Wednesday, September 14, 2011

North Ogden Voters to City Council Incumbents: Get Lost!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the kerfuffle in North Ogden over city leadership's handling of the public works facility issue. I noted that about 3,000 of North Ogden residents had signed a petition demanding that the $10 million bond for the proposed facility be put to a general vote. The city responded by filing a lawsuit against two of the sponsors of the petition.

Frankly, the mayor and most members of the city council members have demonstrated a disgracefully dismissive attitude toward residents that have concerns about the project, its costs, and the way it has been handled. It's not that their position is without merit; it's that they have treated a fair number of those they supposedly represent with disdain.

The city attorney and some of the city's employees haven't helped matters much. Someone should have instructed these people to keep their mouths shut. Instead they made a number of public statements that smacked of an elitist attitude. They seemed to quite forget that they work for the taxpayers of North Ogden, not vice versa.

By the time the primary election rolled around yesterday, the cake had been baked. Four years ago when 10 candidates ran for three city council seats, only 866 of the city's 9,532 registered voters went to the polls (as noted in this post). I thought that was pathetic, but not unexpected.

In yesterday's election where 11 candidates vied for the same three council seats, 1,558 of the city's 9,715 registered voters cast ballots. Hmmm.... That's still pretty pathetic; although, the passion behind the current issue nearly doubled voter turnout. But this time around incumbents fared poorly. (See election results.)

The purpose of the election was to winnow the 11 candidates down to six, three of whom will be selected for city council in the final vote on November 8. That meant that five of the candidates had to be eliminated in yesterday's primary election. The three incumbents came in in the sixth, seventh, and eight position. So only one of the incumbents will be on the final ballot.

However, it should be noted that the three incumbents together garnered only 18.29% of the vote. Had there been fewer opposition candidates, the opposition vote would have been less diluted and none of the incumbents would have made it to the final ballot. Those that voted in the primary election were pretty ticked off at the incumbents.

As I expected, the two candidates against whom the city filed suit came out on top in yesterday's election. The lawsuit was probably the most effective campaign tool for these candidates.

In past city council elections, those that came out on top in the primary election have almost always won the general election. I suspect it will be the same this time around, although, something unexpected could alter that outcome.

I doubt that the one incumbent that survived the primary election will have much hope of winning the general election. Given turnout in past elections, I doubt we will see more than 600 additional voters show up at the general election. Even if every last one of the additional ballots were cast for the lone incumbent, it is doubtful that she would win a seat.

The two council members that lost their bid last night are actually better off than the lone survivor. She now has to go through the motions of campaigning for nearly two months knowing that she will likely lose.

In January, the mayor and the city employees will be dealing with a very different city council than they have dealt with in the past. One of the sitting council members is already a strong supporter of limited government. The other guy does not seem to be the type to put up much opposition against a crew that is determined to reign in the city government.

If the mayor's seat had been on the ballot yesterday, the incumbent would have lost. Yesterday's vote was as much a referendum on his handling of his job as anything else. But much could happen over the next two years. It will be interesting to see if the mayor decides to run for re-election and what the public sentiment will be if he chooses to do so.

In the meantime, one thing is abundantly clear. A very vocal and involved group of concerned citizens isn't happy about being treated as if their concerns are of no importance. City officials need to take a different approach to dealing with these people.

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