Just imagine that Tim DeChristopher’s 21 months in prison had a positive impact on the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM recently put a hold on leasing parcels around the San Rafael Swell after listening to concerns from various groups about the impact of drilling. You may remember that DeChristopher was convicted of making phony bids on 14 parcels of land in Utah’s red-rock country. The lands removed from auction this time contain invaluable petroglyphs and petrographs, although the state’s two senators, the petroleum industry and Emery County were stunned by what they called a “bait & switch.” Apparently, in their minds, drilling for fossil fuels trumps historical and outdoor recreation concerns. But hey, there’s still plenty of acreage to bid on.
At a time when “transparency” is both a buzzword and a platitude, it’s good to see some people taking it seriously. It was one of the major issues facing the Utah Pride Center just before the resignation of center director Valerie Larabee. Larabee had been director for nine years, and her tenure, apparently, was marked by self-interest, secrecy and, finally, a funding shortfall. More than anything, it may have been the secrecy that sealed her fate. She prohibited staff members from speaking to board members and kept the LGBT community at bay. As always, secrecy engenders mistrust. Just think what the drone attacks and WikiLeaks have done to the nation. They’ve prompted the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to seek a law requiring the administration to report civilian deaths from drone strikes. Whatever happened to just stating the truth?
Did you see the full-page ad in Sunday’s newspapers asking Gov. Gary Herbert to expand Medicaid? It was signed by more than 100 religious leaders in the state. Then, a bunch of nurses rallied for expansion, and a group now called the Coalition for a Compassionate Utah, citing facts and figures. But does anything sway the governor? He is so undecided that he won’t even make up a pretend budget showing the effects of expansion. The Family Investment Coalition, a group of low-income advocates, said Health Department figures show an increase in revenue and the numbers of uninsured Utahns to be covered. Herbert, though, thinks expansion would neither add nor detract from budget projections. So how would Utah lose with expansion? It seems this is more about frustrating the rollout of Obamacare than expanding Medicaid.