40 Years of City Weekly—Volume 39: 2022 to 2023 | City Weekly REWIND | Salt Lake City Weekly

40 Years of City Weekly—Volume 39: 2022 to 2023 

City Weekly Rewind

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"There's a decision that needs to be made, quickly, by the residents of Salt Lake City. And if we don't get our acts together soon, the wrong decision will be made for us," remarked Benjamin Wood in the July 7, 2022, issue. "Salt Lakers need to decide, right now, whether we're going to be a real city or not."

Real cities, Wood stressed, featured a wide array of living spaces and did not cater solely to cars. "Real cities understand that, as a collection of people, the city itself is a living, ever-changing thing, full of cheerful hellos and painful goodbyes," he wrote. "The flaws of a city's human builders trickle through its veins and seep from its pores, and the medicine is not always easy to swallow." Wood lamented that proposals to expand local trails, modernize mass transit and incentivize affordable housing had all been met with opposition, "often based on half-truths, rumor, innuendo and, in some cases, naked prejudice."

One could argue that state of affairs was widespread around Utah and the country in our 39th year. Mass shootings occurred in grisly repetition, COVID was mutating amid a public in denial, and public health was spurned by the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion, overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The forces contributing to (or prolonging) each of these conditions were themselves attributable to no small amount of half-truths, rumor, innuendo and prejudice.

Closer to home, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, was scaremongering about a transgender "explosion" on official Utah House letterhead, mosquitoes were feasting at the relocated-on-wetlands State Prison, and a proposed gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon advanced over the objections of nearly everyone. The state was forging ahead on expanding Interstate 15 regardless of need or neighborhood loss, while the Legislature enacted a scheme to tie vouchers to teacher raises and remove constitutional language reserving tax revenue for education. Yes, public leaders were making efforts at saving the Great Salt Lake, but heaven help you if your suggestions for conservation encroached upon alfalfa farming!

The flaws and chicanery of local leaders were seeping through the collective pores, and everyone was feeling the effects. Yet any counteracting medicine to these ills was rarely welcome. Still, there remained healthy successes, including a new state flag, the acquittal of animal rights activists after taking two sick pigs from an industrial farm in Milford, the failure of a proposal to dredge Utah Lake and build a city in the middle and the failure of legislators to rescind the state's ban on conversion therapy. Not to mention the good laugh everyone had over the Tribune op-ed endorsement of Sen. Mike Lee—penned by his own campaign.

What kind of city, state and nation did we want to be? It remained unclear, but what was evident was that if we didn't get our acts together, wrong decisions would continue to be made for us. Wood concluded his opinion column hoping that Salt Lakers would "get on the same page" and begin "demanding the right kind of change" together. A timely appeal then as well as now.

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As for City Weekly itself, we had cheerful hellos and painful goodbyes of our own, such as the departures of music editor Thomas Crone and listings desk manager Kara Rhodes—succeeded, respectively, by Emilee Atkinson and Wes Long. Plus, we had two new columns, with Cole Fullmer's Salt Baked City Weekly on the state's cannabis program and Bryant Heath's On the Street to share unique sights around the city. Notable stories included Eric S. Peterson's investigation of cities' use of homeless funds, Aimee L. Cook's story on Millcreek's city-center plaza, Wes Long's look at the historic Nettie Gregory Center and Connor Sanders' report on Tooele County School District's imperiled German language immersion program.

Remembering Vol. 39: In writing
"Right now," Bryan Young commented in the May 25, 2023, issue, "thanks to the boom in artificial intelligence and the abysmal treatment of writers that led them to go on strike in Hollywood, writers are being forced to assert their self-worth in clearer terms than ever."

The filmmaker/author had long familiarity with receiving little to no pay for his work at various outlets. Entering into the realm of nerd journalism in the late aughts, Young—with co-founder Lucas Ackley—started local nerd news site Big Shiny Robot!, first appearing in the Tribune's short-lived IN This Week and then transferring over to City Weekly in the early 2010s.

"I was writing for City Weekly with the caveat that I wasn't going to be paid in cash, I was just going to get gift certificates for the foreseeable future," Young wrote in a recent recollection. "That was more than I was getting elsewhere for any of my writing, and my family liked getting to eat at the various restaurants that happened to be advertising in Salt Lake City Weekly."

Running at various frequencies over the years, Big Shiny Robot! commented on developments and controversies within nerd circles, as well as basking in the stories and characters around which these circles gathered. In recent years, Young branched out into political and cultural commentary.

"The capitalist society of the United States loves the work of writers, but is actively hostile to a political system and lifestyle that would actually produce high quantities of great writers," Young wrote in his May 2023 article. "I lament all of the future Shakespeares, Kurt Vonneguts and Ursula K. Le Guins whose words the world will never have, because instead of making a living in short fiction and building to their great full-length novels, these writers are instead working themselves to the bone for the bare necessities to live."

Young encouraged the public to put their money where their mouths were and pay for artisans rather than succumb to the baseless boosterism and contrived conveniences around artificial intelligence. "Tech-bros are pointing to AI and saying, 'We can do this without writers,'" Young wrote. "But have you read any of the drivel produced by AI? It's nonsensical. AI has no capacity to create that prism through which good art shines. Even if AI writing gets better at becoming a facsimile of the writing humans can do, it will still lack the depth of emotion, creativity and spirit of a human writer—because artificial intelligence doesn't have emotions. It can't. It never will."

And in case you're wondering, City Weekly long ago began paying Young in actual dollars for his work. Just putting it out there.

In the pews
"Repentance is a bedrock teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Keith Burns commented in a March 2 editorial. "Considering that daily repentance is expected of its millions of members, it's also fair to expect the church to properly repent for its wrongdoings and errors."

One area ripe for change and self-improvement, in Burns' view, was the realm of finance. "On Feb. 21 [2023]," Burns wrote, "the church was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with 'failing to file forms that would have disclosed the church's equity investments' of $32 billion, held by its investment firm, Ensign Peak. They instead filed forms for 13 shell companies in what church officials explained was an effort to 'maintain the privacy' of its investments. Ensign Peak acknowledged that the obfuscating was done knowingly, because the firm wanted 'to avoid 'attention' that would be 'potentially damaging.'"

In a press release at the time, the church stated that the SEC's concerns had been raised four years previously and necessitated a change in "approach." Since then, the church affirmed, "13 quarterly reports have been filed in full accordance with SEC requirements." Church officials were said to regret the "mistakes made, and now consider this matter closed."

For Burns, a practicing Latter-day Saint, the church's response was characteristic of a leadership approach that dodges accountability and misses opportunities to heal and grow. "While the church in this instance expresses vague 'regret,'" he wrote, "they do not genuinely apologize nor demonstrate sufficient accountability for a significant and illicit breach of financial transparency."

Such a leadership attitude, Burns opined, manifested itself along other historical paths that church leaders had traveled, as with issues related to gender equity, racial attitudes and LGBT members. As these decisions continue to bring pain, Burns wondered whether opportunities for repentance were going unclaimed by current leaders.

"Although I disagree with numerous church teachings," he concluded, "I welcome invitations to become a more compassionate and charitable version of myself. ... I sincerely ask them to model the same principles of repentance, honesty and accountability they emphatically preach to their members."

Burns has been a recurring voice for these subjects on our pages, sharing similar insight to that of English theologian Andrew Linzey, writing in a different context: "There is always hope for a church that repents." Church representatives could not be reached for this story despite multiple attempts.

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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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