Guest columnist Curtis Wells

Since the passage of HB 224 and subsequent mandate for Grand County to become compliant regarding our form of government, there has been an abundance of acrimony by the same old tribe of vocal, vitriol spewers. Funny how the lectures of compassion, civility and open-heartedness are replaced with anger, hate and ugliness when they don’t get their way. Personal attacks and character- assassinating toward me are neither effective, nor are they appropriate, in a small rural community. We share the same restaurants, parks, sidewalks and churches. Let us debate the issues, not sling mud in an attempt to capitalize politically or project negative emotions across the aisle.

While I will tolerate lectures of ethics and proper procedure by a Democratic Party chairman, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance supporters, Grand Canyon Trust employees, and Sierra Club directors (albeit shamefully hypocritical) — I won’t tolerate claims of an efficient and effective form of government in Grand County that didn’t need fixing.

Our form of government was changed in 1992 in a clear case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” This was a mistake. Elected officials, including county commissioners, may grow sour on the vine, and in turn need replacing. But, we changed our form of government and replaced a model that is operating more than effectively in 25 of Utah’s 29 counties, with something that looks interesting on paper, while being a disaster in practice. At the time, the theory was that commissioners are too powerful, therefore this false perception of a negative needs to be mitigated by replacing the three commissioners with seven volunteer legislators and a full-time administrator. The result is seven council members who struggle to read their packets prior to meetings, let alone solve problems and generate solutions for our various issues as a county. The county administrator falls far short of a traditional executive and struggles to manage the day-to-day functions of a $13 million public organization. In essence, we separated the legislative and executive authority of our commissioners and divested the responsibilities of county services and functions to an array of volunteers on special service districts. The product has been habitual waves of tax increases and irresponsible spending of mineral lease money due to poor management and a lack of accountability.

The same group of political junkies and green activists that are crying foul, have complained in the past of shared frustrations that we don’t have enough volunteers come forward to effectively run the community. Well, here’s a thought: While you may not subscribe to the same politics as the rest of the state, does that mean you should shackle the taxpayers and citizens of Grand County to this broken system because you desire an isolated progressive utopia more than quality services for the people? I’m less concerned with partisan politics, term limits and a recall provision than I am in replacing this slow and reactive failure with a form that enables proactive problem solving and accountability.

In my first year on the Grand County Council, I witnessed a board of seven volunteers melt into their chairs during tough issues when the moment called for accountability and leadership. I witnessed a council of seven volunteers struggle to balance a budget due to the complete disregard of facts and circumstances. I witnessed a complete lack of problem solving on a consistent basis. I witnessed little to no involvement in the legislature and the rest of our state. Cities and counties have an obligation to interact and collaborate on the state and federal level. I give the county an F+ in foreign policy. I’m witnessing a 25-year failed experiment that’s produced bad government, clear and simple.

After the passing of HB 224, the most direct attacks toward me and the implications of the bill came from the Grand County Democratic Party, the Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club. That should really send a message to the public. Why do they resist compliance and a better government? The reason is that these entities are obsessed with control. It doesn’t matter that we’re not fiscally responsible, accountable or simply effective. It matters to them that they have control and can treat this form of government like their little progressive toy. They push back against partisan politics with pretend distaste, while they consistently line up liberal tickets for local office every election. This is Moab, 2018. A buffet of progressive candidates and tax/fee increases on every ballot, every year. On one hand they want the popular vote to decide national elections, but in Grand County they want us splintered into illogical districts because they value control over performance.

I campaigned on this issue, and I’m absolutely proud to say in one year I’ve followed through. I’ve worked hard for my constituents in my first year, and HB 224 is real positive change in its most tangible form. Zero regrets. I didn’t do it for partisan politics; I did it for the people. Our challenges are too great and our opportunities are too attractive to wade through quicksand on our path to quality representation and good government. We’re failing the working class families, the small businesspeople and our children. No more.

Curtis Wells is a Grand County council member.