June 13, 2007
Possibly all is not lost. That’s the word that’s been circulating among a passionate core of Heber Valley residents, anyway. After their city council betrayed them to the Boyer Corporation and their promise that a Wal-Mart is just what the doctor ordered to cure the local malaise, the grassroots is organizing and fighting back.
Boyer, of course, has won over the current government and support structure with promises that increased tax revenues will bring raises and new offices to those already on the city payroll and, by default, to those who would be added once the big-box bucks start flowing.
Whodda thunkit? In a county that has bought into the George Bush agenda — hook, line and sinker — the powers that be have lined up on the side of "big government." Go figure!
The aforementioned grassroots bunch is called "Put Heber Valley First" and actually has their ducks in line to the point where they have an up-and-running Web site (puthebervalleyfirst.org) and an outreach educational program ranging from chewing the fat with neighbors to informational meetings open to those on both sides of the issue.
They figure a debate is always much more informative than just preaching to the choir. Ain’t that the truth! As of yet, however, neither representatives of the mayor’s office nor City Council have seen fit to show up and explain their positions. As they say in response to phone calls from their constituents, "These issues are just too complex for the average citizen to understand."
Heber City’s radio outlet, KTMP-AM 1340, is having similar problems convincing Boyer fellow-travelers to drop by the studio during their Monday through Thursday morning public affairs show and lay out the big-box vision for the future of the valley. Lord knows they’re missing out on some quite well informed and impassioned radio.
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The problem for the City Council is that they didn’t have to spend hours upon hours learning to speak to the issues. Boyer’s people provided the cram course and the loophole-rich vocabulary that would be used in the zoning resolutions brought-up for vote. It probably is best that they stay clear of those who actually have answers to the trademark catchphrases they have so arduously committed to memory.
What this is all leading up to — and why passions remain aroused even after the City Council sellout — is that, through some quirk in the democratic referendum process, the matter will be on the ballot come November. The citizenry will be allowed to vote up or down on a zoning change that would allow Wal-Mart and its big-box brethren to further clog up the community.
The folks on the side of maintaining at least a semblance of the quality of life that first caused them to set down roots in the Heber Valley know they have their work cut out for them, however. Boyer Corporation has been in these battles before and they know just where and when to apply the pressure that accompanies the creative transfer of propaganda and funds.
Actually, as the Big-Boxers would have you believe, those involved with "Put Heber Valley First" are not anti-growth by any stretch. They, too, understand that the limited retail options currently available locally are unacceptable. It’s a situation that needs to be addressed.
But when your elected representatives would rather take the lazy way out and put all their tax-dollar revenue eggs in only the Boyer basket, you have a problem. Rather than expend energy searching out smaller businesses that would fill the retail voids and, at the same time, embrace the community culture, they have provided those they represent with a big box-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it, scenario.
And don’t think for a minute that Wal-Mart is only interested in harvesting the short-term dollar crop by selling "cheaper" products from China that only exacerbate America’s trade deficit. No, they indeed have vision. It doesn’t end once they "convince" local governments to condemn entire neighborhoods and re-route traffic.
What they’re really after, once their foot is in the door, is to "control" the community as a whole. Heber locals, who now grieve over the replacement of their open spaces with cookie-cutter development and exclusionary, gated, upscale ranchettes, ain’t seen nothing yet.
Unbeknownst to the uninitiated, especially once the promised tax revenue windfall comes up short, the concept that more housing will beget more shoppers who will beget more bucks for city coffers will be whispered into influential ears. Once the city has bought in, it will be painful to opt out. As drug dealers are wont to say, "the first one’s free."
In that scenario, it wouldn’t be long before Heber would have morphed into little more than "Orem-in-the-mountains." Sure, there would be more options for the consumer, but at what cost? In stumbling upon a city council as blind to the long-term as the one currently entrenched in Heber City, those pedaling the Wal-Mart model must be ecstatic.
One shouldn’t think that the diatribe contained herein is the official line of "Put Heber Valley First." They are actually much more civilized in manner and much more informed than the oftentimes-vulgar typist who assembles this column. For the most part, they work in their gardens and go to church and participate in their community.
The last part is what has them all riled up. They attended town meetings, where their duly elected councilors sat respectfully, as one citizen after another decried the invasion of the big box. Much to their joy, a zoning ordinance was passed that would preclude the square-footage requirements of Wal-Mart. They thought!
They didn’t know what their lap-dog council knew — that loopholes existed in the verbiage that didn’t quite close the door. It would be the mayor’s and the council’s and Boyer’s secret until the time was right. And then it all came crashing down upon the true believers.
Boyer’s boys chose to let the cat out of the bag when they didn’t think there was enough time left for the local "peasants" to collect enough signatures to get a referendum on the ballot. And once democracy was allowed entrée to the process, just to show where they were coming from, the Heber City Council unanimously passed Boyer’s carefully scripted zoning change anyway.
Whatever happened to, "the cream always rises to the top?" This bunch needs an "intervention," and come Election Day, they just might get one.