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PM News Brief: Women in Utah politics, home safety upgrades & COVID improvements

Erin Mendenhall gestures in front of City Hall.
KUER file
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The number of female mayors, like Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, increased about 7% in Utah last year. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

State

Utah’s state auditor “concerned” by excessive college fees

A recent audit of Utah’s public colleges found problems with how course fees are assessed and used, echoing findings from a similar report in 2020. The audit looked at a sample of fees across Utah's eight public colleges, which ranged from $2 to over $1,000. It found that charges were often not tracked properly and generated excess revenue. State Auditor John Dougall said he was concerned by the lack of discipline schools had in assessing the fees and ensuring students understood the costs. He said while his office can’t enforce schools to adopt the 12 recommendations outlined in the audit, the Utah System of Higher Education can. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Women’s representation in Utah politics a mixed bag, with some positive signs 

Women’s representation in Utah politics has made some progress over the past year, according to data released Thursday by the Utah Women & Leadership Project. About a quarter of mayors in the state are now female — representing a nearly 7% increase from the year before. But on the county and state level there was little improvement as they remain underrepresented on commissions and councils. In the state Legislature, Utah ranks below average. Just 26% of legislators are women — which is 39th in the U.S. — Ross Terrell

Utah seeing improvements in its COVID situation 

Utah may be past its peak of the omicron surge. The Utah Department of Health reported nearly 3,500 new COVID cases Thursday. That’s about half of the total reported a week ago. Other indicators also show things are improving. Test positivity rates peaked in late January and have been steadily declining. Sewage monitoring also shows COVID rates either decreasing or holding steady statewide. Currently, 787 people are hospitalized for the disease and 10 more people have died. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County to help low income families improve home safety 

Salt Lake County has received a $2 million federal grant to help improve home safety for low to moderate income families. The money will go to the county's Green and Healthy Homes program. Officials said they’ll be about to help 130 families over the next few years. Home improvements can include removing lead and checking for the presence of radon gas or retrofitting homes to allow elderly people to age in place. Salt Lake County homeowners can apply if they make 80% of the area median income. For a family of four, that’s $73,750 a year or less. — Ross Terrell 

Region/Nation

U.S. making investments to reduce sex trafficking in tribal communities 

More federal money is going towards protecting tribal communities from sex trafficking. The U.S. Department of Justice said this week it will prioritize grants to help tribal governments confront the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis. Taylor Patterson, executive director of the Native Voters Alliance Nevada and a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, said the pandemic is making it harder for people to leave dangerous situations. But Patterson is hopeful because she says the issue is gaining visibility and more resources are being used to stop it. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau 

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