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Today's word on journalism

May 12, 2009

The Last WORD


The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Law officers seem overzealous in traffic citations -- and I should know

By John Zeugschmidt

May 8, 2009 | Cache Valley residents are tired of being pulled over and issued traffic citations. "I have been pulled over so many times in Logan that I drive the streets with a constant feeling of sheer paranoia," said Jake Dinsdale, a graduate of USU and current Cache Valley resident.

"When it gets to a certain point, police cease to be productive public servants and become a useless drain on citizens' checking accounts," said Dinsdale.

I agree with Dinsdale and I believe if any government employees should get laid off during this economic downturn, law enforcement officials should be the first to go. We simply have too many for the population we have here in the valley.

Morgan Quitno Press, a publication that ranks cities based on safety, named Logan the safest small town in America for the second year in a row. Many Logan residents feel a sense of pride in the fact that they live in the safest town in America. Some residents prosper because of Cache Valley's reputation, especially those in the tourism and real estate markets.

"We take care of the small things, which helps eliminate the bigger problems," said Logan Police Department Capt. Eric Collins in an issue of the Statesman in December of 2007.

Jessica Duhadway, a student at USU says she has been tailed on different occasions by the local law enforcement. "One time I was literally tailgated for at least nine miles. If I changed lanes they did and if I sped up they did as well.

"The cop followed me into a parking lot and parked right next to me. This cop yelled and chewed me out for more than a quarter of an hour because I cut her off a little while turning onto the highway. Whenever I tried to defend myself I got shot down and yelled at more. The cop never issued me a citation," said Duhadway.

Former USU student Brian Wilde was pulled over on Nov. 3, 2008, while riding his longboard skateboard. "He asked me if I knew that longboarding on the road was illegal, and I told him I had never heard of that law in my life. He issued me a citation. The ticket stated my vehicle color as tan. I was shocked. It's not a vehicle, a 6-year-old can ride a longboard! I had to pay a $100 fine and I received a Class C Misdemeanor," said Wilde.

According to cityrating.com, Logan's crime rate falls below the national average in every category. In fact Logan has the lowest crime statistics recorded in the entire United States. There is no disputing the fact that the efforts and policies of the local law enforcement give Logan and the surrounding area this reputation.

"It's like a broken window. If you leave the window broken, it could lead to graffiti and eventually burglary. You have to take care of that window. Like the window you take care of the theft, assaults, and drug problems. Then you don't have bigger problems like homicides and rape," said Capt. Collins in the Dec. 5, 2007, issue of the Statesman. Some Cache Valley residents including Dinsdale, Duhadway, Wilde and myself feel that we have not been treated fairly and that the local law enforcement has little to do because of the low crime rate in the valley.

There seem to be two contrasting perspectives. One is that Cache Valley is like a home that has a broken window and that needs to be fixed so other crimes are kept out. The other perspective is that the window in the home isn't broken but that law enforcement officials try so hard to keep crime out that they break the window and cause damage to those inside.

People are being nickeled and dimed for minuscule reasons and the quality of life that the local law enforcement is trying to promote is being destroyed by their own efforts.

However, some freedoms must be given up in order to receive some benefits. In order for Logan to be the safest small town in America the law enforcement must enforce the law and take care of the big and small issues that put Logan residents in danger. I personally would rather live in a place where the police aren't bored or at least cut you some slack if you haven't really made a mistake.

"Did I come to a complete stop back there or was I still rolling a little? Did I have my blinker on for a full three seconds? Basically, they will pull you over and make up a reason later. I don't pay taxes for that kind of asinine power tripping. I live in a state of fear of being pulled over, hassled, and fined by bored policemen," said Dinsdale.

There seems to be a question of where the line is between preventing criminal activity and making ordinary citizens feel paranoid every time they get in their vehicle.

I am one of those citizens. I have received four tickets in the last three years and I have been pulled over 11 times. The seven times I didn't receive a ticket was because I defended myself and proved that I did nothing to deserve a ticket.

I was also arrested in March because of a clerical error on a ticket I took care of over a year ago. I had to pay $650 to bail myself out of jail, $250 to get my vehicle out of the impound yard, and spend a day in jail because somebody at the courthouse didn't do their job right. I was also never told by the sheriff deputies at the jail why I had been arrested. I was simply a criminal that popped up in their system and that is all they could tell me. I only received $600 back after Judge Cheryl Russell realized the court had made a mistake.

I was also harassed while in jail but I have recently been called by both Sheriff Lynn Nelson and the deputy involved, and I am satisfied with how they have apologized and handled the situation. The harassment wasn't that big of a deal to me compared with being wrongfully arrested, losing $300 of my scholarship money, and the mental and emotional stress that went along with this situation right around finals time.

If you are at all intrigued by what I have stated I encourage you to check out your own record. As far as the local law enforcement is concerned, you could be a criminal too. If you don't agree with what I said, I encourage you to stand somewhere on 400 North in Logan at about 3 p.m. If you don't see at least five cop cars in five minutes and at least two of them pull someone over, I take back everything I have said.

MS
MS

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