First, congrats to KUER for its series on air quality, Clearing the Air. The program’s “stories and conversations” dealt not only with the bad air we breathe but also with ideas and solutions, as well as the economic and health costs of all that gunk. Maybe, unlike the governor, the public radio station realized that it takes more than voluntary nondriving make a difference. Meanwhile, a report from the American Public Transit Association showed big gains in ridership—up 4.5 percent nationally for light rail, with Salt Lake City seeing a 14.7 percent gain in 2012 over the previous year. There’s also a 14.7 percent gain for commuter-rail use, although nationally it saw only a 0.5 percent gain. Not so for buses—ridership is down 6.1 percent. UTA should get a clue. People want mass transit, but they also want speedy, convenient connections with a bus system being cut back in Utah.
OK, so charter schools give that little positive push to neighboring public schools. That’s what a University of Utah economics professor discovered after looking at test scores from 2005 to 2011. This, of course, made the state Charter School Board dizzy with glee. The conclusion is that competition drives other public schools to improve performance. At the same time, a Washington Post blog noted that D.C. charter schools expel students at a 72 to 1 rate over public schools, ostensibly sending problem kids back to their neighborhood schools. D.C. has the lowest graduation rate in the country—59 percent. Utah doesn’t have that problem—yet—but we should caution that oversight is important. Too much competition could hurt neighborhood schools as much as troubled students. Public education should be good for all kids.
Finally, we’re hearing some good news from City Creek. After a year of operation, the urban mall is 98 percent full, and its apparent success should serve as a reminder that, 1. You can’t tell tales, and 2. More of the same will just take from its competitors. Gateway has lost most of what it gained from the Main Street mall pre-City Creek. Trolley Square is also seeing businesses move, and is now in receivership. Salt Lake City tax revenues are up 11 percent—good news, although fuzzy as to the cause. While it looks like City Creek will be good for the city, Sunday closings and lack of liquor are negatives to profit. And if the city has learned anything, it should be not to suck life from one development into another.