fork Chamber of Commerce’s Pancakes and Politics event. It’s in the American Fork Hospital Conference Room at 170 N 1100 E, American Fork. Breakfast is free.

One Friendly Request

My request is simply this: Do your homework as best you can, and use your common sense as you study the candidates. Here are two possible applications.

First, a recent study by the Utah Taxpayers Association identifies American Fork as the fourth most expensive city in Utah, according to tax burden. Some candidates and their supporters may cite this study, but it is so flawed that responsible candidates won’t use it.

This problem by itself is absolutely devastating to the study’s credibility: They took the total sales tax intake at American Fork businesses and divided it by the population of American Fork, to determine the sales tax burden on city residents. This only works if the only people who shop in American Fork also live there, but that is obviously false. I’m not aware of any good data about this, but I’m betting that American Forkers pay less than half of the sales tax collected at American Fork businesses.

For more information, see Mayor James H. Hadfield‘s response at the City web site.

Second, remember that pinching pennies now often costs dollars later. Here are some prominent examples from American Fork’s recent history:

  • Reluctance to raise taxes in the 1990s to fund a pressurized irrigation system meant that it had to be done about 15 years later at more than five times the cost — approximately $40 million dollars more than necessary. No wonder my water bill is high.
  • About the same time, reluctance to raise taxes also led to uncompetitive police salaries, which led to a pattern of experienced officers leaving for other opportunities. Theoretically, when a force has more than its share of green officers — or more experienced officers which for some reason are not attractive to other jurisdictions — the City tends to get sued a lot due to police misconduct, real and alleged. Draw your own conclusions about American Fork, where the lawsuits went on for years. Police salaries are cheaper than lawsuits.
  • In the 1990s City officials reduced the road maintenance budget by about 90 percent, in order to fund other programs without increasing taxes. This was supposed to be a short-term solution, but it wasn’t. The long-term shortfall was discovered by more conscientious leaders several years ago, by which time our roads were many millions of dollars behind. (A good-faith attempt to address this situation responsibly led to an excellent city councilor’s defeat in the last election and nearly defeated Mayor Hadfield as well.)

That’s as close as I want to get to commentary today, but I’ll have a lot of that soon.

An Unadvertised Special

This short article from last year’s election, by former Pleasant Grove Mayor Bruce Call, is one of the best, most sensible pieces of local political commentary I have ever seen. It’s worth rereading before every municipal election. Thanks again to Mayor Call for allowing me to reprint it here.