Park City Council Considers Additional Requirements For Candidates Filing For Office
Park City spent nearly $14,000 on the 2019 municipal primary election and more than $9,000 on the general election. In a staff report for Thursday’s city council meeting, Park City Recorder Michelle Kellogg says elected officials and city recorders are concerned that some municipal candidates declare their candidacy to promote their personal interests, instead of seriously seeking office, at a cost to taxpayers.
Kellogg compiled a list of what other municipalities in Utah are doing. Salt Lake City, for example, requires a $360 fee to run for mayor and an $86 fee for council, with the option of gathering signatures to waive the fee. The Summit County Council has a $50 filing fee plus a small percentage of their total salary during their term in office, totaling around $250.
Park City Manager Matt Dias says there’s a trend statewide and nationally to have some sort of requirement to run for office.
“For the city to run and the county to run a municipal election, it's anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000," Dias said. "So what we've done, or the city recorder has done, is she provided a great deal of analytical information about what other cities and towns are doing across Utah, and by far and away we’re sort of the outlier, that we have no filing fee, we have no signature-gathering provision.”
The council is considering a few options. The first requires a $150 filing fee for mayoral candidates and a $100 fee for council candidates; or a fee waiver is available for candidates who collect 100 signatures from registered Park City voters. The next option keeps the fees but removes the signature-gathering option. Or, the city could choose to keep the status quo—no fees, no signature requirements.
One candidate for the 2019 city council election, Daniel Lewis, says he likely wouldn’t have struggled with collecting signatures, but paying a fee definitely would have prevented him from entering the race.
“I didn’t have the funds at the beginning of my campaign, after setting up my city council account," Lewis said. "By not having the funds at the beginning, that really would have deterred me from running, because that would have been out of my own pocket.”
Deanna Rhodes, another 2019 council candidate, told KPCW that fees deter people from running, and the city should make it easier—not harder—for more people to participate. Rhodes says the barrier to entry for running for office is already significant and suggests imposing a fee conflicts with Park City’s social equity and inclusion priorities.
Dias says having the option to collect signatures addresses the city’s social equity goals and gives candidates a chance to connect with community members and put their message out there.
"We think that's a very acceptable way to strike a balance, but ultimately this would be a city council and mayoral decision,” Dias said.
The council will discuss the candidate filing requirement during a work session at 5 p.m. Thursday.