Though it may seem strange, Sen. Wayne Niederhauser should be one of Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s biggest fans. I arrive at this surprising conclusion fairly simply. As one of the senator’s constituents, I recently received his latest legislative update. In it, he says, “This is the way government should be run — as small and local as possible.”
Becker is widely popular among his constituents, winning reelection with approximately 75 percent of the vote. So it is clear that the Democratic mayor is doing the work of the people he was elected to represent — and doing it to their liking. This is just what Niederhauser must mean when the Sandy Republican praises government for being as small and as local as possible, and “keeping elected representatives close to the people.”
So it is curious that Niederhauser is the lead sponsor of SB136, which would override Salt Lake City’s new billboard ordinance, overwhelmingly supported by the Salt Lake City Council. It’s curious not only because this stance seems to contradict Niederhauser’s own views about small and local government, but also because he does not represent a single resident of Salt Lake City.
Becker and the Salt Lake City Council, according to the 2010 census, represent 186,440 Salt Lake City residents.
Neiderhauser also said, “Every time certain cities go out and pass an ordinance, I almost anticipate us now having a bill in the Legislature over it.” That statement further suggests that he is in fact not a fan of small, local government, but rather, merely a fan of elected officials who agree with the majority in the Legislature.
In a similar contrast to the usual praise of small, local government, Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is sponsoring HB104, which would thwart Salt Lake City’s anti-idling ordinance, another locally passed ordinance popular with Salt Lake City residents. As with Niederhauser, Harper doesn’t represent any of them either.
Our Legislature loves to champion the importance of small, local government. It is easy to cry foul in the name of small, local government when local authority is ostensibly being usurped by Washington. But the true motive — the consolidation of power and central planning from the State Capitol — is unflatteringly revealed when the Legislature ignores the will of local leaders who best represent their constituents.
Utah’s communities are strong and vibrant because of the character and diversity of our citizens. That is equally true in Becker’s Salt Lake City and in my Senate District 9. So I would ask Niederhauser what he is accomplishing for the citizens and families of Senate District 9 with these legislative efforts to tell Becker and the citizens of Salt Lake City how to run their community?
Our legislative session lasts just 45 short days. I know I am not alone in hoping that the senator will use that time to focus on issues facing our district and our state, to honor his own words about local government and leave the billboard and idling issues where they belong — in Salt Lake City.
Josh Kanter, Sandy, is the founder of Alliance for a Better UTAH (www.betterutah.org).
© 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune