Friday, September 28, 2007

Comparing Notes

Sherry Kramer has come to my front door bearing peaches. Big, sweet, juicy Brigham City peaches. Elbertas.

"I had to leave town today," she says.

"Hmm," I say. I wonder if she went to Brigham City for the same reason I went to Provo last Friday. Sometimes you just have to get out of town.

"I won't be doing any canning this year," she says.

"Nope," I say. I picked peaches earlier this month. I gave most of them away. I haven't done any canning since I took office.

Interestingly enough, neither has Rick, Shirl, or the mayor.

Can't speak for Dale.


Last week I received an insightful comment about 9600 North and the need to protect open space in Fox Hollow. The comment was intelligent; it was well-written; I think it may have achieved Art. Moreover, I agreed with it. Unfortunately, it was also anonymous.

My policy here at the blog is not to publish anonymous comments. Other than that, I will publish any comment at all, regardless of whether or not I agree with it, so long as it is relevant to American Fork. (I will not publish obscene comments.)

However, I recognize that not everybody is comfortable putting their name out in cyberspace. I myself do not name my children when I blog about them. So if the unknown artist can find some way to identify him/herself to me, I would be happy to quote the comment in a post and withhold the name.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thought for the Day

"In a democratic society, it is not the politician, or the banker, or the developer, or the utility company, or the planning department, that designs our environment. They are simply some of the vehicles that assist in planning and building our cities and rural communities. It is the citizenry, however, in the great tradition of Jefferson, that is ultimately responsible. Those of you entrusted to translate the desires of the citizenry, must do it in a meaningful and responsible manner. More importantly, where environmental enlightenment is lacking in your town, you must take the initiative to inform the citizenry of the need to develop responsibly and the consequences if good design is not implemented."

Qtd. by Councilmember Dale Gunther
American Fork Public Transportation Hearing
September 18, 2007

original source obscured

900 East

Residents and neighbors of 900 East, having studied the transportation element of the City's general plan, are concerned that this road is shown as a collector. Adding fuel to the fire, the plan shows 900 East going through to State Street.

Many of these residents voiced concerns during public comment periods of our City Council meetings during August and September. Sadly, Madame Clarity was not herself in attendance at these meetings, and many went home confused by partial information.

Concerned myself, I later spent an hour seeking enlightenment from City Planner Rod Despain. Here's what I learned:

1. 900 East is, in fact, designated as a minor collector. But collector is not the three-alarm word that it seems. Of the four road classifications outlined in the City's general plan -- arterial, major collector, minor collector, and local -- "minor collector" is next to smallest. The only smaller designation is "local." Examples of local roads in American Fork are Thornwood Drive and King Street -- roads which, clearly, could never serve an elementary school.

2. 900 East is already a minor collector. The standard for a minor collector is 66 feet. 900 East is already 66 feet. Those 66 feet encompass two lanes of traffic and two shoulders, as well as curb, gutter, mowstrips, sidewalks, and one foot of right-of-way beyond the sidewalk on both sides of the road. The shoulders facilitate on-street parking, which is handy when there's an elementary school nearby. The shoulders also become turn lanes at intersections, since there's no parking near an intersection.

3. The general plan does not now and never will call for widening 900 East or upgrading it to a major collector.

4. Speed limits along local collectors are 25 to 30 mph. The general plan does not authorize or call for any higher speed limit on 900 East.

This will be poor comfort to residents who daily observe 50 mph traffic in front of Barratt Elementary, where the posted speed limit is 20 mph. For the record, I whole-heartedly endorse the recent proposal to place speed bumps along 900 East, and hope this can soon become reality.

5. The general plan shows 900 East going through to State Street within 0 to 5 years -- but this is in error. 900 East is planned to go through to Pacific Drive, which is frontage road along State Street, but not farther. South of 50 South, the area surrounding 900 East is zoned for multi-family residential and some commercial and professional office space. The road will be built piece by piece as these parcels are developed. Extending 900 East as far as Pacific will facilitate local traffic to these locations and is seen as a convenience to local residents.

On the other hand, extending the road over the railroad tracks to State Street is virtually impossible, because the City is required to close down two railroad crossings for each new one opened. Not only is this highly impractical; it will also cost millions of dollars. I very much doubt it will ever happen.

Nevertheless, the planning department has recommended leaving the extension to State Street on the master plan, just in case. Mr. Despain explained that American Fork could, some 100 years hence, reach the point where congestion on 500 East and 1100 East are so severe that residents will be begging to open up 900 East. He doesn't see that happening in his life time or mine, but recommends keeping the option open for that contingency. Thus, the opening is shown on the plan, but the 0-5 year range is in error.

(Mr. Despain also promised me that he would, when the general plan is next revised, include strong language about the City's preference that 900 East not go through to State Street. )

I do not myself live in this area, but my boy attends Barratt Elementary, and I drive 900 East twice each day. I appreciate keenly the traffic snarls along this road, and have nothing but admiration for the steady efforts of parents and PTA to make the street safer for school children.

I salute those who have addressed concerns to the City Council, and urge them not to relax their oversight.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thought for the Day

"Leadership involves more than managing the present. There must be a vision of the future that will lead to the shaping of trends and directions.

"It involves the capacity to lead by persuasion rather than by mandate. It recognizes the need to delegate responsibility and give to others freedom to manage in their respective fields of assignment.

"The leader must have appreciation and respect for all people while at the same time giving special nurture and concern to the institution and its people for whom he has an immediate and particular responsibility."

President Gordon B. Hinckley
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
January 12, 2000

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12

Today my blog pays tribute to two giants.

First, to President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church, who today was named municipal citizen of the century by the Utah League of Cities and Towns. (Full story here.)

I can only add my endorsement. It was at President Hinckley's urging that I first stepped out of my Mormon comfort zone, and this makes him great in my book. I was living in New York, trying to decide whether to join the PTA, when I first heard him calling me to greater service. The PTA met on Monday nights, a meeting time that will make any active Mormon think twice. It was around this time that President Hinckley said, in an address to BYU students, that we "must not abdicate our influence for good in the world." I read his remarks only later, via the Internet, but felt as though his words had been directed to me.

My family moved Family Home Evenings to Sunday nights, I joined the PTA, and thus began the first of many practical lessons in public service.

How many, many times since then have I wanted to abdicate, but have been restrained by that call.

Today's second giant is my mother. Today is her birthday, and I am taking the occasion to ponder her influence on my entry into local politics.

My mother was six months along with me when the family relocated to Seattle. She tells about months spent looking for the right house. It wasn't the house that concerned her so much as the location. She and my dad held out for a long time, living in a motel, and I can only imagine how much fun this was for them with my two active older brothers.

But my mother's patience was richly rewarded. The community she chose was magnificent. I grew up a free-range child. I had my pick of parks and playgrounds. I took long, wild bike rides. I threw rocks in the lakes; I picked berries in the woods. Every month we went to the library; every day she listened as I told of the worlds I was exploring, whether on my bike or in a book.

There were performances of every kind: lectures and demonstrations at the library, recitals of local artists, and concerts by the community orchestras. We took occasional trips into Seattle proper for the ballet or the opera. And there was always music in the house. If the music wasn't live -- my mother and brothers are concert pianists -- then it came from an endless supply of classical music LPs borrowed from the library.

When I decided to be a stay-at-home mother, it was because I wanted to provide the same kind of childhood for my own children that my mother provided for me. And when I decided to run for office, it was because I wanted my children to have the same blessings of community that my mother's choice gave me -- such basic blessings as parks, playgrounds, arts, library services, and a safe neighborhood. These are blessings we wrongly take for granted, blessings we stand to lose if we will not steward them.

"We must not abdicate our influence for good in the world." Because of President Hinckley's influence, and because of my mother's, I have learned that yes, even a full-time mother has a role to play in the community. This is why I add my tribute to all the others, public and private, that have been given this day to these two giants. Would that we could all be more like them.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thought for the Day

"Lincoln had a passionate commitment to the ideal that all men should receive a full, good, and ever increasing reward for their labors so that they might have the opportunity to rise in life . . . . Economic development provided the basis that would allow every American an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life."

Doris Kearns Goodwin
Team of Rivals
qtd. by Mayor Heber Thompson,
February 2006

Impact Fees

On August 28, after some fifteen months of study, the City Council voted in a new and badly needed impact fee structure.

Impact fees are the necessary evil which enables cities to extend essential services to new development in a timely manner. Assessed as a one-time fee on new construction and authorized by section 11:36 of the Utah code, impact fees accelerate the expansion of such essential services as water, sewer, roads, parks, police and fire protection. Without impact fees, existing City resources are spread too thin to provide effectively for growth.

Residents of the Hillcrest neighborhood understand the ills of not collecting adequate impact fees: They waited years for the construction of Hunter Park.

Businesses in the Meadows understand the danger of spreading resources too thin: They'll be in much better shape when the City finally saves enough money to enlarge the water line that services their district. (This will happen when 1120 North is completed.)

Without impact fees, AF is hard-pressed to provide new services in a timely manner.

With impact fees, AF can not only provide for present growth; it can also plan and provide for future growth by bonding against future impact fee revenues. An essential component of the City's long-term financial plan, impact fees are a key strategy for keeping property taxes as low as possible.

Homebuilders are quick to remind us that impact fees are a tax--a nasty tax, they say, that drives up the cost of housing and, in turn, the cost of living.

They have a certain point. Impact fees are added into the price of the house and they are indeed a tax. All government revenues are taxes, including those which provide City services. Certainly, government has a responsibility to restrain its costs, keeping taxes as low as possible.

But to say that impact fees add to the cost of living is a piece of reverse logic. That cost of living, or in this case, the cost of providing essential services, already exists. It will be recovered through one tax or another. Impact fees merely enable the City to recover its costs up front. If the City does not charge the home buyer up front for services, it will have to charge him some other way.

The City is no different from the dairy farmer who must determine how much to charge for his gallon of milk. The price tag he puts on the jug has to include a number of fixed costs including the cows' feed, the farmer's labor, the cost of the jug, the price of shipping, the insurance on his farm, and so on. If he doesn't recoup his costs from selling his milk, he produces at a deficit and goes out of business. No matter how badly he wants to please his customers, the dairy farmer cannot drop his price below his costs.

The City is the same. In a sense, charging an impact fee is like truth in advertising. Home buyers are enabled, through impact fees, to comparison shop. Those wanting a cheaper product may go elsewhere. Those wanting to enjoy American Fork parks, police, water, etc., will be willing to help shoulder the cost.

As of August 28, American Fork now charges impact fees for transportation, water, fire, police, parks, and sewer. Of these, the transportation, fire, and police fees are new. The City Council has high hopes for the transportation fee, given our many road needs. The water and park fees already existed but were raised. Park fees went up significantly to reflect the skyrocketing costs of land.

All fees taken together total $12,833.29 for a single-family dwelling. Multi-family dwellings are assessed $10,794.15 per unit.

It sounds like a lot of money, and indeed it is. But if it means families can rely on adequate public safety and infrastructure, and if it means that young families can take their children to the park while they're still children, then I say it's good planning, and a bargain at the price.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thought for the Day

"In the past, professionals involved in policymaking, community planning, economic revitalization and affordable housing have not considered sources of creativity as an asset within the community to improve that community’s overall health. Currently, communities that are revitalizing their economic efforts by capitalizing on local talent and cultural assets are experiencing stronger economic growth."

Tom Borrup
Partners for Livable Communities