Short takes on issues
Give transit commuters even break • Until New Year's Day, American commuters could use pre-tax money to pay for their public transit passes or to park their cars, and the tax benefit was equal. No more. Now, a person can use up to $240 a month in pre-tax money for parking expenses, but only $125 a month for transit. That's nuts, particularly in the Salt Lake Valley where commuting by private car contributes much more to air pollution than riding public transit. Yet federal tax law now encourages people to drive their cars to work. The change for the worse came about because of the expiration of a provision in the economic stimulus package. Congress should correct this by restoring the equal tax break for people who buy transit passes. Otherwise, the nation is encouraging Americans to consume more oil and foul the air.
Salute to the home team • We salute the opening of Fisher House, a 20-bedroom home away from home for the families of veterans being treated at the VA hospital in Salt Lake City. The $5.8 million home is the gift of the Fisher Home Foundation and is located on the campus of the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. There, veterans and family members who must travel at least two hours or more than 50 miles for treatment that requires at least three nights' stay in Salt Lake City are eligible for lodging. Guests prepare their own food and do their own laundry. The first tenants have given the accommodations rave reviews. It should help reduce the costs and stress to vets and their families who must come a long way to the VA hospital, which serves one of the largest geographic regions in the nation.
A spiral in time • The late Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty is more than 40 years old. A new agreement should, we hope, preserve the famous artwork long into the future. Smithson built the 1,500-foot jetty of basalt rocks dumped into the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in 1970. As the lake rises and falls with the precipitation cycles in the Great Basin, the jetty emerges, encrusted in salt crystals, or disappears beneath the waters of the lake. The visionary nature of the work and the setting have made it one of the best-known pieces of its kind in the world. Now, the Dia Foundation, which owns the work, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College and the Utah Department of Natural Resources will maintain it into the future.