If you’ve driven in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the past few years, the problems it faces are hard to miss. The narrow road creates traffic backups that can stretch far out of the mouth of the canyon in winter months, when snowy conditions compound its problems. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, and it’s clear to see why people are calling for an update to transportation up and down Little Cottonwood.
The Utah Department of Transportation has two updates in mind. One is an added shoulder for busses to travel on. The other is a gondola stretching from the mouth of the canyon to the ski resorts Alta and Snowbird.
Both proposed solutions aim to improve traffic flow in Little Cottonwood, near Salt Lake City. But both of UDOT’s proposals will also have an irreversible impact on rock climbing in the canyon, and that has activists and community members worried.
“That is potentially the biggest threat to loss of climbing resources and climbing access that we’ve seen on the Wasatch Front in a couple decades,” David Carter said in an interview over Zoom. Carter works on the board of directors for the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, an advocacy group that aims to protect access to rock climbing in the Wasatch mountain range. He also serves as the chair of the SLCA’s policy and conservation committee.
Carter said the potential road widening and gondola construction come with their own unique impacts to climbing in the canyon.
“Widening of the road is certainly the greatest of potential impact,” Carter said. “There we’re looking at dozens of boulders that could potentially be destroyed, and hundreds of bouldering problems.”
Destruction of boulders isn’t the only impact that SLCA is worried about. Carter said that changes to the overall climbing experience will inevitably be a pitfall of the proposals.
“It basically impacts any climbing that happens in that main canyon corridor, because if you’re climbing at the Gate Buttress you’re going to look over and be level with gondolas running by,” Carter said. Gate Buttress is one of the most popular rock climbing walls in Little Cottonwood.
However, destruction of climbing resources remains Carter’s main concern. “The roadway widening — it’s hard to see how that would not result in permanent loss of iconic, world-class bouldering.”
These are concerns that UDOT has heard from SLCA on numerous occasions, said Josh Van Jura, project manager at UDOT.
“They’re obviously very concerned with boulders being removed, as well as the viewshed,” Van Jura said in a phone interview. Viewshed refers to an impact on scenery by structures or pollution.
Van Jura explained that UDOT plans to eliminate roadside parking in Little Cottonwood, a move that aims to address safety concerns created by people walking up and down the busy, narrow street. This would also help to prevent road erosion and environmental strain caused by “spider trails,” paths created by many people walking to a similar destination from different starting points, Van Jura said. To make up for lost parking, UDOT plans to build four new parking areas, which he said would keep the total number of parking spots about the same.
Carter disagrees that the number of spaces is all that matters. He said SLCA understands the safety concerns created by roadside parking in the canyon, but these changes to parking will inevitably lead to a loss of access to climbing resources.
“We’ve been working in good faith to help improve the safety of the situation and we feel like the needs of climbers and other dispersed recreators haven’t been taken into account,” Carter said.
UDOT created an environmental impact statement, or EIS, to analyze the potential effects of the proposed projects. These projects have been narrowed down to an added shoulder lane or gondola. However, “a no-action alternative is always considered as an alternative,” Van Jura said. UDOT also collected public comments about the impact statement in order to make sure its analysis was complete.
“One of the preferred alternatives comes from the last comment summary,” John Gleason said in a phone interview. He is the public information officer at UDOT. “We have received over 13,000 comments on the EIS. We will undoubtedly have a better EIS because of it.”
The goal of obtaining these comments was to make sure UDOT had conducted a complete analysis. “The goal is not a vote,” Van Jura said about the public comment period.
SLCA has submitted its own public comments to UDOT, in conjunction with its meetings with UDOT officials. While SLCA agrees that something has to be done to mitigate traffic in Little Cottonwood, Carter says UDOT’s two preferred alternatives are going too far, when cheaper and less impactful alternatives have yet to be explored.
“Our No. 1 message is, let’s not start with very costly, very impactful, permanent infrastructure changes. It’s irreversible, it’s irresponsible from a policy perspective,” Carter said.
Carter said SLCA is in favor of more flexible, less impactful traffic mitigation solutions, such as increased busses and tolling.
“Why not try those measures to see if you can get that many folks off the road before we go build a gondola or widen the road,” Carter said.
A month before the 2020 election, roughly 8 in 10 registered voters on both sides of the aisle said their differences with the other side were about core American values such as the economy, racial justice and climate change, according to a 2020 study done by the Pew Research Center.
“I feel like we sort of lost that ability to have a conversation without feeling like we have to convince each other of our side,” Caitlin McDonald said in a Zoom call.
Utah Humanities, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit, created the Community Conversations as a space for respectful dialogue. But is it enough to help alleviate the political polarization plaguing Utahns across the state? McDonald, the program manager in charge of the Conversations, knows that bridging the gap is not a painless task for participants.
“It’s not an easy thing. It’s not all puppies and rainbows. It’s not all hugging each other. It’s hard, and it’s emotional, and we’ve had people cry,” McDonald said.
Utah Humanities has been hosting hard and uncomfortable conversations about relevant and polarizing topics such as racial justice, climate change and civic participation since its inception in 2015. Pre-pandemic, these conversations were held in person. Currently they reside within the virtual walls of Zoom. Regardless of the meeting space, McDonald said she believes the process of creating meaningful and productive dialogue is more successful than regular town halls or other forums where people come ready to argue and yell at one another.
Part of the Utah Humanities’ success can be attributed to its Conversation Agreements that serve as a code of conduct for these monthly meetings. The agreements outline expectations for how the conversations will be held and how participants are expected to conduct themselves. The guidelines include “respecting all participants, … thoughtfully considering perspectives which are contrary to their own and behaving courteously should a disagreement and/or non-closure occur.”
McDonald said all participants must sign the agreement before any dialogue can begin. This weeds out anyone who is looking to come with pitchforks in hand.
“Because as we’ve seen, people’s rules for behavior seem to have changed recently. What’s acceptable in public and what’s acceptable in how we treat each other? I’ve seen it change in the past few years,” McDonald said.
She also said that weeding out the agitators who are looking to throw gasoline onto the political fire has proven to be beneficial, as they have never kicked out a participant. The agreement also helps alleviate some concerns of first-time participants, while also providing them with a space to be vulnerable and listen openly to perspectives that they might disagree with.
“These conversations just give them a chance to come somewhere where you don’t have to come with your guard up,” McDonald said. “You can come knowing that you’re in a space where you can express yourself, but also hear somebody else express themselves without fear of being yelled at.”
One participant is openly looking for this challenge of ideas and values. Steven Olsen is a senior history curator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said he embraces aspects of the humanities such as diverse thinking and the civil interchange of sharing ideas. Olsen said he is especially interested in the perspectives that differ from those around him.
“I really am interested in sharing that perspective with others in a kind of an academic setting or from an academic perspective, but also gaining other insights that I might not get from my own tribe, as it were,” Olsen said in a Zoom interview.
It might seem as if Olsen has found his happy place within the virtual walls of the Zoom Conversations, but the problem is, he has had a hard time garnering a new perspective from these sessions.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the kind of diversity of perspectives that I had kind of hoped [for] going forward, I would say it’s mostly centered left of center,” Olsen said.
The lack of contrasting opinions interests Kevin Coe, a professor with an emphasis in political communication at the University of Utah. But he believes the problem is bigger than a conversation.
“It’s useful to think in terms of some of those interpersonal solutions [Community Conversations] as small-scale acts of goodness, that are useful. They won’t ultimately be enough to solve the problem, right? Because the problem is structural,” Coe said in a Zoom interview.
The structural problem Coe is referring to involves the amount of information and misinformation that can be found on social media, and how that changing information environment is shaped and influenced by political structures and those in power. Social media and news outlets could be to blame due to the number of opinions that are now in the marketplace of ideas. But Coe said he thinks the real problem lies within the curators who are controlling the release of questionable content being cultivated for public consumption.
“The deeper problem is that people are toxic because people are creating that information environment, and particularly people in power, who often have an incentive to put out misinformation, for example,” Coe said.
Power isn’t the only incentive to deceive the public.
“To get that misinformation to circulate and that might be a monetary incentive as a way for them to just increase their own personal wealth, say, unscrupulous journalists … an unscrupulous participant in the media environment who benefits financially from having their message, which … they know is factually inaccurate, circulate widely, because it builds attention for them,” Coe said.
This could be applied as well to politicians who use misinformation or inflammatory remarks to influence their following and maintain power. Coe also said it would take a broader reform of the political and information system to reach the overarching goal that those interpersonal acts of communication like the Conversations are seeking.
It might seem like the deck has been stacked against the participants of the Conversations like Steven Olsen, who look through the lens of the humanities to navigate these uncomfortable conversations and polarizing topics. But there is consensus and hope among those who attend, that the Conversations will continue to provide participants with the opportunity to not see a political enemy on the other side of the aisle, but a vulnerable person who also wants what is best for the country.
“Those conversations can rise above the particulars of our contention, you know, the differences of our points of view,” Olsen said. “To see the human underpinnings of even the necessity of having differences of opinion, in other words, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, but it’s about the meaning of the truth that we’re seeking from the conversation.”
Authoritarian governments are sinking their claws into every corner of the globe. Creeping command of complete control in Orban’s Hungary, Erdogan’s Turkey, Maduro’s Venezuela, is ripping their populations asunder. Upending citizens stable lives for pursuit of fleeting power via relentless institutional dismemberment. In the United States, citizens grip to a belief that its institutions are infallible. That its system of governance upholds the bulwark between freedom and tyranny.
Yet tyranny is only ever one generation away from usurping power. In the U.S. many believe that the nation is slowly careening toward this disaster. That a government will be elected that will ignore, or even tear down our safeguards. To prevent this from becoming a reality it is imperative we identify these forces before they overwhelm our governing institutions.
Many point to populism as the root cause of this decline. Populism — an obscure term, one too often applied to disparate concepts in the mind of the American citizenry. Until Jan. 6, 2021, when the concept crashed to the center of American politics during The Capitol Hill Siege. The actions perpetrated that day are often attributed to former President Donald Trump’s speech prior to the riots. This would be an oversimplification, a fundamental confusion of addressing symptoms rather than the underlying disease.
In his speech, Trump highlighted the uncertainty of the election, the political uncertainty of a volatile democratic process, and the uncertainty of a globalized society. Uncertainty makes people susceptible to populism. Politicians who claim they can manifest certainty in an uncertain world apply appeals to the most basic senses of human stability – shelter, food, money.
“Psychologically none of us like the experience of uncertainty,” said Ethan Busby, an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University. During a Zoom interview, he emphatically motions toward his head with rolling wrists in an act to mimic the chaos one can feel via these forces in one’s mind.
Yet, the United States possesses some of the highest rates of uncertainty in the western world according to FRED Economic Data. This is concerning, especially when one looks at the cultural uncertainty currently facing the U.S. People cite concerns over immigration, high rates of job loss due to globalization, and wealth gaps.
But Busby noted people yearn for certainty in their lives and will pursue it in any way they see fit. The use of populist rhetoric clearly defines and separates the world into tangible right and wrong. Strategic political actors can then exploit this perceived certainty, and through the use of their rhetoric provide their supporters with a feeling of moral righteousness, Busby said.
“I don’t fundamentally believe that extremists are a different kind of people than the rest of us,” Busby said. As a specialist in political psychology, he focuses on the forces that cause individuals to become susceptible to populist rhetoric. The same people you stand in line with at groceries stores, wait behind in traffic, and pass by on the street every day. These are not enigmatic boogeymen, they are our fellow citizens — fathers, aunts, cousins, and neighbors.
Everyone can be susceptible to this form of rhetoric. Populism isn’t an ideology that is reserved for a select group of people, it is an ideology built from the supposed “common people”. Attempting to project an individual — or movement — as the legitimate voice of all the people. Asserting that one person, or a particular group of people, can save the country from the elites and those who wish to dispossess them of the American Dream. Populists point to supposed oppressive forces that keep the American public subjugated, claiming the country can shed these chains and rise into prominence once again by following their vision, Busby said.
In American governance one of the bulwarks to curb this rise of deceptive rhetoric that cements populist power is through freedom of the press. Our Constitution enshrines the right to criticize the government and share ideas openly in the marketplace of ideas. Thus, our media structure has taken the form of being a crucial institution within our democratic society.
For a populist, institutions are synonymous with the ruling elite. This places a large red bullseye on the back of our media establishment for populist politicians. By discrediting the media structure, the populist politician not only scores points with their base by attacking the elites, they can begin to structure the narrative around themselves. With the rise of the digital age the threat of these institutions being worn away rises every day.
The speed at which information and misinformation flows in the digital age is unlike anything that we have seen before in human history. The proliferation and broad acceptance of social media and fake news are fracturing society, increasing uncertainty. For RonNell Anderson Jones, a law professor at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, “It is one of the most significant challenges facing American democracy today.”
Jones specializes in media law, and particularly the newly emergent space of social media law. The rise of fake news within American society is nothing new. We have combatted its rise multiple times throughout the nation’s history, she said in a Zoom interview. However, the nation is not just seeing the rise of another wave of yellow journalism, in which salacious stories were spun by specious salesmen. We are facing something altogether new.
The fake news that proliferates today typically has a severely specific partisan point of view, purposely intended to maximize the interactions that these stories will receive via social media. Intended to inflame passions and prejudices for a precise outcome dictated by those who benefit, and even profit, from these outcomes. Jones said this resurgence of fake news in an online environment is exceedingly dangerous. Through these new avenues Americans are receiving a hyperinflated sense of reality, truly fixed within their echo chambers.
Heightened partisan tensions can only spell inevitable disaster for the United States. Through this degenerative process Americans are beginning to lose the shared common ground between themselves. “All good democracies throughout history have had some shared baseline of objective truth in their society,” Jones said. Sitting up from her chair she leaned toward the camera, emphasizing with her raised eyebrows and meticulous diction the point that we may be straying too far from this ideal.
So, with the degradation of our shared baseline, citizens are more likely to believe charismatic leaders who are professing to be telling their truth, the truth of the average citizen. This places enormous power within the hands of populist politicians since many see them as the arbiters of truth. With instant communication, Jones reiterated, this raises even more concern and speculation from followers about what truth really is. Is truth what your community tells you, what leadership tells you, what you believe, is it objective?
A populist will capitalize on this uncertainty, presenting a truth that appeals to a broad base of people. Yet, lies told big enough and loud enough, with enough uncertainty present, begin to chip away at the foundational tenets of objective truth, Jones said. Dismantling our shared common grounds, destroying our trust in each other, and devouring our relationships. This is where power for the populist snowballs.
The centralization of power within the hands of powerful charismatic leaders is dangerous, since it will perpetuate the forces of populism. A positive feedback loop is obtained through the cycle of certainty constantly being just on the horizon. The populist will strive to maintain this loop. Populism must be addressed prior to gaining any form of traction with our system of governance, for once a populist politician has obtained enough power to begin influencing a democratic process, it may already be too late.
“The populist sees an election not as an exercise of fair competition, but as an expression of the will of the people,” said Kirk Hawkins, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University. He furrowed his brow, eyes closed, accentuating each word so that it hung in the air for just a moment longer.
If a populist has already accumulated enough power to be democratically elected to government, it is hard to oust them from that position. They emphatically believe themselves to be the personification of the will of the people, and thus anything that contradicts this belief cannot be true, Hawkins said. With a degraded perception of the truth already in place this narrative begins to propagate.
The effective implementation of misinformation was witnessed in full by the American public in the final days of Trump’s presidency. Neither Trump, nor fanatical sections of his base, could accept the electoral loss since it violated this perception of the supposed will of the people. The will of the people — or at least a specific segment of the people — was on full display in the form of mob mentality. This was seen in stark reality the day of the riots on Capitol Hill. As Hawkins put it, “Populism is a response to the very things the rhetoric invokes.”
Hawkins is a director of Team Populism — a global project intended to bring together scholars from across the world to share their research on the causes and consequences of populism — of which Busby is also a member. Hawkins’ research focuses on populism’s effect on large systems, such as a democratic society. Through the knowledge he has gained from research Hawkins said assuredly, “Americans are not real cool with populist rhetoric; they think it’s strange and unnecessarily provocative.”
Major news agencies, polling sites, and Americans themselves repeat this sentiment. According to Reuters, The Hill, and Forbes — in addition to others — more than half of Americans believed Trump should not have completed his term following the events that transpired.
This is undoubtedly a hopeful sign for the present, but what about the future? We are only at the beginning of the age of social media, the American people are still fumbling their way through this new medium of interaction. There are a few things that can be done at the governmental and individual level to combat the rise of populist rhetoric in the future, Hawkins said.
Education is the future. Through reinvigorating the spirit of the Enlightenment, whose ideals our government was founded upon, we can combat not only the rise of extremist rhetoric but the proliferation of misinformation. The American public needs to find its passion once again for critical thought and critical literacy, Busby said.
As a society we must repair our degrading shared baseline of ideals, facts, and direction, said Jones, the law professor. By holding each other accountable for the preservation of our way of life we eliminate the driving force of us versus them, and we reenter into a community minded future.
Through the restoration of our shared common ground, we will begin to drive out misinformation, thus eliminating another force that drives populist rhetoric. However, Jones said, none of this manages to address the problem of uncertainty in American society. Arguably the basal source of this issue in the first place.
Life may never be free of uncertainty. But if the American public can begin listening to each other again we can begin taking the first steps in the right direction. The American people need to once again recognize that people who think differently are not inherently bad or immoral people, Busby said. This sentiment destroys the bonds that hold us together.
The American public ought to stop believing that we must dominate each other to profess our particular viewpoint. To value other voices and opinions is the only way to create a more perfect solution to any given problem. No one person can be the will of the people. No individual has every answer to every problem. For Kirk Hawkins, the professor at BYU, “The way you correct prejudice is by helping people get better informed about things they don’t like.”
The idea of leaving home always intrigued Lawrence Mbaki. The world and all of its corners seemed to call him for exploration.
It was a long flight from Cape Town, South Africa, to Salt Lake City. One deep breath reminded him that his life would be forever different.
The hot desert air was unlike what Mbaki was used to from the Mediterranean climate back home. Stepping off the plane reaffirmed that his dream to travel the world had just become a reality.
It was a giant leap. He had never left his home country alone. It was an opportunity that he, an adventurer at heart, had to take as it came to him. However, he didn’t expect that something would threaten the progress of his international journey later on.
“I always wanted to study abroad,” Mbaki said. “The United States seemed like a very nice country where the program I wanted to study was better than elsewhere.”
Early years in Cape Town
Mbaki had always had a passion for the performing arts. From playing pretend with his two younger siblings to participating in extracurricular activities in school, he has presented himself as a performer and a creative.
Mbaki decided to participate in evangelical work in Johannesburg a few years after graduating from high school. Bubbly and always joyful, it was not hard for him to make friends while there. Among those were several friends from the United States who later helped him find university study opportunities.
The day finally came in early August 2019. Mbaki packed his bags and made the courageous leap for a new beginning.
Mbaki began his educational pursuits at Southern Utah University the fall semester of his arrival. He soon reunited with his brother, Kevin, who also moved to southern Utah for school opportunities in early December 2019.
“I’m only here because of Lawrence,” Kevin said in a phone interview. “I don’t really have a motive behind being here, besides the fact that Lawrence is here.”
While Lawrence has been pursuing his passion for the arts, Kevin has found a new love for computer science and security while studying abroad.
Things seemed to be going well for the brothers as the spring semester kicked into gear. Suddenly, with the coronavirus pandemic’s appearance in March 2020, a fear of returning home early from their studies abroad hung over their heads.
A contributing factor to an international student’s ability to study in the United States is the number of face-to-face credits they take per semester. The ratio of online to in-person classes can vary due to an institution’s policy. An international student, however, must be registered as a full-time student.
This requirement posed a massive problem for international students as universities and educational institutions began to close their doors and move to a fully online class schedule.
“I was very fearful,” Kevin said. “I didn’t want to go back to South Africa.”
Fearful as they were, they took to action to maintain their education.
Lawrence has been an international student ambassador at Southern Utah University from his first semester of attendance. He and his fellow ambassadors met with the department heads to decide which course of action to take.
Would it be best to send the students home to their mother country? Would the current and rapidly changing travel restrictions allow for such a move?
Jamie Orton is a director with the International Scholar and Student Services Office at Southern Utah University. That office has the primary purpose of advising, supporting, and providing aid to international visitors attending SUU. These services include providing students with proper travel advising, employment opportunities, immigration maintenance, and so on.
She worked directly with Lawrence and other ambassadors during this time.
“[We] held an emergency meeting for all international students in March, right before the drastic adjustments were made due to the pandemic,” Orton said in an email interview. “We encouraged students to consult with their parents and families to make the best decision regarding staying in Cedar City or traveling back to their home country.”
It was a time of thoughtful consulting and rapid decision making for students and university leaders. After speaking with their families, half of the international student population decided to return home due to the coronavirus’s fearful circumstances.
Lawrence and Kevin were not among this group of fleeing students.
As the situation continued to change, Lawrence said he and his fellow ambassadors worked with the school, in conjunction with the government, to adjust the regulations that are tied to international student visa requirements.
The conditions for study set in the visa documentation, as mentioned above, stated that to stay in the country, a student must have an equivalent of nine in-person credits or more and a maximum of three online credits.
With in-person lectures no longer available to students, the school worked to override the requirement so international students could maintain their visas.
The university succeeded in waiving these conditions after a time of uncertainty. Lawrence and Kevin said they were excited to remain at Southern Utah University.
With eased restrictions, they have both attended hybrid courses that allow them to continue their education and extracurricular activities safely.
Lawrence said he hopes to take his knowledge and experience from studying abroad and open a school for performing arts in his home town Cape Town.
Kevin is enjoying his time in the United States. He said he plans to increase his knowledge of computer science and cybersecurity and someday work in U.S. national security.
After President Trump cut the size of Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 1 million acres, activists feared that was the beginning of the end for protected land in Utah. The monument’s size has been reduced from 1.35 million acres to 200,000 acres.
“This reduction in size poses a great threat to the native population and artifacts in the area. These are sacred lands and should not be tampered with,” said Ashley Soltysiak, the director of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a phone interview.
The monument contains many ancient artifacts that the Native American population holds sacred. Moon House is one such artifact. It is a cliff dwelling that has been with the native population for nearly 1,000 years. The reduction to the monument put Moon House and other ancient artifacts at risk.
When President Obama expanded the land of Bears Ears in 2016, he did so with the ancient artifacts in mind. An official press release from the White House stated, “The area’s cultural importance to Native American tribes continues to this day. As they have for generations, these tribes and their members come here for ceremonies and to visit sacred sites.”
Soltysiak said, “It feels as though this was an attempt by the Trump administration to undo as much of the former president’s work as possible.” The reduction favors economic interests over the interests of ancient artifacts and sites.
The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club also runs campaigns aimed at protecting these ancient artifacts. One, “keep public lands in public hands,” is directed toward stopping the increasing cuts to Utah’s public lands. The campaign runs on the basis of keeping our American history safe.
The new bill, created by President Trump, signed also by Utah Congressman John Curtis, and Utah representatives Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Mia Love, would reduce the size of the monument by 85%. It would create a new monument at the same time out of the remaining land.
The new monument, named Shash Jáa National Monument, would be created out of the remaining land in Bears Ears. The bill would open the land to three new opportunities.
Mining, geothermic leasing, and the sale of Bears Ears would be allowed by the Utah legislature. The economic expansion of this land would allow for more industrial activities to be carried out in the national monument.
Mining sites across the world have all seen similar beginnings. Sites like Tanami mine, located in Tanami, Australia, were created on land that was once protected by the government. The Tanami mine has since led to numerous environmental problems, such as cave-ins that threaten the lives of the native population working at the mine.
Another similar event happened in the Four Corners National Park. The land was taken away from the National Park to create more power plants to supply the area with power.
Like the Bears Ears National Monument, the Four Corners National Park was opened up to industrial activity. The Natural Resources Defense Council says this was in an attempt to solve the energy demands of the area. As the Four Corners area grew, its demands for energy became overwhelming.
This affected the native population of Navajo people. The largest effect was on local residents like Daniel Tso, a Navajo activist. Tso said, “The plants were giving off dangerous chemicals all the time. While we lived around it we were all breathing in those chemicals every day,” he said in a phone interview.
Native people all over the world have experienced a similar phenomenon. Government land grabs not only threaten the environment but the people living in the area as well. The Yanacocha mine in Lima, Peru, has an abundance of native protestors outside of its perimeter. They struggle to find the footing to overpower these industrial titans and take claim to their ancient land.
In many places around the world, industrial activities are the epicenter for conflict. Another example is the Tarkwa mine in Ghana, Africa. In 2018 the mine saw a hostile takeover as the native population violently fought to take the land back.
The controversy in Bears Ears has environmental groups worried. Like many places around the world, Bears Ears is under threat of losing important land and artifacts. The area means so much to native populations who have a rich history and priceless relics.
The white is the original size of Bears Ears National Monument when it was created in 2016. The black shows what will be left of it after the reductions. The lost land accounts for 1.1 million acres.
This is a cyanide processing plant in Peru. It is used to extract gold ore from rocks. This is part of a mine that spans over 500 square miles on land that was once protected.
Local activists in Salt Lake City protesting the city council’s lack of action on climate change. Bears Ears National Monument is one such case where the government chose economics over environment.
This image shows a reclamation spot in the Yanacocha mine in Peru. The striations in the mountain are from artificial rebuilding. The simple black tarp is to help prevent chemicals from leeching into the groundwater.
Tanami mine in Australia started as a small underground mine. It quickly evolved into one of the largest open pit mines in the country.
The state capitol in Salt Lake City where the house bill was signed to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85%.
At the Tarkwa mine in Ghana, plants must be genetically modified to allow them the ability to grow in soil saturated with copper. Nurseries such as the one shown here are used to create the first generation of plants.
This reclaimed land in Peru can be seen in the mountain in the distance. The blue color is a special tarp the mine puts over the mountain to help vegetation grow in the harsh chemical conditions.
The number of school shootings broke records in 2018. Today’s youth are growing up engulfed in an epidemic of violence. According to The Washington Post, more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence in school since the Columbine shooting in 1999.
fire drills have always been viewed by education boards as a precautionary
step. Now lockdown or school shooters drills are being given the same priority.
preparation can be extremely traumatizing for all students, especially those in
younger elementary grades. School protocol and drills are leaving young students
between the ages of 5 and 10 upset, ill-informed and scared to return to
For children in younger level schooling people carrying guns are simply “bag guys.” They don’t understand the importance of staying safe because their young minds can’t grasp the sincerity of the killer’s harm.
Madyson Skelton, second-grade teacher at Diamond Ridge Elementary School in West Valley City, says her school practices two drills each year, both “a hard and soft lockdown.” Soft lockdowns are for when there is harm in the neighborhood surrounding the school. Each classroom turns off the lights and continues teaching to keep the children calm, Skelton explains.
A hard lockdown is for when the shooter is inside the school. Skelton was taught through district training to have her students stay away from doors and windows and be quiet. Skelton is in a classroom with 28 7- to 8-year-olds.
“After the drills I can always tell what students feel anxiety,” Skelton says. The students are young and confused by the drills. They are cramped up against a wall and told to be quiet. “After the lockdown drill we talk about it with the students to let them know it was just in case of an emergency.”
there aren’t any notes sent home to parents warning them of the day and time of
the drills. “It’s always the girls who say it’s scary.” Skelton says there is
always a lot of giggling and squirming during the drills.
In a hard lockdown practice drill in February, Skelton says she heard one of her students ask another student why they had to do these drills. The student answered, “This is if someone is going to shoot up the school.”
She says she hushed the student and told them the drill was to keep them and their classmates safe if someone were to come into the school. Skelton explains the concern of wondering if the children had discussed with their parents what was happening in schools all around the country or, if the chatter was a result of something they had heard from another or older student.
Barrett Brinkerhoff, a 5-year-old kindergartener at Eastwood Elementary School in Salt Lake City, says he has had two drills in his classroom this year. “We go somewhere to hide so we don’t get killed or something,” he says.
Barrett says his teachers tell the students what is happening and why it is so important to be still and quiet during the drills. Barrett says the kids in his class don’t take it seriously and tease one another during the drills. He says the teachers hush them “to keep them safe so they don’t get fired.”
According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network , the best way to get prepared is to run successful drills. It describes using age-specific language, to send handouts home with students and reassure all student concerns. Determining who will need additional mental or physical support will help successfully execute these drills and minimize student and parent upset.
Barrett’s mother, Jessica Brinkerhoff, feels her child’s school could be making a better effort at informing parents who can prep their children. “Nothing was sent home or posted online — and I wish there would have been.”
Brinkerhoff says she doesn’t know what her school is advising students to do to stay safe during drills. After both drills Barret has come home anxious and curious. “I just tell him there is only so much we can control and that we have done all we can to keep you safe,” Brinkerhoff says.
Child Traumatic Stress Network advises informing parents of all specific
protocol. Identify all types of drills and what each drill is helping to
prevent. Conduct informal meeting so parents can ask questions to better inform
their child and ease stress.
The FBI National Webpage reports 30 total active shooter incidents in 2017 across the United States, 11 being at schools. And 250 total shooter incidents from 2000 to 2017.
The solution to solving gun violence and improving mental health isn’t as simple as performing an in-school drill. Giving students of all ages the resources, regulations and information to help prevent a possible fatality is worth all the time and effort.
Remembering delicate young minds are at stake when participating in drills will help eliminate child and parent upset. Active shooter or invader drills are terrifying to people of all ages.
Photos curtsey of Madyson Skelton and Jessica Brinkerhoff
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has been striving to relieve the burden of homelessness and make downtown safe. A 2017 study found 2,876 homeless people across Utah — 1,804 people in Salt Lake County alone.
Rio Grande area has a high population of homeless and has been the center focus of efforts to combat these numbers in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Operation Rio Grande — Salt Lake City’s initiative to address homelessness along the Wasatch Front — has three phases focused on reducing crime, helping those with mental illness or addictions, and finding employment and housing for individuals. Improvements have been seen from these efforts and are expected to continue.
A homeless man sits on a bench trying to stay warm on a chilly morning. Other people were walking around or sleeping. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Utah has been using a Housing First model since 2015. Housing First departs from the traditional ideas that people need to be sober and employed before they can be given a basic human necessity. Finland and Japan have adopted this method and have very low numbers of homelessness. The success rates vary, depending on how you analyze it, from 40-80 percent of those being housed remaining housed. They are encouraging numbers from a tactic that focuses on the person as a human being, not as a burden.
Organizations all across the Salt Lake Valley are striving towards the same goal as Operation Rio Grande, providing multidimensional help from medical to social needs. Community efforts are changing the care that is provided, bringing the humanity back into relieving the burden of homelessness.
Maliheh Clinic is a free clinic serving those who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty standard. They offer multiple services, focused on providing quality healthcare no matter the ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Maliheh Clinic’s mission statement and numbers for 2016. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Collin Hoggard, a student at the University of Utah, volunteers at the Maliheh Clinic. Hoggard explained how the Maliheh Clinic, “started as a way to reach out to the uninsured people in Utah.” It’s been serving patients who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines since 2005.
In 2016, Maliheh had 15,344 patient visits and 28,819 volunteer hours served. Providing preventative care, the Maliheh clinic reduces the burden that emergency rooms and hospitals experience with patients coming in with easily prevented emergencies.
Hoggard is a Spanish interpreter and accompanies patients on routine visits to therapy sessions. “It’s been amazing to connect with the patients,” says Hoggard, who sees real people with real needs. It has changed the way he sees those in different circumstances than himself.
Fourth Street Clinic has been serving homeless patients since 1988 and was moved to this location in the early 90s. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Fourth Street Clinic’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Like the Maliheh Clinic, the Fourth Street Clinic provides free healthcare and is located near Rio Grande. It’s a convenient location for many of the homeless people located downtown. The Fourth Street Clinic has a staff of over 60 people, including 7 full-time healthcare providers, and 150 volunteers providing over 14,000 hours of volunteer service. James Jarrad, Development and Communication Manager at Fourth Street Clinic, explained that the network of donors, volunteers, and staff bring quality healthcare to 5,000 yearly patients, who otherwise, would have none.
Jarrad visits with real patients who share their stories for the clinic website. “Becoming homeless can happen to anyone and for almost any reason,” he says. “There are so many different things to get to where you are in life and they can add up to either completely build your life up or tear it down,” Jarrad explains. “Sometimes you have no control, sometimes it’s within your control.”
Jarrad emphasized that, “homelessness is so much more complex”, than what the general public might think.
Connect2Health’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)
Connect2Health is a non-profit, student-run organization with a mission to “empower individuals to utilize community resources in order to cultivate multi-dimensional health.” By enlisting eager students, Connect2Health strives to connect patients with the resources they need to get back on their feet.
Focusing on needs other than medical, Connect2Health volunteers work one-on-one with patients at multiple locations. Volunteers can be found at Fourth Street Clinic, University Hospital, Primary Children’s, and the Wellness Bus. Connect2Health is creating a new norm by sending patients out with not only prescriptions, but resources including food, clothing, child care, and degrees.
Knowing that help is available is empowering to homeless and low-income individuals, but volunteers are impacted in a powerful way as well. “It really helps to break down bias, develop cultural sensitivity, and develop empathy,” say Alexis Lee, Director of Connect2Health.
Volunteers work with individuals, who right now, happens to be homeless, says Lee, but it is important to see these people outside of their immediate circumstances. Connect2Health engenders empathy and understanding for these individuals, Lee says.
Helping the homeless is more than just making downtown safer, it’s about seeing people for who they are. Operation Rio Grande addresses part of the issue of fixing homelessness, but it is organizations like Maliheh, the Fourth Street Clinic, and Connect2Health that fulfill the bigger picture and long-term needs.
What keeps these organization going are the volunteer hours. Donating time and spare items can make a difference in another human’s life. Homelessness is a multi-dimensional issue. A combined effort from the state, city, organizations, and individuals will help lift people from the burden of homelessness and be seen as fellow human beings with just a different set of challenges than you.
Whether you go to the doctor to ensure your health shouldn’t be a decision you have to make. Unfortunately, rising healthcare costs are forcing individuals to choose between other expenses and healthcare.
Many face the daunting prospect of healthcare cost. But what contributes to the cost and why are some at a disadvantage as compared to others?
Stories of healthcare costs frequent the news and media attribute one of the causes of high costs to doctors offices themselves.
Trying to decipher why healthcare costs are so high can be difficult. However, speaking with employees at a local doctor’s office and their experience with rising cost may shed light on the subject for some.
Jordan Meadows, a small family practice located in West Jordan, provides services such as physicals, blood draws, weight checks, vaccinations and other basic medical services.
Debra Bowen, the general manager of the clinic, discussed factors that contribute to the price of healthcare in the office such as payroll, collections, supplies, utilities, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Keeping quality employees is difficult in today’s economy due to the unemployment rate being so low. And with major corporations offering higher pay for similar jobs, Bowen said it is difficult for smaller clinics to compete for labor.
Bowen said more than half of the expenses to the clinic is for payroll and if they were to significantly raise wages the patient prices would increase significantly as a result. So keeping the balance between quality employees and wages is a constant problem.
Another problem faced by the clinic is outstanding balances on patients’ accounts, which are usually sent to collections. Some patients receive treatment but delay paying for it at the time of service for various reasons. Many of these unpaid accounts can come from patients who have been treated and have since felt better and no longer feel payment is necessary, Bowen said.
Medical supplies are a major cost to the clinic. Bowen said most of the cost comes from sterile equipment for examination, followed by supplies and tests to diagnose different ailments. The most expensive of the supplies are vaccinations. The use of supplies is carefully monitored so only things that are needed are ordered to reduce waste and overstock of unneeded supplies.
While rising costs are affecting most Americans, Bowen acknowledged low-income individuals and families without insurance are particularly impacted. Jordan Meadows offers cash patients a reduced price for their care while barely breaking even on the cost to the clinic.
These individuals are faced with the decision to pay a high insurance deductible or pay out of pocket. Some coverage is minimal due to the plan selected by the patient.
Bowen said these policies, known as catastrophic insurance, have high deductibles such as $5,000, which most patients would not meet in their plan year, so they choose to pay out of pocket.
This makes treating these patients difficult, especially those who have chronic care needs such as diabetes. Some patients will come in for their initial visit, but don’t return for follow-up appointments due to the price, which can sometimes cost over $100.
Though prices can still be considered high for cash-only patients, Bowen said they are negligibly higher than the prices set by government Medicare programs. Legally the clinic cannot charge lower prices than Medicare without it being considered fraud.
John Neilsen, a family nurse practitioner, said he and the clinic assist patients by reducing prices whenever possible for cash patients, and suggesting alternatives treatments and helping them find discounts on medications.
Neilsen said it is difficult at times when the patient cannot afford their care, but it’s even more difficult when the patient has the ability to pay but chooses not to afford their healthcare due to extravagances in their lives.
A main focus of the clinic is putting people first and doing what it can to help individuals struggling to pay for services by working with each one on a individual basis.
Mariana Alvarado, the receptionist who was assisting patients, said she has dealt with many patients who can’t afford the healthcare.
Many of the patients who have no insurance or poor insurance are notified before they are seen by the provider of the price of the visit. She says it’s difficult when patients are agitated by prices. But she said she does her best to calm them and explain why services are priced as they are.
Alvarado agreed with one of her co-workers. “Being a smaller clinic we develop relationships with our patients,” she said, “and do what we can to help each patient with staying healthy while helping them afford treatment.”
Jordan Meadows provides healthcare at prices that are manageable for the majority of its patients who have good insurance. But the clinic is willing to work with those who are in positions of financial stress or have poor insurance.
While basic healthcare could be considered relatively expensive as compared to other necessities, the breakdown of expenses to your doctor’s office, especially those of smaller practices, add up to and contribute to the final price of the service provided.
It was an oddly fitting picture of the former director of the Bureau of Land Management, who despite being out of government for 20 years, has water on his mind a lot these days. It was a rainy Thursday morning, and Shea, 70, was strolling to class.
Not on the University of Utah campus, where he’s been a research professor of biology and taught a class on urban streams for years, but at a local elementary school.
Every Thursday morning Shea teaches a class on water to fourth graders at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City. He arrived to a roomful of damp students who had just returned from recess.
As their teacher, Hannah Dolata, instructed her students to find their seats, Shea dried off his bushy white beard. He asked them what they had learned the previous week. The students couldn’t wait to tell him about the written equation they’d learned that showed how much water they used when showering or teeth brushing.
One student proudly exclaimed that if he brushed his teeth with the water running for three minutes and showered for 10 minutes he would have had used 52 gallons of water in the process.
“I try to conserve water every day because my grandma complains about the water bill,” said Valentine, 9.
Shea then asked the students what they should do after wetting their toothbrushes.
“Turn off the water!” the students yelled in unison.
While most elementary school students learn about the water cycle, Dolata’s fourth-grade class at Rose Park Elementary School is getting a much more in-depth education about water and how it affects them. With Utah’s less-than-abundant water supplies and growing population, water conservation has become more important than ever.
Salt Lake is winning water conservation fight
Around 33 percent of Utah is considered to be true desert, meaning the state receives 5 to 8 inches of precipitation annually, according to Utah’s Comprehensive Weather Almanac. The heavily populated Wasatch Front receives around 15 inches of precipitation annually.
Along the Wasatch Front, Salt Lake City appears to be winning in its fight to conserve water. According to the 2014 Salt Lake City Water Conservation Master Plan, conservation has exceeded expectations and the overall trend is a reduction in water use in the area. Classroom programs like Shea’s are crucial in these efforts, the city’s Department of Public Utilities said.
Yet, with climate change and other environmental concerns an increasing reality to students both in childhood and their future adulthood, it’s especially important to teach children today about ways to address these issues, Dolata said.
While Salt Lake City has responded to calls to conserve water, planners expect the city will need to do more in the future. According to a University of Utah study conducted in 2017, the state population is expected to grow from 3.2 million to 3.9 million by the year 2030, an increase of about 22 percent.
If Salt Lake residents continue to use water at the same rate they did in 2000 Salt Lake City’s water usage is expected to increase by 23 percent by 2030, according to the Salt lake City Department of Public Utilities.
Shea asked the students about where the water they use every day comes from. He explained the majority of water in Utah comes from snow in the canyons. Then the children attempted to name some of the canyons near Salt Lake.
The class’ homework assignment was to look at the weather and to document whether it was an accurate report.
“The biggest problem for you growing up is figuring out what is true and is not true,” Shea said.
A different kind of ‘water bucket’ challenge
Shea wasn’t totally out of his element. It had been five years since he had last taught elementary students about proper water usage.
The daughter of a colleague, who Shea worked with on state water laws, was teaching fourth graders and challenged the research professor to speak to her class.
Hesitant at first, Shea said he’s come to enjoy the experience.
“The students are like sponges and want to learn more,” he wrote in an email.
A few weeks later, the professor was back, this time leading a field trip to a water treatment plant up Big Cottonwood Canyon. With Shea was Jacob Maughan, treatment plant operator, who led a tour of the plant and explained how the facility purifies water to make it potable. From there, the energetic children then returned to their bus and traveled to City Creek Canyon.
At City Creek Canyon, a popular biking and hiking destination for Salt Lake residents, the students were met by John Wells, who manages the city’s watershed operations. With students trailing behind, Wells led the class on a walk up a winding, paved canyon road while explaining why it’s important to protect the watershed.
He told students that dogs are not allowed in the canyon to protect the water quality in the streams that the city depends on. As the students fidgeted and chatted, Dolata, their teacher, stressed the importance of showing students the real-life connection to the water cycle.
“In fourth-grade science they’re learning about Utah science and start to connect what they’re learning to the world,” she said. They “see themselves as scientists.”
Hannah Dolata and her class overlook a water storage unit and the Salt Lake Valley.
Dolata’s class walk across a concrete platform that serves as water storage at the Big Cottonwood Water Treatment Plant.
Patrick Shea looks on as Jacob Maughan explains how snowmelt is cleaned and transformed to drinking water.
Maughan telling the students what chemicals are added to unclean water to make it potable.
Maughan advises students to be cautious in his lab, because there are dangerous chemicals present.
Dolata and her class watch water spill over a weir used to control water flow and filter out solid matter.
She’s hosted Judy Garland and Adele. Wrestlers and ballerinas. But after being down on her luck and threadbare, the time has come for the storied Murray Theater to be great again. The plans to restore the historic building have the city reaching for the future.
Murray City Theater-Neon Sign
Murray City purchased the 79-year-old structure with the purpose of rehabilitating it into a cultural arts facility, and bringing the building — which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 — back to life.
Built during the Great Depression, the theater, which is located on 4961 South State St., opened in October 1938 and soon hosted live bands and film productions. The first film was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” with Tyrone Power and Ethel Merman. Show prices were 20 cents for matinees.
“The facility captures the vision of a broad array of cultural facilities which are distributed throughout Utah,” Kim Sorensen, the Murray City Parks and Recreations director, wrote in an email.
The building’s unique design catches people’s eyes as they enter the city. This structure stands apart because of its age, architecture and charm.
View inside of Murray Theater from the balcony
“The façade is an excellent example of Art Moderne complete with rounded corners, horizontal windows and a vertical marquee that serves as a landmark along heavily traveled state street,” Sorensen said.
When asked how this structure will enhance the community, Sorensen addressed that because this facility would provide year-round indoor space, and programming options will expand significantly. It will provide a venue for both small professional and amateur ensembles made up of members from local orchestras and band organizations.
Layout of Murray Theater hung up in the Foyer
As the city looks at the plans to refurbish this structure, they are trying to look what will help create a long lasting concept that will draw people as it once did.
Jeff Martin, city facilities manager, said, “The City has asked for an assessment about the theater that includes: asking the community how to best utilize the space and what costs and upgrades will be needed to meet the community’s needs.”
The building was bought by the City in 2016. Their plans were to be able to repurpose this building so that they could positively enhance the downtown area of Murray.
“It’s not everywhere that a historic theater is owned and operated by a city, and one where they are actively looking to renovate and provide a fresh venue to their citizens,” Martin stated.
Detailed architecture in the front entrance of the Theater
The architecture helps to emphasize the old rustic feel when walking into the building. This building has played a big role in the history of Murray and they believe that it can still add value to maintaining cultural entertainment and historic identities within the community.
Community members and visitors see the special features that add character to the city.
“When working, the neon sign on the front of the building puts out bright vibrant colors that light up the surrounding block. It really attracts your attention as you’re passing by,” Martin said.
Old piano located on Murray Theaters center stage
There are other unique features about the building that Martin indicated including that there is an air handler that provides cooling and heating for the main theater room. The original fan is up to 6 feet in diameter and approximately 6 feet long. They included that the original motor still drives the belts that turn a large pulley to operate the fan that still works to this day.
They believe companies that create neon signage is a dying industry. It is harder to find people who can make repairs to the glass work involved and components to keep it operating. The color and light output that comes from these types of signs is really unparalleled. The city officials believe that these building gives a sense of how far the City has come.
View of the Theater from the stage
“As I have worked with these buildings, some visitors came to watch movies at the theater when they were kids. While others attended events and concerts. Those memories tie into future generations and connections to build upon. It adds another aspect of how Murray is unique to its surrounding entities,” Martin said.
The reinvestment in the building is going to add to improvement of properties that run through State Street, an important corridor for the Wasatch front because of it’s big transportation roadway. Any enhancements that will be made will better the community at large. There have even been long term plans by state representatives to try to create more reinvestment in properties on state street because of it.
“This project will help revitalize our downtown area which is in dire need. It will be a catalyst to get things going, drum up the old history of Murray!” said Susan Nixon, the Associate Planner of Murray.
The city administrators are confident that the enhancement of the Murray theater will be an important catalyst for redevelopment of the downtown of Murray. It will add value to the social and cultural elements of the community. This project will bring the past into the future and make the area of Murray vibrant again.
The Utah state law that bans texting while driving is just too hard to enforce.
At least, that’s what police say.
Utah has some of the strictest laws on texting and driving in the country. State law prohibits any texting – including sending, receiving, reading or writing messages while driving. Violators can be ticketed for that violation alone – even if they’re otherwise driving safely. But, state law enforcement says that’s easier said – or written – than done.
Along with parent groups and the auto insurance industry, state police supported a proposed state law, HB64, that they say would have made it easier for them to enforce the law by banning the use of handheld cellphones while driving. But in February 2018 state lawmakers spiked the bill.
Many police officers have a hard time with enforcement because it is hard to differentiate what use the person behind the wheel is using their cell phone for.
“I rarely enforced it because it was hard to enforce,” Jeremy Horne, who was a highway patrol officer for over 10 years, said.
In order to actually give a person a citation for texting and driving, a police officer must see the person sending the text. This is hard to do because many times the roads and different lane sizes make it hard tell if the person is in violation of texting while driving, Farmington, Utah, police Detective Sgt. Eric Johnson said.
Police officers like Johnson say they have a hard time determining if a driver is using an app, texting, GPS or other functions. Michael Rapich, superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol, told The Salt Lake Tribune that the bill could make it easier to enforce these laws.
“We are very concerned with procedural justice,” said Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson.
Under Utah law drivers can talk on the phone, report a medical emergency, report a safety hazard, report criminal activity and view GPS or navigation devices, including apps.
Horne, the former Utah highway patrol officer, said that in the case of a car accident, the person involved or responsible will rarely say if they were using their cell phones at the time of the accident, so the number of reported accidents caused by distracted driving is often higher than what reports say. Utah records show that in 2016, distracted driving caused 5,748 crashes, 3,303 injuries and 27 deaths.
Since the law went into effect in 2009, the number of citations has been modest. These numbers can be traced back to the common belief among police in these areas that administering a ticket won’t make a difference.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported 780 people were pulled over in 2015 for being on their phones. Of the 780 drivers pulled over, only 256 people ended up receiving a citation, and the rest were let off with a warning.
In Salt Lake City, 1,300 drivers were pulled over after the revision of the law in 2014. Of these, 937 received warnings while only 380 received a citation. But not every county issues as many citations. For example, only three citations were issued in Iron County.
Audrey Emery, a senior at the University of Utah, said that when she’s behind the wheel, she restrains herself from being on her phone. However, if she wants to change songs or needs to respond to a text message she typically will do so.
“When I’m driving I always have the thought in my head that I shouldn’t be using my phone, this is dangerous,” she said.
Officers have discretion to issue a warning or a citation for violating cellphone use law. Many of these officers would prefer to talk to drivers and use the law as a teaching instrument rather than handing out citations.
Since the law was revised in 2014, the number of crashes in Salt Lake City has dropped. From May 2013 to May 2014, the number of crashes caused by texting and driving was 140, which fell in 2015 to 126. Giving out more warnings and less tickets seems to be the right direction.
“It benefits to provide education and understanding on texting and driving and how it can impact our lives,” Johnson, the Farmington police detective, said.
Utah lawmakers killed a proposed law in February 2018 that would have prohibited the use of cellphones while driving. Above, the State Capitol. Photo by Becca Carr
Missy Reaveley sends a text to her friend John, telling him that she can’t talk because she is driving. Photo by Becca Carr
In Salt Lake County, the number of citations for texting while driving dropped from 2014 to 2015. Abovek Scott Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City. Photo by Becca Carr
A Salt Lake County Sheriff’s deputy watches traffic outside the Scott Matheson Courthouse building in downtown Salt Lake City. Photo by Becca Carr
SALT LAKE CITY- The subject of religion influencing politics is a major discussion in Utah particularly concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ( LDS) influence in legislation regarding legalizing medical cannabis. The LDS (Mormon) church, last year, made a statement regarding legalizing medical marijuana saying “We urge a cautious approach to legislatures”. Some Utah voters question if religious views should even be involved on the floor, and if the church should be allowed such influence (verbally); especially when it comes to the well-being of the citizens of the state.
According to the most recent census numbers, sixty percent of Utah citizens are Mormon as are 80 percent of Utah legislators. Medical marijuana (MM) supporters are concerned that LDS legislators are making their decisions based on personal religious views. While the LDS church has made their views regarding the use of cannabis very clear, 75% of Utah voters; still favor medical cannabis and are pushing to have the vote to legalize it on the 2018 ballot. Some argue that the Utah house should be pushing legalization more because the Utah public is expressing interest, and it should be the public choice rather than the senates with possible influence from the church.
“I strongly dispute the narrative regarding poll numbers,” Rep. Brad Daw (R) said when asked about public opinion regarding legalizing medical cannabis. He discussed how under polls he conducted [not scientific] the question asked was “what level of cannabis legalization do you support” and more people, many of those who are LDS, are in favor of carefully supervised legalization rather than a full allowance of medical cannabis,. This past February, the house passed Daw’s bill (197) that requires the state to grow medical marijuana, and allow chronically ill patients to “try it. They also completely legalized cannabinoid with 10% THC for over the counter sales. “This can benefit the people who need it, and for those who need higher THC, the bill will allow research patients under careful supervision to be allowed access”
When asked if the Church had influenced decisions made by legislatures, Daw responded by saying “Removing religious opinions from politics would be hard to do…. the people on the board are elected by Utahan’s and their belief is their belief” stating that politicians would not be elected into office if the public had an issue with their decisions and personal beliefs. While the church is not opposed to limited and monitored medical use, they do make statements that the church would prefer that there be no use of cannabis; thus possibly affecting the opinion of those in Utah Senate. Daw explained, that we don’t want to “stifle the voice of public opinion” and the LDS church has the right to freedom of speech and to represent voters just as any other organization or citizen.
Voter Ann Cook, a non-Mormon who has lived in the state for more than 45 years, sees the idea of religion and its influence on the state differently. “The LDS church really does have control, if they just came out in favor of this, the bills would pass,” she said regarding the issue. Cook is in favor of citizens of Utah voting on this rather than the legislature, believing that the church’s opinion would primarily be removed if done in this manner. “ I myself suffer from chronic arthritic pain and had to retire because of it. I’m limited in what I can do and I deserve the right to legally try out cannabis to alleviate my pain.” Cook also added that she could make the effort to get products in states which have legalized them, but she does not feel comfortable obtaining such until they are legalized here in Utah.
“We regard cannabis medicine as a medical, scientific, and sociological matter,” According to TRUCE (Together For Responsible Use and Cannabis Education) reps said in regard to the influence the church has had on Utah’s position on legalization. “Our LDS TRUCE members are generally of the opinion that medical cannabis use is not a doctrinal issue, and LDS patients in medically legal states are considered members in full good standing… as are members anywhere taking prescribed opioid medications.” TRUCE has been pushing for the decision to be put on the 2018 ballot, rather than putting it the hands of the legislature. This is in belief that voters will support full access to medical marijuana, and will keep religious affiliations away from the decision. TRUCE advocates that the church does not need to be “speaking with representatives” as it grants too much power of the state to the church. They are not advocating for recreational use, and that they simply wish that patients with chronic illnesses have the option to use cannabis to assist with their treatments.
The issue regarding church and state in Utah is easily a debatable subject. While some believe the LDS church has too much influence or control over Utah politics, others see the affiliation only as freedom of speech. With terminally ill patients begging to allow for the public to vote on the subject the legislature is moving slowly towards the idea, and many are concerned if the LDS church’s views regarding cannabis, could be conflicting with progression towards legalizing it for medical purposes.
Leul Mengistu hits the gas pedal of his company van. The light has turned green and he is late for an appointment with Julia, a female refugee from South Sudan. A banner with a blue, yellow and red logo that reads, “Catholic Community Services,” has been slapped onto the van’s side.
“I don’t want them to fall between the cracks,” he says, one hand on the steering wheel. There are programs for women and children and youth, but men are often forgotten in refugee assistance efforts.
The International Rescue Committee reports that “refugee men, a category not prioritized by the humanitarian system for support, are often not able to access support that they need and, even more often, feel themselves to be excluded from it.”
According to CARE International, a relief organization that primarily targets women, “among humanitarian actors, donors and government agencies, there is a common perception that men are best able to look after themselves and negotiate the complexities of displacement unaided.”
The report says this perception leads to less attention for the problems of male refugees.
Mengistu acknowledges that women and children are often the most disadvantaged groups fleeing conflict in their home countries. However, he also says he deals with many refugee men who have not received needed support from other organizations because of the common belief that men are “best able to look after themselves.”
Mengistu has responded to widespread ignorance toward male refugees with the Men’s Wellness Support Group — a program that will bring together 10 to 15 refugee men for weekly classes. Each “cohort” of men will learn about topics ranging from building a budget to coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Weekly instruction will be led by men: Mengistu, a couple of class facilitators, and guest speakers specially tapped because of their area of expertise. David Harris is one such guest speaker. He is slated to teach the class on physical health and comes from a background of pediatrics and insurance management.
Harris says he sees cultural adjustment as the greatest priority of the Men’s Wellness Support Group. “They [the refugee men] need to protect their own culture,” he says, but they also “need to understand how stuff works [in the U.S.] so that they can get along.”
Mengistu once directed a support group for women that focused primarily on health. However, he too says the new support group’s objectives go beyond just physical wellness. “I want them [the refugee men] to be very competitive,” he says. “Everybody’s smart, but now it’s camouflaged!”
That intellectual camouflage refers to the invalidation of refugees’ prior work experience and professional talent in the United States.
Mengistu’s boss, Aden Batar, is the director of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement at CCS. He explains the “camouflage” problem from his own perspective.
Batar left Somalia with his family in the mid 1990s with a law degree from his home country. He says that degree and legal experience went unrecognized in the U.S.
“Can you imagine how frustrating that would be?” Batar asks. Today, he says, refugees can more easily get college degrees that match the ones they earned previously because NGOs and governmental agencies provide financial help. However, “back then [he] was lost in the middle because [he] didn’t have those systems.”
Even with revamped nonprofit and governmental aid, Batar says the Men’s Wellness Support Group “fills a gap.”
Eighty percent of CCS cases are women and children, Batar says. Men aren’t seen later unless they have a demonstrated problem.
Despite widespread apathy on the issue, Utah’s history with refugees makes it an appropriate birthplace for the program. In 2015, when 30 governors called for the cessation of Syrian refugee resettlement, Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced Utah’s continued commitment to assist refugees.
Batar also highlights the strong public-private relationship among CCS and local religious organizations as a positive sign of Utah’s tolerance of refugees. “The most welcoming state in the U.S. is Utah,” he says.
While the Men’s Wellness Support Group has public backing, it faces significant challenges.
For one, cultural conflicts between refugees’ old way of life and their new one in America could foster misunderstanding and resentment. David Harris, the guest speaker who will handle the physical health section, underlines that the program’s facilitators and guest speakers may not understand all cultural nuances of refugees’ backgrounds. “We may say something that we feel strongly about or think is obvious when they disagree or don’t think it’s obvious,” Harris says.
The key, he says, will be for facilitators to “listen really closely to what [the refugees] have to say and what their concerns are rather than being very dogmatic.”
Participating refugees will come from more than three countries. Mengistu has recruited men from Burma, Somalia and Democratic Republic of the Congo for the support group so far. His proposed solution to bridge cultural divides is to recruit participants who speak one of only two languages — Karen (a language spoken in Burma) and Swahili.
Logistics also pose a problem. Mengistu will need to resolve the scheduling conflicts of refugee men who work night and day shifts and CCS interpreters who work business hours. The program director says he and the guest speakers will adapt to the schedules of the refugees.
Regardless of the program’s potential problems, Mengistu envisions far-reaching implications for the Salt Lake City community. He says refugee men will integrate with the larger community, enjoy more family unity and become more self-sufficient fathers.
The first of the weekly classes launched April 5 with a cohort of seven participants — two from Burma, five from East Africa. If all goes well, these seven men will walk away from the CCS classroom on May 24 with the skills to start a career and find daily joy. A tall order — but like Mengistu says, “I don’t want them to fall through the cracks.”
The start of anything can seem overwhelming. No matter the age or experience, new environments can be hard to grasp. Kindergarten is the first step in the ladder of education. In kindergarten students are expected to sit, listen and learn from a teacher, which is a new experience for them. Not only are students learning the essential skills of math and literacy, they are learning how to be a student for the first time.
However, not all students participate in kindergarten. In the state of Utah, students are not required by law to attend the grade of kindergarten. By having students in first grade without any skills or knowledge learned in kindergarten, it creates an uneven starting point for students.
Unless Utah legislation makes changes to the state’s education system, this imbalance of students skills will remain. Although the change is the decision of the legislature, the teachers in Utah are the ones facing the problem firsthand.
Laralynn Caldwell, a kindergarten teacher currently at Farnsworth Elementary in Granite School District, has been teaching for four years in both charter and public education schools. When speaking of her time in education she made it clear that kindergarten is necessary.
“Kindergarteners are now learning the foundational concepts of math and literacy that were taught years ago in first grade,” Caldwell said. “When a first-grade teacher gets a student that did not attend kindergarten, it is detrimental to their whole class. The teacher takes time away from other students to train and teach a student with no educational background.”
Caldwell said the problem is not having a clear starting point for students. “For all other grades expectations are clear for where a student needs to be at the beginning of the year. But there is no real reference point for kindergarten.” Kindergarten teachers are overwhelmed teaching students who have little to no skills at the beginning of the year, and preparing them to be ready for first grade by the end of the year. This sets children behind before they have started grade school.
Utah does have some requirements for kindergarten. Every district in Utah is required to offer at least a half-day option and assess every kindergartener at the beginning and end of the year. However, this started in 2017 as a statewide assessment and is still being developed to understand what students should know before they start kindergarten.
By using a standardized statewide test, educators and lawmakers will start to see real data that will validate this change for mandatory kindergarten. By making kindergarten regulated and required, the Utah Board of Education will have more data to understand how kindergarten impacts a student’s future education.
The success rate for students who complete kindergarten goes far beyond education. Heather Taylor is a parent with a daughter currently in first grade. Taylor sees kindergarten as more than naptime and coloring.
“Kindergarteners are expected to learn at least 50 words, all their letters and sounds and count to 100 by the end of the year,” she said. Taylor was impressed with her child’s ability to work and communicate with other students. “Although some things can be taught at home, her ability to see other points of view and work as a team are both something she excels at because she attended kindergarten.”
Taylor is not the only parent who feels this way. Another parent interviewed spoke of the difference between her two children. She wished to remain anonymous because her son started first grade without attending kindergarten, whereas her daughter did.
“My first child I kept home during his kindergarten year,” she said. “The next year it was a struggle every morning to get him to go to first grade.” But the experience was much different transitioning to first grade with her daughter. “When my second child started first grade after kindergarten, she was ready for the longer hours, schedule and being away from mom.”
When students start school, there is a transition period where separation is difficult. However, the skills learned in kindergarten help students have a positive outlook on their education. The growth of the student can be seen by both parents and teachers. Emotional needs are also addressed in this important grade.
Erica Hibbard is the social worker at Farnsworth Elementary. She expressed the positive outcomes she has seen. A social worker’s job in a school is to oversee the child’s well-being in the classroom and at home. Hibbard works with students from kindergarten to the sixth grade.
“Students who attend kindergarten are more equipped for the first grade because they have learned how to emotionally self-regulate,” Hibbard said. She has seen the effects that starting school earlier has had on students she works with. “Kindergarten provides the first building blocks for students to engage in problem-solving, cooperation and other social-emotional skills.”
Daily class schedule for kindergarten.
Tablet center that the kids learn to use Ipads in class.
Mrs. Caldwell’s wall of words in kindergarten.
Letter center helps student to learn letters and sounds.
SALT LAKE CITY— There have been laws banning carrying concealed handguns since before the Civil War. From 1920-1930, many states adopted the Uniform Firearms Act, which said that citizens could not carry a concealed firearm without a permit. After World War II, states began to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who applied for one and who didn’t have attributes that disqualified them. In 2004, Utah became the first state where all public universities were required to allow students with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus. With recent news of shootings and gun violence, the debate over guns has been, once again, at the forefront of political debate. Moreover, the increasing number of schools that allow campus carry has added to the list of issues being debated between gun control and gun rights advocates.
According to a recent John Hopkins University study, data cited from the National Crime Victimization Survey shows that there are approximately 102,000 self-reported instances of self-defensive gun use per year, making this a rare occurrence. In this report the authors argue that to effectively stop an active shooter, there are a lot of skills and experience required. “Shooting accurately and making appropriate judgments about when and how to shoot in chaotic, high-stress situations requires a high level of familiarity with tactics and the ability to manage stress under intense pressure,” the study asserts. The authors support this claim by citing statistics of shooting inaccuracy by police officers who are thoroughly trained. “There is no reason to believe that college students, faculty and civilian staff will shoot accurately in active shooter situations when they have only passed minimal training requirements for a permit to carry.”
Julie Gazran, a representative from Students for Gun Free Schools, agrees that students don’t need guns on campus to defend themselves. College campuses are some of the safest places in the United States and with armed law enforcement officers trained to protect students and prevent potential violent incidents, says Gazran. Indeed, most students at the University of Utah appear to agree with Gazran. In a poll taken of 62 University of Utah undergraduate students, only 32 percent of students said that they felt campus was safer because of its concealed carry policy.
“Utah law prohibits weapons on school property, including college campuses, except for firearms that are in the possession of a concealed weapons permit holder. Other narrow exceptions apply, such as guns carried by law enforcement officials,” wrote Michael Young, former president of The University of Utah, in an e-mail to students and staff. In Utah, to obtain a concealed carry permit you must be 21 years of age (you can also get a provisional permit at age 18), fill out an application, send in a valid fingerprint card, send in a passport quality photo, complete a firearms course, and pass a background check. There are many different offenses and conditions that can disqualify someone from being able to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Still, the issue may not be so simple.
Todd Hicken, the Rocky Mountain Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry, is a strong proponent for allowing students with legal permits to carry concealed firearms on campus. “The only people who legally can bring them onto campus are police officers and concealed carry permit holders,” says Hicken.
Many who disagree with campus carry argue that campus police officers have the ability to protect students because they are trained to do so and have the ability to use their firearms correctly. Because of this, students do not need to have weapons on campus. In contrast to this narrative, police officers only receive an average of 12-14 weeks of training, and the majority of that is not for firearms. Most people who obtain a concealed carry permit (6.5% of the adult population) take the time to practice shooting and keep up with their techniques, says Hicken.
Spencer Eiting, a sophomore student at the University of Utah and provisional concealed carry permit holder, regularly practices shooting at the gun range. He has been shooting since he was young and he visits the range every few weeks. “I feel comfortable with my aim, especially at the range where I’d have to use my weapon if I needed to,” says Eiting. He feels safer with a gun on campus. Campuses are typically regarded as safe areas, but this may not be the case. A study by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, which compared the school years from 2001-2006 with those from 2011-2016, found that shootings on college campuses in this time period had increased by 153%.
In 2016 at the University of Utah, there were 8 cases of rape, 9 cases of aggravated assault, and 11 instances of domestic violence. Whether the solution to these problems is decreasing the amount of people wielding guns or allowing more people to defend themselves is unclear, but this will surely continue to be a dividing issue for years to come.
SALT LAKE CITY – On a chilly morning in April, 2005, Abimael Lopez crossed the border from Mexico to the United States. He ran seven to eight hours up and down the hills as prickly bushes scratched his feet. There was no time to stop.
DACA recipient Abimael Lopez while telling his story. October 24, 2017, Salt Lake City. (Photo by Citlali Jauregui)
Lopez and 23 others finally took a break from running after they found an underground cave. They rested for about two hours and were awakened by the sound of a helicopter. “We got caught,” Lopez said. They were taken to a Border Patrol station in the U.S. where no food or water was provided until deportation. “Kids younger than me were crying, because they were hungry, tired, and cold,” he said. Lopez waited for two weeks in a town called Agua Prieta in Mexico before trying to cross again. When it was time he began to run. This time he was successful.
Lopez left behind his friends and the rest of his family at 14 years old to reunite with his parents, who had been living in Utah for 10 years. His parents came to the U.S. to provide for him and his siblings.
“I was happy in Mexico, but I wanted to be with my mom,” said Lopez, now 26. “I don’t think my life would have been better if I had stayed in Mexico, jobs are extremely hard to find and the pay is not that much.”
Leslie Olivo, 20, and Lourdes Rosas, 21, each shared similar experiences to Lopez.
Born in Venezuela, Olivo came to the United States when she was eight. “I lived a pretty good life in Venezuela,” she said. Venezuela was in the midst of a financial crisis, however, and soon thereafter her mother lost her job. Olivo, her older sister, and her mom decided it was time for a better life. After living comfortably in Venezuela, they came to the U.S. with nothing. “The language barrier was a struggle, just because you feel so useless and lonely,” she said.
Lourdes Rosas, who is from Guatemala, says growing up there was hard because they didn’t have much money for food. Rosas came to the U.S. with her parents and siblings at age nine. “I had to leave my whole family in Guatemala, and if I had stayed I would not have had the opportunities that are available to me now,” she said.
In 2012 President Barack Obama issued an executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which enabled many children who came to the U.S. without authorization to work and attend college. Those who qualified for DACA were also protected from deportation, but were required to renew their permits every two years. DACA gave Lopez, Olivo, and Rosas the opportunity to apply to college and to obtain higher paying jobs. “I applied to have a bit of peace of mind of not being deported” while she pursues a degree in biology or chemistry, Olivo said.
On September 5, 2017 the hopes and dreams of many DACA recipients and prospective participants were shattered when the DACA program was ended by the Trump Administration. “I felt an awful feeling of dread,” “I was in shock,” “I got scared,” said Olivo, Rosas, and Lopez, respectively. “This placed has become my home, we were raised here, the only difference is that we weren’t born here,” Olivo said.
Since the removal of DACA, many in the media have blamed the parents for bringing their children to the U.S. “As a parent it is terribly hard to be apart from our children,” said Mercedes, a 47-year-old parent of a DACA recipient. “We bring them along to give them a better life while being by their side.”
Mercedes decided to come to the U.S. knowing the struggles she would face in a country that she didn’t know, but her children were her motivation. “I worked hard so I could give them an opportunity to study and not worry about money,” she said. Christy, 43, is another parent of a DACA recipient. She came to the U.S. with her husband and children after her husband lost his job. “We want our children to be better than us,” Christy said. “We brought our children here because it was beneficial for them. There are more opportunities for them here.”
Congress has until March 5, 2018, to act on a law that will protect all of the DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” from deportation. Christy says that many of the Dreamers are worried they won’t have a chance to finish their higher education. Olivo, Rosas and Lopez are hoping for a law that could provide a pathway toward citizenship.
“You’re used to believing that there is no difference between you and others, but moments like this make you feel like you are not equal or that you don’t belong here,” Olivo said.
Anticipation runs high among the Dreamers to see what Congress will do to protect them from possible deportation. “All we can do is wait,” said Lopez.
SALT LAKE CITY – Operation Rio Grande is ready to begin helping homeless addicts as part of its “Phase 2.” Law enforcement agencies are well into the first phase of pursuing active criminals from the area. As part of Phase 2, certain treatment centers have received funding to expand, but clinicians in the addiction field say this is not the answer and infrastructure does not exist to support the client load.
Sit in on any Salt Lake Area 12-step meeting and sooner or later references to “The Block” will be heard. The Block is the nickname for the area between 200 S. and 400 S. on Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City’s downtown, where illegal substances pass fluidly from dealers to users. Operation Rio Grande is currently attempting to eradicate the drug trade from The Block and the questionable activities that seem to come with it.
The Rio Grande street sign on a grey Sunday, November 26, 2017, in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City District 6 Vice Chair, Charlie Luke, explained that the city, county, and state of Utah are working together on the operation, SLC is largely responsible for the “on the ground” efforts. “We can fund law enforcement, we can fund cleanup down there, we can do a lot with the zoning. That’s within our jurisdiction,” Luke said. “The county is the one who started moving money into treatment and things.” Law enforcement is arresting people who have felonies and those who sell illegal drugs, “we are not trying to arrest homeless, we are not trying to arrest addicts, we’re trying to arrest those who are preying on the homeless and the addicts,” Luke said. Cleaning up the block contributes to Phase 2’s goal of getting people help, however Phase 1 won’t officially end until June 19, 2019 according to the Operation Rio Grande website.
Odyssey House is one of the treatment facilities receiving funds from the county. It has multiple locations with inpatient and outpatient options. Odyssey House also offers “sober living” – transitional housing to help clients get back on their feet. Director of Operations at 7th Street Treatment Center and former support staff at Odyssey House, Melissa Welsh, has experienced Phase 2 first hand when people from Rio Grande first started coming in to Odyssey House. “We didn’t have enough employees to even keep up with everybody” Welsh said.
Odyssey House office building on Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Salt Lake City.
Mary Jo McMillen, Executive Director of Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, has expressed similar concerns. “The homeless shelters are still experiencing drug use and intoxication. The complaints I have heard are that there is not enough support staff for help with the complexities that people are dealing with.” McMillen said Operation Rio Grande was not prepared for the second phase.
Addiction has many dynamics and dimensions, Welsh said people who aren’t in treatment by their own choice are known as “compliance-based.” “They’re just trying not to go to jail,” she said. These clients are different than those in treatment by choice. “They go in there and they just bring the street into treatment, they bring the hustle into treatment, not necessarily the drug hustle but their hustle,” she said. Emily Abeyta, a Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Degree student who is currently working on her practicum hours at Youth Care – an adolescent inpatient treatment center – agreed with Welsh’s description. “I think that taking people off the street and dumping them in rehab is only going to be effective if that’s what they want for themselves,” Abeyta said. “The point is that you take them to treatment when they’re ready for treatment.” She knows this from being in recovery herself – with just over two years sober – and from her work and education. Since joining Youth Care she has experienced these situations repeatedly, parent’s put their kids in rehab but the child does not want to be there.
Yet, there are anomalies. A low percentage of compliance-based clients do succeed. “Some people, they don’t even know that there was help, and it’s like wow, there’s help, and then they rock it,” Welsh said. Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Lindsey MacFarlane, has also experienced this, she now works at a private practice but spent years at Wasatch outpatient. “I wish I knew what it was. If we figured it out, it would be like okay we solved addiction,” McFarlane said. McFarlane doesn’t know if what is happening downtown is the answer though she remains hopeful, “I think that there’s maybe people who will have the change that needs to occur and that they’ll get the opportunity to get help,” she said.
It is too early to tell if Operation Rio Grande’s Phase 2 will be a success or if addicts from The Block will receive and accept the help they so desperately need. Regardless, implementation of this phase was not as well thought out as addiction advocates would have liked. “There is not one size, or model, or approach, or intervention that fits for all individuals,” McMillen said. The importance of individualizing addition treatment may be something that Operation Rio Grande is only now discovering.
Richard Miller brings to the U his expert knowledge as well as his controversial ideas about global power and America.
Rachael Boettcher, a law student at the University of Utah, stood in the hallway after class and chatted with a group of friends. Like many students at the U, she worked hard during the week so she could spend her weekends as she pleased. Today she was planning a worry free weekend with some of her law school friends.
Boettcher has always enjoyed the freedoms America has to offer. She was able to attend university as a woman, something many women in other nations simply aren’t allowed to do. Beyond that, Boettcher often walks alone downtown late at night with little worry or harm.
“I am lucky that I am able to do what I want on the weekends, or everyday for that matter,” Boettcher, 25, who often lets loose when not in school, said.
Yet, her freedoms, at least her views of what she had always taken for granted, were about to be challenged.
“I’d like to propose an idea, one that I believe is an inevitable truth: that we are so indebted to China that we will eventually lose our power as a country and a global power,” Richard W. Miller, renowned author and professor of philosophy at Cornell University, said Thursday at an event hosted by the University.
The United States is in a great amount of debt and China holds a large portion of that deficit. This number continues to grow with time.
According to the Federal Reserve, as of January 2011, foreigners owned $4.45 trillion of the U.S. debt. That is approximately 32 percent of the total debt of $14.1 trillion.
And as of May 2011 the largest single holder of our governments debt was China, with 26 percent of all foreign-held U.S. Treasury securities: 8 percent of the total public debt.
The topic of America’s debt to China has long been debated, but along with debate often comes humor, something that seems to accompany similar prominent subjects.
image courtesy of about.com
However, Miller did not bring much humor to his lecture that was part of the Human Rights Conference. Instead he brought controversial ideas.
“I’d like to go even further…I suggest that we surrender to China before the inevitable occurs. I believe this is in our best interest as a country,” said Miller.
There are many people who would agree with Miller when it comes to the nations debt to China. Those in agreeance would likely argue that the numbers do the talking.
“To put China’s ownership of U.S. debt in perspective, its’ holding of $1.2 trillion is even larger than the amount owned by American households. U.S. citizens hold only about $959 billion in U.S. debt, according to the Federal Reserve.” (usgovinfo)
Yet, simply because America owes a debt, it does not mean that our nation must surrender, many disputed after the lecture. There were many students and attendees who were not afraid to voice their opinions, even if they were disapproving of Millers controversial views.
“I respect Miller, and think he is an exceptionally well educated man, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with him,” said Garreth Long, a law student at the U.
Fellow student Joseph Taggart agreed. “You will always find competing views on a subject…although I disagree with his idea that we should surrender ourselves to China, I can still respect him and his opinion,” said Taggart.
And although Miller’s lecture may have been controversial and perhaps even uncomfortable, his views were not disregarded.
“We are lucky to have someone as reputable as Richard Miller come speak to us and share his knowledge and understanding on the topic…It is important to listen to ideas that you may not agree with and even make you uncomfortable,” said Professor William Richards.
For Boettcher, Millers speech seemed radical and even uncomfortable, but after leaving the lecture hall she was able to go back to her life like normal. After all she was looking forward to her fun filled weekend. She likely walked around downtown late at night without harm. However this time she was likely acutely aware of the freedom she was so readily enjoying, all because of Millers controversial lecture.
SALT LAKE CITY – The extreme political division is hazardous for the country, said Salt Lake City Tribune writer of nearly 38 years, Paul Rolly as he addressed University of Utah students on Wednesday.
Rolly has seen it all when it comes to news, from the river flowing down State Street to the first artificial heart transplant in Utah; he has been there to cover nearly every story genre. For years Rolly found pride in writing the traditional hard fact news story. Over 13 years ago Rolly’s career changed directions when he became an opinion columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.
Rolly said, “I was trained to create stories that had fairness and balance through objective writing…. I have learned that sometimes when striving for that balance the truth is lost.”
Writing opinion pieces has helped Rolly in his passion for covering political affairs. Having graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Rolly has always been drawn toward covering the on goings of the government.
“I look at things objectively and then listen instead of striving only for balance, I make up my own mind of what is right and what angle I want to take,” said Rolly.
U of U English student Brandon Richards agreed with Rolly that an opinion column is an ideal medium for political conversation.
“So often news is just hard facts. It is easy to lose the story and the meat that is behind it all…. The opinion column lets you do the investigative reporting with a creative spin and it is easier to find the details behind the facts,” said Richards.
Political matters are usually categorized as heated topics and Rolly noted that by having an opinion column he can more freely express his opinion without feeling obligated to create a balanced argument. However he did note that he tries to remain open minded to other ideas and thoughts.
Politics are a passionate topic for many but according to Rolly, the political scene has changed from when he first began covering news and not necessarily in a good way. Rolly said that Democrats and Republicans don’t just have heated debates any more, now they do not even tolerate one another’s views.
There was a time when Rolly was covering a session of the legislature in 1985 and the mentality on Capitol Hill was one of open-mindedness. Rolly recalled hearing the words, “they need us,” in reference to a day when Republicans could not agree to pass a tax increase and the Democratic leaders were needed to assist with the vote.
Rolly noted that this kind of give and take method would never happen in today’s political world. When writing his columns he has a strict policy to attack procedures and positions never directly a person individually or personally. He said this bloodbath attitude can be left to the politicians, for often that seems like all they do.
Sara Seistrand, a political science major at the U and a campus political forum instructor, said she spent a semester in Washington DC and the mindset Rolly described is the same in politics across the board.
“This is a real national problem it is a constant competition and neither side is cooperating and because of it they cannot get anything done,” said Seistrand “an opinion column is the perfect realm to address this issue because he [Rolly] has the opportunity to find the truth and look into the real factors.”
Rolly’s opinion columns are available in the Salt Lake Tribune every Sunday.
Post 9-11, Americans perceived the war in Iraq as generally unsuccessful, and left our nation with a negative opinion about our country’s role in Iraq, but what if we had been there? Would our opinion change if we really understood?
Dr. James Mayfield is a retired political science professor at the University of Utah and author of “The Enigma of Iraq”. He specializes in local government systems, specifically in Muslim countries, and has spent the last 30 years focusing on training mayors, bureaucrats and other local government officials for better local government planning across the Middle East. Because of his expertise he was selected by the Bush Administration to spend a year in Iraq.
Dr. Mayfield arrived two weeks after the war ended, in May of 2003, his task: to prepare a country in shambles for their first democratic elections after the treacherous regime of Saddam Hussein.
Contrary to the violent, chaotic images Americans were exposed to over and over again in the press, Dr. Mayfield’s headquarters were in a peaceful, picturesque village called Hillah. The site of the ancient city of Babylon, Hillah is located on the bank of the Euphrates River in the South Central region of Iraq.
“I traveled all over Iraq in the countryside, never was shot at, never saw any violence…(the Iraqis) were so happy we were there,” Dr. Mayfield explained, out of the 1500 districts in the whole country, 95 percent of the violence was occurring in less than 10 percent of these districts, mainly in Baghdad.
Of the 14 providences in Iraq, Dr. Mayfield was in charge of five and immediately he set to work to train Iraqi staff and establish a functioning local government. He had a staff of 40 Americans and about 150 Iraqis, all of whom had advanced degrees and half spoke English well.
Once Dr. Mayfield and his staff had divided their providences into voting districts and elected counsels, who then selected members of state parliament—his next focus was to help local bureaucrats make decisions. They were accustomed to being told what to do, so it was an entirely a new way of thinking Dr. Mayfield said, “That was really a big challenge, they were waiting for Baghdad to tell them what to do.”
The top leaders of Hussein’s regime were let go, but the U.S. government hired many officials who had previously worked under Saddam, they spoke English well and were very competent. The fact that they could communicate was a huge factor; Dr. Mayfield was “saddened by the Americans in Baghdad, where 95 percent of them didn’t speak Arabic,” he gained the trust of many Iraqi’s because he could speak Iraqi-Arabic well, and he understood the Muslim culture.
The third and most challenging task for Dr. Mayfield: Developing and implementing a budget, “this is where we got into trouble because the American leaders in Baghdad felt like the decisions should be made in Baghdad. Terrible mistake,” Dr. Mayfield said.
An official budget was introduced on July 7, 2003 of which 65 percent was designated for Baghdad and only 35 percent to the providences. Dr. Mayfield remarked, that only 22 percent of the population lives in Baghdad and the remaining 78 percent live in the outside providences. By Aug. 7,Dr. Mayfield’s providences hadn’t received any of the funds, and even by the first of September only 10 percent of the designated 35 percent was dispersed.
“That budget problem in my opinion was one of the reasons for the back lash against Americans,” said Dr. Mayfield, the people appreciated that the Americans were there, but the problem was they were relying on the local government. Many of the local ministries still held ties to Saddam, and the Sunni were taking over again because they were whom the Americans were using.
Dr. Mayfield explained the different types of Muslims within Iraq, crucial to understanding the Iraqi people and their attitude towards Americans, as well as our attitudes towards Muslims and the Middle East in general. Like Christians there are different types of Muslims, each distinct.
Of the 25 million Iraqis, 65 percent are Shia Muslims, although they make up the majority of the country, the Sunni Muslims have traditionally had all control, even though they are a mere 15 percent of the population. Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, only gave positions of power to other Sunnis during his Regime. He persecuted the Shia, as well as the Curds, another Muslim culture in the North that make up the last 15 percent of the population.
The Shia were “ecstatic” when the Americans came, according to Dr. Mayfield they couldn’t wait to destroy the regime and have a new sense of freedom. “What most Americans don’t realize is that the people who were killing Americans were not Shia.” Dr. Mayfield said, “Most of the killing came from the Sunnis.”
The misconception in the states that the whole country of Iraq was anti-American was due to the Sunni extremists, mostly pro Saddam Hussein, who really wanted the American effort to fail so they could take over again.
As Americans, we don’t understand the difference between the Sunni and Shia, because of this we assumed that the Iraqi’s were against the proposed constitution because the Americans imposed it. This wasn’t the case.
Dr. Mayfield explained that many Americans don’t realize that although the majority of Iraqis are Shia Muslims, the rest of the Muslim countries are Sunni. In fact the only other country that has Shia as a majority is Iran. As a result many foreign Sunni extremist were coming across the border killing Shia Muslims and threatening them not to vote for the constitution, in fear they would lose power to the Americans.
Two years later and the constitution passed in 2005. Although Dr. Mayfield was not there at the time he explained, with a glow of pride, that 97 percent of the people in his town voted in favor of the constitution. Not only that, but of the expected 10 percent turnout: 83 percent of the Curds voted in favor, 70 percent of the Shia, and even 40 percent of the Sunni—all in favor of the constitution.
Today Dr. Mayfield has “ great hope for Iraq,” it has the second largest oil field next to Saudi Arabia, and the rich agriculture which it lacks. At 76, he is still active in his NGO, Choice Humanitarian. The organization he started 30 years ago, aims to train village leaders how to recognize and identify need, then learn how to network and leverage in order to fulfill those needs.
Dr. Mayfield offers a perspective on the situation in Iraq, which the majority of Americans are blind to, his compassion for the Iraqis and Muslim culture brings new light to the importance of understanding a culture and its people before making stereotypes and generalizations.
SALT LAKE CITY- “The Great Utah ShakeOut” was not an ice cream eating festival. It wasn’t the latest dance craze either. It was a statewide earthquake drill that was held on April 17.
Many people participated throughout the state at exactly 10:15 am at schools, work and home by dropping under the nearest table or desk and holding on for one minute. Others evacuated their building following the drill.
Bradley Hunsaker, an atmospheric science major at the University of Utah participated, but didn’t think it was worth the effort to have the drill.
“I didn’t really see much point to the drill. It seemed like it was just to set a record for people participating.” Said Hunsaker.
Some students were aware of the test, but didn’t participate.
“Our class was scheduled to take a test. We had been told to ignore any firefighters and just take the test. The rest of the department left, so we were alone in our little room,” said Joe Bolke, a material science and engineering major at the University of Utah. “Nobody got under the desk, or went to rendezvous.”
Joe had been receiving the emails leading up to the drill, however, and felt prepared in case a real earthquake occurred.
Jared Evans, who works in downtown Salt Lake, didn’t participate in the drill either, but only because his work didn’t push to do it.
“I didn’t even know about it until right before it took place. I saw it on KSL and that is when I found out it was happening.” Said Jared. “The building we work in is really old, so it would actually be beneficial to have a fire and earthquake drill to make sure we make it out ok.”
Most of Utah’s residents live along the Wasatch Fault, which runs from the bottom to the top of Utah. According to the Utah Geological Survey, an earthquake generated from the fault is 50 to 100 years overdue. They estimate that the fault shifts every 350-400 years, and the last earthquake was 500 years ago.
According to the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, if a magnitude 7.5 earthquake occurred, approximately 7,600 people would die and $18 billion would be lost to physical damage and loss of jobs and economic activity.
Preparation for an earthquake is key to surviving potentially devastating damage. Water, food and gas may be unavailable, as well as cell phones, Internet and electricity.
Be Ready Utah, the State’s emergency preparedness campaign, urges all households to have non-perishable food storage of at least three days per person, in case of emergency. Other things to prepare are implementing an evacuation plan and having an emergency kit. Information for these and other useful tips can be found at http://beready.utah.gov/beready/index.html.
The ShakeOut has been held at other places around the United States and the World, like California, British Columbia, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. The next shakeout is set to occur on September 26th of this year, in New Zealand. To find out more information on the shakeouts, visit http://www.shakeout.org.
On February 29, in the looming granite rotunda of the Utah State Capitol Building, a crowd of about 100 people gathered brimming with a determined energy. News reporters were present, email sign-up sheets were passed around the rally and a range of signs were hoisted in the air, stating things like “Str8 but not narrow,” “Human dignity is for all of us,” and “I am not a second class citizen.” The rally was a ‘human dignity rally’ organized by the newly birthed group Human Dignity Utah, founded by Weston Clark, Bob Henline, Megan Risbon and Alan Anderson.
Clark, a teacher and former chair of the Utah Democratic Party, said the purpose of their group is to finally bring equal rights to all Utahans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We have to be quick, we have to be proactive, and we have to let them know they can’t walk all over us,” Clark said to the gathered crowd.
Two recent bills regarding state-wide non-discrimination policies have both been tabled, one aimed at statewide nondiscrimination regarding housing and jobs, and the other aimed at promoting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) sensitivity training for the State Legislature.
According to recent surveys, 73 percent of Utahans support this legislation, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the Catholic Diocese of Utah have both come out in favor of the legislation. Companies like Adobe, EBay and 1-800-Contacts have also said they support equality and non-discrimination in Utah.
These measures are being taken to the Utah Legislature amid national debate on the issues of same-sex marriage and LGBT equality. In recent news, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington have all legalized same-sex marriage, which brings the total up to 17 states that have legalized same-sex marriage or unions granting similar rights to marriage.
“We’re always hitting the same wall,” Matthew Lyon, who attended the rally, said, referring to opponents of the anti-discrimination measures. Fourteen municipalities across the state have adopted similar measures, including cities like Salt Lake City, Taylorsville and Logan. “I’m optimistic that we will break down that wall, and I want to be here when it happens.”
Speakers at the rally included Jim Dabakis, current chair of the Democratic Party, Former State Representative Jackie Biskupski, Charles Lynn Frost as his theatrical character Sister Dottie S. Dixon, Kathy Godwin, president of SLC PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Isaac Higham, a young graduate student at Utah State University.
“I have heard too many times people my age say ‘it’s not my issue’ or ‘I’ll let someone else get involved’. No- we all need to be active,” Higham said amid cheers.
In 2012 Utah elections, only 10 percent of registered voters in the 18-24 year old range actually went to the polls and cast their vote, one of the lowest turn-outs nationwide. Higham cited this fact in urging the crowd to be politically charged. The speakers all carried similar messages of political activism, determination and hope for change.
“Barriers are not as formidable as they seem,” Rep. Biskupski said in reference to opponents in the legislature to non-discrimination policies.
Rap Biskupski also detailed delegate training. Delegates are the backbone of the democratic process in Utah: they attend caucuses and officially vote for our elected officials. Delegate meetings will occur on March 13th for the Democratic Party and March 22nd for the Republican Party. More information on where those trainings will take place can be found at http://www.utahdemocrats.org and http://www.utgop.org respectively.
A recent Gallup poll shows policies concerning birth control lag behind other political issues for the 2012 election amongst registered voters.
Healthcare, unemployment and the federal budget were a few of the issues that had more “extremely” and “very important” responses in the poll, which was conducted March 25-26 with a random sample of 901 registered voters.
The results didn’t surprise many people.
“Birth control is a personal choice and shouldn’t really be an issue right now” said Danny Gonzalez, a financial planner. “In the state we are in right now, we need to focus on unemployment and the federal budget.”
Others put healthcare as their most important issue. Recently, the Supreme Court has begun examining to see if the Affordable Healthcare Act is constitutional. Its constitutionality hinges on if the government can mandate that every citizen either have health insurance or suffer a fine.
“The healthcare bill must be struck down as being unconstitutional,” said Forrest Kelsey, a student studying psychology at Utah Valley University. “The bill will be like the federal budget; spending money we do not have.”
Current presidential candidates have been campaigning hard on these issues. Seven months from the national election, many people may not know whom they will vote for.
“I haven’t decided who I am going to vote for yet,” said Alex Germane, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Texas-San Antonio. “I want a president who is respectful and honorable.”
Gonzalez echoed Germane’s sentiments.
“The media is never going to give a pure opinion about a candidate. I have to do my own research,” said Gonzalez.
There are still many things to come forth from this year’s campaigning and elections.
The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent. To access this and other polls, visit http://www.gallup.com.
SALT LAKE CITY – The majority of American voters share consensus on what the most influential issues regarding their vote will be in the upcoming November elections. The best candidate for the job, however, is still a toss up according to the latest Gallup poll.
The topic of healthcare received the highest ratings of either extremely or very important followed by unemployment and the federal budget.
While putting some voice to the numbers, people on campus show a broad set of opinions, but show no signs of a committed vote.
“I consider myself more moderate, however in [Utah] I just take that to mean I am a democrat,” said campus advisor Charlotte Hansenterry who felt that healthcare and unemployment would be her two biggest factors to consider for the upcoming elections.
Hansenterry made it clear she was worried about the Tea Party’s influence in the GOP and how it seemingly is splitting the party.
“I feel the lesser to two evils would be voting for Obama at this point,” she said, “but my opinion could change at any moment.”
Strategic communications major, Joel McAllister added that he puts a lot of weight behind the candidate’s plan to support research.
“I would like to hear what the debates will bring out from the candidates on that issue as well before I decide. “
McAllister also stated that he is paying attention to track records. When asked who is more convincing, he assured he still wasn’t absolute.
“Obama is always very convincing, but he hasn’t delivered yet. That being said, I’m leaning more towards Mitt Romney and his record at this point.”
Freshmen Wilma Lazaro-Urcinole admits she first needs to get up to speed.
“This is my first election to vote in, but all I know is the a lot of people don’t like Romney.”
Mia Love, Fourth District congressional candidate, dominated the competition and earned 70.4 percent of the delegate vote on Saturday at the Republican Nominating Convention.
Love faced serious challenges from former state legislators Carl Wimmer and Steve Sandstrom for the newly created fourth congressional district GOP nomination, but she secured victory with the majority of the vote.
“I was hoping, I am not in the habit of making predictions like that, but I was hoping and we did it,” Love said.
Love’s campaign was steadily gaining traction In the days leading up to the convention. In a poll of delegates taken by Utah Foundation, Love had a 13-point lead over her nearest challenger Wimmer, who had 25 percent.
Wimmer had been campaigning for a year and had secured high-profile endorsements from Senator Mike Lee and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. As one of the Patrick Henry caucus founders, Wimmer ran on a platform of strengthening states rights and restoring constitutional principles.
Love’s campaign gained national attention and donations from the likes of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. These endorsements carried weight, but getting the coveted endorsement from Josh Romney, who by proxy represents an endorsement from presidential hopeful Governor Mitt Romney, was enough to help clench the nomination.
During her convention speech Love made the case she was the better candidate to face Democratic Incumbent Jim Matheson in the general election this fall. The delegates agreed by evidence of their support.
“Today we have an opportunity to do something very special, today we can start breaking a pattern, today we can start bringing Jim Matheson home,” Love said.
Love is the daughter of Haitian immigrants and has run on her record of fiscal conservatism as the mayor of Saratoga Springs. She worked with city council members to cut spending and reduce the city’s shortfall from $3.5 million to $779,000. The city of Saratoga Springs now has the highest bond rating for a city of its size.
Love’s efforts were met with harsh criticism. According to the Salt Lake Tribune article, “Mia Love; budget hawk or big spender”, in order to reduce the city’s debt tough decisions were made. The city cut the budget by about $2 million and laid off eight of the 85 employees. Love also more than doubled the property tax rates, imposing a 116 percent increase. This was a controversial move according to most residents.
“It got to the point that I could not afford to live in the city anymore. I was tired of the government spending money it didn’t have and expecting residents to foot the bill,” said Becky Pirente, former Saratoga Springs resident.
If Love is successful in her bid to be the fourth district’s representative, she will be the first Republican African American female to serve in Congress, Love refuses to let this dominate her campaign message.
“Saratoga Springs doesn’t have the best bond rating because I’m black and female. It’s because of the policies we put in place, “ Love said. “I am proud of my roots, but it is my principles of fiscal discipline, limited government and personal responsibility that are a truer reflection of who I am.”