Perilous Privacy | Hits & Misses | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Perilous Privacy 

You might be surprised at what the state tries, or tries not so hard, to keep private. Utah sure does love its empty land. Plus, more plastic bag ban talk.

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Perilous Privacy
When someone says they value their privacy, the joke has been that the Russians do, too. Let's take voting, for instance. "One of every eight Utah voters now uses a new law to prevent public release of voter registration data," wrote The Salt Lake Tribune's Lee Davidson. In other words, there's no way for a political party to know your party affiliation. The Republican National Committee worries that voter fraud will be harder to discern and candidates won't be able to contact their voters. A new state audit says, oops, they found weaknesses in the driver license security system. And there's another funny thing. Apparently, citizens overseas could vote electronically, and they're doing it by a (maybe secure) app. "Utah is the third state in which overseas voting with the platform has been piloted," according to, which profiled an app that validates overseas votes. We'll see how that translates into privacy.


Land of Abatement
We've said it before: Utah likes nothing better than empty land, a magnet for development, no matter how inappropriate. The Trib recently ran a story about Salt Lake City's Mosquito Abatement District and the woeful tale of the quixotic mosquito abaters. The district was created in 1923 to stem the tide of the annoying insects. That's hardly possible now, and the annoying part is becoming the dangerous part, what with West Nile Virus and the latest equine encephalitis. Still, the now-deluxe state prison is exempt from taxes that pay for abatement. Who knows what will happen as the inland port proceeds? Quite simply, development disrupts mosquito habitats. And yet, Utah thirsts for that open land, even if we have to raise taxes to get those skeeters.


The Bags, My Friend
There's nothing like a plastic ban to spark furor in the environmental world. Most recently, the Summit County Council took up the toxic issue, according to KPCW 91.9 FM, and got an earful of everyone's perspective—it's not science; it's emotional; paper bags are toxic, too; and what about the low-income folks? Still, 23 states looked at some 77 legislative proposals to ban plastic bags from 2015-16, the assistant county manager says. In Utah, Park City and Moab forged ahead, only to be greeted by Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and his continuing attempts to ban the bans. You know, it's because of business, he says. That's not the businesses that recycle—they won't. But McKell thinks businesses will thrive or continue to if they can still use plastic bags. "They blow away. They cause problems that we then have to clean up," the Summit County manager says. Like the plastic bag itself, the debate is still blowing in the wind.

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About The Author

Katharine Biele

Katharine Biele

A City Weekly contributor since 1992, Biele is the informed voice behind our Hits & Misses and Citizen Revolt columns. When not writing, you can catch her working to empower voters and defend democracy alongside the League of Women Voters.

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