UTAH COUNTY — Proposition 9 is the only proposition Utah County voters face on the 2020 ballot, but it will determine the course of politics in the county by rearranging politics at the county level.
There are currently three full-time county commissioners who act as both the legislative and executive branches.
A “yes” vote on Prop. 9 would completely change that to five part-time county council members serving as the legislative branch and a full-time mayor who would serve as the executive for the county.
This would match other counties such as Cache County and Salt Lake County in their political structure.
“To vote no on Prop. 9 is to limit the size of government,” Stephen White, a former Utah County commissioner from 2003-2011, told FOX 13 Tuesday.
He is one of the many opposing the proposition, joining others around the county, including current Commissioner Bill Lee.
Their main concerns are government size and tax increases.
White worries that reorganizing the county would significantly increase spending, citing Salt Lake County as an example.
“I can promise you, they will need to add at least eight staff members,” White told FOX 13, “and that is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Cedar Hills Mayor Jennie Rees, however, disagrees.
“Cache County has had that same form of government as Salt Lake County," she said,"actually, for 15 years longer, and they haven’t seen those budget increases.”
She is one of the 20 mayors in the county who have supported Prop. 9 with a letter outlining why it is good for the county.
“As we’ve grown, the needs of the various regions of the county are different,” Rees said. “Right now, it only takes two people in a county of 650,000 people to pass policy and that includes things like tax increases or mandates.”
Rees outlined that because the five council members will be broken down by district, it will better represent the demographics of the county and reach more people in the outlying areas.
“We’ve lost a form of government that provides for the various regions of our county," she said.
But White challenges that point, saying the current board of commissioners has “a consensus concern for all of the county, so we look at it dispassionately that way.” He says the new system would tilt money or resources potentially to a new district the proposition would create.
One of the main sticking points FOX 13 asked both sides about is the power of the new county mayor if Prop. 9 were to pass.
White pointed to Salt Lake County to say that he believes that figure would be far too powerful.
“We saw what happened with Jenny Wilson with the mask mandate in Salt Lake County,” he said. “Was there a 5-4, 6-3, 7-2 vote from the county council?… No! Not even an offer of one.”
But Rees countered the argument.
“I agree, we don’t want one person that has complete authority, and this form of government does not have that,” she said.
She also pointed out that the power is now held with just three people, and she believes the proposed council system will better check and balance everyone.
Both sides spoke for and against, respectively, the power of veto that the new county mayor would have as well.
Ultimately both sides are fighting hard for their argument but come election day, pass or fail, Prop 9 will forever change Utah counties political landscape.