Legislature gives lip service to local control, micromanages Salt Lake City

Local control is the preferred dangling modifier this time of year for state legislators.

While Utah’s governing majority can’t say enough about local control when the subject is the state’s relationship with the federal government, that all changes when municipalities are concerned.

Johnny Anderson, a Republican from Taylorsville, has proposed a bill that continues the long tradition of micromanaging municipalities. Last year, the Salt Lake City Council passed a bill that would allow cyclists and pedestrians to use drive thru windows at restaurants within Salt Lake City. Anderson thinks the city has gone too far.

“The city overreached,” said Anderson, a self-described cyclist, in a committee hearing for his bill. The committee agreed with him, and the bill will advance to the House floor for debate.

As Salt Lake Tribune Reporter Annie Knox has noted, this isn’t the first time the state legislature has meddled in local affairs.

“Four years ago, Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, a Republican from Sandy, pushed legislation blocking a historic district in the city’s Yalecrest neighborhood. And 20 years ago, lawmakers nullified then-Mayor Deedee Corradini’s local gun-control efforts.”

In addition to local zoning and gun regulation, the legislature also made rumblings about reversing Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination ordinance after it passed in 2009. Anderson’s bill is one more in a long line of attempts to micromanage local affairs in Salt Lake City.

Remarking on this double standard during the committee hearing, Philip Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah, perhaps phrased it best.

“This broad sweeping legislation tramples on the rights of municipalities to self determination,” said Sarnoff. “It prevents municipalities from attempting to implement new policies that may in the long term serve to be beneficial to communities.”

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