40 years of City Weekly—Volume 14: 1997 to 1998 | City Weekly REWIND | Salt Lake City Weekly

40 years of City Weekly—Volume 14: 1997 to 1998 

City Weekly Rewind

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It was a time of basketball glory, with a Jazz victory in the Western Conference. But it was also a time of greed and humbug, with the expense of the Olympics becoming clearer to critics while justifications multiplied among boosters. Local trout were plagued with whirling disease, while Utah's foster-care system was plagued with abuse. And families bore a heavy tax burden as corporate taxes were steadily shrinking.

Yes, there were controversies aplenty for the newspaper formerly known as Private Eye to cover. Only now, it was doing so under a new name: Salt Lake City Weekly.

"Our former name was a dumb one," explained a June 5, 1997, editorial. "We've lost track of the number of phone calls we've gotten from distraught spouses wondering if we could track down their mate. No ma'am, we're not a private detective agency. And we're not a private-club paper. Nor a tabloid, nor an underground rag."

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This was a bona fide newsweekly—winner of more awards from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), with increased drop sites in the city and a website boasting online exclusives. Its probing coverage continued in force, despite a tightening corporate stranglehold upon much of the Fourth Estate across the Wasatch Front. "Comfort and laziness fuel weak reporting in what is really a company town, controlled by a few powerful interests," John Harrington wrote on Oct. 2. "That's why City Weekly has become a success. People don't want to be spoon-fed the company line anymore."

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Remembering Vol. 14: In the trash
When then-county District Attorney Neal Gunnarson concluded his probe of SLC Mayor Deedee Corradini's "Gift-gate" scandal, he sealed his findings and declared that Utah's law was not clear enough to prosecute.

These actions, coupled with a very different conclusion from outside expert Martin Healey—working for the Salt Lake City Council—left serious questions around Corradini's behavior and whether Gunnarson's investigation was compromised before it even began.

"Not only did Corradini know much of what Gunnarson was doing while his allegedly independent, secret probe was underway," Harrington wrote in August 1997, "the mayor actually helped Gunnarson conduct his investigation of her."

Harrington reported that Gunnarson had failed to disclose his office's jurisdictional problems in taking the probe. The bulk of the investigation was not conducted in isolation from City Hall, nor covered by subpoenas. And the "cooperation" between Corradini's office and Gunnarson was shielded from the public by court order. "If the City Council didn't hire Healey in the face of brutal pressure from Corradini, Gunnarson and editorial writers for Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers," Harrington concluded, "the mayor would have walked scot-free with no public disclosure, forever able to make the claim that she did nothing wrong, that 'District Attorney Gunnarson cleared me.'"

Harrington's blistering story—and its caricatured image of a firefighting Gunnarson "saving" Corradini from a burning City-County Building—gave way to yet another strange turn of events. Deemed Gunnarson's "Paper Caper," the DA was seen approaching a City Weekly rack, tossing a great number of issues into a dumpster and taking the rest away in his vehicle.

"You are entitled to take one copy of the paper for each person who reads it," wrote Harrington on Sept. 11. "But, if you took a whole stack, threw them out and kept one copy for yourself, you have, in fact, stolen this column, destroyed property and violated the free speech provisions of the U.S. and Utah constitutions."

Admitting to the theft under the excuse of being "frustrated" and "angry," Gunnarson gave varying rationales, from wanting to take copies to friends, to pique over supposed misquoting and claims that his spouse found the cover art offensive. City prosecutors Mike Junk, Paul Olds and Dick Romney dismissed the case, reasoning that the papers were, after all, "free."

"No one, no one, has any business stealing or destroying this or any other 'free' newspaper," retorted City Weekly on Oct. 2. "A Salt Lake City employee has been witnessed three times now tossing our newspaper from our racks and into the trash. His case is being investigated by the Salt Lake City prosecutor. We're not staying up late. After all, Junk, Olds and Romney have given a green light to commit little crimes."

Gunnarson's behavior elicited condemnation from other local newspapers and the local SPJ board. What's more, he had the "honor" of being featured on the cover of the 1998 Best of Utah issue and winning Best Dumb Move by a Politician. "If you're not laughing, you're crying," the issue began. "That's the kind of year it's been."

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In the city
Interstate 15 reconstruction was a source of stress for everyone. Lacking independent quality control and coordination, operating with an out-of-control bonus system and facing a 2001 deadline, the project made all travel miserable. To make matters worse, it was handled under a "Design/Build" process, designed as it was built, rather than working from set plans.

"Never before have so many Utahns come to such a collective consensus," wrote Andrea Moore Emmett on Nov. 13. "At least those who live on or commute to the Wasatch Front agree: Life has been absolute hell trying to navigate from point A to point B anywhere in or around the Salt Lake Valley."

Speaking of blights to our surroundings, it was this year that Salt Lake County commissioners Randy Horiuchi and Brent Overson approved an ordinance more than doubling the locations where billboards were permitted. The request, political pressure and assumed reward for this decision came from Reagan Outdoor Advertising. "For Horiuchi, who once represented Reagan, the vote is particularly depressing," noted Hits & Misses on Dec. 4. "Already carrying a reputation for protecting special interests, Randy may now have cemented his political fate."

One billboard, for the Utah AIDS Foundation, was a target for vandalism—a reflection of the troubled state over gay rights. The suicide of East High activist Jacob Orosco (1980-1997) was a great tragedy in this regard.

"Let's hope, when some of the pain subsides, those close to Jacob and others who came to respect him will rededicate themselves to girding up organizations like the East High Gay-Straight Alliance," eulogized a City Weekly editorial on Sept. 25. "In doing so, they will show those puritans who would legislate morality, as well as those who follow that sinister lead, that all lives within a community have value and should be nurtured. When one is crushed out, we have all suffered a loss."

Fear-based intolerance and misguided political decisions were punctuated further when then-City Councilmember Bryce Jolley marshaled support to repeal an ordinance protecting gays and lesbians in the city's employment policy. Councilmember Deeda Seed gave an impassioned defense of the ordinance, bringing 125 spectators to their feet in applause. The episode illustrated, as Katharine Biele wrote in December of 1997, "how far apart the two sides of the issue are. One side thinks the law should recognize a reality; the other fears it would condone an aberration."

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In the ads
"Here's your chance to meet that person your eyes and heart touched," announced City Weekly in the June 19 issue. Titled "I Saw You," this space provided an opportunity for local romantics to find one another after an all-too-brief encounter. The following are entries from Sept. 18.

Mike: "You came last summer looking for a roommate, I foolishly let you go. You work as a meat cutter. Is it too late to reconnect? You're still on my mind. I believe in commitment and relationships, too. Let's have coffee and talk."

Aug. 21st at the Gallivan Center: "Toward the end of the concert, I talked to you briefly by City Weekly's table, you said 'Hi, my name is Coop, and your hair is righteous.' I forgot how to talk! Please give me a second chance! My name is Gabrielle."

Where—Bricks: "You said your name was Ron, I told you my name was Jason. I cannot stop thinking about you, and wonder if our paths will ever cross again."

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About The Author

Wes Long

Wes Long

Bio:
Wes Long's writing first appeared in City Weekly in 2021 and in 2023, he was named Listings Desk manager. Long majored in history at the University of Utah and enjoys a good book or film, an excursion into nature or the nearest historic district, or simply basking in the company of animals.

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