This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
"Three wishes, to be exact. And ixnay on the wishing for more wishes. That's it. Three. Uno, dos, tres. No substitutions, exchanges or refunds."
The Genie, Disney's "Aladdin"
It is understandable that folks who live in places where the economy has been largely driven by the extractive industries mining, drilling for oil and gas would want to use some of the money gained from those endeavors to boost the same activities into the future.
But wishing for more wishes isn't likely to work.
There is little wisdom in pouring money into futile efforts to arrest the inevitable shift in the rural Utah economy away from the boom-and-bust of drilling and mining and toward more sustainable enterprises.
It would make more sense to put the money toward projects roads, schools, fire stations that those communities can keep long after the coal and oil are gone. Or, probably more likely, after those resources are left in the ground by a global economy that doesn't see the payout.
That was, after all, the original idea behind the fund. It was to help pay for community improvements that were harder to finance in areas where as we are constantly reminded the federal government owns so much tax-exempt land.
And, whatever use is made of the royalty money that passes through the accounts of Utah's Permanent Community Impact Fund, the whole process needs to be more transparent and better managed.
In the same way that you didn't know who Damschen is and what a state treasurer does, Damschen, a member of the board that is supposed to oversee the funds, is worried that neither he nor anyone else knows enough about the flow of millions of dollars in funds drawn from the royalties paid for drilling and mining on federal land.
A great deal of it seems to have gone to inventories, studies, reviews and legal fees, work that seems to have produced no tangible results and sums that an alliance of counties interested in the extractive economy wanted to keep private under the guise of client-attorney privilege. The Community Impact Board, though, knew better and released the information.
That board is perhaps a little too cozy with the alliance of seven counties that is pushing for the money to be used in suspect ways. Ways that depend on a pipe dream of connecting their remote resources to a global supply chain that, even if Utah volunteers millions, is likely to pass us by.
This is another example of Utah's many boards, commissions and special service districts, fed by public money but managed in the shadows and unnoticed by the public until something goes very wrong.
Damschen must keep asking the pointed questions. And the fund needs to start looking to a future fed by sustainable businesses, from tourism to renewable energy.