The 2020 general election is now over or it is in the process of being over for most elections, initiatives, referendums, and propositions — and so far peaceably.
For this, we should be glad. Glad that we live in the greatest country on earth, glad for our freedoms and liberties and the opportunity to vote for the people or policies of our choice.
In Utah, it went as expected from my perspective, that is not always good, but predictable because politicians except for President Trump are predictable. To this point, in Utah County we voted on a potential change of government called Proposition 9. Again from my perspective, this went as I expected: It failed.
Full disclosure here, I wrote a column about two years ago advocating for a change of government from a three-person commission to a mayor and council form of government. I wrote this column because I believe as the Founding Fathers did, that we should have three branches of government. The founders believed the executive and legislative branches should be the strongest with the judiciary being the weakest. Maybe I shouldn’t say the weakest, but its main function is to decide disputes between the other two branches.
When Utah County’s good governance committee recommended that we change our county’s form of government to a mayor and seven-person council form of government, I wrote another column criticizing the recommendation because I don’t want a large expansion of government in our county.
The pro-Proposition 9 organizers tried their best to foment a win, but it was an awkward attempt to gain power while hoping no one would notice it. Proposition 9 was mostly promoted by a northern Utah County mayor and northern Utah county commissioner and it is being suggested that Proposition 9 was an attempt to help the mayor become the first Utah County mayor in this new form of government. Perhaps sadly for this mayor, it may end this person’s political future.
I am surprised, but maybe not really surprised, at how stupid so many politicians think we are. If the promoters of Proposition 9 wanted it to succeed and I believe they did, then they should have put forward private-sector men and women who want the change and have them explain its merits. Maybe like you, I only saw elected officials endorsing this. Again, full disclosure, I know most of the mayors and they are very nice people but you can’t convince a county of 600,000 people that something is in their best interest when a couple of self-serving politicians are most visible and one of them stands to benefit greatly.
Now let’s talk about the anti-Proposition 9 folks. Commissioner Bill Lee, to his credit, has been forthright about his opposition to Proposition 9, but his logic is flawed. His argument has been that checks and balances like the Founding Fathers envisioned doesn’t matter because executive duties normally done by the mayor are spread between three commissioners and other county officers.
Commissioner Lee doesn’t like power vested in the office of one person, the mayor, but thinks that two commissioners from the legislative branch can have all the power they want. This is precisely the reason I wrote my first column advocating for a mayor-council form of government, I saw Lee clamor for power and try and unfairly exercise it over all the mayors — and by extension all the cities — in Utah County.
The other argument from Lee is that about 20 years ago Salt Lake County changed its form of government from a three-person commission to a mayor and nine-person council. Lee says that because Salt Lake County massively expanded the government’s footprint and blew up the budget, then of course Utah County will do the same. This is illogical. Salt Lake County has had only one GOP mayor, the first one, and since has had liberal Democratic mayors who chose to enlarge the budget and expand the government’s footprint. Utah County doesn’t necessarily have to or would follow in Salt Lake County’s footsteps. And if we elect liberal mayors and liberal council members who want to blow up the budget, shame on us.
Unfortunately, Lee convinced his former boss, Senator Mike Lee, to crusade for the “stop Prop. 9” group — and with all due respect to Senator Lee, his logic is flawed here as well. Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 69 and 70 about the role of the executive saying that that he/she is elected whereas a king is not and therefore the executive is not an elected monarch as the “stop Prop. 9” group implied. Furthermore, Article 2, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution grants broad powers to the executive, the president of the United States,and it is not a far leap to say that the executive of a city, county or state should have the same broad powers.
All executives have city councils, county councils or the statehouse to keep them in check. If the legislative branch at any level like Congress in D.C. grants authority or looks the other way for an executive who abuses this power in a manner not intended, then shame on that legislative branch.