In a March 25 special session called by Governor Herbert, HB477, (after being signed into law), was repealed due to public outcry. The bill concerned GRAMA and open records.The new law would have restricted the public’s right to keep tabs on elected officials by not allowing new technology such as text messaging and e-mail to be considered as open records. It also included charging the public more for getting copies of records.

As a newspaper editor and Utah resident, I believe citizens should know what their government officials are doing in office! We should have reasonable access to legal records in a timely fashion at a nominal cost. I served on the Governor’s Records Committee (a tenet of GRAMA), and the majority of records appeals did not come from the media, but from private citizens and watchdog groups.

From a newspaper standpoint, Kane County and Kanab City have been open in this regard. Clerk Karla Johnson has testified on behalf of the Utah Press Association in Legislative session concerning open records.

The Legislature repealed HB477 by a vast majority, with only three House members and five Senators voting against the repeal. Our very own elected Representative Mike Noel was the only one in southern Utah to vote against repealing the bill. He was filmed and quoted, saying he was tired of the media’s ‘fishing expeditions’ on politicians.

Noel has a problem with any media or private citizens questioning his actions or decisions. Since he feels elected representatives are a good source of their own information, I’ll just ask him some important questions that have been brought up to me since he has been in office. No need for GRAMA requests, I encourage readers to ‘Just ask Mike.’

 

• Do you think it’s a conflict of interest to be the well-paid head of Kane County’s Water Conservancy District (one of the most heavily taxed water conservancy districts in the state), while serving as an elected representative?

 

• Do you personally own private land around the new Jackson Flat Reservoir? Who else does?

 

• When the Jackson Reservoir site was being excavated, did they store the 54-plus Native American remains on site in (basically) dumpsters? What’s being done with the remains now? Would you support the same kind of disrespect in the Kanab City Cemetery?

 

• Have any of your personal property holdings ever been benefitted by Water Conservancy projects?

 

• Why did you lease Kane County’s water rights from the Andalex coal mine to your former Legislative colleague Aaron Tilton for his proposed nuclear power plant near Green River? You told the SUN in an interview the rights were basically a ‘use it or lose it’ issue. Why couldn’t Kane County be the user since we owned the rights? I understand making money, but if we’re interested in getting water from the Lake Powell Pipeline, wouldn’t it be smarter to pay money for and use something we already possess?

 

• Do you have any personal interest or receive any monetary compensation in the proposed nuclear power plant?

 

• What about the Lake Powell Pipeline? What (and how much), are we going to have to pay? Will there be a storage facility for Kane County’s stake in it (possibly the Jackson Flat Reservoir), like formerly proposed in the original water meetings?

 

• Why are you in favor of the coal gasification plant in Kanab?

 

• What entity will benefit by the sale of water to this plant?

 

This isn’t a fishing expedition, I’m thinking we’re casting pretty close to shore. Just ask Mike!