Before everyone starts handing out party favors in anticipation, or perhaps dread, of the Year of the Trump (what is the proper party favor for dread, anyway?), it’s time to hand out awards for everything that happened in 2015.
And when it comes to Utah, a distinguished panel of one (myself) has duly deliberated and decided on a cavalcade of citations to cast, although, thankfully, not in such annoying, yet alluring, alliteration.
Ahem! Attention please, while the awards are presented, and please hold your applause until you
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are alone in a quiet room.
Rising to the top is the “I can’t hear you” award. It goes to the state Legislature in general.
To say lawmakers could have listened better to the public this year is to say Pluto could use a little more sunshine.
This was the year the Prison Relocation Commission confronted angry protests, calls from this newspaper to at least consider rebuilding on-site, and opinion polls, such as one taken at the end of 2014 showing 55 percent of the state opposing relocation, then recommended relocating the prison in Salt Lake City, anyway.
The Legislature voted to support that recommendation, which was good news, in a way. Until February, the commission was pushing to be granted sole authority to make a final decision without lawmakers.
That alone might be enough, but this also was the year lawmakers rejected several compromises that would have expanded Medicaid coverage in a unique, Utah way. Take that, you 95,000 poor people left without coverage because of Obamacare!
Lawmakers didn’t like how the final plan would have taxed health-care providers, which is ironic considering the next award.
I invite lawmakers remain at the podium, so they can accept the “give me your wallet and no one gets hurt” award. Once the bell tolls to usher in 2016, you’ll notice gas rising by 5 cents a gallon. The Legislature will catch a break, as gas is somewhere south of $2 at the moment. But lawmakers also raised property taxes, and they allowed each county to hold a referendum to raise the sales tax for roads and transit. That tax failed in the state’s most populous counties, but it passed in others.
Oh, and this happened during a year when the state already had a budget surplus.
The “I don’t see any homeless, do you?” award goes to The Daily Show, which concluded Salt Lake City had completely solved homelessness. This came during a segment on the admittedly brilliant Housing First program, which gives chronically homeless people housing. The non-chronic homeless, however, still hover around 14,000 or so, and growing.
The entertaining segment began to seem even funnier as task forces and politicians spent the year focusing on ways to attack homelessness. The Daily Show’s reporter wandered on camera somewhere near the gleaming World Trade Center at City Creek and found no vagabonds. Someone should have steered him toward Rio Grande Street.
Not all of this year’s awards are quite so sarcastic. Two are downright uplifting. One, the “miracles still happen” award, goes to those involved in two of the year’s best stories. In March, Spanish Fork police, responding to an overturned vehicle in an icy river, heard an adult voice calling for help. They worked feverishly to right the vehicle and open the doors. Inside, they found an 18-month-old girl barely alive. Her mother, behind the wheel, had been dead a while.
In June, two teenage girls survived after their boat capsized in a storm on Bear Lake. Four other people died. The girls made it with prayer and song, and they told of feeling unseen powers helping them.
The other, the “honesty is not old fashioned” award goes to Dan Kennedy, who was on his way to work last March when he found a 75-pound sack filled with money that had fallen off a Brinks truck. He returned it all without even trying to open the stacks of bills.
These stories reinforce the notion there is goodness in the world. It may be important to hang onto that as we head into 2016.