Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tree City, USA


10. If Pleasant Grove can do it, we can do it.

9. Great promotional value for our city.

8. With its requirement of a $2 per capita tree budget, it would help us to plant and care for needed shade trees in our parks. In some parks, it will provide for necessary reforestation.

7. It would require us to pass a tree ordinance, which would enable us to beautify our city,

6. Provide better noise abatement,

5. Prevent and control the spread of diseases,

4. Preserve trees in the path of development,

3. Improve air cooling and purification,

2. Avoid unnecessary costs associated with sewer clogging, sidewalk replacement, and tree-related accidents,

1. And enhance property values.

The Beautification and Shade Tree Committee is spearheading this effort. Their intention is to spend until October fact-finding, then to apply for a grant to hire an attorney to draft the ordinance. With luck, the ordinance can be adopted and the budget funded in the first half of 2008.

Is $2 per capita a lot of money? For American Fork, that's about $50,000. We can count against this figure the money our parks department spends on labor, the money Rocky Mountain Power spends pruning trees under power lines, and the volunteer hours of the Beautification and Shade Tree Committee, as well as any tree purchases and volunteer time spent planting trees. We think it will require only a minor boost to the City's present budget.

So many of our surrounding communities have already become Tree Cities -- Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Highland, Springville, just to name a few. It's time for American Fork to join the movement. We can do our part to steward this scarce but life-giving resource.

Click here to learn more about becoming a Tree City USA.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Utah Valley University

Does Utah Valley need another university?

Does my son need a university education?

These are variations on the same question, and we've been giving them a lot of scrutiny at our house.

My son's dream is to become a commercial pilot. Has been ever since 1991, when he saw a Canadian goose in flight and said his first word, "duck." Now a junior in high school, he has worked his way through a rigorous track of math, science, and honors courses. Understandably, he is burned out. He doesn't see how these classes will benefit his future as a pilot. He has no desire for four more years of the same. He wants only to go to UVSC and get his pilot's license.

Enter Big Bad Mom. I fully support him in his goal to become a pilot, but I also insist on a university degree. So even though UVSC is an excellent place to get a pilot's license, I don't want to send him there because it's not a university.

His father and I, who have seen many a pilot collecting unemployment, know that, in addition to his commercial pilot's license, our son will need extra preparation for life. We, who are not yet forty but have changed careers several times, know he will need the broad survey of life provided by the general education requirements of a university. We have some idea of the leadership his future family, congregations, and communities will need, and we want him to be prepared for service.

We want him to spend his formative young adult years in the nurturing and stimulating environment that only a university can offer. Knowing that he is blessed by nature with the ability to complete a challenging course of study, we want him to acquire the discipline that comes from earning a four-year degree. We know that he will be better paid in the job market and better satisfied with himself for having done so.

What's true of my son is true of many other aspiring students in Utah Valley. But when I see in the newspaper that fewer than ten percent of Utah Valley students are served by Brigham Young University -- and as I watch our region's employers struggle to find qualified workers -- it becomes clear to me that Utah's universities, as presently constituted, are not meeting the market demand for higher education.

So when Carolyn Merrill -- principal of American Fork High School and also a trustee for UVSC -- asked our City Council to pass a resolution in support of UVSC and its effort to become a four-year university, I was pleased to vote in favor. Especially when I read the following paragraph in the college's promotional materials:

Central Utah will need a workforce with greater variety and depth. Technology workers of the 21st century will not only operate sophisticated equipment, but will have to adjust rapidly to new ideas, new tasks and new systems. They will serve on teams with people trained in business, science and the humanities, and they will need to interact with people from other parts of the world. Before graduation, they will need to study with world-class faculty in complex learning environments and earn graduate degrees. They will need the advanced learning that is possible within a university.
The resolution did experience a little difficulty getting past the City Council, however. Council members Gunther and Storrs expressed concern for the equally pressing market need for training in the trades and technical skills. The Gunther family has a long, strong history of support for this part of the school's mission -- a fact that is readily appreciated by any who have visited the Gunther Trade Building on the UVSC campus. The concern is valid. Our valley must prize the trades highly if we are to enjoy the quality of life that comes from a diverse economy.

But when it came time to vote, the Council seemed satisfied by UVSC's avowed commitment to continue its focus on the trades, and by the additional presence and growth of the Mountainland Applied Technology Centers. The resolution passed unanimously. It is a non-binding resolution with no financial strings attached. May it lend strength to UVSC's arguments when they are heard by the Utah House of Representatives next week. (The bill has already cleared the Senate.)

Now, how to reason with my son?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Two Financial Indicators

Are American Fork's finances padded, as some have said, with fats and sweets?

Not so. But you don't have to take my word for it. Today I offer the words of two expert, third-party observers.

First, Angie Anderson of Hawkins, Cloward & Simester (the accounting firm which performs the City's yearly financial audit), as reported in the minutes from the January 23, 2007 meeting of the City Council:

Usually in an entity the size of American Fork there is temptation to exceed the budget. This year the City had not gone over budget in any of its departments and the City was to be commended.

[Angie Anderson] had been doing municipal audits for eleven years and it was only the second time that an entity the size of American Fork did not have a budget overage. It was very hard to meet that requirement. Mayor Thompson commended [Budget Officer] Cathy Jensen. Angie added that the employees were to be commended as well.

Our second witness is Sue Shea, human resources analyst for the Hay Group, the national firm which was contracted to perform a wage study for the City. The following is quoted from her report to the City Council:

During our analysis of job content, it became obvious that the City is staffed very lean, often asking one job holder to perform functions that are typically split between two classifications. As the City continues to grow, it will become necessary to split these duties so as to ensure the efficient flow of work.

Fats and sweets? I think not. Lean and mean is more to the point.

The challenge the City now faces is to maintain its lean and mean frame of mind even though it must inevitably expand to accommodate unprecedented growth -- growth which the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget predicts will shift the population center of the county from Provo to here, the north county area -- by the year 2050.

Friday, February 02, 2007

And Our Leaders Will Be Like Us, Witless

If I'm not going to use it, why should I pay for it?

This is the question taxpayers and lawmakers ask about everything from parks to secondary irrigation. It was asked recently in a finance committee meeting with respect to score keepers in the recreation department.

Here, in honor of Groundhog Day, is my latest answer to both the question above and to David Rodeback's limerick contest.

Some say that the library bores them.
Some say that the rec center gores them.
"Let our taxes," they say,
"For these interests not pay.
Give us back what we paid, ad valorem."

But take away arts, books and fitness --
Both Founders and sages bear witness --
And folk of our city
Won't be fit or witty,
And of crime we shall all be scared spitless.

For prose answers to this question, see my earlier post, "Nonessential Services?" or check out the article "Is It Fair that All Taxpayers Pay for Everything?" at (Yes. This is my husband. We often disagree about politics, but we see eye to eye on this one.)