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McEntee: Despite the smog, I can see my wish list for 2013

Published December 31, 2012 3:40 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

At this writing, I am mesmerized by the snow crystals dancing on the deck outside my newsroom window. On the flip side, the Wasatch Front is in the cold, strangling embrace of a winter inversion.

So, don't light a fire, don't drive much, bundle up and put on a face mask when you shovel snow, and don't mention the fiscal cliff.

Oops.

But anyone can launch a list of things we'd like to see in the new year, so I've put together a jumbled grab bag of thoughts.

For example — within weeks, the Utah Legislature will convene with an even stronger hyper-majority of Republican lawmakers. Maybe this time those entrenched and those new to the Capitol could sit down with their Democratic colleagues and talk — in the open — about what the state needs most this year.

And return to open caucuses on the GOP side. As a Republican lawmaker once put it, when the doors are closed, the room automatically becomes smoke-filled.

As for needs, one huge thing would be more money for education and particularly teachers, the people we leave our children with for six, seven hours a day, five days a week. The ones who spend their own money on classroom supplies and take their work home with them. The ones who, besides parents, most influence and shape children's lives.

More state funding would also ease the plight of kids who sit in crowded classrooms, yearning for and needing a bit more of their teachers' time.

I know: Drop the multimillion-dollar, sure-to-fail scheme to seize federal lands as Utah's own and spend that money and more on education, which sets the stage for all other jobs in the workplace.

As for smog, maybe we could try a Utah-specific "cash for clunkers" operation that would get stinky old cars and trucks off the road and their emissions out of our air. It would be a start.

Here are a couple of pet peeves: Encourage drivers to put down their cellphones and concentrate on the road. Teach people who drive big, fancy pickups not to tailgate just because they can. It's annoying and dangerous and needs to stop.

Let's see: We can open our wallets to places such as The Road Home, the Fourth Street Clinic and many other entities statewide that care for the homeless and helpless. Far better to have food and a bed, even in a shelter, than to live in on the street or in fetid camps, where the cold or heat and drug- and alcohol-fueled violence is always a threat.

This year, and I'm mostly talking to myself, is the time to get off the couch and into the world. Take hikes. Walk the dog, if you have one. In the summer, have picnics in the canyons.

Walk through a cemetery. Oddly, there's something soothing about wandering around, reading headstones and wondering about what that particular life was all about. At Salt Lake City's Mount Olivet, you can even see urban deer.

Sing, and not just Auld Lang Syne. The confluence of voices, even if out-of-pitch and raspy, is a great way to stir up the old endorphins and laugh at yourself.

(For Christmas, I got a CD of the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," an album I've loved all my life. Couldn't help but sing along, even as my family and the cat ran for cover.)

At work, never fail to tell someone they've done an excellent job. It takes just a moment and means everything. Honest praise is far too rare. We really do have time to say it.

On New Year's Eve at my house, we'll have some red wine and fabulous spaghetti made by me. We certainly won't watch the ball drop on TV at midnight; we'll be asleep, and that's just fine.

On Wednesday, we'll be back at work, like you, doing the best we can.

Happy New Year.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.