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BEST POLITICAL UPSET
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.”
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.