Tag Archives: Utah

Email Doug Stephens. On his government email. “In a confidential way…”

Utah could break the back of the teachers’ union,” a friend told me over lunch. “They could do it tomorrow, if [legislators] wanted to. All they would have to do is look into the corruption, fraud and waste in the school .”

Well, now. That’s a bold statement. And it’s exactly the over-the-top type thing that a couple of guys say over lunch when it doesn’t matter and no one is listening (and no one has to back anything up with facts, those pesky little things).

On the other hand, what is it with unions, especially teachers’ union? If the (unions, generally) are really so fantastic, why do judges feel the need to prohibit unions from throwing feces?

I can’t help but wonder at the underlying threat of violence that seems to follow them.

Back to Utah and over-the-top statements and backbreaking and such.

A few months back (meaning last year), the Ogden School District decided it had had enough of unions breaking its back. Specifically, the Ogden Education Union (“OEA”), the local version of the Utah Education Association. The recession is still on, people are still having babies, and the number of students signing up for school is growing.

It gave Ogden teachers a choice: sign the contract we send you, or hasta la vista. Oh, and we’ll give you a 3% raise, almost double the Utah Consumer Price Index (CPI) and a third greater than the national CPI. In other words, inflation has only increased the cost of stuff by 1.7%, but we’ll pay you 3% more.

All you gotta do is sign the contract.

The OEA balked. It told the teachers to stick it to the man, and force the school district to negotiate with the union on the teachers behalf. Don’t sign those contracts with the 3% salary increase…

All but one teacher signed. See, they’re teachers. They can do the math. They know a good deal when they see one.

The upshot?

While several other school districts are passing new tax increases this year, including Alpine and Davis, the Ogden School District has not raised taxes. They were also able to give raises to their teachers without collective bargaining – imagine. They have not cut the school year, or reduced staff.

But unions aren’t interested in the general welfare of their clients–the children and parents and teachers of the district–they’re interested in themselves.

And so, on August 15, Doug Stephens, President of the OEA, sent an email to all those recently rehired teachers with the 3% salary increases. He wanted just one thing: money. (Well, not exactly. He also asked teachers to sign up for another year of ineffective collective bargaining, to join a protest, to exert peer pressure on “fellow teachers who are not O.E.A. members,” and to read a really bad poetry analysis, and but that’s beside the point…or is it?)

Courtesy of Holly “on the Hill” Richardson:

Our political battles will take large amounts of O.E.A/U.E.A.- P.A.C. dollars. We are asking each member to give at least $30.00 to our P.A.C. fund this year. That is less than $5.00 a month between now and when school ends in May 2012. All the money we raise this year in our P.A.C. will stay with us. To be able to give a candidate, that we select, for a school board race, thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteers to help in a campaign is unbeatable in a local election.

That’s right. In other words, Doug is say that “We couldn’t help you last year, we’re in a state that loathes us, and we’re losing ground…all while you’re getting a raise higher than the rest of the population and ahead of inflation. But please: by all means, keep sending us your money!”

Seriously. Teachers would get a better return in the stock market than sending $30 to the OEA this year. Heck, they might get a better return in a lemonade stand.

To return to my friend’s comment over lunch: perhaps Utah legislators could break the back of the UEA and its mini-me local unions just by looking into the fraud and waste that goes on in the school system. I don’t know. I haven’t looked into if there is that much.

The reality is, however, that it may not matter. Utahns care about their kids and they care about their schools, and they are willing to pay what they can to prove it. In a baby rich, cash poor state like Utah, that Ogden was able to provide a 3% raise in the midst of a recession is proof positive.

But don’t tell that to Doug Stephens. Unless you want to. His email address, if you want to communicate with him “in a confidential way,” as he asked in his email, is dstephens1@weber.edu . (What is he doing giving out a government email for union promotion in what is clearly political work, anyway?)

(H/T to Holly Richardson for Ogden School District vs the union at hollyonthehill.wordpress.com)

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When in doubt, apologize. Kudos to Brandon Beckham.

Brandon Beckham, organizer of an effort to repeal HB116, speaks with a supporter at a press conference urging the repeal of the bill at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

A couple of days ago, I argued that Brandon Beckham hurt his credibility by maligning his opponents.

I stick by that.

However, since then, Brandon wizened up:

“I am very passionate about the principles behind the immigration issue as it affects every aspect of our community. However, I certainly erred in my wording. While I disagree with HB116 supporters on the premise of the law, I never meant to attack anyone’s character, and I’m not above an apology,” he said.

Beckham, of Orem, said he didn’t mean the remark as a slight to legislators who voted for or sponsored the legislation. He said he called key sponsors of the bill to apologize.

“I do hope those offended will forgive me for my ill choice of words as we move forward on this complex issue,” he said.

Well done, Brandon. I can’t judge your sincerity, and I certainly disagree with you politically, but I laud you for admitting your mistake and seeking to make amends. It’s a great step and a admirable example.

To Brandon Beckham: Try a little honey before you resort to vinegar.

Remember the civility initiative that Utah was pushing earlier this year? I wrote about it here on the blog.

The Utah Civility and Community 2011 site states that “In Utah we are committed to respectful discourse and behavior toward all people. Further we are committed to being a welcoming, inclusive and caring community. Now is a great time to pass it on and start the five steps to a more caring Utah.”

Remember that? That was in January.

And this was today, courtesy Brandon Beckham, who called Utah legislators “traitors.” He was talking about his displeasure with the speed with which legislators who passed HB116 and who are moving far too slowly, for his taste,repeal HB116:

“Those who drafted this bill are traitors to Utah and they will be held accountable by voters in 2012,” he said [today].

Brandon Beckham, organizer of an effort to repeal HB116, speaks with a supporter at a press conference urging the repeal of the bill at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Thanks, Brandon. Way to raise the level of dialogue to a new high.

One must wonder: traitors to whom?

To the Republican Party?  Republican state delegates voted 833-739 on June 18 to support a resolution supporting repeal. In other words, about 24% of total state delegates voted for repealing HB116. That’s not a ringing endorsement…especially when you consider that 21% voted against it…leaving over half of the Republican Party unrepresented on the resolution. (Ironically, this is the same group of delegates who denied Beckham’s bid for even a first round shot at Vice Chair for the Republican Party).

Someone ought to remind Brandon that this is a republic (a compound constitutional republic, if the legislature is to be heard on this one, a representative democracy, otherwise), not a democracy. And thank heavens. We select representatives so that they can study out the topic, evaluate all sides of an issue, take testimony and conduct analysis, and make a decision. That’s their job, and Utah legislators, despite their idiosyncrasies, occasional message bills, and generally conservative tendencies, do a good job of it. Utah is one of the best run states in the nation, if not the best run, and it’s due in large part to good governing.

It isn’t the job of the Republican Party to dictate policy to law makers. It’s the Republican Party’s job to choose candidates and help them get elected. Period.

If you don’t agree with the lawmakers, make your case, and make it well. Don’t resort to ad hominem attacks, ridicule, and name calling. Not only does it diminish your ability to persuade, but it destroys any credibility you might have had.

As the cliché goes, you’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. If nothing, the immigration debate has been fueled, at least on one side, by far too much vinegar, and not enough honey.

If you want to be heard, Brandon, then start listening. Winning a vote for a non-binding resolution with 24% of the body does not equal a mandate. It’s barely even a reason to get a headline during the summer doldrums.

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What happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom…unless you open the door.

You tell me what to think.

We’re in the midst of a culture war over gay marriage, with some states passing amendments defining traditionally and others opening it up to gay and lesbian couples. California is still recovering from the Proposition 8 battle, and indeed, that case is still up on appeal.

Meanwhile, the polygamists decide to get in on the action. And not just any polygamists–reality show polygamists. If men can marry men, and women can marry women, why can’t men marry multiple women? We’re all consenting adults, right?

And, anyway, why is it any of your business? Continue reading

Practice Tip: Note to self–don’t hit ‘reply all’

A quickie: when you get an email from opposing counsel, the cc line full of email addresses, don’t just hit ‘reply all’ or you might be violating ethics rules.

Rule 4.2(a) in the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct provides guidance on this:

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer.

Unless you have already received a communication from the opposing counsel asking for you to cc his client, be wise, and reply only to the attorney.

If you make the mistake, or if you aren’t clear, lay out the ground rules with opposing counsel so that the mistake is not made.

For example, in our office, we have a legal department manager who coordinates the high volume of transactions that cross the attorneys desks every day. Often, our client and its agents will go to the manager before the attorney to find out the status of a deal, simply because it’s faster, she has a better view of the big picture, and knows what needs to happen next. If we don’t ask that she’s cc’d on all emails from opposing counsel, not only is our central manager left out of the loop, transactions slow down or are delayed. Laying out the ground rules–in our case, to ask that a non-lawyer be cc’d on all emails to us–helps keep the deal moving and gets the transaction finished.

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