Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

October 11, 2019

This Wall, Not That!

There are walls, and then there are WALLS. The ‘wall’ we hear the most about these days is the one between the southern border of the U.S. and the northern border of Mexico. The wall I remember learning about as a child was the Great Wall of China, which is about 5,500 miles from beginning to end and is an international UNESCO protected historical site which can be seen by the Space Shuttle. I grew up hearing about the German wall that separated east and west Berlin after WWII and the Cold War (built in 1961) and then watched in 1991 when people from both sides of the wall tore it down when the Germanies decided to let people be free to travel to either side. There’s the Korean Wall blocking north and south Koreans from traveling to either country, walls to stop people in India, Bangladesh, Israel’s West Bank, and a myriad of defensive walls in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Vatican City. Art walls, like the Bondi Sea Wall in Australia are all over the world consensually or non-consensually, with beautiful local graphics by taggers, street artists and professionals.

What’s the most famous wall in Utah?  Methinks it’s the one surrounding Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City!  I’ve always been impressed that the wall around the entire block has not been regularly tagged because it’s one large canvas for artists and those with evil intent. Plus, they have always kept all the church property there in uber clean shape and decorated nicely for the Christmas holiday. I’ve also hated the wall there because it makes the place look foreboding and off limits and keeps the views of the gothic architecture of the Temple itself hidden from tourists and folk passing by.

Well the wall is about to change (finally) as the Church of Jesus Christ has announced a massive upgrade of Temple Square.  This multi-year project will include the renovation of portions of the wall that will be opened and modified to allow more inviting views and better access to temple grounds. The existing South Visitors’ Center will be demolished and replaced with two new guest and visitor pavilions. Following the renovation, temple patrons and guests will enter the temple through the new entry pavilions to the north and proceed down to a grand hall. The formal temple entry point (recommend desk) will sit underneath large skylights that will provide natural light and generous views of the temple above. Patrons will then proceed down the grand hall to the historic temple.  For temple patrons who enter from the Conference Center parking area, a new guest access tunnel will be built under North Temple Street that will allow for direct underground entry to the grand hall from the parking structure.

Other renovations will include upgrades in mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems on the property and a significant seismic upgrade to the temple itself. The Church reports that anywhere between 3-5 million people visit Temple Square every year-almost as many folks who visit Utah’s national parks!

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/plans-unveiled-salt-lake-temple-renovation

October 11, 2019

Sport Climbing

Next summer (July-August) many of us will be glued to mostly re-broadcasts of the Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan. As an aside, some of us will be wondering if Utah will win to host the Winter Olympics one more time. Last year Salt Lake City received approval to bid again for the games in 2026 or 2030. We liked having the world visiting our state.  KSL reported that the 2002 Games “Were among the most lucrative ever staged and official state estimates of the economic impact showed $100 million in profits, $4.8 billion in sales, 35,000 job years of employment and $1.5 billion in earnings for Utah workers during 2002.”  

Because the cost of putting on the athletic showcase is insanely expensive, promoters are looking to hold future games at host cities who already have the infrastructure in place from previous games to host them again. I always thought Utah was a perfect selection for the games because a) we have such great winter sports areas already and b) we have a bazillion missionaries/returned missionaries who speak most of the languages of the world. The callout for volunteers was amazing and posts filled up almost instantly with eager Utahns.

The only Olympics I’ve ever attended was the XIX 2002 games held here in Utah. Much of the competitions happened in our mountains near the capitol city but skating was inside at the then Delta Center, hockey at the Utah Olympic Oval (aka the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center in Kearns) and opening and closing ceremonies at the University of Utah Stadium. There were other venues scattered around to share the economic love in many Utah cities. It was not too hard to get tickets to watch crazy people fly face first down ice-like tubes at the luge, jump off a ramp to (hopefully) land on two boards 800+ feet later in the Nordic ski jump, or sweep ice in front of 40 pound stones in curling. A friend gave me her opportunity to buy tickets and I ended up with opening and closing ceremonies and skating. I’m not really into ice skating but the drama of Russian coaches possibly throwing their votes and Sarah Hughes beating out favorite Michelle Kwan for the gold in women’s singles was exciting.

We’d do well hosting Summer Games, too. We’ve got many indoor venues, lakes and rivers and well, mountains. For the first time ever, athletes will compete in 2020 for medals in climbing in three disciplines: bouldering, sport and speed. The national governing body for rock athletes, USA Climbing, was relocated to SLC last year and athletes are training inside non-descript buildings downtown and in our mountains. Bouldering is climbing on real or fake rocks without ropes, in sport climbing anchors are fixed to the rock, climbs are less than 30 meters and are super steep and you’re timed on speed and difficulty of the climb. You’ll be hearing more about this and other newly added events (karate, skateboarding, and surfing) as our athletes compete in lesser events before the big show in Japan in 2020.

October 11, 2019

Women in Utah

Sure, you know me from writing this column, but for 28 years I had a radio program dedicated to women’s music, women’s history and women’s news. It was the longest running program of its kind in the country. I write this because I still pay close attention to women in the news and women’s music. Utah’s women have been getting a great deal of recognition as of late, to wit:          

  • The Utah Women and Leadership Project just released a study that Utah women are voting now more than any election since 2006. This makes female voters in Utah rank now 11th in the nation as women who vote, which is up from 35th in the nation in 2006. This is terrific news but the report states that there are 316,000 women in Utah who have not registered to vote.  Whether you’re male or female, it is so simple to register on-line to vote in local and national elections online by going to: vote.utah.gov.
  • The flip side of more women voting is the report out that Utah has been found to be the worst state for women’s equality, this time by WalletHub.com in their findings in “2019’s Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality.”  How did they determine this? By looking at women’s health and doctor visit affordability, education, number of women in the legislature, income disparity and workplace environment. They also ranked the Beehive State 49th for the largest gap in wages and women holding elected positions. The best state for women’s equality? Maine.
  • Another study paid for by Utah’s Young Women’s Christian Association, the Status of Women in the States and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a report last month that finds Utah women make 69.8% of what Utah men make which is about 10% lower than the national average. Women who work full time are making $36,300 annually, and white women are making more than Hispanic women. Also, it’s interesting to note that Utah has the highest percentage of women who work part time but these women make less than a third of what their full time female counterparts make.  Other findings from this particular report: 1) 90% of Utah women live above the national poverty rate and 2) almost 89% of Utah women have health insurance. 
  • None of this can change if women don’t get involved in making change happen. Voting is one of the best ways to help make change and improve our state for both sexes. Women’s suffrage was granted here in 1870 years before we became a state. According to Wikipedia, “Among all U.S states, only Wyoming granted suffrage to women earlier than Utah, yet because Utah held two elections before Wyoming, Utah women were the first women in the country to cast ballots in the United States.” Lucky Salt Lakers, two women are running for Mayor of the capitol city.
July 15, 2019

Where We're Moving

If you’re a first time home buyer wanting to live close to downtown in the capitol city of salt, and can’t qualify to a big mortgage, where are you going to look for homes?  Capitol Hill and the Avenues are too expensive unless you want a tiny condo. From the University of Utah to Millcreek is going to be pricey and you’ll be scouring homes just above and below State Street. Even Liberty Wells is getting up there in prices. Rose Park is hot but heading into the upper $300’s for 1940’s homes that often don’t have dining rooms but are close to TRAX and the freeway.

The affordable places to live ‘close in’ nowadays are the Granery District (becoming known now as the ‘Brewery District’ with Proper and Fisher Brew Companies located there) Poplar Grove and Glendale, Fairpark, Westpointe and Jordan Meadows-all on the west side of the city. If you’re not familiar with these areas, here’s a bit of info: Westpointe and Jordan Meadows are west of Rose Park. Fairpark is just south of Rose Park. On the east it is bordered by 500 West and extends west to 1460 West, then following the Jordan River to 700 North, the boundary then curves down to 600 North back to 500 West. On its south, Fairpark is bordered by North Temple which features the original Red Iguana.   Poplar Grove used to be a part of Glendale. It got its name from the trees planted there by the Edwin Rushton family in the late 1800’s.  The boundaries are east I-15, West to Salt Lake City boundaries at 5600 West. The South Border is approximately 900 South. The Northern border is North Temple bordering Fair Park from I-15 to 1000 West and Rose Park from 1000 West to 5600 West. Flippers are having a heyday buying up rentals and selling them to millennials in these areas or adding them to investor portfolios as rentals. If you’re a single income or a lower double income household you’ll be offering on homes in those neighborhoods and competing with at least a handful of other offers to win the battle of the best real estate contract.  How does a first-time buyer win in a no holds barred competition for a house? 

Buyers agents are writing in ‘escalation clauses’ into purchase contracts to help their clients win the property with verbiage like: “Buyers are offering asking price but will pay $1000 over the highest bona fide offer to seller with a price not to exceed X” (X being the maximum the buyers would pay or qualify for to buy the home). Yet, even that kind of contract language doesn’t always secure a contract on a home. Buyers are sometimes willing to remove the ‘subject to appraisal’ clause in an offer and even others will remove the ‘subject to inspection’ clause as well.  The latter is quite risky unless the buyer or family/friends of the buyer inspect the house upon discovering it/seeing it for the first time.

Gentrification of the close-in west side of Salt Lake City is happening NOW. And where will it creep in the next 3-5 years? Goodbye Tooele and Grantsville!  With the mega-airport, state prison, inland port and a new intermodal hub going in all along the same road it would be easier for people to live in the Tooele Valley than the Salt Lake Valley.  Right now, it takes 20 minutes to get from downtown Salt Lake City to the Tooele freeway exit and then 12 more minutes to Grantsville. Next thing you know we’ll have Frontrunner trains heading to Wendover!

June 10, 2019

Counting Us

It seems a bit early to be writing about the 2020 national Census but there’s a lot of jabber going around about the goods and bads that are about to come down upon our heads next year.           

You are probably not old enough to have ever filled out a Census form or been queried by Census taker knocking on your front door. The U.S. Census Bureau had only 6 questions in the very first poll of those living in America: 1) Name of the head of household; 2) number of free white males 16 and older; 3) number of free white males under 16; 4) number of free white females; 5: number of all other free persons living on/in the property; and 6) number of slaves owned. The first count was taken by 650 U.S. marshals who went house to house (unannounced) on horseback to anywhere they could find people (white people). The Washington Post reported this first count cost $45,000, but our government (GAO) is predicting the 2020 census will cost $15.6 billion or about $100 per household.           

WTF do we need a census? There are at least nine censuses mentioned in the Bible. They were taken to figure out how to, and how much to tax people to run cities, governments and empires. We have a count every 10 years in our country. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010 74% of households returned their forms by mail. Those who didn’t send in the form were tracked down by an arm of paid census workers to get the data. This information is collected and then released to our government and any of us who want to see it and is used for a bazillion reasons, to wit:  allocating federal funds for community and education programs, education, housing, health care services for the elderly and job training; determining where state, local and tribal funds will be distributed for new schools, roads, bridges, law enforcement, and fire departments. Our 911 systems are based on maps from the last census and it helps rescuers plan ahead for disasters. Census data can help you qualify for a pension and help establish your citizenship. That last one is what’s all a buzz in the media.           

The question whether the statement ‘ARE YOU A U.S. CITIZEN’ is in the courts. The Trump Administration wants that question asked of all people within our borders. Opponents fear illegals will not answer the census at all, which could mean less data in some areas. Less numbers means that an area would lose Electoral Votes during a presidential election, federal funding coming in, and the number of political representatives that area would have in Congress. The Census is coming, and the final questions haven’t yet been decided. Will there be queries into the number of wives live in a household? If married LGBT people will be recognized as legally wed? How will transpeople be counted if their birth certificate is different than how they present?  We’ll know these answers very, very soon.

June 10, 2019

What's Moving Us

First there were horse-drawn buggies to transport those without horses to and for cities and towns in Utah. There were barns and carriage houses dotted all over the Capitol and along the Wasatch Front (and there are few still left). Then came cabs that picked folks up from trains and later the airport and passenger buses traveling throughout and across the state to borders beyond. Yellow cab touts that they are the only approved taxi company allowed to pick up passengers at the Salt Lake Airport. In the last decade, modern transportation has manifested bike-taxi’s around the Salt Palace and Vivint during good weather, Uber and Lyft ride shares and Lime/Bird scooters.          

Now, there’s going to be FlixBus. I’m unclear on how this company makes money but hey, let’s try it! This European firm came to the U.S. last year and has now entered the Utah people moving market by offering super cheap fares to SLC, Provo, Cedar City and St. George. From now until May 3rd you can get a ride on their buses for $4.99 plus a $2 fee and roundtrip under $10. If you wanna go debauch in Vegas, the bus drops you off in front of Caesars and then downtown Vegas. Bonus is that the sits are bigger and there’s free Wi-Fi, TV and movies during the whole trip. These are entry ‘get you hooked’ fares and they will go up to just under $20 after May 3rd.          

When I went to Wasatch Academy during high school down ‘ta Mount Pleasant’, the only way in and out without a car was by Greyhound Bus. I hated those bus trips. They were long, and often the vehicle was smelly inside and full of Chester the Molester riders. The bus always seemed to go out of its way to find towns to stop in during the middle of the night to pick up one or two riders. But I know my friends who were forced to go to ‘Indian School’ in Brigham City could only get there from the Reservation(s) by bus when their parents didn’t own cars or trucks.          

One last transportation update-The ‘behemoth to be’ International Center @North Temple and 5600 West will soon be the main UTA bus stop heading south to hookup with the existing TRAX station at the Old Bingham Highway and soon the extension of TRAX to Herriman’s Town Center. UTA and UDOT are asking for public comments on the replacing of an Express Bus service in place of Bus Rapid Transit for Phase 1 of the growing westside Mountain View Corridor. You can see the route at udot.utah.gov/mountainview and make comments at or call 800—596-2556. Trust me, with the new mega-airport near completion next year, the new state prison and the inland port coming our way, 5600 West is going to be a transportation hub like Utah has never seen before.

June 10, 2019

Pando and Beetles

What’s the world’s largest living organism? A whale? An Elephant? Nope, it’s an aspen clone in central Utah that covers just over 100 acres. The thing has a name, too: Pando, which is Latin for ‘I spread’.  Do you have an aspen in your yard? You know they are pretty trees but really annoying ones because they send out shoots from their roots and make your yard look like you don’t keep up with the weeds. According to the USDA Forest Service, an aspen reproduces by sending out shoots from its roots that grow into ‘many genetically identical trees, resulting in a clone.’               

Sadly, Pando is dying as the older trees are reaching the end of their 150-year life, and it may be losing its first place ribbon in biology to a fungus in Oregon. This decline in size is natural but scientists and ecologists are warning that there are very few younger trees emerging in Pando to replace the older ones. Some say it’s the mule deer eating the young, nutritious aspen sprouts. When the old trees die, they lose leaves and leaves are needed for photosynthesis. Without it, there’s no energy to produce new sprouts. We actually are helping ol’ Pando die, too, because the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t allow roads or hunting in the area. Thus, the hungry deer have found a sweet refuge full of yummy sprouts. They have been trying to put up fences to keep the deer out, but the animals jump high and figure out how to get around. If we killed off these deer and kept killing them, Pando might have a chance.             

Near Pando, in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, there’s been a massive death of trees. In the last two decades bark beetles have killed off almost ALL of the spruce trees in a huge area of the mountains above Mt. Pleasant to south of Ephraim. The Forest Service is about to embark on one of the largest logging projects in modern history to get that dead wood out of there and replant with conifer seedlings and planning better space in the forest. The wood will be used to build log homes, chopped to size for firewood/fireplaces and then chipped for bedding used by local turkey growers.  The USDA reported in 2018 that Utah had an inventory of 2.9 million turkeys and 815,000 pullets (baby turkeys).             

It’s warm outside now and we all love to head up to the mountains to hike and bike or simply enjoy the views. When you’re in forested areas you can see the dead trees almost everywhere now. Scientists tell us that bark beetles are on the rise due to climate change. What’s super scary about their never-ending destruction is that forests of dead trees are fodder for wildfires. Remember last falls fires in the Western half of our country? Given the massive rains we’ve had this year the underbrush is double, no, triple the normal size we usually get. Those grasses and brush will dry out and we could be headed for another bad fire season fueled again by massive acres of dead trees. As Smokey the Bear says, “Please be careful!" when you’re out in our forests this summer and don’t help start a fire.

June 10, 2019

Dark Sky Watching

Spring has sprung, Fall has fell, and damn it’s nice as hell (outside)! Just as the tulips start to bloom people look up from their screens, walk outside, blink profusely and look at the big blazing orange ball in the sky and yell HUZZAH! Or ask WTF IS THAT? Then, without any rhyme or reason, they run to big open spaces (generally south) by bike, car or plane and attempt to avoid the crowds at the ‘Big Five’ parks to get a good weekend dose of Vitamin D, exercise and hopefully fun. We Utahns love our parks and backwoods and it’s one of the many reasons some of us stay in this politically odd state. Oh, to sit by a campfire after river run or day hike among a red rock canyon and look up at the night sky and see the stars we miss viewing whilst living along the Wasatch Front. The bigger the city, the less likely stars can be seen at dark because there is too much night light pollution from street lights, buildings, signs, and thousands of exterior lights on homes.

My Navajo friend from high school once told me that they look at the night sky and see the stars as just ‘holes in the blanket’. I remember watching Halley’s Comet slowly cross the sky in 1986 from the top of a houseboat at Lake Powell. Wow. That sight, with the bazillions of stars/planets and the Milky Way was an image and memory I will never forget. On a clear night in a dark sky you can see star clusters, over 80 constellations, spiral galaxies and the International Space Station circling the earth. Finding dark skies though is getting harder and harder as cities grow. This isn’t just a Utah problem, it’s an international issue. As a result, concerned citizens have lobbied for, and helped create ‘Dark Sky Parks’ and subsequently an industry called ‘astro-tourism’ has become a real thing. 

Utah just got it’s lucky 13th park designation right by Dinosaur National Monument by the Utah-Colorado border. We actually lead the world in Sky Parks!  To date, our parks are all over the state from north to south and east to west and include Antelope Island State Park/Antelope Island, Natural Bridges National Monument, Weber County North Fork Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Dimple Dell Regional Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Deer Creek State Park, Flight Park State Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park.

According to visitutah.com there are more than 60 certified or in-process International Dark Sky Parks and Communities that are part of a catalog of the finest dark skies in the world, adding that eighty percent of Americans live where they can’t see the Milky Way due to light pollution. This means we are really lucky to have so many insane opportunities for stargazing (when Mother Nature isn’t dumping record rains or snows on our heads). You can get more information on all of this at the Utah Office of Tourism at 300 N. State Street, at the top of Capitol Hill just below the Capitol Building.  800-200-1160

April 21, 2019

St. Gorgeous

St. George is America’s fastest-growing city, according to the University of Utah Kem. Gardner Policy Institute. They grew in population by almost 4% last year. Why is that do you think?

It’s certainly become retirement heaven for many Baby Boomers as the climate is similar to Arizona.  It still has a ‘small town’ feeling and a personality of old and new architecture, small local businesses and the inevitable chains. Plus it’s 120 miles to Las Vegas and 42 miles to Zion National Park.

The scenic area was named in honor of Mormon apostle George A. Smith. He was known as ‘the Potato Saint’ because he urged early settlers to eat raw and unpeeled potatoes to cure scurvy.  Come to find out, potatoes are a great vegetable source of vitamin C and eating the C is a pretty obvious cure for scurvy. The first people that inhabited the area were the Anasazi who grew crops along the Virgin River. I’ve hiked up a hill behind a gas station at the south end of town and seen many of their pictographs on boulders. The next people to settle were the Pauites and then various Spanish explorers and trappers. The LDS Church sent an experimental mission south of Salt Lake to see if the area was good to grow cotton (turned out, it wasn’t). Thus, the area was known as “Utah’s Dixie’ and still to this day has a nickname that reminds you of the cotton growing states in the U.S. The ‘Potato Saint’ actually never lived there but sent people to farm the land and set up businesses and run the church arms in that part of the state. The Church built a Tabernacle which opened in 1875 which can be seen by most of the people of the town today as a manmade landscape beacon of direction.

Since those early days St. George has just kept growing. If you’re not retired yet, big employers include SkyWest Airlines, Dixie College, the now-famous ‘Squatty Potty’ (best poop of your life!) are there, as is Walmart distribution, Sunroc, Costco and of course, many different home builders like Ence Homes, Sullivan Homes, Bangerter Homes and Sun River.  The housing crunch has hit the area hard for home buyers, and rental properties for blue collar workers are scarce. I have heard from several local REALTORS that there are ZERO rental properties available and if a sign or ad goes up there are 10 or 20 people trying to outbid each other to sign a lease with the landlord. AIRBNB is a factor that’s added to low inventory for people visiting nearby Zion National Park.  It’s a quick 5 hour-ish drive or one hour flight from Salt Lake City.

April 21, 2019

Rural Charm

I’ve been selling real estate since before there were mobile phones or the internet and when homes around Liberty Park used to sell for $29,900. I sold a friend a home in the Bountiful hills back then-a big one with @3500 sq. ft. for $79,000.  She and her husband thought they were paying way too much but loved the view. Jump forward a few years and the LDS Church announced they were going to build the Bountiful Temple. Soon, million dollar homes were being built all around them and my friends were very very happy with their now high neighborhood value.

This month the same saints announced a Temple would be built in Tooele, Utah (known as ‘the last McDonalds stop before Wendover’).  As Tooele is less than a 30 minute drive from the Capitol City it’s been seeing a building boom of residential homes-homes that are much less expensive than new construction projects in the Salt Lake Valley. NOW their real estate market will improve even more-especially near the new Temple site and folks will move further west to Grantsville where new homes sell in the low $200’s and the average price for a home in the Salt Lake Valley is $361,000.

I love Grantsville!  I just took a listing out there and got to revisit the sleepy little town where I used to hunt for ghost towns, old dumps and treasures during college.  It’s just 12 minutes past Tooele on Highway 138 or off its own exit on I-80. They’ve got a newer city hall and great library in the tiny downtown area, a grocery store and plenty of homes dedicated to hair salons. South Fork Hardware has baby chicks on sale right now and ya gotta love when you buy hay at that store that the owner grew it himself. I asked a woman in the checkout line there why she lived there and she smiled and said ‘I got tired of big town Phoenix and the traffic. I have horses and this place is great and close to Salt Lake!’ Many folks live in Grantsville because it IS rural and because it’s not much farther than downtown to Herriman on a bad traffic day. It’s 33 miles to the Salt Lake Airport and even closer to the new prison and Inland Port sites. You bet as those projects get built both little cities will see massive influx of renters and home buyers. If you take the I-80 exit you’ll drive a two lane road past beefalo (‘steaks for sale’) ranches, cows, horses and dog kennels. It’s picturesque : a 1920’s rusty school bus parked in a field with a few black angus cows leaning against it for shade; sheep who are chewing away at grass while all the new lambs jump around in the spring sun; and mountains on both sides of the valley with the smell of cattle and hay in the air.

If you head from Tooele you’ll go past the historic 150 year old Benson Grist Mill,  past the Utah Motorsports Campus and the turnoff to the Utah FIRE Museum at the Deseret Peak Complex.  That place has groovy old firetrucks preserved and inside from the elements that young and old kids love. Take a trek some Saturday and see what’s west in the next valley. Now that a Temple is coming the rural charm of the area will slowly be going away.