Best of Utah 2008 | Media & Politics | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

Best of Utah 2008 | Media & Politics 

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Out-of-State School-Voucher Advocates
When the Legislature voted against Utahns’ will to funnel scarce public-education money into private religious schools, it sparked the most bitter and polarizing political battle Utah has seen since Amendment 3. A pro-voucher organization calling itself “Parents for Choice in Education” funneled $4 million into the state, much of it coming from tacky-rich sources like Amway and Wal-Mart. The money was a boon for Utah media outlets and, judging by the Oreo ad campaign, a godsend for the kind of marketing geniuses who think condescension sells.

“Invisible No More: Latinos’ Dignity March in Utah”
University of Utah professor Armando Solorzano knew exactly why he had to put together the photo exhibit of Utah’s largest political march in history, from the April 2006 dignity march. “We had 43,000 people marching peacefully in the streets of Salt Lake City,” Solorzano says. “It was the largest democratic march in our history, but after a year and a half, everybody forgot about it.” Solorzano decided to gather news clippings and speeches from political and religious leaders from the event along with stunning photos taken by five Latino photographers to create an unforgettable exhibit of this epic moment in Utah’s civil rights history. On display throughout the state for the next year, the exhibit is stopping in Moab during May, then Dixie State College through the summer before making its way back to Salt Lake City’s Marriott Library in September.n n n

Standard Examiner
Most people don’t really think about where they get their news, much less how that news ended up in the paper. Sure, there are the obvious writers, editors and photographers working their magic, but once they click on “save” and head home, the news has a few more pit stops to hit before the paper lands in the news racks. That’s right, we’re talking about the printers, specifically the folks at Ogden’s Standard Examiner who take care of City Weekly every Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. Known simply as “the press guys,” Eddie, Randy, Dennis and Mitch do their jobs with precision and care. Four of the nicest fellas you’ll ever meet, they’re always on the lookout for bad registration and messed-up color. Covered head-to-toe in ink, these guys are a class act.

Utah State Government
A 2008 Pew study this March has rated Utah the best governed state, “Utah manages itself with savvy business acumen” says the report, giving the Utah cabalists of the “let’s inject everything with market forces” philosophy reason for high-fives all around. The Pew Report noted off-handedly that it might have something to do with the “homogenous” makeup of the Legislature but thinks that’s not the only reason. Of course, in Utah—whether it’s Kanab Republican Rep. Mike Noel’s witch hunt against the “terrorism” of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance for its criticism of his personal nuclear-power business, or House Speaker Greg Curtis’ law client Anderson Development landing a $44 million bid to buy the old St. George airport thanks, no doubt, to loans of state money to help sweeten the deal for St. George—there’s definitely a reason why Utah governs itself with “business acumen.” It’s because Utah politics is always good business.

Rocky vs. Dell Loy Hansen
It was the belly bump heard round the state. Developer Dell Loy Hansen, upset that Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson wouldn’t support his bid for additional city building subsidies, challenged Rocky outside City Council chambers. Hansen cornered the mayor and tried to get in Rocky’s face, but his belly got in the way. Rocky, true to his pugilist nickname, didn’t back down. A later legal probe of the fracas noted the mayor “did state that he would kick Mr. Hansen’s ‘ass,’ but this was a result of his being touched.” For his part, Hansen, “invaded Mr. Anderson’s personal space.” No charges resulted.

Dr. Brian Moench
This Salt Lake City anesthesiologist hit the political scene like gangbusters during the nasty 2007 winter inversion with his grass-roots advocacy group, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. He’s kept the heat on ever since. Armed with statistics about the public-health threat—especially to children—stemming from our addiction to fossil fuels, Moench has hammered away at legislators for more transit funding and continues to remind everyone that leaving dangerously dirty air for future generations to deal with is pure cowardice. Last winter, in an address at a Salt Lake County library, Moench put it simply: “What is the morality of knowing thousands of people will die because you won’t clean up the air?”

Rocky Anderson
Take one part anti-Bush rhetoric and five parts environmental championing. Add a dash of bombast and whip with rabble-rousing and intellectual verve. Pour mixture into a thick crust of self-righteous, ministerial zeal; bake with the outrage of the Utah Legislature and conservative Mormon Republicans, and you end up with what local sculptor and architect Steven Goldsmith calls, in a Nation profile, “a folk hero of the American West,” aka Ross “Rocky” Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City. While he may not be everyone’s slice o’ pie, Anderson’s activism, dating back to the ’70s, has become one hell of an acquired taste and made Utah famous for something besides Mormons and green Jell-O.
2. Pamela Atkinson
3. Betsy Burton

The Mormon Worker
Run for cover, all of you pyramid-scheme lovin,’ war-hawk Mormons! There’s a new voice in the LDS community speaking loud about old doctrine, and that doctrine is culled from the oft-overlooked scriptural references to Mormon socialism, anarchy and pacifism. The Mormon Worker seeks to remind fellow saints that scriptural tenets like the law of consecration and the United Order aren’t served well by the culture’s current mindset of wealth = blessings. The Worker challenges this notion while refraining from criticizing the church itself. Check these guys out while you still can before they get the apostate-kiss-of-death from the same church they lovingly try to reawaken to its forgotten radical roots.

“You wanna another hit of this?”
Utah Highway Patrolman John Gardner gained YouTube notoriety this fall for the clip of him Tasering 28-year-old Jared Massey in the back after Massey refused to sign a speeding citation. After 50,000 volts knocked Massey to the ground, he was handcuffed on the ground and soon taken to the back of the trooper’s car. Massey is heard telling the officer, “Read me my rights!” to which Officer Gardner, with some swagger, responds “Look, you wanna another hit of this?” How does one respond to that? “Oh, yes, please, this time a little to the left …”

Rep. Chris Cannon
Considering the thrills of looking at Senate President John Valentine’s vacation/junket photos of a trip to Kyrgyzstan or the bland expanses of the Utah House blog, it wasn’t too hard to award Chris Cannon’s blog, for being the most user-friendly. All politics aside, our chosen son in D.C. gets props for his postings, use of video clips (including CNN House coverage and segments from the Late Show With David Letterman) and an overall Web-pretty aesthetic. He also has a cool link to a Library of Congress database where you can check all of Cannon’s and any other national reps’ voting records. Well done, Rep. Cannon, you’ve got our vote … er, your blog does at least. n n

Ralph Becker
Rocky Anderson trails Ralph Becker in this year’s readers’ poll. Which is good, since Rocky is no longer Salt Lake City mayor, and Ralph is. (Still, Rocky’s third-place showing ain’t bad, considering he no longer qualifies for the category.) If Rocky paved the way for the idea that a progressive capital city in the middle of Utah should have a progressive mayor, Becker may be the embodiment. His first official act as mayor was to set up a domestic-partner registry to help gays get insurance. That brought the predictable knee-jerk attack from the Utah Legislature’s right wing. But Becker, with his steady demeanor, won. He’s Rocky, without the rockiness.
2. Jon Huntsman Jr.
3. Rocky Anderson

Chris Buttars
Here’s something any Utah Republican politician can understand—a landslide victory! It became kind of perversely entertaining watching the West Jordan legislator insert so many feet every time he opened his mouth that it seemed he must have metamorphosed into a millipede. “This baby is black,” “lynching,” “those people”—you name the racially insensitive gaffe, and he was rocking it. Here’s hoping that come re-election time, most of his constituents are sporting the same “your very existence offends me” scowl Buttars locked on an advocate for gay rights in that infamous Salt Lake Tribune photo.
2. Gayle Ruzicka
3. Rocky Anderson

J.T. Martin’s “Rubber Penis” Quote
It’s not often that a newly elected city councilman can make a splash before even taking office. But, when Sugar House residents started protesting the Blue Boutique’s relocation from its doomed ancestral digs across from the obelisk on 2100 South to the “nice” neighborhood east of 1300 East, Councilman J.T. Martin stepped in to fan the flames. “I don’t care if you have one rubber penis or you have 15,” Martin famously said … and nobody now can remember what he said after that. The fact that a councilman was willing to say the words “rubber penis” was enough. We were in love.

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