Monday, March 31, 2008

Nuisance Abatement

Author Cheryl Mendelson tells of a chair in her home that sits next to the front door. Ordinarily, the chair sits empty. But one hurried morning, the story goes, she threw her bathrobe on the chair as she headed out the door. Returning home that evening, she found on the chair not only her bathrobe, but also the morning newspaper, a toothbrush, a back pack, two dog-eared books, and three Hot Rod cars.

Once you allow a piece of junk on a surface in your home, she says, it's only a matter of time before that piece of junk attracts more junk.

The same principle applies to home exteriors. Police call this the "broken window theory." A broken window left unfixed sends a message to vandals. It says, "Nobody cares." Soon other rocks are thrown through other windows and graffiti are painted on the siding. If one house on the block is left in this state, others are sure to follow. Left in this condition, homes and neighborhoods soon become breeding grounds for crime.

One definition of a nuisance would be a property left in an advanced state of disrepair. Any effort to fight crime in American Fork has to include effective nuisance control.

A nuisance can also be something which poses a hazard to children. This is the doctrine of attractive nuisances. As explained at,
a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children, who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition. The doctrine has been applied to hold landowners liable for injuries caused by abandoned cars, piles of lumber or sand, trampolines, and swimming pools. However, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner.
If a nuisance renders others insecure in life or in the use of property, or affects the rights of an entire community or neighborhood, then municipal governments have compelling grounds to intervene.

Concerned with the number of nuisance properties impacting our neighborhood, my husband and many of my neighbors began to advocate the City government for more effective nuisance control. This led to the formation of a nuisance abatement committee in 2003. Under the tenacious leadership of Doug Bethers and supported by Council Member Rick Storrs, this committee has made significant inroads. It has arranged for the donation of numerous abandoned vehicles to the National Kidney Foundation. It has successfully advocated for the removal of nuisance enforcement from the City administrator's desk to the police chief's, with the result that many extreme cases have been prosecuted and cleaned up.

The work that remains is for the City Council to enact legislation addressing some of the more difficult problems. Some weeks ago, we began this effort by approving a yard sale ordinance. This ordinance is intended to prevent the perpetual yard sales run by those who would circumvent the City's business licensing and zoning requirements. (It still allows for the typical household yard sale.) Other ordinances, in accordance with my stated goals for 2008, will be coming down the pipeline later this year.

Some cities, with the full blessing of the United States Constitution, go so far as to legislate the c0lor you can paint your house or the kind of table linens restaurants may use for outdoor dining. Our intent in American Fork is nothing so extreme. True to our western sensibilities, our purposes will be limited to the protection of children and property values, and to the restriction of criminal habitat.

I campaigned on the slogan, "What Kind of City Do You Want to Live In?" A cleaner, safer city, with secure and appealing neighborhoods -- this is one of my top answers to that question.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I'm no economist, but I can't help asking the question: Are we headed for recession?

They say that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. I can't reach a conclusion either, but I do find it interesting to play around with the various tidbits that cross my desk.

On the one hand --
  • Food prices nationally are climbing faster than inflation, with flour, milk, and eggs each up 25 percent over this time last year. Whole wheat bread and cheddar cheese, according to the San Jose Mercury News, are up 15 percent.
  • Building permits in Utah State are down 18.5 percent over last year, said economist Daryl Delano in February's Better Roads magazine.

On the other hand --

Commerce CRG, a commercial real estate firm with a strong presence in Utah County, has released an encouraging market report. Among its findings:

  • The Utah County Industrial market remains tight throughout all geographical sectors. The economy continues to grow as does the number of companies looking for industrial space in the area. Manufacturing is a major industry driving growth to the state, and Utah County is benefiting as companies look for good, centrally located places to house their operations. The county is also benefiting from the overflow from Salt Lake City as companies and industries recognize opportunities in Utah County.
  • The tremendous population growth that hit Utah County in 2006 and 2007 has translated to a very dynamic retail market in 2007. This impressive growth has taken place county-wide. New projects continue to spring up throughout the county and large national tenants are looking at the Provo/Orem area as an expansion market. This is not limited to retail outlets; national restaurants are also taking advantage of the growing population.
  • Several new office projects have been announced for delivery in 2008 reflecting the optimism in the Utah County market.
  • North Utah County continues to be very tight and is benefitting from the presence of large manufacturers and retailers.
  • American Fork and Lehi continue to be the hotbed of activity in the retail segment.

Harry Truman used to complain that he could never find a one-handed economist. He would pitch questions to economists, but their responses invariably began, "Well, Mr. President, on the one hand ... And then again, on the other hand ..."

So maybe I'm an economist, after all.

Did You Know?

Today's information comes from Mark Coddington, storm drain specialist, via the March edition of the American Fork City Employee newsletter.

What Is Storm Water?

Storm water is water from rain, snow, sleet, or hail that flows across the ground and pavement or when snow and ice melt. The water seeps into the ground or drains into what we call the storm drain system. These are the drains you see at street corners, catch basins, detention/retention basins, irrigation canals, creeks, and the American Fork River. Collectively, the draining water is called storm water runoff and is a concern in all areas of American Fork including residential, commercial, industrial and roadway areas of unincorporated portions of our City.

Why Is This Program Necessary?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 40 percent of our nation's waterways remain polluted and storm water runoff is a leading source. Storm water pollution can occur when it rains, or as oil, salt, litter, soil, fertilizer and pesticides are washed into nearby street drains. Most of these drains empty directly into the streams an drivers that we use for fishing, swimming and boating, and result in unusable and polluted waterways.

Do Your Part!
  • Clean up after your pet.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Fertilize only your yard, not your driveway or sidewalk.
  • Wash your car on the lawn or at a commercial car wash.
  • Sweep your driveway and sidewalk; don't hose them down.
  • Dispose of old paint, pesticides, solvents, and batteries appropriately.
  • Compost yard waste such as grass clippings, tree trimmings and leaves.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Economic Developments

Contrary to popular opinion, lawmakers do not enjoy raising taxes. That's why it's welcome news when the tax base thrives.

Where xy represents the formula for multiplying x (the tax base) by y (the tax rate), the product can be increased by upping either x or y.

(I love algebra.)

Whether x (the tax base) is increased through growth in commercial and residential properties or through strong sales, it works the same way. It's nicer for everybody when we can increase x and leave y (the tax rate) alone.

This is the argument for economic development, and the reason why local governments sometimes attempt to influence the market for the better.

This is also the reason why I was thrilled to see some of our local businesses named Best of Utah County in the Daily Herald's 2007 Readers' Choice awards. Congratulations to these fine American Fork businesses:

JCW's: Best hamburgers, best fast food, best french fries, best fry sauce, best root beer float, best shakes, best onion rings

American Fork Cinemark: Best movie theater, best movie theater popcorn

Red Balloon: Best toy store

Jack & Jill Bowling Lanes: Best bowling alley

American Fork Hospital: Best hospital/medical clinic

Doug Smith: Best auto dealer (new), best auto dealer (used)

Best Vinyl: Best fencing company

Bank of American Fork: Best bank

La Vigna: Best Italian, best romantic restaurant, best new restaurant, best kept secret

La Vigna (formerly Ottavio's, near Cinemark) treated the City Council to a memorable appreciation dinner in January, and the restaurant was everything the Daily Herald says it is. The food and the service were excellent, but the atmosphere is what will keep me coming back. It's like escaping to Tuscany.

Also of interest: Provo College was named best college and best technical institution. According to this morning's Deseret News, Provo College will be opening an American Fork campus at North Pointe business park this October.

Good news for economic development in American Fork.

Thought for the Day

An ounce of algebra is worth a pound of argument.

Mr. Dorwin
Eighth grade algebra teacher par excellence
Totem Junior High School
Kent, Washington