In March, the Deseret News—along with the Daily Beast, the Washington Post and a number of national news outlets—ran a story about James Huntsman suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since then, The Salt Lake Tribune has run no less than seven articles, maybe because readers love stories about money, wealthy people and the church that runs the state of Utah. You may not even remember that James—at age 16 in 1987—was kidnapped in a scary ordeal that made the Hunstmans think about their wealth. Yes, apparently they hadn't before that. Now one of their own is in charge of the Tribune and every time there's any story that has "Huntsman" in it, they run a boilerplate disclaimer about family ties. Last week, however, they decided the tithing story was front-page news because a "whistleblower" talked and now everyone's worried about how the City Creek mall was funded. But are they? The Trib's faith reporter, Peggy Fletcher Stack, is asking "Mormon peeps" what they think about it all. There were 820 comments on her Facebook post. Maybe it's a sexy story for those Mormon peeps, but it still has to play out. And the front page was an odd choice, as it competed with drought, Afghanistan and the end of the world.
Presumption of Guilt
Meanwhile, the Tribune ran this headline: "Utah Democrats argue independent redistricting commission will create the only 'legitimate maps'." Oh, and the D-News did something similar. Well, there you go, losing the debate over gerrymandering before it's even happened. Sen. Derek Kitchen, a Democrat from Salt Lake, held a press conference to decry presumptive gerrymandering at the Legislature's hands. But wait. They haven't done any map-making yet. Voters—Republicans and Democrats—approved Proposition 4, creating Utah's independent redistricting commission, which will recommend maps to lawmakers who will make the final decision on redistricting. And the public is enormously jaded about the outcome. But there's nothing to protest yet. "Let me draw the first damn map, and then accuse me of cheating," said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield. Obviously, the suspense is a killer.
Slow the Flow
It took a drought, a pandemic and a climate apocalypse to draw a line in the arid political sands. Weber County's Wolf Creek water district became the latest to say the thirst for growth and development can't compare to the human thirst for drinking water. The district put a moratorium on water use for new homes on the hillside below the Powder Mountain ski resort, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. It's a hard sell in Utah, where development normally trumps good sense, and certainly public health. Builders who'd already put down a lot of money weren't happy, but something had to give. We've also seen surprising backbones around the country as cities and planning boards choose public welfare over partisan anti-masking mandates. There is a thirst for courage on the national stage. Maybe it's filtering into the state.