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The City Café

For those interested in sharing ideas and perspectives regarding local government.

Category Archives: Events

Salt Lake City Flyer – Union Pacific – Rail Safety and HazMat Training



ULCT economist Doug Macdonald shares some of the more interesting possibilities for the year to come.

1. The U.S. Housing Industry is set for a come back.  Housing supply is at a 4 year low.[i]  Prices climbed 2% in 2012.[ii]  Foreclosure rates are down.  Employment continues to slowly increase.  Mortgage rates are at their lowest rate in decades.

housingIHS Global Insight predicts a 27% increase in U.S. housing starts in 2013.  Utah’s Revenue

Assumptions Committee sees a 30% increase in Utah new dwelling permits and a commensurate 30% gain in residential permit values.[iii]  Expect at least a 15% growth rate.

2. Augmented “reality software” will use camera-equipped mobile devices so apps can take personal measurements, so clothes bought on line will fit, superimpose realistic representations of furniture in a consumer’s living room, and reviews and discounts when a mobile device is pointed at a store shelf.[iv]

3. The Chinese economy will pick up steam in 2013 to 8.6%.[v]  This will increase or, at least, steady commodity prices worldwide.  Leaders are being encouraged to focus on improving their own consumer spending instead of propelling exports.  Looser monetary policy and robust regional-government spending will boost their GDP.  Increased demand for commodities will be good for Pacific nation and Utah exports.

4. Smartphone apps will be increasingly recommended by doctors to monitor patients’ drug use, diets, and exercise regimens.  Guidelines from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) will be closely watched.[vi]

5. Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin from Harvard’s Business School’s U.S. Competitive Project propose the following eight policy measures to “transform” our economy: porter rivkin1) Ease immigration of highly skilled foreign college graduates, 2) Simplify the corporate tax code by cutting loopholes and lowering the rate so that less profits stay overseas, 3) Tax overseas profits only where they are earned, 4) Address trade distortions to open consumer markets in emerging economies and protect our intellectual-property rights, 5) Simplify regulation, by regulating more intelligently and employ more rigorous cost-benefit analysis, 6)  Enact a multi-year program to improve infrastructure.  “America’s roads, ports, telecoms and energy infrastructure fail to match the world’s best.  7) Agree on a framework for developing oil and gas from shale.  8) Create a sustainable federal budget.  We need to get on a structurally sustainable growth path for both revenues and expenditures.[vii]

6. FDA will also be asked to approve the digital pill, including digestible microchips.  Powered by stomach acid the tiny chips relay data to nearby wireless devices, recording information on when they were taken.[viii]

7. The “fiscal cliff” will be bridged, and after a bumpy start the economy will continue to recover.[ix]  “The process will be fraught with false starts, recriminations and at least one downgrade of America’s debt rating.  the economistThe final product will be a contraption of trade-offs and murky accounting.  Business will not get the cathartic resolution of political uncertainty it longs for, but at least the perpetual threat of fiscal Armageddon will recede.”[x]  Let’s hope it is not that bumpy.

[ii] The Economist, “The World in 2013”, p. 43.

[iii] Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget,

[iv] The Economist, p. 122.

[v] Robin Bew, The Economist, p. 22 and IHS Global Insight, “Top 10 Economic Predictions for 2013,

[vi] The Economist, p. 120.

[vii] The Economist, p. 50 and

[viii] The Economist, p. 122.

[x] Greg Ip, The Economist, p. 43.

Check out this list of Utah’s 2012 Festivals!

Monday, December 12 was the final Legislative Policy Committee meeting for 2011.  The agenda focused on transportation options, and included speakers from different levels of government.  Representatives from Senator Orrin Hatch’s office, Federal Transportation Administration, Utah State Legislature, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Wasatch Front Regional Council, and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) spoke on the financial reality facing transportation appropriations and what the lack of money could mean to Utah’s entire transportation infrastructure… Read More

ULCT ended November and started December with the Land Use Task Force, a water nutrient meeting at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Newly Elected trainings, and other meetings.

Land Use Task Force

The Land Use Task Force took and unexpected twist last week as it learned that Sen. Niederhauser’s Transfer Fees Bill had been offered to address Legislative Interim testimony that had accused a certain Wasatch Back County of cronyism in its administration of its land use code.  Sen. Niederhauser quickly acknowledged that while a good transfer fee bill may be beneficial legislation, he was looking for a deeper inquiry into how to stem the appearance of limitless discretion and the potential for cronyism in land use administration.  His concern appears to be with those few counties that grant urban densities in unincorporated areas, without clear methods.  After a fair amount of pointed discussion, it appeared that he was focused on an aberration and that he did not intend to undermine land use discretion generally.  Needless to say, this turn of events captured the group’s attention for most of the meeting.  Look for this issue to carry over into next interim’s discussions.

The group added direction to the Eminent Domain for Trails bill, requesting additional restrictions on the use of condemnation with respect to trail lengths and multi-jurisdiction trails.  The PRC also identified opposition within its ranks that the ULCT will attempt to quell before the session begins.  The Task Force also approved the revisions to the Impact Fees bill and the Development Standards bill.  Both bills are off to Leg Research.  The last Task Force meeting for the interim is scheduled for Monday, December 12 at 2:30 p.m. after LPC.  At that meeting, we hope to achieve a resolution for the Fines for Nuisance abatement issue, and to get to consensus on Sen. Niederhauser’s Transfer Fee bill.

Late in the week, we learned that the State Engineer’s Office intended to pursue a bill to reverse the Jensen v. Jones and Big Ditch decisions without addressing certain serious concerns identified by the ULCT over the interim.  This is a bold move on the State Engineer’s part because legislators, who are known for their expertise in water and who are also keenly interested in these issues, have relied on the State Engineer’s promise to resolve issues that the ULCT has raised.

Water nutrient Core Group:

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality invited ULCT to represent local government on its internal Nutrient Core Group.  The Division of Water Quality is developing a plan for establishing quality standards for nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus.  This week’s meeting brought together several potential stakeholders.  First, science representatives explained the potential negative impact of excess nitrogen and phosphorous on humans, drinking water, biology, water recreation, and the environment.  For example, the excess nutrients could lead to the death of plants, animals, and fish, and threats to human health.  Second, agricultural representatives expressed concern that increased nutrient regulations would increase the cost on Utah farmers and ranchers.  Third, a representative of Publicly Owned Treatment Works argued that the potential regulations could cost local governments and special service districts over $1 billion to comply.  Only a handful of water treatment facilities in Utah utilize the most modern technology, and the Division of Water Quality subsidized the construction of several of those facilities with grant money.  The next meeting will be January 12 and ULCT will continue to fight state and federal unfunded mandates on local government and maintain water quality.

Newly Elected Training

ULCT went to Logan on Saturday morning to meet nearly 80 new council members from 18 different cities and towns.  The legislative team explained ULCT’s role at the legislature and how ULCT will communicate legislative updates to our members via our website.  We also explained our new federal outreach and sought recommendations for questions for the congressional delegation.  We hope that we didn’t overwhelm the new officials—approximately 150 upcoming bills, state and federal unfunded mandates, and budget shortfalls—and we appreciated their attention, interest, and community service.

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