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What I am planning for election coverage this year is seven straight weeks of hard questions for each of the candidates.

Aug. 26: Introductions

  1. A photo of yourself. This preferably will be a standard portrait (from shoulders up). It must be a photo we can use in our ongoing coverage of your campaign. If you do not have a recent photo of yourself, let me know, and we can schedule a time and place for me to get a photo of you.
  2. 50 to 100 words about who you are. This should include information about your current occupation, your involvement with public boards and local politics, how long you have lived in Moab, and where (roughly) you live in the city.

Sept. 2: Housing

For the city council candidates:

According to experts in housing policy, the greatest opportunity Moab has to decrease housing costs is zoning reform. Needed reforms would allow more and different kinds of low- and middle-income housing to be constructed. Another force driving up housing costs in Moab is demand from second homeowners.

  1. How will you overcome the neighborhood defending (or NIMBYism) that plagues efforts to reform the city’s zoning?
  2. Should Moab allow more housing development to complement the demand from second homeowners? If not, how would you protect full-time locals in the local housing market?

For the mayoral candidates:

Without a vote on legislation, the vital role the mayor plays is being the face of the city — a liaison between Moab and the rest of the world, particularly the State of Utah. Another major element of the job is conflict resolution between council members, city staff, and the public.

  1. How much time will you have during your day to meet with constituents, city staff, and officials across the state?
  2. What is your experience in conflict resolution, particularly when you are seen as part of the conflict?

Sept. 9: Tourism

For the city council candidates:

Moab already taxes lodgings at the maximum rate allowed by the state, and the city has limited space for commercial development. The city’s primary lever for affecting the local economy is through changes to its zoning and land use regulations.

  1. What will you do to bring quality jobs to Moab? If the efforts require funding, how will you pay for them?
  2. Does Moab need to shrink the tourism industry, increase overall growth through greater commercial development, or do something else?

For mayoral candidates:

Some mayoral candidates recently committed to treating the job as full-time should they be elected. Every candidate said that the job of mayor will be their top priority if they win.

  1. Based on your conversations with Moabites, what will be the top issues you advocate on? How will you do so?
  2. As you lead policy discussions and public meetings on charged topics, what will you do to promote healthy, productive conversation?

Sept. 16: Growth

For all candidates:

Grand County’s population grew every year from 2003 to 2018. Overall population declined in both of the past two years, bucking a state and national trend.

The state has not yet updated 2017 projections that suggested the county’s population would increase over the coming few decades, so it is difficult to determine the long-term significance of the last two years of decline.

Plot showing population growth in Grand County projected to continue after 2018 despite two consecutive years of decline, with the growth projected to slow over time

Plot by Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

Migration, rather than local births and deaths, has been the primary driver of population change in Grand County since 1990. Projections from the state made in 2017 suggested that, by 2030, residents would die faster than new residents are born.

graph showing annual population growth from migration into Grand County increasing to over 100 in the 2030s and changes from births and deaths dipping below zero around the same time

Plot by Carter Pape, licensed for exclusive use

  1. How have these and other demographic changes affected the social and economic fabric of Moab? Are those changes for the better?
  2. Will you pursue policies to change the course of these demographic trends? Why or why not?

Sept. 23: Straightening the city

Many current and former employees at the City of Moab have said that the city does not have its house in order. We have reported extensively on the turmoil in recent weeks:

This is not the first time in recent years that the city manager and city hall at large have faced discontent over high-profile personnel matters. It is not the first time that Moab City police have faced serious scrutiny for their conduct. It is not even the second time.

The police chief is not elected. In the city’s official organizational chart, the chief of police reports to the city manager. The city manager, in turn, reports to the city council and mayor.

  1. What structural, cultural, or other problems exist within the city that controversy over personnel (particularly, the city manager) repeatedly befall the institution? Is it just bad luck?
  2. Do you agree with Judge Don Torgerson’s recent comments that the city police department “has a history that lacks quality oversight”? If so, what changes will you seek at the police department to address his concerns? If not, how do you respond to those comments?

Sept. 30: Resource restraints

For city council candidates:

Here are a few facts about Moab’s current and potential water use we want to bring to the attention of you and our readers:

  • As of June 2019, half of Moab’s municipal water was used by residents, and 16% of its water went to overnight accommodations.
  • The June 2019 estimates by the City of Moab indicate that current groundwater use across the entire valley is 9,100 acre-feet per year.
  • By the same estimates, the production potential of groundwater across the entire valley collectively is 15,800 acre feet.
  • In other words, the valley was collectively using around 60% of its water use potential, according to estimates by the city.
  • These figures are corroborated by estimates from the state engineer that Maob could use 50-100% more water without exceeding initial estimates of the valley’s safe yield.
  • According to the city’s draft Water Conservation Plan Update for 2021, total water use in the valley has trended slightly down since 2005 even as population and visitation have grown.
  • Water usage per capita has also trended down since 2005, according to the update.
  • Before the 2021 update, the city’s 2016 water conservation plan indicated that the city could more than double its population before using as much water as was believed to be available in the valley.
  • Before that, the 2010 conservation report also found that the city could double its population before needing to find new sources of water.
  • The city’s stated goal is to reduce per capita water usage from 280 gallons per day per capita last year to 230 gallons per day per capita in 2030.

All of the above taken together suggests that Moab faces a low risk in the short term (5-10 years) of using more water than is available to us. The longer term implicates a greater number of factors that are more difficult to predict.

One long-term change to account for are estimates from NASA made in 2013 that suggest southeastern Utah will see a reduction in total annual rainfall between 0 and 10% by the year 2084.

NASA’s estimates are not directly applicable to Moab’s long-term water situation because they do not account for a variety of factors that affect watershed recharge but do not affect total precipitation.

For example, higher temperatures will cause greater evapotranspiration, leaving more water in the air and less in streams and aquifers. Increased storm severities will also affect how much precipitation infiltrates into groundwater each year.

As for reducing water usage, The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a story in which various experts criticized the low rates Utahns pay for water — particularly, what they pay for excessive water use — and suggested that increasing the cost of using excessive amounts of water would reduce water usage.

  1. How much risk do you believe Moab faces of overdrawing its aquifer in the next 10 years?
  2. To meet the cities water conservation goals, what policies will you implement to reduce per capita water usage in Moab? Or, would you set less ambitious goals?

Oct. 7: Placeholder

Oct. 14: Housing

Oct. 21: Voter guide

Oct. 28: Something creative

Nov. 4: Results and reminders