Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

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.

April 21, 2019

Are you prepared?

Springtime in the Rockies is terrific. We can get four seasons in one day, ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. And we’ll always get some snow dumper of ultra-wet flakes that will bring down a branch from just about every other tree around.

A few weeks ago we had a doozy in Salt Lake City, where in just one Friday almost 2” of moisture fell from the sky. This is more water than we ever get in March of any given year and I predict with the trees sucking up sap to bring out leaves and global warming keeping us wet that we’ll have another one or two dumpers before the valleys can say goodbye to our famous white stuff.  As I drove to my office that morning I saw several cars smashed to smithereens under huge downed limbs and trees and knew way too many folk who lost power due to electric lines that came down during the early morning hours. Rocky Mountain Power reported that more than 19,000 residents in the Capitol City were without power as a result of the storm, and almost 4,000 didn’t get their power back until two days later.

Local saints are told to prepare for disasters and to assemble an emergency food supply in case of the end of days. Let’s just say most of us DON’T have more than a small cupboard of odd canned foods and cereal boxes and many frozen microwavable meals. Without power though, milk goes bad and you can’t nuke your dinner. Maybe consider the fact that even in summer power can go out, emergencies can occur and we all might do well in being a bit prepared. Sure, you can invest in a small generator for a few hundred to a few thousand bucks, but there are simpler things to do to prepare for disaster, such as:  

1) call the power company to check on outages

2) try not to open and close your fridge/freezer often. Food should last 24-36 hours if you keep the doors mostly closed

3) keep fuel for your BBQ handy even in winter, but NEVER light your grill inside

4) keep emergency candles and a few flashlights with good batteries in an area where you all know they are stashed

5) check out on line or at local stores ’72 hour kits’ for your home that include food, personal items and survival items.

 

Go to www.redcross/org for suggestions on filling a preparedness kit for your home. Also, always have a dash kit in case you have to run from your home that will have an emergency stash of cash, copies of ID’s and or passports, batteries, cords, extra keys, blankets, shoes and clothes. If you’ve got to grab and go due to a fire, flood or earthquake make sure you have pet carriers close by, extra diapers, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and food and water for three days for all. Don’t forget your meds either, and back up any important documents onto a USB stick.   

March 28, 2019

Greektown

Many large cities in the United State have specific ethnic neighborhoods that developed over the years like San Francisco’s Chinatown; India Square in Jersey City, New Jersey and Little Odessa, Brooklyn, New York; Little Saigon in San Diego, California and Koreatown in Dallas, Texas. Salt Lake used to have J-Town on 100 South between 200 and 300 West and Greektown which surrounded the Church of Holy Trinity on 300 South and 300 West. All that’s left of those two neighborhoods are churches and some properties that they own.

This year before the annual Greek Festival was to happen downtown, I got a call from a member of the Greek community who said they were anticipating major parking problems with the festival. If you haven’t driven into the neighborhood since the Summer Farmer’s Markets in Pioneer Park ended, you would not have seen the residential high rise going up that’s slapped almost onto the back of Tony Caputo’s deli or noticed that Pierpont Avenue is blocked off for the building construction there. Also, the parking lot just south of the Crane Building on 200 South and 300 West is also full of construction vehicles as was the pay parking lot across the street where the Greek Fest sets up it’s inflatable bounce house and kids slide.  I suggested they work closely with UTA and get the patrons of the Festival educated on how easy it would be to ride the bus and TRAX to the September event rather than drive their cars and grumble about ‘no parking’.

The Holy Trinity and the other Greek Church (Prophet Elias) are talking to local developers to come up with ideas of how to provide income for the cathedral from it’s land holdings but also how to creatively re-vision the old Greektown neighborhood with updated housing, retail and office spaces to the dozen or so pieces of real estate they own surrounding the Cathedral by Pioneer Park. This includes the parking lot by the Crane building, the pay parking lot north of the Cathedral, some odd land parcels and the La France Apartment complex.

The La France apartments are around row houses that were built in 1905 before the Cathedral was designed and finished in 1923. They are a total retro heaven of run down low income housing that was originally built to last with high quality brick construction and old growth hardwood features. Just about every artist I’ve ever known has spent some time renting there or hanging out there. There are porches to each little attached house and neighbors sit in the summer and talk to people coming and going on Wayne Court and hold parties and festivals of their own. It’s a pretty groovy place to live and tenants never ever want to give up their leases. Sadly, the Greeks who own the La France haven’t had the funds to renovate the row houses and their fate may fall to a future wrecking ball. There’s no decision yet as to what the future will bring for old Greektown but the ghosts and history of the neighborhood will always remain.

March 11, 2019

No More Miracles

When I was 15 years old, I was sent by my family to a small private school by the name of Wasatch Academy in little Mt. Pleasant, Utah, just north of Manti on scenic Highway 89.  Manti is the site of the fifth temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you cannot miss that stone white church when you cruise through town because it sits high atop a hill overlooking the Sanpete valley.

Most people know Manti because of the Mormon Miracle Pageant which has been held on the grounds outside the Temple every summer since 1967. But alas, the church has announced that 2019 will be the last time visitors can see the outdoor theatrical performance where Christ visits America. You may say ‘This ain’t my circus and not my monkey’, but the fine folk of this tiny central Utah are mighty sad and returning visitors will miss Manti’s famous BBQ turkey sandwiches.  The two week extravaganza draws over 15,000 people to a town that has little more than 3000 residents and is massive money-maker for gas stations, hotels, restaurants and the businesses that line Main Street during the last two weeks of June.

The pageant is the story of the early days of the Church (think hand carts) and LDS tales and beliefs of characters and events of ancient American inhabitants found in the Book of Mormon. It was written by Grace Johnson in the 1940’s and in the 1950’s both BYU and BYU-Hawaii used her story as a reader’s theater at the schools. It was adapted into the pageant form in 1970 by Macksene Rux who directed the shows in Manti from 1970 to 1989. During the early years it was funded by local donations and vehicles were banned on Temple grounds so props, scenery, chairs, and equipment had to be hauled up the hill or put over the fence. It was an instant hit with locals and tourists and over 4.5 million visitors have watched the show since it’s beginning. There are over 1000 cast members, each in a costume and none are paid. You can volunteer right now by going on the website to participate in this last and final production.

What’s odd is that in 1991 the church announced that the production would close after 25 successful years. The Vice-chair of the pageant, President Gordon B. Hinkley refused to cancel the show! Will someone from the Quorum step up and save the town and the show like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney did in the 1939 movie ‘Babes in Arms’?  Only the Church will tell. My guess is this show will sell out almost as fast as the Tabernacle Choir’s gig with Kristin Chenoweth Christmas Concert at Temple Square. Both holiday concerts and the pageant have always been free, but you have to get tickets (www.mantipageant.org) to attend the show.

March 08, 2019

A Trolley's Back

This past October a large crane lowered an original street car (picture a cable car in San Francisco) in front of the Pottery Barn and just south of Whole Foods back to its home in Trolley Square on 700 East and 500 South. It is so ironic to me that at one time almost half the population of Salt Lake City rode trolley cars around town on almost 150 miles of track and today the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) can barely fill the TRAX trains during rush hours on less than 50 miles of rail. What was in went out, and now we want it back because mass transit is good.

The first trolley company was started by sons of Brigham Young and their first passenger trolley car was pulled by mules along 300 West South Temple to 300 South and State. I found a trolley ticket in an old book of Robert Browning poems I bought years ago and the fare was five cents. Originally it cost ten cents to ride but the brothers found by lowering the price they’d get more riders. The first electric streetcars in Utah began operating in October of 1908 and they were housed in the beautiful Mission-style buildings at Trolley Square.

I was a Planning and Zoning Commissioner for Salt Lake City when Whole Foods came to the city and wanted to put in a mega store smack dab in the middle of this historic block. I was definitely not a fan of the size of the project and how its designers originally failed to fit the new in with the old, but as you can see, Whole Foods did downsize its design and eventually fit in among the historic ‘barns’. They were built by a notorious railroad tycoon named Edward H. Harriman. He was infamous for never stopping to hunt down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who had robbed his trains many times. He bought the 10 acre block of Trolley Square that had originally been the ‘Territorial Fairgrounds’ and put in the buildings that eventually held 144 street cars. There were blacksmiths and carpenters, conductors and electricians working inside the buildings. The old First Security Bank stand-alone structure (now gone and previously located where Whole Foods is now) was used to store sand needed for the rail system.

There’s a lot of history at Trolley Square and bringing back probably the only remaining original trolley car makes many people smile. It had been in storage for almost a decade after bulldozers came to start the food chain’s new location. The car has last housed the Trolley Wing Co. The urban mall is undergoing growth under new owner Khosrow Semnani and we may see a return of movie theaters, a food court as well as the multifamily development that will be going in across the street (600 South).

http://www.trolleysquare.com/history/