Much has been said about the new school-grading system, which has spawned a chorus of conspiracy theories. Many are convinced that the conservative legislature has it out for public education and would like to, if not privatize the entire system, at least turn “failing” schools into charters. Worse yet is the Legislature’s pride in modeling the system after Florida’s, whose superintendent, Tony Bennett, resigned from the position in Indiana amid allegations of cheating on school grades. His actions in Indiana were deemed “plausible” by legislative leaders, so he’s now continuing his quest for accountability in Florida. Utah is also looking for accountability, although all these systems depend on one unquantifiable factor—“an invitation to engage.” If schools had figured out whom to engage and how to do it before, they wouldn’t be in this predicament now. The Legislature gets an A for engaging fear and anger.
Utah seems to be going through a “to-hell-with- wilderness” period. First, it’s part of the Book Cliffs being leased out for oil production, and now the release of North Carolina mountain goats in the La Sal Mountains. Wildlife officials just really want to establish the goats there—probably for hunting—despite pleas from the U.S. Forest Service, which worries the goats will hurt the delicate ecosystem, especially its rare plant species. Nevermind—hunters rule in Utah. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of the Interior has voiced concerns that the West Davis Corridor extension would permanently harm the wetlands there. Whether the Utah Department of Transportation will heed the warning is anyone’s guess. But their business is transportation, not wetlands.
There’s some good news for Utah democracy, although it may come to nothing. First, the Count My Vote group has raised a boatload of money—mostly from a few rich folks—to boost its campaign against a caucus system that favors the fringe activist. It does, however, need to broaden its base for a statewide initiative. Now there’s Move to Amend, an opinion survey of Salt Lake City residents about whether corporations are people. The strategy is to get local resolutions passed and moved up to the state and national constitutions. MTA first got 11,000 signatures for a ballot initiative, which was oddly determined to be illegal. Apparently, you have to be changing law to run an initiative. Now they’re going for opinions and, ultimately, a resolution to add to a growing number nationwide.