Orem mayoral candidates are busy making their case amid debate about the city’s economics and UTOPIA, Orem’s troubled fiber-optics network.
Chris Nichols, Bob Wright, Richard Brunst and Hans Andersen will be at the mercy of voters in the municipal primary Aug. 13, after which the field will be narrowed down to two before the second round of voting in November.
In what each candidate described as a surprise, current Mayor Jim Evans chose not to run for re-election.
“Mayor Evans has done a great job. I’m sad to see him go and I appreciate what he’s done for the city,” Nichols said.
Nichols worked a decade at state and federal levels for private property rights. As a managing broker for Prudential, and treasurer for the Utah Association of Realtors, Nichols believes his understanding of real estate, land use and budgeting will help with Orem’s economic troubles.
“First and foremeost, we have to focus on the economy. If we have a healthy revenue, we’ll have money for rainy days, for UTOPIA and for everything else,” Nichols said.
Fifty-two percent of Orem’s revenue comes from sales tax. With this in mind, Nichols said he recognizes the importance of attracting businesses and people.
“Orem needs to be a destination city. People need to want to come here because of shopping, food, arts and so on,” he said.
Nichols’ views on UTOPIA set him apart from the other candidates.
“We need to continue to work with UTOPIA; we’re obligated to stay with it,” Nichols said.
Nichols also stressed a need for optimism about the city’s future.
“There’s a lot more right than wrong here in Orem,” he said. “Other candidates paint our city in a poor light. Look at Governor Gary Herbert; he’s a cheerleader for the state of Utah, attracting businesses and companies. We need a mayor who is a cheerleader to attract the same to Orem.”
Bob Wright has attended practically every city council meeting for the last 30 years. After speaking out against UTOPIA back in 2002, he said he realized the local government needed new thinking.
He believes Orem is tied to the expensive, unpopular network because residents were not included in the vote and the city council decided to choose for them instead.
“Government is for the people, by the people. It shouldn’t be seven people making a decision for the whole public,” Wright said.
Wright’s priorities include controlling city debt, allowing people to vote on any property tax increase and getting out of UTOPIA. The best solution to UTOPIA, according to Wright, is to “get someone to buy it to help us from going under.”
Wright is retired, which he says gives him “more time to spend concentrating on these issues.” He also said he would only serve one term.
“In the four year period, I think I can have an effect on the decisions that are being made that will keep us out of debt and property tax increases,” Wright said.
Richard Brunst’s vision is centered on the city’s centennial celebration in 2019, by which time he hopes that “(Orem) will be a vibrant city with great parks, wonderful arts and recreation and that UTOPIA will be in private hands, that Midtown (Village) will be finished and leased out, that businesses will start and stay here. Everyone will feel like this is a great place to raise a family.”
“I believe in taking action,” Brunst said.
As a private citizen, he has been talking and going over ideas with UTOPIA management, garnering interest from two companies that may have interest in the fiber network. Brunst has also been talking with past and present owners and developers of Midtown Village, discussing ideas for the completion of the project.
His top priorities include ensuring transparency in government, increasing residents’ involvement, promoting businesses, providing jobs for future generations and boosting the morale of the fire and police department.
“As I’ve walked the streets of Orem campaigning, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people,” Brunst said. “If there is one thing candidates agree on is that Orem is truly a wonderful place to raise a family.”
The Universe placed multiple phone calls with Hans Andersen, but was unable to reach the candidate. However, his campaign website states the following about his platform:
- “Andersen believes strongly in fiscal responsibility and avoiding debt where possible.”
- “The Orem CC should not have put your tax dollars into an Internet business that directly competes with private enterprise.”
- Andersen believes fewer taxes and regulations will produce a more business friendly environment.
“Say YES to police, fire, streets, water and parks. Say NO to government-owned Internet (UTOPIA), the Midtowns subsidies, bonds and tax increases. It’s time to work on selling UTOPIA,” Andersen wrote on his website.