Beware of Overreach | Hits & Misses | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Beware of Overreach 

Also: Up, Up & Away, Rethink Prison

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Beware of Overreach
Apparently, Salt Lake City isn't the only municipality at loggerheads with the Legislature. But certainly, Utah lawmakers do like to lord over their liberal underlings. The latest dust-up is over whether to let cyclists wheel through drive-thru windows. Oh, no—Salt Lake City has "overreached," according to Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville. Business owners, not the city, should be in charge of their services. Not that long ago, Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, imposed a moratorium on creating historic districts, which now exist under a legislative threat. Other cities, such as West Lake Hills, Texas, have hired lobbying firms to keep abreast of these ongoing battles with the state, where Governor Greg Abbot's vision doesn't mesh with the city's tree-cutting laws, according to the Austin-American Statesman. It's that old property-rights struggle over whose rights are most important. Evidently, local control is great—except when it isn't.

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Up, Up & Away
You have to wonder what Salt Lake City's plan is, with all the high-end high-rises being built. The Salt Lake Tribune asked the question, "Where is affordable housing in Salt Lake City?" The answer wasn't forthcoming. Developers are giddy over all the construction, and planners like the idea of high-density development near public transit. The problem is that rents are going up, and the low- to moderate-income renters are being left out. That's not to mention those who live away from transit or can't access it. If we're building for the big boom, has anyone thought about water? Or whether or not the city can sustain this kind of growth? Parking continues to be a problem on many levels, and we all know Salt Lake City doesn't like cars.

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Rethink Prison
Focus on treatment. That was the message during a Capitol rally at which advocates called for prison reform. Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, is proposing legislation favoring mental-health and substance-abuse treatment over incarceration. That could mean lesser penalties for some crimes. The approach was recommended in a report from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, noting that treatment can reduce recidivism. The Utah Supreme Court's Chief Justice Matthew Durrant stressed that this kind of reform is necessary, if not the most "important action legislators can take" to prevent recidivism. Reports say some 80 percent of crimes involve drug or alcohol issues, and these are not necessarily prison-worthy. And, with fewer prisoners, the need for bigger prisons could be reduced.

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