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Miller: A Sutherland or Hatch courthouse? No!
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The debate over what to name the new federal courthouse is disappointing. Here we go again. A marvelous structure created with taxpayer funds complementing downtown Salt Lake City, and the debate is which elected official to name it after – George Sutherland or Orrin Hatch.

No structure paid for with taxpayer money should ever be named after an elected official. There is too much conflict of interest — an elected official working hard to get funding for something that may become a monument to that official.

This has always been troubling. But we all have accepted it as status quo because it happens so often.

All too often, our elected officials become self-serving — how to perpetuate or increase their power, deluded with their own importance, lining their pockets through their access and influence, bloating their benefits, padding their pensions, and focused on their legacy — all at taxpayer expense. They cloak themselves with the mantle of public service but are often self-centered, losing sight of their real role, purpose, and value. Should this be rewarded?

Maybe it should just be named 'The Federal Courthouse' It's descriptive, practical; not pompous or elevating, just functional.

Not all elected officials fall into the "feeding at the public trough" bucket. But if you ask most members of the American public about the utility and value of [federal] appointed and elected officials, you will get disgust and disparagement.

If we are to name such buildings after individuals, then those involved in the community — non-elected, helping others, strengthening the fabric and diversity of our society — should get the honor and recognition.

In the context of the current debate over two names, I would propose two individuals I think far more worthy to be honored as their hearts are truly reflected in their actions.

The first is Pamela Atkinson. Pamela's contributions are well known as a tireless advocate for the homeless, refugees and the poor. She never stops working hard for the disenfranchised. She is always trying to make life better for the vulnerable and needy. She works hard to make this a fairer and better place for all Utahns. And her Pamela J. Atkinson Foundation has been formed to raise funds to assure those in need realize permanent housing. She is regularly sought out by our community leaders for practical advice and community solutions.

The second is the Rev. France Davis, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Davis has served in his role as a loving and caring pastor for over 40 years, the majority at Calvary Baptist. He has lived through the civil rights movement, including the Selma march, lived through racial indignations elsewhere and in Utah, yet is gracious and caring and works tirelessly to help make Salt Lake City a kinder and better place to live.

The reverend and his family have made this their home for decades. He has helped build housing for low-income elderly, organized to retrain workers so they can better themselves, and is a spiritual and community leader. The mayor and governor reach out to Davis for advice.

Both Atkinson and Davis have impeccable integrity, are trusted, and have given with their hearts their entire lives. Neither is conflicted with trying to please those who can help keep them in power.

How about an Atkinson or Davis Federal Courthouse? It would be an honor for either to have such recognition while they are alive and know that, going forward, generations will be reminded of the value of their community service.

W. Tim Miller is CEO of a leading Utah biotechnology company, a recipient of the Governor's Science Medal in 2012, and a University of Utah adjunct business professor.

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