12 April 2014

Mel Nimer - Candidate for County Council at Large

First Meeting, 25 March 2014

My first meeting with Mel lasted about 2 minutes and unfortunately contained very little information about what he would do as a county council member.  Essentially I had time enough to hear him state that he is currently an accountant and as such would bring additional fiscal discipline to the table.

Second Meeting, 31 March 2014

After listening to several very predictable speeches from other candidates, Mel was a surprise.  He is a very amiable fellow and an engaging public speaker.  He is very approachable.  These traits alone place him higher on my list.

He stated that his first item of business was to clean up the budget by prioritizing

He also said that he asks three questions when deciding whether or not he will give his vote for adding an item to the budget:  Can we afford it? Do we need it? Should the county be providing it?  He stated that if he gets a "no" on any one of those items, then he is not for adding it to the budget.

On those grounds, he stated that he was against any plans for the county funding the Convention Center Hotel.

Third Meeting, 9 April 2014

For the first time, I had more than a few minutes to talk with Mr. Nimer personally.

Mr. Nimer wants the budget to be more open and accessible.  Specifically, he says that while the budget is available online, there is no real opportunity for dialogue with the citizens about budget items online.  He'd like to see a way where citizens can provide feedback over the Internet about the budget.

Regarding the budget specifically, he stated that 75% of the budget is currently to pay employees.  For him, this is far too high.  Weekly in council meetings, the agenda contains a list of employee vacancies that need to be filled.  In Mr. Nimer's estimation, the council rubber-stamps (my word) these vacancies without asking whether or not this position is actually still needed.  He stated that he would advocate a position that any employee vacancy have a 6-month moratorium placed on it.  If after the 6-month moratorium the office could still justify the position, then it could be refilled.  He said that South Jordan city currently uses this policy in their offices.

He also stated that there is a need longer term to sit with the city mayors in Salt Lake County and discuss with them the future of the county's assets.  He says that it concerns him that the county's budget goes up while the population in the unincorporated parts of Salt Lake County goes down.  He would like to find a way to assign stewardship of county services and facilities over to the city mayors. "Sandy City, you are in charge of Unified Fire," for example.  Mr. Nimer said that the plan would include something similar to the county paying the city to take care of this service, which would allow each city, which has a more reliable tax base, to staff and manage the service or facility.

Clearly, he has a laser focus on the budget, which is something that I really like.

He talked for a few minutes on incorporation.  He referenced a time when Taylorsville annexed a portion of Kearns into their city.  This portion was a large section of commercial area with almost no residential area.  The purpose obviously was to give Taylorsville a higher tax base.  Mr. Nimer stated that this style of annexation should not be possible.  He believes that it is within the county council's current assigned powers to state that cities within the county would would like to annex a currently unincorporated area would need to annex a certain proportion of commercial, residential, and industrial.

He also stated that he feels he has the best chance at beating Jenny Wilson because he has a personal connection through a family member.

At the tail end, there was an individual there that was strongly advocating for Mr. Nimer, and he stated that he also felt that Mr. Nimer would be good because he would be a good complement to Richard Snelgrove who has apparently done a great deal in the last two years to clean up the council's books.

Decision

I'm late to convention, so I'll be brief here.  However, I will be voting for Mel.  I really like his strong focus on the budget.  He has poured a lot of thought into how to reduce the budget and make it manageable long term.  Also, he is a super-approachable guy.  He is an individual that I'd have no problem bringing a question or concern to were he on the council.