Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Apology to Jason Porter and Others

In the October 25 American Fork Citizen, City Council candidate Jason Porter was quoted as saying, "We have one of the highest rates in Utah of violent crime. It is alarming to me. I want to bring the small town environment back to American Fork."

It is no secret that we have crime in American Fork. Like most Utah communities, we have serious struggles with methamphetamine-related property theft.

But to read in the paper that we have one of the highest violent crime rates in Utah was deeply troubling to me, and I suspect it was equally troubling to the other members of the City Council. I surmise that this is why Police Chief Lance Call was asked to verify and explain the statistic.

In a memo to the City Council, Chief Call explained that figures for crime in American Fork, which are tracked by the Utah State Bureau of Criminal Identification, have been skewed owing to the fact that the Bureau's figures do not include the population count for Cedar Hills, which is also covered by the American Fork police force.

Mr. Porter's supporters will have a hard time believing me when I say that it was in purely in the interest of correcting misinformation that I shared the chief's memo with the Daily Herald. Nevertheless, that was my sole motivation.

Unfortunately, the Herald took the memo to be a statement from the City against Mr. Porter. I regret deeply that my action brought about this misunderstanding.

I have tonight called and apologized to Mr. Porter, to the Mayor, and to each of the other candidates in the race. When the Police Chief arrives at his desk tomorrow, he will also hear my apology.

In addition, I posted the following apology at the Daily Herald, in the comment section following the article:

It was I who shared the memo regarding crime statistics with the Daily Herald, and I alone should bear the blame for any damage this action may have done to Mr. Porter's campaign. I have just called Mr. Porter on the phone to apologize, and now wish to offer this public apology.

I apologize further to the other City Council candidates, who took no part in my decision to share the information with the Daily Herald. I did not at any time discuss my action with them, and they did not put me up to it.

Further, I apologize to the City government and to the Police Chief for my action, which made the memo look like an official press release. The City itself does not take positions for or against candidates. The police department, in particular, has been very careful to remain apolitical. The Chief's memo was not intended as a press release. It was intended to correct a misunderstanding generated by skewed statistics, and it was in this spirit that I shared the information with the press.

Open communication with the public, including the press, has been a goal for me as a public servant. However, in this case, I should have recognized that sharing the memo would be interpreted as a campaign attack. I was naiive and careless not to have thought of this possibility. I recognize that this statement will be difficult for Mr. Porter's supporters to believe. Nevertheless, the fault is mine, and I claim full responsibility.

I have met Mr. Porter and been impressed with his intelligence and his sincere concern for the community. Moreover, I appreciate his concern for the crime that now exists in our community, and appreciate the fact that he is willing to make crime an issue in this campaign.
The greatest value of a political campaign is that it creates public dialogue by bringing issues to the surface. It takes courage to play the role of candidate and start the discussion. I commend Mr. Porter and all the candidates for their courage, and I wish them well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thought for the Day

New Report Links Decline in Bicycling and Walking
to Nation’s Obesity Epidemic

According to a report released today by the Thunderhead Alliance, the dust settling on Americans’ parked bikes is likely linked to our expanding waist lines. Bicycling and Walking in the U.S., Thunderhead’s first biennial Benchmarking Report, shows that bicycling and walking have been in decline in the U.S. since the 1960s. At the same time there has been a surge in adults and children who are obese. The report compares, for the first time ever, bicycling and walking levels, investment in bicycling and walking, and public health. The most striking findings reveal major disparities between cycling and walking levels, traffic fatalities, and federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

According to Thunderhead’s Executive Director, Sue Knaup, “Most public health advocates already preach the benefits of biking and walking. This report clearly demonstrates that cities and states with the highest rates of cycling and walking almost always have the lowest levels of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

Besides linking cycling, walking, and public health, the report highlights the challenges the U.S. faces in regards to increasing bicycling and walking. Bicycling and walking make up 9.6 percent of all trips. Yet bicyclists and pedestrians represent 12.9 percent of all traffic-related fatalities, and only 1.5 percent of federal transportation dollars are spent on bicycling and walking projects.

“State and local governments can choose whether their money goes towards expanding highways or improving their communities for bicycling and walking,” Knaup said. “In order to make streets safe and inviting for all citizens and reverse our nation’s obesity epidemic, state and local officials must get serious about investing in bicycling and walking.”

Thunderhead Alliance
Press Release
August 29, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thought for the Day

"The history of a nation is only a history of its villages written large."

Woodrow Wilson, 1900

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Making a Difference

Or, Why Fifty People Turned Out at 8:00 a.m.
this Morning to Plant Trees in the Rain
at Hunter Park and Val Vista Park

> Because they understand that the more the neighborhood is involved in creating a park, the less likely the youth are to vandalize the asset.

> Because they let the City Council know what they wanted in their parks and applied pressure until funding was found for trees.

> Because they know that trees "can reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, lower our heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife."*

> Because they know that "trees in our city increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify our community."*

> Because "trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal."*

Heartfelt thanks to all who planned events, recruited volunteers, donated trees, planted trees, and will return to water trees over the next three weeks. They planted a legacy this morning that will outlive generations -- their children will be able to show their grandchildren the magnificent maples that will have made a place in the hearts of thousands.

*Source: Arbor Day Proclamation

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thought for the Day

"If what you are selling is privacy and exclusivity, then every new house is a degradation of the amenity. However, if what you are selling is community, then every new house is an enhancement of the asset."

Vince Graham
addressing the National Association of Home Builders

qtd. in Suburban Nation
Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Speck
North Point Press, 2000

Monday, October 08, 2007

November City Council Election

This November, 4 of 5 City Council seats will be up for election. The fifth seat is mine; it will open in 2009.

One of the seats up for grabs is a two-year seat; its winner will fill the remaining two years of Jimmie Cates' term. Dale Gunther has filed for this seat and is running unopposed.

Only four have filed for the remaining three seats. Three are incumbents Sherry Kramer, Shirl LeBaron, and Rick Storrs. The fourth is a challenger, Jason Porter. The choice in this race is between sending three incumbents back for four more years, or sending two incumbents and one newcomer.

What makes a good council member? When the city council sought applicants to fill the six-month interim position created by the death of Jimmie Cates, I wrote here at the blog that we would be looking for "somebody who communicates well; somebody who has substantial experience with two or more aspects of the City, so that he can see the big picture; who is open and willing to consider questions from all points of view; who has the time and ability to serve; and, finally, somebody who will fit well into the synergy and momentum the current Council enjoys."

These qualities go to character and ability, and will be just as important in November as they were last May.

In choosing the ideal candidate, voters should also consider his or her insight into the current affairs of the City.

In my opinion, the three most critical issues facing the City right now are (1) the need for sound, long-term financial planning, (2) the need for effective transportation planning and effective cooperation with UDOT, and (3) the need to shift the burden of day-to-day management from the mayor, who is part-time, to a full-time city administrator.

In naming these key issues, I do not discount the importance of following through with the many important infrastructure and quality of life initiatives that are now underway. These include the construction of the pressurized irrigation system, the City's $100,000-per-year push for safe sidewalks, the finishing of our parks, and the nurture of our library, Arts Council, and Parks and Recreation department.

That said, let me now offer my insight into the qualities of the five candidates.

Dale Gunther is unquestionably the finest candidate in his race -- or in any race. His long years of executive experience in banking have prepared him to oversee the implementation of the pressurized irrigation system and to plan for the City's long-term financial welfare. He is a consummate negotiator who represents the City's interests with both force and grace. He is also energetic, accomplishing on any given day what would take a week for the rest of us to accomplish -- and that's before he sits down to breakfast.

Sherry Kramer was an excellent choice when we appointed her in June, and she is an excellent choice today. The City has been well-served by her persistence, professionalism, and savvy. When Sherry takes on an issue -- for example, planning for new parks south of the freeway, or working to acquire new cemetery land from the Developmental Center -- she is not to be deterred. One remembers the immortal words of Kipling, that "the female of the species is more deadly than the male." Myself, I would never run against Sherry Kramer.

Shirl LeBaron told us at a recent meet-the-candidates event that he plays well in the sandbox, and I would have to concur. Like the family lawyer he is, Shirl is a good conciliator. He is skilled at seeing and arguing both sides of an issue, then choosing the option that is in the best interests of the community as a whole. Shirl is a team player whose legal expertise and long experience in American Fork are of great benefit to the city.

Rick Storrs is another formidable opponent who, if elected, will be serving his fifth term of office. He knows everything and everybody in the City, and has the good common sense one can only develop after years of service.

Jason Porter is the challenger who, as he explained at a meet-the-candidates event, has no prior experience with the City, but who feels he is at a point in his career where he can afford to devote time to community service. He feels that City governments benefit, from time to time, from fresh blood. His business background, he says, has prepared him to quickly come up to speed on new issues.

I have only met Mr. Porter once, so I cannot vouch for him personally. When I did meet him, I was impressed with his intelligence and his sincere concern for the community. But I have been disappointed not to see him in attendance at City Council meetings and public hearings, and I can't help wondering whether he understands just how many hours of service he is asking to give.

This is a question only he can answer. Fortunately, he has posted his email address on signs around town and encourages the public to contact him with questions and concerns.

Monday, October 01, 2007

1120 North

A recent Dilbert cartoon shows Dogbert, the nerdy yet tyrannical dictator, giving a speech. He says, "As president, I will not make decisions based on polls. In fact, I won't give you a single thing that you want. That's called leadership."

There is resounding applause, showing just how fictional Dogbert's world is. Dogbert congratulates himself under his dog breath, saying, "I'll never understand why that works."

Here in American Fork, not giving people what they want does absolutely nothing for the City Council's approval rating. Especially not in the vicinity of 1120 North, where the Council seems determined to allow the completion of the road.

Despite protests from many immediate neighbors, extension of 1120 North to 900 West remains a major priority for this administration. Here's why.

Design. From the time the junior high was built in the 1970s, 1120 North has been shown on the master plan as a major collector extending from 100 East to 900 West. A major collector has a width of 82 feet which encompass two lanes of travel, a center turn lane, and ten-foot shoulders. The 82 feet also encompass curb and gutter, mowstrips, sidewalks, and one additional foot right-of-way on either side of the street. This design is intended to create a safe environment for pedestrians while accommodating the through-traffic that serves the neighborhood, much of which is generated by Hunter Park, the school, and the two churches that sit on 1120 North. The speed limit along 1120 North is and will remain residential at 25 mph. (Enforcing that speed limit is a separate but valid question.)

Function. The function of 1120 North, in the context of the overall transportation plan for the northwest, is to serve as one of three east-west collectors. The other two are 700 North and 9600 North. 9600 North, I hasten to say, is NOT an American Fork City street. It sits in Highland and is under the jurisdiction of Highland City. Nevertheless, it does fulfill the function of conveying traffic through the northwest. (See my earlier post here for more on 9600 North).

The purpose of creating multiple collectors is to take the full impact of traffic off any one road. 1120 North makes conditions safer on 700 North and 9600 North, while they, in turn, take pressure off 1120 North. Additionally, completion of 1120 North will relieve some of the burden on 540/560 West, 350 West, and 150 West. This is sound, pedestrian-friendly residential design.

1120 North is also seen as vitally important for police, fire, and ambulance service. It will significantly reduce response times to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Water. 1120 North is strategically important to the City because it is the location of a 16-inch water line needed to provide fire protection to the Meadows. Residents have raised several questions about the water line which deserve special attention:

Is there not adequate fire protection at the Meadows now? Yes, fire protection is adequate for present, but not for future development the Meadows.

Can't the City deny future growth at the Meadows? No. In this free country of ours, private property rights are supreme. The Woodbury Corporation, which owns the property, has the right to develop it commercially because it sits in a commercial zone. The City may, on finding that either its ordinance protection or its infrastructure is inadequate, impose a moratorium on new growth, but the moratorium may only last 6 months and the City must cure the deficiency within that time.

Is there no other route for the necessary water line? No. Engineers did initially look into running the water line around the Lehi detention pond, but water pressure would have been inadequate because of the many right angle turns. Other issues with wetlands in the area make 1120 North the only viable route. For what it's worth, the water line is already in place along 900 West up to 1120 North, and along 1120 North up to about 650 West. Only two blocks remain until the City can make the connection. Rerouting the water line at this point would be a multi-million dollar proposition. No matter how you look at it, this option is simply not feasible.

What about the wetlands? Why build a road through such a beautiful natural area? The wetlands are the reason the road is so expensive to build, and this, in turn, is why it has taken the City Council so long to fund and finish the road. Careful engineering, in compliance with the requirements of the Army Corps of Engineers, will preserve the wetlands and mitigate the road's impact. Eventually, residents will be given access to the natural scenery on the trail that is planned to go under the bridge where the road crosses the wetlands. (Status: The trail, which is part of the trail system at Hunter Park and is eventually planned to provide pedestrian access to the Meadows, is planned but not funded.)

Funding. 1120 North is complete to about 650 West. Connecting it to 900 West, a distance of less than three blocks, will cost $1.145 million. Funding, I need not say, is a challenge. Several options are under consideration. The road is eligible for impact fees -- but impact fees are also needed to serve new growth in many other parts of town. An assessment district is another possibility. This mechanism would pass the cost of the road to the businesses which have a financial interest in the water connection. The question is far from resolved, which is why completion is stalled.


1120 North, from 100 East to 900 West, has been on the general plan since the 1970s and neighbors who bought in the area did so with full knowledge of this fact. No action is now pending on 1120 North. Its designation on the general plan is not up for revision; it is not proposed for widening. Funding is stalled.

Why, then, are we hearing so much public outcry?

I don't know. All I know is that the neighborhoods being built around Hunter Park are beautiful and family-friendly. If I lived there, I would want to be sure that the City Council also understood the pristine residential character of the neighborhood and would act to protect it.

I can only respond by saying that we do understand and we do care, and that's why we need to go ahead with the road. Because of the critical public safety issues involved -- from the safety of children and pedestrians to emergency response times in the neighborhood to water pressure at the Meadows -- its completion is seen as vitally important to the interests of both the local neighborhood and the community as a whole.

One final note:

Extension to the east. If you consult the transportation element of the general plan, you will see that 1120 North is shown crossing 100 East and coming to a terminus at 200 East. This is the condition that exists now. However, if you look near the Mt. Timpanogos Temple on 900 East, you'll also see that the general plan shows a new road at 980 North shaving off the top of Art Dye park and connecting with 500 East, where there is an option to turn west at 900 North and meet up with 200 East. Presumably, this could become a useful route for Cedar Hills traffic wishing to access 1120 North and thence Costco.

I don't much like this road because it goes through Art Dye. I would not be sad if it disappeared from the general plan. However, I'm not sure it would have a devastating impact on the northwest neighborhoods, given the length of the light at 100 East and all the four-way stops and right angle turns cars would have to take to get from 900 East to 200 East. To my eye, it's much less convenient than the route that now exists along 700 North.