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Summit County Council Candidates Harte And Stevens Exchange Views Heading Into Primary

The two Democratic candidates vying for a seat on the Summit County Council exchanged views on the issues, in a debate June 11th sponsored by Park City Rotary. 

The debate broadcast on KPCW featured Canice Harte and Malena Stevens, who are going to the June 30th primary to compete for the Council seat being vacated by Kim Carson.

The debate moderator, Park Record editor Bubba Brown, noted there is no Republican candidate for that seat.   So barring a write-in, the winner of the primary will be the new Council Member.

Both candidates serve on the Snyderville Planning Commission.   

Stevens is a nine-year resident of the county.   She also works for the Park City Police Department and established their victim advocacy program.

She said she will bring a skill set to the County Council that the other four members don’t have.      

“With Kim Carson retiring from the County Council, we will have a loss of someone that  has a focus on social services and education within our County Council.  We have four very accomplished businessmen with various backgrounds that are currently serving on our Council that have brought a lot of foresight and have brought their lens to conversations over the years.  We have a Vietnam veteran that is serving us currently, that is giving a lot of insight into those issues as well.  We need to attain a similar skill set that is currently on the Council.  It is critical that we have leadership that is focused on the impact of policy on individual lives.  We are not running for CEO of the county.  We are running to be a member of a decision-making body that is focused on making decisions that are going to impact and help everyone.”

Canice Harte, a 14-year resident, said he has two children going through the Park City School District, and would be the only Council Member who has worked for a non-profit—the Kimball Art Center.

And he said he would bring his business experience to the Council seat.        

“It’s a false narrative that there are four businessmen, as is often stated.  The reality is we have a lawyer, we have a planner, we have a retiree, and we have a—I sure wouldn’t call Chris a land baron or developer, but—the skill set that I bring, when you think about it.  I’ve had two small businesses in the community.   That’s something that no member of the Council has.  That business insight is really key when you think about what’s the critical priority right now.  What is happening that we’re trying to address.  We’re looking at a downturn in our current economy, 20 percent unemployment.   We need to get out of this recession and start working to thrive.   So I would say quite the opposite.  My business experience is exactly the skill set we need right now.  If you were hiting someone for a job, and you looked at resumes, you would say, “Oh, this is exactly the person who’s gonna help get us outa there.”

On another topic, Harte was asked about the current racial strife and citizen protest sweeping the county.    Harte said there is an ingrained problem of bigotry.    

“Yeh, I think you would have to quickly say yes.  We need to take a look at our society and culture across the entire country.   It includes systemic racism and biases.  I mean, that’s sort of baked into our society.  I would say as you look at things like our police force, I believe we ask too much of em, to a large extent.  We’ve now taken social issues and created, and turned it into a policing issue.  Our police could  use more funding, and we could also use to re-direct funds into other programs.  We have several social programs in the county that lend itself to helping in this area.  But it’s easy to say “Yes, this is something we will continue to have to work on throughout our lifetime and beyond.”

Stevens said that communities throughout the county have been proactive in pursuing equity.     

“Working for the police department, we’ve had a lot of training, worked with implicit bias, as well as crisis intervention.   And it’s critical that we as a county continue to look at these issues.  If we don’t first look at ourselves, and any biases that we may have individually, we can’t address those biases.  We do have people in this community that are living in housing that is not adequate, that the sheetrock is falling off the walls, that we have bedbugs and different things that are occurring.   And so, yes, there are more things that we need to do in order to ensure that everyone in this community is thriving, and that the quality of life is good for everyone across socio-economic status, as well as race and other deciding factors.”

They were also asked about the proposal from Dakota Pacific for a mixed-use community on the Tech Park land at Kimball Junction.    Stevens said she’s judging the project based on the county code, public input, and critical issues like traffic, housing and connectivity.

Harte said they can’t say much about the project, since it is before both of them as Planning Commissioners.   He did add, however, that they’re not obligated to approve the plan from Dakota Pacific.

And the contenders were asked how they will increase affordable housing.

Harte said one of the important factors is a funding mechanism to provide housing.        

“The other option we have is to work on density.  Now we don’t want to dig more holes and build more to get ourselves out of this.  We want to try to convert existing properties into affordable housing whenever we can.  And the Council has the tools to do that as well.  But affordable housing is needed at all levels.  It’s needed in every part of the county.  The other thing that’s a critical piece is, as someone who grew up in affordable housing, and I understand what it’s like to be segregated in affordable housing, we need to integrate affordable housing into the community so that it’s blended, and that everybody feels to be a part of the greater success of Summit County.”

And Stevens said she brings her own experience to the topic.        

“Having lived in affordable housing within this community, there is opportunity for us to increase our oversight for affordable housing, both to ensure that all of the time and energy we put into deed restrictions actually retain that, and also that we are taking care of those people that are living in affordable housing.  And this can be done through a Regional Housing Authority that’s focused specifically on affordable housing regionally, and looking for opportunities where we can put new properties, or develop existing units into affordable properties.”

County Council candidates Malena Stevens and Canice Harte.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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