Weber County citizens have a rare opportunity to cast their votes on the question of whether or not a study of the current Weber County form of government should be undertaken. Other counties in Utah have recently engaged in similar studies as populations, budgets, staff and citizen demands on government have all grown. Weber County now has a population exceeding 250,000 residents and an annual budget exceeding $200 million.
Currently, Weber County’s three commissioners serve as both the legislative and executive branches of the county government, giving rise to a concern about a lack of checks and balances in the system. Our constitutional form of government generally provides for a separation of powers, so that no one branch of government has the authority or ability to override the others. This is so that the will and good of the people will be best served.
In the Federalist Papers, James Madison explained, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Weber County has three excellent County Commissioners. They serve honorably and are working hard for the benefit of the citizenry. They are following in the footsteps of many, many others who served with distinction and honor in their office. However, in light of the growth mentioned above, concerns about the adequacy of the current commission structure sometimes arise. In the past three years we have seen a County-wide increase of over 20% in our property taxes in one year, our county 911 fund has gone bankrupt leading to a proposed tax increase, and we have recently learned that the incorporated portions of our county have been subsidizing the cost of services for the unincorporated portions of our county for a very long time. These issues highlight the increasing complexity and the potential benefit of additional oversight of our county government agencies.
The demands on our three commissioners are heavy. They oversee 36 county departments, over 1300 employees, and serve on numerous other community boards, all while performing both executive and legislative duties. They generally perform these duties with distinction and care. However, the issues highlighted above and the separation of powers considerations are sufficient reason for the citizens of Weber County to investigate the possibility that there are other forms of county government that might be more representative, more responsive, more efficient, more accountable, and more in line with the guiding principles of our republican form of government.
In casting your vote on Proposition 3, please keep these things in mind. First, the decision to study the form of government is yours, the voters of Weber County. Next, if Proposition 3 passes, a study group composed of volunteer citizens of Weber County who are not government employees or elected officials will then be appointed to study options, hold public hearings, and investigate alternatives. The study group would be supported by the Walker Institute at Weber State and would come at very little cost to taxpayers. If, after this process, the study group recommends a different form of county government, the study group will need to articulate the reasons for the change (i.e. — because it provides greater representation, more oversight, separation of powers, or additional checks and balances in our system). Finally, it will then come back to you, the voters of Weber County, to determine if a change should be made. You will weigh the arguments for and against, and decide whether a change is warranted. That decision, and the future, will be yours to make.
For these reasons, we encourage you to vote in favor of Proposition 3. You can then be a part of studying the alternatives and making an informed determination of the best form of government for you, the citizens of Weber County.
Rep. Steve Waldrip, Utah House District 8
Rep. Kyle Anderson, Utah House District 7
Rep. LaWanna “Lou” Shurtliff, Utah House District 10
Sen. Ann Millner, Utah Senate District 18
Mayor Michelle Tait, Harrisville City
Mayor Jim Truett, Huntsville Town
Mayor Mike Caldwell, Ogden City