Monday, December 23, 2013

Op-Ed: Gay Marriage Ruling Opens Door to Legal Confusion

My Op-Ed, as recently published in the Standard Examiner:

The recent overturning of Utah's Constitutional Amendment 3 was a shock in its timing and delivery. The large media frenzy which broadcast gay marriage ceremonies live into Utahn's living rooms appeared hasty and one-sided.  In this context, it is time to take a step back and examine the larger picture.  We need to take a thoughtful moment to question and ask ourselves to what end we are headed.

First let me say that I am not a hater.  Nor, am I a bigot.  I have wonderful gay and straight friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, the casual use of these derisive labels has poisoned healthy debate on this important subject.  By silencing and thus marginalizing those with a contrary view point from those supporting the same-sex marriage cause, public discourse has become highly polarized. Perhaps it is that civil minded people are fatigued by having to defend themselves against slanderous and untrue accusations.  Or, that these civil minded citizens are reluctant to rebuff strong and passionate rhetoric with equal vigor; not because of acquiescence, but rather out of disbelief and confusion that divisive tones can so quickly and needlessly escalate.

I have a deep sense of sympathy for my friends and neighbors in the LGBT community who struggle to validate their same-gender proclivities while yearning for acceptance in a judgmental world.  Certainly, it must be a difficult and challenging life experience.  Nevertheless, it seems the validation and acceptance that is sought is being pursued in ways that run contrary to the interests of society at large.

Society has an existential interest in children and the relationships that produce them.  It may be hard to believe but Utah right now is teetering just above replacement in its fertility rate.  The rest of the U.S. is below replacement which means that unless we have in-migration, our nation's population is set to decline.  This decline means that there will not be enough young people to care for the old.  There will not be enough young workers to pension their grandparents.  Many of our economic problems are symptomatic of this inverted age pyramid.  If society bears no children, society has no future.  Thus, insisting that the State endorse marriage between two people of the same gender runs contrary to the need for society to perpetuate itself through reproduction through the traditional family setting.

It may be argued that these same-gender unions are not hurting anyone and that it simply recognizes a contractual agreement between two consenting adults.  Indeed, on an individual level this appears to be the case.  However, on a broader level, when the laws are changed and the guiding arm of state statute offers its citizens legal alternatives to traditional family creation; and, these alternatives are taught impartially in our schools to the rising generation; we can only expect that the effect would be to inhibit our future capacity to reproduce, with all the consequences that implies.

Another major problem linked to same-sex marriage laws relates to its ripple effects within the law.  For thousands of years, marriage has been clearly defined through tradition as union between man and woman.  If this traditional definition is no longer valid, then what other possible combinations are available?  Is there a limit to the number of people that can exist in a marriage?  What about polygamy?  Recently, a judge struck down provisions of Utah's anti-polygamy laws and cited the overturn of anti-sodomy laws in Texas as his precedent.  We cannot assume that changing laws to include members of the LGBT community will not have an effect on other aspects of the law.

Yet, another complication of sanctioning same-gender marriages is that it equates homosexual relations with those of heterosexual ones and asserts rights based on that supposed equality. This in turn has the potential to upend conventional protections given to individuals. The law provides protection for various classes of people including race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship, family status, disability, or veteran status.  Each of these protected classes, with the notable exception of religion, is an easily identifiable trait.  Men and women are defined at birth biologically.  The law offers special protections based on these biological definitions.  However, it is uncertain whether same gender attraction is a physical condition that is imbued at birth, or nurtured through life experience.  Perhaps it is part of both.  Nevertheless, the certainty of this characteristic in the individual is made known through personal choice.  A person must take action and engage in a physical relationship with someone of the same gender in order to assert the claim of being gay.  Otherwise, any claim could be suspect.  This then begs the question, does someone's choice to engage in a same-gender relationship afford them new rights like the right to marry?  What other rights can be argued based on these personal choices?  What other sexual choices can individuals make to afford them new rights?  Do these rights disappear when their choices change?  As you can see, this is a frontier of foggy uncharted legal territory with far reaching implications for society.

Historically, we live in a country where rights beget freedom and freedom begets choices.  Reversing this paradigm so that choices create rights threatens to open the door to legal confusion.  In this process, the traditional values and norms that have served society for millennia could be left in the lurch.  May we all take a step back, speak in soft tones, and honestly listen to both sides of this debate.  Our posterity will thank us for it.    

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Through the Veil: The Funeral of Brad Jay Galvez

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend the funeral for my friend and former legislative colleague Brad Jay Galvez today.  The solemn services were held at the Wilson 2nd Ward building of the LDS Church in West Haven, Utah.  Several hundred friends and family were in attendance.    

Brad's son Joshua read the obituary which was then followed by his children sharing memories of their father.  It was very touching.  Representative Ryan Wilcox, County Commissioner Kerry GIbson, and family shared a special musical number.  Brad's sister-in-law spoke as well as Representative Ken Ivory.  The final speaker was Elder Lynn L. Summerhays from the fifth Quorum of the Seventy who had presided over the meeting.

I have to say of all the funerals that I have ever attended,  this was one of the most inspirational and edifying I have ever seen.  The spirit in the room was in accord with Brad's lifetime of service, faith, and devotion to his family.

Brad was serving as the Bishop for his ward at the time of his passing.  He had been diagnosed in the last half of 2012 with untreatable kidney cancer and given three months to live by his doctors.  Undeterred, he pursued a holistic health regiment that included strict dietary protocols and natural treatments for his condition.  Miraculously, he lived over a year after his diagnosis and was able to spend that extra time with his wife and children.  During that time, Brad was continually upbeat and eager to serve others.

There were many poignant quotes from the meeting.  Here are just a couple:

"I never saw a stronger man than the frail and feeble Brad Galvez." - Ken Ivory

"The Galvez family has the faith to be healed, they also have the faith not to be healed." - Elder Summerhays

Elder Summerhays' remarks touched the heart. He mentioned that Brad's early passing opened doors of opportunity as Brad would continue to do the Lord's work beyond the veil.  He also alluded to the rights of a father and husband Brad still has as a patriarch who is sealed to his family by covenant.  He also talked about faith as the Galvez family prayed for a miracle to save Brad but ultimately accepted the Lord's will that now was Brad's time to depart.  Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane acquiesced to his Father's will yet knowing the anguish of the Atonement would be nearly unbearable. (Luke 22:42)  Likewise, the Lord has a plan for each of us and the Galvez family has shown they have embraced that plan, despite its untimely unpleasantness.

It was a privilege to serve with Brad in the Legislature and an honor to call him a friend.  I am grateful for the experience of attending his funeral.  It was a moving and inspiring memorial to Brad's life and a faith building personal experience to be there.  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Brad's wife Lisa and his four children Joshua, Justin, Jenilyn, and Jordana during this time of mourning.  I know that the Comforter will abide with them during this season of transition.    

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Living and Dying By Federal Funds: A Realtor's Post Mortem Analysis

I don't usually commingle the topics of my living as a real estate broker with my politics on this blog.  But, unfortunately, we live in an age where the economy seems increasingly dependent on government.

Weber County has a very high percentage (10%) of employees depending on the Federal Government for their incomes.  The IRS has a dominant presence as a major employer as well as Hill Air Force Base.

It is also important to note that real estate sales are a vital statistic of the health of an economy.  When people make less money, they spend less money, and thus, buy fewer homes.

So, here is how the Federal Government shutdown affected home sales (my livelihood) in Weber County:

As you can see, a 23% drop in November homes sales from the same month last year says a lot.  This is the first YoY decrease in sales since May 2011 when we were in the throws of a real estate depression. Fortunately, this should be an anomaly and not a trend.

But, if there are further political earthquakes and budget gridlock at the Federal level, we can expect more palpitations in the local economy, including the real estate market.  

This is an excellent illustration of the seductive lure and yet lurking peril of depending on government jobs to support a local economy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Keys to the Republic: The Wisdom of Machiavelli

I recently finished reading the illuminating book Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius by Niccolo Machiavelli.  Unlike The Prince, this book is a fascinating treatise on the successes and failures of ancient republics and governments while also comparing them to contemporary republics of Machiavelli's time, especially those of renaissance era Florence and Venice.  The book is dripping in wisdom from the ages.  I strongly encourage anyone interested in politics and policymaking to acquire a copy.

Here are some of the best quotes.  I have loosely categorized them for your benefit.


"Let no man, therefore, lose heart from thinking that he cannot do what others have done before him; are born, and live, and die, always in accordance with the same rules."

"He who would reform the institutions of a free state, must retain at least the semblance of the old ways."

"Remaining undecided, he will be crushed while he still wavers and doubts."

"For nothing, I think, is of worse example in a republic, than to make a law and not keep it; and most of all, when he who breaks it is he who made it."

"Of all the many princes existing. or who have existed, few indeed are or have been either wise or good."

"Men, moreover, in proportion as they see you averse to usurp authority over them, grow the readier to surrender themselves into your hands; and fear you less on the score of their freedom, when they find you acting toward them with consideration and kindness."

"Excellence is praised and admired even by its enemies."

"More glory is to be won in being beaten by force, than in a defeat from any other cause."

"A great man is constantly the same through all vicissitudes of fortune; so that although she change, now exalting, now depressing, he remains unchanged, and retains always a mind so unmoved, and in such complete accordance with his nature as declares to all that over him fortune has no dominion." - Marcus Furius Camillus

"Very different is the behavior of those weak minded mortals who, puffed up and intoxicated with their success, ascribe all their felicity to virtues which they never knew."

"For as a captain cannot be present everywhere while a battle is being fought, unless he have taken all measures before hand to render his men of the same temper as himself, and have made sure that they perfectly understand his orders and arrangements, he will inevitably be destroyed."

"The criterion of character afforded by a man's manners and conversation is a safer guide than the presumption of inherited excellence, but is far inferior to that afforded by his actions."

"It is men who give lustre to titles and not titles to men."

Corruption of the State

"For the corruption I speak of is wholly incompatible with the free government, because it results from an inequality which pervades the state and can only be removed by employing unusual and very violent remedies, such as few are willing or know how to employ."

"But where corruption is universal, no laws or institutions will ever have force to restrain it.  Because as good customs stand in need of good laws for their support, so laws, that they may be respected, stand in need of good customs.  Moreover, the laws and institutions established in a republic at its beginning, when men are good, are no longer suitable when they have become bad."

"But when the people grew depraved, this [the tribune] became a very mischievous institution; for then it was only the powerful who proposed laws, and these not in the interest of public freedom but of their own authority, and because, through fear, none durst speak against the laws they proposed, the people were either deceived or forced into voting their own destruction."

"The vices of our age are the more odious in that they are practiced by those who sit on the judgement seat, govern the state, and demand public reverence."

Freedom Gained and Freedom Ruined

"There is no difficulty, therefore, in determining whence that ancient greatness and this modern decay have arisen, since they can be traced to the free life formerly prevailing and to the servitude which prevails now.  For all countries and provinces which enjoy complete freedom, make, as I have said, most rapid progress.  Because from marriage being less restricted in these countries, and more sought after, we find there a greater population; every man being disposed to beget as many children as he thinks he can rear, when he has no anxiety lest they should be deprived of their patrimony, and knows not only that they are born to freedom and not to slavery, but that they may rise by their merit to be the first men of their country, in such states, accordingly, we see wealth multiply, both that which comes from agriculture and that which comes from manufactures. For all love to gather riches and to add to their possessions when enjoyment of them is not likely to be disturbed."

"The multitude...formed themselves into a government and at first, while the recollection of past tyranny was still fresh, observed the laws they themselves made, and postponing personal advantage to the common welfare, administered affairs both publicly and privately with the utmost diligence and zeal.  But this government passing, afterwards, to their descendants who, never having been taught in the school of adversity, knew nothing of the vicissitudes of fortune, these not choosing to rest content with mere civil equality, but abandoning themselves to avarice, ambition, and lust, converted, without respect to civil rights what had been a government of the best into a government of the few; and so very soon met with the same fate as the tyrant."  

"A lost freedom is avenged with more ferocity than a threatened freedom is defended."

"Those states consequently stand surest and endure longest which, either by the operation of their institutions can renew themselves, or come to be renewed by accident apart from any design.  Nothing, however, can be clearer than that unless thus renewed these bodies do not last.  Now the way to renew them is, as I have said, to bring them back to their beginnings, since all beginnings of sects, commonwealths, or kingdoms must needs have in them a certain excellence, by virtue of which they gain their first reputation and make their first growth.  But because in progress of time this excellence becomes corrupted, unless something be done to restore it to what it was at first, these bodies necessarily decay; for as the physicians tell us in speaking of the human body: "something or other is daily added which sooner or later will require treatment."

"Nothing is so necessary in any society, as to restore to it that reputation which it had at first, and to see that it is provided either with wholesome laws, or with good men whose actions may effect the same ends, without need to resort to external force."

"For it is no less arduous and dangerous to attempt to free a people disposed to live in servitude, than to enslave a people who desire to live free."

The Decline of Religion Presages the Decline of a State

"And as the observance of the ordinances of religion is the cause of the greatness of a state, so their neglect is the occasion of its decline; since a kingdom without the fear of God must either fall to pieces, or must be maintained by the fear of some prince who supplies that influence not supplied by religion."

"Princes and commonwealths that would save themselves from growing corrupted, should before all things keep uncorrupted the rites and ceremonies of religion, and always hold them in reverence; since we can have no surer sign of decay of a province than to see divine worship held therein in contempt."

"Wherever there is fear, the want of faith will be the same."

Balance of Power

"In every republic there are two conflicting factions, that of the people and that of the nobles, it is in this conflict that all laws favorable to freedom have their origin."

"The cruelties of a people are turned against him who it fears will encroach upon the common rights, but the cruelties of the prince against those who he fears may assert those rights."

"For a monarchy readily becomes a tyranny, an aristocracy an oligarchy, while a democracy tends to degenerate into anarchy.  So that if the founder of a state should establish any one of these three forms of government, he establishes it for a short time only, since no precaution he may take can prevent it from sliding into its contrary by reason of the close resemblance which, in this case, the virtue bears to the vice."

The People

"For though they be ignorant, the people are not therefore, as Cicero says, incapable of being taught the truth, but are readily convinced when it is told them by one in whose honesty they can trust."

"For though the multitude be unfit to set a state in order, since they cannot, by reason of the divisions which prevail among them, agree wherein the true well-being of the state lies, yet when they have once been taught the truth, they will never consent to abandon it."

"But when a people is led to commit this error of lending its support to some one man, in order that he may attack those whom it holds in hatred, if he only be prudent, he will inevitably become the tyrant of that city."

"A people deceived by a false show of advantage will often labor for its own destruction; and unless convinced by someone whom it trusts, that the course on which it is bent is pernicious, and that some other is to be preferred, will bring infinite danger and injury up on a state."

"So blinded are men in favor of what seems a spirited course."

"Nothing tends so much to restrain an excited multitude as the reverence felt for some grave person, clothed in authority, who stands forward to oppose them."

"For often a people will be open-mouthed in condemning the decrees of their prince, but afterwards when they have to look punishment in the face, putting no trust in one another, they hasten to comply."

"On the one hand there is nothing more terrible than an uncontrolled and headless mob, on the other, there is nothing feebler."

"But as for prudence and stability of purpose, I affirm that a people is more prudent, more stable, and of better judgement than a prince, nor is it without reason that the voice of the people has been likened to the voice of God; for we see that wide spread beliefs fulfill themselves, and bring about marvelous results so as to have the appearance of presaging by some occult quality either weal or woe."

"How greatly men are governed in what they do by necessity."

Miscellaneous Wisdom

"For men, if they would judge justly, should esteem those who are, and not those whose means enable them to be generous; and in like manner those who know how to govern kingdoms, rather than those who possess the government without such knowledge."

"Whence it happens that by far the greater number of those who read history, take pleasure in following the variety of incidents with it presents, without a thought to imitate them."

"Calumny is most rife in that state wherein impeachment is least practiced and the laws least favor it."

"For men used to live in one way are loath to leave it for another, especially when they are not brought face to face with the evil against which they should guard, and only have it indicated to them by conjecture."

"For the causes of division in a commonwealth are, for the most part, ease and tranquility, while the causes of union are fear and war."

"The past should have our reverence, the present our obedience, and that we should wish for good princes, but put up with any."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reforming Utah's Court Systems - Part 2

In October, I presented a proposal to the Judiciary Interim Committee to reform Utah's court system.  My proposal and the data supporting the change were illustrated in an hour long conversation.

After gauging the concerns of some of the committee members, and to make proposed changes more palatable (and thus more likely to succeed), we changed the direction of our conversation for November's interim committee.

Instead of major reforms themselves, we changed our proposal to create a task force of stakeholders.  I believe that getting the stakeholders to the table will foster better discussion and better results.  The task force will debate the issues and then make recommendations to the legislature regarding changes it feels are appropriate to our court system.  Members of the task force will include representatives of the courts, the House, the Senate, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the public, and others.  Here is the original draft of the task force bill:

Unfortunately, the November interim meeting of the Judiciary committee was very chaotic.  It started an hour late due to the Senate conducting confirmation hearings.  Then, when it did start, it lacked a quorum and could not take any action on bills being presented.  To accommodate the schedules of legislators who had conflicting appointments, the committee bumped our task force item to last on the agenda with 15 minutes left in the meeting.  Most of the committee was in support of the concept but voiced reservations on details regarding the make up of the committee.  After hearing some constructive criticism, we adjourned.

You can read how the press reported on the meeting HERE.

I will be working with committee members before the General Session begins in January to make sure we address their concerns and move forward with the task force.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Park Politics Propaganda: Patrons Put Off By Preachy Promotion

I love the outdoors.  As a family, we make it a point to get out regularly to enjoy nature and explore many of the unique and special places in Utah and abroad.  We had such an opportunity this Thanksgiving as we visited Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

It was a fascinating day as we walked across the lava flows and cinder cones created by very chaotic and violent volcanic activity just a couple thousand years ago.  I highly recommend a visit to the monument's tortured landscape.  It truly is otherworldly.

However, our last stop before we left was a short walk around Devil's Orchard.  In many parks, a plaque is often posted to describe or explain what the visitor is seeing.  Often, natural phenomena are explained, special plants or animals are highlighted, or historical information is shared.  Yet, at Devil's Orchard, the plaques come with an agenda.  Here are some of the interesting messages we saw:

This first one is interesting.  It mentions the presence of lichens in the park.  What is a lichen?  It is the unique result of the symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi which manifests itself in brightly colored patches on rocks.  Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from reading this plaque. Instead, we discover that we are killing these pretty colored creatures:

"Tough as they are, lichens can still be threatened by human activity because they store airborne chemicals in their cells.  -snip-  First to grow and first to be damaged, lichens warn us that the park's air suffers from polluters near and far."
Well, isn't that a cheerful endorsement of nature's wonder.

Here the plaque offers to educate the reader through definitions:

"Broken rocks.  Polluted plants. Bad decisions. The process of understanding, correcting and preventing all this is called resource management."

Oh, to have the coveted position of Resource Manager.

The plaques continue their monotonous tirade:

"Take a deep long breath.  Hard to believe, but this fresh air is getting dirty.  The damaged lichens prove it."

Then the plaques berate the visitor:

In a world ever more affected by humans, you are a "park neighbor" wherever you live.  Being a good neighbor means being informed about recycling and the sound use of resources.
I never felt so bad being a human.

And finally, the UN steps in to blame the visitor for visiting :

"It is not the presence of animals and plants that makes conservation necessary, but the presence of people" - Maurice Strong, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme 1972-1975

The unsuspecting visitors to Craters of the Moon national Monument were just told that to save the park from themselves it would have been better for them to stay home.  I am all for smart conservation, mindful use of resources, and respecting our outdoors.  However, brow beating visitors with this poorly presented message is not the way to do it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Youth Leadership Summit: Opening Minds and Lifting Expectations In Utah's Ethnic Community

I had the privilege of attending a Multicultural Youth Leadership Summit hosted by Weber State University.  As a member of the Multicultural Commission, I meet regularly with members of the commission who are stakeholders in Utah's diverse ethnic communities.

A big part of our discussion is about education and how to open children's minds to the opportunities in society to succeed and excel.  The Youth Leadership Summit was a great opportunity to show these kids how they can be successful despite the popular narrative that ethnic minorities can't be.

There were 1,000 kids in the audience today which is a great turnout.  The meeting had a tremendously positive message with some great presenters. 

Our new Lt. Governor Spencer Cox gave a rousing introductory speech about his personal experience.  He first apologized for being "the white guy in a suit".  He described how he was on the wrong road as a youth and through some the care of some mentors was able to change his life, attend school. and make a difference in his community.  It was a well received message by the audience and very poignant.

   Judge Andrew Valdez spoke about his personal story of being mentored as a young man by a stranger he met while selling newspapers.  His story is compelling.  So much so, that it has been put in a book titled No One Makes It Alone.

I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy.  It was great to see the young men and women at this meeting being uplifted by the message.

Truly, we will be whatever we want to be...if we are willing to do what it takes to become it.  Hopefully, these messages of hope will find a home in the hearts of these young people and lift our rising generation.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Reforming Utah's Court Systems - Part 1

I recently presented my proposal to reform Utah's court systems to the Judiciary Interim Committee.  The presentation went well except for the time constraints which limited input from the public on the issue.  Here is the document presentation I gave the committee:


At the conclusion of my presentation, and in reference to the brightly colored charts, Senator Mark Madsen who is Vice Chair of the committee, said " I don't know Rep. Peterson very well.  But based on this presentation, I could't tell if you are an attorney, an economist, or an interior decorator."  I almost took offense.  Nobody has ever accused me of being an attorney before.

You can listen to the entire presentation including a rhetorical rebuttal by the Administrator of the Courts against the proposal.  While his rebuttal was spirited, he did not offer any alternative solutions to the problems discussed in the presentation.  Here is the video (audio only):

The committee was mostly receptive to the idea but again time constraints prevented us from getting into the dollar figures debating idea thoroughly.  We are on November's agenda to discuss the issue further and give the public time to comment.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cruelty and Hope: Our Columbus Day Inheritance

I recently read Bartolome de las Casa's classic book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.  It is a first-hand account by the Bishop of Chiapas of the depredations and atrocities that descended on the Americas following the arrival of the Spanish.

The account is jaw-dropping as Bartolome details the campaigns that subdued and subjected each country in Central and South America.  For instance, the Conquistadors established a practice of entering cities under pretenses of peace, dining with the leadership of a native kingdom, and then rising up and killing all the nobility during the event.  This decapitated, literally and figuratively, the leadership of the community and put the rest of the population into terror and the control of the Conquistadors.  The remaining population would then be tortured to expose the source of their gold, sold into slavery, or held captive for an even worse fate.

When the people fled to escape this brutality, they typically fled for the mountains.  The Spaniards had brought with them a particularly potent tool for dealing with this problem: the mastiff.  The Spaniards brought these enormous dogs with them and trained them to hunt and consume human flesh.  Many of the natives held captive were used as fresh food for these animals.  While on the hunt, the dogs were set loose to chase down the natives in hiding and devour them.

In one case, a Spaniard ravaging the Guatemalan countryside conquered several villages totaling 20,000 people.  He subjected these people to become his army in his march across the land.  However, he refused to feed them.  Instead, he promised them the meat found on the bones of the armies they defeated.  And thus, the army went about destroying and consuming communities across the country in a scene of endless indescribable horror.

This book has forever changed my world view.  From a historical sense it has illuminated my mind to the importance of our heritage and our histories.  This is especially so when it comes to the founding events that have set countries and nations into existence.  The United States of America was founded by those seeking to create a new life.  The Puritans were seeking to escape religious persecution.  Many more came for economic freedom and opportunity which did not exist in England at the time.

These colonizers of North America came escaping oppression; yet, the Spaniards who descended on Central and South America were the authors of it.  This fact ranks among the greatest of injustices to a people; for it not only affected those alive at the time, but echoes through the generations to the present.

Following the Conquest, a social order was established called the Sistema de la Casta, which institutionalized racism and based economic and social fortunes for individuals on the purity of their Spanish blood.  This system created a pecking order of social standing with Spanish immigrants at the top and indigenous people and African slaves at the bottom.  Though abolished, the effects of this historic practice cast a long and lingering shadow on the culture of countries unlucky enough to have been "settled" by the Spanish.

Today, the economic policies of the Mexican government rely on the United States' goodwill to prevent social upheaval.  In the early 1980's, economic forces put tremendous pressure on Mexico and its currency.  At that time, most of the indigenous poor worked on collective farms run by the government.  Inflation induced by national debt excesses pushed the poor to a breaking point where food and necessities were unaffordable.  To ease the tensions, the Mexican government encouraged its poorest and most oppressed people, people we would recognize today as being at the bottom of their former sistema de la casta, to emigrate to the U.S.  This movement of people saved Mexico from a potentially violent revolution.  Yet, the U.S. was left to absorb the new economic refugees however it could.  This phenomena created pressure within the U.S. and culminated in the 1986 legislation called the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA or "Reagan Amnesty").

Thus, we see an example of how the different histories of two nations, one founded on oppression, and the other founded on freedom, affect how they pursue their own self-interest based on the conscience and values imbued at their founding.  While the IRCA was a bait-and-switch policy failure due to half of the Act going unfunded and unimplemented, as originally written, it reflected rational and reasonable thought on how to balance American ideals of freedom with the reality that our country's capacity to digest and assimilate immigrant populations at any one time is limited.

As we prepare to celebrate Columbus Day, may we take note of our good fortunes in the United States and better understand our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere who wish to have fared as well as we have.    

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Legalize Pot: UtahCARE Loves Nearly Nude Runners and LDS

I don't have TV in my house but there was a rumor on the street that I was mentioned on Channel 4 yesterday.  Sure enough I was.

Elizabeth Osbourne was interviewed and given time to explain what UtahCARE's mission and how they plan to go about collecting signatures at LDS General Conference and during the Undie Run.  The purpose of course is to place an initiative on the ballot to legalize pot in Utah.  In the last 30 seconds of the interview, she blasts my response to an email they sent.  WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

The House and Senate received a curious email at 1:43AM yesterday morning.  Here is what I received:

Hello Utah lawmakers and representatives! In honor of the 2013 LDS Church General Fall Conference, our group, UtahCARE, will be in the area to answer questions about the benefits of medical marijuana as well as to gather signatures necessary to place the issue up for a vote in 2014. Please see the attached Press Release and consider attending or sending any questions in a response to this e-mail or the contact information located below. Thank you for your time and consideration. UtahCARE Press Release 09302013

Gradi Jordan, Director UtahCARE

Utah Cannabis Awareness, Respect and Education

This email seemed a little odd.  The group was gathering in "honor" of LDS General Conference?  Ironic.  So, to point out the irony, I responded accordingly:

"Uh…so remind me again how your presence and movement honors LDS General Conference?  It's like the Quorum of the Seventy showing up in Nevada to honor Burning Man.  Makes no sense.  For congruity's sake, I suggest meeting in Pioneer Park on April 20th instead."
Of course, April 20th is the "420" holiday widely celebrated in marijuana aficionado circles as a day to light up.  And, Pioneer Park seems to be a popular hang out for those who support the holiday.  So, it only seemed appropriate to direct the petition gatherers to the place and time to achieve the greatest likely success for their efforts.    

Now, for the record, I will never vote to legalize marijuana.  It is a gateway drug and I believe the risks associated with its legalization far out weigh its benefits.  For those Utahn's who want to consume marijuana anyway, I suggest planning a trip to Colorado.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blackstone: The Laws of God vs. The Laws of Man

In today's world of political correctness, there has been an effort to sanitize the public square of references to Deity.  What some view as an honest expression of belief, other's view as an offensive and potentially oppressive display of advocacy.  

In light of this climate, I found the words of William Blackstone in his work Commentaries of the Laws of England: Vol. 1, to be striking.  In this discourse, Mr. Blackstone, England's premier legal scholar and magistrate in the 1760's, lays out the foundation of law at the time in England.  I have reproduced large excerpts which come from the second chapter of the book:

"LAW, in it's most general and comprehensive sense, signifies a rule of action; and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action, whether animate, or inanimate, rational or irrational. Thus we say, the laws of motion, of gravitation, of optics, or mechanics, as well as the laws of nature and of nations. And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey. 

Thus when the supreme being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be. When he put that matter into motion, he established certain laws of motion, to which all movable bodies must conform.
If we farther advance, from mere inactive matter to vegetable and animal life, we shall find them still governed by laws; more numerous indeed, but equally fixed and invariable. The whole progress of plants, from the seed to the root, and from thence to the seed again;—the method of animal nutrition, digestion, secretion, and all other branches of vital economy;—are not left to chance, or the will of the creature itself, but are performed in a wondrous involuntary manner, and guided by unerring rules laid down by the great creator. 

This then is the general signification of law, a rule of action dictated by some superior being; and in those creatures that have neither the power to think, nor to will, such laws must be invariably obeyed, so long as the creature itself subsists, for it's existence depends on that obedience.

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself; but a state of dependence will inevitably oblige the inferior to take the will of him, on whom he depends, 
And consequently as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. 

For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.
 As therefore the creator is a being, not only of infinite power, and wisdom, but also of infinite goodness, he has been pleased so to contrive the constitution and frame of humanity, that we should want no other prompter to enquire after and pursue the rule of right, but only our own self-love, that universal principle of action. For he has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter. In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, as some have vainly surmised; but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, "that man should pursue his own happiness." This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law.
 And if our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the task would be pleasant and easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error. 

This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of divine providence; which, in companion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased, at sundry times and in divers manners, to discover and enforce it's laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity.

Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these."
Though Mr. Blackstone was not a theologian, one cannot ignore the deep respect and reverence he expresses in his sentiments.  It is quite fascinating for many reasons.

Monday, September 16, 2013

JUSTICE FOR ALL: The Case for Reforming Utah's Court System

Last year I drafted legislation to look at reforming Utah's court systems. At that time, out of deference to local stakeholders in my district, I agreed to send the bill to interim study for further review.

In the bill, I propose modifying our court structure which is currently modeled around the two pillars of Justice Courts and District Courts. My proposal calls for the creation of a third pillar, called the Circuit Court. The effort is a holistic approach to solving a myriad of problems plaguing our current system.  Let me explain.


Article VIII, Section 1. - Utah Constitution   
            The judicial power of the state shall be vested in a Supreme Court, in a trial court of general jurisdiction known as the district court, and in such other courts as the Legislature by statute may establish. The Supreme Court, the district court, and such other courts designated by statute shall be courts of record. Courts not of record shall also be established by statute.

Early in our state's (and territory's) history, Justice Courts were established as a means to settle simple disputes in the community.  If Farmer Brown's cow wandered off and ate Grandma Greenthumb's lettuce patch, the dispute could be settled by a Justice Court. These courts were intended to handle rather mundane cases.  As such, they were designated as "not of record".  So what does that mean?  It means that in the eyes of the other pillars of our legal system, these cases are 'invisible' to them.

For instance, let's presume Farmer Brown's cow was found to be neglected and Farmer Brown was fined for the oversight.  The case would be closed.  Since the infraction is minor, possibly not even a misdemeanor, Farmer Brown could not appeal his case to a higher court.  In the eyes of the broader court system, the case does not exist.  It's end is in the Justice Court.

Now, lets suppose that Farmer Brown has also been fermenting some mash in his barn and brewing moonshine.  One day Farmer Brown gets tipsy one day and drives his tractor into town blowing through stop signs and parking in a handicap parking spot before police catch up with him.  He is cited with a DUI and heads to court.  In this case, the Justice Court.  In that court he is found guilty.  However, Farmer Brown's attorney is well paid and knows a funny thing about Utah DUI law.  In Utah, DUI and domestic violence cases can be heard in Justice Court and/or District Court.  Thus, dissatisfied with the outcome in Justice Court, Farmer Brown's attorney files a motion to have the case heard again but this time in District Court down the street.  Due to better preparation on the technical details, Farmer Brown's attorney is able to convince the District Court that his client is not guilty and Farmer Brown is exonerated and sent home.

This scenario is not far fetched.  In fact, it is common practice in Utah's Courts today for unsatisfied parties to retry their DUI and domestic violence cases in District Courts when they receive an unwanted outcome in the Justice Courts.  The reason this is possible is because Justice Courts are 'not of record'.  Thus, the District Courts do not 'see' and cannot consider the previous trial or outcome of the Justice Courts.    If you are charged with a misdemeanor and don't like the outcome from the Justice Court, you get a mulligan and can start over fresh in the District Court.  Thus, defendants unfairly get two bites at the justice apple in a process called trial de novo.

This 'Not of Record' status held by Justice Courts also means that there is no appellate oversight of their work as there is in the District Courts courts.  Disputed cases in District Courts are sent to the Appellate Courts.  Disputes in the Appellate Courts are sent to the Supreme Court. Each court can overrule its subordinate court. But in Justice Courts, there is no appeal and no higher court.  This is unfortunate because the judicial review and oversight that is present through the appeals process acts as a kind of quality control for the court system.  Questionable verdicts solicit second opinions through an appeal.  This secondary review acts as a check on the lower courts who may stray from standard and accepted sentencing practices or findings.  Justice Courts, as they are constituted today, lack this appellate oversight.  Thus, the volatile and inconsistent sentencing we see today across Justice Courts in Utah should not surprise us.

Another systemic issue facing Justice Courts is their role in municipal budgets.  Since Justice Courts are able to levy fines for infractions, that revenue goes to the coffers of the municipality that issued the citiation.  While some municipalities are very responsible in handling this privilege, others are not.  Recently, I was made aware of a city in Utah that increased their budget by $1 million by counting on an increase in revenues of $1 million from their Justice Court.  Since their population isn't growing fast enough to justify that increase, are they expecting their population to become more criminal in nature or become worse drivers?  In this case, the only way to meet the enlarged budget is to enlarge the number of citations issued.   Baking new Justice Court revenue into the city budget cake is a recipe for injustice.


Article VIII, Section 5. - Utah Constitution  
            The district court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters except as limited by this constitution or by statute, and power to issue all extraordinary writs. The district court shall have appellate jurisdiction as provided by statute. The jurisdiction of all other courts, both original and appellate, shall be provided by statute. Except for matters filed originally with the Supreme Court, there shall be in all cases an appeal of right from the court of original jurisdiction to a court with appellate jurisdiction over the cause.

Now lets move on to the second pillar of courts called the District Court.  Utah's District Courts are charged with hearing the meatier cases.  Sex crimes, homicides, and heavy felonies fill the docket of the courts.  Also included in the court's jurisdiction are family law issues such as divorce, custody, and alimony decisions.  Lastly, as was previously mentioned, the courts can also hear DUI and domestic violence cases...both misdemeanors.

Judges in the district court are selected through a rigorous process.  Candidates names are presented and screened by a panel.  The recommendations of the panel are forwarded to the Governor's office who then selects the candidate he wishes to appoint.  Then, that appointment is debated and confirmed by the State Senate.  All along the way, the candidate is placed under scrutiny by both the executive and legislative branches of government.

Unfortunately, this vetting process is not followed for everyone hearing cases in Utah's District Courts.  In metropolitan districts, the workload can be more than one judge can handle.  So, rather than hiring another judge, a commissioner system has been established to help manage the cases.  The commissioners act as a judge in hearing cases but lack the authority to mandate court action.  Instead, they hear the case and make a recommendation to the judge.  The judge then authorizes the court action typically based on the recommendation of the commissioner.

So how are commissioners chosen?  They are hand picked by the District Court judges with little public scrutiny.  If these commissioners are going to be acting as pseudo-judges, wouldn't it be better just to hire another judge that is fully vetted through the established process?   This lack of scrutiny in selecting commissioners creates some obvious problems of oversight and accountability to the public.  Such problems are manifest in recent news reports about a rogue commissioner who was stripped of his authority to hear cases due to misconduct.


So, to mitigate the many weakness of our current system, it seems that a holistic approach would be best.  Rather than trying to patch a dozen or so problems with convoluted statutory changes, it seems that a simple solution would be the more desirable answer.  That solution, I believe is reconstituting the Circuit Courts.  You can read my draft legislation below:

This bill creates a Circuit Court system in Utah.  The goal being to cure these pervasive weaknesses in our system and improve the quality of justice in our state by providing for efficiency and specialization.

The bill does the following things:

1.  Removes misdemeanors from Justice Courts and District Courts and places them in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts
2.  Removes family law from the District Courts and places them in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts.
3.  Creates a series of Circuit districts that mirrors the current District Court districts.
4.  Provides that Circuit Court judges are to be nominated, vetted, and appointed just as District Court judges.
5.  Details the distribution of fines and fees obtained through convictions in the Circuit Courts.

By creating a Circuit Court, many of the weakness of our Justice Court system are eliminated.  The Circuit Courts will be courts of record and will prevent trial de novo abuses we currently see.  Defendants will have the option of appealing an undesirable verdict to a higher court if they feel that is in their best interest.  However, the higher court will now be able to take the case information and deliberations into consideration when making their finding.

Also, as courts of record, they will also have appellate oversight by the higher court.  With higher court judges reviewing the casework of their colleagues in the Circuit Courts, this peer review will provide an excellent incentive for professionalism from the Circuit Court. This review should provide a moderating force in court decisions and verdicts.

The creation of the Circuit Courts will also insulate municipalities from the temptation to fill their coffers with fines generated from local Justice Courts.  While it is reasonable that cities receive fine revenue from citations issued in their city, it is important to safeguard against abuse.  This bill as currently written will have the state paying for the operation of Circuit Courts and the fines and fees split between the State and the municipality the case originated from.  With Circuit Court judges being nominated, vetted, and appointed in the same manner as District Court judges, this should provide for more highly qualified individuals and also an arm's length relationship between the judges and the cities within their jurisdiction whom benefit from the verdicts of the court.    

Finally, the reduction in caseload at the District Courts should reduce a lot of the demand for commissioners.  That reduction should improve the quality of work done in the courts and also work toward improving the public's faith and trust in their court system.

There are several other nuances that will be addressed in the bill regarding the structure of the Justice Courts and their role in our justice system but we will discuss those subtleties another day.

Critics of this effort will cite the costs and say we are moving backwards and not forward.  The costs are yet to be known while the problems our current system has are real.  I look forward to a vigorous discussion with stakeholders and colleagues as we work to provide better justice in the State of Utah.

For those of you interested in the discussion, you can also read a recent article on the subject.

Blackstone: Don't Be A Bonehead Legislator

I recently finished William Blackstone's meaty tome Commentaries on the Laws of England: Vol. 1.  Written in 1763, it is considered one of the first popular books written on the subject of English law.  Previous works on the subject were found in obscure and hardly understandable texts from centuries previous.

Blackstone had a brilliant mind and a strong determination to argue for the supremacy of the English system of laws, especially when compared to those of continental Europe of the time.

One of the interesting insights Blackstone shares is the proper role that Legislators play and the proper preparation they should take in administering their work:

"But those on whom nature and fortune have bestowed more abilities and greater leisure, cannot be so easily excused.  These advantages are given them, not for the benefit of themselves only, but also of the public; and yet they cannot, in any scene of life, discharge properly their duty either to the public or themselves, without some degree of knowledge in the laws."  
Keep in mind that not everyone in politics lives a life of leisure.  A flexible schedule and a means of subsistence are required to fulfill the duties of office. These prerequisites qualify many aged yet a few young, like myself, to run for office.  However, I will concede that political life is much easier for the seasoned and affluent than it is for those raising young families.  This was especially so in Colonial Era England. Nevertheless, Blackstone points out, regardless of circumstances, the need for legislators to know about the law.  Blackstone continues:

"But in order to attain these desirable ends, it is necessary that the magistrate should understand his business; and have not only the will, but the power also of administering legal and effectual justice.  Else, when he has mistaken his authority, through passion, through ignorance, or absurdity, he will be the object of contempt from his inferiors, and of censure from those to whom he is accountable for his conduct." 
Indeed, I have seen legislators replaced because those to whom the legislator was accountable questioned the passion or ignorance of the legislator's efforts.  This must have been a more frequent occurrence in Blackstone's day.  Utah has 104 members of it's Legislature (both Chambers) with a population of 2.8 million people.  By comparison, in Blackstone's day, Great Britain had 558 members for a population of 6.5 million.  

Blackstone has this to say about the weighty responsibility of the legislator:

"Yet further, most gentlemen of considerable property, at some period or other in their lives, are ambitious of representing their country in parliament; and those, who are ambitious of receiving so high a trust would also do well to remember it's nature and importance.  They are not thus honourably distinguished from the rest of their fellow subjects, merely that they may privilege their persons, their estates, or their domestics; that they may list under party banners; may grant or withhold supplies; may vote with or vote against a popular or unpopular administration; but upon considerations far more interesting and important.  They are the guardians of the English constitution, the makers, repealers, and interpreters of the English laws; delegated to watch, to check, and to avert every dangerous innovation; to propose, to adopt, and to cherish any solid and well-wighed improvement, bound by every tie of nature, of honour, and of religion, to transmit that constitution and those laws to their posterity, amended if possible, at least without any derogation.  And how unbecoming must it appear in a member of the legislature to vote for a new law, who is utterly ignorant of all the old!  What kind of interpretation can he be enabled to give, who is a stranger to the text upon which he comments!"
Finally, he quips about how the law has endured under the stewardship of legislators:

"The common law of England has fared like other venerable edifices of antiquity, which rash and inexperienced workmen have ventured to new-dress and refine, with all the rage of modern improvement.  Hence, frequently it's symmetry has been destroyed, its proportion distorted, and it's majestic simplicity exchanged for specious embellishments and fantastic novelties."   

In every freshmen class of legislators there is always one or two who feel it is there call in life to make sweeping changes in one aspect of the law or another.  Fortunately, in Utah, unless backed my popular sentiment, most of these aspirations are moderated by the experience and prudent minds of seasoned legislators.

Nevertheless, Blackstone makes some excellent points on being competent in legislative work.  I have done my best to acquaint myself with the many and varied departments of government, their impact on the lives of our citizens, and the policies that will best affect the happiness of people in my district.  While my knowledge isn't yet perfect, it is improving steadily; and for that, I am grateful.  May our current legislators and future legislators be perpetually engaged in preparing their minds to do the people's work.    

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Heaven and Earth: Rededicating Ogden's Historic 4th Ward Chapel

When we build, let us think that we build forever.
Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone.
Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for;
and let us think, as we lay stone on stone,
that a time is to come when those stones will be held
sacred because our hands have touched them,
and that men will say, as they look upon
the labor and wrought substance of them,
“See! This our father did for us.”
—John Ruskin
For the past two years, our chapel has been under renovation.  Finally, the seismic upgrades and restoration work is complete and we prepare to rededicate the building.

The chapel was originally dedicated in 1937.  It took 8 years and nearly $1 Million of member donations to complete the structure.  I was fortunate enough to gain access to a copy of the original dedication booklet.  David O. McKay lived in our ward for a time and he shares a message in the booklet.

The original 4th Ward building was on the 21st block of Madison Ave.  However, it was too small for the growing ward.  The building was razed and the bricks from that building were used to form the inner layers of brick for the newer chapel.  In the safe under the entry stairs, we found this stone dating to 1888.

The work in the chapel has involved extensive historic paint restoration work.

It has also involved rework to the lighting, HVAC, seismic safety upgrades and more. 

In my capacity as a high counsilman for our Stake, I offered the Salt Lake Tribune some time to walk through the building to help promote awareness of the rededication.  Tom Wharton does an excellent job in his story:

Our building is unique in many aspects.  One of the most unique features is the Tower Room.  At one time, it served as a place to conduct some portions of sacred temple ceremonies prior to the building of the Ogden temple.  

OPEN HOUSE:  Saturday, September 7th  3:00pm - 6:00pm
REDEDICATION:  Sunday, September 8th 6:00pm

If you miss either of these events, you are welcome to come any Sunday and sit with our family.  I am sure you will find the spirit of our Sunday services refreshing and edifying.

Monday, September 2, 2013

POISON PILL: Common Core's Pornography Push?

I recently received an email from activists concerned about Utah's implementation of Common Core standards in our public schools.  In the email, there was a claim that the recommended reading list for high school students included offensive and "pornographic" material.

This seemed like a serious allegation so I decided to check it out.  What I found shocked me.  While the material turns out not to be "recommended" by the state of Utah it does appear in the Appendices of USOE's Core Standards for English Language Arts as an example of material that complies with Common Core standards.

Here is an excerpt from the Utah State Office of Education PDF outlining example reading materials for our students.  I have excerpted the front page and page 145 from the appendix linked above:

The book in question is written by Toni Morrison, an honored African-American author, called The Bluest Eye,

It turns out that national Common Core standards include this book for its "complex" language style.   Shockingly, what high school students get instead is a graphic experience of incest, rape, and child molestation from the first-person perspective of the perpetrator!

I could barely get through the excerpts.  They are highly disturbing and will ruin your day so feel free to trust me and move on.  If you feel compelled to read them, they have been distilled from the book by the Politichicks blog:   

So if this isn't on Utah's official "recommended" list, why is this even an issue to bring up?  The concern arises because some Utah School teachers are bypassing the State recommend lists and instead using the national text example list (see page 152) to flesh out their curriculum.  Why would they do this?  Because the Common Core standardized tests are correlated to the national Common Core standards and recommendations not necessarily the State's recommendations.

Hence, the 15% variation that Common Core affords the States in their standards does not necessarily mean that the States' variances will show up on the standardized tests.  I am speculating, but this might explain why the variances permitted were so small.  Nevertheless, the appearance of poisonous material on the example literature list shows negligence on the part of national Common Core staffers or worse.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this example illustrates the risks of depending on an unaccountable interstate entity to do our bidding.  The alarm has been rung and our senses are now heightened.  In the quest for efficiency and academic homogeneity, we need to be careful of what we wish for.  Caveat Emptor.

Update 9/13/13:  Today yet another book on the USOE and Consortium list of exemplar texts surfaces.  People must finally be reading through these books.  Today's sultry title is Dreaming In Cuban which happens to immediately follow The Bluest Eyes in the table of contents of USOE's example texts.  In this book, the kids get exposure to rough sex.  You can read the lurid excerpts here:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

TOLERANCE: Ogden's Legacy As A Mixed Community

Ogden's history is one of the most colorful of any city in the state.  Looking back through time, even to its most primitive settlement, it has maintained an interesting dichotomy of dueling community interests.

While Ogden in its heyday was a rowdy railroad town full of vice and merriment, it also boasted as many churches as it had saloons.  Perhaps both were used just on different days of the week, or perhaps that reflected a deeply religious community co-existing with its non-religious friends and neighbors.

For Pioneer Day, we visited the Pioneer Museum at 21st St. and Lincoln Ave. in Ogden and discovered a little about the men who made Ogden habitable and set the tone for what it has become.

The first personality to make its appearance is that of Miles Goodyear.  Miles came to the Ogden area in the late 1830s.  He was a fur trapper and mountain man.  He married a Ute chief's daughter and had two children.

 This log cabin, built in 1841, was the first home built by anyone of European decent in Weber County.

Miles Goodyear ultimately persuaded Mormon settlers to purchase his land and he moved to California where he died shortly thereafter.  

The second personality to arise in Ogden history is that of Lorin Farr.  Perhaps his legacy is better known due to his ample posterity in the area.  Lorin was a Mormon settler from Nauvoo, Illinois and became a giant in the community.  He was responsible for laying the city plat and organizing the early settlement.  

Interestingly, many of the early settlers to Ogden were Scotch-Irish.  Even though they were Mormon settlers, this heritage came with a strong culture of family honor and with that came confrontation. So, some of Ogden's earliest stories are of brawls between early Mormon settlers as they resolved personal differences with one another.

Perhaps this scrappy nature dovetailed to a degree with he railroad work crews that arrived in 1869 and launched Ogden to the forefront as a major participant in the national economy.  Regardless, when the non-religious crowds from Corinne arrived enmasse and Union Station was created, the settlers received them and found a way to exist together, for the most part, cohesively as a community.  

Yet, these distinctions between community members exist to a large degree today.  The posterity of the early Mormon settlers still live in Ogden, as do the children of their "Gentile" counterparts.  However, from my perspective, Ogden does not suffer the deep acrimony that sometimes afflicts diverse communities that contain a large minority population.  Mormons now constitute a minority of people (about 30%-35%) living in the city.

Thus, I consider Ogden one of the places most unlike Utah in the state.  As a faithful Mormon myself living in the city, I make it a point to build bridges and understand other people's faith, ethics, or world view and I share my own when appropriate.  My experience has taught me that there is no room in our community for disparaging other's beliefs.  Divisive speech breeds contempt.  It is my hope that regardless of creed, belief, or ethical system, that all members of the community will honor our founders' dedication, sacrifice, and tolerance as we work to make Ogden a greater place for everyone.