Friday, February 04, 2005

The church's fingers

Today there is a story in the Salt Tribune which I doubt has a corresponding article in the Deseret News, which is owned by the LDS church (along with a couple radio stations and a local NBC affilate, which has correspondingly opted out of showing Saturday Night Live).

The Mormon church is the most powerful and influencial lobbyist on Salt Lake's Capital Hill. While that is not a shocking statement, the level of their power is unlike any other church in any other state. Bills are routinely nixed or boosted by the church's support and they are in many areas a de facto branch of state government, who's veto power kills stuff before they even get a committee vote.

This case revolves around charter schools, which I am mixed about. As with anything in education, it seem ideology drive the research and it is difficult to tell if progress is actually being made or if there is regressions.

The Salt Lake Arts Academy right now resides in the old main branch of the SL Library, but their lease is up this summer to make way for a cool new perminant exhibit called Leonardo. Academy officials and city representatives (city councilmembers, the mayor, state representatives and senators) want them to stay downtown so students would "take TRAX, use the city library and mix with the business crowd." The problem? "[S]tate law prohibits alcohol establishments from opening within 600 feet of parks, libraries or schools for kindergartners through 12th-graders...If local zoning allows, there's no state law against a school opening near a bar. But if the city, which does not allow schools downtown, were to change its zoning to allow them, it would prevent new bars and restaurants from opening - running counter to redevelopment efforts."

State Senator and democratic LG candidate (in 2000 and 2004) Karen Hale (who's also LDS) proposed a bill to exempt charter schools to get around such laws and let more than one bar exist on a block. But then word got out that the church didn't like it (and MADD too). And then Hale dropped it, but she wouldn't say that it was the church that made her do it, or MADD, but the writing is on the wall.

Constroversal mayor Rocky Anderson was pissed: "The church, like anybody else, certainly has a right to make its views known," Anderson said Thursday, but added: "It's the only organization, I think, that seems to automatically get its way among most elected officials."

Just two days ago, the mayor "held his last public forum on bridging the divide among Mormons and others and one theme was the alienation some non-Mormons feel when they believe Mormon values run the state. To heal, Anderson said it is 'crucial' to move away public officials allowing the church to 'control' public policy."

Some times it seems that church has too much power. Any group, when it has total control in an area tends to get tryannical, just look at the Democratic party in Massachusetts.

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