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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 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.

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

County rethinks its four-day work week

By Gideon Oakes

March 25, 2009 | LOGAN -- The Cache County Council took public input at its regular meeting Tuesday regarding the four-day work week for county employees, which has been in effect since last August. It will make a decision on the policy at its next regular meeting April 14.

The hearing pitted county department heads who were in favor of the schedule against several members of the community involved in the real estate and lending industries, who said their business is being hurt by the policy.

The change to four days was made after Gov. Jon Huntsman announced that the majority of state workers would begin working four 10-hour days per week in an effort to save energy and fuel consumption. Cache County shortly thereafter made the decision to mirror the state's model and adopt the schedule.

Most of the discussion during the public hearing focused on the county recorder's office, which Recorder Mike Gleed said he has opened numerous times on Fridays for important transactions, despite having already worked a standard 40-hour week.

Marilyn Adams was the first to speak, telling the council that Friday is the traditional day to exchange possession of properties, especially homes, so the new residents can move in over the weekend. Adams also said FHA loans, whose rates vary on a day-to-day basis, now cannot be processed on Fridays, often leading to additional costs.

"We have no control of when those funds are going to arrive," Adams said. "If they arrive at 8 o'clock Friday morning, you've opened up a legal question as to who pays now for those costs of the interest. Whose fault is it?

"There are a lot of legal ramifications that I hope the council would consider and may not have thought about by not having the availability to record on a Friday."

Speaking for her own office, County Assessor Kathleen Howell told the council that while initially confused by county offices being closed on Fridays, the public has begun to enjoy the ability to do business with the county before and after normal business hours.

"If you look at the numbers, you'll see that in some of those days in January and December, 38 percent of the work we did was transacted in those two hours," Howell said. "Why? Because people don't have to take off work to come now."

Howell added that more than 400 county residents have signed a petition supporting the extended hours Monday through Thursday.

Local real estate agent and mortgage officer Bracken Longhurst, who addressed the council last month on the topic, suggested the recorder's office close half an hour early Monday through Thursday and open for two hours on Friday afternoons to address time-sensitive issues.

Rep. Curt Webb, president of Cache Title, echoed the sentiments of Adams and Longhurst, posing a hypothetical situation of not being able to close on a home for nearly a week because of the recorder's office being shut down on Fridays.

"The nation is open five days a week, and we do national work," Webb said.

Paul Berntson of the building department said he has moved shifts around to accommodate inspections and other business which needs to take place on Fridays.

Real estate agents Kent Bankhead, Kade Longhurst and Kristen Seedall also spoke against the four-day work week.

County Treasurer Karen Jeppesen and Auditor Tamra Stones spoke in favor of the policy.


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