Saturday, October 8, 2011

Video of the Day:Talking Redistricting

Scott Schwebke caught me at the Ogden River Restoration ribbon cutting and asked a few questions about redistricting:

More fun coming up October 17th!

Benevolent Baptists vs. Bloated Bureaucracy

I was recently made aware of a conflict in my neighborhood involving our local Baptist Church and recent legislation to update building codes.

At the center of the conflict is the following code 15A-3-113 which reads:

A new section IBC, Section 3401.6, is added as follows: "3401.6 Parapet bracing, wall anchors, and other appendages. Buildings constructed before 1975 shall have parapet bracing, wall anchors, and appendages such as cornices, spires, towers, tanks, signs, statuary, etc. evaluated by a licensed engineer when said building is undergoing reroofing, or alteration of or repair to said feature. Such parapet bracing, wall anchors, and appendages shall be evaluated in accordance with 75% of the seismic forces as specified in Section 1613. When allowed by the local building official, alternate methods of equivalent strength as referenced in an approved code under Utah Code, Subsection 15A-1-204(6)(a), will be considered when accompanied by engineer-sealed drawings, details, and calculations. When found to be deficient because of design or deteriorated condition, the engineer's recommendations to anchor, brace, reinforce, or remove the deficient feature shall be implemented.

In this particular case, the Baptist congregation had begun to replace the shingles on their  building in three phases a couple of years ago.  Each phase of the re-roof they pulled a permit with the city.  The third phase was to begin just a couple weeks ago.  However, when the contractor went to pull the permit, he was informed by the desk clerk that the above state statute was in effect and that in order to complete their roof repair they would need to have an engineer design a plan for seismic upgrades to include having bracing installed to tie together the roof trusses and the unreinforced masonry walls.  As you can probably guess, that is a very tall order for a small congregation of elderly worshipers. 

Obviously, something seems to have gone awry.  In discussing this particular section of code with a colleague familiar with the subject, he believes that the definition of a re-roof is to tear into the structural aspects of the roof rather than simply replacing the water barrier (like shingles and tar paper). However, it appears that city zoning inspectors differ in that interpretation.

I will be organizing a meeting between city zoning and the parishioner to see if we can introduce some common sense into the permitting process for this job.  If not, the next order of business will be to open a bill file and change the statute to compel municipal zoning enforcement to operate in a more reasonable fashion. 

Let's see what happens.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fighting Intergenerational Poverty

One of the issues that was discussed at interim session in September was the issue of intergenerational poverty.  Senator Stuart Reid placed the issue on the agenda of our Economic Development committee to find out what tools were at the State's disposal to help curb this cultural problem.

The hearing was slightly discouraging as we discovered that the state lacked the proper records to make substantive conclusions on the issue.  That means we will need to change the law to better account for who is receiving assistance from the State and when.

The poverty issue is a dead weight around the neck of the taxpayers of Utah.  A large portion of our state taxes are used to service those who find themselves in poverty.  If we can find a way to open doors of opportunity for children out of the poverty lifestyle, the state could return millions of dollars to its taxpayers.

Finding these opportunities will prove challenging.  Education has been mentioned as a key in breaking the poverty cycle.  Interestingly, due to mostly environmental forces, it appears that many in poverty remain in those circumstances due to a lack of education.  Yet, cultural forces within the poor community often place low value on educational opportunities or academic achievement.  It can be a viciously self-impeding feedback loop.

The CATO Institute recently published this brief video on poverty:

Hopefully the Legislature can address this issue this year and find some policy solutions that will benefit both the poor and the taxpayer alike.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Redistricting Session: Stalemate

The last two days we have spent at the Capitol in an effort to agree on new maps that will represent district shapes for the next 10 years.  Yesterday we passed the House District map with near unanimous support.  The Senate District map was less unanimous but received little push back during debate on the floor.

The Congressional map on the other hand is turning into a contest of will between not only Republicans and Democrats but also between the House and the Senate.

The morning was punctuated by a Redistricting Committee meeting that was held to publicly air two new maps that were drawn.  One map, what we will call the Ipson Map, was attractive to those in the House.  The McAdams Map, which was also presented, appeared to be favored by Democrats.  In a bizarre turn of events, all Senate committee members and Democrats voted for the McAdams Map, while just the Republican House members voted against it.  The map failed to pass out of committee.  When the Ipson Map came up for a vote, Republican House members voted for it, and Democrats and all Senators voted against it.  It failed as well.  It was a complete surprise to the Republican House committee members that the Republican Senate members would oppose the Ipson Map.

The meeting was also spiced up with a very vitriolic and confrontational presentation by the Utah Democratic Lawyers Council.  You can listen to this outlandish tirade HERE. (The fun starts about halfway through the meeting.)  He didn't win any converts but he did succeed in antagonizing everyone.

It appears that the Senate strategy was to support their Senate colleague in a back-handed way by supporting the McAdams map while knowing that the House member of the committee would vote it down.  Vise versa for the Ipson Map.

This strategy left the only viable option for debate being the so-called Sumsion Map which is not as palatable to the House but is liked by the Senate.

They rest of the day was spent waiting for stakeholders to figure out which tweaks and adjustments were acceptable to make both the House and Senate happy.

Late in the evening we met to wrangle with how to handle this situation, our caucus dismissed at 10:15pm.

The Verdict: We will draw new maps, hold new public hearings, and vet maps until we find one that the House and Senate can agree on.  We will reconvene October 18th.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Introducing Utah House District 9 Version 2.0

The votes were cast and with only one dissenting vote by a Democratic legislator, the new Utah House Map was passed into law this evening.

This is the map of the new District 9.  It will encompass a significant portion of Downtown Ogden but also now spreads west where a lot of the population growth occurred in Weber County. It will include the communities of West Haven and a portion of Roy.   

I look forward to meeting the voters of these neighborhoods and establishing new relationships with the residents of these communities. 

Welcome to District 9!