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More Dogs on Main Street

Election day is right around the corner. Park City voters are choosing three council members. All of the candidates seem well qualified, and it’s great to have a pool of capable people willing to take the job. I can’t get all that excited about the city elections any more. I guess a lot of it is that I can’t vote in the city as a non-resident. But there is also a sense that good, bad, or indifferent, Park City’s future is pretty well cast. The hard development choices have been made and we’re now into a period of paving over the last vacant lots rather than creating Deer Valley from scratch. There are subtle changes in services and focus that will happen with each election. It’s important to maintain a high level of public service and support for the local economy. But frankly, it would be hard for anything City Hall does to really screw things up now. (Unless you think things are already all screwed up, and then it would be equally difficult for city government to fix them.) I guess they could approve helicopter landings in town, but basically it’s done.

As the 800-pound gorilla on the Wasatch Back, Park City’s focus probably needs to shift a little more outward, working with other local governments in Summit and Wasatch Counties on regional problems. We’ve developed a full-blown Los Angeles traffic pattern, and it’s going to get worse. The traffic problem is also an air-quality problem. We’ve got smog. You see it from the ski lifts and from the highways driving into town. Last winter, we got a pretty good taste of a Salt Lake-style inversion. It’s not that bad yet. So while the natural tendency for people running for Park City council (or Heber, Francis, Kamas) is to focus on neighborhood minutia, which is important to the people who are actually going to be voting, the real action needs to be regional. That’s harder because it involves a lot of other local boards who are equally focused on the minutiae of their neighborhoods.

We are increasingly one great big neighborhood from Coalville to Heber. If somebody digs a hole in Empire Pass, a dump truck drives through Francis. When somebody installs a new light fixture in The Colony, an electrician drives through Heber. We’re more connected than ever before, and need to be working together.

While on the topic of traffic, I have a partial solution to the mess on 248. Pulling out the bunker in the middle would be a good fix, but there is another alternative. How about a timeshare approach? The traffic in the morning rush is made much worse because it moves at the speed of the slowest cement truck, dump truck, or excavator transport. What if huge industrial vehicles were prohibited from using 248 between 7:30 and 9 a.m.? The worker, school and ski-resort traffic is through the 248 bottleneck and parked by 9. From then on, let the dump-truck parade take over. You heard it here first.

The other big issue on the ballot is the private school voucher plan. The biggest reason to vote against is that the Utah Legislature is for it. Our legislature is such a volcano of bad ideas that anything they are in favor of deserves the skunk eye. But the other reason to vote against it is that it ends up sending tax money to religious schools. I really don’t care if people send their kids to religious schools. I just don’t want to support them financially. The legislature got all warm and fuzzy about the idea of somebody making a profit on private schools teaching four-square Biblical arithmetic and science. But I wonder how enthusiastic they will be when the first school to qualify for vouchers is Abdul’s Islamist Fanatic Academy or the Neo-Druid School of Darwinism. Maybe if the school operators were still able to make a buck on the deal it would be still be OK with the legislature. But not on my dime, thank you.

In last week’s papers, there was enough aviation news to make a special section. The city may have to employ air traffic controllers. First off we had the Hotel Park City wanting to have a helicopter landing pad on its property adjoining the City golf course. The proponent of the plan said it would be a quiet helicopter. That’s like telling residents that a new sewage-treatment facility won’t stink. The application was quickly withdrawn.

We have airports in Salt Lake and Heber. That really ought to be close enough. Even Promontory dropped the idea of an airport, depriving the residents of Heber of the ability to fly to Home Depot. Park City’s greatest advantage over other resorts is ease of access. If you are so important that you need to save 15 minutes by shuttling from the airport to the Hotel Park City in a helicopter, maybe you are too important to be on vacation. Rent a stretch Hummer limo, and if that doesn’t burn enough fuel for your liking, get one with a hole in the gas tank.

The other aviation news included the ongoing scenic helicopter rides at The Canyons, and a new company that will soon be littering the skies with billboards towed behind an airplane. I’ve seen the flying billboard action on beaches before. It’s just obnoxious. But I suppose we should anticipate timeshare ads buzzing the ski resorts all winter long.

Our profligate use of oil is a national security threat. We have a war going on that is at least partly about oil. The President wants to start another war with Iran, again partly over oil. The air is polluted with it, and we are probably changing global climate. And there are still people who think it is OK to burn oil to do helicopter shuttles from the Salt Lake airport and fly billboards in the sky. Clearly the price of oil is still too low.

Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for nearly 20 years.


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