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Govt-and-politics
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Utah’s Burgess Owens threatens to dissolve Olympic committee over recent protests

U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, joined a handful of Republican lawmakers last week in threatening to dissolve and replace the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and its board of directors over recent “anti-American” protests by some Olympic athletes.

In a letter to the USOPC, Owens and other GOP lawmakers, including Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Indiana, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina, and Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, voiced “serious concerns about radical, anti-American statements,” which they argued would represent the country poorly on the world stage.

The letter, which was first reported on by the New York Post, cited two Olympic athletes who have used their platform to criticize the U.S., including freestyle BMX biker Chelsea Wolfe, who reportedly said on Facebook in March 2020 that she hoped to win the competition so she could “burn a U.S. flag on the podium.”

The group of GOP lawmakers also referenced Gwen Berry, who last month turned away from the American flag and held up a T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” written on it after receiving the bronze medal in the hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

Additionally, the lawmakers cited an International Olympic Committee rule stating that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas” and urged the committee to enforce the rule.

“The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, enacted in October 2020, gives Congress the power, through a joint resolution, to dissolve the USOPC Board of Directors, terminate recognition of the USOPC as a national governing body of the U.S. Olympic teams, and replace the dissolved committee with a governing body that can adequately represent America and its athletes on the world stage,” they said.

The Congress members continued, “If the USOPC continues to fail to discipline athletes who dishonor the United States and our flag, as required by its own charter, we would support a Joint Resolution to dissolve the USOPC’s Board of Governors and find a replacement governing body for the U.S. Olympic team.”

“Americans deserve an Olympic Committee that is patriotic and that shares their values,” the letter reads. “If the USOPC is unable or unwilling to defend America from slander, it should be replaced by a more capable committee.”

Owens, a former NFL player, has criticized athletes who use their platforms to protest political issues like systemic racism and police violence.

On the 2020 campaign trail, Owens billed himself as “the anti-Colin Kaepernick” candidate, stating that he “emerged as a cultural counterweight to the hatred that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has spewed for the last few years.”

“Sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality,” the 4th District representative tweeted in August 2020. “Sports fans don’t want to turn on their TVs and see a bunch of rich people arguing about politics all the time.”

Other Republicans who signed on to the letter to the USOPC include Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida; Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia; Mike Garcia, R-California; Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico; Ronny Jackson, R-Texas; Randy Weber, R-Texas; Greg Murphy, R-North Carolina; and Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina.


Provo
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Provo church being asked to pay up to $20,000 in taxes by Utah County

The old cliché, “the only things you can depend on are death and taxes,” is not necessarily true. While we know folks are going to die, taxes seem to be a bit more elusive.

For most people, taxes are just what you have to pay out of you paycheck every month. There is property tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, school district, special service districts, city taxes, CARE or RAP taxes.

Taxes are, well, very taxing — just ask Brad Walton at Provo’s Seventh-day Adventist Church.

While the church’s mission, stated online, is to “nurture a diverse and welcoming community, committed to following fearlessly wherever God is leading us and make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Provo and the world,” there have been a few hiccups this year for the city’s legacy church.

As first elder at the church, Walton received a notice concerning Provo SDA’s tax exempt status. It was a form the church needed to file to keep the exemption, like all the other churches in the city.

Walton said he returned the information requested, a few days late.

Due to COVID-19, the church closed for several weeks, so checking the mail was not always a daily occurrence. Walton did not see the exemption papers that needed completion.

In fact, Walton had never seen papers like them before in past years.

“Utah County replied saying, because of the missed deadline, we owed taxes up to $20,000 and we were no longer considered tax exempt,” said Linda Walton, also an elder in the church.

For as long as they can remember, they have not had to file for exemption. “We have been a church in Provo since 1887,” Linda Walton said.

It appears that until now, the national organization may have been taking care of the church’s tax exemptions. That information is still forthcoming.

The Seventh-day Adventist’s are not alone in their tax-filing conundrum.

The Rev. Susan Toone at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church said she has the same story and was within a day or two of missing the deadline also.

“We got the same letter around January or February and almost missed the deadline,” Toone said. “My question was why we got the letter in the first place. We ended up filling it out and sending it in just in time.”

There has been a change over at St. Mary’s and there was no indication that they would have to file, no one knew about it, according to Toone.

Across the street at the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, David Lewis said the church was under the jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ national organization.

“We do not have to reapply each year. We are under the United Church of Christ umbrella,” Lewis said. “We do have to file with the county for property tax exemption.”

According to the Utah County Attorney’s office, there is an abatement process where Seventh-day Adventists can come in and have the tax situation taken care of.

“I think the county is just trying to cross its T’s and dot its I’s,” said Sherrie Hall Everett, Utah County Attorney’s office spokeswoman.

According to the State Tax Commission, the church may have lost its exemption for this year but they also have the opportunity to go before the board of equalization.

The county could also abate or excuse the tax for one year. The church can contest the valuation just like any other taxpayer.

Letters to that effect are being mailed out this week for individuals and nonprofit organizations and churches. The requests are due back Sept. 13.

In the meantime, Brad Walton is checking with the national church organization to see if the ball was dropped from that level.

It is no small thing to ask a nonprofit organization like the Seventh-day Adventists or any other church to come up with $20,000.

Right now, the church can hope for an answer to its prayer that it will all work out and for the generosity of the County Commission, which would have to approve the abatement of the payment for 2021.


Central
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Lakewide toxic algae warning advisory issued for Utah Lake

Health officials have issued a lakewide warning advisory for Utah Lake after finding harmful algal blooms, or HABs, with toxicity levels above the safe recreational threshold.

The warning advisory, issued by the Utah County Health Department on Friday, states that samples taken from the open lake water on July 13 show toxigenic cyanobacteria cell counts at 1.8 million cells per milliliter, significantly above the Utah Division of Water Quality and Utah Department of Health’s recommended warning advisory threshold of 100,000 cells per mL.

The lakewide warning advisory comes just days after health officials issued a warning advisory for American Fork Beach and kept advisories in place at Lincoln Beach and Provo Bay due to HABs above the safe recreational threshold.

On July 7, a DWQ toxic algae monitoring team visited Utah Lake and observed algal blooms “at American Fork Beach, American Fork Marina near the boat ramp, Saratoga Springs Marina boat ramp and picnic area, Lindon Beach, south of Lindon Marina, and the beach north of the Lindon Marina,” the DWQ wrote in a blog post.

Marinas will remain open for boat traffic to access Utah Lake, but water recreation within the Provo Bay, Lincoln Beach and the American Fork Marina “should be avoided,” according to the county health department.

HABS, which the DEQ notes develop “when naturally occurring cyanobacteria in the water multiply very quickly to form green or blue-green water, scum, or mats” and “can produce potent cyanotoxins that pose serious health risks to humans, pets, and livestock,” have been an issue at Utah Lake and other water bodies for years.

Also on Friday, the Southeast Health Department issued a danger advisory for the Scofield Reservoir, which “indicates a potential for acute poisoning and long-term illness from harmful algal bloom exposure,” and advised visitors to not swim, water-ski or boat in the reservoir.

On June 1, health officials downgraded a danger advisory at the North Fork Virgin River in southern Utah to a warning advisory “based on May 2021 sampling results,” but still advised visitors “to avoid submerging their heads in the water.”

Symptoms of human exposure to HABs include rashes, hives or blisters from skin contact, a runny nose, sore throat and asthma, while symptoms of animal exposure include weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, vomiting and convulsions.

To stay safe, health and water officials recommend avoiding swallowing water when swimming, washing hands with clean water before preparing or eating food, cleaning fish well and discarding of guts, keeping animals away from the water and recognizing the signs of algal blooms.

For concerns about possible human or animal exposure, call the Utah Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222, or report a bloom by calling the 24-hour Utah Department of Environmental Quality incident line at (801) 536-4123.


Provo
Body of climber recovered after fatal accident at Bridal Veil Falls

The cliffs around Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon have claimed another climbing victim.

On Saturday just after 7 p.m., Utah County Sheriff’s deputies received a report that a man and a 9-year-old boy were missing near the falls.

Adrian Vanderklis, 40, of Roosevelt, was climbing with his fiancé’s son above the falls, according to Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s office.

“The woman reported that she could see her son, who was crying, but that she could not see her fiancé, and that she hadn’t seen him for ‘several hours,’” Cannon said in a public statement.

Utah County Search and Rescue volunteers and a helicopter crew with the Utah Department of Public Safety found Vanderklis at about 7:45 p.m. on a very steep, near-vertical slope about a third of a mile west of Bridal Veil Falls at an elevation of 5,800 feet, according to Cannon.

“A team of SAR volunteers made their way to the victim and determined he apparently fell and did not survive his injuries,” Cannon said.

Cannon noted that darkness set in and recovering Vaderklis’ body became extremely dangerous.

The operation was called off late Saturday night due to the dark and resumed Sunday at 7 a.m.

The SAR volunteers were able to secure Vanderklis’ body and the DPS helicopter crew brought him off the mountain, according to Cannon. He was transported to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

“While it is unclear exactly why Mr. Vanderklis fell, it is possible he stumbled, or slipped on loose material,” Cannon said. “Regardless, it appeared he was killed immediately as a result of the fall. While the boy was with him, he did not actually see Mr. Vanderklis fall.

“The Utah County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Vanderklis and his fiance and her family.”


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