Monday, December 23, 2019

2019 Highland City Newsletter Mayor’s Messages

Highland Newsletter Masthead

Below are my city newsletter messages from 2019. Let me know if there are items you’d like me to cover in 2020 and if you have any suggestions for other content in our monthly newsletter. You can find city newsletters on our website by clicking here.

January 2019 Newsletter

David Marcum, a Highland Resident, co-authored a book entitled Catalyst. In it they reference a paper written by two university professors who were trying to find out if decisions made for others produced more creative solutions than solutions made for self. The professors conduct 4 experiments. In one of them the following question was posed to 137 students.

A prisoner was attempting to escape from a tower. He found a rope in his cell that was half as long enough to permit him to reach the ground safely. He divided the rope in half, tied the two parts together, and escaped. How could he have done this?

Half the students were asked to imagine themselves as the prisoner locked inside the tower (“prisoner group”). The other half were asked to imagine someone else trapped in the prison (“imaginary group”). Forty-eight percent of those who imagined themselves trapped in the tower escaped, while sixty-six percent of those who imagined someone else solved the dilemma (the prisoner unwound the rope and tied the strands together). Three more related experiments in the same study found that participants were more creative or had better solutions when thinking of someone else. The only variable was the switch from me to we.

I find it comforting to know that we are wired to be more successful in solving problems when we are serving others. As we start the new year let us keep this in mind as we face new challenges. Our community, our family, and each of us benefit individually by switching from me to we. It’s a win/win/win!

February 2019 Newsletter

This month we the city is again conducting our annual survey. I would encourage everyone to fill it out. The results do influence decisions made by council and staff. Last year 1,527 comments were entered (I read each of these and wrote replies to about 950 of them). These also have influence. For example, some residents expressed a viewpoint that the survey was biased towards increasing costs. In this year’s survey instead of asking if you would like to increase a service level we changed the question to  “Would you like to see less of, the same amount, or more of the following?”  If you would like to look at the results from last year’s city survey and read my replies you can look at my post on the 2018 City Survey (http://bit.ly/2018HighlandCitySurvey).

2019 Survey Experience with Staff
We are off to a busy start this year. The east-west connector design is underway. Construction will likely start sometime this year. We are also working with the buyer of the 112 acre parcel of land south of the Lone Peak High School. An open house was held on the 30th of January at city Hall to review the project with residents. If you missed it we will be posting information on the city website. Staff is also preparing for this years road projects. This will include finishing 6000 W, 6400 W between SR92 & 10400 N, plus sections of 9600 N.

Here is a thought to go with Valentine’s day. “Marriage is what the two personalities involved make it. For art, music, oratory, authorship ..., it is conceded that success presupposes ability, desire, determination and training, but many seem to think that mere entrance into matrimony should of itself bring success, prosperity and happiness, that it should accomplish all these things as if it were a birthright to be demanded instead of a fortune to be earned by their united effort.”—William George Jordan, Little Problems of Married Life, 1910

March 2019 Newsletter

When we turn on our tap seldom do we ask, “how does such clear water make it to our homes”.  The city’s drinking water system is one of those “out of sight, out of mind” utilities that we often take for granted.  The original Highland City water system was created in 1958 by residents who believed that a central water system would be a great benefit to the community.

Our drinking water system is comprised of a pipe network, concrete water tanks, pump stations and well houses.  Similar to other cities in north Utah County, Highland City’s water is supplied through deep wells. These wells (most are ~ 600 ft. below the surface) pump water from aquifers which are fed by water that begins as snowmelt within the Wasatch Mountains. The water slowly makes its way through the soil to porous sections of sands and gravels until it reaches the aquifers we use.

The deep wells are vertical columns of pipe with screens at the lower reaches which allow for the collection of groundwater.  A pump draws the water up to the ground surface where it is stored in large concrete water tanks. From the tanks the water is fed into miles of pipeline via gravity.

Highland City staff regularly samples and tests the water to ensure that it meets the water quality standards of the Utah Division of Drinking Water. Of note, the city does not add any chemicals due to the natural high water quality. The water system is operated by city staff who possess the appropriate certifications from the State of Utah. I would like to thank our staff for their diligence in managing the water system so that we have the uncommon luxury of enjoying pristine water directly from our taps.

April 2019 Newsletter

First of all I would like to congratulate one of our residents, Dr. William Parker OB/GYN, for being inducted into the American Fork Hospital Hall of Fame. Each year one retired physician who served on the medical staff for at least 20 years receives this honor. Dr. Parker delivered 7,800 babies during his career and consistently went the extra mile to serve his patients and those with whom he worked. Dr. Park and his wife Rusty recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Thank you both for being part of our community and being great examples of quietly serving others.

This month city staff will turn on our pressurized irrigation system. While we have had a good winter in terms of snow we should always be mindful to conserve water. On way to do that is to purchase a smart sprinkler controller. These devices reduce water waste by automatically adjusting how often and how long a landscape is watered based on local weather and landscape conditions.  I purchased one 4 years ago and am very satisfied as is my neighbor who purchased one at the same time. For me, aside from saving water the best benefit is that I can troubleshoot sprinklers heads without running back and forth to the controller. I simply use the smart phone app to turn a zone on and off.

You can receive up to a 50% rebate on the purchase of a smart controller through the website utahwatersavers.com. This website also has free designs for low water use parkstrips. Check out the “Helpful Resources” found in the Flip the Strip link.

May 2019 Newsletter

Late last year we commissioned a General Fund study to look at our revenue and expenses over the next 5 years. We learned that if we do not increase revenue that by 2022 our general fund will have a negative fund balance. Separate from that we also learned that our public safety costs were going to increase dramatically due in large part to Cedar Hills exiting the fire district, if we want to keep the same level of service. Both issues are real but public safety is the most immediate.

A fair question to ask is has the city been good stewards of the money we give it? I did and I looked at 10 years of data to answer the question. I learned that between 2009 and 2018:

  • We’ve had an increase in demand on service due to population growth (31.2%)
  • Less buying power due to inflation (20.9%)
  • Total revenue grew by 24.9%  and expenses grew by 18.9% (the balance went into reserves or capital project funds).

What does that tell me? Revenues over the last 10 years have grown significantly less than the combination of population growth and inflation rate. The city has been frugal in its budget and we’ve been putting money in the bank to cover one-time emergencies (floods, fires, earthquakes, equipment failures, … ). It is reasonable to say that a tax increase is needed given the long term disparity between service demand and revenue growth. Additionally, we recognize that we need to do better at a number of services (e.g. park & trail maintenance) which requires additional funding.

We will be holding our city open house on May 2nd where we will have detailed budget data for you to review as well as fun activities for the youth. We’ll be holding two community open houses to address the budget and tax options on May 22nd and May 30th. We will review the options we have moving forward and would like to get your input. As always feel free to contact me to discuss this or any issue.

June 2019 Newsletter

The man who is calm has his course in life clearly marked on his chart. His hand is ever on the helm. Storm, fog, night, tempest, danger, hidden reefs—he is ever prepared and ready for them. He is made calm and serene by the realization that in these crises of his voyage he needs a clear mind and a cool head; …” —William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1898.

Summer hopefully begins on June  21st. It has been a cold and unusually wet spring. City staff have been preparing for potential flood issues. They’ve reached out to local church leaders and school district staff so that volunteers can be quickly organized, sandbags have been prepped and put on pallets, … .

If you notice ditches, streams, or canal grates that are blocked by debris let city staff know. If you see anyone dumping grass clippings or yard waste in or near ditches or streams please let them know this can cause serious flooding issues. Also, helping keep debris from entering storm drains and filling detention basins will help limit flooding potential.

Please be aware that as water flows increase ditches, rivers, and normally dry stream beds can become dangerous. Members of our community, both youth and old have died in canals and ditches. Thankfully it has been a long time and we hope it never happens again.

We are so appreciative of those of you who are proactive in helping the city be prepared for potential issues and I am personally appreciative our staff who quietly prepare for eventualities like floods so that we can respond with a “clear mind and a cool head” to crisis of the moment.

July 2019 Newsletter

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”—John Quincy Adams

This year we are filling three open city council seats. The 11 candidates that are vying for your vote are asking for the privilege to spend roughly 10 hours a week (or more) for four years making decisions that affect us directly.

The issues they deal with will range from approving changes in user fees to budgetary expenses totaling $18M, from zoning changes on 2 to 80 acre parcels, and from road maintenance to approaches on legal issues.

Let me offer a few thoughts on what principles can be applied in selecting candidates for city council:

  • They need to be someone whose judgement you can trust, because they will at some point vote counter to what you believe is correct. Are they able to put the interests of others over their own self-interest? If they can, you will be more apt to trust their judgement.
  • They will be making decisions on issues in areas where they are not experts. Look for someone who likes to learn, is willing to listen to multiple points of view, and is able to revise their opinion as they learn more about an issue.
  • Council members often don’t agree with each other but need to work together. Can a candidate disagree without being disagreeable? Are they able to effectively debate issues? Can they compromise when that is called for? When issues are properly vetted better decisions are the result. Residents will be unhappy from time to time.  Showing civility in the face of incivility tends to de-escalate issues and helps take emotion out of decisions.
  • I’ve found that trying to do the right thing in the wrong way can generate a lot of negatively and is often worse than doing nothing. The “wrong way” usually means making big decisions in a way that is perceived to be non-transparent. Candidates that are patient and have the ability to persist will be able to move the ball forward on big issues in the right way.

Is there a perfect candidate? No. Are there candidates who are perfectly capable of doing an excellent job. Absolutely! Please take the time to get to know those who are running and support those you believe will be effective public servants over the next four years.

The Highland City Fling begins at the end of the month. There are a lot of fun and exciting activities planned. Our Kickoff Luau on July 27th is one I am particularly looking forward to. Register for this and other events at HighlandCityFling.com.

Note, a minor rewrite of this was published by the UtahPolicy.com, a popular political website, and the Utah League of Cities and Towns. We received positive feedback from quite a few Utah residents including a number of mayors, city council members, and state officials including the Lt. Governor.

August 2019 Newsletter

I want to thank the candidates for city council who stepped into the void when we had only one candidate for running. Running is hard and costs money. Regardless of who you end up voting for please say thanks those who ran for their willingness to serve. If there are candidates you support I am sure they would appreciate any donation you are willing to give. You can find out more about the candidates by going to http://bit.ly/HC-elections including a link to a “Voter Information Guide” that includes candidate responses to four questions generated by residents and staff. The questions cover open space and parks, budget, zoning, and gives candidates the opportunity to share with you the one thing they would change in Highland if they could. If you have questions for candidates don’t be afraid to call them. They would love to hear from you.

While we are having a good water year we still need to use water wisely. For example, in areas where the soil has a lot of clay (such as north-west Highland) it is better to water in multiple short intervals rather than one long one. Don’t forget to clean your pressurized irrigation filters regularly. The water coming out of the canyon this year was particularly dirty.

Thanks for all the seemingly small things you do to make this a great community. I hear about them regularly and am so appreciative of your service to others.

September 2019 Newsletter

Give honest, sincere appreciation.
The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.

—Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People,1936

Congratulations to the city council candidates who made it through the primary. Thanks to all who ran for their willingness to serve, the time they spent in campaigning, and for the positive nature of the campaign. Everyone who ran is a winner in my book!

Here’s some good news. Queue the applause. Later this month the city website will be getting a major upgrade! Staff has put in a lot of work over the course of the year to make this happen. Mobile users (phones and tablets) will find it much easier to use.

A reminder for all of us. School has started—slow down in school zones. However important it is for us to get somewhere fast, it is not worth harming a child.

October 2019 Newsletter


We do not have government by the majority.
We have government by the majority who participate.

—Author Unknown

For those who were unable to attend the Meet Your Candidates event in September videos of each candidates Q&A session are available on YouTube in the Utah’s Highlander YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/uthighlander).

This year we had a high potential for flooding but did not experience any significant issues. Part of the reason was the gradual warming we had during the spring and summer. However, throughout the summer we experienced five to ten times the water flow from the canyon that we had last year. In fact even now we are experiencing three to four times the water flow (see http://bit.ly/afriverflow).

Aside from Providence’s aid we had “boots on the ground”, who during the spring and summer cleared the river channel, debris basin, and ditches in order to ensure that our basements did not get filled with water. The list of those who quietly served us include the US Forest & National Parks Services, UDOT, Highland City Public Works Dept, Mark Thompson (former Mayer & Watermaster for Lehi Irrigation Company), Ernie John (AF City and AF Irrigation Watermaster), and Lehi City Public Works Dept. We are very appreciative of their service as well as that of residents who saw issues and addressed them without any notice.

Thinking of the floods that did not happen, reminds me that we often forget to thank those whose service helps avert disaster in all aspects of our lives. Let us take a moment and thank someone we normally wouldn’t for making our lives better.

November 2019 Newsletter

Gratitude is thankfulness expressed in action. It is the heart’s recognition of kindness that the lips cannot repay.”—William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1910

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington wrote the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation. In it he expresses gratitude “for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war.

One of the interpositions President Washington was likely referencing occurred during the Battle of Long Island. A battle that he lost, but one in which (1) a providential wind prevented the British Navy from cutting off the American army’s only line of retreat across the east river, (2) a late night breeze allowed transport vessels to use their sails to speed the silent retreat, and (3) a morning fog uncharacteristically lingered for several hours allowing Washington’s entire army to be evacuated before the vastly superior British forces knew what happened.

President Washington concludes his proclamation by asking “that we may unite in most humbly offering our prayers … to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue … .” I wonder if Pres. Washington was thinking of the statement in James 1:29 which reads, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction ... .

This Thanksgiving let us not only remember the many blessings we have received, but let us also put our gratitude into action by finding ways to bless the lives of others.

December 2019 Newsletter

As we begin the holiday season I would like to extend a warm thank you to our staff who serve us so well. Recently, we had an issue with one of our sewer lift station pumps. It was getting clogged by an overabundance of flushable wipes. For several days, staff members, worked round the clock to rebuild the pump each time it jammed, so residents wouldn’t have their basements flooded. A creative fix was developed that mitigated the issue and things have quieted down. Please avoid putting flushable wipes down the toilet; our staff does need to sleep from time to time.

All of us face challenges from time to time that require an extra effort to resolve. However, these challenges often give birth to insights and ideas that benefit ourselves and others. The lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas hymns, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” were penned during a time of trial for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year was 1863 and it was not a happy Christmas for Henry. He was still grieving over the tragic death of his wife two years earlier and had recently learned that his son had been grievously injured in a Civil War battle.

Most of us can empathize with these words “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’” However, they are followed with this hopeful insight. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.

Our actions can be the deeper notes that inspire others and help them “Till, ringing, singing, on it’s way, the world revolves from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good will to men!

Highland City staff, council members and I, have the opportunity to interact with residents and witness countless acts of service. To the many who quietly give, we say THANK YOU and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous and safe holiday season!

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