Letters, Jan. 22-25: Lawmakers’ actions have me feeling ill — and not from COVID
Legislature’s actions have me feeling ill
This is an open letter to my representative in the state House of Representatives, Mike Kohler. I have chosen to also submit it here as a letter to the editor. I wish our individual choice to promote or endanger the public’s health wasn’t somehow mixed up with our so-stated rights as American citizens.
Dear Mr. Kohler,
All of you representatives who are knocking down our local mask mandate have made me ill — and it is not with COVID. How dare you take away local decision making by our health professionals and municipal officials. They assess according to local data and they make decisions accordingly — and I believe, wisely. Let’s just say they do what they can to keep us safe, and alive. Is it their right to do so? I don’t know. What does that even mean?
Some residents think like you people do — don’t make me wear a mask — it’s my choice to wear or not to wear one. That “right” must be more important than a right to spread COVID to others, in the event one has chosen not to wear a mask. And did I hear one of you saying it’s not government’s place to impose a mask mandate and that “most people will choose to wear one.” Well, thank you for putting that reassurance out there. I just hope my young grandson, and my immuno-compromised daughters-in-law don’t come in close contact with someone not in that “most” group.
We eradicated polio with required polio vaccination. Were there folks around then who pronounced that to be governmental overreach. Didn’t it really just keep the polio virus from crippling our children?
After writing this email, I’m feeling even sicker.
Fulfill your duty to constituents
Letter to Mr. Mike Kohler, Utah state representative for District 54:
Dear Mr. Kohler,
I am one of your Park City constituents, as well as the parent of two young children, one of whom is not yet even eligible to be vaccinated. I am also the daughter of two elderly Utah-residing parents. Summit County was recently found to be suffering from the fifth-worst COVID outbreak in the entire United States.
I am angry and deeply frustrated by the resolution to eliminate the mask mandate in Summit County initiated by the Utah Senate (and affirmed by your Summit County Senate counterparts, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Winterton). I am disturbed that I live in a county where such political, self-driven and misguided action would be taken by my local government representatives.
I want to remind you that those you might be hearing from regarding masking are very likely the outspoken minority. You should know that back in November when my child’s Park City elementary school failed to enforce a Summit County mask mandate, over 520 signatures were collected in an online petition demanding that the district enforce universal masking as required by the health department. I can assure you that a huge number of your constituents are supportive of and thankful for the Summit County mask mandate and would be aghast if it were overturned prematurely.
Health decisions are in the domain of public health experts like Summit County Health Director Dr. Bondurant, not politicians like yourself. Masking is scientifically proven to lower COVID transmission rates. Masking for the health of all is not a question of personal liberty, as some might claim. And just like our government is tasked with ensuring that its citizens make safe driving decisions, in a pandemic, it is also tasked with following and enforcing the guidance of public health experts.
Please confront your morality and make right on this: Speak out against and vote “no” on this nonsensical resolution that is being passed to you by the Senate. Do what’s in your power to support and respect the health of your constituents: It is your duty.
Help us out here, lawmakers
The Legislature put the mask mandate power on the county health departments. When the health departments of Salt Lake and Summit County recently implemented mask mandates for the safety and betterment of the residents, our Utah Senate immediately adopted a “resolution” to overturn the mandates. I am curious about Senate President Adams’ statement regarding the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County and their “qualifications” in health matters. The mandates came through health departments, but I suppose our legislators are infinitely more qualified to know than the health department directors. I would then presume the legislators are all qualified physicians making this decision. Come on, elected officials, help the people out here.
Support PCMR ski patrollers
As a recently retired long-term Aspen Mountain ski patroller, former Aspen Professional Ski Patrol Association president and union negotiator, I support the Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol’s struggle for a fair contract with Vail Resorts. Today, ski patrols on all four Aspen ski areas are unionized.
Local unions form because of a failure of management at the time. The right of employees to have a voice in the terms of their employment is the basis of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. Frequently, smaller unions affiliate with a national union for greater strength because their workplace concerns remain unresolved by resistant management who prefer unilateralism.
Since 1986, APSPA’s contract with the Aspen Skiing Company has been refined through changing management groups with different attitudes. Still, this has led to higher patrol wages and better benefits, plus trust and acceptance benefiting both sides. Often mid-managers admit how the negotiated contract makes managing easier because wages, equipment allowances, leaves of absence, disciplinary protocol and workplace rules — to name a few — are clearly outlined.
As ski and snowboard consumers’ expectations and litigation increase, professional ski patrolling has become more complex. The job involves technical lift evacuations, accident investigation, safety and hazard evaluation, avalanche mitigation with explosives, and EMT to paramedic life-saving response. Each day a professional ski patroller does her/his job well saves the company millions of dollars in lawsuits.
While resort management groups tend to come and go, professional ski patrollers are part of the backbone of local community. I urge the Park City community to support their ski patrol and for Vail Resorts to respect all their ski patrollers by paying them fairly for the indispensable and hazardous work they do. Working conditions and benefits will improve when both sides bargain in good faith.
Show compassion for students
I wanted to give a huge shout out to the kids at Park City High School who stood up and walked out at 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning to protest the changes in testing and mask mandates. It took courage, strength and, for the organizer of this event, Chris Henry, leadership skills. Let’s take a moment to applaud Chris and his other speakers today.
With that being said, taking a moment to honor these kids, I’m going to go on record to say how discouraged I was by people in our town who felt the need to call these kids names, disparage them on social media and not see the point in what they were doing. It wasn’t all about the masks and the testing. These kids needed to voice their thoughts and concerns. This became a pressure valve to let off the steam that has been building up for now years.
As a human who is well past high school age, my heart just hurts for these kids right now. Do you adults remember what it was like being in high school without adding on the stress of a pandemic and politics driving citizens to be mean and divisive? Have some sympathy. Don’t look at it as them trying to skip school or say they are fear-mongering.
If 100 kids decide that they need to feel empowered for an hour, let them do it. How does standing up for what you believe in make you a sheep? To the keyboard warriors who hide behind their anonymous usernames, please just stop and take a breath before you call a 16-year-old a name. A 16-year-old who is willing to take a leadership stance and move a 100 kids to get up out of their chairs. My bet is that while you are hiding behind your keyboard, you really kind of wish you had the gumption to get people to follow you like that in person.
Let’s all be a little kinder today. If you make one person’s day instead of slamming them, think about how much better this town might be.
Is history about to rhyme?
In November 1956 there had been a failed uprising in Hungary. Protestors fed up with Russian domination and Soviet corruption led a rebellion for independence. Premier Nikita Khrushchev responded with overwhelming military force. Fearing Russian Army retribution, 200,000 Hungarians fled their country. The Russian army made the remaining Hungarians pay dearly for the insurrection. Russians secretly tried, executed and buried in unmarked graves more than 300 protesters.
The following spring, I remember my father taking us in the family car on one of his countless boring Sunday drives. During World War II my father had been a Marine in the Pacific and subsequently a lumbermill foreman in civilian life. On one of those car trips, Dad took us to Camp Kilmer, the Army base located in the neighboring county.
Many of the Hungarian refugees came to the United States. Hundreds of those families were living in the barracks on the base at Camp Kilmer while they waited for assimilation into our society.
My father wanted us to see these refugees. I remember seeing children my age playing between the white, two-story buildings. At the time I was too young to understand the politics or even find Hungary on a map. However, my father tried to explain their plight to us. He said we would soon see some of those children in our schools. He wanted us to have a sense of their hardship and emphatically urged us to welcome them to our country.
Twelve years later in 1968, when I was about to enter my junior year at the U.S. Naval Academy, Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia, adding to the USSR’s hegemonic expansion. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia the world stood by, making no attempt to stop Russian aggression.
I carried nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Many times, I wondered would this be the day I would be ordered to deliver them?
Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Considering current geopolitical tensions with a 100,000 Russians on Ukraine’s border, the same question keeps me awake at night.
Are we about to rhyme?
Put your money where the slopes are
I’d like to thank Vail Resorts CEO Kristin Lynch for giving a bonus to their hard-working employees. This will cost Vail Resorts approximately $20 million. A step in the right direction.
I wonder how much Vail Resorts is saving on not having a full staff of employees, only running some of their lifts and not spending money on grooming or snowmaking? This number might exceed their bonuses.
I urge Vail Resorts to spend what it takes to deliver the goods and services that they offer when they sell passes. That might bring back their reputation as a great ski resort operator.
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