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December 2019 | Vol. 16 Iss. 12




ottonwood Heights entrepreneur Carl Churchill decided to use his business to serve the local community and to help his fellow veterans. In addition to supporting local charities, Alpha Coffee has sent over 17,000 bags of coffee to deployed troops. “I deployed a half dozen times and always drank really crappy coffee,” Churchill said. “So I thought getting some coffee from back home would be a really nice care package.” Churchill and his wife, Lori, started an online coffee distribution company in 2010. As the business gained momentum, they opened their Cottonwood Heights coffee shop in June 2017. The business quickly established itself, which has enabled them to use some of the proceeds to support local organizations that serve veterans. “We love Cottonwood Heights, and we’ve got a very loyal following among locals and we have vets from all over the valley,” Churchill said. “If you’re going to be a business owner, you should use your success to better society, to better your community.” Alpha Coffee has an application process for troops to apply for coffee packages. Thanks to word of mouth among deployed troops, the care packages have become popular. Once they apply online, Alpha Coffee reviews the request and then sends out as many donations as it can afford. Veterans Day and the holidays keep them busy. “Especially this time of year, we call it leaning forward in the foxhole,” Churchill said. “We’re sending out more than we can really afford to because you’ve got Veterans Day, Deployed troops enjoy coffee donated by Alpha Coffee. (Photo courtesy of Carl Churchill) Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Continued page 9

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Affordable housing initiatives to affect 1 in 4 Cottonwood Heights residents By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjournals.com


y Dec. 1, every municipality within the state was required to amend their general plan to anticipate for moderate incoming housing growth. As mandated by the state legislature in (Senate Bill) S.B. 34, each municipality must implement at least three strategies (out of 23 available strategies) to account for moderate income housing. These strategies aim to fit the needs of renters and homeowners, living and working in communities. One of the goals behind this legislation is to allow for “people with various incomes to benefit from and participate in all aspects of neighborhood and community life,” said Cottonwood Heights Community and Economic Development Director Michael Johnson. The Dec. 1 deadline was set by the Affordable Housing Modifications bill. S.B. 34 was recommended by the Commission on Housing Affordability and sponsored by Sen. Jacob Anderegg and Rep. Val Potter. In February, Salt Lake Tribune reported that S.B. 34 was the legislature’s “most significant attempt thus far to address a statewide shortage of moderately priced homes.” On Nov. 5, Johnson gave a presentation to the Cottonwood Heights City Council explaining the three strategies Cottonwood Heights has chosen to implement and how city staff plans to proceed. Sen. Kathleen Riebe attended this meeting and spoke to the council about this implementation. “This is something that I voted for. I think it’s really important that we have an opportunity for everyone that works in our community to live in our community. We’ve worked across the state and we’ve recognized there is a housing shortage for a very large group of people and we’re trying to mitigate that so it’s not beholden to one community to hold all those people.”


The three strategies Johnson and his team chose include: “allow for higher density or moderate-income residential development in commercial and mixed-use zones, commercial centers or employment centers; implement zoning incentives for low to moderate income units on a long-term basis; and utilize a moderate-income housing set aside from a community reinvestment agency, redevelopment agency or community development and renewal agency.” The first strategy was chosen because “it matches the long-range plan’s goal of incorporating mixed use for higher density residential development in specific areas. We will see progress on this, as a matter of what’s in the ordinance and general plan, predominantly along Fort Union Boulevard,” Johnson said. In adapting to these strategies, the Planned Development District (PDD) will be utilized. “In the PDD, developers are meant to have 10% housing requirement for low income,” Johnson said. Another option the city will be pursuing is to partner and work with other entities to provide tax incentives and create funding for extremely low income housing units. In Cottonwood Heights, implantation of the strategies listed above will “primarily affect the 27% of Cottonwood Heights residents who have incomes at or below 80% the average medium income (AMI),” according to a Cottonwood Heights Affordable Housing Report studied by GSBS Architects. “These changes account for the diverse range of housing for all income levels, especially as the population continues to grow,” Johnson said. “Cottonwood Heights is projected to grow from 34,117 [residents] in 2018 to 35,732 [residents] by 2050. At the city’s average household size of 2.74 persons per

household, an additional approximately 590 housing units will be needed. If the current distribution of household incomes is assumed, the housing deficit in the extremely low income category will increase,” according to the Affordable Housing Report. That report also states that in 2017, Cottonwood Heights was estimated to have 13,446 total housing units; 9,310 (74%) of those unites were owner occupied, 3,351 of those housing units (26%) were renter occupied. In the city, the average median income was reported at $86,207. In comparison, Salt Lake County was estimated to have 356,060 households with an average medium income (AMI) of $67,922. Salt Lake City had 75,430 households with an AMI of $54,009. Murray had 18,735 households with an AMI of $57,662. According to a Utah Affordable Housing Forecast Tool (UAHFT) tool in 2016, 23% of all Cottonwood Heights households were cost-burdened, meaning “housing-related costs were more than 30% of gross income.” Out of those 23% of cost-burdened households, 52% were renters. For a rental household, the median rent in the city was approximately $1,175 per month, affordable to households making approximately $47,000 annually. The Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the City Council’s approval on this plan on Oct. 16. After the council votes on the implantation of these strategies, city staff members will submit a report to the Department of Workforce Services and post it on the city’s website. Moving forward, municipalities will be required to report on the progress of their chosen strategies to the state annually. In addition, they will be updating housing and demographic data every two years. l




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Cottonwood Heights is anticipated to experience a housing deficit of 590 units by 2050. (Cassie Goff/ City Journals)

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Sen. Kathleen Riebe spoke to the Cottonwood Heights City Council about adopting mandated legislation for affordable housing. (Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Riebe)




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Local grandfather using tech skills to help kids create own stories By Joshua Wood | joshw@mycityjournals.com


Cottonwood Heights resident wants to put the fun back in the fundamentals of reading. To do that, information technology specialist Darren Croft decided to make a reading and writing app that would encourage kids to create their own stories and get into reading. The idea came to Croft when working with children in his local church. He noticed some of the kids having difficulty with reading and wanted to help them become stronger readers. He was also motivated by the fact that his young grandchildren would soon start reading. So he used his IT background to develop a unique reading app that has since been downloaded thousands of times. His aim is to add a fun, interactive element that will engage kids. “I wanted to help kids read,” Croft said. “The more kids like to read, the more they will want to do it.” After a lot of thought and planning, he developed the app called Read with Me Kids. The app is available for free on Android and the Apple App Store with additional features available for purchase. Read with Me Kids provides a variety of templates and features that children can use to create their own stories. They can make anything from a beginner’s alphabet book with pictures for each letter all the way up to story books they write themselves. Another feature that has come about as Croft has developed the app is that people have begun ordering books that Croft will put together for them. They request various specifications, provide pictures and text they want included, and he creates it for them. Croft studied electrical engineering in college, has worked in IT, and now is the chief information officer with his current company. He has been working on Read with Me Kids on the side. “It was challenging,” Croft said. “There are so many ways to do programming.” He had to choose the right language to use and then work forward developing the various features he wanted to include in the app.

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Croft received help from his grandchildren to develop his reading app. (Photo courtesy of Darren Croft)

Then came the various revisions of the platform with incremental improvements. “I am on version 2.5 right now and have had three or four major iterations,” he said. Croft has had a willing product tester in his 4-year-old granddaughter. “She loves the sticker feature, and she loves unicorns,” Croft said. She can create her own story book with her name on it and include all the unicorn illustrations she wants. Croft began developing the app with customizable features to help kids get excited about reading. As he moves forward, he will consider reaching out to schools to gauge their interest in using the app. Thousands of people have downloaded the app, Croft said. “I have several hundred people currently using the app actively,” he said. He hopes to increase that number as he moves forward. He also hopes that future it-

erations in the app’s development will offer additional features to attract even more users. As kids enjoy developing their own stories and picture books, they can strengthen their reading and writing skills. Croft hopes his app can help them along the way. l

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People can use Croft’s app to print physical copies of the stories they create. (Photo courtesy of Darren Croft)

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Croft’s reading app lets kids develop their own stories. (Photo courtesy of Darren Croft)

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Buses could receive police escort up the canyons this ski season to ease traffic By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjouranls.com

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or the last few years, multiple entities have discussed how to mitigate the ski traffic in the canyons on snow days. The Central Wasatch Commission (CWC) has been primarily leading the discussions between the ski resorts, neighboring cities including Sandy, Holladay, and Cottonwood Heights, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Salt Lake County, and the State Legislature. Over the four-month season, there can be up to 26,000 cars visiting the canyons. On average, there are 2.7 people in each of those cars. “That’s a lot on the roads, air quality and congestion,” said Central Wasatch Commission Deputy Director Blake Perez. Perez and Central Wasatch Commission Executive Director Ralph Becker discussed some potential transportation improvement opportunities that can be implemented this year with the Cottonwood Heights City Council on Oct. 15. During that discussion, there was a somewhat surprising suggestion. “The concept is being able to provide a police escort for busses up to the mouth of the canyon,” Becker said. “We are developing the resources and budget to deliver this service. This is where the county’s interest lies.” “The county would provide the resources for it,” followed up Becker. “UPD (Unified Police Department) is fully occupied up in the canyon. Sandy City has told us that they will do it on the Sandy side (9400 South). Now, we are looking to see whether or not Cottonwood Heights might fill this piece of it with some financial help.” The primary focus during the last few years for improving ski traffic has been to encourage residents and visitors to utilize public transportation and/ or ride-sharing options. As part of this push, the ski resorts have been working on providing more shuttles and creating ride-sharing apps; Cottonwood Heights is in the process of creating more available parking further west in the city; the state has set aside $13 million for a transportation hub within Cottonwood Heights; and UTA has revised their strategies to provide more transportation up the canyon. As part of this focus, UTA transportation must be given priority. Since busses get stuck in ski traffic along Wasatch Boulevard as well, the CWC and Salt Lake County are hoping to give busses police escorts to the canyon. The

The Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride will no longer be utilized by UTA. Instead, its encouraged use will be for carpooling. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

hope is that this will encourage the use of public transportation. “There’s still a lot of logistics that would have to be worked out on that,” said City Manager Tim Tingey. “We have been talking to Sandy PD, UPD and UTA PD about what it’s going to take to do this,” Becker said. “Apparently Sandy City has been doing this on their side for residents and school busses on these crazy snow days.” From what Becker and Perez understand, the police escort would stop the traffic headed down the canyon and northbound on Wasatch. Then, the bus would be allowed to pass the ski traffic on the left-hand side, crossing into the lane that would normally be dedicated for northbound traffic. Ultimately, the bus would be escorted to the front of the traffic line at the mouth of the canyons. Ideally, the need for these police escorts would only occur about 20 to 30 days per year. As UTA’s bus schedule runs a bus on Wasatch Boulevard and up the canyon every 15 minutes, the police escort would occur every 15 minutes with the busses as well.

“I had the same talk with UPD,” said Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo. “We would like to run it by the district attorney’s office because we aren’t sure that we have the authority to use public safety equipment on a non-public safety issue, to escort busses up the canyon.” “We want to help,” Russo continued. “But I think about all those residents in District 4 who will be really mad at me if I make them stop and pull over.” “So every 15 minutes,” Councilman Mike Shelton said, “you’d shut it down for six to 10 minutes?” There wasn’t a definite answer to Shelton’s question since there was some misunderstanding about the route of the police escort, and how long that would realistically take. “I think it’s important to note that this is what the county is interested in pursuing,” Perez said. “We are still flushing through details as it will require coordination between a few of the police departments and we are working through that.” Part of Becker and Perez’s discussions with the surrounding entities is to

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get an estimation on what a police escort service might cost throughout the different cities. As UPD is already overly busy on ski days, Salt Lake County is hoping the different police departments can spare bodies and resources if the county provides the funding. The main reason for Becker and Perez’s visit was to request Cottonwood Heights consider a one-time contribution of $8,000 for service enhancements. UTA had identified some opportunities to mitigate ski traffic, but they need $150,000 to implement those changes this year. The CWC suggested to split that cost between the entities that are part of the CWC. Their goal is to find $20,000 from multiple different entities, as UTA will cover the rest, and absorb all the cost moving forward. Alta, Salt Lake County and Sandy had already agreed to contribute. The service enhancement strategies UTA identified to help mitigate ski traffic include eliminating the Bingham Junction stop and the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride Lot, making changes to bus route 953, and eliminating ski racks on busses. These changes began on Nov. 23. The Bingham Junction stop is along Route 972. With the elimination of this stop, one-way bus trips are anticipated to increase from 61 trips on weekdays, 65 trips on Saturdays, and 60 trips on Sundays to 79 trips each day of the week. This would be an increase of 121 trips per week going toward the canyons, serving the Big Cottonwood Canyon. “That could take 150 cars off the road,” Perez said. With the elimination of the Bingham Junction stop, UTA will be adding more trips going up the canyon and more drivers. “They will have trips all day long,” Becker reported. In addition, the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride Lot on 4385 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road will not be served by Route 953 and Route 994 as part of UTA’s congestion mitigation revisions. “The busses have issues turning left,” Perez said. “UTA has provided

us a lot of data and is confident that the 9400 South 2000 East Park and Ride can accommodate the new demand.” The Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride lot will now be reserved for carpooling. Bus Route 953 runs from Midvale to Snowbird and Alta Ski Area. UTA is looking to provide some additional service on this route. “This is really where the epicenter of your congestion in the community is,” Perez said. UTA hopes to increase this route from 17 trips on weekdays and 23 trips on weekends to 35 trips seven days of the week. This would be an increase of about 114 trips per week going up the canyon. With some rough math, Perez estimated that this would average to 4,400 new passenger rides per week. “We had a lot of excitement for the ski resorts,” Perez said. “In my short time in CWC, I haven’t seen the ski resorts get excited about something like this.” In addition to the routing changes, UTA will be removing ski racks from their busses. “Now, everyone will be holding their skis,” Perez said. “We will be educating people this year on other parking lots they can go to outside the mouth of the canyon. There will be a big effort to send people to other parking lots that have the capacity to do so,” Perez said. l



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Honoring a fallen K9 officer


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Mayor Peterson and Police Chief Robby Russo presented the Daugherty family with a plague honoring their fallen officer. (Tim Beery/Cottonwood Heights)

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he Cottonwood Heights Police Department (CHPD) recently experienced a loss. K9 Officer Chip passed away from cancer after eight years of service. On Nov. 5, Chip was recognized by the Cottonwood Heights City Council. His handler, Sgt. Thom Daugherty, and his family were present to witness the recognition. “Like their human counterparts, canine’s do get ill,” said Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo. “Chip became ill and died of cancer on the night of our police banquet. We didn’t want this moment to go unrecognized because Chip was one of our officers.” When Daugherty brought Chip by the department it was clear that “the civilian staff loved that animal. He was a very sweet dog,” Russo reported. “But when it came time to work, he knew it was time to work.” Canine officers go on patrol with their human counterparts and carry out similar duties. They do everything from searching for evidence and sniffing out drugs to chasing down bad guys. “First and foremost, their responsibility is to keep the human being/handler/officer safe,” Russo said. “They go in first for us:

jumping out of aircraft, searching attics and leaping fences. We use them on the SWAT team. At times, they’ve been injured.” The three canine officers on the CHPD force live with their handlers and their families. Chip not only belonged to Daugherty, but to his wife Shelly and their daughter Bella. Cottonwood Heights Mayor Michael Peterson presented Thom, Shelly, and Bella Daugherty with a plaque. In the plaque was a picture of Chip (taken by an associate of the police department), along with Chip’s badge and collar. “Please accept this with our gratitude,” said Russo and CHPD Assistant Chief Paul Brenneman to Daugherty and his family. “I had a little bit of help with this. The collar was given to us by Shelly, unbeknownst to her husband,” Russo told the City Council. Peterson echoed that sentiment. “From the city council, thank you for your service. Thank you for letting us share in this special time with you. We understand that it’s a true loss. We appreciate all you do.” Chip’s end of watch was Aug. 28, 2019. His plaque will hang in the CHPD offices. l

Cottonwood Heights City Journal

Continued from front page Year’s where you’re away from home, you’re in a combat zone, you’re working seven days a week. Getting that taste of home makes a huge difference.” While the coffee packages have grown enormously popular with troops, the Churchills’ support of local charities has helped veterans and the community closer to home as well. Organizations they help include Continue Mission, Veteran Expeditions and Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW), which provides training to park rangers in Africa on how to protect endangered species from poachers.


Helping veterans establish themselves in business, Warrior Rising offers opportunities for veterans and their immediate family members to launch sustainable businesses. They encourage the hiring of veterans to perpetuate the program’s impact. The organization offers mentoring and training for veteran entrepreneurs. Local business people can volunteer their services as mentors. Warrior Rising has also hosted a series of Shark Tank–inspired events to give veterans the chance to pitch their business ideas to a group of potential investors. A participant in this year’s event, which took place just before Veterans Day, received the largest investment offer in the program’s history. “We’re really proud of the numbers of veterans we help,” said Ken Vennera, Warrior Rising’s programming committee chair. “We

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help them with starting a business, overcom- fers similar opportunities to other veterans in ing obstacles, so they can earn their future.” the area.


Another organization, Heroes and Horses, provides equine and outdoor therapy opportunities for veterans. “We’ve spoken with a couple vets who have been through the program and they said, ‘this saved my life,’” Churchill said. “They literally had a handgun on the table and a bottle of whiskey and were about to take the next step when they found out that they had been accepted into this program and decided to give it one last try.”


Racing Anxiety is a nonprofit organization based in Spanish Fork with outreach programs in the Salt Lake valley to help veterans and students overcome mental illness and injuries through involvement in the automotive industry. “They take vets and students and give them leadership skills and connect them with any available resources they qualify for,” said Racing Anxiety Executive Director Tapley Mitchell. “Our main goal is preventing suicide and giving purpose to those who need it.” Mitchell returned from his service in the Navy feeling that he couldn’t relate to others around him. He felt isolated until he was invited to help build hot rods for racing events when he was a student at Utah Valley University. “I knew the other students wouldn’t relate to what I’d been through, but being part of a group and applying my skills is what saved me,” Mitchell said. Now he of-


That ethos of vets serving vets is what drives people like Churchill and Mitchell. “With the latest conflicts, veterans came back and decided that we’re going to take care of our own,” Churchill said. “If we have brothers and sisters in arms that are in pain, that are suffering, that are trying to reintegrate, then we need to reach out and help them. That’s what a lot of the charities that we support do.” For Churchill, that spirit of service extended to the local community as well. He sources as many of his products locally as he can, from local bakeries and chocolates to even getting their Alpha Coffee ceramic mugs made by a local artisan. “We want to be good citizens, good members of the community,” Churchill said. “Owning a business in the community we live in, it really makes a big difference to us. When you support local, you’re supporting your community more.” Community support of veteran charities and businesses was cited by Churchill, Vennera and Mitchell as ways for people to show their appreciation of veterans. “It’s kind of become cliché when people say thank you for your service,” Churchill said. “I did 21 years and multiple combat tours, and I certainly appreciate it, but if you really want to do something, support veteran-owned businesses and veteran charities. Come out to the

Deployed troops can apply to receive coffee donations from Alpha Coffee in Cottonwood Heights. (Photo courtesy of Carl Churchill)

Pat Tillman Run. If you’re in Cottonwood Heights, come out and do it. It’s a great way to support veterans.” The annual Pat Tillman Run is planned for next April. Helping to host the Cottonwood Heights extension of the event is another way for Churchill and other veterans in the area to serve their fellow vets. For them, it’s being part of a tribe. Members of that tribe, deployed throughout the world, have shown their gratitude. Photos of troops posing with bags of Alpha Coffee have come from Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. Churchill keeps a wall of photos from grateful troops on display at Alpha Coffee. The images show what it has meant to the Churchills. It’s about vets serving vets, about understanding and belonging. “It’s all about supporting the veteran community and the local community,” Churchill said. l





he long line at the local auto body shop isn’t The Utah Department of Public Safety sugjust for oil changes, it’s for winter tires too. gests on its website to have jumper cables, a With temperatures (and leaves) dropping, it’s tow rope and small shovel in case the car gets time for a refresher course on safe winter driving. stuck, reflectors or flares to make sure your car is visible to others driving, flashlight and bat1-Know the conditions Technology affords us the privilege of teries, extra winter clothes, first-aid kit, battery knowing road conditions before ever leaving or solar powered radio, sleeping bag, fresh water and non-perishable food, paper towels and the house. Utah Department of Transportation has hand warmers.

more than 2,200 traffic cameras or sensors which gives visuals and data on all major UDOT roads. Drivers can then adjust their routes or schedules according to the heaviness of traffic making for less congestion and less risk for accidents. The UDOT app means you can see all those cameras from your phone. 2-Prepare the car Make sure the car is prepared for the road conditions, first with good tires. Snow tires give greater tread for better traction. Snow and ice should be completely removed from the windows, headlights and taillights prior to driving to ensure visibility. If your car is parked outside overnight, place towels over the windows. This keeps the windows from icing over.

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3-Control the vehicle Keeping the car under control requires some safe driving tips. The most obvious: drive slow. Despite our impatience or urgency to get to the desired location, slow driving is the safest driving. Staying under the speed limit, which is meant for ideal conditions, becomes even more important when traveling over snow, ice, standing water or slush. In drivers education courses, prospective drivers learn about the rule for distance between your car and the one in front of you. Driving 60 mph? Stay six car lengths back. 70 mph? Seven car lengths back. This distance should be increased even more during wet conditions to allow the car time and space to stop without rear ending the vehicle in front.



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Holiday festivities kicking off in Cottonwood Heights By Joshua Wood | joshw@mycityjournals.com


ottonwood Heights has a number of festivities planned to light up the holidays. Events were slated to begin with the Thanksgiving Day 5K on the morning of Thanksgiving. Mayor Mike Peterson has run the event for the past 35 years. Each year, runners who finish before the mayor are awarded a medal at the finish line. On Dec. 2 at City Hall, the annual Light the Heights event takes place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will feature the traditional tree lighting and a chance for kids to visit with Santa. There will also be a Santa letter writing center, crafts for kids and some light refreshments to keep people warm. Santa will lead attendees in a round of Christmas songs. The Cottonwood Heights Arts Council will offer a preview of their upcoming play, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Santa will be available to talk turkey with kids from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the craft market will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Cottonwood Heights Business Association (CHBA) has gotten involved to help others in the community this holiday season by organizing a Sub for Santa drive. They plan to have people sign up by Nov. 26 and will accept donations through Dec. 10. The CHBA will host a Christmas wrapping social with breakfast on Dec. 12. Interested participants can contact City Hall for more information. l

Light the Heights and Sub for Santa are a few of the events planned for Cottonwood Heights this December. (Photo by Dan Metcalf)







Page 10 | December 2019



Cottonwood Heights City Journal

First AP Capstone students at Brighton expected to graduate this spring By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com


his spring, 20 Brighton High seniors may have an asterisk next to their names in the commencement program. These aren’t students who have yet to complete a required course for graduation, but those who are candidates to receive an AP Capstone diploma. They also may be distinguished from their peers with a cord, sash or medal, Principal Tom Sherwood said. “This is a feather in their hat,” he said. “It’s a high accomplishment where they undertook extra learning and will have a leg up on their peers. We have a tremendous number of students who take a high load of AP courses and this is a way to showcase these top academic learners.” The AP Capstone diploma program was introduced to Brighton High last fall after a year-long application and approval process at the suggestion of Assistant Principal Matt Shelby. Through the AP seminar and research courses, students learn skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing and presenting, said Jim Hodges, who teaches sophomores AP Seminar along with AP European History. Students can earn the AP Capstone diploma when they score a three or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP exams of their choosing, or they can receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate when they earn scores of a three or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research, but not on the four additional AP exams. “The more we looked into AP Capstone, we saw it was a good program and applied to be part of it,” Hodges said. “Last year was our inaugural year for AP Seminar and we opened it up to sophomores and juniors. Now, as seniors, 20 students are taking AP Research in its inaugural year.” Hodges said that once he learned more about the program, he jumped at the chance to be part of it. “These students are learning skills that are valuable in preparation for college,” he said. “They become critical thinkers, self-confident, and problem-solvers and they present publicly in front of people. AP Capstone is an excellent preparation for college and is a complement to those students seeking to achieve more, but it isn’t an option for every student. We don’t put any limits on it, but we do let kids know the rigor and stress of the program.” At Brighton, the AP Seminar course now is open to sophomores, who look at issues from multiple perspectives, identify credible sources, evaluate strengths and weaknesses of arguments and make logical, evidence-based recommendations in a paper and presentation as well as complete a team project. Hodges said students investigate a vari-

ety of topics through various viewpoints. “They look at sources — if they’re valuable and how to differentiate those that are from those that aren’t. They look at bias and points of view; they look from outside of a narrow perspective that may represent only an individual or group,” he said. The paper, presentation, group project and their written end-of-course exam contribute to the overall AP Seminar score. The junior year is dedicated to students enrolling in additional AP courses from about 20 offered at the high school, such as human geography, government and politics, biology, chemistry, physics, English language and composition, Chinese, Spanish, French, calculus, statistics, psychology, photography, drawing and American history. As seniors, they enroll in AP Research, taught by Jennifer Mattson, who also instructs AP English Literature and Composition. The AP Research course allows students to come up with a topic, problem or issue and even conduct their own research. Then students will use this material to complete an independent research project. The papers are sent worldwide to other AP Capstone schools for scoring. The AP Research score is based

on the paper itself as well as the presentation, which should defend the students’ research findings. “It’s obviously a lot more than just a big paper,” Hodges said. “Some of the papers I saw students doing are comparable to what I did in grad school.” Brighton is the only public high school in Salt Lake County that offers the AP Capstone program, Hodges said. Juan Diego Catholic High in Draper was the first high school in Utah to offer the AP Capstone program, introducing it in 2016. Fourteen Juan Diego students have received their AP Capstone diplomas in 2018 and 2019, and there are 17 students on track to graduate in the program this school year. l

Brighton Bengals can enter the AP Capstone program, which challenges and showcases top academic learners. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

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December 2019 | Page 11

Veterans proud to have served, appreciate Ridgecrest students’ gratitude By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com


ohn Riches wasn’t surprised when he was drafted in 1944. Riches served three years in the U.S. Army where he saw action in the Philippines and Japan before he returned stateside to earn his degree at the University of Utah. The World War II staff sergeant, who has two great-grandchildren attending Ridgecrest Elementary, was one of 17 veterans or active duty military who were honored at the school’s fifth annual Veterans Day ceremony. “It was great to receive a thank-you,” Riches said. “I’m glad I served.” The ceremony, which featured the school choir’s tribute to the armed forces and the entire student body singing “America the Beautiful,” also included three poems written by fifth graders, two who honored their relatives who served. The honorees, who served in four of the five armed forces branches, received thankyou notes written by fourth- and fifth-graders and a standing ovation of hundreds of school children and guests. U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Timothy Beery, who graduated from nearby Hillcrest High School in the 1980s, thanked students for welcoming the honorees to their school. He told students he has been to 11 countries and five continents and had his college education paid for through the military as well as made great friends and seen great things. “I’ve been to Afghanistan twice, so there is some service and sacrifice that comes along with this great adventure,” he said. Beery, who has been in the service 12 years, then fielded several students’ questions, including if he had ever been scared — “sometimes, I was definitely scared” — to weapons he used, such as a “RPG-7; it was a blast, no pun intended” — to if he was ever injured, which was during a basketball game breaking his arm, not in combat — to “were

Page 12 | December 2019

you in the Civil War?” to which he joked — “Do I look that old?” He told students it was an honor to serve. “It’s nice to be recognized on Nov. 11, but many of us feel that pride in doing service is recognition enough,” Beery said. “We wear the uniform because we want to; it’s something many of us nowadays choose to do.” That’s how retired Col. Michael Martin feels. “It was a privilege to serve,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it. I’m a very blessed man. I love my family and my country.” Martin came from New Mexico to the ceremony at the request of his grandchildren and found his picture twice on the wall that thanked veterans — once from the information his grandson Nelson Payson’s filled out, and a more recent photo with Martin’s son, who also served in the military while holding a photograph of his father who served, according to granddaughter Addison’s paper. “I joined the Army in ’68 at age 17 with my mom’s permission,” Martin said, recalling he had graduated from high school two weeks prior before serving 31 years. “I always wanted to be a soldier and a teacher, but I never figured out the order.” After his retirement from the military, he did become a U.S. history and economics high school teacher in Albuquerque, but “being a soldier is harder.” Martin missed the action in Vietnam and the Cold War; instead, he was shipped to the heat of New Mexico, the cold of Germany and the arctic air of Alaska, where it was 50 degrees below zero when he landed.  “There were valuable experiences, but not every day is a good day. I never regretted a thing; it was a wonderful journey,” he said. Principal Julie Winfree, who grew up on Air Force bases worldwide as her dad was a colonel in the service, said she hopes the

During Ridgecrest Elementary’s fifth annual Veterans Day ceremony, U.S. Army retired Staff Sgt. John Riches, who has two great-grandchildren attending the school, was given thank-you notes written by a fourth- and fifth-grader. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

ceremony prompts conversations with school children about Veterans Day. “We have many veterans in our area, so it’s an opportunity to teach our children about their service they have given all of us and to thank them,” she said. For retired Army Specialist 5 Chuck Rice, the gratitude is appreciated, even years after he served in Vietnam from January 1969 to January 1970. “We were attacked all the time,” he said. “Of my 360 days there, we were attacked 190 times.” When the California native returned to Utah to finish his master’s degree, he wasn’t shown appreciation.

“When we came back, we weren’t well liked so we didn’t tell anyone we served. It was a culture of unrest. You didn’t know if someone you didn’t know was anti-Vietnam or would be accepting. People just didn’t talk about it. I only wore my uniform twice afterward,” he said. “It wasn’t until soldiers returned from Iraq when people would applaud them that the recent recognitions of veterans came about.” For Rice, that meant 47 years after he served was the first time he was recognized. “I thought it was in my past and never thought about it,” he said. “When my grandkids asked, I came and appreciated being asked.” l

Cottonwood Heights City Journal

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December 2019 | Page 13

Bengal comeback: Marching band to return to the field next fall


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By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

ext school year, Friday night lights will look a bit different at Brighton High. Returning to their football field after a 30year hiatus will be the school’s marching band. “Brighton had a strong, active marching band as did the other east side high schools — Alta, Hillcrest, Jordan — in the 1980s and 1990s, but then the interest faded and it fizzled,” Principal Tom Sherwood said. “I’m thrilled I hired someone who tripled the number of students in the instrumental program and now is not only wanting to build the marching band program, but someone who will run it once it’s built. It’s a lot of work.” That someone is Mikala Mortensen, who last year, in her second year, first approached Sherwood to start a drumline at the school. The band program received his support for $25,000 to purchase new drums to replace the aging equipment. After the momentum and success of the drumline, which played at sporting events as well as school-wide functions, Mortensen gained the support to the tune of $296,000 from Canyons Board of Education in October to begin the school’s marching band. Alta High is the only other Canyons high school that has a marching band, which returned in 2013. Hillcrest High’s band parades into their football stadium, but, according to director Austin Hilla, is easing into the approach of performing on the field over a number of years. Sherwood is grateful for the capital funding for Brighton’s marching band program. “The board was generous, and it will be a really good start. It will go toward buying instruments, uniforms and storage for equipment,” he said. Sherwood, who played saxophone through eighth grade, said he appreciated hearing his high school, Bingham’s marching band, when he played football. “It was a great addition to have them on the field with us, performing, showing their talents,” he said, adding that he expects that same culture to be a part of the Bengals’ high school experience. “It gives kids a chance to connect with those who have the same skill sets, a chance to belong and support one another — and it absolutely will bridge kids who have an interest in music with those in athletics. It will boost our school spirit.” Mortensen isn’t new to marching bands. She marched in the Rose Bowl Parade as a part of Westlake High’s band and also played with in the Blue Knight Drum & Bugle Corps. “Marching band changed my whole life when I was in high school,” she said. “I developed friendships and connected with others. It completely changed the culture for me of playing.”

Uniforms from a former Brighton High marching band are reminders of days gone by; next year’s marching band will return to the football field after a 30-year hiatus wearing new uniforms. (Julie Slama/ City Journals)

Having that background and connections in the community, plus a strong interest from students and families from a survey conducted, she talked to alumni to find out about the school’s former marching band. “I learned that it was more community oriented. It was a strong band, but didn’t compete much,” she said. “They were excited to hear it was making a comeback.” While she’s not sure if the marching band will have a theme show or a show with simple geometrical designs next fall, her students are excited about being on their home turf. Hailey Timm and Ella Mittelstadt were among 10 Brighton students who participated in Canyons’ all-district summer marching band at Alta High, and will be among those with experience to help lead their peers in fall 2020. Mittelstadt said she made a lot of really good friends and learned to play to set standards. “We learned to be respectful and rehearse together. We worked as a team,” she said, adding that playing music and marching was “a good way to exercise for those who don’t like to go for a long, boring run.” Timm hopes that through their experiences, they can lead by example. “Marching band is one of my greatest passions,” she said. “Everyone has to work together and work hard. It’s a powerful group and we made strong bonds. It’s amazing and stimulating. I enjoy the camaraderie and seeing myself improve. We worked so hard, I had aching muscles after marching and playing music, but it set a tone and created a culture for us and those around us.” Mortensen, who directs near an old orange tiger marching band uniform framed on her band room wall, knows a lot are counting on her. “When I got here, the band culture wasn’t really as strong. I’m a band kid and want students here to be involved and well rounded,” she said. “As a director, I realize we need to build up this void and have the marching band be a sense of pride and part of this community.” l

Cottonwood Heights City Journal

Winter skies hold less pollution than 10 years ago By Erin Dixon | erin@mycityjournals.com







Vehicle emissions are one of the biggest contributors to airborne pollution. (Adobe stock photo)


inter is coming. With it comes trapped pollution. Air pollution in the Salt Lake valley is a problem: an obvious statement. The good news is, it’s become less of a problem than it was in 2010. In a presentation to the American Planners Association, Thom Carter, UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership) executive director, stated that, “From 2002 to 2017, total emissions have dropped 38% despite the population increasing 34% during that same time period.” Why is the air better? Because we discovered the primary culprits for pollution. Us. Fifty-two percent of Utah residents are now aware their own vehicles are the biggest contributor, whereas six years ago 56% thought mines, refineries and other industries were at fault. Because residents see themselves as responsible, many are making efforts to change their habits. Taking public transit instead of driving alone is one of the biggest changes people are making.

“With 50% of pollution coming from our tailpipes, not idling, reducing cold starts, taking transit, carpooling are most beneficial to reducing our impact on air quality,” Carter said. Another major contributor to pollution is old appliances. “Changing out a traditional water heater to an ultra-low NOx water heater can make a big difference. Experts at the Department of Environmental Quality tell us that nitrous oxide or NOx is a precursor of PM2.5 (Particulate Matter 2.5 micrometers)…. When a homeowner switches to an ultra-low NOx water heater, it reduces NOx emissions by 75%,” Carter said. There’s even a way to save yourself cash and reduce pollution; turn your furnace down by two degrees. “Regarding thermostats, we know that people are turning down their thermostats to save money and help air quality…. This 2 degree difference can save 1 ton in CO2. The average family emits 25 tons of CO2 emissions per year,” Carter said. However, if any of these small efforts stopped, pollution would again skyrocket. l




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December 2019 | Page 15

Joanne McGillis discusses her passion, the McGillis School By Sona Schmidt-Harris | s.schmidtharris@mycityjournals.com


oanne McGillis is earnest and organized. This is one first impression of her. The other is the unusual color of her eyes — somewhere between amber, yellow, gold and brown. A longtime resident of both Cottonwood Heights and Holladay, McGillis has been a presence in the social and philanthropic scene for years. The crown jewel of her philanthropic endeavors is the founding of the Joanne S. and Richard L. McGillis School (Richard “Dick” McGillis is her late husband and co-founder of the school). She said, “It looks like something out of the United Nations because it’s the diversity that I love so much. The school is secular, but it’s based on Jewish ethics. So, we have such things as just learning for learning’s sake, respect, charity, repairing the earth, thoughtfulness, and kindness and all the good things that are really universal values.” “We also stress freedom of intellect, and to explore and to be the best at what you can be whatever that may be. If you’re a plumber, be the best plumber you can be.” She is particularly proud of the art and drama programs. The McGillis School incorporated on April 12, 2002 and opened its doors on September 2, 2003.

Richard and Joanne McGillis purchased the old Douglas School on 1300 East, which later became the home of the McGillis School. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone more enthusiastic about the structure of a school than McGillis. “Our good friend Gary Eckman, who was a contractor to refurbish the place, brought it up to seismic code. That’s not easy to do right. We unearthed beautiful hardwood floors that had been sealed over and all kinds of beautiful marble that had been painted, and he just brought it back to restore it to its original glory.” When it came time to expand, McGillis said, “They sent to Europe for the brick because they wanted to make the building look like it hadn’t been added onto. They replicated even the façade and the moldings so the building looks like it was originally intended to be one building.” Additionally, it is environmentally friendly. The gold-LEED-certified building is flooded with light from solar panels (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). McGillis was driven to open a school. “I’m an ardent admirer of education. I think it’s the path to a lifetime. It opens so many doors. It’s so important just for the sociability of meeting other people and learning to

The McGillis School embraces “learning for learning’s sake, respect, charity, repairing the earth, thoughtfulness, and kindness and all the good things that are really universal values.” (Sona Schmidt-Harris/City Journals)

get along with other people. And you know, if you are lucky enough to have one teacher impact you during your lifetime, that’s a blessing. It really is. I was so lucky. I was sent to Roland Hall when it was a very small girls’ school up on B Street. I was just born with curiosity. I love to learn.” McGillis later earned a scholarship to Mills College outside Oakland, California. “I have always based my love for this school (the McGillis School) on Michael Masser’s song. ‘I believe that children are the

future; teach them well and let them lead the way.’ That’s it.” This is made more potent by the fact that McGillis met Masser in California. “‘I believe that children are the future.’ It’s true. It’s kind of my mantra,” she said. If you’re interested in learning more about the McGillis School, visit their website: mcgillisschool.org. Funding is available, and as McGillis said, “Well, I would say our growth and our waiting list speaks for itself.” l




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Resident survey gathers feedback, creates more questions By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjournals.com


uring the first few weeks of November, a city survey was distributed to gather resident feedback on a variety of topics. That survey was a continuation of a series contracted with Y2 Analytics. The first resident survey was distributed in 2016, with a follow-up survey occurring in 2017. As the research team aimed to wrap up fielding before the Thanksgiving holiday, results from the survey should be posted to the city website shortly (as of publication). In addition, the survey may be made available for residents who were not randomly selected on the city’s website and social media channels. The survey was sent out to a statistically valid random sample of registered voters in Cottonwood Heights. It contained 65 questions, which was estimated to take about 12 to 15 minutes to complete. “In Cottonwood Heights, our registered voter population is quite high so that’s considerable coverage. And [the council members] answer most directly to those registered voters who hold [the council members] accountable on election day,” said Y2 Analytics Vice President of Research Kyrene Gibb. Gibb visited the council’s meetings on a few separate occasions to revise the questions that would be asked. During discussions, Councilmember Christine Mikell requested that the survey be open for every resident. “How much is the cost to send it to everybody in our city? If it’s so important to us that we want to hear from everyone, we should make it available for everybody.” “It’s more than we budgeted. We budgeted for a random sample,” replied City Manager Tim Tingey. Gibb went on to explain that there may be differences reflected in data sets between the statistical sampling approach the city has done previously and a census coverage approach. With statistical sampling, the data reflects a general overview of public opinion. However, with a census approach, it is more likely to get biased responses as the respons-

es generally come from residents who are actively looking to participate with the city. “Inviting a random subset of residents who may or may not seek out that participation with the city on their own has proven to be a more cost-effective way to accurately measure the broad view of public opinion,” Gibb said. Mikell further explained her concern. “As a resident, I want to feel like my opinion is valued and I want to participate in this survey. If I’m not picked in that random survey, I’m a little bit miffed. I want to be able to provide my feedback if I choose to.” Tingey responded, “I was involved in a community where we opened it up to the whole citizenry to try and get everyone’s input. We were significantly criticized, especially by the academic community, because it wasn’t a scientifically random sample. I’ve been criticized on the other side for not getting accurate data.” Gibb presented a potential “political midway compromise point.” The survey would still be sent out to a random sample of registered voters. After Y2 Analytics retrieved all the data from that survey and generated a findings report, the survey would be made open-access for any resident who wanted to take it. As of publication, that potential compromise had not been finalized, but the council “will maintain the option,” Mikell said. During a follow-up meeting, the City Council discussed what types of questions and topics should be included in those 65 questions. One topic up for debate between the council members was storm water. The survey question was drafted to read, “Should the city use existing funds and reduce other expenditures or assess a new storm water fee and maintain current expenditure levels?” “You’ll get a sense of how willing residents are to pay for additional service and maintenance,” Gibb said. Council members Mike Shelton and Tali

Councilmember Mikell suggested that Y2 Analytics’ survey be open-access for residents who wish to participate. (Photo courtesy of Christine Mikell)

Y2 Analytics Vice President of Research Kyrene Gibb will report on the resident survey findings. (Photo courtesy of Y2 Analytics)

Bruce pointed out that this question could be asked in reference to roads, recyclables, sustainability and police. “I think we are missing a very valuable window,” Bruce said. “As we do budget comparisons, if it turns out we are spending 10% more than our neighbors, do we still want inhouse police?” Bruce continued by contextualizing her suggestion. Over the next year, one of the council’s goals is to compare the costs of services in Cottonwood Heights with neighboring cities. If that comparison shows Cottonwood Heights is paying a premium for in-house police, the public should have an opportunity to say “yes, it’s worth it to us. We want to pay no matter what,” she said. Councilmember Scott Bracken replied, “To an extent, the public has said that and you’re ignoring it: and you’ve continued to ignore it. The public has said on each and every single one of these surveys that we have done from the beginning that they like our police.” “This is not questioning their job performance,” replied Bruce. “We have fantastic officers. They do a fantastic job.” Mayor Michael Peterson drew the conversation back to the focus of Bruce’s question. “There is agreement that we should know what the costs are. We should know

what the direct and indirect costs are. But I am not personally comfortable to say that we’ve seen those numbers and that they say we pay a premium for police.” Tingey followed up as well. “If we are going to evaluate every department of our whole administration and are evaluating whether to outsource or not, that frustrates me significantly and impacts morale in a way I’m not happy with.” “We have to run this a little bit like a business,” Bruce said. “We have to be a little bit accountable to our stakeholders. We don’t get to just take their taxes and spend through the roof. And say we aren’t going to talk about budget because it might hurt morale.” “You always want to be transparent and efficient in government. But this is not a private business,” Tingey replied. “Government is never a private business. There’s different implications for the services we provide then a private business.” It was ultimately decided that a similarly worded question pertaining to police would not be included in this round of surveying. However, a suggestion was made to conduct a survey when accurate budget comparisons are available. l


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Brighton cross-country athletes show their stuff in region tournament By Josh McFadden | josh@mycityjournals.com


he cross-country season began with summer conditioning in the blistering heat and now ends amid cool temperatures and even the threat of snow. Through it all, the Brighton squad has turned out some impressive performances. The Bengals finished second in Region 6 on the girls side, while the boys placed fourth at the region tournament, held at the beginning of October. The Class 5A state meet is set for Oct. 23 at Sugar House Park. At the region tournament, sophomore Cara Rupper won the girls varsity race with a time of 18:23. Joceyln Summers and Lia Belle also placed in the top 14 and made the All-Region First and Second teams, respectively. For the boys, sophomore Adam Kohlmann finished sixth with a time of 15:45. His efforts landed him a spot on the All-Region First Team. Teammate Josh Behunin made Second-Team All-Region by placing 14th at the tournament with a time of 16:13. The junior varsity squad got into the action, too, with Harrison Steen coming in first in that division with a time of 16:49. For the girls JV team, freshman Olivia Christensen was runner-up. Her time of 20:43 was just .01 seconds behind the winner. “I’m proud of how our team finished at region,” said head coach Angie Welder. “We had several individual outstanding accom-

plishments. Our team performed exceptionally well this season. Race times improved with every meet, and the runners were excited about getting out there week after week to race hard. Building confidence and mental toughness is a huge part of running success, and it was exciting to watch each of them begin to really believe that they could not only race well but continue to improve and be a competitive threat in our region.” Both the girls and boys teams qualified for the 5A meet, sending a total of 14 athletes to the culminating event. “These kids have learned to really believe in their abilities and confidently go out and give it their all on race day,” Welder said. At state, the girls finished 11th with Summers taking 34th overall and a time of 19:49, while Rupper took 36th with a time of 19:51. On the boys side, Kohlmann led the team with a 16:39 finish. Welder is pleased with the progress her athletes have made and how far the program has come. She said it has “been a few years” since Brighton has qualified a full team for state. “To watch our team confidently race their best, push hard and secure a state spot was a huge accomplishment. Watching our individuals win and place in the All-Region team was just icing on the cake. Watching

Brighton’s Cara Rupper finishes her race at the Region 6 cross-country meet in first place. (Photo courtesy of Justin Pitcher)

[Rupper] and [Steen] win their individual races was truly an awesome moment. We have an extremely talented group of athletes, many of which are underclassmen, and it’s exciting to watch them toe the line and compete successfully with many other more experienced junior and senior athletes.” Welder said everybody on the team has worked hard and pushed themselves to the limit to learn the necessary skills and tactics

to become better runners. “Day in and day out, they showed up to practice, did exactly what was asked of them and then responded with outstanding race performances,” she said. “There is nothing better than seeing the look on a runner’s face as they cross the finish line knowing that they gave it their all, met their goals and accomplished something they never thought possible earlier in the season.” l

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Brighton football finishes 8-3, bows out in second round All photos by Justin Adams

Junior Owen Powers takes the handoff. The Bengals’ 8-3 record was their best finish since 2014 when they reached the semifinals. Brighton qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Junior Gabe Curtis drops back for a pass in the playoffs against Orem. Curtis accounted for 28 touchdowns this season (20 passing, eight rushing) as the Bengals finished 8-3.

Sophomore Lander Barton holds onto the ball after a catch against Orem. The Bengals earned the fifth seed under the new Ratings Performance Index seeding implemented this year. They also finished second in Region 6 under new head coach Justin Hemm.

Senior Owen Smith kicks a field goal against Orem. Brighton qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Bengals’ 8-3 record was their best finish since 2014 when they reached the semifinals

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Butler Middle honored with a Best of Cottonwood Heights Award By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com


utler Middle School recently was honored with the 2019 Best of Cottonwood Heights Award. “Butler Middle teachers, staff and students are honored to be recognized for their hard work and excellence in education,” Assistant Principal Doug Hallenbeck said. “We are particularly proud of the effort students and teachers are doing in the area of social emotional learning through a program called Second Step, which helps students build positive relationships and manage their emotions when faced with challenges both in the classroom and in their personal lives. Building a positive school climate and culture continues to be a focus of our school so that, now more than ever, every day is a great day to be Bruin.” The annual Cottonwood Heights award program identifies schools and companies that have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category, and selects winners based on the information gathered both internally and by data provided Brighton Bengals can enter the AP Capstone program, which challenges and showcases top academic by third parties, according to the Cottonwood learners. (Julie Slama/City Journals) Heights Business Recognition committee. l

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or some reason unbeknownst to me, us Utahans get way too hyped over holiday lights. Perhaps, we really like them because of the creative designs. Or maybe it’s because it’s a cheap or completely priceless way to spend a magical night with friends and family. It might even be a way for many of us to fight the seasonal depression that comes along with the winter darkness. Whatever the reason may be, we love some holiday lights. If you haven’t checked out these locations yet, I recommend them for a usually-completely-free experience (unless you’re buying some hot chocolate). My favorite light events over the past few years have been the Trees of Life. While originally named the Tree of Light, many residents have nicknamed the trees “Trees of Life,” for various reasons. One of the most stunning trees grows in Draper City Park (1300 E. 12500 South). Every year, over 65,000 lights are carefully strung throughout the tree. When lit (which occurs the first Monday evening after Thanksgiving) all of the branches of the tree are illuminated; making it seem like a tree from a magical world. Throughout the valley, many more Trees of Life are being decorated. The closest one to me personally resides in a cemetery. That’s where I would check to see if there’s a Tree of Life near you. Temple Square arguably has the most famous lights within the valley. Located in

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downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square decorates their 10-acre complex with many different colors and styles of lights. This year, the lights will be on from Nov. 29 until Dec. 31. Check them out from 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. The Grand America Hotel in SLC (555 S. Main St.) is a building to sight-see all year round. When it’s lit up with Christmas lights though, it’s hard not to miss. City Creek (50 S. Main Street in Salt Lake City) will turn on their lights for the season on Nov. 21. Their event titled “Santa’s Magical Arrival” will kick off at 6 p.m., when the Candy Windows at Macy’s on Main Street are revealed. The Westminster College Dance Program will be performing “Eve” and will be followed by a fire fountain show. Light the Heights in Cottonwood Heights will occur on Dec. 2, beginning at 5 p.m. A holiday market will be open as City Hall, located at 2277 E. Bengal Blvd., turns on their lights for the first time this season. Other public spaces that are worth walking through to see the lights are This is the Place Heritage Park (2537 E. Sunnyside Ave., Salt Lake City), Gardner Village (1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan), and Thanksgiving Points (3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi). Beginning on Dec. 6, Hogle Zoo (2600 E. Sunnyside Ave.) will host Zoo Lights! intermittently throughout the season until Jan. 5. This event does require an entrance fee of


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$9.95. On Sundays through Thursdays, they will be open from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, they will be open until 10 p.m. One other event with an entrance fee that’s worth mentioning is Christmas in Color in South Jordan, at 1161 S. 2200 West. You’ll need your car for this one as you drive through lighted tunnels and landscapes for at least 30 minutes. Tickets are $27 per vehicle. Now back to the free-of-charge neighborhood lights. In Sugar House, Glen Arbor Drive (also unofficially known as “Christmas Street”) is a popular destination for holiday drivers. While driving, please be courteous of the street’s residents.  In Taylorsville, (another unofficial) Christmas Street has been causing quite a stir. It’s a festive neighborhood where the residents really take to the holiday. Located around 3310 W. Royal Wood Drive, this street is one to cruise down. The Lights on Sherwood Drive in Kaysville is also a neighborhood gaining popularity. According to their Facebook page, their Christmas light shows are fully controlled and synchronized to a light show. Shows start at 5:30 p.m. and run until 10 p.m. every day of the week. If you’re looking for even more places to visit, you might want to check out chistmaslightfinder.com.



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Son of a Nutcracker


t’s the time of year people pretend “The Nutcracker” ballet is a fun holiday activity. If you’re one of the lucky few who never sat through this weird production involving multi-headed vermin, living toys and one unsettling old man, here’s a recap. Picture a festive house in the late 1800s with dozens of dancing guests, skipping children and happy servants, basically it’s the “12 Days of Christmas” come to life. Young Clara and her obnoxious brother, Fritz, are the ballet version of little kids crazy-excited for Christmas. (The ballet version differs from real life because ballet dancers don’t speak, where real children don’t shut up from Thanksgiving to Christmas morning.) Dr. Drosselmeyer, Clara’s super-creepy godfather, appears at the party dressed like Count Chocula and presents her with a wooden nutcracker. Clara is over-the-top ecstatic, for reasons I’ll never understand. I guess children had a different relationship with nutcrackers in the 19th century. Clara’s brother is SO jealous of the gift (right??) that he flings the nutcracker across the room, because really, what else can you do with a nutcracker? Clara’s despondent. She wraps his broken wooden body in a sling (like ya do) and falls asleep on the couch, snuggled to her nutcracker. During the night, the Rat King and his minions sneak into Clara’s home, because why not? She wakes up and freaks out. The


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nutcracker turns into a handsome soldier and wields his sword to defeat the rodent army. “Nutcracker! You’re my hero!” screams Clara, if people in a ballet could talk. “That’s Prince Nutcracker to you, peasant,” he sniffs in pantomime, before taking her to the magical Land of the Sweets ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy who has an unclear but definite sexual relationship with Prince Nutcracker. While in the Land of Sweets, Clara watches dancers from Russia, Spain, China and Arabia (?) as they perform in a culturally stereotypical fashion. Prince Nutcracker sits next to Clara cracking walnuts with his jaw like some football jock. Mother Ginger shows up in drag with a skirt full of tumbling children, then there’s a flower waltz and dancing pipes and tons more pirouetting before the Sugar Plum Fairy takes the stage to make everyone else look clumsy and insipid. It’s all performed to Tchaikovsky’s musical score that stays in your head through January. In the end, it turns out it was all a dream, as most stories involving young girls and adventure turn out to be. I told you that story to tell you this story. When I was a gangly 11 year old, still full of hope, I auditioned for Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker.” As the audition drew nearer, I practiced every spin and arabesque I’d ever learned. I played the music all day until my

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dad walked into my room, removed the album from the turn table and smashed it into pieces with his bare hands. I showed up at the audition with my hair pulled into a bun so tight it closed my eyes. An elegant dancer performed several steps that we practiced for a few minutes, then we performed for the judges. It was over so quickly. As dancers were given roles as soldiers, party goers and mice, I held my breath. But my number wasn’t called. I was heartbroken. Maybe decades later I’m insulted that the ballet judges couldn’t see my awkward talent. Or maybe I’ve endured enough versions of this tale to see it’s craziness. And if “The Nutcracker” is your family’s favorite holiday tradition, ignore my opinion. It’s all a dream anyway.


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