I’ve already spent a lot of time busting the arguments and factual claims that Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan has presented in the High-Density Housing Overlay saga. It looks like I have to spend a bit more time doing so.
As of writing (14 hours after she posted that), the post has no engagements. For that reason, it feels a little silly writing a defense. It’s also not the first time she’s attacked the newspaper on social media.
I’m lobbying the newspaper not to make any specific response to the post. This is just part of a (perhaps emerging) pattern of behavior that I think is best redressed by keeping our heads down and reporting.
This doesn’t really matter, but I fully realized that only after writing this defense of myself.
The Grand County Community and Economic Development Department won the Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association’s highest honor in 2019. The award was for its efforts that led to the adoption of the county’s High Density Housing Overlay zone.
Note that the award went to the planning department. That planning department has unanimously said that the HDHO is about occupancy, not ownership. Those planners won the award (and wrote the ordinance), not Sloan.
This is true. We have direct quotes from two people from that council saying that they care about occupancy, not ownership. We will ask the others, as well.
According to Sloan, the staff — the people who wrote the thing and won an award for it — don’t understand the ordinance. On the other hand, she says she — having had no involvement with the HDHO until after it passed, according to her — does understand it.
It might be true that staff understanding has no legal effect, but we’re not writing a brief for the appeal officer. We’re reporting the news.
Let’s put it to the people: Does it matter what the authors of this ordinance think about its intent?
I’m going to call up each of the five council members and see what they say, since Sloan has not done the work.
Sloan goes on to say that she didn’t do this because, according to her, “such declarations cannot be considered.” She probably means that the declarations cannot be considered in these ongoing appeals; that doesn’t mean the public can’t or shouldn’t take the county council’s opinions into consideration.
Sloan insinuates that I fabricated, misrepresented, or otherwise got something wrong on my quotes of McGann. In reality, I understated McGann’s position that she does not care who owns units. See here for the full interview from which the quote is sourced (the HDHO comes up at 11:55): link
McGann did vote for the rules and regulations. That is prominently mentioned in the story.
This claim, like the one that McGann didn’t say to me the words that we published, is another that is just so wild that I have to just turn to reader.
Read the story and our past HDHO coverage, and you decide whether we have provided ample context for McGann’s position and the rest of this whole situation.
An irony here is that, by suggesting that Sloan’s claim of the intent behind the ordinance matters, she is suggesting that the legal analysis should or will consider it. Sloan, the developers, and the hearing officer all say that legislative intent only matters legally if you can’t construe the meaning of an ordinance from its plain language.
If the paper is so dangerously misunderstanding the legal process, why did we point out explicitly that the intent might not matter in the end? Why did we say it only matters if the hearing officer fails to ascribe a clear meaning to the words in the ordinance itself?
What’s not true is that we reported he testified in a hearing. We reported that he testified in a signed statement.
Who thinks that signing a statement submitted in a quasi-judicial proceeding is testimony? Who thinks it isn’t? If there is disagreement here, I will happily change this word, which is apparently so meaningful.
Is it the responsibility of the newspaper to report on things that people say? Or is it the responsibility of the newspaper to report on things that people say, but only when a judge (or, in this case, hearing officer) enters their words into the record?
It would have clearly been irresponsible of us not to acknowledge that four important people are openly opposing the county’s efforts against HDHO developers. If the law requires the judge not consider their testimony, so be it.
Sloan is so stuck in the legal minutia of this that she can’t see that the intent of the staff matters in a broader sense — to readers, not just a hearing officer.
Go to 1:00:00 in this video link to watch McGann acknowledge that she wavered before deciding on her vote.
What we describe as a “change” in the story is the posture of the county toward the occupancy versus ownership debate.
County officials (Levine, Myers, JD McClanahan) used to care about occupancy. Later, county officials (Mila Dunbar-Irwin, Christina Sloan) cared about ownership.
Readers: Tell me whether that counts as a change.
This part is true. For this story in particular, we did not contact Sloan. In an ideal world, we would have.
It’s not a secret what Sloan believes about the intent of the HDHO. We mentioned it explicitly in the story. We have plenty of quotes from her about the HDHO that we can pull from the hours of appeals hearings, presentations she’s made previously, and more.
We try not to put factual misrepresentations into stories, though — even if they are coming from an elected official. When we do, we do it by fact-checking them. That is what this story is.
This suggests that it would be easier for us to print fake news, be exposed for doing so, then lose subscribers and our jobs as a result. That doesn’t sound easy to me.
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