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AM News Brief: First Afghan Refugee In Utah, Earthquake Assistance Deadline & Salt Lake County Mayor On Canyon Transit Options

First-Afghan-Refugee-Sept-2021-Courtesy-CCS.jpg
Courtesy of Catholic Community Services of Utah
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Catholic Community Services of Utah received the first of many Afghan refugees on Tuesday night. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Sept. 2, 2021

Northern Utah

County Mayor Against Little Cottonwood Canyon Transportation Options

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said it’s time to go back to the drawing board on the Little Cottonwood Canyon transportation plan. At a press conference Wednesday, she spoke against the Utah Department of Transportation’s two proposals to manage traffic in the canyon — a gondola system or widening the road. Wilson said that with construction and maintenance cost over 50 years, either plan would cost $1 billion. “It is fiscally irresponsible to commit to a billion dollars unless you’ve tried the less expensive, more manageable solutions first,” she said. Wilson suggested “common sense solutions” like better transit hubs, a more user friendly bus system, tolls and car pooling. The public comment period on the plan closes Friday. — Elaine Clark

First Afghan Refugee Arrives In Utah

Utah received its first Afghan refugee Tuesday night. The man had been working as an air traffic controller in the Kabul Airport for the last decade. The U.S. withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in late August, and, quickly after, the Taliban took over the capital city of Kabul. Utah’s governor later sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying the state is ready to accept refugees. The federal government listed Salt Lake as one of 19 cities in the country where Afghans will be resettled. Catholic Community Services is working with Utah’s new arrival and said it expects more people to arrive in the coming weeks. — Ross Terrell

Earthquake Assistance Deadline Nears

The deadline for private nonprofits to apply for federal earthquake assistance is a month away. Organizations that provide essential services of a governmental nature are eligible for the disaster loan, which covers economic loss suffered during the earthquake that hit the Wasatch Front in March 2020. It also covers any loss due to aftershocks through mid-April of last year. Officials with the small business administration said the earthquake caused an estimated $70 to $100 million in damages. The deadline to apply for a loan is Oct. 1. — Ross Terrell

College Football Is Back — And So Are The Crowds

College football is back. After a year without fans in many stadiums across the country, the University of Utah is set to welcome them Thursday evening to its newly renovated stadium. Paul Kirk with the university’s athletic department said they’re anticipating big crowds with students back on campus and the new addition of the Ken Garff Red Endzone. Despite the large number of spectators, Kirk said neither masks nor vaccines will be required to enter the stadium. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Some Western Governors Question Masks

Some Republican governors in the West are casting doubt on the effectiveness of masking up at school. Tuesday, Montana governor Greg Gianforte issued a rule urging schools to let kids opt out of wearing masks for various reasons including “moral conviction.” His office also sent out a 13-page report questioning the science behind mask wearing in classrooms. The move comes as Utah governor Spencer Cox also questioned the effectiveness of masks during a press conference. Medical experts say masks are effective at slowing the spread of the virus, especially with the more contagious Delta variant surging across the country. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau