Dear Lindon Citizens, I wrote the following opinion piece, prompted by great concern over the upcoming election
. I chose not to run for City Council again (as some have confused names, I am not Bruce Armstrong). I determined at the outset that I would give my best while in office, wearing myself out, and then step aside, probably after two terms. I am doing that, and I am confident that there are capable hands to whom I can hand off this responsibility. However, a few things really stand out in this election. First, some are campaigning in an entirely different fashion. It has always been the case in Lindon that persons of good intent but of different philosophies stepped forward and presented enough of themselves so that people could choose, but never have we had campaigns that ran into the thousands of dollars, with websites, mailings, and hundreds of signs. For comparison, I think I had about 70 signs and printed up brochures on my home printer. If aggressive campaigning actually gets more information into peoples’ hands, that is good, and people need to know that you really do want to serve. But I see some of what is presumed to be information as absolutely inaccurate, and for me, at some point it seems a line is crossed that reflects a belief that you have to be elected because you are Lindon’s salvation. If you vote for someone whose total platform is to undo what a long string of your elected officials have worked tirelessly to put in place, be sure that is what you really want. Second, we see a real effort by some to convince Lindon citizens that their elected officials are greedy and wasteful, with no recognition that Lindon has done great things because of our fortunate position. This is simply sowing seeds of discontent. Don’t be surprised if such persons, if elected, continue to distort facts to achieve their preconceived beliefs, rather than listening and working towards real solutions. (In the last election two council members were elected on a platform of budget cutting, but because they were open to evidence and without personal agendas, have since admitted that their claims were wrong; they did not, in fact, find a single thing to cut in Lindon’s budget that was not already part of the ongoing plan to handle the financial downturn.) Finally, I think there are issues of personality and general philosophy that can dramatically change the style and direction of governance; for me, these are critical. We need statesmen and leaders, not critics or malcontents. Please vote, and vote wisely. Bruce Carpenter
Lindon: On the Right Course
by Bruce Carpenter, Lindon City Council Deseret News, November 3, 2011 I thank the citizens of Lindon for the opportunity to serve on our City Council these past eight years. Observing and interacting with governments across the state taught me valuable lessons; and how well these lessons are learned is a powerful force distinguishing successful cities which manage well and proudly serve from those which struggle. Let me share several lessons learned and then speak to the future of Lindon. First, governments are formed to serve. As we become increasingly frustrated with federal overreaching, we must guard against spill-over hostility towards government which performs well. Cities build infrastructure which serves us all, protect our daily lives, and guide the orderly progress of public activities. We love to live in cities that do these things well, not do them less. Second, ideologues and those with personal agendas tend not to participate well in the process of sound decision-making. General philosophies regarding government are helpful to guide priorities, but especially for local government they should always be tempered by listening to needs, changing circumstances, and emerging understanding of how things actually work. Third, “can do” attitudes lead to solutions, “can’t do” attitudes lead to criticism, stalemate, and stagnation. History teaches us that successful cities (natural resources aside) are always those with a strong public sector, a willingness to work together, and leadership with vision. These cities accepted legitimate taxation, worked together to create infrastructure (a century ago most taxation
came in the form of cooperatively building roads, schools, etc.), and took responsibility for the quality of daily life. The same is true today. Criticism is not solution, negativity is not prudence, and ignoring public need is not leadership. Fourth, citizen leaders are humble. New ideas are often good, and course correction is sometimes needed, but those who are convinced they have the answers fail to listen, work poorly with others, and rarely grow in their ability to serve. Elected officials ought to wonder aloud about decisions before them, probably campaigning mostly on their commitment to listen, learn, and then choose wisely. My impression is that great leaders are often reluctant campaigners, underscoring the truism that campaigning and governing are very different activities. And fifth, citizens sometimes assume the worst about government, but respond to honest information. Any important decision pleases some and disappoints some. When leaders serve the whole public, public activities collectively benefit all. All who truly wish to serve will happily support good activities, even if they receive no personal benefit. Now to small, controversy-free Lindon. Our positive position arises from the goodness of its citizens and the city’s vision and steady course. We have a reputation of being well managed, prudent, methodical, and responsive to citizens. There is a reason why Lindon was rated in national studies the last two years as a “best small town,” why we have a distinctive look and feel that anyone can see, why we attract top businesses, why we can supply the benefits that citizens seek, and most importantly, why our citizens love to live here. There is room for continued improvement; indeed, fiscal responsibility dictates that we move no faster than means allow. A key is that all major decisions in the last 20 years involved considerable public input, with a close eye to what we can afford and citizens really want. We count ourselves lucky to actually enhance life rather than cut critical services. Lindon is blessed by a strong tax base which allows for a good level of service from only a modest tax burden. Some may try to convince you that the burden is high; but the truth is that our city property tax, even with our recent increase (about $60 per year for the average home), is lower today, relative to family income, than most of the preceding 30 years. Only 14% of our property tax goes to the city. With one city increase in 30 years, the amount a family pays to the city, after correction for inflation, is still less than one-half of what it was in 1980. Because of inflation, when cities do not raise property taxes to match, they grant a de facto tax decrease. Our one increase was fully open and well-reasoned to (1) cover an increased public safety budget after moving to full-time fire protection and (2) provide better fiscal stability by reducing dependence on the volatile sales tax (it worked, as we move effectively through the economic downturn without drastic measures). Some may offer a bogus analysis on per capita taxes which ignores the sizable taxes paid by business and industry (more plentiful in Lindon than many cities) and is simply a criticism that the city has developed a strong business tax base (where is the thanks?). If Lindon citizens moved their homes to another city, their city portion of property tax would be about the same; similarly, our other taxes are at the same rates as essentially all other local cities. In Money Magazine’s recent article naming Lindon a “best small town,” Lindon’s property tax (including school and county tax) was reported as averaging $1,573 per household, whereas the average for the top 100 cities was $4,083, and the average for the top 10 cities was $3,965. I would call that efficient. I have chosen not to run again for city council, keeping my promise made eight years ago. Our city council will change from 58 years of collective experience in 2009 to only 4 continuous years in 2012; we must be wise in our choices. I encourage you to ask yourself if you love living in Lindon. If the answer is “yes,” vote to stay on course and elect city leaders who recognize that course and will protect it.