Monday, April 23, 2007

Oppose the Fourth Seat Plan (Deseret Morning News Editorial)

See article here. It was an editorial published on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 in the Deseret Morning News.

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DC Seat is Unconstitutional & Unwise

The current compromise plan to create new congressional seats for the District of Columbia and the state of Utah is a disastrous proposal. It is bad for America, and it is bad for Utah. Our representatives should do all in their power to oppose it.

Why is it bad for America?

The answer to this question goes to the heart of how a person believes the Constitution should be interpreted. Generally, people in Utah subscribe to the belief that this sacred document should be interpreted according to the original intent of the framers.

Others, however, believe that in order for the Constitution to be a "living document" the courts should be granted flexibility to interpret it differently according to the needs of each generation.

The problem with this last idea is that once our nation officially adopts such an approach, the words of the Constitution lose all meaning. All that would matter, then, is what some unelected group of judges happen to believe is best for the country at a particular moment in time. That kind of government is what is known as a dictatorship.

Besides, the framers of the Constitution already provided a provision to ensure that the Constitution remain a "living document." It is called the amendment process. Thus, if we truly want to secure representational justice for the District of Columbia, we should do so by seeking a Constitutional amendment.

The position of the Salt Lake Tribune on this issue represents the classic mistake of advocating the "WRONG thing for the RIGHT reasons." But, as the saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." This is true because, whether or not one claims to seek that which is right, if he does that which is wrong to get it, he is still doing that which is wrong.

Fortunately, the Deseret Morning News, former Congressman Jim Hansen, conservative syndicated columnist George Will, the Salt Lake County Republican Party, the Presidential Administration of George W. Bush, and many other responsible individuals have all come out against this terrible proposal.

Why is it bad for Utah?

In a few years, Utah will automatically obtain its rightful fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, without having to grant an unconstitutional seat to the District of Columbia. Gradually, many Utahns who at first supported the DC/Utah compromise are now coming to change their mind. The lure of our state getting an additional seat in congress a few years earlier than normal is now being seen for what it is--the bait in a trap that would prove our undoing.

Without the compromise legislation, Utah gets an additional voice in Congress automatically. With the compromise, Utah's new voice would simply be nullified by a new and unconstitutional DC voice. How is that in our state's interest?

But, it gets worse. Once this terrible precedent is set, the District of Columbia would then unconstitutionally seek two new liberal Senators who would nullify Utah's existing conservative voice in that body as well. Are we really so foolish that we can't see this? Hopefully, our representatives in Congress will work tirelessly to oppose this terrible DC/Utah compromise.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Enlighted Compromises

Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy generated over a proposal for the University of Utah to lease land from This Is The Place (TITP) Heritage Park so that it might construct an office building for its ARUP Laboratories. I agree that building a traditional concrete, glass and steel structure so near the park is not the ideal use for that property. I don’t think anyone, including Ellis Ivory, the chairman of the park's board of directors, prefers this option.

However, in fairness to Mr. Ivory, he has inherited certain realities on the ground at TITP that he now has to deal with--whether he likes it or not. One of those realities is that the park consistently loses money. From what I can see, Mr. Ivory is simply trying to make the park financially “sustainable.” He is trying to set-up a scenario where the park has a perpetual funding source, an endowment if you will. In short, he is trying to save the park, because it cannot continue to exist indefinitely under the current business model. I believe that Mr. Ivory is a fine man, trying to do something noble.

Perhaps, then, the resolution to the controversy lies in merging Mr. Ivory’s vision with that of his critics, such as Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. One possibility might be for TITP to construct a lease-able office building with a facade designed to look like pioneer era businesses on Main Street. Such an edifice would not only blend-in with the current structures, but would actually enhance the park experience for visitors.

Rather than building upward vertically to three stories, it could remain two stories or less, and expand outward horizontally or downward underground in order to find the desired square footage. And, rather than being built off in the distance, away form the existing structures, the office building could actually be incorporated into the park itself.

The facades facing in toward the park could contain small kiosks, offering souvenirs, concessions, work shops, displays, etc. While the facade facing out away from the park could contain the entrances to the actual office building. The interior and basement levels could then be built so that they contain all the accoutrements of a modern office tower, including covered parking.

The icing on the cake would be for Mayor Anderson to see to it that the building was also designed as a model of environmental friendliness--a thoroughly green structure. That way, the park would be both financially and environmentally sustainable.

I think it would be fun to see what the bright minds on both sides of this debate come-up with once they put their heads together. Very often the best ideas, such as the US Constitution, come about through a compromise between two contending factions that ultimately produce an outcome far superior to what either group could have produced independently.

Interestingly, I have been pondering a similar solution to the City Creek sky bridge controversy. I agree with the developer, The Taubman Co., that the two sides of the mall need to be connected via a sky bridge. The reports I have read seem to indicate that many of the folks buying these new condominiums downtown are going to be retirees--people who’s mobility may not be the same as the yuppies we envision living downtown. Increasing accessibility for everyone not only makes sense from a commercial standpoint, but from one of compassion also.

Having said that, I also strongly agree with the Mayor and those architects who suggest that the development needs to have more street level storefronts and entrances. Beyond greatly benefiting the city, I think this is actually in the long-term commercial interest of Taubman as well. Maybe, if Taubman agrees to have more street level storefronts and entrances (and facades that help to tie the development into the surrounding business environment) then perhaps the city could grant the necessary permits for the sky bridge.

It has been my experience that we, as people, need one another. It takes effort, courage and generosity to see another's point of view. And, while we might be tempted to be lazy, cowardly, and selfish, it is in our interest to draw upon the wisdom of others. I hope the various stakeholders will come together and find enlightened compromises to the controversies facing our community. The end result is likely to be something wonderful.

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