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Sugar House Journal

First stop on a five-site town hall across Salt Lake County by Mayor Jenny Wilson

Apr 30, 2019 16h22 ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is flanked by Southwest Quadrant Mayors Trent Staggs of Riverton and Dawn Ramsey of South Jordan. Mayors Staggs and Ramsey attended Wilson’s town hall held at the South Jordan Equestrian Park and Event Center. (Photo courtesy Salt Lake County)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

The Salt Lake County (SLCO) Equestrian Park and Event Center was impeccably groomed. 

Its tidy, soft-dirt arena, used for showcasing English- or Western-style riding or even rodeo prowess, instead flexed its event-side, hosting a 14-foot television monitor, right in the middle of the dirt.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, just three months into her role as chief executive of one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties, arrived on April 23 at South Jordan’s Equestrian Center, ready to “talk county” with, take questions from, and showcase County services to Southwest Valley area residents. 

The South Jordan visit was first of Wilson’s five-area town-hall circuit, spanning late April and early May, which would cover all areas of the County, from Draper to Kearns, from Millcreek to the Salt Lake County Complex itself. The format featured an hour of mingling with County department heads about services, then prepared remarks, and a question/answer session with Wilson.


Missed opportunity for many

Unfortunately, being the first site of a new tour from a new mayor, the County Town Hall in South Jordan saw sparse attendance, with the overwhelming majority of attendees being representatives of Salt Lake County itself, who were seen ahead-of-time carrying oversized briefcases with table-display materials to present their County services.

Wilson put an appropriate spin on this: “One of the purposes of doing this is to connect us as a County,” she told a room of employees. “To show the community we are one.”

The Mayor paid off this message, showing a SLCO film “We are Salt Lake County” and paying tribute to each of the divisions within the county. The video will later be posted on social media and on the SLCO website, according to SLCO Director of Communications and Public Information Officer Chloe Morroni.

Near one-of-a-kind accessibility to ‘elected’s’ and other SLCO staff

For those who were in attendance, the event provided near one-of-a-kind accessibility to key County employees. 

Those whom the Mayor referred to as “elected’s”—District Attorney (DA) Sim Gill, Clerk Rashelle Hobbs, Auditor Kevin Jacobs, Sheriff Rosie Rivera, Clerk Sherrie Swensen—were all readily available for connection, as were SLCO regional planning executives, and, of course, Wilson herself.

SLCO table displays were varied--from the SLCO Clerk’s office’s sharing detailed reports on property values and other important home-owner data, to an exuberant SLCO Aging & Adult Services team prepared with information ranging from the Meals on Wheels services to dance lessons.

Gill shared impassioned thoughts about multiple successes this session in the legislature, including the signing of the Hate Crimes Bill (SB103 or “Senate Bill 103,” now being challenged) and the “Clean Slate Bill” or automatic-expungement bill (HB431 or “House Bill 431”), which creates an automatic expungement process to delete criminal records for those who qualify.

Wilson lauded the Southwest Quadrant’s abundance of County facilities, including three libraries (in Herriman and Riverton, and the under-construction South Jordan/Daybreak location), the Riverbend golf course, and the “1,681 acres of open space” in Rose Canyon and Yellow Fork.

Southwest Quadrant mayoral representation

Key leadership of the Southwest Quadrant attended the event. Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey both spent significant time visiting with Mayor Wilson as well as checking out numerous SLCO table displays.

“Citizens having access and the ability to communicate with their elected officials is something I am proud to promote,” Wilson had said of the five-site town hall tour. “I look forward to hearing concerns and ideas from the community and sharing some of the amazing resources Salt Lake County provides.” 

Riverton Mayor Staggs complimented this goal. “It’s a good thing for people to have the opportunity to find out what the County is doing, and have a forum for their questions and concerns to be addressed.” He added, “Transparency and accountability are important at every level of government.”

The O word

Although SLCO welcomed guests with its reference to “Southwest Quadrant,” a few casual words mentioned later in the evening would have, likely, spoken much louder to southwest residents. 

“Assuming that (Olympia Hills II) goes forward,” Wilson mentioned, in prepared remarks delivered later in the evening.

The “assuming that” comment was made in reference to the high-density Olympia Hills II project and its planned connection with a budgeted trails system network. Wilson says she championed the trails under the leadership of former Mayor Ben McAdams, securing $1 million in funding for its development. The mentioning of that would surely seem a carrot, sweetening what many Southwest Quadrant residents view as a stick further beating long-punished transportation corridors struggling to service existing populations and proposing more residents.

“Olympia Hills II” is the next-round proposal for a high-density land-development project for the use of unincorporated Salt Lake County land. Olympia Hills II is proposed to be situated at the base of the Oquirrh Mountains, straddling the Bacchus Freeway, or SR111, and adjacent to Herriman and South Jordan.

Former Mayor McAdams vetoed its antecedent project, “Olympia Hills (I),” after it sailed through a willing County Council, amid loud, persistent outrage from Herriman residents assembling thousands of signatures in formal protest. The controversial project’s impact on the Southwest Quadrant (SWQ) forged the initiation of the SWQ Mayors Council, comprising Bluffdale, Copperton Township, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan, and West Jordan. The mayors banded together, 11th hour, to attempt to dissuade the council from approving the project. What failed to woo the council added sway to the mayor who vetoed the project, sending it back to the drawing board, only to re-emerge as Olympia Hills II.

Mid-March, SWQ residents had two opportunities to weigh in on the project at open houses in both Herriman and South Jordan. While the developer is tallying results from resident comments, SWQ residents missed a prime opportunity to connect with Mayor Wilson, the county executive potentially slated to dictate particulars of any development.

“Decisions on development in Salt Lake County need to carefully consider the transportation impact on surrounding cities,” Staggs expressed in a follow-up interview with City Journals. “We can’t have a situation again where the County is making these decisions without needed input and coordination from the cities most directly affected.

“I’d like to see The County take a more proactive approach in bringing cities like Riverton to the table before important decisions are made that could impact our residents.”