Friday, October 30, 2009

My Stump Speech

Now that the last of the meet-the-candidate events is over, I'm posting my stump speech here for those who weren't able to attend. Like a basic black suit, this is a mix-and-match piece which was excerpted as necessary to fit the various time limits at the various venues.

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Four years ago, I ran for city council saying I wanted to see American Fork provide a neighborly experience for our children and families, with all that entails—parks, ballfields, safe routes to school, a mix of cultural and recreational offerings, and the preservation of our beautiful neighborhoods . Underpinning this vision, I said, was the need for strong leadership and careful attention to finance, planning, management, and economic growth.

These last four years, I have been hard at work on this vision, and I believe the need for strong leadership and planning has never been more important than it is now.

Road maintenance has been deferred far too long. Public safety continues to be priority one, and the City must commit to paying for top quality police, fire, and ambulance protection. These are costly but essential priorities. With careful planning, the City can provide for these needs without overwhelming the taxpayer's wallet and still have a little money left over for quality of life.

If there's one theme of my campaign I want you to understand, it is the great importance I place on long-range planning. Long-range planning would have seen pressurized irrigation completed in 1994, when it was first considered, for a total price tag of $9 million dollars. That's $40 million cheaper than the $48.95 of the 2006 pressurized irrigation bond, which translates to an 80 percent savings over today's water rates. Long-range planning in the coming years is the only way we can prevent this from happening again. It's the only way American Fork can get out of debt and provide for road maintenance without overburdening the tax payer.

There isn't time at an event like this for me to tell you everything that's in my heart. Please, I hope you will visit my Web site at to learn more about my platform. Let’s talk more tonight before you go home. And you already know you can call or email me at any time. I am always happy to listen.

For tonight, let me make you a fistful of promises.

1. I promise, for the next four years, to prioritize our city’s most pressing needs, which in my opinion are road maintenance, public safety, and long-range planning.

2. I promise to remember that I must pay the same taxes I ask you to pay. When this is a hardship on you, it is a hardship on me.

3. I promise to listen to both sides of any issue, to keep an open mind while I listen, and to analyze the numbers and their consequences carefully.

4. I promise to be available to you. You already know that you can call me on the phone, write me a letter, email me, or stop me at the library or the grocery store, and I will respond. I love hearing from you, and I always follow through.

5. Finally, I promise to continue my advocacy of the quality of life issues that make this the kind of city we all want to live in.

You can trust me when I make these promises because this is what I have been doing for the past four years. It's what I did for years before that when I was volunteering for the City, and it's what I will continue to do for the next four years.

It has been a great privilege to work side by side with the residents and families, citizens and neighbors who make American Fork the kind of city we all want to live in. I would be so pleased to continue this collaboration for four more years.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Musicians Make the Best Politicians

Zoltan Kodaly, the Hungarian composer, musician, and educator -- one of my greatest heroes -- taught that the characteristics of a good musician are these:

1. A well-trained ear
2. A well-trained intelligence
3. A well-trained heart
4. A well-trained hand.

I believe these are also the characteristics of a good politician. My reasoning:

1. A well-trained ear. Representing the people requires the ability to listen, truly listen, to constituents with concerns. A representative must be able to listen to both sides of a given issue and to keep an open mind while he listens. Representatives must also be able to listen to the pulse of the public and discern the values of the community. Truly, a politician must have a well-trained ear.

2. A well-trained intelligence. I hardly need elaborate on this one. All the gifts of education -- the ability to communicate, to reason, to do math, and the capacity to learn -- these must be the politician's gifts.

3. A well-trained heart. A politician must be grounded by solid ethical values which can only originate in the heart. A politician must also be fired by passion for the issues or he will not survive the rigors of office. Are we talking about a local politician? Then she must care, and care deeply, that her community is healthy and that her neighbors are well served.

4. A well-trained hand. Where the musician must be practiced in technique, the politician must be grounded in hands-on experience. Experience with a daunting labyrinth of local, state and federal law is essential to the politician who wishes to apply these laws for the benefit of his community. Experience with people, systems, and organizations is a must. Experience can come in many forms -- through volunteerism, relevant experience in industry, or through prior office -- and is the best indicator of future performance.

A pianist in private life, I have often observed another comparison to be made to politics. The musical accompanist must be at once follower and leader. The pianist follows the soloist, but also gives strong support. The organist follows the conductor, but leads the congregation. The same circular reasoning also holds true for the representative. Following the will of the people, he leads them where they want to go. As the bumper sticker says, "If the people will lead, then the leaders will follow."

One final comparison. I believe that what Kodaly said about art is equally true about government -- that it is "one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity." Empowering you to be part of your government and involving you in your community is what this blog and I are all about.

Thus I find myself, as both a musician and a politician, asking you to measure me by Kodaly's standard, and see if you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday.

If you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday, then I hope you'll be willing to trust me with your piano students next January. I'll have a lot of spare time on my hands.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love Your Library

I marvel at American Fork's hard-working library staff. Its people are cheerful and service oriented and they take obvious pride in their work, seemingly oblivious to the library's constant funding challenges. Our library has long operated with only half the collection budget enjoyed by our neighboring libraries, and current budgetary cutbacks have brought about a reduction in the library's operating hours, as well you know.

If you love your library as I do, please consider making a donation to its collections. You might have books at home that you're finished with. You might do as I do and search the shelves at DI for books to donate. The library will gladly accept almost any up-to-date book in good condition. If for some reason the library cannot add a donation to its collections, the Friends of the Library will sell the book and the proceeds will benefit the library.

If you'd like to donate a new title, please consult the library's wish list which has been posted physically at the stacks and electronically at the library's Web site. Donating one of these books will provide for the library's greatest needs. This is what the industrious students of Caleb Warnock's writing class did last month. I quote from the minutes of the meeting in which these books were presented:

When Mr. Warnock heard that the Library had compiled a list of titles of books that they wished to have he felt it was something that the literary program could support. He and his wife went to the students and said for every brand new book that was on the Library’s list they donated, he and his wife would match that donation. Today they were presenting 20 brand new books as a way to thank the City for hosting this class for the past 20-months and for allowing them to have the conference and the upcoming conference in April and for everything that American Fork provided for them.
These twenty books delivered a much-needed shot in the arm to the library's collections, and I wish here to express my personal gratitude to the class (an Arts Council offering) for its initiative.

If you've been to the library recently, you've seen a creative poster which was written by our imaginative library staff and based on Laura Numeroff's classic If You Give A Mouse a Cookie. I'm going to reproduce it here as best I can. Please take a minute to consider its wisdom and ask yourself whether there's a way you can include the library and its many patrons on your giving list this year.

If you give a library a book . . .

Someone will want to read it.

When they are finished reading it, they will want to read another . . . and another.

Others will want to read it, then another . . . and another and bring their families to the library to get good books to read.

While looking for books, they will find DVDs and books on CD to check out.

After watching the DVD, Mom and Dad may discover that a school report is due in a few days.

They will come to the library and research the report topic on the Internet access computers.

When the Internet research is complete, they will want books on the same topic to finish the report.

When the report earns and "A," the student will tell of the great information that is available at the library.

More people will come to the library to find the information they need.

While looking for information, they will find novels, picture books, DVDs, books on CD . . . and more.

They will want to read one . . . then another . . . and another.

Will it ever end?

See what happens when you give a library a book! Think about donating books, DVDs, or books on CD to the American Fork Library. They will be gratefully accepted. If they can't be added to our collection, they will be placed in the Friends of the Library Store and the money earned will be used to purchase more books.

Consider -- if you give a library a book . . .

Top Ten Reasons To Use Your Library Card

. . . as posted by American Fork librarian LaRee Parkinson in the American Fork City employee newsletter.

1. Hours of free cheap entertainment.

2. Read the book before you watch the movie.

3. You always have something to do on a rainy day.

4. Improve your mind as you delve into our non-fiction section.

5. Learn a new skill through reading about that subject.

6. Feel important because your wallet is full of cards.

7. Turn over a new leaf (again) with our self help books.

8. Ready to get away? Escape to your dream vacation with our travel books.

9. Need Internet? It's free at your American Fork Library.

10. Don't have time to sit and read? No problem! Check out a book on CD and work or travel while you listen.

These are only a few of the great reasons to use your library card. Come use your card and discover your own top reasons for using your card.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BYU Marching Band Invitational

Ordinarily on a second Tuesday I would encourage you to attend the evening's City Council meeting. But tonight I'd like to see American Fork drop everything and go support our marching band at the BYU Marching Band Invitational.

Yes, I said OUR marching band. It may be the high school's program, but the marching band is at least half of who we are as a community. We have supported its fundraisers, marveled at its breathtaking performances, and felt ourselves inspired and ennobled by the band's constant striving for excellence.

Tonight will be the band's first performance since Saturday's tragic accident, and our turnout will help us support the band, honor a fallen hero, and salve the pain we are all carrying inside.

Performances run at LaVell Edwards Stadium from 3:55 p.m. through about 10 p.m., with American Fork scheduled to compete at 9:25. Tickets are $5 per person and are available at the door.

I salute the fighting spirit that empowered the band's decision to go through with tonight's competition. Let's rally the troops and show our support.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Question: Is the City spending my local tax dollars to complete trails I voted against last November?!?

Answer: No, the City is not spending your local tax dollars on these projects, but yes, the City is completing the trails using federal grant money. As you have seen on your drives about town, not one but four trails are under construction at this very minute.

Question: Is our City government just a little bit loopy to undertake construction of trails and pressurized irrigation at the very same time?

Answer: Well, if we weren't loopy when we started, we certainly are by now. Throw in 50 South, and this construction is enough to drive anybody mad. But there is method to our madness. We accelerated the construction period on pressurized irrigation (PI) as a hedge against inflation. Originally scheduled for completion in three years, we are completing the project in two. Also -- sad but true -- recessions are a strategic time to install infrastructure as governments can benefit from a competitive bidding environment. If current projections hold, we'll complete PI one year ahead of schedule and one million dollars under budget.

Question: But did you have to throw trails in on top of this? I mean, we told you in that bond election that now is not the right time!

Answer: Last January, Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG -- the agency that distributes federal funds) delivered an ultimatum. Either spend this federal grant money already -- some of it was awarded as much as a decade ago -- or reimburse the feds for costs already paid on engineering and design.

Question: You had federal money sitting around and you didn't spend it?

Answer: The trick was coming up with the match. These grants paid 93.33 percent of total project costs, leaving the City to pay just 6.77 percent. This is a bargain, to be sure, but with project costs like $900,000 and $750,000, the City's match would still have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. As you already know from reading my post about road maintenance, we local taxpayers do not have that kind of money sitting around.

Question: So where did you get the money? You better not have bonded when I told you not to!

Answer: Well, I wasn't strictly accurate when I said we're not using local tax dollars. But it would be fair to say that we're not using very many local tax dollars. Faced with the choice between paying back $97,500 in engineering costs on the Art Dye trail or paying the match of $89,000, we chose to pay the match. (Hmm: $97,500 for no trail or $89,000 for a nice trail?) This amount is far less than the $2.3 million of the bond that was rejected.

Question: That's the Art Dye trail. What about the others I'm seeing under construction?

Answer: Right. Fortunately, MAG has graciously allowed us to move federal grant money from project to project. When we got stimulus funds for 50 South, we were able to move some of the earlier grant money for this over to trails. When we cancelled the expansion of the Main Street Park and Ride (FrontRunner's announcement of its American Fork station pre-empted the need for this expansion), we were able to move those funds over to trails. So the total City outlay for completion of four trails will have been just the $89,000 of the Art Dye Trail match. This is what I call value-engineering.

Question: Where did you get the $89,000?

Answer: The City Council had a knock-down drag-out fight over whether to take this from road and sidewalk funds or from the general fund balance. We'll probably settle the question at the end of the fiscal year when we adjust the budget. If you need to take your Scouts or Young Women to a meeting, this will be a fun one to watch.

Question: Did you say FOUR trails? What are the four trails?

  • (1) The Art Dye trail, which leads from the heart of Art Dye park to the Highland border, where it connects with Highland's trail system. I've been told that users can proceed from there all the way to the mouth of the canyon.
  • (2) The American Fork River Trail, which begins at approximately 325 East 300 North, follows the west bank of the river, skips onto 500 East for a bit, then connects to the Art Dye Trail.
  • (3) The 300 North connector. This is just three-and-a-half blocks of trail along 300 North that will connect the Center Street Trail to the aforementioned River Trail.
  • (4) The Center Street Trail, which leads from the Greenwood Skate Park to Chipman/Bicentennial Park and on up Center Street past the Fitness Center to the cemetery.
Question: I've seen some of these trails completed already. Why on earth would you rip out sidewalk to install a trail? Why not keep the sidewalk and mark it as trail?

Answer: My friends who jog tell me that asphalt is a much better surface. But the real reason for this decision is the federal design standard. Nobody gets to argue with the feds.

Question: So I shouldn't vote you out of office?

Answer: That's entirely up to you, and remember, you get your chance on November 3. But when I judge these trails, I see that American Fork has finally become a place where a person can take a walk. I see four fantastic opportunities purchased at the bargain basement price of $89,000. This sum divided among 7,000 households works out to $13 each, made payable in a one-time sum with no interest payments to be made ever. That's a pretty fair price for the ability to reconnect with nature, work on your heart health, or take a walk with the kids.

Question: That's $13 plus all that money I pay on my federal tax bill.

Answer: That's an issue for our federal representatives, and they don't seem to listen to me these days. But as a local representative, I feel that if the feds are going to collect all this money from us, the least we can do is let them spend some of it in our own community.

For more background on American Fork's trails, read Trixie Walker's article in last Friday's Daily Herald.