highland hay fields 4800 west
State land slated for massive development in center of residential suburb in Highland City, Utah.

A funny thing happened to me while canvassing my neighborhood. Funny peculiar. I took an informal survey of my neighbors about awareness of a recent piece of legislation that was passed by our Senator and Representative; Senate Joint Resolution 8. The resolution essentially puts 143 acres of state land, and about $10 million in water rights, on the auction block, in the middle of a developed, residential community. Previously, the State Developmental Center held onto the property, where it peacefully sat, maintaining its water rights and growing hay.  My neighborhood has been carefully following this issue for decades, because we live on one of the adjacent roads to the property. Since 2010, our city population has expanded 127%. Our neighbors; Cedar Hills, Alpine, Lehi, Pleasant Grove have all seen exploding growth, as well. Correspondingly, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of accidents on our roads, including fatal ones.

We have fought for years for an east-west connector road to lighten the traffic on our main roads. This year, we were hopeful our state representatives were going to deliver. Through a separate resolution in the State House, we were granted the right to an easement to build a minor road across the property.  While it fell short of what we felt was required, most were happy we saw any progress at all. Politics is compromise, right?

What I discovered in my informal survey was that while most neighbors had heard about the road legislation from HJR7 (Yay!) almost none had heard about the incoming sprawl from SJR8 (Yikes!) How is it that legislation is passed without the knowledge of your constituents that will be most impacted? Why was this not a public discussion?  Why didn’t we get a chance to weigh in on this local issue? Why did our representatives write legislation for the Developmental Center? Why didn’t I read about it in the news before it happened?  It’s easy to blame busy people for not getting information.  However, it’s nearly impossible to follow the bombardment of 1,300-plus bills, mostly meaningless, that our legislators wrote this year for a forty-five day session. As I read about more layoffs at both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Standard Examiner, I wonder if there isn’t something bigger at play.  Something wrong with our ability to follow politics in any meaningful way. Perhaps, our communication is broken. We follow labels instead of being given accurate information about who’s funding who’s campaign’s. We are allowing information to be distributed by hedge fund managers in states across the country. Additionally, the recent paywall at the Tribune sends a strong message that information is for the privileged, and who can blame them? Investigative journalism is hard, time-consuming and expensive.  Maybe capitalism and an informed public are contradicting models? Who benefits from uninformed people? I don’t have an answer for the problem but I think it’s time we start looking at the questions.