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Hits & Misses

Failing Grades

Also:Land Comes Last, Count Us In

By Katharine Biele
Posted // September 11,2013 -

Miss_1.jpgFailing Grades
Much has been said about the new school-grading system, which has spawned a chorus of conspiracy theories. Many are convinced that the conservative legislature has it out for public education and would like to, if not privatize the entire system, at least turn “failing” schools into charters. Worse yet is the Legislature’s pride in modeling the system after Florida’s, whose superintendent, Tony Bennett, resigned from the position in Indiana amid allegations of cheating on school grades. His actions in Indiana were deemed “plausible” by legislative leaders, so he’s now continuing his quest for accountability in Florida. Utah is also looking for accountability, although all these systems depend on one unquantifiable factor—“an invitation to engage.” If schools had figured out whom to engage and how to do it before, they wouldn’t be in this predicament now. The Legislature gets an A for engaging fear and anger.

Miss_1.jpg Land Comes Last
Utah seems to be going through a “to-hell-with- wilderness” period. First, it’s part of the Book Cliffs being leased out for oil production, and now the release of North Carolina mountain goats in the La Sal Mountains. Wildlife officials just really want to establish the goats there—probably for hunting—despite pleas from the U.S. Forest Service, which worries the goats will hurt the delicate ecosystem, especially its rare plant species. Nevermind—hunters rule in Utah. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of the Interior has voiced concerns that the West Davis Corridor extension would permanently harm the wetlands there. Whether the Utah Department of Transportation will heed the warning is anyone’s guess. But their business is transportation, not wetlands.

Hit_1.jpg Count Us In
There’s some good news for Utah democracy, although it may come to nothing. First, the Count My Vote group has raised a boatload of money—mostly from a few rich folks—to boost its campaign against a caucus system that favors the fringe activist. It does, however, need to broaden its base for a statewide initiative. Now there’s Move to Amend, an opinion survey of Salt Lake City residents about whether corporations are people. The strategy is to get local resolutions passed and moved up to the state and national constitutions. MTA first got 11,000 signatures for a ballot initiative, which was oddly determined to be illegal. Apparently, you have to be changing law to run an initiative. Now they’re going for opinions and, ultimately, a resolution to add to a growing number nationwide.

Twitter: @KathyBiele

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Posted // September 12,2013 at 08:16

I agree with your section on school grading, just a small correction.  Tony Bennett resigned from his job as the State Superintendent in Florida.  He had gone to Florida after he had been defeated in an election in Indiana last November because the electorate was fed up with his policies there.


Posted // September 12,2013 at 00:25

We have a system that that does NOT favor the incumbent, the wealthy or\ the famous. This is a good thing, and should be preserved.

The Neighborhood Election and Convention system in Utah is the best way\ to make sure a grassroots process can win over large amounts of money. \ It is the only way someone with $100,000 can go against someone with $2\ million in election funds.

We want neighbors discussing the best candidates and finding ways to\ improve this state and the nation. If the system is changed, we would\ be dropping off votes, but not meeting and discussing candidates and\ issues. That is what is wrong with Washington, D. C. They don’t listen\ to each other in a meeting. They watch from their offices. We need to\ change that, not perpetuate it.

We already have a "bypass" system, filing as an unaffiliated candidate. \ A candidate can go straight to the general election ballot. Someone who\ doesn't think they can win if vetted by average citizens asking one on\ one questions can still run and spend their money. Why should they be a\ political party nominee if they are going to bypass their political\ party?

At only one time for 10 years in Utah’s history did the state depart\ from the Neighborhood Election, Caucus and Convention System. In 1937,\ a powerful democratic state senator convinced enough of the legislature\ to switch to an open primary. He had had two losses, a US Senate race\ and also for governor, because the majority of the convention delegates\ disagreed with his legislative voting record. But he was well known and\ had money.

Many at the time felt like an open primary was his ticket to the\ governorship, and he did win. But the change in the system only lasted\ for a decade. After public and media disillusionment, and even worse\ voter turnout, Utah restored the Caucus and Convention System. Why go\ back?

Our current problem with voter turnout is it has not kept up with the\ population increases. The voter turnout keeps going up but not as fast\ as the population. Some of that is the younger voters, where Utah has a\ larger percentage of them and they aren't, as a group, as involved. We\ need to educate those moving in and not understanding our system.

Many citizens who attend their neighborhood elections and caucus\ meeting become interested in politics and get involved in their\ communities, the state and the nation. They meet and help candidates\ become elected. Some then later become candidates. This should be\ encouraged through education.

The system and the experience attending the meetings can always be\ improved, but the “Count My Vote” initiative isn't the way to do it. \ Any changes to the system the political parties use to determine their\ nominees should be determined by the political parties.

Fair\ Elections Utah. Help us fight the\ "Count My Vote", or "Buy My Vote" initiative