Weber County Prop 3

A public forum on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, on Proposition 3, the proposal calling for a study into changing the three-commission form of county government in Weber County, drew only a handful of people, including organizers. From left to right, Jan Zogmaister, Republican co-chair of Weber County Forward, the event organizer; John Bond, a Roy resident and the Weber County treasurer; Stephen Harris, a Roy resident; and Oscar Mata, Democratic co-chair of Weber County Forward. The event was held at the Weber County Library System library in Roy.

ROY — Leaving governance of Weber County to the three-member County Commission makes Stephen Harris uneasy.

If two of the three are in accord on something, they end up pulling the strings since they make a majority.

“It comes down to two people running the county. To me, that doesn’t seem like a good idea,” said Harris.

Joshua Hoggan, who also has his doubts about the government format, questions how representative just three commissioners can be in a county of some 250,000.

“I don’t have anyone I can call up and say, ‘You live in my neighborhood. You know the issues. Please help,’” he said.

With a question on the Nov. 5 general election ballot in Weber County asking voters whether they favor studying alternatives to the three-commissioner form of government, Proposition 3, the future of the government format is up for debate. Weber County Forward, which favors Proposition 3, is sponsoring a series of town hall meetings on the measure, and Harris and Hoggan were among the handful at one of the gatherings Tuesday in Roy.

Alternatives to the three-commission format include addition of more commissioners or creation of a new executive branch, putting legislative powers in the hands of a county council. As is, commissioners in Weber County — currently Scott Jenkins, Gage Froerer and Jim Harvey, all Republicans — have both legislative and executive powers.

The views of Harris and Hoggan may or may not represent the majority view on Proposition 3 — that won’t be known until after the Nov. 5 voting. But the seeming support they expressed for studying the county government format with an eye to changing it reflected the main viewpoint coming out at Tuesday’s meeting.

“What we’re hearing is that people want a study,” said Oscar Mata, the Democratic co-chairman of Weber County Forward and the host of Tuesday’s meeting, which drew just seven people, including organizers. No naysayers showed up and Mata isn’t even aware of an organized campaign in Weber County against Proposition 3.

Jan Zogmaister, a former Weber County commissioner and Republican co-chair of Weber County Forward, was also on hand at the meeting. She favors Proposition 3 stemming, in part, from the dramatic population increase in Weber County in recent years and demographic shifts.

Beyond that, she sees Proposition 3 as a means for self-review and reflection. “I think it’s always good to look at what you’re doing,” she said.

Whatever the case, the debate over Proposition 3 hasn’t caught fire among Weber County residents, judging at least by the showing at the Roy meeting. Harris brought the Proposition 3 issue up ahead of Tuesday’s gathering with a morning group he regularly meets with, getting blank stares.

“No one at my breakfast table knew anything about it,” he said. The debate over legalized cannabis, by contrast, “gets everybody’s juices flowing,” he noted ruefully.

Being a Roy resident, John Bond, the Weber County treasurer, attended Tuesday’s meeting but didn’t speak out. A Sept. 5 gathering on the issue in Ogden drew about 10 people, according to Mata and Zogmaister. The next planned Weber County Forward gathering on Proposition 3 is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Weber County Library System branch in North Ogden, 475 E. 2600 North.

THE OTHER OPTIONS

If Proposition 3 passes, the first order of business would be creation of a special five-member council that would appoint the committee that would actually carry out the study of county government, Mata explained. County commissioners would pick one member of the appointment council, state lawmakers serving Weber County would pick another and those two would select three more.

Then the appointment committee would select the seven-member study committee, the body that would actually look into the notion of changing county government. The committee would study the various options state law spells out for county governance. Aside from the three-commission form of government, the most common in Utah, the other options in Utah are:

  • Expanded commissions, with either five or seven members.
  • Executive-council format, with an elected county mayor or executive holding executive powers and a five-, seven- or nine-member council holding legislative powers. The executive could veto council actions.
  • Manager-council format, with an appointed county manager managing day-to-day functions and a five-, seven- or nine-member council holding legislative powers. The manager would not have veto power.

Council members or commissioners could serve at-large or in districts.

Proponents of change have pointed to the diversity of Weber County’s population, saying the three-member commission doesn’t fully represent the cross-section of residents here. Others chafe at the notion of the county commission holding both legislative and executive powers.

If Proposition 3 passes and the resulting study committee reaches consensus on possible change to county government, voters here would weigh in on the proposal at a later vote.

Weber County is not the only growing area in Utah researching a change in the county form of government; Utah County has spent much of 2019 embroiled in the process and studies as the area looks to better represent 600,000 residents and reduce potential government corruption.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.