Who deserves praise and criticism this week in Northern Utah?

Monday , April 16, 2018 - 10:52 AM5 comments

Standard-Examiner Editorial Board

Each week the Standard-Examiner hashes out issues large and small and takes a thumbs-up, thumbs-down stance. Here’s what we recommend this week for praise and criticism:

THUMBS UP: For fewer inmate deaths across Utah in 2017.

A count done by the Standard-Examiner shows there were only seven deaths in Utah jails last year, down from a record 25 the year before.

Utah held the No. 1 spot in the U.S. for inmate deaths per capita in 2014, more than a quarter of them taking place in just a few central and northern counties.

After several high-profile deaths led to wrongful death lawsuits, the Utah Legislature passed a measure to force jails to compile an annual report, noting the number of jail and prison fatalities on an annual basis. Until then, there was no law compelling those facilities to make public how many people were dying behind bars.

THUMBS DOWN: To the State Records Committee for choosing not to compel Davis County to release its jail standards and audit results. The Davis jail failed a state audit in 2016 but the county and state refused to reveal details.

The records committee said the information doesn’t belong to the public because the data is housed in proprietary software, owned by a consultant for the Utah Sheriffs’ Association.

“Audits and standards that a public institution uses should be made public,” Leah Farrell, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. told the Standard-Examiner. “They’re held in this kind of black-box way that can’t be how public institutions are run.”

THUMBS UP: To Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis counties.

On Saturday, the organization broke ground at the site of a new home for Aurora Guzman and her five children, whose home was destroyed in the September 2016 tornado that tore through Washington Terrace and Riverdale.

The family will have to put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” — work on the house, at the Habitat for Humanity store, office work and more volunteer hours — before they can leave their current fractured living situation behind. It’s a small price to pay for a roof over their heads and the chance to be together.

The new home is expected to be one of four completed by about the end of the year by Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties.

THUMBS DOWN: To the massive waste stream we’re supporting.

The global market recently shifted and China is no longer accepting much of our recyclable plastics and other materials (cardboard, aluminum, plastics No. 1 and 2 are still OK, everything else is pretty much rejected). It has caused confusion for cities big and small, from North Ogden to Seattle.

Officials are now trying to re-explain what we can recycle but it seems that was an exercise in futility long before the markets changed. An audit of Ogden’s recycling showed 45 percent of what was in the blue bins was actually non-recyclable trash.

Municipalities are trying to cope with the costs — North Ogden is considering eliminating its curbside recycling program. But the serious discussion we’ve yet to have is about is reducing the amount of trash we create in the first place.

The U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet’s total waste, though it is home to only 4 percent of the world’s population, according to a recently released report about trash in America. About a third of that trash is just the packaging and about 13 percent of that is yard trimmings. Enabling Americans to just put any old unwanted thing in a landfill is not something our communities can support indefinitely.

Perhaps along with the discussion to eliminate curbside recycling, North Ogden can also discuss what it can do to reduce the waste stream. Banning plastic bags — which are seldom accepted for recycling and clog up our trash systems — might be a good place to start.

Have a thumbs up or thumbs down you’d like to give? Email a submission of 100 words or less to managing editor Anne Christnovich at achristnovich@standard.net.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.