Tom Clyde: What just happened?
The election is over, and even the day after, nobody knew what happened. It was the most expensive election in history, with billions of dollars spent on hateful TV ads that were useless noise. There were sophisticated social media campaigns, some with real content, and most with malicious rumors. And in the end, despite all that effort, no minds were changed. The nation remains pretty evenly split, though it’s hard to describe exactly what it is that we’re so split about.
The results boiled down to a handful of states that have gone out of their way to mess up the processing of the mail-in ballots. It takes a long time to verify the mail-in ballots, check the signatures, and then separate the actual ballot from the verification material so it can be counted. A rational approach would be to do that verification as they come in, then run the actual ballots through the counting machines with everything else. But that was too much for some states, and so the mountain of mail-in ballots, which arrived at the election office before Nov. 3, actually get the envelopes opened and the ballots counted after.
Trump, unconstrained by reality, declared victory on Tuesday night and demanded that all counting be stopped. I don’t think it works that way, or at least it didn’t used to work that way. So it will get messy and we won’t know the final vote tallies for a while. Theoretically, it could land at the Supreme Court, though disputes over the particulars of deadlines and counting procedures are really a matter of 50 different state election laws. Michigan should decide how Michigan’s ballots are counted. While the presidential results are messy, the Senate appears likely to stay in Republican hands, so the Congress will remain deadlocked. Nothing will get done, and problems the nation faces that might be solved, or at least improved on, by legislative action will remain unsolved.
But here in Utah, we got things done. By a vote of roughly 75% to 25%, we now have enshrined the right to hunt and fish “by traditional methods” in the state Constitution. The traditional right to get tanked up on cheap whiskey and shoot highway signs full of holes during the annual deer hunt has been protected. I don’t know what it was protected from, since there didn’t appear to be any effort to ban hunting for game or signage. Hunting is an essential part of game management now that so much of the animals’ natural habitat is urbanized. It serves a necessary purpose in addition to recreation for those who participate. But it seems very odd that 75% of Utahns felt that it requires special constitutional protection.
Weirdness isn’t solely the province of the state. Here in Park City, there is a serious discussion about building a system of gondolas to move people around town. There’s no question that moving around town during even moderately busy times has become difficult. This winter, even with reduced visitor numbers, there will be Sundance-level traffic jams all the time. Nobody is getting on a plague-filled bus, so there will be a lot more rental cars in town. So the city is looking for solutions.
The proposal, with a $64 million price tag, would string gondolas from Snow Park, Old Town and PCMR, and then a link to the unbuilt arts and culture district that really nobody is anxiously waiting for. The theory isn’t complete madness. The idea of getting double duty out of existing rights-of-way has been proven all over, from the elevated railroad in Chicago to the subway in New York. If you can’t widen the streets, and we can’t, stack them.
I’m skeptical of the gondola system, mostly because they don’t turn corners very well. If it takes an angle station at every bend in the road, the system has a huge and ugly footprint. Running it over people’s roofs isn’t going to work. I’m not sure that people will be any more willing to get into a confined gondola cabin than a bus, though I suppose we have to assume that the pandemic isn’t a permanent condition.
But if the decision is to go full Disneyland so we can continue to cram more density into an already full town, let’s do it right. Instead of a gondola system, how about roller coasters? They are on tracks that can rip around corners, sometimes even upside down. They can climb up and over buildings and mountains that are in the way. There is the potential to spice it up, too. Why drive your car to dinner in Old Town when you could take the Splash Mountain ride instead? The Mad Tea Party cup-and-saucer ride could deliver you and your gear to Deer Valley, and Pirates of the Caribbean’s schooner would make accessing PCMR possible without having to deal with their parking shortage.
Instead of a system that is only as sustainable as the federal subsidy, we might be able to turn it into something people would pay to ride.
Or we could admit that Park City has reached capacity and quit building.
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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Tom Kelly’s weekly Ridgelines column returns, and with it his anticipation for a ski season that, in the spring, he wasn’t sure would happen.