What a year it was in Utah politics. First a Utah Senate leader was arrested for drunk driving, and then attacked law enforcement officers in the courtroom, trying to weasel out on a technicality. Then it was a Utah House leader who was rewarded for his admission of hot-tubbing with a teenage girl by a standing ovation in the Legislature. (Except for Ogden's Neil Hansen, who kept his seat during this charade.) Despite massive problems facing the state because of the Great Recession, the Legislature wasted even more time than usual on useless message bills this year.
Don't forget the UDOT mess, where a company that donated $85,000 to Governor Herbert's re-election campaign had the bid process tweaked in their favor to gain a $1.5 billion contract -- in a process so suspicious Utah taxpayers had to shell out $13 million to keep from being sued by the company who presumably would have won the bid if not for the shenanigans. Not to mention the old last minute party switch-a-roo shell game played by Senate 18 candidate Stuart Reid to avoid having an opponent in the November election.
I agree with Peter Corroon on the root cause of this mess. It's all about judgment and leadership. And poor judgment and lax leadership flow from a lack of accountability due to the scarcity of checks and balances in our state.
Ogden city offers a good case study for how things should work. Criticism is occasionally heard about how contentious things get sometimes between council members like Amy Wicks and Mayor Matthew Godfrey. I personally like the mayor, and he's had some significant accomplishments. But don't you think Ogden has been a better place because the mayor has council members that push back and ask tough questions? Ogden city is well run precisely because checks and balances exist in city government.
Recently revealed ethics problems in Morgan County offer an interesting contrast. I believe most elected officials are good folks. But when they're all Republicans, and they've all been there a while, and relationships with employees become a little too relaxed - well, it's easy to understand how the "trust but verify" axiom could become weak on the "verify" side. Both Weber Democratic Commission candidates have commented that very little debate goes on in Weber County commission meetings, and votes are virtually always unanimous. In such an environment, it's not surprising standards might slip a little.
Utah needs to do what the citizens of Massachusetts did early this year with the election of Republican Senator Scott Brown. The very liberal citizens of that state stood up and said to the Massachusetts Democratic Party: We agree with you on ideology, but you guys are getting too big for your britches. You have stopped listening to us. So we're gonna teach you a lesson.
Looking at the events of the past year, who can argue that the Utah Republican Party is getting too big for its britches? I understand most Utahns don't like Nancy Pelosi. But what does that have to do with who is the best candidate for Weber County clerk? We need better accountability from our elected officials, something that will only happen when there are checks and balances. We need to clean house, right here in Utah. And like the Massachusetts Democrats, the biggest beneficiary of greater political balance in Utah will be the Republican Party. Losing a few races will humble them a little and make them more responsive to average Utahns.
Most importantly, if Weber residents want to continue to have a choice on Election Day, they had better give highly qualified Democratic candidates some victories. There are many counties in Utah where voters will go to the polls this November and see only Republicans on the ballot. Why? If you lived in a place where it has been decades since a Democrat won an election, would you run? Speaking from experience, there is nothing short of military service that is a bigger sacrifice for an individual and his family than running for public office. How can we ask our fellow citizens to accept such a sacrifice if the voters are going to reject him or her out of hand, just because they have a "D" by their name?
Weber County is lucky. You have a full slate of qualified Democratic candidates to choose from. I encourage you to vote for better, more accountable government by electing some of these good folks to serve you.
Olsen, of Plain City, is a Weber County Democratic Party leader.