Quirky, extraordinary stories highlight 2011

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

West said he had already paid a $25 charge for a previous visit, and that a billing clerk at the clinic had refused to help him when he tried to have his questions resolved. So he went to the clinic May 27 with 14 pounds of pennies and asked the clerk, "Do you take cash?"

"She very haughtily said, 'Well, yes we do,'" West said. "So I said, 'Lucky for me, I happen to have it on me.'"

Police say the pennies were "strewn about the counter and the floor," and that West's actions "served no legitimate purpose."

West, 38, was charged with disorderly conduct in the incident, but he said he doesn't regret his penny protest.

"I would say that I had a legitimate purpose," he said. "It was to resolve a billing dispute and pay it, and to protest how I'd been treated."

West said he wanted to show his frustration for what he says was poor customer service, and he wanted to have fun doing it.

"I did stand-up comedy in college,” he said. “This is how I deal with stress. I make jokes."

Year in politics

Two candidates with Utah ties spent much of 2011 playing the political game at the highest level — running for president of the United States.

In April, Mitt Romney announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential run. Romney, a favorite son in Utah for spearheading the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, made his second presidential run official in June.

"In the campaign to come, the American ideals of economic freedom and opportunity need a clear and unapologetic defense, and I intend to make it — because I have lived it," Romney said during his June 2 announcement in Stratham, N.H.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. officially threw his hat in the ring on June 21 at Liberty State Park, N.J., with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

"I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation to run for the office of president," Huntsman said, acknowledging his respect for the other Republicans in the race as well as the Democrat he served under as U.S. ambassador to China, President Barack Obama.

"(Obama) and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love," he said. "But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who's the better American."

A third candidate with Utah ties is making a presidential run on a smaller scale. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson last month announced the creation of a new political party, the Justice Party, and that he would be that party's presidential candidate.

"If you put passion and organization together, we can overcome any of these candidates who have all the money but really lack ideas," Anderson said.

Locally, politics started to sound like an unhealthy buffet as elected officials served up ideas such as the pizza-slice and doughnut plans for congressional redistricting.

Every 10 years, lawmakers must redraw congressional, legislative and state school board boundaries to reflect the most recent census.

This year's congressional map, which included the state's new 4th District seat, was harshly criticized by Democrats and others. The state Democratic Party has threatened to sue, saying the re-drawn districts disenfranchise Democratic voters.

As 2011 comes to a close, several high-profile Republicans and an incumbent Democrat have announced their intentions to run for the 4th District seat.

On Dec. 15, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, announced that he will jump from the 2nd District where he has served the past 10 years to the state's new district to seek re-election — a district in which he does not live.

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