Political experience, vision of good governance separate Ogden’s Knuth and Nadolski
Ogden mayoral candidates Ben Nadolski and Taylor Knuth faced off during an Oct. 19 debate organized and live streamed by KUER, PBS Utah and the Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University.
The debate was held on campus in Lindquist Hall, and both Ogdenites expressed they were happy to be back at their alma mater. Current city councilor Nadolski and Knuth, the deputy director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, answered questions ranging from their visions for the west side of the city to public safety and the environment.
“[The west side needs] clean water,” said Nadolski. “They need a safe place to work, live, and they need to make sure that they've got access to everything that the rest of the city does. And I also want to stress that the north end of town needs it, too.”
“West Ogden, for many people, for visitors and residents alike, is the gateway to our city,” added Knuth. “People drive right through that. I don't want people to drive through that. I want people to stop and stay and enjoy their time on our front porch.”
Like Utah at large, Ogden is feeling the pinch of the housing shortage. Although both candidates recognized the need to facilitate more affordable housing in the city, opinions differed on how that could be achieved.
Knuth advocated for the creation of a city housing stability division “that would be dedicated to addressing both the conversation of affordability and attainability.”
“We can expand the Own in Ogden program to have a larger down payment assistance, especially for our public servants like police officers and teachers,” he said. “We can ensure that our investments of federal dollars go towards high quality, attainable and affordable housing. And we can work with private developers to create developments in our community that enhance the quality of life for people already here.”
Nadolski, on the other hand, advocated for reexamining the city’s Housing and Urban Development grants and stressed that it would take “serious experience” to get that done.
“We're coming up on a five-year renewal on our HUD cycle,” said Nadolski. “I think we can change that to make sure that we are really targeted toward affordability … there's things we can do to streamline our process in the city to make sure that we're not adding burdens and extra cost to the developments.”
The biggest difference between the candidates came on the question of whether Ogden should stay in the Community Renewable Energy Program. Coordinated by Rocky Mountain Power, the aim is to help communities meet a net-100% renewable energy goal by 2030. Ogden is a participant but current Mayor Mike Caldwell has expressed concerns over what costs might be for city residents.
Which is exactly what Nadolski is waiting for — the price tag.
“I'm not going to go all in on something until I know how it impacts us. Once I know that I can make an educated decision, I don't think that's, quote, wishy-washy. I think that's responsible … I want clean air. Everybody wants clean air. Is that program the best way? Maybe. How much does it cost if we're going to do it? I still don't know. We need to know that before we can commit.”
Knuth, who said he has “been all in on the Community Renewable Energy Program from day one,” strongly advocated for the city to remain a participating member.
“I understand the risks If we don't do something today to transition our residents off carbon and fossil fuels and into renewable spaces. Our kids are going to be the ones that suffer.”
According to estimates, the project could start as soon as late 2024, but each individual community would have to commit before that can happen. Rocky Mountain Power has said rate negotiations start once a community has commitments in place.
Throughout the debate, Nadolski leaned heavily into his professional experience in legislative affairs, working for the Utah Division of Wildlife and spending time on the Ogden City Council — something he said was the defining factor in this race.
“I want to make sure that we understand that experience matters,” he told voters. “I have a history of working in public policy, a history of working with the Legislature, a history of overseeing and supervising big budgets and big teams of people. I have a history in this city of learning how municipal governance works. It's really important that we have people that know how to make decisions, that know how to solve problems, that know that these are serious issues and know how to bring serious solutions to the table.”
If elected, Knuth would be the first openly gay person of color to serve as Ogden mayor. The vision for his campaign, which he repeated often in the debate, was about “getting back to good governance.”
“Our campaign is about … building community, creating connections with our neighbors, and preserving the character of our city,” he said. “That's what we shared with people tonight. That's what we've shared with people for the last 10 months of being on the campaign trail. And that's what we'll share for the next 32 days, 33 days as we do the work to be elected.”
The pair emerged Sept. 5 as the top two candidates from a crowded primary field. Knuth edged out Nadolski by only 186 votes out of 10,391 primary ballots cast among the original seven candidates.
Ballots will be mailed to voters on Oct. 31. Election day is Nov. 21.