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The National Citizen Survey Shows Park City is a Great Place to Live

If there is a truism across most of humanity it would be that people like to complain. Yet even given that, in the 2015 survey of “livability” of our city, Park City generally came up all roses.

  • 96% of people felt quality of life was positive
  • 97% felt Park City was great place to live
  • 95% of people felt that it was a “clean” city
  • 96% felt our ambulance services were good

So what was the bad? Traffic (shocking). Only 41% felt traffic wasn’t a big deal and running fine (I assume that 41% work from home like me). Another bad was affordable housing. Only 22% felt it was being handled well. Finally, less than half the people were positive about services provided by local government.

The other interesting aspect of this survey is that it was also performed in 2011 and 2013, so we have trends that better help us understand whether things are getting better or worse. What’s getting better?

  • Park City is a better place to raise children. In 2011 90% of people felt that way. In 2013, 85% of people felt that way. Now, 93% of people felt that way.
  • Shopping quality has increased from 63% of people feeling it was positive in 2011 to 76% feeling that way now.
  • Childcare/preschool went form 31% positive in 2011 to 51% positive in 2015.

What’s getting worse?

  • In 2011, 68% of people felt the traffic flow was positive. Now, 41% of people do.
  • Housing options decreased from 40% of people being positive to 30%
  • In 2011, 80% of people felt the Park City government welcomed citizen involvement (something important to me) but that decreased 14% to 66% by 2015.
  • The percent of people feeling Park City Government had the correct overall direction decreased from 70% of people to 50% of people.

All in all, it’s an interesting study. Park City as a whole is doing well. However, traffic and the Park City government, may be not doing quite so well.

If you’d like more detail, I would encourage you to look at the entire collection of National Citizen Survey results (related to Park city). They can be found here:

Park City School District is Taking a Big Gamble with Removing Reading Aides

This morning, on KPCW, Leslie Thatcher interviewed school board member Tania Knauer. Ms. Thatcher asked Ms. Knauer about removing reading aides from our elementary school classrooms. The exchange was as follows:

Leslie Thatcher: There is a petition moving through, lots of churn on social media with regard to reading aides and the fear from parents that the district is taking away reading aides. Is that the case?

Tania Knauer: Yes. But we are also basically looking at reallocating resources because our scores show that our current reading program is ineffective. We have 7.4% of our 11th graders reading at proficiency and these are kids that have been with us up to 10 years. We are missing something somewhere. So, all educational program need to evolve and especially when they are not showing progress. So we actually have 22 people as reading aides which comes out to 12.8 FTE and something we’ve heard from our classified people is that they really want full time jobs and benefits. So basically we are turning those into 14 full time job, 32 hours a week which is 11.2 FTE and we are giving them all benefits. We are having higher quality classified jobs. Those 14 aides will then be in our Full time Kindergarten classrooms. We’ll have a full time gifted person, an intervention specialist, as well as an instructional coach… and these will all be licensed educators that will be providing the support that teachers need.

I probably need to clarify the lead statement by Ms. Knauer. I don’t believe only 7.4% of our 11th graders are reading at a proficient level. If so, Park City School District should be worrying less about being the best school district in the country. Yet, I’m not sure which group she was referring to. Here are this year’s sage results for 11th graders in Park City:


Let’s say Ms. Knauer was referring to groups classified as Hispanic or Economically Disadvantaged, which both are at the 20%-30% proficiency level. While not 7%, those levels are still not acceptable. Given that, I have three questions:

  • Will shifting reading resources to kindergarten improve lower performing groups proficiency throughout elementary school and ultimately in ten years (once they hit 11th grade… which seems to be the school district’s measure)?
  • What is the impact to other populations from losing these aides in elementary classrooms? Will our reading proficiency (for the majority of students) stay at the level it is now (or improve)?
  • What’s the impact on elementary teachers and their ability to teach (all subjects) without reading aides?

I think the school district is taking a big gamble with this. In order to call this change a success, they’ll not only have to show that lower performing groups reading skills are improving but that the majority of students weren’t hindered by this move.

What they risk is that many of these high-performing reading aides will find satisfaction elsewhere. If we find that our gamble didn’t pay off, there may be no way to get them back.

I don’t begrudge the district for making changes. It is much easier to do nothing than to stick one’s neck out. Yet, I wonder if they are putting too many of their eggs in one basket. That one basket seems to be that all day kindergarten, with enough resources, will solve our biggest problems. I’m not sure the research actually bears that out.

It will take a while, but we’ll eventually see whether the gamble paid off. I suppose that is at least one benefit of standardized tests. By 2020 we should know whether decisions made by our school district and school board were wise. If so, we should heap praise on those who stuck their neck out. If not, we’ll need to remind those people who made these decisions, and are still in our community, what damage was done.

And this is a big enough decision that there should be no excuses.

I have kids starting in kindergarten in the next few years, so I hope the district is successful (whether they plow forward or decide to take a step back). If they move forward with assigning resources to all day kindergarten, I just hope their gamble pays off and they have chosen wisely. If not, the line of people waiting to say “I told you so” may be very long.

Park City Needs to Be Wary of Hubris Regarding Sundance

The Park Record’s Jay Hamburger wrote an article entitled, Sundance moves forward, but is it too big? The article cited a conversation between Robert Redford and Park City City Manager Diane Foster. Apparently Redford “wondered [to Foster] if the festival was getting too big.” It also cited comments from an Associated press story where Redford said he heard, “negative comments about how crowded it is and how difficult it is to get from venue to venue when there’s traffic and people in the streets and so forth.” Redford mentioned some ideas for either breaking up the festival or ending the festival.

Later in the article, Hamburger writes, “Nancy Garrison, a member of a Sundance Utah Advisory Board who lives in the Snyderville Basin, said the 2016 festival was a ‘fantastic experience.’ She said the Utah Advisory Board has not discussed a change like the one Redford described, adding that the festival has ‘evolved dramatically since its early days’ and it could be difficult for the founder to witness the changes.”

If the quote and paraphrasing of Ms. Garrison are accurate, it appears what Ms. Garrison is really saying is “Sorry Mr Redford, perhaps the festival has just outgrown you.” Oh, the hubris.

I don’t attend many Sundance screenings, but I always watch the Sundance Day One question and answer session with the movie critic from the Tribune, the director of the Sundance Film Festival, the Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, and the reason everyone came (Robert Redford). It provides a great state of world, through the eyes of Robert Redford. Why through Redford’s eyes? Because 99% of the questions (maybe all of them) from the attendees during Q&A are directed at Robert Redford. He is what they care about.

To say that Sundance has grown beyond simply Robert Redford is likely both true and false. Just listening to him speak, you understand that he never imagined the festival like it is today. However, he knows what he is trying to do and completely understands what the festival has become. He just may not like (all of) it.

Yet, to imply that somehow his opinions aren’t valuable because he can’t handle change, is pure folly.

You know, Robert Redford is 79. While we wish it wasn’t so, Park City, Sundance, and Utah will likely only be endowed with his gifts for a very-few more years. When the time comes that Mr Redford no longer arrives on a snowy day in January to our little corner of the mountain, it will be a big loss. When that happens, we’ll really get to see who handles change well.

What Will The Measures of Success Be When Considering Transportation?

This morning on KPCW, County Manager Tom Fisher was talking about the various options to pay for transportation solutions in Summit County (bonds, tax increases, etc). He spoke about one of the components or the process being a wish list of projects that could be presented to citizens, so they know what the options are. It appears the County is doing its best to ensure that a repeat of the School Bond election doesn’t happen — by giving citizens every opportunity to know the SPECIFICS around what will be provided by a new bond or taxes. That’s very good.

Yet, when it comes to transportation solutions in Summit County, the county hasn’t exactly inspired confidence. First, obviously, the traffic can be horrible (we’ve had a problem for years). Second, they spent over $100,000 on consultants that basically told them to run more buses, which was universally derided as a failure. Third, the County Council pushed back on the Mountain Accord in order to get the Accord to provide the county with funds to study transportation impacting us (so our unique viewpoint could be represented). However now the county appears to be backtracking on leading the study saying something like “we think UDOT should take the lead on this since these are roads are managed by UDOT.” UHHH… pretty much every road with trouble in our area (Highway 224, Highway 248, I-80, and occasionally Highway 40) are managed by UDOT… so should we just get out of the transportation business all together and let them handle it? No, we should be leading these efforts (and bringing UDOT and UTA in as necessary).

So, what would inspire more confidence going forward? First, as mentioned above, a list of projects that will be completed using increased taxes goes a long way to helping people understand what our money will be used for. Second, and perhaps as important, we need to understand what the measures of success will be and what success looks like.

Let’s say the county proposes a bond for widening 224 for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Lane. I’m not sure that is even possible given UDOT manages it, but let’s say it is. We as citizens need to know what the impact of this will be. How many cars will take off the roads and at what times? How many travel time minutes will it cut on travel from Park City to I-80 at peak times? Will there be any vehicle reduction (or increase) on 248 due to this? Then, we need to make sure there is a timeframe, method, and funds to judge whether this is a success. There have to be metrics to judge whether this was a good decision.

Likewise, one of my personal favorite projects is using our trails as a mode of transportation. I’d love to see an E-Bike program to maximize multi-modal use of paved trails. It sounds like a great idea (to me). Yet, I don’t know what that would really mean toward solving our transportation problems (when the pencil hits the paper, it may be a useless idea). I’d love to see the same estimate as used above for a BRT lane for multi-modal trails. And of course, if a program is implemented, what metrics will be used to judge the program’s success.

If we are going to consider spending additional, large-level funds on transportation we need to ensure that both program specifics have been communicated to the public and metrics are in place to judge success. It sounds like we are on the way to ensuring the specifics are communicated to citizens. Let’s hope that along with that, our county leaders are planning on putting in place metrics that will let us know what bang to expect for the buck… and then also a way to provide information that will be used to hold Summit County accountable for the success or failure of new transportation solutions.

If they can do those two things, it will go a long way to help rebuilding trust in our leaders’ ability to help solve transportation issues. It would also make it much likelier that the public would vote for tax increases or a bond.




Why the Upcoming Recession Will Be Good In Some Ways for Park City

As the stock market has dropped over 6% in the last 5 days, the Chinese economy is slowing, and there are signs that boom we’ve seen since the end of the great recession is coming to a close, I feel bad for those of us that will be negatively impacted by the next recession.

However, I can’t help but think that what is coming will likely benefit Park City and the Snyderville Basin as a whole. Much like the forest that needs a small fire to occasionally clear out the underbrush and foster stronger trees, a short recession may provide a cooling off period for our area.

Over the past five years, we’ve constantly heard that population growth that is coming. We’ve stared into the face of growing transportation problems. We’ve concerned ourselves with all the building that is happening. Yet, solving a crisis when you are in the middle of it, is hard to do.

Take for example, Summit County’s Transportation Manager, Caroline Ferris. She was on KPCW a few days ago when Leslie Thatcher asked what we can do about transportations issues right now. Ms Ferris answered with “We’d ask people to carpool.” While that’s never going to happen, I don’t blame her for that answer. Does anyone else have a better answer that we could put in place on Monday? Yet, she and her cohorts in Park City are fighting fires while trying to figure out how to prevent even bigger fires. It’s hard.

Or perhaps take development in the Snyderville Basin. There is immense pressure to build here. There is money chasing projects. However, our planners don’t really have the tools in place and haven’t been able to fully vet ideas that may help us put growth in the right spots. It’s partly due to fighting the daily battle and not having time to craft a plan to win the war.

Finally, consider the various bonds and taxes that may be floated this November. Over the past year there have been talks of transportation bonds, another try at the school bond, recreation bonds, etc. Likewise, sales taxes and property values are high, thus funding more and more and more. In a recession it will be hard to pass bonds, sales tax revenues will be down, property values won’t rise, and lot’s of new property won’t be added to the tax base. It’s been a great few years financially but that won’t go on forever. It may be better to figure that out sooner rather than later before we overextend and over commit ourselves.

What a mild economic downturn really provides is time. It provides our leaders with an opportunity to figure out what the people really NEED. It provides transportation personnel and planners the chance to make better decisions because they aren’t consumed by what’s happening in five minutes. They can think about what’s best long-term. It reduces the number of people who will move here (recessions slow migration).

Please don’t get me wrong and think I’m hoping for a replay of 2008. However, I do think the garden variety recession will do some good for Park City and the Snyderville Basin. During that time, hopefully our leaders will use that opportunity to make huge strides in preparing us for the next period of growth.

Out of the next recession, we may get back to a semblance of normalcy not seen since 2005-2006. Perhaps interest rates will rise to normal levels. Our older population of locals who are likely savers, will have more to spend. Building of homes at Park City Heights, East Creek Ranch, and Silver Creek Village will move forward moderately instead of gangbusters, because if interest rates are higher people can’t afford as much house. Perhaps, even overall growth will occur at a moderate and sustainable level.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to what will likely happen over the next 18 months, but we as a community may be much better off coming out the back end.


Proposed New School Courses

Each year new classes are added to the curriculum of our schools. On Tuesday, the Park City School Board will discuss, and potentially approve, new courses for the 2016-2017 school year. These classes include:

Music Independent Study

Jazz Techniques

Healthy Lifestyle Yoga

AP Computer Science

Global Problem Solving

If you have an opinion on whether these courses should be or should not be offered by the district, you may want to let your School Board representative know. You can reach them at the addresses below:

Tax and Bond Options for Raising Revenue to Solve Transportation Issues

During the past year, the Summit County Council has looked at various options for raising revenue to put toward solving transportation and traffic issues. During the upcoming week’s Summit County Council meeting Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas will present the various options available for raising revenues and how those specifically would be enacted.

There appears to be six options:

  • Mass Transit Sales Tax expansion to Eastern Summit County.
    • 0.3% increase in sales tax
    • Limited to funding a system of public transit within the boundaries of the Transit District
  • Additional Mass Transit Sales Tax
    • 0.25% increase in sales tax
    • Limited to funding a system of public transit within the county
  • County Option Transportation Sales Tax
    • 0.25% increase in sales tax
    • Can be used for regionally significant transportation facility, corridor preservation, operations, and infrastructure.
  • County Option Transit Sales Tax
    • 0.15% sales tax increase (municipalities will receive .10%)
    • Can be used on any transportation or transit improvement (operations & infrastructure)
  • Snyderville Basin Public Transit District Property Tax
    • 0.0004 increase in property tax
    • Limited to funding a system of public transit within the boundaries of the Transit District
  • General Obligation Bond
    • Tax increase is set by the bond election
    • Can be used on roads, bridges, viaducts, tunnels, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and parking buildings, lot and facilities (infrastructure only)

The options above, that have specific tax rates would bring in between $1.4 million to $4.5 million per year. If the county decided to create a general obligation bond, it could raise up to $23 million.

Many of these options require citizens to vote on them. Look for at least one of these options coming to your ballot in November 2016.

transportation-funding-options-1 transportation-funding-options-2 transportation-funding-options-3

Petition to Keep Reading Specialists, Aides, and ESL Personnel in PCSD

Park City citizens have a launched a petition to keep reading specialists, aides, and ESL personnel in the Park City School District. The petition, directed at school board members, Phil Kaplan, Julie Eihausen, Nancy Garrison, JJ Ehlers, Tania Knauer and school Superintendent Dr Ember Conley.

The petition starts, “Next year All Day Kindergarten will be provided with a full time benefited Aide in each classroom. Great, right?!! The problem is in order to make this change they are removing the Instructional Aides from all other grades in the school.”

The petition then states that the benefits of all day kindergarten are short lived. The concludes by stating, “each elementary will have only ONE Interventionist with no Aides outside of the kindergarten. Please use your voice to stop this from happening. These positions will be VERY hard to get back.”

If you are interested in signing this position or learning more, please click here.

Who Could Take Over the Whole Foods in Kimball Junction?

This morning on KPCW, Summit County Community Development Director was talking about the new Whole Foods Location on Landmark Drive. Mr Putt said to expect that snow would be moved soon, in order to start the building process. That leaves the question of, if a new Whole Foods locations is being built, what becomes of the existing Whole Foods’ location once they leave?

The current Whole Foods’ location is too cramped for something as desired as Whole Foods (that’s why they are moving). We’ve heard rumors that both Sprouts and Trader Joe’s are coming in to the location… but Whole foods owns the lease for the next few years. Would they “sub-lease” to a competitor? That’s not likely. So, I wouldn’t expect a grocer to take over their space until 2020. What could possibly take over their space?

… a book store…

Yes, you read that right. A “BOOK STORE”. Who?


Well, it’s not exactly just a book store anymore but they have plans to open 300-400 bookstores across the country in the next few years. As we move into the next decade, has said they want to get into the drone delivery business. Yet, the impediment to that is making sure that there are people who would pay extra within the radius a drone could provide service effectively. That radius appears to be about 10 miles. Could a drone flown from Kimball Junction reach most places within the greater Park City area in about 10 minutes? Yes. Could the drone launch location be serviced within an hour or two to ensure the products were available? Yes, Salt Lake is a short drive. Would the affluent within Park City pay more for same day delivery? I think so.

I have no inside knowledge on this. It just makes sense. Likewise, what makes more sense would be for Amazon to open a facility in Boyer Tech Park (next to the visitors center). Yet, no one seems to want to go into Boyer for whatever reason (either through lack of competence on Boyer’s part or something else), so I discount that option.

What does make sense would be an Amazon drone delivery option opening in the next two years in Park City. As a whole, people here have money. As a whole, people here are wiling to pay for convenience. As a whole, the marketing exposure would be huge.

Would Whole foods current location make sense in 2017 for a hybrid “Amazon Store” and drone launch point? Yep. Would it require an investment from Amazon to build a fulfillment warehouse in Salt Lake that could support the endeavor… yes. Perhaps, that’s an impediment that’s too big to tackle.

Yet, would a potential 30,000, seemingly very-affluent shoppers, combined with the Park City name, make perfect sense? Yes.

While I grant Amazon is a long-shot … It wouldn’t be surprising if Amazon was in Park City before Boyer Tech Park ever brings in a new tenant from outside the area.