Mike Kieffer of the Crossroads Journal Submitted these question to the candidates running for city council in the areas the city serves, which include Highland. We were limited to four sentences so please ask me to eleaborate on anything.
Highland Candidate Survey Questions- The Crossroads Journal
Question 1: Roads. Roads are usually always a topic of interest during election cycles. Do you feel your city has adequate roads, why? What will you do to improve the roads in your city?
Our city needs to maintain and repair our roads. However, a recent decision to create an $18.50 a month road fee was met with another citizen referendum indicating that the city did not successfully make their case to a good deal of residents. I believe this is largely a communication problem, but I also think that there are some legitimate questions about the estimates. While inaction is not a choice, Highland City must do a better job presenting information to residents and demonstrating that we are adopting the most conservative plan possible.
Question 2: Property Rights. What are your views on property rights, and how do you plan on balancing the
property rights of current residents with the property rights of prospective developers?
Zone changes tend to be the most controversial actions that impact property rights.The City Council should not be giving zoning favors to developers that alter the property values, both financial and aesthetic, of current property owners. I think zone changes should be approved by those citizens that will be most impacted and developers should negotiate with current property holders. The city has a responsibility to protect current property owners from negative impacts of growth.
Question 3: Founding Fathers. Do you have a favorite founding father? If so, who is it, and what is a favorite quote, or ideal that founding father had that you try to emulate? (Notice I did not define founding father, I am leaving that up to your interpretation.)
Publisher and postmaster Mary Katherine Goddard is my favorite founding mother. In 1777, she published the first authenticated, signed copy of the Declaration of Independence. At the time, signing was considered an act of treason, punishable by death. This courageous act demonstrates the indispensable role of the press to inform citizens in a free society.
Question 4: Schools. Do you feel the education system is adequate in your city? If so, what are we doing well, if not, what needs to be changed.
Utah has a teacher shortage and we have challenges funding k-12 education largely because Utah has consistently lowered property taxes and income taxes and failed to provide adequate incentives to teachers. Additionally, Utah charges the lowest effective tax rate on oil and gas produced on private and public lands in the Mountain West. I think we should evaluate if this taxing schedule is fair to Utah students and teachers and re-adjust rates accordingly.
Question 5: Family. Can you give me a brief description of your family, and what it means to you?
My immediate family consists of my husband, Matt, and our three adult children. We raised them in Highland because we loved the community and environment. We also have a large extended family in California. My family is the center of my life.
Question 6: Why Run. Can you tell me why you are running for your position?
I am running for city council because I think I am qualified. I have dedicated many years of my life studying the issues of Highland City and trying to communicate as much information between the city government and the citizens as possible. A representative must actively listen to their constituents as well as provide the justification for any tax money spent. I believe that government must be ethical, transparent and actively engaged in two-way communication with constituents.
Question 7: Biggest Issue: What do you see as the biggest issue in your city, and what do you plan on doing to help solve the issue?
I think the biggest problem in our city is that we are carrying a lot of bond debt ($11,125,000.00) from past investments in pressurized irrigation, parks and buildings and our limited tax base makes it difficult to provide some of the opportunities many families would like, such as sports programs or recreational facilities. Trying to pay the bills, reduce taxes, minimize fees and avoid additional bonding is the challenge. Looking into partnerships with other cities, or at the county level, might be able to bring more, cost effective services to Highland families.
Question 8: Greatest Good: What do you see as the best thing that your city has going for it, and how do you plan on protecting it for future generations?
Our unique zoning, our proximity to the American Fork canyon and our people are our greatest assets. As Snowbird and other investors develop the American Fork Canyon, we must mitigate the influx of traffic and also capitalize on the potential sales growth in our city due to these changing dynamics. I also think the east west corridor will prove to be a smart investment to distribute traffic impacts within our city in a sound and sustainable way.
Question 9: Open Space: Do you feel we have enough open space, to much open space, or to little open space in your city? What policies will you try to implement to support that view?
I think we have a reasonable amount of open space. I was surprised to see what areas are actually referred to as open space. Some residents that are currently being charged a fee for the space would like more flexibility with the property and I think the city should work with residents to find a solution that puts residents first. It seems like residents are being taxed but their interests in the property are not being represented.
Question 10: Development: What are your goals for the City in regards to Development?
Much research has been done on the cost effectiveness of residential and commercial growth. Residential growth costs current citizens more money than it generates. Maintaining current zoning makes sense because increasing density is of no benefit to current residents, in fact it costs us more in overall impacts. Our commercial base still has room for growth and bringing new business to Highland to increase our tax base will be a priority
Question 11: Parks and Recreation: What are your views on your city’s current plan for parks and recreation, and what are future goals for them?
We have a relatively small tax base as we are cornered by Cedar Hills with Walmart and Lehi with Smiths. We are also a family community that would benefit from low cost recreational opportunities for our kids. Our outdoors are the greatest recreational facility there is, but for organized sports, we could look into partnerships with other cities or potentially at the county level.
Question 12: Master Plan: What changes do you feel should be made to your cities master/general plan?
Highland’s master plan which was written when we were incorporated in 1977, and adjusted over time, is what makes our city feel like home. Its critical that as we grow our financial district, we minimize sprawl and protect the property rights of the people that currently live in the surrounding areas. While adjustments have been made over time, the general concepts are sound. Periodic assessment of public opinion on Sunday closings with data driven analysis of potential tax base growth seems prudent.
Question 13: Programs: What is the best program, that you know of in your city? How does that program make your city better, and how do you plan on making the program stronger?
I think the arts and music programs and the youth council are great examples of modest municipal investment and high community return. Offering competitive, low cost options for arts, governmental stewardship, sciences and sports means savings for Highland families and investment in our community. I plan to continue current investments and look to cutting costs elsewhere in the budget as well as capturing new economic growth.
Question 14: Literature: Name one work of literature that has had an impact on you, and why you think it is important for a guide during this election cycle?
The Open Space of Democracy by author, Terry Tempest Williams, has had a lasting impression on me. She writes, “I have always believed democracy is best practiced through its construction, not its completion – a never-ending project where the windows and doors remain open, a reminder to never close ourselves off to the sensory impulses of eyes and ears alert toward justice.” A well-functioning government requires communication, transparency, ethical decision making, commitment, sacrifice, and courage to serve. This book, among others, inspired me to take an active role in my own government and not just be a passive observer.
Question 15: Down Time: What do you do with your down time, what leisure activities do you like to participate in?
I like to camp with my family, create art, write, prepare meals for friends and family, read, hike and garden.
Question 16: Why Your City: Why have you chosen your city as your place of residence?
With the unique and careful zoning and design of our city, Highland has maintained an unmistakable sense of place. The proximity to the Uintah forest and the meandering American Fork river makes Highland one of the most beautiful locations in Utah County. Conveniently located near freeways, hospitals and other amenities, it is difficult to find a more ideal place to call home.