Friday, December 20, 2013

87 Ways You Can Make a Difference

On Tuesday, December 10, I attended my last council meeting as an elected official and made a shocking disclosure.

On Monday, December 16, I made that same shocking statement online at the American Fork Citizen, calling on American Fork's homemakers to make this a better place for our families. Read the full story here.

I am truly grateful for the response to that call. Many of American Fork's homemakers are recognizing the need for change -- and I include in that title not just those who discharge the important duties of managing households and families, but all, male and female, young and old, native and transplant, who recognize that American Fork is our home, and we are its homemakers.

The best and most promising response came in the form of a question: 
How does a homemaker get involved in politics? I wouldn't mind being involved; I just have no idea how to go about it.
I'm so glad you asked! Just for you, I've compiled a list of 87 things to choose from. Not every item on this list is for everybody, but if everybody chose just one new thing to do this year, we'd see a tremendous surge of community involvement.

I have done all but five of the items on this list. But I didn't start big. I started small, by attending my first committee meeting.

Before that, I began by watching the example of my own mother.

My mother is an example for us all. Though she never held office or attended a public meeting, she was a thoroughly informed voter. She subscribed to the local newspaper and could speak intelligently on every local issue, candidate, and ballot proposition. She knew who the movers and shakers were in the neighborhood and visited with them to inform her opinions.

When she took us, her children, to the park, the library, or the city celebration, she usually had a story to share about their creation, funding, and controversies -- stories she had read in the newspaper.

Perhaps most importantly, I saw her come to the polling place at my elementary school and vote. She knew the price that had been paid for her to have the vote, and she voted in every election.

Thus, for the homemakers among us and for our children, I offer the following list. Think it over as you form your New Year's resolutions.

I look forward to seeing you around town!

The List

Meet your neighbors.
1.       Take walks around the neighborhood and stop to talk with people.
2.       Host a block party and include the neighbors you don’t know.

Go online.
3.       Browse the City code.
4.       Browse the City Web site.
5.       Subscribe to meeting notices at the Utah State public meeting notice Web site.

Follow the news media.
6.       Read the Provo Daily Herald, online or in print.
7.       Read the American Fork Citizen.
8.       Learn about our history – visit the historical records room in the AF library to read newspapers from past decades.
9.       Read local stories in any newspaper, about any city, to learn more about less-understood issues: zoning, redevelopment agencies, regional planning, taxing districts, and the like.

Participate in social media.
10.   Follow or friend the mayor and city council members.
11.   Like or follow the various City Facebook pages: planning, Fitness Center, library, American Fork Symphony, Timpanogos Chorale.
12.   Like or follow the major newspapers on Facebook.
13.   Share relevant articles.

Prevent crime.
14.   Learn your neighbors’ habits and learn to recognize activity that doesn’t look right.
15.   Be prepared to report suspicious activity by programming the non-emergency numbers into your phone.  American Fork Police: 801-763-3020. After-hours dispatch: 801-794-3970.
16.   Keep porch lights on all night.
17.   Keep homes locked at all times.
18.   Keep cars locked at all times.
19.   Thank a police officer.

Improve the neighborhood.
20.   Take litter walks.
21.   Read the nuisance code and bring your home into compliance.
22. If shrubs or trees make walking on the sidewalk along your property difficult, trim them.
23. Keep sidewalks clean and safe in the winter. Help neighbors with theirs.
24.   Take advantage of the City’s standing offer to pay half the cost of sidewalk improvements in front of your home.
25. Don’t leave your garbage or recycling cans on the street longer than necessary.
26. Don’t park on the street during a snow storm.
27.   Concerned about other nuisance properties in your neighborhood? Often it’s because a family is struggling. Join with neighbors to provide service.

Attend meetings.
28.   Sit in on city council meetings now and then, even just to be a fly on the wall. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at historic City Hall, 31 North Church Street.
29.   Follow planning commission notices and attend when an agenda item affects your neighborhood.
30.   Missed a meeting? Read the meeting minutes later at
31.   Bring your Scout groups to city council meetings.
32.   Bring your young women groups to city council meetings.
33.   Attend meetings of a volunteer committee that interests you: the Library Board, the Beautification committee, the Neighborhood Preservation committee, the Arts Council, the Steel Days committee, the Historic Preservation committee, the Cemetery committee, or the Parks and Recreation committee. All meetings are open to the public, and all welcome public comment. Learn more at
34.   Volunteer to serve on a committee.
35.   Encourage your teens to serve on the American Fork City Youth Council.

During my eight years in office, I only saw a young women’s group once, but there were Scouts present at every council meeting.

Get to know your elected officials.
36.   Attend council meetings and speak in the public comment period.
37.   Outraged by something you read in the newspaper?  Call or email a council member and ask for a first-hand perspective. (There are two sides to every story.)
38.   Questions? Opinions? Shoot us an email. Dumb questions and short emails are just fine. Smart questions and lengthy emails work, too. For best results, include the words, “Thank you for your service.”

As American as apple pie, complaints are essential to a well-functioning democracy. Bear in mind, however, that complaints can be expressed civilly, and that positive feedback is important, too.

Become an informed voter.
39.   Attend meet-the-candidates events.
40.   Host meet-the-candidates events. (We don’t call them “coffees” in American Fork, but they have the same grass-roots impact.)
41.   Ask your neighbors how they’re voting and discuss the issues.
42.   Vote, even in the off-year, local elections.

It’s been said that there is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage, which explains why local races are non-partisan.  Local issues aren’t nearly as divisive as partisan politics, so don’t be afraid to talk with your neighbors.

Use the form at to report problems such as—
43.   Potholes.
44.   Maintenance issues in City parks (vandalism, dangerous tree limbs, broken sprinkler heads).
45.   Malfunctioning sensors at traffic lights.

Use the “Citizen’s Request for Services” button at the left of the home page, or use this link.

Support the library.
46.   Check out lots of books – this proves demand.
47.   Pay library fines cheerfully – they help the bottom line.
48.   Enroll your children in story time.
49.   Make a monthly habit of taking children to the library. Make a daily habit of reading with them.
50.   Attend the monthly adult education offerings.
51.   Support the library’s fundraisers.
52.   Take advantage of the services offered in the computer lab.
53.   See what the Bryan McKay Eddington Learning Center can offer your children.
54.   Send your honor students to volunteer at the Bryan McKay Eddington Learning Center.
55.   Check out the bulletin board for posters and flyers on community offerings.
56.   Donate gently used books to the library.
57.   If the library doesn’t have the book you need, request it – the library is often able to respond to patron requests which strengthen the library’s collections.
58.   If the library can’t accommodate your request, consider buying the book, reading it, and then donating it to the library.
59.   Ask about the library’s wish list and consider making a donation.

Get to know City resources.
60.   Visit your neighborhood park.
61.   Visit a park on the opposite end of town.
62.   Visit the fitness center.
63.   Walk the trails.
64.   Walk your child to school. How are the sidewalks?
65.   Attend annual open houses at the fire department.

Try out the City’s quality of life programs.
66.   Attend an Arts Council performance.
67.   Enroll in a class taught by the Arts Council or at the fitness center.
68.   Use the fitness center.
69.   Play on a team.
70.   Coach a team.
71.   Attend a Steel Days event.
72.   Volunteer to help with the Steel Days parade.
73.   Have breakfast at the fire station on Memorial Day.
74.   Attend the Memorial Day program.
75.   Attend the Veterans Day program.
76.   Attend the Heritage and History Pageant at the cemetery.
77.   Volunteer at the Heritage and History Pageant.

Shop local.
78.   Support small businesses.
79.   Try a local business before going out of town or making an on-line purchase.
80.   Take your children trick-or-treating at the Main Street Halloween event; get to know the businesses there.
81.   Buy gas in town – a portion of your gas taxes comes back to the City based on the point of sale, and is used for road maintenance.

Understand your utility bill.
82.   Read your monthly statement and make a note of which service charges are billed, including culinary water, pressurized irrigation, sewer, storm drain, garbage, and recycling.
83.   Read the water rate study to learn what the water rates must cover, including operation and maintenance, depreciation, and land leases.

Understand your property taxes.
84.   Read your property tax bill. Take note of the different taxing entities, and notice how much goes to each.
85.   Understand what your City property taxes pay for: road maintenance and snow removal; police, fire, and ambulance protection; planning, zoning, and building permitting; parks and recreation; library; and many other services.
86.   Pause to think that this is the only tax you pay that is levied by people you know – people you can complain to when you see them in the grocery store – and that is spent directly on you in your very own neighborhood.

And finally—

87.   Support the Community Action Food Bank.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Turning Point: Why I Voted to Place the Bond on the Ballot

Last May, I blogged about road funding, explaining that the council was "torn between the horns of the dilemma" of bonding vs. incremental tax increases. At the time of the blog post, I was leaning toward the tax increases.

Six months have passed, and tomorrow is election day. Voters will decide on a $20 million bond to reconstruct the first $20 million of failing roads, a bond that will increase property taxes at the average American Fork home, valued at $191,000, by $80 per year, or $7 per month.

What happened to change my mind, and why did I join in a unanimous vote to place the bond on the ballot?

The answer stems from what I articulated in that post:
Even as American Fork’s roads deteriorate, maintenance costs continue to escalate. This leaves us facing a situation perilously close to what we saw with pressurized irrigation, where costs originally estimated at $8 million had risen to $48 million by the time the system was approved.
The turning point came when, seeking better information, I consulted with former American Fork planning commissioner Scott Okelberry, who works in road construction bidding large-scale road projects for W. W. Clyde & Co. He sent me an email articulating four points which I shared with the council. This email marked the turning point in the debate.

With his permission, I now quote from that email:
1. The points you make about construction costs and inflation are valid.  I personally think they may be conservative.  I say this from the perspective of bidding on road construction projects every week (generally we don't do local city work, but more of the large highway and freeway work).  I believe that construction prices are currently at least five percent lower than a "normal market," meaning that as the industry continues to emerge from the recession and more work load becomes available, that prices will continue to increase at least five percent.  I think this is in addition to inflationary increases, which you cite at three percent and CPI at seven percent.  I recently had a conversation with a UDOT official who also estimated that construction costs will rise at a rate several percent higher than overall market inflation.  I also agree that oil prices can be very volatile, and can be the largest component of the overall cost of city road maintenance.
2. My own observation is that the city is significantly "behind" on regular maintenance.  You already know this.  One of the biggest factors in road degradation is water getting into and under the pavement.  Currently our roads have significant cracking (there are several "categories" of cracking, and we have them all in various parts of the city).  I also observe that everywhere the irrigation was installed has cracks at the joints where the pavement was replaced.  These are all letting water into the pavement structure.  My point here is that we need to "catch up," and this may take a larger investment in the near-term than the inflationary tax increase may be able to fund.
3. You may already have seen this, but just in case. . . . UDOT has a blog post which summarizes a principle of road maintenance they try to follow.  It's called "good roads cost less." Here's a link:  It makes the point that initial construction (or reconstruction) requires a large investment up front, but that investment must be maintained to get the most out of it. When roads get too bad, they require complete reconstruction rather than simple maintenance solutions.  I believe that if we don't catch up on the road maintenance that is needed, we will face exponentially higher costs in the not-so-distant future.
4. I agree with Mayor Curtis that ongoing needs cannot be effectively addressed with "one-time" funding solutions.  UDOT generally follows this model by funding the capacity improvement and reconstruction projects (I-15 Core, Pioneer Crossing, Geneva Road, etc.) with State funds (bond funds), and almost entirely funds their pavement preservation and maintenance with ongoing funding from the federal government.
Framed in this light, the decision becomes clear: bond today and approve a modest tax increase, or procrastinate and watch City streets end up in the same train wreck as pressurized irrigation.

The decision is in your hands. Please take time to research the facts presented at the City Web site or at my husband's blog, LocalCommentary.

If you find you still have questions, I'm happy to help! You can reach me through the comment section here at the blog, by commenting at my Facebook page, or sending me a personal email at If you leave me a phone number, I'll be happy to give you a call.

Then, please VOTE! I'll see you at the polls.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Announcing My Decision Not to Seek Re-election

From earliest childhood, I have harbored grand ambitions, but none of them are political.
No one was more astonished than I to learn there was a place for me in politics. Ten years ago, I was as frustrated as I have ever been, home-bound with a handful of young children, too busy and too poor to pursue my dreams and stuck, as I felt at the time, in a community where I couldn’t even provide for my children’s needs. There was no playground to take them to, no park to which they could ride on their bikes, not even a safe sidewalk for a walk.
One day a kindly neighbor suggested I would be happier if I joined efforts to make a difference. I accepted his invitation to attend American Fork Neighbors in Action, and one thing led to another. We formed the Greenwood Neighbors Initiative, I got involved in the parks upgrade, joined the board of Downtown American Fork, Inc., and now, unbelievably, I find myself looking back on two terms of service on the city council.
The work has been extremely rewarding. I’ve seen the community improve and I’ve worked with caring, committed people. In eight years, with the help of dozens of volunteers and a hard-working city staff, I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. I’ve grown personally and professionally, and now it’s time to move on.
During the next six months, when I’m not working on the final issues of my term, I’ll be launching my own business as a freelance commercial writer. I also plan to continue working as a pianist, teaching and accompanying, and I envision a more modest role for myself in public service. In particular, I will continue volunteering with the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra and, if God is gracious, I will work to bring about a county library system.
If there’s a common thread in these plans, it’s arts and letters. This is where my true ambition lies. As I am now staring down mid-life, I’ve decided it’s time to get to work.
= = = = =
With three weeks remaining before the filing deadline (the window is June 3-7), I wish to make a special plea to American Fork’s leaders, any and all of them, to consider a bid for office.
But I will make a special pitch to women. There are three reasons why I hope a few good women will take a look at the city council.
Women Have Important Perspective
When I first ran for office, I would have been offended by any suggestion that I deserved the vote because I was a woman. I had a resume! And qualifications! However, the longer I serve, the more I appreciate that women are essential to the mix of representative government.
In saying so, I mean no disrespect to my male colleagues, who have always listened when I have led on issues pertinent to children and families. But the mere fact of our population base underscores the need for full and diverse representation. According to the 2009 census, 40 percent of American Fork’s residents are under the age of 19. The business of raising families and building homes is our community’s highest endeavor. We need mothers’ voices on our city council.
Community Service is Compatible with Motherhood
The first time I ran, I faced the decision with great trepidation. My youngest was a babe in arms, and I worried that I would miss his childhood. I resisted until the last possible minute, when I realized I would be giving up an opportunity to learn from the likes of Heber Thompson and Dale Gunther. Fifteen minutes before the deadline, I threw the baby in his car seat and raced to the recorder’s office, dragging my husband along to block any escape route.
My fears were unfounded.  City council work is highly flexible and most of it is done from the computer in the comfort of the home.  Each month, there are two required evening meetings and two required afternoon meetings. In a typical week, I attend two or three additional meetings, and the bulk of these can be calendared to fit my schedule, with the result that my piano-practicing, chore-doing, home-working children see far more of me than they wish to.
Public Service Will Bless the Family
As a family, we have learned that support is a two-way street. My husband has been a constant and reliable support, and my kids see this. They also see that, even as Mom supports the kids in all they do, they, in turn, must support Mom. My children have achieved greater development by taking on additional responsibilities, including cooking the occasional evening meal, babysitting each other, and giving homework help when I’m not home. This has been beautiful to watch.
My public service has also opened up meaningful opportunities for my children. I hoped they would learn through my example not only to value community service, but also to look for opportunities and persist through challenges. It was extremely gratifying to watch my daughter choose to serve first on the youth city council, then as youth mayor, and to watch my son volunteer with the American Fork Police Department, cleaning up nuisance violations under the authority of a law I helped to pass.
But the most meaningful blessing is the ability to see that, working together with my colleagues and my many good neighbors, I have indeed made American Fork a better place for my children. It’s not just the parks, or the sidewalks, or the books in the library. It’s also the financial security that comes from enacting long-range plans and the peace of mind that comes from seeing the City, its public works, its administration, and its public safety held securely in good hands.

Friday, May 10, 2013

To Bond or Not to Bond: Please Weigh In

American Fork’s administration has proposed a budget for 2014 which addresses, at a cost of $350,000, the mandate of bringing public safety staffing into compliance with the Affordable Care Act. To do so, it must neglect five of my top priorities:
  1. Two narcotics detectives
  2. A $30,000 increase to library collections (half that amount was awarded)
  3. Ongoing tree planting and pruning funds (deficient by $14,000)
  4. A full-time economic development director
  5. Road maintenance
Road maintenance is the lion’s share of the problem. Now funded at $500,000 per year, the roads accrual account is an eighth to a half of what it should be (depending on the estimate) to keep pace with needs.
Even as American Fork’s roads deteriorate, maintenance costs continue to escalate. This leaves us facing a situation perilously close to what we saw with pressurized irrigation, where costs originally estimated at $8 million had risen to $48 million by the time the system was approved.
At work session yesterday, I learned that I am not alone in my concerns. But while the council agrees with most of my priorities, the difficulty is in finding the funding.
We debated two options and are torn between the horns of the dilemma.  I’m interested to know how my constituents feel about the choice, so I’ll summarize the two options here. If you have insight for me, please weigh in!
Option 1:  Road bond    
Used appropriately, a municipal bond is a powerful financial tool.  In this case, $20 million borrowed would enable American Fork to jump-start road maintenance at interest rates of 2 percent or better. With inflation rising at a minimum of 3 percent, the consumer price index rising at 7 percent, and oil rising steadily and unpredictably, a bond would be a great bargain.  Setting the bond at $20 million would not solve the entire problem, but would have the added advantage of leaving funds in the budget for ongoing maintenance. (One mistake communities often make is to sink the entire fund into debt service, preventing ongoing work from taking place until the bonds are retired.)
American Fork’s credit rating is the best possible and, even including the PI bonds, the City’s debt load is below half of its debt limit.
If approved by the voters on the November ballot, this bond would raise property taxes by 18 percent. But it would do nothing for other priorities: narcotics detectives, libraries, or parks and trees.
Option 2: Incremental, inflationary property tax adjustments
Utah’s system of Truth in Taxation is a base, rather than a rate system, meaning that the City collects the same, flat amount in property taxes each year. If property values increase, the county decreases the certified tax rate correspondingly; but if property values decrease, the county raises the rate. The result is that, unless the City adopts a program of regular, inflationary adjustments to the property tax rate, the City’s revenue remains flat. Adjusted for inflation, American Fork’s property taxes today have the same buying power they did in 1989, but prices have gone up.
From the time I took office in 2006, I have advocated a discipline of incremental property tax increases to offset this loss, but I have not yet prevailed. Sometimes the City feels it’s too difficult to go through the process of Truth in Taxation, but other times there is bigger game afoot, and the council has favored either a large tax increase or a bond.
Nevertheless, others have been well served by the incremental approach.  Provo has vowed not to borrow money to pay for roads, opting instead to find funding from a variety of sources, including cuts to other budgets and regular property tax increases. Provo’s philosophy, as Mayor Curtis told us when he visited American Fork last winter, is that bonding makes use of one-time money for an ongoing problem. An ongoing stream of money, he said, is the only real solution to road maintenance.
If American Fork were to begin, this year, a course of regular 3 percent property tax increases, families could budget more comfortably than they could on a diet of 20 to 30 percent increases every five or ten years. Over time, the deficiency in the road maintenance fund would be cured, and the financial discipline enabled by this approach could pay big dividends in years to come.
Using this approach, the council could also respond better to other needs such as narcotics detectives, library funding,  and parks and trees. But we would continue, for many years, to take complaints about the slow pace of road maintenance in American Fork.
That’s the state of the debate. Gentle readers, I’m curious to know how you would call it. Given the necessity of better funding, would you support a large bond with an 18 percent tax increase, or a regular diet of small tax increases set against the risk of a punishing inflationary environment?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Tonight, after a long absence, I am firing up the blog to address two nondiscrimination ordinances on tomorrow's work session agenda.

The ordinances were previously discussed in a November work session and will be discussed once more tomorrow. On Tuesday night at 7:10, they will become the subject of a public hearing. Later that evening, they will proceed to the council's regular agenda for discussion and action.

The ordinances may be viewed in their entirety at the following links.



Many questions have been raised, which I now answer, begging forgiveness from those who prefer short posts.

What are the ordinances in question?

The two ordinances, which mirror those passed in Salt Lake City and endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, make it punishable as a civil matter for businesses with more than fifteen (15) employees or landlords with more than four (4) units to make hiring and firing decisions or deny housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

What do the ordinances do?

They provide a way for someone who feels they have been discriminated against in rent or employment (such as being evicted or fired), because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to submit a complaint to the city. The city arbitrates between the complainant and the landlord or employee. If the complaint is found to be valid, and no resolution is reached, a fine is imposed. The fine would be $500 to $1000, depending on the size of the organization.

Are there exemptions?

Yes. Landlords with fewer than four (4) rentals, employers with fewer than fifteen (15) employees, and religious organizations are exempt. This provides protection to landlords or families who may just rent out part of their house, or small businesses who cannot afford the time and effort of an arbitration process. It allows churches and other expressive associations (for example, the Boy Scouts of America) to make hiring decisions consistent with their values.

What don't the ordinances do?

They do not address the issue of gay marriage. They do not allow for lewd or harassing behavior. They do not create a protected class.

I have been told by the Sutherland Institute that these ordinances do create a protected class, and that they raise other constitutional challenges.

I disagree with the Sutherland Institute. I see no constitutional violations.

To quote from the text of both ordinances: "This chapter does not create a private cause of action, nor does it create any right or remedy that is the same or substantially equivalent to the remedies provided under federal or state law. This chapter does not create any special rights or privileges which would not be available to all of the City's citizens, because every person has a sexual orientation and a gender identity."In other words, this legislation creates no protection that isn't available to all.

Elsewhere, the Sutherland Institute has argued that the ordinances violate the freedom of speech and, by extension, the freedom of association. Again, I disagree, for two reasons. First, religious institutions and expressive associations have been carefully exempted from the ordinances. Second, I look to these ordinances to protect religious freedom by granting two basic human rights to people of all beliefs, even those whose beliefs and practices differ from my own.

Is there a need for this in American Fork? Will these ordinances result in an expensive and burdensome caseload for the City and the taxpayer?

I address these two seemingly unrelated questions together, because their answers seem to contradict each other.

Yes, there is a need in American Fork. Statistics provided by Equality Utah suggest that four percent of the population at large is gay, lesbian, or transgender. This by itself suggests a significant LGBT population in American Fork. I have been lobbied by constituents asking for protection. I have reviewed anecdotes submitted by the gay community of numerous acts of employment and housing discrimination, all taking place within Utah County.

What I have found most personally persuasive are the funerals I have attended -- including one in American Fork -- of gays who have taken their own lives. Yes, there is a need.

However, the need does not translate to a burdensome caseload. In the eleven Utah cities where similar statutes have been adopted, the caseload has averaged one every two years.

Will this create undue hardship for employers and landlords?

Again, with an average caseload of one every two years, this should not create unwieldy or expensive burdens. The terms of the ordinances are quite gentle, favoring conciliation, with prosecution sought only as a measure of last resort.

Most nondiscrimination laws are enacted at the State and Federal levels. Why is American Fork considering this legislation?

The Utah State Legislature made a decision not to address the issue, preferring to leave it in the hands of local governments. The city council is addressing the issue at this time because constituents have requested it.

Don't you see this as out of step with Utah's values?

According to a 2011 poll, 71 percent of Utahns approve of these measures.

The Sutherland Institute gave other reasons to oppose the ordinances.

The Sutherland Institute said, "Policies that give legal protection to such ambiguous, self-defined concepts as 'perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,' without equally strong protections of an individual's sincerely-held religious beliefs, have in practice eroded religious liberty."

A reading of the ordinances shows that the concept is clearly defined and religion is carefully protected.

The Sutherland Institute said, "Creating a legal mandate of non-discrimination singling out 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' for special protection would have unintended consequences for employers like forcing them to choose between getting tagged as 'discriminatory' by the city or being sued by customers, without solving any real social problem."
The ordinance protects proceedings as confidential and, in my view, solves a real social problem, as I have already discussed.

The Sutherland Institute said, "These non-discrimination ordinances will impose substantial costs on business in the city through the threat of litigation, training, fines, etc."

Litigation and fines are listed as a course of last resort. In practice, the caseload in Utah cities has been small, and all have been resolved through conciliation.

Have these ordinances been given adequate time for public discussion?

Yes. As I stated at the onset, these ordinances will have been discussed in two work sessions and one hearing before the council's vote. In American Fork, the usual practice is for an ordinance to be discussed only once in a work session prior to deliberation and vote.

You mentioned the LDS Church. Is that appropriate in a government setting?

First and foremost, I value the separation of church and state. I represent a pluralist constituency, and my record will show that I vote to protect that diversity. As I am elected by the people, I must answer to the people, not to the church.

On the other hand, as we are learning from the media frenzy surrounding Mitt Romney, religious values do shape beliefs, and they can't always be separated from political discussion. I am a devout, conservative Mormon, as are at least half of my constituents. We share a commitment to sexual purity, and the LDS church is one of the last remaining champions of this standard. It is nearly impossible to address this issue without some discussion of the values of those I represent.

Do you think a vote will change the morality of homosexual behavior?

The ordinances in question will not make homosexual behavior moral or immoral. They will determine how the law treats gays who have been discriminated against in matters of employment and housing.

What are your personal views on the subject of nondiscrimination?

I understand that it can be difficult for many to accept or discuss homosexuality. Heterosexuals find it repugnant, and Mormons in particular are committed to a standard of sexual purity. I don't expect these ordinances to change any of this.

However, when I consider how I must treat my homosexual neighbors, I find myself influenced by the example of Jesus when He reached out to the lepers, who were the outcasts of His day. I remember His complete and total forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery.

I therefore find myself in complete agreement with the LDS Church in the statement it made before the Salt Lake city council. The occasion was the passage of the two ordinances on which American Fork's are patterned. The date was November 10, 2009. I quote in part:

In drafting these ordinances, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations, for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements.

The Church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage. They are also entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters. The Church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.

I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree – in fact, especially when we disagree. The Church’s past statements are on the public record for all to see. In these comments and in our actions, we try to follow what Jesus Christ taught.

I have witnessed first-hand the fear that homosexuals live with when it comes to employment, and I have seen how it interferes with their ability to earn a living wage.

Twenty years ago, I worked as the assistant manager at a bookstore in upstate New York. We had a vacancy to fill, and the manager came to me with a question. He had just interviewed an excellent candidate, but he had only one reservation. The candidate was gay. Knowing my religious background, he asked me: Would I be willing to work with a gay man?

This was the early 1990s, and gays were not "out" in the mainstream to the extent that they are today. I had never confronted the issue before, but I could see no reason why a gay man couldn't sell books. I had myself, as a Mormon, been on the receiving end of discrimination, and couldn't bring myself to join the delivery end. I told the manager to make the hire; I would have no problem.

He was the best hire we ever made. He was honest and hard-working. He was great with the customers. He took a real interest in the books. As for his being gay, he never did or said anything even remotely inappropriate.

I was shocked when he came to me six weeks later and announced he would be leaving. "Please," I said, "Don't go. Why are you leaving?"

I was shocked again when he confided in me that he was gay. "Once the manager finds out I'm gay, I'll be fired," he explained. "And I think he's catching on."

I protested. I tried to explain how the manager was already aware, that it hadn't affected the hiring decision, that we hadn't mentioned it to the other employees, that he was the best worker we had ever had. To no avail. His fear of being fired was palpable, and he couldn't live with it. "Federal anti-discrimination laws protect you as a woman," he said. "They do not protect me."

I watched him, after that, light from job to job in the mall, never staying in one place very long. I have wondered whether his fear of discrimination hurt him more than any actual discrimination. As I have considered this case, and others like it, I have come to believe that the mere existence of a protective law on the books will give people like him a better chance at making a decent living.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Budget 2012

On June 21, the city council will vote on the budget for the fiscal year ending in 2012. Two public hearings will be conducted, the first on Tuesday, June 14, prior to the regularly scheduled city council meeting, and the second on June 21, prior to the vote. The intervening week will allow time for the council to request adjustments, if necessary, after the first hearing.

Unfortunately, I will be travelling on business the day of the hearing. I am doubly interested, therefore, in any comments you may wish to leave here at the blog or on Facebook. I will also listen to the tape of the hearing before I cast my vote.

Here's a birds-eye view of the proposed budget.


The good news is that no property tax increase is proposed. Property tax will actually come in two-tenths of a percent lower than last year, thanks to the mysteries of Utah's Truth in Taxation law, but other revenues will offset the decrease. Overall, the general fund shows an increase of 6.9 percent, owing in part to stabilizing sales tax receipts, but mostly to increased revenue from the Fire and EMS department.

That's the good news. The bad news, from a revenue standpoint, is that growth is still slow and impact fee revenues are correspondingly weak. This threatens the pressurized irrigation bonds, which depend to a significant degree on impact fees for their repayment. I still don't know the extent of the damage, but I have thrown my support behind a water rate study that will help us find the best way to make up the difference.

It goes without saying: So long as the water bill continues high, the City must do all it can to keep other taxes low.


The largest increases in the proposed budget are three: a new fire truck, a cost-of-living increase for employees, and the creation -- and funding -- of an Advanced Officer position in the police department.

I view these as necessary, preventive expenses. The fire truck will replace a 1978 model that OSHA cannot certify, a truck that risks break-down on every call it makes. As for the employees, the taxpayers make an investment every time the City hires and trains a specialized employee, and they take a loss every time an employee leaves to make more money in a neighboring city. Nowhere is this problem so evident as in the police department. American Fork cannot continue to absorb the financial cost of training young officers for other departments.

Road maintenance, another significant preventive expense, will be maintained at $500,000 per year, which is the level the council approved when it passed the 2008 property tax increase. American Fork's drivers need no persuasion as to the need. City streets have deteriorated due to extreme weather conditions, a high average age, and street cuts from repair and installation of sewer and water infrastructure. We cannot cut back on road maintenance without incurring higher costs in the future.


Many quality of life projects will go begging this year. Sidewalks will limp along at the rate of $110,000 per year, enough to do full frontage at four or five houses. Library collections (books, primarily) will still receive half the funding accorded the same in Pleasant Grove and Lehi. Cemetery expansion, parking at the fitness center, public restrooms at the parks -- still pipe dreams.

Sadly, these projects must take a back seat to financial realities. The City must be sensitive to the economic hardships of its residents. Unemployment is still at 7.5 percent, even in Utah. Gas is $3.50 per gallon, milk $2.33, and water bills have exceeded $100 per month.

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In all, I feel the proposed budget is frugal and balanced, with preventive expenses receiving priority and luxuries taking a back seat. It's a prudent approach and I'm prepared to endorse it, but I'm interested in your thoughts. Please log in and tell me what you think.

Friday, May 27, 2011

American Fork Fire and Rescue

Memorial Day is a great day to pause and honor the firefighters and emergency workers who risk their lives for us. Especially since they'll be cooking our breakfast.

Here are a few good facts about these good men and women:

  • Founded in 1910 by 23 concerned citizens in 1910, the department today has one chief, one fire inspector, one administrative assistant, eight captains, and 65 firefighters, most of them volunteers.

  • In 1910, volunteers responded to the clanging of the bell at City Hall. The department had one piece of equipment. This was a steel fire cart, outfitted with axes, ladders, hose and couplings, a small hand-powered pump and buckets. If there was no hydrant at the scene of the fire, the men used the pump to raise water from an irrigation ditch.

  • The department today prepares its personnel for firefighting, hazardous materials (haz-mat) clean-up, and EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and paramedic services.

  • The department responds to an average of 450 fires and 2300 EMS calls per year.

  • AF Fire and Rescue actively encourages fire prevention through its many outreach programs. It visits American Fork's second-grade classes every year, offers fire and gun safety seminars, participates in safety fairs at local businesses, and hosts an annual open house at the fire station. These activities reach over 10,000 citizens each year.

  • Through a grant made possible by the State of Utah, the department offers free smoke detectors to residents in need, no strings attached, and even offers to help install them.

  • To top it all off, these dedicated emergeny responders make our Memorial Day breakfast each year. Continuing a tradition that began in the mid-1940s with the Fire Ladies Auxilliary, the department now serves up more than a thousand plates each year. Breakfast is served from 6 until 10 a.m. and costs $5 for adults and $3 for children. The doors to the ambulance bay are thrown open, and residents are invited to mix, mingle, and marvel at the tight ship run by this outstanding department.

    I look forward to seeing you there!

    * Facts are taken from "American Fork: Celebrating 100 Years of Dedicated Service," a feature article in the January-March 2011 edition of Straight Tip, the magazine of the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy.