The Regrettable Rise of Bumper Sticker Politics

Campaigns are the time when elected officeholders are rightly called to account. I welcome that accounting, along with honest disagreement and criticism. I never delude myself into thinking every voter will agree with me. I have always preferred to talk about my own beliefs and accomplishments and not respond to other campaigns.

But it is regrettable when some candidates – and there are a few in every election – decide to campaign using misinformation and innuendo instead of sticking with the facts. Unfortunately, that is what we have in District 6 this year.

That means that at times it becomes necessary to correct and refute false claims that have been put out by an opponent. This is such a time.

My purpose here is to correct misinformation. It is for voters to decide if he is simply uninformed on these issues or is making a calculated gamble hoping that voters will not take time to become informed. Neither speaks well of a candidate for public office, even a first-time candidate.

Each of the following fictions are taken from current screenshots (September 9, 2019) of my opponent’s campaign website – in case the content somehow gets “edited” later.

FICTION 1:

FACT:

We agree on something. I oppose the state’s takeover of land use and taxing authority from Salt Lake City. From there, it would be hard for my opponent to be more misinformed and/or disingenuous.

SB 234, the legislation that removed 1/3 of the land mass of Salt Lake City from City land use and taxing authority, was unanimously opposed by Mayor Biskupski and the City Council. When the Mayor disengaged from post-passage negotiations with the Legislature and Governor, the City Council felt it was imperative to keep Salt Lake City represented to protect Salt Lake City’s interests from further erosion, and do whatever we could to reverse the damage to the City’s revenue and land use authority.

If voters still have questions about the facts, please take a moment to read this information:
https://stories.opengov.com/saltlakecity/published/iQr9s875O 

The Council didn’t oppose litigation. The Council unanimously voted to require that the Mayor first get Council input to help assure that any litigation would be well thought through and that tax dollars would be spent wisely. Litigation involving such a major issue should be a joint decision between the two branches of government. The Mayor has steadfastly refused to share information with the Council about her litigation until after City Attorneys file each item and the filing is available to the general public. If that is the kind of governing that my opponent supports, I beg to differ. Protecting the public interest and serving as a check and balance to the Mayor is fundamental to the structure of the government that citizens chose for Salt Lake City.

My concern about litigation as a strategy is based on past City experience. Salt Lake City’s former mayor sued the state to stop Legacy Highway. After a lengthy delay, the suit was settled. Legacy Highway got built anyway, allowing some minor concessions to the plaintiffs.

Today the Legacy Highway is fully functional, and the concessions won by the plaintiffs have expired. Over a decade later, the State Legislature continues to punish the City almost every session for the lawsuit by a former mayor. That is not fair or right, it is just fact.

More facts to counter more fictions:

  • All the damage my opponent condemns was done by SB234, a bill opposed by both the Mayor and Council.
  • All the mitigating improvements – shrinking the original size of the Inland Port Authority (IPA), restoring some of the City’s tax revenue, restoring City zoning, adding planning requirements, securing revenue for affordable housing, adding significant environmental protection requirements – were negotiated by the Council and me after SB234 bill had passed.
  • My opponent refers to a plan I “drafted.” Neither the Council nor I have drafted any state plans.
  • He says “the city must fight to regain oversight of the land…” The fact is that only land still under the city’s full oversight – 7,000 acres of the original 23,000 under the jurisdiction of the unelected IPA – remains so only because of development and tax increment agreements negotiated with the two property owners, one of which is NWQ, LLC. To renege on those agreements would be to open the door to the property owners to bypass the City and work directly with the IPA, thus eliminating the City from managing land use and taxing authority over those remaining 7,000 acres.

By opposing the City’s agreements with NWQ, LLC, my opponent would have actively and knowingly jeopardized the only remaining City oversight within the IPA boundaries.

Here is accurate information about the City’s development and tax increment agreement with NWQ, LLC:
https://www.slc.gov/council/news/featured-news/nwq-llc-tia/

Here is accurate information about why I voted for the NWQ, LLC agreement:
https://mailchi.mp/slcgov.com/news-from-district-six-nn0cfonhu2?e=13dda9d5e5

Furthermore, it is time for tough talk about “careers.” My career is devoted to representing those who are serving the needs of Utahns with intellectual/developmental disabilities who otherwise would have no voice.

My opponent’s career has been devoted to major manufacturing, including in the defense industry, much of it for a major polluter in the Salt Lake Valley, ATK Thiokol. He now works in manufacturing for Easton. Easton is located in the northwest quadrant of the City in the International Center – a manufacturing and warehouse development in the same area with the same industrial uses as the NWQ, LLC development he has criticized so vocally.

My issue is not with legitimate businesses like ATK and Easton, my issue is with hypocrisy.

 

FICTION 2:

FACT:

My opponent has continued to knowingly misrepresent my career as Executive Director of the Utah Association of Community Services (www.uacs.org). In my capacity as Executive Director, I do have to register as a state lobbyist. UACS is my sole client and poses no conflict of interest with Salt Lake City or my representation of District 6. Here is a link to an op-ed written by the President of UACS setting the record straight: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2019/06/23/commentary-it-is-lazy/

My professional responsibilities as their lobbyist are limited to securing state funding and to advocate for/against legislation that impacts providers of services for Utahns with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

 

FICTION 3:

FACT:

My opponent and I agree on the issue of teamwork. There has indeed been far too much “divide [sic], infighting, and lack of teamwork in our city.” But, as usual, he misrepresents the real story.

Any public division, while unfortunate, has been between the Council and the Mayor, not within the City Council itself. Seven of the eight elected officials in Salt Lake City are supporting me – I have the unanimous endorsement of my Council colleagues.

My job on the Council is not to rubber stamp the Mayor’s agenda. I represent District 6. When this or any other mayor is right, I support them; when they are wrong, it is my job to oppose. But that says nothing about teamwork and collaboration, especially within the Council, which has been great even when we disagree.

 

FICTION 4:

FACT:

The City’s campaign finance rules are the strictest in the state. They are not perfect, but they do ensure transparency. I support our campaign finance statutes.

It is interesting that this is one of my opponent’s more recent issues. Campaigning is expensive. My opponent only raised this issue after struggling to generate campaign funding. One of the first documents my opponent signed was a document declining to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. His first major decision as a candidate was to eschew what he now espouses. Here is the Public Notice dated May 28, 2019 announcing his decision to decline limiting his campaign contributions and expenditures:

FICTION 5:

FACT:

I do not oppose ranked choice voting (RCV), if that is what our City decides after greater public education. The reason I did not support RCV for this election was because it would be impossible to successfully implement so quickly. I believe a citizen’s fundamental right to vote is critical. I will not support treating our election process as a test-case without sufficient public education. There are no do-overs. If life were as simple as the way my opponent describes City issues, the existence of a City Council would not be necessary to weigh competing demands and reach an informed decision.

Here is the full content of the email response I sent to multiple individuals regarding RCV. You will note that my opponent intentionally uses my comments out of context. Following my email is an email from the Salt Lake City Recorder Cindi Mansell explaining why RCV could not work this year in Salt Lake City.

From: “Luke, Charlie” <Charlie.Luke@slcgov.com<mailto:Charlie.Luke@slcgov.com>>
Date: December 16, 2018 at 10:07:49 PM MST
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: Re: Salt Lake City should explore ranked choice voting

Hello xxxxxxxxxx,

Thanks for your email. I really like the concept of ranked choice voting. While I agree with many of the potential benefits, the timing isn’t right for Salt Lake City next year. We are less than one year away from a hotly-contested mayoral race. While campaigns haven’t begun in most smaller municipalities, that’s not the case in SLC. Changing the rules this late in the process wouldn’t be fair to candidates who are actively campaigning based on the current voting method. The SLC Council hasn’t been briefed by the city recorder about how the process would be implemented. The mayor hasn’t forwarded a draft ordinance. The City Council hasn’t held public hearings. While I have met with lobbyists from RCV I don’t know if my colleagues have. In order for changes in campaign and election law to be successful the changes need to be thoroughly vetted, publicly debated, have multiple public hearings to hear directly from city voters, and changes implemented in a timely manner that doesn’t impact campaigns already underway (bold and underline added). Again, I like the idea and would like to see it implemented, but I don’t believe the timing is right for 2019. I do support moving the public process forward with a goal of implementation for the 2021 city elections.

Thanks again,

Charlie

 

From: “Mansell, Cindi” <Cindi.Mansell@slcgov.com<mailto:Cindi.Mansell@slcgov.com>>
Date: March 22, 2019 at 6:18:42 PM MDT
To: xxxxxxxxxx
Cc: xxxxxxxxxx

Subject: RE: HB 277 question related to ranked choice voting

Hi xxxxxxx-

If SLC were to notify the Lt. Gov by April 15, 2019 of their intent to conduct an election via RCV, we could then utilize that process for 2019 elections.

Salt Lake County could not administer our elections; however, the bill does provide us the ability to find another county to do so. All of this would be on a very short timeframe for turnaround.

At this time, the only City still conducting elections via RCV is Cottonwood Heights. The other two that initially opted in have rescinded their decision to conduct elections utilizing that process.

Nicole and I have been working for months to update our candidate guide as well as having spent a year redoing our online Campaign Finance System module. If this kind of change were to be made this late in the game, it would totally change our planned direction and scope for 2019.Considering the size of our upcoming election, It (sic) would be difficult.

Happy to chat.
Cindi

 

ONE MORE FACT: Ranked choice voting would have had NO impact in District 6 this year since the candidate who first crosses the 50% + 1 threshold wins – I received over 50% in the August Primary.

 

I will continue to update this list as needed if the misinformation from my opponent continues. If something you hear or read during the campaign seems weird, please contact me at charlie@votecharlieluke.com and I will be happy to set the record straight.