Nine candidates for Moab City Council answered a series of three questions about their campaign goals: M. Bryon Walston, Tawny Knuteson-Boyd, Kendall Jenson, Ken Minor, Kalen Jones, Rani Derasary, Cassie Patterson, Valarie Valenzuela and Solona Sisco.

Josie Kovash announced recently that she has dropped out of the race since filing her candidacy in early June. Candidate Mike McCurdy did not respond.

Of the 10 total candidates, three will be elected to the Moab City Council. All city council positions are at-large and nonpartisan, with elected members serving four-year terms. 

The City of Moab’s primary election will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13. The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5. You may register to vote in person at the Grand County Clerk’s Office at 125 E. Center St. You can register to vote, check your voter registration status and update your address online at vote.utah.gov. Contact Grand County Clerk Chris Baird with any questions about voter registration at 435-259-1321. The county is contracted this year to assist the City of Moab with its election, Baird said on July 1.

M. BRYON WALSTON

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

M. BRYON WALSTON: I believe in allowing controlled growth to occur while respecting the rights of the people whom we serve. We need to have diversity with mix use growth and have fair regulations to allow or encourage affordable housing to occur. Free Market Economics will work if we encourage it. We want people to respect Moab. My goal would be to bring that back to the City of Moab. We are a destination resort community with all of it’s issues and challenges. Fairness and open communication is important. We work for and serve all the citizens of Moab.  

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

M. BRYON WALSTON: 1. Communication outreach. Weekly news releases and open phone policy. With fairness and transparency, respect the rights of all of the citizens. Work with people and remember that we as public servants, we work for the people. 

2. Traffic and noise mitigation. Outreach training to tourist industry and the off road industry to help reduce noise and speeds and truck traffic. 

3. Affordable housing. Work with developers, property owners and business owners to create and encourage workforce housing. 

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

M. BRYON WALSTON: Quantifying our water resource is a work in progress. We need to know how much water we have in our aquifer and plan wisely. Water is a precious resource in a desert. We need to encourage wise water conservation, and develop a conservation outreach program in the schools, in the our businesses and for our visitors.

TAWNY KNUTESON-BOYD

Tawny Knuteson-Boyd is a current member of the Moab City Council.

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

KNUTESON-BOYD: It’s important as a council member to keep an open mind and to listen to everybody, their ideas, thoughts and opinions. We never know when a citizen regardless of their age, background or education level will come up with a great idea or a solution that will work for the community. To me, balance and compromise are words that have different meanings yet can both be used to facilitate workable, helpful and healthy plans for nearly everyone. Honesty, civility, thoughtfulness and above all kindness takes us all further in the right direction than mean-spirited dialogue. No one gets all they want but everyone gets some of what they want. I can’t say it’s not a challenge sometimes, to have a multitude of opinions coming from many directions, but it’s not impossible to negotiate and take the best of each and try to apply them to the issues at hand. 

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

KNUTESON-BOYD: I really want to see the City of Moab complete the Walnut Lane project. This project was a big step for the city and one that four years ago, when I ran for city council, I would have been hesitant to take on. Now I feel like we need to step up and be leaders. Our housing crisis has gotten worse and it won’t get better if we ignore it or hope the private sector fills in the voids. This is one way to build something that reflects the city’s commitment to housing and sustainability and incorporates community and neighborhood cohesiveness in a project that the private sector can emulate or improve upon. I will continue to work with the staff to get the proper permits, documents and plans in concrete forms to move this forward. 

The lodging-hotel-tourist-housing-employment piece is a big challenge right now. It’s time sensitive and we need to work smart and fast to insure we have a good, fair, honest, productive path forward to balance our main economic driver with the quality of life issues so many of our residents feel is lacking or being degraded. I’m sympathetic to those who feel overrun or crowded out, who feel the congestion and noise is unbearable, sometimes I do too. I’m also very well aware that part of what separates the U.S. from other countries is private property rights. While permitted uses are not unlimited, there are planning and zoning rules and regulations for a reason, we as local elected officials shouldn’t run rough shod over property owners because we can. I want to work to facilitate slower growth, including multi-use areas, keeping as much green space as possible, utilizing green infrastructure and green construction where possible. I am hopeful we can develop higher standards for developers and see them become the norm, rather than the exception. I’d like to challenge developers and property owners to use the creative sides of their brains to improve their projects so government doesn’t feel as compelled to make more rules. I think it can be a win-win-win for residents. developers and local government if we realize we are in this together.

There are so many issues, picking three is tough, so I’m going to take a lighter note here. I want to see our art and recreation departments continue to grow and develop more programs and bring the fun, beauty, healthy, creative and fulfilling aspects of our town and our culture to the forefront. Not all art is appreciated by every person the same way, but being exposed to different types of art or different sports helps kids and adults grow, flourish, find a niche and just makes our lives and our community a bigger, brighter tapestry. I will do all I can to support those departments, their programs and the staff. 

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

KNUTESON-BOYD: Water use in the desert has always been a significant and thorny challenge. 

We have to do a better job or encouraging conservation, making sure the City of Moab does its part to repair leaks and notify residents if they suspect a leak, based on usage. We should be employing new technology to re-use gray water and educating our residents and our visitors about how we get our water, where we get it and how limited it is. 

The infrastructure part is expensive and takes time to complete. Xeriscaping and drought tolerant plants and trees are a part of how we use our water. I’d like to see us inventory our trees and look at our community tree canopy and begin to improve it. So many big cottonwood and elm trees were damaged by our recent winds it got me to thinking that we need to think about replacing our massive trees. Not by taking them out but replacing them when they are at the end of their lives. We have put in some good programs for the business community to help the individual businesses contribute to our community sustainability, I’d like to see those expand to more businesses and possibly to residents. Our significant number of hotels and lodging units use a great deal of water. I would like to see some independent audits of them to see how efficient they are with water use, and if they aren’t what can they employ to become better stewards of our water.

KENDALL JENSON 

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

JENSON: I will find balance by seeking out and sincerely listening to the views and suggestions of everyone willing to communicate with me. With their perspectives in mind I will propose and vote for solutions that will be best for the individuals and families of our community.

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

JENSON: 1. I plan to represent the interests of Moab’s families, individuals and businesses by listening to them and acting on their behalf, as well as watching out for our natural environment.

2. I am determined to help bring about progress on issues relating to affordable housing and overnight lodging. Again, I will listen and act.

3. I plan to revisit the issue of the sizable salary increase and benefits that Moab City Council approved for themselves last month.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

JENSON: Regarding Moab valley water, we must closely monitor our usage in order to avoid depletion of our aquifer. Future planning should be based on accurate interpretation of the data provided by USGS and other reputable research. 

KEN MINOR

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

MINOR: Some of us that have lived here since the old boom and bust days sometimes miss the quiet sleepy town Moab used to be. But we also appreciate the services that are now available here due to the growth we’ve had. Growth is never a one-sided story. Moab is growing rapidly and will continue to grow. We need to support that growth with planning and infrastructure. We need to take a longterm view of every decision, action or inaction. What will be the results 10, 20, 50 years from now? If we can see both sides of those decisions, we can find balance. 

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

MINOR: 1. Increase availability of affordable housing in the city limits. I feel strongly that we need affordable housing within walking and biking distance of work. Some of our workforce can’t afford cars and some simply choose alternative transportation. Living out in the valley simply is not feasible for much of our service worker community. I think the most fair way to accomplish this is to have more area in the city approved for high density housing. The land isn’t getting cheaper and we need density to make it affordable. Moab needs more apartments.

2. Improve economic diversity in the city. This can be promoted by making it easier for small businesses to succeed. We need to look at our zoning and other ordinances and balance the needs of the community. We need to apply those rules consistently, fairly and with common sense. We can educate business owners and work with them in positive collaborative ways to find solutions to the issues they find most challenging. How can we foster a helpful relationship with local businesses instead of seeming to have an adversarial one? I have worked with many small businesses over the years and have seen some fail and some be wildly successful. I understand the fragile nature of business success and we need to respect that while we apply the guidance and guard rails of our city plan.

3. Improve infrastructure. It seems that Moab has outgrown some of its basic framework. We need to bring some systems up to an acceptable standard and plan for future growth by designing our systems with that expansion in mind. From public utilities, to storm drains, to roads and traffic patterns. We need a consistent longterm outlook to provide needed services with the most efficient use of tax dollars.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

MINOR: Last year was my first year as president of the Moab Irrigation Company and what a year it was. The lack of sufficient irrigation water last summer really brought to my attention the need to be as efficient as possible with the water that we have. Water is obviously a finite resource in spite of how it may feel this year. We are not yet at a critical point in our water use according to recent studies, but we still need to factor future water needs into our plans. I would like to see the City of Moab develop a secondary irrigation system for its parks that would use surface water where available instead of water pumped from our aquifer. 

KALEN JONES

Kalen Jones is a current member of the Moab City Council.

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

JONES: I will seek balance by proactively informing citizens, providing opportunities for them to engage with the City of Moab, and seeking a diversity of opinions. Over the last four years the City of Moab has made progress on information sharing via video streaming our meetings, much more detailed meeting minutes, and frequent social media posts and informational ads in the print media. I, with my fellow council members, pushed for the lodging moratorium planning process to be much more transparent and have more opportunities for public involvement than is often the case. I will continue to provide clear guidance to planning consultants on our community’s expectations for engagement. 

The city’s Communications And Resident Engagement Plan provides more detail; I will revisit it with the council to assess progress, and set annual goals for implementation. I will continue to support having diverse viewpoints on advisory committees. Ultimately I will seek to improve equity, quality of life, and sustainability in Moab, and a community is most successful when we all work together.

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

JONES: 1. Develop a community vision for sustainable tourism which maximizes the benefits to residents, honors the surrounding landscape upon which it is based, and inspires visitors to celebrate and protect the natural environment they come here to experience. 

This would be a collaborative project between local governments, Utah universities, citizens and the business community. Although the county, as the location of the travel council, has ostensibly been the leader on such things, Moab residents bear the brunt of the tourism impacts, and it is time for the City of Moab to lead in articulating a new vision.

2. I want to see the number of households spending an excessive amount on housing reduced by 30% by 2024. I will continue to work on this via my role on the Moab Area Housing Task Force. I will continue to support the Walnut Lane redevelopment from low-standard trailer court to modern comfortable apartments serving residents in a range of incomes. I will revisit PAD, and development standards in general, to moderate the impact of higher density (re)development while still providing enough of an incentive for our much-needed affordable housing to get built. I will assess the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations to remove unnecessary barriers, as ADUs can provide a significant addition to the housing stock without altering neighborhood character.

3. A vibrant small town is created by many people and businesses, but managing the problems is largely the purview of local governments. I look forward to facilitating the city, and the Solid

Waste Special Service District on whose board I sit, in joining the ranks of cities moving decisively towards zero waste. Productive engagement with UDOT, and collaborative mobility planning can reduce congestion and noise. I’ll continue to lead the City of Moab in its efforts to reduce outdoor light waste for safer and more attractive public spaces, and more pleasant neighborhoods. In my first term I helped the city set ambitious energy conservation goals. In my second term I look forward to the city further realizing the economic and environmental benefits of integrating conservation throughout the community.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

JONES: I’ll continue to support detailed scientific analysis to provide for informed decision making, and retaining legal counsel to defend Moab’s water rights. Conservation has significant potential to provide for additional development, and some development could improve the equity and quality of life in Moab. However, we should anticipate the possibility for greater variability and uncertainty in the water supply, and proceed conservatively.

RANI DERASARY 

Rani Derasary is a current member of the Moab City Council.

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

DERASARY: Our best shot at balance lies in beginning by listening to all voices and entering the process with an open mind. As Moab City Council members we only do our jobs well if we receive people’s comments with respect for their dignity, integrity and personal experience. I endeavor to collect information, and deliberate over it, considering what kind of shelter, employment facilities and amenities residents want and need longterm, plus how much we can accommodate. Folks I talk to want a healthy community they and future generations can thrive in. For us right now, that means maximizing diverse housing opportunities for primary residents at various income levels, and providing mixed uses that serve neighborhoods and select commercial areas; these are uses whose shortage keeps our community out of balance.

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

DERASARY: My priorities could all fall under “enhancing residents’ quality of life,” breaking down into: health and safety, communication and vision. Concrete steps include: Basing decisions on understanding our limited water supply better (see below); increasing air quality monitoring and passing an idling ordinance; updating and advancing renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals; completing the Walnut Lane redevelopment; and investing in a new public works building that provides staff a safer workspace and generates at least as much energy as it uses. 

To improve communication, I would build on the personal commitment to outreach I’ve made so far: Increasing the number of residents I currently email council packet summaries to; and visiting constituents, such as the door-to-door visits I did to over 100 businesses in 2018 to discuss City of Moab/UDOT downtown plans. 

In terms of vision, we’ve spoken for some time in this valley about the need for Moab “to figure out what it wants to be.” I will push for a city vision that calls on current and future councils to base priorities and decisions on core resident values. 

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

DERASARY: I believe it would be irresponsible to make future planning decisions without taking our limited water resources into account. None of us want to be the next community that has mined its aquifers or over-allocated its water. At the City of Moab we’re lucky to have numerous tools to help guide us, including: the USGS study currently under peer review; the Ken Kolm/Paul van der Heijde reports; the Water Conservation and Drought Management Advisory Board; and the city’s new water attorney. 

Moab is also blessed to have professionals specializing in green building and green infrastructure who understand concepts like onsite water reuse, green streets, permeable pavement and more. The Utah League of Cities and Towns recently introduced council members to the resources WaterNow Alliance can provide; their webinar last week emphasized that water efficiency and reuse are “the new water supply.” With more buy-in from the city, I suspect Moab could be an Intermountain West leader in how rural communities can benefit from these technologies. I take science and climate change seriously, and am digesting findings to help me understand how much more the valley can grow over time. In terms of Spanish Valley and northern San Juan County, the Moab City Council needs regular dialog with the Grand County Council and San Juan County Commission to discuss how we can collaborate to protect the watershed we all depend on, and monitor legislation that might undermine our ability to manage that watershed locally. 

VALARIE VALENZUELA

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

VALENZUELA: I will listen to all voices and make decisions based on the input I received and try to compromise on it. 

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

VALENZUELA: Provide affordable housing for locals, increase wages for locals and consider more for the locals than tourists.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

VALENZUELA: I support industries for higher wages coming into the community.

CASSIE PATTERSON

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

PATTERSON: I will do my best to reach out to the community to hear their thoughts on various issues and weigh each of them in my mind to determine the best course of action. Making everyone happy is impossible, but I plan to try my hardest to do what’s best for Moab.

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

PATTERSON: Diversifying the economy is my biggest priority. Many of our problems would be eased by making a wider variety of jobs available to our residents. I’m aware that will be difficult with our dwindling workforce but I feel that seeing more than just service industry jobs would be a good draw for people looking to relocate to the area. Another thing I think Moab needs desperately is a stronger sense of community. There seems to be an ever-growing rift and I’d love to see people come together and celebrate our differences more often.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored in to future planning.”

PATTERSON: I’ll be the first to admit when there is something I don’t have a strong grasp on and this is one of those things. Ensuring an adequate water supply for everyone is very important, however, and I am committed to learning more to prevent any shortages from occurring.

SOLONA SISCO

“You are running for city council at a time when diverse voices in the community are working to be heard on growth and development. How will you try to find balance among the multiple perspectives of the people you will represent on council?”

SISCO: I would read every comment that I get, categorize them and count them. For any demographic group or group of stakeholders that appears to not be giving comments, I would reach out to those people for comment. I want every side of the story, not just a self-selected one or two sides of a story. I aim to approach this job with journalistic integrity. 

“What would your top three goals be as a council member, and what concrete steps would you take to reach your goals?”

SISCO: My top three goals are affordable housing, environmental stewardship/addressing climate change and walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. 

1. As part of addressing the housing crisis, I would continue the work that is being done on the Planned Affordable Development (PAD) overlay, Walnut Lane redevelopment and Moab Indeed. I would look into hiring an intern to work for the Moab City Council and/or the sustainability director.  An intern working for the council could be paid to participate in whatever boards that need the most help.

2. The issue of parking ties into all three of my core platform focuses: residential developments with less parking will be more affordable, charging money for parking on Main Street would incentivize people to walk and ride bikes more, and fewer on-street parking spaces on Main Street (following completion of the planned parking garage) would make bicycling there safer.

I want off-street parking requirements to be reduced or eliminated in every zone and every overlay. Usage of cars as the dominant means of transportation drives us apart from one another, whereas walking and bicycling brings us together, spurring happy little social interactions.

3. For environmental stewardship, I would seek to increase the sustainability budget. It is currently only the salary for Rosemarie Russo, the sustainability director. She could get more done with a budget of her own, rather than having to rely solely on grants. If elected to Moab City Council, I would give a majority of my compensation back to the city, earmarked for the sustainability department. I would have myself be paid $721 per month. A sustainability goal of mine would be incentives for an accelerated electrification of the fleets of local ATV/UTV rental companies. I am in favor of Moab being granted greater control on regulating UTV usage on city streets, but this would be a good compromise that accomplishes multiple goals at once: less noise without forcing the drivers of electric UTVs off of any streets, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and the tourists driving them can go home with hopefully a more positive view of electric vehicles.

With a city that is safer to ride bicycles in, children can enjoy greater happiness and autonomy, rather than having to rely on adults to drive them places. The prospect of a U.S. Highway 191 bypass seems almost unrealistic, but I would do what I can to pursue that goal. The potential benefits could be enormous.

“Please explain your thoughts and opinions on water use in the Moab valley, including how water use should be factored into future planning.”

SISCO: I would like to require that all new development, both residential and commercial, be built with the capability for gray water usage. It is not yet fully legal in Utah to use gray water, but I would like for developments to be ready to make that switch when the law changes. 

Publisher’s note: Prior to running for Moab City Council, Sisco was a freelancer with the Moab Sun News. The Moab Sun News does not endorse any candidates in a local election.

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