Author Archives: Dan Mabbutt

About Dan Mabbutt

I was introduced to Zion Canyon as a teenager working for Utah Parks Company at Zion Lodge. (See my Zion Park Centennial writing contest winning essays "Zion Lodge Stories" here under "About ZiCC".) I bought land here as soon as I could and moved here after a career misspent in corporate data processing. Springdale and the Zion Canyon Community is special and this website is my contribution to the strength and unity of the community.

TV Between Book Covers
A review of Stein, Stung by Hal Ackerman

Newton Minow, then Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, once called television a “vast wasteland”. He touched a truth so deep, so penetrating that now, fifty years after his speech, it has entered the English language.  Stein, Stung by Hal Ackerman is an example of creeping literary desertification. The wasteland is creeping away from the 40 inch flat screen and into print.

It’s easy to see that Hal Ackerman is an insider. He works through a circle of friends and pays attention to his day job (UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television for twenty-four years). Actor John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun), provided the headliner review comment in both Stein, Stoned and Stein, Stung. His publisher, Tyrus Books, is a veritable factory for this kind of fiction. In their lineup we have the Moe Prager series (eight books), the Loon Lake series (fourteen books), and the Quint McCauley series (just five books). Ackerman is just getting started since Stein, Stung is only his second in the Harry Stein series. It was published in 2012 and Stein, Stoned was published in 2010. We’re due for Stein, Stuffed any day now. (I just made that up.)

Stein, Stung is a proud example of tradition of Hollywood screenwriting in novel form. The Hollywood screenwriting formula goes something like this:

Take one stock character type (private investigator), add ethnic flavor (Jewish in this case, but Italian, Polish, and French are popular choices too) and crunchy sexual situations (Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls), stir well and bake in a professional scriptwriter oven.

It’s nice to know that your reading entertainment is in experienced, well-trained hands.

Even the format of Stein, Stung is cast in the latest commercial mold. Instead of starting with Chapter One, it opens with a prologue. TV sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory start with an opening scene to snare the audience before the title even appears. All that is missing in Stein, Stung is five minutes of commercials.

As an aspiring author myself, and with full knowledge that Ackerman is also a professional educator, I couldn’t help viewing Stein, Stung as a writing tutorial. I was acutely conscious of the graceful embellishments where my own writing was as severe and stark as a software tutorial (something I can write). Was it necessary to the plot to know that the rubber-tree plant in the courtyard made it look like New Orleans? Probably not, but it put my mind more clearly into the book. Other references, even more foreign to the plot, were like biting into sweet cherries in the confection of the story. “Waste had become America’s chief manufactured product”  and “Century City smog scrapers”.

I’m betting that the three chapters, Prologue, Apologue, and Epilogue earn huge acclaim from readers … especially the Apologue. Putting the reader in the mind and body of a queen bee so empathically was positively lyrical. And the cold water of the Epilogue hit a theme that I thoroughly identify with. Ackerman’s considerable language skills sound a chord that resonates in those chapters. If you don’t want to read the whole book, read just those chapters.

Here in darkest Utah, the language and situations in the book may upset some but I found that part of the book entertaining. People … some people … really do talk that way. Some even act the way they do in the book. But other things seemed out of scale. Fourteen thousand dollars to repair a hot tub? Fourteen hundred a month for a walk-up two bedroom apartment? Five thousand for an insurance claim interview? Was Ackerman just setting us up? Is that what things really cost in California? No wonder they all want to come here.

It’s clear from the first paragraphs that this is pure entertainment and not a moral guide, but the total lack of a character who seems to have any consistent moral values is jarring. The hypocrisy of Stein worrying about his daughter having sex with her boyfriend at the exact moment that he is having sex with his own casual girlfriend is just too much to take. It stops being even entertaining.

“Character development” is a key part of this genre of book and Ackerman gives it a game try. The descriptions of the four members of the Peering family are painted in bright, primary colors. The daughter is “slouched into an impenetrable C-curve”. Father and son have white hairless legs exposed below Bermuda shorts. Yet, the brilliant prose doesn’t make them interesting. They’re as different as he can make them, yet they’re still stereotypes. The daughter is pouty, the son nerdy, the wife repressed and the husband emasculated. They’re right out of a sitcom.

Later, all of the characters start to seem the same, in part because they all speak the same language: California Snark. None of them seem to be able to speak a normal sentence without turning it into a sardonic snarl. The coroner, who works on dead people side by side with his wife, excuses her saying, “She’s grown to have more affection for the dead than the living.” The cop who pulls Stein over on the freeway asks for Stein’s pilot’s license and says, “Weren’t you trying to do loop-de-loops back there?” I can almost hear the laugh track in the background.

Two different married women committed cold blooded murder, not to protect themselves or for greed or jealousy, but because someone was making their husbands look bad. Barb Peering killed the truck driver Monahan because, “He took my children’s respect for their father away. That I could not abide.” Ruth Ann Greenway drove a maguey spike through Henny Spector’s skull … twice … as, “a response to seeing how completely the man had her husband Hollister under his thrall.” Indeed, the murder back story … the only other actual murder in the book … framed the constancy of womanly true love. Commodore Bancroft killed his rival Sunny Cataluna so he could steal the love of Lucy Lester away from the man she really loved. Lucy loved Sunny so deeply that three-quarters of  a century later, she dropped the man she had been married to all that time at the first suggestion of foul play from a total stranger with a plastic likeness of her former lover’s face. One wonders why Ackerman thinks women act this way. One wonders whether Ackerman thinks women should act this way.

In the real world, a transmission doesn’t fall completely out of a car and bounce down the freeway. A 93 year old woman can’t do a cartwheel and then the splits on stage. And a housewife doesn’t have the strength, the tools, or the time to destabilize the load of a 40-wheeler while she’s supposed to be in the ladies room. We need the break of an audio enhanced commercial assuring us that the right drug can make old age disappear to remind us that nothing here is real.

The most believable characters are the ones that have only an ephemeral existence in the book. As a result of their brief existence, their character is consistent, yet interesting. Examples are Skip, the walking encyclopedia son in the Peering family and Henny Spector, the urbane philistine crook who gets murdered too soon to become incongruent. Other characters, especially the women, are examples of literary shape shifters. Barb Peering, for example appears three times and each time is a totally different person. In her first incarnation, she is a repressed housewife; in the second, a lover out for revenge at any personal price; in the third, a murderer driven insane by the need to protect her family. Who is Barb Peering? I don’t know and the book leaves me confused and, well … uninterested anymore.

The essential problem is that the reader isn’t invited into the unreality of Stein, Stung. Unreal worlds have a proud tradition in literature. Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels come to mind. But Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift let the reader travel with the story from a sane, logical universe to one that makes no sense for a reason. Alice had to go “down the rabbit hole” before things got weird. The Red Queen has a distorted sense of morality that the reader is invited to think about. In Stein, Stung, one is left with the impression that all you have to do is drive west from Primm, Nevada for reality to evaporate and motives to lurch around randomly, but the reader is never brought along for the ride.

I freely confess that I indulge in the mindrot of TV as much as the next guy, but I demand more of books. TV sitcoms are the diet Coke of mental activity. Books can be, and with me, should be the main course. I’ve never liked diet Coke. It leaves a slightly unpleasant aftertaste with me.

Sunday Sermon: Bitcoin and Derivatives – What is Money?

bitcoinThe Springdale library book club is reading the novel Stein, Stung this month. One of the characters in the book, call her Trust Baby (“TB”), says something that triggered some reflection. Here’s a slightly edited version.

TB: “Derivatives are loans backed by commodities whose value has been leveraged to fifty or a hundred times their inherent value. These loans are then bundled together as a brand-new commodity and traded as a financial instrument.

Stein: “Okay, so you’re selling something that doesn’t exist?

TB: “No, that would be too tangible. But mark my words, Harry. Derivatives will be the salvation of the global economic system in the next decade.

There’s some black humor there. Derivatives were the downfall of the global economic system. Lehman Brothers, at the time the fourth largest financial institution in the US, declared bankruptcy four years before Stein, Stung was published. They were just one of the victims. Ordinary people … you and me … were much bigger victims. Near worthless derivatives was one of the biggest reasons.

mtGoxJust yesterday, Mt. Gox (Yes, that’s the name.), the leading trading center for the new Internet based money Bitcoin, declared bankruptcy.

I see a common thread. We have forgotten why money is money.

According to Wikipedia, “Money is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment.”

There’s a lot of meaning in those few words. Let’s go through that carefully.

In days of yore, livestock or sacks of grain were money. But it’s tough to make change when the unit of currency is “one cow”. Cows don’t fit well in a cash register either. So people invented coins and something called, “the exchange rate”. The confusion … and cheating … started immediately after. Coins allowed concepts like, “One cow equals two pieces of silver.” But then you had to be careful about how pure the silver was, whether cows had gone up or down in price, and so forth. Again from Wikipedia, “milled edges were originally designed and intended to show that none of the metal had been shaved off the coin.”

Coins weren’t enough, however. Paper money was next and today, relatively little money is even physical. Remember, the definition above includes even “records” as a form of money. You might think you own some ZiCC property. Not unless the records held by the Washington County Recorder agree! Most of our “money” today consists of elaborate computer databases, constantly checking and rechecking each other.  From Wikipedia again, “In … 2010 … (only) about 10% (of US money) consisted of physical coins and paper money.”

About this time, people who are sometimes identified as “gold bugs” enter the conversation and say, “But, but, but … if we just went back to a ‘gold standard’ and required anything we call ‘money’ to be backed by gold, then the government wouldn’t be able to mess around with the value of your money because the government can’t print more gold.” With the unspoken, but deeply felt afterthought, “The corrupt, kleptomaniacal, sticky-fingered swindlers!”

True enough, actually. At this point in history, it would be well-nigh impossible to actually do something like putting money back onto a gold standard, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that we could. One of the main reasons we don’t use a gold standard is exactly the same reason gold bugs think we should. It makes any regulation of the money impossible. Fiat money … money that is accepted as payment because the government says it is … allows the government to use money to regulate the economy.  Gold bugs don’t trust the government.

Think of a carburetor in a car. Decades ago, the supply of gas to your car engine was pretty much regulated by the gas pedal … and that was all. Back then, ten miles per gallon was acceptable performance – and you had to be very careful in starting your engine when it was cold, killing the engine by stepping on the gas too fast, or letting the engine get too hot so it would “vapor lock”. Today, computers do it all, and none of those problems really exist anymore. (Unless the computer in your car stops working. Then your car doesn’t work at all.) Gas hasn’t changed that much and neither has the internal combustion engine. The main difference is that your car engine is “regulated” … by a computer.

This is the same reason that a gold standard can’t work in today’s global economy. Simply put, if we don’t allow the economy to be regulated, then we’re back to a standard of performance like we had two centuries ago.

“That’s not so bad!” (I hear you saying) “We could use the discipline we had back in the good old days!”

All I can say is, “Be careful what you wish for.” The wisdom gained through discipline is generally painful. Maybe our society can’t exist without pain. That’s a philosophical question. But with no regulation, prices can get out of control, bank panics happen, bottomless depressions are not uncommon.  To demonstrate this, I have to (unfortunately) resort to some economic jargon. This explanation comes from economist Michael Bordo.

A measure of short-term price instability is the coefficient of variation, which is the ratio of the standard deviation of annual percentage changes in the price level to the average annual percentage change. The higher the coefficient of variation, the greater the short-term instability. For the United States between 1879 and 1913, the coefficient was 17.0, which is quite high. Between 1946 and 1990 it was only 0.8.

Moreover, because the gold standard gives government very little discretion to use monetary policy, economies on the gold standard are less able to avoid or offset either monetary or real shocks. Real output, therefore, is more variable under the gold standard. The coefficient of variation for real output was 3.5 between 1879 and 1913, and only 1.5 between 1946 and 1990. Not coincidentally, since the government could not have discretion over monetary policy, unemployment was higher during the gold standard. It averaged 6.8 percent in the United States between 1879 and 1913 versus 5.6 percent between 1946 and 1990.

Besides, even under a gold standard, you still have to trust the government unless you want to actually carry gold coins around in your pocket. If you don’t trust them to run the economy, why would you trust them to actually live up to some agreement involving a bank record actually being backed by gold? All the government would have to do is say they changed their mind and the paper that says you own the gold would still be worthless. They could even say that the amount of gold your paper said you owned had changed.

The bottom line is that you have to trust the government. There’s no other choice. There’s certainly no other good choice.

Anyway, this brings me back to Bitcoin and derivatives. (And you were wondering if I had forgotten! Tch, tch, tch.)

The description of derivatives above isn’t bad, even though it’s slightly exaggerated. A more common form of derivative is a “bundle” of home mortgages. The value of the bundle is “derived” from the value of the home mortgages. That’s where the name comes from. One of the biggest advantages of derivatives is that the market is big and international. Institutions with big money … say, the bank holding your IRA account … can buy them with little effort and cost. And government regulation was – umm, still is – light … to keep the meddling fingers of government out of it.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a new type of money that is based entirely on the concepts of a guaranteed limited supply and a lack of government interference. It’s a gold bug’s wet dream … minus the gold. Briefly, a nerd thought up a computer program that, once started, would keep track of the absolute values of some numbers and was mathematically guaranteed to be safe from any meddling by anybody. Bitcoin exchanges allow people to buy and sell these numbers with the anonymity of the Internet … to keep the meddling fingers of government out of it.

So what we have here is a duet of the big and the small. Lehman Brothers, on the big side, lost literally billions and billions of investor dollars and they were just one of many. The total cost is hopelessly lost in legal claims and confusion. Mt. Gox, on the small side, has ‘only’ lost about $450 million of investor dollars.

All this could have been avoided if the corrupt, kleptomaniacal, sticky-fingered swindlers in the government were watching every move. Actually, neither one would have existed in the first place since avoiding government oversight is about the only real advantage either has over traditional investments.

Such is the burden of civilization. We have to learn to live together. Life is tough that way.

Halcyon Days: Life between Crises

LouiseExcellWhen I was younger, crises and tragedies happened in my life, but they always ambushed me—I never saw them coming because I was too busy living the moment and planning for an endless future.

A classmate, a few grades above me, was killed in the jungles of Viet Nam while Viet Nam was just a “police action.” A beloved aunt, too young, died of breast cancer; my grandparents, one-by-one, died of old age.  JFK shot down in Dallas, RFK in Los Angeles, MLK in Memphis.  These were tragedies that punctuated my life, gave me pause to contemplate mortality, justice, the nature of God and fate, the meaning of existence.

But these events were hiccups in a life otherwise occupied with being, doing, planning, dreaming.

As I grow older, especially now, as I enter the middle of my sixth decade, my perspective on tragedy and crises has changed somewhat.  I expect disaster now.

A beloved cousin succumbs to cancer; another bleeds to death because an emergency room doesn’t make a diagnosis in time to save him; an old friend takes his life in a moment of intense sorrow and hopelessness.  And in the larger world, teenagers and young adults are gunned down in a theater; Sikhs are murdered in their temple; six-year-olds are massacred in their classroom; entire communities are ravaged by meth labs and drug addiction; wildfires and floods destroy the homes, hopes, and dreams of thousands of my fellow humans in my own backyard.

I find that death, disappointment, anxiety about loved ones, and genuine sadness in the face of events beyond my control are facts of life that spread themselves randomly across the days, weeks, months, and years. I try to eke out life as I wish it to be between the tragedies and crises; I am grateful in a numb sort of way when months go by without a death, an illness, a personal loss, or an horrific disaster somewhere.  I am no longer complacent, no longer so oblivious to the slings and arrows of fortune—these are my burden to bear as a person in the world.

What is important to me now is making the most of the halcyon days between storms.  An awareness of fleeting time, the vagaries of fortune, and the things over which I have more control, have given richness to the pacific moments.  I cherish the quiet—no talking heads, no shrillness of breaking news, and no breathless accounts of celebrity misadventures.

The metallic buzz of a male broad-tailed hummingbird at the feeder, the cascading song of a canyon wren on the hill, the breeze in the juniper—those are the melodies and rhythms of life between crises.

Sunday Sermon: Communication and the Written Word

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, then what are the words for this picture:


How about this one:


Maybe this one:


Or perhaps this one:


Very different words, right? But not the same words for everyone who sees them. In this time and in this culture, we can probably agree on the meaning of the first and the last one. The second and third … not so much. There’s a huge debate on number three going on in Georgia right now and very little agreement about what it means. There are many more than a thousand words that have been used for each picture. The problem is that they’re different words for different people. Pictures are great for drawing your feelings to the skin. They’re not so great for telling someone else just exactly what those feelings are.

My point is that communication is hard. Really hard. And if you expect people to simply know what you mean, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.

I remember when I first found computers. At the time, I was a physics major but in fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The department required a programming class and I changed my major immediately after writing my first few programs. Looking back, I think that the thing that attracted me most to computers was that you could communicate with them exactly and perfectly. All you had to do was learn their language and the computer would know exactly what you meant. If you programmed in Assembly language, you could make sure that each and every bit in the mind of the computer was under total control. The high point in my entire career might have been when I helped find a bug in the IBM System/360 operating system (mainframe computer). Under very specific circumstances, the virtual memory paging algorithm would not return the correct memory contents. In other words, the computer would not understand what you meant. I helped fix it so it would again. Life was good back then. Computers were completely rational entities.

It’s not so good anymore because computers have started to misunderstand about as often as people do. They change from day to day. (Windows Update can change the way your computer works at any time.) Something that the computer understood perfectly yesterday can be a source of confusion today. Even with computers, we’re back to:

I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

(That was uttered by a banker, Alan Greenspan.)

This might be why I have returned to my first love, the written word. Imperfect though it is, text is the best way I know to communicate.

In the Bible, Isaiah understands the power of the written word, “Note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.” The priests in the middle ages did too. Before the Bible was available to everyone, the meaning was the exclusive property of the few who could read it. The Catholic Church dug up the bones of the first man to translate the Bible into English and scattered them in a river. Others guilty of the same crime were burnt at the stake.

The written word is more permanent. Although you can record video and audio, it’s usually just a symbol or an illustration when you do. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” is often seen and heard. So is Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you!” But who listens to the entire thing? If you really want to understand what Kennedy meant, you will read a book or perhaps something in Wikipedia. “Troy fell more than three thousand years ago. Homer lives.” – Ernst Beutler, Essays Um Goethe

The written word is more precise. Words do change meaning over time. The word ‘nice’ used to be an insult and meant foolish or stupid in the 13th century.  But you can read other written words and find out what a word used to mean. Even deliberate ambiguity can be written: “You will be lucky if you can get George to work for you.”

The written word allows you to think through what you want to communicate. I read my essays at least a dozen times before I publish them. I read emails several times before I send them. One of my goals in this web page is to improve my ability to write what I mean. My goal is for other people to understand it. How often have you wished that you hadn’t said something? Sound vibrations in open air give you one chance to get it right.

You can take the written word home in your hand. You can send it to people on paper and electronically. Only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader.

The traditional image of participation in local government is the town meeting, but our culture has moved beyond that. That doesn’t work for us anymore. Because no effective replacement has been found, the default is no communication. There is nothing that communicates as loudly as no communication. Silence is a symbol like the flags. It has a loud voice but it doesn’t have a clear meaning. Like the flags, everyone is free to understand what silence means to them and few will understand it the same way. (“Why weren’t we told? Were they hiding something?”)

If you want to communicate, you must make an effort to communicate.

Springdale Planning Commission – 18 February 2014

Before getting started on the report for last night’s meeting, a little housecleaning:

Liz West left a comment telling me that the website mentioned in my report for the 4 February meeting wasn’t the right one.  It should be (I thought it was You should check out the revised report. There’s more than just a simple domain name error to read about. …….. Springdale Planning Commission — 4 February 2014.

Since I am trying to avoid writing a report that is too long, some items below don’t show up at all in this report. That’s because I didn’t think you would be interested. If you want to know more about a particular item, leave a comment. I’ll have my recording available at least until Fay’s draft comes out within 7 days. The complete list of things covered in the formal meeting is in the agenda below:

B.   Action Items

  1. Request to place address monument In Anasazi Plateau Conservation Easement: Gary and Nancy Guardabascio
  2. Excavation Permit – New Pool at Cliffrose Lodge 281 Zion Park Blvd. – Breck Dockstader
  3. Ordinance Revision: Addition of regulations for Cottage Neighborhood Housing Developments. Cottage Neighborhoods would allow clustering of smaller residential units with common open space (continued from January Meeting)

(This was the order that they were actually discussed. This wasn’t the printed agenda or the one on the web site and I didn’t hear anybody mention a change to the agenda when it was approved. No idea why not …)

 C.    Discussion/Non-Action Items

  1. Solar Panel Ordinance
  2. Planned Development Overlay Zone Revisions – mixed use developments
  3. Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance – direction from Town Council
  4. Discussion of Public Involvement Event

Tom’s Discussion


Click Map for Full Size View

Tom Dansie usually has some excellent “packet materials” for meetings and this was no exception. One that could interest the people who just live here is a Springdale zoning map modified to show those properties that could be eligible for “Cottage Neighborhood Housing” under the proposed ordinance. For example, the pasture owned in common by my homeowners association could have one. You might want to check the map to see what could be in the future for a property near you.

A few months ago, Michael Fatali showed the commission a plan for a very ambitious outdoor entertainment complex behind his new art gallery in the middle of Town. There was a lot of concern last year that Michael’s outdoor complex would simply be too loud for the neighbors. If you were wondering what happened to it, Tom said they were not going ahead with that part of the project.

Cliff Rose Development

The commission approved the plans to create a new pool at the Cliff Rose. One interesting fact that came out was that the town’s riverside trail is established at two contiguous properties now: the Cliff Rose and Cable Mountain. Make sure you tell your great-grandchildren about it.

Cottage Neighborhood Development

There was a long and wandering discussion of this … way too long and wandering for me to try to repeat here. (Good luck to Fay in the official minutes.) It mainly served to demonstrate that there still isn’t a clear understanding of the goals of the proposed ordinance or the way this new option would impact Springdale. Kezia Nielsen wondered whether it would be a good idea to send it to the town council to “see where people stand on it”. Liz said the site could be used to engage the town in helping to decide how this should be implemented. (I agree. Great idea! Check out the site and let us know here in a comment.)

The public comments were the best part of the discussion. Shauna Young made an appeal to the commission to remember that this could help fill a “middle ground” of housing that really isn’t addressed well right now. Matt Rayner kept interrupting the commission to inject common sense and experience. (I encouraged both of them to make their points public here. On this site, Louise Excell recently argued that cottage neighborhoods would be a lot better than the explosion of commercial development that we have seen in the last year.)

During the previous meeting where this was discussed, Brent Warner made the excellent point that, “Once you pass these ordinances, you can never go back. There will be people who take advantage of these ordinances from now until the end of time.” That’s still very good advice and the commission seems to be taking it. At the end of the discussion, the commission asked Tom to make some specific changes and bring it back for more consideration in a future meeting.

In a previous report, I asked the question, “How much does an ordinance have to change before it has to have another public hearing?” (At least one public hearing is required by law and this ordinance has had one already but it’s changed enormously since then.) Since the question is still outstanding, I called Tom. Tom said that there is no specific requirement but he thought this one was due for another one by now.

Solar Panels

The discussion on solar panels all revolved around where and how big they can be. Only on the roof? On the roof and on the ground? On poles? This is the kind of issue where individual values and tastes are paramount. I recall that when Louise Excell installed one recently, some people thought it was a horrible looking thing but others didn’t have a problem. (Roxy and I didn’t.) When some photographs were passed around in a previous meeting, I recall Bill Weyher commenting that a nearby barn with a metal roof was brighter in the photograph and he had never heard anyone complain about it. If you want to install one, I’d get the project started right away before the ordinance passes. Right now, they still fall under the general building ordinance (height, area, color, etc) and there are specific loopholes just for solar panels so you can pretty much do whatever you want. (You could erect a wind power generator too. That came up as a question.) The values and tastes of the present commission are just about to be enacted into ordinances and it will be significantly more restrictive.

Just food for thought: According to Wikipedia, “Germany has a goal of producing 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 100% by 2050.” By contrast, here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., solar power is projected to supply 10% of the nation’s power needs by 2025 even though we have much better places to site it. Did you know that we did most of the early research on solar power? I think the technical term for what is happening is, “dropping the ball.”

For authoritative details on what is proposed (or the current ordinance), call Tom. This one will be considered again in a future meeting too.

Planned Development Overlay Zone Revisions
Mixed Use Developments

In his introduction, Tom covered the changes in the ordinance and said, “There’s a lot to discuss tonight, or, in a future meeting …” The meeting was well into the third hour by this time. I think Tom might have been hoping for the second option.

Tom refreshed the commission (and, helpfully, the three of us “who just live here” listening) on the “big picture”.

“The Planned Development Overlay Zone is a very broad tool that can be applied to a number of different projects. For example, the Anasazi Plateau is a planned development project. Gifford Park is a planned development. … This ordinance does two things. One, it streamlines the approval process. The other thing is that it allows mixed use (residential mixed with commercial) developments. We have spent most of our time on the second thing.”

The commission actually spent most of the time in this meeting discussing the pro’s and con’s of “conditional use” permits without really getting into this ordinance. Sometimes these meetings can be quite educational. But at the end, they decided to talk about this one later.

Accessory Dwelling Units

As a refresher, this was the ordinance that I said should never have been passed last time. In my town council report, I described how the council agreed and kicked it back again. The problems here include:

  • Lots and lots of people in Springdale are simply ignoring our current ordinance so, in effect, we don’t have one.
  • Allowing this kind of development could expand the overall density and impact on infrastructure (water, sewage, roads) quite a bit.
  • Our current ordinance allows an accessory unit to be as big as the first one. The practical result is that you can build two houses on the same lot if they don’t violate some other ordinance.

The biggest loophole – big enough to drag a house through – is that last one.

This was an important issue for Shauna Young since she had worked long and hard as part of the housing committee that originally proposed the changes. Shauna said that the committee thought that some kind of change like this was really needed in Springdale because so many people who are trying to make a living in Springdale “just need a little place”. Shauna said that the ordinance change was never meant for high end houses to build another 5,000 square foot house on their property. The proposed ordinance is for people who need lower budget housing.

Shauna makes a very good point. Chairman Joe brought out the opposite point. Quoting some anonymous developer he had talked to, Joe said they, “Look for loopholes. That’s what they do.” In other words, if we allow it, they will build it. I agree with both Shauna and Joe. That’s why it’s a difficult ordinance to write.

The commission decided to discuss this in a later meeting too. So for all of the thorny issues in this meeting, the commission kicked the can down the road. But that’s a good thing! As I have written many times, enacting a bad ordinance is much, much worse than failing to enact anything at all.

The problem with these difficult, complex ordinances is that our structured meeting process just doesn’t support doing a good job of writing them. Tom does his level best to draft practical, well written text to support commission and council decisions. But the commission and the council don’t seem to know what they want and they also change their collective mind a lot from meeting to meeting. All kinds of strange ideas and concerns are brought up in every meeting … often never to see the light of day again.

This is why we need to move to a written format and why a web forum would help so much. Stuff drops through the cracks if you don’t. (Although Liz said that the site doesn’t support a forum, it actually does. We would have to get our project accepted as one of the “games” at their site to do it. That means that the forum that the site does support is beyond our control.)

All this faunching around makes me understand why lobbyists actually write most of the laws. You just can’t write laws in a structured meeting. They have to be written outside a meeting and lobbyists are MORE than willing to do the work. That way, they can write the laws that they want passed.

MAYBE, we could take advantage of the talented people who live in Springdale to write better ordinances … if there was a way they could actually do that.

Sunday Sermon: The Role of the Planning Commission

planningIn my recent report of the 12 February 2014 Springdale town council meeting, I wrote:

At the very end of the Accessory Dwelling Unit discussion, Mayor Stan did a very nice thing. He actually responded to my statement that the council and the planning commission should pass exactly the same ordinance language. (I thanked him for responding!) Stan said he doesn’t believe that either the council or the planning commission should be required to ‘rubber stamp’ the work of the other.

Excuse me? I’m in favor of cooperation and coordination. I never mentioned ‘rubber stamping’. But this is a significant philosophical question and people have become upset with me in the past over it. This report is way too long now so rather than state my position completely, I plan to cover it in a separate article. I think Stan may have given me my topic for my next Sunday Sermon. Thanks Stan!

People have become upset with me over this issue. One member of the council sent this to me in an email: (I don’t identify private email sources, but the point of view is widely held.)

“(The planning commission) is an appointed body that exists to assist the elected legislators of the town to uphold and to create ordinances that are in the best interests of the town.” (emphasis from the original email)

Very true! It really depends on how you define the word “assist”.

There’s no doubt that the town council is the senior body and has every legal right to make the rules. They can basically ignore the planning commission if that’s what they decide to do. I’ve observed on this site before that the planning commission really only exists because state law requires one. (Utah Code 10-9a-301) Springdale’s struggle to define the role of the planning commission certainly isn’t unique.

When I was a commissioner, I was handed David Church’s 2007 essay on the subject as the defining document. He wrote, “For some reason planning commissions and some planning commissioners are always in disputes with their city or town council. … It is not uncommon for members of a planning commission to get ‘cross wise’ with the city or town council.”

Springdale seems to have a much more cooperative atmosphere than other towns.

Church goes on to define the role of the planning commission in legal terms. (Church is a lawyer.) In my experience, none of the advice he gives really addresses the central problem. The issues that he writes about … avoiding arbitrary decisions and sticking to the ordinances; not trying to define policy … don’t seem to be problems in Springdale. The credit for this goes to Springdale’s excellent professional staff. They’re watchful to a fault and can be depended on to pounce on any transgression like a bobcat on a rabbit. The problem goes deeper than this and Church utterly fails to address the management issue that is at the heart.

At this point, I need to state what I think my own qualifications are to be passing out advice.

I misspent my working years as a software developer and I rose through the ranks from junior programmer to managing whole teams of programmers. Herding cats is easy compared to trying to get professional nerds to do what you want them to do.

At the same time, I had a lot of different bosses. At the end of my career, my bosses were the people who ran the corporation. Few of them knew ‘jack’ about software development but they were still the boss. I think of my role now as being the clutch plate between the engine of developers and the transmission of corporate management. You know what happens to a clutch plate. Constant friction wears it out and it gets thrown away.

I made a lot of mistakes and I also got some things right. When I wake up at night, that’s what I usually think about … even now after many years.

In the great old movie Cool Hand Luke, “The Captain” (played by Strother Martin as a sadistic prison warden) delivers one of the most famous lines in cinema after Paul Newman’s character has ignored a brutal beating:

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate!

A-men! In my experience, that’s what is wrong when most human affairs go off the rails. Somebody … often everybody … isn’t communicating.

That’s why I started this web site. As the tag line states, it’s supposed to be Conversation for the Zion Canyon Community but I’m finding that to be even harder than managing programmers. (Not more stressful, just harder. I could fire programmers and get new ones.)

There seems to be an attitude here in Springdale that the planning commission and the town council should operate independently of each other and only communicate through the knothole of official actions. There was once a “council representative” who would sit in at commission meetings, but they even did away with that.

The seminars that I used to go to as a manager illustrated one big problem with the game “gossip”. Five or six of us managers would sit in a row. The guy in charge of the seminar would whisper some sort of statement to the person at one end. Something like, “George’s mother-in-law went shopping and lost her keys in the vegetable department.” The game was for each person in the row to repeat the statement as accurately as they could to the person next to them. The statement at the end of the row seldom had any resemblance to the beginning statement. It was eye-opening!

The other huge problem that Springdale’s gag rule creates is that it leaves the public totally out of the picture. There are three ways that you can weigh in on a public issue as a “person who just lives here”.

  1. You can say something in an official “public hearing”.
  2. You can write a letter.
  3. You can contact somebody personally, like at the Post Office or through an email.

This web site is my attempt to create a fourth way … a way that could be a real “public and accountable” dialog. The word “dialog” means “conversation”. That requires two or more people. That is kinda … ummm … “missing” around here.

Recently, “Springdale” (not the mayor or the town manager, just the Springdale icon) has been placing “announcements” on Springdale’s Facebook page. (Right beside the ad’s for male enhancement products.) The most recent one tells you that visitors can get into the Park free on Presidents Day. This is dialog? Color me underwhelmed.

When I was on the planning commission, we would often deliberate for months and finally reach some conclusion that we passed along to the council. But only the official language of the motion would actually be passed along! I would then attend the council meeting … with the same status as any other person who just lives here … to hear the council totally ignore everything we said. It was honestly as though our discussion never even took place. A few experiences like that can take the wind out of your sail. I very much wanted to “assist” the council. But it often seemed that, as hard as we would try, we never did. Few of our real issues ever got recognized.

I’ve heard the council complain loudly about how hard it is to convince citizens to serve on the commission. Members of the council can be counted on to say things like, “The planning commission is working soooo hard!” and “I listen to the entire recording of the meeting.” That’s a throw-away. It doesn’t actually say anything. Real appreciation is showing that the work of the commission has actually been understood by responding to it directly; that the commission actually is “assisting” the council, not that they’re only there because state law requires it. (See Note 1 below.)

A great example of this is taking place right now in the struggle to write a useful Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance. After working on this for months, the commission finally held a public hearing and sent a ‘pig in a poke’ to the council.  (Tom Dansie had to make five or six changes – I lost track – to the version actually discussed by the commission.) Once it got to the council, the things they talked about seemed to me to be completely different. They sent it back to the commission with the clearly implied message, “Try a little harder next time.”

I can hardly wait to see what happens next. It’s better than reality TV.

Could this have been avoided by sponsoring a “public and accountable” discussion on a website? I think it could. Would it be legal? I think it would. AND … the public could actually participate!

I had an opportunity to sit down with former Utah state attorney general Paul Van Dam recently and I discussed the virtual “gag rule” outside of official meetings that prevails in Springdale. He said that, if my description was accurate, it was legally unnecessary. (To provide an advance excuse for Paul in case that’s totally wrong, he couldn’t know whether I was describing it correctly.) He said that except for conflicts of interest, there’s no reason any public official shouldn’t be able to say anything. Perhaps I will be able to persuade Paul to write something more specific in the future. It would be a lot easier if someone in ‘official’ Springdale was willing to write something in a public forum … say, this one … that Paul could respond to.

But then, that would violate Springdale’s gag rule, wouldn’t it?

Note 1: I can’t resist. I’ve got to give you this example from software development.

Question: What is the most successful and widely used web server software? Give up? It’s called “Apache” and it’s the result of a completely voluntary effort from a lot of very talented programmers who donate their time and talent. The same is true of web site software. This web site is based on the WordPress system that is also created and maintained by volunteer software developers. Wikipedia content is created and maintained by volunteers.

The bottom line is that motivation to do this kind of work springs mainly from seeing the work actually amount to something.

Springdale Town Council – 12 February 2014

Springdale is Green!

As the meeting got rolling, Town Manager Rick Wixom presented a lot of detail about Springdale’s ‘green community’ status.  Did you know that Springdale made over $400 from the recyclable materials that we have been putting in the bins beyond the water plant? Rick said that we used to make even more, but the county changed the way they calculated our refund. Rick also presented a lot of information about the solar power that Springdale generates. Bottom line: We are trying to be greener here in Springdale.

Fiber Optics Might Be Coming to Springdale

You might have noticed the orange cables near the Springdale Fruit Company. That is fiber optics, but it’s now only going to “Sanctuary Ranch” – the former “Trees Ranch”. Mayor Stan Smith and Rick both said that getting fiber optics to Springdale was a high priority and they have been talking to everyone they can find about getting it done. One positive is that Stan said UDOT will be working on SR9 this year and that will be an excellent time to install the cable. He didn’t have any specifics he could announce yet, but he sounded optimistic during the meeting.

It sounds good to me! The AWS WiMax antennae didn’t do a thing for me. It’s just over the hill and can’t quite reach me.

Unlike other countries, Internet service is firmly in the hands of corporations here in the US and that means that people like us are lost through the cracks because we’re not profitable enough. In times past, telephone service and electrification were considered to be something that government did because it was understood that everybody benefited when they were universally available and uniform. Now, they’re just another source of corporate profit and the welter of different and incompatible technologies will even drive a nerd crazy. I’m a nerd. It drives me crazy.

Sanctuary Ranch

Mayor Stan referred to the former “Trees Ranch” as “Sanctuary Ranch” in his comments about fiber optics. I wrote the story for St. George News that broke the news last year that billionaire Paul Allen had purchased Trees Ranch. (Scooping all of the other news sources here in Washington County, by the way.) There is a “Sanctuary Ranch” that sells 40 acre millionaire ranchettes in Huntsville, Utah. See this website to get a vivid idea about what they do.

It’s would be a shame if that happened here. Jim Trees became an environmentalist later in his life and when Trees Ranch was on the market, the real estate description claimed they were looking for someone who would recognize the unique environment there and would be willing to protect it.

Meet Jim Milestone

Jim Milestone, the new Interim Zion Park Superintendent (until early May … but he may become permanent) introduced himself and he seems like a great guy. He even suggested a new slogan for us:

A small town with city pleasures
Surrounded by nature’s treasures

Jim told us that 2.9 million visitors came to Zion Park in 2013. Just for comparison, that’s slightly more than the population of Utah.

The South Entrance will be redesigned soon. One goal will be to direct people to the Visitors Center rather than immediately into the Park.

Jim also gave us some new information about the project to restore Bighorn Sheep to Zion. After a few years of benign neglect, the population has exploded to about 850 individuals in a recent survey. There have even been reports of sheep inside Springdale. Jim said that if they mix with domestic sheep, they will catch diseases that could wipe out much of the herd. He said 87% of the sheep in Mohave National Preserve were lost this way. Due to this problem, they plan to transfer about 40 or 50 to somewhere else.

Night Sky Events

In case you have forgotten, Springdale is partly through a seven year “transition” period before a much stricter outdoor lighting ordinance takes effect in 2016. Then, everybody will have to have lights that conform to ordinances intended to protect Springdale’s dark skies. Nobody will be “grandfathered in”. (Springdale itself will have the biggest burden. Springdale will have to convert most of the street lights.)

To highlight why we’re doing this, Springdale will be hosting a series of night sky events throughout the summer. DCD Tom Dansie said everyone should plan to attend, but he didn’t give any dates, so I called and asked. He said Earth day – April 19 and National Astronomy day – May 10 were highly likely and that experts would be brought in to help people understand and appreciate Springdale’s precious night sky resource.

Here’s a suggestion! Comet 209P will peak on the evening of May 23 and there will only be a crescent moon by that date. Comets are tough for us amateurs to focus on so an expert who can help us might be a really good idea. The comet’s debris trails will pass close to Earth and might create a new meteor shower. (Experts differ. The comet was only discovered in 2004.)

A Question about an 18 Month Old Town Council Order

Back in January, Louise Excell asked Rick Wixom if anything had been done about a Council order to have an outside audit done for cash bail practices in Springdale. Rick said, “Not yet.” Regular readers of this report may remember that my report for that month was four days late. I couldn’t decide what to say about the issue.

This was a big deal last year. Our Town Manager, Rick, and our Chief of Police, Kurt Wright were tried for a felony crime and could have gone to jail. When they were acquitted, the Town paid their legal expenses and it wasn’t cheap.

So I researched the entire issue and on January 15, I sent an email to Stan and Rick telling them I would be asking the question that I have reproduced in its entirety below. I also asked Louise Excell for her advice. Her one sentence reply was, “Go for it.”

Here’s my entire question, which I read out so it would be part of the official record:

In the Town Council meeting of August 8, 2012, Kathy LaFave, acting as Mayor pro tem, noted that “… a Council member had expressed concern to her that the Town Council now had knowledge that the Town had collected cash bail for longer than the audit repayment period …” The Council then went into executive session and at the conclusion, this motion was reported as being passed.

“Motion by Louise Excell to locate and get bids from auditing firms independent of our existing auditors, preferably from outside Washington County, to perform an audit of issues specifically related to the collection of cash bail practices and procedures that we have been discussing as referenced in the findings and recommendations report #12-CIT-8 from Utah State Auditor dated 6/8/2012 and the scope of that audit cover the period beginning 2004-5 through 2010-11.”

That should be “No. 12-CIT-A” … just a typo in the minutes.

In the minutes of the October 10, 2012 meeting, the Mayor reported that there were two bids to do the audit. This motion was passed:

“Motion by Kathy LaFave to accept the proposal from Gilbert and Stewart to do an independent audit to follow up on issues raised in the recent State Auditor’s report. The approval is subject to clarifying that the costs will be roughly in line with what is itemized on their October 5 letter to Springdale and assuming that there are not additional expenses for travel that are so substantially additional that the Council would want the proposal to come back to the Council for review.”

The Town said an audit was being conducted as part of the statement issued by the Town on February 13, 2013. A press release from the Town reads in part:

“… the Town … has begun an independent audit … to determine a full amount for future reimbursement …”

A search of the minutes from the date of the initial motion mandating the audit throughout 2013 reveals nothing else about the audit.

In the 8 January 2014 Town Council meeting, Ms. Excell asked about the status of the audit, now eighteen months after the initial motion by the Town Council to perform the audit. Rick Wixom replied that there was no new status to report.

My question is, “What is the status of the audit the Town Council asked for on August 8, 2012?”

A discussion took place which clearly showed that Rick had been trying to follow up and find out when or perhaps “if” an audit would be done. Kathy said it best. “This is inadequate.”

At the end of it, Stan asked me if my question had been answered. I said, “Let me summarize what I heard: ‘We’re still working on it. We’ll get back with you.’” I also said I would be back next month with the same question.

Kathy  …

Kathy announced that she had some “personal issues” that will prevent her from being at one or more meetings in the future and that she had asked to remain on the Council even though the usual policy is that members must not miss two consecutive meetings. She just wanted people to know that she wasn’t missing meetings for no reason.

My best wishes to you, Kathy. I hope things work out OK.

Accessory Dwelling Units

The Planning Commission held a long and confusing “Public Hearing” in their January meeting about this. Here’s what I wrote back then:

As a result of the testimony of the people who just live here, the Commission realized that the proposed ordinance did have a lot of holes in it. After most of another hour, Jack Archer made the motion to recommend something to be created by Tom before the next Council meeting with five (maybe six) changes.

I tried to point out to the Commission that they were recommending an unknown ordinance because the actual language would only be available to the Town Council after Tom interprets all of the changes and writes a new ordinance but they didn’t appear to think that was a problem.

Well … it was a problem.

After a long and confusing discussion in Town Council, they sent it back to the Planning Commission with a new list of things they wanted changed. If the Planning Commission had taken my advice and taken another run at it back in January, they might have been able to craft language that the Council could also agree on. They’re taking another run at it now anyway.

Here’s a technical question for Tom. The Planning Commission and the Town Council have both held the legally required “public hearings” for this ordinance now, but it’s still clearly far from finished. How much does an ordinance have to change before new public hearings are required? 10% ?? 50% ?? Everything but the title ??

But I do have to congratulate Stan for running a meeting that was as close to a real dialog as any Council or Planning Commission meeting I have been in. Stan does have a friendly and slightly informal way of running a meeting that both keeps it under control and invites participation. There were a lot of great comments from both the Council and “people who just live here”.

Adrian Player said that much of the justification has revolved around the fact that a lot of people are just ignoring the current ordinance. “The thing that bothers me the most … is this seems to have come to us with one of the caveats being that ‘people are doing it anyway’ and I don’t like that, because that’s not a reason for us to change the ordinances. If you’re not supposed to be doing something because it’s against the ordnance, then I think the Town should be enforcing the ordinance – across the board.” I agree with Adrian. “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.” Lincoln said that.

Bill Weyher reminded us that one of the justifications was to encourage more affordable housing. But most people thought that there simply was no way that Springdale would ever have affordable housing no matter what we did.

In my opinion, Mark Chambers made the most valuable comment. He said that part of the ordinance should require that a lease be on file with the town. That would work because it would give the town a way of actually enforcing the ordinance.

My own homeowners association has people in it that ignore the ordinance. We have discovered (in this and in other cases) that in order for a HOA to enforce a rule, we have to file legal actions. That’s not only expensive, but it sets neighbor against neighbor. It sets up a whole bunch of micro-judicial districts that shouldn’t have to do things like that.

My HOA has become a little smarter over the years and we have increasingly started to simply follow Springdale’s lead in things like this. Handling matters like this is the Town’s role. HOA’s shouldn’t have to do things like this.

At the very end of the Accessory Dwelling Unit discussion, Mayor Stan did a very nice thing. He actually responded to my statement that the Council and the Planning Commission should pass exactly the same ordinance language. (I thanked him for responding!) Stan said he doesn’t believe that either the Council or the Planning Commission should be required to ‘rubber stamp’ the work of the other.

Excuse me? I’m in favor of cooperation and coordination. I never mentioned ‘rubber stamping’. But this is a significant philosophical question and people have become upset with me in the past over it. This report is way too long now so rather than state my position completely, I plan to cover it in a separate article. I think Stan may have given me my topic for my next Sunday Sermon. Thanks Stan!

Zone Change for VR-A and VR-B Zones

Actually placing properties into the new VR-A and VR-B zones passed immediately. This has been a long struggle for a “person who just lives here” Shauna Young and she deserves a huge congratulation for getting it done. I remember talking to her when I was on the Planning Commission three years ago and encouraging her to get involved. She did it and she got it done. Congratulations, Shauna.

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Three items set up Springdale for a possible two dozen booze events in 2014. One for Zion Canyon Brew Pub on St. Pat’s Day and 11 more for the rest of the year to be used whenever. And 12 more for the Bit and Spur.

I remember talking to someone in St. George who was bemoaning that it was almost impossible to get something like that in St. George. That’s why I like Springdale!

Like Fireworks? Hate them? Changes May Be In The Wind!

Stan noted that he had heard that some people were upset because they thought he was trying to get 4th of July fireworks reinstated. He pointed out that in his article in the Town newsletter, he never used the word, “fireworks”. But he said he does want “open minded” people to work on a committee for the 4th. He said that we should be able to celebrate the birth of our nation here in Springdale.

Sounds like code words for “bring back fireworks” to me too, in spite of what Stan says. Let me be clear. Fireworks are the wrong thing for Springdale.

  • This is a desert that is typically ready to go up in flames like lighter fluid in July.
  • You don’t have to explode things to be patriotic – there are other ways.
  • Fireworks are expensive. Spend the money replanting trees on the last 4th of July fire.
  • The hotels and businesses are the ones that really benefit.

Fireworks are the wrong thing for Springdale.


People are playing pickleball on the tennis court. Everything is working out fine. The Town doesn’t need to do anything else, although the Town will continue to consider adding improvements for playing pickleball. For more information, contact Adrian Player.

Tree Removal at River Park

This was the last item that involved some serious discussion. Plans were actually fairly advanced to do some large scale cutting of cottonwood trees in River Park. A number of us objected and said that even dead cottonwoods are part of the canyon and that only cutting that is required for safety should be done – with heavy emphasis on “required”. I think that the Council listened. I think that the cutting that will be done will be much more carefully considered as a result.

Stan … Positively Impressed!

As Roxy and I drove back to our home, both of us were positively impressed with the way Stan is serving Springdale.

  • Stan asks for input and seems to actually want to hear it.
  • He displayed a real concern for conservation and the environment here. This came out in the discussion on cutting the cottonwoods, for example.
  • I’d like to thank Stan again for actually responding. Not that I agree with him, but I’m more used to being ignored and Stan didn’t do that.
  • Stan thinks about the impact of the rules on all of us “people who just live here” and it shows. For example, Stan asked whether the $400 filing fee for a conditional use permit was a problem. I can remember asking that same question years ago on the Planning Commission, but I haven’t heard it brought up since.

Good to have you as our mayor, Stan!

The Euphoria of Despair
A review of Canaries on the Rim by Chip Ward

PoisonI was one of the last people in America to be drafted – they did away with the draft not long after they got me during the Vietnam War. So in a sense, early in life I was a victim of military-industrial overreach that Chip Ward documents in his book Canaries on the Rim, and a veteran of the struggle to stop it before that.  Now, in the late afternoon of my life, I think I know a thing or two about the struggle against power. I can tell you this: appeals to reason, fairness, economics, justice – none of that works. The thing that worked in Vietnam was that too many of the sons of America started coming home in body bags. That has been the thing that has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan too, except that since the draft has been abolished, it’s hasn’t worked as well. Ward uses Vietnam over and over as a metaphor for our nation’s blind willingness to sacrifice everything to defend our own tribal myths.

It’s a metaphor that Ward himself doesn’t appreciate enough. Throughout the book, Ward maintains two opposing points of view. The first is thoroughly justified by his own metaphor: the people in charge are stupid, incompetent, corrupt, or all three and disaster is inevitable. The second is that we can change. All we need to do is organize well enough and keep the faith. My own experience supports the first one. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense during most of the Vietnam War, confessed on his deathbed that he knew all along that the war was futile and “terribly, terribly wrong”. Did it change anything?

Reason and justice is a poor match for money and power.

One explanation is the one Ward illustrates with the boiling frog analogy. (I hate that image, by the way. I wish people wouldn’t use it.) Death by ecocide doesn’t have the direct impact of a body blown apart by war. Cancer could be caused by eating too much nitrate laced bacon, genetics, or just bad luck. And not everyone lives next to the Love Canal. It’s all too easy for people to think that there is no nuclear waste in their back yard, convince themselves that it’s not a problem, and go on with business as usual. Ward uses the phrase, “cancer and illnesses woven through the fabric of western civilization”. It’s easy for primary causes to get lost in that complicated weave.

For example, in the first chapter, Ward and his brother-in-law Bill share a lunch of bratwurst and argue about a disease of an endocrine gland. Do they concern themselves about the damage to the endocrine system that can be done by what is in that bratwurst? No-o-o-o-o! Ward may have finally decided that he’s boiling to death like the frog, but it took too long. His life story really illustrates the conclusion that the vast majority – to use that phrase from politics past, “the silent majority” – never will figure it out.

One vivid example of the continuing victory of lies is the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. When it opened in 2005, downwinders tried to stage a protest, pointing out that it is, “like visiting a museum that historically documents the Holocaust but leaves out the stories of the victims.” A visit to their web site shows that nothing there has changed.

Another reason that money and power wins is that they can buy minds. Literally. The public comments to this Deseret News article about the Tooele incinerator finally being shut down show the kind of minds that can be bought. Contrast what the US Magnesium website says about their environmental record with what Wikipedia says about it. Who do you think Mr. and Mrs. Suburbia believes? Ward quotes one of his neighbors in Grantsville talking about the smell of poisonous chlorine gas from MagCorp, “Smells like jobs to me!”

You and I can be outraged by Ward’s book, but nothing changes. It was published fifteen years ago. Has anything changed? Fifteen years and there are exactly 9 reviews at The last book of the Harry Potter series has over 8,000 reviews. Fifteen years, and the nerve gas incinerator kept on keeping on. The incinerator is finally being dismantled only after doing its worst for fifteen years. US Magnesium is still using the same electrolysis technology to produce three pounds of the poison that killed a hundred thousand soldiers in WWI for every pound of magnesium. Ward concludes his chapter on MagCorp by claiming victory and writing, “MagCorp is already a relic.” Not so fast. His own HEAL website documents the latest struggles. It looks like déjà vu all over again to me.

Like hyenas snarling around a buffalo, Ward and his allies have only irritated the power interests.

In spite of this, I found the book to be enjoyable. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Ward’s description of cows. I grew up in cow country without much water too. My dad, a child of the Great Depression, had a constitutional objection to going anywhere that didn’t at least have the possibility of gaining material benefit. So we went out on the desert and picked up rocks that could be brought home and squirreled away like nuts for winter. (The rocks are still there in the old family home.) As a kid, I seldom saw water that wasn’t surrounded by about a quarter mile of cow shit.

Since my wife and I have become vegetarians, I can now condemn cows with a righteous fervor unmatched even by Jerimiah of old … or Chip Ward. (It’s coffee bean plants that are A-OK with us.) As I read the tale of the cow in Chimney Canyon, I wondered how a cow could survive year after year in a place where cougars are supposed to be native. It says a lot more about cougars than it does about cows. I thoroughly agreed with Ward’s conjecture that, “The agents of Western federal lands would have no hesitation in calling up a sharpshooter in a helicopter if a cougar was even suspected of harming some rancher’s sheep or cow.” I had an uncle who made a living being the pilot for those sharpshooters. Ward wrote that he had never seen a live cougar. Neither have I. People who demanded that home-grown communists eight thousand miles away be exterminated in their own country until 55,000 of our native sons had died in the attempt aren’t bothered much by the loss of a few cougars. Ward made the same point.

I also enjoyed Ward’s description of Ronald Reagan. I had a hard time deciding which was worse, Reagan or cows. I decided it was Reagan. Cows may be ruining the land, but they don’t lie to you. I was amazed at the description of the environmental destruction that would have been required to build the MX missile. Amazed, because I was reading the newspapers back then and I didn’t know all that.

OH! I just remembered. I was reading the newspapers in Utah. That explains it!

Another reason the book was good for me was because it’s fifteen years old. I was living in Salt Lake then and reading about all these confrontations. It was a walk back through my old memories. Larry Anderson and Khosrow Semnani! I remember them! Although Larry Anderson ended up being sentenced to 14 months in jail, Semnani prospered and sold his company to a New York investment company. The sports arena in Salt Lake is named after his old company. (No! Not Radium Stadium or the Tox Box … EnergySolutions Arena!) Everything old is new again.

Ward has a real flair for colorful descriptions of his enemies. Tooele County Commissioner Gary Griffith is “the head pimp in an environmental red light district.” The general manager of the munitions incinerator was called, “Harry ‘Kiss Their Ass’ Silvestri”. In describing the entire military establishment, he wrote, “Stupid or crazy? Take your pick.” Ward’s detailed descriptions of what actually happened thoroughly justify the name calling and it is great fun, but it doesn’t help the cause much. One suspects that deep down, Ward may have given up and is just doing it just for the fun. (Just like me.)

It’s hard not to be sympathetic to the cause of the downwinders, especially since through relatives and marriage, I am one, but I think their tactics are often misguided. Too often, their only goal is to get compensation … money … for the damages suffered. Isn’t exchanging personal harm for money exactly what the Tooele County Commission and the Goshute Indians are doing by another means? I have long believed in the slogan, “Whenever anyone says, ‘It’s not the money, it’s the principal!’ you can be absolutely sure of one thing. It’s the money.” Long observation of corrupt bankers, lawyers, politicians and other assorted lowlifes has convinced me that, however much money you take away from them, they will just figure out how to get more. Forcing them to give you money doesn’t create change. If anything, it makes you one of them. I recently read a forum message from someone who wrote, “We only change when it is too painful not to.” So true!

The logical conclusion is that the only thing that deters white collar crime is personal punishment – usually a prison sentence. The silver lining is that personal punishment actually works quite well with white collar criminals.  For your average liquor store holdup artist, a stretch in the pen is like graduate school. But for the white collar criminal, it’s a convincing argument to reform. It has a profound impact on the criminal’s friends in the same business too. The dark cloud inside the silver lining is that white collar criminals are the least likely to suffer personal punishment for their crimes. Ward gave us a great example of this point in describing how a vice-president of the company owning “the dirtiest industrial operation in America” was able to plea-bargain a rape at knife-point down to “sexual misconduct” and three years’ probation … and kept right on pulling down the big bucks at his old job. After paying bribes to poison people in Utah, Semnani paid a fine and walked.

What a great book to stimulate an orgy of righteous indignation! We can churn up our sense of doom and gloom and condemn like there’s no tomorrow. (You might seriously ask yourself whether there actually is.) We can condemn “the government” and pretend that “they” is not “us”. How ironic is it that Ward and his wife worked for the government? So did Edward Abbey. How many of us who rail and moan about the Chimney Creek cow ate beef last week? Show of hands!

Ward describes Rocky Flats just outside Denver as a military “sacrifice zone”. Yes, it is. But it’s fascinating to discover that it’s more than that now. Today, it’s also a wildlife refuge. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal on the other side of Denver is another one. And Chernobyl is turning into an amazing wildlife zone. Animals that haven’t been seen in decades are thriving there now. The primary technique to heal the environment is to simply leave it alone.

At one point, Ward reports, “When mother rats are given doses of dioxin equivalent to the amount most of us are already carrying in our bodies, their male offspring are born with tiny penises and can’t reproduce.” Hmmmmm … could be a subtle solution to the problem there

Although Ward’s methods are undoubtedly doomed to … not “failure” … “irrelevance”, they do have one advantage that he describes. It keeps your soul alive to do something. Standing by and just watching is a sort of death to the soul. This death happens to a lot of people long before their body dies. I have to give him credit for not having a dead soul. He’s still fighting the good fight and campaigning for his cause. HEAL is still in business. (FAIR appears to have disappeared into the quicksand that dooms most volunteer protest movements, however.)

But you can’t do everything. To be effective at all, you have to pick your methods and choose a target for change. (My website is my method and my target for change is the Zion Canyon Community. I may be irrelevant too, but I know why I’m doing it.)

In his “Letter of Apology to My Granddaughter” (found on a website) Ward writes, “I know a better world is possible.” I don’t know that. I don’t think Ward does either. Ward calls my attitude cynicism and claims that it’s just another form of denial. I claim that Ward is an unrealistic optimist.

Ward’s soul may still be alive but his granddaughter doesn’t have the chance of a jackrabbit at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945.

American Exceptionalism

numOneUSAAccording to Wikipedia, American Exceptionalism is, “the theory that the United States is ‘qualitatively different’.” We’re like “the biblical shining ‘City upon a Hill’, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.”

After all, we were first on the moon, we won World War II, and we were the first real democracy!

This has often been a favorite keystone for conservative political philosophy in America. When candidate Obama said that, although he did believe in American Exceptionalism, he expected that Brits also believed in British Exceptionalism, candidate Romney attacked him and said that showed Obama wasn’t a true American. Candidate (and Pastor) Huckabee attacked him too, “To deny American Exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.”

Is it really? Perhaps we’re just guilty of hiding from unpleasant truths that we don’t want to admit. Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step in virtually every program for treating problems. If you refuse to admit that a problem exists, then you’re never going to solve it. I think we do have problems that are crying out for solutions. Here are just a few of the ways that America is exceptional in the entire world today.

Health Care

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How we take care of our sick and disabled has to be one of the top ways of telling whether our American civilization is also sick. We’re doing a very poor job. American health care is exceptional in only one way: It costs more here than anywhere else. A lot more! The cost of health care per person is way more than the country in second place, Switzerland. But there is good news! Switzerland is converting to a single payer system so the cost of health care there is likely to go down. That means that the comparative cost here will jump from ‘way more’ to ‘way, way, way more’. We’re number 1! Lucky us.

At the same time, the quality of our health care is only in the middle of the pack by any broad based measurement. In the World Health Organization ranking, America is in 37th place, behind places like Malta (5th place) and Greece (14th place).

People in Prisons

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Everybody knows that un-free countries like Russia, China, or maybe someplace like Venezuela lock up their citizens in prisons. Right? Wrong. America has the highest percentage of its population in prisons than any other country. Russia comes in second.

Why is this? There are a lot of reasons ranging from the fact that corporations now make big profits running prisons in America to our tendency to lock people up for personal problems, like being addicted to a drug. But the first reason is that we tend to turn a blind eye to any hint that we have a problem in the first place. America: Land of the un-Free!

Spending on War

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Here’s one where America is so far ahead of everybody else that we can’t even see any other country in the rear-view mirror! We spend far, far, far more on war than anybody else. I mean, really! (War is called, “defense” here in the US. One of the three brainwashing slogans in Orwell’s great book 1984 is, “War is Peace”.)

There are so many ways to demonstrate this that it’s hard to choose. My favorite is “aircraft carriers”. The US operates between ten and twenty aircraft carriers (depending on what you want to define as an aircraft carrier). Only two other countries have more than one: India and Italy. China has one that they bought used from Russia. Aircraft carriers cost about $25 billion each!

General and President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex in his farewell address to the nation. Eisenhower was right.


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Here’s one that conservatives love to obsess over but it’s true. We owe more money to other people than any other country. We owe almost twice as much as the United Kingdom in second place. Nobel Prize winner in economics and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has written, “the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem’s size.” You can read a great summary of his analysis in his column here.

You can think of America’s debt as a horrible problem that absolutely must be solved … or a not so bad problem. Either way, it doesn’t show American Exceptionalism in a particularly good light.

But here’s a thought: Perhaps our world-class spending on health care, prisons, and war has something to do with it. (Naahhhhh … Can’t be. It has to be sending money to Americans who are out of work.)

Metric System

This is a fun “nuts and bolts” kind of thing because it relates to fundamental productivity issues. How easily we can measure things is a key component in how well we can design, build, and sell those things. But America is working against a handicap because we’re the only industrialized nation using a measurement based on King Henry III’s foot. Quick: Tell me how many inches are in 3 1/2 yards. (There are 350 centimeters in 3 1/2 meters.) Non-industrialized Liberia and Myanmar also use King Henry’s foot to measure things, but Myanmar has announced that they’re going to go metric. I’m not sure what Liberia’s problem is.

Exceptionalism and Patriotism

When I did research for this article, I found that people who object to pointing out these problems most often say something like, “Is this the way you show your love for America?” My answer is, “Yes. Yes it is.” I want America to be much better than it is, just like I want Springdale to be better than it is.

Springdale Planning Commission — 4 February 2014

Note: Starting with this meeting, Town Clerk Fay Cope has posted draft minutes on the Springdale web site:

Fay stated in an email that: “Draft minutes of meetings will be posted to the town website within 7 days of the meeting!”

This means that I won’t even try to cover everything in this report in the future. I’ll just hit the high points.

Dan – 8 Feb 2014

The meeting started at 4:00 instead of 5:00 because the Commission wanted an extra hour to discuss the new New Town Survey. Chairman Joe was back in the saddle. AND a full house was present at 4 sharp. That means everybody – including the alternate Liz West and the Zion Park representative, Kezia Nielsen. Springdale should be proud of the dedication of our citizen representatives. Really!

And me. The sole representative of “the people who just live here”. In fact, I was the only one for the entire two and a half hour meeting. (I left early to go to another engagement. Not being on the Commission anymore does have advantages.)

Which is strangely appropriate for the first item of business. The initial discussion of the new New Town Survey was all about why people don’t participate in Town government. Why indeed! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Congratulations to Tom Dansie for snagging the Utah convention of the American Planning Association for our little Town of Springdale!UTAPA

One of the first agenda items is announcements and our Director of Community Development Tom Dansie had a doozie for us. The three day Utah American Planning Association annual convention will be held in the Canyon Community Center in April. The association is the primary professional association for Tom and hosting their convention is a major coup. It’s simply one more testimonial to something we have known for a long time anyway: Our professional staff here in Springdale is the best.  The public can attend if you’re willing to pony up $165.00 to register.

Don’t crowd. Form an orderly line in front of the registration booth.

Roxy and I have attended a lot of conventions because they actually can be fun and they’re always educational. But here’s a suggestion for Tom to pass along to them. Some associations sponsor one free public lecture for the people in the host city. It’s one way they can say, “Thank you” to the place that is putting up with them.

Discussion of the new New Town Survey

First, I want to say that, as surveys go, this one was pretty good. Fay kindly provided me with a printed copy of the survey results during the meeting. I’ve done my share of focus groups, opinion polls, and the like. Tom’s survey was as professional and perceptive as any I have seen and the Commission tried hard to understand what the 195 responses were trying to say. The complete results are on the Town web site.

My complaint is not with the survey, it’s with the inflexible refusal to engage in a real dialog about Town issues and pretend that a survey is an acceptable substitute. A survey is not a dialog; it’s a one-time, single-direction event. Like a photograph at a dating site, it doesn’t tell the whole story by a long shot.

This is why enough people were willing to spend time to create 195 responses but nobody was willing to spend time to hear the Commission discuss it. Well … Except me. And nine out of ten doctors say that I’m just strange. But enough of that … on to the meeting report.

Commission Discussion of the new New Town Survey

According to Tom, the survey results can be summarized in three major headings:

  1. What have we learned from the survey on “how we conduct business”?
  2. What do we want the Town to be in twenty years?
  3. Immediate issues with current ordinances.

Since the first question on the survey was about the General Plan, Chairman Joe started the discussion there. Mike Marriott observed that since almost 60% said they understand the General Plan “very well” or “somewhat well”, we’re not doing too badly, but he wondered why 40% didn’t understand the plan at all. Guesses ranged from, “They’re just not interested.” to “The General Plan has to relate to actual issues.”

It was pointed out that a follow-up session was always planned to discuss the survey with the “people who just live here”.  A-Men to That! Former Councilor Louise Excell made this point eloquently in her essay at this site just a week ago:

After survey results came in, Mayor Cluff and the council urged the planning commission to hold a public town meeting before the end of the year so that some appropriate legislation could begin to be written, based on the public’s participation.  But no, the planning commission still said they were in no hurry. 

The Planning Commission still did not schedule anything at this meeting. And Louise’s essay was never mentioned. There are no responses from any commissioner or member of the Town staff to Louise’s essay. And, even though I was the sole survey responder present, I was never asked to contribute anything during the meeting.

I’ll make a bet with you. I’ll bet that this report doesn’t get a response from either the Town staff or any member of the Commission either. (I’ll buy Tom Dansie a beer at Mike Marriott’s bar if I lose.)

Tom made the point that there are probably things the Commission could do to make meetings, “more ‘public friendly’ and ‘as inviting a place as possible’”.

Ummmm … no. Wrong headed.

Keying off this idea, some commissioners suggested that they provide snacks for the public. (Seriously!)  Randy Taylor asked if it is necessary to hold Public Hearings with so much formal structure and whether it would be possible to have a dialog during public hearings.

Chairman Joe and Tom held the high ground and noted that the structure was there for good reasons. Tom seemed to reverse course and said that a public hearing, “is not intended to be a back and forth dialog. It has been adversarial when this has happened in the past. It should not be a debate.”

I agree. Chairman Joe has brought more structure to the meetings during his two terms and I think that has been a good thing. Kezia said, “The more we (the Commission) becomes comfortable with the process, the more the public will become comfortable with the process. We’re getting good at it.” I agree again. The Commission is doing some things right and this is one of them.

I raised my hand and Chairman Joe was gracious in allowing me several comments during this meeting. (During his first Town Council meeting, Mayor Stan actually asked the people there for their input. But Chairman Joe didn’t go quite that far.) On reflection now, I don’t think my comments added anything to the meeting and only made it a few minutes longer. A formal “public meeting” is a terrible way to have a dialog. My own failure to contribute effectively to the meeting last night just makes this point stronger.

(Note: The next few paragraphs have been revised to correct an error that was pointed out by Liz West in a comment below. Since I only heard the domain name of the website, I assumed that it was communityplanet. The actual website is communityplanit.)

Our newest Commissioner Liz West made one of the most productive suggestions. She pointed out that she had discovered a website that might have some promise in helping us understand how to solve our problems. Since Fay has now produced draft minutes for the meeting, here’s Fay’s description.

Ms. West also reported on a web game for community planning at It was ‘a game that makes planning playful, and gives everyone the power to shape the future of their community.’ She thought it might be helpful for a concept like Cottage Neighborhoods.

Now that I have the right website, THIS IS A GREAT WEBSITE!! The only problem is that the community planning is being done for other places, not Springdale. To use this site for Springdale’s planning, we would have to convince the people who run it (Community PlanIt is funded by the Knight Foundation and supported by Emerson College.) to add a project in Springdale to their site. From their site:

Bring Community PlanIt to You!

Is your city or metro area not listed? Do you have an idea for a Community PlanIt game in your community? Let us know! Provide your name, your role in your community, your email address and your idea for a Community PlanIt game.

Right now, the projects (called, “games” at the CommunityPlanit site) include:

  • What will Cape Cod look like in 30 years?
  • Augustus Hawkins High School, Los Angeles, CA. – What should be the role of social media in schools?
  • One for Malmo, Sweden that’s written in Swedish!!

Getting a project for Springdale included at the CommunityPlanit site might be a really good idea. I wish Liz the very best of luck getting it done.

But here’s an interesting fact from history — my history. Back in February 2010 when I was on the planning commission, I tried to get Springdale interested in doing this. I exchanged emails with the Knight Foundation and talked to Town Manager Rick Wixom and Mayor Pat Cluff about doing it. We might have been able to attract a grant from the Knight Foundation to do this entire thing here instead of Emerson College. I have the emails to prove it.

Liz will need luck.

Long Range Planning Issues

There was quite a bit of discussion of “the big picture” such as, “What should the ultimate size of the Town be?” Liz noted that she interpreted the survey response to be that people want Springdale to be small, local, and they didn’t like franchised businesses.

Randy asked how reasonable it would be to downsize the maximum population and density estimates for Springdale that he had read. Tom said that the Commission has total control over zoning which could accomplish this, but the zoning can’t be “arbitrary and capricious”.

Tom said that Pam Perlich, an economist at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah had said that there probably isn’t a natural or economic limit on the amount of commercial development in Springdale. She said that given the small geographic size of Springdale and the ever increasing visitation to Zion National Park, there would always be market support for more commercial development in Springdale. Pam said that the Town should base planning decisions on community character, not economic justification or limitations.

Randy asked about our sewage system. As a professional engineer, he said he was somewhat familiar with Springdale sewage. Tom said that treatment capacity is probably most critical, but I asked Tom for clarification in an email and he wrote, “The town has adequate sewage treatment capacity in the sewer lagoons. The collection and transport system will need to be upsized in the future.” (It’s not a dialog in a public forum, Tom. But it’s better than nothing. Thanks again!)

Survey respondents were hard on part time residents in Springdale. For example, one comment to the survey was:

Penalize and limit secondary/vacation homes. These are part of the problem with too much development and lack of availability simultaneously for people who actually live and work in Springdale. There aren’t enough home opportunities for those of us who live/work here, and new development should be limited be for secondary vacation homes that continue to price us out of our own town.

Randy said that part time residents do pay more in property tax. People might not be aware of that.

Current Ordinance Issues

Tom said that quite a few detailed issues were suggested by survey respondents and the Town staff is working through them. A lot of these suggestions will result in actual changes.

Randy brought up the idea that more support for “housing clusters” surrounded by open space would help. Tom noted that the town had received open space planning help from Sumner Swaner several years ago. Tom said Mr. Swaner is now partnering with Stephen Goldsmith and planning students at the University of Utah to incorporate those strategies into our zoning ordinance.

Fay Cope noted that Springdale ordinances don’t cover ways that the Town can buy land to preserve open space.

The Regular, Special Meeting

The main item covered in the regular, special meeting was a new draft of the ordinance in progress to regulate solar panels. There was an extended and wide ranging discussion by the entire Commission on the merits of various parts of the ordinance that was too detailed to try to cover here. This kind of discussion is one of the things that the Commission does best. The proposed ordinance language received a thorough review and at the end, they agreed that they should look at one more draft before holding a public hearing.

(The only thing that might have made this better would have been to hold the discussion online so people didn’t have to travel up to town hall at night to see what the Commission was up to and could see written deliberations in real time from the comfort of their own homes. But then, the official minutes will be out in a month or so, after they are written, voted on, and posted. The minutes for the December 3 meeting are available now!)

There was direct acknowledgement by a few commissioners that the proposed ordinance would result in some inefficient solar panels. For example, if the roof of your house isn’t oriented correctly, you’re just out of luck. But they did change their mind and allow solar tracking.

Historic Preservation Ordinance

Kezia said it best. It’s just a process we have to go through. But there she did point out an interesting wrinkle. Two members of the Historic Preservation Commission will have to be professionals and out-of-towners are allowed to be members. Unless we can find two historic preservation professionals here in Springdale, at least two voting members of our historic preservation commission will be from somewhere else.

New “Mixed Use” Planned Development

Planned Development projects are always detailed, usually complex, and the ordinance that governs them is too. This is also where Tom earns his money. And it’s also where we can make some of the biggest mistakes.

For example, in the proposed new ordinance, “Permitted and Conditional Uses” are limited to

Permitted Uses

  1. Administrative, professional, or medical offices.
  2. Art galleries.
  3. Bakeries, retail.
  4. Barber and beauty shops.
  5. Bicycle shops.
  6. Blueprint and photocopy services.
  7. Delicatessens.
  8. Florist shops.
  9. General retail stores.

Conditional Uses

  1. Artist studios.
  2. Restaurants.

Why are there only two conditional uses? Because we need detailed usage standards for conditional uses and those uses are the only ones where we have them already. We would have to develop them if we added other conditional use categories. (Mike Marriott asked.)

What about Rock Shops? Springdale has three of them now. Liz mentioned that a pre-school or a day-care might be a great addition. Tom granted the point and left it up to the Commission. He also pointed out that Springdale has never allowed mixed commercial and residential planned developments before and there could be hidden problems.

If there are any of you out there who want to work on a real nuts and bolts ordinance, this would be a great place to start. Contact Tom.

At this point, I had another engagement I needed to go to. Such is the limitation of public meetings. You have to be there in person.