Get Real Utah might fall short - by thousands of signatures - in its petition drive to put public funding for a Sandy soccer stadium to a public vote, but the grass-roots campaign did secure at least one high-profile voter.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who refused to steer county hotel taxes to the stadium project, signed the petition last month.
The Legislature, led by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., trumped Corroon's decision and passed a bill that funnels $35 million of county hotel taxes to land, parking and infrastructure for Real Salt Lake's $110 million stadium, slated for 9256 S. State St.
"We didn't think [the stadium] was a sound investment," Corroon said Monday. "The state has a higher risk tolerance than Salt Lake County does. That was their priority. It's a little disconcerting that they used Salt Lake County hotel taxes to pay for a state priority."
I can think of few politician who would risk their career on a potentially losing effort against big political powers for something they believe in.
Petition sponsor Brad Swedlund acknowledges the referendum is a "long shot," but said Monday that signature booklets were being turned into county clerks across the state. He doesn't have a count of how many signatures have been gathered.
Organizer Gary Forbush said Monday, if the petition drive fails, it's not because of a lack of public will - opinion polls consistently have shown most Utahns oppose public funding for the stadium - but because the referendum process is too cumbersome.
Forbush, who ran a surprisingly strong race against incumbent Tom Dolan in the Sandy mayoral race in 2005, handed in 6,000 signatures at the Salt Lake County Clerk Office Monday morning. Forbush argues the effort should have had to gather signatures only in that county because the bill deals exclusively with Salt Lake County revenue.
And he said low-budget, grass-roots groups like his - the campaign spent about $2,000 total - could have a chance if voters were allowed to sign the petition online or by phone.
"The referendum process is broken," Forbush said. "To have to do pen on paper in this day when we can e-file our taxes . . . it's just archaic. If we don't end up making it with the number of signatures, I hope we can maybe have a more thoughtful conversation about referendum reform."
I couldn't agree more. And so do others "Salt Lake City mayoral candidates Jenny Wilson, Ralph Becker and Nancy Saxton also signed the referendum petition."