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“Stop the attacks”: Tribal leaders and activists call for an end to “political football” on Utah landmarks

Supporters of the recent restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments attend a rally at the Utah Capitol on Thursday. The group wants Utah not to challenge President Joe Biden’s recent decision to restore monuments to their original size in court. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Standing by the steps inside the Utah Capitol was like déjà vu for Olivia Juarez on Thursday night.

Juarez, the Latino community organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, was quick to point out that it was on this day four years ago that she and more than 6,000 others stood outside the building. to protest ahead of a presidential proclamation that ended up dramatically reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

“You’ll hear me reuse the word more times than I would like because we’ve been here before,” she said, looking at a group of just over 100 activists and Native Americans on Capitol Hill. “We have been in the Capitol, on the streets over and over again.”

But Thursday’s rally was completely different from that of 2017 as the dimensions of both monuments were restored almost two months ago. This time around, the focus has been on Governor Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes, as the state is signaling it will likely challenge the ruling in court.

Those who attended the rally on Thursday came to express their displeasure with the tactics. Tribal leaders and activists argue that challenging the court’s ruling will end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars and likely come to naught, based on past court cases.

“A lawsuit challenging the restoration of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a horrific misuse of state tax money,” Juarez said.

President Joe Biden restored the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments through a pair of proclamations issued on October 8. . “

But the debate over the two monuments has been far from easy in recent decades. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both Democrats, created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (1996) and Bears Ears National Monument (2016), respectively. Together they have an area of ​​approximately 3.25 million acres.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, signed a proclamation in 2017 that divided the monuments into five smaller zones with a total size of just over a third of the original boundaries. A review of the decision four years ago was one of the first things Biden, also a Democrat, ordered when he took office in January.

Most of Thursday’s rally focused on what might happen next in the process. Cox, Reyes, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and senior members of the Republican-led Utah legislature all lambasted Biden’s decision in October.

“President Biden’s decision to expand the monuments is disappointing, but not surprising,” the group said in a combined statement, as news of the president’s decision emerged. “Over the past 10 months, we have consistently offered to work with the Biden administration on a permanent legislative solution, which would end the ever-expanding and shrinking of these monuments and bring certainty to their management. has been to perpetuate progress in the management of our public lands for the benefit of all those who use them, in particular those who live on and near these lands. ”

At the time, they involved possible legal action. Then on October 22, just weeks after Biden signed the proclamation, Reyes began the process for law firms to assist the state of Utah in a possible dispute over the legality of Biden’s proclamations. . The state has yet to file a legal challenge in federal courts.

Juarez said the fees and expenses for a legal fight could easily reach $ 10 million. Brooke Larsen, a grassroots activist who spoke at the event, was quick to point out that many states, including Utah, have already failed in their attempts to overturn a proclamation made under the Laws on antiques.


The Bears Ears region is not a series of isolated objects but the entire landscape itself.

–Malcolm Lehi, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Council Member and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair


Hopi Tribe President Timothy Nuvangyaoma, Ute Mountain Tribe Council Member and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair Malcolm Lehi, and Utah Dine Bikeyah Board Chair Davis Filfred , all traveled to the Utah Capitol to represent some of the Native American tribes who supported the original designations of the monuments and then the restoration of the monuments.

“It’s not a political football game, going back and forth,” Nuvangyaoma said. “Governor Cox, political leaders around you, stop. Stop the attacks.”

Filfred feels the same. As the representative of the Navajo Nation, he said he never really got to meet former Governor Gary Herbert. He added that he had heard Cox say that there should be an end to the “ping-pong” battle, but he feared a legal battle would do just that.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing, and I’ve come here to say stop,” Filfred said, as the crowd in front of him cheered him on.

Tribal leaders said Thursday that money used in a court could easily be used to help residents near monuments or anywhere else in Utah. Filfred, for example, looked at a large Christmas tree inside the Capitol and said there were many Navajo Nation residents who would like to light a Christmas tree but they don’t have electricity. Some, he added, don’t even have flush toilets.

“All this money could be put to good use,” he continued. “I tell them what we need to do is help others.”

Davis Filfred, Chairman of the Utah Dine Bikeyah Board of Directors, speaks at a rally at the Utah State Capitol Thursday to support the recent restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
Davis Filfred, Chairman of the Utah Dine Bikeyah Board of Directors, speaks at a rally at the Utah State Capitol Thursday to support the recent restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Executives added that there are currently bigger issues with the monuments, which they say are in desperate need of a new management plan to accommodate the growing popularity of the area.

The land at Bears Ears is considered sacred and a homeland for the Ute, Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes, Lehi said. He said their ancestors lived, hunted and gathered, prayed and participated in rituals there, among other activities, for centuries. These are all traditions that continue to this day.

Referring to the 2017 proclamation that reduced Bears Ears by 85% with two protected areas, Lehi said the land should be conserved as a whole as it was originally designated because the land is a representation of the people.

“The Bears Ears region is not a series of isolated objects but the landscape itself. It is the object itself that deserves tribal and federal protection,” he said. “Bears Ears is a living connected landscape where people (are) inside, not a collection of objects – it needs to be protected.”

This is in addition to concerns about drilling and mining at both monuments, Indigenous leaders and Larsen said they were concerned.

Supporters of the recent restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments attend a rally at the Utah Capitol on Thursday.  The group wants Utah not to challenge the ruling in court.
Supporters of the recent restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments attend a rally at the Utah Capitol on Thursday. The group wants Utah not to challenge the ruling in court. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

A final argument made by attendees on Thursday is that they say most Utahns don’t want monuments to be altered again. A Colorado College study of public lands in the West released earlier this year found that nearly three-quarters of Utah voters surveyed supported restoring national monument protections.

Lehi added that the vast majority of public commentary also supported the monument’s restoration.

But if the state takes legal action, it’s likely that crowds will return to the Utah Capitol to support the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

Nuvangyaoma said, “I think it’s very clear that the people of the United States, the people of Utah, the people of the tribal nations want these areas protected for others to enjoy.”

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Mormons believe there is an ancient lost town in Iowa: no joke

According to the Book of Mormon and The Church of Latter-day Saints, Zarahemla was a large ancient city located in the Western Hemisphere, possibly in Iowa. So far archaeologists and historians have not found any verifiable evidence of the location of the city (good laugh, I did this the entire time I wrote this).

Yesterday, according to historyintheheartland.com, an archaeological investigation began to determine if Montrose, IA is the site of the ancient city (the religion’s founder Joseph Smith said the city was in Guatemala according to ldsliving.com). The population of this small river town in southeast Iowa is only 764 people.

This city appears in several Book of Mormon stories, but to summarize, mormonwiki.com says the following:

The city of Zarahemla and its surroundings were not originally Nephites (a member of a people descended from Nephi, a son of the Jewish prophet Lehi who ruled a Jerusalem colony in America c. 600 Before Christ organized as a church by the risen Christ and exterminated by the Lamanites, leaving the scriptures recorded in the Book of Mormon). Around 323 BC. In AD, a Nephite named Mosiah found the city already built. The Book of Mormon explains how Mosiah came to this country and later became king.

The people of Zarahemla had come from the land of Jerusalem under the leadership of Mulek, the only surviving son of King Zedekiah. The inhabitants of Zarahemla are thus often called Mulekites. The Nephites taught their language to the Mulekites and united to form one people, appointing Mosiah to be their king.

Zarahemla was the capital of the Nephite nation as well as the center of its government, religion, and culture.

Essentially, Zarahemla was to the old Mormon world what Salt Lake City is to today’s Mormons.

Although the survey has recently started, according to bookofmormonevidence.org, work to find the city of Iowa has already started:

With the tools of modern science, proof of the lost city emerges from the ground. We have already searched in a way our fathers could never have imagined. In November 2020, we took SENSYS MX V3 equipment from Germany to Montrose, the cornfields of Iowa, to places God identified through His Prophet as Zarahemla. We have found traces of thousands of ancient homes revealed in magnetic images – these images describe the largest 4th-century city in North America.

To learn more about the city’s research and excavation, visit here.

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28% of unvaccinated Americans would consider lying about their status to keep a job, survey finds

The survey, conducted by Qualtrics, also found that 32% of those polled had ignored signs that specifically required unvaccinated people to wear a mask when visiting a store or business. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Is there any chance they’ll be willing to take a dose of Truth Serum instead?

More than a quarter of unvaccinated workers in the United States (28%) said they would consider lying about their immunization status – and perhaps falsifying a document or two – in order to keep jobs, survey finds conducted among more than 1,300 vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans. .

The survey, conducted by Qualtrics, an experience management software company, also found that about the same percentage (25%) of adults – vaccinated or unvaccinated – know someone who “lied or would lie ”about being vaccinated for travel. , eat out or attend other types of activities or events in person.

The results come amid pressure from the Biden administration to require companies with 100 or more employees to comply with OSHA emergency standards and ensure their workers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 , or comply with the weekly test mandates. The warrant was temporarily blocked days after its announcement, although the Biden administration asked a court to restore the rule.

Meanwhile, only 23% of unvaccinated respondents to Qualtrics’ survey said they would be more willing to get vaccinated because of federal warrants, while 52% said they would be less willing if they were mandated to do so. (It should be noted that the Qualtrics investigation was conducted in mid-October – after President Biden introduced the new requirements, but before they were officially announced by the White House.)

Among other survey results, Qualtrics found that 39% of the unvaccinated cited distrust of the government for not getting the jab. Others said they worried about possible side effects (38%), wanted more information (20%), already had COVID (16%), or said they knew someone who had an adverse reaction (15%).

According to the survey, nearly a third of unvaccinated participants (32%) also revealed that they had ignored signs that specifically required unvaccinated people to wear a mask when going to a hospital. store or business.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly touted the safety and effectiveness of approved COVID-19 vaccines and has determined that serious health problems resulting from vaccination are rare.

“These vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety surveillance in US history,” the CDC said on its website.


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Scientists strive to understand the record of mine-related contamination in sediments under Lake Powell

The first data from a 2018 research project is now published.

(Jerry McBride | The Durango Herald via AP) In this file photo from Thursday, August 6, 2015, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo. In water colored yellow by a garbage spill mining. A team overseen by the US Environmental Protection Agency has been accused of causing the spill as it attempted to clean up the area near the abandoned Gold King mine. Tribal officials in the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency on Monday, August 10, as the massive plume of contaminated sewage flowed down the San Juan River to Lake Powell in Utah, which provides a much of the water to the southwest.

The 2015 Durango Herald photograph was instantly recognized as the scene of an environmental disaster: three kayakers paddling the Animas River in southwest Colorado, the water below them as orange and radiant as a Creamsicle.

A containment pond near Silverton, Colo., Was accidentally drilled at the Gold King mine and 3 million gallons of metal-laden sludge was released into the Animas, flowing downstream into the San Juan River.

The river cleared again within days, but much of the heavy metals and other pollutants released from the spill made their way downstream until they hit Lake Powell, along with all of the other sediments that had been transported downstream by the Colorado River and its tributaries since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963.

“Lake Powell is the integrator of the entire upper Colorado River basin,” said Scott Hynek, a hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at the Utah Water Science Center. “Once they closed that dam, whatever went through there that was sediment stayed. “

[Related: As Lake Powell shrinks, the Colorado River is coming back to life]

The federal government, which oversaw the cleanup of the Gold King mine when the accident occurred, then paid hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements to affected areas of Utah, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. . He also earmarked funding for the USGS to study sediment samples in Lake Powell, a project led by Hynek in late 2018.

A rotating crew of 20 to 30 people spent more than a month on the reservoir in what Hynek describes as a “kind of floating city” consisting of two to three barges, a barge pusher, a platform. form of a well, a working laboratory and an office. 24 hours a day. The USGS team partnered with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, and the United States National Park Service to extract 30 cores from the beds of the San Juan and Colorado rivers.

(USGS) Drill rig used to collect sediment samples on Lake Powell in 2018.

The objective was to understand not only the potential impacts of the Gold King mine disaster, but also to analyze the record of sediment trapped in the upper part of Lake Powell and 50 feet thick in places.

Initial data collected on the project has just been released and Hynek made a public presentation on the preliminary results earlier this month. He hopes the project will be useful to scientists working across the river basin on a variety of projects. The sediment recording, he explained, “is like the ultimate ground truth about what happened in the upper Colorado River basin on a massive scale over 70 years.”

Core samples taken from the San Juan arm of the reservoir show spikes of lead and zinc that may have been deposited by the Gold King mine spill in 2015, but there are much larger – and more concerning – spikes in the metals. which were likely deposited in the 1970s, when larger mine waste disasters occurred in the watershed.

“More important things happened in the ’70s in San Juan than the Gold King,” Hynek said.

(USGS) Scott Hynek, hydrologist at the Utah Water Science Center, presents preliminary results from the Lake Powell coring project on November 1, 2021.

The San Juan and its tributaries have a long history of hard rock mining, and copper and lead concentrations are higher in sediment cores from the San Juan River than those collected from the Colorado River arm. The Colorado side had a more active history of uranium mining and processing, including near Moab, and the core showed higher concentrations of uranium in the Colorado River Arm.

But some of the metal peaks found in the silt from the reservoir aren’t necessarily related to historic mining. The San Juan River, for example, has seen an increase in lead concentrations after monsoon rains fell on burn scars from wildfires.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The so-called Dominy Formation, clearly illustrated by high walls of sediment in Waterhole Canyon, one of the tributaries of the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon, is studied by a team of scientists during ‘a recent trip as part of the Returning Rivers project. The informal term is named after the controversial former Bureau of Reclamation commissioner, Floyd Dominy, who was the main architect of Lake Powell and many other Western dam projects.

Hynek pointed out that the project’s data is only being analyzed now and that much more detailed reports are expected to be released over the next 18 months with more raw data, which he hopes will be used by university professors for a number of research projects. .

“We have a chance to provide a better view of history now than first-hand recordings [from the time]”Hynek said.

Zak Podmore is a Report for America corps member and writes about conflict and change in San Juan County for the Salt Lake Tribune. Your matching donation to our RFA grant helps her continue to write stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here.


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Breeze Airways ™ Celebrates First Holiday Season With Lowest Fares and Best Deals Ever for Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday

SALT LAKE CITY, November 24, 2021– (BUSINESS WIRE) – Breeze Airways, the “Seriously Friendly” new low-cost U.S. airline, celebrates its first Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday with selling prices offering the airline’s lowest fares and best deals since its launch in May 2021.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211124006277/en/

Breeze Airways offers its lowest fares and best deals ever for Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday. (Photo: Business Wire)

Nicer Fare Sale * – For one day only this Black Friday, November 26, 2021, Breeze will be offering its “Nicer Fare Sale”. For just $ 19 more than a “Nice” fare (the lowest Breeze fare), travelers can grab a Nicer fare that includes one free checked baggage ($ 20 value), one piece of luggage at free hand ($ 20 value), a seat with more legroom ($ 30 value), free drink and snack ($ 10 value), priority boarding and 4% BreezePoints earned (versus 2% with a Nice fare) – a value of up to $ 80 – for travel until May 2, 2022, available on all flights but places are limited.

Nice fare sale ** – For one day only on Cyber ​​Monday, November 29, 2021, Breeze will be offering Nice fares of $ 29 on flights selected from the 16 Breeze destinations, for trips between the 6th and the 31st January 2022.**

“It’s really hard to beat our already low prices for non-stop flights, but we did it,” said David Neeleman, president and CEO of Breeze. “This year, we are grateful for the successful launch of Breeze and we thank our guests, as well as the best possible deals.”

*Nicer fare available for an additional $ 19 above the price of a Nice fare (lowest Breeze fare) on all flights, all dates, no blackout dates. Only available when booking a new reservation, limited offer until Nicer fares on a flight are sold out. No advance purchase requirement applies. The seats are limited. Must be purchased November 26, 2022, 12:01 AM – 11:59 PM ET, for travel through May 2, 2022. Price displayed includes taxes and government fees. Fare rules, routes and times are subject to change without notice. Restrictions may apply.

**The Nice fare of $ 29 is available on some one-way flights. The seats are limited. Must be purchased November 29, 2021, 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM ET, for travel between January 6, 2022 and January 31, 2022. Nicer fare includes taxes and government fees. Fare rules, routes and times are subject to change without notice. Restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

On Breeze airways

Breeze Airways, which began serving 16 cities in 13 states in May 2021, is the best-funded start-up airline in the country’s history. Founded by aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, the low-cost carrier combines kindness and technology to deliver its “Seriously Nice” ™ non-stop service between secondary airports bypassing hubs and saving customers time and money. money. The airline recently announced an order for 80 A220-300 aircraft, the first of which will enter service in mid-2022.

See the source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211124006277/en/

Contacts

Gareth Edmondson-Jones
Breeze airways
917 399-9355
[email protected]


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Growing strike action among U.S. airline workers against low wages and appalling working conditions

Across the country, a growing number of airport workers are striking or pushing strike action to oppose low wages, continuing safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and minimal staff levels. The struggles, led by airport concierges, catering workers, disabled assistants and flight attendants, are part of a struggle waged by broad layers of the working class internationally.

Denver International Airport (Wikimedia)

Airport workers are on the front lines of a fight not only against miserable wages and poor working conditions, but against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across regions and national borders, which has been significantly worsened by the premature rush of businesses and governments at national and local level to reopen public places.

U.S. airlines received more than $ 74 billion in bailouts from the U.S. government during the pandemic. Airline inventories have skyrocketed after hearing last month’s announcement by the Biden administration that it was relaxing health restrictions on international travel, opening travel within the country to all fully vaccinated foreign visitors. “The full reopening of international travel is… essential to reviving economies around the world,” said Nicholas Calio, chairman of lobbying group Airlines for America, in response to the White House decision.

Airport workers are under pressure to work not only from management and government, but also from unions. While a number of workplace actions have taken place, unions have provided crucial support for reopening the U.S. economy during the holiday season, despite a growing winter spike in cases.

On Saturday, more than 350 janitors representing the security guard at Flagship Facility Services called a day-long strike at Denver International Airport after months of negotiations between Local 105 of the Service Employees International Union and the direction.

Luis Gonzalez, a striking airport worker, told Denver affiliate ABC News that workers were primarily concerned about “fair wages and workloads … [We keep] this place running. We risk ourselves every day and we deserve to be able to put food on the table for the holidays. “

According to the job site Indeed, Flagship Facility Service janitors earn an average of $ 12.72 per hour. A review of a company-offered janitor position in Salt Lake City, Utah, awards the position one out of five stars. “Nepotism is the way they distribute tasks”, explains the critic, adding that “managers are lazy and are the biggest hypocrites”. A Spanish-speaking reviewer also gave a job in San Diego, California a star. Referring to a question about the benefits of the job, the examiner responds “ninguna” (“none”).

The strike in Denver was halted by Local 105 after announcing a tentative deal it said was a “major achievement” in terms of wages and workloads, according to the local president.

It is not so. The deal includes a paltry $ 4 pay rise over three years, as well as commitments to increase staff and time off. While Local 105 President Ron Ruggiero has touted the deal as ending “40 years of wage stagnation,” the average gatekeeper wage will still be just over $ 16 an hour. That will equate to $ 33,536 in annual salary for a full-time worker, less than half the average salary of $ 72,000 in Denver, Colorado, according to Payscale.com .

Workers at other facilities are pushing for action against the airport industry in the days leading up to the holiday season. Wheelchair helpers at Orlando International Airport on Thursday protested understaffing, lack of sick pay and wages of just $ 8 an hour. The workers are employed by BAGS, Inc., a contractor working with both Frontier and American Airlines.

Workers at Tampa International Airport also protested the appalling conditions last week. “I help elderly and disabled passengers every day and yet I only get paid $ 7 an hour. What if I don’t tip enough to get dinner on the table? »Said Addis Abebe in Tampa SCS local branch. The protests in Tampa and Orlando were both called by the SEIU.

According to CBSNews, “Airlines rely on airport contractors to provide key services such as baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and other positions. Workers say competitive bidding has led to falling wages and disappearing benefits. “

Employees at the food court at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., Organized by Unite Here Local 11, launched a weeklong strike on Monday, which is expected to last throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

The strike is against understaffing, low wages and health insurance coverage at concessionaire operator HMSHost. Workers carried out a similar work stoppage in September. At that time, workers protested against low staffing levels which have “been a continual problem in recent months,” says AZCentral. “Passenger traffic and therefore demand for concessions have sharply returned to levels almost pre-pandemic, but airport concessionaires have struggled to fill positions to meet this demand,” the publication said.

Last month, 350 flight attendants voted 100% to authorize a strike against Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, which operates 400 flights a day on the East Coast under the American Eagle brand. Piedmont flight attendants receive a base salary of almost half ($ 16,500) of the normal amount of workers in the industry.

Last Thursday, the AFA-CWA held an hour-long protest outside Charlotte International Airport in North Carolina. Despite the immense influence these workers have and the ability to link their struggles with others in the industry, the AFA-CWA continues to keep flight attendants at work while the union conducts negotiations with Piedmont, calling for no action to be taken that would harm vacation travel. Piedmont flight attendants haven’t had a new contract for three years.


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Let me count the many ways the madness bubbled up in Utah

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carson Jorgensen, President of the Utah Republican Party, center, was surrounded by members of the public reacting in accordance with the public’s comments by raising their hands in solidarity against the new cards House Building Redistribution Panel, Room 30, November 8, 2021. The public was able to respond to the Utah Legislature’s Redistribution Committee’s only public hearing on Monday for the map proposals.

I guess I’m not the only person in Salt Lake City today who feels like I’m sinking into a bottomless pit of despair. We all knew there was an undercurrent of madness lurking in our state, but it has now bubbled over the state pot.

If it was just madness, but, unfortunately, it is multiple: the indictment of an entire county for blatant racial discrimination, a group of young students and a teacher from an elementary school responsible for the suicide of ‘a ten year old black autistic child, the Utah legislature and governor turn their backs 100% on voters’ rights to a fair redistribution, three of our four lawmakers voting to block Utah from us money for new roads and infrastructure, and, as Geoge Pyle said so clearly, our own lawmakers are clearly setting us on the path to a national fascist government in the not-so-distant future.

I’m starting to believe that the Davis District isn’t alone in its stupidity and high opinion of itself, that our own government has made Utah an oligarchy-ruled state with very little actual electoral representation. , and that many Utah residents are wondering how we can escape the democratic ghetto of Salt Lake City before his clear and present death. And our majority religious institution in this not-so-fair state must ask itself when and where it all went so horribly wrong.

Bev Terry, Salt Lake City

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After a broken water pipe, who pays for the damage – the city or its residents?

A viewer sent KSL a video of a torrent of water flowing down Park City’s Main Street following a water main rupture on July 11, 2019. (Grace McGowan)

Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes

PARK CITY – When a city’s water main breaks and sends water into homes and businesses, someone has to take care of the mess. But who is responsible for paying for the damage: the city or its inhabitants?

Park City resident Mark Stemler believes the city should be responsible for the damage to his home. But court records show the city denies any negligence, citing the government immunity law.

A river crosses it

“Water flowed through the planks to the crawl space,” Stemler said as he described to KSL investigators the damage to his century-old home near Main Street in downtown Park City.

A main burst on the night of July 11, 2019, creating a huge sinkhole right next to Stemler’s house. It also sent thousands upon thousands of gallons of water into the house, soaking basement rugs and furniture and destroying much of the drywall. The flood left a watermark nearly a foot above the ground.

As serious as the damage was, the foundation made matters worse.

A structural engineer found the water accumulated up to two feet high. It saturated the soil that supported the footings, enough to reduce the density of the soil. All this movement destabilized the foundations, including two pillars of stacked concrete blocks, according to the engineer’s report.

So how much will all this damage cost to repair?

“Well, I’m thinking of a few hundred thousand dollars,” Stemler said.

Public works crews worked to repair a huge chasm that opened up next to Mark Stemler's house in July 2019.
Public works crews worked to repair a huge chasm that opened up next to Mark Stemler’s home in July 2019 (Photo: Mark Stemler)

Who is responsible?

Stemler said his home insurance will cover drywall, but the policy will not touch the foundation. He thinks Park City should be responsible for this. After all, it was their water line that broke. He said in the 29 months since the break he still hasn’t received a dime from the city.

In most situations, a city’s liability for damage caused by a broken water main ends at the meter between the main and the house’s supply line. From that point on, it is up to the owner to take responsibility for the damage. But Stemler’s situation is not like most.

The day after the break, Park City city officials told KSL the cause could be linked to a new roadway. Hours before the main burst, a city-hired road crew laid fresh asphalt over the pipeline, right next to Stemler’s house.

“The town man said the break was likely due to compaction and work done with the asphalt that day,” Stemler said.

To make matters worse, this team covered covers on the street that would have allowed responders to access the mainline valves. And the access covers have been covered without their location being marked. On the evening of the break, the public works and firefighters had to dig in this new asphalt to find these valves.

“They spent over three hours trying to locate them so that they could open them, so they could turn them off,” Stemler explained.

Government immunity and negligence

Stemler has filed a lawsuit against Park City and its asphalt contractor, alleging that concealing valve access covers, among other things, constitutes gross negligence. But does his argument – hold water?

Lawyer Robert Sykes does not represent Stemler or Park City or its asphalt contractor, but he studies and practices government claims law and believes Stemler may have a case.

Attorney Robert Sykes tells KSL's Matt Gephart how a city could still be held liable for a water main rupture under Utah's Governmental Immunity Act.
Attorney Robert Sykes tells KSL’s Matt Gephart how a city could still be held liable for a water main rupture under Utah’s Governmental Immunity Act. (Photo: Ken Fall, KSL-TV)

Sykes said that in general, under Utah’s Governmental Immunity Act, municipalities cannot be held responsible for acts that constitute a function of government, such as providing water to homes or businesses, unless that negligence cannot be proven. Under its immunity waivers provision, a government entity can be held liable if its work creates a faulty, unsafe, or unsafe condition of any freeway, road, culvert, bridge, tunnel, lane, crosswalk, overpass. or structure therein or any other public improvement.

“It seems to me that you have the faulty and dangerous condition of a freeway or a road,” Sykes said. “And the reason you have that is because they’re covering it up and didn’t get in fast enough for them to fix something.”

Park City officials also told media the cause was a broken valve. And there was another complication: A city spokeswoman told KSL the day after the break that “the valves were somewhat rusty and this was contributing to the incident.”

“I would say a rusty valve is neglect,” said Sykes. “Because it is very predictable that you will turn a rusty valve and it will break.”

Through KSL and other media, the city also asked residents and businesses to contact the city to report the property damage.

“They are making a confession for interest,” Sykes explained. “It’s admissible in court.”

So what does Park City have to say about all of this now? In a statement emailed to KSL investigators, not much. “As usual with ongoing litigation, Park City Municipal has no comment on this matter.”

However, in court records, city attorneys deny Stemler’s allegations of negligence, saying there is no evidence. And they invoke the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah.

The growing risk of ruptured water pipes

But the problems caused by ruptured water pipes won’t end in a Park City courtroom or in Stemler’s crawl space.

A 2018 survey of more than 300 utilities in the United States and Canada by researchers at Utah State University found that water line ruptures increased by 27% overall between 2012 and 2018. Ruptures in old water pipes made of cast iron or asbestos cement have increased by more than 40%. According to the report, pipes made from these two materials alone make up 41% of all water pipes in North America. And at that time, only 58% of those utilities said they had a regular pipe replacement program. Most of those old water pipes have only gotten old since.

It is not very difficult to find examples.

Last July, a water main rupture affected 15 homes in Murray. Another rupture created a geyser that closed a freeway exit ramp near downtown Salt Lake City in September. That same day, another broken Park City water main sent mud and water into the parking lot at Snow Creek Plaza. And in October, St. George News reported a 50-year-old pipe rupture in the St. George’s Bloomington Hills area that sent water to the basement of a house.

Don’t bet on insurance

If proving a city to be negligent is an uphill battle, how can landlords protect themselves? Well, don’t rely on your home insurance policy, explained insurance expert Les Masterson of Insure.com.

“It’s just not a covered peril. It’s not like fire or vandalism – those kinds of things that are usually covered,” Masterson said. “Insurers think it’s not their responsibility. It’s the city’s responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Masterson says most flood insurance policies will not cover water line ruptures. They are used to cover damage caused by bad weather. However, an additional policy for an owner may be available.

“If it is something that concerns someone, they absolutely have to ask questions about it and see if it is possible to add it to the policy, knowing that it will cost more,” said Masterson.

As for Stemler and his damaged house, he vows to keep fighting the Park City town hall.

Mark Stemler tells KSL's Matt Gephart why he thinks the city is responsible for the damage to his home.
Mark Stemler tells KSL’s Matt Gephart why he thinks the city is responsible for the damage to his home. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL-TV)

“If you damage your neighbor’s property, you’re not looking for legal angles to try to avoid paying for it,” he said. “Come in and fix things. “

Pipe replacement program

KSL investigators asked Park City Municipal if it had some kind of pipe replacement program in place. In a statement, they told us:

“Park City Public Utilities’ asset management program includes an inventory of all significant assets, including underground infrastructure. This involves monitoring age, size, type, condition and performance. We use this information to establish our replacement priorities. Our goal is to minimize the disruption of water service to our customers and to minimize the potential damage associated with water line failures. “

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Utah lawmakers say medical cannabis should be treated like other prescription drugs

SALT LAKE CITY – From a legal standpoint, medical cannabis is meant to be treated like any other prescription controlled substance in Utah.

Voters called for it when they passed Proposition 2, and the Utah state legislature has made this official policy in a series of bills that have regulated medical cannabis.

Thus, several conservative lawmakers were visibly furious to discover on Wednesday that some local governments were refusing to recognize medical cannabis as a controlled legal substance, especially with regard to government employees.

“The original intention of the legislature was always not to punish someone for being sick or for using medication correctly as prescribed,” said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, of R-West Valley City.

This is an issue that the Utah Patients Coalition, which advocates for medical cannabis patients, has been fighting for some time. The matter finally came to a head during Wednesday’s hearing of the Utah State Legislature’s Interim Government Operations Committee.

“We are seeing a small group of cities that are banning their employees from continuing to use medical cannabis even after it has been recommended by their doctor and has gone through the appropriate legal channels,” said the executive director of Utah Patients Coalition, Desiree Hennessy, in an interview with FOX. 13.

The problem has been particularly pronounced for first responders. Police and firefighters have obtained medical cannabis cards, but then find themselves in trouble with their own city.

“The mere presence of a medical cannabis card is enough for them to be removed from their post,” Hennessy said.

The committee supported a bill that would double the state’s policy that medical cannabis should be treated like any other controlled substance. Government employees obviously cannot use medical cannabis at work or be debilitated, but neither could they be punished for being a legal user.

“It’s almost like common sense tells you that if it is legal to use marijuana for medical purposes, it would be legal to have a card that says you can use marijuana. You would then not have to fear retaliation from an employer, let alone a subdivision of state. employer, ”said representative Phil Lyman, R-Blanding.

The bill will only apply to civil servants. However, Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers of R-Cedar City, who oversaw Utah’s medical cannabis legislation for the Senate Republican majority, said the intention had always been to encourage private employers to take the same approach with their employees.

“I would like to see the private industry, if they have policies around controlled substances then they follow the same law with cannabis,” Senator Vickers told FOX 13.

But like the vaccination warrants, Republican legislative leaders have been reluctant to dictate to private companies what they can and cannot do. Hennessy said she would like to see more private employers adopt pro-cannabis policies.

“The pendulum swings back and forth, doesn’t it? There’s an obstacle there,” she said. “The only thing we can predict that would solve the private employee problem is the education and experience of having employees who use medical cannabis.”


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Salt lake city government

Biden administration to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, report says

The Biden administration is set to announce that neither the president nor any other U.S. government official will compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a report.

Citing several sources familiar with the plans, The Washington Post reports that a diplomatic boycott is intended as a protest against human rights violations by the Chinese government without preventing American athletes from competing.

A formal recommendation has been made to President Joe Biden and he is expected to approve it before the end of November.

The timing of the announcement would not be linked to Monday night’s virtual meeting between Mr Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Information before the meeting suggested that Xi intended to bring up the Olympics during the meeting and even personally invite him to attend, but the matter was not discussed at the meeting according to a senior official. responsible for administration.

A reading from the White House virtual meeting reads: “President Biden has raised concerns about the [People’s Republic of China’s] in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as human rights in general.

There was no prior word from the administration on the possibility of a boycott. Human rights groups and activists have called for a total boycott of the athletes.

In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a diplomatic boycott to protest China’s human rights record without punishing American athletes.

Senator Mitt Romney, who oversaw the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, also called for an economic and diplomatic boycott in a New York Times editorial in March, arguing that a full boycott would be counterproductive.

He cited President Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics as giving the Soviet Union a propaganda victory.

It is unclear whether a US diplomatic boycott would result in similar action by Washington allies or whether the move would be unilateral.

When Beijing last hosted the Olympics in 2008, President George W Bush accepted an invitation to attend despite the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. As a sign of support for human rights causes, the previous year it hosted the Dalai Lama and awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal.

Both the Biden and Trump administrations have called the Chinese government’s abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province an ongoing “genocide”.


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