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2023 Ogden mayoral voter guide: What to know about Taylor Knuth and Ben Nadolski

From left to right, 2023 Ogden City mayoral candidates Taylor Knuth and Ben Nadolski.
Saige Miller
From left to right, 2023 Ogden City mayoral candidates Taylor Knuth and Ben Nadolski.

On Nov. 21, Ogdenites will have two choices for mayor of the Weber County city. Taylor Knuth is a first-generation graduate of Weber State University and the deputy director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council. Ben Nadolski is also a Weber State grad, where he played football, and is a current member of the city council as well as an employee at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Methodology: An identical survey was sent to both campaigns. Provided answers were fact-checked prior to the publication of this guide and we included links and/or editor’s notes on our findings. Candidates appear in alphabetical order by surname.

What’s your elevator pitch for why voters should choose you as Ogden's next mayor?

  • KNUTH – Ogden City is the city that built me. I built my career, my family, and my community in Ogden, ultimately becoming a first-generation college graduate, a first-time homeowner, a career public servant, and working to address Ogden's most critical civic issues in my ~12 years as an Ogden City Resident.

    Our campaign is dedicated to getting back to the basics of good local government through building community, creating connections with our neighbors, and preserving the character of our city. I want to put people back at the center of Ogden City and work hand-in-hand with our residents and visitors to address issues including, but not limited to, community-oriented public safety, environmental sustainability and conservation, and human-centered economic development.

  • NADOLSKI – From our mountains to our rivers, to our lakes and everything in between, we have amazing natural assets in this community. But I believe our strongest asset is our people. We build our community by investing in our people.

    Not only am I committed to doing so, I have a strong history of investing in people and listening to them to gain a stronger understanding of the needs of our community.

    Ogden needs someone with experience who will bring an ability to engage the public and build strategic partnerships with people and organizations. We need someone who has a deep understanding of the issues and has actively worked towards solving them. As a member of the Ogden City Council since 2016, I have had the great honor of representing Ogden in numerous capacities including as Chair in 2018 and 2022. But more importantly, I have been honored to represent and serve not just the people of my district, but all of the people of Ogden.

    I am running for Mayor because I believe in this community and its people. And I believe that we make our community stronger by investing our time, resources and energy into our people.

Affordable housing continues to be a struggle for Ogden City residents. What should Ogden do to address the lack of affordable housing for both renters and potential home buyers?

  • KNUTH — I believe that at any age and any stage, everyone deserves a quality, safe, and affordable place to call home.

    A Knuth administration would be dedicated to increasing access to quality housing options across a broad spectrum that is attainable for all income levels. We can do this by increasing investments from the Redevelopment Agency in affordable housing, making improvements and changes to our zoning that promote private investment, and finally, grants to homeowners, especially public servants, to increase neighborhood vibrancy.

    A Knuth administration would propose the creation of a Housing Stability Division. This division would work to mitigate the impacts of gentrification and ensure that our federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant dollars are leveraged properly and strategically.

    Finally, we would aim to address the root causes of housing affordability such as income inequality and lack of economic opportunity. This can be done by promoting human-centered economic development, increasing access to education and job training programs, working to retain and expand existing small businesses, as well as attracting new business to Ogden City.

  • NADLOSKI — Affordable, entry-level housing is the single most effective way to build wealth and break cycles of generational poverty. Every community should have a mix of housing types across the spectrum of affordability, types and locations throughout the city. We have more than enough rental units and apartments but are falling short on entry-level homes and condominiums that are for sale. I fully supported an update to our General Plan in this year's budget, and the use of new housing zones (e.g., R2S) that allow for more affordable and owner-occupied homes. We should also consider concepts like density bonuses that don’t cost the city any money but encourage developers to voluntarily build owner-occupied homes at a scale that’s more affordable.

    [Editor’s note: As of the 2nd quarter of 2023, the median sales price in Ogden was $349,000. Residential real estate sales in Weber County fell 16% between 2021-2022. Source: Kem C. Gardner State of Utah’s Housing report. According to the Ivory-Boyer Construction Report and Database, from January 2020 to June 2023, building permits were issued in Ogden for the following: 141 single-family units, 326 condos/townhomes, 6 duplex/twin homes and 242 apartments.]

What should the city do to help people get out and stay out of homelessness?

  • KNUTH — I believe that homelessness is a humanitarian crisis affecting many cities, including our own. I also believe that the Ogden City Mayor plays a crucial role in helping people get out of and stay out of the experience of being unsheltered. However, the seat of government where this issue prominently rests is within Weber County Government.

    In Ogden, we have many agencies working to address this topic. A Knuth administration would be a ready and willing partner to encourage and sustain, as well as expand, these existing efforts and partnerships.

    Our community's efforts to create a Mobile Crisis Outreach Team through Weber Human Services is a good example of better serving people experiencing homelessness. Our Homeless Services Advocates are also a valiant effort to better serve our unsheltered community. In both examples, I'd like to see an expansion of services and both of these programs would see increased support in our administration.

    [Editor’s note: The Mobile Crisis Outreach Team and the crisis line are operated by the state. Support is available to anyone who calls in and isn’t specifically aimed at those experiencing homelessness.]

    Finally, through collaboration, relationship-building, and centering humanity, we can and will make progress toward addressing and preventing the root causes of homelessness.

  • NADOLSKI — Homelessness is a symptom of much deeper root causes, such as mental health, addiction, trauma and poverty. No two people in the unsheltered community are the same, so I believe in a people-centered approach where we know specific circumstances and pathways to homelessness. Only by knowing their needs can we align them with support from our community of providers and partners. This approach requires one-on-one work and persistence by our resource advocates, so I'd focus on giving our advocates the resources they need to be successful. I will work with our partners to provide access to better mental health treatment, wrap-around services for those who are incarcerated, access to deeply affordable housing and consistent and easy access to case management services.

What issues of public safety and policing are most pressing in Ogden? How would you address them?

  • KNUTH — I am committed to public safety, and our policy approach is centered on community engagement, crime prevention and trust-building.

    A Knuth administration will be dedicated to exploring innovative communication methods, for example establishing a city-wide 411 line to respond to non-emergency issues in our city. We also know that Ogden streets are among the worst for pedestrian and auto accidents in the state, an issue we would be dedicated to addressing by enhancing the infrastructure of our streets and sidewalks. We are also dedicated to prioritizing community policing and strengthening the bond between law enforcement and our residents.

    [Editor’s note: In 2022, Ogden had 73 incidents of pedestrians involved in crashes, roughly 7% of the state's total (1,003). Salt Lake City had 22, Provo had 56; Logan had 24 and Saint George had 14. Source: Utah Department of Public Safety's Highway Safety Office]

    We must encourage our Ogden police officers to get out of their patrol cars and onto our streets and sidewalks.

    In the spirit of community building beyond traditional law enforcement, we aim to facilitate and continue interactions such as "Coffee with a Cop" or our community picnics. These events foster empathy between our dedicated police officers and our residents.

  • NADOLSKI — The top two issues for public safety are compensation and workload. We have made tremendous progress these past several years to pay our police officers and firefighters competitive wages. It's critical that we continue to increase compensation to keep pace with the labor market. It's also important that our officers and firefighters aren't overworked while on duty. Both departments have the highest call volumes in the state, which leads to extreme stress and fatigue, reduced performance, increased turnover and increased rates of divorce. These issues can be addressed by funding 4-handed engines and ladder companies in our fire department and eliminating mandatory overtime signups. For our police department, we'd have to drastically increase the number of sworn officers on staff by multiple squads. According to a study by the FBI, the average number of sworn officers in departments across the nation is 2.4 per 1,000 residents served. For a city of our size, we should have approximately 210 officers, compared to our current staffing level of 150.

    [Editor’s note: In 2022, Ogden City saw 21,527 emergency calls, that’s 1.87% of the state’s 1,148,891 total emergency calls that year. According to reporting, 2021 was a record year for calls. For comparison, the city of St. George, with a population of 102,523, had 57,509 emergency calls in 2022. In the past, cities such as Salt Lake City, Provo and the Unified Police Department have seen more emergency calls on a yearly basis.

    Ogden City Fire Department has a policy in place in which employees are required to pick six days a year to add to staffing on their selected days. If they are not needed, the employee can be called off a week before the chosen day.]

How would you ensure diverse perspectives and voices are heard in Ogden's government?

  • KNUTH — My personal track record on my commitment to bringing diverse perspectives into Ogden City is extensive and includes the creation and development of the Ogden City Diversity Commission, of which I served as a founder and chair of the commission.

    Additionally, one of the core tenets of our campaign is putting people back at the center of government. To me, that means ensuring that the people and communities affected by legislation or projects are at the table when decisions are made.

    Specifically, our Administration would establish a participatory budgeting process that ensures Ogden residents have a voice in how their tax dollars are spent. Under this process, residents will have the opportunity to suggest projects and programs that they believe should be funded by the city. These suggestions will be collected and compiled into a list of proposed projects, which will be presented to the community for review and discussion. Residents will then be invited to rank projects they believe should be funded. We will hold public meetings in different neighborhoods throughout the city, and provide information in multiple languages.

  • NADOLSKI — Ogden is home to a rich community of diverse faiths and nationalities. I'd like to have an "All Faiths and All Nations initiative," where we engage with all denominations and nationalities in our community. That has been a theme of our campaign, so I'd like to work with our Diversity Commission to continue doing that kind of work when I'm in office. I'd also like to support the Diversity Commission's initiative to connect kids across all of our neighborhoods with access to our recreation programs and at rates that all kids can afford. Also, the Ogden Untamed program provides Ogden's kids with a comp level of play at a rec level of pay. We're always looking for coaches, so I'd love to see our police officers and firefighters coaching kids in that program, and in programs offered at the new Marshall White Center when it's completed.

    Speaking from personal experience, my involvement through coaching in those programs has broadened my view of our community's needs, and introduced me to families across the community and the entire socio-economic spectrum. Such experiences make me more likely to hear and understand diverse perspectives and voices while serving our community.

    [Editor’s note: For context, according to 2022 American Community Survey census data, Ogden is 63% white and 30% Hispanic, with other races and ethnicities in single-digit percentages, while the state of Utah as a whole is 76% white and 15% Hispanic, with other races and ethnicities in single-digit percentages. In terms of religion, according to the 2020 US Religion Census, 65% of Utah’s population belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in the Ogden-Clearfield metro, 63.75% of the population are LDS adherents.]

Ogden City has branded itself as an outdoor recreation capital. How do you see Ogden playing a role in protecting outdoor activities, like mountain biking and skiing, in the face of climate change?

  • KNUTH — We are connected to each other and to the environment around us. We must be proactive in protecting and preserving our environment, and that means actively pursuing clean energy solutions.

    I am dedicated to the Community Renewable Energy Program, striving for 100% renewable energy by 2030, a commitment Ogden has embraced since 2019. My pledge is to continue this initiative, securing Ogden's future as an outdoor haven while safeguarding the environment.

    Regarding outdoor activities, I would prioritize future access to Ogden's network of trails, including hiking, biking, and walking trails. This includes improving trail infrastructure and working with neighboring communities to create regional trail connections.

    We must also address the shrinking Great Salt Lake. As mayor, I'll take proactive measures to sustain its water levels. This not only protects our ecology but also our economy, preventing drastic air quality declines and preserving our skiing and snow sports opportunities. I propose redirecting treated wastewater into the Weber River, a crucial tributary to the Great Salt Lake, ensuring its vitality.

    [Editor’s note: The Central Weber Sewer Improvement District, which handles wastewater for the city of Ogden, per its state permit, already releases its treated wastewater into the Weber River that then flows to Great Salt Lake.

    Learn more about Taylor Knuth’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

  • NADOLSKI — I'm incredibly concerned about local air quality and the impacts of toxic dust coming from the exposed lake bed of the Great Salt Lake can have on human health and believe that Ogden City is in a unique and powerful position to address this issue, as it owns very senior and excess water rights that are intended to provide for future growth and demands. The more water we conserve now, the more water we can send directly to the Great Salt Lake through water leasing tools recently approved by the Legislature. We also have a waterline that runs from our well field at Pineview Reservoir, down the canyon and to our delivery systems in the city. That waterline is more than 100 years old and it leaks millions of gallons of water every day and a catastrophic failure is imminent and dangerous for our citizens. It’s also wasteful of precious water that could be better used to help fill the lake. I will propose that we partner with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the Legislature and various nonprofits to fund the replacement of the waterline, and use the water conserved through leakage, combined with leasing our excess water rights, to help fill the Great Salt Lake.

    [Editor’s note: Learn more about Ben Nadolski’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

On a scale of 1 to 10, with the many city priorities you will face as Mayor, where do you rank the Great Salt Lake and why?

  • KNUTH — 10. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal body of water fed by three tributaries, one of which is the Weber River that runs through the heart of Ogden City. Ensuring the long-term success of the Lake should be an urgent priority for every municipality along the Wasatch Front, but should be especially prioritized with those entities responsible for these tributaries. To say that Ogden City’s long-term economic and ecological success relies heavily on the water levels and overall health of the Lake would be a gross understatement. I believe saving the Great Salt Lake is a generational investment and any and all high-level decisions made in a Knuth administration would be filtered through this priority to ensure our best possible future for the residents and visitors of Ogden City. 

    [Editor’s note: Learn more about Taylor Knuth’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

  • NADOLSKI — I have been a natural resource professional and practitioner for the past 21-years, specifically in wildlife management and conservation.  I supervise operations throughout all of northern Utah, including the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP).  Our team collects and analyzes various environmental data from the lake and manages the brine shrimp population and its commercial harvest, and surveys and manages waterfowl and shorebird populations and their wetland habitats.  The Great Salt Lake is THE number one priority issue in my work every day, and that will not change as Mayor. While I’d certainly have less influence over the day-to-day management of the wetlands and wildlife that inhabit the Lake, I’d also be in a unique position as a partner to every stakeholder, with real solutions to help fill the Great Salt Lake.  

    As Mayor, the Great Salt Lake would continue to be my number 1 environmental priority and issue, so it would remain a 10 for me.

    [Editor’s note: Learn more about Ben Nadolski’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

What’s your plan for assisting in saving the Great Salt Lake? What actions will you take to ensure more water makes it to the lake in the future?

  • KNUTH — Mayor Mendenhall laid the policy groundwork for municipalities to donate treated storm and sewer water back to the Great Salt Lake. In 2020 alone, Ogden City was delivering ~18.4 million gallons of treated water a day, which consequently equates to ~6.8 billion gallons of wastewater a year, not including our storm refuse. A Knuth administration would donate our treated storm and sewer water back to the Great Salt Lake and more. This also includes the creation of a Sustainability Solution Center, in partnership with Weber State University. Such a center would aid in the conversion and enhancement of residential assets related to water delivery such as high-efficiency taps and toilets, as well as xeriscaping and water-tolerant lawns, services offered at low or no cost to residents. Additionally, much of Ogden water delivery systems are aged and beyond their useful life, with some elements exceeding 130 years in age. Our last bond, passed as a city and related to our infrastructure, was passed in 2008 for ~50 million dollars and accomplished a lot of capital improvement projects in our city. Within our first term, I would propose to the voters of Ogden City a municipal bond dedicated to improving city infrastructure, with a priority on our water infrastructure.

    [Editor’s note: As it stands now, a Sustainability Solution Center is “an aspirational hope, but nothing solid yet,” Alice Mulder, the director of Weber State’s Sustainability Practices and Research Center, told us. “There’s no agreement, team or plan for something like this as of right now.”

    Learn more about Taylor Knuth’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

  • NADOLSKI — Ogden City is in a unique and powerful position to help fill the Great Salt Lake.  Ogden City owns very senior and excess water rights that are intended to provide for future growth.  The more water we conserve now, the more water we can send directly to the Great Salt Lake through water leasing tools recently approved by the legislature. We have a waterline that runs from our well field, all the way down the canyon and to our delivery systems in the city.  That waterline is more than 100 years old and it leaks millions of gallons of water every day. A catastrophic failure is imminent and dangerous for our citizens.  It’s also wasteful of precious water that could be better used to help fill the lake.  I will propose that we partner with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the legislature and various non-profits to fund the replacement of the waterline, and use the water conserved through leakage, combined with leasing our excess water rights, to help fill the Great Salt Lake.

    [Editor’s note: Learn more about Ben Nadolski’s views on saving the Great Salt Lake in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative voter guide.]

A lot of time and effort has been poured into Ogden’s historic 25th Street. What other area(s) in Ogden do you believe should receive similar treatment?

  • KNUTH — 25th Street is the crown jewel of Ogden and a place central to the character of Ogden. The attention, time, and effort poured into it has been necessary and critical to the business owners that continue to thrive.

    That said, a Knuth administration would look into providing greater and more consistent economic development supports and strategies for areas like Five Points, the existing business areas abutting Weber State University, and strategic development opportunities along transit corridors, for example, the OGX line.

    Investing in all areas of our city, especially where we can support and expand our small business community will be a priority for us. I would also prioritize investing in business retention and expansion for essential services such as grocery stores in areas of the city that have been historically underserved.

  • NADOLSKI — Residents in the north side of town have long felt ignored. Those residents are frustrated by the number of apartment complexes being built in their neighborhoods, and they want access to better youth recreation programs and facilities. The west side of Ogden also feels forgotten, having been separated by the railroad tracks and a viaduct. Those neighborhoods want access to better park amenities, including outdoor basketball courts and playground equipment upgrades. Our community needs an all-access playground for disabled children, so perhaps one of these two areas would be a good location for that investment.

Define economic development and what that looks like to you in Ogden.

  • KNUTH — As an economic development professional for several years now, my commitment is to take a human-centered approach to shaping our city's future. In my view, economic development is a three-legged stool consisting of workforce development, small business support, and big business recruitment.

    Firstly, workforce development is crucial. I aim to collaborate with institutions like Ogden-Weber Technical College and Weber State University, recognizing their forward-thinking higher education initiatives.

    Secondly, small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. To bolster their growth, I propose expanding grants for facade improvements, offering strategic business training, and providing construction mitigation grants to businesses affected by ongoing development projects.

    Lastly, big business recruitment must be approached with transparency and community focus. While attracting larger companies, we will safeguard the interests of small businesses and taxpayers. Our aim will always be to enhance our community's well-being, all while preserving Ogden's unique character and ensuring the highest levels of accountability, especially with tax incentives.

  • NADOLSKI — Economic development is the creation of wealth, assets, opportunities and experiences that benefit the people in our community and those of future generations. In Ogden, I envision a place where our people have access to high-quality jobs, education, sports, recreation, open space, and affordable opportunities to buy a home, raise a family and build generational wealth through equity from appreciation.

Weber State University is a community anchor institution, but college isn’t the chosen path for everyone. What opportunities should be available in Ogden for them? How would you support those programs?

  • KNUTH — In Ogden, we have a proud history of working-class leaders who deserve respect and acknowledgment. Our city belongs to everyone and as Mayor, I would be dedicated to ensuring that individuals of all educational backgrounds can lead dignified and quality lives.

    Firstly, I will focus on fostering a supportive environment for small businesses, providing the necessary infrastructure and resources for their growth and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit that has served our city well throughout the years.

    Secondly, I am committed to promoting dignified and quality jobs that offer stability, fair wages, and benefits. Strengthening the labor force ensures that individuals without college degrees have access to quality employment opportunities.

    Lastly, the issue of affordable housing is paramount. I will work diligently to expand the availability of dignified and accessible housing options for all residents, creating a city where everyone can thrive, regardless of their educational background. These initiatives collectively form the cornerstone of my vision for Ogden, ensuring equitable opportunities for all its residents.

  • NADOLSKI — We are lucky to have the Ogden-Weber Technical College in town, where they offer certifications in traditional and advanced trades and vocations. I'd support them by working with administrators to align their certifications and workforce training programs with our current and future workforce needs. Ogden City and the Pete Suazo Center also offer support for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Such programs support the entrepreneurial spirit, which doesn't require workforce training or a college degree.

Just for fun: Who is your dream performer on the Ogden Twilight series stage?

  • KNUTH — Taylor Swift, of course.
  • NADOLSKI — Luke Bryan. Who doesn’t want to be Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day?!

Weber State University student Akir Rowe, as well as KUER’s Saige Miller, Sean Higgins and Jim Hill, contributed research and fact checking to this guide.

This voter guide was produced in collaboration with PBS Utah and the Walker Institute at Weber State University.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.