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Utah 4th Congressional district candidate says kids aren’t taught to respect police

Utah 4th Congressional District Republican candidate Burgess Owens said this country is “not training kids” to respect police and called on parents and educators to teach youth about the difficulties and duties involved with working in law enforcement.

Owens’ comments came during a conversation Thursday about police reform with the Utah State Fraternal Order of Police at its headquarters in Taylorsville.

“My biggest focal point is education because I know how powerful that can be if it’s done right,” the congressional candidate said. “And this is all part of it. Educating our kids to the idea of really what the police force is all about and then educating them to the fact that they’re good people.”

“Just because you put on blue doesn’t mean you change on the inside,” he added.

Owens told the police advocacy group, if elected to federal office, he would be “a big-time advocate” for law enforcement, though he acknowledged most issues around police are dealt with at the state and local levels.

“I’m all in,” Owens said. “Just let me know as we move forward what I can do.”

The conversation about police reform took place after a summer of protests in Provo, Salt Lake City and throughout the country over various police shootings and, most notably, the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Owens, a former NFL player, has long been a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police violence, especially within the realm of professional sports.

In his 2018 book “Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism,” Owens argues “the NFL’s corporate leadership has taken a knee as they allow their platform to be used for political anti-America sentiment.”

“As we enter another season of protest of our country’s flag by the young, wealthy Black NFL athletes, millions of fans will continue to turn off America’s favorite pastime,” wrote Owens, who is Black.

Ryan Carver, public information officer of the Fraternal Order of Police, told Owens he agreed that a lack of community trust was an issue facing law enforcement today as well as the fact that police are relied on to respond to situations outside of their expertise, including situations involving drugs and mental health issues.

“A lot of frustration in law enforcement, in my opinion, today, is that we have not only perfected the jack of all trades, but now we’re held criminally liable for not being a professor of all trades,” Carver said. “And if you end up in a use of force (situation) with a person who’s in a mental crisis, first they want us to use bean bag shotguns and rubber bullets. And then when we use those, everything over social media is bruises and bangs and bumps from using those.”

Carver said police officers in Utah and elsewhere “are literally at a point where they don’t know what more they can do, because they’re one person,” adding that morale is especially low for officers in cities and counties where they “have no faith that your chief or your mayor is going to protect you and back you up.”

Brent Jex, president of the police union, said another reform needed in law enforcement is to do away with “performance-based” assessments, which he called problematic because they incentivize police to make arrests and give out citations.

Jex said police assessments should be merit-based and include metrics other than arrests and tickets issued, such as time spent interacting with the community.

Owens will compete against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-UT, in the general election on Nov. 3.

Faith without works isn't dead in Utah County, but congregations face new challenges in COVID-19 era

Ever had someone ask you how your faith is holding up these days and you have to think about it?

Pastor Joe McCormick of the Mt. Calvary Chapel in American Fork said his faith and the faith of his expanding congregation for the most part is weathering the storms of 2020.

Mt. Calvary is part of a larger association of churches that teaches the Bible. They go from Genesis to Revelations verse by verse.

His congregation is about 500 members in the area, but his online members are half again as much and span the globe.

McCormick has lived in the Utah County area for 17 years and has been live streaming his meetings long before COVID-19 came on the scene.

“We’ve been blessed. Our congregation owns our building, and we are all here together,” McCormick said.

During the current pandemic, McCormick also has added a group message via text.

“Our members receive messages in real time,” McCormick said. “We understand who is having a hard time and connect with them.”

McCormick, the lead pastor at the church and the two assistant pastors even make DVDs for the older members and deliver them so they can enjoy messages and church meetings.

“We want to be a stabilizing voice for the members,” McCormick said. “Some people are not comfortable coming back to face-to-face church. They have gotten used to watching services in their pajamas. At least they’re getting the Word.”

McCormick said their faith is still strong.

“It’s been a test for everyone. I’m pleased our congregation has held together,” McCormick said. “We have a father in God.”

He said even online, he has watched how members of his congregation have reached out and talked to each other — even with political differences — with honor and love.

On Aug. 15, USA Today wrote the following about Arkansas Pastor Rod Loy:

“On a recent Sunday, Rod Loy, senior pastor at the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas, delivered the message of the Gospel through his computer screen.

“It’s easy to live out your faith when everything is going good,” he preached to his congregation. “But the real test is difficult. How does your faith hold up when the doctor gives you a bad report, the kids get bad grades and you can’t pay your bills? How does your faith hold up when you lose your job in the middle of a pandemic? The true test of faith is a difficulty, hardship and persecution,” the USA story reported.

Emily Lower, an anthropology professor at Utah Valley University, is the daughter of retired pastor Rev. George Lower. She has been engulfed in faith and struggles from birth.

Lower, a member of the Springville Community Presbyterian Church, says all of the issues of 2020 have made her faith very meaningful.

“It makes you realize what God means to you,” Lower said.

Unlike McCormick, Lower is part of an aging congregation that, while members consider themselves family, the group continues to dwindle.

The Springville Presbyterian Church has been a staple of the community for more than 128 years. Members are a people of faith.

It may be that the future of the congregation will be through the online meetings as the church ages.

Lower noted that while the members’ faith is strong even with church being a Zoom meeting, there are things that will be missed this year that strengthens one’s faith.

“Christmas is going to be tough,” Lower said. She noted the Christmas carols and music particularly.

“I’m already missing singing at Christmas,” she said.

According to the Utah Valley Interfaith Association, a group of 40 churches and nonprofit groups, up to 25% of the local community churches will close their doors for good as a result of the current pandemic.

Chaplain Linda Walton, a member of the Provo Seventh-day Adventist congregation and Chaplain to all the universities and colleges in Utah County as well as the Provo Police Department, said she learned an important lesson from her father.

“I learned how to play poker from my father when I was 5 years old,” Walton said. “It wasn’t about gambling, it was about how to learn to read people’s faces.”

That lesson has helped her as an adult. Now, as churches are meeting online their faces are darkened out.

“You can’t see expressions or body language online,” Walton said. “This is a problem. Meetings aren’t going as well.”

It is causing an issue for the strength of faith.

“A lot of people go to church for the potluck,” Walton said. “They don’t know their neighbors. They go to church for the social aspect.”

Walton said there needs to be more for faith to stay strong. You need the Holy Spirit so it can work on you and help you make decisions.

Overall, Walton believes people will be taken care of and suggests that maybe this pandemic is one of the biblical plagues.

“Maybe this is biblical, maybe it’s not all Trump,” Walton said. “This will divide the girls from the women and teach us stuff we can’t learn in Sunday school.”

She added religion and building faith “is in giving service. Faith is strengthened by action.”

Alexander Jensen, 26, from Orem knows about taking action, losing faith, finding it and holding on.

A little more than five years ago, Jensen, left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he was born and raised in.

He proclaimed he was an atheist, but eventually started looking up churches, their beliefs and if there was one he could feel comfortable attending.

He joined St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo and has become an active member of the congregation. He carries his prayer beads, wears a cross necklace and has his prayer book in his backpack while attending Utah Valley University.

“It’s been tougher than it used to be, especially around here,” Jensen said.

Jensen said having his prayer book, from which he reads daily, has kept him connected.

“When I was attending school in person, I’d bring my books then go to the UVU Reflection Center,” Jensen said.

There he could meditate, read and have contemplative prayer. There he connects with his faith and that is when it grows.

Local students, universities and cities come together to 'Join the Maskerade'

As people gathered outside of the Provo Library at Academy Square on Thursday morning, a song entitled “Masquerade” from “The Phantom of the Opera” was playing.

The song was fitting considering that Provo, Orem, as well as Utah County universities and high schools were coming together to launch a new “Join the Maskerade” campaign revolving around students.

When COVID-19 numbers began to skyrocket in Utah County the past couple weeks, a large focal point was students, particularly those in the 15-24 age range.

The big question was, how would officials spark change in that age group?

“For months now, we have all been encouraging people to wear masks and here’s what we know, we needed to talk to students age 15-24,” Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said. “None of us felt very qualified to do that because all of us are just a little over 24. As parents, we also knew from experience they certainly didn’t want to hear from us.”

Kaufusi then decided to use her own children as a focus group. Her children retorted by reminding her that children in the 15-24-year-old age range do not want to hear the mayor telling them what to do.

This sparked the idea behind the student-run campaign.

“It’s an interactive, three-month digital marketing campaign, encouraging all Utah County citizens to sign a pledge agreeing to wear a face mask in all kinds of appropriate circumstances, so not only you, but everyone else can continue enjoying and making the most of this school experience,” said Asha Byrd, a student at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. “This campaign is going to be rolling out fun new content and videos to keep on spreading the word about this campaign, giving students an opportunity to swipe up on the ad to take this pledge.”

The reason for the digital focus is to gear the campaign toward students — who, let’s face it, spend a lot of time online. Included in the campaign are rewards for those who pledge and prizes every Friday.

With representatives from all the colleges and high schools in the area on hand, the focus of conversation was on the students and how the group has come together to help the community.

“It’s heartening, and it’s good to see not only students involved, but students from all of the universities and colleges here in the area,” BYU President Kevin J Worthen said. “It’s nice to see the students stepping forward to help out.”

Along with the launch of this campaign, BYU has been seeing a downward trend in terms of daily average case counts, and Worthen brought this up as a positive as well.

“We’re hoping that trend continues and then hopefully the same in the surrounding community because that’s a part of our concern as well, what impact we might be having,” Worthen said.

At nearby neighbor UVU, case counts have remained low. This is due to a combination of no on-campus housing, a more spread-out student body and COVID-19 test self-reporting.

Regardless of case numbers, UVU President Astrid Tuminez spoke about how important it is for the campaign to focus in on a group of fellow students, a peer group.

“I welcome this,” Tuminez said. “I think the mayor is right, we need the voices of the students themselves to send the message.”

Students in attendance at the event included members of local high school students councils and members of local college student associations.

For Spring Cullen, BYU Student Association president, she is enjoying the positive and fun angle that the campaign has taken when there has been some negativity in the campus community.

“I know some students who perhaps tested positive but didn’t report it, because they’re worried about being ostracized or what might happen to them,” Cullen said. “I really like the approach of this campaign that it’s really positive, that it’s more incentive and inviting people in, instead of trying to give punishments.”

With the high case counts at BYU, many officials with the state and county asked students to think more about how their decisions impact not only themselves but the community.

Gov. Gary Herbert has described some students’ attitudes as defiant, adding that some have a “you can’t tell me what to do” mentality.

Cullen added that it is important for students to remember that they are a part of a bigger community, one that expands off campus.

“When you are a student, your whole world is your education,” Cullen said. “You’re just trying to pass that test or get that homework done, your world is so isolated to BYU that it is easy to forget you are actually part of a larger community.”

UVU Vice President of Academics Lucy Watson spoke during the press conference as well.

She encouraged all students in the community to wear their masks and do their part to get through this pandemic together.

“We really wanted to be a part of today to just remind everybody that if we want to continue our education face to face, we need to wear masks. If we want to be able to attend athletic events in the near future, we need to do our part in wearing masks, and if we want to keep our community open, we need to do our part and respect the health of others,” Watson said.

Byrd also spoke to the overwhelming excitement and positivity surrounding the press conference.

She said it is a great feeling to see everyone getting together to realize how important this is, especially given the COVID-19 case counts.

“To know we are all in this together and that everyone is realizing they have a part in it is a really great feeling,” Byrd said.

With numerous high schools represented as well, one stuck out. Timpanogos High School is currently in a hybrid schedule after case counts rose to a level that forced the Alpine School District to make the transition.

Combine this with the move to orange for Provo and Orem and you have quite the combination. For senior Claire Inouye, a member of the student council at Timpanogos, it has been tough not being able to attend football games and other on-campus student events. This brought an even bigger focus to wearing a mask and this campaign.

“It is so important for us to remember to be wearing our mask not just in school but also outside of school so that we don’t leave high school with a negative experience,” Inouye said. “We want to remember all the fun we had, remember those football games and remember those posters hanging in the hall. That’s honestly what it is about, making those memories with people around us.”

With mascots, cheerleaders and others in attendance, the press conference took on the same positive and welcoming vibe that the campaign is aiming to give off.

The event ended with confetti and applause.

“ ‘Join the Masquerade’ is all about having a party,” Provo City PIO Nicole Martin said. “It is a citywide social-distance party that will be going on for three months. To make that promise and not start off with a little bang seems wrong to me.”

The campaign’s goal is to get 5,000 signatures and have an impact in the 15-24 age range that has been driving cases in the wrong direction for the county.

Springville adopts short-term rental ordinance requiring owner occupancy

Beginning on Jan. 1, short-term rentals will be officially allowed in residential zones in Springville, though there will be a number of requirements.

The requirements include that the homeowner must get a permit and business license and regulate noise and parking. It also requires that the owner be present during the short-term stay, with some exceptions.

Springville is the latest city in Utah and throughout the United States to attempt to regulate short-term rentals, which have been popularized by companies like Airbnb and Vrbo, in a way that respects the rights of homeowners who wish to rent out part of their property while still preventing “business-type activities” from taking place in residential zones.

After nearly two years of discussion between officials and property owners about how to regulate short-term rentals, the Springville City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 15 to adopt an ordinance allowing regulated short-term rentals to operate “within all Springville City residential zones.”

“This is not the first time that we’ve been here on this item, as you know,” City Attorney John Penrod told the city council, noting that short-term rentals are technically illegal in the city but have not been enforced or regulated up to this point.

The ordinance, which defines a short-term rental as a stay of 30 days or less, states that the owner must be present during a short-term renter’s stay, with the exception of 90 nights throughout the calendar year when the owner can leave and “provide the STR renter with contact information of someone who will be able to immediately respond 24 hours per day during the stay.”

Owners may also take a “temporary absence” of up to three years but “must name a representative that will fulfill the owner’s requirements during the temporary absence.”

It also requires that the home or property owner ensure that, from between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., “the noise will be no more than 60 decibels at the owner’s property boundary,” and that the noise not reach above 80 decibels for more than an hour a day.

A homeowner must receive a business license and permit from the Springville Community Development Department, according to the ordinance, which includes providing a “parking plan that shows how the owner will provide one additional off-street parking space for a STR that is less than 2,000 square feet and two additional off-street parking spaces for an STR over 2,000 square feet.”

Penrod said the ordinance was a “much more simplified” version of a previous ordinance that the city council considered weeks earlier, which councilmembers had requested be reworked. The simplified ordinance was approved by the Springville Planning Commission on Sept. 8.

One Springville resident told the city council he was “really grateful for the drastic shortening” of the ordinance “because it no longer negatively affects my basement AirBnB, as the other one definitely would have.”

“But I’m still frustrated with one portion of it,” he added. “It’s the ‘host present’ portion.”

The resident said he didn’t understand why the user-occupied clause was necessary because the ordinance would already regulate noise and parking.

“There should be no restrictions on us unless we’re causing some type of disturbance to the neighborhood,” he said.

Wes Ostler, a Springville resident whose 8,000-plus square-foot home has been at the center of the short-term rental debate, said the owner-occupied clause “sticks out like a sore thumb to me because it is arbitrary, difficult to enforce and redundant.”

“One of these requirements is not like the others,” said Ostler, who said in February that he no longer lives in the home and rents it out on a per-night basis. “Please consider this question: What problem is the owner-occupied provision solving that isn’t adequately covered by the first three (requirements) already?”

Ostler acknowledged that his neighbors, one of whom compared living next door to “living the Fourth of July, all day, every day,” and the neighbors of other short-term rental owners have a right to “quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their property.”

“There’s no denying that,” he said. “And the first three parts of this ordinance protect that very well. We do not, however, get to have a say in who our neighbors are.

“The city has seen no reason to make regulations about neighborhood integrity in the past, and I would encourage you to be careful about making that leap tonight,” Ostler added.

Councilman Matt Packard said he supported the owner occupancy requirement because “if someone’s not living in the home, it’s not their home.”

“To me, it’s a business,” said Packard. “And that’s not (permitted) in a single-family dwelling zone. That’s the issue that I have, that it’s a business that’s run in there.”

The ordinance is similar to one passed by the Sandy City Council in August 2018 requiring that short-term rentals be owner-occupied, off-street parking be provided and guest count be limited to eight family members or four non-family members.