Open meetings lessons • Members of the Utah State School Board should take an incomplete on their recent assignment that of electing a chairman and vice chairman and do it over. This time, in compliance with the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act. The 15-member board re-elected Chairwoman Debra Roberts on Dec. 7, and elected vice chairman David Crandall. The vote was by secret ballot, an obvious violation of the law that requires all votes to be openly recorded in open session. Roberts said the secret ballot allows members to vote their preferences without hurting the feelings of those who don't get chosen. But open government is more important than feelings, and people who are that easily wounded should not seek public office in the first place.
Clearing the air in the car • State Sen. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, will try one more time in the coming year to pass a law that prohibits smoking inside cars when children are passengers. The idea has been floated before, and shot down on the ridiculous grounds that it would be state interference with parental rights. Parents do not have the right to poison their or anyone else's children. So they certainly do not have the right to confine them in a small enclosed space and fill the air they breathe with a fog of known carcinogens. The bill, as Arent now proposes it, would hardly be an overreach. It would be a secondary offense, which means it would only be enforced if a driver were to be pulled over for some other infraction. And a first offense would carry no more than a warning. This time, the measure should become law.
Landlords and tenants • The Salt Lake City Council had a good idea, trying to help tenants find good landlords and landlords to avoid problem renters. But, more than a year after the council adopted its "good landlord initiative," council members are worried that their good intentions have been evicted. One component of the plan, a city inspection of rental units, apparently was abandoned due to another of those cases where a majority of the Utah Legislature stuck its collective nose where it clearly did not belong. A 2012 act prohibited cities from inspecting rental units "without cause" or at "random." And that, city lawyers say, puts a halt to inspections, unless there is a specific complaint. Some council members read it differently, arguing that inspections should go forward in a systematic, not "random," way. Mayor Ralph Becker's office also points out that most city landlords, owners of some 28,000 units, are participating. Either way, the Legislature notwithstanding, the program should go forward.