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Salt Lake County will not send voter information guides to unincorporated-area residents to help them understand what is at stake in this November's Community Preservation election.
County Council members concurred Tuesday with a subcommittee's recommendation against the guides to educate people prior to the Nov. 3 vote on the future governance of six townships and four dozen islands of unincorporated turf in the county.
There is not enough time before the election to find residents in each area who could write position statements for and against the proposal, to edit their pieces for factual accuracy and to get them out to 55,000 voters in the unincorporated area (160,000 residents overall).
Then there's the cost: $25,000.
"People could put out inaccurate information," said Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. "I'm uncomfortable to pay that much money when we don't have say over the contents."
The council agreed, preferring recommendations voiced by associate deputy mayor Kimberly Barnett on the subcommittee's behalf.
She suggested that when the county mails official ballots to the 35,000 households in the unincorporated area, clarifying information about the election should be printed on the back of an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper whose front will contain a map of the township or island where the recipient lives.
State law doesn't say anything about what may or may not be written on that map, noted county Deputy District Attorney Gavin Anderson, unlike the ballot itself. In approving a 270-page bill last session that authorized the Community Preservation election, the Legislature prescribed specific language for the ballot.
County Council members are concerned the required wording will confuse people, with some believing the language is biased toward encouraging uninformed voters to opt for their area to become a city rather than a metro township, largely because the concept of a city is much more familiar to people than a metro township.
The result, Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove said the previous week, is that cities could be created by voters who really want to maintain the status quo, a condition more likely to occur if the existing townships all become metro townships.
To ensure residents see both sides of the issue, the county also has budgeted funds for one or two more postcards to be sent to unincorporated-area residents. There are no restrictions on the size of those postcards.
What those postcards say, Barnett noted, could be determined by issues that come to the forefront in seven town-hall meetings tentatively set for September, one for each township (White City, Copperton, Emigration Canyon, Kearns, Magna and Millcreek) and another for all of the islands.
"The easy point is the [postcard's] design, so let's figure out what to say," said Councilwoman Jenny Wilson. "What are the core, high-level things we need to communicate."
Barnett said she and the subcommittee will draft a proposed statement for the council's next meeting Aug. 4, observing, "We could write a book about this or define it in half a page. We'll find that happy middle ground."
This approach works well for Councilman Michael Jensen, a Magna resident.
"We have to do it right," he said. "I want residents to understand what they're getting. I'd rather us do it right rather than not do it as thoroughly as we could."