If it were anything else other than kittens, I'd say that it was a sad commentary on our society.  The reason for these pics is because it doubles viewership!


​NEW OPINION PIECES SUMMARIZE ISSUES ON HOMELESS, JAIL, OPEN MEETINGS, LEGISLATURE AND CENTRAL WASATCH COMMISSION

Last oped in SLTRIB emphasizes issues on lack of jailspace.  Cops want more jailspace.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4867656-155/op-ed-chaos-reigns-when-police-cant


Oped in SLTRIB discusses the individual homeless expansion sites, why the questionable decisions don't make sense and how to do right by the citizens of SLC.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4709681-155/op-ed-without-more-crime-control-homeless


This is the latest summary of the homeless issues downtown.  
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865668050/My-view-A-sad-commentary-on-our-city-and-society.html?pg=all



Jay Inglesby had a letter in the Salt Lake Tribune on December 10 that also lays out the argument that by ignoring the public and picking the sites without public engagement, the Mayor and Council have disrespected the citizens who elected them.  Great letter.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4663743-155/letter-mayor-and-council-leave-citizens



This is a lesson in how to influence Legislators.  It has a lot of good information for those interested in increasing public engagement in Utah.
​http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865668467/My-view-Utah-legislators-are-generally-respectful-public-servants.html?pg=all



This oped last month is a summary of the problem with the criminal element embedded in the homeless downtown.  Unfortunately, the County did not increase funding for the jail and I and others will attempt to get the Legislature to increase JRA funding in return for the County increasing jail space.  I think that that would be a good compromise.
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865664105/My-view-SLCO-jail-issues-impact-citizens-and-police.html?pg=all



This is a recent oped that summarizes the issues for businesses and residents downtown when the City does not focus on fixing the homeless issue NOW.  Note that the State finally did come through and put up a fence around his parking lot which stops a lot of the issues.  In addition, SLC Police made a big effort to ensure the safety of the local businesses including the Rio Grande Cafe with more patrols.
http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4536100-155/op-ed-if-rio-grande-cafe-owner


This is an oped of mine from several months ago that is relevant in the City's efforts to lock out the public from discussing the homeless shelter issues.  The City will not allow the public to have a real chance to comment on the issue.
http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4195235-155/op-ed-homeless-solutions-should-put-neighborhood


This recent oped by Marie Taylor Salt Lake Tribune is a good summary of the attempt by some officials in Utah to give a new government entity a lot of power without public accountability.  It should scare everyone.  Note that Rep. Chaffetz also got called to task by the House of Representatives recently (movie at top of downloads page) about this issue.  There is still an attempt by officials to make taxpayers pay for a train and tunnel up the canyon to benefit some big landowners (not the small landowners in the canyons.
http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4564809-155/op-ed-mountain-accord-commission-would-lack


This recent oped by Marie Taylor in the Deseret News is a good summary of the problems with our local governments, all of our governments:
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865665103/My-view-Why-do-politicians-keep-thinking-closed-door-meetings-are-OK.html?pg=all



​SLC Council uses a common sense approach to homeless and RDA budget


  Last Tuesday, in a late night discussion, debate and straw poll vote, the Salt Lake City Council decided to change the priority for the budget of the SLC Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Board to attempt to increase affordable housing and focus on getting the downtown homeless off the street now. Despite an attempt by the administration to slow things down, Erin Mendenhall, with the support of the other Councilmembers and especially Derek Kitchen insisted that it needs to be done quickly and it shouldn’t wait for alternatives or any more arguments against the proposal from the administration.

  If the Council votes for the final RDA budget amendment proposal after Tuesday’s public hearing (at City Hall at 7 PM), there will be over $21 million in additional funds that will be allocated to affordable housing development in Salt Lake City. The money could be used for loans given to developers in return for setting aside a portion of their development for affordable housing units, for housing vouchers, for land banks that would help developers that want to develop low cost housing, for rapid rehousing and other programs that will attempt to provide affordable housing in Salt Lake City. Councilwoman Mendenhall and Councilman Kitchen went line by line through the budget to identify items that should be repurposed for affordable housing.

  Over the last couple of years, there have been many complaints from residents and businesses in Salt Lake City about the lack of affordable housing. Much of that was caused by the difficulty of developers in getting permits and lack of funding outside of the State of Utah and Olene Walker Housing Fund (about a thousand units a year). Salt Lake City needs 8000 housing units a year yet only approved less than 2000 last year. In addition, the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance, passed several years ago to encourage more housing within four blocks of rail, only resulted in one new ADU! Last year, the Council, in an attempt to help speed up permits, voted for an ombudsman to help navigate the City’s bureaucracy.

  Other complaints from downtown residents, businesses and activists centered on RDA plans to spend millions on sprucing up Pioneer Park and the area around Rio Grande with art, new restrooms, park amenities and developing plans to create an eye catching area called Station Center/Depot District. The hope of the Council, sitting as the RDA Board, was that the upgrades would encourage large scale development. But the complaints from activists centered on the fact that spending millions on art doesn’t make sense when drug addicts are shooting up on the sidewalks and using the sidewalks and area as a toilet.

  The Council has wisely reordered their priority and recognized that the homeless situation needs to be addressed first before millions are poured into the area for development of market rate housing and business development. At one time, the Station Center/Depot District was going to be a Research Park! As Councilman Kitchen pointed out, affordable housing is important for economic development.

  The four proposed homeless expansion sites, according to the new position of Mayor Biskupski, need to be approved in less than a month. That will not allow the public a respectful and reasonable choice in the matter. Even if the Council approves of the sites that the Mayor will get to choose by herself, the public will probably try to stop the process due to the disrespectful process that is being presented. Even if there is no objection to the sites, it will take three years to build, staff and fill the new facilities. In the meantime, Rio Grande area will probably get worse.

  The Salt Lake City Council has made a wise and brave choice to focus on solving the problems that have festered for years in the Rio Grande area and they should be commended for recognizing that art doesn’t matter when homeless set up tents on sidewalks for lack of affordable housing.





 

Utah needs to update the hundred year old water law

  The Utah Quality Growth Commission has been holding hearings on water use and the effect of water supplies on development, construction, farming, ranching and recreation. Salt Lake City, as a first class city (over 100,000 population), was granted watershed authority and extraterritorial jurisdiction about one hundred years ago. In the next few years, five cities are expected to become first class cities. At present, Salt Lake City Public Utilities has watershed authority over 4 million acres and extraterritorial jurisdiction power in six counties. Watersheds cross city, county and even state boundaries and pose significant planning and authority issues. When the law was passed, no one could have imagined the growth in population, development and recreation that Utah has exhibited. Over six million visitors use the Wasatch Canyons a year!

  About 17% (134 square miles) of SLC watershed has additional land management requirements that are intended to ensure long term protection of good quality drinking water for Salt Lake City (SLCO Watershed Plan). But other Utah cities are able to provide safe drinking water with much less jurisdiction. Orem has a population of 80,000 and is able to successfully provide safe drinking water with just 1,100 acres of watershed jurisdiction.  Salt Lake City controls the rights to over 500,000 acre feet of water while using only 50,000 acre feet.  Salt Lake City also sells 25,000 acre feet for about $25 million to other users via surplus water contracts.

  Salt Lake City also pulls water from Utah Lake to replenish streams in Salt Lake County that have had water taken out for supplying water. That recently resulted in an emergency in Riverton’s secondary water system when Utah Lake levels decreased. Salt Lake City had to stop pulling water from Utah Lake to allow Riverton’s continued use of Utah Lake water. That is another reason why the Legislature should consider reevaluating the extraterritorial jurisdiction authority of Salt Lake City.

  Salt Lake City has pointed out that they have successfully managed the watershed in the canyons but there is a major conflict with recreation in the canyons and development outside of the canyons. Although the City is responsible for the watersheds in the canyons, they have not used their income from selling water to provide sanitary facilities to the six million visitors a year who visit and recreate in the canyons. There are also questionable interpretations of their enforcement because of the conflict with Utah’s Constitution that allows beneficial uses and are “protected for infrequent primary contact recreation and secondary contact recreation such as wading, hunting and fishing”. Use of the old mining roads is under threat. The City goes so far as to not allow small indoor animals in the canyon private cabins. Kayaking is not allowed without a full body wet suit.

  Although SLC does not exercise their extra territorial jurisdiction in most cases, it has the authority to stop development in much of northern Utah. Its authority also affects farmers in Juab, Wasatch, Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Summit County. The City also restricts transferring of water for any use, including new developments like data centers, even though it only uses a tenth of what it controls. That control was used by politicians who said that the proposed Facebook data center would use too much of our water at the same time as the City forces 16 million gallons a day to be not used. It should be noted that the farmland on which the data center would be located would have used 9 million gallons a day during irrigation season while the data center would probably use less than 500,000 gallons a day during the same seasons. Discouraging development can actually use more water. And if even more water will be needed if marijuana, a highly water intensive crop, is legalized.

  Salt Lake City and County are planning to turn responsibility over the canyons to the federal government with the Mountain Accord and its next step, the Central Wasatch Commission. The Mountain Accord’s original purpose was to consider the appropriateness of a canyon rail system and the Central Wasatch Commission is planning to use the rail system to facilitate the Alta land trade. That project will have significant deleterious effects on recreation and use of the canyons for decades of construction.

  240 out of Utah’s 243 cities exercise successful watershed protection with 300 feet on each side of the source up to 15 miles which is about 1,100 acres of watershed. It seems obvious that due to the conflicts of overlapping authority, negative effects on development and recreation, potential affects on ranching and farming and one city’s overwhelming authority in Northern Utah, that the Legislature should consider updating 10-8-15 to ensure that the hundred year old water law is updated to be deter it being used, inappropriately, to restrict development, building, construction, farming, ranching and recreation in Utah.  





Public safety is the best reason to vote in Salt Lake County

  Citizens of Salt Lake County should applaud the efforts to finally address the significant deterioration of the areas around Rio Grande. Some have pointed out that it was predictable since it is just before the election for County Mayor. The citizens of Salt Lake County should not have to wait for an election to get action on public safety. Let’s hope that the effort is sustained past the election. But there are still hundreds of drug dealers in Salt Lake City and the police in the valley are still not allowed to arrest anyone due to jail overcrowding unless they commit a felony!

  The police in Salt Lake County have been increasingly frustrated and concerned about the increase in criminal activity by individuals that should not be on the street. In addition, violence against the police is increasing. Much of the problem is coming from the Salt Lake County Jail not having enough budget to open up all of the jail. There are almost 400 beds are at Oxbow Jail that are not being used. The cost to open up those beds is about $6 million. Unfortunately, Mayor Ben McAdams, who is responsible for the jail budget, took away $9.4 million from the jail bond and used it for other projects without voter approval. At the same time, in a press release, he said that he was using the money to make public safety a higher priority!

  Police say that they need more jail space to do their job. When they are not able to jail those who present threats to society, those threats will become bold and threaten citizens and cops. Recently, a police officer was seriously wounded by a criminal that had been released from jail twice due to Mayor McAdams’ lacking jail budget. Even worse is the fact that the attacker had attacked cops before, and still was released due to jail overcrowding! It is not the fault of the Sheriff. It is directly due to not enough jail space to effectively keep the dangerous individuals in jail. Mayor McAdams deserves the responsibility for the injuries to the officer. Public safety should be the number one priority of government.

  Other questionable actions of Mayor McAdams include his insults against Facebook and tech companies. He has seriously hurt Utah business development. His efforts to stop a city’s efforts at business development seemed petty and unreasonable.

  Taxes under his administration have significantly increased. There are also suggestions that new bonds and taxes are planned. His repurposing of the jail bond and the Salt Palace bond (to the downtown theater) without voter approval raise concern about his respect for taxpayers. He is pushing to build a hotel that will only be full two times a year which raise questions about his financial priorities. He has refused to close and clean up the garbage dump at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Recent revelations about closed meetings and million dollar contracts also raise concerns.

  Ben McAdams is chair of the Mountain Accord, which began with a mountain rail focus. His dream of a tunnel and rail system that would cost taxpayers billions is now poised to change into a more powerful entity with bonding and levying fees ability with the goal to discourage personal vehicle travel in the canyons. This effort does not sound like a compromise.

  Salt Lake County citizens deserve to have public safety given a much higher priority. They deserve a mayor that works with cities instead of interfering with their business development. We deserve a mayor that will stop the secret and closed meetings and respects the voters’ ability to make a wise choice regarding taxes and bonds. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to wish and hope and dream that elections come every year because that is the only time that politicians like Ben McAdams seem to work.  I want to be the kind of mayor that will not wait until just before an election to actually solve problems. That is why you should vote.





Why do politicians keep thinking closed door meetings are okay (Marie Taylor)

  UTA’s Executive Board and senior staff, this week, had a four hour presentation on transparency (Salt Lake Tribune ‘You need a culture of transparency’: Consultant gives UTA ideas to improve credibility and openness”). Just before the presentation, there was a discussion on the Mountain Accord and its next step, the Central Wasatch Commission.  It was stated that the Mountain Accord Board was composed of volunteers and was not a public entity and did not have to abide by Utah’s Open Meetings Act (just like the UTA Board?). When it was pointed out that Utah Auditor John Dougall had recently confirmed that the Mountain Accord Board was subject to the Open Meetings Act, UTA’s General Counsel Jayme Blakesley responded that, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, the Mountain Accord was not subject to the Open Meetings Act and the DA is a lawyer while the Auditor isn’t.
  That kind of disrespect seems to be everywhere. Open meetings are not an inconvenience. They encourage public engagement and allow a thorough discussion that leads to better decisions. To have that kind of comment, just before a presentation on the benefits of transparency and openness, is especially disturbing since it seems to imply that open meetings are still not considered important. UTA’s Executive Board recently seems to be determined to be more open. But being more open shouldn’t just be a new way of doing things. It shouldn’t take a public shaming. As was pointed out in the transparency presentation, encouraging public participation helps the decision making of a board.
  Ironically, the issue of the openness of the Mountain Accord Executive Board meetings has been brought up several times in the last week. After Utah’s Auditor confirmed that the Mountain Accord should have open meetings, a group of canyon land owners filed suit that questioned the Mountain Accord’s legality. This week, at a public hearing in front of the County Council, there was testimony that there were several instances of Executive Board meetings that did not allow the public to participate. In one case, a small Starbucks could not handle the many individuals who tried to get into the meeting. Then, the County Council released a breakdown of the million dollar contract for LJ Consulting, the Mountain Accord’s Director and it showed several other questionable consulting contracts that were also contributing to Mayor Ben McAdams re -election campaign.
  Open door meetings would have ensured that these issues would not have happened. If the public had a chance to analyze the contracts before they were given, the chance of questionable contract awards would have been avoided. Mayor Ben McAdams is chair of the Mountain Accord Executive Committee and should have been more responsible, respectful and open to more public engagement. When businesses get government contracts, there should be a limit to rewarding the politicians that gave them the contract.
  It was recently revealed that Exoro Group did get a large contract from the Mayor’s Mountain Accord and is also contributing significantly to Mayor McAdams re-election campaign. Exoro Group does have influence in all layers of Utah government. When their contracts are openly and easily available, there is less concern about ethical issues and influence. When the closed meetings or meetings that don’t have any public knowledge (through proper minutes or recordings), normal actions may become questionable and may even be illegal. If the decisions were made more openly, instead of behind closed doors, there wouldn’t be a question. Now the public is left to wonder how mismanaged is the Mountain Accord process. Open meetings and vigorous public engagement always results in better decisions. But it appears that in the case of the Mountain Accord, the public was disrespectfully discouraged from participating. Although many like the recommendations, just as many don’t and the Mountain Accord cannot be considered a compromise.
 




What we have here is a failure to communicate

  Over the last few weeks, the Salt Lake City Council seems to have had a very contentious relationship with the new Mayor. During discussions with the Mayor about homeless sites, there seemed to be intransigence on both sides. The Mayor said that the Legislature understood that SLC had agreed to two homeless expansion facilities and was pushing for Mayor McAdams plans for the 250 bed facilities (that could expand to 300 beds). The SLC Council seemed to wash their hands of the sites selection and, in a plausible deniability press release, said: “Selecting sites and buying property is clearly the Mayor’s responsibility,…..So, it is important that the City Council exercise its legislative authority to set conditions related to land use policy and budget approval.”  Communication became so bad that the Council Chair and Vice Chair told the administration that they did not want to know what the potential sites were until the final sites were given to the Council by the Mayor! The Council forced Mayor McAdams to back off from his 250 bed shelter plans he was pushing in a questionable closed door meeting on September 30. The result was an agreement with the Council, Speaker Greg Hughes, Mayor McAdams and Mayor Biskupski to build four 150 bed maximum homeless expansion shelters.

  The lack of communication, discussion and respectful debate has been developing since the new Mayor took office. The SLC Council is still under the impression that the final sites will be provided by the Mayor and that a decision will be needed by November. But the administration has told anyone who asks that potential sites will be released when they have been locked down with option payments (approved at the September 20 Council) and the public and Council will be able to discuss and debate the merits of up to as many as seven site locations for a couple of months. But the Council still does not want to know the potential sites, even in a legitimate closed door meeting. The final selection of the four 150 bed sites will be needed by January. This will give the public and Council a chance to have a vigorous debate on the locations.

  Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood last week got a much welcomed crackdown on the criminal element. The crisis in the area has been developing for many years due to Salt Lake County jail overcrowding. The SLC Council should recognize and respect the fact that Mayor Biskupski has done more to address Rio Grande issues in 9 months, than the previous administration had done in eight years.

  The SLC Council has had many meetings in the last year that focused on affordable housing. It is also a crisis that has been developing for many years. Last year, Salt Lake City agreed to about 1800 permits for housing units and we need 8000 units! Affordability is hurt when 8000 living units are needed and only 1800 are approved.  Four years ago, the ADU ordinance was changed to increase housing within four blocks of rail but there has been only one application! The SLC Housing Authority has units that are usually 97% full. Developers try for many years to get permits to build housing. Even the new micro units of 250 square feet are going to charge $700 per month! Providing more units will require more respectful communication and discussion between the Council and the Mayor. All sides seem to want the same thing but without working together, the solutions will not be as easy to implement. The potential for the new RDA/CDA expansion areas of State Street and 9th and 9th have significant potential to provide much more housing. But the Council and Mayor need to work together and not tell each other to be quiet (which actually happened at an RDA meeting).

  It is time for the Council to respect the Mayor’s efforts to solve some of Salt Lake City’s serious problems and encourage constructive communication with the Mayor. Failure to communicate will not result in success.

 




SLCO jail issues impact citizens and police (published in the Deseret News)

  Over the last few years, the Rio Grande area has had a significant increase in shockingly visible drug dealing, violence and criminal activity. There are drug addicts shooting up in parks and on the sidewalks and they leave their used needles where anyone in the area can be accidentally stuck. Drug dealers populate the area. Addicts walk around like zombies and become aggressive without a reason. Even Pamela Atkinson is afraid of the area!

  This week, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City started to change the situation and arranged for 62 beds for drug and alcohol abuse treatment and 100 jail beds to take 150 of the worst criminal elements (mainly drug dealers) out of the Rio Grande area. But SLC Police are still not allowed to arrest for less than a felony. Unless there are more jail beds, and with the threat of jail in the Rio Grande area, the dealers and criminal element may move to other areas.

  There are still hundreds of beds at Oxbow Jail that are not being used. According SLC Police Chief Brown, there are hundreds of drug dealers in the Rio Grande area alone. To open up more jail space requires Mayor Ben McAdams to submit a budget (due in October) to the County Council that provides funding to open up the unused jail beds and also provide increased funding for various supporting departments like the District Attorney and medical and health (for mental health and drug and alcohol abuse screening and treatment).

  Without the appropriate funding for treatment, unless locked up, the people who need treatment victimize others. It is not a victimless crime when an addict steals property or discards used needles on the sidewalk. People who victimize society should be locked up. And since public safety should be a priority in government, Salt Lake County should open enough jail space to allow law enforcement to do their job and lock up the threats to society. Last year, Mayor McAdams took $9.4 million from the jail bond and used the money for non-jail projects. At the same time, Mayor McAdams claimed to make public safety a priority. The Mayor should reverse his decision and return that money to the jail.

  Recently, when the SLC Police complained about having to keep handling violent criminals that should have stayed in jail, the Sheriff complained that the jail isn’t the issue. Many jailed inmates have significant mental and drug and alcohol abuse issues and the County cannot afford to treat them. Obviously part of the solution requires funding for treatment through healthcare expansion or full funding of the Justice Reinvestment Act. But the budget for the jail should be enough to open up all of the available jail beds for criminals that need to be locked up. Jail is an effective and valuable deterrent to crime. We may not be able to arrest our way out of it but we should be able to jail those who victimize society. Operation Diversion’s crackdown on crime is long overdue. Hopefully it is not just a temporary election ploy.

  Police officers agree to protect and serve and sacrifice. Police officers go to work every day frustrated and afraid that they may not make it back to their families. They still accept that. We should not accept that. Mayor McAdams should ensure that his new budget has enough money to open all of the beds in Oxbow Jail to allow the police to do their job now and in the future.






Rio Grande’s spice zombies and Fentanyl bring new challenges to homeless solutions (published in the Salt Lake Tribune)

  In the next several weeks, Salt Lake County and City will be providing more specifics on solutions to the problems in the Rio Grande area. Many of the problems are caused by the visible drug dealing that attracts criminal elements. The homeless in the area are blamed for the situation but they also want a safer area without drugs and crime. The Salt Lake County jail houses about 300 homeless on an average day.  A significant percentage of the homeless cycle in and out of jail. Mayor McAdams is proposing to decrease the homeless in jail but many homeless deal drugs to help feed their drug habits and the jail won’t usually keep them locked up for more than a few hours.

  The police are frustrated when they spend several hours arresting a dealer, only to have them standing next to them four hours later laughing at the powerlessness of the police.  It is not just in the Rio Grande area that drugs are a big problem. At the low cost motels on North Temple and State Street (and other areas), neighbors complain about the crime and obvious drug dealing. The drug problems are so bad that in one case, an illegal alien was arrested for drug dealing and deported four times but he keeps coming back! These are the real threats to society. The spice (K2) that they are selling create a neighborhood of zombie like people who are unable to be reasoned with and could attack anyone without any reason. Fentanyl is now being added to the heroin that is cheaply sold by the dealers. Police say that to kick a Fentanyl habit is much harder than heroin if not impossible. The police have caught hospital patients in gowns that are trying to buy drugs in the Rio Grande area! Needles are everywhere! That results in many more desperate drug addicts who do not care for anyone else’s safety. That is the real public safety issue.

  Unfortunately, the homeless committees that will provide solutions (and two SLC expansion sites next month) seem to be ignoring the most important issue, neighborhood safety first! If the drug dealers are not going to be kept locked up, no neighborhood will accept homeless expansion facilities. It also seems obvious that the quickest way to decrease crime and related problems in the Rio Grande area is to lock up the real criminal element and drug dealers for more than a few hours. That would require providing more beds in the Salt Lake County Jail. The cost to continually arrest drug dealers and take them to jail for a few hours is many times more than the cost to keep them in jail for an extended period of time. Salt Lake County jail has about 2200 beds and the County spends over $76 million to operate the jail (plus support services).

  Although many say that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, drug dealers should be in jail! Drug addicts should get drug abuse treatment but the success rates are abysmal, if the treatment is even available. Without healthcare expansion, drug addicts will continue to create a problem for society. Salt Lake City intends to spend over $5 million on the Rio Grande/Depot District in the next few years. But without getting the criminal element out of the area, it seems to be a misguided and wasteful plan. Many agree that the homeless that have not been convicted of any crime or not considered a risk to the community should not be in jail. But when the homeless sell drugs, or steal or shoplift regularly, they should be in jail! These are not victimless crimes!

  Everyone involved in the homeless solutions discussion should agree that neighborhood safety should be the number one priority. Until that is acknowledged, and the jails are expanded to hold the criminal element, homeless solutions will not be successful. 






Rio Grande crackdown on crime has been long overdue (Mike Edwards)

  Last year, when Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams presented his 2016 budget to the County Council, he said in his October 2015 press release: “it is time to work differently in order to deal with an increase in crime…It prioritizes the county’s core responsibility – public safety…. My conviction is that we can limit the number of new jail beds by finding the courage today to seize this opportunity to fund immediate needs now, while figuring out how to interrupt the projected flow into the criminal pipeline.”

  The proposal by Mayor McAdams, agreed to by most of the County Council (except Councilman Snelgrove), repurposed the $9.4 million from the 1995 jail bond, without a vote of the taxpayers, to various other non-jail projects. The result, in the Rio Grande area and in the low cost motels around Salt Lake City, has been a significant increase in crime. In June, the Salt Lake City Police documented nearly 2,500 criminal offenses in the Rio Grande area. Pamela Atkinson, the most respected advocate for the homeless, recently said that she was starting to feel unsafe due to the criminal element that was congregating in the Rio Grande area.

  Thursday, Salt Lake County opened up 100 jail beds to finally do something about the problem that many in the area have described in terms that cannot be repeated on TV. In coordination with the Sheriff, Salt Lake City and various service providers, the Salt Lake City Police implemented Operation Diversion to take up to 150 problem criminals off the street. Over 50 were arrested and given the choice of jail or drug and/or alcohol treatment. Salt Lake County provided $1.2 million and $150,000 from Salt Lake City to fund drug treatment for six months along with 18 months of prosecution services from the DA. Sixty-two beds have been funded for drug and alcohol abuse treatment. Most importantly, according to Sheriff Winder, those going to jail are not going to be released early because of jail overcrowding.

  The immediate effect was a much calmer area according to the Road Home’s Mike Minkovich. Many in the area also expressed hope that the public safety crisis is finally being taken seriously and significant efforts are being directed at the problem. The City and County and all involved should be thanked for this extraordinary effort. It almost could have been predicted since Mayor McAdams is up for reelection next month. A similar crackdown occurred last year in Salt Lake City before the SLC mayor’s election (without much long term success). Credit should be given to Mayor Biskupski who has been doing more to solve the homeless problems in the area in the last 9 months than was done in the last eight years.

  Unfortunately, SLC Police are still not allowed to arrest for less than felonies. And unless there are many more jail beds available for the hundreds of drug dealers in the Rio Grande area (according to SLC Chief Brown), the drug dealing will move to other areas. We still don’t know how long drug dealers will stay in jail. Mental health treatment funding needs to be restored to the level that it had a few years ago (30% of jail inmates have mental health issues and are suing the County for lack of treatment).

  The Rio Grande crackdown on criminals has been long overdue. The threat of jail works. But Mayor McAdams should reverse his decision last year and return the jail bond money to the Sheriff to reopen the hundreds of unused beds at the Oxbow Jail. Public safety should have a higher priority than Mayor McAdams has given it in the last year (until this last week). But the big question is, will things go back to where they were after the election? Maybe we should have elections every year or maybe we should elect a new and better mayor.

Mike Edwards is a former Army officer and Iraq veteran who works in Salt Lake County.




Recent police shooting should not be labeled “Not Within” policy


Summary:   The shooting in February appears to be justified, within policy and may have saved a life. This shooting appears to have occurred because a person, intent on bodily injury refused to stop and drop his weapon, unlike his partner. The shooting should have been found to be within policy and the Board should have insisted on all sides of the story and all of the evidence before making a finding.

  Last February, a young man was shot by two police officers in order to stop an attack on another man. He ended up seriously wounded and may be permanently in a wheelchair. Last week, the Salt Lake Police Civilian Review Board declared that the shooting was “Not Within” policy. The Board released their findings despite the fact that the person who was shot was not interviewed and the court case against the victim is still in process. The evidence presented indicates that the two police officers fired their guns because they felt that there was a chance of a serious or fatal blow by the individual and he refused to drop his weapon. 


  The police officers both said that the person who was shot started to raise a metal object that they thought was a heavy metal bar similar to the one that his fellow attacker had just dropped (with a heavy metal thud). Both officers decided that they needed to use deadly force needed to stop the suspect and protect the victim.” They did not have time to use a Taser and in winter, heavy jackets negate their effect.


  The victim of the attack, who eventually admitted to asking to buy a marijuana cigarette, knew that he was being attacked with a hollow and not a very threatening handle. That is why he appeared to be slow in backing away from his attacker who was eventually shot. But the police officers who fired did not know that and the person who was shot refused to stop advancing on the victim of the attack, unlike his fellow attacker who heard the police orders, dropped their heavy metal pipe and ran away. Interestingly, both of the attackers refused to be interviewed by the Board despite the numerous media interviews given by the shooting victim.  The Board, should have insisted on a full investigation. The victim of the attack by the person who was eventually shot, said that “he was fearful of being killed by the pipe. K.M said he believed the officers saved his life and that the officers put themselves in jeopardy to protect him.”


  The Board said that “it would have been objectively reasonable for the officers to believe that the juvenile was an armed aggressor engaging another citizen with a bludgeon capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death.” Authority to use deadly force includes “The officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.” The important factor in the Board’s decision was that “neither C (the person who was shot) nor KM (the victim of the attack) were showing any sense of urgency in this last confrontation. C did not noticeably increase his speed towards KM, and KM did not appear to increase his rate of retreat.”  KM knew the mop handle was hollow and he did not want to interact with the police.


 The police officers acted, as the vast majority of cops do, with the best intention of stopping serious bodily injury or death. Deadly force is authorized and justified in those cases. It should be remembered that there were 20 seconds between sighting the attack and the shooting. This shooting appears, looking at all of the evidence that has been released, to have occurred because a person, intent on bodily injury refused to stop and drop his weapon, unlike his partner. The shooting should have been found to be within policy and the Board should have insisted on all sides of the story and all of the evidence before making a finding.



One person should not decide the site of homeless facilities

   Over the last two weeks, the plan and path for identifying and developing homeless expansion facilities has undergone a significant change. Up until the beginning of September, almost everyone involved in the homeless site selection process had indicated that there would be five potential sites that would go to the Salt Lake City Council for approval for money to buy options on the five finalist sites. The month of September would be used to get feedback and engage the public in a discussion of the good and bad points of the possible sites. That would lead to two sites selected for more vigorous public hearings during October.  By November, the City Council would approve the final two sites and that would meet the Legislature’s understanding that Salt Lake City would provide 500 beds outside of Rio Grande for homeless.

  Over the last few months of discussions on the process, public safety became more important. That concern resulted in many Councilmembers and most of the public saying that facilities with more than 100 beds would be a burden on the neighboring communities. Councilmember Derek Kitchen said that he is next to the VOA Youth facility that has 30 beds (80 have sometimes stayed there) and even that small facility does have an impact on the community.

  During SLC Council tours of the Lantern House in Ogden, the 250 bed homeless shelter, the neighbors complained about the problems that are due to the homeless visitors to the Lantern House. Despite efforts of Lantern House managers to control the problem that affect neighbors, the neighbors still are negatively impacted. The managers refuse services to those homeless that cause problems and don’t follow the rules. That helps a little but the main result is that the homeless that are refused services, take Frontrunner down to Salt lake City! In other words, homeless facilities cause problems for neighborhoods.

  Until the system removes the criminal element that is ingrained in the homeless community, there will be a problem with homeless facilities. The potential impact of 250 bed homeless facilities has resulted in most of the Salt Lake City Councilmembers saying that they would prefer five 100 bed facilities. The reason that 250 bed facilities were recommended was because of the services that could be cost effectively provided in such a facility (social workers, medical services, etc). The service cost would be more in smaller facilities. The administration has said that Salt Lake City has committed to two 250 bed facilities and that the Council would endanger the Legislature’s funding if they changed from two 250 bed facilities.

  When the Council was told that the Mayor had the ability to choose the site locations without Council approval (at the September 13th meeting), the Council seemed to accept that with minimal objection (in my mind). The City Council said (in a press release): “Selecting sites and buying property is clearly the Mayor’s responsibility,…..So, it is important that the City Council exercise its legislative authority to set conditions related to land use policy and budget approval.” But that will change the promised process to have a vigorous and respectful process for selecting homeless facility expansion sites.  In addition, the Council and the public was told that there would be two sites identified and the public would only have a couple of weeks for input and since the City Council didn’t have the authority, it would not affect the site locations!

  Salt Lake City has had similar proclamations in the past that mayors have total authority. The best example was the previous administration’s insistence that the new police headquarters would be on Library Square. That proclamation resulted in such a public resistance that the location was moved. This administration seems to be falling into the same disrespectful mindset of believing that citizens work for them. Community councils were promised by the Mayor that they would have input on the final two sites but the speed of the process (site locations by October 10 and final approval by November) seems to be removing community council discussion and feedback.

  Mayor Biskupski and the City Council should reevaluate the process to allow flexibility and public engagement in providing two or more homeless expansion facilities. The sites (known to the Mayor now) should be made public and the citizens, the community councils and the public should be able to voice their opinions. The Mayor should acknowledge that the best decisions require vigorous public engagement and that opinions of citizens do matter and should be respected. The homeless sites should be made public now.


 

 



The Utah Compromise is an example of a respectful balance of religious freedom with respect for individual rights

  Last week, Stuart Reid had an oped in the Salt Lake Tribune (Religious appeasers are the Chamberlains of our time) that used language that I have to categorize as inflammatory at best. Words and phrases such as apostatized (abandon faith), greatest apostasy in American history, halfhearted stand to secure their religious freedoms, sexualcratic demands compare to Neville Chamberlain, appeasing sexualcratic dominion over God-given religious freedom is diabolical, were used by Mr. Reid to declare that the Utah Compromise, the agreement that protected religious freedoms and rights at the same time as ensuring that individual rights of individuals who had different sexual identity (were gay), were protected. 

  I was personally insulted by his sentence that “the majority of religious now adhere to the “sexualcratic” stratagem, including supporting same-sex marriage. They have abandoned their moral standards and religious orthodoxies to advance appeasement policies corroborating their heretical loyalties (from a Pew Research study).” During the hearings on the Utah Compromise, I expressed concern over the speed of the bill (just one day to review the language) and the potential for abuse. I was wrong and the Utah Compromise appears to have been very successful at defusing inflammatory language and actions on both sides. I attribute a large part of the success of the Compromise to the non-severability clause in the bill.  Essentially that means that if anyone complains, and a court agrees, the whole Compromise is thrown out.  Much like mutually assured destruction, most reasonable and respectful people on both sides will not act in a manner that would throw out the protections in the compromise.  This is essentially saying that “can’t we all just get along”.

  Mr. Reid claims that religious that support same-sex marriage are abandoning their moral standards. But the reality is that it is in the best interest of society, if two people want to have a relationship, that that relationship be long term and hopefully permanent. Anything that society can do to encourage that, including encouraging loving and long term relationships through marriage, is good and I contend actually adhere to strong moral standards and religious orthodoxies. Using Winston Churchill’s words to explain the complicated political landscape in Utah is questionable at best.  A better phrase is Jesus’ “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That appears to be a more appropriate quote to label the Utah Compromise.

  The Utah Compromise actually provided more protections for religious liberty than was part of America’s and Utah’s Constitution and laws. Robin Wilson, one of the primary architects of the Utah Compromise had an interview on the Sutherland Institute’s website in July of 2015 that pointed out that the Compromise allows religious organizations to still handle charitable contracts (that other states have terminated due to discrimination against “gays”). She also said that the Compromise ensures that you “can’t fire someone for marching in a gay parade or fire someone who gave $1000 to Prop 8.” The Compromise ensures that “saying something at a religious meeting…. Like “marriage is between a man and a woman,” in your view”, does not allow a company to terminate you. That is not appeasement but is more like protecting Czechoslovakia from German invasion. Many of other religious people that I have talked to, including one who lost his job for his religious beliefs, feel very comfortable with the Compromise due to the religious protections.

  Robin Wilson has said that “Religious liberty protections constitute a middle path that allow policymakers to recognize two compelling interests in a plural democratic society.” That religious liberty protection ensured the passage of the Utah Compromise. Based on the testimony on and the effect of the Utah Compromise, Mr. Reid’s comments are not just out of line but seem to be, in the words of Jesus, cold hearted (stadia cardia) towards not just gays but also the majority of religious. 





Data center projects make sense for Utah  (published in the Salt Lake Tribune)

  I have been disappointed in the backlash and negative attitudes about the proposed Facebook/Discus data center project. Some of the individuals that are expressing opposition have worked with me over many years in fighting other government over reach, over taxation and waste. I support the project in West Jordan for a data center because I retired from the technology industry and I have seen the positive results that these projects can deliver. I fought the recent Miller/Vivent Arena tax break because it was secret until 3 days before the vote and the area was developing. If that project was on empty land that would not be developed for 20 years, I would not have objected to the tax break.  I believe that the proposal is not just a great project but that the structure of the tax breaks make good government sense.

  Many have expressed concern about a government giveaway of hundreds of millions. But most of that is in the form of tax credits for developing land that provides less than a hundred thousand dollars in taxes over 20 years into property that will provide taxes for the school district of over $6 million over 20 years and over $7 million per year more taxes after 20 years. When you compare no data center (what is there now), and a data center with tax breaks that don’t penalize new development and new business, it should be obvious that the data center is a good thing.

   Much has also been made of the water use in the proposed data center. The NSA data center uses almost 2 million gallons a day for cooling. But Facebook (along with Google and Amazon) data centers are the most efficient server farms in the world. Their servers can be four times more efficient in the use of power (less than 1.5kW per rack). And since this is one of the fastest growing technology areas, new systems are being developed that are even more efficient. The cooling systems use a misting cooling process (chillerless) similar to our swamp coolers. Utah’s environment is exceptional in making these systems efficient. Our cool and dry air is one of the reasons that solid rocket engine manufacturing headquartered here. In addition, local governments restrict water transfers which result in over ten million gallons a day being wasted instead of being used. We have the water.

  Other complaints focus on the small number of employees that will be employed by the finished data center. But the reality is that thousands of direct construction jobs will be generated immediately. And nearby areas will also undergo a big growth spurt to service the employees and support of the finished project. Server farm technology is advancing faster than almost anything else in technology (64 TB SSDs were just announced!) and the systems in the facility will constantly be upgraded. That will require support from outside the facility in the transportation, food, medical and tech areas. Nearby support that may seem meaningless can result in big companies. WordPerfect and Novell started with small support contracts with Eyring Research Institute in Provo! The synergy from nearby tech and server farms can explode tech growth along the Wasatch Front. I need to emphasize that Facebook’s open server and cloud computing efforts are technology drivers and it will encourage tech growth. Not only will a successful Facebook data center encourage other companies to locate their data centers here (due to efficient cooling environment), it will also encourage students to study STEM.

  Utah’s supercomputer center was the fourth node of the internet during development. This project has the potential to return Utah as a tech leader in tech’s fastest growing area, cloud computing. As a former engineer that has worked for several computer and internet companies, this project excites me about its potential. I will continue to fight government’s wasteful and questionable spending and tax breaks, but this project makes sense and will significantly benefit Utah and Utahns. It will attract many more cloud computing companies.




My view: Mayor and DA actions in police shooting do not deserve protests

published in the Deseret News


Police shootings should be thoroughly investigated. We may not agree with the DA's decisions and the mayor's actions, but they did the right thing in the recent police shooting. Their actions are the last things we should protest.

Earlier this month, there was a small protest outside City Hall that attracted a lot of news attention. In fact, the news media almost outnumbered protesters. They were protesting the police shooting of a teenager in the Rio Grande area. Instead of using common sense and asking why a teenager was hanging out in the West's biggest open-air drug market at night, the protesters demanded that two public servants resign. The protesters said Mayor Jackie Biskupski and District Attorney Sim Gill should resign or be kicked out of office for helping reinforce racial biases in two corrupt officers.

I know both of these individuals better than many. I have run against the mayor and supported candidates running against the DA and I have considerable respect for both. Both of these public officials take their jobs and responsibility seriously. I may have disagreements with some of their decisions and policies, but I do not have any doubt that, in this case, their decisions are something to be admired.

Careful consideration of the other complications in this case required much time and investigation. They included many residents and businesses in the area (and police) who have complained about a gang of teenagers who seem to be controlling the spice/K2/meth sales in the area. Was a full-scale arrest of teenagers required? Did the issue require long-term video surveillance to gather evidence? Who were the other teens in the gang, or who were the teens who kept going to the Rio Grande area? Was enough evidence collected after the shooting and in the subsequent months to justify charging the person who was shot as an adult? Was a big drug raid necessary to sweep up the teenagers who were selling drugs? These questions can take months to investigate because many witnesses refused to cooperate or flat-out lied.

This mayor stopped the quality-of-life hassling that a desperate former mayor pushed the Salt Lake City police to enforce. That policy was vigorously complained about by homeless advocates. This mayor has bent over backwards to ensure that the complaints about police shootings and police issues are discussed with the mayor and the chief of police in several community meetings. This mayor has ordered the police chief to face the complaints instead of ignoring them. This mayor has exhibited exceptional leadership in these cases. But the big issue is that this teenager seems to have been part of the rampant drug dealing in the Rio Grande area and was in the process of potentially killing someone. If the victim that the teen was beating had been more seriously injured, there wouldn't be any question of justification.

In a recent case, a Salt Lake police officer was recognized as Policeman of the Year for shooting a man who threatened to kill a woman (after stabbing her). The situations sound so similar that the protesters should take a deep breath and look at what the officers saw: a need to make a split-second decision that may have been necessary to save a life. When the real issues of questionable police tactics come up, this case should not be among them. I want to make it clear that, despite my respect for this administration, I will not stop complaining when I see problems and questionable decisions.

This incident has reinforced my respect for Biskupski and Gill. Police shootings should be thoroughly investigated. Gill, in thorough investigations, has found some police shootings to be unjustified. We may not agree with his decisions and the mayor's actions, but they did the right thing in this case. Their actions are the last things we should protest.






Healthy Utah Plan acceptance is a public safety issue (published in Deseret News in January 2015)

Over the last year, there has been a fight in Utah between Governor Gary Herbert and some Republican legislators about whether or not to accept the Healthy Utah Plan to help provide medical insurance and care for all Utahns under the Affordable Care Act.

The Utah Health Care Task Force Legislative Committee recently voted to not accept the governor's proposal. They voted to consider a much lower level of medical insurance expansion that would cost Utah around one half of what the governor's plan would cost.

The argument against accepting Federal Healthy Utah funds seems to be due to a concern that Utah will be obligated to pay a portion of the constantly increasing Healthy Utah cost. Although Utah will receive 100 percent reimbursement of Healthy Utah funding for the next few years, after that, Utah will have to start picking up some of the cost. Utah's budget could significantly increase if Healthy Utah costs continue to increase.

But that assumes that Utah will do nothing after accepting the funds and will not be able to do a good job managing the program. The same legislators that don't want the governor to accept Healthy Utah funds also believe that Utah can do a better job managing Utah lands. If they really believed that, they should want to accept Healthy Utah funding in order to show the federal government and other states how Utah can do a great job managing the money.

Accepting Healthy Utah funds doesn't just help those who need the safety net. It decreases diseases that can spread quickly through society. Fighting disease is a legitimate government job. It will also significantly increase public safety and save local governments millions. Money could be saved in the care of jailed inmates. Some studies say that over 50 percent of inmates in county jails could benefit from health care, which includes mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

At present, about 20 percent of Salt Lake County Jail inmates have medical insurance. If Utah accepts Healthy Utah funding, the percentage of covered inmates could approach 100 percent. That funding would allow for treatment of inmates while incarcerated (transported to facilities as in-patients) and have the treatment continue upon release. Instead of almost ignoring the main problem that causes much of the crime in Utah—drugs—substance abuse treatment could be funded. Instead of letting inmates out without treatment due to jail capacity limits, they could be treated immediately. Washington reduced recidivism 21-33 percent when they expanded medical care to include treatment for chemical dependency of arrested individuals, according to Michael DuBose, CEO of Community Oriented Correctional Health Services.

Mental health treatment would also be more thorough and effective. That would decrease drug use and crime caused by drug addiction and mental health issues. The public would directly benefit from the subsequent decrease in crime.

Utah counties would benefit due to the significant reduction in costs that counties have to provide basic medical care, mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. Salt Lake County believes it could save millions. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill voiced his opinion at a June 10 County Council hearing.

"The Healthy Utah plan will have a direct impact on recidivism rates and the costs of providing continuity of care," he said. "This will have a huge impact on the criminal justice system.”

This could be the first step to actually solving the crime problem caused by recidivism involving mental health issues. State prison inmates would also receive medical care after release from prison. Because of limits private insurers put on medical treatment when illegal activity, such as drug use, is involved, the Legislature should also require that drug abuse treatment be part of medical insurance.

Successful criminal justice implementation would require that medical insurance plans include drug abuse and mental health treatment involving illegal activity.

The governor showed he can be trusted to put Utah's interests first when it comes to dealing with the federal government. Herbert convinced the federal government during the shutdown to allow Utah to take over operations of national parks in the state.

A potential 21-33 percent decrease in crime should be an important reason to accept the governor's Healthy Utah Plan. An interesting side effect would come if the decrease in crime is big enough to not have to move or upgrade the Utah State Prison.




The case against the Homeless Commission (published in the Deseret News December 2015)


This last week, the Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission delivered its report that essentially said that the homeless shelter and services need to be spread out to various areas of the county. It said that it intends to ask the Legislature to appropriate $27 million to build shelters at "scattered sites." The prison move fight to an out-of-the-way area is nothing compared to expanding homeless shelters into neighborhoods. Every neighborhood will fight the battle against moving shelters into their area.

Many of the members of the committee were businesses and property owners from the Pioneer Park area. Several of the homeless services providers left the commission. And the Salt Lake City Council raised concerns earlier this year about no Salt Lake City Council members and west side interests on the commission.

The facts and statistics involving the homeless continue to be a big concern to the citizens of Salt Lake City and Utah. According to the initial report, about a third spend several months in jail and many have more than 17 jail bookings per year. About a quarter have mental health issues and about a fifth have drug or alcohol problems. The number of homeless is usually several thousand, and over 10,000 will be homeless at least once this year. One of the most disturbing facts is that almost 1,000 schoolchildren are homeless!

Many of us have asked for expanded facilities near the downtown homeless service providers, more police and for health care expansion. Salt Lake City has many surplus properties that could be sold to provide overtime for more police patrols. Last year, the downtown police walking patrols were very successful and appreciated by the local business owners. But this year, the Salt Lake City Council doesn’t appear to be providing the police walking patrols.

Several city-owned surplus properties are next to the homeless services and shelter. The best way to get the homeless off the sidewalk (especially in the killing cold weather), and make the area more attractive to businesses, is to open up a building and invite in all of the homeless so that they don’t have to wait around on the sidewalk to get in line for a bed at the shelter. On a typical night at the Road Home, only a little over 50 percent of the homeless in the area can get a bed.

The commission members and law enforcement should demand Medicaid expansion or some way to treat the medical, mental health, drug and alcohol problems of the population. The more jail time or tickets that the homeless get, the less likely that they can find housing since most landlords won’t rent to people with jail time or ticket warrants. Salt Lake County has had to try to provide minimal and reduced mental health treatment. The drug and alcohol abuse treatment is almost nonexistent.

Domestic violence shelter expansion can make sense (the YWCA women’s shelter is a good example of a successful facility that does not create problems for the neighborhood). A very large percentage of women are domestic violence victims and could use an expanded women’s shelter. Interestingly, the Salt Lake City Council is about to pass an ordinance that stops expansion of assisted living centers and similar facilities.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said that “we have a solid foundation to move forward" but that is like saying that we have solved 90 percent of the homeless problem. Expanding shelters into other neighborhoods will result in battles that will stop any progress towards actually solving the problem. Expanding day and night shelters in the area along with police walking patrols and health care expansion is the fastest and most cost effective way to solve the homeless problem. That should be our plan to solve the homeless problem.





Where do we put the homeless (published in the Deseret News April 2016)


The Utah Legislature has provided almost $10 million to help solve the homeless situation centered in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City. The Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission is now going to consider sites for new distributed homeless shelters. During Tuesday's Salt Lake City Council meeting, the commission co-chairs, former mayor Palmer DePaulis and LHM head Gail Miller, said they had not decided on the locations for the new shelters. They also said they had invited mayors from around Utah to be on the commission.

The City Council asked that several members of the council be part of the commission to ensure a more respected decision. Councilman Charlie Luke asked that the commission ensure that the eventual sites for the shelters be near robust transportation access (more than business hours). The council agreed that Derek Kitchen, Erin Mendenhall and Andrew Johnston should participate in the commission deliberations.

Attempts to provide low-cost housing to people with low incomes or mental health concerns or who are homeless have had mixed results. Many of the low-cost motels on State Street and North Temple have developed a reputation for being crime magnets. Even with screening, residents of low-cost housing have created problems with the police and fire department medical response units.

The City Council has had presentations that indicate that dedicated low-income housing does not work. Studies show that mixed-income residences have a much better outcome. The City Council has indicated that it prefers mixed-income residencies instead of 100 percent low-income, and many new projects it has encouraged are mixed-income.

Hopefully, the commission will give appropriate weight to the studies and won't recommend residences like single-room occupancy (SRO) buildings that have bad reputations. SROs also result in a very vocal backlash. This process requires public support.

Another important aspect of the solution is the requirement for appropriate mental health and alcohol and drug-abuse treatment. The last legislative session provided some potential for providing these services, but implementing the services will be difficult. It will require providing each residence with all the necessary services to ensure safe and appropriate housing.

Another requirement should be that the new residences be near food stores and other services and not be in the middle of an industrial area or a single-family home neighborhood. Putting residents in those areas, since they probably won't have their own cars, will be like putting them in a prison. People need access to food, so they should not be placed in food deserts. For the homeless who are seniors, it should be considered elder abuse to put them in food deserts. Since most neighborhood bus service stops around 8 p.m., the residences should be near stores.

Other important requirements will be more visible police in the area to ensure that the area does not become like some of the areas that have homeless shelters. Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to crime, and sometimes the last chance to stop it is more visible police. For those homeless families with school-age children, close availability to schools is also important. Although school buses can pick up and drop off the children, having a school close to the family home is important. It allows after-school activities for the children.

The public needs to be intimately involved in the process of choosing the locations for the new homeless shelters. The shelters need to be in areas that will not result in a big backlash and fight from neighbors. The shelters need to have access to transportation that does not stop at 8 p.m., food stores, neighborhood schools and a safe neighborhood; they should be mixed-income. The process also needs better representation (more than just the mayors of the cities and developers that want the homeless shelter out of the Rio Grande area). An effective public outreach and engagement process should be required. The next meeting for the commission that will recommend where to put the new homeless shelters is Monday, April 18, at 3 p.m. at the Salt Lake Main Library.





​Encouraging walking requires public engagement and mixed use buildings

  Sugar House is in the midst of a building boom. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are apartment buildings with no public engagement on the ground floor. A good example is the proposed 85 foot tall apartment building on the corner of Sugarmont and McClelland (where the old Granite warehouse is). During the developer presentation, the project was touted as encouraging public engagement, without any public mixed use at the ground floor!

  Encouraging walkability requires encouraging pedestrian activities above just walking on a sidewalk. Sugar House developed its character due to the many buildings with glass show windows that encouraged window shopping and engagement. The eclectic character encouraged walking. If all of the ground floor facilities are apartments, the public is not encouraged to walk past the building. It is like having a block long car lot.

  A proposal on 600 East and Wilmington, next to the 700 East streetcar station, is all apartments! The potential for popularizing the Parleys Trail and encouraging pedestrian engagement is lost when there is no reason for the public to walk on the trail other than just walking. The Trail could have restaurants, shops and other facilities that encourage visiting (and using the streetcar) on the ground floor that fronts the Trail. We could have our version of San Antonio’s River Walk (“stay, play, dine and explore in San Antonio”) if the project is not all apartments.

  Salt Lake City Council has had a policy to require mixed use developments that encourage ground floor businesses and restaurants. The Council went to a lot of trouble to develop a new Streetcar Corridor Form Based Plan that has ground floor windows and theoretically, ground floor public businesses. That policy encourages walkability. Unfortunately, the Council has not implemented their policy with an ordinance that forces all developers to provide true mixed use buildings. So projects are being approved (like the 60 foot apartment building on 1000 East and 2100 South) without ground floor facilities that encourage public engagement. Imagine 60 to 100 foot buildings without any ground floor public facilities. Why would anyone walk sidewalks surrounded by walls of concrete and steel.

  Sugar House also developed their village character with the availability of parking that allowed unlimited free parking and allowed parking once and walking the area for hours. That ability is gone. Many of the formerly unrestricted time parking lots have implemented time restraints that encourage driving between shops that used to be walked. The new Downtown and Sugar House Parking Study is suggesting that there is plenty of parking and density can increase without providing more parking. But, as Councilwoman Lisa Adams pointed out, if there isn’t enough convenient and free and unrestricted parking in Sugar House, people will drive to Fashion Place Mall (increasing pollution).

  Salt Lake City does have a complete streets ordinance that is supposed to require wider sidewalks but developers seem to be allowed to build their 60 foot buildings without providing complete streets recommended sidewalks that encourage walking. The worst example is the McClelland Street sidewalks that were not widened and can arguably be considered to have discouraged using the franchise restaurants that line one side of the street. It is ironic that Salt Lake City is not encouraging wider sidewalks at the same time that they are promoting a “grand boulevard” on 500 and 600 South. During the City’s presentation at the Legislature, the City showed the Paris 30 foot wide sidewalks as what they were trying to emulate.

  The Salt Lake City Council needs to pass an ordinance requiring ground floor mixed use to encourage walkability. Salt Lake City needs to force compliance with the complete streets’ recommended wider sidewalks. It also needs to provide a better parking ordinance to encourage parking and walking in a neighborhood instead of driving to each business in an area. Retaining or developing a walkable community and village character requires public engagement at the ground floor, wider sidewalks and free parking.

 

 

UTA dreams may turn into taxpayer nightmares

  The UTA Board of Trustees recently approved funding the start of the Provo BRT project. During discussion, it was assumed that the federal government will eventually provide most of the funding. There is a significant chance that federal funding may not come. If that happens, UTA may insist that the only way to recoup their expenses is to finish the project with local funding, using a Utah County bond.

  The important point is that UTA is ignoring the 2014 Legislative audit recommendations and is starting projects without identifying funding sources!  The audit says: "In our 2012 audit report, we recommended that UTA identify reliable revenue sources for future transit projects’ capital and O&M costs before construction is initiated. This recommendation, with the addition of identifying SGR (state of good repair), costs remains important." (pg 61)

  The UTA Board is composed of representatives from many of the municipalities around the Wasatch Front and is generally trying to implement their sponsoring governments’ wishes. I know many of the individuals on the Board and I believe that they care about doing a good job. But, as in many other cities in this Country, there is a tension between providing more mass transit service and developing mass transit projects to assist in development.

  Another project that was recently green lighted was the SLC Airport TRAX reconfiguration that was necessitated by the redesign of the airport. Instead of a basic and very efficient TRAX station that was completed only a few years ago, Salt Lake City wanted an eye catching and expensive bridge rail system that enters the new terminal. The Airport terminal redesign is using airport passenger fees which could also be used for most of the cost of the TRAX reconfiguration, but UTA offered to pay for the project without using those fees. Other cities have used the fees for rail stations (not rails) and by the end of the year, the FAA appears to be allowing those fees to be used for all of a mass transit project. Utah also needs to change their laws that, at present, do not allow airport passenger fees to be used for “fixed guideway” projects. Again, UTA is going out on a limb to build a project without identifying the source of funding. This seems to again fly in the face of the audit recommendations.

  UTA says that “there would be no effect on existing bus service” if UTA pays for the start of the airport TRAX project. But the argument is that expansion of bus service would be affected. If UTA spends taxpayer funds on a new big construction project that may reach $100 million, expansion of neighborhood bus service will be impacted. The Legislative audit from several years ago recommended that no new big projects be attempted by UTA until a robust bus system is restored (it was cut 30% in order to build all of the rail lines).

  Another issue is UTA providing tens of millions of dollars in property to developers in return for a small piece of the project (about 5%) which may never make a profit. Other cities lease the property for a premium. The audit also cautioned about this action. “While there certainly is the potential for a return to UTA on its investment, that non-guaranteed return is at the end of a long line of prior contingencies and guaranteed payouts to Associates.”

  UTA’s Board of Trustees should develop a more financially conservative plan that acknowledges that federal funding is not a sure thing (as was admitted during testimony at the Legislature this month). Utah taxpayers should not be forced to pay for projects that are questionable and unpopular.




Good decisions die behind closed doors (printed in SLTRIB in June)


  Over the last several years, the Utah Legislature has been discussing healthcare expansion. Unfortunately, many of the discussions and decisions have been made behind closed doors. The best decisions occur with a vigorous debate and discussion with good public participation. There seems to be a tendency for governments to discourage public discussion.

  This last week, the Salt Lake City Council agreed to give a tax credit to the Miller family for spending almost $100 million on the JAZZ arena upgrade. The tax credit would apply to the increased property tax valuation caused by the upgrade to the arena.  It could be as much as $22 million. In an interview, the Miller family implied that the City Council, sitting as the RDA Board, would not have a problem with the proposal and had already made their decision. Although that implication was denied, the perception is still there, that the Salt Lake City Councilmembers had a meeting with the Miller Company and had a well received presentation without public notice or involvement. The public learned about the proposal just a few days before the vote to approve it.

  The Larry H. Miller family is one of the most respected families in Utah. Their project is the least expensive and most financially responsible project for an arena upgrade in the last few decades. Most projects require a lot of public taxpayer funding and the proposals generally result in much fighting and backlash. But the lack of respectful notice and participation for what will become (through increased valuation and property tax) taxpayer funds is similar to closed door meetings or meetings without almost any public participation. Many governments tend to act like they don't like or trust public involvement and discussion. There is a good argument that the taxpayer funds could be better used for focusing on solving homeless problems in the area. Another argument is why do taxpayers have to subsidize a very successful private company upgrade.

  Salt Lake City Council has a work session with no public comment (the RDA did have a public comment period that almost no one knows about) that sometimes results in decisions. When the City Council voted to close the Par 3 golf course, they did it with a work session straw poll. Salt Lake County Council work sessions do allow public comment. But to find it online, one has to know that it is called the Committee of the Whole (on the pmn.utah.gov website).

  Big budget projects should have more public input and a vote. Retargeting bonds to the SLC downtown theater and the recent Salt Lake County decision to move jail bond funding to another use, without a public vote, upset many. No matter how justified the plan, a vigorous public debate and vote will result in a better decision. When the Wasatch Front Regional Council voted to approve the Regional Transportation Plan, few knew about and commented on it, despite the fact that $11 billion in questionable rail and mass transit projects were listed as goals for Utah taxpayers. UTA recently tried to close some of their meetings which resulted in pressure from the Salt Lake County Council to hold up funding. It resulted in re-opening the meetings that the public should have access to.

  Decisions that involve public funding or public impact like road diets, bike lanes, rail lines and parking meters deserve the respect of a public hearing. Without government meetings being open and convenient to the public, good decisions suffer.

  When government tries to keep decisions behind closed doors, good decisions and good government suffers. The more open the discussion, the better the decision. One of the reasons for the success of this Country is the vigorous and open free speech and free press which encourages discussion, debate and consideration. It leads to better decisions. Salt Lake City, UTA, the Legislature and all governments should be more open in their decisions and trust vigorous public debate and votes.

 

 



When will SLC parking become realistic?

  The Sugar House Community Council recently met with Mayor Biskupski and many of her senior staff. Discussions included the streetcar, traffic, 10 story buildings and sewer issues in the area. Another big concern was parking. The issue is so important that Salt Lake City has drafted a Downtown and Sugar House Parking Study to be presented to the City Council in August. The study has found that many of the parking problems in Sugar House come from the many different entities that control or have parking in the area. It also shows that there are areas that have issues with lack of parking.

  Although it was pointed out during the meeting that one of the nearby lots was almost empty, the residents still complained about the lack of reasonable parking standards in Salt Lake City. City Councilwoman Lisa Adams admitted that there are parking issues that include no parking requirements on the recently rezoned 700 East and 2100 South area. She hoped that the parking study will help in the discussion and further action by the City Council.

  Many nearby residents are upset because of overflow from filled parking lots that end up in single-family home neighborhoods. Some blame the City for not enforcing a reasonable public parking rate at the Vue on 2100 South and Highland Drive. It was changed to a minimum parking charge of $10 after the Vue residents complained that they didn’t have enough parking when the public used the underground lot. But Salt Lake City paid the developer to provide a level of public parking in the project!

  Dan Lofgren of Cowboy Partners, which constructed the Liberty Village on McClelland just south of 2100 South, said that his lot is not full when he checks it at 4 AM. But residents near his other proposed project, on Wilmington and 640 East, say that the issue isn’t who is parking at 4 AM. It is where will guests park. The issue is made more critical because there is no parking at the streetcar stations. It becomes even worse for nearby residents when a project charges for parking, like the new project just approved for 2100 South and 1000 East. The $50 a month parking charge will encourage residents with more than one car to park in the nearby residential areas.

  The SLC Council doubled parking requirements for projects in December from .5 per unit to 1 per unit. Some of the pressure to increase parking was the recent fight over the 9th and 9th project with only a quarter of an off street parking spot per unit. That was due to the old standard passed in 2013 that allowed on street parking to count for parking requirements, even in areas with no available parking like the Avenues. The Council indicated that they would revisit the parking standards to fine tune the regulations as needed. But the recent approval of the high density buildings without parking standards for Sugar House was surprising and a big concern for residents nearby.  And the parking maximums of 1.5 per unit have not changed, even after developers asked for exceptions.

  The residents near projects that may not have enough parking have been told to consider parking permit areas. But to force residents to pay for inadequate City planning and standards seems to be an insult. Salt Lake City needs to revisit its lack of reasonable parking standards that are respectful of nearby residents and businesses. Mixed use buildings that encourage walkability should be encouraged and they need more parking without parking limits. When parking was free without a time limit, people could park in Sugar House and walk around the stores and patronize restaurants without driving more.

  Counting on street parking should not be allowed. SRO parking standards should be doubled from one half space per unit. The Sugar House Streetcar Corridor parking standards need to be reinstated. And parking for residents should not require a fee that encourages parking extra vehicles in adjacent home and business areas. Salt Lake City parking standards need to become realistic


This is a short rewrite of our oped that you published last February 

No greater love than the sacrifice of a cop


  Law enforcement officers go to work every day willing to take a bullet for us. This week, five officers in Dallas died while they were protecting the lives of Americans protesting police. The sad irony of their deaths while protecting those that were protesting police actions should be recognized by everyone. Police die everyday protecting, serving and sacrificing for their fellow men and women, even those that hate the police.

Law enforcement officers live everyday with the kind of love that is willing to sacrifice for others and to die if necessary. The Greek word for it is agape. It means the greatest love. That kind of love is rare. The important point, always brought up, is we will never be able to thank our police and their families enough for the sacrifices they have made. They deserve recognition, respect and support.

  The officers that were killed in Dallas are just like every other officer that wears a badge. They are all willing to take a bullet for us. That point should be remembered every time that you meet a cop. When you see an officer, remember the sacrifice that they face everyday; and thank them for their service.

George Chapman, Craig Carter





The Provo BRT is a dream without a proper cost/benefit analysis

For the last few years, elected officials of Provo and Utah County have worked with UTA to plan and start implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) in Provo. A BRT is considered to be a train on wheels since it has stations with ticketing machines (no fare collection onboard), travel lanes separate from cars, usually a much longer bus and intersection traffic signal priority. The Provo BRT cost could exceed $150 million, of which local taxpayers will have to provide at least 50% of the funding.

Many have questioned the wisdom of using scarce mass transit dollars for such a big project which will include the separated roads and a new bigger bus garage. Many residents are still upset that UTA has decreased bus service around the County, especially on the Westside of I15. Although some claim that rail and BRT provides a more inviting service than a plain old bus, a recent study showed that when service levels are similar, there is no preference for rail or BRT over regular buses. The cost of the BRT could significantly decrease bus service around the County.

In Utah, UTA has implemented a BRT on 3500 South in West Valley City. Unfortunately, the UTA BRT has not been successful and has attracted less than 4000 riders a day (a successful BRT should have 5000-10000 riders a day). Part of the problem is that the BRT does not have signal priority (not even UTA rail has traffic signal priority). Time to traverse the route is supposed to be significantly lower than car travel on the adjacent congested streets since that BRT has two dedicated lanes (for a portion of the route). In this case, car travel is still faster.

Personal vehicles make our families, our economy and our Country more efficient. Utah has the largest average family size in the U.S. and car travel can be more time and cost efficient than even rail because you can pack 5 plus in a car and a pet or two. It is hard for any mass transit to provide that efficiency for big families. Between work and education and family, it is hard to justify large and expensive projects like this.

The dedicated lanes that generally take away from car travel lanes, could increase congestion and air pollution. A BRT project should be appropriate for the market. Not all BRT projects are successful due to a lack of appropriate analysis, planning and cost/benefit analysis. Most U.S. cities do not have the high density found in the cities with successful BRT systems.

An advantage of BRT systems is that fares don’t have to be handled by the driver. But UTA’s FarePay card system can provide that advantage. There is also a limit in ticketing per hour at the stations which can discourage ridership. Standing in a long line while a BRT comes and goes will discourage long term ridership increases.

Much of the pressure on BRT implementation comes from the belief that these projects will increase development and raise land values. The result could result in pressure that causes lower income to move out and lose the adjacent mass transit service. Not all cities experience the development increase and most of those that do, are in other countries that have a fraction of cars.

Despite marketing BRTs in Provo and Utah, the reality is that a thorough cost/benefit analysis would show that higher service levels and faster travel are the most important priorities for potential riders. A BRT could cost $15 million per mile while a similar service called an Enhanced Bus with a priority lane at the intersections and traffic signal priority would only cost less than $1.5 million per mile while providing similar convenience and service. The elected leaders of Provo should not just allow but encourage the citizens of Provo to provide their voice and direction on whether to proceed with such a big project with questionable costs and benefits.



Salt Lake County GOP bylaws do not allow supporting one Republican against another in the primary.


Summary: A recent email from the Salt Lake County GOP leadership that “supports” one Republican against another in the Republican Party was against the bylaws and made my Republican Party look bad. The leadership attempted to change the bylaws but the vote failed. Despite the failure to change the bylaws, the SLCO GOP Chair ignored the Precinct Chairs' vote and sent out a supporting email.

My Salt Lake County Republican Party has just violated our bylaws by sending an email to District 10 Republicans that supports Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, the Republican from South Jordan who is running against Rep. Rich Cunningham in the June 28th Republican Primary. This action by the Chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, Suzanne Mulet, is not just against the bylaws. It flies in the face of a failed effort at the last Central Committee Meeting (CCM) of Precinct Chairs to change the bylaws to allow endorsing and supporting the one Republican that comes out of the convention with a majority of convention votes.

At that CCM, Rep. Fred Cox gave an effective argument for changing the bylaws. SB54 allows candidates to be on the Republican primary ballot with signatures even if they don’t pass through the convention with over 60% of the vote. The proposed bylaws change, at the top of the page, says "Proposed Bylaw Changes Pro: Allows the County Party to endorse a convention candidate even if there are other candidates that the state adds to the ballot bypassing our party system."

I was one of several that argued against the change. The main argument against the proposal was that allowing only one to exit the convention and be endorsed by the Republican Party would encourage candidates to avoid the convention and double their chances of getting on the primary ballot by focusing on signature gathering. The SLCO GOP leadership argued that they wanted to endorse the one candidate that came out of the convention even if there are two Republicans on the ballot. Rep. Cox also pointed out, in his arguments for the change, that the bylaws do not allow such an endorsement now if there are two Republicans on the primary ballot. The bylaws change failed to get 66% that was required to pass a bylaws change).

Imagine my surprise to find that Suzanne Mulet, the Republican County Chair, sent an email that essentially supports one Republican against another. She has been quoted as saying that “supporting our convention candidate does not equal working against Rich (Cunningham)….” But the bylaws (Article X Section 5) specifically says: “Neither the Party officers nor any Party committee acting as an entity nor the convention chairs shall endorse, support or oppose any candidate for the Republican nomination for any elective office at a primary election unless such candidate is unopposed in the primary.” A few months ago, the Republican Party Chair was arguing that she could not take such an action. Her side was given reasoned consideration but it failed. Now the Chair seems to be saying that she doesn’t need a bylaws change and that the CCM Precinct Chairs vote does not matter.

Since I retired to Utah, I have been recruiting, supporting and been very active in many Republican campaigns, especially in Salt Lake City. Although I may argue vigorously against some proposals and actions of my Republican Party, I consider many of my fellow Republicans in leadership to be friends. I acknowledge that many may be upset by my arguments against the bylaws change but I firmly believe that our caucus system is good and we should encourage participation and not steer candidates to the signature gathering process. I know both candidates for election in Senate 10 and I believe that the winner will be a great representative of the citizens. The recent email that “supports” one Republican against another was against our bylaws and should be retracted.





Utah’s coal dreams could turn out to be a nightmare

Governor Herbert recently signed SB246 which authorizes Utah to spend $53 million for an Oakland port terminal that would be used to export Utah coal. Before spending the $53 million, important issues should be considered.

In 2014, the Port of Oakland rejected a proposal to build a coal export terminal by Bowie Resource Partners, the Utah coal company. Bowie bought the Utah coal properties from Arch Coal which filed for bankruptcy in January. Arch Coal still operates mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin which is the lowest cost major coal producing region in the Country but it has had to recently lay off hundreds.

One concern that has already been raised is that coal seems to be a poor bet. Coal is 1/3 the price that it was several years ago. China, a big coal importer, is bringing 32 nuclear reactors online by 2021 and another 22 plus by 2030 which will decrease its reliance on coal. Banks seem to have decided that West Coast coal exports face unreliable economics. One coal company that was trying to support a coal export terminal in Washington (Gateway Pacific Terminal GPT) is Peabody Energy which warned that it may file for bankruptcy and is no longer involved with the coal terminal project.

The efforts to build the Washington GPT coal terminal should be educational to Utah’s plan to build an Oakland coal terminal. GPT has been trying for decades to build the Washington coal terminal without success. The latest effort has been temporarily suspended due to delays caused by problems with getting the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to approve the project. The required Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have cost the developers $11 million so far and if USACE does not approve the project, it will be effectively shut down. EIS and other permitting costs could cost up to $30 million. Each government entity can ask for an environmental impact statement which can add 5 or more years to the project if it is ever built. By the time that it comes online, China will not need to import as much coal. Oakland’s difficult environment to operate also has resulted in bankruptcy for Port American Outer Harbor Oakland.

One of the biggest obstacles to the plan will come from residents and taxpayers in Salt Lake City which will have to endure several daily mile plus long coal trains that will run through an area that Salt Lake is trying to redevelop. The effects of noise (from required very loud train horns), vibration, diesel emissions and coal dust will hurt nearby residents and should be expected to lower adjacent property values. The increased rail traffic may require upgraded safety and infrastructure along the rail corridor. Salt Lake City taxpayers will be hurt by this plan. The railroad that will carry the coal, BNSF or UP, will not likely want to spend any money to mitigate the potential negative impacts (grade separation can cost over $20 million). Each coal train through SLC may lose over 500 pounds of coal dust per train (BNSF requires a topper agent, magnesium chloride, to reduce coal dust). The coal trains may interrupt passenger and local freight train movements that affect local residents and businesses.

An important consideration may be the required cost to upgrade rails to handle mile and a half long coal trains. The cost could run into the hundreds of millions in Utah alone. It will also cost at least $128 million to build a line to get Utah coal to the nearest BNSF/UP rail line. SB102, High Cost Infrastructure Tax Credit Amendments, will provide up to a 50% tax credit (which could result in a significant loss to Utah’s budget).

Governor Herbert should be fiscally responsible and require that all permitting (EIS, USACE, Oakland Port approval, California Air Resources Board) and purchase agreements with overseas customers are in place before releasing any of the $53 million.


Marijuana is not a medicine

Summary: The attempt by some Legislators to legalize medical marijuana has too many questions and concerns. It will increase the number of incapacitated drivers on the road and make our roads less safe. It will increase the ability of teens to get access to marijuana. Instead of working with robust and peer reviewed scientific studies, the proponents of medical marijuana are relying on anecdotal evidence. It could lead to significant dangers for users and their children and those around them.

  Senator Madsen is again attempting to pass a medical marijuana bill, SB0073 at the Legislature. The pro-medical marijuana group contends that it is for those in pain and suffering. The bill is going to the Utah State Senate floor for debate.

  There is good evidence that allowing medical marijuana in medicine cabinets will result in giving more teens access to marijuana just like pills in medicine cabinets can be easily taken by family teenagers.

  Questions that are almost impossible to answer include what happens if a neighbor next door in a house or apartment smokes medical marijuana and the smoke is blown into another home or apartment? What will the situation be if it is in a university dorm room? Will those with medical marijuana cards be able to claim that they are medically allowed to smoke almost anywhere due to their "disability"? What happens if a cop sees a person smoking in a car with children?

  In Colorado, there has been a jump in marijuana related traffic fatalities. There is no nationwide standard to test for marijuana use. We do not have marijuana breathalyzers and recent court cases have thrown out charges because there is no good roadside sobriety test for marijuana. In one recent case, the person charged with impaired driving claimed that marijuana helped her pain and therefore it made her a safer driver. The jury found her innocent!

  There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that says marijuana has significant medicinal properties. But rigorous and peer reviewed scientific studies are lacking. We don't really know if using just cannabidiol or all of the plant will have negative effects on patients or their pregnancy or babies. Attempting to get around the rigorous FDA requirements and legalize the drug ignores the reason why the FDA is so strict. The disastrous outcomes of using thalidomide and DES are good reasons to not try to go around FDA oversight. What happens if cannabidiol turns out to have dangerous effects on unborn children of pregnant women? Will medical insurance companies be pressured into paying for marijuana and will insurance cover any injuries or negative effects of using marijuana? Will doctors be sued for prescribing it? Will smoking marijuana result in significant lung disease in the future? It took over a hundred years before we acknowledged the effect of smoking tobacco.

  There is also anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that marijuana may be a gateway drug. I knew someone who went from smoking marijuana to cocaine to meth in less than two months. Anecdotal evidence does not prove that it is a gateway drug just as it does not prove that marijuana is a medicine. I don't believe anecdotal stories should set policy. Another argument is that people have used marijuana for thousands of years without negative repercussions unless you count the assassins of middle east history or stoned drivers that kill others in so called accidents. Tobacco was also used for centuries and was supposed to be safe. It was even considered to be a medicine at one time.

  The main reason that I am against legalizing marijuana use, even for medicinal purposes, is that I believe that it will increase the number of incapacitated drivers on our roads which will result in many more innocent people killed and injured. We should be making our roads safer not more unsafe. Legalizing medical marijuana has too many potential negatives. Marijuana is not a safe medicine until it can be scientifically proven. Legalizing medical marijuana has too many questions. Medical marijuana should not be legalized.

(A version of the above was published in the Deseret News.)

 

 E-cig tax increase fails but shows hope with young voters

Two weeks ago, Rep. Paul Ray’s HB0333 was heard in a Legislative committee. The bill would have provided an 86% tax on electronic cigarette products, substances and nicotine inhalers.

While waiting for Federal rules for e-cigarette industry, there have been significant studies and concerns raised about the safety and long term health effects of using e-cigarettes (vaping). A major concern is that the liquids used in vaping contain food additives that were not meant to be inhaled into the lungs. The butter flavor in some products comes from a chemical that used to be in microwave popcorn. Due to concerns that breathing in the chemical destroyed lungs of popcorn manufacturer workers (popcorn lung), the industry changed the formulation to remove the chemical that was a concern (diacetyl).

There is now a vigorous debate in the e-cigarette industry to certify that their products do not contain diacetyl and other potentially destructive chemicals. The flavorings that are popular with younger users could result in harmful effects on lungs. The chemicals have not been tested and proven safe for lungs. The chemical warfare that users inflict on their lungs will result in a major health crisis in a few years which will result in major taxpayer costs.

Rep. Ray’s bill is not a tax as much as insurance. It discourages use because studies show that higher cost is the greatest deterrent to the young using cigarettes, vaping and other tobacco products. The tax is used to fund rural health care. So Rep. Ray’s bill will save the health of potential e-cigarette users, prepare the State to provide health care and discourage the young and low income individuals from starting to use e-cigarettes. Tobacco users cost the State of Utah over $100 million in health care. It should be expected that users of e-cigarettes will eventually cost the State even more.

The big takeaway from Rep. Ray’s bill should be that it received a significant push from high school students. Over three busloads of students were in the hearing room, in overflow rooms and in the hall. Their efforts were due to their concern that many teenagers in their schools have taken up using e-cigarettes. They were part of Rep. Ray’s presentation for the bill. They made some of the best and most persuasive arguments heard during this Legislative session. The students were better than many legislators were when they presented their sponsored bills. Their testimony was very compelling. Unfortunately, after a vigorous discussion, testimony and debate, the bill failed to pass the Legislative committee.

Utah will be significantly helped if those students stay engaged and involved in public affairs. It would be especially important that they participate in the March 22 Democratic or Republican caucuses. Despite the failure of Rep. Briscoe’s bill that would have lowered the voting age to 17, 17 year olds can still participate in and vote in caucuses if they will be 18 by November 8, 2016 (election day). In addition, younger citizens can and should still attend the caucuses and watch and learn how important they are in our State.

If you attend the Republican caucuses and you are not registered, you will need to fill out a voter registration card and declare to be Republican. You can find your local caucus location from www.utah.gop (which sends viewers to vote.utah.gov when the caucus location button is pushed). The Republican caucuses start at 7PM.

Instructions for attending the Democratic Party caucuses are found at Utahdemocrats.org. The Democratic caucuses start at 6PM.

The more involved the better the decision. The rising generation, the students, are our future. If the future is like the efforts and actions of the students that were pushing the e-cigarette tax bill, Utah’s future will be bright. Hopefully they will participate in their local caucuses.

(A version of this was published in the Salt Lake Tribune with Rep. Joel Briscoe.)


Vaccinations help society, mothers and unborn children

Recent studies have shown that when a mother is infected with a virus, it affects the development of the unborn child. A study that was published in Science links a pregnant mother’s exposure to viruses to a significantly higher chance of the child exhibiting autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Utah has a large number of children who exhibit ASD symptoms and also a large segment of the population that refuse vaccinations. The suggested link should be sobering to those who think that vaccinations are dangerous. Not encouraging vaccinations is much more dangerous.

During a hearing on Rep. Moss’s educational vaccination bill, there were several individuals who insisted that vaccinations were useless, dangerous and a threat to a free society. Such insistence can result in serious danger for society. Not just the living can be threatened by refusing vaccinations, but also the unborn. We have known for decades that an unborn child exposed to viruses through their mother can have developmental issues. In the 1960s, a pregnant woman’s exposure to rubella was linked to an 85% chance of her baby having serious “intellectual disabilities”.

Recently, the stories about Zika virus should have reminded all of us that disease is still a threat to society and we should do all that we can to reduce disease spreading. Vaccination is the best way to stop the biggest threat to society.









Comments on so called Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan SLC

Art and other placemaking efforts interfere with safe bicycle and pedestrian interaction.

Reducing speed limits to encourage bicycling can increase congestion and air pollution.  SLC appears to be on a path to lower speed limits to 20-25MPH which seems to be a war on cars.  20 mph is ridiculously slow when time is important.  The reason people use cars is that it saves time.  If you lower speeds that much (even to 25 mph) you can increase pollution (it is on the line between gears) and frustration of drivers who will drive away to other areas and increase pollution even more.  Lowering speeds on streets for bicyclists is wrong on so many levels.

Recreational bike routes should include water sources and restrooms.

68 miles of neighborhood byways with new traffic lights seem to be an expensive undertaking that should ask resident first before even thinking of it.

I am against mid block pedestrian crossings unless they are synced with lights at corners.  Otherwise pollution increases.  I am against roundabouts and bulbouts.  Bulbouts restrict right hand turning vehicles if a car ahead wants to turn left and increases air pollution.

Pushing more “low stress bicycle lanes”/cycle tracks as on 300 S. is wrong.  The question should be: what is the best use of funds for helping bicyclists get around SLC.  More regular bike lanes make more sense than DUMB AND DANGEROUS cycle tracks.

If the goal of 85% of streets having bicycle pathways is met, air pollution may significantly increase due to required road diets.

A good streets/pavement maintenance would help bicyclists but many streets are difficult for bicyclists due to right hand side pavement issues.

45 degree parking and bike lanes don’t mix safely.

Sunnyside should be returned to a 4 lane road.

220 miles of bikeways at $330,000/mile! A better use would be maintaining streets that are hard for bicyclists due to poor upkeep.

$3,000,000/mile for protected bike path again there are more cost effective ways of making it safer for bicyclists.

200 comments deciding on almost a hundred million in costs is worse than the Sugar House streetcar path being decided by 100.

If SLC would make it easy to understand the cost implications, more would be against the plan.

This is a bicycle plan. I noticed that the original old Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan name was changed to Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.  IT IS NOT an appropriate name change.  This is a bicycle plan.

There is nowhere to move snow from cycle tracks (with vehicles that you bought) and salt hurts bike tires.

There is no cost benefit analysis.

The biggest increase in population in SLC is in over 65, not in bicyclists.

A good bicycle plan should consider the effect on congestion/pollution.

The vision should say that walking and bicycling plans should not increase congestion and pollution.

Protected bike lanes are not very usable to bicycle commuters.

Road diets should not be implemented if air pollution increases.

Complete streets should start with wider sidewalks and bike lanes, and then consider if it makes sense to go further into protected bike lanes.

Why "a 20-year build-out of bicycle facilities" only - what happened to complete streets pedestrians?

Recent studies show only a minimal decrease in driving in 3 cities (Census just released "Young Adults: Then and Now).  In some major cities, it increased 8%.

"Walking and bicycling are affordable transportation options" unless time is important.

If you really believed surveys, then SLC wouldn't do road diets that increase pollution and stop people from pulling safely out of their driveways and decrease bicyclist safety.

If SLC residents take 3-4 times more walking trips than bicycling trips, why aren't wider sidewalks encouraged 3-4 times more than bike lanes.  Sidewalks are used more.  Why isn’t there a bigger commitment to wider sidewalks in accordance with complete streets.  Only bicycle lane projects are listed, not wider sidewalk projects.

Again air quality should not be downgraded with bicycle and pedestrian amenities.  Causing 100 cars to wait for one person to cross the street creates unacceptable pollution.

During snow times, except for bicycle commuters, bicyclists avoid riding.  And bicycle commuters like riding in the street more than on cycle tracks.

Green bikes and other slower than 5mph bicyclists should be allowed to ride on all sidewalks.

Residential neighborhoods should not have to host bicycle parking/locks.

If the City were really interested in noise levels, they would have the State outlaw loud vehicles and motorcycles (I am not suggesting that it is realistic.)

Traffic circles and roundabouts are too expensive and cost-benefit analysis would show that wider sidewalks would make better use of taxes.

If SLC really wanted to encourage walking, they wouldn't allow full blocks of car lots.

Pedestrian countdown lights are set for too high a walking speed.  This is a problem with UDOT and SLC Traffic Engineering.  4 feet per second (the MUTC speed) should be much lower in snow conditions and when women or children or older people walk in the area.  There are many lights in the City like that.  Old people get run over when they can't cross fast enough (twice by buses!).

Scramblers should only be used if pollution is not increased.

Some mid block pedestrian lights do not indicate when pedestrians will get a chance to cross.  The light on McClelland and 2100 South doesn't give an indication of when to cross.

SLC should aggressively adopt adaptive control traffic light systems that detect bicyclists and traffic and change the lights to consider throughput to decrease pollution along with recognizing bicyclists, especially late at night.

Wider bike lanes are better than an unusable vegetated median.  Instead of colored paving, use money for more effective projects.  Angled parking is unsafe for bicyclists.  If a large vehicle is next to the vehicle, there is no visibility for safe pullout.  Curb extensions block right hand turns until the left hand vehicle gets through, and increases pollution.

Why not outlaw block wide car sales lots that discourage walking?

I don’t think real bicyclists want to ride at 20 mph next to a bunch of planters.  They are very unsafe to bicyclists.  A wider bike lane would be safer.

Bicyclists would rather have wider lanes than a center planting.  Colored concrete or brick is too costly and roundabouts confuse pedestrians and drivers in this country.

Shared lane markings for bicyclists should not increase congestion.  Bicyclists should not backup traffic, especially on hills.  Put in a bike lane.  Utah law says keep 3 feet from bicyclists when passing.  That should be enough.

Sunnyside and other streets should not get lane reductions without a vigorous public debate and consensus.  They should not increase congestion.  Lane reductions should not be allowed when traffic ADT approaches 20,000 ADT and give preference to bicyclists over vehicles.

Figure 6-6 Putting an east west bicycle lane across 700 East in the middle of Liberty Park when there is 900 S. bike lane is a waste and incomprehensible.  It will increase pollution by stopping hundreds of cars on 700 East (for one bicyclist???!!!).  This map should not be used for projects.

Figure 6.7 No more protected bicycle paths without better public input.

No more bicycle boulevards please.  People idle their cars for minutes trying to get out of their driveway on 1300 South.  The 4 lanes were safer for bicyclists and less polluting (just like the 1300 East road diet

I am against removing a valuable and well used parking spot for a bicycle corral (6.7).

This plan should wait for a more vigorous public input and discussion with the new City Council and Mayor, who should, out of respect, get a say. I recommend that this plan be shelved.  It increases pollution.

I urge you to keep public comment open which will let the next City Council and Mayor work together to create a real cost effective plan.






The case against the Homeless Commission recommendation

Summary: Expanding homeless shelters into other neighborhoods will result in battles that will stop any progress towards actually solving the problem. Expanding day and night shelters in the area along with police walking patrols and healthcare expansion is the fastest and most cost effective way to solve the homeless problem

  This last week, the Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission delivered their report that essentially said that the homeless shelter and services needs to be spread out to various areas of the County. They said that they intend to ask the Legislature to appropriate $27 million to build shelters at "scattered sites". The prison move to an out of the way area is nothing compared to expanding homeless shelters into neighborhoods. Every neighborhood will fight the battle against moving shelters into their area.

  Many of the members of the Committee were businesses and property owners from the Pioneer Park area. Several of the homeless services providers left the Commission early in the process. And the SLC Council raised concerns earlier this year about the lack of SLC Councilmembers and west side interests on the Commission.

  The facts and statistics involving the homeless continue to be a big concern to the citizens of Salt Lake City and Utah. According to the initial report, about a third spend several months in jail and many have more than 17 jail bookings per year. About a quarter have mental health issues and about a fifth have drug or alcohol problems. The number of homeless is usually several thousand and over 10,000 will be homeless at least once this year. One of the most disturbing facts is that almost 1000 schoolchildren are homeless!

  Many of us have asked for expanded facilities near the downtown homeless service providers, more police and for health care expansion. Salt Lake City has many surplus properties that could be sold to provide overtime for more police patrols. Last year, the downtown police walking patrols were very successful and appreciated by the local business owners. But this year, the SLC Council doesn’t appear to be providing the police walking patrols.

  Several City owned surplus properties are next to the homeless services and shelter. The best way to get the homeless off the sidewalk (especially in the killing cold weather), and make the area more attractive to business, is to open up a building and invite in all of the homeless so that they don’t have to wait around to get in line for a bed at the shelter. On a typical night at the Road Home, only a little over 50% of the homeless in the area can get a bed.

  The Commission members and law enforcement should demand Medicaid expansion or some way to treat the medical, mental health, drug and alcohol problems of the population. The more jail time or tickets that the homeless get, the less likely that they can find housing since most landlords won’t rent to people with jail time or warrants for too many tickets. Without treatment, Salt Lake City and County have had to try to provide minimal and reduced mental health treatment. The drug and alcohol abuse treatment is almost nonexistent.

  Domestic violence shelter expansion can make sense (the YWCA women’s shelter is a good example of a successful facility that does not create problems for the neighborhood).  A very large percentage of women are domestic violence victims and could use an expanded women’s shelter. Interestingly, the SLC Council is about to pass an ordinance that stops expansion of assisted living centers and similar facilities.

  Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said that “we have a solid foundation to move forward" but that is like saying that we have solved 90% of homeless problem. Expanding shelters into other neighborhoods will result in battles that will stop any progress towards actually solving the problem. Expanding day and night shelters in the area along with police walking patrols and healthcare expansion is the fastest and most cost effective way to solve the homeless problem. That should be our plan to solve the homeless problem.





SO MUCH FOR WORKING TOGETHER

  In a story in the Salt Lake Tribune (SLC Council to Biskupski: No money for transition), the Salt Lake City Council tentatively decided to deny the newly elected mayor money to pay staff for an orderly transition. The cost is minimal (maybe as little as $50,000). 
  During discussion of the Budget Amendment #2 earlier this month, they gave $300,000 to SLC Parks for projects that will start in spring of 2016. It seems that such a small amount of money would significantly help in an orderly transition and start the new mayor’s relationship with the Council with respect. The priorities of the SLC Council seem questionable.
  Ironically, the City Council also voted to attend the Jackie Biskupski election party to help develop a respectful relationship (see picture). So much for working together. The Council still has the ability to add the money for the transition at the final Council budget amendment vote on December 1. In the meantime, the SLC staff, as always professional, will help the transition with Jackie Biskupski’s team.
  But it almost sounds like the attitude in Congress that tends to polarize issues to the point that nothing can get done. The election is over and it is time to work together and not take a final swipe at the winner. A good competitive race is good for government to be accountable. But once the race is over, it is important to work together. Our Country, our State and our City depend on that. As a Republican, I often find myself supporting my fellow Republicans against my Democratic friends. After the election, it is important that we go back to working together. Most of my Democratic and Republican friends understand that.
  The election is over and Mayor Becker, in his press release, took the high road and gave a commendable thank you to the City staff and his volunteers. The City Council should also take the high road and provide funding for transition staff so that in January, the new administration will be ready to manage Salt Lake City. It should be in the best interest of the City and the City Council to set up an orderly transition. 
  Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon had a transition funding mechanism set up and it helped keep the County administration well managed and not fumbling during the all-important first few weeks of the new administration. 
  Ironically, the Budget Amendment #2 also has $142,000 for diversity/outreach. Pulling a little bit from that funding would remove the obvious hypocrisy of not funding the new administration transition team while funding diversity/outreach. Or the Parks’ $300,000 for seeding, mowing and other springtime projects can be modified to use a minimal amount for the transition.
  The Salt Lake City Council should act respectfully, like they seem to have shown in the picture, and fund a responsible and respectful transition team.




​​Last oped printed in Salt Lake Tribune this week

Religion should be more compassionate

  The recent decision by the LDS Church to not allow the children of same sex couples to participate fully in the LDS Church is a cautionary lesson in religion. Many experts have claimed that compassion is the common belief in most major religions. The Buddhist respect for life is similar to Jesus' golden and greatest rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or his explanation that the Old Testament rules were cold hearted (stadia cardia - when asked if men can divorce their wives). Christianity and most major religions have embraced compassion.

  It is ironic that in the effort to ensure unquestioned belief in religion, religions have often insisted in complete agreement with their beliefs, interpreted by so called "higher ups" in the church. Compassion has often gone out the window. Until recently, Christianity seemed to blame anyone who was Jewish for the crucifixion. The lack of compassion in visiting the perceived sins of the father on the children lasted for thousands of years.

  The LDS Church is not alone in its attempt to ensure only one belief, even if it seems to be the most uncompassionate thing to do. I am Roman Catholic and I have seen many instances in my Church that seem to be questionable. Years ago, a man in San Diego wanted to have his baby baptized in his Roman Catholic religion. His priest refused since the father was divorced and I helped him find a priest that would baptize his baby. We did find one and the baby was baptized. Sometimes it takes a little effort to find compassion in a religion.

  Another situation in my Church had to do with whether to send my children to Catholic school. The priest insisted that the parents of the students had to be dedicated Catholics and wouldn't allow any exceptions. Despite the fact that I was friends with the principal of the school and worked with him in community affairs, we decided that not allowing any flexibility in parenting was too extreme and we chose to send our children to public school.

  Several years ago, in Denver, a child was removed out of Catholic school because the Diocese found out that the parents were lesbian. The idea of not allowing children to participate in the schools or church that their parents would like them to participate in seems cold-hearted and uncompassionate. Both the LDS Church and the Catholic Church have been fighting against abortion with the reasoning that abortion hurts an innocent child. But innocence doesn't stop at birth. Placing a litmus test on whether or not a child can participate in religion seems to be throwing compassion out the door. To do so seems to suggest the ridiculous idea that maybe the children should not be born.

  The litmus test could conceivably result in a 21st century version of the inquisition. What if only one parent is a homosexual (divorced) or one person is a murderer or drug dealer or even worse unmarried! What if a gay uncle or aunt spends too much time with the child? Or what if one parent divorces and remarries a…. Catholic or LDS member!?

  Pope Francis recently spoke before a joint session of Congress and said that we should protect the family and show compassion. He also has told his Church to "Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven". Another quote of his is "Mercy will always be greater than any sin…." That is the lesson that I was taught in my Church (by Jesuits) many years ago.

  I recommend that the churches be compassionate and allow innocent children to participate in their church and not be removed from worshiping God or playing with their friends. I encourage all churches to work towards more compassion and respect. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (New International Version Bible). In other words, it’s what Jesus would have done.




Good decisions die behind closed doors

  Over the last year, the Utah Legislature has been discussing healthcare expansion. Unfortunately, many of the discussions and decisions have been behind closed doors. The best decisions occur with a vigorous debate and discussion with good public participation. But there seems to be a tendency for governments in Utah to discourage public discussion.

  Although Utah has set up a useful and important system at pmn.utah.gov to allow citizens to be notified or see the meetings and agendas that can affect them, very few take advantage of this resource. The website lists all of the meetings of governments in Utah that must be public along with the agendas. Many times, unless the news reports the issue, very few show up to comment.

  For instance, Salt Lake City has a work session that sometimes results in decisions but they don't allow public comment! When the City Council voted to close the Par 3 golf course, they did it with a work session straw poll without allowing public comment. Other governments go out of their way to encourage public comment before votes. But to find the agenda and location of the meeting, one has to know the name of the entity that they need to look up at pmn.utah.gov. Another example is the Salt Lake County Council work sessions that do allow public comment. To find it, one has to know that it is called the Committee of the Whole.

  Very few know how to navigate or look up the various government entities that might discuss issues that people consider important. In the case of the very important Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC), almost no one shows up at their meetings. The WFRC develops and prioritizes billions of dollars in plans for roads and mass transit. It includes many of the mass transit plans that may be questionable to the general public like the canyon rail and tunnel system and the 3 downtown Salt Lake City rail projects.

  Big budget projects should have more public input and a vote. The worst case example is the case of UTOPIA that agreed to an interest rate swap (against the advice of their financial advisor) that resulted in citizens paying $50 million a year more in high interest. That example resulted in a new law that requires the Utah State Treasurer to agree to any interest rate swap.

  Some elected officials believe that they should have the flexibility to commit public money without a public vote. Committing taxpayer funds to the SLC downtown theater without a public vote is still upsetting to many. No matter how justified the plan, a vigorous public debate and vote will result in a better decision. Those who don't want a public discussion and vote shouldn't complain about the closed door meetings at the Legislature unless they open up their meetings and allow a public vote to commit taxpayer funds.

  Salt Lake City has had many complaints about lack of public comments allowed before decisions of road diets, bike lanes, and parking meters. Some believe that the City Council's decision is made behind closed doors since the Council usually waits for at least a week after a public hearing before voting on the issue.

  Salt Lake City has also tried to keep decisions and discussions secret by hiding important issues. Only one letter was released on sexual harassment despite at least 4 allegations. When Salt Lake City decided to expand the Sugar House streetcar, they kept the application secret by using UTA to hide the application.

  Ironically, one of Salt Lake City Mayor Becker's favorite quotes is "democracies die behind closed doors". But when Salt Lake City tries to keep decisions behind closed doors, decisions and good government suffers. The more open the discussion, the better the decision. One of the reasons for the success of this Country is the vigorous and open free speech and free press which encourages discussion, debate and consideration. It leads to better decisions. Salt Lake City, the Legislature and all governments should be more open in their decisions and trust vigorous public debate.

Note: UTA's Matt Sibul, when asked for the recent streetcar TIGER grant application said: "the TIGER application is not a public document, yet. Both UTA and SLC have strict policies relating to grant applications that are still in an open process, which this is."

 





Why did Ralph Becker call me a liar?  A version of this was published in City Weekly October 21, 2015

  Several very public statements have been made that Salt Lake City Mayor Becker led the way to economic prosperity, has a gracious demeanor and he treats everyone with respect. I have been involved in Salt Lake City politics and issues for all of Mayor Becker's time in office and I have to disagree with those statements.

  The economic development successes of this City are due to many players but a recent report to the Salt Lake City Council listed many legitimate concerns and suggestions. They also were told of the significant problems with getting and acting on building permits. There were numerous complaints of delays for new construction permits. The City Council was concerned enough to ask the administration to prepare a formal Economic Development Master Plan. They also asked that the administration hire a permit ombudsman to shepherd construction permits.

  Rocky Anderson left this City in amazing financial shape with the best financial reserves (17%) ever. The budget during the recession only went down about 10%. It was not the financial catastrophe that Mayor Becker claimed to pull us out of. Claims that the Mayor did not raise taxes are countered by pointing out that he implemented a street lighting fee and the theater bond was never voted on by the public.
  
  Ralph Becker has consistently fought efforts to hire more police. Ten years ago, we had over 180 officers on patrol. Now it is closer to 130! When the City Council recently insisted on hiring more police, the administration fought the effort. The City Council got their way and hired 8 more police and convinced the administration to ask for a grant for 15 new officers.

  During an attempt to encourage more public opinion on the proposed Sugar House streetcar extension a few years ago, my personal experience with Ralph Becker was the exact opposite of respect and gracious demeanor. Most businesses that I knew were against the proposal to go up 1100 East. To ensure proper public notice and engagement, I was going to pass around a flyer encouraging feedback. I offered the City Council and Mayor's Office to change a flyer if they thought it was a problem. The Mayor's Office asked me not to say that there could be rezones of single-family homes and taxes could go up. I was asked to change the paragraph to say that “the Alternatives Analysis assumed no changes in zoning". I changed the flyer to reflect exactly what Ralph Becker asked for (cutting and pasting in the requested paragraph), out of respect.

  After I passed out the flyer, Ralph Becker sent out a letter to my friends, neighbors and acquaintances for a mile away that essentially called me a liar. In the Salt Lake Tribune (Sugar House Streetcar vote continues to echo in City Hall) story, the Administration labeled the flyer "Mr. Chapman's misrepresentations, inaccuracies and false statements."

  But the flyer language was exactly what Ralph Becker asked for! So when someone claims that Mayor Becker, has a "gracious demeanor", "He doesn't tear others down to build himself up. He treats everyone with respect", I remember when Ralph Becker essentially called me a liar. We need a new and better and more respectful Mayor.


note from City Council:
End of Year Fund Balance as Percentage of General Fund Revenues            
Total General Revenues    Fund Balance as of June 30th    Fund Balance as a Percentage of GF Revenues
2005    172,064,517    29,158,152    16.9%
2006    178,833,634    31,579,543    17.7%
2007    188,894,169    32,560,382    17.2%
2008    196,690,865    28,137,148    14.3%
2009    191,192,708    24,258,747    12.7%
2010    185,390,888    26,292,967    14.2%
2011    182,820,524    26,463,975    14.5%
2012    192,422,561    25,131,008    13.1%
2013    203,134,472    27,120,873    13.4%
2014    218,720,533    33,595,107    15.4%
            
(Numbers taken from CAFR Statements of Revenue, Expenditures and Changes in Fund Balance - Governmental Funds)            

The above information was recently given to me by the very professional employees of the Salt Lake City Council.




Utah Healthcare expansion is the Utah way  a version of this was published in the Salt Lake Tribune September 28, 2015

  Evelyn Everton, in last week's Salt Lake Tribune (Medicaid expansion is not the Utah way of helping the poor), said that “Medicaid often harms the very people it is supposed to help”. That reminds me of the claim that vaccines cause autism. Expanding healthcare access will actually decrease the need for medical care in the future just as maintaining a roadway is cheaper in the long run than waiting until it needs replacement. Maintaining a healthy person is a lot less expensive for the State and the Federal Government than if governments waited until the person got so sick that their cost to taxpayers is hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Utah's neediest will pay the hefty price of death if healthcare access is not expanded. Basic preventive and medical care is cheaper than emergency Medicaid care which is already paid for by government.
  Another claim is that healthcare providers will not be able to treat the increased number of patients. But the plan will increase reimbursement to medical providers which should increase available services. And the increased health of individuals should decrease pressure on our healthcare system.
  If healthcare providers receive more funding for providing services, it makes sense to discuss taxing the increased revenues of healthcare providers. One study showed that hospital reimbursements for Utah would be $34 billion less over 10 years if there is no expansion years (Urban Institute What is the result of states not expanding Medicaid Aug 2014). Since smokers in Utah cost Medicaid around $100 million, maybe we should increase taxes on e-cigarettes and cigarettes.
  Expanding Medicaid may cost Utah $260 million over 8 years but it would save local governments and Utah "$188 million on public assistance expenditures and generate $203 million in new state and county tax revenue" (Utah Health Care Landscape Sep. 15, 2014 The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation KFF.org).
  Expanding healthcare access will actually save jobs and increase economic growth potential because workers will be healthier. Jobs and payroll should be increased. In Kentucky, Medicaid expansion resulted in a gain of 12,037 jobs in 2014 and increased payroll of $459 million. By 2021, "it is estimated that Kentucky will have gained 41,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in new payroll from healthcare expansion" (Economic Impacts of Medicaid Expansion by Barry Kornstein and Janet Kelly Jan. 23, 2015).
  Healthcare expansion in Utah will result in more Federal money reimbursing Utah and Utah medical providers and allow the State to increase education spending. If anyone is really interested in reducing Federal spending in Utah, they can volunteer to close Hill Air Force Base. The same arguments against expanding healthcare access are similar to the arguments against increasing education funding. People are our greatest resource and educating them and increasing their health to increase productivity makes sense.
  Government should help individuals live a healthy and productive life that isn't at the whim of curable sickness and disease. Without reasonable access to healthcare, disease could spread rapidly and many innocent children and others would die. Healthcare expansion will save money, lives, stop the spread of disease, reduce crime, and allow treatment of drug, alcohol and mental health issues (which affect around 70% of prisoners). It will make a safer society where we don't have to worry as much about a crazy person getting a gun and shooting a bunch of innocents. Please stop calling this proposal Obamacare. This is Utahcare and it is the Utah way.





The best firearms in the world are called Browning A version was published October 21 on KSL

  Many consider the most famous firearm in the world to be the AK47 or the M16 and their variants. But if you ask firearms experts today which firearms designer changed the world the most, John Moses Browning would be the first person mentioned. He was part of a famous Utah gunsmithing family before he started his independent and extraordinarily successful design business. His guns included the Winchester 1894 ( a much improved version of the Winchester 1973, the gun that won the west) lever action which had over 6 million manufactured over a hundred years and the Model 1911 .45 caliber pistol.

  The Model 1911 pistol, is still considered the gold standard of firearms and is considered to be the best pistol ever designed. It was the official sidearm of the U.S. military until 1987. During competition, even today, it is almost perfect in operation with almost no failures. His lever action and gas-operated automatic and recoil operated semi-automatic gun designs are still manufactured today. Most guns that are manufactured today have designs that are copied from his designs. He also designed the .30 caliber water-cooled and .50 caliber air-cooled (still a military workhorse) machine guns.

  He was born in Ogden, Utah, the son of a gunsmith. His father, Jonathan Browning, developed a repeating rifle in 1831 and came to Utah with the pioneers. John Moses was born in 1855. He worked in his father's gunsmith shop from 1876 and soon patented his first design at age 23 (1878). The influence of a father on his children is seen in his relationship with his father. When John designed and patented a better gun in 1879, his father built it. That kind of fatherly respect seems to have had a big impact on the life of John Moses Browning.

  When he sold his .32 caliber pistol design to Fabrique National, it recognized his reputation by calling it the Browning. John Browning made 61 transatlantic trips to Fabrique National in Europe and worked closely in developing one of the best pistols ever. The name Browning became synonymous with the best firearms. John Browning firearm designs changed the world. Most pistols, lever long guns, machine guns and shotguns were designed by or copied from Utah's John Moses Browning designs. He considered his design of the first automatic shotgun (1902) to be one of his best designs and it monopolized the market.

  At the start of the last century, his designs were in most of the U.S. sporting arms. John Browning had 128 patents for guns. His designs were manufactured by almost all of the gun manufacturers worldwide. His designs are mechanical engineering marvels. He also continued the mythology that America was a country of engineering geniuses. To Europeans, Edison and Browning were the best inventors ever. And Utah was held in great respect due to worldwide respect for John Moses Browning. Fabrique National, who idolized his design genius, bought the Browning Arms Company in 1977.

  John M. Browning died in 1926. He was a family man who was married to Rachel Theresa Browning and had 10 children. He influenced his son Val to follow in his footsteps as a gunsmith and businessman. Val died in 1994.

  John M Browning had a saying that his life is "One drop of genius and a barrel of sweat wrought this miracle." Inventions don't just appear from an idea. Inventions have to be tested and tested and tested. His saying, on a plaque at the John M. Browning Museum at Ogden's Union Station (just south of the FrontRunner station), is also repeated by inventors in Utah and around the world. It takes a lot of hard work to make an idea prove that it is workable. The Utah inventors that have succeeded in becoming successful all share that trait. They are very hard workers.

  Browning's firearm designs are considered to be the most reliable in the world and they still are in good operating order and useful over 100 years after they were manufactured. It would be like having a cellphone that you just bought would still be operable and useful to your great grand children.

  A few years ago, the State of Utah made the M1911 pistol the official State firearm. The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert said that it wasn't about guns. "It's about honoring John Moses Browning and paying tribute to the man as an innovator and entrepreneur and someone who has given a lot to the state of Utah" (Governor Herbert's spokeswoman Ally Isom Salt Lake Tribune, March 17, 2011). Browning firearms still has a small facility employing about 200 in Mountain Green in Morgan County.

  The Browning Firearm Museum at Ogden's Union Station has an extensive collection of his work and it includes his workshop. It is open from 10 to 5 PM Monday through Saturday. The cost is $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. Children, ages 3-12, are charged $3. If you go, plan on spending many hours there because the Station also houses an art gallery, a classic car and railroad and cowboy museum.






The life of the disabled in Salt Lake City

  Those citizens of Utah who must use wheelchairs face many obstacles if they want to continue to lead a useful, productive and comfortable life.  Salt Lake City, in particular, makes it extremely difficult to safely get out and around if one isn’t young and fit.
  For years, there have been complaints about the difficulty of people in wheelchairs or using walkers to cross over TRAX and streetcar rail tracks. The wheels often get caught in the open grooves in the walkway around the steel rails. The result is a nasty fall. Even the most athletic individuals have difficulties unless they “jump” the rail by lifting their small front wheels and don’t put it down until the wheels are on the other side of the rail. Although this is a little different than the man who was killed by TRAX when his wheelchair got caught in a sidewalk problem next to the rail, it is similar enough that it should have been addressed years ago. This will happen again and the issue needs to be respectfully addressed and not ignored as it has been in the past.
  Because Salt Lake City is behind in its infrastructure spending, there are some sidewalks in such a deteriorated condition that it is very difficult for people using wheelchairs or walkers to use them. Salt Lake City should focus on restoring sidewalks that cater to pedestrians before the City spends more money on bicycle/cycle tracks.
  Salt Lake City still has some central city areas that are impassable for people that need mobility devices to get around. South Temple has many corners that are extremely difficult to get through without going into the street. The best example is 300 East and South Temple. There are many other nearby problem corners. The City should be listening to the disabled and fix these issues. 
  Another issue for the disabled is the aggressive ticketing of parking violators that seems to ticket too many handicapped with legitimate handicapped parking placards. The State issued placard doesn’t say anything about where the placard should go. Utah law was changed several years ago to require that the placard be placed on the mirror after parking to be visible to parking enforcement. But many disabled are not able to reach the mirror and leave the placard on the mirror, an action that is also illegal. 
  The disabled in Salt Lake City have had issues with the law for years. In one case, one of the Mayor's Accessibility Committee members had his car towed three times even though he had a placard. He finally figured out that the only way to stop it was to get a handicapped license plate. It may seem a small point but many disabled do not like publicizing the point with a handicapped license plate.
  Crossing streets is also an issue for those of us that can’t run, jump and leap like the more athletic among us. Utah uses a standard of 4 feet per second travel for the average person to cross a street. The standard should be lower for women, older people and in inclement weather. But the City and State have not changed the standard for walk lights. It is recommended to be lower when there are many in the area that walk slower. In Salt Lake City, two older men have been killed crossing the street because they couldn’t get across the street before cross traffic got the green light. They both started when they had the green walk light. That should be a warning to City and State transportation managers but nothing has changed.
  The disrespect that the disabled receive in Salt Lake City should matter to all of us because as we get older, we may need to have some of those benefits so that we can continue to live productive lives. A city should recognize and encourage participation in the city's amenities and not make it frustrating to navigate the rules and regulations in the city. 




Proposition one is a green light for too many questionable projects

  Proposition One, the local option sales tax on the ballot, if passed, allows a county or city to expend the tax revenue for “public transit system services or transportation capital or reserve account” (if established before the date the tax becomes effective). This means that rail or other projects can be built using these tax revenues. The projects may include rail projects and a tunnel system in the canyons. These are in the adopted Regional Transportation Plan list of projects that the cities want to build in the near future. The projects also could include taking away lanes of vehicle travel and convert them to exclusive bus use. Some projects may increase congestion and air pollution. Salt Lake City has already approved the locally preferred alternative route for the South Davis commuter bus system that may cost over $50 million and ready to approve the downtown streetcar path.
  Passage of this tax will increase government spending on questionable projects that may not be beneficial to the general public and do not have a vigorous cost benefit analysis as recommended by the recent audit. In other words, the tax money would allow a local government to build a project with or without UTA funding. Salt Lake City already is planning a Sugar House streetcar extension, 2 new streetcar lines downtown and a $55 million new TRAX system at the airport (which can't use SLC Airport passenger fees).
  40% of the taxes will also go to the Utah Transit Authority for projects or for service. The expected annual $39 million extra that UTA would get could be used for projects by borrowing money for up to 10 years. The bill that enacted this local option sales tax says: “A public transit district….may expend revenue for capital expenses and service delivery expenses of the public transit district”. The statements that some have made that the taxes are only for service are not true. The bill that authorized this optional tax does not allow limiting the use of the tax for service only. According to the Regional Transportation Plan, in the next 10 years, increased transit service will only be 6% of new funding versus 14% for new large capital projects. In other words, the tax will be used for questionable projects much more than service.
  The taxes collected may be used for more controversial protected bike lanes like Salt Lake City’s 300 South cycle track. The bill says: “A county, city, or town may expend revenue collected from a tax under this section, for the construction, maintenance, or operation of an active transportation facility that is for nonmotorized vehicles and multimodal transportation, public transit system services; or a combination”.
The local option sales tax should not be passed by voters. It is another way for government to get and spend more money without a vigorous cost-benefit analysis. It siphons money for increasing transit service and shifts it into more questionable rail and other projects.

Note: 
  The enabling bill, HB 362 says: “(10) (a) Revenue collected from a sales and use tax under this section may not be used to supplant existing general fund appropriations that a county, city, or town has budgeted for transportation….
  The limitation under Subsection (10)(a) does not apply to a designated transportation capital or reserve account a county, city, or town may have established prior to the date the tax becomes effective.”






Why does SLC administration ignore the west side?

  During this year’s election campaign for Mayor of Salt Lake City, many residents and businesses of Salt Lake City’s west side complained to Mayor Becker that he seemed to be ignoring the west side areas of Salt Lake City. 
  One of the big complaints is the lighting fee that Mayor Becker implemented several years ago that he called a fee to avoid the tax label. Whether it is a tax or fee, it is an increase in residential and business costs that was supposed to pay for street lighting that increases public safety and encourages a walkable neighborhood at night. But the west side of Salt Lake City has very few street lights compared to the area east of the I15 freeway. If the administration would show reasonable respect, those neighborhoods without street lights would not have to pay a lighting fee.
  The lack of visible police is also a sore point with the west side of Salt Lake City. At many meetings, the residents and businesses complain that there don’t seem to be many police patrolling the west side areas. Some have complained that, at times, there is only one police officer patrolling all of west Salt Lake City! The lack of visible police is even more upsetting with the residents and businesses of North Temple. The homeless and drug dealing and crime seem to be in the midst of a move to the North Temple area.
  North Temple is supposed to be a grand boulevard and gateway to Salt Lake City from the airport. Thousands of foreign tourists arrive every month to stay at the KOA campgrounds and when they leave the campgrounds, they see horrific scenes of addicts, drug dealers and homeless that appear dangerous. That is not supposed to be tolerated. Yet this administration seems to be fighting to hire and put more police on the street. The City Council had to fight Mayor Becker to force the City to hire 23 new police officers. But it will take years to put them on the street. Ten years ago, Salt Lake City had over 180 patrols. Now it is closer to 130 patrols! The west side of Salt Lake City seems to have lost the most police patrols.
  The lack of reasonable and respectful transportation options is another major complaint of the citizens of the west side of Salt Lake City. There are many streets on the east side that have 15 minute bus service that doesn’t zig zag into a milk run like on the west side. A 20 minute commute to downtown from the east side is 30 or more minutes. The east side has many more bus routes than the west side. If the City really cared about air quality, they should be encouraging UTA to put in more west side bus routes instead of more streetcars downtown. There is no bus service to the new athletic complex by the Jordan River! And the International Center has minimal bus service. Still the administration is insisting that they need to spend $55 million on a new TRAX airport station.
  Lack of traffic signal infrastructure, the efforts to close many of the golf courses on the west side and the many homeless camps along the Jordan River are other issues that upset the residents and businesses on the west side of Salt Lake City. This administration is pushing to make a parking lot out of the green space of Wingpointe golf course, despite the fact that it is surrounded for almost a mile east and west by weeds! 
  Admittedly, the City, with pushing from District 2 Councilman Kyle LaMalfa and many others on the west side, is beginning to consider new development on the west side. But the complaints above do not appear to be acted on by the administration of Ralph Becker. The lack of respect of Mayor Becker almost demands that a new and better Mayor would be an improvement, not only for the west side but for the whole City.






LOSING AN ELECTION - THE AGONY OF DEFEAT IS NOT THAT AGONIZING 
A version was published in the Salt Lake Tribune August 20, 2015

Can you hear us now?

  I may have lost the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Primary this week but I believe that our voices have been heard. Several of us were in the race because we believed that our Mayor was not listening to the citizens. What a difference an election year can make. What a difference competition can make. Our efforts to argue the issues with this administration seemed to result in the issues finally being addressed.
  I like to think that Jackie, Luke, Dave and I helped bring issues out that resonated with the voters. These issues were important.  I have great satisfaction in what I and others have done to ensure a fairer and competitive race. When the administration announced that there would be a better effort to stop the drug dealing down by the homeless shelter, it answered our claims that the administration was ignoring the drug dealing. When we expressed anger at the attempt by the administration to get a sales tax increase with a prison move to Salt Lake City, the administration agreed not to ask for it. When we said that the people of Salt Lake wanted more mass transit service instead of projects, the administration seemed to promise that the transportation tax on the ballot this year will be for service only.
  This election year will decide the future of Salt Lake City. But it will also ensure that opposition voices will be heard. For years, some of us have fought the administration without publicity or being acknowledged. I did not realize that there were others like Dave Robinson who had been fighting the administration as fervently as I had been. This Primary has ensured that the losing voices are heard. Maybe we should have an election every year.
  We have found common ground by calling attention to the problems in the administration that should be solved. We have realized that we are not alone and I have found that my respect for some of my opponents has resulted in friendship. Our respect for each other is in contrast to the perception that this administration does not respect the citizens and communities of Salt Lake City.
  The attention that the billboards issue got were a little disappointing but I did appreciate that they reminded voters that there was an election and that the voters had a choice and didn’t have to reelect the incumbent. I would never have put my face on a big billboard. I think that the issues are more important than my face. PACs can sometimes be embarrassing. The hundreds of thousands of campaign contributions carried over from the last election cycle should be addressed since they seem to be giving too much power to the incumbent. One consideration is to force all money in the campaign after paying bills to go to charity.
  If I had it to do over again, I would still run. The attention given to our issues was worth it. Our voices are now being heard. We are no longer being ignored. I may have been defeated in the Primary, but the agony of defeat is not that agonizing.






CITY WEEKLY PUBLISHED OPED ON MAYOR BECKER'S INSISTENCE THAT WE HAVE SOLVED 90% OF THE HOMELESS PROBLEM

We have not solved 90% of the homeless problem

  At several Mayoral debates, Mayor Becker said that we had solved 90% of chronically homelessness. But those who live, work or go to the downtown area almost unanimously were saying that the area had developed an increasingly bad reputation as a drug and crime ridden area that causes downtown visitors to express concern for their personal safety. Iggy’s Sports Grill recently closed due to the area’s homeless and drug issues. Even many homeless are afraid of the area and have moved out into other areas of the City. New homeless youth are targeted for victimization in the area. And those who care and immerse themselves in an effort to help have recoiled at the sickness that pervades the area.
  Mayor Becker was challenged by his opponents on the state of the homeless and drug issues by the Rio Grande. Last month, in an overhaul of the law enforcement efforts, Salt Lake City ramped up police enforcement in the area. It does appear to have decreased the previously obvious and pervasive drug dealing next to the Road Home homeless shelter. The City also put in extra fencing to separate the children’s play area from the sidewalk drug dealing. There had been claims that a child had overdosed on drugs slipped through the previously open fence and needles were found in the play area.
  The City deserves credit for finally realizing, after seven years, that this is an issue that deserved more attention. But Mayor Becker has refused to hire more police and add permanent walking patrols in the City until the City Council ordered more police. The SLCPD also indicated, under the direction of the administration, that they would ticket and enforce quality of life ordinances. Ticketing homeless who end up with a hundred tickets increases hopelessness and encourages homelessness. The police stated that they recovered/confiscated 160 shopping carts while providing their users with an 8 to 5 storage facility that recently opened. The result may be that the homeless with their shopping carts will move into other areas of the City.
  In the last few months, car break-ins and car thefts in the downtown area have skyrocketed. It should be obvious that part of the solution is to permanently increase the number of police in walking patrols throughout the area. The quickest way is to provide more overtime funding for police. Most police seem to be ready and willing to accept the overtime in order to restore the area to a safe and inviting and developable neighborhood. Salt Lake City should sell one of their many vacant buildings and use the funding for more police overtime. Increased police presence is also needed in other areas of the City. North Temple could also benefit from increased walking patrols.
  At the Poverty Summit on Saturday August 29 at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Mayor Becker again said: “We are 90% of the way with the housing first model towards eliminating homelessness for our chronically homeless in this city. It is an incredible national achievement that is recognized everyday”.
  But in opening remarks by Matt Minkevitch, it appears that we have about 1000 homeless and that we need almost 8000 housing units to really solve the issue. Unfortunately, the only low income apartments that are built are through the Utah Housing and Community Development tax credits system. Utah Housing Corporation’s Tamera Kohler and Claudia O’Grady indicated that they provide 700-1000 low income housing units through their services a year. We need to encourage more affordable dwelling units.
. In addition, the City should convert several of their vacant buildings in the area to a safe environment for 24 hour storage, individual sleeping facilities that feel safe and day centers that are inviting and have enough supervision to encourage coming in off of the sidewalks. The Road Home is over capacity and any minor infraction can result in a 30 day or more suspension of rights to use the facility. The City should take the lead in opening an expansion facility now. If the homeless stay outside, they develop relationships with their homeless “family” that will encourage staying homeless.
  Healthy Utah or a form of Medicaid expansion is needed to provide the funding required to help treat the mental health and drug and alcohol abuse issues that are endemic in the homeless population downtown. Salt Lake City should encourage the Legislature to pass a Medicaid expansion program to help solve the issue.
    Sidewalks of homeless should not be accepted nor ignored. It is an outrageous scene to see the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks in the area. We don’t need any more studies, commissions or metrics. We need to stop saying that it is getting better.
  The solutions should be a multi-pronged approach that combines hiring more police and social workers, passing a form of Medicaid expansion and providing an inviting environment indoors with sufficient services to encourage the homeless to consider a better lifestyle. That is the quickest way to help restore the area to a stable and inviting residential and developable area. In the meantime. Mayor Becker should stop saying that we have solved 90% of the chronically homelessness.



HANDICAPPED TICKETING IN SALT LAKE CITY IS UNREASONABLE AND DISRESPECTFUL

SLC refuses to budge on unfair ticket that was given to Handicapped person despite a mostly visible placard. He also was not allowed to go before a traffic judge! I will ask Legislators to change law to require handicapped tickets to be verified by going around the vehicle and not cut corners for speed and just check to see if placard is visible on the rear view mirror. The Utah law needs to be changed. The placard instructions don''t agree with law. Some paralyzed individuals that drive cannot put their placard on the mirror or take it off while driving (against the law). 

Lack of responsibility and respect in SLC Parking Enforcement
  The recent publicity of Jeff Griffen's experience with Salt Lake City's parking system is a scary glimpse of the questionable rules and systems that visitors and residents and businesses face when operating personal vehicles in Salt Lake City.
  Jeff Griffin is a 41 year old teacher for high school seminary who broke his back 20 years ago. He had been a football player at Ricks College. He hasn't accepted the limits that the accident has created. He is married and has four children and has created an amazing life. But his experience with Salt Lake City's parking enforcement has been one of the most frustrating experiences in his life.
  Jeff often puts his handicapped parking placard on the dashboard. The parking enforcement officer ticketed him because Utah State law states that the placard must be on the rear view mirror and visible from the back (to be easily visible to parking enforcement). But the placard doesn't say anything about that. It just says that "This placard must be displayed when using disabled person parking privileges, but not while driving".
  There are quadriplegic friends of Jeff who are authorized to drive but unable to put their placard on the rear view mirror. The only way to get around that is to have the placard on the mirror all of the time. That is explicitly illegal but it is the only way that quadriplegics can legally park in handicapped parking in Salt Lake City.
  The Utah State law changed in 2009 to require that the placard be on the mirror to make it easier for enforcement to identify violators. But no one told the disabled who get new placards every two years. The note on the back with instructions was never changed. In addition, the plastic holders that are supposed to be hung on the mirror are never replaced. If the holder is not functional, the only way to display it is to put it on the dashboard.
  The disabled in Salt Lake City have had issues with the law for years. In one case, one of the Mayor's Accessibility Committee has had his car towed three times even though he had a placard. He finally figured out that the only way to stop it was to get a handicapped license plate. It may seem a small point but many disabled do not like publicizing the point with a handicapped license plate.
  When Jeff went to the traffic court, the judge didn't show up so the small claims court judge heard the issue and Jeff was charged $185 (court costs were added to the $25 "reduced" fine). To add insult to injury, the small claims judge said ignorance of the law doesn't excuse the person.
  The disrespect that the disabled receive in Salt Lake City should matter to all of us because as we get older, we may need to have some of those benefits so that we can continue to live productive lives. A city should recognize and encourage participation in the city's amenities and not make it frustrating to navigate the rules and regulations in the city. There should be an independent appeals board to ensure that handicapped don't get questionable disabled parking tickets. A start would be to rescind the $185 ticket that Jeff Griffen received for following the only instructions that he had.
George Chapman and Craig Carter (Craig is on the SLC Mayor's Accessibility Committee)



DESERET NEWS PUBLISHED OPED ON HEALTHCARE EXPANSION

Access to health care is a responsible function of government
Summary:  A government should protect its citizens, whether it is through law enforcement, fire protection, safer roads, a vigilant public health system, a powerful military or access to health care. Expansion of health care access benefits everyone and is a legitimate function of government.
  Recently, the debate regarding any version of Medicaid expansion has devolved into personal attacks and questionable arguments. Claims have been made that this is an onerous tax on health oriented businesses that will pass the costs to sick Utahns and will result in patients bearing a greater burden. The potential of death from not seeking medical treatment id the greatest burden.
  The proposal is to increase the taxes on doctors, hospitals and drug companies who will financially benefit from the medical insurance expansion since they will get more revenue from more patients. A medical insurance expansion will insure that everyone who might be threatened with disease will quickly seek medical treatment and not wait until the issue becomes much worse and results in a significantly higher cost to the patient, family, nearby individuals and the government. 
  A legitimate function of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. That is why we tax and spend for police and for military defense. A vigorous government health plan decreases the chance of disease spreading and threatening citizens. The proposal is to ensure that bank accounts of patients are not depleted (medical care bills are a major reason for bankruptcy applications).
  Despite claims that this is an expansive and socialist entitlement program, this proposal is similar to the effort to develop and buy the F35 fighter that many claim to be even more wasteful. It is interesting that the F35 fighter project will probably save a lot fewer lives than increased access to health care. Disease threatens and restricts liberty more than any government. The massive debt and spending track that we are on is mainly due to the popular demand that our military be powerful to ensure our physical safety
  Education, roads and other infrastructure is paid for with our taxes and managed by government because everyone benefits. Despite arguments to the contrary, education decreases the long term cost to society of uneducated citizens. Thomas Jefferson had some pretty good arguments about that. The same arguments apply to roads, postal service and other infrastructure. Future generations benefit even more from these government services. Wise public policy demands that we provide respectful and reasonable access to health care.
  The idea that the cost of maintaining the health care of citizens will result in a higher cost is like the argument that maintaining roads will result in a higher cost. Regular maintenance of roadways significantly reduces the long term cost of roads. We maintain our cars for the same reason.
  Our crime rate will continue to increase without access to the health care expansion’s drug and alcohol and mental health treatment. Over 70% of incarcerated individuals would benefit from such an expansion and recidivism would decrease. Also the homeless problem can be significantly helped with an expansion.
  Responsible government should protect the safety of its citizens, whether it is through law enforcement, fire protection, safer roads, a vigilant public health system, a powerful military or access to health care. Expansion of health care access benefits everyone and is a legitimate responsible and respectful function of government.





AGAINST PROPOSITION ONE ON THE BALLOT

  The local option sales tax on the ballot, if passed, will shift at least 40% of new transportation tax spending into mass transit. Our roads and personal vehicles are important for our families, our economy and our Country. Roads should be the first priority for transportation taxes. It also allows a county or city to expend the tax revenue for “public transit system services or transportation capital or reserve account”. Rail or other projects can be built using these tax revenues. The projects may include, in Salt Lake City, three new rail lines downtown, an airport high speed rail station and TRAX reconfiguration, the Sugar House streetcar extension and a tunnel in the canyons. These are in the RTP (Regional Transportation Plan) list of projects that the cities want to build in the near future. Passage of this tax will increase government spending on questionable projects that may not be beneficial to the general public and do not have a vigorous cost benefit analysis as recommended by the recent audit.
  The enabling bill, HB 362 says: “(10) (a) Revenue collected from a sales and use tax under this section may not be used to supplant existing general fund appropriations that a county, city, or town has budgeted for transportation….
  The limitation under Subsection (10)(a) does not apply to a designated transportation capital or reserve account a county, city, or town may have established prior to the date the tax becomes effective.”
  The taxes may also be used by the Utah Transit Authority for projects or for service. The enabling bill says: “A public transit district….may expend revenue for capital expenses and service delivery expenses of the public transit district”. This optional tax does not limit the use of the tax for service only. According to the RTP, in the next 10 years, increased transit service will only be 6% of new funding versus 14% for new large capital projects. The result may be that the tax will be used for questionable projects much more than service.
The bill says: “A county, city, or town may expend revenue collected from a tax under this section, for the construction, maintenance, or operation of an active transportation facility that is for nonmotorized vehicles and multimodal transportation, public transit system services; or a combination”. The result is that taxes collected may be used for more controversial protected bike lanes like Salt Lake City’s 300 South cycle track that require pedestrians exiting vehicles to enter into the path of high speed bicycles. It hides bicyclists from vehicles that are turning into driveways that cut across the cycle tracks (because parked vehicles are between the traffic and bicyclists).
The local option sales tax should not be passed by voters. It is another way for government to get and spend more money without a vigorous cost-benefit analysis. It shifts money from important and needed road maintenance and building and into questionable rail and transit projects.

During discussion at the SLC Council work session, it was pointed out that if Proposition one passes, cities can use the funds for any active transportation or multimodal project.




DUMB AND DANGEROUS BICYCLE CYCLE TRACKS PUBLISHED IN DESERET NEWS

Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune's Thursday paper had a picture of a flooded cycle track and it showed (a picture is worth a thousand words) people trying to get to the sidewalk by jumping from the cycle track curb to the sidewalk over the flooded cycle track. I did not think of that potential problem with the 300 South cycle track. I wrote most of this oped before I saw the picture.

  Salt Lake City built a separated bicycle path that is called a cycle track on 300 South. It is between the sidewalk and the parked cars and the goal was to create a safer environment for bicycling and encourage bicycling.
  Many businesses were upset because of the difficulty in parking next to the track and traversing it to get to the sidewalk. Many of the furniture stores along 300 South are upset because patrons have a problem loading furniture into their vehicles after purchasing them
  Another goal was to get bicyclists off the sidewalk (which is illegal in downtown SLC). But most tourists that have made the City’s Green Bike program successful prefer riding on the sidewalk.
  Separated cycle tracks work best on high speed roads but they need an area that does not have a lot of cross streets, driveways and right and left turns. The 300 South cycle tracks have a lot of driveways and left and right turns. The parked cars can hide bicyclists and that actually will increase the danger to bicyclists. Separated bicycle lanes would also work well in canyons by utilizing the soft shoulder and decreasing the possibility of cars going off the road.
  Another safety issue for bicyclists is car doors opening which cause around 40% of bicycle injuries. When a passenger opens their car door on the right hand side, next to the cycle track and they get out, they are creating a danger to any cyclist in the cycle track. Pedestrians and high speed bicycles don’t mix. The narrow cycle track does not leave room for error.
  Another problem with separated cycle tracks is the requirement to constantly keep them clean. Salt Lake City had to buy new specialty equipment at a cost of over $400,000 to maintain the 300 S. cycle tracks. But trying to keep ice off of the separated tracks will be a problem. Throwing snow onto the adjacent sidewalk is a problem and salt can hurt bicycle tires. Road debris tends to be shoved to the gutter by cars but in a cycle track, the debris can be in the path of bicycles for weeks before it is swept up. The problems will obvious when there is a big snow or rain storm.
  The 300 S. cycle track also imposes problems on our firefighting ability for high rise buildings (over three stories). Salt Lake City had a problem trying to show that a ladder truck (required to fight high rise fires) can operate along 300 South. It took several attempts to actually deploy the supports and the ability to deploy fire hoses is significantly compromised. The standard requirement for ladder truck operation is 26 feet with a minimum of 20 feet required. With the parking, the center island and the cycle track, fire fighting on 300 South is almost impossible.
  Salt Lake City is sending a mixed message to bicyclists when it constructs a cycle track on a road like 300 South. The cycle track’s $600,000 cost could have provided for at least 20 better and safer bicycle lane implementations. Decreasing wide center island and turn lanes would allow wider and safer bicycle lanes (on Foothill, 700 East and 1220 East). Before Salt Lake City considers anymore separated bicycle lanes, they should have a more vigorous public outreach that considers all arguments first. We don’t want any more dumb and dangerous cycle tracks.



The 2015 Regional Transportation Plan has many projects that do not have a cost-benefit analysis and appear to be a wast of money. They include a high speed rail station at the airport, 3 new rail lines downtown, a $55 million TRAX reconfiguration and a bus garage.  New service is scheduled to be just 6% of the new budget and projects consume over 30% of the new budget (assuming a tax increase.  I am against projects and want all money to be used for service until the bus system is restored to its robust 2006 service level if not better.  To get people out of their cars we need service that is reasonable at night and even after midnight.  Otherwise people won't want to get out of their cars.  The button below has the project list.  Note line items 18-19 $55 million TRAX reconfiguration and high speed rail system, 27-35 Bus Rapid Transit at $15 million per mile,  39 that includes the Sugar House streetcar extension and the 400 South TRAX extension west to central station and the 2 new streetcar/TRAX lines downtown, 50 the Alta Summit County connector, and the very last item is increasing service.  I believe that service should be the most important item and number one.



THE MOUNTAIN ACCORD
The Mountain Accord appears to try to take away our canyons and give it to the Federal Government.  It also tries to dis-incentivise car travel:

Section 3.2.1 has the phrase: "The signers of this Accord agree to
support and pursue….National Monument…."

In addition, section 2.6 has the phrase "decrease single-occupancy
vehicle use". Section 3.10.4 has the phrase "dis-incentivize
single-occupancy vehicle access to and in the Cottonwood Canyons."

Section 3.10.5 has the phrase "bus or rail transit improvements on the
Fort Union corridor, the 9400 South corridor, Wasatch Boulevard, and
Little Cottonwood Canyon……. A potential non-auto tunnel connection
between Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon;"

Section 3.10.7 "It is recommended the NEPA process address the
following questions:
To what extent would single-occupancy vehicles be restricted or
charged with fees….. Should the transportation alternative include an
independent guideway?"

I am against the Mountain Accord as written.




Cops are like trees and we lost a lot when we lost Chris Burbank  Printed in the Salt Lake Tribune July 2015

  Over the last few months, during arguments for and against hiring more police officers, the administration of Ralph Becker has insisted that we don’t need more police officers. Chris Burbank and his staff have agreed. The Salt Lake City Council disagreed, fought for and essentially ordered the budget to be changed to hire more police officers and also apply for a grant to hire and help pay for 15 more police officers (with a 25% City contribution over the next three years).

  The arguments for and against more police also took place during a year when there were several incidents of officers discharging their weapons. And Chief Burbank, despite a couple of stumbles, was able to restore the confidence of Salt Lake City in our police. Some of the incidents may have been preventable with more experience and training. Police Chief Chris Burbank, a few months ago, discussed his experience with situations in his career which could have resulted in a shooting. He has had 13 incidents where he could have justifiably shot someone. He was able to control the situation without shooting anyone.

  To be able to defuse or de-escalate the situation when the officer is facing an uncooperative or aggressive individual requires training, experience and a willingness to risk their life. Police officers successfully handle those situations almost every day. The more experienced or older the officer, the more likely that they have the training and the wisdom and the experience to handle incidents without shooting. You can't replace a cop with 5 or 10 years of service with a new police officer with just a few months of experience and training. It would be like trying to replace a 10 year old tree with a new one foot tall tree.

  Police officers do more than just protect and serve. They also sacrifice for us. They live everyday with the kind of love that is willing to sacrifice for others. The Greek word for it is agape. They go to work knowing that they could face criminals and not return home. Cops are willing to take a bullet for us. They deserve respect. Chris Burbank deserved that respect. One of the most bothersome aspect of his resignation is that it appears that Ralph Becker had little respect for a man who deserved more respect than anyone else in his administration. Forcing the issue just a few days after the deadline to declare for mayor, on a man who could have easily won election as mayor, is even more troubling.

Ironically, last year, Chief Chris Burbank made the comment that there has been no minimization of policing in the rest of the City (despite repositioning officers to concentrate on the significant problems near the homeless shelter). When Ralph Becker unceremoniously and disrespectfully got rid of Chris Burbank, he and Salt Lake City lost the equivalent of 25 plus years of police experience, knowledge and reputation that cannot be replaced by a one year police academy graduate. Salt Lake City now needs 25 more police officers to replace one Chris Burbank because you cannot replace a 25 year old tree with a one year old tree. Cops are like trees.






We have not solved 90% of the homeless problem  A version was published in City Weekly

Summary: At the recent KSL Mayoral debate, Mayor Becker said that we had solved 90% of the chronically homeless issues. Almost anybody who lives, works or goes to the downtown area around the shelter would strongly disagree. The solution is not to move the shelter but a multi-pronged approach that combines hiring more police, social workers, passing a form of Medicaid expansion and providing an inviting environment indoors with sufficient services to encourage the homeless to consider a better lifestyle.

  At the recent KSL Mayoral debate, Mayor Becker said that we had solved 90% of the chronically homeless issues. But those who live, work or go to the downtown area almost unanimously say that the area is developing an increasingly bad reputation as a drug and crime ridden area that causes downtown visitors to express concern for their personal safety. Iggy’s Sports Grill recently closed due to the area’s homeless and drug issues. Even many homeless are afraid of the area and have moved out into other areas of the City. New homeless youth are targeted for victimization in the area. And those who care and immerse themselves in an effort to help have recoiled at the sickness that pervades the area.

  Sidewalks of homeless should not be accepted nor ignored. It is an outrageous scene to see the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks in the area. We don’t need any more studies, commissions or metrics. We need to stop saying that it is getting better. The solutions should be obvious to those live and work in the area.

  Moving the Road Home shelter and related support system facilities could take 10 years. The State, the County, the City and various charitable institutions would have to agree to the move. Suggested new locations like North Temple and Draper would all result in a long fight.

  It would seem to be cheaper and faster to focus on removing the criminal element that victimizes the area and provide indoor facilities that have a safe environment for 24 hour storage, individual sleeping facilities that feel safe, day centers that are inviting and have enough supervision to encourage coming in off of the sidewalks and police walking patrols to show potential drug buyers that a drug buy will result in an arrest and confiscation of vehicles. Salt Lake City has property that can be converted or traded for a central facility that can be converted into a central homeless services facility.

  Until recently, Mayor Becker has ignored the drug dealing problem by the homeless shelter. He has actually fought efforts by the local community and the City Council to hire more police. Walking police patrols have been requested but after a short winter test, the patrols ended. In addition, in the last few months, car breakins and car thefts in the downtown area have skyrocketed. It should be obvious that part of the solution is to hire many more police.

  Salt Lake City is spending millions on art in conjunction with the new downtown theater. I believe that spending money on art is useless, worthless and a waste of money if there are homeless sleeping on the sidewalk. Before the City spends money on art, it should spend money to get the homeless off the sidewalks.

  Healthy Utah or a form of Medicaid expansion is needed to provide the funding required to help treat the mental health and drug and alcohol abuse issues that are endemic in the homeless population downtown.

  The solution is not to move the shelter but a multi-pronged approach that combines hiring more police, social workers, passing a form of Medicaid expansion and providing an inviting environment indoors with sufficient services to encourage the homeless to consider a better lifestyle. That is the quickest way to help restore the area to a stable and inviting residential and developable area.


 



Gay marriage and society’s best interest

Summary: The U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage follows very clearly from the 14th Amendment and Bill of Rights. LSD members have experienced the discrimination that resulted from States not respecting the Bill of Rights. In addition, it is society’s best interest, that relationships be long term and hopefully permanent. This decision should be respected for those reasons.

  The U.S. Supreme Court just announced their 5-4 decision that all states have to recognize and legalize gay marriage. The decision came with intense dissent from the minority opinion Justices. They essentially said that this issue has nothing to do with the Constitution and the 14th Amendment. I disagree.

  One of the reasons for the 14th Amendment (according to one of the drafters, Rep. John Bingham) was to overturn Barron v. Baltimore, which said that States don't have to follow the Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment restored the Bill of Rights to everyone no matter which State that they lived in and ensured that we are one Nation. The 1833 Barron v. Baltimore ruling had been used to justify not just slavery but racism and religious persecution (and was used by Missouri to justify the Mormon Extermination Order). If we are to be one nation, we should have the same basic rights nationwide. In order to ensure these nationwide equal rights, the 14th Amendment was passed.

  The opinion listed several reasons for marriage that are also important to society. The emphasis should be on the benefit that society gains from encouraging long term and hopefully permanent relationships. It is in society’s best interest to encourage long term relationships. Marriage, a committed promise to God does that.

  The issue seems to have become polarizing due to the fact that for centuries, marriage has had a religious connotation. But when municipalities and mayors and captains were able to perform marriages, it should have removed the religious aspect of marriage (even with the promise to God implied in the contract). Marriage up until a few years ago, as practiced by States, was similar to the teaching of creationism. Religion was intertwined in it. The Bill of Rights guarantees that this Nation, Congress and States (through the 14th Amendment) shall ensure that government will not be intertwined with or push a religion. That Right has helped this Nation lower the barriers between people of different religions and cultures to allow them to work together.

  The States’ past involvement in the religious aspect of marriage is one main reason why the U.S. Supreme Court decision should be respected. The citizens of Utah, whose religion was persecuted until the 14th Amendment restored Freedom of Religion, should respect the decision. Our Country’s greatness relies on being able to work together, whatever our religion or culture.

   As I look on the decision, although I am concerned about the continuing polarization, I am amazed at the inspired document that is being used in this case. The dream of our Founding Fathers, a document that protects individual rights, so short and yet with such a great result, is still relevant today. The Bill of Rights is important enough to be used to provide for a better and freer society. It lowers the barriers towards working together. The Bill of Rights, a document that is over 200 years old, is still relevant and inspired today. The minority opinion of the Supreme Court is wrong. The decision follows directly from a reading of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, that the 14th Amendment requires all States to follow.??
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Happy Fourth and here are two of my opeds on this Country and celebrating the founding of an independent America.  The Declaration of Independence, an inspired document, is still relevant 238 years later.

A time for celebrating America Published in the Deseret News July 1, 2012

This time of year is a time to be grateful for our country. I invite everyone reading this to think about their own reasons to be grateful for this country.

I am grateful for our freedom of religion. I believe that it is an important reason for this country's success. It lowers the barrier between people of different religions and cultures. It allows the best and brightest from around the world to work together for the success of this country. This freedom is the greatest freedom, the freedom of thought. In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt listed what he considered to be the universal four freedoms. Norman Rockwell popularized the four freedoms in one of his most famous paintings. Freedom of religion was one of those freedoms (along with freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom of speech).

I am also grateful for our freedom of the press (with the required freedom of speech). Countries without freedom of the press can't improve their societies and systems without a truthful analysis of their government, businesses and systems. When people say that China will overtake us, they ignore the value of free speech and free press. The unexamined life won't improve, and without questioning government and society, that government and society won't improve. Utah's recent fight to continue to allow free access to government records, or GRAMA, was won by the citizens of Utah who fought for this freedom of the press.

Another reason that I am grateful for this country is our free public education system. It ensures a stable and vibrant economy and successful self-government. Education has always played an important role in the most successful societies in history. Education is the great equalizer, energizer and enabler for this country and its people. Thomas Jefferson considered his work in education to be equal in importance to the Declaration of Independence. Signey Rigdon said that the education of the rising generation is second in priority to worship of God. Utah did not become a great state because of digging in the dirt for riches. It became a great state because of its people. Our people are our greatest resource. Education is how we develop our greatest resource.

I am also grateful for this country because of the fact that we attract the best and brightest and hardest working from around the world. Like the Emerald City of Oz, we have the reputation that dreams have a better chance of coming true here in America, better than anywhere else. Despite all of the complaints and problems we have, our country is a better place than anyplace else, and that is something to be grateful for.

Despite the debates on these issues in Utah over the past few years, these are my reasons that this country is great and these are my reasons to be grateful.

Now it's your turn. What do you think makes America great? Stop complaining at least for a day. Be grateful and celebrate this country. This country makes for a better world. This is America.

 

Fireworks celebrate the dream that is America Published in Deseret News July 1, 2014

From the dream that started with the phrase "all (men) are created equal" to the Bill of Rights and freedom of religion; from the 14th Amendment's re-emphasis that the Bill of Rights applies to all states; from the 19th Amendment to the Civil Rights Act; our nation comes ever closer to realizing this dream: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (men) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We celebrate this country's beginning on the Fourth of July, the date of acceptance of and commitment to adopt this dream as our goal. The fireworks of the Fourth of July are important as a celebration and as a way to bring us together. Some cities across the United States have questioned fireworks shows due to the effect on air quality and the noise and flash that can disturb some people and animals. But, as some cities have said, value lies in public activity and discourse. There is no greater activity and discourse that brings us together as Americans than giant fireworks shows.

We could go out and individually buy and set off big exploding rockets ourselves, but a public show brings us together and reminds us that we are all Americans and that we should work together to bring us closer to the dream that started this country. The concern about air pollution may be valid, but to try to stop the one greatest event of the year best able to bring us together doesn't make sense. We have bigger air pollution problems that affect us every day and that should be targeted for more effective and successful pollution reductions.

If we stopped all events that could increase air pollution, we would have to stop all sports games that have tens of thousands of attendees and stop encouraging shows that get people out of their homes. When tens of thousands of people are trying to leave these shows, the idling vehicles send a tremendous amount of pollution into the air.

We celebrate New Year's Eve, basketball, football, baseball and soccer games with fireworks. Whether it is playing sports, watching games, celebrating victories or fireworks, the result is that they bring us together as Americans. The fireworks shows remind us that this country is special and that it makes this world a better place. Our country deserves to be celebrated with as big a show as possible. America deserves to be celebrated in style with great shows.

Fireworks are a very visible and great audible reminder that we are Americans and that we got to where we are by reducing divisiveness, polarization and lowering the barriers to working together that started with the Declaration of Independence. We still have a way to go, but we are trying. When those fireworks explode, everyone is looking up together and reminding themselves that we are Americans. We are celebrating America and we shouldn't stop celebrating. Those sports and celebrations should be more than celebrated. They should be encouraged.

 

 




Moving the SLC homeless center is like trying to move the prison

  During a recent Doug Wright KSL radio show, Doug told of going to a show downtown with his wife and she expressed increasing concern about the safety of the Rio Grande/Depot/Gateway neighborhood. That concern is also shared by the residents, businesses and landowners in the area.

  Until recently, Mayor Becker has ignored the drug dealing problem by the homeless shelter. The efforts to reposition the Salt Lake City police downtown has helped fight the issue but the problems are more systemic.

  This winter, the City Council funded several walking patrols for the whole downtown area with good results. But the funding stopped. In addition, in the last few months, car break ins and car thefts in the downtown area have skyrocketed. The police have had to encourage the downtown parking lot attendants to stay at the lots to deter crime. That shows that we need more police in the area to deter crime.

  Sidewalks of homeless should not be accepted nor ignored. It is an outrageous scene to see the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks in the area. The Weigand day shelter has had to close to replace a floor that was falling apart. So now the homeless are stretched out on the sidewalks! Salt Lake City should have found another temporary or permanent day shelter before closing such an important service.

  New buildings will not solve our homeless issue. Putting up new buildings should not be the only focus. A great society should also provide the means and encouragement for those who are homeless to move into better situations. That requires more social workers and services that are better funded. Now the police do that job. But having Deputy Chief Ross (who is dedicated to solving the problem well beyond his responsibility) drive the homeless to a job or to get an ID is wrong. It shows that there are not enough social services and social workers who should do the job.

  The City and its downtown property developers don’t need to move the homeless shelter. They do need to provide the means and encouragement and social services to end the vast sea of homeless that fill the downtown sidewalks. The City should also provide more police and patrols that can deter crime downtown and in the rest of the City.

  Other areas that have been proposed have just as great a potential for growth. In particular, the North Temple area, with its TRAX backbone, has the potential to become a real grand boulevard for visitors coming into Salt Lake City from the airport.

  Saying that the homeless shelter needs to move is like saying the prison needs to move in the name of development. It is more cost effective to hire more police and social workers to help solve the problem. Moving the homeless shelter does not solve the problem. The underlying problem can only be solved with services that are less expensive than building new buildings somewhere else. It is just like the prison issue.



?PRISON MOVE SHOULD NOT HAPPEN

It will take five plus years to move the Utah State Prison.  The cost will be over $500 million.  For a fraction of that cost, the worst parts of the prison can be rebuilt within a year and the admittedly horrible conditions that some prisoners are incarcerated in can be torn down.  The important point is that the solution is much cheaper and can be implemented faster than waiting for a prison move.  

The other side of the issue is that when the decision was made to explore moving the prison a few years ago, the Justice Reinvestment Act was only a dream.  Rep. Hutchings bill just passed the Legislature.  If it is as good as many of us hope (lowering the penalties for minor drug use and emphasizing drug treatment) and a version of Healthy Utah is passed that funds the drug treatment in county jails, then we may not need a 4000 bed prison.  We may only need a 1000 bed facility. 

Ironically, the homeless problem downtown is similar to the prison situation.  Some people want to move the homeless shelter and services for the same reason as some want to move the prison.  For land development.  The solution to the homeless situation is cheaper and faster if basic human services are provided that are comfortable for those who are in that situation.  Land development should not drive government decisions when taxpayers end up paying the higher cost.

Thanks to Rep. Fred Cox for stepping up and showing the leadership and courage to fight those in the Legislature that refuse to listen to the public.  Rep. Cox is awaiting a decision on his petition to the Utah Supreme Court to allow a referendum to vote on the prison move.  Rep. Cox also rightly points out that there is plenty of room around the prison site to rebuild the needed replacement buildings and still leave plenty for development.

I joined with many at the Prison Relocation Commission hearing on June 16 to voice our concerns (listed above) on moving the prison without a real public vetting process.

?GREAT CITIES DON'T TREAT HOMELESS LIKE THIS.

For seven years, Ralph Becker has ignored the downtown area homeless issue.  Lack of easily available storage, an inviting day center, a secure and safe place to stay at night even with possessions and pets should not be a difficult nor impossible task. Instead of buildings or relocating the homeless services, the focus should be on solving those issues that are creating this sign of a city that doesn't work.  Salt Lake deserves better.  The measure of a great city is how they treat the so called lesser of their citizens.  Even the least of our citizens deserve better.  Salt Lake City deserves a mayor that isn't looking for monuments and fame.  Salt Lake City deserves a mayor that cares about all of the citizens of Salt Lake City, not just the richest.


Statement on Glendale Golf Course closing threat from George Chapman

Glendale Golf Course is being treated with the same disrespect that Ralph Becker has shown most of the citizens of Salt Lake City, including, most recently, Chris Burbank.  Golf courses, especially this one, create the character of a neighborhood.  Character of a neighborhood is important and should be protected.  Ironically, closing the golf course and repurposing it will cost much more than continuing to operate it as a golf course.  Closing it will require the proposed $50 million Salt Lake City Parks Bond, another way for Ralph Becker to get and spend more money.  Closing the course, according to the City Council is on hold until “shovel ready” projects are ready.  If elected Mayor, I will not allow Glendale or any other course to close.  I will protect open space.  It doesn’t just create a respite from the buildings and parking lots in a city, but it also decreases air pollution according to last year’s Forest Service study.

Also note that Ralph Becker didn’t just order the City Council to close golf courses (“Close the courses or I will”), he is also attempting to remove protections from open space to allow buildings, sewage and water treatment facilities.  Ralph Becker’s zoning text amendment was rejected/sent back to SLC Planning.  One reason for Ralph Becker’s development of open space proposal was to stop the fight in Sugar House against the use of Fairmont Park property for high density housing.  Another reason was to stop fights and lawsuits similar to the water tank and pump house on open space next to single-family homes north of Capitol Hill. 

I have been fighting to stop the closing of any golf courses (including Par 3 closed without a public hearing - just a work session straw poll) for several years.  It is gratifying to see that hundreds now realize how important that this issue is.

Note that the June 16 SLC Council meeting discussed the potential for a parks bond.  The Mayor will decide whether to proceed by July.  The Council will also meet next week with the County Council to discuss options.  I will continue to fight against the parks bond because it will be used to close Glendale Golf Course and turn it into a park (at a cost of $50 million which could be better used for more needed amenities on the west side of SLC.


George Chapman Statement on closing or destroying golf courses in Salt Lake City:

Ralph Becker put the City Council up against a wall and ordered them to close golf courses or he would ("close the golf courses or I will").  The Council just gave him recommendations so if the courses are closed, it will by Ralph Becker.

It is a similar situation with Chris Burbank.  Ralph Becker put the most respected man in Salt Lake City government up against a wall and offered him three choices: take the blame and apologize; resign or be fired.

The disrespect that Ralph Becker has shown the City Council and police chief and the golfers of Salt Lake City, is the same disrespect that he has shown almost everyone in Salt Lake City.  Salt Lake City deserves a new Mayor.

Ralph Becker's disrespect for open space is obvious when he decides to destroy a large portion of the open space on Bonneville Golf Course.  His attempt to remove the protections of open space (in his zoning text amendment that would have allowed building on open space property) was rebuffed by the Planning Commission.





George Chapman Statement on Chris Burbank

Chris Burbank has given 25 years of his life for this City and did not deserve the disrespect that Ralph Becker gave him.  Chris Burbank made Salt Lake City a better City.  He defused difficult situations and earned the trust and respect of the citizens of this City.  Ralph Becker controls the Salt Lake City Police Department tightly as evidenced by the efforts to fight the hiring of more police officers.  Any decision regarding senior officers is made under the direction of Ralph Becker.

Anyone who wears a badge and is willing to take a bullet for us, deserves more respect than Ralph Becker gave Chris Burbank.  That is the issue in this election.  Ralph Becker, to many of us, has little to no respect for the citizens of this City.

Further:
Anyone who has followed the Ralph Becker administration should recognize that Mayor Becker controls the SLC Police Department.  Decisions regarding rape kit testing, Civilian Review Board reports, video copies of incidents and Police Department buildings have all been made under the direction of Ralph Becker.  It is obvious that the disrespectful (at best) decision to cover up sexual harassment issues was also done under the direction of Ralph Becker.

The evidence can be seen as recently as this week when the Mayor forced the police department managers to fight against hiring more police.  How many times has anyone seen senior police officers say that we don’t need more police officers?  It only happens when the political leaders above them order them to tell everyone that crime is down and that the administration is doing a good job crime fighting.  At this week’s City Council hearing, the SLC Police Department tried to talk the Council out of hiring more officers.  They even tried to say that the September class is full.  That message was obviously from above the Police Department.

For seven years, Ralph Becker has ignored the drug dealing near the homeless shelter and refused to hire enough police officers to deter crime.

Let me remind the citizens of Salt Lake City that Chris Burbank should also be given credit for saving 13 lives during incidents where he could have justifiably shot those 13 individuals.  His experience, training and control of the situations allowed him to defuse the confrontations.  Those 13 individuals owe their lives to an officer who was ready to protect and serve but also ready to sacrifice for us





?
ISSUES VERSUS LABELS

Whether we should have 3 new rail lines downtown is more important than whether a candidate is Republican or Democrat.

Whether we should remove open space protections and put hundred foot tall buildings on single-family home lots is more important than whether a person is male or female.

Whether we continue to invest in poor traffic engineering projects that increase air pollution Is more important than whether a person is gay or straight.

The issues that Salt Lake City citizens believe are important transcend labels.




???

TOP 10 REASONS THAT SLC DESERVES A NEW MAYOR

1 SLC is planning three new rail lines downtown and taxes could double in the next 4 years without voter approval.

2 Efforts to calm traffic have increased congestion and air pollution.

 3 Quiet residential neighborhoods have been destroyed by shifting traffic from major streets and discouraging sufficient parking for development.

 4 Residential neighborhoods and open space are being threatened with high density development.

 5 Ralph Becker has ignored the drug dealing downtown and refused to budget for sufficient police to deter crime.

 6 Ralph Becker has threatened to throw dog owners in jail if they allow their dogs to walk without leashes (tickets that are misdemeanors).

7 The mayor of Salt Lake City should want to work for no one else but the citizens of Salt Lake City.

8 The mayor should want to be Mayor and not be president of anything else.

 9 Salt Lake City deserves a Mayor that is 100% committed to Salt Lake City alone.

 10 Salt Lake City deserves any Mayor but Ralph Becker.

 That is why I am running for Mayor of Salt Lake.Type your paragraph here.


Rio Grande’s spice zombies and Fentanyl bring new challenges to homeless solutions

​(printed in Salt Lake Tribune in August)

  In the next several weeks, Salt Lake County and City will be providing more specifics on solutions to the problems in the Rio Grande area. Many of the problems are caused by the visible drug dealing that attracts criminal elements. The homeless in the area are blamed for the situation but they also want a safer area without drugs and crime. The Salt Lake County jail houses about 300 homeless on an average day.  A significant percentage of the homeless cycle in and out of jail. Mayor McAdams is proposing to decrease the homeless in jail but many homeless deal drugs to help feed their drug habits and the jail won’t usually keep them locked up for more than a few hours.

  The police are frustrated when they spend several hours arresting a dealer, only to have them standing next to them four hours later laughing at the powerlessness of the police.  It is not just in the Rio Grande area that drugs are a big problem. At the low cost motels on North Temple and State Street (and other areas), neighbors complain about the crime and obvious drug dealing. The drug problems are so bad that in one case, an illegal alien was arrested for drug dealing and deported four times but he keeps coming back! These are the real threats to society. The spice (K2) that they are selling create a neighborhood of zombie like people who are unable to be reasoned with and could attack anyone without any reason. Fentanyl is now being added to the heroin that is cheaply sold by the dealers. Police say that to kick a Fentanyl habit is much harder than heroin if not impossible. The police have caught hospital patients in gowns that are trying to buy drugs in the Rio Grande area! Needles are everywhere! That results in many more desperate drug addicts who do not care for anyone else’s safety. That is the real public safety issue.

  Unfortunately, the homeless committees that will provide solutions (and two SLC expansion sites next month) seem to be ignoring the most important issue, neighborhood safety first! If the drug dealers are not going to be kept locked up, no neighborhood will accept homeless expansion facilities. It also seems obvious that the quickest way to decrease crime and related problems in the Rio Grande area is to lock up the real criminal element and drug dealers for more than a few hours. That would require providing more beds in the Salt Lake County Jail. The cost to continually arrest drug dealers and take them to jail for a few hours is many times more than the cost to keep them in jail for an extended period of time. Salt Lake County jail has about 2200 beds and the County spends over $76 million to operate the jail (plus support services).

  Although many say that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, drug dealers should be in jail! Drug addicts should get drug abuse treatment but the success rates are abysmal, if the treatment is even available. Without healthcare expansion, drug addicts will continue to create a problem for society. Salt Lake City intends to spend over $5 million on the Rio Grande/Depot District in the next few years. But without getting the criminal element out of the area, it seems to be a misguided and wasteful plan. Many agree that the homeless that have not been convicted of any crime or not considered a risk to the community should not be in jail. But when the homeless sell drugs, or steal or shoplift regularly, they should be in jail! These are not victimless crimes!

  Everyone involved in the homeless solutions discussion should agree that neighborhood safety should be the number one priority. Until that is acknowledged, and the jails are expanded to hold the criminal element, homeless solutions will not be successful.