OGDEN — Weber County residents will be asked — finally — if they want to look into the idea of changing the form of county government here.
Weber County Commissioners, as anticipated, approved a resolution Tuesday agreeing to put the question to voters. It'll be a year before the public weighs in, on the Nov. 5, 2019, ballot, according to Weber County Elections Director Ryan Cowley. But still, it's a big step forward in the on-and-off push over the years for a review of the three-commissioner form of county government here, decried by some as insufficiently representative.
County Commissioner James Ebert, who put Tuesday's measure on the meeting agenda, noted the circuitous route the proposal has taken. When he first took office in 2015, interest among county commissioners in considering change to the form of government was tempered. But that started to change when Commissioner Jim Harvey — a proponent of reviewing the form of government here — took office in 2017, he said.
Eventually last December, commissioners agreed to take action to the question on the ballot if alternative efforts to put the matter to voters via petition didn't pan out.
"You can cheer now," Ebert said after Tuesday's 3-0 vote.
State law outlines several alternatives to the traditional three-commissioner form of government now in place in Weber County, with commissioners holding both legislative and executive responsibilities:
- 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.
If voters approve the November 2019 measure calling for a study into alternative forms of county government here, a special body would then be selected to pick the seven-member committee that would carry out the inquiry, according to Oscar Mata. He's co-chair of Weber County Forward, which unsuccessfully petitioned to get the question on the ballot via collection of signatures from voters.
Any proposed change to county government coming from the study would then be put to voters, per the process.
"It's taken a year," Mata said, alluding to the drawn-out process. "But everyone's on the same page."
Some critics of the three-county commission form of government say it doesn't reflect the political and ethnic diversity of Weber County. Others pushing for a study into changing county government here have expressed concern about commissioners having too much power, both legislative and executive responsibilities.
Talk of changing the form of government here dates to at least the early 1980s. Weber County voters narrowly defeated a proposal to expand the county governing body in 1998.