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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2009: Media & Politics

Salt Lake City's news scene.



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Sgt. Jill Stevens

Beauty and integrity are both vital in advertising—one gets attention, the other delivers a believable message. Seldom, if ever, do you get both in one package. Then there’s Jill Stevens. The Iraq war army veteran and former Miss Utah now lends her face to Ivory Homes. We don’t know if Ivory needed the help. We don’t know if she has boosted sales in a weak economy. We do know that even if she couldn’t spell, we’d hire her at City Weekly. Don’t think we’re pandering to her looks; we always hire people who can’t spell. However, in her case ... ah, never mind ... we are pandering to her looks. Hey, Jill—when your current gig is up, give us a ring!

Karen Carlson, ABC 4

If ABC 4 News was looking to draw some much-needed attention with the recent addition of evening anchor Karen Carlson, mission accomplished—but don’t write her off as simply a pretty face (and immaculately arched eyebrows) parroting copy. Carlson’s an Emmy winner who’s previously worked in markets from Los Angeles to New Orleans, where she spent 20-hour days reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Only a Best of Utah win could rattle her cool: “Wow! I’m honored, to say the least,” Carlson reacted. “I was so excited to hear the news, I totally messed up my [afternoon promo] cut-in!”
2. Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13
3. Casey Scott, KUTV 2

Patrick Wiggins

The 21st-century couch potato has sadly lost the night sky. Yeah, most of us can still find the Big Dipper and a few obvious heavenly bodies (like the moon), but that’s about it. Luckily, we have NASA solar system ambassador to Utah Patrick Wiggins to explain what is going on up there on any given starry, starry night. The self-taught astronomer retired from his Hansen Planetarium gig after more than 26 years and now works part- time with the U’s Physics Department and provides science outreach in the public schools. He’s usually a regular presence at star parties in Salt Lake, at the Stansbury Park Observatory or even Bryce Canyon. His quirky humor and down-to-earth explanations of cosmic phenomena make him the perfect dinner-party invitee. He’s an ambassador, after all.

Bob Bauer

There are a lot of beautiful rose gardens in the valley, but few are like photographer Bob Bauer’s. He doesn’t look like the genteel soft-spoken man you might expect to find snipping at branches. That’s because roses are just one of Bauer’s many passions and areas of expertise. But for all his interests, his one true love is obviously the rose. He grows 500 varieties, and all of them tenderly cared for and proudly displayed in his half-acre back yard … front yard … side yard … parkway by his yard … it’s unending. Take a drive-by and see for yourself at the corner of 900 West & 200 South. And while you’re admiring the view, don’t forget to roll down your window and take a whiff. A rose by 500 different names smells even sweeter!
880 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City,

Vincent Surgical Arts Star Wars radio ads

George Lucas hasn’t exactly been reluctant to throw a cadre of lawyers at anyone making use of Star Wars characters for their own profit, so we wonder what he’d think about this South Ogden-based cosmetic surgery center’s local radio spots. A Chewbacca-like grunt accompanies information about laser hair removal, with specific references to the Millennium Falcon and other notable galaxy-far-far-away names. Small-town businesses may think “no harm done” about sneaking such stuff into their ads, until someone objects to the suggestion that Wookiees really need a smoother, sexier look.

The Grey Poupon Gun Wielder
A car load of teenagers in Murray last summer pulled up beside another car at a stoplight . One of the boys rolled down his car window and, riffing on an old TV commercial from the ’80s, asked the man in the next car “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” That’s when 22-year-old Vitaly Kovtun responded by brandishing a handgun. “He racked the slide back and basically told the other kid, ‘Here’s your Grey Poupon. Now, roll up your window,’“ Murray Police Detective Kenny Bass told local media. Kovtun holds a concealed weapons permit. He was charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony. No information yet on how long it took the teenage pranksters to loosen their sphincter muscles.

Utah Transit Authority

Don’t you just love UTA’s fun little TV ads? Like the one where the car is swinging in a hammock and its owner serves it a drink in a glass filled with motor oil? “Give your car a rest,” the ads say. Meanwhile, UTA keeps jacking up the fares so that a monthly pass now hovers at $67 (even with fuel surcharges dropped), compared with $58 this time a year ago. Like the song of the Sirens, the ads beckon riders, so UTA can sock it to them with outlandish transit fares. Here’s an idea: If you want to increase ridership, drop the TV ads and pass the savings on to us in the form of lower fares.


Larry H. Miller
I guess sometimes we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Though controversial for many reasons over the years—including his high-profile yanking of Brokeback Mountain from his Megaplex Theaters—Larry H. Miller earned the recognition of City Weekly readers. Whether it was his philanthropy in support of education and medicine, or his commitment to keeping the Jazz in Utah, Miller became more than the sum of his sometimes frustrating parts. The “you know this guy” guy who could cry at the drop of a hat inspired more than a few tears when he died, because even his detractors could acknowledge that he was a guy who loved this state beyond measure.
2. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
3. David Archuleta
Rocky Anderson

Anderson made a seamless transition to full-time activist after two terms as Salt Lake City mayor. Not that he had to change much. Anderson’s High Road for Human Rights organization operates from the premise that Anderson fans, if they band together, can force politicians to do the right thing. Last year, Anderson took on his old nemesis former-President George Bush head on, lobbying Congress to investigate abuses of presidential power. High Road also is pressuring for action on global warming, sex slavery and genocide.
2. Tim DeChristopher
3. Jacob Whipple

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff

When the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s unconstitutional anti-marriage law, the Utah A.G. wrote a letter asking the Cal Supremes to defer its ruling until after marriage foes had a chance to amend the state constitution in November. A few days later, Shurtleff wrote another letter to the Utah Pride Center assuring Utah gays that he was no homophobe and reminding them that he had opposed Utah’s 2004 anti-marriage amendment. Some dismissed it as typical election-year posturing, others tried to parse an accompanying complicated legal explanation, but the whole sequence of events only served to confuse gays and homophobes alike. California declined to heed Utah’s unsolicited legal advice, and gay and lesbian couples joyously commenced getting hitched in June. Still, even for a Utah Republican, playing both ends against the middle is a dangerous political game.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon

Teddy Roosevelt, one of our more beloved presidents, is known for saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Small of stature, perhaps Roosevelt needed a big stick. Not so with Salt Lake County's ultra-popular Democratic mayor, Peter Corroon. He's not small for starters—on most days, he tops out at over 6 feet tall. He is not known to ride his pony into a hail of withering bullets, either. Rather, Corroon wins people over with an old-fashioned ethic barely remembered in these parts: hard work and integrity. While two of Salt Lake City's recent mayors had scandals or obsessions larger than their positions, and while the former Salt Lake County mayor and any number of wannabees were mired in their own nefarious brews, Corroon has never been even sniffed at when it comes to malfeasance. He gets the job done the right way—which is just that, the right way. Corroon is popular on both sides of the political fence—a rare feat in Utah anytime. He gets it done without the stick.

Mutual Commitment Ceremonies

As a newly minted Salt Lake City mayor in early 2008, Ralph Becker made a domestic-partner registry his first order of business. He clawed and bitch-slapped on the Hill to prevent lawmakers from crushing his unborn initiative. And after Becker wrested the registry from the bloodthirsty jaws of the Republican majority and rechristened it “mutual commitment,” he must have been underwhelmed when less than 20 couples had signed up by the first of June. Response was so lackluster that Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, urged the GLBT community to consider registering as part of Utah Pride Festival in early June. She herself had not even bothered to register, according to a June 3 Salt Lake Tribune article. She speculated that people had too busy of lives. Two things: 1. The registry must be kinda lame. 2. What were all marriage-amendment die-hards afraid of?

The Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act

OK, so what have we tried so far? Implementing a mandatory waiting period for abortions? Check. Requiring providers to subject clients to “counseling”? Check. Making a Clockwork Orange-type video with images of aborted fetuses and interviews with women who regret having had abortions in the past? Check. And all this during a very stressful and traumatic period in a woman’s life? Check. Well, how about just making abortion illegal? Sorry, no can do—unconstitutional. And expensive. Very, very expensive. OK, then, how about this: We force doctors to offer pain medications, not for the client, but for the fetus? Oh, that’s evil. Can we do that? Yep—check and check.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

He did what no governor before him could ever—or ever bothered to try—to do: He poured a shot of sanity into Utah’s bizarre liquor-law cocktail. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has accomplished much during his two terms, but killing off private clubs will be the stuff of legend, his personal Berlin Wall (if not Zion Curtain). And our 2009 Best of Utah voting was over by the time it was passed into legislation! He didn’t even have to ply you with the promise of an easy cocktail. This round’s for you, Gov. Huntsman!
2. SLC Mayor Ralph Becker
3. SLCo Mayor Peter Corroon

The Sutherland Institute’s “Onus or Opportunity?

Conservatism and Illegal Immigration in Utah” For those who shake their heads and wonder, “What the hell were those conservatives thinking?” it helps that Utah has The Sutherland Institute to turn to. The conservative think-tank produced an immigration policy report that suggested getting a federal waiver to form a guest-worker program specific to Utah (which a House resolution supported this session), increasing education for children of undocumented immigrants, and lobbying Congress for humane immigration laws. Hopefully, conservatives themselves will take heed of institute director Paul Mero’s final remarks: “There is nothing conservative about the ‘enforcement-first’ approach to immigrants already living here illegally. It is time for authentic conservatives to step forward and accept responsibility to address this issue in principled terms, as opportunity not onus.”

Kathryn Balmforth

If you’ve sat through the at-times heavy proceedings of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission monthly meetings, then you’re grateful to Commissioner Kathryn Balmforth. Her staunch passion for walking through political and cultural minefields is admirable and entertaining. Even though she’s facing a room full of crusty bar owners and club people giving her the evil eye each time she growls her thoughts, Balmforth is fearless. She speaks her mind, ably representing the interests of her fellow Mormon non-drinkers on a commission that now happily places greater value on small businesses than the LDS Church’s special interest in liquor. As such, in the name of diversity, she should be appreciated for the contested splendor she brings to the liquor-law fray.

President Monson’s Blessing of Utah Valley University

Listen, my children, and learn the lesson: If you think you can rename an institution of higher learning in Utah County—even one funded by taxpayer dollars—and not be visited by the prophet of the LDS Church to receive a blessing, it proves you have a lot to learn, which is why you’re enrolled in college, er, rather a university in the first place. Let’s all sing together: A spoonful of dedicatory prayer helps education go down ... in a most delightsome way.

For freelance artists of any medium, the term “creative professional” is just a creative way of saying “living paycheck to paycheck.” Making a go of it alone is risky—and scary—which is why Robin Ballard formed bCollective, an organization that works off the motto ”BeCreative. BeCollaborative. BeTogether” by providing like-minded individuals with access to shared resources not available in most home offices. Located on a corner of historic South Temple, bCollective’s shared space is filled with mid-century furnishings, plus hi-speed Internet and more. It takes a village, right?
780 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-983-7371

Luke Garrott

Being active in the community, it turns out, is more than just a campaign slogan for District 4 Salt Lake City City Councilman Luke Garrott. In September 2008, the councilman was injured intervening in a knife fight underway in his neighborhood. Garrott, trying to keep the peace, got between the enraged knife-wielding men only to be punched several times in the face and knocked down. The skirmish soon broke up, and Garrott wasn’t seriously hurt. But props to the man—the street cred alone of showing up to a knife fight armed only with cajones should make Garrot’s political adversaries think twice before messing with this badass public servant.