Paternal rights • Here in family-values Utah, a father is assumed to have no parental rights or interest in his child simply because he and the baby's mother are not married to each other. That's ridiculous. And more outrageous is the law requiring biological fathers to file a sworn affidavit outlining how they will support the child and its mother in addition to initiating a court paternity action and registering a paternity notice with the state before their rights will even be considered. At the same time, unmarried mothers are not required to provide any assurance about how they will care for the child. Merely giving birth does not guarantee that a woman will automatically be a better parent than the man who fathered the child. Utah's discriminatory law has made the state a haven for women who want to cut fathers out of their children's lives, sometimes, as in a recent case, giving up a baby for adoption without even letting the father know the child exists. This law needs to be changed.
Legislative irresponsibility • The Salt Lake City School Board is doing what it must in moving toward a property-tax increase to pay for instructional programs that the Utah Legislature again left unfunded. Conservative legislators refuse to increase taxes to boost funding for education, or even to maintain the status quo. A 2 percent higher allocation this year, balleyhooed by Republican lawmakers as the biggest increase in education funding in decades, will be eaten up by a small salary hike and employee retirement costs. That leaves it up to school districts that want to do their best to educate Utah schoolchildren to make the case to taxpayers for an increase. In the Salt Lake district, money coming from the state won't even cover retirement costs. The proposal would mean an annual tax increase of about $13 for every $100,000 of home value. It's unfortunate, but necessary.
Cutting coughing • A 6-2 majority of the Utah Air Quality Board is backing a federal clean-car proposal that will do more to reduce winter smog and summer ozone in the most polluted parts of northern Utah than anywhere in the country. To do otherwise would ignore the damage to human health from vehicle exhaust, which accounts for more than half of Utah's air pollution. The EPA's proposed Tier 3 standards would add a penny to a gallon of fuel and $134 to the price of a new car, but would cut emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by 80 percent and fine soot by 70 percent, even as vehicle use doubles over the next 25 years.