Best of Utah 2010: Media & Politics | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2010: Media & Politics



Page 4 of 5

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.