* Winner: For 14-year-old Masha Halkina of Rostov, Russia, it has been an incredible week. Doctors, who donated their time, spent eight hours a week ago in the operating room removing and reconstructing skin from her abdomen and side, grafting it into her neck so she could regain flexibility to move. She suffered severe burns when she was 5 years old that restricted movement of her head and neck.
Clint Duke, a friend of Halkina's who met her while serving an LDS mission, brought her plight to the attention of Operation Smile, a volunteer medical organization that treats children worldwide who have facial deformities. She had plenty of reasons to smile last Tuesday night as she attended the Elton John concert in the Delta Center courtesy of radio station KUMT. Next up is some recovery time with the Duke family and then it's back to Russia and many more smiles.Loser: Let's see, your city is bidding to host the Utah Arts Festival, so the mayor, while touring the current site of the festival, utters these profound words: "I walked into the Union Pacific Depot, and I didn't see one thing I would consider art." He then adds off-handedly that, if it were up to him, a little censorship might be in order.
Because of Mayor Gearld Wright's comments, West Valley City is doing damage control. City council members chastised the mayor and approved a letter renouncing his sentiments at a recent city council meeting. "We were the underdogs to begin with," lamented City Manager John Patterson. You still are.
* Winner: Utah's top tax man, W. Val Oveson, will soon be one of Washington's top tax men. He's off to the nation's capitol early next month to take over as national "taxpayer advocate" for the Internal Revenue Service. IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti announced the appointment Tuesday. Oveson is a former state auditor and lieutenant governor and has been chairman of the State Tax Commission since 1993.
The taxpayer advocate position increased in stature this year due to IRS reform law. Oveson will be the first person to hold the 20-year-old position to come from outside the IRS, as required by the new law. He merits our wholehearted support - at least until we're audited.
* Winner: It was Christmas in August for more than 200 children along the Wasatch Front, thanks to Mervyn's California stores. The nationwide chain staged its sixth annual "Child Spree" last Saturday morning to allow at-risk children to shop for new school clothes. At the Crossroads Mervyn's for example, each child was allowed up to $70 in free clothing. They also received a backpack full of school supplies, a McDonald's breakfast and a chance to get their face painted. Nationally, Mervyn's contributed more than $800,000 in clothing for for 15,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18. A Merry Christmas indeed.