Fall is in the air, and along with cooler temperatures, several local issues are swirling like autumn leaves in a windstorm. Here is my take on a few of them:
Lemonade from prison lemons: The state may have decided to move the prison to Salt Lake City despite objections from city leaders, but the city could see a huge upside. The prison may spur real growth and development in the city’s northwest quadrant — the only vacant land it has left.
All thanks to something it didn’t want.
The prison site west of Salt Lake International Airport would take just a small portion of a vast area of raw desert that is within city limits. For decades, city leaders have talked about luring development, primarily single-family homes, out there, but nothing happened because the city lacked the will and the money (two closely related things) to extend the necessary water and sewer pipes.
In a meeting with the combined editorial boards of the Deseret News and KSL this week, I asked Mayor Ralph Becker whether the prison, which would need water and sewer pipes, provided at state expense, would make it easier to build other things out there.
“The short answer is yes,” he said, “if they build the capacity in the infrastructure.” Then he said of the state, “They’re very open to that, and we’re negotiating with them about how that happens.”
It’s not all going to be simple. Becker said the state has agreed to bear all expenses associated with the prison, but there is an old city landfill site out there that would require work before other development could begin.
And you can likely forget about those single-family homes. Jill Remington Love, the city’s community and economic development director, said a new proposed master plan calls for light manufacturing and industrial development.
Becker said he hasn’t given up efforts to fight the prison, but he acknowledged there are few arrows left in the city’s quiver.
Who knows? Maybe the city can attract enough companies that, in a few years, lawmakers will begin moaning over the economic development the state is missing along I-80 because of a prison. Then we could begin the relocation process all over again.
If you’re happy and you know it: Wallethub.com just published a survey that pronounces Utah the happiest state in the nation. The survey took into account 25 metrics, “from emotional health to income levels to sports participation rates.”
Utah scored high, not surprisingly, in community environment and recreational activity, as well as emotional and physical well-being and work environment.
Utah also has the lowest divorce rate in the country. It’s strange, then, that the state has the fourth highest suicide rate. Maybe happiness isn’t all it’s cut out to be.
Or maybe surveys aren’t all they’re cut out to be. If you’re keeping score this year, Utah is the best place to do business, the best place for a startup, the happiest state in America, and the hardest place in which to breathe.
State fair: If an ever-changing group of state lawmakers has anything in common with their colleagues from decades ago, it is an anxious desire to do something with state fairgrounds that occupy valuable real estate along North Temple but sit idle much of the year. So while the fair was in full force this week, talk was swirling over whether the state intends to renew its lease on the place. My guess is the fair isn’t going anywhere. Someone will come up with a new plan to generate money year-round, which likely won’t work.
Meanwhile, in an increasingly urbanized world, it may be worth it to keep a nice, central location for a once-a-year event that reminds us all how dependent we are on agriculture.
Creepy: A Midvale family got some airtime on KSL this week because the deck in front of their home is crawling with spiders, including dangerous varieties like hobos and black widows. They’ve captured dozens of them in Tupperware containers.
That’s the bad news. The good news is they ought to be negotiating with Hollywood for film rights.