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WHAT A FOUR-TO-ONE TAX VOTE REVEALS ABOUT LEADERSHIP

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

My opponent says, “It’s time for a change.” What she fails to mention is that she has been a voting member of the city council for the past eight years. She also fails to mention that the mayor lacks a vote under our form of city government. That raises a key question: Why hasn’t Councilwoman Harris used her vote during the past eight years to make the changes she now says are so critical?


My re-election is strongly endorsed by three of the four current (non-candidate) city council members (Millie Bahr, Richard Higginson, and Dr. Chris Simonsen). They said, “Mayor Lewis is the stronger, more experienced leader. Mayor Lewis is direct and doesn’t pander. He always does what he says he’ll do, and that’s what we’re looking for in a mayor.”


On August 11th, the city council voted 4 to 1 to raise property taxes. Few issues cause as much agony for a city council as a tax increase, and this was only the second tax increase in 20 years. Councilwoman Harris and the rest of the city council twice cast unanimous preliminary votes in favor of the tax increase, on May 25th and again on June 22d, to make critical personnel hires and correct some serious financial imbalances between reserve accounts and the general fund. This was not a casual decision, and it followed months of work between the council and the city’s financial experts. Harris twice agreed with her colleagues and the city’s Financial Director that the tax increase was a necessary course correction to maintain the City’s financial well-being.


Harris paints herself as a strong leader, yet her last-minute NO vote was an abdication of any role as a leader, because she either melted under criticism or made a calculated decision to pander and grandstand for election votes at the expense of Bountiful’s long-term economic health. No financial facts changed between her YES votes in May and June and her NO vote on August 11th. Nor did she offer any facts or evidence to support an alternative. The only thing that changed was her decision to finally vote against her own best judgment. Whatever the reason, when a person is unable to vote in support of her or his own best judgment, that’s a forfeiture and failure of leadership. It’s not a profile in courage.


Harris says she is a model of collaborative leadership and that she will carry a populist vision into public policy. If her tax vote is an example of her leadership style, then any real substance is sadly lacking. In explaining her NO vote, she agreed that the new personnel were necessary, and that the City’s financial experts really DO know what they’re doing, but that the amount of the proposed tax increase was “just too much.” She said, “I will agree to a 15% tax increase. That’s my thought.”


However, she never made a motion to reduce the amount of the tax increase. She only needed two additional votes to carry the day. A truly collaborative leader, who was a work horse (not a show horse), would have been working with the city staff and her council colleagues to actually make a factual, logical, and persuasive case for a sustainable alternative policy. THAT’s what real leadership requires. That kind of hard work is what’s necessary to transform an actual vision (and a useful voice) into public policy.


At the biggest moment of Councilwoman Harris’s career, on one of the biggest issues she’s ever faced, she simply whiffed. She did nothing of substance for those who may be unhappy with a tax increase, and she left it to her council colleagues to carry the burden of her previously expressed convictions that the tax increase was necessary. All she wanted to do was to be able to say she voted NO. There’s an excellent word for what Harris showed on August 11th, but it’s not leadership; it’s hollow grandstanding.


And there’s more. At a Meet the Candidate event on July 25th, Harris even denied that she had ever voted YES on the tax increase in May and June. That was flatly untrue, as the public record shows. That’s another reason the majority of the city council have endorsed me. I don’t waffle. I’m a work horse, not a show horse. Elections count, and I would be grateful for your vote and support.


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