Below are my city newsletter messages from 2020. Let me know if there are items you’d like me to cover in 2021 or if you have any suggestions for other content in our monthly newsletter. You can find city newsletters on our website by clicking here.
“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”—Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, 1937
This year the city council will again make decisions that impact you. How do you influence the council when issues arise that are important to you? As a city resident, council member, and mayor I’ve been able to influence council actions. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way on how to impact outcomes.
Contact city council members to get their perspective and share your thoughts with them personally. Most significant issues are discussed in multiple council meetings. It is a good idea to engage the council before the final meeting when opinions are generally settled. The odds of swinging votes at the last second are low.
Become as informed as possible about the issue. Review prior council agendas and minutes on the subject. When the council makes a decision there are almost always residents who support and oppose it. Developing an understanding of all sides of an issue will help you defend your point of view, be more understanding of those who don’t agree with you, and may even change your opinion.
If you are sending an email, focus your thoughts on the most relevant topics and be succinct. A short email is more likely to be read than a three-page missive. Put your message directly in the email instead of sending an attachment.
Note, council meeting agendas, minutes, audio recordings, and council member contact information can be found on the city’s website. By state law, public meeting agendas must be published at least 24 hours before a meeting, however our staff generally publishes them on our website several days in advance.
When we all work together (residents, staff and city council) we make better decisions. Your input has value and is always appreciated. Thanks for all you do to make Highland a wonderful place to live. Happy New Year!
Here’s what is happening in Highland:
Did you know that your winter culinary water use helps determine your sewer bill? It is a good idea to review your utility bill and check for unexplained increases in culinary water use. During the winter and spring, exterior water lines occasionally develop leaks due to freezes and thaws. Increased usage may also indicate leaky faucets or toilets. Addressing water issues early will not only reduce your culinary water bill, but can also prevent increases to your sewer bill.
Our contract with Republic Services, our garbage and recycling pickup service provider, runs out June 30th of this year. The council elected to have staff rebid the contract rather than renew it again with Republic. We hope to have a decision made by April.
I have had several discussions with the executive director of Utopia Fiber (utopiafiber.com), Roger Timmerman, regarding bringing fiber broadband services (250 Mbps to 10 Gbps) to Highland. He will be providing an overview of the options available to Highland at a work session with the city council on Tuesday, February 4th at 6:00 PM in the city council room. Everyone is welcome to attend. An online survey is available for you to express your level of interest in bringing this service to Highland (bit.ly/highland-fiber).
“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.”
—Winston S. Churchill, 16 November 1948
The mayors of North Utah County and the Alpine School District leadership are sponsoring a seminar by Dr. Lynn Scoresby on emotional resiliency and self-reliance. Dr. Scoresby is a psychologist, retired BYU professor, and author. The free seminar will be repeated at the high schools shown below.
- Skyridge High School, Lehi, March 2nd at 7 pm.
- American Fork High School, March 3rd at 7 pm
- Pleasant Grove High School March 5th at 7 pm
- Westlake High School, Saratoga Springs, March 11th at 7 pm
- Lone Peak High School, Highland, March 12th at 7 pm
Dr. Scoresby will teach parents and grandparents how they can help children become emotionally self-reliant. This helps prevent suicide as well as debilitating anxiety and depression. Brent Pugh, MD will take some time to discuss how to prevent the negative effects of screen time. He will share the latest research on this topic. If you can fit one of these dates into your schedule it will be well worth your time.
As a side note, let me encourage you to complete the 2020 city survey. It is a valuable tool for staff and council in setting priorities. Also, if you haven’t yet taken the time to fill out the fiber broadband (very high speed Internet) survey please take a couple of minutes to do so by going to http://bit.ly/highland-fiber. Thanks for all you do to make Highland a great place to live.
Along with the rest of the world, we are going through a challenging time, but there are always silver linings. In this case we have a chance to develop creative solutions. Jeff Dyer, a Highland resident, co-authored The Innovator’s DNA with Clayton Christensen and Hal Gregersen. In the book they describe different exercises that can be used to develop creative solutions. One such exercise is to define a problem and then put constraints on the solution. According to Marissa Mayer, former Google executive, “creativity, in fact, thrives best when constrained.” Clearly constraints have been put on much of our life, giving us the opportunity to address many of life’s challenges in new ways..
Various personal attributes are also being tested and measured. A valuable attribute in today’s world is calmness. Here’s what one of my favorite authors had to say about this characteristic:
“When man has developed the spirit of Calmness until it becomes so absolutely part of him that his very presence radiates it, he has made great progress in life. Calmness cannot be acquired of itself and by itself; it must come as the culmination of a series of virtues. What the world needs and what individuals need is a higher standard of living, a great realizing sense of the privilege and dignity of life, a higher and nobler conception of individuality.”—William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900 (bit.ly/mojch1).
Today, we have the time to develop and improve existing virtues, which in the end will help us have calmness. I do not know how long the COVID-19 issue will be with us, but I do know that the sun will rise each morning and we will find ways to help each other get through this.
PS: Spring has arrived and some of us may be looking to improve the areas around our homes. If you are looking to expand your landscaping, it is always a good idea to use Utah County’s online parcel map (bit.ly/ucparcelmmap) to validate your property lines. This tool will help you avoid encroaching on other people’s property (including public property). It is easy to use and provides a lot of information about property in Utah County.
We’ve all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to one degree or another. During what can seem like a dark time, our proclamation and the accompanying video (bit.ly/2020ayearofhope) is intended to bring light. We all hope for a brighter tomorrow and thanks to your efforts we will have one.
A special thanks to my wife Suzanne who was the inspiration behind the proclamation, Scott Hart who produced the accompanying video, and the city council who supported the proclamation and shared their thoughts on the video.
The Highland City Mayor and Council hereby proclaim 2020 as “A Year of Hope.”
We hope for a better tomorrow and that we will overcome our present circumstances, emerging as a finer people. Let us replace the term ‘social distancing’ with ‘physical distancing’ to remind us of the importance of being sociable and connecting with our neighbors, friends, and family. By looking out for each other in meaningful ways, we contribute to our community, state, nation, and the world.
As we work through today’s challenges, remembering the lessons we’ve learned will bless tomorrow. These include:
The importance of those who serve in all walks of life; from grocers to doctors and nurses, from truck drivers to engineers. In sum, our interdependence on each other.
The value of being prepared and the joy that comes when you are therefore able to help others.
Our reliance on faith in a better tomorrow and the hand of Providence to guide us, especially when the way is not clear.
We believe that many of the solutions developed to address the issues we face today will benefit our community and the world in the future. We are so grateful to those whose faith and persistence created them.
When physical distancing restrictions are gone, we hope to move forward enjoying stronger and more meaningful relationships, because of the way we stayed connected and supported each other through this challenging time. There is a bright future ahead that includes a deeper commitment to serving and respecting each other.
“The Infinite gives to no man happiness; but only the raw material from which it can be made. He provides iron ore but never plowshares, clay but not bricks, wheat but not loaves. The material from which one man forms only an abode of misery, another transforms into a temple of joy.”—William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909.
One of the challenges we face today is that we live in an environment with different rules than we had just a few months ago and ones which will continue to evolve. These are different raw materials from which we can create either “temples of joy” or “abodes of misery” as the quote above indicates.
I am particularly glad to live here, in Highland, where there are so many examples of creating “temples of joy”. Most of us have seen many acts of kindness on a neighborhood level. Additionally, last month the city helped organize a parade for residents of the Highland Glen Assisted Living Center and the Utah State Development Center on very short notice. Around 75 vehicles participated in the event. The parade included a bagpiper, police and fire vehicles from Lone Peak and American Fork, cars with signs, balloons, and flags, and horses. Residents and staff from both locations were delighted. There were tears of joy from both participants and spectators.
The state has loosened many COVID-19 related restrictions. We are in the top 10% of states in the following categories: least restrictions, lowest mortality rates, and lowest unemployment rates. Utah County beats the state in most categories. We are blessed to live where we do during this season.
P.S. Here’s a cautionary note for those who live adjacent to city open space. While it is tempting to dump yard waste onto open space as we clean up yards and prune bushes and trees, it is actually a class “C” misdemeanor which carries a maximum fine of $750. If you get a warning letter from the city about a dumping issue, please know our objective is to fix the problem, not issue a citation. There will be a timeframe given to address the issue before a citation is issued. If for some reason you can’t address the problem within the time allotted just give the city a call and we’ll work with you.
“We are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. … [I]n politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #1
We definitely live in interesting times. Often we feel pressure to make immediate decisions, proclaim them, and take action when we are better served by exercising patience. Patience builds understanding and provides the time to develop empathy and compassion.
Here are a few items for your reading pleasure:
At our monthly “Meet with the Mayor” we discussed building a more racially inclusive community with the police chief, a black member of our community, and others. When the chief was asked about policies related to bias and use of force he reviewed them with us and we can be proud of them. See pages 32 and 233 in the Lone Peak Police Policy Manual (http://lonepeakpolice.com/resources). It was a very positive discussion and I very much appreciate those that participated. Thank you! I highly recommend watching it on our city YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/HC-youtube).
I’ve been reviewing resident comments in the annual city survey. Many expressed concern about the condition of our roads. I want to assure residents that we are working on them and utilizing the funds we receive. We are in the third year of a seven-year plan, so while we have made progress, there is still a lot to do. This year many of you will be glad to know that construction has started on the connector road between Alpine Hwy and N. County Blvd. We will be improving 9600 N, Highland Blvd, 11800 N, and 6800 W (south of 9600). These are all significant projects; I appreciate all the extra time our staff is spending to ensure these are well executed.
Please remember to check your pressurized irrigation filter frequently. We are using a lot of water from Deer Creek reservoir which is very dirty and clogs filters.
I am continually reminded what a great community we live in as I see residents step up and try to make a positive difference when it is much easier to do nothing or be critical. If you have any questions or concerns, as always, please feel free to contact me.
“The Chinese philosopher Lao Tze wrote in the Tao Te Ching, ‘Through Love, one has no fear,’ More than 500 years later, Saint John the Apostle said the same thing: ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear … . It took about 2,000 years, but contemporary neurobiological evidence has revealed that Lao Tze and Saint John were absolutely on the money”—Author C. Brooks, “Love Is Medicine for Fear”, The Atlantic, July 16, 2020.
In his recent column on love and fear, Mr. Brooks, prefaced the quote above with the following statement:
“One way of dealing with these fears is to strive to eliminate the threats that caused them. But while social and economic progress is important and possible, there will always be threats to face and things to fear. The way to combat fear within ourselves is with its opposite emotion—which is not calmness, or even courage. It’s love.”
Our recent initiative on inclusion is focused on gaining a better understanding of our neighbors which will expand our ability to love everyone. Please checkout https://bit.ly/HC20-inclusivity to see how you can be involved. Our Meet with the Mayor session on August 12 at 7 PM will feature another discussion.
Speaking about caring for each other, many of you will notice that lawns and fields are getting brown in Highland. The primary issue is low water pressure, caused by residents watering every day instead of following prescribed schedules: even numbered addresses on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and odd on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. When some don’t follow the schedule we all suffer from low water pressure. Note, you should also regularly check your irrigation water filter.
Here are a few tidbits from our 2020 resident survey:
The three issues most mentioned in comments were: parks/trails, taxes/fees, and roads.
54% of respondents believe the quality of life in Highland is excellent, 42.5% think it is good, 3.1% feel it is fair, and 0.5% consider it to be poor.
The average household uses our parks 1.2 times per week and the trails 3.3 times.
About 50% of residents see themselves as living here another 20+ years while 25% believe they will live here for 10 to 20 years.
Long term residents Jeanie and Steve Westover, have for the last eight years voluntarily cared for the flowers in our cemetery. And 16 year old Cambria Bybee, on her own initiative repainted our Welcome to Highland City sign. These residents and many others like them help make Highland a great place to live and are the reason so many people want to stay.
At a recent meeting I learned that last year at this time 11% of US residents were experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Today that number is 41% – a nearly 4-fold increase. While this is somewhat understandable, I find it very sad.
If you watch the nightly news there is much to be concerned about in our nation: riots, COVID-19, wildfires, etc. While Utah is faring better than most states the, most recent US Census Bureau Pulse Survey results (July 16-21) are is something that gives me pause (https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/hhp/#/):
|Experienced loss of employment income since Mar 13||51.1%||40.7%|
|Expecting loss of employment income over the next 4 weeks||35.2%||25.6%|
|Sometimes or often not enough food to eat in the last 7 days||36.4%||23.2%|
We also hear from residents about issues in Highland: low water pressure, brown grass, increasing traffic, and too many roads are being fixed.
All that said, on the good news side, Utah recently posted the lowest unemployment rate in the nation (4.5%) and Highland’s 2020 May sales tax receipts were up 16% from last year. Additionally, a few months from now most of our major roads will be in great shape, the Canal Blvd extension from Alpine Hwy to N. County Blvd will be completed, all yards will be equal when they are covered in snow, and working from home will be more common. In Highland we will continue to care for our neighbors and enjoy our beautiful surroundings.
Is there something we can do today to make things better? Absolutely! A recent BYU Magazine article entitled “Behind the headlines of COVID-19 is another far-reaching health crisis” point “In two studies, psychology professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad (BS ’94, MS ’98) and Timothy B. Smith (BS ’91) have found that our relationships impact our physical health so profoundly that chronic loneliness and isolation can be as dangerous as a pack-a-day smoking habit. Loneliness can shorten your lifespan by about five years. … According to a 2020 survey by insurance provider Cigna, 61 percent of American adults say they always or sometimes feel lonely.” What all of us can do is talk to a neighbor, call a friend, or go out of our way to make a new friend. Odds are they are lonely and your interaction will be a blessing.
Is there growth in overcoming challenges? Yes! Will we face additional challenges? Most assuredly, yes! However, we should let optimism and hope be our North Star during dark times and let our kindness light the way for others.
We most definitely live in interesting times. During 2020 many of us have experienced personally painful events. This year hese have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and other surprises. In Jamil Zaki’s book, The War for Kindness, he shares information from a study that many will recognize to be accurate based on personal experience.
“Psychologists ... measured the number of painful life events individuals had experienced throughout their lives—things like car accidents, severe illness, or victimization by crime. These people then came to the lab, where they met another participant who was struggling with a frustrating task. Participants stepped in to help this other person, and those who had suffered most were the most helpful, even if their painful experiences had occurred long before. When survivors help others, they also help themselves. ‘Victims’ are often stereotyped as weakened by trauma, but many emerge stronger and more fulfilled. ‘Post-traumatic growth’—including greater spirituality, stronger relationships, and a renewed sense of purpose—is almost as common as PTSD.”
I hope we can take the lemons of life and turn them into lemonade. Speaking of turning lemons into lemonade, below is a chart of the city service ratings from the 2020 Resident Survey.
Our lowest ranked service was road maintenance with only 38% rating it as good or excellent. While this is not great, it is 2X better than the 2016 survey, where the combined rating was 19%. We are moving the needle in the right direction. Another positive note is that we’ve been able to help Alpine School District by covering the cost of adding touchless drinking fountains and other items for schools in Highland using federal CARES Act money. We are also using these funds to cover a number of other COVID related city expenses – I will share the details next month.
As we approach Thanksgiving my thoughts turn to our residents and city employees who contribute so much to the community:
Our city staff who completed (or will shortly complete) more road projects than we’ve ever done before. The long promised (40 years) east-west connector, 9600 N, Highland Blvd, 11800 N … . They’ve also seal coated over 60% of our city trails, something we’ve never done before.
The bishopric in Highland who created a music video, (https://youtu.be/qJYNoODAvro) welcoming ward members back to church, which became a world-wide sensation. In the comment section many said they wanted to move to Highland because of it. I guess we can credit them if our home values skyrocket this year.
A 24 year-old member of our community (initials A.N.), who recently changed a flat tire for my wife on a dark, cool evening. Thank you!
Calvin Coolidge closed a speech on the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth (this year is the 400th) with these words:
“Plymouth Rock does not mark a beginning or an end. It marks a revelation of that which is without beginning and without end—a purpose, shining through eternity with a resplendent light, undimmed even by the imperfections of men; and a response, an answering purpose, from those who, oblivious, disdainful of all else, sailed hither seeking only for an avenue for the immortal soul.”
Perhaps, in the future, similar words could be penned about Highland residents who persevered through the challenges of our era with shining purpose. Have a great Thanksgiving and know that you are much appreciated.
Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I love Christmas music and the renewed focus on others. It is no secret that one of my favorite authors is William George Jordan. The following quote from a chapter in his book The Crown of Individuality entitled No Room For Them In The Inn (see http://bit.ly/noroomintheinn) seems especially appropriate for this year’s holiday season.
“For worldly success, fame, social prestige, laurel-crowned triumph, the inn is illuminated; welcoming music fills the air; and the inn doors are thrown wide open. But struggle towards sublime attainment, heroic effort to better the world, simple consecration of soul to a noble ideal means—the manger and a lonely pathway lit only by the torch of truth held high in the hand of purpose.
“Right must ever fight its way against the world. Truth must ever walk alone in its Gethsemane. Justice must bravely face its Calvary if it would still live in triumph after all efforts to slay it. Love must ever, in the end, burst forth in its splendor from the dark clouds of hate and discord that seek to obscure it. These great truths must be born in the manger of poverty, or pain, or trial, or suffering, finding no room at the inn until at last by entering it in triumph they honor the inn that never honored them in their hours of need, of struggle or of darkness. … The glory of the end makes trials along the way seem—nothing.”
We, the city council and I, hope you are able to spend time with family and friends this month and reflect on the good that came out of the extraordinary trials of this year. Thanks for all you do and Merry Christmas!
I need to let you know that there are two projects which we had hoped to finish this year, but won’t be done till next year.
The connector road between Alpine Hwy and North County Blvd will not be paved until next spring. Rebar was in short supply causing a four plus week delay in pouring of the footings for a bridge. As a result we missed the seasonal window for laying down asphalt.
The widening of 6800 W (road to Costco) was pushed into next year, as the property acquisition process took longer than we had hoped.
We are nonetheless excited that these long awaited, and very expensive, projects will be completed soon.
- 2018 Mayor Messages
- 2019 Mayor Messages
- 2020: A Year of Hope proclamation and video.
- City Newsletters
- Meet with the Mayor with our police chief Brian Gwilliam, Alpine Mayor Troy Stout, State Rep Brady Bramer, Nicki Brammer, Ronell & Brianna Hugh
- Welcome Back Video
- William George Jordan, “No Room For Them In The Inn”, The Crown of Individuality, 1909
- William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900