Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Foolish Man Built His House...

With the recent rains, water tables are rising and some homes are getting flooded basements. From ABC4 news:
Andy Meisenbacher says, "We have gone to the city to say 'what can you do to help us?' They said to us 'you shouldn't have built on the river.' We say then, 'why did you give us permits?'"
It sounds like the city can't win. People will bitterly complain that they aren't allowed to do whatever they want with their own property, including building homes in less safe areas. Then, when the inevitable finally happens...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

We Need Special Interest Groups

Several Utah bloggers got bent out of shape when the president of the Utah senate said, "we know more" than the voters. This statement should be so obvious that it is odd it was worth a mention. If we know as much as legislators we would just just directly vote on all the issues. But we don't because the super-majority of us are not willing to spend the time it would take to become educated in the issues.

At our recent caucus meeting, my wife asked each person who got up to speak what they thought about the recent Intelligent Design issue. Only one of the 8 or 10 people that got up to speak had any real knowledge of the issue at all. Given that these were the people that wanted to take leadership positions in our caucus, it was disappointing that they should know so little about one of the hot button issues of the recent legislative session.

But it wasn't surprising. Most voters don't care enough about most issues to do any research on them. And I'm okay with that. That is why we elect representatives. We try to pick people that we think have good judgement and then we let THEM do the research so that they can make good decisions. That is why poll numbers should only be one of a whole host of factors that a legislator considers when taking a position or casting a vote. (If our caucus got to vote on Buttars' Intelligent Design bill it would have passed overwhelmingly.)

How do the legislators get the information they need to make informed decisions? They listen to the people with a vested interest in the issue. If I'm trying to make policy about farming, I would be deliquent if I didn't speak to farmers or groups that represent farmers.

But wait! Farmers are a special interest group! We have to get those blasted special interest groups out of politics! They are destroying our country!

Well, no. They are essential to a healthy process. People who use the words "special interest" like they would utter a racial slur, demonstrate a real lack of knowledge and perspective. The problem is not the special interests. They don't get to vote. They should provide information and the legislators or executives get to make the decisions. Don't like them? Vote 'em out. But don't blame the special interests.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Caucus excitement

I'm a county delegate!!!!!!

Tonight was the night of the neighborhood caucus meetings in Utah. We dropped the babies off at a friend's house, and had a little political date night together down at Spanish Fork High School. There were only twenty people attending our precinct's meeting (which was a far cry from the presidential election year crowd of 80+ in Orem last year), and we only knew two of them--and one of those only because he was in our old stake presidency. It was a really neat evening, relaxed (although with "motion seconded" and "move to close the nominations") and not intimidating. Bradley nominated me to be a county delegate, and two others were nominated, too. I had to get up and give a little speech about what I thought about some issues, and answer some questions. It was really low key and kinda fun. And I won (I had pretty good chance, you know, seeing how we got to send two county delegates and there were only three of us nominated). Now I get to learn about the issues, and go to the county convention on April 29. I honestly don't have a clue what to expect, but I'm really excited to find out.

(For those who don't know (I sure didn't two years ago, when I went to my first) a caucus is the meeting where delegates are chosen to represent your precinct to the party big-wigs at the county and state political conventions. In a presidential election year, the precinct delegates at the state convention choose who goes to the big, national conventions (and presumably wear funny hats while they are there). Anyway, the pledge is recited and the party platform (county level) is read, and then you nominate and vote for precinct chair, vice-chair, etc, and a certain number of delegates.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Informed Consent

When I was in middle and high school, each year that we wanted to participate in an extracurricular athletic activity we had to watch a video explaining that we would probably die or be horribly maimed by choosing to participate. Then we had to sign a form (along with our parents) that we were aware of the risks in participating in such activities and that we willing engaged in those activities with our "informed consent."

The Deseret Morning News had this item on March 4th:
A former Alta High School cheerleader filed a lawsuit Friday in 3rd District Court, claiming Jordan School District was responsible for injuries she suffered during a practice session more than a year ago.
The varsity cheerleader was practicing with her teammates when she landed in a gap between two mats. According to court documents, she broke both ankles in the accident.
Her suit claims that the school district is responsible for the incident because it "failed to provide a safe school environment to engage in the authorized activities," court documents say.
Why do people refuse to accept the fact that life has risks? We can never make things totally safe. Even if we could make such a world, I'm sure not many would choose to live there. Schools are compelled to take the extra step to show the type of video I described above, just to help people be doubly sure they want to participate. The whole point of this extra dilligence to to insulate them from lawsuits like this one. While I feel sorry that this girl (unnamed because she is still a minor?) got hurt, but I don't think the solution is to hurt a bunch of other young people by taking money away from their schools. I hope she loses her fight and is forced to pay the legal fees of the district.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shouldn't you be doing that anyway?

Utah Power is asking for a rate hike of 17%, which would translate into about $120/year per family. People aren't happy, not with the 38% rate hike from Questar (the gas company) got last fall. I feel bad for people who are already stretched thin with finances. But this quote, from an older gentleman on a fixed income interviewed by KSL, kills a little of my compassion:
"Now when you go from room to room, you turn a light off behind you."
Ummmm...shouldn't you be doing that anyway?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

New Orleans and Global Warming

Naturally, there has been a lot of debate about the extent to which New Orleans should be rebuilt. Do people like Al Gore, who believe that global warming is going to cause the melting of the ice caps and the rising levels of the ocean, oppose the reconstruction?