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We Were Robbed and Here is What We Wish We Would Have Known

On Friday someone broke into our house and stole a number of items. It sucks, but we thought we’d at least try to make lemonade out lemons. So, we wanted to share what we wish we would have known before it happened, in case it can help someone else:

  • We were robbed when I went to pick up the kids from daycare at 4:30PM on Friday, so it can happen any time
  • The house was empty for less than 45 minutes, so it can happen fast
  • In our case, the burglar pounded on a basement window to break the locking mechanism and climbed through into the basement. We should have had something in the window tracks to prevent the window from opening.
  • It appears the burglar went straight to the bedrooms and started going through drawers looking for jewelry. We should have either had it locked up or put in some random place. We’ve since read that an average break-in takes 8 minutes… so whatever you do to make it harder and more time consuming is good.
  • The thief took laptops and ipads he found along the way. The serial numbers on these are your best shot of catching him when he tries to sell them. Make sure you have them.
  • The thief stole a hand gun. It was in a locked case and out of the way. So, thieves are smart. I didn’t keep track of the serial number. I should have so that law enforcement would have a record.
  • I was in such a panic when I found out, that I missed obvious things like that the thief left a clipboard in my bedroom. Try to slow dow and take it all in so you can provide all info to law enforcement.
  • If people are walking around your neighborhood and it seems strange, call your security company or law enforcement. It never hurts to be safe. If the person is on the up and up, then a visit with security shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Touch as little as you can. The thief may or may not wear gloves. If not, being careful may preserve a fingerprint.
  • The sheriff’s deputy who came to assist had just worked a fatal motorcycle accident. He was remarkably composed. These men and women have a tough job.
  • Anything you really don’t want stolen should be in a safe deposit box. We got off relatively lucky… but it was sheer luck. We’ll pay $60 a year for a box on Monday.

Anyhow, we hope this helps someone else avoid our fate. Having two dogs, we thought something like this would never happen. We were wrong.

Does Five Guys Have the Best Customer Service of Any Restaurant in Park City?

You may know Five Guys. It’s the quick-serve burger joint in Kimball Junction that arrived as park of the area’s latest expansion. They are known for their statement that there isn’t a freezer in the place (i.e. nothing is frozen before you eat it). Yet, that’s not the surprising thing. What surprises us most is that it may have the best customer service of any restaurant in or around Park City.

We know what you are thinking, there is no way a hamburger business could have better service than all the Food-and-Wine-Magazine restaurants on Main Street. We’re not so sure. When you walk into Five Guys you’ll usually hear them say something like “3” customers in the door. Before you get to the counter, they’ll greet you with a smile and ask how you are doing. Once we asked back, “How are you?”. The guy taking our order pointed at the mountains out the windows and said ” how could I be bad with that view?” They take your order, make sure it is right, and provide you your number. When they bring out your food, it’s in a brown paper bag typically with the top folded impeccably to prevent heat from escaping. We’ve eaten at Five Guys at least a dozen times, with pretty complicated orders, and have never had a mistake with the order. The experience is frankly shocking, when you realize these people aren’t making tips and probably not much more than minimum wage.

That’s not to say we haven’t had great experiences at places like Riverhorse and Wahso on Main Street. They stand up equally in terms of customer service. Yet of the restaurants we’ve tried on Main (and we’ve been to most), only a few equal the customer service at the little burger joint in Kimball.

We do get it. Finding good help for a Top 100 Wine Spectator Magazine restaurant is tough. Yet, somehow a chain hamburger restaurant is besting most of the best that Park City has to offer.

Is it Our Community’s Responsibility to Ensure Availability of Housing for Seasonal Workers?

Each year about this time we read about seasonal workers struggling to find places to stay around Park City. This problem then gets muddled with affordable and workforce housing. The conclusion is typically that the citizens of Park City need to figure this out…or else. Case in point is the ending sentence from this year’s Park Record article on the topic. “If the ski season pans out as predicted,workforce housing will be back at the top of the agenda in a serious way and Park City’s future success will depend on how effectively it is addressed.”

While we don’t doubt that temporary workers have a tough time finding places to stay, it doesn’t seem that cut and dry. However, first let’s cut to the chase on what affordable and workforce housing traditionally means. Typically the terms workforce and affordable housing are used interchangeably and mean rental units and homes that people can afford whose salary is between 60% and 120% of Area Medium Income (AMI). AMI for a family in Park City is 70,602. So, in this case workforce housing is targeted at families with incomes from 40,000 to 84,000. A temporary worker, coming to Park City for the winter likely doesn’t fit into this range. That doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from an issue, it’s just not really a traditional “affordable housing” problem. Affordable housing initiatives seem targeted at those people who live here year round and always need a place to stay (i.e. it’s not just a winter issue). But that’s another topic entirely.

So, we have people who come to Park City to work during the winter and need a place to stay for 4 months. In years gone by, we could see how it would seem like a local issue. Deer Valley, PCMR, and Canyons (ParkWest or Wolf Mountain in way earlier times) felt local and we needed to support out local. That’s not the case anymore. Today’s Park City is really Deer Vally and Vail. Deer Valley makes multi, multi millions per year, enough so that they bought Solitude. Vail had revenues of $1.3 billion in 2013. Do cities like Anaheim and Orlando concern themselves with housing for Disney workers? Not really. If anything they push Disney to figure it out. The same should happen here. If those company’s want the best workers, they’ll figure out a way to make sure they get them and they’ll take care of this issue along the way.

There are, of course, others that come to Park City during the season to work restaurants, ski shops, and other ancillary jobs outside the resorts. While the numbers pale in comparison, we’re not sure that’s really our responsibility either. The city and county get sales tax revenue from these businesses, and that benefits the community. However, the people who own the businesses are the people who monetarily succeed based on their employees. Again, it seems like perhaps the businesses should work together to figure this out.

So, we hear about the problem every year but each year we get a little more numb to it. Our sympathy we feel for the worker slowly shifts to disbelief toward the corporations.Yet, every year that we make it out to be a city, county, or community problem is one more year that the businesses don’t have to fix the issue.

So the question we ask is, “Is this really our community’s problem or does the answer lie with the businesses that profit?” We have our opinion but we expect come November 2015, we’ll hear all about this again.

On 2-for-1’s Dinners Don’t Pay the Extra Sales Tax

Park City Restaurants are winding down their 2-for-1 offers but we recently learned a way to save a little cash. It seems that most Park City restaurants include the tip, for what would have been the total price, on the bill of most 2-for-1’s. It’s much like when you have a party of 6 or more and the tip is already on the bill when you get it. The restaurant is afraid you’ll stiff the wait staff by not tipping for the “real” value of the meal.

However, this costs you money. That’s because any tip that is included on the bill by the restaurant is subject to sales tax per Utah tax law. So, save yourself the sales tax and tell your server you’ll tip on the “real” amount and see if they will let you hand write your tip. That way you don’t get charged the extra tax. It’s likely only a few bucks, but why not keep it if you can.

Do We Really Want a Diversified Economy?

A friend of ours was visiting with a long-time Park City resident. He, like many of the people who have lived in Park City since the 1960’s, talk about how it’s not the same place it used to be. He goes a step further, though. When people ask him if they should move to Park City, he no longer says yes. “It’s not the resort town it was a few years ago,” he will say. He’ll then follow up and say “let me tell you about this small town in Idaho.” It’s not an unusual story, except for the fact he tells people that they probably don’t want to live here. However, it got us to thinking about Park City as a resort town.

One of the biggest movements over the past few years in Park City and Summit County it to try and diversify the economy. You witness that in the million-plus square feet of “tech” space in the Boyer Tech Park. You see that in the shell of the movie studio being built. You see that in the discussion the City Council is having about what role they should play in the area’s economic development. Yet, every time we move closer to having a diverse economy, that takes us farther away from being a resort community.

In a perfectly diverse community, the Park City area would host other industries that would be equivalent in economic impact to the Sundance Film Festival, Deer Valley, PCMR, and Canyons, as well as the hotels, restaurants, and shops that support these entities. The thinking goes that this diversification provides more high paying jobs and would help the area weather an economic slowdown. This is the answer for many residents who say “how can my children afford to live in Park City?”.

The problem is that if we were able to bring in all these other industries, it really does contribute to the Sandy-fication of Park City. There is something special about a resort town. It has a certain feel to it. The people live and die with it. Snow is not just pretty, it’s the lifeblood of the town. Everyone knows it and most people agree. People are united behind a singular idea and resources are focused on this singular mission.

The converse can be found in the areas like Salt Lake. Sure, they have access to arguably the best ski hills around in Alta and Snowbird, but it’s not a ski town (no matter how many slogans they try to rip off from Colorado). There are ski shops and restaurants like Porcupine that gets its share of post-ski traffic, but no one would confuse Salt Lake with Aspen. It’s not a resort town.

So what does Park City want to be? A resort town or a town with some ski resorts. The distinction is really important and really should guide many of the decisions we make.

If we want to try and maintain as many of the things that that made Park City special to the “old-timers”, then the resort focus should help guide us. That means approving development that furthers tourism. That means making decisions based on supporting visitors. That means perfecting Park City for the person visiting from Chicago. It won’t be the same as it was, but it will be the modern day version.

However, if we want to try and foster a more diverse economy with many diverse jobs, then we should be concerned with providing economic incentives, infrastructure for small business, and lots of mid-range housing. We should look to areas like Sandy, Ogden, and Draper that have been successful and emulate what they have done.

To do what we have been doing and playing both sides really doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest. If we continue the path we are on, with a constantly shifting focus, we are likely to get the Park City we all fear. One that is, at best, mediocre.

 

 

We Predict the Next Big Park City Battle…

…teachers versus district…

Now that Vail VS PCMR is settled, with the only loser being a coffee company (and perhaps a community), we thought we might chime in on the next big Park City battle. It’s funny how one test, in this case the SAGE test, can upset the apple cart. As Rahm Emanuel says, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

SAGE is the latest Utah standardized test that attempts to gauge student understanding of key concepts and labels students as proficient (or not) in those subjects. The results were not what most parents expected. Overall in the district, 57% were proficient in language, 52% proficient in mathematics, and 55% proficient in in science.

So, the school district set goals of increasing each student group’s (i.e. 3rd grade Hispanic kids) proficiency by about 6%. So, for instance, “By May 2015, 3rd grade Hispanic students will increase proficiency from 17% to 23% in English Language Arts.” The next SAGE test is spring 2015 and there isn’t much time to actually do anything other than set goals. So, that’s what has been done.

Yet, the process for long-term change is what interests us. It’s shaping up as school administration versus teacher. The School District is pushing for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as a solution to low test scores. PLCs have been called “the most powerful professional professional development and change strategy available.” Yet, the PLC concept requires that teachers work together to find the optimal education path for each student. That sounds great, but can you and your husband completely agree on the best path for your own kid? How are 5 teachers, who have different backgrounds, opinions, and strategies going to come together to prescribe the optimal strategy for every child? They likely can’t but that’s not the point of this piece.

The point is to say that many teachers are going to hate this. They, much like they’ve forced their students to do, will begrudgingly work together because of edicts from above. Many teachers are artists, they find the right mix of paints to put on the canvas in order to create a “Bob Ross.” Artists create masterpieces but 5 artists rarely enjoy coming together to make a masterpiece (with the exception of We are the World, of course).

Will multiple teachers be able to work together to find the best solution for each child? Will they have time for the additional meetings that this will require? Will they feel this takes away from “learning”? Will each teacher feel they own the process or will they feel they are forced into this experiment? Will teachers compete against each other rather than work together?

Will a group of teachers be able to come together and provide a better educational experience than each individual teacher did alone? In some ways it’s a challenge to teachers. Park City has some of the highest paid teachers in the state but SAGE test results were sub-par. In many industries the highest paid can adapt and make success out of about any situation. Teachers are being told “from above” that they will work together and children will get better test scores. Can they achieve that? What does that pressure feel like? Does salary equate to success when the direction is provided from above?

If it’s like most industries where management tells the employee what to do, we can anticipate the results. It’s not going to be pretty. You won’t read about it in the Park Record. You may hear a simple question that alludes to it on KCPW and not much more. However, you’ll really hear about it at dinner parties and at Hugo Coffee on weekends.

One of Bob Dylan’s songs is “The times they are a changing.” That seems pretty apropos for the Park City School District. The district feels test scores need to rise TODAY. The only people that can influence that are students and teachers. So, the district devises a plan for the teachers. Was it well thought out? Did it get teacher buy-in? Will it ultimately be successful?

The process may be more entertaining that HBO boxing on Friday nights. It should be interesting to watch.

Which Park City Schools will Be Closed to Outside Enrollment in 2015?

This week, the Park City School District discusses which of our schools will be “open” for enrollment next year. Open for enrollment means that students from other districts can apply to go to a Park City School. This year Parley’s Park and Trailside were closed.

While things could change based on school board discussions, given the data it looks like Trailside will remain closed, Parley’s Park will be open again, and the high school will become closed.

The high school being “closed” presents an interesting situation. Park City School District Policy states that any out-of-district student who starts elementary school can complete elementary school, but has to re-apply for middle school. The same rule applies for each transition between classes of school (elementary school, middle school, junior high, high school). So, that could mean that current district students at Treasure Mountain may not be able to continue at the high school.

The other interesting thing to note, given current calculations, there is room for over 500 out-of-district students in Park City schools. If you recall, our last property tax increase was partly due to 200 extra students. So, it looks like there is plenty of room for our costs to escalate even further.

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It’s too bad for Park City Roasters, but ….

It’s unfortunate to hear that Park City Roasters has lost its PCMR contract. We like local success stories.

However, that got us to thinking, Park City Roasters never really had our PERSONAL contract. Why? It’s just too expensive. Typically a bag of Park City Roasters coffee costs $11.99 at the super market.  Starbucks, Pete’s, or Dunkin Doughnuts costs between $7.99 and  $8.99 per bag. We don’t mind paying a little more for local but not 35%-50%.

So, we wish it was different but we can’t criticize too much when we don’t have a personal contract with PC Roasters either.

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Superintendent Dr Ember Conley May Be the Exact Right Person to Address our Schools’ Upcoming Challenges

On Tuesday, the Park City School Board discussed class sizes of Park City Schools. Before this discussion, Superintendent Conley spoke about a vision for where the schools were going and how that impacts class size. We found the honesty, focus, insight, and willingness to address hard topics refreshing. Not everyone will like what she has to say, but the path our school system is on is unsustainable. The status quo is not an option.

Here are Dr Conley’s comments:


“I think we are taking the focus away from what we need to be focused on which is what careers and college expectations do we need to prepare our students for. Take class sizes out of it. We are looking at our specific courses. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we are going to continue doing it the same way next year. I’m just going to throwing [an example] out. Just because we’ve offered weight training, 3 sections, does not mean we are going to continue that. We also have a growing demand for computer science, programming, coding. So, I think rather than getting hyper focused on class sizes. We have the information. It goes to what is the absolute requirement that we have to have our students be prepared for and have the opportunity to learn in our schools.”

A school board member then says that the items they hear about all the time from citizens and teachers is about class size. He says “so we’ve got a little bit of a disconnect.” Dr. Conley responds:

“See, I think they are completely connected. As we go through this refinement, this is going to be a difficult time and I’m preparing you because there is going to be some disappointment and there is going to be some shifts in what we’ve always done to be able to prepare for the future. And so there is going to be shifts in staffing. There’s going to be shifts in what we’ve always offered. And those are going to be some very hard conversations because it does affect staffing. This is where you have to say, If I free up staffing in this area that really is very fluffy or not needed to prepare our students for that data we just saw, we have more staffing to be able to put in to class sizes that are high … and that is the whole conversation [we've been having].”


It’s really hard to argue with what Dr Conley said above. The overall goal of school is to prepare students for the future and the more focused everyone stays on that issue, the better the outcomes for our students. It would be a nice luxury if our students could spend all day in Plato’s Academy, discussing topics like what is good and shadows on the wall, but that’s not tomorrow’s world. Tomorrow’s world poses a myriad of challenges and we owe it to our students to prepare them as best we can. We give them the most opportunity by offering those courses that prepare them the best, even if that does upset parents, teachers, and students at times.

We wish Dr Conley and her administrators luck. We’re sure it’s not going to be easy, but we think you may be on the right path.