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The City Journals

South Salt Lake City Council gets to work in new year

Feb 10, 2020 03:07PM ● By Bill Hardesty

New South Salt Lake City Council gets to work at the Jan. 8 meeting. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

In the November 2019 edition of the City Journals, an article titled "Sparks Fly Again At SSL City Council Meeting Over Code Revision" was published. The article summarized the conflict between the city council and the city staff over a proposed reorganization of some code sections. This included repealing and replacing sections 5, 15, and 17 along with updating the zoning map and amending Chapters 3.11 and 9.24. The article spoke about the mistrust among some city council members with city staff and in turn the frustration city staff had with the city council. The result of that Oct. 9 meeting was to table the reorganization for a future time.

The future time came with a new city council. At the Jan. 8 South Salt Lake City Council meeting, the first of the new city council, the atmosphere was different. There weren't verbal fights. There weren't moments of awkward silence afterward. There was a feeling of cooperation and focus.

"Strain between the council and the administration is common in many municipalities. I’ve shared this similar frustration with many other elected officials at conferences and boards. However, I think it’ll get significantly better this year. It’s about trust. Productive conflict is a good thing, but it can only be productive when you have trust," Ray deWolfe, council member at-large, wrote.

The ordinance to reorganize the code passed 7-0 on a voice vote.

Why?

Two council members suggested that working with the city staff in small group meetings was helpful. 

"I believe that there was a better understanding over time and that is thanks to Alex. Alex and her staff have done a great job explaining how the cleanup functions and what the next steps for the council are. Once we understood the cleanup more and saw how many residents and developers over the course of months have been wanting this change, it was an easy decision," Natalie Pinkney, newly elected council member at- large, wrote.

"Most of us, including new council members, took advantage of the opportunity to meet with staff in small groups to better understand the cleanup. I believe this helped us move things forward." Portia Mila, newly reelected council member for District 4, added.

Sharla Bynum, council member District 3, made another observation.

"I believe members of the council finally understood that this was a necessary first step. There will be many more meetings to dive deeper into the code. Though we want developers to have input throughout this process, it is the job of the council working with staff to make changes that are in the best interest of our city," Bynum wrote.

LeAnne Huff, newly elected council member for District 1, cited working with city staff and her time on the Planning Commission.

"As a planning commissioner I worked with city staff on the proposed ordinance changes and I have an understanding of how these changes will improve the quality of future developments and help the Community Development Department process applications in a more efficient manner," Huff wrote.

Two council members did not reply to a City Journals’ email asking for their opinion on why.

Council leaders

At a working meeting on Jan. 8, the City Council selected Sharla Bynum to serve as Chairperson for the next two years.

"I am excited to serve as Council Chair this year, it will be my responsibility to ensure we have fair and civil discourse between all stakeholders. One focus will be on empowering staff and giving them the resources, they need to do their job. Our first meeting we unanimously gave advice and consent for Mayor (Cherie) Wood to appoint six department heads. Moving forward, these actions should translate into improved customer service for residents and business owners. Though we will never be able to make everyone happy, we can certainly take time to explain the why. Better communication will make all the difference," Bynum wrote.

Ray deWolfe was selected as Vice-Chairperson and made similar remarks on ensuring a fair hearing for all parties.

At the RDA meeting, Portia Mila was selected as Chairperson and LeAnne Huff was selected as Vice-Chairperson.

Mayoral appointments

Other action the council took in their first meeting was to give unanimous advice and consent for six department heads appointments by Wood. The term advice and consent means that the legislative body, in this case the city council, has the right to be consulted on and approved the appointments by the executive branch, in this case the mayor. It is a legal way to say approval.

"Some of these individuals have waited a long time for this day and some not as long. But I do want to give a blanket statement. I am often asked why I continue to do this job and when I really think about it, it is because I get the opportunity every day to work with top caliber professionals who care about this community almost as much as I do," Wood said in her opening remarks.

The six new department heads are: Hannah Vickery – City Attorney; Terry Addison – Fire Chief; Lisa Forrester – Court Administrator; Kelli Meranda – Promise South Salt Lake Director; Alexandra White – Community Development Director; and Antoinette Evans – Urban Livability Director.

"Sometimes we have barked at each other a couple of times and I know a few times, but I want to again express I have confidence in our department heads. The dedication you guys have is great and I do appreciate it," Shane Siwik, reelected council member for District 5, said before the council moved on to other business.