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'Getting the justice you can afford': Utahns join in to speak out against death penalty

A coalition of conservatives from various states, including Utah, came together Monday to speak out against capital punishment.

“We have come to the conclusion that the death penalty does not work and can’t be made to work,” reads a statement signed by more than 250 conservative activists and Republican legislators, “not in spite of our conservative principles, but because of them.”

Darcy Van Orden, founder and executive director of the Utah Justice Coalition, said at Monday’s press conference that the death penalty goes against fundamental Republican ideals: it is expensive, contradicts “pro-life” beliefs and puts too much power in the hands of the state.

“As a conservative, I really believe in the most limited government,” Van Orden said. “If I don’t trust (the) government to have its hands in all these different aspects of my life ... why would I trust them to put people to death?”

Application of capital punishment is not only inefficient, Van Orden added, it is inconsistent. Whether a defendant receives the death penalty is frequently based on where the crime took place, the prosecutor’s ideological bent and whether the person accused of the crime was white or a minority.

“You have some cases that are by far more egregious, but if in fact the person had a good attorney … they end up with life without parole,” Van Orden said. “You truly are getting the justice you can afford in America.”

Van Orden also pointed to research showing that more than 165 people who’ve been sentenced to death in the U.S. have later been exonerated, demonstrating the fallibility of the criminal justice system.

The press conference was hosted by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, an organization formed in Montana that has since branched out across the country. The conference came on the heels of a July announcement by the United States Department of Justice that the federal government will resume executions for the first time in 16 years.

State Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, Wyoming, said he is “extremely troubled” by the justice department’s decision to move forward with executions, adding that it puts the U.S. in the same “categories of nations like North Korea.”

Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said he believes opposing the death penalty is “the pro-life thing to do,” especially given the possibility of a wrongfully convicted person being executed.

Twenty-nine states currently have death penalty laws on the books, four of which have government-imposed moratoriums prohibiting executions being carried out, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Utah legislators proposed a bill in 2016 to outlaw the death penalty, an effort that passed through the Senate but failed the reach the House floor. A similar bill was proposed last year but fell short a few votes in the House.

In July, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced he would be seeking the death penalty against Jerrod Baum for allegedly killing 18-year-old Riley Powell and 17-year-old Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, who went missing in December 2017 and whose bodies were later found in an abandoned mine near Eureka.

At a press conference, Leavitt called Baum “the sort of individual from whom society ought to be protected” and that “that’s a weight that I feel as a Utah County Attorney as I weigh how do we do that.”

Part of Van Orden’s opposition to capital punishment is the cost and time it takes for trials and appeals to place. Utah spent over $40 million on 165 death-penalty cases in two decades, according to a 2017 report from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Only two resulted in death sentences.

“As a very fiscally conservative state, how can Utah waste those funds?,” said Van Orden. “We could actually be pouring that money into helping victims” and “into programs that keep Utahns safe.”

How Provo and Orem city crews prepare early for Utah winters

Like homeowners who have to turn off the lawn sprinklers, clear the flower patches and rake the fall leaves in preparation for winter, so do Provo and Orem city crews have to prepare a city for winter.

For maintenance crews in Provo and Orem, that could start as early as August, with most activities revving up in October.


The first priority for Dave Decker, director of public works for Provo, is the fall leaves. Leaves can easily clog curbs, gutters and streets around Provo and crews need to work ahead to clear the fallen foliage.

“Right now, we are in the process of cleaning out gutters,” Decker said. “We got paving projects getting done and most were out of the way last week.”

As for snow removal, Decker said they are in the midst of preparing for valley storms looming in the forecast.

Decker said crews are always ready when needed. Last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was the first time in six years that crews did not have to go out and plow because of snowstorms. There are 16 main trucks, with eight routes, two trucks per route.

Provo also has a unique situation with the Provo Municipal Airport needs.

“We have a lot of equipment at the airport,” Decker said. “TAC Air, the fixed based operator, is in charge of de-icing planes, (but) we are in charge of snow removal at the airport.”

Decker said one of the trucks has a 24-foot wide blade for the wide runway.

The cost to keep snow removed, including salt and overtime wages for winter months, is about $100,000 in Provo according to Decker. Provo now uses carbide blades on its trucks, which will last through two winters. The old style blades could be replaced as much as four times per winter.

Doug Robins, assistant director of parks and recreation, said crews have been busy with their first priority of shutting down non-insulated park bathrooms up Provo Canyon.

“Our outdoor plumbing is number one,” Robins said. “Those freeze the earliest. We took care of those about two to three weeks earlier than others.”

Robins said the next thing crews must do is purge waterlines and add antifreeze to pipes and toilets, which is being done now. Insulated and heated bathrooms like Rock Canyon Park are kept open through the winter.

“Each year it’s a little different,” Robins said. “It takes two about weeks to shut down.”

The city has 54 park areas. Most should be closed within the next couple of weeks.

“The second priority is the irrigation systems,” Robins said. “That includes the splash pads and outside aquatics.”


Orem starts prepping for the winter season in August and September according to Cody Steggell, streets section manager.

“We have to start thinking about it in August,” Steggell said. “We have to make sure there is salt on site.”

Orem maintenance crews have had three street sweepers out every day during the fall as leaves are dropping and residents and homeowners rake leaves to make sure gutters and storm drains are cleared.

Public works crews are also getting maintenance done on city parks and making sure water is drained from pipes, drinking fountains and public restrooms.

With temperatures dropping below the freezing point this week the most immediate concern is burst pipes in parks and municipal areas.

Reed Price, maintenance division director, said he has been busy shutting down city amenities, like park bathrooms and water fountains, before that can happen.

“We have to shut down the bathrooms and put anti-freeze in the toilets so they don’t break during the winter,” Price said.

Price said portable toilets are placed at certain areas, particularly at the All-Together playground at the City Center Park, for winter use.

Orem has 3,000 tons of salt for the winter snow season. A typical season will take about 2,000 tons, which costs about $75,000.

Orem has more than 500 miles of roadway to plow. The city is divided in to areas where trucks equipped with a plow and salt spread can effectively provide snow removal.

Price said weather monitoring is done both online and with the help of local television forecasts. When a storm is in the forecast, preparations are made to make sure all equipment is ready for dispatch.

Throughout a storm event, observations of both satellite and radar loops from online resources are monitored to get a better indication of what is happening.

Provo City Council candidates answer questions, face public ahead of Election Day

Provo City Council candidate met Monday night with voters and potential constituents to discuss their platforms and field questions.

Questions ranged from growth to economic development, west-side growth and conversely how candidates will keep Provo the way it is as more people move in.

Bill Fillmore, representing District 1 in northeast of Provo, does not have a runoff and automatically steps into his council seat in January. He felt it important to participate Monday so people could hear his stand on issues.

“Our tax base is limited and we need to get better paying jobs here,” Fillmore said. He said places like the Provo Town Center need to get creative like University Place in Orem.

When asked how they would make Provo more inclusive all the candidates agreed they needed to break down barriers, meet people face to face and realize there is more that unites than divides residents.

“Provo is one of the great place to live and people want to live here,” said Robin Roberts, District 3 candidate representing southeast and south Provo.

Travis Hoban, running for District 4, which covers the west side and Grandview, said he would use money from the RAP Tax to highlight diversity.

“I’d love to use those funds to emphasize diversity in culture and art,” Hoban said.

Janae Moss, citywide candidate said she values all people and what they can bring to the city.

“I love to carry the people’s voices,” Moss said.

While many questions we’re not addressed in the one-hour forum, sponsored by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, those in attendance did get to see and hear the passion and intonation in the voices of the candidates.

“I’m not running to be something,” said Shannon Ellsworth, running in District 3. “I’m running to do something.”

All candidates said there needed to be controlled growth. They all also agreed that having more than three unrelated tenants renting a house or apartment can be done in certain parts of the city and if parking was regulated.

About 75 attended the meeting. Candidate Valerie Paxman, running in District 4, echoed the sentiments of all of the candidates.

“I want to keep Provo a good place to live,” Paxman said.

To learn more about the candidates, visit http://heraldextra.com/vote.

Woman in critical condition after freeway crash near Lehi

Officials reported Monday that a 19-year-old woman remains in critical condition after her vehicle crashed near Lehi on Friday evening.

The woman was driving a silver hatchback car northbound on Interstate 15 near mile marker 279 around 11 p.m., according to a press release from the Utah Highway Patrol.

The vehicle veered to the left and struck a center median concrete barrier. The driver corrected and crossed all lanes of traffic to the right before hitting another concrete barrier, police reported.

The woman was the only person in the vehicle at the time of the crash and she was not wearing a seatbelt, the release stated. She is still in critical condition as of Monday morning.

Officials are investigating impairment as a possible cause of the crash as troopers reportedly found a vape pen and THC oil inside the vehicle.

BYU study finds no link between social media use and teens' mental health

A study by Brigham Young University has found there is no association between the amount of time an adolescent spends on social media and their mental health.

It’s a result which, after eight years of study and community conversation about how social media use impacts mental health, came as a surprise to its researchers.

“We did expect there would be a longitudinal association between social media and mental health,” said Sarah Coyne, a professor in the department of family life at BYU.

Coyne, one of the co-authors on the study, has spent 20 years studying the impact media has on children and adolescents. With the emergence of social media appearing halfway through her career, she began hearing people claim that social media is destroying how youth communicate and blaming it for mental health issues.

The existing research only looked at the short-term impacts of social media, but Coyne wanted to study the potential link for a longer period of time.

What resulted was the study, which included more than 400 families over an eight-year period. The researchers believe it’s the longest existing study on social media and mental health.

The adolescents in the study self-reported both their social media use, along with their mental health symptoms.

Changing social media levels didn’t explain the changes in depressive symptoms a year later, according to the study.

“Social networking did not predict future anxiety,” the study reads.

The study states that people often claim that depression and anxiety is caused by social media use, however, other studies don’t show a clear link.

“Indeed, a recent analysis found that the effect of time spent on social media on mental health was as large in effect size as the impact that eating potatoes has on mental health,” the study reads.

Coyne has recently finished collecting another wave of data that focuses on suicide and suicide ideation by using apps on phones that track how much time is being spent doing specific activities.

Coyne said the results don’t mean that children can be on social media for as long as they want. Instead, she advocates for teaching the younger generation to use social media positively. She suggests interacting with content instead of simply scrolling through it.

“If we can help this generation be more active users on their phone, reach out, empathize with people when they are in pain, support people, as opposed to just lurking, that will have an impact,” she said.

The study was published in Computers in Human Behavior. Coyne’s co-authors include BYU professors Adam Rogers, Laura Stockdale, Jessica Zurcher and McCall Booth, a graduate student.