The text in purple is from the Lakeview Neighborhood Chair. The blue text has my reply. The post with all District 5 candidate answers can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FranklinSouthNH/permalink/2975378936006896/
The west side of Provo would like to know more about YOU. I have to say that I also post to the Franklin and Franklin South neighborhoods, so some of these more general questions, I will also post there.
Those running for district 5 ONLY: if you forgo the West side specific questions, I understand...If you want to give an answer on how this would apply to your area that would be better...example the mass transit question...how that would apply to your area...such as support or not support a rapid bus system down 500 west from Lehi or other options you would support or like to see...Where you will vote on west side issues as well, I would not mind knowing your stance. I am just not sure I will post those responses because I do NOT want to confuse the west side residents on who they are voting for. However, if you answer the west side questions in a way that would effect your area...I will post those responses to Franklin and Franklin South.
Mayoral and City Wide: I will also post to Franklin and Franklin South....If you would like to give additional responses specific to those neighborhoods....I will post those as well....just please clarify it in your responses. For example the west side specific questions....one is mass transit...if you would like to speak of your vision for mass transit in the downtown area....I will take those and post those to the appropriate neighborhoods.
If you would not mind answering these questions and getting back to me before Saturday, July 17, 2021, I would really appreciate it. Come Sunday I will post the answers to the facebook pages so the residents can know more about YOU.
Some of these questions are ones that residents proposed and some are of general interest to west side residents.
1. Introduction of who you are and why you are running for your office. (Brag about what you have done, what your qualifications are, what your goals and visions for Provo are, what services you have provided to Provo residents in the past, what you would change and how, etc.) Please provide your preferred method of contact, so that residents may contact you for more information. Thanks
Rachel Whipple here. I'm an attorney in Provo, graduate of BYU Law. I've lived in the Maeser neighborhood since 2009, and I love it here. My husband was recruited to teach at BYU in the biology department, and we took the job because Provo was the only university city where we could afford to buy a home on a starting professor's salary. We deliberately chose downtown Provo so we could bike and walk everywhere. Even now, my husband walks to campus to work everyday, and I ride my bike to work.
Before I went back to school and became an attorney, I was a stay-at-home mom to our three kids. I learned all manner of housewifery skills, from gardening, canning, baking, fermenting, sewing, reupholstering furniture, weaving, knitting, painting, hanging drywall, and so on. Years of managing a family and tight student budgets taught me to be resourceful. As the kids got older, I was able to do more work in the community, starting by teaching yoga at the kids' preschool, then volunteering in their classrooms and participating in PTA, and then serving as the acting chair of Maeser neighborhood during the 300 S project, serving on the Mayor's Sustainability and Natural Resources committee under both Mayors Curtis and Kaufusi, the Provo Bicycle Committee (now BikeWalk Provo), as well as serving on the boards of various non-profits organizations. The most important work I do right now is volunteering at the free legal clinic associated with the Family Justice Center on Tuesday nights in downtown Provo. (That's why you won't see me knocking on doors on Tuesday nights.)
My older two kids both went to Provo high, and it was hard on us when they moved so far away that my kids could no longer walk or bike to school. My oldest will be at UVU this fall, my middle child at BYU, and my youngest will be a freshman at Timpview.
You can reach me on Facebook @ElectRachelWhipple, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by texting me at 385-219-9804. You can also check out my website www.electrachelwhipple.com.
I am supportive of additional mass transportation options. Right now it's all but impossible to get anywhere on the west side without a car. That's far too exclusionary. I've spent a significant portion of this last year with either a cast or a boot on my right foot, making it all but impossible for me to drive a car. While my limitation is temporary (I hope!) that's not the case for everyone who cannot drive because of physical limitations. A lot of people cannot drive because they are too young, and not all families are able to shuttle kids around the city, which means that without non-car options, a lot of kids are not able to participate in extracurricular activities, sports, go to the library or rec center, or do other things that they are fully capable of doing were transportation not a barrier. And some people simply cannot afford a reliable car, even though they need it to get to work and shopping.
I don't know what the best routes would be to connect the west side; I would need more input from residents as well as transportation engineers. From my own experience using mass transit in Provo and other cities in the US and EU, the most important factors are well-connected routes, clear time indicators (like digital signs that announce when the next bus will arrive), and frequent enough service.
b. As a mayoral candidate the same question as above with the addition of would you support and initiate city staff to ask and aid UTA in providing more mass transit options west of the freeway? If so, which ones? why?
3. Mosquitoes are a big issue west of the freeway. With a new regional sports park and growth of an airport we would like to see more done in the way of mosquito abatement. We do understand that currently this is a county issue; however, some feel like more needs to be done to control the mosquito population west of the freeway.
If elected, how would you address this problem? Where would the funding come from? (please answer according to your specific roles if elected)
If the city does anything with mosquito abatement, it must work in conjunction with the county. At the moment, I expect the best course is to encourage the county to be diligent at monitoring, and to adjust their spray schedule if warranted. I appreciate that they avoid spraying on weekends and holidays. When the sports park opens, I believe the county should also take activity at the park into consideration when spraying: if there are tournaments or events after sundown, spraying should not occur until after the event has concluded so people are not directly exposed. This will require communicating the sports park schedule with the county.
4. Provo is the 3rd largest city in the state but yet it lacks retail options for its residents. The lack of retail is a big issue for a lot of residents in Provo. It seems like city staff always has an excuse for why Provo does not and cannot attract more retail.
The city council a few years ago made retail one of their priorities. Since then we have seen the East Bay Ownership change hands and some improvements made like Ross, NAPA, the vintage store, and a new gym. We have seen the Provo Town Center Mall change ownership with big promises of change, but have not seen much in the way of change for that location even though some rezoning was done.
We have also seen tax incentives approved by the city council to help some of these businesses bare the costs of revitalizing their properties. This has both good and bad outcomes. Some say with this we are giving away some of our precious tax dollars and money has to come from somewhere...if not the business then the residents in either the form of property tax increases or utility bill increases.
Both Council Candidates and Mayoral candidates: How do you feel about tax incentives to provide for more retail? How do we encourage business owners to revitalize their properties and bring in needed retail and business options?
Honestly, I'm a conflicted about the tax incentives to attract big retailers. Too often, those deals meant to attract anchor tenants in shopping centers and malls result in losses to the city because the business can leave after the incentive period but before they actually start contributing to the tax base (depending on how the contract is written). The idea that the big retailer would draw enough traffic to allow smaller retailers to operate nearby doesn't always work in practice, and it also means that the small retailers are not given the same incentives. So little businesses end up bearing a disproportionate burden, which feels very regressive. That said, a dead mall or vacant shopping center does no one any good. So I'm not completely opposed to sweetheart tax deals, but I am skeptical. I'd want to see some good proposals.
The city can encourage revitalization by revisiting the zoning and parking requirements for these shopping areas. We have seas of asphalt surrounding shuttered stores. This is a terrible use of our limited land space. Allow for more infill, more density of businesses. Allow more high density residential developments close to transit areas and shopping centers.
Mayoral Candidates Only: If elected, what plans do you have to provide more retail in Provo? or how do we fix this problem?
5. A west side grocery store is important to many west side residents. Recently the city council rezoned the Smith's Food and Drug parcel on Center street and Geneva to mixed use inorder to lift Smith's hold on the west side market.
They also prezoned the parcel at 500 west and the Lakeview Parkway with hopes to market this spot for a west side grocer.
City staff also told the neighborhoods that besides the parcel at 500 west and the Lakeview Parkway they would also market a parcel up on 2000 north where the Lakeview Parkway will expand along 2000 north to Geneva Road.
From speaking with staff, I understand that the city has been working hard on getting a west side grocery store and some sort of announcement will come around August 2021.
If by chance that opportunity falls through, what are your priorities for a west side grocer? How would you go about getting one? What changes, if any, would you make? (For council this would be more of a financial question rather than a marketing question.)
6. Taxes, taxes and more taxes.
Taxes are a sore spot for many Provo residents; especially those that have fixed or low incomes, and/or those that are house poor from the constant rise in housing costs.
Both city and school district elected officials tell us that we have NOT had a tax increase and buildings have NOT been replaced so now it is time to pay up. However, having everything hit all at once is an issue financially for many of our tax payers, especially when both the school district and the city get funding from the same pool of people.
While it is true that Provo City has NOT raised property taxes in quite some time, they have collected taxes on the residents by increasing and adding taxes (like the road tax and the telecom tax) onto the utility bills. A portion of this bill returns back into the city's general fund each year to cover other needs.
Provo City currently has financial needs, especially in this last budget season where the city council was discussing raising property taxes in order to cover additional police officers...which the city currently needs.
Where Mayors make and recommend a budget to the council and councilors approve the budget, I would like both to weigh in: How do we pay for the needs of the city, while keeping our taxes low or managable for our residents?
If we are bringing in so little tax revenue that we are deferring infrastructure maintenance over several years or decades, our taxes are artificially low. We're starting to see this now with the cost of sewer and other long-deferred maintenance finally coming due. We have to realize that failing to maintain these systems is a form of debt, and it is not sustainable. I'm relieved we're finally addressing some of these overdue maintenance issues, and especially relieved that we're doing it before we see cataclysmic failure of one or more of these systems that would be significantly more expensive than routine repair or scheduled replacement.
Many Provo residents could afford to pay their portion of the actual amount we need to collect for the services and infrastructure we have access to by living in this city. But years of artificially low taxes have gotten us accustomed to a certain level. We have already budgeted that money elsewhere. The impulse is to demand that the city, county, and school district cut their spending rather than raise revenue. But for the most part, our local government in this very fiscally conservative area is already responsible and frugal (too much so, since many departments have been deferring maintenance in order to stay within already low budgets). What we need to do is to communicate better what we've been spending and why, as well as what we haven't been spending (either cost savings through efficiencies or cost deferrals by kicking the can down the road) so that the taxpayers have a better sense of whether tax revenues are adequate or excessive.
That said, I know a lot of Provoans who absolutely cannot afford to pay anything more in taxes or utilities. If they are renters, they cannot afford for their landlords to pass those increased costs on to them. They live on fixed budgets, and their margins are so slim as to be non-existent. Regressive taxes, like sales tax, hurt these residents the most. I think we need a more robust utility assistance program. I also think that we need to make it easier for homeowners to realize income by renting a portion of their property. (One of my elderly neighbors desperately needed to rent out their basement apartment for supplemental income to offset medical expenses, but were not allowed to do so because in their older house, you had to duck your head as you went down the stairs to the basement apartment. The cost to change that little area of head clearance was thousands of dollars, which they didn't have. Other than that, the apartment was really nice, much better than places I lived when I was a BYU undergrad in the late '90s.)
What do you have to say to those on fixed or low incomes or those who may be house poor due to the constant rise in housing costs that feel financially strapped due to the constant increase in taxes and utility bills?
I'm so sorry. We were house poor for the first half of our marriage, and the stress of that was a constant worry that made doing everything else more difficult. When we moved here in 2009, we were fortunate to find a house on the low end of our budget. If we had to buy it in today's market, we'd be just as house poor as we were when we lived on Long Island. The fact that we're not house poor now is a matter of luck and privilege, not an indication that we are good with our budget or otherwise deserving. The fact that you are house poor does not mean that you are irresponsible, or that you aren't working hard enough, or any other failing on your part. You're doing the best you can, and it's a condemnation of our society that it may not be enough. And as my two older kids are moving out of our home, I don't know where they can afford to live, either while they are students or after they graduate if they want to stay here.
So what do we do? We've got to increase the supply of housing. There are lots of ways to do this, and the most obvious ones are to increase density in some areas of the city, especially those along major transportation corridors and in the transit oriented development zones. As we build more high density units there, we also need to protect and improve the housing stock of "move up" homes. We need to make it easier to add accessory dwelling units (the change a few years ago to allow detached ADUs is a step in the right direction, but the permitting process is a long, drawn out nightmare), and I think we should consider allowing detached ADUs for properties that already have an attached basement or garage ADU. We need to find a way to integrate more residents into our neighborhoods without destroying the neighborhood fabric (just ask many residents on east Center Street how disruptive the illegal AirBnB has been). This will also require that we consider parking requirements and accessibility. There are no easy answers, but I believe that we can work to alleviate the problem now and mitigate the harm we anticipate as the population doubles.
Clarifying intent, where it is ambiguous, is important. Clarification should not be confused with changing. I haven't spent enough time with this matter to know whether this is a clarification or a change. We certainly need to be sure that the plan and map are consistent with the policies. Listening to some of the public comment, it appears that there are at least 2 different understandings of what the plan means, and there may be a conflict between the plan and the policy, so clarification is warranted.
When Councilor Harding talks about what standards are applicable to the developer's proposals, he's going into the realm of "vested rights." The quick explanation of this is that a developer only has to comply with the requirements that are in place at the time it submits its application. If you put in your project plan and get it approved, your right to pursue that plan is vested, and you retain that right even if the city then changes the requirements before you get around to realizing the plan (more or less, clearly every situation is fact specific). In this case, the city was in the process of developing new requirements after the initial application. Because the plan was not finalized before the developer submitted their application, it is not applicable to the development, but it will apply to development applications submitted after the plan is finalized. Similarly, clarifications or amendments to the plan will apply to applications submitted after those clarifications or amendments are adopted. These vested rights stand even if city councilors are frustrated about the slowness of the process.
Regarding the substance of Harding's clarification, I like the idea that the different types of housing be integrated into the developments of the new neighborhoods have a mixture of housing. Mr. Hill's comments that the plan allows for a variety of development without compelling variety within each development is well taken, as is the caution that smaller developers may not be able to provide variety within developments. Mr. Handley's comment that even small developments can provide variety if they don't run into lots of roadblocks from the city is also important.
I didn't get to watch all of the comments, and I haven't spent as much time with this issue as have the current councilors and neighbors. Because of that, at this point, I would also vote to have the planning commission review the issue and proposal a clarification to bring the plan and policy into conformity.
As a rule, I believe the master plan needs to be taken into consideration. The master plan is a very useful guidance document, and it provides stability through directed changes because both current and potential property owners can see what areas are expected to remain as they are and which areas are designated for new zoning or change of use. If that plan is not considered, it is worthless and adds to uncertainty, which will inhibit good development.
Mayoral Candidates: I have been on committees for planning that have had citizens from other cities on them. Is this appropriate to have residents from another city on our planning committees? why or why not? Is it important to you to have representation from the area being planned on those committees? Why or why not?
Both Mayoral and Council: What will you do to protect landowners who want to keep farming or who want to sell their land to developers at a price fair to them?
I would love to see our agricultural spaces preserved and agricultural use continue. That open space, although privately owned, is a huge asset to our entire community. It adds to quality of life for residents on the west side and to everyone else who wants to escape from the denser parts of the city on country roads and trails that go through these agricultural areas. That said, the owners of the agricultural lands are the ones who have the right to decide whether they will continue to farm their land or not. Market forces may influence their decision, both the economics of running the farm and the economic pressure of development, but that is how we expect it to work in a free market. If a landowner wants to ensure that their property will remain open, agricultural land after they are no longer able to work the land themselves, they can work with various partners to establish conservation easements to protect the use and character of their land for generations to come. As the owners, that's their right.
Similarly, if a farmer decides they want to sell their land for new development, they should fetch whatever the market will bear. That will depend on how the land is zoned. If the city choses to change the zoning from ag to residential, the city has an interest in requiring that any potential developer bear a substantial portion of the cost to add the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the change in use. Think about the cost of streets, curb and gutter, sidewalks, sewers, fiber optic cable, and power transmission. These costs are necessary for the land to command residential market value instead of the lower ag market value. So a selling farmer will not get as much for their land as someone who is selling land that is already established as residential, even if the city changes the zoning, because any developer knows that they will have to invest a lot in infrastructure before they can start to make their profit by selling smaller parcels.
8. The discussion seems to be coming up more and more about the lack of amenities in one part of town, or the dumping of this type of housing in this part of town, and just the lack of equality over the different parts of town.
Impact fees are fees collected through development or redevelopment that are meant to be used to offset the money that would be needed to add additional people to the city. In Provo, impact fees are NOT kept in the area which they are collected, but instead go to the pet project at the time.
Things like parks that are waiting for funding get bumped for other pet projects in the city.
How do we change this perception, if it is perception, or lack of equality if it is lack of equality in the city? Mayors are responsible for the capital improvements plans and council is tasked with voting on it.
I think we need a transparent list of projects that are waiting to be done. If a project jumps the queue (like because the neighbors secured grant money or other matching funds) that needs to be apparent to everyone. And that practice cannot be used in a way that means underrepresented areas (where people lack the means and time to organize projects or write their own grant proposals) never get their projects done. I've talked to several neighbors who are concerned about crumbling sidewalks. When they did 311 requests for grinding or replacement, they were told that the city is more than 3 years out on sidewalk repair. But there is not list or queue that they can get on to ensure that in 3 and a half years, their sidewalk will be next in line to get fixed. We need this. And we need the list to be a balance of requested projects/repairs and scheduled projects/repairs, otherwise only the more affluent areas of the city with lots of organized complaints will see the benefits. And if such a list already exists, it needs to be made accessible. If we don't know about it, we can't make use of it, and it will continue to feel very unfair.
9. Neighborhood Program
The Neighborhood Program has been around in this city for over 50 years. The neighborhood program currently falls under the city council, however, the neighborhood chairs work with both city councilors as well as city staff. It is currently under review by the city council.
Here is a link to the council work meeting, July 6, 2021 where this was discussed:
Time Stamp: (0:13:26) 1. A presentation regarding the Neighborhood Program. (21-071)
What are your feelings about the neighborhood program? As a city councilor or a mayor how would you use the neighborhood program and what kinds of things would you like to see from it? As a resident, what kinds of things would you like to see from it? and why?
I didn't want to be the Maeser neighborhood chair; it felt like too big of a job for me while I had a young child and was going back to school. I volunteered to be a vice chair. After a couple of months, the elected chair went AWOL, and our COP started getting on me to schedule the regular meetings that we'd had before. So I stepped up into the role. I held the meetings, passed on information about potential development, scheduled representatives of different city departments to give updates, emailed summaries of meetings, and created the neighborhood facebook page. While I was the acting chair, UDOT decided to regrade 300 S between University and 700 E, the stretch that bisects the Maeser neighborhood.
300 S was a huge project, and neighborhood and city input in the design meant it was an extra year before construction got started. A lot of people are still unhappy about it because we lost the ability to drive N/S and make left turns. But UDOT’s original plan to deal with the accidents from those left turns was to put a concrete median the entire length from University to 700 E, with no breaks whatsoever. It would have been terrible for the neighborhood, and would not have discouraged the pervasive speeding along that stretch. The compromise we got (pedestrian and bike signal at 200 E, signal with left turn lane at 400 E, pedestrian crosswalk at 600 E) is less than we wanted, but better than what we had before and what UDOT wanted to do. There were heavy costs for individual property owners who lost part of their front yards to make space for the turn lane. (They did get a check, but from now on, their front doors are that much closer to the sidewalk.) And many property owners and residents on 400 E were very concerned about the increased traffic that would now flow past their homes with everything being diverted through the light. (The city has done some paint on the street to attempt to help calm the traffic, although I haven't seen numbers to indicate whether it worked.) The other concern, that property values would fall as a result of the project has not materialized. Overall, the street is much safer and more attractive than it was before.
My role in the project was very much like a mediator. My personal point of view had to be put to the side as I communicated the concerns of the neighbors to the city, UDOT, and the contractor. And then I relayed to the neighbors the preferences and constraints that the agencies were working under. One of the most important aspects of my role was to help the residents keep track of how the project was changing. Too often, when we don't get what we want, we feel like we haven't been heard at all. If that's the perception, then any compromise will feel like a failure. So it was important for us to all see how our work influenced the project and made it better than what was originally envisioned. And because I was patient and persistent, but not antagonistic, I was able to work with everyone.
So that's part of my experience being a neighborhood chair. I felt it a heavy responsibility and I learned an enormous amount about the city and how things get done. I was helped and mentored by other chairs, city staff, and city council members. And I needed that help because it took a lot of time and effort to learn enough to be a responsible representative for my neighborhood. I understand that not all neighborhoods have regular meetings or engaged residents. I am also told that some chairs use their position to push their own point of view rather than doing the work of seeking input from a wide swath of their neighbors, including those who do not speak English. That has not been my experience, so all I can say is that I wouldn't want my neighborhood to operate that way, and if the neighborhood programs supports that kind of behavior, it should be revised.
10. With the increased housing & population density in downtown Provo, what will you do to prevent Provo’s downtown from becoming a typical large city downtown with the increased poverty, crime, homelessness and other unbecoming characteristics?
This is a question presented by a resident. I would like to add that in my opinion Provo is already seeing these things. I sit on the citizen advisory board for the police department and I hear the former police chief say how Provo bares the weight of the homeless for the entire county. Other cities just load up their homeless in a patrol car and drop them off at the food and care coalition. He also stated how with the Frontrunner station ending in Provo and with the closure of the Salt Lake County homeless shelters, more and more homeless are coming into Provo. He also mentioned that Provo is the only city in the county with aid for people who are in need of it. We have both the food and care coalition as well as the food bank..Community Action.
I hear from the redevelopment agency and how they administer the Community Development Block Grants for the county here in Provo. Those are grants used to help the really poor in the city. Currently the only neighborhoods that qualify for this funding are the downtown neighborhoods. I hear many council members and even city staff say that this is because students are poor. However, from where we sit, I see that if this city is affordable for the students it is also affordable for those with limited incomes. It is NOT just students that make up this demographic. We do have many in this city that are struggling just to survive and are not students.
The school board tells us they have the most title one students of any district in the county.
With the rise in housing costs and taxes, I can see more and more people becoming homeless.
First, as the city densifies, it can become safer. More people walking on the street, going from homes to restaurants or work means that there are fewer shadowy corners to hide. My home is on 300 S. People walk by all the time, and many of them do not have stable housing. But I feel safe because the street is well lit with high traffic, both cars and pedestrians. As we build more high density housing in downtown, there will be more foot traffic and more eyes on the street. This makes it safer. And another part of the of these housing complexes is that they will increase the housing supply to align with demand so that there is a wider range of housing options throughout the city.
Second, it cannot continue to be the case that Provo is the only city that offers real services for the homeless population in Utah County. The poor will always be with us, and we have an obligation to care for them. And so does Spanish Fork, and American Fork, and Lehi and every other city in Utah County. So part of the solution is to help other cities address their own unhoused population through partnerships or mentorships and modeling.
Most of the crime we see in the downtown areas are property crimes, usually things stolen out of cars, yards, and garages that can be sold or pawned. It's been this way for years. (My daughter even had her box of snacks stolen out of her car. She doesn't leave it unlocked anymore.) I don't see this changing. We need to continue to follow police advice to "Hide it, Lock it, Keep it" and we need to pass that on to people who move into the neighborhoods. We do have some domestic violence calls which are often associated with economic stress, but not always, as well as drug dealing and meth houses. I can remember our neighborhood COP urging us to be patient as we waited for busts of houses that we knew good and well to be drug houses as information was being collected.
These are persistent problems, and it would take a huge investment in both intervention measures and support services to address them in a meaningful way. This includes everything from after school programs to counseling to drug rehabilitation services. We should do it. The price tag will be high, but the ROI is good, and it's the right thing to do.
I would like to add to that what would you do to help the current situations as well as the questions posed above.
Also, what does "affordable housing" mean to you, and why? How do we fix the affordability issue? Where do we place it? or is it even appropriate where we already have so many housing options? Do other cities need to take on their portion of the burden? If so, how do we encourage that?
Please see my answer to the second part of number 6 above.
11. Do you support the initiative to develop island communities on Utah Lake?
12. What is their commitment to helping preserve lake wetlands and habitat?
This is a matter not just of preservation, but of restoration. I recommend that everyone read "On Zion's Mount" by Jared Farmer to get a better sense of the history of Utah valley and Utah Lake. That context allows us to see how much we have lost through our treatment of the lake over several generations, from Geneva steel, to ag runoff, to stocking the lake with carp. The Provo Delta project is a good step, as is the work to raise June suckers in hatcheries. But until we repair the habitat in the lake and delta, the June suckers will not become a self-sustaining population. There is a lot more work to be done. As we do it, the lake will become more of an attraction and asset to our city, and we'll all benefit from that.