Race: Orem City Council
Occupation: Truss Designer
Education: BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering (BYU Provo '15)
What are the biggest issues facing your city and how do you plan to address them?
The biggest issues facing our city begin and end with how we address growth. We are already seeing the positive and negative effects of this growth up and down the Wasatch front – we have to properly forecast our resources and plan for the projected increases.
With this in mind, the three main focuses of my platform are as follows:
1) Responsive and responsible housing
There is a desperate need for affordable housing options in Utah Valley, especially in Orem. At the same time, preserving the integrity of our neighborhoods in the midst of housing developments is of greatest concern to residents. Some possible solutions include the following:
A) Allowing homeowners the option to build and properly rent out their accessory dwelling units and mother-in-law basements through licensing.
B) Finding underperforming commercial areas of the city and collaborating with the owners to redevelop as a mixed-use zone (like having 2-3 stories of apartments above stores and offices).
C) Building high-density or mixed-use housing on our main corridors nearby public
transportation stops (as exemplified in the State Street Master Plan).
As we go forward with finding places to upcycle, revitalize, and build-up, it is critical we find consensus amongst the neighbors, business owners, city government, and developers. Compromises may include instituting impact fees on new developments to account for the new strain on infrastructure; creating RDA zones to incentivize developers and have a say in the final product; establishing “scenic corridors” to limit developments overall, building height in areas where we don’t want to block views to the mountains; and locking in starting rent prices for some of the units built for a certain time period to offer affordable options.
In essence, we know we need to grow out and allow for more affordable options to students, young families, low-income workers, and fixed-income residents who are aging. Simply ceasing all future development is neither wise nor fair to those who wish to participate in our economy. We can be responsive to the needs of our city and responsible in how we make it happen.
2) Increased funding for public safety
We have a serious shortage of police and fire staff for Orem. Our officers are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. Officers are getting an average 15-16 calls a shift (compared to just 4 for our neighbors in Lindon) and those other cities are paying their officers more. This results in high turnover costs. For example, this year we paid out a cumulative $500,000 to train new officers. Because of the high workload and inherent stress of the job, we still lost 20+ officers to neighboring cities or different careers. For our officers who stand by Orem, the raises they receive barely outpace cost of living increases. Our firemen are experiencing a similar strain, with the added worry of finding funding to build and staff a new fire station in southwest Orem.
While ensuring the solvency and success of Orem’s fire and police force relies on taxpayer support, we can invest in and retain qualified safety personnel through gradual budget improvements, raising property taxes only as a last resort with residents’ approval. At the end of the day, we need to make sure that the people who worry about our security don’t have to then go home to worry about their own financial security.
3) Sustainable growth
Finally, as we work to accommodate the growth coming to Orem, sustainability needs to be addressed in all of the following forms:
A) Sustainable finances: Infrastructure is not a rotisserie chicken – you can’t just set it and forget it! The funding for these projects needs to be cyclical and gradually increasing to meet the city’s needs – this means budgeting and taxing the correct amount. Roads and intersections need to be built, widened, repaved, and modified to meet new demands. Parks, rec centers, libraries, etc. need regular care, renovation, and reconstruction. Our treatment plants, piping, gas, electric, stormwater, and sewers all need strategic maintenance and eventual replacement. As a civil engineer, my educational background has shown me how critical it is to not only properly build and maintain infrastructure, but to make sure funding is in lock-step with these projects. When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
B) Sustainable environmental stewardship: We have amazing parks and natural wonders all around us. Air quality is also a concern to residents, especially during wildfires and prolonged inversions. Anything we can do now to limit our negative impacts on our environment will have positive ripple effects for generations to come. Supporting public transportation makes commuting more efficient, taking cars off the road and thereby reducing smog and wear on our roads. Bike lane networks also provide a healthy alternative form of transportation and give families another way to enjoy the city. Encouraging rooftop solar panels not only brings down residents’ utility bills but also eases the burden on our power plants and electric grid. Continual support of Geneva Masterplan also gives business owners and residents the ability to develop on area brownfields (places suspected of having ground pollutants) while getting support from the government for soil testing and pollutant removal.
C) Sustainable lifestyle: People have come to know and love Orem as a great place to raise a family. Aside from the friendly residents, things that have encouraged people to stay and invest in this city include being part of a safe, clean neighborhood, having a diversity of nearby shopping options, enjoying well-maintained parks and recreation programs, participating in our yearly celebrations (like Summerfest), supporting our arts centers and local library, etc. We must continue to scale these projects and programs as we grow. As we modernize and plan for our future, we must not leave our heritage, sense of community, and quality of life behind. Addressing these concerns may slow down our development and cost us a little more, but they are critical for our city’s identity and residential loyalty.
What sets you apart from other candidates?
My background in civil and environmental engineering gave me an education that was equal parts problem-solving and infrastructure planning. I hope to bring my career experiences to the table and keep a watchful eye on how we adapt to growth.
I am one of the few candidates who has regularly attended the work and public sessions of the city council (at least for the past 5 months); I have attended many programs and events sponsored by Orem in that same period. To understand what is happening at the local level, I have also met one-on-one with many city employees, city council members, the mayor and city manager, department heads, and the police chief, among other important city figures.
I am also bilingual - I hope to bring our Spanish-speaking neighbors to the table to address their concerns.
What relevant experience do you have for this position?
Aside from my previously mentioned education and career in civil engineering, I have also volunteered in many non-profit causes. In the past, I regularly planned events and conventions (which would have upward of 200 attendees). I am practiced in partitioning my time: I work to support my family's needs, I volunteer to causes that give my life increased fulfillment, and I make time for my friends and family. In summary, I have the time, practice, and background education to seamlessly transition into part-time public service.
What previous elected positions have you held?
I have not previously held any publicly-elected positions. This is my first time entering into the world of local government and politics in general. That being said, I did not take the prospect of running for office lightly. I attended many public meetings and held one-on-one conversations with various members of the community to understand Orem and the roles of local government better.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know about you?
I became a civil engineer because I believe if you are going to do anything, you had better be polite about it. As I seek the opportunity to become your next city council member, I want to make sure we keep the dialogue open and civil too. As your representative, we may not see eye to eye on every issue, but you will always have my ear. Please reach out to ask me questions and let me know how you feel about the issues facing Orem. Thank you.