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Rolly: Don’t blame the lobbyists — the Legislature was going to kick Salt Lake City to the curb no matter what

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Staff photos of the Salt Lake Tribune staff. Paul Rolly.

After the Utah legislative session ended nearly two weeks ago, the three state senators who represent Salt Lake City were outraged at the job the lobbyists hired by Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s administration did for the city.

The mayor, the city council and the legislators whose districts are within Salt Lake’s boundaries believed the capital was kicked to the curb by the Republican-dominated Legislature with the bill on developing an inland port in Salt Lake’s northwest quadrant.

The city will have little control over the port, designed to boost trade and economic development for the state, and city leaders felt they were ignored by legislators.

Whether the city lobbyists were inept or not, it probably makes no difference.

No matter who the lobbyists are, Salt Lake City has been and will continue to be a kickball for the Legislature.

That’s because of Utah’s unique political makeup.

Democrats have just 13 of the 75 seats in the Utah House and five of the 29 seats in the Senate.

The significant part of that statistic is that all the Democrats in the Legislature are from Salt Lake County and every legislator from Salt Lake City is a Democrat.

Because Democrats are basically ignored at the Legislature and are not invited into the Republican caucuses where the important decisions are made, Utah’s capital city has no seat at the table.

The Democrats used to have one seat outside Salt Lake County, Rep. Christine Watkins from Carbon County. But her district was gerrymandered in 2011 to include large swaths of Republican areas from surrounding counties, so she lost to a Republican who then embarrassed his party by suggesting we need more carbon dioxide in the air to help the environment.

Watkins switched parties and is now back in the Legislature — as a Republican.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake City continues to be ramrodded by the Legislature, whether it’s the inland port or the relocation of the state prison or tax distributions — lobbyists or no lobbyists.

A law is a law is a law: One Salt Lake Tribune reader pointed out the juxtaposition of two DUI-related stories on the same page in the March 6 edition that is worth some contemplation.
In one story, 29-year-old Isaac James Hernandez was sentenced to up to five years in prison for driving drunk when he crashed his car, killing a passenger.

No argument there. There should be a severe punishment for that kind of consequence.

The story said Hernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.14, nearly two times the legal limit, at the time of the accident.

The second story was about former Salt Lake City 911 dispatch director and Layton City Council member Scott Freitag pleading guilty to drunken driving after he was pulled over in his Salt Lake City-owned vehicle at 1:25 p.m. Jan. 3 with an open container of alcohol inside the car.

Freitag had a blood alcohol level of 0.214 at the time of his arrest, nearly three times the legal limit.

He was sentenced to three days in jail, a $1,420 fine and community service — basically a slap on the wrist.

Granted, the Hernandez DUI resulted in a death. Freitag’s offense, thankfully, ended with no deaths or injuries because of the intervention from Centerville police.

But the leniency given for that level of alcohol in the offender’s system brings to mind the law passed by the Legislature that will go into effect at the end of this year that lowers the legal DUI limit from 0.08 to 0.05.

When that happens, two glasses of wine with dinner will be roughly the equivalent, in the eyes of the law, of driving with an open alcoholic drink in the car and a 0.214 blood alcohol level.

The Legislature sees no difference there?

Politics and pullups don’t mix: The political polarization in this country has now infiltrated the gym and gotten in the way of fitness enthusiasts’ pullups, bench presses and leg curls.

Management at the Sports Mall in Murray finally got tired of fielding complaints from conservative members upset that the TV sets in the workout rooms played too much CNN, or from liberals not wanting to have to watch Fox News.

So the channel flipping is over.

The club no longer will play cable news stations on its TVs. From now on, members will receive a straight diet of ESPN, local news and programs of particular interest, like Utah Jazz games.

Sports Mall manager Kenny Clayton said it just became too much of a hassle trying to please one group or another depending on their political bent.

And heaven forbid that a true red-blooded conservative might have to look at Wolf Blitzer right in the middle of a spinning routine.

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