Tom Clyde: Park City has become ‘Portlandia’
An ad in last week’s paper caught my eye. The City is advertising for proposals to fill the new position of “Community Social Equity Convener.”
“Convener? What the heck is a convener?” I wondered. Later in the week, the topic came up in a group, and somebody else asked what a convener is. A friend quickly responded that in Park City, a convener is $100,000-plus benefits.
According to the ad, they are looking for an individual or team “with a special understanding of our community and these issues, with demonstrated abilities to coalesce diverse perspectives, backgrounds and political viewpoints.” If you have to ask what these issues are, you are not the right person for the job. There is a little more detail on the City website. It says that “when social equity is not demonstrated in the community as a whole or in local governance, even otherwise minor technical problems are elevated into stifling community issues grounded in lack of trust, disengagement, and helplessness.”
And to keep us from teetering over the edge of this dystopian future, the need to hire a Convener is obvious. The City Council, having already successfully conquered parking, traffic, and affordable housing, has turned their focus to these issues. We have finally become “Portlandia.”
I’m all for social equity (which I suspect means something different to each and every one of us), and think Park City is already doing pretty well in that department. The City was among the first to enact laws that prevent housing discrimination on the basis of sexual preference or orientation. Park City and Salt Lake took the lead on what is now a generally accepted idea. It was a big deal at the time.
As a community, we have done a lot to support the largely Spanish-speaking service workers (without whom this place would collapse in about 24 hours) with programs for quality extended day care and access to medical care. There are after-school programs, pre-school programs, special tutoring programs and so on. The City, County, School District, churches, and medical community have done a lot, and there is still a lot needed.
At the same time, Park City is probably the most segregated community in the state because of economic disparity. The biggest impediment to real social equity is the cost of housing. The problem isn’t that a large segment of the community can’t take time off work to get a permit for their $150,000 kitchen remodel during City business hours. The problem is that they can’t afford to rent a Tuff Shed. There will never be enough committee meetings to solve that.
Under the general heading of “social equity” there are other issues such as general accessibility for disabled people, the aged, mentally handicapped people, and other special needs. Again, looking around the state, Park City seems like a leader in that.
So aside from the economic disparity, which seems insurmountable, I feel like the community, city and county, is generally on the right track. I don’t know what problems are being “elevated into stifling community issues grounded in lack of trust, disengagement, and helplessness.” But we will hire a convener, and convene meetings until we find them.
Still, I wasn’t sure what a Convener would do, and researched further. Apparently, a Convener convenes meetings of committees. There are organizations of Conveners who convene meetings to talk about meetings. Conveners squared. All-encompassing inclusivity is the key. If there isn’t a left-handed redhead present, can you really have a legitimate discussion about parking? The meeting is the key. Actually doing something? Well, not so much.
Last week, I wrote about the annoying bats that have been roosting on the eaves above my deck. Apparently I am not alone, and helpful suggestions came in from all directions. It was if I had become a convener on the bat issue. The solutions proffered ranged from shining a light on the spot where they roost—which would have been also shining right in the bedroom window, shotguns, nets, and a variety of chemical warfare approaches. Garlic was highly recommended. A silver crucifix seemed like a long shot. One person suggested Febreze, that stuff that is supposed to kill the dirty sock smell in your teenager’s room. Every pet owner has a jug of it, and after a single use, comes to the conclusion that Febreze smells far worse than anything your puppy left behind. It apparently stinks so bad not even bats can stand it.
By the time that suggestion came in, I had already resorted to an older form of chemical warfare: mothballs. I’ve evicted families of skunks from under the porch with mothballs, and thought they might take care of the bats. It seems to have worked, but I’m not wild about the look of the house with bags of mothballs stapled under the eaves.
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.
$110.7 million could be spent on doing a lot more good than just the acquisition of a Monet, Tom Clyde writes.