Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon recently wrote an op-ed defending his record with details about which entities have been borrowing what amounts ("Mayor to Crockett: Get your facts straight," Opinion, Aug. 19). I consider Peter a friend, and he is factually correct, but he misses the central point: Debt impairs our ability to deliver important human services, plan for future growth and improve our community.
Just because Salt Lake County can borrow money doesn't mean we should. Across the country, reducing spending and debt should be the primary objective for leaders looking for solutions to bloated budgets especially in these tough economic times. When I talk about reforming county government, I do so with the aim to improve services and lower the burden on our families. The county's core services impact people's lives in a profound way and we need to put people first.
Salt Lake County is the 13th-largest employer in the state of Utah, and it has the second-largest budget after the state government. The numbers don't get much bigger or the stakes much higher.
People should be given the opportunity to prioritize which projects are most important for their tax dollars. They should be told how much the subsidy for new projects will cost on a per-use basis. Theaters are nice, but if the taxpayers funding them can't afford to buy a ticket to attend them, we should look to other priorities first.
We need to reform our county jail to end "revolving door" problems, improve mental health programs, and focus on the core services that touch people's lives. We can do all of this, and reduce costs while we're at it, but only if we are able to let go of the business-as-usual approach to government.
It often takes a fresh, outside perspective to help an organization get to work and save money. Career politicians often develop blinders and pursue the same course of action regardless of the results. And ordinary taxpayers suffer the consequence.
We cannot be complacent about the management of taxpayer dollars. Federal grants to county programs won't last forever, and our economic climate remains unpredictable at best. The costs of these programs ultimately filter down to the taxpayer. There is every reason to keep making county human services more effective and saving taxpayers' money.
The bottom line is: When it comes to county government, we can do better and we must do better.
Mark Crockett, a former Salt Lake County councilman, is the Republican candidate for Salt Lake County mayor.