Short takes on issues
Shallow research • Not every "red flag" indicates a crisis. Or a scandal. Or evidence of racial discrimination. But the raw numbers in a new University of Utah study certainly send up a flag worth noticing. In Salt Lake County the study found that the overall mortgage denial rate for Latinos was 27.4 percent between 2006 and 2011, while only 14.2 percent of white applicants were turned down. And the disparity was reported across all income levels. White applicants had approval rates near or above 70 percent for nearly all incomes, while Hispanic approval rates never reached 60 percent even for people with incomes in the top 10 percent of all applicants. But the study doesn't answer the most obvious question: Why? Officials at banks and credit unions rightly point out that they have nothing to gain by rejecting qualified loan applicants. After all, they make a profit by making loans, not by failing to make loans, and we can't afford another housing crisis caused by banks lending to people who can't make their mortgage payments. But the study should alert loan officers to be watchful for any sign of discrimination, as they should always be.
Not so grand a bargain • A bargain struck by Utah Transit Authority and the major contractors working on TRAX and FrontRunner extensions in which the contractors agreed to let UTA withhold a higher percentage than usual until the projects received final approval and gave up the interest UTA would normally pay on that money stretched the boundaries of state law, but probably didn't break it. Still, the deal hurt smaller companies with smaller amounts of working capital and less cash-flow flexibility. Some of them are complaining about the practice, and rightly so. Even though the "innovation" that helped UTA finish the projects under budget and ahead of schedule, it should be adjusted for the little guy who really can't afford it.
Lying low • Town-hall meetings, where constituents have a chance to see and question their members of Congress who are usually in Washington and out of earshot, have value for both the voters and their representatives, who, as Rep. Rob Bishop quipped, invite all questions and then do their best to dodge them. So it's unfortunate that Rep. Jim Matheson and Sen. Orrin Hatch have scheduled no in-person gatherings during the August congressional recess. Rep. Chris Stewart, to his credit, will appear at eight town halls, Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz at two each. Sen. Mike Lee will visit constituents at five town halls, but none in Salt Lake County, where he is most apt to meet dissenters. That's too bad.