Park City Council candidates tout experience in KPCW forum
With temperatures dropping, ballots arriving in mailboxes soon, and less than a month to go until election day, campaign season in Park City is heating up.
Park City’s three city council candidates -- incumbent councilor Tim Henney, local business owner Tana Toly, and local consultant Jeremy Rubell -- faced off in an hour-long discussion with KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher about the campaign and the issues facing Park City.
Two council seats are up for grabs this year, and all three candidates promoted their experience as reasons to support them in next month’s election.
Rubell said he would bring a fiscally responsible perspective to the council if he were elected. He said his background in accounting and business dealings in the utilities sector put him in a unique position to have a critical eye on city spending, while not losing sight of vital community needs.
“When you go to the council meetings and when you listen to some of the things, especially in the consent agenda, you hear some stuff that’s going on where people might think, ‘well, it’s not a big deal, it’s only $50,000, $100,000, $150,000.’ Well, that adds up. And then we look at a big effort like wildfire mitigation that has a $28 million price tag from a meeting last week that we were all at. If we can’t pay for that because we chipped away [with] these little projects, that’s a problem. That’s a direct impact on the safety of our community.”
Henney is seeking a third term on the council and has been involved in several community boards and initiatives throughout his 29 years in Park City. He leaned heavily on that experience on Friday, and even suggested his opponents had a “lack of understanding” of the processes of city government on issues like spending and affordable housing.
When asked about city projects that have slowed down or stalled during his time on the council, Henney offered a different take -- namely the proposed arts and culture district near Prospector Square, which the city bought for $19.5 million in 2017.
“That’s a significant purchase, and that’s the important part. We bought that property, we can repurpose it away from private sector, traditional, multi-million dollar condos and commercial and to a community benefit. The form that community benefit takes is gonna take a while to parse through and come to the right conclusion, but that’s the process we’re in. That’s what public process looks like, that’s why we’re doing it. It’s robust and it will take time, but we will end up at a better final solution with a tremendous community benefit that will last for decades and generations.”
Toly is a lifelong Parkite and wants to leverage her experience dealing with small businesses, both as the owner of Red Banjo Pizza, and her involvement in several local business organizations as a member of the council. Toly is currently the Vice President of the influential Historic Park City Alliance and said she would resign those posts if she is elected.
She said her longstanding relationships with the local business community would be an asset to city hall.
“I’m the boots on the ground. I talk to restaurants and businesses every single day, and not just on Main Street. We’re all looking at the same issues. I’m in constant contact with Jennifer [Wesselhoff] from the Chamber about initiatives and ideas that I have for small businesses to come together ... Coming up with ideas that incubate Park City to become a great place for younger entrepreneurs and for our kids to want to stay here and open businesses, because right now opening a business is very scary and you don’t know what’s gonna happen with the economy. Are we just in some sort of weird bubble where next year, we go back to it being how it was in 2018 or 2019?”
The candidates also spent time debating the city’s affordable housing goal of 800 units by 2026. Toly said the city should explore alternative locations and look beyond just building more units, while Rubell and Henney both said that 800 units is not enough.
Rubell pushed Henney on the number of units the city counts towards that total and claimed only 30 units have been brought online by the city in the last eight years. Henney said the city counts affordable housing projects by private developers in its total, which is 133 units completed since 2016.
The full discussion can be listened to here.
Park City’s municipal election will take place on November 2nd. The election will be exclusively by mail and ballots will be mailed on or before October 12th.