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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2010: Media & Politics


Hope Woodside, Fox 13 - JOHN TAYLOR


Best TV Anchorwoman
Hope Woodside, Fox 13

Lucky 13! Hope Woodside owns this category, has for a decade plus three—and yet she still seems like the fresh-faced, enthusiastic anchor who first grabbed our attention when she joined Fox 13’s News at Nine in the ’90s. These days, viewers get an extra weekday helping of Woodside on the late-afternoon Live at Five newscast, a slightly looser format where her sense of humor pokes through the Serious News Anchor veneer on occasion. But, News at Nine is still the definitive nightly newscast for City Weekly readers, and it’s never quite the same when Woodside has the night off.
2. Karen Carlson, ABC 4
3. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13

Best TV Anchorman
Mark Koelbel, KUTV 2

The new Dick Nourse? Since nobody at the Revered One’s former home of KSL 5 has stepped up to fill the void at the anchor desk, KUTV 2’s Mark Koelbel is a logical heir apparent: Salt-and-pepper hair, square jaw, sly smile, authoritative delivery—plus, he has a genuine everyman charm that comes through when interacting with mere mortals, a quality most anchor gods lack. Even better, we know Koelbel has a hidden weird streak: His favorite author is Hunter S. Thompson.
2. Dan Evans, Fox 13
3. Ron Bird, KUTV 2

Best Color Coordination
Karen Carlson & Robert Maxwell, ABC 4

Most news-anchor duos dress well, but how many actually dress like a team? ABC 4 evening anchors Karen Carlson and recent addition Robert Maxwell subtly coordinate the shades in their respective tops and ties to present a unified front of color that’s as effective as it is unusual. Sure, it helps to be, as Derek Zoolander would concur, “really, really, ridiculously good-looking,” but Carlson and Maxwell are also the best anchor team ABC 4 has had in years; solid presenters with glints of humor (at least, as much as you can get away with when your name isn’t Chris Vanocur) who don’t come across as cold or phony. If the color trick attracts some attention, win-win.

Best TV News Reporter
Chris Vanocur, ABC 4

Sometimes it seems as if ABC 4’s Chris Vanocur is auditioning for a gig on The Daily Show—and you know he’d kill, throwing it back to Jon Stewart with that lopsided grin that says “Yeah, I’m good—you just got newsed, baby.” But, for all of his goofy mannerisms and dramatic-halt speech patterns, Vanocur is the epitome of the serious field reporter who goes anywhere and everywhere for the story. His Sunday morning On the Record interview program shows him equally at ease bantering, chair-style. When he says it, you believe it; the smile is just a bonus.
2. Rod Decker, KUTV 2
3. Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13

Best TV Insight
Cristina Flores, KUTV 2

At a time when TV stations have cut their reporting staffs to the bone, the continued presence at KUTV 2 of Cristina Flores is a victory for good reporting. Flores brings to her work a mature compassion and humanity rarely visible on the tube, coupled with a natural camera presence. Whether she’s tackling scam artists, human-interest stories or the latest Harry Potter movie opening, her empathy and natural warmth make her segments stand out for both their gentle grace and clear

Best Do-Everything Reporter
Ben Winslow, Fox 13

In 2009, Winslow worked for the Deseret News, KSL Newsradio and Fox 13. But he didn’t just report. He wrote, he blogged, he tweeted, he recorded—hell, he even learned how to film a story. Somehow, he also finds time to drink four to six lattes a day, which might explain how he can do everything.

Best TV News Station
Fox 13

Not satisfied with just saturating the weekdays, now Fox 13 News has taken over Saturday and Sunday mornings, 7:30 to 9 a.m. Sorry, kiddies—you’ll have to get your Fox cartoons on Sunday night like the rest of us. Since shaking off Fox Corp. ownership in 2008, Fox 13 has only become more ambitious in programming and reach, adding more news hours per week that are actually pertinent and useful, as opposed to just blindly filling airspace to sell ads around. They do their job so well that we’ll even excuse the gratuitous American Idol shilling—just as long as Family Guy is on next.
2. KUTV 2
3. KSL 5

Best TV News Hottie
Nineveh Dinha, Fox 13

Since we’ve been to the Fox 13 News studios, we know there are no “Must Be Hot to Report” signs posted at the entrances. Still, Fox 13 seems to have more impossibly good-looking on-air talent than all of the other local stations combined—and few are referenced more often than reporter Nineveh Dinha. Could be sheer familiarity: Not only is Dinha omnipresent on Twitter and Facebook, she’s been all over the Fox 13 News schedule for three years, reporting (usually in blizzards) and substitute-anchoring whenever duty calls—though, thanks to her recent promotion to weekend evening news anchor, she’ll be easier to find on TV. Despite her obvious exotic “hotness,” Dinha is very much a newswoman to be taken seriously: Her Best of Utah win in this category last year is conspicuously absent from the long list of journalism awards in her bio.
2. Kerri Cronk, Fox 13
3. Debbie Worthen, KUTV 2

Best Weather Reporter
Damon Yauney, Fox 13

Good Day Utah
weatherman Damon Yauney is approaching the 10-year mark on Fox 13, and it’s tough to imagine anyone else imparting Utah’s schizophrenic climate changes or cracking zingers as effortlessly as he does alongside anchors Kerri Cronk and Dan Evans. With his rarely blinking eyes and infectious on-camera energy, Yauney is like a meteorological Ren to Big Budah’s Stimpy in the morning—and who wouldn’t want to wake up to that?
2. Debbie Worthen, KUTV 2
3. Dan Pope, KSL 5

Best Radio Station

It’s been a year of shakeups for City Weekly’s perennial Best Radio Station winner: Corey O’Brien went from nights to afternoons back to nights; Todd Nuke’Em jumped from mornings to afternoons; new DJ Marcy took his place in midday; longtime weekend warrior Portia Early walked, taking her local-music show with her; Saturdays and Sundays went pre-recorded. What hasn’t changed? Radio From Hell in the mornings and the station’s continually, perplexingly popular mix of ’90s grunge leftovers and current tight-pants yowlers. Still, no local radio station connects with its listeners like X96, and those listeners identify with X96 with familial ferocity—you can’t buy that kind of branding.
2. 97.1 ZHT
3. KBER 101.1

Best Public Radio Station
KRCL 90.9

Almost two years after community radio station KRCL switched from an all-over-the-place music/DJ format to a more standardized one with regular weekday programmers (now, including former City Weekly music editor Jamie Gadette in the mornings), it seems like the silent supporters outnumber the vocal detractors. Time may not heal all wounds, but it will shut them up. Good music is simply good music; given the choice between hearing the Black Keys a couple of times a week or the Red Hot Chili Peppers 56 times a day, smart listeners will choose the former. And, with all of the controversy over the daytime format, KRCL’s still-eclectic, high-quality nighttime and weekend programming is still firmly in place, as it has been for 30 years.
2. KUER 90.1
3. KCPW 88.3

Best Radio Show
Radio From Hell, X96

We’ve had to write about Radio From Hell’s Kerry Jackson, Bill Allred and Gina Barberi sooo many times here over the years (even they’re almost sick of reading about themselves—almost), we decided this was the occasion to shine the Best of Utah spotlight on “fresh-faced Mormon producer” Richard T. Steadman, aka Ritchie T. What you know: He has red hair, most of his teeth, and a disturbing affinity for improv and musical theater. What you’ve probably guessed: Working for Kerry, Bill & Gina can be as demanding as it sounds on the air. “Imagine trying to manage the expectations and predict the thought processes of three people at 5 in the morning and make it entertaining,” Steadman says. “But, when I’m able to just sit back and listen, I recognize that they’re the best.”
2. Radio West, KUER 90.1
3. Maximum Distortion, KRCL 90.9

Best 168th Hour of the Week
Left of the Dial, KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM

It’s difficult to understand why KSL Newsradio hands over two hours to Enid Greene (who barely has enough talent or opinions to cover 15 minutes) and three to rerun The Best of the Doug Wright Show (pity the intern who has to compile that) on Saturdays when it only gives Jeff Bell one—and then pre-empts it constantly for BYU ball. Well, that is, until you hear Bell’s Left of the Dial. In keeping with the show’s title, Bell has a more (eek!) Democratic bent than the rest of the KSL blowtorch, and he doesn’t hesitate to call BS on Republicans who deserve it. How to squeeze that much ripe material into 60 minutes, especially in bizarro 2010? Give Bell another hour, KSL—what are you afraid of? Saturdays 4-5 p.m., KSL Newsradio 102.7/1160,

Best Off-Air Comeback
Portia Early,

When Portia Early left X96 after a long run at the “alternative” radio station, she did so discouraged and down—but not out. In fact, just three days after ditching her ever-dwindling time slot as X96’s Live & Local founder/host, she took her love of Utah’s music community to Web-based UtahFM and started a similar program spotlighting homegrown talent. Unsigned & Uncensored is arguably even better than Early’s original show, allowing her to air talent without worrying about pesky corporate interests or that darned FCC. She might be the exception to the rule, but sometimes it pays to take that job and shove it., Mondays, 3-6 p.m.

Best Keeper of the Jazz Flame
Steve Williams, KUER 90.1

Since becoming jazz music director for KUER in 1984, Steve Williams has been keeping the flame alive for jazz lovers in the Intermountain West. His voice is as soothing as a warm Snuggie, and his music choices are impeccable. And, his in-depth knowledge of jazz history, jazz music and jazz artists is remarkable. Plus, where else on the dial will you hear John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Diana Krall, Return to Forever and Art Tatum in the course of a half hour? Steve doesn’t just play jazz in Salt Lake City, Steve is jazz in Salt Lake City. Weeknights, 8 p.m. to midnight, KUER 90.1 FM

Best Missed Columnist
Rebecca Walsh

With the departure of Salt Lake Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh last July to Italy, where she is now a consulate’s wife (you should see the view from her windows!), Utah’s “independent” daily lost an important voice. Walsh wasn’t afraid to question the power of corrupt politicians, the influence the LDS Church wields in Utah, questionable business practices or the attorney general. Walsh understood her readers couldn’t stand up against the powerful influences that shape and run this town, so she did it for them.

Best Reason to Still Pick Up a Newspaper
City Weekly

Hey, we beat out coupons and comics—probably because of the coupons and comics we carry. Thanks to our readers for showing us that print isn’t dead … just thrifty.
2. Coupons
3. Comics

Best Local Blog
Gavin’s Underground,

City Weekly
recognized Gavin Sheehan’s photo-heavy blog when it resided on KUTV 2’s Website in our 2009 Best of Utah issue; his tenacity in covering local arts and music was all the more impressive because of the station’s utter lack of support or even acknowledgement of his work. Then, soon after our staff pick award for Gavin’s Underground, KUTV revamped its site into a news ‘n’ coupons hub and kicked GU to the curb. Fortunately, that curb is right across Main Street from City Weekly, so we adopted Gavin’s Underground for City, archives and all. Thanks for the extra hits, KUTV!

Best Utah Jazz Player
Deron Williams

It took five seasons for D-Will to make his first All-Star team, but Utah fans—and NBA aficionados in general—didn’t need that validation to realize the elite level of his skills. Few guards in the league can match his combination of toughness, quickness, shooting, passing and leadership. While drama swirled around other Jazz players during the 2009 off-season—Would Boozer opt out? Would Millsap move on?—Williams simply provides the stable foundation for the franchise. His on-court selflessness sets the tone for a team that leads the league assists per game.
2. Carlos Boozer
3. Kyle Korver

Best Newshound
Matthew LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune

The Salt Lake Tribune
’s LaPlante is a machine who turns out exclusives at the drop of a hat. Whether it’s about the National Security Agency building a new spy base in Utah or the 2009 canal tragedy in Logan, LaPlante works his sources and his material to the bone. His stories on a series of employee suicides at Hill Air Force Base, in particular, was a powerful indictment of a deep-seated malaise. Combined with his award-winning blog, Dispatches, La Plante remains a force to be reckoned with.

Best Acerbic Fly On the Wall
Mike Brown, SLUG

Mike Brown—the SLUG Magazine scribe/doorman/jack-of-all-trades—gets around and tells it like it is. Whether revealing the colorful writing on a bar’s filthy bathroom walls, dressing like a clown to infiltrate a gathering of Juggalos or revisiting the experience of getting hit with a car as a cautionary tale of crazy ex-girlfriends, Brown reports largely on matters most readers wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. We can’t wait to see what he covers next.

Best Political Reporter
Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune

As the lead political reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune, Gehrke is a one-man wrecking crew on and off Capitol Hill. He scoops the competition on a regular basis, and during the Legislature, it seems like he’s everywhere. He also has a knack for digging out the absurdity of politics, such as Greg Curtis (in his role as a lobbyist) telling him to “find another fucking boogeyman” during the 2009 legislative session. And his best work is often not in print, but on the Trib’s political blog, where he is more free with his sense of humor.

Best Blog Zombies
Deseret News Bloggers

Whether opinion, news, sports or one of the many parenting blogs, the Deseret News bloggers all seem to follow the same template: They make an observation, usually a personal experience or a recent study, then close out their blog by basically begging for comments. What they avoid is actually saying something that makes people think and comment on their own, as good bloggers tend to do. Even more depressing is the all-too-often echo when nobody actually responds to the question.

Best Dishonest Business Strategy
Deseret News’ “More Mormon”

The Mormon-owned newspaper wants to appeal to Mormon readers, so, to lure readers, it instituted policies and even censored stories—such as those covering local protests against California’s Prop 8 during that heated campaign in 2008. Yet the paper refuses to acknowledge that its plan requires giving readers their news through a celestial prism. At a time when newspapers are on life support, targeting a niche is a smart business move. If only it was done honestly.,

Best Political Blog
The Sausage Grinder

Like a Utah response to Jon Stewart, Provo Daily Herald reporter Joe Pyrah’s blog, the Sausage Grinder, may be the funniest infotainment to come out of Utah (and certainly Utah County). Take, for example, Pyrah’s analysis of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s meeting with the Western Governors’ Association: “Proving once again that if he wants to show up at a suit-and-tie event in a jean jacket, he can, Gov. Huntsman welcomes the Western guvs.” Or offering pointed critiques of short-lived education proposals at the Legislature that would have held students back who didn’t pass standardized reading tests (“In related news, a tanker truck full of Worst Ideas Ever crashed into the Capitol on Thursday”), Pyrah stays on top of his politics, technology and “Whatever I feel like” beat and never lets up with his ruthlessly hilarious commentary.

Best Mormon Law Blog

We love our Latter-day Saints who love to question—whether that be questioning authority, tradition or the law. Blogger Clint Dunaway, of Dayton, Ohio, has proven himself a profound font of prescient questions in a community stereotyped for its obedience. In February, Dunaway asked, “Is it possible to get married early, not delay starting a family, have a large family … pay tithing, pay fast offerings and not put yourself in a financially precarious situation? And if so, why do so many Mormons file for bankruptcy?” Whoa, good question. Dunaway also correctly predicted that the LDS Church’s lack of notice or signage indicating “No Gay Kissing” on Main Street Plaza might put the kibosh on trespassing charges against Derek Jones—a City Weekly staffer—and his boyfriend Matt Aune. He was right. Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill dismissed the charges for that exact reason weeks later.

Best Local Podcast
Geek Show Podcast

The Geek Show gang won this as handily as they did last year, but something’s changed since that time: The Podcast is more Not Safe For Work (in case you thought NSFW stood for Nimoy, Shatner, Frak and Wookies) than before—which is what you would expect from grown men who drink and play with dolls, er, action figures. Panelists Kerry Jackson, Jeff Vice, Zack Shutt, Leigh George Kade, Scott Pierce and Shannon “Wildcard” Barnson may cuss a little more now, but GSP is still an authoritative, go-to source for sci-fi, comics and videogame news and opinion—heavy on the opinion.
2. A Damn Podcast
3. The Awkward Hour

Best Straight Talk From Real Dudes
I Know Everything Podcast

Adam Sherlock does not want to procreate. Oh, we’ve never met the man, but we know exactly why he and his wife aren’t planning to have kids. It’s just one of countless intimate details the Utah resident shares with listeners on his podcast with Levi Lebo on I Know Everything, an anything-goes spin-off of Sherlock’s A Damn Movie Podcast with Adam Palcher. On its face, the informal talk show about nothing in particular might sound dull, but the two co-hosts are natural-born storytellers—funny, sharp and always game to dish on embarrassing moments.

Best Smoked-Out Fans
La Barra Real

Soccer is not a game you watch on your butt. La Barra Real understand that. In the north end of the Rio Tinto stadium, they can be found from half an hour before Real Salt Lake takes to the pitch until the final whistle, standing and chanting. While the RSL-provided smoke machine wraps them in a fog that can switch colors, Real’s arguably most passionate devotees keep up their heroic support no matter the odds facing their team. At halftime, they dance and sing to recruit new members, all the time proving themselves eloquent and fiery Hispanic ambassadors for Real and for Utah’s brightest and loudest example of this state’s ethnic diversity.

Best Inspirational Blogger
Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson

We still love Heather “Dooce” Armstrong for her confident wit and ability to make even washing machines seem entertaining, but Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson takes our breath away each time she writes. The Utah “mommy blogger” started her site in 2005 to share her thoughts on parenting, entertaining, fashion and such. But when a near-fatal plane crash left Nielson with 80 percent of her body covered in severe burns, Nie Nie Dialogues became a powerful focal point in her healing. Think your life is hard? It takes two hours for her to shower, she wears compression gloves around the clock and she can no longer easily embrace her children. Nielson doesn’t use the blog to complain but rather to give thanks and find beauty in unexpected places.

Best Faithfully Green Blog
Green Mormon Architect

Just when you thought there was no diversity in Utah, a blogger popped up that added a little color to the tapestry of Mormon Utah. A little dab of green, that is, from a Salt Lake City architect waging a clever and sincere blog battle to remind readers that Mormons can and do care about stewardship of the planet. From thoughtful updates on newly LEED-certified temples to top lists for being green and LDS—“The stuff in Revelations doesn’t sound so bad if you believe in Global Warming”—this blog—especially when it was being regularly updated—was a refreshing take on why there’s no sin in being a keeper of the faith and a good steward of the planet.

Best Sports Reporter
David James, KUTV 2

He’s on KUTV, he’s on KJZZ, he’s on Fox Sports Net Utah, he’s on KFAN 1320 radio—face it, David James is everywhere. He’s not flashy or brash; James is a throwback to the classic sportscaster who’s more about the game—whatever it may be—than promoting his own agenda or “brand.” Smarts and humor also come into play with James, making him the kind of guy you’d like to talk stats with over beer (or Diet Pepsi) at Lumpy’s.
2. Dave Fox, KUTV 2
3. Mike Runge, Fox 13

Best Citizen Journalist
Holly Richardson

For the past two years, Holly Richardson has blogged as “Holly on the Hill,” where she delves into the political stories of the day and actually reports on issues instead of just stealing from professional journalists. Best of all, her conservative political stance doesn’t devolve into snarky pettiness. She uses facts, and, often, the words of other politicians to make her points. Her blog is a must-read for anyone interested in Utah politics, regardless of political affiliation.

Best Local Food Blog

Stuart Melling’s local food/restaurant blog gets, according to Melling, approximately 600 views per day. That’s pretty darned good for a blog devoted to food and drink in Salt Lake City, but it’s not surprising, since GastronomicSLC reviews are in-depth, intelligent, fair and honest, and typically illustrated with more food snapshots than you can shake a fork at. The team of “amateur” critics writing for GastronomicSLC provides a fresh, unbiased perspective on dining around town.

Best Return From Sports Hiatus
Utah Blaze

The year 2009 was tough for plenty of businesses, and pro sports was no exception. After more than 20 years in operation, the Arena Football League, including the Utah Blaze, was forced to cancel its 2009 season, and it wasn’t clear when—or if—the league would return. But a new leadership group purchased the assets of the old league and has relaunched the league with a combination of old and new franchises. Your Utah Blaze are among the returnees. If you mourned the loss of the chance to experience the high-scoring 50-yard indoor war, weep no longer.

Best Grizzlies Player
Ryan Kinasewich

Like an ice-devouring tornado, Grizzlies Captain Ryan Kinasewich has shredded, goaled and slap-shotted his way into local hockey fame. Besides earning this loving readers’ choice award, the aggressive 26-year-old puckster is also the Grizzlies’ all-time East Coast Hockey League scorer. He’s got points, power and finesse on the ice. He’s also got serious stats—like turning five hat tricks (three goals in one game) in his career with the Grizz—like a puck pimp on ice. Here’s to five more!
2. Mitch O’Keefe
3. A.J. Perry

Best Sports Fan
“Wild Bill” Sproat

The Spectrum arena in Logan has always been a daunting place for opposing teams. This year, however, “Wild Bill” Sproat has raised fandom to a new level. He’s a “redshirt junior” student with a striking resemblance to John Belushi who has difficulty keeping his robust belly contained. To distract opposing teams during free throws—he has a front-row seat directly behind their basket in the second half—he has donned costumes ranging from Peter Pan to the Little Mermaid. Forget scientific research; Wild Bill really makes USU alums proud. During the recent WAC championship, his absence at one game may have hurt the team’s chances for an automatic bid into the Big Dance. He was busy shooting a commercial for ESPN at the time.

Best Two-Legged Race
Lorie Hutchinson

In the fall of 2009, ultra-marathoner Lorie Hutchinson ran the length of Utah in 18 days, essentially running a marathon each day. Hutchinson ran her one-woman race because she has something many people take for granted: two good legs. She wasn’t running for bi-pedal people, but for those missing a limb or, in some cases, limbs. During her run, she raised money and awareness for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps people with disabilities pursue an active lifestyle.

Best Mixed Health Message
“Men’s Health Night”
It’s a worthwhile goal: Get men to pay better attention to their health needs, and do so by hitting them where they occasionally live—the world of sports. But there was something odd about the radio commercials promoting a June “Men’s Health Night” event in conjunction with a Salt Lake Bees baseball game. The seventh-inning stretch would include a program with a variety of health-improving options, went the pitch. And if that weren’t reason enough to come, it was also “$1 hot dog night”—because nothing says “men’s health” like being able to down a six-pack of franks for less than $10.

Best Salt Lake Bees Player
Trevor Bell
The right-handed pitcher’s stopover here was relatively brief (just 11 starts in 2009), and his numbers were solid but not eye-popping (3-4 record, 3.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). But Bees fans clearly saw the same something as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did when they took Bell in the first round of the 2005 draft and called him up to the majors last August. Or, maybe they’re responding to the charisma that had Bell working as a child actor before his pro-baseball career. Whatever the reason, his big-league performance was effective enough that he may not have a chance to repeat this win next year.
2. Bradley Coon
3. Francisco Rodriguez

Best Real Salt Lake Player
Kyle Beckerman
With his trademark dreadlocks and his passionate advocacy for his team, Beckerman has evolved as a true star in Real Salt Lake’s firmament. That’s partly because of the quality of his soccer, but it also reflects the unassailable determination he brings to drive his team forward. His style as a captain in 2009 evolved with the team, particularly during their final run to the MLS cup. At turns bold and demanding as he pushes his team forward, he overflows with affection for his teammates and, arguably, has become, along with coach Jason Kreis, the beating heart at the team’s center.
2. Nick Rimando
3. Robbie Findley

Best Research on Women & War
Valerie Hudson

Political scientists have long been trying to understand why we all can’t just get along. And while recent research has drawn links between warlike nations and whether they are democratic or whether they are poor, Brigham Young University professor Valerie Hudson research has revealed another interesting indicator: how women are treated in a country. The project she’s led, WomanStats, has found a strong correlation between the stability of a nation and the status of its women. The security of a nation’s women is more predictive of its stability than whether or not it is Islamic, democratic or wealthy. Kudos to Hudson for showing how peace and equality between the sexes can tell us a lot about the peace of nations.

Best Sundance Locals Showcase
Locals Take Back!

The annual Sundance Film Festival is held for the benefit of the national and international film community, but that doesn’t mean Utah can’t get in on the action. (A)perture Marketing hosted, for the second time, a mid-Sundance event that included a fashion/hair/makeup artistic showcase created by locals as well as a dance performance and showcases of local filmmakers from the Art Institute of Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake Film Society. Turning the tables on exclusive events where it seemed everyone except locals was invited, Locals Take Back! was free to those with a Utah ID—and it gave away swag bags. The people in black go home, but these folks are sticking around.

Best Behind-the-Music Story
Royal Bliss

They started in Salt Lake City’s music scene as an alternative rock band and have held true to their guitar-and-drum sound. Along the way, however, they have had enough crashes to fill at least 30 minutes on VH1, most notably singer Neal Middleton’s fall from a balcony that almost killed him. After battling to simply walk again, Middleton and the rest of the band have become rising stars in rock music. In 2009, they released their first major-label album and have spent much of the past year headlining clubs and theaters. Even if they are not a band embraced by indie hipsters, they are a music success story that still calls Utah home.

Best Religious Icon
Virgin Mary Mural

In Utah, religious-themed public art tends to depict old white men who look like they might hand out Werther’s Originals to you along with their revelation—which is exactly why a nearly 50-foot-high mural of the Virgin Mary in downtown Salt Lake City is such a unexpected sight. Gracing the side of the Fice Gallery and Urban Boutique, the image of the Virgin Mary with hands held to her sacred heart has brought not only exquisite artistry to the city from the talented hands of graffiti artists El Mac and Retna but also has shown the beauty of iconography that runs somewhat counter to the dominant religion’s stuffy male patriarchy. 160 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Best Too-Cool-for-School Band
Crescent Super Band

Who are these talented, rhythmic high schoolers who travel the world and rub shoulders with jazz greats? In 2007, DownBeat Magazine named them the top performing arts high school big band in the nation, and we’re guilty of being a little late to the party on that. Founded in 2001 by Caleb Chapman, the 21-piece big-band orchestra is made up of students, ages 14 to 19, who have played jazz festivals in Montreux, Umbria and Telluride, as well as jazz clubs like Dizzy’s in New York City. They’ve accompanied Grammy winners like Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Jeff Coffin and, recently, Eric Marienthal. These precocious kids have even released three albums. Too cool.

Best Alternative to “Independent” Film Fests
Salt Lake City Film Festival

They had a dream: That one day, Utah movie-lovers could come together and attend screenings without wearing a pair of Ugg boots or running into Screech outside a gift boutique. Matt Whittaker and Chris Bradshaw founded the Salt Lake City Film Festival as an alternative to even the alternatives to Sundance—an all-inclusive opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to gain exposure and access to commercial venues. The inaugural three-day series took place Aug. 14-16 at Tower Theatre, the Fort Douglas Post Theatre and the Salt Lake City Main Library to great success. They started accepting applications for 2010 in February.

Best Boxing Coach
Leo Montoya

Since 1953, Leo Montoya has trained hundreds of young boxers in the manly art of self defense. Octogenarian Montoya has operated a century-old iconic gym on 600 West, where such late great heroes as state Sen. Pete Suazo and Sgt. Rocky “The Rock” Herrera once trained. Montoya’s made it his mission to take local fighters to regional and national competitions, and he has the trophies to prove it. On a shoestring, he’s given his time and his gym to help young boxers learn the sweet science. Looking for a good cause to support? Consider Montoya’s Youth Training Association. For the win. 246 N. 600 West, Salt Lake City, 801-359-2583

Best Memorial
Park City 5

When five fresh graduates of Park City High School all died tragically over the course of a few short months in 2008, their mothers came together and decided to honor their children with a very special memorial. The surviving mothers—known as the Park City 5—have since established a full-fledged memorial fund currently building a school for needy students in Riobamba, Ecuador. The fund also created an ongoing scholarship for PCH students looking to volunteer at the school—keeping the spirit of service alive and turning tragedy into opportunity for those less fortunate.

Best Utahn
Sister Dottie S. Dixon

The unique creation of actor/writer Charles Lynn Frost and writer Troy Williams had already been a KRCL 90.9 FM radio favorite, but it took two successful theatrical runs for the one-(wo)man show The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon to turn her into a phenomenon. Sister Dottie certainly won plenty of folks over with her satirical but good-natured goof on Mormon housewives from “Spanish Fark.” But as the “proud mother of a gay son,” she also provided a voice for many who choose love over dogma. You’re a representation of the humor and compassion that can be found in any of us, Sister D—and we sure do ’preciacha.
2. Jon Huntsman Jr.
3. Tim DeChristopher

Best Visual Arts Triple Threat
Jill Dawsey, Jeff Lambson & Adam Price

Fashion magazine W got wind of a curious convergence of curatorial skills and made note of it in a Dec. 15, 2009, editor’s blog titled “Utah’s Art Scene Gets Edgy.” The post noted how Brigham Young University brought Jeff Lambson, a veteran of the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., to Provo in November 2007 as the museum’s first contemporary art curator. Not to be outdone, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts hired Jill Dawsey, formerly of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in early 2008, as its first curator of modern and contemporary art. Then, the Salt Lake Art Center tapped attorney Adam Price, known for his innovative 337 Project efforts, to take the helm of the city’s celebrated contemporary art hub. No need to pinch yourself—you’re still in Utah. But if contemporary art is your thing, this is truly the place.;;

Best Local to Follow on Twitter
What Would Jesus Do in Salt Lake

It really would take a superhuman being to keep up with all of the cool activities promoted on the What Would Jesus Do in Salt Lake blog (, from whence the @WWJDinSLC Twitter feed sprang. The stated goal is to dispel the myth that the capital city is overrun with “families and churches” and “to help make Salt Lake more cool.” WWJDinSLC’s comprehensive lists of nightlife happenings and to-the-point restaurant reviews (the Savior is also a frequent UrbanSpoon contributor) are impressive and—wait for it—divinely inspired.
2. Ben_Winslow
3. Dooce

Best Political Blunder
Becker’s Cop Shop on Library Square

Just when every Salt Laker was on the verge of passing out from the tedium of Mayor Ralph Becker’s monotone administration, out of nowhere, he decided to locate a towering public-safety complex on Library Square. Maybe that was the plan: Do something drastic, just when residents had been lulled into slumber by such a sensible, no-drama mayor and hope they’d sleep through it. But they didn’t, and the outpouring of criticism of having the shadow of authority cast right over downtown’s beautiful tribute to openness and community was sufficient enough that Becker backed down. But that wasn’t the end of it. In November 2009, voters approved Becker’s Plan B: to locate the “Ministry of Love” across the street from the square.

Best Way to Defer One’s Presidential Aspirations
Jon Huntsman Jr.’s Ambassadorship

Just when there were murmurs that former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. might be a moderate contender for president to bring some blue states into the Republican fold, he up and accepts a job as ambassador to China for the Obama administration. That’s good news for Palin-ites and Tea-baggers, but bad news for voters who might want a moderate candidate for president. Either way, you’ve got to hand it to Obama for knowing how to deal with potential competition—hire him.

Best Protests
Main Street Plaza “Kiss-Ins”

When CW’s own Derek Jones and boyfriend Matt Aune found themselves detained one July 2009 evening on the LDS Church’s Main Street Plaza for an apparently inappropriate public display of affection (lewd hand-holding and a lascivious peck on the cheek), they could not have guessed the reaction from the community would be one of the city’s most unique and peaceful protest events: the kiss-in. After the event, dozens of supporters rallied to point out contradictions in the church’s stance on gay PDA vs. straight PDA on the Plaza by staging rallies where protesters defied double standards by tastefully smooching partners of their choice. Gay and straight couples came out in strength to show a little love in the name of equal treatment.

Best Immigrant Defender
Aaron Tarin

Despite his tender 28 years, immigration lawyer Aaron Tarin is more than content to take on issues and foes that many more experienced attorneys in his field would leave alone. Whether in his capacity as ethics chair for the Utah chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association or working with other young lawyers keen to clean up a field that traditionally has been seen as plagued by corrupt practitioners, Tarin is fighting hard for the undocumented. To see him in action at Salt Lake City’s immigration court is to witness someone who is fearless even while evolving as a lawyer.

Best at Playing It Safe
Rep. Jim Matheson

During the 2009 summer break from Congress, when most elected officials went home and met with constituents, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson from Utah’s 2nd Congressional District opted out of face time with the people who pay his paycheck. Matheson instead hosted telephone conference calls that his staff said were a superior substitute to a town hall. (Utah’s other congressmen, Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop, managed to host multiple, in-person, town hall meetings.) Matheson continued to duck and cover in the face of controversial party votes—including the historic health-care-reform bill—bitterly disappointing many proud Dems from his district. While possibly alienating a few voters, he’ll likely keep his seat come Election Day ... ‘cuz, better the devil you know ...

Best Utah Politician
Mayor Peter Corroon

If City Weekly readers are more reliable than those silly daily newspaper polls, then Utah might have a new governor in November. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has earned his reputation for fiscal constraint with his steady leadership of a sometimes rambunctious county government, especially during difficult economic times. His dry personality won’t get him elected prom king, but considering the frat house that state government has become, it may help him get to the Capitol.
2. U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson
3. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker

Best Lobbyist Hair
Lincoln Shurtz, Utah League of Cities & Towns

Among the beige-and-gray, slightly balding, Capitol Hill lobbying corps, Shurtz stands out. He looks barely old enough to drink and wears colorful suits that are definitely not off the rack from Mr. Mac. Most noticeable, however, is his blond pompadour that has earned him nicknames from other lobbyists like “surfer dude” and “Ken’s Ken,” a reference to his ULCT boss, Ken Bullock. Despite, or maybe because of, his GQ style, the ULCT is one of the most powerful lobbyist groups on the Hill, with enough cachet to seemingly have veto rights on bills they don’t like.

Best “Bump You”
Rep. Christine Johnson

While Democrats do their best to suppress their party affiliations, and while gay legislators—open or otherwise—try to deflect attention from their sexuality, Johnson—a Salt Lake City Democrat who is also a lesbian—spent the 2010 legislative session flaunting her liberal politics and her sexuality. See, she is carrying a baby for two gay men. While her baby bump had the potential to be an in-your-bigoted-face reminder that the gay-rights movement is not going away anytime soon, the biggest surprise of her pregnancy was that many of her conservative colleagues actually rallied around and supported her.

Best Help for Brain Injuries
Brain Injury Association

For 26 years, Utah’s Brain Injury Association has fought to bring attention to the tragedies of brain-trauma victims. In a cramped, poorly lit office, executive director Ron Roskos and his assistant Linda Valeria valiantly struggle to help those who turn to them for comfort and understanding. With an annual 5K run and a silent auction, the BIA does what it can to pull in funds, but indifference and lack of patience—the same issues that dog their clients—make it hard to get the funds to keep their organization going. Listen to Roskos speak about the battles of his brain-injured clients and close associates, though, and the importance of BIA’s work is painfully apparent. 1800 S. West Temple, Ste. 203, Salt Lake City, 801-484-2240,

Best Hermit
Eugene Schwarz

Above Interstate 215, on a piece of untended land where few roam, lives military veteran Eugene Schwarz, who served several years in Germany with the U.S. Army in the 1980s. After leaving the Army, he rode the trains, hobo-style, from the East Coast to Salt Lake City. He’s spent fall through spring for the past decade living in a tent on the east side of the valley. Come summer, he bicycles to Cedar City. To feed himself, Schwarz dresses up as a Statue of Liberty during tax season and does other poorly paid jobs. A quiet, gentle man who reads philosophy and religion, this hermit’s self-imposed isolation is a constant reminder of the precarious needs of our veterans and their often fierce insistence of independence.

Best Leg Up to Re-enter Society
Alliance House

What’s remarkable about Alliance House is its sense of purpose. Higher-functioning mentally ill folks go here Monday through Friday to learn social and work skills, hammer out resumes, socialize and prepare themselves to develop careers. It’s extraordinary to see the hope, the anticipation and commitment of members as they prepare for exams or job interviews. Members also learn about nutrition and self-sufficiency in a community that provides an important bridge to everyday society. In its efforts to lead the mentally ill to recovery and beyond, Alliance House is truly an unsung hero. 1724 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-486-5012,

Best Legislative Monkeyshines
Chris Herrod’s “Monkeys as Pets” bill

In defense of Rep. Chris Herrod (R-Provo), he didn’t really want to make owning pet monkeys legal; he promised a teenage constituent that if she researched the issue of exotic pets, he’d run a bill. So, good for him for encouraging young people to invest themselves in the legislative process. But it was hard not to dwell on the symbolism of HB376, particularly in a legislative session characterized by empty-headed message bills. You want to associate with chimps? All you need to do is hang out on Capitol Hill for a while.

Best Ironic Polluter
Richard Bass

Richard Bass, owner of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, can be proud of making his resort an active participant in the National Ski Area Association’s Sustainable Slopes program, looking to maintain snowfall by fighting resorts’ carbon footprints. It’s also exactly why he should be ashamed for partnering with another business and proposing to build a sprawling coal strip mine near Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The mine not only would leave an ugly carbon stomp on the environment but would devastate at least 11 miles of salmon streams that feed the inlet. Sorry, Mr. Bass: You can’t green-wash this brown skidmark.

Best Political Sizzle & Fizzle
The Patrick Henry Caucus

It is three minutes of political perfection, replete with fear-mongering voiceovers, fire, a flying Constitution and a slew of gray suits. In February 2010, the Patrick Henry Caucus, made up of conservative lawmakers attempting to make a name for themselves in a Legislature, released a video declaring the federal government should control virtually nothing. It was gloriously over-the-top—even if, at the end, the group was still mostly indistinguishable.


Best Municipal Double Standard
Salt Lake City’s Removal of the Banksy Tag

Downtown former Zephyr Club at the corner of 300 South and West Temple has been a boarded-up blight for years, but when world-famous guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy tagged the vacant brick building with a beautiful image of a small boy with angel wings praying next to a can of red paint, the Zephyr finally got a little love. Banksy was in town for the premiere of a 2010 Sundance documentary that featured him, and, while here, left his or her trademark tags around town and in Park City. The Zephyr tag delighted residents … the whole 24 hours it was up before city workers removed it. Yet, the city left up a traditional spray-paint tag less than a foot away from Banksy’s well after the festival ended. Well done, city officials. Way to be consistent.

Worst Utah Politician
Sen. Chris Buttars

Boy, you make a couple incredibly insensitive remarks about black babies and the gays being worse than al-Qaeda and people sure hold a grudge. Just ask Sen. Chris Buttars, the West Jordan Republican whose crotchety old mouth has still got people pissed off enough from 2009 for him to win the title of Worst Utah Politician (again) a year later. He was oddly demure in the 2010 session, except for that ol’ “abolish 12th grade” thing that got national attention. Well, maybe if the good senator holds his tongue for another year, he’ll lose the distinction to lawmakers caught driving under the influence or soaking in hot tubs with underage girls.
2. Sen. Orrin Hatch
3. Rep. Carl Wimmer

Best Cannabis Coming Out
Rebecca Chavez-Houck

A majority of Americans now believe that marijuana should be “legal, taxed and regulated,” so it shouldn’t be a big deal for a state legislator to say she believes marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes. But this is Utah, the first state to outlaw marijuana—22 years before the federal government did so in 1937. So, it was remarkable when state Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, told marijuana activist group Legalize Utah that she supports medical marijuana. She was the first state legislator to say so publicly. We all know it takes guts to be the first person on the dance floor.

Best Way to Score Points With the Media (Not)
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch

In May 2009, Hatch took reporters on a test drive of an electric Hummer that supposedly gets 100 miles per gallon. But the story in The Washington Post wasn’t about the Hummer, it was about Hatch’s inability to drive it. “For a few terrifying minutes, Hatch was in control of a 5,000 pound truck. Well, not entirely in control,” wrote Post reporter Dana Millbank. Things went downhill from there, as Hatch nearly creamed a passing car and a group of photographers, all while trying to figure out the Hummer’s buttons and gears.

Best Under-the-Radar Campaign
Tim Bridgewater

As one of oh-so-many challengers to U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, Bridgewater has run a low-profile campaign compared to other challengers. But that campaign has sent him on multiple jaunts to every county in the state, where he is talking to the very people who often become convention delegates. It may not get the media excited, but it’s an effective strategy most recently used by Rep. Jason Chaffetz in his upset defeat of former U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon.

Best Campaign Indecision
AG Mark Shurtleff

First, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff danced around the question of whether or not he would challenge Sen. Bob Bennett. Then, he accidentally tweeted he was going to announce, then quasi-retracted the tweet. Then he announced, and quasi-campaigned with a few speeches and delegate meetings. Finally, he got out of the race for family reasons, but since then, has continued to point out all of the reasons why Bennett should not be re-elected. It’s an impressive political tango.

Best War Hypocrite
Rep. Jason Chaffetz

We’d hoped Rep. Jason Chaffetz, media whore though he may be, could fashion himself into a contrarian, principled Republican. He now seems every bit as slimy and untrustworthy as the rest of Congress. In November, he said, “Mr. President, it’s time to bring our troops home” from Afghanistan, a war that has cost $3.6 billion per month and killed more than 1,000 American soldiers. Just three months later, he voted against a resolution that would direct the president to do exactly that. His pro-war vote came less than a week after attending the funeral of Carlos A. Aragon, 19, of Orem, and just before attending the funeral of Nigel K. Olsen, 21, of Salem, both of whom died in Afghanistan.

Best Tattooed Judge
Judge John Baxter

Salt Lake City Justice Court Judge John Baxter has an impressive reputation among both victim advocates and defense lawyers, two groups that are hard to impress when it comes to the judiciary. He’s even got a good rep among the homeless who find themselves in front of him. But who knew the man on the bench—a former Marine who served in Saigon in the early ’70s—also sports some wicked tattoos, one courtesy of his time in the military, the other from a local tattoo convention. Way to keep some attitude going under the robes, Judge.

Best Finger to the State

In 2009, the company made nice about working with state officials to reduce the amount and type of nuclear waste being stored just outside Utah’s capital city. But in 2010, emboldened by court rulings and a governor who couldn’t make up his mind on the glowing garbage, EnergySolutions started loading the trains and simply bringing the stuff to its Tooele dump. Yes, some trains got diverted, but with ES’s newfound aggression and ceaseless political donations, those diversions are likely temporary.

Best Presto-Chango
Holly Mullen et al

It’s not unheard of for a journalist to feel the itch to run for office. Think Citizen Kane. Thus, we didn’t faint when Holly Mullen, City Weekly editor from 2007-09 and a Salt Lake Tribune columnist for five years before that, let it be known on Facebook that she was entertaining a 2010 bid for a Salt Lake County Council at-large seat. Mullen hopes to take over the seat currently occupied by her stepdaughter, Jenny Wilson. Wilson is stepping off after beginning a new job at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center. Meanwhile, in late 2009, Mullen’s husband, Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake City Democratic mayor and outgoing executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, showed up to work as Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s environmental czar. A bunch of rolling stones, that bunch.

Best Networking Idealists
Salt Lake City Bioneers Chapter

Housed at Westminster College, the Salt Lake City Bioneers chapter hosts an annual fall conference focusing on organic gardening, alternative transportation, buying locally, transitioning from oil dependence to local resilience, creating fulfilling work, and supporting human rights. The “biological pioneers” also teamed up in 2009 with Citizens for Sustainability and the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City’s Environmental Ministry to present a “Sustainable Solutions” film series and discussions on Fridays at the church. Bringing these groups together helped create a sum greater than its parts, a veritable green movement—not easy to do in a state where just advocating for green building practices can earn you sideways glances. They may have stirred up the compost pile today, but it was all for chunk-free air tomorrow.

Best at Transforming Lives
Detective Break Merino

Like something out of a Disney movie, Salt Lake City Police Detective Break Merino reached a point in his career where measuring his success in law enforcement had to be more than just arrests. After being approached by reformed gang members who were looking to build more positive relationships with other gang members, Merino became a volunteer football coach. Team members took lessons they learned from the field and went on to apply for college and the military. Merino is one who understands that community policing starts first in the community.

Best Date for Utah Tipplers
July 1, 2009

That is, of course, the historic day the Utah Legislature let private clubs put on their big-boy pants and operate bars like they’re operated everywhere else. Years of nutty regulations have taken their toll; it still takes some effort to convince visitors they can easily enter a nightclub and have a drink. And, it doesn’t help that there is now a shortage of liquor licenses for new players. But it was a huge step forward, and we’ll drink to it.

Best Peek at Where Tithing $ Goes
8: The Mormon Proposition

The LDS Church, under pressure, admitted it spent $189,903 in nonmonetary in-kind contributions to help pass California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. However, it’s estimated that individual Mormons gave more than $20 million, plus offered to beat the streets to get out the vote. The church’s involvement in the political fight triggered an instant backlash by gays. Former Utahn Reed Cowan, now a Florida TV reporter, captured the LGBT outrage at Mormondom in his film 8: The Mormon Proposition, which screened to sell-out crowds at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In the grand scheme, the church’s $190K wasn’t huge. But for both Mormons and non, seeing the extent of ecclesiastical time and energy spent in support of a political cause is disconcerting. We all are told to render unto Caesar and to the Lord in different envelopes, but for church leaders, it’s just not black and white.

Best Waste of Space
Earl Holding’s 400 South & Main parking lot

The parking lot at 400 South and Main takes up an entire city block of downtown. It is so misplaced and unfortunate, it makes one want to reconsider private-land ownership rights. In 2009, land owner Earl Holding’s company made the bizarre suggestion that the county should place a new mega-hotel and convention center on this lot to replace the Salt Palace. Does the owner of Sinclair, Little and Grand America hotels as well as Snowbasin and Sun Valley ski resorts have any better ideas, or will the city forever live with this giant obstruction to downtown development? Oh, right, his “better” idea was to sell the property to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January, which also has no immediate plans for development. Brilliant.

Best Slippery Metaphor
Gov. Gary Herbert

Any recognition of gay couples was said repeatedly to be a slippery slope toward full gay marriage during 2008, but Gov. Gary Herbert mangled the idiom during his first press conference as governor in August 2009. Herbert said a proposed Salt Lake City anti-discrimination ordinance that would protect gay and transgender Utahns was a “slippery road” toward all kinds of ridiculous protections like, “a special law for blue-eyed blonds.” Why is it that “slippery” objects are only mentioned metaphorically by Utah conservatives when LGBT issues are discussed?

Best Relocation Gamble
Odd Fellows Hall

After the many delays and setbacks involved with moving the 117-year-old Odd Fellows Hall across Market Street and turn it around, few believed it could actually be done. Even Layton Construction, the firm that inched it across the street, had its doubts, going so far as to take its banner off the building while moving it. Now, who will be brave enough, to put it charitably, to occupy space there?

Best Write-In Campaign
Dan Young & PC Laptops

At the onset of Best of Utah 2010 voting, Dan the Laptop Man (aka Dan Young) orchestrated a Facebook write-in campaign for his fledgling little computer business: PC Laptops (; perhaps you’ve heard of it. Aside from promoting his own business, Young is also a fervent supporter of other locals—he reminded his fans to vote in 10 categories, not just for PC Laptops, promising everyone “hugs” for doing so. Before he starts giving those few thousand hugs, we asked Young to impart a few of his own Best of Utah picks:
Best Late Night Dining: Belgian Waffle & Omelet Inn
Best Buffet: Rodizio Grill
Best News Guy: Bill Gephardt, KUTV 2
Best Radio Show: Radio From Hell, X96