Sunday, December 30, 2012

Family and Friends Carry the Day!

I was reminded this evening how as families, we literally carry each other from time to time, helping us through some of life's most challenging times.  I'm not a huge lover of electronic games.  Not that I don't think they have relevancy or that I don't like technology, but I've never really been that great at the hand-button thing and if it takes a ton of coordination, I am as good as gone.  Tonight, Sarah wanted to play a round of Super Mario on our Wii as a family and I was ready to do my usual dismissal of it, when Cathy gave me that look of "Don't ruin our children forever by not playing with us".  It's tough look by the way....Of course as luck would have it my little blue and white hat guy only had one life, which was quickly disposed of before I knew which button to push.  Thinking that was my magical key to freedom, I was told by my other three colleagues of the Christensen Family that was not acceptable.  It was then that Sarah took up the slack, put me on the top of her character's head and continued to "carry me" through much of the remainder of the game.  I jumped when she told me to jump, fired ice off when she told me to fire ice and moved my little guy the direction she told me to go.  Amazingly I survived a number of rounds until Cathy called the game finished! 

I'm sure there is a Church talk connected to this, but I probably need to come up with a more refined version.  However it was actually very heart warming to see my girls, particularly Sarah step up and carry me in my time of need!  We do that so often day to day and whether it be family or friends, we often help each other out when we aren't quite sure what to do.  One of the things I love about this time of year, is that it really shows and is more apparent in our actions.

Update to a blog I wrote last year about my land of "Misfit Christmas Decorations". A friend of mine, Fred Ross from the SLC Police Department happened to read my blog that day and responded in a very impressive way.  Fred was visiting an auction that was selling Bountiful City's old Christmas decorations at an extremely low price.  He purchased a big lot of them, and donated all I wanted to my cause.  I have to say that I haven't used all the ones Fred gave me, if someone would want any of them, but I did figure out how to integrate a number of the wreaths into my collection.  If you grew up in Bountiful and wondered whatever happened to the Christmas Wreaths that lined your streets, come on by and look at my back driveway off of 800 N (approx 1460 W) and take a look.  I will have to say that getting Christmas decorations from a city that owns its own Power Company is probably not a good indicator of the energy efficiency of these wreaths!  However they look nice and we were able to use bulbs and stuff off other wreaths and in keeping with the spirit of this area, nothing was purchased, including bulb replacements!  If you have those partially lit reindeer around, or not quite sure what do do with that decorations that doesn't meet the standard of your front yard, give me a call!  Thanks Fred for answering the call!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Traditions - A time for transitions

Christensen Family Christmas Tree
In 1990, the first Christmas for Cathy and me as a newlywed couple, was a memorable and fun time together.  Ironically, we lived in the basement apartment of the house we now call home. We ordered our first set of ornaments from the JC Penny catalog.  The ornaments were an assortment of wood objects from trains, toy soldiers to sleighs.  It was a wonderful year and we realized that we were starting some new traditions together as we brought together traditions from our respective families.  We decided early on, that we wanted a more traditional Christmas tree look and that we wanted more of a variety of ornaments, as opposed to a "particular look". 

In 1991 when Jessica was a newborn baby, we decided to start acquiring an ornament with each year of her life as part of the Hallmark series.  Our initial thought was that as she grew up and moved away, she could take her ornaments with her to start her own tree, starting her own memories.  It became a fun part of our tradition each year to take her and let her pick out what mattered to her that year.  As Sarah came along in 1999, we started with her as well and our tree started becoming full with both of their ornaments.  Along the way friends and family also added to our collection, all with good memories. 

We realized a few years ago, that one day our children would in fact grow up and move away and suddenly there would not only be a void in our tradition, but on the tree as well!  Our original wood ornaments were also starting to fall apart and glue gun repairs weren't always worth it.  We decided to add to our collection, items from experiences that we had or places we've seen.  In our collection there is an ornament commemorating the restoration of the Utah State Capitol, the Nauvoo Temple, Boston, the four corners of Utah, or our recent family cruise to Alaska among many.  As we hang each ornament, we create for ourselves a found trip down memory lane for our family.

However Christmas also becomes a time for transitions.  This year, Jessica was at Utah State when we put up our tree.  It just didn't seem right to hang her ornaments without her, so we just set them aside until this evening when she could join us. While the tree seemed full, our hearts knew something was missing.  We're not sure we like this transition, but I guess it's coming nevertheless.
Jessica's ornaments wait patiently for her return
In addition, as we unpacked our Christmas stockings, we noticed our sock for our dog Daisy, who passed away earlier this year.  While we never hung her stocking with our Christmas Socks, Santa always filled it with some goodies and a new chew bone.  We're not quite sure what to do with it this year, but we can't seem to bring ourselves to just get rid of it.
Daisy's stocking (our nine year old Lab who passed away)
Our own stockings are fun to hang up each year.  When Cathy and I first were married, we found these extra large socks, and it was fun to have Santa fill them with a few extra items.  It left lots of options for those tools, or hair attachments we needed.  However it was clear as the kids came along, that it wasn't a practical alternative for Santa to fill that much, and we went with a smaller option for the kids.  My sister Nancy was kind enough to use her talent on helping create some fun options for us and we enjoy hanging them on the fireplace during December.
Sock artwork created by Carlton's sister, Nancy
Then there is the "original sock".  This sock was the sock that I came home from the Hospital on Christmas Day.  Born on December 23rd, my mother was released to come home with her 10 lb 14 oz child who was 24" tall.  As my mom passed away in 2004 and we went through her Christmas stuff, it was a sock that we couldn't throw away either and reminds me of the Christmas gift my mom always talked about getting that year.
Sock Carlton came home in from LDS Hospital in 1965
Christmas has generally great memories for me, but it has far too often been a time for transitions.  I guess it's only appropriate that Jessica's ornament she purchased this year for her collection has the phrase, "All roads lead home at Christmas".

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for this year's success!

On Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful for a lot of things, not the least of which is my family.  They're the best, stood by me through tough and happy times.  Don't know what I would do without them and pray that never happens.  I'm so proud of Cathy, Jessica and Sarah and the fact they are willing to call me partner (spouse) and Dad, that I can hardly stand it.  Excited to spend the day with them. 

Trax Trains now testing and running on North Temple
Likewise in public service, there are projects that you work on for a long time, and somehow never think they actually will come to fruition.  Trax on North Temple is one of those that I've been working on since coming to office.  It was with some excitement the other day, driving eastbound on North Temple, that I watched a new Trax train, testing the track and crossing Redwood Road.  While not the whole solution for improving the west side of Salt Lake City, it's a huge step and I believe a catalyst in how others perceive it.  So much so, that one worry I hold is that in another decade, the area becomes too popular and prices push out many of those who have called it home and some of the traditional residents are not able to afford living here.  Good problem to have, I guess, and you can't control that outcome, but a change from today.

Looking west toward the City & County Building
out of the new Public Safety Building
Another project that has been exciting to see come out of the ground, is the new Public Safety Building.  I walked through it the other day, amazed at all the new and improved opportunities it will provide not only to the public, but the men and women who work to protect our community.   A net-zero building designed to use energy resources efficiently, it will provide some great opportunities and be a significant resource to us in good times and bad. 

Sarah George, Director of the Museum of Natural History of Utah

The final for me this year, is the anniversary of the opening of the new Museum of Natural History where I currently serve as President of the Advisory Board.  They just celebrated having in excess of 300,000 visitors, doubling the first year projection and receiving numerous award not only for the building but the talent that works in the building every day.  It's been an honor to not only have an association with such a fine institution but more importantly to have such a great resource not only for our community but the State and Intermountain Region. 
2012 has been a great year, of which I'm can truly say, I'm grateful!

Friday, November 2, 2012

I love these gloves- Their real job is not for fishing!

Sometimes known as fillet gloves, these
are my favorite work gloves
A few years ago, I came across these gloves at Harbor Freight, not in the work glove area, but over in the sporting goods section.  I was intrigued by them for a couple of reasons, first they had an XL size, which is hard for me to come by, and then they were only a few dollars a pair.  What I later found out is that they are the perfect work glove for me. 

First of all, they fit my large hands, but the rubber exterior is also great for picking up things, particularly stuff that is slippery.  They were thick enough that most poky things didn't penetrate, yet they breath, which make them able to breath well during the summer months. They also, because of their cost, didn't make you feel too bad if you ruined them on a project or got something on them.  It was easier to just throw them away.  Because of their inexpensive cost, I always kept a few pairs on hand, if I needed to give one to someone else.  I split wood, dug dirt, picked up branches, these gloves did it all.

Imagine my shock one day, in going into Harbor Freight to find out they no longer carried them.  I always thought they marketed them wrong by having them in the sporting goods area.  After all, the job to be done for these gloves were for inexpensive, comfortable covering of hands which was much broader than filleting fish!  I tried to find them online, at other sporting good stores, and even hardware stores, but no one, absolutely no one, could furnish the same kind of gloves at the same kind of price.

Falling into despair one day, I remembered that my good friend Dennis Martinson, was a wholesale distributor of all kinds of gloves.  He once lived in Rose Park, later moving to Cache Valley area, but we've stayed in touch.  The company he sells for, Golden Stag Gloves or actually had my gloves.  I can't tell you how psyched I was at the prospect.  Now granted, I don't get out much and it is hard to compare many of life's excitements to wearing a work glove, but when you have hands as large as mine and most gloves don't fit, you feel like a second-class citizen.  The other day, Dennis and I attended a Rose Park neighbor's funeral together and afterwards, he gave me the opportunity of buying all he had on his truck.  I once again have my favorite gloves to wear but now with more caution about making every minute with them count!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween - Yes I do wear costumes

I got in this visicous cycle ever since my first year in office, of wearing a Halloween costume to work and subsequently sneaking (or should I say trying to sneak in) to city hall to deliver a Halloween treat to staff.  The problem with it, is that there becomes a growing expectation that you'll continue to do it every year!

It all started when I dressed up as Kangaroo
From my childhood years, I had been looking through the World Book Encyclepedia trying to figure out what I wanted to be, and came across a Kangaroo.   Well to start, there aren't really a lot of Kangaroo costumes on the rack and certainly not for someone who is 6'10" tall.  It pretty much started with my dear sister Nancy, talented seamstress who took pity on her baby brother's desire and created a kangaroo costume for me.  In that initial year, I carried Jessica as a baby in my pouch, later it would be my stuff dog, Woof Woof.  Someone kindly pointed out to me that I was a female kangaroo, since I had the pouch and was carrying the baby.  This would be a pattern that I followed all too often!
There was the year, I dressed up as an Orange Flag.  Mayor Anderson had initiated them throughout the city, and I was just trying to be patriotic to the cause!  Cathy was Martha Stewart that year, although we really needed an orange jump suit, which fit her attire in her temporary home in the Federal Prison system.

One year, I can't seem to find it, I dressed up as a Fairy Princess.  I was wearing my sandles that year, and my constituent liasion, Marge Harvey pointed out that my toe nails needed to be painted.  For some reason, I let her do it, and boy did they freak me out every time I showered.  I kept thinking it would wear off, and it wasn't until a week later that she pointed out to me that I could use fingernail polish remover.  Hey guys don't learn that kind of stuff, usually!

Then there was the West High Cheerleader year.  And no, cheerleaders at West don't look like this!  Although Chris Burbank, our Chief of Police, who played basketball about the same time I did, at East, tried to convince me that was the case.  I thought the little ribbon in my hair, really added to the look!

There was the year I ran for the State Senate in 2008.  I was nervous about that one, but decided to capitalize on the occasion, and pretend I was a "Roman Senator" and decorated one of my campaign signs.  You know that year, I actually had the endorsement of Mitt Romney, but it was clearly a Democratic year, and well, I'm still a city councilman.....

In 20120, I dressed as a caveman.  I'm on the Advisory Board for the Museum of Natural History and we had a bond measure before the voters.  Carrying my pet dino, I made a shameless plug for people voting for the bond.  You can now see the outcome of it in one of the most beautiful buildings in the State and one of the top tourist draws in the valley, approaching 300,000 visitors since it opened, nearly a year ago.  Proud to now be the President of that Advisory Board.

Last year, running out of ideas, started going to the Hale Center Theater Costume Shop!  This is me, dressed as Dumbledore from Harry Potter.  I guess because of the beard, everyone thought I was Hagrid.  Oh well, they still liked it.  It did remind me of why I don't want a beard!

Well that brings us to this year.   Yes I have a costume, and yes I plan to show up at City Hall and a few other places, but you'll just have to wait and see....
Yes, Cathy was a Gypsy and I'm a Pirate!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tempos, one of life's greatest treasures!

Can't ever have enough Tempos
My dear mother, Verda Mae Christensen, found great joy in the last 10 years of her life shopping at NPS Market Square on Industrial Road in Salt Lake City, looking for bargain after bargain.  On more than one occasion, she would come home with something that I thought was totally crazy, even making a comment about it, and then finding myself a week or two later asking if I could borrow it.  For example, she once purchased an audio visual cart and primarily used it to move her groceries from the car to the house.  After she passed away in 2004, I inherited it and use it all the time for my computer projector and other audio visual stuff.  OK, so I didn't give my Mom enough credit, and I'm now eating some humble pie and getting some just reward from my own kids.

Mom always thought that if one item was a good bargain, than 10 was even a better deal.  One such acquisition by her, was a tissue called Tempos.  They came with these handy visor holders and to the naked eye, they were just another tissue.  But Tempos, actually are a four ply tissue.  Soft enough to use on your nose, but tough enough to wipe a spill in the car, or to wipe down something without falling apart like a normal tissue.  We quickly fell in love with the things and in the nature of my brother Clayton's research about "A job to be done", the job here was not really as a tissue but wiping up life's challenges within your car.  When Mom passed away in 2004, her assets were divided and disbursed by her Trust, it was the Tempos that were evenly divided amongst the kids.  I will have to admit, in taking home a case of them, I didn't really ever anticipate running out.  

Four or so years later, panic went through my own household with the realization that we were on our last package of Tempos.  We went to the Internet, and found a supplier through Amazon when we couldn't find any in the stores, and purchased another case.  As you can imagine, my other siblings were also running out, and in the spirit of generosity, we did share some of those Tempo Tissues with them.  Fast forward to 2012. On the edge of running out again, I went back to the Internet to find out that Tempos were discontinued in their manufacturing.  As I read customer reviews I quickly found out that others shared my panic and love for the things.  I also found out a secondary market for the stuff had developed on eBay.  However I came across a new options, albeit 3-ply product, called Halsa.  Halsa, it just isn't the familiar tone of Tempo and it just wasn't quite the same.  However I was grateful to not have to reform my life, and purchased a mere 40- three package replacements of the stuff.  This time with the intent, to really stick it to family members who want them, and using them for bartering items for family activities.  Like gold for some, I now have a nearly extinct product on my hand!
Yes, I had to open the box and individually verify the inventory!
I realize that my mother wouldn't approve of my high leverage attitude, after all ,she hadn't charged me anything for the original stuff.  She would have given the "shirt off her back" to not only us, but anyone who needed it.  I would do a disservice to her for holding this stuff hostage.  I'm sure at the first family gathering when someone laments, that they're out of "Tempos", I will probably be offering up my new Halsa collection.  If Mom only knew.....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dorky but Safe!

Carlton showing off his new (used) iPod and his head lamp
 There are times in my life, where I hesitate to ever show a picture such as this to my older sister Nancy.  She is very artistically oriented and well, let's just say she has put me in very interesting scenes and scenarios.  I'm not entirely sure I plan to show her this one, and with her aging years, I'm optimistic she'll just pass right over it!

I've come to a point in my life, where I've pretty much blown off dignity and most of my vanity for the sake of safety.  Especially after crashing twice on my bike this month, the last while trying to start an app on my phone while riding with one hand.  The pain that was inflicted, simply hasn't made whatever I had hoped to gain from using that app, worth it.  It's with that spirit, that I wanted to show off my headlamp flashlight that I've started using while I walk in the early mornings.  At first I contemplated the visual experience for others, but the lure of seeing where I was walking (the bumps in the sidewalks), having my hands free to adjust my iPod, or take an oximeter reading of my finger or just being seen by cars as I cross our neighborhood streets.  This $4 headlight has been well worth it and I know that secretly, every neighbor out walking, wishes they had their own.  Watch me trip next week and smash it on my forehead leaving me at a diminished state for the rest of my life, but in the interim, you know I'm safer!

I'm also demonstrating my "new" used iPod.  Sarah helped me pick it out on Amazon and while I've had an iPad, it just didn't fit in my pocket very well when I exercised.  I had an iTunes account, and Sarah, taking advantage of it, has added some to it.  However I'm always open to some suggestions.  I need good exercise songs, so if you want to share with me your playlist, publicly or privately, I'll see if I like your stuff and if I do, will probably buy the songs. If I don't, I'll probably write a blog about your playlist and why it isn't any good....

Next time you see that beacon of light coming down your street, know that it's either an alien, me, or both!

Postscript:  I now add a second one on the back of my head, with a red light on, tail light!  Now there is a sight!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Odie and the Pig

Odie, our new calf comes in the pen
for dinner
While one might think that it was an old Elton John song, Odie and the Pig, are the newest acquisitions in the Christensen Family is much more than music.  You see, aside from the advantage of the quality in raising your own meat, we are hedging against price increases for next year, when the effects of this year's hot weather and drought in parts of the U.S. catches up with the market place.  Plus, it's just kind of fun to see how our food, really does get to our tables.

Those of you who are neighbors to us in Rose Park, may be wondering where these new additions are hiding in our backyard, but you're not going to be able to turn me in on this one!  Thanks to Cathy's brother Bill and his wife Shari, our new additions are being raised at their place, west of Ogden in Taylor, UT.  Bill and Shari, who have raised animals themselves for a number of years, took pity on us and agreed to help us acquire both a calf and a pig.  The calf came named by the family who sold it to Bill, and we liked the name Odie.  It seemed to fit and besides you don't want anything too sentimental, knowing that this year it's in the pasture and next year in your freezer!
The Pig (one of the three) is male and enjoying some
rotten tomatoes we brought with us to share with them.
They love tomatoes!
The Pig has a shorter outlook on the horizon, probably in February, but is a cute little thing and enjoys non-meat table scraps and leftover produce along with grain.  It's interesting to realize they do better with a little competition in gaining weight, when there is more than one.  Reminded me a little of myself and older brothers...maybe that's how I got so tall!

Cathy's brother Bill, convinces Odie
that it's time for dinner!
We were reminded the hard way, that raising animals has it's risk.  Bill and Shari, who also got a calf at the same time to raise along with Odie, lost it suddenly without any advance notice, and subsequently the investment that went along with it.  I'm reminded again, the risk farmers go through every day, in bringing stuff to our tables and we definitely take it for granted.  Our thanks to Bill, Shari and family for their willingness to help us out (and hold our hands through the process).  We look forward to the "circle of life"!

Monday, September 17, 2012

George Tsalaky - A great teacher, a true gentleman

Meeting George Tsalaky at Costco on
Saturday, September 15, 2012
There are people we come across in our lives that have a significant effect on us and while you hope they know that influence, it probably can't really be repaid.  One such person for me, is George Tsalaky, my fifth grade teacher at Backman Elementary.  For those of you who had him or interacted with him as a teacher, know his unassuming nature, and probably one of the kindest most gentle people I will have ever met.  For me, the year following my own father's death, he helped me understand and appreciate myself.  I lacked confidence, self-esteem and even a feeling of security.  Those first couple of years after my father's death were quite hard on me and Mr. Tsalaky was one of those persons who was always there.

Mr. Tsalaky started as a young teacher, early in Backman
Elementary's history.
In a time period where there were not a lot of male teachers, Mr. Tsalaky was a great role model in showing us how to be patient yet firm in treating each other with respect.  I was not the first to have him as a teacher in our family, but I like to think I was his favorite student.  However, I think he made us all feel like we were his favorite student. 

Picture of Backman Elementary faculty from 1966-67
Years after his retirement, George Tsalaky returns to Backman three days a week to volunteer his time in trying to continue to help kids read better.  While many might look to other opportunities, his heart is with the kids.   The measurement of his effect over the decades of association with the children of the West Side can never be calculated, but for him, it was all about the one.

Mr. Tsalaky as a young teacher

My heart gets light again, each time I run into Mr. Tsalaky. While I know that one day, he will return to God, I've asked him to put in a good word for me because his chances of getting there are probably much better than mine!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ben McAdams - Statesman and the best person to be Salt Lake County's next Mayor

Cathy and I joined a press conference of Mayors from around
Salt Lake County expressing our Support for
Ben McAdams as the next Salt Lake County Mayor
While we've supported many candidates in Carlton's 15 years of public service and even more in a lifetime of political activity, few rise to the standard of statesman-like leadership as our good friend, Senator Ben McAdams.  While many would scratch their head, knowing of our Republican background, as to why we would be supporting the Democratic candidate, our firm reply is that we need the best person to help lead our community.  Ben represents the qualities we would look for in someone who can reach across divides and show leadership in difficult situations. Also, he can help set a course for county government that would deliver the best services at a reasonable cost and efficient use of the taxpayer's dollars.  We've become good friends with Ben and Julie over the last five years and know that we can trust Ben. He is someone who can help our community come together and move forward.

Both of us don't ever mark straight party ballots, even though we defer heavily to a Republican ticket.  Neither of us believe poor candidates, on either side, deserve a pass based upon a party.  We still laugh however about an experience that happened on the day when Carlton asked Cathy to marry her in March of 1990.  We had only dated for a period of six weeks, and while we knew we were right for each other, we probably didn't know the details like we do 22 years later.  Carlton had just proposed to Cathy on the top of Ensign Peak and went driving away in his 1966 Chevy Pickup (a real piece of work) to tell family and friends. In a panic, Carlton looked at Cathy and in a serious tone asked, "Are you Republican or Democrat?"  In an astonished look, Cathy replied, "Republican, I guess."  OK so maybe not the script Carlton should have used, but his political family has strong allegiance to the Republican Party.  Mitt Romney is a good family friend and we believe he should be the next President of the United States.  In that same breath Ben McAdams should be the next Mayor of Salt Lake County.

We've always told friends who didn't have the courage to publicly support Carlton in his failed 2008 State Senate Race, who were Democrats, that no one knows what you do in the voting booth.  In the end, that is really where it matters.  Obviously we hope you'll be more public about your support for Ben and join us in saying it is good government that really matters, not the party.  That goes for both sides.  This will be a great year of change for many elected offices and we think it will be so for Salt Lake County and would ask you to vote for Ben McAdams for Salt Lake County Mayor!

Carlton & Cathy Christensen

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Midway, UT - halfway between here and Heaven

Sarah Cathy and Jessica after our bike ride in Midway
to and from Swiss Days
 Saturday we went and celebrated our Swiss heritage and took advantage of beautiful scenery and fun surroundings.  My brother and his wife are building a beautiful home in Midway and we had the chance of stopping by and then riding over to the festivities on Main Street.  In order to properly celebrate, I took my Swiss flag with me and left it in his yard while we went riding.  Recently, through family history research, we learned we have some Swiss Ancestry, which reminds me even more why I like Midway. 

There are a lot of beautiful communities in the "Wasatch Back" but I really love Midway.  Their Main Street is a welcome home to all walks of life and you don't need a Hummer to feel at home.  In addition there are many place to bike, and some great places to eat.  I just love "The Store" which gives you access to the essentials and reminds you of what makes small towns fun places to live.  We enjoyed the many vendors, food and interactions with people.  On the bike ride over to Swiss Days, Sarah said, "Hello" to everyone we passed and in addition to quickly riding past them them and not having to do the park and shuttle stuff, felt pretty liberated to come and go as we chose.  They do need a bike corral and there is room for a few bike lanes, but I can see it coming and with lot of potential.

Cathy and I have really enjoyed our bike riding in Midway!

I did have my first bike accident in a long time, pretty stupid one at that.  I missed a turn on a bike path, went off the path to find a steep incline and slid about four feet barely missing some cow dung!  Sprained my thumb, scraped my knee and have a few bruises but my bike is usable and I lived to ride another day.

Of course, I'm hoping no one reads this blog, because I don't want the rest of you finding how nice Midway is so it doesn't become like some of the other places that have lost their small town feel.  I love my city, but Midway is a great place to visit!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hanging out at Harvard

Not your usual view of the Student Union, I'm hanging out this morning at the Harvard Business School. An amazing decor and beautiful surroundings, a rare moment for the History grad at the U.

Today, I'm participating in a roundtable discussion on Innovation in Government hosted by the famous and yet humble Professor Clayton M. Christensen, aka my older brother.  The discussion of innovation in government has too often centered on Private vs Public delivery of service, yet one or the other, really doesn't provide a compelling solution to costs.  In fact, if you look at a lot of the Federal Contracts for providing services once provided by the public sector, I would venture to guess, it costs us more except when you decide to cut its funding, it's much simpler to send contract employees off packing, than Federal employees.  Even my own city, Salt Lake City, recently went out to bid it's garbage and reclycle service and it was less expensive for us to provide it ourselves.  We obviously don't have the corporate overhead and we've been doing it a while, so much of our support infrastructure is in place.  The real question at hand is whether or not either side is truly motivated to find a simpler or cheaper model, which we sometimes call affectionately in our family, disruptive innovation (thanks to my older brother Clayton).

As I look through the attendee list, it is a little daunting to wonder my own contribution, but I also know that I bring 15 years of public service and a variety of experiences that I believe can contribute to the important dialogue.  Last evening as we discussed my brother's model on why our economy hasn't rebounded as it has in the past, it really became clear why government hasn't moved forward, yet are faced with some of the most daunting challenges in the last 50 years in terms of cost, demand and ability to provide the historic services we have come to expect.

I expect to learn much today, but the thing I've learned perhaps most importantly of all, here at the Harvard Business School is that recycle base napkins are not as absorbant or have the same capacity of normal napkins.  Yes, I spilled my orange juice in the student eating area and had to make at least two trips back to the napkin dispenser.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sending your child off to college isn't much fun...

Jessica at age six
You know how you have that image of your kids in your mind and for some reason, you always picture them that way, yet somehow they grow up on you?  Today was one of those harsh realities that maybe, somehow, my little girl grew up on me and it was time for her to try something new.  Yea, go ahead, tell me to grow up, but it's not your little girl!  The above picture was taken the year before I was first elected and today I dropped my daughter off as a Junior at Utah State.  I'm sure there are countless of you who have done, lived through it and probably were a lot stronger than me.  But I'm just weak and emotionally challenged with the notion of my girl testing out the next phase of her life.

Having earned her associates degree last April, Jessica obviously started thinking about alternatives to baking me cookies each Sunday evening.  She even had the audacity to think  she wants to educate little kids and increase their learning and growth.  And for some reason, she thinks that the good reputation of Utah State and idea of moving away from home would be a good direction to head in her life.  What is she thinking?  The difficult part of this all, is she may be right.  So today, we loaded up her stuff, and between her 2002 SAAB and our suburban, headed off to Logan to get her settled.  I had Cathy ride with her on the way there and I followed up the rear.  I of course called them no less than three times to suggest better driving techniques or habits (which of course don't reflect in my driving) and I was sure every movement around a big truck was going to be the end.  However we made it and got her checked in with the manager of her apartment. 

I was then sure her roommates would be unfriendly or the room lousy, but they had to welcome her and tell her how excited they were to see her.  And the room, all five have their own bedroom and bathroom units within apartment, were clean and her roommate across the hall had a sign that said "Smile" on the door with a doormat that said "HI" on it.  They even cleaned the kitchen while we were there, eliminating a sub-plot that Cathy and I were working on.  There was a shed in which she could lock up her bike, and a parking spot for her car.  They even had free Internet for her to use. 

While thinking up other conspiracy theories, I noticed she had a low tire, so we took it into a repair shop to have the flat fixed, have lunch and pick up some items at Walmart.  Of course we packed a whole slew of large quantity items from Costco purchased in Salt Lake, but there were other things to purchase there, a new printer, ink, paper, food,   We thought it time to replace her bike helmet from Jr. High, I thought she needed a bike rack for her car to take her bike on it and of course a new lock for the bike.  I then realized she needed a pump for her bike that I had her bring (and when did they change the direction of the little lever on bike pumps from pressing down to lock to sticking up straight to lock it - I spent 20 minutes trying to get it to work until Cathy and Jess read the instructions).  I of course made her pull over to a gas station, even though she had 2/3 of a tank of gas to fill it up for her to make sure she had enough.   I later set up her printer which is wireless and test printed a note, telling her to write and call frequently...

We made her practice putting on her new bike rack and her bike.  Then made her practice taking it off. And then it came time to go.  Yea go ahead, take the knife, rip my heart out and tell me not to cry.  It just isn't going to work.  I'm still crying.  For the record, I like Hangout in Google and free texting and the data package I have on her phone with T-Mobile.  I know I will see her again and it's going to be a great opportunity for her.    I think your concern should be for Sarah.  We're going to have to have someone to parent....

Doing the unthinkable - Aggie A on the car
And finally, Jessica's former boss at "another" bank where she worked, gave her this receiver plug that he had but didn't use, to give to me.  It's an Aggie "A".  So tonight, just below my faded University of Utah Alumni license plate holder, I put it in to recognize the institution of my daughter's choice and of any dollar I didn't really have to spend.  I love my Jessica and all I can say, is they better treat her right...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Theater Fever

Joining Mayor Becker announcing both Architects and Contractor
for the new Utah Performing Arts Center
After working many years with my colleagues at Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, this was a great week.  Salt Lake County agreed to partner with Salt Lake City in helping to fund the construction of a new Broadway Touring Theater and also operate it to maximize the synergies with their existing facilities as well as draw upon their expertise in operating most of the cultural facilities downtown.  My thanks to the county council members who supported us, especially Max Burdick and Michael Jensen and I'm hopeful that the rest who didn't, will recognize the value long term as we move forward.

This week we also named the architects chosen to help design it,  HKS and Pelli Clarke Pelli and the contractor, Layton Construction.  Local talent with some national expertise will assure a great finished product for our community.  I also anticipate some good community outreach as designs come together and we truly make this a great project for downtown, the region and the State of Utah.

Yesterday, I also had a fun opportunity.  "Wicked" is the current Broadway Play being shown at Capitol Theater.  Tickets sold out early, but every evening, people have the chance to put their name in a drawing and 10 lucky people are chosen who can purchase 2 tickets for $25, which would otherwise cost them $135 a piece.  On Thursday, I got to announce the names of the winners and it was fun to see their reaction.  Below is a video of one of the 10 experiences.

The only down side to the experience, is the other 140 people who walked away not winning, and I couldn't help them.  However it demonstrated the need for a larger theater and the unmet need that exists for this product in our community.  Capitol Theater has served us well and needs some work and would continue to provide a vital role for the Ballet and Opera as well as other things that can not currently be scheduled.

Cathy and I also had the great fortune of attending Wicked ourselves (we also got to pay for the tickets!) We had an absolute fabulous time.  Done a lot of reflection on the "Wicked Witch" who clearly is reflected with a different light in the play, and a reminder that we too often want to categorize others and label them for who they aren't.  The crowd was clearly a crowd we don't see in Salt Lake City on a regular basis and they were just thrilled with the experience and contribute much to our local economy. As did we with dinner before and a CD purchased in the lobby!

I do have one mission as we build the new facility and that is LEG ROOM! I don't try to abuse my political power too much, but if I have any say over it, those of us who can't sit in Capitol look forward to liberation!  Theater Fever is on its way!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hook & Ladder Serving the West Side for 40 Years - Congratulations Van Turner!

Van Turner with his son Devin.  Two Generations keeping
this great Gem alive on the West Side of Salt Lake City
 Today, while out running some errands with Cathy, we decided to stop in at the Hook & Ladder and get some Fish & Chips and visit my good friend Van Turner.  I had the pleasure and honor of serving next to him on the City Council for 12 years.  In his usual friendly way, Van informed me that 40 years ago today, they opened the Hook & Ladder for business.  Located at 1313 West California Avenue, "The Hook" as it is known by his friends, serves the west side residents and employees of nearby businesses six days a week and is filled with nostalgic memorabilia depicting some of the history of firefighting in Salt Lake City.  Van frequently has one of his fire trucks parked in the parking lot, and it continues to be a mainstay of the Glendale neighborhood.

The Hook & Ladder was rated in the top 10 burger places for Utah by the Salt Lake Tribune and you can pick up one of the yummiest combo meals at a very reasonable price.  My favorite was always the double bacon cheese burger, but with my recent weight loss efforts, I've had to choose other options!  Having said that, I still indulge on occasion.  As it transitions to a second generation, Van has involved his sons and you can frequently see them working side by side.

You can't beat the Hook's specials!
 The Hook will be the host of this Tuesday's Night Out Against Crime for that neighborhood.  Van has faithfully supported the neighborhood in hosting the event and makes sure everyone feels involved and fed!  I'm always amazed at the many acts of genuine kindness showed by Van.  I always tried to get Van to take more credit like a good politician, but he always wanted to do what was right for his neighborhood and frequently the credit went elsewhere.   The real Van is what you see!
Firehouse Floral is a also one of Van's
investments in the community and a great
service to many.
In a period of time when many small businesses have not succeeded or migrated to more heavily visited commercial areas, Van has held on and kept this vital core alive for the Glendale Community.  In addition to his restaurant and his floral shop, he also rents out the corner parcel to beauty salon operators and as he will point out, that's the location where he grew up working side by side with his father, who ran a grocery store on the location.

I've never seen Van hold a grudge and he turns the other cheek much easier than I could ever do.  A political opponent one day to him, is a friend the next day after the election.  I was always frustrated that the Salt Lake Tribune would frequently not endorse him, yet he still won, without spending the money that many of us have spent, proving them and us wrong.  I often smile when I'm browsing the Tribune on my iPad and it sends a message asking us to use their app.  On that advertisement is a picture of Van next to his business, one of the few times I felt they gave him the respect he deserved.  While probably not following you on Facebook or Twitter, Van with his wife, Wendy is busy being a true friend to all.  You just have to attend one of their children's wedding receptions to know of the diversity and commitment of their friends are as far as you can see.  And in a way that only Van could do, he serves his church helping those who are spending time in a halfway house, encouraging them in their desire to change their life.

I'll never match the qualities of Van Turner, but it's a huge honor to call him friend!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Closing a chapter in life can be tough...

We all have from time to time those events that while not physically difficult, are mentally tough and take some getting use to it.  Yesterday was one of those times as I dismantled the kennel for our dog Daisy, who passed away about three weeks ago.  The kennel has just sat empty during that time, and with high likelihood of not getting another dog, it was time to take it down.  There were lots of memories with each part and a side story to boot. We had grown very accustomed as a family of driving into our back driveway and having Daisy there to greet us and welcome us home.  It has been pretty quiet there the last few weeks and pretty clear that while relieved from this earthly pain, she was not coming back.  Thus the need to close that chapter.
Daisy's kennel had a tarp roof (along with a "night light"
which I had already removed)
We had purchased her kennel from Lowe's and while we had looked at more expensive versions, this was something we could afford.  We purchased the roof package, which worked well until the first heavy snow storm and one morning came out to find it had collapsed.  In an effort to re-establish it, I grabbed some old boards, nailed them together with my pneumatic nail gun and planned on building something better, with the idea that this would be temporary.  It only stayed the same for another eight years!  In hindsight, I would have never purchased their roof version but built something out of wood at a fraction of the cost and frankly is a much stronger alternative.
Daisy had this thing for chewing!
Daisy had this thing for chewing, on nearly everything!  We once bought her this really nice comfy padded bed only to come out and find an hour later, she had chewed the thing apart.  She was not discriminating and chewed nearly everything, including the "temporary support" of her roof!  The amazing part, is the board was on the outside of her kennel wall and somehow she chewed on it through the fence!
Daisy's dog house that we found on sale and
was her home the entire time
I had numerous conversations with Daisy that eating her own home, was really not in her best interest and she should be much more selective.

When we moved to our current home, I secured the services of a friend in the construction business, DeLynn Kirkham.  Their business did a lot of concrete restoration and re-profiling decks in parking structures.  It was their business to not have water sitting in one place for a long period of time and it proved to be the case with Daisy's kennel.  Whenever we washed it, or the weather left water on the floor, it would drain off quickly and slopped outward in all directions.  One of the best investments we could have made. 

As I dismantled the wall sections and placed them in a place in our yard for storage, I ran into lots of little things that reminded me of our time with Daisy.  I was very grateful for the experience our family shared and without an exception, everyone of us, as we passed the newly cleaned up area, remarked of how different it felt to not have her there.

Empty concrete pad, awaiting a new use...
We've had a few discussions of what to do with the site, but we'll have to wait for the right time financially.  In the mean time, it just will not be the same.  While not in pristine condition, we still do have a usable kennel that I've decided to not sell, just yet.  However if there is a family, who are just starting out with a dog, and just happened to need a kennel that could provide a good home, I think we would like that and would make you a great deal.  It would even be OK, if it were just temporary.  After all, our temporary stuff lasted eight years....

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Heart Challenge Results Announced - I Win Most Improved!

Adding Sugar equivalent to over-all weight loss, I contributed 43 lbs to it!
What I never would have thought I could obtain, and certainly not in 100 days, Intermountain Medical Center announced Thursday night at a special dinner, that I won the most improved award for the challenge involving local elected officials in Salt Lake County.  Prize comes with $1,000 for my city, and more importantly, my health.  An emotional accomplishment for me, because like anything that plagues a person, eating excessively and not caring for yourself becomes an addiction of sorts and breaking yourself of it, not a simple task.  However the feel of self-esteem that accompanies it, is frankly, very rewarding.

The task is obviously not really over, in fact maybe even more difficult in the weeks and months ahead, but I don't want to go back.  Gaining my physical freedom and finding satisfaction in exercising and strengthening my body has had many benefits, I didn't ever imagine.  While I use to work out as part of conditioning during my basketball days, it was more like sentenced torture!  Doing it for myself and improving my condition has been one of the most rewarding things I've done.  My family, and particular Cathy, have been incredible in this effort and I have no idea how I would have accomplished it without them.

Other elected officials from Salt Lake County who participated - Each were so genuine in their efforts
and frankly their support of me
 I like statistics, so here are a few for you that indicate my progress.  Official weight loss, 43 lbs, 7" off my waist.  Lowering of my BMI, 4%, much lower blood pressure, increased oxygen capacity for my blood, improved cholesterol levels and improved blood sugar levels.  On top of it, I have better mobility, improved stamina and a lot of pants that fall off my waist if I loosen my belt, which I've had to drill additional holes to make it work. 
Meagan Kine, Michelle Barker and Kary Woodruff were great to work with me 
My quote that they included in my plaque for participation says it all, "I think for myself, I feel like I have a new lease on life.  I am heading in the right direction for the first time in a decade or more."  Thanks everyone for your support!

Deseret News Article

Monday, July 2, 2012

Farewell Daisy, We will miss you!

Daisy as a new puppy, before coming home to us!
Earlier last week, we were concerned about the increasing weight loss by our dog, Daisy (see prior blog).  Daisy had been on a Veterinarian supervised diet, but was losing more weight than we thought she should.  Daisy also started having a difficult time keeping her food down, and so we took her into the Vet, when alternative food didn't appear to be working.  We were shocked and saddened to find out that Daisy had some kind of cancer, probably liver, and her prognosis would not be good.  The Vet gave us some medicines to help her to be able to eat.  We quickly realized that she not only would not get better, but she would not stay in this interim stage very long. We would need to make some decisions earlier than later.  Not wanting Daisy to suffer any more than she needed to suffer, we made an appointment with the Vet to have her put to rest today. However Sunday morning, she was considerably worse and finally last night, she passed away.

Jessica and Sarah play with Daisy, just prior to bringing her home
Our emotions are tender and our tears are many.  Daisy became a very important part of our family and for nine years, provided some wonderful teaching opportunities and enjoyment as we interacted on a day to day basis.  Originally, when we got her, I personally was a little scared or uneasy around dogs.  My growing up years of raising a dog was not a stellar memory and I was not sure how to truly raise a dog correctly.  However we felt it was important for our oldest daughter Jessica not to have the same fears or concerns and of course, "She promised to take care of everything in caring for Daisy".  While Jessica, and later Sarah, did a lot, there were many days of reminding them of their responsibilities.  Nevertheless, I always loved to come home and see one of them walking down the street with Daisy by their side as they were walking her or to see them out in the back yard playing with Daisy.  They were priceless moments.

Jessica on "Obedience Graduation Day" at Petsmart
I was also determined to try and amend for my mistakes in caring for an earlier dog as a child, and it was always important for me to see her cared for correctly.  Due to allergies and some other issues, Daisy lived outside in a nice kennel area that we had built and we tried to make her comfortable during any of the weather extremes.  I had a tradition each night before going to bed in giving her a treat, just before calling it a night.  In fact many a night, I did my political whining to Daisy, who was always sympathetic and intent in listening to me, just up to the point I gave her a treat!  She always watched over our place and our girls. One time, when Sarah was young, we heard a very different bark from her, and when Cathy went to investigate, found Sarah leaving our yard unattended.  I was glad that the night before she passed away, I was able to give her one last treat and say good bye.

Grandma Nielsen says hi to Daisy on a visit
 We would have on more than one occassion a guest, who at the end of stay, would admit that they gave Daisy a treat themselves. Needless to say, she was well liked by nearly every visitor.

Daisy was also our motivation for walking many a days.  She was a big dog who needed regular exercise, and while the girls had their regular assignments to walk her, I often found a lot of peace in taking her myself.
Family Christmas Photo with Santa & Daisy
  I just could never get her to do her business in one place and at one time.  We had that discussion numerous times, but to no avail.  Frankly, I think it was her way of civil disobedience and for her to make a statement to me.

Our neighbors have always been kind to Daisy and patient with us.  Their complaints during some barking spells were almost never made and their children often appeared over the fence to say hello to Daisy.  Our thanks to the Orme Family, who recently moved but lived next to us for many years and to Denny & Linda McKone who live across the street.  It was not uncommon when the McKones brought their neighbor Christmas gift to us, to also find something in it for Daisy.  I always knew that when the girls were out walking her, that Denny had his eye on them as they went past his home.
Sarah & Daisy at
Parley's Historic Nature Park
on a City Council visit

While Daisy's final days have been tough emotionally, we also have had some sweet moments.  As Jessica's work and schooling have become full time, her care has transitioned to Sarah.  These two have built a wonderful bond together and it was Sarah who could get Daisy to eat and it was Sarah who sat with Daisy for hours on the grass in her final moments to comfort Daisy, and make sure Daisy knew we loved her. Yesterday we just let Daisy lie out on the lawn and rest in the shade.  It offered us some sweet and tender moments with Daisy.

Sarah playing with Daisy, one
last time
 While we struggled with what and how to take care of Daisy when she did pass, we finally settled on the fact we wanted her here at our home.  I could tell Sunday evening around 10 p.m. that whe would not likely make it to our appointment with the Vet this morning, so I went out and started digging her final resting place.  I checked on Daisy once during the process and stroked her head and told her it was ok for her to go.  A few minutes later, Cathy and Sarah came up to me and told me she had passed away. 

Our thanks to Paul and Heidi Fullmer, our neighbors and friends, who came over and helped us take care of Daisy.  We placed her ball (seen in the adjoining picture) with her and I put one of my old gloves in her grave.  Daisy had this interesting  habit of stealing my work gloves off the back porch and burying them in the yard.  I went through a lot of pairs of gloves and Cathy still finds them when she works in the flowers. It's only fitting that her final resting place is a patch of daisies. 

We love you Daisy and want you to know how grateful we are that you were part of our family.