Friday, December 04, 2009


"Snow is falling, snow on snow . . ."
(Christina Rosetti)

Today's Daily Herald announced a welcome piece of news, very welcome in light of the week's snow forecast: American Fork has new snow removal equipment. Quoting from the article:

"We bought more snowplow blades for one- and two-ton trucks," said Director of Public Works Howard Denney. "Some are for the parks, several more for the streets department. We will have those available to work on cul-de-sacs and other areas."
Mayor Thompson explained further:

"We've decided to use some of our existing equipment that we use for regular public works projects, like backhoes and front end loaders," he said. "They are not designed particularly for snow removal, but are still very capable for areas that we can't get in with big trucks. I think that's an example of how we're making the best use of our current resources."
This is good news, an appropriate response in a tight budget year to the challenges of 2008, when snowfalls came so hard and fast that City crews working continuously could keep only the major arteries open, when one of the City's snow plows went out of commission, and when too many residential streets and cul-de-sacs froze before they could be plowed.

As 2009 descends to its wintry close, here are a few facts to keep in mind about the City's snow removal policy.

  • It is NOT City policy to plow every street. Streets are plowed in order of precedence: Arterials first, then collectors, then as many residential streets and cul-de-sacs as can be done before the snow freezes.
  • It is a violation of City ordinance to park any vehicle on any street or cul-de-sac from November 1 to March 31 between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and ANY TIME THERE IS SNOW IN THE STREET.
  • The City's insurance company generally does not pay for damage incurred to vehicles due to icy roads or piled snow. Let the driver beware.

If you think we have it bad in American Fork, be glad we don't live farther north. Quoting from the April 2008 edition of Better Roads:

Large cities such as Montreal or Ottawa spend huge snow-removal budgets. Montreal, for instance, gets nearly 100 inches of snow in an average year and spends more than $128-million Canadian dollars to take care of it.

Toronto's budget exceeds $5 million a year.

The whole of Canada spends more than a billion dollars a year on snow removal.

Individual storms rack up big bills. Ottawa spent $3 million in one day last December to remove almost 15 inches of snow that fell overnight.

Montreal spent $20 million cleaning up a 14-inch snow that covered the island. The city had about 44 inches of snow by the end of December 2007, with more on the way. . .

In cities with so much snow there is no place to put it, a snow-melting vehicle may be used. This scoops snow into a melting pot in a tank at the rear of the plow. A smaller tank of boiling water melts the snow, which is discharged into storm drains.

Other cities haul off the excess snow, dumping if ino an ocean or lake, if one is nearby.

I'm not sure which makes me grumpier, the snow itself (I'm too old and too cold to see the magic any more), or the cost of its removal. But after reading about Canada, I've decided to start counting blessings instead of snowflakes.

Residents may now read American Fork's parking and snow removal policy for themselves by following this link. (Kudos to City staff for making the municipal code the newest addition to the City Web site!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thought for the Day

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience -- almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good, and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one's deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.

In a word, freedom is ever new.

-- Pope Benedict XVI. Remarks made on the White House Lawn, April 15, 2008.

Qtd. in Liberty: A Magazine of Religious Freedom, a publication of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, September/October 2008 edition.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Water Rates Explained

There have been notices, newspaper articles, newsletter blurbs, and public open houses, but the thing we've seen most of, with respect to the new water rates, is confusion. To the many explanations that have been given I add my own, hoping that adding another viewpoint will help to increase understanding.

Disclaimer: Views expressed here at the blog are my personal views and do not represent the official position of the City. Though I try my best to be accurate, you should not act on any information you read here without first confirming it through the PI hotline at 801-763-5281.

If your house is the typical American Fork household, sitting on a quarter-acre lot, your water bill should increase to about $30 per month. You are already paying this increase if pressurized irrigation (PI) has already come to your house. If not, you will begin to pay the increase starting NEXT MONTH with your December 2009 water bill.

If your house is not the typical American Fork household, but you live on a large lot or you are a business owner or an agricultural user, yours is a special case and I will explain your rates separately.

What is the breakdown of the increase? Users who connect to the PI system will now be subject to two rate schedules. Culinary (aka indoor, potable) water will be billed at $14 for the first 6,000 gallons. This is the base rate. After the first 6,000 gallons, the charge will be $2 per thousand gallons up to 8,000 gallons, $2.50 per thousand up to 10,000, $3 per thousand up to 12,000 gallons, and $3.31 per thousand for all amounts above 12,000 gallons. This is a sliding scale that encourages conservation of culinary water and discourages its use out of doors.

That's the first $14.

Irrigation water (aka outdoor, pressurized, PI, or secondary), is optional. However, culinary overage charges will encourage most users to opt for a PI connection so they can afford to water their lawns. PI will be billed not according to usage but lot size. The PI rate is $14 per month (the base rate) for lots up to 9,000 square feet (about .20 acres) with an additional charge of $0.001750 per square foot per month for any area over 9,000.

That's another $14, for a total of $28.

Add an extra $2 for culinary overages or a larger lot size, and the typical monthly water bill adds up to $30. This is a significant increase, very significant, but it is offset, at least in part, by the fact that if you connect to PI you will no longer pay overage rates for your summertime outdoor water.

This still leaves a few questions.

Why is this increase taking effect for my household when PI water is not yet available to me? Most households are already paying the increase, but a few are still waiting for construction to pass their house this month. If this is your household, you will not begin paying the $14 PI rate until you connect to the PI system. However, you will begin paying the new culinary rate on your December water bill. The new culinary rate took effect city-wide on November 1, with the first payment coming due on December 1. This is in accordance with City ordinance, which was structured this way (1) because November coincides with the completion date for construction, and (2) so that the City can begin making payments on the bonds without assessing higher property tax rates.

If you are considering delaying your connection to the PI system so that you can delay paying PI rates until spring, please keep in mind that you must connect within six months of your eligibility. After six months, you will be charged a hook-up fee of $250.

Why must I pay PI rates year-round when the system is only operational from April 15 to October 15? This is the City's version of an equal-pay plan. For most residents, it is more affordable to pay a lower rate year-round than a higher rate for six months of the year.

What is the water rate refund credit? Many residents were switched over to the new culinary rates last summer, but did not understand the impact and continued to water their yards with culinary water. Others attempted to connect to PI but were stalled because of weather or because contractors were unavailable. Whatever the reason, many residents accumulated punishing overage charges of hundreds of dollars before they realized the problem. The City Council voted to refund these overages, reasoning that (1) culinary overages were not built into the revenue model, and that (2) the revenue model is based on an 85 percent connection rate to PI city-wide. In essence, this refund was planned as an incentive to encourage more residents to connect to PI.

The refund was carefully structured so that residents would be credited as though they had been paying PI rates all along, and thus would have no advantage over those who did connect in a timely manner. It is available only to those households who connect to PI by December 1, 2009. If you did not pay punishing culinary overage rates over the summer, the refund would not apply to your household.

What are rates for large lot sizes? If your lot is larger than one acre, you may request and pay for the purchase and installation of a water meter. Then your PI water will be billed at the rate of $14 for usage up to 8,000 gallons, with a progressively increasing scale for usage above that threshhold. Your culinary water rates will be the same as those for the rest of the city.

What are rates for business owners? Actually, rates for business are the very same as for residents. However, because most businesses use water on behalf of many hundreds of consumers, they are certain to exceed the 6,000 gallon base rate. Hence their increase is far greater than $30 per month. This inequity was not foreseen when the original rate structure was passed. When its impact first began to be felt, the city council voted to flatten the culinary rate structure for usage above 12,000 gallons. This provided some relief to businesses; I only hope the measure will prove sufficient to keep them open and well supplied with water.

What are rates for agricultural users? Agricultural users who own at least one irrigation share per acre of land and who qualify under three other provisions of the ordinance will be assessed $1 per share per month for PI water. (This fee is in addition to assessments made by the irrigation company.) Culinary rates will be the same as those for the rest of the city.

Why do we have to pay such high rates for water in American Fork? It's not pretty, it's not fair, and it's not cheap. There's nothing I can say to make you or me feel better about the situation. But the sad fact is, if the City had installed pressurized irrigation in 1994, when the need was first predicted, it would have cost only $9 million. That's $40 million in savings , which would have translated to an eighty percent savings over the new water rates.

The lesson? Deferring major infrastructure expenses does not pay. It's a lesson we do well to heed as we consider more of our City's pressing needs including road maintenance and public safety.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Four More Years

My heartfelt thanks to all who voted and volunteered! Tonight I am announcing victory with results as follows:


James Hadfield 2194
Heber Thompson 1380

City Council

Marc Ellison 1776
Jess Green 924
Dale Gunther 2000
Heidi Rodeback 2295

I am looking forward to four more years of dialogue and cooperation with you as we work together for the kind of city we all want to live in.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Stump Speech

Now that the last of the meet-the-candidate events is over, I'm posting my stump speech here for those who weren't able to attend. Like a basic black suit, this is a mix-and-match piece which was excerpted as necessary to fit the various time limits at the various venues.

= = = = = = = = = =

Four years ago, I ran for city council saying I wanted to see American Fork provide a neighborly experience for our children and families, with all that entails—parks, ballfields, safe routes to school, a mix of cultural and recreational offerings, and the preservation of our beautiful neighborhoods . Underpinning this vision, I said, was the need for strong leadership and careful attention to finance, planning, management, and economic growth.

These last four years, I have been hard at work on this vision, and I believe the need for strong leadership and planning has never been more important than it is now.

Road maintenance has been deferred far too long. Public safety continues to be priority one, and the City must commit to paying for top quality police, fire, and ambulance protection. These are costly but essential priorities. With careful planning, the City can provide for these needs without overwhelming the taxpayer's wallet and still have a little money left over for quality of life.

If there's one theme of my campaign I want you to understand, it is the great importance I place on long-range planning. Long-range planning would have seen pressurized irrigation completed in 1994, when it was first considered, for a total price tag of $9 million dollars. That's $40 million cheaper than the $48.95 of the 2006 pressurized irrigation bond, which translates to an 80 percent savings over today's water rates. Long-range planning in the coming years is the only way we can prevent this from happening again. It's the only way American Fork can get out of debt and provide for road maintenance without overburdening the tax payer.

There isn't time at an event like this for me to tell you everything that's in my heart. Please, I hope you will visit my Web site at to learn more about my platform. Let’s talk more tonight before you go home. And you already know you can call or email me at any time. I am always happy to listen.

For tonight, let me make you a fistful of promises.

1. I promise, for the next four years, to prioritize our city’s most pressing needs, which in my opinion are road maintenance, public safety, and long-range planning.

2. I promise to remember that I must pay the same taxes I ask you to pay. When this is a hardship on you, it is a hardship on me.

3. I promise to listen to both sides of any issue, to keep an open mind while I listen, and to analyze the numbers and their consequences carefully.

4. I promise to be available to you. You already know that you can call me on the phone, write me a letter, email me, or stop me at the library or the grocery store, and I will respond. I love hearing from you, and I always follow through.

5. Finally, I promise to continue my advocacy of the quality of life issues that make this the kind of city we all want to live in.

You can trust me when I make these promises because this is what I have been doing for the past four years. It's what I did for years before that when I was volunteering for the City, and it's what I will continue to do for the next four years.

It has been a great privilege to work side by side with the residents and families, citizens and neighbors who make American Fork the kind of city we all want to live in. I would be so pleased to continue this collaboration for four more years.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Musicians Make the Best Politicians

Zoltan Kodaly, the Hungarian composer, musician, and educator -- one of my greatest heroes -- taught that the characteristics of a good musician are these:

1. A well-trained ear
2. A well-trained intelligence
3. A well-trained heart
4. A well-trained hand.

I believe these are also the characteristics of a good politician. My reasoning:

1. A well-trained ear. Representing the people requires the ability to listen, truly listen, to constituents with concerns. A representative must be able to listen to both sides of a given issue and to keep an open mind while he listens. Representatives must also be able to listen to the pulse of the public and discern the values of the community. Truly, a politician must have a well-trained ear.

2. A well-trained intelligence. I hardly need elaborate on this one. All the gifts of education -- the ability to communicate, to reason, to do math, and the capacity to learn -- these must be the politician's gifts.

3. A well-trained heart. A politician must be grounded by solid ethical values which can only originate in the heart. A politician must also be fired by passion for the issues or he will not survive the rigors of office. Are we talking about a local politician? Then she must care, and care deeply, that her community is healthy and that her neighbors are well served.

4. A well-trained hand. Where the musician must be practiced in technique, the politician must be grounded in hands-on experience. Experience with a daunting labyrinth of local, state and federal law is essential to the politician who wishes to apply these laws for the benefit of his community. Experience with people, systems, and organizations is a must. Experience can come in many forms -- through volunteerism, relevant experience in industry, or through prior office -- and is the best indicator of future performance.

A pianist in private life, I have often observed another comparison to be made to politics. The musical accompanist must be at once follower and leader. The pianist follows the soloist, but also gives strong support. The organist follows the conductor, but leads the congregation. The same circular reasoning also holds true for the representative. Following the will of the people, he leads them where they want to go. As the bumper sticker says, "If the people will lead, then the leaders will follow."

One final comparison. I believe that what Kodaly said about art is equally true about government -- that it is "one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity." Empowering you to be part of your government and involving you in your community is what this blog and I are all about.

Thus I find myself, as both a musician and a politician, asking you to measure me by Kodaly's standard, and see if you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday.

If you can't trust me with your vote next Tuesday, then I hope you'll be willing to trust me with your piano students next January. I'll have a lot of spare time on my hands.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love Your Library

I marvel at American Fork's hard-working library staff. Its people are cheerful and service oriented and they take obvious pride in their work, seemingly oblivious to the library's constant funding challenges. Our library has long operated with only half the collection budget enjoyed by our neighboring libraries, and current budgetary cutbacks have brought about a reduction in the library's operating hours, as well you know.

If you love your library as I do, please consider making a donation to its collections. You might have books at home that you're finished with. You might do as I do and search the shelves at DI for books to donate. The library will gladly accept almost any up-to-date book in good condition. If for some reason the library cannot add a donation to its collections, the Friends of the Library will sell the book and the proceeds will benefit the library.

If you'd like to donate a new title, please consult the library's wish list which has been posted physically at the stacks and electronically at the library's Web site. Donating one of these books will provide for the library's greatest needs. This is what the industrious students of Caleb Warnock's writing class did last month. I quote from the minutes of the meeting in which these books were presented:

When Mr. Warnock heard that the Library had compiled a list of titles of books that they wished to have he felt it was something that the literary program could support. He and his wife went to the students and said for every brand new book that was on the Library’s list they donated, he and his wife would match that donation. Today they were presenting 20 brand new books as a way to thank the City for hosting this class for the past 20-months and for allowing them to have the conference and the upcoming conference in April and for everything that American Fork provided for them.
These twenty books delivered a much-needed shot in the arm to the library's collections, and I wish here to express my personal gratitude to the class (an Arts Council offering) for its initiative.

If you've been to the library recently, you've seen a creative poster which was written by our imaginative library staff and based on Laura Numeroff's classic If You Give A Mouse a Cookie. I'm going to reproduce it here as best I can. Please take a minute to consider its wisdom and ask yourself whether there's a way you can include the library and its many patrons on your giving list this year.

If you give a library a book . . .

Someone will want to read it.

When they are finished reading it, they will want to read another . . . and another.

Others will want to read it, then another . . . and another and bring their families to the library to get good books to read.

While looking for books, they will find DVDs and books on CD to check out.

After watching the DVD, Mom and Dad may discover that a school report is due in a few days.

They will come to the library and research the report topic on the Internet access computers.

When the Internet research is complete, they will want books on the same topic to finish the report.

When the report earns and "A," the student will tell of the great information that is available at the library.

More people will come to the library to find the information they need.

While looking for information, they will find novels, picture books, DVDs, books on CD . . . and more.

They will want to read one . . . then another . . . and another.

Will it ever end?

See what happens when you give a library a book! Think about donating books, DVDs, or books on CD to the American Fork Library. They will be gratefully accepted. If they can't be added to our collection, they will be placed in the Friends of the Library Store and the money earned will be used to purchase more books.

Consider -- if you give a library a book . . .

Top Ten Reasons To Use Your Library Card

. . . as posted by American Fork librarian LaRee Parkinson in the American Fork City employee newsletter.

1. Hours of free cheap entertainment.

2. Read the book before you watch the movie.

3. You always have something to do on a rainy day.

4. Improve your mind as you delve into our non-fiction section.

5. Learn a new skill through reading about that subject.

6. Feel important because your wallet is full of cards.

7. Turn over a new leaf (again) with our self help books.

8. Ready to get away? Escape to your dream vacation with our travel books.

9. Need Internet? It's free at your American Fork Library.

10. Don't have time to sit and read? No problem! Check out a book on CD and work or travel while you listen.

These are only a few of the great reasons to use your library card. Come use your card and discover your own top reasons for using your card.