Here's what Ogden mayoral contenders said makes them unique
For the first time in over a decade, northern Utah voters will select a new Ogden mayor. On Thursday night, the two remaining candidates vying to lead the city sat before a crowded Weber State University lecture hall to pitch their vision for the future of Junction City.
Ben Nadolski, a current city council member, touted his years of local and state government experience through his career working for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, while Taylor Knuth, a northern Utah native and current deputy director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, emphasized the need to return to the “basics of good government.”
The two candidates agreed on many issues, like investing in more affordable housing, improving transparency within the mayor’s office, and supporting community assets like the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah — a nonprofit that was evicted by Ogden City with little notice earlier this year.
But the two men do disagree on several issues impacting Ogden:
Utah Community Renewable Energy Agency
There is a slight disagreement between the two on the Utah Community Renewable Energy Agency, a group created by the Legislature to push Utah cities and counties away from fossil fuels and toward a commitment to use 100% renewable energy by 2030. Ogden signed onto the agreement previously, but earlier this year, current Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell suggested the city could pull out of the deal.
Both candidates were asked how they would handle this situation. Nadolski said the city still doesn’t know the terms of the contract and the overall cost of being in the program, despite asking repeatedly for those figures. He likened the deal to a door-to-door salesman making a pitch, but declining to talk about specifics.
“You’re going to want to know the cost, you’re going to want to know the terms of the contract,” Nadolski said. “Those are two things we don’t know yet about that program, we’ve been waiting for those answers for about two years.”
Nadolski added that Ogden is still in the program thanks to his vote on the city council, but he still wants answers before committing to the project long-term.
Knuth said the question of moving toward renewable energy was one of the most important topics the candidates could discuss, because of the implications of their decisions for generations to come.
“We need leadership that matches the urgency of this moment,” Knuth said. “Which is why I’ve been all in on the Community Renewable Energy program from day one — because I understand the risks if we don’t do something today to transition our residents off carbon and fossil fuels and into renewable spaces.”
The two expressed different ways to fix another recent issue — Ogden Police Department’s points system for tickets.
In May, a Fox 13 report revealed a point system in Ogden officers’ performance evaluations based on the number of tickets they write. The system has been defended by some and scrutinized by others, with some state officials saying the system is similar to a quota, which violates Utah law.
Both Nadolski and Knuth condemned the system, saying at the end of the day, the points system eroded trust in local law enforcement. But each offered a different fix.
Knuth said state law needs to be clarified, adding that Ogden Police Chief Eric Young, whom Knuth heartily supports, believes the points system follows the letter of the law.
Nadolski suggested changing the system so an officer is given the same number of points for writing a ticket and issuing a warning, removing the incentive for writing more tickets.
A Weber State student asked both what they would do to ensure rent prices do not continue to rise in Ogden, adding it’s getting harder and harder to afford both college and rent. The candidates, who are both Weber State graduates, said they have been in the same position of trying to pay rent while staying in school.
Knuth wants to create a housing stability division within the Ogden City government that would be dedicated to addressing housing affordability. He also pushed to expand the Own in Ogden program for first-time homebuyers and other homebuyer assistance programs, which Knuth has said he and his husband used to buy their first home.
Nadolski, who said he shared a house in college with well over a dozen people, said it’s much harder to make rent nowadays. The city can improve zoning laws and approval processes, he said, to make sure developers are not saddled with extra costs that get passed off to tenants. Nadolski added that improving zoning ordinances and allowing for more dense housing is a way to keep housing affordable.
Government experience or new blood
In remarks following the debate, Nadolski again leaned on his experience on the city council and in state government as what sets him apart from his opponent.
“I’ve got over 20 years of public administration experience that my competitor doesn’t have,” Nadolski said. “I’ve been in charge of big budgets, I’ve overseen big teams of people, I have real leadership experience in executive governance that my opponent doesn’t have.”
Knuth said his desire to shake up the system is what separates him from his opponent.
“Our campaign is about getting back to the basics of good government — building community, creating connections with our neighbors, and preserving the character of our city,” Knuth said. “That’s what we shared with people tonight.”
Voters in Ogden, and throughout Weber County, will begin receiving their ballots the week of Oct. 31, and Utah’s Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 21.