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Nadolski, Knuth address housing, 25th Street construction, ticketing quotas and more

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 20, 2023
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Ogden mayoral candidates Ben Nadolski, right, and Taylor Knuth, center, met at a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, on the Weber State University campus in Ogden. KUER Assistant News Director Caroline Ballard, left, served as moderator.
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Ogden mayoral candidates Ben Nadolski, right, and Taylor Knuth, center, met at a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, on the Weber State University campus in Ogden. KUER Assistant News Director Caroline Ballard, left, served as moderator. They are photographed after the end of the forum.
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Ogden mayoral candidates Taylor Knuth, pictured here, and Ben Nadolski met at a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, on the Weber State University campus in Ogden. Knuth is photographed after the forum meeting with the media.
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Ogden mayoral candidates Ben Nadolski, pictured here, and Taylor Knuth met at a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, on the Weber State University campus in Ogden. Nadolski is photographed after the forum meeting with the media.

OGDEN — Ben Nadolski focused on his work, policy and administrative experience while Taylor Knuth sounded a theme of building up community and building connections.

The two Ogden mayoral contenders faced off in a forum Thursday, offering their thoughts on whether Ogden ought to take part in a renewable energy program and a controversial Ogden Police Department job-evaluation policy some say approximates an illegal quota system. They addressed affordable housing, the stalled apartment house project at 144 25th St. and more.

KUER and Weber State University’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service hosted the event, which drew about 150 spectators to an auditorium classroom on the college campus.

Knuth, deputy director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, a division of the city’s Department of Economic Development, spoke at several points during the forum of his focus on helping boost the city at a grassroots level.

“What I’m excited to talk to you about tonight is getting back to the basics of good government, which for me is building up our community, creating connections with our neighbors and preserving the character of our city,” he said. “And we have to do all of those things at once.”

Nadolski, finishing his second term on the Ogden City Council and a regional supervisor for Northern Utah with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, zeroed in on his experience. He’s worked for the division for 21 years.

“I have over 20 years of experience in public administration, public policy and public finance,” he said, noting his duties supervising 70 workers and overseeing a $70 million budget. “I spent five years working in legislative affairs and worked on behalf of the governor’s public lands office on a number of really complicated issues.”

Ballots will be out in early November, with voting culminating Nov. 21. The winner will replace Mayor Mike Caldwell, who’s not seeking reelection.

Here’s what Knuth and Nadolski said on some of the issues:

Housing: Nadolski said the city doesn’t have an “appropriate balance of rentals versus opportunities for homeownership.”

To address that, he said the city could focus U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding to help make homes affordable. The Ogden Redevelopment Agency could tap city-owned property “for homeownership opportunity.”

As for apartments, he said the city’s general plan, the document that guides development in Ogden, could be revised to make sure high-density apartment development occurs in transportation hubs where restaurants and entertainment outlets are located.

Knuth said he’d create a Housing Stability Division in the city government apparatus that would be tasked with addressing housing affordability and attainability. He proposed expanding the Own in Ogden loan program, meant to aid homebuyers, by boosting down payment assistance, “especially for our public servants like police officers and teachers.”

He said the Own in Ogden program helped him, along with a city reinvestment project that resulted in the construction of 23 new homes in east-central Ogden — eight lease-to-own and the other 15 priced at market rates. He lived in that development, which he said drew a broad spectrum of residents.

Energy: The candidates were asked whether the City of Ogden ought to take part in the Community Renewable Energy Program, or CREP. Under its parameters, Ogden and other communities across Utah would team with Rocky Mountain Power and the company would bolster wind, sun and other renewable energy production in its portfolio to meet the varied locales’ power needs.

Knuth, a strong proponent of participating, called it perhaps the most important issue discussed at the forum.

“But not necessarily for those of us who are sitting in this room now, but for future generations of Ogdenites who want to breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy the natural environment of Ogden that we have all known and loved and want to retain,” he said. If moves aren’t made to shift away from use of carbon-based fuel, “our kids are going to be the ones that suffer.”

Nadolski is waiting for more information, worried about the impact of a possible boost in power costs that could result with the program’s implementation. Officials haven’t yet pinpointed the impact the shift would have on power prices.

“What I’m doing is waiting for the cost. I need to know how much that costs for our people. I’m not going to go all in on something until I know how it impacts us. Once I know that, I can make an educated decision,” he said.

Ticket quotas: The candidates were asked for their thoughts on suggestions in a series of reports by Fox 13 that a provision of the Ogden Police Department’s officer-evaluation policy might amount to an illegal ticketing quota policy. Would they maintain the provision, which requires patrol officers to issue two citations for moving or non-moving infractions per week to meet departmental expectations?

“I’m not in favor of it. That’s my opinion that I expressed right from the beginning when it first came up,” Nadolski said.

His concern is that the provision, whether legal or not, creates trust issues among the public. “I’m not an attorney. But I don’t think I need to be an attorney to know that it erodes trust when people think or know that there is a quota in our city, whether it is or isn’t,” he said. “This creates mistrust.”

Knuth noted Ogden Police Chief Eric Young’s view that the policy complies with state law, which is where his concerns are focused.

“Now I’ve shared pretty publicly that I read the law and that I think the law needs some additional clarification, especially if our chief of police who just won police chief of the year is telling our city that he is following the letter of the law,” he said. Accordingly, Knuth said, his administration, if he’s elected, would work with state lawmakers to “clarify that law” to make sure Ogden is compliant.

144 25th St.: The city has ordered a stop to work on an apartment building taking shape along Historic 25th Street due to use of wood that isn’t property fire resistant, and the candidates offered their take on the situation. City inspectors also say the incomplete building has structural issues.

Knuth, speaking with the media after the forum, put a focus on oversight efforts in construction projects like the 25th Street structure.

“What we’ve seen in this specific example is maybe we were asleep at the wheel a little bit, and we need to be more attentive to that relationship, especially in development areas that are crucial to the success of our entire city like 25th Street,” he said. “We got this project wrong. We have the opportunity in front of us to make it right. I hope we can make it right without having to tear the building down. But it’s the job of our city to create the guide rails for private development to take place and then monitor it to make sure that actually happens.”

Nadolski, as a City Council member, said he hasn’t yet received a full report of what happened, but suspects “something serious went wrong on the builder and contractor and developer side.”

For now, the building poses a threat to public safety and the issue needs to be addressed immediately, Nadolski stressed. “There needs to be 24/7 security to make sure that no one’s getting in that building … who can do something that’s going to harm the public, period,” he said, also in comments with the media after the forum.

Wherever fault lies, Nadolski didn’t offer an optimistic view of the structure’s future. “It sounds to me like demolition is probably more likely than resolution,” he said. “So let’s get to that point as fast as possible.”

Generally, to create a better balance between rights of property owners to develop their land as they see fit and the broader public good, both candidates said the city’s general plan, which guides development, needs to be updated. Such change is in the works.

“The lack of a general plan has resulted in the proliferation of apartment complexes in the wrong areas of town. And so a general plan really will help us guide that growth, balance the rights of … private property owners with the expectations we have as a city for those we do business with,” Knuth said.

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