The ripple effect of coronavirus: How Rudy Gobert and a Salt Lake City community both became its victims
It’s March 9, at the Vivint Smart Home Arena and a group of girls, parents, a staffer, a volunteer and two board members of Girls on The Run Utah watch a nailbiter between the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors. For International Women’s Day, for every shot he blocks, Rudy Gobert will donate $1,000.
After the game, the girls tour the arena. They venture down to courtside, taking in the magnetic aura of an empty arena. Gobert emerges from the tunnel in a white hoodie and black sweats, high-fiving the girls, commiserating and snapping selfies, before posing behind a human-sized check. Gobert’s foundation, Rudy’s Kids, reached out to Girls on the Run, who reached out to the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake and asked if any Native American children would be interested in attending.
The daughters of Samantha Eldridge, a Native American mother of two, were among the group that attended. “For many of these girls, they’re not ever going to have the opportunity to even go to a Jazz game. That was huge,” Eldridge, 40, said. “It was even more exciting that they were able to go to the bottom, to be on the court and meet a player. I know that they felt special.”
The next afternoon, Eldridge tweeted a picture of the girls and Gobert, captioned, “Huge thank you to @rudygobert27 @RudysFoundation for inviting the UICSL (Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake), Girls on the Run to the game last night! We appreciate Rudy taking time to meet the girls & for his generous donation to inspire the girls to continue to pursue their limitless potential. #NativeYouth #GoJazz.”
Two days later, the notifications started piling up.
At the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, the coronavirus collided with professional sports. Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The game was canceled. Shortly after, the NBA season was suspended. Jazz teammates and staffers were trapped in the visitors’ locker room at the behest of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which decided it was in the public interest to use 58 out of a supply of 100 daily tests on the Jazz’s traveling party. Neither the Jazz, Rudy Gobert nor his foundation responded to requests for comment. In the aftermath, Gobert pledged to donate $500,000 to Vivint Smart Home Arena part-time workers, as well as coronavirus relief efforts in Utah, Oklahoma City and his home country of France.
Despite late efforts by moderates to combine forces against him, liberal Vermont senator and self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders won Tuesday’s Utah’s Democratic presidential primary.
As early results showed Sanders with a lead of 34.6% of the vote after polls closed, a group of more than a dozen supporters at an election watch party at the Teamsters & Chauffeurs Union in West Valley City erupted in cheers.
“Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” they chanted.
FEBRUARY 19, 2020 AT 6:28 AM
FILE: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to supporters during a rally Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaign announced it is expanding its operation in Utah with a new state headquarters location opening in Salt Lake City. It also announced it would be hire four people to be added to the staff.
The new staff hires include a state coordinator, filled by Jodi Clemens, a regional field director, filled by Rose Asaf, and two full-time field organizers, according to a statement sent to KSL News Radio.
The announcement comes a week after the campaign announced five Utah campaign co-chairs: including Rep. Angela Romero, Murray City councilwoman Rosalba Dominguez, Midvale City councilmember Dustin Gettel, Murray City board member Elizabeth Payne and Black Lives Matter and United Front Civil Rights Organization Founder Lex Scott.
“We are building an unrivaled grassroots operation across Utah that will ensure Bernie wins on Super Tuesday and defeats Donald Trump in November,” said Utah State Coordinator Jodi Clemens in a statement. “Our team of committed staff members and thousands of volunteers is working in every corner of the state to reach voters and expand our already unprecedented people-powered movement.”
The move is one of many from Democratic candidates trying to make an impression in the typically-red state ahead of Super Tuesday in just two weeks. . . .
As she was growing up, state Rep. Patrice Arent said there was a simple expectation in her family: “Women get involved. Women vote."
And leaders of the nonprofit Voterise are hoping that other women in Utah take that to heart this Valentine’s Day — which is also the state’s first Women’s Voter Registration Day and the 150th anniversary of a Utah woman being the first to vote under an equal suffrage law in the country.
“Women need to get up from the sidelines and start playing the game,” said Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, Voterise’s director of operations, at a news conference Friday at the Capitol.
Following Arent’s mantra, Voterise announced its plans to get out the vote especially for the holiday. It will host voter registration drives at more than 10 high schools and colleges to get women ready to cast their ballots. The state representative sees that as the first step to “getting involved.”
The rate of women voting in the Beehive State has fluctuated widely in recent decades. Utah plunged from having the highest turnout of female voters in the country in 1992 — known nationally as the Year of the Woman — to the nation’s lowest 14 years later. In the 2016 and 2018 elections, the number of women voting in the state bounced back up again, according to a September report from the Utah Women and Leadership Project.
But there are still 316,000 women here who are citizens but not registered to vote. To try to change that, Voterise created its 2020 Challenge with a goal of registering 20,000 new potential female voters. It kicks off on Feb. 14.
Murray Councilwoman Rosalba Dominguez said she set a personal goal of registering at least 100 women to vote and is challenging other elected officials to do the same. Her focus, she noted, is women of color.
At the Jan. 7 Oath of Office ceremony, Murray City Council welcomed two new members who also represent many new firsts for Murray. The 2019 election brought in a wave of elected women throughout Utah, which seismically shifted the gender balance of not only Murray but Bountiful, South Salt Lake, Millcreek, and Sandy city councils.
“People move to Murray for our exceptional services, and they stay in Murray because of our exceptional community,” newly elected City Councilor Kat Martinez said after she took the oath of office. “A hundred years ago, women earned the right to vote across the United States, and now for the first time, I am so honored to be part of Murray’s first female majority on the city council.”
Martinez, a mother of three young children, will retain her position as a trainer for the State of Utah Health Department. She has given up her seat on the boards of Murray City Arts Advisory Board and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Martinez will be in the minority of the council of holding a full-time job, as Dale Cox, Diane Turner, and Brett Hales are all retirees.
The first Latino member of the city council, Rosalba Dominguez, said in her inaugural remarks, “I have always said that my parents and family were some of the first brown people in the state of Utah. In the ’80s, everyone knew everyone in the Mexican community; it was that small.” Local Latin-American folk guitarist Anastasio Castillo performed a musical number in Spanish during the oath of office ceremonies.
For Murray and Rosalba Dominguez, it will be a series of firsts with her election to Murray City Council: First Hispanic American on the council, member of the first female-majority city council, and first to be engaged-to-be-married while elected for city office. Dominguez defeated another first-time candidate, Adam Thompson, in the Nov. 5 election.
Dominguez currently teaches art classes at the Clever Octopus, a local art advocacy organization based in Murray. She is also a freelance graphic designer assisting clients with various branding and marketing campaigns.
Although she grew up as a third-generation Murrayite, she attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, where she met her future fiancé, Matt Parks. After graduation, she attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, where she received a bachelor’s degree in film and photography.
By Taylor Stevens ·
During her six years on the Murray City Council, Diane Turner has gotten used to being the only woman in the room making decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of the municipality’s nearly 50,000 residents.
But that time is soon coming to an end, after Murray voters elected their first female-majority City Council this month in an election that brought historic wins for women across the Wasatch Front.
“I still can’t believe it," Turner said. “I think when you have more women, it changes everything.”
Utah has historically had lower-than-average female representation at all levels of politics. But advocates say it’s important to elect women to public office because they tend to reach across the aisle, compromise more and come up with different solutions than an all-male body would, thanks in part to their different life experiences.
“I’m really excited to see what is to come of it,” Murray City Councilwoman-elect Rosalba Dominguez said of the new council makeup. “I think people were just ready for change — especially in Murray, [which] historically has had men run the city.”
By Shaun Delliskaveemail@example.com
For the first time ever, Murray City Council looks like it may soon have a female majority. Initial (unofficial) election results indicate that Kat Martinez will win council district 1’s seat that was formerly held by Dave Nicponski, with a nine percent lead over Jake Pehrson. Rosalba Dominguez holds a smaller lead over Adam Thompson with a five percent lead in district 3, for the seat held by Jim Brass. Brett Hales ran unopposed in District 5.
Voters appeared to be unphased by both Pehrson and Thompson campaigns stating that their opposition raised substantial funds outside of Murray City. If results hold, Martinez and Dominguez would join fellow city councilwoman Diane Turner in January to make up the female majority, along with returning councilmen Hales and Dale Cox.
Martinez is a former middle school teacher and works as a childcare provider trainer for the State of Utah. She has served on the Murray Arts Advisory Council and the Viewmont Elementary Parent-Teacher Association. Dominguez lists her profession as an independent design consultant, and also serves as a member of the Utah Hispanic Advisory Council.
Voters in eastern Murray also voted on the Cottonwood Improvement District Board of Trustees with Mark Katter and Welsey Fisher securing the two at-large seats.
By Shaun Delliskave | firstname.lastname@example.org
Primary municipal elections held in Murray on Aug. 13 saw Murray looking for fresh faces to represent them on the City Council. In District 1, Kat Martinez and Jake Pehrson and in District 3, Rosalba Dominguez and Adam Thompson will face each other in the general election on Nov. 5. Incumbent Brett Hales will run unopposed in District 5.
Murray voters in these districts will receive mail ballots starting Oct. 15. In-person voting will begin Oct. 22. Murray City Chamber of Commerce will host a Meet the Candidates night at Hillcrest Jr. High School (178 E. 5300 South), Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Meet the Candidates night where Murray residents will get a chance to meet with candidates hoping to represent them on the city council.
The event will be held at Hillcrest Junior High and will get started at 6:00 pm with an open meet and greet portion. From 6:30 to 8 pm, there will be a Q&A.
The candidates include Kat Martinez and Jake Pehrson (District 1), Rosalba Dominguez and Adam Thompson (District 2) and Brett Hales, who is running unopposed for the District 5 seat.
By Shaun Delliskave | email@example.com
During Murray’s anti-incumbent fervor over the past year, many elected officials had more significant reason to worry. Unfortunately for Jim Brass, he was the most incumbent of all the candidates, with 16 years on the Murray City Council. Brass’s bid to continue serving as Murray’s longest-serving city councilman was thwarted in the Aug. 13 primary election, by a mere 10 votes.
“Right now, it is a difficult time to be in politics. People are frustrated with the way Washington is behaving, and we are a convenient place to vent those frustrations,” Brass said. “I can very much understand that feeling.”
Before his four terms on the city council, Brass served on the city planning commission. During contentious zoning hearings in city council meetings, Brass would frequently refer to his experience as a planning commissioner and explain the pros and cons of the ordinance from zoning issues in city history.
“The hardest part of being on the council is making the ‘tough decisions.’ Eventually, you will be called on to make a decision that is contrary to what your constituents want, but that is required by federal or state law. One example is rehabilitation facilities. Nobody wants them, but they are legal in all zones. Our hands are tied, but we are the ones who take the heat for allowing them,” Brass said.
Brass’s district has been the bullseye for many new city redevelopment projects. His area encompasses downtown Murray, which is where the new city hall will be built and where a new firehouse is already under construction. Along with developments have come protests over historic buildings, many that reside within his district.
Notably, the former Mount Vernon campus in Brass’s district constitutes several century-old buildings. Brass was stuck between weighing the rights of the property owner, who was planning to tear them down, and the desires of preservationists, who believed that the city’s ordinances required protection. Eventually, a lawsuit settled that question in favor of the preservationists, but that also may have cost Brass votes this election cycle.
By Shaun Delliskave | firstname.lastname@example.org
Murray voters living in city council districts 1,3 and 5 will be considering primary candidates for this year’s general election in November. The 2019 primary election is being conducted mainly by mail, with ballots being sent out three weeks before primary Election Day. Ballots can be mailed in or dropped off at the Murray City Hall ballot dropbox. Murray City will have in-person polling 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 13. District 1 voters will choose between Kat Martinez, Dave Nicponski and Jake Pehrson. District 3 will see contenders Jim Brass, Rosalba Dominguez and Adam Thompson on the ballot. District 5’s City Councilman Brett Hales is running unopposed this year. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)