Best of Utah 2011: Media & Politics | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2011: Media & Politics


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Best Tweets from the Hill
Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune
It’s not easy covering the Legislature; it’s harder still to cover all the issues 140 characters at a time. But when this tweetage is coated with the wit and jaded cynicism of a top politics reporter like the Trib’s Robert Gehrke, the result is pure Twitter inspiration. Like tweeting about Sen. Mike Lee’s presentation to the state body: “… And Sen. Mike Lee whips out the pocket Constitution! Everybody drink.” Or lamenting a dull Senate floor debate with, “Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit snorting bath salts.” Or his sage analysis of a breakdown of decorum on the Senate floor: “Oops. Senate lost its quorum. Half the body kind of wandered off during a vote on an Alzheimer’s awareness bill. Make your own joke.” Whatever the breaking situation, @RobertGehrke knows how to sling the most Hill-arious hashtags from the Hill that keep us coming back for more.

Best Dem on Public Health
Rep. Jennifer Seelig

In the sex-phobic Legislature, Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, somehow gets results on sexual health bills. In 2011, she got a law passed to empower abandoned teen moms to make decisions for themselves about vaccines, a bill opposed by some conservatives. In 2009, she carried a bill to allow people to purchase antibiotics for sexual partners who might have been exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea, especially if that partner can’t or won’t see a doctor. While her official title is Minority Whip, Seelig is able to use her infectious smile and friendly demeanor to get lawmakers on her side.

Best New Newspaper
Salt Lake Street News
In the summer of 2010, when the debate over the panhandlers in downtown Salt Lake City was raging, the arrival of Salt Lake Street News was a breath of fresh air. Homeless people produced content for the newspaper and then actively sold it on the street for $1. They could then use the money to improve their lot. Some street vendors were aggressive, but others, such as Dennis, who held down the corner of Main and 300 South, helped bring home the message that you can help the homeless without subsidizing drug addiction by helping them earn a buck. Dennis and the Street News, we salute the wisdom of your enterprise.

Best Utah Politician
Peter Corroon
He may have been trounced in his 2010 gubernatorial bid—where, as a Dem, he partnered with a Republican running mate (a woman, no less), making his the first “bipartisan” ticket in Utah—but at least Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon can still rock the CW vote. Readers no doubt appreciate his down-to-earth management style, fiscal restraint and gallant attempt to make Utah Democrats smell less like Limburger cheese at the polls. The truth is, if more candidates of Corroon’s caliber got in the game, the tighty-righty GOP oligarchy that thinks it runs the state might have to yield the floor more often. So keep an eye on Corroon. Anyone who can preside over a flood, oil spill and Herriman fire like Corroon did in 2010 and maintain the county’s AAA bond rating in a crap economy is far from a has-been. He may have been just getting warmed up.
2. Ralph Becker3. Jim Matheson

Best Unpredictable Columnist
Robert Kirby
Kirby’s grouchy-grandfather persona in his Salt Lake Tribune columns might be enough to keep us returning to his column at a time when journalism seems ever more bland. Add to that his light touch and self-deprecating humor, and you’ve got a winner. But ultimately, it’s his unpredictability that proves to be the real hook. One day, it’s a riff on Brian David Mitchell’s hairstyle, another it’s making cookies with the family. And then he will write, in painfully simple language, the horror of his daughter being mauled by a dog. Kirby’s gift is that rather than recycling life experiences to fill column inches, he seeks to add to our human understanding of one another.

Best Inspirational Podcast
Sending Messages
Serving as one of the few creative outlets in a local west-side juvenile detention center, this Spy Hop-funded venture has earned praise from listeners and fellow podcasters alike for its raw content. Sending Messages is completely written, recorded and produced by the students themselves, counseled by Adam Sherlock (A Damn Movie Podcast). The show gives students the opportunity to express their feelings however they wish in an uncensored audio environment. Whether it be purely fictional or shaded fact, these stories come from the hearts and minds of youth looking for something better.

Best News for LGBT Students
Salt Lake City School Board’s Anti-Discrimination Policy
Gay and transgender folks have never had it easy in public schools. It wasn’t so long ago that East High shut down all of its noncurricular clubs in order to prevent the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance. In December 2010, the Salt Lake City school board, by a 4-3 vote, narrowly adopted the first policy in the state protecting LGBT students, faculty and staff from unfair treatment. It may not eradicate the bullying and harassment that’s commonplace in schools, but it was a bold move, and the board deserves applause.

Best Star-Search Website
Two Provo brothers took the overblown arena talent search we’ve come to recognize from reality television and transformed the concept into an Internet-based competition for the world to join in on. The site showcases talent videos from users of every stripe who compete for cash prizes, with viewers voting on the winner. It may not have the three-judge star power, but what it lacks in celebrity hype it gains in credibility. And that’s far more appealing.

Best League of Their Own
Utah Blitz Women’s Football
While it may take a moment to wrap your head around the notion of women playing tackle football, the Utah Blitz players are serious about a gritty gridiron experience. The Blitz launched their first season in 2010 participating in the Women’s Football Alliance, a nationwide collection of more than 60 regional teams. While the first season didn’t see the team earn a victory, you can see what the players and coaches have learned at open practices every Saturday morning, or catch the games at Judge Memorial High School when the Blitz’s second season begins April 2.801-589-2618,

Best Mormon Feminists
Women Advocating for Voice & Equality
The Women’s Advocating for Voice & Equality (WAVE) group has picked up the torch of Mormon feminism and is waving it in the faces of fellow saints. While the group is serious about female equality in the church, its members aren’t demanding anything radical, like priesthood. They are taking the softer but firmer approach: collecting the wisdom of female voices in the church in order to use those perspectives in talks and discussions. The group is also acting as a resource for women conflicted by their faith and the culture of stuffy patriarchy. Finally, Mormon feminists have caught the next wave.

Worst Politician
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan
Some were shocked when curmudgeonly Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, retired from the Legislature at the close of the 2011 session. Perhaps it was because he finally qualified for the state’s Cadillac health-insurance plan. City Weekly readers likely won’t shed any tears over Buttars riding into the sunset; they voted him Utah’s worst politician for three years in a row. His crass and obstinate stance on LGBT equality, his racial insensitivity and his pro-life blinders that shielded his eyes from even acknowledging the other side’s position did not win him the love of our readership. After the shenanigans on the Hill in the 2011 session, it looks like it won’t be too hard to find a replacement for Buttars as the Worst Politician.
2. Gary Herbert3. Carl Wimmer

Best Cool-Headed Cop
Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Chris Burbank
Just for taking his stand in summer 2010 on immigration, Chief Burbank deserves appreciation for injecting a sane voice into Beehive hysteria about Arizona’s immigration law. In particular, Burbank’s opposition to police officers being deputized to check on immigration status on people suspected of being undocumented provided a much-needed ballast to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of certain Utah legislators. Add to that his affable manner and his advocacy not only for community values but also for his own cops, and it’s perhaps not surprising that some folks are talking about Burbank as future mayoral material.

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