Letter to the Editor: Councilman on League of Cities, ‘It’s nice, but is it necessary?

Cedar City, Utah, undated | File photo, St. George News / Cedar City News

OPINION — Last night (Wednesday) before City Council began, I had a conversation with a friend who had been away for the winter. Last year he had been in an accident in which he was unhurt, but his brand-new 2016 Toyota pickup had been totaled. He told me he’d replaced it with a 2017 Toyota pickup.

He said with a grin that the only difference between the 2016 and 2017 model is that the little sliding window in the back was now motorized and could be opened with the push of a button. We both had a good laugh — a motor for a window that may be opened once a year, if ever!

Something like a motorized back window might be nice, but is it necessary?

Shortly after this conversation occurred, the Cedar City Council had a discussion about continuing our membership with the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT).

Read more: Council debates relationship with Utah League of Cities and Towns

As we talked, the same question that I asked about the little window came to my mind: Our membership is nice, but is it necessary?

Last year some serious charges were leveled at the ULCT from the Utah State Auditor, John Dougall. He showed evidence of a long string of financial improprieties at the hands of the ULCT director and his chief financial officer, both of whom have now resigned. I saw signs in his audit that the ULCT system of checks and balances was seriously lacking. We have been told by current leadership that all of those problems have been corrected.

I would like our city to suspend our annual payments to ULCT for at least two years to ensure that their statement is accurate. Others in the city leadership tell me that we need to maintain our membership with ULCT because of the benefits we receive from them.

Our annual dues to the League run about $16,000. Registration for their conferences run about another $3,500 each year. Membership in the League provides us with at least three benefits: Training for new mayors, council members, and planning-commission members; lobbying for Utah’s cities at the state Legislature; and the opportunity to meet and talk to officials from other cities when we gather at conferences.

Those are all nice things, but are they necessary?

On one occasion, we appointed some new members to our planning commission. They needed some training on the complexities of zoning laws. Instead of waiting for ULCT to come down and provide the training, Paul Bittmenn, our city attorney at the time (and now our city manager) conducted a workshop for them. I had previously been to a ULCT training on the topic, and Paul’s workshop was just as good if not better than theirs because he focused solely on matters pertinent to Cedar City.

On the second matter of lobbying, we have two very active, engaged and responsive legislators working for us — Sen. Evan Vickers and Rep. John Westwood. These gentlemen, teamed with input from Mayor (Maile) Wilson, have twice now been able to pass legislation that we as a council asked for specifically. This process is the correct, direct conduit for legislative action. Injecting a lobbying group like ULCT, (paid with taxpayers’ money) into the mix is one of the things that we as Americans most disdain.

Finally, meeting and making friends with other city official is nice, but is it necessary?

I served as mayor in Santa Clara for four years. I am a personal friend with the current mayor and several of the longer-serving council members. Not once have I called them to talk about any city-government questions. Why? Because our city’s needs are so much different from theirs.

If we say to someone in another city: How do you solve your water problems? They say, “Oh, we have a large reservoir in the mountains above our town.” Another may say, “Oh, we have a large spring bubbling out of the ground that provides us with pure, clean water 365 days a year.” And a third may say, “We’re going to spend a billion dollars to bring our water from far away.”

None of these solutions mesh with our water concerns in Cedar City!

So although it’s nice to have new friends, is it necessary? Do those friendships benefit our citizens in a direct and meaningful way? I am doubtful.

In conclusion, we pay almost $20,000 a year to the Utah League of Cities and Towns for some things that may be nice, but they are not necessary. In the meantime, many small, inexpensive projects that would benefit our city go undone due to the lack of funding.

Fred C. Rowley, Cedar City Council

This idea of sending so much money to someone for so little benefit seems a lot like going to a steakhouse every night and paying $60 — not for a meal, but just for the after-dinner mints because we like the taste of them.

These are my thoughts. Alas, this coming Wednesday night when this topic comes up on the agenda, I believe Councilman Cozzens and I will be outvoted.

Submitted by Fred C. Rowley, Cedar City councilman | Email Fred Rowley: [email protected].

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

Email: [email protected] | Email Fred Rowley: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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  • Proud Rebel May 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Councilman Rowley, while I am not a CC resident, so my voice probably doesn’t mean much, I fully understand and agree with your position on this. I’m not saying that The League of Cities doesn’t do any good, I am saying that continuing to support them through membership, at this time, is a bad idea.
    Even though the embezzlement has been likened to “a loan,” it is still embezzlement. And it certainly sounds like this is going to be swept under the carpet. All local governments have their share of problems, without supporting an organization that has either turned a blind eye to embezzlement, or has been so incompetent at oversight, that all board members need to be removed.
    I don’t know you, but you certainly sound like an individual that is actually trying your best to serve your constituents. Something that just isn’t seen enough of these days!

  • Blaine May 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I concur 100%.

    The corruption identified in the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) is presumably transient. Reports of corruption are an important consideration, but the problem with ULCT is bigger than that. The ULCT was born in the early years of the “Progressive” era. The only thing that has progressed under Progressivism is government power, scope, cost, and central planning at the expense of individual liberty and the taxpayer’s pocketbook. ULTC epitomizes Progressivism.

    As for the training mentioned by Councilman Rowley, any training necessary should come from the experts on the city staff and from fellow councilmen (Isn’t that one of the reasons we stagger their terms of office?). If a city councilman or mayor needs more training than that, he/she should resign. Better yet, he/sho should not run at all!

    At best, ULCT should be disbanded. At the very least, Cedar City should permanently withdraw. Councilman Rowley is correct — our money is better spent elsewhere — if not, cut taxes!

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