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AM News Brief: Former Navajo President Dies, Zion To Upgrade Buses & Hate Groups Gather Online

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Albert Hale, who served as one of the first presidents of the Navajo Nation, died Tuesday at 70 years old. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, February 3, 2021


Calls For Removal Of State Board Of Education Member

A petition has been circulating online calling for the removal of a Utah State Board of Education member, Natalie Cline, who’s being accused of supporting racism, homophobia and cultural regression. In Facebook posts, Cline has criticized anti-racism and implicit-bias training, arguing they only stir up resentment and hate. She also said teachers who spoke at a Utah Pride Center conference were trying to indoctrinate children. Her stance is not a new one, according to University of Utah education professor William Smith. He said it’s been a consistent tactic for those who don’t want to deal with issues around social justice, whether done consciously or not. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Electronic Billboard Debate

A new bill would limit cities and towns’ ability to regulate electronic billboards. Kate Kopischke, director of Scenic Utah, spoke against the bill on Tuesday. Her organization opposes outdoor advertising because of visual blight. She said she’s heard from communities who feel billboard lobbyists pay to play, and financial disclosures showed the bill’s sponsor has received money from an outdoor advertising group. Even though that didn’t come up during the debate, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, took issue with Kopischke's comment. He said it was “unfair to denigrate the integrity of any particular senators or of the legislative process to say that pay to play is what goes on up here.” Read the full story. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Upgrading Buses In Zion National Park

Zion National Park is getting a $33 million grant to start replacing the old shuttle buses with new battery-electric transit buses. The new fleet will include 26 all-electric buses and 27 charging stations to replace the current propane-powered transit fleet. The first phase of charging stations is already finished, and more are to be built next year. The plan is to add more new battery-electric buses over the next several years. The grant comes from a long list of sources, including the U.S. Department of Transportation's Nationally Significant Lands and Tribal Program. — Bob Nelson


Former Navajo Nation President Dies Of COVID-19

Albert Hale, who served as one of the first presidents of the Navajo Nation, died Tuesday at 70 years old. Tribal officials said Hale died of complications from the coronavirus. Hale was Navajo Nation president shortly after the tribe restructured its government to create a balance of power in the early 1990s. He was key to that effort as a lawyer and also championed autonomy for Navajo communities or chapters. Hale later went on to serve in the Arizona Legislature for more than 10 years. — Associated Press

Hate Groups Coalesce Online

The number of hate and anti-government groups declined last year — but the Southern Poverty Law Center said that’s because some have migrated to dark corners of the internet. According to the SPLC’s latest annual report, former President Donald Trump played a role galvanizing hate and anti-government groups and movements, including many operating in the Mountain West. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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