West Haven mayoral candidates vie for donations and development | News, Sports, Jobs
WEST HAVEN – Growth, unsurprisingly, is a looming problem among the two West Haven mayoral candidates.
But in the home stretch of the campaign before election day, that’s not the only thing. Battles over campaign finances and donor influence over candidates also emerged as talking points, including campaign involvement by developers.
A large number of mayor and city council positions, including the mayor of West Haven, are up for grabs in Weber County in this cycle’s municipal election. Mail-in ballots are expected to start arriving in voters’ mailboxes this week, with voting peaking on November 2.
The dollar amounts of the West Haven campaign are quite modest. Sharon Bolos, the incumbent, reported $ 2,220 in donations ahead of the August 10 primary. West Haven City Council member Rob Vanderwood challenging her, reported $ 300 in donations.
Vanderwood, however, is particularly concerned about the influence of developers like the North Wasatch Real Estate Association, or NWAOR, a donor of many northern Utah political campaigns. NWAOR donated $ 1,000 to the Bolos campaign on July 6 and then tore up the check, she said, without needing it. The files managed by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Utah prove that she did not keep the money. The documents show that the $ 1,000 donation was ultimately removed from the NWOAR donation list so far for 2021 to a range of applicants because Bolos did not accept it.
However, she has accepted donations from other developers, Vanderwood says, and that is a concern to him. Of the $ 2,220 she received, $ 1,750 was from two people who were involved in the development in West Haven, Vanderwood said, and $ 200 was from the campaign fund of Gage Froerer, a Weber County commissioner who owns a real estate agency. The NWOAR made an in-kind donation of $ 270 of voter data files.
“If she tore up the 6/7/2021 donation from the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors by stating that she did not need the funds, why did she accept other funds after that date?” Vanderwood said in an email to the Standard-Examiner.
Bolos, meanwhile, rejected any suggestion of undue influence from donors. She is adamant that she doesn’t let donations influence her decision-making.
âIf there were conditions attached to a donation, I wouldn’t accept them. I have more integrity than that, âshe told the Standard-Examiner. She will accept donations from friends, she said, but never with a specific directive from them.
The question of campaign financing arose at a October 5 forum sponsored by the Weber County League of Women Voters. Bolos said at this meeting that if she receives donations it is because her supporters love her leadership. âPeople who support me support me because they think I’m a good mayor. They think I’m a good leader in the city and they want to see me continue, âshe said.
Vanderwood, for his part, said his $ 300 donation came from “citizens” of West Haven. None are named in his campaign report since state law only requires the nomination of individual donors who give more than $ 500.
However, he said he was not taking “special interest” money and that as a candidate for city council four years ago he turned down a donation from NWAOR. âI just don’t want anyone to doubt my intentions,â he said.
Development is a big deal in West Haven, and Vanderwood said at the Oct.5 forum that he is avoiding donor relationships with realtors, builders and engineers. âI don’t believe in that sort of thing either. I think you should avoid all kinds of things because when you sit down here as a representative of the city you shouldn’t have anything to do with it, âhe said.
NWAOR is a major political donor in northern Utah. According to his state campaign finance report, he made $ 35,130 in donations to candidates and others between April 5 and September 24 of this year, including the in-kind donation of $ 270. in Bolos.
THE FASTEST GROWING CITY
More generally, Bolos said his message during his campaign was about the quality of life in West Haven, suggested by strong population growth. West Haven was by far the fastest growing city in Weber County between 2010 and 2020, according to US Census Bureau records.
âMy message is we have a place to live, great things are happening here,â Bolos said. Her leadership has helped in this regard, she says, and she wants to continue her efforts.
Some have complained about the rapid pace of growth, but Bolos said city officials have changed the rules governing development in the city’s overall plan to accommodate concerns. “I think the important thing is to revisit the general plan whenever we see a need,” she said.
Vanderwood echoed that the city appears to be “on the right track” in the face of the rapid pace of development. But he maintains that city council has been the driving force in addressing citizens’ concerns on the issue.
âLet’s continue in the same direction,â he said. “Really, I think we’re on the right track to move forward.”
The changes council members have been pursuing, he said, relate to housing setbacks, lot sizes and buffer zones between single-family home neighborhoods and higher density housing projects. The goal, overall, is to balance the needs of those looking for more affordable housing, such as apartments, and those who want housing on larger lots.
City leaders can’t stop growth, but they can slow it down, Vanderwood said, calling for “controlled growth.”