In a well-attended meeting at Lehi High School, Lehi City mayoral and city council candidates expressed varying views on multiple issues during a primary election debate held on Thursday, July 27. The event was sponsored by the Lehi Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lehi Free Press
Lehi’s state senator, Jake Anderegg was master of ceremonies, with state representatives, Kay Christofferson and Cory Maloy introducing the mayoral and council candidates. Questions used in the debate were submitted by Lehi City citizens and presented to the candidates by Lehi Free Press Reporters Autumn Foster Cook and Donna Barnes. Kadee Jo Jones, Miss Lehi, was timekeeper.
The city council candidates, including incumbents, Chris Condie and Paul Hancock along with Bailey Holmes, Steven Sabey and Sean Williams responded to the following questions in the first section of the debate.
Question: “The issue overwhelmingly raised by Lehi citizens is growth and the resulting issues, most prominently traffic congestion. Included among suggestions for solutions to the problem is placing a moratorium on new development. How would you approach the issue of traffic congestion as a city council member?”
All candidates responded that infrastructure needs to be in place before development can be approved. Condie explained about the City’s land-use map and how it should be considered in every development approved. Williams replied, “Residents should be included in discussions about development.” Hancock expressed concern that landowners have the right to decide what they want to do with their land. Sabey also expressed the need to have adequate infrastructure before development is approved. He also said, “We need to maintain what we have.” Holmes added, “We need to change how we approve development.”
All candidates mentioned the new money from the Utah Department of Transportation that will help improve the freeway exit near Thanksgiving Point. Holmes added, “We need to make sure roads are not just up to code on paper. We’re not dealing with paper, we’re dealing with people.”
Question: “Another compelling issue raised by citizens is the need for parks and the associated recreation opportunities. Recently, the City Council attempted to address this by proposing a $50 million-dollar bond to fund construction of additional parks. The bond failed. What do you think is the best way to address parks and recreation, especially in terms of funding?”
Condie, “We need to review all the neighborhood parks and provide family centered parks.” Holmes suggested that parks can be built with donations and volunteers.” Hancock felt that we don’t charge enough for impact fees for recreation facilities. Holmes responded, “We need to get spending under control.” Sabey reiterated, “We need to be fiscally responsible and use collaboration and communication to improve recreation facilities.”
Question: Do you believe that providing financial incentives for large companies or corporations is a good strategy for enticing new development?
All five candidates were opposed to providing incentives. Hancock, “No, that time has passed,” Williams, “Lehi is a place where people want to come without incentives,” Condie, “No tax incentives.” Bailey, “We don’t need tax incentives. It is unfair that some businesses get them and others don’t.”
The mayoral candidates debate comprised the bulk of the evening. Candidates include incumbent, Bert Wilson, Cody Black, Mark Johnson, Nolan Johnson, and Curtis Payne. They were given the same introductory question concerning growth and transportation.
Nolan Johnson, “We must gather information. If people come from California they need to bring water with them. We have created a stucco tsunami. We need someone who can manage this crisis.”
Payne expressed concern with the infrastructure problems. “Funding is the greatest issue. Thanksgiving Point traffic problems is a result of poor planning.”
Wilson said, “Growth is coming whether we like it or not. The city has been fighting with UDOT for 6 years and we finally are getting $450 million in funds.” The mayor expressed that needs are to be first priorities and not wants.
Black expressed frustration with previous planning and management. “Traffic problems are a result of poor management,” he said.
Mark Johnson said, “There has been a systemic failure in the plan at Thanksgiving Point. We need to re-address the legality of impact fees and work with the legislature on impact fees. Appropriate impact fees are very important so that people already living in Lehi are not paying for all the growth, and right now they are.”
When asked why they are running for mayor, all candidates expressed a love for Lehi and wanted to make sure it remained the great place to raise families.
Mark Johnson said, “this city is important to me. While we may hear and read about national issues, it is local government that really effects your life.”
Nolan Johnson said, “That is a good question! I just want to get the job done using creativity and “out-of-the-box thinking.”
Payne expressed love for Lehi. “Our founding fathers lived in Lehi. I can make a difference because I am in my prime and have had the type of experience that will help me in this responsibility.”
Mayor Wilson remarked about having two shelves of hardhats in his office representing many businesses that have come into Lehi since he has been in office. “I enjoy seeing business come to Lehi to provide good jobs for our children and grandchildren. Lehi is a good place to work, live, and play.”
Black explained that he is a good listener and will engage the public in the decision-making and future planning. Lehi will become a hub and we need to prepare for that. “I love this city. I want to make good things happen.”
After the debate, interested voters chatted with candidates in the auditorium. All registered voters received their ballots last week and have until Monday, August 14 to postmark them. No postage is required, but voters must sign their ballots. Voters may also return their completed ballots in person to Lehi City Hall on Tuesday, August 15.