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.