The Sophia Report (August 18, 2014)
Simon Bolivar Festival
We had a great time at the Simon Bolivar Festival, listening to the music sampling the food, and meeting the people. It was a pleasure talking to those of you who came up and asked who I was and what the meaning of 2016 was.
The Simon Bolivar festival is a celebration of the culture of five principle countries in South America. Simon Bolivar is recognized by those countries as the Great Liberator. Together with San Martin, he led Venezuela, Columbia (including Panama), Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia to independence from the Spanish Empire, laying the groundwork for democracy in Latin America. Born to a family that owned slaves, Simon was radical in his time by fighting for fairness for all. During my time in the US Navy, I visited both Panama and Ecuador, exchanging letters for a time with someone I had met in Quito, Ecuador.
Truth in Taxation
I attended my second Midvale City Council Meeting August 4th. I shook hands with Councilmember Wayne Sharp before the meeting and, seeing me there, Mayor JoAnn Seghini suggested that I attend the next night's community council meeting and see what I think of it.
The council meeting was a series of public meetings to discuss and approve the new budget proposals, but before the pubic session started, a number of community issues were brought up from the staff. First of all, a tagger (graffiti artist) was finally apprehended and booked in the juvenile system for multiple instances of tagging that they bragged about on FaceBook. There is some concern that the juvenile system is taking too much time to process its backlog of cases and one resident complained about the delay in a 911 response, probably due to the increasing police call volume. The call volume is being blamed on new business development, the number of businesses, and "the out location in the valley." There were also a number of transients that were cleared out of one portion of the city. Growing homelessness and crime are usually indicators that the economy is not working correctly.
One of the city council's hopes has been that UTOPIA (the public broadband system) would attract businesses and residents to the area, so that they could use the public infrastructure to build their businesses. With the fiscal mismanagement that occurred within UTOPIA, 9 years after the project was supposed to be complete, cities like Midvale are staggering under debt that was used to fund the partially completed project. For Midvale, the 30-year term at $800,000 per year translates into a future value on the debt of $21 million, a very costly obligation. Pending a deal with Macquerie, Midvale has no choice but to pass that cost onto the residents of the city. Midvale and the remaining board of UTOPIA are working very hard with Macquerie to keep their cost estimate as low as possible, so that the potential fee is as low as possible. Expect a news release with regards to UTOPIA and Macquerie later today.
Residents are not happy with the proposed fee for UTOPIA. One gentleman accosted the city council for not bailing out when the total cost would have been $300,000, an amount that was sharply contested by the council. Another resident of 70 felt that he should not be "robbed" to pay for someone else's internet when he himself didn't use the internet. Kelsey White of the Utah Taxpayers Association, thanked the city for not raising property taxes this year.
All in all, UTOPIA probably will be a boon for the people and businesses in the area, an attraction to help boost the local economy; but we must be very careful how we fund it, whose backs we put the funding on, and tracking very transparently and graphically the rollout of the services in a way that it can start funding itself quicker and people know when they can expect to have it fully functional in their areas.
I felt, as a minimum, exempting people over 65 and below the poverty line from the fee, and redistributing the remaining cost over the remainder of the residents. I would also suggest a higher rate for businesses, who stand to benefit more from the public infrastructure work than the residents. I would also like a publicly available map of the footprints completed and target completion dates for the remaining areas. If demonstrated progress can be shown, people will not feel like they are simply throwing their money into a void of deceit.
Community Council Meeting (Sort of)
It turns out that the community council meeting was canceled for the Harvest Day Celebrations. So at about 7 pm I left to attend Mayor Ben McAdams' bipartisan BBQ. Not many people were left, but I did get a chance to speak with a few of this year's candidates who were taking a quick break before the campaigning got going full steam.
I spent August 11th and August 13 interviewing candidates seeking endorsements from Equality Utah tonight. I was very happy to see that I knew 8 of the 11 candidates. One of the candidates was a surprise, a progressive Republican candidate that was very knowledgeable on LGBT issues and fully supportive. My notes and recommendations were added to those from the other members of the panel and passed on to the PAC board.
Of course, my prior commitment to Equality Utah precluded me being able to attend our neighborhood block party; but yet, when I got home my neighbors were not done tearing down and I was able to have a talk with councilman Stephen Brown to talk about my concerns about UTOPIA and to get his take on why there were so many business vacancies within a couple blocks of our new home. He completely encouraged me becoming more active with the community council, for which I decided to run in the next few months.
I also enjoyed briefly touching base with Senator Dabakis at his fundraiser at Cedars of Lebanon last night as well as connecting with new people and friends.
I am also getting strong encouragement to run for the Midvale City Council itself in 2015, since my district is up for reelection. I would be honored to serve the citizens of Midvale in that capacity as their voice.
Harvest Days Parade and Festival
Saturday was a long day. The Midvale Harvest Days Parade turned its first corner at the end of my block, and while I chatted with my neighbors and took pictures of the 85 entries, quite a few of the people I knew in the parade took time to address me by either calling out my name, stopping for a quick hug, or maybe a paused handshake asking if I remembered them.
From the Unified Police Department Motorcycle Brigade to the Children's Floats and all the school entries, the parade was a joy to watch as the sun hammered down and we had to keep moving to try to keep up with the shade.
On the way home, I stopped to chat with one of my neighbors and in between tossing a stick for her dog Max, she told me how she used to be active in the community and she wished that the mayor would fix the potholes in the sidewalk.
After a short time cooling down at home, I walked to the park and perused all the pavilions set up. As I was passing by the stage, Mayor Seghini offered me a chance to come and sit with her for the next 3 hours. We talked about a number of things. We discussed what I had to do to get elected to the community council, what my experience and aspirations were, and about why a certain pothole wasn't fixed yet. When we walked around looking for food, I started to ask her about her own firsts--how she was the first woman elected to a city council in Utah, and she told me that she was the first woman to run for anything in Utah--that people didn't think she could do it.
The sun was taking a toll on my legs, so I had to head home to cool off with a bit of aloe vera jell and spend a little time with my wife before heading out to SAGE's annual BBQ up in South Salt Lake near our old apartment. JoAnn made me promise to come back for the fireworks at 9:30. Once at the SAGE BBQ, I soon connected with several of my friends and Charles Stormont and I were having difficulty trying to connect as so many people were anxious to speak with him. The food was awesome, prepared by my friends Bob Henline and Angie. I'm hoping I can get Bob to also cater our housewarming BBQ.
The firework show in Midvale was fantastic! They had to have had about 6 rocket launchers and Midvale could have probably done a pretty good job with anti-aircraft fire with that equipment. There were a number of flashers that were blinding, but overall, and amazing show for an incredibly large crowd that packed the Midvale City Park, a short walking distance from our house.
We completed moving out of our old place about a week ago. All that remains is a washer and dryer that's buried deep in storage. We should be getting that moved pretty soon as well.
That said, we want to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood, so Danilynn and I have planned a Housewarming Backyard BBQ at our new residence. We would like to get all our supporters, neighbors, and people who are walking districts to stop by for some free grub and some light conversation.
Since I have announced that I will be running for Midvale Community Council, I will have the petition available for any neighbors who stop by.
In addition to the City Council meeting on August 19th, the Stonewall Democrats are hosting a BBQ this Saturday and TEA of Utah is having their annual BBQ on Sunday. I'm hoping that I can see some of y'all there.
Please contact me if you would like to volunteer to help out with a literature drop for the Housewarming BBQ or would like to help out at the BBQ itself.
Thanks in Love,