Thursday, November 12, 2009

What I've learned from Local Politics

I just finished running for Bountiful City council and although I received almost 3,000 or the 6,600 votes I lost to a two term incumbent by about 4 points.  During my campaign I always made sure to be kind and thoughtful in how I referred to the two incumbents.  Neither of them are bad men, in fact, I think that they both are good men who have served the last eight years to the best of their ability. It is always hard to win against an incumbent simply because most people don't get to know the candidates and simply vote for the most recognized name.  We had a measly 23.5% voter turn out, a dream come true for an incumbent. I am confident if more people had the opportunity to get to know me that I would have won with a large margin, even against Fred Moss who garnered the highest vote count on election day. Voters want to be represented by able-minded, honest men and women of action and integrity.  Yet, most voters don't take the time to find out what their incumbents have or have not done for the city during their tenure in office. Let me give just three examples of where I believe these men failed to do what was best for the city:

ONE:  BUSINESS REVITALIZATION.  Moss and Tolman have had the last eight years to solve the business migration out of bountiful, yet they along with the rest of the city council failed. Bountiful has lost over 10% of its annual business tax revenue in the last two years.  The dirt pit formerly known as Five Points Mall still grows weeds.  Yes, there are three completed buildings but the largest building that houses mostly medical offices is loosing their largest tenant that currently occupies the entire second floor.  They are moving to Salt Lake, one more business leaving Bountiful. Although each of the council members has spent the last several years talking about the need to do something to re-energize old main street it has been all talk and no action.  Main street is becoming a ghost town strip. Our city has failed business over the last eight years.  They talk a business friendly talk but all one has to do is talk to the business owners of Bountiful to discover that Bountiful City is not business friendly.  I know the owner of a large Chiropractic business in Bountiful who recently built a new building in Bountiful.  He told me that he spent months and months arguing with the city about the plans for his building.  A former council member (Voted out two years ago) told him that his proposed business location on the corner of 200 west and 400 North was in a "residential" area and he would vote against it.  Anybody who drives to that area will discover that most of the neighbors are businesses not residential homes.  However, if you drive two blocks south you will notice the home of the former city council member.  When the business owner finally got the city to approve his building plans and then completed his building the city told him they did not like his ($100,000) electronic sign and that he needed to remove it!  He told the city to take a hike!  This is not business friendly. 

TWO: BOUNTIFUL POWER COMPANY. Our power company is in desperate need of two new transformers and an overhaul of the power plant on 200 west at a cost in excess of $28 million dollars.  Yet, Bountiful city continues to take $2.2 million dollars from the power company every year instead of using that money for the necessary power upgrades.  We have power poles, overhead lines and underground lines that are over 40 years old and far beyond their normal life expectancy.  These items are in critical need of repair and replacement but the power company now operates with a negative balance sheet each year because the city continues to scoops out $2.2 million annually. Councilman Fred Moss who owns two power companies of his own serves as the city's representative to Bountiful City Power yet, he continues to vote to take away $2.2 million from the Power Company each year.  Is this smart for our city?

THREE:  LIBERALIZING OUR ALCOHOL LAWS. Both Fred Moss and Tom Tolman  voted to  change our alcohol laws by giving a variance to a local restaurant to serve alcohol even though it is across the street from a public library. This was a mess from the beginning yet they, Mayor Johnson and the other council members never took responsibility for the misinformation and untrue accusations against good citizens of our community. Mayor Johnson even had  former Mayor Bob Linell write an extremely biased and completely untrue letter to the editor in the Clipper claiming that comments by Bountiful resident Laura Bunker regarding the alcohol issue with El Matador restaurant were untrue.  Laura later wrote a response with documented information including the official transcripts by the State of Utah that proved her comments were not only true but part of the official record with the State alcohol board. Neither the Mayor, former Mayor or anyone from the council issued an apology to Laura Bunker.

FOUR:  UNNECESSARY MANDATES. They also voted to FORCE via mandate, our citizens to pay additional each month to recycle their garbage. The idea of this was to extend the life of our landfill.  I would have voted against this phony scam that only adds money to the pockets of the sanitation company.  A better alternative would have been to recycle yard waste which represents 40% of the land fill waste.  We should have adopted a program such as the city of Provo did where they gave the residents an additional can to put their grass and yard clippings in to be turned into compost.  This plan in Provo reduced waste to the landfill and the city actually made a profit as the compost was sold.  Our city council would not even look at this issue. 

During my campaign I talked a lot about term limits.  I strongly believe that the longer a politician stays in office the more arrogant and selfish they become.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both understood this and neither would serve more than two terms. Yet we have career politicians even in our own city who believe it is their "Right and even "Calling" as Tom Tolman said in the "Meet the Candidates" night held just a few weeks ago.  I  believe that Mr. Tolman would have received the lowest amount of votes if those who voted had heard him make those comments. I find it interesting that the Clipper didn't publish any comments from Councilman Tolman yet they quoted all of the other candidates.  His comment about serving on the city council being his "Calling" should have been printed and those who read it would have had the same shocked reaction as did all of us who heard him say it! I  believe that Tom is a good guy but he should not have run for a third term.  His only goal is to build an enormous History Museum in Bountiful, something that makes very little sense to do.  I don't believe that most who voted for him had any idea of his number one motivation to be on the City Council.

So what is the number one thing I learned from local politics? its all in the name recognition.  Even though I have a memorable name people tend to vote for the name they have heard the most over the years.  Unfortunately for me, they have heard the names Moss and Tolman more than Wright.  But the good news is that if I run again in two years I believe that my name will be among the names they have heard most.  Gee, maybe people will think I am an incumbent and vote Wright next time!


  1. The "mandates" rant you offered us as voters is actually what kept you from voting for you. I'm a proponent of lower taxes and limited government, but I also take seriously our Church leader's call for us to be "stewards" of the Earth. Even if I accepted your notion that 40% of all landfill volume is "green waste" like yard clippings, etc, it seems like you are missing the point. Yard clippings deteriorate. Plastic does not. That's why a recycling program is important, and not just for environmental reasons, but for planning reasons. I found your argument on this issue very poorly informed, and could not support such an uneducated candidate.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    If you had the courage to attach your name and perhaps email to your message I could have answered you in private instead of public. I never said that we should not recycle. The word I emphasized was "MANDATE". I think everyone should be responsible and recycle, but I do not believe that the government has the right to "FORCE" anyone to recycle anymore than I believe the government has the right to force us to drive a certain "HYBRID" car drink from a specific container or carry our groceries home in a paper bag instead of plastic. In your rush to insult my intelligence you missed the simple point here called "freedom." The City Council took the opinion that the Mandate to recycle would be the best thing to extend the life expectancy of the landfill. They were wrong. If you would like to take the time to look up the statistics for yourself you will discover that our landfills our composed of up to 40% yard waste. If the City was truly looking for a way to extend the life of the land fill mandating recycling for glass and plastic was not the best way. If they had said; “we think recycling is a good thing and everyone should be REQUIRED to recycle the glass and plastic” I would have voted against that too. Again, I don't believe the government has the right to dictate my liberties; it is my choice not theirs. By the way, the city had the option of choosing a recycling program the citizens could "choose" to participate in, and I would have been one of those who made the choice. I understand the "Church's" call to be stewards of the earth. The church also speaks highly of a thing called "AGENCY" the right to choose! And by the way, I had many voters thank me for speaking out against these types of unnecessary mandates. I realize that it is impossible to please everyone and get everyone to vote for me. There are some things that I feel strongly about and freedom of choice is one of those things. If you are willing to give up your freedom of choice on this issue it will be that much easier for the government to take away more and more of your choices in the future, like government taking over our health care system and sending anyone who will not “choose” to participate to jail. And yes, that’s in the bill. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Phill Wright

  3. I was talking to a friend of mine that works for the Bountiful Power Company. He says the city council has made it illegal to build a wind turbine for electricity generation within city limits. Now I can understand those big ones being a danger to the neighborhood, but even a 2-3 diameter hobbiest one, perhaps for powering a garage or something? Come on. How does that law serve the public good?

    The city council is shortsighted in oh so many ways it's crazy.

    Oh, and the city already HAD a recycling program, one in which I participated FOR FREE. Yes, I had to drive the recyclables five blocks to the collection center. Now my taxes have gone up and I have to pay for something I didn't want.


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