There's something you don't see every day: A candidate challenging an incumbent partly because the incumbent voted against a tax hike.
Salt Lake City Council District 3 challenger Sherm Clow expresses his feelings succinctly: "I know tax is a dirty word around here," he says, "but it's not as dirty as our air in January."
Of course, Councilman Stan Penfold is against dirty air, too. Like his challenger, the incumbent sees improved public transit services for their northside district in particular as a big step toward improving air quality. The candidates also agree on the importance of preserving neighborhoods, better communications with citizens, improving outreach to the homeless and others who need social services and helping the downtown area to be more economically vibrant.
Both men are thoughtful and concerned. Either would contribute to the council's deliberations. The difference, then, comes down to matters of experience and temperament. And that is where they edge goes to Penfold.
Penfold is finishing his first four-year term on the city council. Before that, he was active in civic affairs as the chairperson of both the Greater Avenues Community Council and the Salt Lake Association of Community Councils, groups that he helped to make into official voices of neighborhoods with recognized city standing.
He stresses the importance of open and deliberate processes in government. The lack thereof in the recent decision to raise city property taxes was, Penfold said, the primary reason he cast his vote against the hike.
Penfold also offers sound thoughts about how the city needs a more detailed economic development plan, one that evaluates whether the tax breaks or other assistance cities are often asked to provide really pencil out as a benefit to existing taxpayers. He hopes to work with state and county officials to improve their financial support for expensive city structures and functions that benefit the thousands of people who work in the city but live and pay taxes elsewhere. And he hopes to find ways to improve the condition of the city's oft-neglected parks and other open spaces.
Clow, a longtime government employee with expertise in computers and communication systems, is no less concerned about his community. But he also makes no secret of the fact that he entered the race out of a severe distaste for the new downtown parking meters and as a way of putting the advice he receives from his drinking buddies into practice.
Interesting, but no reason to turn out an experienced and devoted councilman such as Stan Penfold in District 3.