This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Last week was not one of Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's best.
When he handed Police Chief Chris Burbank a letter to publicly read that placed blame for the mishandling of sexual harassment allegations in the police department on the chief and praised Becker's leadership and wisdom, it reminded me of the forced confessions certain barn creatures had to make before they were slaughtered by the enforcer dogs in George Orwell's "Animal Farm."
Burbank refused to throw himself on the altar and was forced to resign.
Then, there was another perceived Becker power play at work last week.
About 200 golfers rallied Saturday at Glendale Golf Course to protest the proposed closing of the course.
A large banner at the entrance of Glendale's parking lot earlier in the week announced the Saturday rally and invited supporters to attend. The sign was later taken down. When golfers asked what happened to it, they were told by course workers that the mayor's office had ordered its removal.
Becker spokesman Art Raymond said the mayor's office was responding to a resident's inquiry about the sign and had it removed because it is illegal to put such signs on public rights of way or public property.
"It's the same rule that applies to campaign signs," he said, adding that someone had put up the banner without seeking permission.
Don't drink the water • Becker's my-way-or-the-highway approach, regardless of the consequences, surfaced early in his tenure when, for conservation reasons, he ordered the removal of 5-gallon bottles on water coolers in city offices that had been an employee perk for decades.
When officials from Mount Olympus Water, the supplier of the bottles, met with Becker to urge him to reconsider, he had no time for them and showed them the door. Even when employees offered to pay for the water Becker was unmoved.
The mayor's edict was the last straw for Mount Olympus, since the city had been one of its biggest contracts. Mount Olympus sold to Atlanta-based DS Services of America. As a result, Salt Lake City lost about 75 jobs.
Cutting them loose • Not only has Becker's administration administered unwelcome edicts toward Burbank and public golf course employees, the city's retirees have been informed they are being kicked off the public employees health insurance program because of increased premiums.
Those losing benefits include many retired police officers under age 65 who are not yet eligible for Medicare. Cops can retire at 50 percent of their salary after 20 years.
When they worked for the city, they paid 20 percent of the premium and the city picked up 80 percent. When they retired, that ratio flipped and the retirees paid the larger percentage of the premium. But because those under-65 eligible retirees have shrunk in number to about 140 and constitute a more costly risk pool, the city has decided to drop them, effective in September, according to a letter from the city's benefits office.
Not sure if they get to keep their gold watches.
GOP's mixed message • Saturday morning was interesting if one likes to pay attention to messages coming from our esteemed politicians.
First, I saw an email from the Utah Republican Party criticizing a story by Bob Bernick in the online newsletter utahpolicy.com that said GOP leaders discussed in a closed meeting at the Utah Republican Central Committee session a way to preserve their beloved caucus/convention nominating system in the wake of a Utah law that provides an alternate path to the primary ballot.
The story said leaders discussed a tactic in which those candidates who go through the caucus/convention system would be deemed real Republicans and those who make the primary ballot through the alternate petition route would be labeled not real Republicans.
The party email roared about the story's inaccuracy and the unethical behavior of someone leaking information from a closed meeting.
Later that morning, I was listening to the right-wing Red Meat Radio program hosted by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, on 860 AM. His guest, Craig Frank, former legislator and new chairman of the Utah County Republican Party, mentioned the discussions at the last Central Committee meeting in which candidates who go through the caucus/convention system would be the endorsed candidates and those who choose the petition route would not be endorsed.
So Frank basically confirmed what the party earlier that morning had denied. Hey, guys, it's time to get your stories straight.