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Paradise Town Council election canceled

October 9th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By D. Whitney Smith

PARADISE–Residents will not vote for Town Council members this year, due to a 3-0 council vote that canceled the Nov. 8 election.

Incumbent Jay Rinderknecht and former council member Margaret Obray were voted into office Wednesday, Oct. 5, by the council.

According to a relatively new state law, town and city governments can vote to cancel elections if the number of candidates equals the number of available seats, said Town Recorder Bev Schiefer. Providence was the first municipality in Cache County to opt out of the election process, she said.

“(Providence) only had three seats open (and) three people running,” Schiefer said. “We only have two seats and two people running. For especially a small town like us, it’s expensive to hold an election, I mean, if we don’t have to.”

Town coffers will retain at least $1,000, because the town doesn’t foot the bill to print ballots, make announcements or pay for election judges, said two-year Paradise Mayor Leland Howlett.

Cornish and Lewiston have also resolved to cancel council elections, under Utah Code 20A-1-206, which states: “A municipal legislative body may cancel an election if: all the municipal officers are elected in an at-large election … and the number of municipal officer candidates, including any eligible write-in candidates … if any, does not exceed the number of open at-large municipal offices for which the candidates have filed.”

“It used to be that you had to have an election still because of the write-ins,” Schiefer said. “But now they’ve changed it so there’s a deadline to submit write-ins.”

The resolution Paradise Town Council approved Wednesday states no write-in candidacies were submitted and no municipal ballot propositions were made.

“I pulled the state law on it and read it through three or four times to make sure that Providence did it right,” Howlett said. “We essentially copied their resolution. I wanted to make sure weren’t going to screw this up.”

Howlett said KVNU 610 AM radio personalities have chided local governments for making these decisions, claiming the process is not conducive to democracy.

“They are the only people that I have heard — just that small, little corner of the media, on their afternoon radio program,” Howlett said, “they’re the ones that have kind of stirred up (controversy). Everyone else seems to be really either neutral or thinking it’s a great idea. So I really don’t think we’re doing the wrong thing.”

Other than the mayor, the council currently consists of four members: Mat Weaver, Kyle Smith Donald Snyder and Rinderknecht. Weaver’s and Rinderknecht’s terms are over at the end of this year, at which point Weaver will step down and Obray will take his place.

Obray teaches civics and government at Mountain Crest High School, according to Howlett, who said Obray will not only enhance the dynamic of the all-male council because she is a woman but also because she has a more liberal political outlook than the other council members.

“I stopped and visited with (Obray) Monday over at parent-teacher conferences to make sure she was good about (the election cancellation),” Howlett said. “She takes her government and civic duties pretty seriously, and I figured she might be one that may have an opposing opinion on doing away with an election.”

Obray, however, agreed that doing away with the formalities of an election, in consideration of the circumstances, would be prudent and save money, Howlett said.

He said if people were upset about this or any of the council’s decisions, he would hope residents would come forward and voice concerns or even run for a council seat.

“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from people,” Smith said, “as far as just the mayor’s job and just the monthly letters, they’ve been really happy with the things that have been going on.”

The mayor, who signed the resolution, did not actually vote in the decision to cancel the election, and Rinderknecht, who said he wanted to avoid conflict of interest, abstained from voting. The remaining three members voted unanimously to sustain the resolution.

“My name is on the ballot,” Rinderknecht said. “The best thing is for me to abstain from it, then there’s no hard feelings or anything. It’s not that I don’t agree. I agree with it 100 percent, but I’d just as soon stay out of the vote so it doesn’t look like I’m throwing my weight one way or the other.”


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