The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, March 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Winner: The Utah State Legislature, acting on a proclamation by Gov. Gary Herbert, met in special session Friday and repealed HB477, the controversial change to Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act that had passed in the closing hours of the regular legislative session. By doing so, they have shown their interest in listening to the people's legitimate concerns about substance and process. They have demonstrated their commitment to a more open and deliberative process. They have wisely acknowledged the need for additional input on how to update something as fundamental as how citizens can access pertinent government records. In coming days, a task force of stakeholders will evaluate the fundamental issues that seem to have motivated the initial passage of HB477. That group must prudently preserve the intent of the law the people have worked so hard to save.

Loser: The biggest frustration Utah faces over the issue of illegal immigration concerns a complete lack of willingness by anyone in Washington to pass a workable federal solution. Now it appears a good chunk of Utah's congressional delegation has committed itself to making sure that doesn't change. Sen. Mike Lee has been quoted in several news reports recently saying there is no chance the federal government would grant Utah a waiver to allow its guest-worker program, passed with a broad consensus of community support, to take effect. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, for his part, said he would have vetoed the bill if he were governor. These men, elected to represent Utahns in Washington, ought to be championing the state's interests.

Winner: While Utah lawmakers wrung their hands and a newly appointed task force began to debate and deliberate over which government records should be kept secret, it was refreshing this week to see two local governments pledge themselves to follow the old records law, regardless what the Legislature decides. West Valley City's council and mayor said text messages, instant messages and other electronic communications will be open and available in their city. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon made a similar pledge. Was this political courage? Only if following the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Utahns is more courageous than political suicide.

Loser: Airline passengers ought to be able to expect that everyone associated with their flight is awake and attentive. But earlier this week two commercial airliners trying to land at Washington's Reagan National Airport couldn't wake up the air traffic controller, no matter how hard they tried. Why such an important airport (aircraft landing at Reagan are routed past several sensitive government sites) would have just one controller on duty remains a mystery. We're relieved to learn Salt Lake International has a much larger crew on duty at all times.

Loser: At first blush, the economic growth figures for the last quarter of 2010 appear good. They were revised upward to 3.1 percent this week. But it would take a 5 percent growth rate for an entire year to reduce unemployment by 1 percentage point, economists told the Associated Press. In the meantime, experts say things have slowed a bit since the beginning of the year as oil prices have climbed, home sales and construction appear to have lagged and unrest in distant lands continues to attract U.S. military intervention.

Loser: Speaking of intervention, while the United States and allied nations have been bombing Libya in support of freedom fighters, people in Ivory Coast are being slaughtered for exercising their democratic rights. The leader of that nation lost a recent election but has refused to leave office. Instead, his thugs have forced up to 1 million people to flee their homes and have killed hundreds. If humanitarian interests were all that was needed to mobilize the United Nations, there would be no shortage of work to do around the globe.

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