January 7, 2013
Whoopeee! Happy New Year! The year 2013 opens with great expectations and optimism. We can surely look forward to a year of peace, prosperity, happiness, and thirteen new episodes of "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo." If that isn’t proof of the progress of civilization, I don’t know what more we could ask for.
Over the New Year’s holiday, Washington lawmakers were locked in a B-movie drama over fixing the fiscal cliff, or as I like to put it, defusing the bomb they set to go off in their own underpants. It’s sort of a MacGyver-on-pot scenario, where they initially did something incredibly stupid as a means of forcing them to do anything at all, and then when the perfectly predictable consequences come to fruition (after about two years of doing nothing), they are shocked by what they have done.
It was high drama. The Senate played the role of the grownups, although even that was a stretch. The relationship between Mitch McConnell, whose stated goal in life was seeing Obama fail, and Obama was so toxic that they couldn’t negotiate. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate could be effectively replaced by a border collie. So Joe Biden came in off the bench. In the end, they came up with a grand compromise that is exactly where nine out of ten kindergartners would have predicted it.
Then the House went into action. I spent most of the holidays surrounded by extended family that included an assortment of petulant teenagers and tantrum-throwing two year olds. (There were 26 kids total, each a little snottier-nosed than the one before. I’m expecting to come down with whooping cough any minute.) I thought I had seen it all. But the U.S. House of Representatives really takes the cake for irrational and obnoxious behavior. They almost killed the deal, modest as it was, just for the sake of killing it. The Speaker abandoned the power of the Republican majority and brought the bill to a vote, knowing that the Tea Party faction of the House would vote against it, just to get something passed. With the exception of Hatch, the entire Utah delegation voted in favor of wrecking the economy.
In the end, of course, all of the difficult decisions were once again delayed. They managed to milk the mice, but the stuff that makes a difference is still unresolved. We need some serious spending cuts, and those weren’t part of the deal. Of course, we need serious spending cuts that are worked out in a rational, deliberate fashion rather than cobbled together in all-night sessions with the Eric Cantors of the world threatening to blow things up. Stand by for Act II of this farce in March, when once again the House Republicans will hold their breath until they turn blue.
So what else will happen in 2013? There are some great issues floating around here. We’ve got our local version of the bridge to nowhere — Ski Link — winding its way through the process. The idea of better connectivity among the Wasatch ski areas is pretty interesting. But I don’t see how this proposal does it. With the backing of the Utah Congressional delegation, you know it has to be a good idea, with a brain trust like that.
The Kimball expansion will drag on. Here’s a proposal to solve that one. Move the Kimball to become the anchor of the redevelopment of the Bonanza Park area. They could build whatever they want outside of the historic district. And then bring back the good people who ran Utah Coal & Lumber, my favorite Mexican restaurant of all time, to take over the existing building. A huge, reasonably priced restaurant at the bottom of Main Street would be a great draw. Who knows, maybe locals would return to Main Street.
The search for a new city manager will continue. At some point, council members might realize that they are doing just fine without a rock star manager from afar. A big part of bringing the federal budget into balance will be throwing the state and local governments under the 80 percent-federally-subsidized bus, and unbalancing the local budgets. This would be a very good time to start preparing for that.
The state legislature was on its best behavior last year, perhaps trying not to embarrass Mitt Romney (who handled that himself). But this year, they are even more Tea-Party wacko. There aren’t enough Democrats for a baseball team. So I’m expecting great things from them this year. The potential to really go nuts is just huge. A radioactive chicken in every pot; an assault rifle in every garage. They will do their best to do as much environmental damage as possible. Because as crazy and incompetent as Congress is, the Utah Legislature is Congress squared. Should be interesting, and scary.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.