The Salt Lake City Council reversed itself during budget talks and decided not to eliminate free evening and weekend parking in downtown after all. The about-face came after a collective scream from citizens. Business groups like the Downtown Alliance complained. So did patrons of downtown stores and small-business owners who are struggling to keep doors open while operating inside downtown’s massive ongoing construction project. It’s great that the council listens. But it is also troubling council members could ever have thought that taking away free weekend-and-evening parking was a good idea. City leaders have a tough job ahead figuring out how to fill government coffers during an economic slump, but strangling downtown’s economy isn’t a good start.
The GOP primary race for Utah state treasurer is suggestive of how far Utah lawmakers will go in their quest for power. Utah’s current chief deputy treasurer Richard Ellis alleges that his opponent, state legislator Mark Walker, offered to get him a $160,000-per-year job if he dropped out of the race. If true, the payoff offer would likely be illegal. Utah’s top election official has delayed looking into the allegation, saying he doesn’t want to impact the primary vote. During many years crunching state finance numbers, Ellis stepped up to protect Utah’s coffers from raids by lawmakers who wanted to give the store away to business or enact potentially damaging budget schemes. No wonder state legislative leadership is backing his opponent.
Groups that care about water, and about democracy, are asking federal regulators for a public meeting in Salt Lake City so residents can give their two cents on a planned 160-mile pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George. Current plans call for no such gathering. Anyone wanting to give input on a coming environmental planning process must travel to Kanab, St. George or Cedar City during the middle of the week. That’s a near impossibility for Wasatch Front residents, particularly with $4-per-gallon gas. Water watchdogs and the Utah League of Women Voters argue that all Utah has an interest in a pipeline that could cost billions. Even if taxpayers don’t end up paying the full price, draining Lake Powell during a drought is everyone’s business.