Andrea Smardon

Reporter

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World.  Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com.  Prior to that, she worked at Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW.  Andrea’s stories cover the local to the global - from controversial school committee votes to dissident Burmese hip hop artists.  She holds a Bachelors degree in English and Music from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  Andrea says she misses the ocean, but is happy to be surrounded by mountains.

Ways To Connect

Democrats in the Utah Legislature submitted a letter to colleagues in the Health System Reform Task Force Monday, recommending that the state expand Medicaid.  And they say the sooner it happens the better.  

The legislature’s new Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis of Salt Lake City told KUER that expanding Medicaid eligibility can help improve access to health insurance for Utahns and can save the state money.

The state’s Health System Reform Task Force had its final meeting Monday before the legislative session, but questions remain about health reform  - in particular, who will run Utah’s health insurance exchange.

The Utah Department of Health has hired an outside firm to study the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid in the state.  The department has been gathering feedback from the public on what should be considered in the study. 

Christina Osburn has a brain tumor and epilepsy.  She’s been on Medicaid for more than 10 years, but she expects to lose that coverage because her income will soon exceed the threshold to qualify.   

Growing up in Utah, Ross Owen watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on television every Sunday with his family.

"It was almost like watching a rock concert, and I thought, 'Oh, I'd love to do that,' " he says.

But by the time Owen was old enough to join the choir, he was no longer a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; he had been excommunicated after he came out as gay.

Andrea Smardon

Some healthcare advocates were disappointed Wednesday to find out that Governor Gary Herbert did not include funding for the expansion of Medicaid in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Governor Herbert spoke very little about healthcare in his budget presentation except to say that he is proceeding with caution. 

Governor Gary Herbert sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday morning asking the federal government to let Utah keep Avenue H, the state’s health insurance exchange, without making changes to it. 

Andrea Smardon

Hopes for another Olympics in Utah were rekindled Monday, as Governor Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced their decision to pursue a bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

The Olympic cauldron at Rice Eccles Stadium was literally in Governor Herbert’s view as he announced his decision based on the recommendations of an Exploratory Committee.

“We’ve reviewed the report and are here to announce that Salt Lake City and the great state of Utah are ready, willing, and able to host a future winter Olympic game.”

Low-income advocates are asking Governor Gary Herbert to remember Utahns who can’t afford basic healthcare this holiday season.  On Friday, staff from Crossroads Urban Center and some uninsured Utahns presented results from a survey showing the connection between hunger and high healthcare costs. 

Crossroads Urban Center surveyed more than 300 of the people they helped with food this year. Marjorie Hurder is a Social Justice Advocate at the Center, and she conducted many of the interviews.

The Salt Lake Chamber is trying to help Utah businesses rein in their healthcare costs.  They released their online guide Thursday called an Employer’s Tool Box.

Rich McKeown is chair of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Health Reform task force.   He told KUER the Employer’s Tool Box helps businesses exercise some degree of control over healthcare costs. 

In his concession speech, Governor Mitt Romney prayed that the president will be successful in guiding the nation.  Shortly after that, LDS Church leaders invited Americans  - whatever their political persuasion - to pray for the President and the new Congress.  Now LDS Democrats are calling for a day of prayer.  Caucus chair Steve Olsen told KUER the prayers are directed at leaders on both sides of the aisle. 

Bob Nelson

Utah’s new air pollution alert system has some health advocacy groups concerned.  Under the new system announced Monday by the Utah Division of Air Quality, there will be fewer days that will trigger a Red Air Action alert.  Red Air days are considered to be unhealthy for everyone.  In the current system, they are triggered when PM2.5 levels are at 35 micrograms per cubic meter.  The new system raises the threshold to 55. 

The Utah Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Florida father who did not want his daughter put up for adoption here.  The Court found that Utah’s adoption law was "constitutionally defective" in this case.  

Andrea Smardon

Pioneer Theatre Company is putting on a musical production based on Charles Dickens’ classic story, “A Christmas Carol”, but there’s a twist.  They’re asking the audience to participate. 

This will be Karen Azenberg’s first production as the new Artistic Director of Pioneer Theatre Company, and she’s trying something a little different.  Azenberg is asking people to take a lesson from Ebenezer Scrooge – the quintessential miser who learns to give after a transformative encounter with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come.

Andrea Smardon

A market for locally made arts and hand-made goods opened Friday at Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City.   The Downtown Holiday Market consists of about a dozen festive red huts decorated with lights, and a large tent which houses numerous artists and crafts people.   Emily Cooper is a vendor selling framed drawings of owls.  Cooper told KUER that at the Market, it’s not Black Friday, it’s Plaid Friday.

Andrea Smardon

City Creek Center is hosting its first ever Black Friday.  No one is quite sure how much money the Salt Lake City shopping center will bring in this holiday, but expectations are high.

Linda Wardell is General Manager of City Creek Center.  When asked about expectations for the holidays, she laughed. 

“It’s a great question,” said Wardell, “We still have a lot of first-time visitors to City Creek Center.  That does make it unique for us, and a bit daunting for us when we start thinking about our first time holiday season.”

Governor Gary Herbert sent a letter Monday morning to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The letter declares the Governor’s intentions to continue to pursue Utah’s state-based health insurance exchange – known as Avenue H, rather than a federally-designed exchange.  But the letter also says that this decision could change as the state receives more information. 

Enclosed with Governor Gary Herbert’s letter is a list of top ten unanswered questions about federal exchanges. 

David Walsh, Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to make an appearance just south of Utah’s border at Glen Canyon Dam Monday.  Salazar will be there to trigger a controlled flood from Utah’s Lake Powell into Arizona’s Glen and Grand Canyons, the first high-flow release conducted at that dam since 2008. 

Governor Gary Herbert plans to send a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services Friday declaring the state’s intentions on its health insurance exchange. Up until now, the Governor’s Office has not said whether the state will update its existing exchange, Avenue H, to meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act - or let the feds create their own exchange in the state. But Utah’s Health Reform Implementation Coordinator Norman Thurston says the letter doesn’t commit the state to anything.

Andrea Smardon

Hundreds of Mormons in Utah participated in gay pride parades across the country this summer.  Now some LGBT Mormons and their supporters have formed a choir in Salt Lake City.  Organizers say they are not pushing a political agenda.  They say they simply want to create a space where all are welcome to sing in praise of God.  But the choir has not been completely welcomed by some Mormon communities. 

On a Wednesday evening at a historic LDS Church in downtown Salt Lake City, about 20 people gather to sing.

Circling the Wagons held its 2nd annual conference over the weekend for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Mormons in Salt Lake City.  The event is intended to be a supportive place for LGBT Mormons and their families, but some were offended by some of the invited speakers, and chose not to attend.

The controversy centered around speaker Josh Weed, a family therapist from Seattle.  He’s an out gay man, and devout Mormon, who says he is happily married to his wife.   Circling the Wagons organizer Anne Peffer said she knew inviting Weed to speak would upset some. 

Cardiology researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute have found that 75 percent of patients taking two common blood-thinning drugs may be receiving the wrong dosage levels.  The Utah researchers presented their findings today (TUES) at an American Heart Association conference in Los Angeles. 

Utah Governor

Republican Gary Herbert secured his second term in office last night, breezing past Democrat Peter Cooke by more than 36,000 votes.

Just before 11 pm, General Peter Cooke arrived unexpectedly at GOP headquarters to congratulate Governor Gary Herbert on his win. Cooke said he tried calling the governor first but he didn’t pick up. Cooke later returned to the Democratic headquarters to concede, saying Utahns need to continue fighting for education.

Utah’s 2nd Congressional District has been overshadowed by the newly added 4th District this election year.   The race between Jim Matheson and Mia Love has attracted national attention as well as money from out of state, while candidates in the recently redrawn 2nd District have had little time in the spotlight. 

Andrea Smardon

Intermountain Medical Center in Murray turned five years old Monday, and some of the hospital’s smallest and very first patients were there to celebrate. 

First in line for birthday cake were triplets Natalia, Connor, and Janessa Nagel.  They were also the first patients transferred by Life Flight to the newborn ICU on October 29, 2007, the morning Intermountain Medical Center opened its doors.  Hospital Administrator David Grauer said he remembers the moment well.

Thanks to early voting and absentee ballots, 169,000 people have already cast ballots in Utah - or about 13 percent of registered voters. Those are the latest numbers on Friday afternoon from Justin Lee, Elections Specialist for the Lieutenant Governor’s office.  At this rate, Lee said, early voting may make up half of all ballots in the state.

Utah has three independent candidates running for Congress this election.  But most voters haven’t seen a single ad or billboard about their campaigns.  For a candidate with no funds or party support, it’s an uphill battle to get a message out.  This story looks at what it means to be an independent candidate in Utah.

Andrea Smardon

Utah businesses interested in expanding their global sales got some help Monday at an International Trade Summit at the Marriott in downtown Salt Lake City.  The conference  - hosted by the Governors Office of Economic Development - gave local business people a chance to meet the state’s Foreign Trade Representatives.  Ariel Briggs is Coordinator for the State Trade and Export Promotion Program.  

A new national survey reveals the most important issues to small business owners in this year’s election.  Utah is in line with national trends - rating the economy as the most important issue.  But the Beehive state parts ways with the rest of the country on which Presidential candidate is a better supporter of small businesses. 

George Washington University and Thumbtack.com surveyed more than 6000 small businesses across the country. 

Andrea Smardon

Democrat Jay Seegmiller came out with an attack Thursday on his Republican opponent for the 2nd Congressional District Chris Stewart.  Seegmiller called Stewart a hypocrite for accepting federal stimulus dollars and for refusing an invitation to debate. 

Seegmiller squinted into the sun as he stood in front the State Capitol building, where he once served as Representative.  He told reporters that it was here he learned that if you say something, you better mean it, or someone will call you out on it.  

Andrea Smardon

The YWCA kicked off their Week Without Violence Monday by announcing a $900,000 grant from the US Department of Justice to expand domestic violence services in the Salt Lake area. 

The Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center moved into its new home at the downtown YWCA in June this year.  At that time, the city police department started housing six detectives there. 

“We’re just getting started in terms of the center,” said Director Asha Parekh, “There’s so much more work to do in this area.  I think we’re just scratching the surface of things that we can do as a community.”

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