Blog: Referendum Kick-Off Transcript

By Justin Swain. Posted: Mar 5 2020

I’m going to share a statement that I saw, today actually, on the county website. This is on their “about” page: “By nature, local government does not make a big splash. That is fine by us. The only splashing we like is at one of our 15 recreation center pools.”  That’s verbatim on Salt Lake County’s website. To the best of my knowledge Salt Lake County is the only county in the entire state that is allowed to approve the development of unincorporated land without the cooperation of the adjacent cities and I think they have now proven why that’s the case.    

You know it’s interesting, I had a few county council members last year that met with us personally express frustration over comments made by some of us in the southwest valley implying a lack of representation that we have out here at a county level.  We have three great council members that wanted to approach this from an unbiased perspective, Richard Snelgrove, Aimee Winder Newton, and Steve DeBry. They are fantastic representatives. I’ll point out that those three live approximately 13 miles away on average from the Olympia Hills property. Our six council members that voted in favor live an average of 22 miles away from the Olympia Hills property. I think that makes it pretty clear why this should not be a county decision.  

Now we have a statement from our mayor today, not surprisingly, declining the chance to veto this decision. But there was an interesting statement there, proclaiming that we had two choices - either Olympia Hills or “sprawl.” Why we have leadership, creating this artificial divide, is beyond me. The reality that a leader can’t see it - or can see it, and isn’t willing to admit that there are so many variations in-between A and B - that’s what’s causing the problem that we have.  We were at the table to find a resolution, we wanted to make this work. The reality is we didn’t want a fight, we wanted cooperation. But it’s this type of statement that turned it into a fight. We presented data, we weren’t up there just opposing. We had numbers. We had all kinds of legitimate concerns based on empirical evidence that were largely ignored.  That’s why we’re here today.

I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m sick and tired of being called a NIMBY. I would challenge the definition of that. Is a NIMBY someone in a community that has data-supported objections around specific components of a development? Or is a NIMBY someone that doesn’t care and accepts it because it’s not in their backyard.  

So there’s two things we can do to make a change here. The first action is to address the problem directly. Since our county is unwilling in general to try to make this work at all levels, as a group we’ve actually gone to the developer directly and had a positive response thus far in hopes of working something out with this development that will make it a successful community and amenable for everyone.  In the meantime, unfortunately, we have to take action to correct a terrible decision, and we’ve got to refer this to the ballot.  

The second thing we can do is look beyond the immediate problem and address the systemic issue and that’s leadership. If our leaders won’t do what’s best for us then we need to take action and replace them with leaders who will. With that we’d like to acknowledge as a group, and from myself especially, the support that we’ve had from a number of local leaders many of them standing here behind us, especially from the Southwest Mayor’s Coalition. All the work that they have put in, the amazing job they have done - I am just blown away that the council ignored six city mayors, representing about 250,000 people, and just did what they wanted to do, making the assumption that the opinions of six individuals living 22 miles away mattered more than the thousands of people concerned about their community. The Southwest Mayor’s Coalition really has done an amazing job and we want to recognize that. With that we want to turn some time over to Mayor Staggs of Riverton City.