Who deserves praise and criticism this week in Northern Utah?

Monday , February 12, 2018 - 4:30 AM


Each week the Standard-Examiner hashes out issues large and small and takes a thumbs-up, thumbs-down stance. Here’s what we recommend this week for praise and criticism:

THUMBS UP: To increasing penalties for coal-rolling drivers.

There’s a law making its way through the Legislature aimed at drivers who intentionally modify their vehicles to “smoke” — billow clouds of thick, black, diesel exhaust — to increase fines from $50 to $100 for a first violation or from $100 to $500 for any subsequent offense.

This law adds to one passed a law in 2015 allowing local health departments to revoke registrations from coal-rolling vehicles, but it depends on law enforcement agencies to pass along citation information, which they often don’t. Purposely tampering with a vehicle’s emissions control is a violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

Since rolling coal has no benefit to the public — and coal-rolling drivers often use it to “prank” cyclists and joggers by leaving them in an acrid cloud — it makes a lot of sense to pursue these law-breakers.

Increasing the fines to $100 and $500 is a good start. Though taking New Jersey’s approach and slapping a fine of up to $5,000 on coal-rollers doesn’t seem unreasonable, either.

THUMBS DOWN: To Weber County for continuing to handle public defenders in a way that presents a clear conflict of interest.

When the accused can’t afford an attorney, one is appointed to them. Even though the accused can pay for one, public defenders still get paid through the government. All states — except Utah and Pennsylvania — fund these attorneys through the state.

Utah kicks that responsibility down to the counties. In Weber County, the attorney’s office gets to pick which public defenders to contract with. Think of it this way: No matter what team Weber State plays, the opposing team’s coach is also the referee.

Weber County and its commissioners were recently sued by a Montana-based attorney who claims he lost his contract with the county after he complained to the media. He was representing a death row convict on appeal.

This doesn’t matter how you feel about criminals, the death penalty or the legal system. The Sixth Amendment is supposed to ensure a fair trial and it’s unacceptable for Weber County to cut corners on this.

THUMBS UP: To Dennis Howland, president of the Northern Utah chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, for persevering in making the dream of a building a local Vietnam Veterans Memorial a reality.

It took years of fundraising and persistence. He sought help from individual and major private investors, as well as the Legislature. He began his efforts in 2014 and it took every bit of the past four years to secure the $500,000 to build an 80-percent scale replica of the monument that’s in Washington, D.C.

The Layton monument will bear all 58,000-plus names of Americans who died fighting in Vietnam, etched into the 360-foot long wall. Many will say we owe our soldiers a debt of gratitude, but few are like Howland in the lengths they go to honor the sacrifice.

Have a thumbs up or thumbs down you’d like to give? Email a submission of 100 words or less to managing editor Anne Christnovich at achristnovich@standard.net.

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