Tom Clyde: A very odd 2013
December 27, 2013
So 2013 is all but done. Nationally, the big story was the botched rollout of Obamacare. It’s hard to imagine how that could have been more messed up, and the "fixes" are not completely fixed yet. It’s easy to conflate the failure of the website, which was absolute and inarguable, with the failure of the program itself. It’s still too early to know if the program will succeed in getting enough healthy, uninsured people to buy private insurance to tilt the overall costs down. That may take some time, and it’s far from perfect. The only thing that’s certain is that the Republicans have never put forward even an outline of an alternative. Reverting to a dysfunctional status quo of pre-existing conditions and insurance companies cherry-picking the risk pools isn’t a solution.
We are now in our 13th year in Afghanistan, still trying to figure out what the mission is. How do we know if we won? What will we accomplish in the next year before the announced exit date? But even the exit date doesn’t mean we are going home. Obama is trying to figure out a way to stay there forever. If Congress is looking for something to argue about, Afghanistan might be a good place to start.
The other big national story was the Snowden leaks, confirming what I think we all assumed. The NSA is out of control, answerable to nobody, and collecting data on everything and everybody. It’s cold comfort that they are only tracking the email and telephone traffic, rather than actually listening in. They claim they aren’t reading the emails between me and my sister planning the family Christmas party. There were no drone strikes during dinner, so I guess I believe them. Sorta.
Locally, the big story of the year is Vail taking over Canyons (for a jaw-dropping $25-million-a-year lease) and announcing their goal of gaining control of PCMR. In the long run, it’s probably a good thing having an operator of Vail’s proven competence take over after Talisker burned through $100 million of somebody else’s money at the Can. It’s harder to warm up to the escalation of hostilities with PCMR. It’s too soon to know how that one will play out, but the potential for huge and unpredictable changes is there. Vail has upset the apple cart, and we just don’t know whose heads the apples will fall on.
The Park City election, which usually generates some color, was a real snooze. It would have been impossible to end up with a bad result from the list of very qualified candidates. Boring as it was, the Park City election was absolutely scintillating compared to the election in Wallsburg. Wallsburg is a very quiet little town in Wasatch County, and for the second time in four years, they just plain forgot to have an election. I don’t mean the incumbents ran unopposed. They never got around to announcing the filing window was open, and when election day came, nobody bothered to set up any voting booths. No ballots were printed. They just blew it off.
Back in Park City, the City spent 18 months studying the expansion or relocation of the Rocky Mountain Power substation. They invested enough staff time on that to have figured out the Higgs Boson particle. For all that time, we were led to believe that we faced a cold, dark future in which we would have to unplug at least one of the three refrigerators in the house, and maybe even the wine chiller. Under threat of a future of improperly chilled Chardonnay, the City went into panic mode and was ready to do anything to get a new substation built. We were at Defcon 1. And then, the power company said "never mind" and decided they could just run an extension cord over from Heber. Everybody looked like idiots. No wonder they don’t hold elections in Wallsburg.
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Of course, the most amazing story of the year was the Federal Court decision that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of law. Suddenly the hottest spot in Summit County is the Clerk’s office in Coalville, where they are marrying same-sex couples in wholesale batches. The ruling is hardly surprising given the way the issue is being decided all around the country. The powers-that-be in Utah are having lace-tailed kittens over it. There was a picture of one happy newlywed couple on TV; one woman took the time to get into a full princess wedding dress and veil. Her wife apparently was unable locate a clean hoodie for the occasion. While it’s impossible not to share their joy, you have to wonder if that one is going to last.
All of it sets us up for an interesting 2014.
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.