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Logan City Council hopefuls talk growth, pollution, downtown issues

November 5th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Heidi Hansen and Cathy Morgan

LOGAN—With the city of Logan’s population expected to double over the next 30 years, six brave souls have stepped up to help lead the city by running for Logan City Council.

With three seats up for grabs, all the candidates—including one incumbent—hope to have the opportunity to lead residents through this dramatic population increase, but they all have different ideas on how best to do it.

To help voters decide whom to vote for on Tuesday, the Hard News Café talked with all six candidates about their priorities if elected, and how they might deal with issues such as air pollution, infrastructure and revitalizing Logan’s downtown. (See Logan City Election 2011 page.)

ANGELA FONNESBECK, attorney (Click here for BIO)

“I live in a neighborhood where the people feel as if their voices aren’t heard,” says Angela Fonnesbeck, an attorney who lives a couple of blocks west of Main Street on 600 North. “I understand their concerns, especially when it comes to water issues, and I want to be able to help.”

Fonnesbeck, who was raised in Logan and has practiced law here since 2009, is also board president of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts and served on the northern Utah board of Habitat for Humanity.

If elected to the City Council, she says her first priority would be to help the city focus more on infrastructure needs in planning. “We need to improve our repairs of water lines, sewers and roads,” she said.

Fonnesbeck also feels city leaders could be more involved in revitalizing the downtown area.

“We need to bring in more businesses, like stores, eateries and galleries,” she said. “Adding more of these places as well as neighborhoods will make it so people want to live in that area, and in doing so, it [downtown] will help itself thrive.”

Air pollution is another issue that will receive increasing attention as the Logan population grows, Fonnesbeck said.

“The reality is that we shouldn’t be moving cars, but we should be moving people,” she said. “Working on the traffic will help, as well as using the pedestrian and bike paths and with the buses we already have.”

TOM JENSEN, architect/business owner (Click here for BIO)

Tom Jensen, founder of the Logan-based architecture firm Architectural Nexus, said that having been involved in positive planning efforts in Logan for over 25 years, he’s running because he “would like to see some of the good things that are happening continue.”

Jensen, who lives on the Island and moved to Logan in 1976, identified several issues he felt should be priorities for the Logan City Council.

“First is that we need to keep the city financially strong,” he said. “That means creating a balanced budget and not losing our reserves. With extra money, we should be allocating that towards infrastructure improvements. We have a lot of deferred maintenance projects that need to be done.

“But we should not raise taxes,” Jensen cautioned. “It’s a delicate situation.”

Jensen helped lead various local planning efforts, including the Cache 2010 Strategic Plan, the Cache Initiative, Envision Cache Valley, and others. He says population growth is a critical issue. “There will be a lot of new people—how do we plan where they will go?” he said. “I am supportive of not sprawling, [but more] condensed development.”

Jensen, on the board of the Economic Development Committee of the Logan Downtown Alliance, explained that part of this will mean bringing housing into the downtown area to make it a more interesting and vibrant place.

“People will be living one block from the barber shop, the bank, the library, two blocks to the grocery store,” said Jensen, who is also working on a project to advertise online what properties in the downtown area are available for development.

Jensen says allowing people to drive less also would help combat valley air population. He added that someday he would like to see the city develop infrastructure that would allow people to recharge electric cars when they are out around town.

HERM OLSEN, attorney (Click here for BIO)

Incumbent City Council Chairman Herm Olsen says he has confidence in his opponents in his reelection race. “I wouldn’t be scared of any of them being elected,” said Olsen, a partner in the Hillyard, Anderson & Olsen law firm. “We’ve got some great people running for office. You can’t always say that.”

Olsen, who lives on the east bench on 1525 North, has been an active civic leader since the 1980s, serving on multiple community boards, including as an elected Logan councilman since 2008.

“I have actually enjoyed serving Logan for the past four years,” Olsen said, explaining why he’s seeking re-election. “I realized early on that things were more complicated than I first thought.

“There are still problems we are dealing with—infrastructure issues, traffic—that are going to take a long time to solve, and I thought I’d like to stick around for that.”

Olsen, a 1973 USU political science alumnus who earned his law degree at the University of Utah in 1976, said the City Council’s first priority is always to create a balanced budget, but he says other top priorities will include getting a handle on red air days, and reducing traffic congestion.

Winter air pollution inversions pose a valley-wide challenge, Olsen said. “There is not a simple solution. It will require sacrifice from all of us,” Olsen said. That means “riding the bus more, turning our vehicles off instead of idling for 15 minutes. We have to be smarter about when we drive, how often. We have to stop being so insensitive to the environment.” See related story.

He added that the state has been researching this issue and will release a state implementation plan in the next month with guidelines for how cities and counties can best deal with air pollution.

Logan’s downtown area also is a key to long-term economic vitality. Olsen said it’s important for the city to stay involved with the Logan Downtown Alliance.

“When we build big box stores on each end of the city,” he said, “that bleeds away from downtown.

“We need to be active in keeping downtown functional,” Olsen said. “It will be less expensive than trying to recreate the area later.”

JEANNIE F. SIMMONDS, USU development officer (Click here for BIO)

Logan Planning Commission Chairman Jeannie F. Simmonds wants a seat on the City Council “in order to serve the city in a larger capacity,” she says.

The 37-year employee of Utah State University says open government is one of the key challenges facing Logan. “I would be committed to making the process more transparent,” she said. “It’s critically important that the city openly discuss issues and make sure that the people who want to be involved or are affected are notified and involved.”

Simmonds, who lives a block from downtown in Logan’s historic downtown, works as the manager of the USU comprehensive campaign.

Among her priorities for the City Council would be to “figure out a way to systematically deal with the aging infrastructure.” She added that the city needs to think and constantly about and plan for better traffic flow.

“Revitalizing [downtown Logan] is kind of a misnomer,” Simmonds said, pointing to businesses that are already successful in Logan. But the city should “create a better pathway for business to be successful,” she said, suggesting a plan involving multiple use of spaces, such as housing above retail stores.

“I have been to small communities where the streets are full,” Simmonds said “This is my ideal vision for Logan.”

Another pressing concern is finding a solution to the valley’s air quality issues.

“At least, we should be doing emissions testing,” Simmonds said. “I advocate doing that through the county. We need to be working with the county on positive steps towards controlling air quality.”

DOUG THOMPSON, businessman (Click here for BIO and here for his website)

Doug Thompson already has been mayor of Logan. Now the former Logan Regional Hospital Foundation executive director says he is seeking a seat on the City Council because “it is something I can do well for the city, its people and myself.”

Thompson, who grew up in Tremonton and Logan, is a graduate of both USU (economics, 1971) and the University of Utah (MBA, 1974). He was mayor from 1998-2006, and has served on a variety of business and community organization boards over the past 28 years.

Thompson says his first priority would be to improve communication between city officials and citizens.

“We need to make people more aware of what we discuss at our meetings, how things are going and what decisions we’ve made,” Thompson said, suggesting various social media as ways to expand citizen involvement. “I want to make it easier to contact officials if there are any complaints and concerns … so the people know about projects and what is being said.”

This would help in making downtown Logan more vibrant and successful, said Thompson, who lives a couple of blocks northeast of USU on Lynnwood Avenue.

“We need to get the people involved and business professionals need to be consulted; the city will help them get their businesses going,” Thompson said. “We need to work on the beautification of the downtown district by planting more trees and fixing up the sidewalks.

“We need to have a better understanding that there is plenty of parking and it’s sufficient,” Thompson added, “There’s this impression that if you can’t see the store from your car window, then it’s too far to walk.”

Thompson has personal reasons for concern about valley air pollution. “As someone like myself with asthma, I understand the concern with our poor air quality,” she said. “It’s noticeable right away.” Thompson thinks the city can help reduce air pollution by setting a good example. For example, Thompson pointed out that West Valley City recently bought 19 natural gas-powered garbage trucks; Logan could do something similar, he said.

“If we purchase more hybrid cars and electric cars, it’ll show people that change can happen,” Thompson said. “We can also work on the synchronizing of our streetlights and make better use of the bus system.”

KARL B. WARD, banker (Click here for BIO)

Zion’s Bank Vice President Karl B. Ward, a former Logan City Planning Commission member, says his motivation to run for City Council is “to make sure we don’t end up having too much government in our lives.

“I want to take a close look at ordinances and eliminate what we have in place that isn’t needed,” Ward said, advocating a conservative ideal to reduce big government.

“With my 13 years of experience on the planning commission [5 as chairman], I also think our traffic is a real issue” Ward said. “Our city intersections need help.

“Central Logan needs to become more family-oriented,” said Ward, who lives on the southeastern bench on Hayden Court. “There aren’t as many kids in our schools, which is a clear sign that families are leaving.”

Ward said he also has concerns over city policy that may work to reduce Logan’s single-family residences. “The park strip idea will reduce single-family homes, and will work toward buildings for people who must rent.”

Ward also said that “inversion in the winter is, of course a main concern,” but he says he opposes laws that would limit automobile idling time in fast-food drive-thru lines. “Driving less should also be someone’s choice,” he said.

The lifelong Cache Valley resident, who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USU, said there is much the city can do to make downtown businesses successful, but he holds a different vision for the future of downtown than other candidates.

“Increasing density works, but removing parking causes problems,” Ward said. “It seems there is a vision in place of people walking the streets, but we can’t really do that here. There is not enough parking that can be seen as convenient for people wanting to go out shopping or to dine at restaurants.”

For more information on candidates and issues in this week’s local elections, see The Herald Journal’s Elections 2011 page.


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