It’s Time to Clear the Air

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Last month I had the opportunity to hear a presentation regarding Park City, Utah’s effort to track its sustainability numbers.  Energy and water conservation are a couple of ways we can help sustain our communities.  Park City is particularly sensitive to how we treat our environment since it hosts many visitors to ski on its surrounding slopes.  Even slight temperature increases year after year have the potential to reduce snowfall amounts, jeopardizing the ski and tourism industry which will affect our state’s economy whether we ski or not.

Park City’s program was adopted to allow homeowners and businesses to calculate how much energy they are using.   At http://www.parkcitygreen.com, Park City residents can calculate their carbon and water footprints and learn what they can do to reduce their impact on the environment.  There is a carbon calculator, a water calculator, and a waste calculator.  I encourage you to review this website and familiarize yourself with its calculators and the accompanying suggestions for reducing our impact on our environment.  Each person and home doing its share can make a big difference.
 
Another site to help us clear the air is http://www.utahmomsforcleanair.org.  The site addresses subjects such as engine idling, smarter driving, etc.  It is a helpful reminder for us about what we can do to make a difference, which is especially relevant when we look out our windows at our polluted air. 

Please take a few minutes to visit these sites and consider what you can do to reduce energy consumption and help clear our air so we will live healthier, longer lives.
 

Utah’s Shining High School Stars

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

During the past few months, the successes and tragedies of the American Fork High School Marching Band have been highly publicized.

The band was overcome with the loss of Heather Christensen, an Assistant Band Director, who was tragically killed in a bus accident following a band competition in Pocatello, Idaho.

Since then, the band competed at the “Red Rocks Invitational Marching Band Competition” on November 6, 2009, at Dixie College in St. George, Utah.  More than 25 bands competed.  The American Fork Marching Band took first place, earning the state championship.

The following day, November 7, the band took first place in the “Bands of America, Western Regional Championship” in St. George, Utah.  Bands from Utah, Washington, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, and California competed for the championship.

The band has been invited to compete in the Grand National Championships, an annual competition held in Indianapolis this coming weekend, November 13-14, 2009.  (The American Fork High School Marching Band is currently ranked 7th nationally.)

The band was the first from Utah to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2007.  The band was invited to play at the 2005 Presidential Inauguration.  The band marched at the Rose Bowl Parade in 2002.  The band has won the equivalent of the state championship for the past 18 consecutive years.

The band’s featured program for this year is “The Greatest Generation,” a tribute to the men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces.

CONGRATULATIONS to the band for its resilience and excellence.

In order to travel to Indianapolis this coming weekend, the band is seeking sponsorships and donations.  Please call today (801-610-8400) and send your donation to reward these students for their hard work.  Please make checks payable to the Alpine Foundation-RE: AFHS Marching Band and mail to 575 North 100 East, American Fork, UT 84003.  Your donation is tax deductible.

Listening tour…continued.

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip
 

This past August, the Senate Democrats were invited to join the House Democrats on their Carbon/Emery County weekend excursion hosted by Representative Christine Watkins.  With the aid of Rhoda, the House Minority Assistant, Representative Watkins planned the itinerary for the trip.  Senator Patricia Jones, Senator Luz Robles, and I just tagged along.  Thanks, House Democrats, for inviting us.

Friday evening, we enjoyed a dinner hosted by Representative Watkins and her husband at their home in Miller Creek.  Several county officials attended the dinner and shared a lot of information with us about rural issues important to Carbon and Emery Counties such as mining, water rights, land use, energy development, higher education, etc.  
 
The next morning, we caravanned to visit several important sites in Carbon and Emery Counties.  First on the agenda was a tour of the Huntington Power Plant, managed and staffed by PacifiCorp.  The plant tour was very educational.  Power production is a complex process and a complex issue affecting every citizen in our state and country.  The Utah coal mining industry and power production industry in these counties employ thousands of Utahns, who in turn, support their families and boost our Utah economy.

Unfortunately, I then had to return to Salt Lake City following the mine tour.   The rest of the group proceeded to the Crandall Canyon Mine Memorial.  The monument honors the lives of six miners and three rescuers who lost their lives in the 2007 mine collapse.  The monument is also a tribute to their families. 

Along with most Utahns, I recall vividly the angst I experienced as the events of the Crandall Canyon Mine tragedy unfolded.  I send my best wishes to the families of the miners and rescuers and to everyone in the community.

The group next had lunch at Huntington Park, and Castle Dale Mayor Neal Peacock was on hand to visit with the group and answer questions.

Then the group visited San Rafael Swell’s Wedge Overlook.  The Wedge Overlook is one of the most beautiful vistas in Utah, overlooking the San Rafael River as it flows through the “Little Grand Canyon.”

This trip provided a great opportunity to visit one of our state’s rural areas and learn about the lives and livelihood of our citizens who reside in Carbon and Emery Counties.  I am glad I was able to make the trip to eastern Utah.  As a legislator, I sometimes have to make decisions on behalf of every citizen in the state, both urban and rural.  This educational experience broadened my view and will enable me to more fully understand important issues in our state.   

Representative Christine Watkins & Husband
Representative Christine Watkins and Husband John

Huntington Power Plant
Huntington Power Plant

The Group
Front Row:  Rep. Chavez-Houck, Sen. Robles, Rep. Watkins & Rep. Moss
Back Row:  Rep. King, Sen. Romero, Rep. Seelig, Rep. Litvack & Rep. Seegmiller

Senator Jones, Mayor Peacock, Senator Romero & Rep. Litvack
Senator Jones, Mayor Peacock, Senator Romero & Representative Litvack

Another Great Community Resource–Volunteers of America, Utah

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip
Senate District 7

Last week, I visited the Homeless Youth Resource Center, a facility sponsored by Volunteers of America, Utah. The Center provides services for homeless street youth through its Street Outreach Program, Drop-in Center, and Transition Homes.

Volunteers of America was founded over 100 years ago in 1896 and continues today to pursue its objective of helping those who need help the most. Volunteers of America, Utah offers a variety of services and programs with a focus on homeless individuals and individuals with substance abuse issues. Its programs are extensive, offering detoxification, 12-step meetings, case management, referrals for treatment, transition housing, counseling, group therapy, recreation, life skills training, and many more, touching the lives of more than 10,000 people locally.

Individuals served by Volunteers of America, Utah are just like you and me. They have grown up in your neighborhood or attended school with you, and they could be family, co-workers, or friends. They are simply individuals in need. The Homeless Outreach Program provides services to the adult community. The Street Outreach Program and Homeless Youth Resource Center offer services to youth on the streets.

Volunteers of America, Utah relies on the generous contribution of its volunteers, who prepare meals, perform administrative or janitorial functions, lead activities, supervise children, etc. You may volunteer your services on a one-time or regular basis.

There is an ongoing need for volunteers and donations for the good work done by Volunteers of America, Utah. If you have a desire to learn more, click here for an overview of services. Click here for information about volunteer opportunities. Click here for information on how to make a donation.

Thank you Utahns for your good work volunteering in our community.

Volunteers of America

Senator Romero

Group Photo

Inside View

Countdown to the Census

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

On June 24, 2009, I was asked to speak to a meeting of the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce, along with Senator Luz Robles.  At the meeting, I spoke about the importance of the census and making sure all are part of the count.

The 2010 Census will have one of the shortest census questionnaires in the history of our country, taking only 10 minutes to complete.  Questions are name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether the householder owns or rents his/her home.  Quick and Simple.

An accurate Census count matters to us in Utah.  Federal and State government use census information to determine where to spend more than $300 billion in federal funds annually.  Information is gathered to determine how to allocate spending for such things as new schools, libraries, public buildings, highway safety and public transportation systems, new roads and bridges, police and fire departments, and many other projects.

Community organizations use census information to develop social service programs, community action projects, senior lunch programs and child-care centers.  The numbers help businesses identify where to locate factories, shopping centers, movie theaters, banks and offices–activities that often lead to new jobs.

One way community leaders (state, local, and tribal governments) can assist in helping make sure there is an accurate count is to register for the Local Update of Census Address (LUCA) program to update the Census Bureau’s address information for their communities.  Another way to assist with the count is to participate in a Complete Count Committee.

So remember, be sure you are part of the Count on Census Day which is April 1, 2010.  It is important to all of us in Utah. 

For more information about the census, please visit this link:  http://www.census.gov/2010census

This Summer: Get Out and Explore

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Senator Ross RomeroLast summer on this blog, I shared my recommendation to visit our Utah State Parks.  I discussed my wonderful camping experience at Jordanelle State Park.

Last weekend (June 6-7), I visited Zion National Park with my family.  I was again reminded how beautiful and diverse our state is and the many treasures it possesses.  We stayed at the Park’s south entrance in Springdale, Utah, at the Majestic Lodge, and the name is well deserved.  The trip was organized by my mother-in-law in part to entertain my sister-in-law and baby niece visiting from Michigan.  I share who was on the trip to illustrate that the Park has opportunities for all ages and adventurers.  While we generally stayed on the paved trails with my four-year-son and niece (except a morning non-trail adventure to the Weeping Rock), we heard from others who waded down the Virgin River for ten hours, camped at the Park, and climbed its massive walls.  We had a great time looking at the birds and lizards as well as the cliffs and water.  In addition, it was nice to know that we were helping the local and state economy by spending time and money vacationing in Utah.

I was surprised when I arrived home on Sunday to read in The Salt Lake Tribune about Zion National Park’s 100-year celebration, having just been to Zions.  I have provided some links in this post so you can see for yourself what was written in the Tribune and how you can plan a trip of your own to visit the National Parks within our beautiful state.  Click here to read the  Tribune article about Zion National Park and its celebration of its “Century of Sanctuary.”  Click here to read Deseret News article about the economic benefits of National Parks.  Click here to read more about National Parks in our state.

I encourage you to get out and explore all our State has to offer.

Senator Romero and Son

Twin Mountains

Waterfall

Lizard

(Click on photos below to enlarge)

StreamStreamStream

Saving Money by Reducing Energy Needs

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Whitney Bitner, Rachel Dansie, Hannah Durham, Hannah Hoopes, Lizzie Egan, and Victoria Hoggan are seventh graders at Olympus Junior High School.  The girls call themselves the Green Queens.

This year, the girls participated in the Lexus Environmental Challenge, a contest giving students an opportunity to help their communities.  Their project is to encourage people to have more energy-efficient homes.  They are trying to motivate people to perform an “energy audit” of their homes, evaluating their doors, windows, lights, cooling, and heating.

Green Queens LogoThe Green Queens competed and are now one of 48 teams out of 525 teams to succeed in the first round.  Now the Green Queens are competing in the final World Challenge.  There will be 16 winning teams, and they hope to be one of them.  If they win, the prize will be $50,000!  Olympus Junior High School would receive $10,000, Ms. JoAnne Brown, their outstanding teacher, would receive $5,000 for her classroom, and $35,000 would be divided among the Green Queens for scholarships.

Can you help the Green Queens win the prize?  Visit their blog and make a commitment to do an energy audit of your home.  There are seven days remaining to make your pledge.  March 26 is the last day!  The girls need your help right now!

The Green Queens and President Obama share the same goals for energy efficiency.  Vice President Joe Biden announced last week that Utah will receive, as part of the Obama stimulus package, $37 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $35 million for the State Energy Program.  The funding will support weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks, and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which will pay for itself many times over.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200% of the federal poverty level—or about $44,000 a year for a family of four.

The State Energy Program funding will be available for rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy-saving improvements, development of renewable energy projects for clean electricity generation and alternative fuels, promotion of Energy Star products, efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings, and other innovative state efforts to help families save money on their energy bills.

I also wanted to share my experience with an energy audit I had performed about a year ago.  A representative from Questar came in and spent about and hour looking over my appliances, water heater, insulation and general lay out.  He then suggested some improvements and informed me how Questar and Rocky Mountain Power were participating in the energy audit and reimbursement program together.  To name a few, my audit report recommended additional insulation around electrical outlets, insulation in attic and windows to be replaced. I took the audit’s advice and secured additional insulation and replaced some windows.  I submitted my receipts and received a modest refund for the window replacements.  The attic insulation however was basically covered by the reimbursement program.

I was glad to learn about what I could do to reduce my energy footprint through the energy audit process and have appreciated the per month savings I have received from my audit improvements.  I would highly recommend taking part in this energy audit process and to see how you can make a difference.

Congratulations to the Green Queens for their outstanding efforts.

Area Code Change This Sunday

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

I wanted to make sure you know that the scheduled 10-digit dialing required to implement the new 385 area code overlay solution will take effect Sunday, March 1, 2009.

Popular Cell PhonesI would recommend taking some time this weekend to re-enter the area codes in your cell phones so that when you find the name of the person you are calling, you will have their area code already programmed in.  There is a bill in the House (HB 215) which would change the implementation of the area code from a historical use to a geographic area.  I would be interested in hearing your response to this bill in this blog post.  Click below to post your comments.

Below are facts about the area code change prepared by the Public Service Commission.  If you have additional questions, please contact the Public Service Commission at mlivingston@utah.gov or 801-530-6716.

 The new 385 Area Code overlaying the existing 801 Area Code

Background: On July 11, 2007, the Utah Public Service Commission issued an order approving the deployment of a new Area Code for use in the area presently served by the 801 Area Code. The new Area Code, 385, will provide additional telephone numbers that are necessary to support the growth in the number of Utah residents, telecommunication service providers, available telecommunications products, and additional lines. The new 385 Area Code will cover the same geographic area as the existing 801 Area Code. In general, the introduction of the 385 Area Code will primarily affect residents in the following counties: Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Weber, and Utah.

The following questions and answers will help clarify the impact of deploying the new 385 Area Code:

What change will happen on Sunday, March 1, 2009?
Callers within the 801 Area Code must dial the full 10 digit telephone number in order to complete local calls.  The 10 digit telephone number includes the 3 digit Area Code along with the 7 digit telephone number.  The PSC ordered the new 385 area code to be added to the geographic area currently served by the 801 Area Code. This change only affects the way callers dial local calls.  As a result, all current customers will retain their existing numbers and Area Code.

How will telephone dialing change?
The way callers dial a local call will change; callers will be required to dial 10 digits for all local calls. Specifically:
•    For a local call within the same or different Area Code, customers must dial 10 digits (Area Code + 7 digit telephone number).
•    For a toll call to all area codes, there is no change, customers must dial 1+10-digits          (1 + Area Code + 7-digit telephone number).
•    For Operator Services Credit Card, Collect, or a Third Party call to all area codes, there is no change; customers must dial 0+10-digits (0 + Area Code + 7-digit telephone number).

What happens if a caller by mistake dials a “1” before the 10 digits for a local call?  Will they be charged for a toll call since they dialed the “1”? 
No, callers should not incur toll charges for local calls.  Depending upon the service provider of the caller, they will either get an intercept message indicating they do not need to dial a “1” to complete the call, or if the call is allowed to complete, the caller should not be charged for a toll call.  Callers should contact their local service provider if they have any questions.

What will not change as a result of the new area code?
•    Customers with existing 801 Area Code telephone numbers will have no change to their Area Code or telephone number.
•    Local calling areas will remain the same; the price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change.  In other words, if it is presently a local call, it will still be a local call without any toll charges.
•    Customers can still dial just three digits to reach 911 and 411. If available, customers can still dial 211, 311, 511, 611, 711 and 811 with just three digits.

Continue reading

Thanks for Measuring Up

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

This year President Waddoups has given rulers to each Senator displaying the words “Utah State Senate” to hand out to those who have gone beyond the ordinary and have “measured up.”

Senate Ruler

On February 13, 2009, I asked three individuals to come to the floor of the Senate and be recognized for their actions.

On January 29, 2009, Julio Venegas found $1,200 on the floor of a Chevron Station where he was working.  Instead of keeping the money as encouraged by a customer, Julio turned it into the authorities.  The press was contacted and after showing the individual who dropped the money on the news, the authorities were able to locate the proper owner who eventually retrieved the money.  (Click here for the full story.)

In December 2008, dozens of travelers who were taking a bus through Utah to California were stranded in Salt Lake City because of winter weather.  Floyd Mann and his friend Ron Gilder heard about these travelers and decided to help.  Mann and Gilder loaded up Mann’s car with water, soups, chips, snack bars and paper supplies which they dropped off at the bus station.  When Mann and Gilder found that many of these people had been stuck there for days, Mann offered them lodging at his home.  Eleven travelers accepted his offer, and over the Christmas holiday Floyd, his wife, and Ron, were the hosts to these travelers for almost a full week.  (Click here for the full story.)

These individuals are examples of those in our community who have truly “measured up.”  I was pleased and honored to be able to invite them to the Senate and personally thank them for their leadership and generosity.

Ruler Recipients
Julio Venegas, Floyd Mann and Ron Gilder

Receiving Rulers

Senator Romero with Ruler Recipients
Julio Venegas, Ron Gilder, Senator Ross Romero and Floyd Mann

 

To Set the Record Straight…

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Alert from the Utah Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Currently there are individuals employed by private companies who have no affiliation with either the state or federal VA network who are claiming to help veterans and their dependents apply for VA benefits.  At times, these individuals are providing inaccurate information, causing the applications to be delayed or rejected.  Many of these companies are charging veterans for their assistance.

 The Department of Veterans’ Affairs reiterates that no veteran is ever required to pay for benefits they have earned.

Representatives from the Veterans Outreach Program make regular visits throughout the state to help veterans with their applications and to answer questions about benefits–free of charge.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Terry Schow, Executive Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, at (801) 326-2372.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has a website that provides detailed information about services and benefits available to veterans.  Click on the following links for information on State Benefits, Federal Benefits, Medical Benefits, and Employment Services and Rights.