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Home / Articles / Best Of / Best of Utah /  Best of Utah 2009: Media & Politics Page all
Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2009: Media & Politics Page all

Salt Lake City's news scene.

By City Weekly Staff
Posted // April 1,2009 -

MEDIA

nineveh_intoMedia.jpg READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TV NEWS HOTTIE
Nineveh Dinha

Born in Sweden with Middle-Eastern roots, you don’t get much more exotic in the Salt Lake City TV market than Nineveh Dinha—you also don’t get this many incorrect spellings of a name on a write-in ballot (among the funniest: “Ninny Divinni”). Dinha was already an Edward R. Murrow news award winner in Arizona before she joined Fox 13 last year, but it didn’t prepare her for City Weekly’s prestigious new Best TV News Hottie prize: “Me?! The girl who was bullied all through elementary, middle and high school voted TV News Hottie? Get out of here! You’re messin’ with me, right?” No way, Ninny.
Fox13Now.com
2. Chris Vancour, ABC 4
3. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST RADIO SHOW
Radio From Hell, X96

Radio From Hell
is a radio-land miracle. Where else can one find so many disparate features like infrequent interviews with hosts Bill and Kerry’s bastard child Kyle or daily boners? Or how about Punk’s Movies, where Punk treats listeners to a sampling of the creme-de-la-dregs of cinema, like the little known indie gem, Ninja Cheerleaders? And, yet what is most miraculous is that such an ecelectic array of RFH features are strung together with all the humor you expect and none of the typical ass-hat, disc jockey sound effects and shenanigans. Credit here is due to the incredible triumvirate of Kerry, Bill and Gina. Whether it’s Kerry explaining how conversations with check-out clerks must go because no one cares that you gave up on carbonated beverages six months ago, or Bill interjecting in a session between a caller and love-psychic Margaret Ruth to bolster the caller’s confidence by getting her to repeat that her ex is a “douche-nozzle,” or Gina’s never ending crusade against being labeled a cougar, the cement that holds the bricks of X96’s Radio From Hell together are the combined forces of KBG.
X96.com/rfh
2. Radio West, KUER 90.1
3. Maximum Distortion, KRCL 90.9

BEST “GO LOCAL” BLOGGER
Gavin Sheehan, KUTV.com

TV news stations are often out to lunch on the local scene, which is why folks are surprised KUTV 2’s Gavin Sheehan stays up to date on the latest in Salt Lake City arts and entertainment—if they discover him at all. Not sure if his co-workers are jealous much, but the station’s Website doesn’t include Sheehan on its main blog roll, instead burying him in the games section (good luck finding it). Such neglect is a shame, considering the subjects that populate Sheehan’s writing. He ventures off the beaten path to score interviews with, say, the local designer behind “SL,UT,” or a couple of bands whose gear got stolen while they were sleeping. He attends every downtown gallery stroll and tries to feature new artists each month. Bottom line: Sheehan cares. And, unfortunately, these days that’s pretty rare.
KUTV.com
UPDATE: Gavin's Underground now blogging for City Weekly!

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TV ANCHORMAN
Mark Koelbel, KUTV

More than just another pretty face, KUTV 2 anchorman Mark Koelbel is not afraid to step out from behind the desk and get his hands dirty—as he did while covering the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine rescue operation near Huntington. Koelbel has a knack for marshalling the technical aspects of difficult stories that often elude lesser minds, yet brings a human touch to the often robotic world of TV journalism. Plus, he looks very happy to be playing the drums in that YouTube video. Rock on, Mark!
KUTV.com
2. Dan Evans, Fox 13
3. Bob Evans, Fox 13

chris_vanocur.jpg READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TV NEWS REPORTER
Chris Vanocur, ABC 4

Like any institution and ABC 4 reporter Chris Vanocur has his endearing mannerisms. Whether it’s his folksy delivery, his aw-shucks grins when hanging out with the Guv, or the way he punches home his on-camera deliveries with carefully chosen props, it’s always a pleasure to marvel at his time-tested performances. While the glory-days of his Winter Olympics bribery exclusive are long behind him, he’s still trundling out banner-headlined exclusives on the Legislature, the liquor laws and the LDS Church that have other hacks scratching their head at how he does it. While some question just how exclusive some of his stories are, we cry sour grapes. When Vanocur says it’s an exclusive, that’s good enough for us.
ABC4.com
2. Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13
3. Rod Decker, KUTV 2

BEST BIPOLAR READERSHIP
The Provo Daily Herald

The California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down an anti-marriage law that discriminated against gays and lesbians sent ripples throughout the homophobic community—particularly in Utah. Within hours of the court’s announcement, Utah’s daily newspapers’ message boards filled up with the usual anti-gay/pro-gay babble. (Interestingly, the most horrifying, send-the-queers-to-the-gas-chambers bigoted statements appeared on The Salt Lake Tribune’s site, with the Deseret News’ site apparently frequented only by the somewhat unhinged.) The Herald’s message board, however, included the highest proportion of gay-supportive message of the three dailies. Lest anybody get the idea that an outbreak of sanity had descended on Happy Valley, a Jan. 2 Herald editorial and Web poll showed broad support for Facebook’s decision to remove a photo of Provo mom Heather Farley breast-feeding her child in a flower garden. Pro-equality, but not pro-breast—who says consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?
HeraldExtra.com

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TV ANCHORWOMAN
Hope Woodside, Fox 13

Next year, Hope Woodside will have to give points to the other anchors. This marks her 12th successive win. More than a TV anchor, Woodside has become a phenomenon with her own fanbase that carefully tracks her wardrobe night in and out. Those who watch News at Nine with the sound off, however, are missing some good journalism authoritatively delivered. As other TV news stations continue turning the anchor merry-go-round, the friendly Woodside is likely only to cement her position as the trusted face of Utah TV news.
Fox13Now.com
2. Mary Nickels, KUTV 2
3. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13

BEST CITIZEN JOURNALISM
UtahStories.com

Lord help us ever since our reality was taken over by hostile beings from a strange world called the blogosphere. A strange dimension, which, while providing its share of fun, creative and witty bloggers also opened up a world of “citizen journalists” covering the political beat from their mother’s basement study, dumping their editorial rage and uncorked quiet desperation out into the interweb for all to see and marvel at, and be disgusted by. Thankfully, one site is chucking away with the weblog and running a site aiming for real everyman/woman journalism. Richard Markosian started UtahStories.com after leaving the corporate world to start a documentary filmmaking career. Since creating UtahStories.com, his site’s emphasis has been on local stories by local people. With contributors ranging from pole-dance instructors to Salt Lake City Councilman Soren Simonsen, the site not only embraces citizen journalism, but community journalism. The site editorializes and throws its own opinion around, but the agenda is clearly spelled out. And the format is a nice blend of text and video. Like from another world, this is how citizen journalism was meant to be.
UtahStories.com

Jerry_Rod.jpg BEST “FACES OF THE FRANCHISE” LONGEVITY
Jerry Sloan & Hot Rod Hundley

The professional sports world is, if nothing else, mercurial. The jersey you buy today may bear the name of someone who’ll be traded tomorrow, and coaches are treated like fast-food packaging. So it’s impressive to note the rock-solid foundation on which the Utah Jazz have been built, both on the bench and behind the microphone. This season, long-time coach Jerry Sloan become the first coach in NBA history to lead a single franchise to 1,000 wins. And just weeks later, veteran broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley marked his 3,000th game as a Jazz announcer. Makes that Lou Gehrig guy look like a minor-leaguer.

BEST UNSUNG TV REPORTER
John Hollenhorst, KSL 5

After nearly three decades in the business, you might wonder when KSL 5’s John Hollenhorst might start getting cranky. Or burned out. Neither appears to be the case. Hollenhorst is a true journeyman of the news trade—thorough, balanced, with a keen sense of where he’s going with a story, instead of seeming to make it up as the video rolls. His coverage of last year’s tedious raid on the FLDS compound in Texas was the best on local TV; he remained cool, knew his topic and grabbed a couple of scoops in the process. Hollenhorst can even make a water conservation story sound compelling. Now that’s some skill.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TV NEWS STATION
Fox 13

Many posture that local TV news affiliates are a joke, but while Fox 13’s fun-loving crew often makes us laugh, their antics accentuate rather than detract from the quality of their broadcast. From Big Budah’s jolly approach to monster truck rallies and home gardening expos on Good Day Utah to evening anchors who seem downright approachable, Fox 13 proves that reporters can do serious work without taking themselves too seriously.
Fox13Now.com
2. KUTV 2
3. KSL 5

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST WEATHER REPORTER
Damon Yauney, Fox 13

When he started with Fox in 2001, Damon Yauney seemed shy bantering with anchors on Good Day Utah. But over the years, he’s become a veritable force of nature alongside Dan Evans and Kerri Cronk. With calm confidence and gentle wit, he manages to smoothly segue from Big Budoh’s antics to his weather updates. Maybe having a lead in a Murray City production of Oklahoma a few years back gave him a boost. His chiseled bod and handsome looks also don’t hurt. But it was probably his pet segments that pushed him over the top this year. When he gets all sweet and cuddly with puppies and kittens looking for a home, what’s not to love?
Fox13Now.com
2. Kevin Eubank, KSL 5
3. Jodi Saeland, Fox 13

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST SPORTS REPORTER
David James, KUTV 2

It seems like James has had a stranglehold on this category for ages, but it wasn’t that long ago that he usurped regular winner Mike Runge. And all he does to keep his edge is to keep working: as a broadcaster for KUTV 2, as host of Jazz flagship radio station KFNZ’s morning show, as host of Jazz pre- and post-game television programs. His quick wit gives him a distinctive flavor in an over-saturated sports-radio market, while his casual charm makes him a natural for TV. Somehow, in a world where sports fandom can often seem obnoxious, he makes it seem OK to be a smart, reasonable lover of the games.
2. Dave Fox, KUTV 2
3. Wesley Ruff, ABC 4

BEST ONLINE ART COLLABORATION
Its1am.com

In the age of MySpace, local artist Jake Trimble had an idea for something revolutionary, something that was online and collaborative, but that was a little more like “ourspace.” The creation was the Website Its1am.com, a site where people share poems, sketches, photos, even thoughts— mostly random thoughts. Trimble drew the name of the site from a submission he received that read simply: “In a car with two girls, its 1 a.m. And I kinda feel like shit. This is nice; this is summer.” Like all submissions, it is posted without the name of the contributor—a purposeful decision by Trimble, which not only lends the art anonymity but also something universal. Many submissions are photos of scrawls from diaries or notebooks, light sketches or single line poems. The site proves that anonymous Internet commentary can actually be something beautiful, and owned and enjoyed by everybody.
Its1Am.com

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST RADIO STATION
X96

We decoded X96’s secret to success years ago, but let’s reiterate: It’s as much about the personalities as the music, if not more so. The alternative-rock station’s mix of the new and the old obviously strikes all the right chords with music fans, but without the DJs, a personable lot free of smarmy “I’m in radio!” satin-jacket vibes, it wouldn’t work nearly as well—just ask the other stations that play most of the same tunes to half as many listeners. “I think X96 has a great connection with our listeners, and we’re always able to provide what they want on a local level,” says program director Todd Nuke’Em. “Kerry, Bill, Gina, Corey, Andy, Portia and the rest of us have our own unique interests and personalities to add to the music that we play.”
X96.com
2. KRCL 90.9
3. KUER 90.1

BEST BILLBOARD APOCALYPSE
Leland Freeborn

Just before you pass the small, sagebrush town of Parowan on Interstate15, an extraordinary vision of a blossoming radioactive cloud rises before you. Dominating half of a billboard like a flashback to a 1950s Cold War nightmare, it promotes survival plans for the post-atomic bomb era. Those plans are apparently penned by local Leland Freeborn, aka the Parowan Prophet. While others in the prophet business keep to themselves and scorn publicity like the plague, it’s nice to see some folk taking their, shall we say, colorful views on the road—literally. ParowanProphet.com

BEST AMATEUR ART CRITICS
The Blanding Values Committee

Since 1989, a sculpture by artist Joe Pachak representing a Hopi fertility god graced the entrance to Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum—that is, until a plucky group of local busybodies got fed up with the sight of it. The reason? Like every self-respecting fertility god, it has a penis. To be precise, what the abstract carving really has is a knobby protrusion, but the mere suggestion of male genitalia was enough for the Blanding Values Committee, and they demanded the sculpture’s removal. Park management complied by moving the sculpture to a remote location in the park, going to show that Blanding is not just a place—it’s also a process.

BEST RADIO ACCENT
Jeff Robinson, KCPW 88.3

After all the upheaval and departures at KCPW, the arrival in August of Morning Edition host and news director Jeff Robinson signaled a new voice on the airwaves. A former TV anchor and reporter from Pocatello, Idaho, Robinson’s youthful features clash with his odd mixture of gravelly yet nasal tones. At the edges of his accent, you can hear so many worlds trying to burst out. A one-time resident of Virginia and California, there’s a definite good ol’ country boy swing to some of his vowels that makes tuning into KCPW sound at times more like an Appalachian hoedown than a news broadcast in the Beehive State.
KCPW.org

BEST JAILHOUSE CORRESPONDENT
John Weston Osburn

City Weekly
regularly receives letters from folks in the pokey—generally extremely earnest, sometimes well-written, but invariably far too long for publication. Few incarcerated letter writers, however, display wit and way with words of one John “Weston” Osburn, who wrote in to tell not of “some egregious abuse of power, some travesty of institutional racism or heinous incident of police brutality,” but to complain of a toothache (“My poor old folks paid good money once to straighten out the choppers, and now some sadistic apron-wearing maniac right out of Little Shop of Horrors is going to leave me looking like a meth-ravaged fiend.”). Those of us who can barely function with a loose filling could only marvel at Osburn’s ability to maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing. We hope his teeth found relief.

BEST LOCAL COMIC BOOK
Let’s Go to Utah, Dave Chisholm

Dave Chisholm is a modern day Renaissance man. A classically trained multi-instrumentalist and grad school scholar, he recently revealed another one of his talents with Let’s Go To Utah, a comic book featuring the rather ghoulish adventures of characters based on real-life figures from Chisholm’s world. Besides offering Salt Lake City readers the novelty of seeing familiar people and places in vibrant 2-D, Utah is one hell of an entertaining five-part series. The plot unfolds like a gripping TV series—or, as Chisholm prefers, an epic song. He sets the tone. He controls the pace. Are you ready for the ride?
LetsGoToUtah.com

Slug.jpg BEST MAINSTREAM PUNKS
SLUG Magazine

Can you still be considered a “punk” zine if you’ve been publishing for 20 years? Salt Lake Underground (isn’t that technically just SLU?) proved “fuck yeah” this year by celebrating two decades of monthly decadence with nary a slip in quality or attitude—in fact, the mag is printing some of its best material these days, and has a potential superstar columnist in the irascible Mike Brown (provided he doesn’t start giving a damn or using words like “irascible”). But, if you’ve been a part of the local landscape since 1989, you’ve officially joined The Mainstream. Sorry, SLUGgers.
SLUGMag.com

BEST FANTASY SERIAL IN A PERIODICAL
Anti-gay columns by Orson Scott Card

Long gone are the days when newspapers could afford to allot space to serial fiction—and more’s the pity; it’s how luminaries such as Mark Twain and Armistead Maupin got their starts. But when Mormon Times needed a writer to produce agitprop justifying the LDS Church’s involvement in a last-ditch California ballot measure to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying, it turned to sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card. It was money well spent—who but Card could have come up with such imaginative arguments against equal marriage as the idea that it would mark “the end of democracy in America”? To give his prose something of a steampunk flavor, Card resurrected long-outdated, quasi-scientific theories to explain that the very existence of gays and lesbians is due to “tragic genetic mixups” and “sex-role dysfunctions.” The only thing that detracted from his sweeping, dystopic vision was that the ballot measure failed—which, unfortunately, meant that Card’s paid rants were limp, sellout failures that will haunt him the rest of his life. His fan base was not impressed.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST NEWSPAPER REPORTER
Ted McDonough, City Weekly

Ted McDonough joined City Weekly in 2004, after a decade at Idaho’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News. His weekly news features and Hits & Misses set the editorial tone for this paper as do his cover features which invariably light a fire under our readers. Competing against reporters at the Trib and Deseret News, McDonough was chosen 2007’s Best Reporter at the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists competition. Whether it’s reporting on the demise of Sugar House or an upheaval at KRCL community radio, McDonough’s knack is finding stories that others may not consider significant and then writing the hell out of the stories.
CityWeekly.net
2. Eric S. Peterson, City Weekly
3. Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune

BEST BLESSED BLOG
Seriously, So Blessed!

Finally a blog that captures the satirized soul of the young, Mormon, wanna-be housewife. Seriously So Blessed! chronicles the parodied (right?) trials and tribulations of young Mormon housewife TAMN (Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole) wife and hubby JJWT (Jordan/Jason/Wes/Taylor). TAMN, with a penchant for acronyms and EXCITED capitalization, shares with the blogosphere her adventures in staying peppy and convincing her DTD (Down-There-Doc) that she’s actually “preggers.” “When I called for an appt, I had to spell it out for the poor receptionist who bless her heart was NOT very sharp. I had to keep saying things like “I’m preggers!” and “Preggo my eggo!” and “My oven has a bun in it!” and “I’m nourishing JJWT’s righteous seed in my fertile gardenbed!” The hilarity of her wishful pregnancy and other calamities like having her hair-stylist BFF fix a bad haircut: “We basically made hair-miracle lemonade out of hair heartbreak lemons, so don’t worry, now I’m hot again. SO greatful for product, and prayer,” have made us at the City Weekly truly heart this blog and we’d be so greatful if this BOU made us BFF’s.
SeriouslySoBlessed.blogspot.com

BEST BLOG BATTLE
Trib’s Glen Warchol vs. Rep. Steve Urquhart

Snarky coverage of the Mark Walker bribery debacle by Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh and blogger Glen Warchol set off Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, who criticized the Trib writers on his blog: “I reviewed the, um, reporting of Glen Warchol and Rebecca Walsh, until I felt I had lost 40 IQ points,” wrote Urquhart, adding, “They lobby hard for their tax-exempt status, because they act (cue “God Bless America”) in the public good.” Warchol fired off his own retort in a July 9, 2008, entry entitled “Hallelujah, I’m Biased!” writing: “First, I am biased. I make that clear every day. Second, I am passionate. Finally, I am a blogger. Yes, I work for korporate media, but I am a creature of the blogosphere just like you.” Warchol ended his rant: “If it seems like I spend more time picking on Republicans, it’s because they are The Power in this state,” and with that cued a video to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power!” Political blog-brawls don’t get much better, yeeaaah boy!
Blogs.sltrib.com/slcrawler SteveU.com/blog

BEST BREWER
Kevin Templin et al, Red Rock Brewing Co.

Utah is perversely blessed with a high concentration of skilled beer makers and Beehive State drinkers have lots of high-quality suds to chose from. But those who appreciate handcrafted brew lovingly tended by the batch turn to Redrock, which consistently pumps out award-winning versions of classic and complex beer styles. This fall, Templin—Great American Beer Festival’s national “brewer of the year” in 2007—was among a handful in the country to get his hands on a shipment of expensive Amarillo Hops, dumping pound after pound into a floral, easy-drinking harvest ale. Any given year, Redrock brewers create 30 different styles of beer ranging from smoky schwarzbier to organic pilsner, to Dunkel, to Belgin white ale. Redrock also puts out very special, special editions. For Christmas ‘08 it was a Belgin trippel aged in oak casks and clocking in at 10.2 percent. Part of this year’s batch will be poured over Utah cherries and re-fermented for one year before the final product hits liquor stores.
254 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-521-7446; 1640 W. Redstone Center Dr., Park City, 435-575-0295, RedRockBrewing.com

BEST TORTILLA OF THE FUTURE DESIGN
Michael Dunn, BYU food scientist

Improve upon a tortilla? An ancient time-tested, nutritious food staple that has outlasted entire civilizations? Impossible, you say? Well, BYU food scientist Michael Dunn took up the challenge and not only learned how to make a better tortilla, but created a recipe that small Mexican tortilla mills can re-create cheaply and efficiently. Dunn took the already nutritious staple and examined it for its deficiencies: folic acid and B vitamins. Working closely with owners and workers of Mexican tortilla mills, Dunn and his research team developed a method that can fortify the tortillas with these missing ingredients and without changing the color, texture or taste of the tortilla. The new and improved tortilla is the culmination of four year’s research and development by Dunn and his team who are now seeing to the distribution of the recipe to rural tortilla mills all across Mexico. Felicidades!

BEST EPITAPH
Allen Roberts

As The Leonardo struggled in August 2008 to find a way forward, a new management regime led by consultant Peter Giles and local architect Allen Roberts fought valiantly to save the would-be arts and science museum from a final implosion. At that time, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker appeared disinclined to give the science museum further funding. At a city council meeting, architect and Leonardo board member Allen Roberts pinned its problems to the wall with a description of the previous management style as pithy as it was accurate: “the pathologically optimistic failure mode that got us nowhere.” Roberts and Giles finally managed to save The Leonardo from itself by winning Becker’s backing.
TheLeonardo.org

BEST BIBLE BELTER
Hilary Weeks

While Christian singer Hilary Weeks is more likely to appear in Deseret News than City Weekly, that’s not to say Weeks doesn’t deserve our attention. The slender, much-traveled Utah-based singer has penned her own spiritual inspirations for the past 15 years. Her smoky timbre and soulful delivery makes even the most obvious Christian paean that much more palatable. You can’t help but wonder what she would do with a contemporary ballad that wasn’t soaked in Christian good graces, a Billie Holiday standard, for example. She’s certainly a pleasure to listen to, with a natural, disarming manner before the mic that quickly earns your admiration.
HilaryWeeks.com

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Bill Frost, City Weekly

Bill’s had a demanding year, what with helping birth our new Website, CityWeekly.net, while still finding time to pen a column. He also shepherds the monster Best of Utah into the light each year. He might be feeling somewhat bereft now that one of his favorite targets—private clubs—is on the way out. He doesn’t believe the days of print media are numbered, not quite yet. “You can’t sit on the can with your laptop,” he astutely points out. Well, not easily, anyway. It’s Bill’s acid-soaked wit we all keep coming back for, of course, as the enduring success and popularity of his True TV and Ocho columns attests. Bill’s not just the backbone of City Weekly—he’s our king of comedy, too. Long may he reign!
CityWeekly.net
2. Robert Kirby, Salt Lake Tribune
3. Rebecca Walsh, Salt Lake Tribune

BEST RECORDER OF A BACK STORY BEHIND A MEDIA CLUSTERFUCK
Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune photographer

When hundreds of journalists descended on West Texas for two months to cover the state raid on the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Salt Lake Tribune chief photographer Trent Nelson kept careful account of the details on his blog Fly on the Wall (http://166.70.44.68/blogs/trent/). Nelson puts some of his best photos on the blog, as well as ironic and sometimes deeply emotional posts related to the stories he documents. His posts on the FLDS story illustrated the drama, as well as frequent boredom, that comes with hunkering down in a small town to cover a big story.

BEST RELUCTANT MEDIA SPONSOR
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

According to event organizers, the Spectrum agreed to a $1,000 media sponsorship of the Southern Utah Pride Festival, to take place September 2008. Soon after, however, the newspaper apparently had a change of heart. While the Spectrum didn’t back out of its agreement, exactly—begrudgingly allowing its logo to be displayed on promotional material—it may have been the most sub rosa media sponsorship ever. That weekend, the paper’s event listings included an environmental expo, a book festival, an electronics-recycling program and a chili cook-off—but nary a peep about the festival, which attracted 2,500 participants to nearby Springdale.

DavidArchuleta.jpg BEST UTAH BOY MAKES GOOD
David Archuleta

Remember how our hearts ardently strived with this Murray High School student as he came closer and closer to being “the next American Idol”? Of course you do. His wide-eyed innocence and sweet demeanor summed up all those freshly scrubbed Beehive State values we all cherish (and betray, in our adorable, jaded, cynical Utah way). Remember the outrage we felt, just before the show’s late-May denouement, when New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones declared that “Archuleta’s woodland-creature routine feels increasingly forced”? And then, remember how the evil corporate music-industry bastards wielded Our Very Own Boy’s second-place contract to cancel the July “Fireside Chat With David” concert his dad planned as a “thank you” to all us dedicated fans? It just goes to show what you get when you sell out to The Man: treachery and $1,000,000.
DavidArchuleta.com

BEST SPORTS-FOR-SEX EXTENDED METAPHOR
Western Urological Clinic

There may not be any easy way to market vasectomy services ... but this one’s a doozy. During the run-up to the Super Bowl in January, Western Urological Clinic pimped its male sterilization services by suggesting that it was the perfect time to get the procedure, because you’d have an excuse to lie around all weekend while you recover. Additionally, football lingo was sprinkled liberally throughout the text. No “unnecessary roughness,” they promised. And once you’re snipped, you could avoid having “too many men on the field.” It’s surprising that there was no reference to an “empty backfield.”

BEST IRONIC SPORTS SLOGAN
BYU football “Quest for Perfection”

It seemed like a good idea at the time: BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall and his troops rallying behind a motto that connected both to the institution’s religious goals and the possibility of an undefeated season on the field. But after a loss to TCU, BYU was left looking up in the Mountain West standings at rival Utah. And instead of BYU, it was another team from the state that went undefeated and headed to a BCS bowl game after defeating BYU during quarterback Max Hall’s “Quest for Interception.” Nothing like creating a motto that looks better on your opponent’s back.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST LOCAL BLOGGER
Heather Armstrong, Dooce.com

There’s a reason Armstrong is America’s favorite “mommy blogger,” experiencing more than 4 million page views per month and in demand for product endorsements. Here’s how a pregnant Armstrong opened a March entry about a trip to a blogger convention in Austin: “Last night, I was perched in a stall in a women’s restroom in Salt Lake International Airport, contorted, meditating intently on the idea of going pee, so panicked that I considered yelling out, “HELP! PLEASE HELP ME!” Dooce.com isn’t about cutesy, idealized diaper-changing stories. Armstrong’s writing is thoughtful, profane, honest and always entertaining. Dooce.com
2. Atropos, Radio From Hell (X96.com)
3. Gavin Sheehan, Gavin’s Underground (KUTV.com)
UPDATE: Gavin's Underground now blogging for City Weekly!

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST LOCAL PODCAST
Geek Show Podcast

What began as a randomly occurring segment on X96’s Radio From Hell in the ’90s is now a weekly freebie download, presided over by RFH’s Kerry Jackson from his basement. Doesn’t hurt to have a popular radio show as a promotional launch pad, but the Geek Show Podcast is more intensively geeky on all things sci-fi, videogames and comics than the old broadcast ever was—if the name Felix Gaeta stirs no seething in your loins, good luck keeping up. More universal are the monthly GSP
GeekShowPodcast.com
2. The Man Hour
3. A Damn Podcast
movie double-features at Brewvies, where you can meet Jackson and his away team (Jeff Vice, Scott Pierce, Leigh George Kade, Derek Hunter, Shannon Barnson and a rotating cast of guests) in a casual environment of beer and bro-ship. So say we all!

BEST TEN-HUT!
Sgt. Jill Stevens

Beauty and integrity are both vital in advertising—one gets attention, the other delivers a believable message. Seldom, if ever, do you get both in one package. Then there’s Jill Stevens. The Iraq war army veteran and former Miss Utah now lends her face to Ivory Homes. We don’t know if Ivory needed the help. We don’t know if she has boosted sales in a weak economy. We do know that even if she couldn’t spell, we’d hire her at City Weekly. Don’t think we’re pandering to her looks; we always hire people who can’t spell. However, in her case ... ah, never mind ... we are pandering to her looks. Hey, Jill—when your current gig is up, give us a ring!

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST NEW MEDIA PERSONALITY
Karen Carlson, ABC 4

If ABC 4 News was looking to draw some much-needed attention with the recent addition of evening anchor Karen Carlson, mission accomplished—but don’t write her off as simply a pretty face (and immaculately arched eyebrows) parroting copy. Carlson’s an Emmy winner who’s previously worked in markets from Los Angeles to New Orleans, where she spent 20-hour days reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Only a Best of Utah win could rattle her cool: “Wow! I’m honored, to say the least,” Carlson reacted. “I was so excited to hear the news, I totally messed up my [afternoon promo] cut-in!”
ABC4.com
2. Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13
3. Casey Scott, KUTV 2

BEST ASTROGEEK
Patrick Wiggins

The 21st-century couch potato has sadly lost the night sky. Yeah, most of us can still find the Big Dipper and a few obvious heavenly bodies (like the moon), but that’s about it. Luckily, we have NASA solar system ambassador to Utah Patrick Wiggins to explain what is going on up there on any given starry, starry night. The self-taught astronomer retired from his Hansen Planetarium gig after more than 26 years and now works part- time with the U’s Physics Department and provides science outreach in the public schools. He’s usually a regular presence at star parties in Salt Lake, at the Stansbury Park Observatory or even Bryce Canyon. His quirky humor and down-to-earth explanations of cosmic phenomena make him the perfect dinner-party invitee. He’s an ambassador, after all.
www2.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/profiles/Patrick_Wiggins.htm

BEST ROSE GARDENER
Bob Bauer

There are a lot of beautiful rose gardens in the valley, but few are like photographer Bob Bauer’s. He doesn’t look like the genteel soft-spoken man you might expect to find snipping at branches. That’s because roses are just one of Bauer’s many passions and areas of expertise. But for all his interests, his one true love is obviously the rose. He grows 500 varieties, and all of them tenderly cared for and proudly displayed in his half-acre back yard … front yard … side yard … parkway by his yard … it’s unending. Take a drive-by and see for yourself at the corner of 900 West & 200 South. And while you’re admiring the view, don’t forget to roll down your window and take a whiff. A rose by 500 different names smells even sweeter!
880 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, Rose-Roses.com

BEST APPROPRIATION OF A BELOVED POP-CULTURE PROPERTY
Vincent Surgical Arts Star Wars radio ads

George Lucas hasn’t exactly been reluctant to throw a cadre of lawyers at anyone making use of Star Wars characters for their own profit, so we wonder what he’d think about this South Ogden-based cosmetic surgery center’s local radio spots. A Chewbacca-like grunt accompanies information about laser hair removal, with specific references to the Millennium Falcon and other notable galaxy-far-far-away names. Small-town businesses may think “no harm done” about sneaking such stuff into their ads, until someone objects to the suggestion that Wookiees really need a smoother, sexier look.
VincentSurgicalArts.com

BEST WACKED-OUT RESPONSE TO A PRANK
The Grey Poupon Gun Wielder
A car load of teenagers in Murray last summer pulled up beside another car at a stoplight . One of the boys rolled down his car window and, riffing on an old TV commercial from the ’80s, asked the man in the next car “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” That’s when 22-year-old Vitaly Kovtun responded by brandishing a handgun. “He racked the slide back and basically told the other kid, ‘Here’s your Grey Poupon. Now, roll up your window,’“ Murray Police Detective Kenny Bass told local media. Kovtun holds a concealed weapons permit. He was charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony. No information yet on how long it took the teenage pranksters to loosen their sphincter muscles.

BEST AD CAMPAIGN TO GLOSS OVER A FARE INCREASE
Utah Transit Authority

Don’t you just love UTA’s fun little TV ads? Like the one where the car is swinging in a hammock and its owner serves it a drink in a glass filled with motor oil? “Give your car a rest,” the ads say. Meanwhile, UTA keeps jacking up the fares so that a monthly pass now hovers at $67 (even with fuel surcharges dropped), compared with $58 this time a year ago. Like the song of the Sirens, the ads beckon riders, so UTA can sock it to them with outlandish transit fares. Here’s an idea: If you want to increase ridership, drop the TV ads and pass the savings on to us in the form of lower fares.
RideUTA.com

POLITICS

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST UTAHN
Larry H. Miller

I guess sometimes we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Though controversial for many reasons over the years—including his high-profile yanking of Brokeback Mountain from his Megaplex Theaters—Larry H. Miller earned the recognition of City Weekly readers. Whether it was his philanthropy in support of education and medicine, or his commitment to keeping the Jazz in Utah, Miller became more than the sum of his sometimes frustrating parts. The “you know this guy” guy who could cry at the drop of a hat inspired more than a few tears when he died, because even his detractors could acknowledge that he was a guy who loved this state beyond measure.
2. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
3. David Archuleta

rockyWCrowd.jpg READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST ACTIVIST
Rocky Anderson

Anderson made a seamless transition to full-time activist after two terms as Salt Lake City mayor. Not that he had to change much. Anderson’s High Road for Human Rights organization operates from the premise that Anderson fans, if they band together, can force politicians to do the right thing. Last year, Anderson took on his old nemesis former-President George Bush head on, lobbying Congress to investigate abuses of presidential power. High Road also is pressuring for action on global warming, sex slavery and genocide.
HighRoadForHumanRights.org
2. Tim DeChristopher
3. Jacob Whipple

BEST POLITICAL CONTORTIONISM
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff

When the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s unconstitutional anti-marriage law, the Utah A.G. wrote a letter asking the Cal Supremes to defer its ruling until after marriage foes had a chance to amend the state constitution in November. A few days later, Shurtleff wrote another letter to the Utah Pride Center assuring Utah gays that he was no homophobe and reminding them that he had opposed Utah’s 2004 anti-marriage amendment. Some dismissed it as typical election-year posturing, others tried to parse an accompanying complicated legal explanation, but the whole sequence of events only served to confuse gays and homophobes alike. California declined to heed Utah’s unsolicited legal advice, and gay and lesbian couples joyously commenced getting hitched in June. Still, even for a Utah Republican, playing both ends against the middle is a dangerous political game.

BEST POWER BROKER WHO DOESN’T NEED A BIG STICK
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon

Teddy Roosevelt, one of our more beloved presidents, is known for saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Small of stature, perhaps Roosevelt needed a big stick. Not so with Salt Lake County's ultra-popular Democratic mayor, Peter Corroon. He's not small for starters—on most days, he tops out at over 6 feet tall. He is not known to ride his pony into a hail of withering bullets, either. Rather, Corroon wins people over with an old-fashioned ethic barely remembered in these parts: hard work and integrity. While two of Salt Lake City's recent mayors had scandals or obsessions larger than their positions, and while the former Salt Lake County mayor and any number of wannabees were mired in their own nefarious brews, Corroon has never been even sniffed at when it comes to malfeasance. He gets the job done the right way—which is just that, the right way. Corroon is popular on both sides of the political fence—a rare feat in Utah anytime. He gets it done without the stick.

BEST OVERBLOWN FEAR
Mutual Commitment Ceremonies

As a newly minted Salt Lake City mayor in early 2008, Ralph Becker made a domestic-partner registry his first order of business. He clawed and bitch-slapped on the Hill to prevent lawmakers from crushing his unborn initiative. And after Becker wrested the registry from the bloodthirsty jaws of the Republican majority and rechristened it “mutual commitment,” he must have been underwhelmed when less than 20 couples had signed up by the first of June. Response was so lackluster that Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, urged the GLBT community to consider registering as part of Utah Pride Festival in early June. She herself had not even bothered to register, according to a June 3 Salt Lake Tribune article. She speculated that people had too busy of lives. Two things: 1. The registry must be kinda lame. 2. What were all marriage-amendment die-hards afraid of?

BEST HORRIFYING LEGISLATION
The Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act

OK, so what have we tried so far? Implementing a mandatory waiting period for abortions? Check. Requiring providers to subject clients to “counseling”? Check. Making a Clockwork Orange-type video with images of aborted fetuses and interviews with women who regret having had abortions in the past? Check. And all this during a very stressful and traumatic period in a woman’s life? Check. Well, how about just making abortion illegal? Sorry, no can do—unconstitutional. And expensive. Very, very expensive. OK, then, how about this: We force doctors to offer pain medications, not for the client, but for the fetus? Oh, that’s evil. Can we do that? Yep—check and check.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST ELECTED OFFICIAL
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

He did what no governor before him could ever—or ever bothered to try—to do: He poured a shot of sanity into Utah’s bizarre liquor-law cocktail. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has accomplished much during his two terms, but killing off private clubs will be the stuff of legend, his personal Berlin Wall (if not Zion Curtain). And our 2009 Best of Utah voting was over by the time it was passed into legislation! He didn’t even have to ply you with the promise of an easy cocktail. This round’s for you, Gov. Huntsman!
2. SLC Mayor Ralph Becker
3. SLCo Mayor Peter Corroon

BEST CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO
The Sutherland Institute’s “Onus or Opportunity?

Conservatism and Illegal Immigration in Utah” For those who shake their heads and wonder, “What the hell were those conservatives thinking?” it helps that Utah has The Sutherland Institute to turn to. The conservative think-tank produced an immigration policy report that suggested getting a federal waiver to form a guest-worker program specific to Utah (which a House resolution supported this session), increasing education for children of undocumented immigrants, and lobbying Congress for humane immigration laws. Hopefully, conservatives themselves will take heed of institute director Paul Mero’s final remarks: “There is nothing conservative about the ‘enforcement-first’ approach to immigrants already living here illegally. It is time for authentic conservatives to step forward and accept responsibility to address this issue in principled terms, as opportunity not onus.”
SutherlandInstitute.org

BEST BAR STOOL FRIEND
Kathryn Balmforth

If you’ve sat through the at-times heavy proceedings of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission monthly meetings, then you’re grateful to Commissioner Kathryn Balmforth. Her staunch passion for walking through political and cultural minefields is admirable and entertaining. Even though she’s facing a room full of crusty bar owners and club people giving her the evil eye each time she growls her thoughts, Balmforth is fearless. She speaks her mind, ably representing the interests of her fellow Mormon non-drinkers on a commission that now happily places greater value on small businesses than the LDS Church’s special interest in liquor. As such, in the name of diversity, she should be appreciated for the contested splendor she brings to the liquor-law fray.
ALCBev.state.ut.us

BEST LESSON
President Monson’s Blessing of Utah Valley University

Listen, my children, and learn the lesson: If you think you can rename an institution of higher learning in Utah County—even one funded by taxpayer dollars—and not be visited by the prophet of the LDS Church to receive a blessing, it proves you have a lot to learn, which is why you’re enrolled in college, er, rather a university in the first place. Let’s all sing together: A spoonful of dedicatory prayer helps education go down ... in a most delightsome way.

BEST NEW GRASSROOTS NETWORK
bCollective
For freelance artists of any medium, the term “creative professional” is just a creative
way of saying “living paycheck to paycheck.” Making a go of it alone is risky—and scary—which is why Robin Ballard formed bCollective, an organization that works off the motto ”BeCreative. BeCollaborative. BeTogether” by providing like-minded individuals with access to shared resources not available in most home offices. Located on a corner of historic South Temple, bCollective’s shared space is filled with mid-century furnishings, plus hi-speed Internet and more. It takes a village, right?
780 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-983-7371

LukeGarrot.jpg BEST PEACEMAKER
Luke Garrott

Being active in the community, it turns out, is more than just a campaign slogan for District 4 Salt Lake City City Councilman Luke Garrott. In September 2008, the councilman was injured intervening in a knife fight underway in his neighborhood. Garrott, trying to keep the peace, got between the enraged knife-wielding men only to be punched several times in the face and knocked down. The skirmish soon broke up, and Garrott wasn’t seriously hurt. But props to the man—the street cred alone of showing up to a knife fight armed only with cajones should make Garrot’s political adversaries think twice before messing with this badass public servant.

BEST POLITICAL GIMMICK
Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Who knew? What the people want in a congressman is a cheapskate. Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (newly elected for 2009) made headlines by announcing his intention to sleep on a cot in his U.S. House office rather than take an apartment in godless Washington, D.C. The stunt landed Chaffetz on national news shows, The New York Times, and The Colbert Report (where he got to leg wrestle with the host). “Cot guy,” as Chaffetz is known, also filmed an MTV-style reality series on CNN called Freshman Year. Now all Utah’s 3rd District needs is a representative on the floor.

BEST NEWS FOR UTAH NEWBORNS
Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential Candidacy

Utah has long been the home of bad baby names. However, when Palin skyrocketed to national prominence as John McCain’s running mate, we learned that, in Alaska, it’s possible to have a whole pallet o’ young’uns with names like Bristol (for girls), and Track and Trig (for boys). Granted, LaDawna and Shy-Anne (for girls) and Vernell (for boys) are even worse—but the bar has been lowered, and they’re not nearly as shocking as they were before.

BEST KEYSTONE COPS
Taylorsville Police Department

City Weekly
ran a May 22, 2008, cover feature about a custody fight between former friends over a Boston terrier named Oscar. The story charted the bizarre and highly questionable behavior of Taylorsville PD as cops allegedly did a favor for a cop from another precinct by bullying the rightful owners into giving up the dog. Once the story was published, something even more disturbing was reported: City Weekly’s west-side news stands were emptied the moment they were filled. A barista from a west-side coffee shop called to report someone came in and grabbed the papers where she worked and stashed them in the trunk of a squad car. To date, no one has copped to paper thefts. If this comedy of errors weren’t based on an actual Utah police organization, it would have made for a highly entertaining Reno 911 episode.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST LOCAL ISSUE
Gay Rights

By approving Prop 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, California voters sparked a wave of opposition with the eye of the protest storm smack dab in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Enraged by the LDS Church’s funding a significant chunk of Proposition 8’s campaign, activists converged on the LDS Church Office Building to protest in the streets—quite literally marching down the middle of North and South Temple chanting, “Separate! Church and State!” From that day forward, local GLBT groups came to life with renewed determination for equal rights. Their positive approach to combating bigots like Sen. Chris Buttars is a hopeful sign of things to come. We shall overcome.
2. Liquor Laws
3. Air Quality

BEST JORDAN RIVER LOVER
Adriaan Boogaard

Salt Lake City public utilities employee Adriaan Boogaard’s off-the-clock commitment to the Jordan River is infectious. His unflagging enthusiasm has helped elevate the 60-mile-long waterway in the minds of politicians and media by frequently invitating them to join him on canoe tours of the Jordan. Boogaard’s love for the river extends beyond such artful lobbying, though. He also spends every waking hour clearing the Jordan’s banks of clogging weeds and dragging out shopping carts from some of its murkier stretches. Utah’s most urban waterway is all the cleaner, more verdant and wildlife-rich for his passionate commitment to its future.

BEST DIRTY CAMPAIGNERS (LOCAL)
Chris Buttars’ Supporters

Why would anyone run against our beloved Chris Buttars—the man protecting us from gay school clubs, Darwinists and “black babies?” His opponent must be gay. So, apparently, went the thinking of supporters of the West Jordan senator who launched a whisper campaign against Buttars’ Democratic opponent during the 2008 campaign. It’s certainly true that many gays were, for understandable reasons, financially backing Democrat John Rendell against Buttars. But that doesn’t make the candidate gay—as Rendell’s wife was forced to point out in last-minute phone calls attempting to squash the rumor.

BEST DIRTY CAMPAIGNER (NATIONAL)
Chris Cannon

Even after he was defeated for reelection to Congress, former-Rep. Chris Cannon kept doing his best for the GOP—by trying smearing then-candidate Barack Obama as a terrorist. The congressman’s brother-in-law, after discussing it with Cannon, offered an Oxford professor $10,000 to compare the writing style of Obama’s Dreams of My Father with Fugitive Days, a memoir written earlier by ’60s radical William Ayers. Republicans had accused Obama of “palling around” with Ayers during the campaign and apparently wanted to prove a wakjob theory that the “terrorist” Ayers ghostwrote Obama’s book. Fortunately for America, the Oxford expert didn’t take the job.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST LOCAL SCANDAL
Sen. Chris Buttars

“In years to come we’ll all look back at this point in history and see it as a crossroads,” wrote Chris Buttars in a statement about the backlash from his latest serving of ignorance-du-jour, comments he made that homosexuals were the greatest threat to America—even likening them to the threat of Islamic radicals. Yes, Buttars, perhaps this is a crossroads in history. Hopefully, not one where the ignoramuses of the world rally behind your moral crusade against the “Pink Menace” but rather one where we see the quiet extinction from politics of the wheezing political beast scientifically classified as “Homophobosaurus Buttars” but that we so lovingly know as just Buttars. Sadly, since you’re still years away from another election, I guess we’ll just start getting the 2010 award ready now…
2. EnergySolutions/Nuclear Waste
3. Legislative Ethics

BEST SYMBOL FOR ETHICS REFORM
Mark Walker

It was a year of infamy for former state Rep. Mark Walker. First, the Sandy Republican was the target of a legislative ethics investigation in fall 2008 after allegations surfaced he tried to pay $50,000 to a rival candidate if he would drop out of the state treasurer’s race. Walker copped a misdemeanor plea in that case in January 2009. Less than a month later, Walker was on Capitol Hill, working as a registered lobbyist, with a client list that included the Cigar Association of America, the cities of Ogden and Sandy, SelectHealth and Southwest Ambulance. No revolving door issue here!

BEST DEMOCRATIC ISSUE
Brunch

Republicans in the Legislature are such drama queens, spending all their time on big, operatic, earthshattering issues that have no chance of ever being resolved. But it’s the little things that make life worth living—little things like Sunday brunch. A quirk of the law makes it illegal to order a Mimosa in restaurants before noon, which pretty much defeats the purpose of brunch. Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, set out to change that during the 2009 session—and his Brunch Bill very nearly succeeded. We hope he tries again next year.

READERS_CHOICE.gif BEST TAX DOLLARS IN ACTION
Trax & Frontrunner

Few partnerships between the public and private sectors have attracted as many naysayers as public transportation. Yet, despite some sort of dodgy glitch in the way passengers were counted, TRAX light rail has proved so enormously popular UTA can’t lay in new extensions fast enough for many ’burbs. Likewise, critics of Frontrunner commuter rail said the Salt Lake City-Ogden line would be carrying empty trains when the Legacy Highway opened—and then fell silent when ridership vastly exceeded initial projections. Predictably, those numbers dropped when gas prices fell—but anybody who believes gas will stay cheap forever is living in a fool’s paradise, and those who think public transportation is a communist plot will never get it.
2. Education
3. Zoo, Arts & Parks

BEST REASON NOT TO TEACH SCHOOL
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman

Some parents with children at Mount Herriman Middle School blew their corks when a 30-year veteran teacher dared mention masturbation and homosexuality in a health class. The teacher was suspended while an investigation of the incident took place. But before anyone could utter “check your facts,” Wimmer began blustering about sponsoring state legislation to attach criminal penalties to teachers who tiptoe beyond the bounds of Utah’s “abstinence only” sex ed policy. Let’s see … Lousy pay. Forty-five kids to a classroom. And jail time for talking about s-e-x in class. Who wouldn’t want to be a teacher in Utah?

BEST GATE TO HELL
Sugar House Hole

What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you see a group of local businesspeople joining forces to create a vibrant, offbeat, economically viable commercial district? If you’re a corporate land developer, it’s, “This looks like a job for urban renewal! Let’s knock it all down and put up a beige strip mall!” Then, of course, your next step is to get city money for the ‘renewal’ project, evict all the shop owners, and raze the neighborhood. And then the next step? What next step? That gaping chasm looks fine as it is. Screw those hippies, anyway. I was robbed, man!

BEST “OOPS, MY BAD!”
UTA transit cops

Some Utah Transit Authority TRAX riders—who must have been unoccupied, having forgotten their scriptural reading assignments for the commute—reported to transit cops on the morning of Oct. 27, 2008, that a fellow passenger was wearing nothing below the waist. UTA officers escorted the woman off the train at the 5400 South station. During questioning, they realized the woman was wearing a micro-miniskirt, which was concealed under her long jacket. (Anyone hearing a song by Cake in your head?) The, um, examination ended and officers let her back on the train.

BEST RABBLE-ROUSING LEGISLATOR
Rep. Eric Hutchings

It’s a funny thing how most conservative legislators think a good slathering of “market forces” will solve all our problems and yet, when push comes to shove they’re pretty reluctant to give up their government benefits. That’s exactly what happened when Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, proposed a bill that would revoke state lawmakers sweet state health-care plan, give them a cash equivalent of the program and force them to buy their own insurance in the labyrinthine of private health care. Hutchings, who has seen his own mother fight through mountains of paperwork and burn through a lifetime’s worth of personal savings just to receive Medicaid to treat her bone marrow cancer, thinks his fellow legislators need to see what the health care system is like for us mortals. Hell of a nice message bill, Representative. Too bad it never made it out of committee.

BEST TOOTHLESS REFORM
Utah’s 2009 Legislative Ethics Reform

The 2009 legislative session has seen a whole slew of ethics reform bills proposed on the Hill. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t make up for quality. On closer examination, most bills had enough loopholes in them to allow legislators, lobbyists and special interests to go skipping, hand in hand, laughing all the way through the bills’ inadequate protections. One bill would prohibit legislators from becoming lobbyists for at least one year after leaving office. Unfortunately, the bill would only prevent legislators from going to work for a lobbyist firm; they would still be able to be hired by a major company like IHC or Zions and be paid solely to lobby their former colleagues on the Hill, without waiting one year. Another bill would actually make it so candidates won’t have to list in-kind contributions. A few bills will make a slight difference, but overall, it looks like business as usual at the state Capitol.

BEST PRE-ELECTION SHOULDER SHAKING
Raucous Caucus

Kudos to Salt Lake Film Center, KUED, the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Utah and High Road for Human Rights for hosting a bevy of screenings to motivate voters to the polls during the fall ’08. Films such as Uncounted, Critical Condition, Iron Ladies of Liberia, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Taxi to the Dark Side, Water in the Southwest, Flow, Liquid Assets, Latinos & Politics and Heat. The series culminated in a monster Raucous Caucus weekend Oct. 24-26, featuring special guests Phil Donahue, Michael Kirk and Naomi Wolf who introduced and discussed films like Bush’s War, I.O.U.S.A, Body of War, The Lost Year in Iraq, Cheney’s Law, The Choice and The End of America. Never mind that Utah voters came out for McCain—Democratic candidates won a number of important local races and loosened Utah’s Republican stranglehold just a smidgen.

BEST RESURRECTION
League of Women Voters of Utah

As good government groups such as the now-defunct Utah Common Cause dropped off the map and ’70s-era activists retired, it seemed that to have any idea what was going on at the Legislature, you would have to hire a lobbyist. Thank goodness for the League of Women Voters of Utah. The League, energized in the past several years with new volunteers, has assembled a crew of citizen eyes and ears at the Legislature that now rivals any local news outlet. And the League has embraced the Internet so you can enjoy the fruits of their labor from the comfort of home or office. During the legislative session, the League sends out daily updates about bills going through committees with explanations written for the layman. The League also provides regular legislative updates on KCPW and KPCW public radio. All that and the League found time to push for cleanup of Utah elections and legislative ethics. It’s comforting knowing that the League’s “observer corps” is on the Hill, simply watching the Legislature.
3804 Highland Drive 8-D, Salt Lake City, 801-272-8683, LVWUtah.org

BEST CAMPAIGN WEBSITE
Save Me From My Senator

The “Chris Buttars Scares Me” Website, put up by the West Jordan state senator’s opponents during the 2008 campaign, raised money for Buttar’s Democratic opponent John Rendell with a contest offering an iPhone to the person coming up with best reason to “get rid of Buttars.” The site (which remained up after the election) has collected 101 reasons, including “he seems too focused on gayness for a man who isn’t.” Also collected are Buttars’ best (or worst) quotes (“I think Brown v. Board of Education is wrong”), and a series of “scary stories.” Alas, results of the 2008 elections showed that West Jordan still loves its Buttars, and the folks behind SaveMeFromMySenator.com remained unsaved.
SaveMeFromMySenator.com

BEST POLITICAL UPSET
Jay Seegmiller

While an Obama revolution was painting the nation blue from coast to coast, Utah Democrats in Salt Lake County similarly found their footing, where not only the County Council swung to the Democrats, but Jay Seegmiller, after three elections running against House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, finally toppled the political giant. While Curtis has been no stranger to controversy— from being tied to Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman’s “guzzlegate” days to his rumored involvement in the treasurer’s race scandal— this time around, ethics concerns and his support of vouchers seemed to be the stone that dropped this conservative Goliath. The man with the sling, Jay Seegmiller, now not only earns the title of District 49 representative, but also the first person to oust a state house speaker in at least four decades.

BEST CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Tim DeChistopher

Who knew a paddle could cause such a ruckus? Twenty-seven-year-old Tim DeChristopher found out just how much mayhem he could wield with an auction paddle after sneaking into a December 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil lease auction and buying up 22,000 acres of land around the Arches Monument in southern Utah. All said and done, the young U of U economics student walked away owing $1.2 million to the BLM, while irate oil company bidders in the room had their winning bids driven up by as much as half a million bucks, thanks to the young activist and his monkey-wrenching paddle. DeChristopher had always wondered when the environmental movement was going to step it up and really put its collective ass on the line to safeguard the future of the environment. Like a true gadfly, DeChristopher realized he wasn’t waiting on anybody but himself. Now his thousands of acres of pristine southern Utah wilderness will (God and an Obama administration willing) stay wild.

BEST NEW ACTIVIST
Jacob Whipple

On Election Night 2008, Jacob Whipple cheered with friends as Obama swept the national vote, but it was the fateful Proposition 8 vote in California that kept him up through the night waiting for the election results. The next morning, the soon-to-be activist would find his plans of marrying his fiancé in California in April turned upside down. Whipple, however, took his heartbreak, forged in outrage, and he mobilized action. Within 36 hours, he had between 3,000 and 5,000 people gathered in City Creek Park soon to be making laps around the LDS Church Office Building and Temple Square shouting “Yes we can!” and “Sep-a-rate, church and state!” The issue hit painfully close for Whipple, but after he strained to see the end of the mass of supporters that rallied together that cold November night, Whipple knows how big the cause is, and he’s not about to forget it.

BEST BOOZE ADVOCATE
Lisa Marcy

Watching Lisa Marcy in action at a DABC monthly meeting is to see someone who knows she’s utterly in the right. Marcy, who took on pro-bono representation of the Utah Hospitality Association last year, has had enough of Utah’s liquor laws. With a group of like-minded core members at the UHA, she fought tooth and nail for UHA and for paying clients to make sense of Utah’s liquor laws. Marcy has no trouble calling it as she sees it. She’s blunt, to-the-point and driven to win. That drive paid a key part in the sinking of Utah’s private club law at this year’s legislative session. So we doff our hats to Marcy and to all those who worked beside her. On behalf of all Utah’s grateful drinkers, we send you all a big thank you.
UTHospitality.com

BEST POINTLESS CONTROVERSY
Cremation vs. Burial

A Jennifer Toomer-Cook story in the D-News’ Sept. 13, 2008, religion section reported that, while cremation has become more common throughout the United States, its popularity has risen only slightly in Utah. This is because of a belief among members of the LDS Church that cremation poses a hassle for God, who will be forced to track down and painstakingly reassemble the scattered cremains of the worthy on Resurrection Day. (One man whose mother was cremated said somebody told him, “God’s going to have a hard time finding all her pieces to put her back together.”) One must always be considerate of God, of course, but who’s to say whether it’s any easier to restore embalmed tissue to working order? One thing’s for sure: It’s always a bad idea to criticize bereaved family members for private decisions they make in difficult times.

BEST AMBIGUOUSLY NAMED ACTIVIST GROUP
Outrage

In December 2008, the plucky and energetic youth-activist group Outrage successfully convinced the Utah County Board of Health to ban smoking from public parks. Whether or not it owed its success to tactics employed by a British gay-rights activist organization of the same name, known for “outing” hostile public figures in the 1990s, is unclear.

BEST IMPOSSIBLE DREAMER
Bob Springmeyer

Tilting at windmills, breaking evil enchantments, finding nobility among bandits and scoundrels: They’re all in a day’s work for Don Quixote and his local analog Bob Springmeyer. The 2008 Democratic nominee for Utah governor faced impossible odds against popular Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has enough political capital to choke a donkey. But somebody had to step up, lest the Republican candidate for the highest office in the Zion run unopposed. Springmeyer ran an honorable and thoughtful campaign, and was gracious in defeat. And, in Utah, that’s sometimes the best any Democrat can hope for.

BEST LDS CHURCH DOUBLESPEAK
The church’s September 2008 statement on Utah’s private-club law

According to the statement, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that Utahns … can come together as citizens, regardless of religion or politics, to support laws and regulations that allow individual freedom of choice.” While that’s all well and good as far as booze law is concerned, the LDS Church apparently felt that Californians had a bit too much freedom when gays and lesbians there started legally marrying up—so the church fought a long and bitter battle to put an end to it.

BEST BET FOR GAYLE RUZICKA’S SUCCESSOR
Valerie Mills

It’s been a long, hard road for Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, and it’s difficult to think what the world will be like once her wind-up spring runs down: a joyous utopian society, free from intolerance and nanny-government meddling? Doubtful: Hers is an enviable position, exerting so much influence over public policy without having to answer to pesky voters, and there are several would-be queen bees eager to take her place. One larva to watch out for is Valerie Mills, president of Bountiful’s Citizens for Families. Mills has invented many quirky and imaginative takes on shopworn right-wing morality arguments—such as her defense of homophobia November 2008, when she told the Legislature that anxiety over gay marriage causes childhood obesity. Oh, Valerie, who else but you could make being a tut-tutting old busybody look like so much fun?

BEST CREATIVE BUDGET-BALANCER
State of Utah four-day work week

When the world changes, sometimes you have to change along with it—and if you’re going to lead, you need to show some creative thinking. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. did exactly that when he responded to last year’s surge in energy costs by instituting a four-day/10-hour-per day work week for non-essential state offices. Employees got an instant 20 percent cut in their commute expenses, and the state was able to reduce overhead costs of heating, cooling and lighting buildings. Sure, expressions like “casual Thursday” and “TGIT” might take a while to catch on, but it’s proved popular with employees—and it’s surprising to note how many of those state offices are considered “non-essential.”

BEST SAVIOR
The LDS Church

Yeah, sure, City Weekly says something nice about the church. Well, it’s true, we do. Although the Prop 8 fiasco still bristles more than a little bit in our hallways, and although certain members of the church want to be our own private Jesus, one thing we can’t ignore is the vast amount of money the church is spending to rebuild downtown Salt Lake City. Without its billion dollars or so of privately generated construction money—and the thousands of people it employs directly and indirectly, you might be kissing the Utah economy goodbye. It’s too late to bicker about what was. We all need to wait and see what will be. The Downtown Rising project will change the face of Salt Lake City for a long, long time. Now, be nice, everyone, and say thank you to the church—for helping save your day job.

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