Weber County change government

Five public meetings are to be held starting Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, to provide the public with information on Proposition 3, the ballot question that calls for studying the notion of changing the three-commission form of county government in Weber County. In this Oct. 26, 2017, photo then-Utah Rep. Gage Froerer, now a county commissioner, signs a petition at a West Haven hotel calling for a study into changing the county's form of government. He and several other leaders from around the county inked the petition.

OGDEN — Are you satisfied with the three-county commissioner form of government in Weber County?

Curious what the alternatives to that form of government are?

Voters here will be asked in November if they want to study the idea of shifting from the three-commissioner format of governance. Ahead of that, five town hall meetings are planned through September to help get the public up to speed on the proposal. The first gathering is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Weber County Library System Main Library in Ogden, 2464 Jefferson Ave.

Weber County Forward, which pushed for the ballot question and favors the proposal, called Proposition 3, is helping organize the gatherings in conjunction with Weber State University's Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service. The question will be on the ballot along with the candidates running for the mayoral and city council seats up for grabs in many cities across Weber County.

Oscar Mata, the Democratic co-chair of Weber County Forward, said the aim of the meetings is to educate the public on the plan and dispel misinformation about the proposal. The Nov. 5 ballot question doesn't call for changing the form of county government here. Rather, it asks whether a study into the notion should be carried out and the possible alternatives. If Proposition 3 passes and the study committee subsequently formed comes up with a recommendation for changing the style of government, that proposal would be put to voters in another later vote.

Aside from Thursday's planned meeting, the other scheduled gatherings, all at Weber County Library System libraries, are:

Mata touted the proposal in terms of assuring good governance.

"We as a community should be represented under the best format that's available to us," he said. The only way to find the ideal style of governance, he continued, "is with a study."

WSU's Walker Institute would serve as a research and support body to the study committee that takes place, should Proposition 3 pass.

Weber County commissioners approved putting Proposition 3 on the ballot in September 2018. However, the issue of changing the county government style has periodically popped up dating to at least 1980, according to Bob Hunter, director of the Walker Institute. He was a county commissioner in 1980 when the issue was debated, and he favored a plan at the time to put a question to voters on the matter, but the effort stalled.

"My personal opinion is it's never wrong to review what it is you're doing and see if there's a better way," Hunter said.

Under the traditional three-commissioner form of government now in place in Weber County, the three officials are each voted in at-large by voters across the county. The body holds both legislative and executive functions. Some who have pushed for a study say the system doesn't allow for adequate representation of the county's varied population. Others bristle at the notion of the commission having both legislative and executive powers.

State law outlines several alternatives to the form of government now in place in Weber County:

  • Commissions may be expanded to five or seven members, with the body still holding legislative and executive duties.
  • Executive duties can be shifted to an elected county executive or mayor with legislative duties handled by an elected county council.
  • Executive duties can be shifted to an appointed manager with legislative duties handled by a county council. The council would select the manager.

Leaders and residents in Utah County have been debating whether to move from the three-commission form of government there.

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

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