Thursday, January 31, 2008

Online Crime Information

The Utah Attorney General's Office issued a press release yesterday about crime information being made available online. (see press release here) The data is available by accessing According to the press release, Davis County and Woods Cross are the only South Davis County law enforcement agencies participating.

The interface is very easy to use and displays the information very cleanly.

Currently, Woods Cross doesn't appear to have any crime data submitted to the database. Hopefully this will be coming soon. Each of those orange squares represents where a registered sex offender lives.

I believe having this information easily accessible for residents is a great step forward. I'm a big proponent of having public information posted online. Now if we could just get our city to post the annual budget online.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Till We Meet Again...

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Prophet to the World and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was re-united with his wife last night at 7:00 p.m. The world has lost a great leader. He inspired all who met and heard from him. He was respected by many individuals both inside and outside of the LDS Church. He will be greatly missed.

The official announcement from the Church can be found here:

Friday, January 25, 2008

What is a City Council Seat worth?

Woods Cross had three seats on the City Council up for election last November. I decided to see how much the candidates thought they should spend to get elected to the City Council. I put in a GRAMA request for the Campaign Finance Reports for all City Council Candidates for November's Municipal election. Utah State Code says, "A governmental entity may fulfill a record request without charge and is encouraged to do so when it determines that releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person." (see 63-2-203 here) I guess Woods Cross City believes that releasing this record doesn't benefit the public since they charged me 90 cents for this information. I was happy to pay this amount so that I could bring this information to the public. I will highlight some of the most fascinating parts of the reports.

I will list them in order of amount spent.

  • Jill Hadley Evans spent the most at $2,074.79. The single largest expense she encountered was $1,028.95 spent at "Shades of Gray Communication" in Salt Lake City. According to her report, she spent only $133.20 of her own money. She listed her parents, Jay and Jan Hadley, as contributing $1,691.59 to her campaign. She also received a $250.00 contribution from Menlove Toyota. Result? She was elected to a four-year term.

  • Gary Sharp was next in line spending $1,428.97. His single largest expense was $732.19 to "Designs and Signs" located here in Woods Cross. He also listed expenses for his campaign website. Gary received an in kind contribution from I4 Solutions also in Woods Cross. Other contributions listed in his report are $250.00 from Greene's Inc. and $50.00 each from Glen Jenkins of Woods Cross and Marva Thomas of St. George. Result? Was not elected to the city council.

  • Rick Earnshaw had the least detailed financial report of all the candidates. He listed spending $800.00 on his campaign with all of it being given to the Woods Cross High School Swim Team, which his wife is the coach of. He only listed one contribution for the amount of $500.00 from Menlove Toyota. Result? Re-elected to a four-year term.

  • David Hill reported spending $587.16 on his successful campaign. The single biggest expense listed on his report was to the US Postal Service for $325.00. He also reported spending $105.07 at "Sign Makers" in Salt Lake City. He listed two contributions of $50.00 each from Glen Jenkins of Woods Cross and Former Mayor Jerry Larrabee. Result? Elected to a four-year term.

  • Ryan Westergard reported spending $155.24 on his campaign with $141.36 of that going to "Print Xpress" in Salt Lake City. He reported receiving no contributions to his campaign. Result? He was not elected to the City Council.

  • Cory Green makes me wonder if Woods Cross City didn't provide me with all of the campaign finance reports. His report shows that he only spent $87.45 on his campaign with all of it going to "Focus Services" of Roy. This expense would be for a recorded message that he had sent to phones just prior to the election. His report shows no expenses for signs although he had many throughout the city. This is what makes me wonder if Woods Cross City didn't provide me with all of the campaign finance reports as my GRAMA request asked for. Result? Cory was also not elected to the City Council.
It'd be interesting to compare these reports with previous campaign reports. I suspect that this campaign was one of the most expensive for Woods Cross City Council seats.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do traffic ticket quotas exist?

I just read a Salt Lake Tribune article (see here) about HB264 (see here) that would ban quotas for traffic citations. If you've read my previous post, you may think that this is a perfect example of the state legislature meddling in local affairs. This is different, however, because the state already limits the power that local police chiefs have.

Why all the fuss over the "Prohibition of Citation Quotas?" I believe the biggest reason for the fuss is that cities don't want to lose out on the ability to increase their funding through quotas. Anyone who has been on a City Council will tell you that fines and forfeitures is a part of the General Fund budget. Is it a big portion? Not relative to sales tax, however, it is a portion that would have to be made up elsewhere if it declined drastically. I saw this happen on a couple of occasions when I was on the Woods Cross City Council. We would see in our budget reports that fines and forfeitures were not keeping up with previous years. Invariably our Budget Officer would point this out and make a comment similar to "I've talked with the Chief about this." So what is a police chief to do when this happens? I suspect he puts pressure on the officers to write more tickets. How does he put pressure on the officers? That is a good question, but, I would guess that it involves a quota in some fashion. Do official quotas exist in all Utah cities? I'd bet not. Do un-official quotas exist in most Utah cities? I'll bet they do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

And they're off...

The Utah State Legislature is in session now. This causes me to reflect on a few things. I've posted previously about the Legislature's reluctance to pass bills that concern their ethics. (see here, here, and here.) It looks like this year will be no different in that regard.

Another thing that I've been thinking about has to do with UTOPIA in particular, but, in the way the Legislature acts in general. Our state legislators constantly complain when the Federal Government forces them to do things in a certain way. They don't seem to have a problem, however, doing the same thing to local City Councils. This is just as frustrating for the City Councils as it is for the State Legislature when they get it from the Federal Government. Two bills that currently strike me as acting this way are HB75 (here) and HB76 (here). It will be interesting to watch not only these two bills, but, also other bills that limit the control that our State Legislators allow local elected officials to have.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why is it always the Mormons fault?

I read a Deseret Morning News article (see here) about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposing the sale of so called "alco-pop" in grocery stores. The statement from a LDS Church spokesman says in part "To allow the sale of distilled spirits in grocery and convenience stores promotes underage drinking and undermines the state system of alcohol control."
I also read some of the comments associated with the article. One thing that I found interesting in the comments is the amount of people saying it's the Church's fault that liquor laws are so strict in Utah. One reason I find these comments so interesting comes from my frequent travels at my previous job. I found that Utah is not so different from many states in having strict liquor laws. For example, New Jersey has separate liquor stores that are closed earlier than grocery stores and are also closed on holidays. Last time I checked, New Jersey didn't have a majority of residents who are members of the LDS faith. So how come every time the Utah State Legislature looks at doing anything with regards to our liquor laws, people immediately scream that it's the Mormons fault?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Public Salaries

I've been frequenting for salary information on public officials. I decided to take a look in their forums and found that there are quite a few public employees that are miffed that their salary information is posted on-line with their name. Why do some have such an objection to this?

I feel that if they don't want the public (who they work for) to know their name along with their salary, they should go work somewhere else. I think people who object to this, forget that it is the citizens that provide for their employment. Is it wrong for me to know that MY City Administrator, Gary Uresk, makes $103,551.00 per year? Or that MY Chief of Police, Paul Howard, makes $88,658.00 per year? Or that MY Public Works Director, Scott Anderson, makes $81,934.00 per year? I don't think so.

*Salary information taken from

Friday, January 11, 2008

Or maybe we're an Ostrich?

I've been thinking more about election security recently. This thinking has been prompted by recent articles and editorials. A recent editorial in the Standard Examiner (see here) quotes Joe Demma, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, as saying Utah's experience with touch-screen voting has seen 100 percent success. Our state, Demma says, has complete confidence in the touch-screen system. "It's just that other states don't know how to run elections like Utah does." Is this true? Are all the other states that are seeing problems with the Diebold machines stupid? Are the researchers at Princeton University who did a study (see here) pointing out the faults of the Diebold machines stupid?

The Standard Examiner's editorial also points out that it would be interesting to see if a disinterested third-party audit would find problems with the Utah election machines.

So maybe Utah election workers and machines really are that good, or maybe we just have our head stuck in the sand and we don't know any better.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Finally a decent response to anti-UTOPIA article.

The Salt Lake Tribune finally published a nice opinion response (see here) to their anti-UTOPIA article that ran last week. The response points out many flaws with the original article. I don't ever remember UTOPIA being "sold as a risk-free proposition." If everything had gone according to plan, it would have been a low-risk proposition. What UTOPIA didn't count on was being sued by Qwest early on. I really like how the opinion piece also points out the fact that Qwest or Comcast could both provide service over UTOPIA. They both choose not to. This is their choice. Isn't America all about providing choice? Some may wonder why they choose not to? They have a monopoly. The government already paid for Qwest's infrastructure.

I found another interesting thing to point out. The Tribune published a letter to the editor (see here) that aligns with the anti-UTOPIA article. It is written by a man named Robert Fuehr. In it he says things such as "Proposals that appear too good to be true usually are and should be viewed with great suspicion. The UTOPIA assurance that the $202 million in city money would "never be at risk because UTOPIA would almost certainly succeed" now looks terribly hollow and false. " This sounds pretty tame and could sound even understandable if we were to believe that Robert Fuehr were a normal citizen. Unfortunately Robert Fuehr is not a normal citizen. He is the former vice president of US West (pre-cursor to Qwest.) So what would Robert have to lose with UTOPIA? I would guess that, being a former vice president, Robert holds stock in Qwest. Anything that could damage that stock price would be detrimental to Robert. Yes, Robert, just as you say in your letter, some things "should be viewed with great suspicion."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best way to teach about government?

I've been thinking quite a bit this week about a topic that came up in my church meetings on Sunday. One of the men in the class mentioned that in his home growing up they were taught by example not to criticize political leaders. This got me thinking about how to teach our children about their right, even their obligation, to influence politics without teaching them to be critical of authority figures?

I've found that my kids have learned a great deal about the political process in place in this country by watching me be involved in it. Is it wrong for them to know that I'm against my City Council limiting my free agency by forcing me to pay for recycling? If they were to never hear me criticize decisions made by my political leaders, how would they know how the process is supposed to work? I want my children to be involved in politics. I want them to make their positions known to their elected officials. I want them to know that it's good to question decisions made by our elected officials. That's the way a representative government works.