Saturday, August 16, 2014

State Director of Elections Misinforms About Election Law

Even a great reporter can have a story get off course when misinformed by those they interview.  Especially when those they interview are supposedly experts in their field.  Even Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune is not immune.  I don't blame him, since the expert he interviewed is Mark Thomas, the state director of elections.

He should know the law.  But he totally missed on this one.

The story goes like this:  Back in June, it appeared on election night that Jim Dyer beat incumbent Jim Withers by one vote in the GOP primary for the Millard County Commission.  However, when the day of the final canvas came, there were several absentee ballots that had been misplaced, and the final tally had Withers up by 5 votes.  Mr Dyer challenged seven ballots, but the county commission, acting as the board of canvassers, rejected the arguments and accepted the results.

Dyer sued in court, and Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock found enough evidence of illegal votes to cast doubt on the outcome of the election.  Because she could not determine who received the highest number of votes, she threw out the outcome of the election and ordered the county clerk to hold a new primary election.  However, there is some doubt about whether one could be held in time, and I agree.  However, where things move on from here is murky.  Here's what Mr Thomas at the state elections office had to say:

The way I read the statute is it says the office becomes vacant. So we’re still trying to read the opinion and provide some guidance to the county."

Thomas said it appears the law would call for someone to be appointed to fill the vacancy. That appointed commissioner would serve until the next election in 2016.

However, that's not entirely true. The office does not become vacant, because the ruling only affects the 2014 election, not when Withers was elected. The office is still held by Withers until January 1, 2015, when it will be filled by the winner of November's general election.  Since there is no longer a Republican Nominee (since the Republican primary was voided), and no other candidate filed to ruin, there are currently no candidates on the ballot.  However, there is a way to win without having your name on the ballot: a write-in candidacy.  potential write-in candidates have until September 5th to register.

If I were a party's chairman, I would be doing some heavy candidate recruitment right about now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

John Oliver Takes On Utah GOP Chairman's Industry

Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans owns Checkline, a payday lending company.  Keep that in mind when you watch this segment from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chris Stout for Salt Lake County Auditor

This year's June 24 primary elections seem somewhat unsexy.  And the least sexy of the races is the race for Salt Lake County Auditor.

But enough about the candidate's looks.  This isn't a Presidential election.

The race is against Jeff Hatch, who held the seat for one term before losing in 2010 to the now-incumbent (who lost in the Republican Convention), and Christopher Stout, who has previously run for US Senate and State Treasurer.  My vote is for Christopher Stout, and here's why:

I first met Chris in 2010 when he was running for US Senate.  He got into the race because he didn't see evidence of any other candidate running, despite the fact that Sam Granato had announced he was running six month prior (but hadn't yet done much of anything in his campaign).  I found a candidate who stood on principles of doing the right thing and having the utmost integrity.  Running as the underdog, with the Party Machine behind his opponent, he never stood a chance at Convention, but this didn't stop him from putting forth a great effort.

I want an auditor who will find places where the government is not spending my tax dollars efficiently.  I want an auditor who doesn't feel indebted to other county officeholders for their endorsement.  I want Chris Stout for County Auditor.

Further, look at just about any overpass and canal fence line in the county, and you will see a Jeff Hatch sign.  Guess what?  All I see is a waste of campaign dollars, and someone with a disregard of local and federal laws.  That is not who I want for an Auditor.  Look at Jeff Hatch's campaign disclosure.  He had to file an amended disclosure.  That raises a red flag for someone who wants to handle the accounting for the county.  The amended parts of the return account for 76% of the contributions received and 66% of the expenditures for the period since April 1.  Do you want an auditor that can't get a simple financial disclosure completed correctly on time?  I don't.

-Bob Aagard

For more unsexy races, check out this list of 10 races to watch from Utah Politico Hub

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Time To Talk About Guns, Violence

Every time a mass shooting happens in America, we talk about how we need to have a discussion about gun violence, and how to prevent it.  But, we say we'll have the discussion "later," when the emotions from the latest shooting die down.

I still get emotional when I think of the fact that my best friend's family left Trolley Square at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2007.  They parked near where a young man with a gun had parked.  Had they spent 15 more minutes enjoying their dinner, they may have been victims of the shooting.  Two days later, instead of getting married, he could have been preparing for a funeral.  Or, the funeral could have been his own.

I still get emotional when I think about turning on the TV after picking up my nephew from Kindergarten on December 14, 2012 to see that someone killed 20 Kindergartners.  Even though it happened on the other side of the country, it still hits as close to home as Trolley Square.

And, about the time we start to forget about one mass shooting, another appears on our TV screens.  Let's face it, the emotions are never going to die down.

After two people set off bombs made by pressure cookers at the 2013 Boston Marathon, we set about changing policies to make sure that this type of thing never happens again.  But, when it comes to gun violence, it's never that time.

There are several things that we need to look at, the first is gun regulation.  I'm not talking about taking away your right to own a gun.  However, the four most overlooked words in the US Constitution come from the Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia...."  Our militias are far from well-regulated.

Next, we need to stop glorifying the terrorists.  Googling "timeline of gun deaths" brought me to a handy interactive timeline from the LA Times that went from a shooting at a McDonald's in 1984 to the latest shootings in California last week.  I'd link to it, but it highlights one of the problems we have in reporting gun violence: it shows the faces of the perpetrators.  We know everything about the people who committed the crimes, but nothing about the victims.  Do the names Daniel Rohrbough, William David Sanders, or John Tomlin sound familiar? Probably not, but they are linked to two more familiar names: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrators of the shootings at Columbine High School. We've seen a lot about the ranting and writings of the guy in California last week than we'll ever hear about what kind of people he killed.

We also need to look at the violence that is so often accepted as a cultural norm.  There was a play produced at Pioneer Theater that generated some controversy recently.  You see, Pioneer Theatre publishes "content advisories" for all of the plays they produce so that you can have a pretty good idea if there is going to be anything "objectionable" in the play.  In this particular play, two men kiss right before the end of the first act.  This generated some complaints, especially since it was not included in the "content advisory."  It was not included because this particular scene is a major plot twist, As until this point, the only two male characters we've met (and there are only three men and two women in the entire play) are an older playwright and a former student of his.  What nobody complained about was what happens before the kiss: We believe we see the playwright viciously murder his student, only to discover that it is part of a plot to kill the playwright's wife so that he and his student can live together happily ever after.  In other words, killing your wife, that's OK.  Kissing another man:  Horrible.  And, it ignores the fact that they gay couple are the bad guys.  Look at the box office charts for nearly any weekend.  Over half of the movies are rated PG13 or R for violence.  And the MPAA will tolerate much more violence than it will sex or language.

Lastly, we need to have an honest, open, adult debate about this.  For far too long we've allowed the fringes of our society to dictate the political debate.  Taking away everyone's gun won't make us any safer than arming everyone will.  But somewhere in between is a solution.

What that solution is, I don't know.  But it's a discussion worth having.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Endorsement: None of the above for Chair

This began as a post on Facebook.  It started to get a little long, so I moved it here:

A 29 county plan sounds nice, but ignores the reality that 4 counties have fewer than 2,000 voters.  That would be like Howard Dean's 40 state plan if seven of the states were the size of Wyoming or smaller.  Regional Headquarters makes more sense, but I'd like more details.  Corroon's campaign seems to be half-assed.  It's like he's daring us to vote for Richard Davis.  Raising a ton of money doesn't do you a bit of good without the ability to put together a good message.  Peter Corroon's expensive flier is a perfect example of how we do a good job at fundraising, but a horrible job of spending that money.

Yes, it's been a short campaign.  However, it's a campaign that I had thought about jumping into myself.  I had a pretty comprehensive platform from the start, especially compared to the lack of anything coming from either candidate.

I didn't undertake the race for a variety of reasons. One was money.  I just didn't have the personal resources to start up the campaign, especially in such a short time.  Another was the fact that my personal life and career are at turning points right now, and I didn't need to risk them.

If it was only those reasons, I would deeply regret my decision not to run.  I could have at least made the race interesting.  I would have at least forced the other candidates to actually mount good campaigns.

However, last night at the Taylor/Mayne Celebration, I realized a big reason not to run: Todd Taylor.  I have been not been taking care of my health like I should.  I know that Todd's weight and the stress of running the party were two major factors that lead to his young death.  I seriously need to spend some time working on bringing my weight down.

However, I am reminded of a conversation I had with Todd one of the last times I was at the old party HQ.  He told me that we are a party of good ideas, and that I am a person of good ideas.  Rather than simply complain about how thing should be, I should use my voice to share those ideas.  And so, with that in mind, here are some of the things I would have focused on as part of my run for chair:

-We desperately need to engage with voters, especially young voter, where they are.  That means significantly increasing our profile online.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Having a Dynamic Web Site, and more.  We don't have to rely on traditional media to get our message out anymore, so why are we?

-We need to focus our attention on areas that should be voting Democratic, but aren't.  West Valley and Ogden should be as deep blue as Salt Lake.  We need to recapture the labor presence in coal country.  We need to bring an environmental message to South Eastern Utah.

-We need to let Utah Democrats know that they are not alone.  We need to showcase our diverse body.  We need to point out that we have very conservative members of our party, but we need to also embrace our progressive side as well.

-We need to change our messaging on abortion.  While abortion is not a major issue to many, it is a major sticking point to many of my friends and neighbors who would consider voting for a democrat, if not for that one thing.  We need to tell Utah voters that abortion is ultimately a medical decision between a woman and her doctor, and the last people that should be making those decisions are our Utah Legistalture.

-We need to tell people that while there are many natural factors involved in our inversions, there is a lot that we can do to help make our air healthier for us and our children to breathe.

-We need to concentrate on helping the "least of these."  We have a real poverty problem here in Utah, and it is only getting worse.

This is just a small list, typed together in less than an hour.  Unless either candidate can show me that they have focused on the issues at hand for longer than that, I plan on voting for neither candidate.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Senate President: The Best Deliberation Is No Deliberation

We're on week two of Utah's nearly 7-week Legislative Session, and we may already have the quote of the session.  And, it comes from Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.

First, some background:

SB100 is the current bill number for a bill that has been floating around the Utah Legislature for 6 years.  It is currently sponsored by St George Republican Senator Steve Urquhart.  It adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of things that you can't be discriminated for in the state of Utah.  The list currently protects people from getting fired (among other things) on the basis of race, religion, sex, and family status.

It's similar to laws passed by several cities in the past several years, including one in Salt lake City that was supported by the LDS Church.

Oh, and it's an issue that a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll says that 60% of Utahns support.  The Deseret News has the number at 72%.

However, Urquhart can't get his bill heard.

On Friday, he held a press conference encouraging Utahns to let their Senators know they want the bill to be heard.  He encouraged people to come to the Capitol and post "blue notes" on the Senate Door.And, people came.And by the time the Senate reconvened on Monday, the door and doorway were covered in blue notes.

And, what did that mean to Niederhauser?  Well, it was further proof that the bill SHOULDN'T be heard.That's right.  If you want a bill heard by the Utah Senate, don't tell anyone.  Especially the Utah Senate.

From the Tribune:
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Monday the notes are proof "there is a lot of emotion out there" over same-sex marriage and related issues.
But, he added, the Legislature should stick with plans to let the issue cool down and not deal with more changes until the courts consider Utah’s appeal to a federal ruling that struck down its ban on same-sex marriage.
"This is an emotional time," Niederhauser said. "Let’s stop and pull our faculties together and address other issues this session and wait for the process [in court] … to take place and we’ll come back at another time to address religious liberties and other types of discrimination."
Because the Utah Legislature never, ever acts based on emotion.

Wait, what court process is he talking about? Oh yeah, the gay marriage lawsuit.

You see, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told the Legislature that they shouldn't take up any bills relating to gay people because they don't want the state to show any animosity towards gay people, since the whole basis of the case hinges on "'The Utah Government is being mean to gay people.'  'No, we're not!'"Well, that's what it sounds like, at least.

And, what better way to prove that the state doesn't not like gay people than by keep the Legislature from talking about gay people.

Yeah.  That will work.

However, the killer quote from President Neiderhauser comes at the end of the Tribune article:
"It is most important for us right now to take some time," Niederhauser said. "Let’s not get too anxious. The best kind of policy is the policy that takes some time and has had a lot of deliberation."
Did you catch that?  We need to deliberate the bill, so we're not going to deliberate it.

It may just be me, but I would think that allowing the bill to be discussed over the remaining 37 days of the session would be a great way to deliberate it.

Especially a bill that's been around for 6 years.  How much deliberation will be enough?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Former Unicorn on Uintah's Unpaid Lunches

Did you know that elementary schools have mascots?  I don't know why, but they do.  Usually, they either have some alliterative name (i.e. the Crestview Cougar) or are something mystical (I have no idea if West Kearns' Royal Lion is more mystical than a regular lion, but it's going here).  Students of Salt Lake City's Uintah Elementary, located at the corner of 1500 East and 1300 South, are known as the Unicorns.

How do I know this?  Well, from Kindergarten through the sixth grade, I was a Unicorn.  I have fond memories of my time at Uintah.   As soon as I read the article from the Tribune about kids having their lunches stolen from them, it transported me back to second grade, when my Garfield lunch box was stolen.  As I read the account of kids having their lunch taken, I pictured it happening.

Well, in my mind, it happened in the Uintah Elementary Cafeteria of my day, located somewhere near where Uintah's southern soccer goal is now.  I've never been in the "new" school they bult 2 decades ago, but I imagine the cafeteria being the same.

The story wasn't about a bully stealing some kid's lunch, it was about a bully stealing 40 kids' lunches.

In case you or or kids haven't been in a school for a few years, I'll tell you how the system works:  You put money into an account for your kid, the kid gets a PIN number, and at some point when he's getting school lunch, he enters the PIN number on a pad like you do when you use your debit card.  This system is great, because none of the kids knows who is paying full price and who gets reduced or free lunch.

I remember making fun of the kids in Jr High that had the red or blue lunch tickets because their families were poor.  I feel bad about that.  It's nice to know that kids today don't have that stigma reigning over their heads.

Unless, of course, they run out of money in their accounts.  Then, if it's a system like they have at Uintah where kids pick up their lunch and then enter their number, if you are out of funds, they take the lunch and throw it in the trash.

The school district claims that they give notice to families that the funds are low or empty.  I know that in some cases, those notices don't get to the parents.  Sending messages home with kids isn't exactly Western Union.

However, if you have 40 kids (nearly one-and-a-half classes worth) that have accounts below $0, maybe you should look at how the communication is sent to the parents.

For instance, whenever there was something my parents really needed to see, they had to sign it.  This let the school know that the message got there.

Also, if a school has a higher-than-average rate of students running out of money, maybe you should have the payment pad at the front of the line.  It's much less traumatizing.

The last thing you should be doing is taking food directly out of kids' hands.  Ya big bullies.