There’s something inspiring about a vision made real. That’s what has long been the hope of those involved in the Bend-in-the-River project. In 1996, the University of Utah’s Lowell Bennion Community Service Center began working with west-side kids to transform the abandoned site at 1030 W. Fremont Ave. (1100 South) into an “urban treehouse” classroom. But a few years ago, the Bennion Center laid off the only employee charged with overseeing the project, and it became overgrown with neglect and strewn with graffiti. There may be hope. Since 2002, the Bennion Center has hosted a clean-up event at Bend-in-the-River, and on Earth Day this year, some 200 people turned out. One volunteer commented on the Facebook page for the site that he was “very upset by the amount of graffiti all over and the defaced nature signs. It made me feel like the area is not a safe place to bring my family to.” Once a year may not be enough.
Sometimes it seems like journalists are the only ones who care how much lobbyists spend to “buy influence” at the Legislature. Even so, it’s nice to know just how much is being spent and by whom. A 2010 “ethics” law allowed nondisclosure of meals if all members of a committee or party caucus are invited. Say what? The Salt Lake Tribune looked at social calendars and found that 103 meals, receptions and evening events were scheduled, but only two were reported. And in 2010, lobbyists reported spending $72,000 on legislators. This year, they reported only $7,300. While some lobbyists say they have nothing to hide, others prefer to avoid the hassle of disclosure. But how this amounts to ethics reform is curious at best. And with the failure of the last ethics initiative, it’s doubtful any new laws are coming.
Finally, the west side is getting some respect. This time, it’s in the form of a library in Glendale. It’s taken more than two years to come up with a site for the state-of-the art library—a gathering place with a small cafe and a computer wall for kids. It will be built near 1400 South and Concord Street (1250 West), not alongside the Jordan River, which had conservationists worried about the flood plain. Scheduled to be completed in 2014, the library is soliciting artists to create public art for the project. It’s been a long time coming, with the Chapman Library the only branch close enough for access from Glendale. But Glendale has a unique, diverse character and a growing identity, and this new library should help bring the community together.