Recently South Jordan resident, Austin Hudson, emailed a questionnaire to all candidates seeking elected office in South Jordan. The goal of the questionnaire is to give the residents of South Jordan information allowing them to compare and contrast the candidates so that when they vote they “can do so with clarity and confidence.”
Below are the questions that Austin asked and my responses follow each question in blue. If you would like to see all the candidates' responses you can do so at: http://www.austinhudson.com/sojovotes/
1. South Jordan has arguably one of the absolute best police forces in the state. Crime rates in South Jordan are gradually decreasing with the exception of one area: traffic accidents and DUIs. As a community leader, what should we be doing to address these two issues in order to bring them in line with the rest of our crime statistics?
In order to help decrease traffic accidents and DUIs, South Jordan’s Police Department (SJPD) needs to have a greater ability to patrol city streets and dedicate time to community awareness projects targeting impaired driving and the traffic violations that the SJPD determines causes the most traffic accidents.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for the SJPD to dedicate time to these types of activities as our police department is stretched thin and we currently have police officers working overtime for basic traffic enforcement. With our current city council opting not to follow the SJPD Police Chief’s recommendation of adding seven new police officers to the force and instead funding four new police officers and one community officer, it will continue to be difficult for the SJPD to focus on reducing accidents and DUIs when the majority of their time is spent just responding to calls.
Our police chief has a reputation of only asking for what he needs and not for what he wants. To me community safety is a top priority and I would follow the recommendation of our police chief and provide him with the number of officer’s he feels are needed to timely respond to calls and to keep our city safe.
2. Despite how safe the city of South Jordan is, popular opinion holds that there is a steadily increasing number of petty crimes such as minor theft, nuisance complaints, and panhandling. Are these low-level issues ones that the SJPD needs to address more seriously, or are the complaints simply smoke without fire?
The increase in petty crimes throughout the city is real. Often the police will refer to these crimes as “crimes of opportunity”. These crimes often increase around the winter holidays with packages being stolen from porches and also in neighborhoods that are experiencing growth. I have seen panhandling increase in our city around The District and the on ramps to I-15. I would like to see the SJPD address these issues more seriously, but until the SJPD is fully staffed, I know that the police department is doing the best that they can with the resources that they currently have.
3. The subject of inclusiveness and diversity is an especially contentious one right now. According to aggregated census data from 2011 - 2015, South Jordan is comprised of 78.8% white citizens, nominally more diverse than the state average (83.4%), but still higher than the national average (76.9%). Do you consider promoting diversity to be an issue the city of South Jordan should look at, or do you think the city is in line with where it needs to be?
I would love to see greater diversity in our city and to see it celebrated. We live in a great city and everyone should feel welcomed and appreciated.
4. As a follow-up to the previous question, should the city be looking to do more to promote inclusiveness amongst its diverse membership, or is it a non-issue at the present time?
Inclusiveness is definitely an issue the city needs to look into and work to improve. I was disappointed to learn that city officials declined to work with one of our residents that wanted to establish diversity events to help bring our city together. However, the city’s issues of inclusiveness go beyond race, and I am against any policy that makes or would make others feel unwelcomed based on race, gender, sexuality, or religion.
We also need to ensure that as a city we try to promote inclusiveness between communities within our city. A recent draft of the City’s Parks & Open Spaces master plan essentially divided our city into two sections, Daybreak and non-Daybreak. As I have been out talking with residents, many residents have commented about this division in our city. I believe that we need to find ways to bring Daybreak and non-Daybreak residents together and reduce these feelings of division within our city. Our city leader’s needs to makes sure we grow as one great city where everyone feels welcome.
5. Recently, President Donald J. Trump removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. A national poll in May from the Yale Program on Climate Communication indicated that 7 out of 10 Americans supported staying in the Accord, causing many small cities to agree to uphold tenants of the Accord regardless of the White House’s position. Do you support holding South Jordan accountable to the environmental goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accords?
South Jordan is a great place and as a city we need to make sure we are doing our part in keeping the environment clean so we do not compromise our quality of living or negatively impact others. Air pollution is a big problem in our valley and I support initiatives that would help to clean our air. I lean towards upholding the tenants of the Paris Climate Accord, but I would need to learn more about the Accord before I would declare that the city needs to uphold it.
6. As recently as 2013, Utah had the lowest spending per pupil in the region for students in K-12, as well as the lowest teacher salaries. Despite this, Utah still performs better than national average in standardized testing and student competency. Do you believe South Jordan schools are appropriately funded? Can we be doing better with increased funding?
South Jordan schools are not appropriately funded, we can do be better and we must do better to more appropriately fund our education system. Our teachers and students should not have to rely upon grants and donations for classroom supplies. I believe with increased funding our teachers and students would do better.
7. The US Census Bureau has rated South Jordan as the fifth fastest growing city in America. Do you believe our city’s budget is currently able to reflect that growth? As the city continues to grow, do you expect that we’ll see a change in taxes and fees to go alongside with it, or would you aim to maintain a similar budget without modifying tax obligations?
We cannot have a meaningful discussion concerning changes in our taxes and fees without first coming together as a city and determining the services we want in our city and the level of service we expect these services to function at. In order to help facilitate this type of discussion, I would like to see the city implement software, such as OpenGov, that allows citizens to go online to see how their taxes are used. This software also allows residents to give input and see how their proposed changes would affect the budget. This tool would allow residents to have a greater voice in the budgeting process. Once we as a city have determined the services and the level of service that we want, our taxes and fees should be used wisely and efficiently.
8. Economic development is a huge issue, given the city’s growth rate mentioned above. Do you think it’s easy or difficult to start a new small business in South Jordan? Do we have room to improve the process and make it even easier for entrepreneurs to start a small business?
Starting a small business is a difficult challenge for anyone; however, with the high cost of land in South Jordan and the limited amount of existing commercial buildings that are available it is difficult for small business to find a location in our city. It is critical for the city not to rezone commercial and office land for residential use so we are able to establish a greater commercial core that can support small business and create areas in which the small business can thrive.
I would like to see South Jordan become a hub for small business by establishing business incubators and co-working spaces that allow startups and small businesses to collaborate and network. I would also encourage a city program that would reach out to small businesses and strengthen them through classes and other mentoring opportunities. A program like this has already been implemented in our neighboring city, Sandy.