Who deserves praise and criticism this week in Northern Utah?

Monday , November 06, 2017 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

The Standard-Examiner Editorial Board hashes out the positions we take on the Opinion page. Here’s what members recommended last week for praise and criticism:

THUMBS UP: To the Elevate program, launched in 2015 by the Utah High School Cycling League.

Fremont High School junior Andrew Veldhuizen has a learning disability and is on the autism spectrum. Fremont junior Caden Halverson has autism. But they both practice and race the same as their teammates.

“It levels the playing field,” Halverson’s dad told the Standard-Examiner. “Nobody can tell what disability level you (have), all they know is what riding level you are.”

And this simple notion is what makes the program remarkable. 

Kids with different abilities — and their parents and families — are often unintentionally excluded from school clubs and sports teams because there’s uncertainty or discomfort about accommodating them. The fear of doing or saying the wrong thing overshadows the simple fact that these families just want to be part of the group. 

The program is not just great for kids with different abilities. It breaks down barriers among teammates and provides a learning and growing experience for all. 

THUMBS DOWN: To Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson for failing to attend a single meeting of the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council since November 2016. 

The panel, comprised of people appointed by the governor, makes important recommendations about environment and industry as it relates to the Great Salt Lake. 

In the past year alone, they’ve:

  • Found funding to battle invasive, water-sucking phragmites.
  • Commissioned a study on replenishing water to the lake.
  • Contributed to discussions about breaching the causeway.
  • Provided insight on the governor’s 50-year state water strategy.
  • Joined the discussion about a proposed landfill on Promontory Point.

All of those things at least tangentially affect Weber County, which is the entire reason Gibson is supposed to be there. 

Perhaps the worst part is that he didn’t seem to realize how long-term his absence has been, vaguely telling Standard-Examiner reporter he’s “been busy.”

This council is important to Weber County’s residents and businesses. It’s too important for a no-show. Start making it a priority or step down and let someone who will make the time have that seat. 

THUMBS UP: To voters who’ve already mailed in a ballot or will go to the polls Tuesday.

Without a presidential or statewide vote happening in our area, local elections are often overlooked. But the people making decisions on city councils or as mayors are often the ones who make the decisions that affect lives most directly — from chicken ordinances to taxes levied to major developments. Not to mention bond and ballot initiatives, including the Weber and Ogden bond proposals on the table this cycle. 

Civic participation starts with going to the polls at every single opportunity.

THUMBS DOWN: To Utah lawmakers, sheriffs and contractor Gary DeLand, who insist on keeping the vast majority of jail inspections and operations a secret. 

DeLand, a former Utah Department of Corrections executive director, wrote standards for jail operations in the 1990s, aimed to meet the minimum for constitutional requirements and avoid litigation by inmates or their families. Oregon and Utah were among the first places to adopt DeLand’s operations but he went on to contract with at least 17 other states, which pay him monthly or annually for his product. 

But people are dying in Utah’s jails and prisons at a rate that outstrips every other state in the U.S. And these privately held standards prevent the public from understanding why. Davis County failed its own inspection in 2016 and there is no mechanism in Utah that compels them to provide an explanation.

While DeLand has the right sell his product’s secrets to paying customers, legislators have the right, obligation and responsibility to at least force the release of jail inspections and death investigations in Utah. Those who created the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights included rules to ensure fair treatment for all of us, including those in jail. 

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