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Mass transit and SkiLink are two issues that distinguish Republican Mark Crockett from Democrat Ben McAdams in the Salt Lake County mayor's race.

In a Friday debate at the Utah League of Cities & Towns' convention, McAdams said he is all for mass transit as the best means of moving the county's growing population and dealing with air-quality problems that already exist because people rely so much on individual vehicles to get around.

While Crockett has nothing against trains or buses, he contends "mass transit needs to be part of the equation, but roads need to be part of the equation, too. We need more roads. We need to buy the [light rail] corridors, acquire land that will be hard to get later, but maybe not rush to quickly put in trains that right now are largely running empty."

McAdams disputed that point, saying light rail trains running to and from the Daybreak development in the southwestern valley frequently are packed. Mass transit, he said, "allows housing choices to be made around transportation choices."

In terms of SkiLink, Crockett said Talisker Inc.'s proposal to build a gondola from its Canyons Resort outside of Park City to Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon "could be a great answer" to questions about how to keep the state's tourism industry thriving.

"We'll have to make sure there is minimal environmental impact [and] no impacts on watershed," Crockett added, noting he also would support exchanges that would allow private landowners to trade backcountry properties to the U.S. Forest Service for developable land adjacent to existing resorts.

McAdams opposes SkiLink, particularly Talisker's efforts to remove the Forest Service from the regulatory process by getting Congress to pass legislation requiring the agency to sell the company 30 acres in the gondola's path.

"I don't think the federal government has any business coming in and telling us we're going to take Forest Service land and sell it to a Canadian company so tourists can come in and ski it," he said, advocating for a more public process.

That brought a rebuke from Crockett, who said McAdams and Salt Lake City officials had displayed no willingness to even talk to people who believe they have plans for canyon developments that can be done responsibly without environmental impacts. McAdams is an adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, whose Department of Public Utilities is zealous about protecting canyon watersheds.

The proposed incorporation of Millcreek, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot along with the mayoral race, represented another point of dispute between the candidates.

Crockett supports the creation of a city of 65,000 people and appeared Thursday at an event promoting incorporation. While he was not invited to that event, McAdams said he felt the county mayor should remain neutral on the issue because of incorporation's potential impacts on residents countywide.

In general, McAdams said, his experience as a legislator and municipal aide displayed his collaborative skills, a necessary trait for a mayor who has to work with officials from 16 cities within Salt Lake County's borders.

Alternatively, Crockett touted his leadership abilities in running a company that helps major corporations and government agencies do their jobs more effectively — a skill he would apply to improve county operations.

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

Meet the candidates

R Mark Crockett, Republican, is a former county councilman and managing director of the consulting firm Vici Capital Partners.

Ben McAdams, Democrat, is a state senator and an adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. —

Poll gives Crockett edge

Internal polling by Ben McAdams' campaign shows the Democratic state senator is trailing Republican rival Mark Crockett in the race for Salt Lake County mayor.

The poll, conducted last week, showed McAdams trailing Crockett, 48 percent to 40 percent. But both candidates are largely unknown to likely voters — 45 percent had never heard of McAdams and 39 percent had not heard of Crockett. The margin of error was 4.9 percentage points.

McAdams' pollster, David Metz, said in a polling memo that Crockett's edge is likely a result of partisan identification. Metz said that voters switch their votes when they are given information about the two candidates, which he added gives McAdams a shot at winning if he runs a strong campaign.

Robert Gehrke

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