"You are an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot." -- Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory---
I've seen quite a few grit-yer-teeth endorsements, but none is as gloriously dismissive as former U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon after he signed the ethics petition being circulated by Utahns for Ethical Government. Although he signed the petition, he called it "profoundly flawed" in this Daily Herald article. An earlier news release from the group, which is not on their website, did not include that little nugget. Instead, it just said that Cannon had signed it because "we need ethical accountability in Utah."
While it's been entertaining to watch state officials squirm and wiggle their way around the various charges leveled by UEG, it is unlikely that the petition will make it on the ballot. They are scrambling in Utah County to get the needed signatures, which is not a place to scramble with a petition. But that's not to say this effort has been a failure, because they have forced legislators to (at least try) to clean up their soiled chambers.
Even more important, in my estimation, is that this petition (and the Fair Boundaries) has pushed the Utah Elections Office to make rulings on many vague definitions in the initiative process. Right now, it is nearly impossible for an initiative to get on the ballot, which is a bad thing. A ballot initiative is one of the few steps the citizenry can take to balance the power of the elected elites. Please, don't chime in about elections being the way for the citizenry to exercise influence. Many voters actually like their representatives and senators -- it's the rest of the jackals they oppose. So an initiative gives them the power to exercise power over the elected body as a whole, which voting for a candidate does not.
Sadly, the Utah Elections Office has continually worked to make life difficult for UEG, and their repeated excuse is that they are simply interpreting the laws. Paul Neuenschwander, the chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who oversees elections, said today that the UEG petition has raised issues "that have never been questioned." That's great, but what was disappointing was when I asked him they would take these laws to the Legislature for repair. While he said yes, he also said they would leave it up to the legislators to decide the rules.
Fine, well, good. But here's the frustrating part: Bell was an ethics champion as a senator, and many hoped he would use his influence to push an agenda that, while still Republican-friendly, would stop the erosion of the public voice and open government. That could happen by fixing the incredibly flawed campaign finance reporting system, and it could happen by bringing voting laws into the 21st Century. He hasn't done either, and now he apparently will simply defer to the Legislature, who hates hates hates initiatives.
Okay, on to other news:
* Gov. Gary Herbert is on board with immigration reform, but not any specific bill. He wants to study it, and he has some sort of kaleidoscope to help him do that, according to spokesperson Angie Welling. (Kaleidoscope is my word, not hers, for the record.) There may also be bills from Democrats to balance out the harsher enforcement bills, which I am sure will work wonderfully. I planned to actually do some real reporting on this today, but I have been chasing something else all day, publishing a paper (print and online, yippee!) and walking to the homeless liquor store for Bushmill's (on sale, $22.99).
* Speaking of Herbert, he apparently encouraged people to join the Clean Air Challenge but didn't do so himself. Doesn't he have a staff that can sign him up for these things? If you ask me, this is further proof of the rambunctious open bar in campaign HQ.
* Another temptation for those concubines: Provo is going to allow beer to be sold closer to schools and churches. Expect earthquakes.
* For a nice breakdown of why the Adobe expansion into Utah is not necessarily a good thing, check out Joe Pyrah's Sausage Grinder blog from this morning.
* For a more regional story, read this analysis of wolf protections at New West, which includes this cautions to wolf lovers pushing for greater protections through the courts:
Right now, wolf-loving conservationists obviously have the momentum, but they should tread softly. Their continued success has a big downside. Sooner or later, the frustration with the endless litigation could cause Congress to gut the most powerful environmental law of the land, the Endangered Species Act.
* Finally, the biggest homer sports columnist in Utah, Dick Harmon, sent out an awesome tweet that he later pulls back. This thing speaks for itself. It's almost like he thinks he works for an alt-weekly or something.