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AM News Brief: Utah Deploys Firefighters, Moab Considers Property Tax & SLC Declares Racism Public Health Crisis

A decorative road sign welcomes visitors to Moab.
Kate Groetzinger
Almost 30 years ago, Moab set its property tax rate at 0%. But as community radio station KZMU reports, the city’s sales tax is no longer enough by itself to cover its needs. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, July 22, 2021


Criteria For Redistricting

The Independent Redistricting Commission and the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee are taking different approaches to examining where incumbents live and where communities of interest are. The independent commission isn’t legally allowed to consider where current public officials live when drawing their suggested maps, but the legislative group is. The independent commission will be examining communities of interest when drawing its suggested maps. Residents can submit them online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all stay intact. The legislative committee voted not to use communities of interest as a guide when drawing the maps because they said they couldn't find a good definition of the term. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council adopted a joint resolution Tuesday acknowledging that racism has harmful impacts on the mental and physical health of communities of color. The resolution says the impacts of pre-existing inequalities were further heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and specifies that the pandemic put a greater burden of “disease, death and social consequences” on people of color in Utah. Salt Lake City joins at least 70 other cities that have declared racism a public health crisis since 2019. — Associated Press

More Utah Firefighters Deployed In Region

A group of firefighters from Utah is being deployed to Montana to help battle wildfires. The Utah Division of Emergency Management said 24 firefighters are leaving Thursday and will be taking fire apparatus, too. They will be gone for about 16 days under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact — known as E-MAC. It's a system of state-to-state mutual aid coordinated through state emergency management agencies. Two other groups of firefighters from Utah were deployed near Redmond, Oregon on Sunday to assist with fire suppression efforts there. — Pamela McCall

New Online Elementary School

The Salt Lake City School District is opening a new virtual elementary school for online, remote learners in grades K-6. Officials said Salt Lake Virtual Elementary is for students and families who prefer home-based, online instruction. Classes will be offered every weekday. On Wednesdays there will also be an option for in-person small group instruction in areas like hands-on science and fine art. The district also said it will provide the devices necessary for online learning to all students taking part in the program. Registration for the school begins Monday. — Pamela McCall

Southern Utah

Moab’s Zero Property Tax May Come To An End

Almost 30 years ago, Moab set its property tax rate at 0%. But as community radio station KZMU reports, the city’s sales tax is no longer enough by itself to cover its needs. City Manager Joel Linares said infrastructure is failing in “a lot of areas,” and projects need to be addressed. City officials said instituting a property tax could possibly generate more than $3 million in revenue. A public hearing for community input will be held on Aug. 4. — Tess Roundy


Considering Citizenship For Farm Workers

U.S. Senators discussed a potential path to citizenship for undocumented farm workers Wednesday. Members of the Senate judiciary committee were split on several parts of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, but a major sticking point was a path for farm workers to gain citizenship. Republicans feared this would exacerbate a deepening illegal immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. But, farm workers would have to wait years to get citizenship through the bill. Some estimates show half or more farm workers don’t have legal documentation. They face deportation and abusive working conditions, but without them, food production could plummet in the U.S. Most lawmakers supported changes to open up farm worker visa programs and provide stable wages, but some think that doesn’t go far enough and that there should be unlimited year-round visas. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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