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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Council approves funding for "Fight the New Drug" assemblies in Kearns!

Last fall the non-profit group, "Fight The New Drug," presented to the Salt Lake County Council regarding their education efforts on the harmful effects of pornography to junior high and high school-aged children. I love what these guys do! They talk about this issue using science, facts, and personal accounts, but do it in a fun way. I believe the high number of children being exposed to violent and degrading pornography is a public health issue, and since the county is in the business of behavioral health, I would love to see these assemblies in every junior high and high school in the county.

In October, a private donor funded assemblies in Taylorsville at Bennion and Eisenhower Junior High Schools and Taylorsville High School. We also hosted a Parent Meeting where FTND gave parents helpful information on how to address this issue with their children.

Bennion Jr. High Principal Rod Horton said, “The feedback from the staff and students at Bennion Junior High was very positive about the “Fight the New Drug” assembly. They felt the message shared and the manner in which it was presented was very effective and engaging. I believe the message and video clips shared regarding the impact of pornography on the brain, relationships, and society, was impactful for the students.  I would recommend this [presentation] to all schools.”

At the parent meeting we had parents from other communities who had heard about the meeting on the news and wanted to attend. They asked us, “When will you bring this to our schools?” The impact on the community has been positive, which has led to cities like Sandy making this part of their Healthy Sandy initiative for the second time. In fact, we partnered with them on an assembly at Union Middle School this week. We have also had the Valley West Rotary Club express interest in partnering, and are grateful for the support Granite School District has given in promoting this in their schools.

There is now a perfect opportunity to have the next phase of assemblies in Kearns to coincide with Salt Lake County’s “Building Healthy Communities” program. So today in our county council meeting Councilmember Jensen and I asked the council to contribute $2000 towards these assemblies in Kearns. I am thrilled that it passed! Next step is to meet with the Kearns principals and get them scheduled for the fall. We will also be having a third party analyze effectiveness of these assemblies using data. 

For more information on FTND, see their website:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Performance Audits Begin in SL County

The last four years have not been the best as far as the relationship between the Salt Lake County Council and the Salt Lake County Auditor. For the last four years the Council and the Auditor have not attempted or completed any performance audits in the County. These performance audits are an integral part of our legislative duty to residents of Salt Lake County. When an audit is completed, it helps us as the Council see if programs are working, if allocated funding has been spent properly, and if there are places for improvement to a particular department or program.

Just before I joined the council, my colleagues had funded, but not filled, a position in the council office for a full time auditor. When Scott Tingley was elected as the County Auditor, he met with Council members and discussed his plans for cooperation in working in tandem with the Council. He would only work within the scope and direction that the Council set for him and this would be on a trial basis for one year to see if all parties are satisfied. I fully support letting the Auditor’s office do this important job so we can see how it works. The Mayor and the Council have routinely agreed that if there is an area in government that isn’t working well then it should be changed. This is a great way to follow through on our commitment to our residents.

On Tuesday, March 17 the Council met and debated the merits of having the Auditor’s office begin doing performance audits. Ultimately the council voted to have Tingley’s office perform these three audits:

  • The voting machines are getting old and too expensive to maintain. The Auditor will look at the cost of replacing them and procedures surrounding their maintenance and upgrade. He will assess what the best options for the County will be in the near future. The timeframe for completing the audit will be 2-3 months. 
  • The metro jail health clinic. This audit is anticipated to take 3-6 months to complete. 
  • The Day Reporting Center (DRC) provides an alternative to jail at both the pre and post trial levels. Individuals currently sentenced to the Salt Lake County Jail for a misdemeanor conviction may serve a portion of their sentence in the community under the supervision of the DRC. The DRC offers a more intensive case management system coupled with treatment, educational, and employment services. This audit will take 9-12 months to complete.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Transparency and Spending in the Council Office

When I was first put on the County Council, two of my goals were to have more transparent government and make sure we were toeing the line on spending. Well, I have some good news and some not-so-good news.

First of all, a few weeks ago I pushed to get the audio recordings of both our work session and council meeting on the website. The council approved it unanimously. Now constituents can listen to council meetings by clicking on the audio link on our website. I feel that transparent government makes for better government when our residents get more involved.

My not-so-good news is that this week the council voted to add another full time position to the County Council staff. Currently each of the nine council members have their own Senior Policy Advisor. We also have an attorney, fiscal manager, budget analyst, legislative liaison, and receptionist that the nine of us share.

This week one of my colleagues floated the idea of hiring a full time person to help cover the receptionist and do other things like research, constituent outreach, etc. Since our council advisors do research and constituent outreach, I vehemently opposed this idea, as did Councilmembers Richard Snelgrove and Steve DeBry. I felt that there were more effective and efficient ways to cover for our receptionist.

Hoping we would continue setting the example for other departments and elected officials to toe the line on spending, make do with what they have, and not ask for additional FTE's (full time employees) in the middle of the budget year, I voted "No" on adding this position. I was joined by two of my colleagues (Snelgrove and DeBry), but unfortunately this passed 5-3 and the council will be adding another full time position to their staff of 14.

Well, as I'm finding in government... you win some, you lose some.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

School District Splits

One of the issues I am passionate about during this Legislative session is making sure my district (and all of Salt Lake County for that matter) is protected from any inequitable school district splits.

Rep. Craig Hall proposed a bill, HB 93, that would prevent a city from initiating a school district split if they take more than 105% of the revenue over expenses. After speaking with my county council colleagues and Mayor McAdams, we are supporting this bill. We have also been working with cities who may have concerns to make sure their issues are addressed.

I firmly believe that education funding should be equalized. No student in Utah should have fewer dollars spent on their education just because they live in an area that generates less tax revenue.

So far HB 93 has passed out of committee. Call your Legislators and let them know you support this bill!!