Local Politics–Part II

While our new mayor is settling in and getting down to town governance, several towns over in Kaysville, their new mayor, Steve Hiatt, has already stepped on toes and caused a ruckus over inaugural expenses and refurbishing the mayor’s office.  The tally is now in and the good watchdogs of Kaysville are screaming: $1,413 was spent on inaugural expenses and festivities.  This has rankled folks, who squealed to the local newspaper anonymously on fear of retaliation.  Apparently, extra costs were incurred as Gov. Herbert administered the oath of office and the events had to be worthy of the governor’s presence: a first-class event.  

The hair-splitting gets even more finite: $622.50 was spent on 150 personal invitations, $44.00 for postage, and $637.50 for a catered reception which consisted of sandwiches, vegetables, and water (remember Mormons won’t/shouldn’t drink soda, coffee, tea, alcohol, etc.). This doesn’t include other incidentals such as: custodial work, security, in-house printing of multi-colored programs, and a donation to the local high school drumline.  The city also spent $25 each for a photographer and a piano player (what a bargain!) and $60 for flowers for the catering table.  

This doesn’t sound like anything but trifles, but this was on top of $2,023 for new furniture and paint for Hiatt’s office.  Hiatt said the furniture was about 25 years old and “near the end of its life cycle” (How much wear and tear does furniture get in a part-time mayor’s office?).   The new mayor also wanted a different color scheme, so $182 was put out for paint and $250 for a contractor to apply it.

Now, to put this in perspective, Layton spent $50 for food (must have been just vegetables and water!) and Clearfield spent a total of $900 for food, invitations, and postage.  I couldn’t find out what Syracuse spent, but I hope it was within reason.

The upshot of all this over in Kaysville is that Hiatt ran his campaign on a platform of fiscal conservatism….

Mayor Steve Hiatt

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Local Politics–Part I

Politics on a local and state level out here in Utah can be very interesting.  You know me, I run the other way from political debates, but it is fun to keep an eye on what is going on in our Red state.  In fact, this state prides itself on being so bright Red that no Democratic presidential candidate usually bothers to campaign here for Utah’s 5 electoral votes.  It’s not worth the time, money, or effort.

And one needs to remember, that in the Utah Territory in the latter part of the 1800s, before statehood in 1896, the Mormons really were in charge as there weren’t too many non-Mormons here yet, so church law and civic law were sort of one and the same: pretty much a theocracy.  In fact, to earn statehood–and it apparently was a bitter fight–the Mormons had to officially (at least on paper) give up the practice of polygamy, even though it meant changing church doctrine.  History bears out the fact it got ugly and there was a lot of wheeling, dealing and trips to Washington, D.C. for this to get accomplished. Keep in mind, once plural wives were outlawed, what became of the already plural wives and their children?  It was a very uncomfortable problem as those women and children lost their legitimate status in the eyes of the law.  In proper Victorian times, to become suddenly illegitimate was not a good thing.  Without this background, it’s often difficult to understand why Utah is so conservative.  Old mindsets regarding the status and place of women in society still linger, as in the LDS church today, women have very limited roles in church leadership and governance; they can participate in Sunday School and the Women’s Relief Society, and not much else. Their place is still primarily in the home as wife and mother. 

When I moved here, I had to reregister my car, get a new driver’s license and, of course, if I wanted to vote, sign up with the county voting board.  Just to be ornery, I registered Democrat.  First up was the campaign primary for mayor of Syracuse.

We had quite a few candidates for both mayor and the seats open on city council, including Lurlen Knight, Craig Jenkins, both mayoral candidates and both men, along with Jamie Nagle, 43 and a mother of 3.  Lurlen is a charter member of the good old boy’s club and has been on council for many years; Craig was a former TV news weatherman (and a real “silk shirt Sam smooth operator) and currently a teacher in the LDS Seminary (for young Mormons) attached to the Syracuse High School.  Lurlen, when he spoke at the meeting, had poor public speaking skills–sort of like marbles in his mouth; Craig, of course, spoke well, but was so smarmy that I wouldn’t have trusted him as far as I could drop kick him.  Nagle was the clear choice, but not the front-runner. (There were even several women running for council, of which one did get elected.  But not the one who said at the meeting when asked why she decided to run: “Holy crap!  I realized I had no one to vote for if I didn’t run!”)

There were town hall meetings to hear and question the candidates and these were most enlightening.  Jamie Nagle even went door-to-door to chat with residents of Syracuse.  When she came to our door, she spoke about the issue she was concerned about and even shared that when one man opened his front door, he told her to get back to her husband and home and take care of her family; she had no business running for political office; that’s something men do!  Yikes!!!  Old mindsets die hard out here.  

Our new Mayor of Syracuse has already made history; in our male-dominated world which springs from the culture of the LDS church, sworn in in January, Jamie Nagle, who also happens to be LDS, is the first female mayor of Syracuse.  She certainly is highly competent: she holds a full time job in Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah as a state performance manager and she works closely with Gov. Herbert’s office.  Her educational background from the University of Utah includes a BS in Political Science and International Studies with a certificate in international relations.

Mayor Jamie Nagle


So far, the town is running efficiently and there are no scandals, a la Hot Tub Gate.

Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whose Fault Is It?

With all the recent earthquake activity worldwide and another one in China about 2 weeks ago, plus the volcano in Iceland spewing ash, I guess it’s only a matter of time until a tremblor strikes our neck of the woods.  Yes, that’s right–you guessed it–we live on a fault line.  (Not to mention the nearby mega-caldera of Yellowstone Park, with all its geysers, thermal pools, and steam vents!)  The entire Wasatch Front sits directly above the Wasatch Fault.  I guess Brigham Young, when he brought his band of Mormons west in 1847, viewed the Salt Lake Basin from the mountains, pointed, and famously said: “This is the place!” never realized how many interpretations that phrase could have.

The Wasatch Fault Line is about 240 miles long, from Idaho (above us) and Arizona (below us) and consists of multiple, disjointed faults. Somehow it has been determined by geologists that there is a major earthquake about every 1300 years right in the Salt Lake City/Provo area, the last one being 1300 years ago, so apparently we’re overdue.  It is classified as a “normal” fault line, which means when it shifts, it moves vertically, as opposed to those fault lines which slip under each other, causing tsunamis if near an ocean.  

Besides damage from the earth shifting, because the Salt Lake Valley, the Great Salt Lake and the desert west of us were once part of an now defunct lake–Lake Bonneville (the Bonneville Salt Flats are what’s left), any quake would have devastating effects. That’s because all the populated areas sit on the soft sediment from former Lake Bonneville and in a strong magnitude, 6.5+, earthquake this sediment will cause earthquake liquefaction, which will act like quicksand.  Homes, power and water infrastructure will be affected or damaged for over 2 million local residents and 50% of the hospital beds are predicted to be lost. The valley floor could be lowered and the Great Salt Lake might join smaller Utah Lake to the south, permanently flooding much of the area.  The worst case scenario would be for a quake to occur in winter during a blizzard.  (Imagine the avalanches it would trigger.)  Cheery prospect, isn’t it?!

So, there have been an uptick of the number of articles and reports on earthquake preparedness kits to assemble; we have started one.  Some things to include: a large cannister of water, crank-powered radio and emergency light, blankets, dried food, a wrench to turn of the gas line to the house (like if the lines rupture that will matter, but still…), basic medical supplies, and so on.  Of course, all faithful LDS folks are supposed to have a larder stocked with a year’s worth of canned, dried, and powdered food supplies (most houses have a pantry room in the basement for this purpose; we do, but it’s the laundry).

Last night (4/14), there were reports of a 4.1 quake in southern Utah near Capitol Reef-Escalante National Parks, but no damage. I guess we just sit and wait and hope the timeline predictions are wrong or that the Mother Earth behaves herself for a long time. Below is a simple map showing most of the fault line (in red). We live in the black grid section just above the ‘t’ in the Great Salt Lake.

This is really freaky.  I started writing this posting on April 15, the day after the mild tremblor in southern Utah and at just before 6:00pm our time, a 4.9 quake struck in the top of Utah where Wyoming notches into Utah.  I didn’t feel it, but others did south of us along the Wasatch Front.  The epicenter was in Randolph, which is a rural town near the ‘O’ in Wyoming in the map below.  It wasn’t the “Big One,” but we’re on edge now to see what happens next.  Geologists predict diminishing aftershocks, if anything.

Map showing Wasatch Fault running between the lake and the Wasatch Front.

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm  Comments (1)  

“The Chicken Chronicles”–Part V

The saga of the locals’ infatuation with all things chicken never ends.  You all know how dog and cat owners often go over the top to create exotic living quarters for their pets?  Well, I think we can beat that, or at least equal it out here in Utah!  As a digression from the haggling over the backyard poultry flocks, I’ll share with you the latest in high society chicken coops; you can call it fowl play!

An article in the spring 2010 Utah Style & Design magazine, the upscale version of an architectural design quarterly which showcases Utah houses and interior design none of us could ever afford (or perhaps want, for that matter–like ideas to redecorate one’s laundry room), showcased a “hip henhouse” in the Style-file Trends section.  Apparently Chris Creek–and he’s not alone!–felt there was a charm to the coddled cluckers he and his brother Curtis own, but not the coop.  They pooled their talents and designed and built a really groovy henhouse in the backyard and surrounded it with raised vegetable beds.  But that’s not what sets it apart from other ordinary backyard chicken coops, which are notoriously run-down and look like a gentle breeze could knock them over.  No…this structure features a weathervane-crowned cuppola–of what else but a rooster–and, wait for it…a hand-painted mural designed and executed by Chris Creek, who just happens to be an artist.  

Think about it, a mural depicting chickens on a lush lawn and rocks and taking close to 100 hours to complete adorns the interior of the coop, so just the chickens see it.  Pretty exclusive art, I’d say.   Do you have any idea how messy chickens are?  They lose feathers, peck at everything, fling poop.  After a few months, this mural can’t remain pretty or pristine.

Obviously, this is a case of having too much time on your hands, but it does open up a world of possibilities for mural commission work.

Oh, and mark your calendars and save the date, two chicken-related events are planned for the Salt Lake City area:

1.  June 23 will be the annual chicken-keeping workshop, sponsored by the Wasatch Community Gardens. 

2.  June 26 will be the Tour de Coops, when urban chicken keepers valley-wide show off their brightly festooned coops and share their enthusiasm and knowledge.

In case you think I’m inventing this episode of the Chicken Chronicles, I took photos of the magazine pages and have included them below (you should be able to click on them to enlarge the image):

Upscale chicken coop.


Interior mural detail with hens in door and artist at work (small inset)

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 11:21 pm  Comments (2)  

Ogden Art Beat: April’s Featured Artist

Last Friday evening was the latest art stroll in Ogden and as it was Good Friday of Easter weekend and the start of a week-long school spring break for school kids here (all this week), it was poorly attended.  Families head out on vacation, and the Mormons also had their bi-annual General Conference Weekend–yes on Easter!, so others were pre-occupied in that direction.

Anyway, I met with Brandon Cook (www.brandoncook.com) at the gallery during the event to discuss his art with him for our interview.  Of all the artists I’ve chatted with so far, he was the most challenging: he has a rather flat personality (I guess once you get to know him…) and his work is similarly flat; I’m not a fan (check out his website for yourselves).  It just doesn’t speak to me.  So, below is my write-up for the article.  Hopefully, despite my personal feelings, I did him justice.

Landscape Artist Currently Featured at the Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery

by Susan H. Warren


It’s April and it snowed last night!  Certainly not what we think of when we think of spring.  But for a preview of the lush greens of spring and summer not far behind, do yourself a favor and stop in the Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery on the lower end of Historic 25th Street, Ogden, for a taste of what is to come.

Last Friday evening during the monthly First Friday Gallery Stroll, I had the chance to chat with Brandon Cook, the artist who created the landscapes highlighted in the gallery.  Cook, a quiet, centered man, born and raised in northern Utah and still a resident outside Salt Lake City with his family, holds a BFA from the University of Utah.  He shared that art is in his DNA—his uncle being an artist—and he honed his artistic skills studying with David Dornan and Paul Davis while there.  Oddly enough, Cook developed his drafting skills from human form study which led to landscapes and the occasional seascape.

Growing up in rural Utah he discovered that the “malleable elements of the landscape allow a painting to come to life on the canvas.”   He also realized that, for him, the “use of landscape [can be a] context in which to explore liminal space between material and immaterial.”  Cook told me that his inspiration is becoming more spiritual in his personal journey with God and he is embracing the changes he now sees in his newer works.  Trees relate to life on many levels and are also universal and spiritual.  A painting, for Cook, can be chance and glimpsed possibilities, as well as a record of the internal instead of external, rendering a spirit and movement.

Cook works exclusively in oils, enjoying the viscosity of oil paint along with their luminescent qualities.  Not surprisingly, his color choices are mainly greens and earth tones–subtle tints with warmer reds and yellows used judiciously.  He is emphatic when he states that he “prefers process over accuracy.”  For the artist, “painting evolves through risk, effort, play, frustration, sensation, recollections and reconciling of opposites.”

His works, both small and intimate and larger wall-sized pieces, are in both private and corporate collections and he feels his art should appeal to most art lovers.  He has exhibited in solo and group shows statewide, and in New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Wyoming, and New York City.  In 2002 he was selected by South West Art magazine as an Artist to Watch.  Brandon Cook also sits on the Board of Directors of Artists of Utah.

The exhibit continues through early May when the next First Friday Gallery Stroll occurs on May 7, 2010.  Partners Tami Crowley and Kris Wilkerson invite you to stop by and get excited about the many facets of art right here in Ogden.  The Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery is located at 115 Historic 25th St., Ogden, UT and winter hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11:00am-6:00pm or by appointment.  Please call 801/339-0606 for additional information or visit them at www.UtahFineArt.com.

(Susan H. Warren holds a M.A. degree in English from Villanova University.  Prior to retiring to Utah in 2009 from the Philadelphia area, she was on the English faculty of Widener University, Chester, PA.  She is an avid collector of art.)

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Easter!

I’m taking the holiday weekend “off” from a normal blog post to wish you all a Happy and Blessed Easter.  I hope you find lots of eggs and candy that the Easter Bunny has left.  To reassure you that Easter and spring comes to Utah, I’m including two appropriate images for the season:

Blog posts coming up in the near future: more Chicken Chronicles, updates on Hot Tub Gate and the gun maker holiday, Ogden art scene articles, eating out in Utah, and of course, the ever-popular Obits.

March went out like a lion with gale force winds on a rather warm day.  April Fools’ Day brought snow, rain and a thunderstorm at night along with hail that felt more like hard styrofoam–really weird.

Today there’s a dusting of snow left from yesterday, but no coats are needed.  Go figure.   Tonight it’s first Friday Gallery Stroll in Ogden, so more art this evening.

Easter Saturday is predicted to be stormy with relief on Sunday.  

See you next week with more adventures and perspectives from Utah.

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Comments (1)