Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: Homeless Ben, seldom-seen Love, and Tuesday showdown

Experts claim the murky air hugging the Wasatch front last week was caused by heat, ozone and forest fire smoke. We believe political hot air is to blame.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams created a moderate kerfuffle when Utahns learned that he had spent a night on Salt Lake City’s streets and another in the main homeless shelter. His experiences helped move other leaders, including House Speaker Greg Hughes, in developing solutions. Was this just political grandstanding or a real attempt to understand the problem?

Pignanelli: “Internalization is used in this country as a very effective political tool.” — Kathy Acker

As my former legislative colleagues will attest, I excelled at flamboyant antics and obnoxious grandstanding. Indeed, that other daily newspaper editorialized against me for such behavior. I have no regrets because the approach works.

Last week, after leaving a late movie in the Gateway area, my family witnessed a drug deal at the crosswalk, while observing attempted car break-ins across the street. So Mayor McAdams deserves accolades for learning, and internalizing, how to correct the problem while garnering massive attention. Furthermore his nocturnal activities uncovered other important aspects of this tragedy.

Speaker Hughes’ comments for the National Guard to pacify the Rio Grande area were also viewed as theatrical antics. So what? I learned decades ago that dramatic statements guarantee a spotlight and results. Hughes is now universally considered an invaluable element in any resolution.

The downtown homeless and criminal crisis is beyond another task force or touchy-feely deliberations. Hughes and Mayors McAdams and Jackie Biskupski should utilize more histrionics to rally the community and compel other leaders into action. Give them a standing ovation.

Webb: Politicians frequently take fact-finding trips where they travel to some exotic location, often wear cool military gear, get briefed by local experts, and then fly home feeling that they have firsthand knowledge. McAdams’ experience was far more authentic and less superficial.

It’s easy to approach homelessness as an abstract issue. But McAdams’ experience made it real. It was certainly not a political stunt. He didn’t do it for publicity. It’s good for political leaders to actually experience the issues they’re dealing with.

Certainly, it was just three days, and McAdams knew he would get back to his comfortable life and family. But it was an honest attempt to gain insights into what life on the streets is all about. It gives him more credibility as he deals with this and other issues.

Good for the mayor for learning more about the homeless issue personally.

Congresswoman Mia Love is no longer holding large town hall meetings, but instead provides a series of open-office meetings with smaller groups of constituents. Some are attacking this change from the traditional big-meeting format while others praise her creative approach.

Pignanelli: Town hall meetings are vestiges of democracy from the nation's colonial past. Families attended to hear from elected officials and participate in constructive dialogue. But in 21st century America, right- and left-wing organizations hijacked these gatherings with the intent of increasing their national membership. Substantive policy discussions and the needs of constituents are lost in the noise.

Incumbents have tried a variety of tactics to solicit input from residents while constraining protests, including electronic town halls (used by former Congressman Jim Matheson and Sen. Mike Lee), appearances before large organizations, etc. These activities succeeded by appealing to busy citizens.

The most important objective is for elected officials to hear from more than just people like me (lobbyists). So Love’s approach is an excellent conduit for allowing effective personal dialogue with constituents — even if to lodge complaints.

Webb: This is a rational alternative to the large open meetings that accomplish little except to provide a forum for the rabble-rousers and activists who are there only to heckle and shout down any attempt by the member of Congress to even speak.

The professional agitators don’t like the new format. Too bad. Plenty of respectful, effective ways exist to meet with constituents and receive their suggestions and feedback without subjecting oneself to rude, boorish behavior by demagogues, often flown in for the occasion.

The Third Congressional District Republican primary is this Tuesday. What is expected?

Pignanelli: Campaign insiders believe it is too close to call. The winner — by a thin margin — will not be finalized until Wednesday morning.

Webb: This has been a painful campaign to watch. I expect Provo Mayor John Curtis to win, but the negative attacks against him have hurt. Lots of people are not careful enough political consumers to know what to believe when they see the attack ads, mostly from out-of-state, unaccountable groups that distort, misrepresent and outright lie.

Still, late polling shows Curtis with a lead and I expect he will become Utah’s next member of Congress.