BEST of UTAH 2023 | The BEST restaurants, bars, entertainment, nightlife, dishes, drinks, media, and politics in Utah. | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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    Darlene McDonald, - author and political thought leader - COURTESY PHOTO
    • Courtesy photo
    • Darlene McDonald, author and political thought leader

    Best Community Advocate
    Darlene McDonald, Speaker & Author

    The power structures in the Beehive State can at times feel so calcified and entrenched that there's little point in pushing for positive change. But not everyone has the luxury of sitting out those fights. It's the strong example of tireless advocates like Darlene McDonald, director of the 1Utah Project, who works to ensure the right questions are being asked of the right people, and that minority voices aren't brushed aside and forgotten., Twitter @iamdarlenemcd
    2. Pamela Atkinson, Homeless Advocate
    3. Salt Lake City Justice Court Homeless Court

    Best Advocacy Organization
    Planned Parenthood Association of Utah
    The Utah Legislature dislikes many things—alcohol, labor unions, public transportation—but it actively abhors abortion providers and Planned Parenthood. In the Roe days, Utah lawmakers trotted out every trick in the book to make life miserable for Planned Parenthood and its patients. Now that Dobbs has eroded bodily autonomy, lawmakers are seizing their moment. PPAU has stepped up as the last line of defense, fighting in court for every inch of freedom that can be preserved. Visit the website to learn about patient care, education and ways to get involved in fighting for reproductive freedom.
    2. Equality Utah
    3. Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter

    Best Columnist
    Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune
    The purpose of journalists, the old saying goes, "is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." If that's so, then the Tribune's Robert Gehrke practices his profession in spades! During the past 20 years, the U of U graduate has caused more than a few anal spasms on Capitol Hill, while covering government and politics. He has a knack for sniffing out political shenanigans (his sources are legion) and exposing them to the sunshine of "truth."
    2. Eli McCann, The Salt Lake Tribune
    3. Meg Walter, Deseret News

    Best Elected Official
    SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall
    After a long period of contention between the Utah Legislature and City Hall, there lately seems to be a more relaxed, less-confrontational climate, perhaps due to the current occupant of the mayor's chair, Erin Mendenhall. For example, she struck a deal for a bigger cut of property taxes generated by the 16,000-acre inland port. The 42-year-old mayor is seeking a second term, advocating for clean air, green spaces and affordable housing. She's announced a $100-million fundraising plan to shore up the Ballpark Neighborhood after the Salt Lake Bees move to Daybreak. 451 S. State, 801-535-7704,
    2. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney
    3. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox

    Best FM Radio Show
    Radio From Hell, X96
    Back in the '80s, a milk van painted like a black-and-white spotted cow promoted Ogden's KJQ new wave radio station. Its morning drive-time show Radio From Hell was "for people who feel like hell in the morning." The show found a new home in 1993 on KXRK (X96), featuring former KJQ hosts Kerry Jackson and Bill Allred (Gina Barberi joined the duo in 1996). It was mostly talk then (now all talk), with segments like Boner of the Day/Week, TV reviews with Bill Frost and trivia contests like Beat Gina. They're still going strong 30 years later. KXRK 96.3 FM,
    2. RadioWest, KUER 90.1
    3. Z104's Dave & Deb

    U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney: Utah’s best conservative and best “over the hill” politician - WIKI COMMONS
    • Wiki Commons
    • U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney: Utah’s best conservative and best “over the hill” politician

    Best Conservative
    U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney
    The radicalization of the Republican Party has left few people as isolated as Utah's Mitt Romney, perhaps the last "traditional" conservative left standing with the Democratic coalition to his left and a hungry pack of rabid hyenas to his right. Justifiably exhausted, Romney is packing up his Senate office and spilling a little tea on his way out the door (his tell-all biography, Romney: A Reckoning, offers a frank account of the dysfunction within today's Republican Party).
    2. Former Utah state Rep. Becky Edwards
    3. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee

    Best Former Utahn
    Donovan Mitchell
    Utah has seen plenty of Utah Jazz players move on to bigger-market stages, and it hasn't always left a good taste in the fans' mouths. When Donovan Mitchell was traded to Cleveland, he took to social media to show appreciation local fans, saying "Thank you for the memories and the incredible times." Jazz fans responded with warm applause when the Cavs visited in January 2023—and with Mitchell heading into a free-agency year, maybe it wouldn't be so bad if he weren't a former Utahn anymore.
    2. Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame
    3. Lex Scott, former head of local Black Lives Matter

    Best Local TV Lifestyle/Talk Show
    Good Things Utah, ABC4
    Inquiring minds want to know: Where do you store your soy sauce, what did it take to film Taylor Swift's The Era's Tour over the course of three nights in California or even how a woman won $50,000 after getting "a wedgie" on a Disney World waterslide. These topics have captured the fancy of ABC4's Good Things Utah. The team includes veteran Nicea DeGering, Surae Chinn, Janeen Golightly, Deena Manzanares and Brianne Johnson, giving you a dose of "lite" before you head out to the world. ABC4, weekdays 9-10 a.m.,
    2. The Place, Fox 13
    3. Roots, Race & Culture, PBS Utah

    Best Local Podcast
    City Cast SLC
    As back-to-back winners in this category, the women of City Cast SLC continue to establish podcast dominance, pumping out five episodes per week on topics as broad and varied as the city they call home. Listeners can brush up on the latest statewide controversy or get the inside scoop downtown, with City Cast there to make sure things stay by locals, for locals.
    2. Geekshow podcast
    3. Cold, a KSL podcast

    Best Mixed-Use Space in Which to Live/Work/Play
    The Junction
    In addition to not tearing down its historical buildings along 25th Street, Ogden made another positive move for its downtown with The Junction. Anchored by a Megaplex 13 theater and the Salomon Center (housing numerous entertainment and fitness tenants), The Junction's 20 acres also include a children's museum, two office buildings, restaurants, a parking garage, and condos and apartments with ground-floor retail space. Walkable and engaging, you often can enjoy open-air musical performances as you stroll by.
    2. Farmington Station
    3. Maven District

    • Courtesy photo

    Best Up-and-Coming Politician
    Utah Sen. Jennifer Plumb
    If there's one thing that's clear coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that we could use more doctors in government. Too many people (and too many men) in positions of power wrongly consider themselves experts on a medical ecosystem they scarcely understand. Before her election to the Senate, Jennifer Plumb's advocacy on overdose prevention was a catalyst for change. Now in office, she's utilized her background, insight and passion to make the facts-first arguments that too often go unheard on Capitol Hill.
    2. Darlene McDonald
    3. Utah Sen. Kathleen Riebe

    Best Nonprofit Organization
    Planned Parenthood Association of Utah
    No surprise—unless you're the Utah Legislature. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah is still around, advocating for women's health and the right to make their own healthcare decisions. Yes, that means abortion, too. But PPAU is more than that. Their doors are open to all women who seek good medical care and advice, believing that sexual and reproductive rights are basic human rights. For more than 50 years, PPAU has offered women a full range of health care.
    2. Equality Utah
    3. KRCL 90.9 FM

    Best Piece of Legislation
    Statewide Full-day Kindergarten
    Full-day kindergarten is one of those rare, unambiguously good ideas—it churns out smarter kids, offers flexibility to working parents, enjoys bipartisan support and, if you still don't like it, is optional. But it can take years for good ideas to pass the Utah Legislature while bad ideas are funded in a day. HB477 finally made it over the goal line in 2023 after relentless pushing by supporters and multiple stalled attempts. Now to lift Utah out of its lowest-in-the-nation level on per-student funding.
    2. Great Salt Lake Elevation Target (SCR6)
    3. Domestic Violence Lethality Amendments (SB117)

    Best Political Controversy
    Little Cottonwood Gondola
    You gotta hand it to the Utah Department of Transportation for finding a way to spend as much money as possible in order to move as few people to as few locations as possible. If it ever does get built, the gondola to Alta and Snowbird will be the longest in the world. We'll see if skiers actually use the thing, but everyone else will still be waiting in traffic, staring up at the massive towers and wondering where all that money went.
    2. Failure to Deal With Homelessness
    3. Sen. Mike Lee's Election Fraud Texts

    Best Political Social-Media Influencer
    Ben Winslow, Fox 13
    Who doesn't love Ben Winslow? Not only is this veteran reporter a favorite of City Weekly readers, but he's garnered the national Edward R. Murrow award and the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year. Locally, the Utah Broadcaster's Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and QSaltLake have recognized him. After 20 years on the job, Winslow still manages to be Utah's snappiest dresser and best-coifed reporter. Lately, he's taken on the vagaries of Great Salt Lake in this "pretty, dry state.", Twitter @BenWinslow
    2. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune
    3. Utah Sen. Nate Blouin

    Best Over-the-Hill Politician
    Sen. Mitt Romney
    In September, Utah's 76-year-old junior senator announced he'll not seek reelection in 2024, saying, "Frankly, it's time for a new generation of leaders." He's been broadly praised—and widely condemned—for voting to convict President Trump of abuse of power and inciting an insurrection. Booed off the stage at the state GOP convention, he accepted the 2021 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. Romney, the GOP presidential standard-bearer in 2012, made his millions (he's the fifth richest member of Congress) at private equity giant Bain Capital. A Rolling Stone profile in 2012 compared him to Gordon Gekko of Wall Street, saying their business strategies were "essentially identical." All the same, most (sane) moderate Republicans and Democrats will salute his tenure in the Senate representing Utah.
    2. Rocky Anderson, former SLC mayor/current candidate
    3. Former Utah state Rep. Becky Edwards

    Best Radical
    Rocky Anderson
    In Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel, The Last Hurrah, Frank Skeffington is the political boss and longtime mayor of an American city (a thinly disguised Boston) running for reelection. It doesn't end well for His Honor. Enter Ross A. "Rocky" Anderson, former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City. Eight years out of office, he's launched a vigorous campaign against the popular incumbent. Whereas the fictional Skeffington was a rogue, Anderson, 72, is an unabashed idealist and nationally recognized human-rights activist. During his tenure, he marshaled city resources to ensure the successful 2002 Olympic Winter Games. And he walked off with the title of "Greenest Mayor in America." Win or lose, he deserves a "hurrah.",
    2. Utah state Sen. Nate Blouin
    3. Rae Duckworth, Black Lives Matter operating chairperson

    Best Rally
    Utah Pride Rally and March
    Every year, the capital city awaits the Utah Pride Festival—an opportunity to dress as one's wildest fantasies and enjoy entertainment and camaraderie in ways that defy the image of staid Utah. But beyond celebration, Pride is also a protest, a rally, a march. Seeing members of your community fill the streets is a great unifier. This past September, the Utah Pride Center, which sponsors Pride events, furloughed its staff, and QSaltLake Magazine openly wondered if the nonprofit would weather the storm (but they intend to and are using this time to reorganize). 1380 S. Main, SLC, 801-539-8800,
    2. Rally for Roe: Pro-Choice
    3. Black Lives Matter

    Best Radio Station
    Sticking well to its moniker as Utah's Original Alternative station, X96 (aka KXRK 96.3 FM) is a station for anyone who wants something far from boring coming out of their stereo speakers. Classic alt rock hits from the '80s on up to now are on constant shuffle, satisfying for anyone from any generation who's ever said, "It's not just a phase!" to their mom.
    2. KRCL 90.9 FM
    3. KUER 90.1 FM

    • John Taylor

    Best Progressive
    SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall
    It requires a careful balancing act to be an effective blue progressive in the bright-red Beehive State. Step too far to the left, and Utah will shut you down. But as a City Council member and now as Salt Lake City mayor, Erin Mendenhall has made friends where it counts, securing meaningful concessions and momentum on housing affordability, transportation, water conservation and even the Utah inland port, which has at least been turned away from the worst versions of itself through Mendenhall's collaboration and good old-fashioned politicking.
    2. Rocky Anderson, former SLC mayor and current mayoral candidate
    3. Utah Sen. Nate Blouin

    Best radio reporter: Lara Jones, KRCL - COURTESY PHOTO
    • Courtesy photo
    • Best radio reporter: Lara Jones, KRCL

    Best Radio Reporter
    Lara Jones, KRCL 90.9 FM
    Lara Jones has been helping people tell their stories for 30 years, first as a teenage disc jockey, a business reporter, a public radio host and the first civilian public relations director for the Salt Lake City Police Department. She also helped draft the Utah Compact, "a document of universal values on which to base immigration reform and discussions." Now she's the executive producer and co-host of RadioACTive, KRCL's community affairs show that highlights local activists and community builders. Always well-researched, her radio show, airing weeknights at 6 p.m. on KRCL 90.9 FM, tells it like it is., X: Auntie Lara @larajones7
    2. Saige Miller, KUER 90.1. FM
    3. Jeff Caplan, KSL Radio 102.7 FM

    Best Print/Digital Reporter
    Amy Donaldson, KSL Radio Podcast Host, Producer, Writer
    Now in her seventh year of podcasting, KSL Radio's Amy Donaldson has the bona fides any reporter would envy. For 28 years, she wore the hat of a print reporter, covering high school sports and the outdoors for the Deseret News, and hosting a prep radio show. Her podcasts—Talking Cold and Voices of Reason—take on a kaleidoscopic range of subjects. In an acclaimed multi-part series, "The Letter," Donaldson explored the 1996 shooting death of an 18-year-old and the life-altering aftermath of a letter the murderer wrote to his victim's mother.
    2. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune
    3. Michael Aaron, QSaltLake Magazine

    Best Sports Reporter, all media
    Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune
    If you're a Utah Jazz fan, following Andy Larsen on social media isn't just recommended; it's practically mandatory. His insightful analysis provides hoops junkies with a great sense for what's going on in Jazz Nation, and behind-the-scenes looks at players and coaches. But he's also ready to dig into reporting like the allegations of abusive behavior by University of Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden, making him the kind of all-purpose sports journalist every town needs.
    2. Sarah Todd, Deseret News
    3. David James, KUTV 2 News

    Best TV Reporter
    Ben Winslow, Fox 13
    A perennial winner of this category, Ben Winslow doesn't let the grass grow under his feet. In March, he hopped on a plane for a 7,000-mile trip to Israel with a state delegation studying water conservation. The avuncular, bearded reporter says he picked up one Israeli word from the tour guide, "Yalla!" ... or "Let's go!" He then filed a comprehensive series of reports on how the Mideast nation has gone from water shortages to surpluses, and lessons Utah can learn.
    2. Alex Cabrero, KSL 5
    3. Kari Hawker Diaz, KUTV News

    Best Social Cause
    Shelter and Housing for Homeless People
    Where would you go if you had nowhere to go? Would you jump through hoops for a barracks-style bed at an underfunded shelter? Or would you tuck into some dark corner of the city and hope for the best? There's still plenty of people who think jail is the proper place for the unsheltered, but the conversation is increasingly shifting from "Where do we put people?" to "How do we help people?" While the problem is far from solved, the right questions are finally being asked. Learn more at
    2. Drag Is Not a Crime
    3. Protect Trans Youth

    Best Utah Athlete
    Cameron Rising, Utah Ute
    You get a sense for how much of an impression someone has made when they're not in the spotlight—and the voting for this award took place at a point when it wasn't clear when University of Utah quarterback Cameron Rising would be available to play again after knee surgery. But Rising certainly made an impression last season, leading the Utes to their second consecutive Rose Bowl with him under center, and leading to optimism for even greater things ahead.
    2. Tony Finau, PGA Star
    3. Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

    Best TV Anchor
    Mary Nickles, KUTV 2News
    Thirty-two years ago, Mary Nickles walked through the doors of KUTV 2. It's been an eventful journey. For example, she took a routine mammogram for a series on cancer—and discovered she had a malignant tumor. Cameras followed her through surgery, radiation and chemo ... and trips to the wig store! She collected an Emmy in 2012. Now the picture of health, the mother of twins brings experience, poise and good humor to 2 News This Morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
    2. Nicea DeGering, ABC 4
    3. Kelly Chapman, Fox 13

    Best TV News Station
    Fox 13 News
    Journalism is fundamentally a team sport, with various newsrooms competing for the best information and the most eyeballs. And to stick with the metaphors, local media in recent years has seen a lot of, shall we say, conference realignment. Throughout all the upheaval, the talented and charismatic team at Fox 13 have kept their eyes on the ball, delivering twice as much news every night and doing it in a way that keeps Utah tuning in and wising up. KSTU-FOX 13, 5020 W. Amelia Earhart Drive, SLC, 801-532-1300,
    2. KUTV 2 News
    3. KSL 5 TV

    Best Utahn
    Bill Allred
    X96's Bill Allred has long been "Utah's most trusted newsman"—as his venerable Radio From Hell co-hosts are quick to remind listeners—and he can now add "Utah's best person" to his list of bona fides. A decadeslong tenure in local radio means that many City Weekly readers grew up with Allred's voice in their ears, with that voice offering an intellectual counterpoint to the Utah monoculture, an incisive critique of government and community failures and, no less important, an invitation to laugh your way to work every morning., X: @rfhbill
    2. Becky Edwards, politician
    3. Darren Parry, author and former Shoshone Nation-Northwestern Band chairman

    Best Weathercaster
    Allison Croghan, Fox 13
    In May, Fox 13's chief meteorologist Allison Croghan surprised viewers and her co-anchors with a six-month "special" forecast: She's expecting. The brainy and effervescent Missouri native—who previously was a familiar face on Good Day Utah—graduated from Mississippi State University. Her first professional gig was at a station in Joplin, Missouri, where she covered one of the deadliest tornados in American history. Viewers seeking prognostications—"special" and otherwise—can catch her at 4, 5 and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday.
    2. Chase Thomason, KUTV 2 Weather
    3. Kevin Eubank, KSL 5 Weather

    Most Underreported Utah Event/Story
    LDS Church Fined by SEC After Hiding $32 Billion in Shell Companies
    The issue of financial transparency is getting harder for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to ignore. Where church leaders could once swat away criticisms as the toothless bark of disgruntled malcontents, they're now finding their dirty laundry aired out in court, and their wrists slapped (a scant $5 million fine) by federal regulators for scattering their immense wealth through an intentionally byzantine network of affiliated entities. We can only wonder if more "revelations" are to come—so pass the popcorn.
    2. Mormon Church's Blind Eye on Sexual Abuse
    3. Lesbian Wins Miss Davis County

    • Wiki Commons

    Worst Utahn
    Sen. Mike Lee
    For everyone except those who voted him into office, Mike Lee wins worst Utahn hands-down. There are even several social media pages —such as Humans Against Mike Lee and Unseat Mike Lee—dedicated to denigrating the senior U.S. senator. The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryant Schott has dogged the senator to the point that Lee blocked him and ghosts him at every opportunity. Lee has repeatedly offended the LDS church, too, and has barely done anything in the way of helpful legislation., X: @SenMikeLee @BasedMikeLee
    2. Natalie Cline, Utah state school board member
    3. SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall

    What Did We Miss?

    Best Cultural Program
    Black, Bold & Brilliant
    So, you thought Utah was a bastion for conservative white people? The Utah Film Center's series Black, Bold & Brilliant says otherwise. Black Utahns lead discussions and critique films around issues affecting the Black community. The events, however, look to the Black, Afro-Latino, Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and allied communities in Utah. In December, BBB will show Blurring the Color Line, stories of Chinese families in the Black South during Jim Crow. It's all about opening minds and hearts.

    Best Investigative Journalist
    Adam Herbets, Fox 13
    If you have not heard of Adam Herbets, you certainly know his investigations. Herbets started with the Fox Investigates team in 2020 and has been breaking stories ever since. He has won multiple awards including the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative journalism and nine Emmy Awards. Herbets was the first reporter to cover the search for JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan in Rexburg, Idaho. A successful advocate for veterans, Herbets continues to fight for those who can't., X: @AdamHerbets
    2. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune
    3. Wendy Halloran, KUTV 2 News


    Best City Street Makeover
    Green Loop Pop-up Park
    Salt Lake's streets are bonkers wide. There used to be trolleys running down them, but that infrastructure was tossed in favor of car-centric asphalt. Many struggle to even see the problem, which hopefully became clearer with the Green Loop demonstration on 200 East between 300 South and 400 South. Redundant car lanes became a temporary beer garden, performance stage, food truck station, badminton court, inviting people back into what is, fundamentally, public space. And the pop-up is just the beginning; city plans call for a permanent Green Loop that reutilizes the wide streets surrounding downtown.

    Best Class Act by a Republican Politician
    Gov. Cox's Welcome of Biden
    When President Biden's plane touched down in Salt Lake City in August, he was warmly greeted by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox. He and First Lady Abby Cox were the only high-profile Republicans in the welcoming party. Later, the Utah GOP congressional delegation and state legislative leadership shunned the president's speech at the local Veterans Administration Health Center. Cox went on to say, "I think it's insane that we are having those conversations. ... When the president succeeds, America succeeds."

    Best Depictions of Small Lake City
    @salt_lego_city on Instagram
    Salt Lake City may be getting bigger and bigger, but Philip Sadler has tapped into something special by going small—using Legos to build detailed re-creations of SLC landmarks. His @salt_lego_city Instagram account has more than 10,000 followers drawn to his depictions of iconic buildings like East High School and the City & County Building, favorite restaurants like Dee's and Blue Plate Diner (RIP), and quirks and oddities like Gilgal Garden, the Summum pyramid and Fun Time Kidz Kare. We can't wait to see what he builds next. IG @salt_lego_city

    Best Shot in the Arm for Downtown
    Outdoor Retailer Is Back
    Five years ago, then-Gov. Gary Herbert and his GOP minions learned the hard way that outdoor lovers really care about Mother Nature. That's when the mammoth, twice-yearly Outdoor Retailer conventions pulled up stakes from Salt Lake City and moved to Denver—mainly because a ham-handed Herbert urged President Trump to rescind federal protections for Bears Ears National Monument. While a few of the big outdoor companies are still staying away, the acrimonious Beehive boycott ended when the Biden administration reinstated, and even enlarged, the boundaries of the sacred ancestral Pueblo lands.

    Best Excuse to Stop Driving
    300 West Cycle Track
    City Weekly has received unconfirmed reports from the international news wire that cyclists are, in fact ... people? No, can't be true. If they were people, they would have homes and jobs and all sorts of material and recreational needs. City infrastructure would have to be updated to improve sidewalks and install protected spaces where these "people" could travel without harming or being harmed by others. No, it's fake news—think of how much work that would be! In other news: Can you believe these gas prices?

    Christian Lenhart and Cameron Blakely - COLLEEN MEIDT / UTAH PUBLIC RADIO
    • Colleen Meidt / Utah Public Radio
    • Christian Lenhart and Cameron Blakely

    Best Bridge Builders
    Rio Grande Plan's Christian Lenhart & Cameron Blakely
    Salt Lake initially developed around both sides of the railroad, but a chain of racially charged decisions—from redlining to freeway construction to zoning—inflicted the proverbial 1,000 cuts on the west side. Christian Lenhart and Cameron Blakely's no-nonsense Rio Grande Plan would tackle the divide head-on by burying freight tracks and FrontRunner tracks, making intra-city travel more feasible and opening new frontiers for public transit that could take scores of cars off the road. Even if Lenhart and Blakeley are shooting for the moon, they've helped the rest of us to aim a little higher.

    Best Happy Landing
    The Return of the Delta Center
    A familiar presence returned to Sat Lake City's downtown this year. As of July 1, the 20,000-seat Vivint Arena, home to the Utah Jazz, reverted to the name it bore upon opening in 1991: the Delta Center. When Delta Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2005, the signage came down, and naming rights went to EnergySolutions, which processes low-level nuclear waste. (Remember the "It glows in the dark" wisecracks?) Vivint Smart Home Arena (a mouthful for stadium announcers) came next. "They say homecomings are sweet," said the Delta CEO at the renaming ceremony. "Sixteen years later, this is really special."

    Best 'He Knows It When He Sees It'
    Sen. Mike Lee's Smut Smiting
    Last year hadn't even ended before just-reelected Sen. Mike Lee eagerly unfurled a pair of anti-smut bills with the unlikely monikers of "IODA" and "SCREEN. "The first is the "Internet Obscenity Definition Act'; the second, "Shielding Children's Retinas from Egregious Exposure on the Net." No, we're not kidding. Sure, minors shouldn't view hard-core stuff, but Lee's bills could potentially outlaw all pornography by codifying a "national definition of obscenity." One legal expert calls Lee's scheme to appeal to his base "a slippery slope." Slippery? Enough said.

    Best Youth Mentor
    Marsha Boyd, Learning Lab Aide
    "Look for the helpers," invited Fred Rogers. Marsha Boyd is one such helper in varied local organizations and as a learning lab aide at Joel P. Jensen Middle School. Since her earliest years serving with such mentors as Alberta Henry (1920-2005), Boyd counsels the young with toughness and humor but always with love and acceptance. She lives for the community; it is better as a result. Joel P. Jensen Middle School, 8105 S. 3200 West, West Jordan, 801-412-2850,

    Best Insightful Voice on the Salt Lake Scene
    Emily Means, City Cast Podcast
    Formerly with KUER, KPCW, KCPW and KRCL on the FM dial, Emily Means is now lead producer for City Cast Salt Lake and joins a growing national network of daily podcasts and newsletters. While she started out in chemistry, Means has found a calling in journalism where she works on current affairs, legislative news and all the weird stuff that is Utah these days., X: @Em_Means13

    The 300 North Pedestrian Bridge - SLC.GOV
    • The 300 North Pedestrian Bridge

    Best New East-to-West Connector
    The 300 North Pedestrian Bridge
    For many West High students over the years, the one thing between them and being on time for class has been several tons of freight and steel. On 500 West, a stopped train could mean an hour's wait—or if one was desperate, hopping through the trains to the other side. Obviously, this is bad. Suffice it to say, the new arching stairs and bridge over the tracks are so needed, and so much safer. 300 N. 500 West, SLC

    Best Made-Up Controversy
    Book Bans
    Forget fascism, climate deterioration, wealth inequality and deepening polarization. No, the real problem in America is books, and the thought that a child might choose to put down TikTok to read something—or so the pearl-clutchers of the interminable library censorship movement would have you believe. No one is surprised that the challenged literature tends to deal with racial and sexual diversity, but swatting down the deluge of baseless complaints is taking a real toll on educators, whose morale could already use a boost.

    Best NIMBYs
    Speed Bump Opponents on 1300 South
    No one loves speed bumps, but a vocal contingent of opponents went overboard trying to preserve their right to drive fast. They said the noise would be unbearable (west-siders by the train tracks would like a word); they said the city should have solicited more input (on a speed bump? Come on); they even got The Salt Lake Tribune to report on the "scandal." Here's what they left out: Five people have died on 1300 South in three years, with even more injured. If drivers won't slow themselves down, the street design will have to make them.

    Best Old Standby Bike Lane
    300 South
    In a world where we're all focused on the 300 West and 900 South construction, let's shout out the cyclist's sturdy standby—300 South. Though parts of it have been temporarily blocked off thanks to oh-so-precious development, this bike lane is still a safe bet to get you downtown and to connect you to other chill lanes, like 200 West (another solid standby).

    Best Postponement of the Climate Apocalypse
    Utah's Record Precipitation
    One year ago, all of Utah was in a state of drought, with most areas falling somewhere between "severe" and "extreme" conditions. But after the one-two punch of a huge winter and a so-wet-we're-flooding spring, Utah's water map now shows most areas completely free of drought or "abnormally dry." The state still has a ways to go toward sustainability and even with all this new water, the Great Salt Lake won't just fill itself. So, enjoy the brief respite from an impending catastrophe and then get to work preparing for the next drought, because it's coming. Learn more at

    Best Primal Scream
    Mom Rage Over Lagoon's Delayed Primordial Opening
    This summer, we discovered what it takes to get Utah moms miffed. Long lines at Swig? Nope. Selling out of a favorite Minky Couture blanket? Also no. Turns out, it's a roller coaster. Between rage over Lagoon's newest ride, Primordial, failing to open at the beginning of the season and increased ticket prices, Utahns took to social media to complain ... and to KSL-TV's consumer investigator Matt Gephardt. Search "Get Gephardt Lagoon" on You Tube and Facebook and watch the drama unfold. Spoiler: It's more entertaining than the new roller coaster itself.

    Best Reality Check
    SLC Housing Crisis Leading to School Closures
    It would appear that some Salt Lakers need a refresher on where babies come from: parents. If parents can't afford to live in the city, there won't be any babies here. And if there aren't any babies here, before long, there won't be any school-age children. Without children, schools close—simple as that. Elementary schools are just the canary in the coal mine. Get on board with affordable density or get ready for more closures.

    Best Holy Comeback
    Holy Cross Hospital
    After a 30-year hiatus, Salt Lake Regional Hospital again became Holy Cross Hospital when Catholic-owned CommonSpirit Health acquired five hospitals and more than 35 medical clinics in Utah. The 158-bed facility was founded in 1875 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who sold it to a succession of for-profit owners, ending with Steward Health Care. Tip: If you find yourself visiting the "new" Holy Cross, pop into the 119-year-old Romanesque chapel—a little architectural gem with a white Carrara marble high altar, gold-leaf ceiling frescos ... and, of course, stained-glass windows. 1050 E. South Temple, SLC, 801-350-4111,

    Best Unhinged Rallying Cries
    State Rep. Trevor Lee and Sen. John Johnson
    Voters in Weber and Davis Counties have sent plenty of cuckoo birds to the Utah Legislature, but Layton freshman Rep. Trevor Lee and North Ogden freshman Sen. John Johnson are standouts. Lee uses the megaphone of public office to propagate what corporate media likes to call "racially charged" viewpoints (in one example, he described Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation as a "diversity hire"). Johnson, meanwhile, fancies himself a brave general in the right's culture war for children's minds and has taken to book banning and anti-CRT paranoia. The punchline? Johnson chairs the Senate Education Committee, literally setting the agenda for public schools in Utah. X: @VoteTrevorLee, @JohnForUtah

    Best Walking the Walker
    Nelson vs. Biden
    Two presidents wear age differently. On one, it's an albatross; on the other, it's a crown. We're speaking about U.S. president Joe Biden, 80, known to dodge the age issue, and Russell M. Nelson, 99, leader of the 17-million-member LDS church. The perpetually smiling former heart surgeon and church president since 2018 unfortunately took a spill in September, injuring his lower back, forcing him to skip the faith's recent general conference. Prophet-watchers spotted Nelson with a walker and in a wheelchair—due, he said, to "challenges with my balance." Otherwise, "my heart is good, my spirit is strong as are my legs ... and my brain still works." No word from Joe, who seems prone to fall victim to gravity himself.

    Best Wallet-Folding Trick by a Former 10%er
    James Huntsman's Tithing Lawsuit
    The late billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. once described his son James—one of eight children—as "spirited, fearless and fun-loving." The 52-year-old film distributor was dead-serious, however, when he filed a suit in a California federal court against the LDS church demanding it return some $5 million in tithing he paid between 1993 and 2017. He's alleging fraud. The church, he claims, used tithing to bankroll the $1.4-billion City Creek Center in the heart of downtown. Saying the dispute is secular—not a spiritual or a First Amendment issue—a federal appeals court reinstated Huntsman's suit, which is working its way through the system. A brother of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and grandson of an LDS apostle, Huntsman left the church in 2020.

    What Did We Miss?

    Skinwalker Ranch - COURTESY PHOTO
    • Courtesy photo
    • Skinwalker Ranch

    Best 'Where the Weird Turn Pro'
    Skinwalker Ranch
    The most scientifically studied paranormal hotspot on the planet, Skinwalker Ranch is a 512-acre secure site that has been monitored for decades with armed security and surveillance. This remote location was involved with a Pentagon-funded black budget project studying UFO activity, cattle mutilations, and strange phenomena. Visiting is not encouraged, but it's now possible to get a Skinwalker Insider membership for $8 a month to learn a lot more about Skinwalker Ranch. Skinwalker Ranch, Gusher, Utah,

    Best Urban Waterfront
    Sears Lake Seagull Preserve
    Intermountain Health reportedly has big plans for the former Sears lot on State/Main streets but until then, the big pit they dug combined with a record winter to form a stagnant reservoir of brackish slurry that charmingly resembles the Great Salt Lake in miniature (it even has an island!). Urbanists like how mixed-use density puts more destinations within walking distance, and now everyone can enjoy a stinky, buggy, seagull-swarmed water feature just steps from downtown. Between 800 South and 900 South at State Street, SLC

    Best Curated Community
    Edison House
    The private social club is far from a new concept, encompassing everything from Greek row to the Masonic temple. And while Salt Lakers of a certain age and taste have the Alta Club, those looking for something fresher will find it at Edison House, which combines all the amenities you'd expect (boutique fitness center, four bars and a restaurant) and a few you don't (rooftop pool) with that ineffable feeling of a home away from home. 335 S. 200 West, SLC, 385-799-7630,

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