Missing the Mark | Hits & Misses | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Missing the Mark 

A TV news "investigation" doesn't necessarily uncover new information. How the Legislature is making a bad idea worse. Plus, beware of the slippery slope to more government secrecy.

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Missing the Mark
You gotta love television news, trying desperately to become relevant in the volcanic age of journalism. KUTV Channel 2's Beyond the Books "investigation" would like you to think they've uncovered shocking conflicts of interest among legislators. Maybe they weren't paying attention. City Weekly shed light on the charter school problem in 2010, when the director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schoolsresigned. UAPCS was becoming a hotbed of voucher advocates and unrepentant supporters of the profit motive in education. Then, Kim Frank, wife of a former legislator, took over on an interim basis before forming its competitor, Utah Charter Network. There are too many stories of too many legislators and their profitable management companies to list here. The Legislature doesn't think this is a problem. Rep. Dan McKay, R-Riverton, had a hissy over the KUTV story. Maybe he wasn't paying attention, either.

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Pollution for All
The Legislature is giving us a lesson in making a bad idea worse—much worse. And it's all in the name of helping those sadly neglected rural areas. You know, the ones that have been gerrymandered to pump up their legislative influence. Now, the big brains behind Salt Lake City's inland port want to inflate its reach beyond the 16,000 vulnerable acres, and keep cities from bringing lawsuits against it with House Bill 433. The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment want you to note there's a water issue, too. It has to do with what we use it for—alfalfa, most of which feeds hungry cattle in China, and here. The IP board has the curious notion that spreading out the trucking to rural areas will make the air cleaner, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. You know, equal parts pollution for them and us.

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Slippery Secrecy
At least some of our local newspapers advocate for the public. Both the Deseret News and Standard-Examiner ran opinion pieces dismissing the idea that special service districts might close their meetings to get attorney advice—as if there aren't enough exemptions to the open-meetings law. The law provides closure already for real estate, litigation and bargaining, ostensibly because those issues require insider strategizing. Why the public should be prevented from hearing attorney advice on other issues is the big question. The Standard says the bill's explicit purpose is "avoiding public knowledge regarding the discussion of audit reports." And it creates a slippery slope to more secrecy. The good news is that Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, will drop the bill if a compromise can't be reached.

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