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Low election interest shows Hyde Park is on right track, officials say

November 18th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

By Mekenna Malan

HYDE PARK — Election Day was a bit of an anticlimax in Hyde Park this year.

After only three people showed interest in running for the three openings on City Council, the city canceled its Nov. 3 election. Incumbents Bret Randall and Robert Christensen will serve new four-year terms, and Mark Hurd, the only other declared candidate, will join the Council, replacing Brent Kelly, who served two terms .

Hurd previously had served four years on the City Council and has since been a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Hyde Park has always struggled to get people to run for election,” said Mayor Bryan Cox. “There are three other cities in Cache Valley that also had to cancel their elections. We’re not a novelty.”

The city did send out a reverse 911 call and published the election announcement in the city newsletter.

But Cox sees the lack of interest is good news for Hyde Park. He speculates the poor turnout and canceled election is a sign that everyone believes the city is heading the right direction.

“When Council members are running unopposed, I want to believe the citizens of Hyde Park are somewhat pleased with the way things are,” he said. “We are growing slowly and doing maintenance in the city. We just got out of debt. We are repairing things as we need to, and developing our parks.

“But there are plenty of people who would be fantastic mayors and plenty of people complaining about unrest within the city,” Cox added. “Those people need to stand up and be counted. They need to step forward. I wish more people would be involved.”

Resident Janna Findlay did stand up and expressed contempt at a recent City Council meeting over the canceled election and some of the Council’s other decisions, including the alcohol ordinance passed two years ago. She blamed the Council for alcohol-related car accidents and underage drinking as a result of the law, which permitted sale of beer in town.

Hyde Park voters passed the alcohol ordinance in 2013 by a 2-to-1 margin.

Findlay also accused Council members of bullying people to discourage them from running for Council.

“It’s certainly her privilege to think what she thinks, but there was no bullying in this process whatsoever,” said Rob Christensen, one of the returning incumbent Council members. “Her husband was one of the chairmen of the parties that we had for a while, and she told our city recorder before the nomination convention that she and her husband needed to be replaced. She was blaming us for a lot of things.

“We let her vent and that was what we were there for,” Christensen said. “But as far as keeping people from running for Council, we put our personal agendas aside. To me, it’s sad that we didn’t have an election.”

Cox said he urged several members of the community to run for City Council, and did not bully anyone. He said he believes some Hyde Park citizens might be wary of joining the Council because members must separate their personal and religious beliefs from necessary government actions.

“This city is predominantly of one faith,” he said. “We share a religion, a great deal of us, and sometimes we recognize it’s difficult to differentiate between Brother Cox and Mayor Cox. Personally, nothing bothers me more than to be called ‘Mayor’ by the church.

“It’s challenging sometimes when we are faced with hot topics like the alcohol ordinance or animal ordinances. We are a small town. We’re all neighbors. We all have to conduct ourselves in way that allows us to get along during the week.”

Despite the disappointing interest in running for Council, Christensen said he is excited to work with Hurd and Randall.

“We’ve all worked together on the Council before, and I think we have a great relationship one with another,” he said. “We seem to get things done.”

Cox hopes Hyde Park citizens will feel encouraged to participate in upcoming elections if they feel so inclined, especially if individuals are unhappy with the decisions being made.

“It’s not my town,” he said, “it’s ours. We should all take ownership. We need good people to jump up and say they want to be a bigger part of this.”

TP

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