Where Does He Stand? (2015)

Preserving our Quality of Life, now and into the future

In the heart of Utah County, Provo citizens enjoy a phenomenal quality of life. It seems each new month brings with it a new top-ten national ranking in one livability index or another. But to maintain our quality of life, we must proactively set our course, addressing problems before they escalate, and availing ourselves of opportunities as they present themselves.

Like it or not, Utah County, and Provo itself, are rapidly growing. Much of this growth is due to our own growing families. Solutions that have worked for us in the past may not bring us the same results in the future. To accommodate this growth, we can’t just double the width of our roads to accommodate twice as much traffic, or grow our land area to accommodate the projected increase of families. If we are to maintain our quality of life— preserve those things that make Provo such a great little city— then we need to be creative and wise in how we grow.

Provo has enjoyed many benefits by being the county seat, and continues to be the center of government, education, culture, commerce, and health care. If we do not wish to relinquish this role to the surrounding communities, we must not stand still; we must actively cultivate these aspects of our city. Provo is a special place and fills a unique role in the County. We need to recognize our differences and embrace our role. We should not try to be a better Orem than Orem, or worry if Lehi is doing a better job of being Lehi. Great cities have unique personalities. We need to become the best Provo that Provo can be.

Improving the Pioneer Neighborhoods 

I believe the Pioneer Neighborhoods— those older neighborhoods surrounding our historic downtown— are the best places to live in Provo. That is why my family chose to live here, and why I'm thrilled at the prospect of representing our district.

The Pioneer Neighborhoods have a great sense of community, of place, and of heritage. The diversity of life experiences among fellow residents enrich our own lives. I know of no better place to raise my family.

However, the Pioneer Neighborhoods also face some of the most difficult challenges in all of Provo. While crime is low and most families in our district feel safe, our peace and safety is threatened by festering pockets of crime. I recently visited a friend who is considering moving his family because of the criminal activity in two nearby homes.

Many parts of of our neighborhoods struggle with a shortage of longer-term residents. We love our shorter-term neighbors and all they contribute to our communities. They are an integral part of our neighborhoods and help shape our community. We also need the stability and continuity provided by longer-term residents with vested interests in our community. We have stronger, healthier neighborhoods, which provide a better living experience for all, when we have a good mix between short and long term residents.

It feels as though a battle is being waged for the future of the Pioneer Neighborhoods. Each time a good neighbor gives up and moves away because they feel unsafe, it is a small defeat; every time an involved family moves from this area because they can't find a home that accommodates their growing family, we lose. However, every time a neighbor decides to remodel their home to meet their own needs, and every time a family moves within our neighborhoods, because they can't imagine living anywhere else, it is a victory.

We will win the battle for the long term health and viability of our neighborhoods by addressing the reasons good neighbors who want to stay feel forced to leave; we will win by cultivating those things about Provo that make people decide to stay. Ultimately, we will win when those initially transient residents get to experience our strong, stable, neighborly communities and decide that this is the place they want to build their business and raise their families— when they see, like we have seen, that the Pioneer Neighborhoods are a great place to call home.

Responsive City Services

Surveys have shown that a vast majority of Provo residents are well satisfied with the services we receive from the city and the value that we receive from our local tax dollars. We have some of the best city workers in the world. The city is well administered and well governed, but there is still room for improvement. I know many residents who have become frustrated trying to work with the city to resolve neighborhood problems. As the Dixon Neighborhood Chair, my neighbors occasionally bring issues to me that they have not been able to resolve on their own with the city, and I have seen first-hand the difficulties these good people experience trying to resolve community issues.

When there is a break down in the city's response, it is often over the more complicated issues that take coordination between different departments. We need city employees who are empowered to be problem solvers; we need better inter-agency cooperation and better coordination between neighbors and city staff. I think that one solution to this is to restore the Central Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinating Committee (CNRCC), a committee referred to in Provo City Code but which has gone inactive. When functioning, this Committee acted as a liaison between the different city departments and our neighborhoods, helping them work together to decide how to address and solve community problems. This committee, or something similar, needs to be revived.

Improvements are also needed to get the full benefit of the city’s new “311” customer service system. My overall experience with the new system is very positive, and I frequently recommend it to my neighbors. I particularly enjoy the ability to submit concerns online, which allows me to track the progress of a concern as it is handled. However, I have had complaints get marked as “resolved” once they were assigned to an officer or staff member, or even to another department, rather than when the actual issues were resolved. Perhaps the staff were over-worked or perhaps there needs to be better training, but the city needs to keep pressing its implementation so that the “311” system can reach its full potential to facilitate clear communication between the city administration and the residents they serve.

Downtown Residential, Concentration of Needy Residents

Urban residential is just being introduced into our city and county; great things have been envisioned, and promised; but what is being delivered makes me, and many of our residents, nervous. Provo needs residential offerings that will bring more vibrancy to Downtown, to support the revitalization that is taking place. The wrong mix of housing will ruin the feel of our Downtown, and will slow the current momentum, poisoning Downtown’s residential prospects for some time. There is a larger discussion currently taking place on non-market rate housing and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). How residential is being introduced into our Downtown needs to be a part of this conversation.

The residents of the Central District are compassionate and try hard to serve each other and assist those who are struggling, but this social safety net is being strained by the concentration of residents in our neighborhoods who are struggling. When the safety net is over-stretched, the outcome is worse for both those giving and those receiving assistance (and aren't we all in both of these groups from time to time?). For the well-being of both of these groups, we need to encourage local and county policies and practices that more effectively distribute opportunities to serve our needy neighbors.


Provo is caught in a vicious cycle: our residents tend to shop in neighboring communities because that is where the stores are, and our stores locate to neighboring communities because that is where the shoppers are.

When we discuss retail, it is often from a sales tax point of view: the more retail sales we have in our city, the more sales taxes we receive and the less property taxes and fees are needed to provide city services. City leaders lament that our residents take their retail dollars elsewhere, and currently seek to draw in shoppers from other towns to fund our services and improve our city.

While sales taxes are indeed important, I suggest we approach retail somewhat differently. Traveling out of town to buy everyday items is an inconvenience, and one that affects not only our city services but our individual quality of life. It makes our neighborhoods less walkable, less bikeable, less… neighborly. If we focus on bringing in stores that meet the retail needs and desires of our actual residents, I believe the sales tax issue will take care of itself.

Southwest Development

The southwest portion of our city is the last large area of developable land in Provo. It represents the last opportunity for many things, like preserving agricultural land within the city. Developers have already made proposals for the area, and with time these proposals gain momentum. Time is running out to define a vision for development of the southwest area. If we would like to see something other than a standard suburban development and urban sprawl, now is the time for our city to communicate that vision with developers. If we do not make our voices heard and develop, as a community, a viable vision for that area’s development, we cede our right to direct our community’s future to other, less permanently invested interests.

Fiscal Sustainability, Tax Value, and Budget Alignment

Provo City must ensure that it funds and provides services in a sustainable manner. The recent public schools bond and the steep utility rate hikes are painful examples of what happens when the services we consume are not fully funded by the taxes and fees that we pay. On the flip side, the recent move from road bonding to the Transportation Utility Fund is an example of a creative approach to sustainably paying for our services. I believe all of our infrastructure and facilities need to be properly funded for maintenance and replacement costs, and we need to make sure existing infrastructure is fully funded before adding new facilities or services.

Surveys show that Provo residents are pleased with the value they receive from the local taxes we pay. The city needs to remain vigilant to ensure that we are getting the most we can from our tax dollars. We need to continually evaluate the effectiveness of the services we offer, and justify how our taxes are spent.

Our budget needs to be aligned with the goals and vision of the future of our city. Defining specific short-term goals will allow city departments to develop budget proposals which will support these efforts.

I support the efforts of the Council's Budget Committee to assist the Council in its role of fiscal oversight. While I've disagreed with some of the approaches and proposed procedures of the Council's Budget Committee, I believe the Committee can evolve to play a key part in ensuring that our services are sustainable, that we are funding the programs that provide the best value, and that our expenses are aligned with our vision.

Complete Transportation System

Growth is coming. Provo's population will increase, as will the County's. As the economic and cultural center of the Valley, we need to accommodate the transportation needs of both our residents and commuters. Unless we properly prepare, this growth will paralyze our roads with congestion. This congestion will impede our city’s growth and development, and more importantly, it will negatively affect our citizens’ quality of life. Creating an effective and sustainable transportation system, however, doesn’t mean forcing people out of their cars. On the contrary, a complete transportation system may make possible the continued convenient use of private automobiles. This is because it will alleviate the congestion that would otherwise interfere with automobile traffic. This can be done by providing convenient and attractive alternatives to get people where they are going. There are many other benefits to a complete transportation system; it will allow our residents to age-in-place, helping elderly residents remain self-reliant and mobile even after they lose the ability to drive themselves; it will relieve daily shoppers of the burden of traffic; it will allow some of our students and other commuters to happily choose to leave their cars at home, because doing so saves both time and money; and it will allow many families to get by with just one car. Expanding our transportation infrastructure, then, must include considerations of those who move by car, bus, bike, and foot, and must give people the freedom to use each of these modes of transportation without fearing for their safety. A complete transportation system will help us improve our quality of life, allowing us to breathe clean air, and quickly and conveniently get where we are going.


Perhaps no other community spends more time and effort studying, planning, and strategizing than the City of Provo. I applaud this effort. But we need to improve how we align our City efforts with our vision so that we progress towards the future we envision. We must also continually refine and update our vision documents to keep them relevant.

No comments:

Post a Comment