Keep on digging
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December 30, 2016
Let's start with a big "hats off" to Park City Municipal, Summit County and UDOT for the way they managed the big Christmas Day storm.
It came in as rain, froze, and then delivered nearly record-breaking snowfall. It was a formula for a roadway disaster. Instead, Christmas morning, the roads were in remarkable shape. It helped that there isn't a lot of traffic early on Christmas Day, but the real difference was a bunch of snowplow drivers spent their holiday pushing snow and spreading salt instead of with their families. Thanks, guys.
I'm speaking somewhat out of self-interest, since I also spent a fair amount of Christmas pushing snow. I got up very early and got things more or less passable, went skiing with the usual Christmas Day bunch, and then spent the afternoon and evening getting the rest of the place opened up.
In the process, I noticed a power pole was leaning over. The wires were holding up the pole rather than the other way round. I phoned that one in, and the power company crew came out and replaced the pole, in the dark. As poles go, this was pretty complicated. There were wires going all directions, threatening to pull the service off the wall of a house and drop a spaghetti plate of wires across the highway. The fix was amazingly efficient despite the cold and dark. Thanks to the crew at Rocky Mountain Power for spending their holiday keeping the lights on.
We elected Yosemite Sam as President, and are waking up each morning filled with dread that his 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom might have Tweeted us into a nuclear war.
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We often forget how dependent we are on the snowplow drivers, utility repair crews, cops, firemen, ambulance drivers and many others who are out there doing their jobs that hold it all together for the rest of us. They don't get the credit they deserve.
There were a lot of big, important stories in the news this year. Who can forget where they were when news came of the death of Harambe, the Ohio gorilla who was shot when a 5-year old boy climbed into his cage and the gorilla grabbed him? The world hasn't been the same since. We elected Yosemite Sam as President, and are waking up each morning filled with dread that his 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom might have Tweeted us into a nuclear war.
This year felt like we hit a tipping point locally. It may have been the Sundance Uber Helicopter Caper, or maybe just the realization that every day feels like Christmas week driving through Kimball Junction. We have jumped the shark. The heavy footprint of Sundance has shifted from clogging the streets with traffic to clogging the streets with tents. Rents for pop-up venues for essential Kardashian-watching on Main Street reached absurd levels. The sponsors refused to pay. Because we can't possibly show Sundance movies without the circus sideshow, it is going to happen in heated tents on the street instead.
Sundance is the most visible manifestation of where we are, but the congested parking at the ski area mid-week, and the steady traffic pressure at every intersection all the time suggest that we aren't in Kansas anymore. The County asked for, and voters approved, sales tax increases to help pay for street improvements and expansions of the bus system in ways that haven't been explained. Do something.
They say that when you find yourself stuck at the bottom of a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. That's sage advice. But it's not the way we do things around here. At the same time we are losing the battle with traffic congestion and the associated smog, we continue to approve more development that can only make it worse. 1,290 units at Silver Creek Village. Canyons Village less than one-third built. Bonanza Park redevelopment. Boyer Tech Park. Wasatch County's Jordanelle sprawl. Mayflower. A lot of those are very old approvals come back from the dead. But we aren't about to stop digging. When stuck at the bottom a hole, around here, the solution seems to be sending out for a bigger shovel.
Local governments and nonprofits spend a lot of money on the idea of "sustainability." Every day, about 12,000 people going each direction pass each other at Parleys Summit because we have an incurable imbalance between wages and housing costs. So we inventory carbon footprints and buy wind and solar power offsets. Then approve 10,000-square-foot vacation houses that sit empty, but toasty warm, most of the time, and office parks that rely on employees who commute up from the valley.
It all still sort of works, but there's nothing sustainable about it. Locals adapt and figure out work-arounds to go about their lives. We are a mid-sized city now, not the mythical small town. It's a different place.
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.
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