Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Nicky Stauffer at her Hooper, Utah, home. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — A story and a package I wrote for the Standard-Examiner garnered recognition.
That’s always nice.
In the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Top of the Rockies contest, a story I did on an uninsured mother of two with breast cancer searching frantically for care garnered second place in the health reporting category. Her husband had called me, describing their plight seeking health care, worried they wouldn’t be able to find help for her. Pretty wrenching situation:
A package of stories I did on Central American immigrants in northern Utah also garnered recognition. Photographer Ben Zack and I received second-place honors in the general reporting, series or package, category. I particularly enjoyed digging into these stories, finding the Central Americans living in the area:
- Salvadorans, Central Americans come to Utah fleeing gangs, violence, Aug. 27, 2017.
- Central Americans on food, gangs and being mistakenly identified as Mexican, Aug. 27, 2017
- Salvadoran woman seeking asylum says Utah offers protection, peace of mind, Aug. 28, 2017.
Monday, May 7, 2018
Musambo Muhanuka, center, and two of his sons, Ishara Mombamango, 6, on the left, and Faustin Nfitemukiza, 14. The are among the Congolese refugee contingent living in Ogden. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — Sometimes stories take a while to germinate and materialize.
I first latched onto the idea of writing about the Congolese refugee contingent in Ogden several months back — last summer — after attending a meeting at the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and learning of their presence here. I can’t even remember what drew me to the meeting, but there were several people from the Democratic Republic of Congo and it piqued my curiosity.
Amani Baraka, right, and wife Charlotte Bukeye with their two kids, Freddy, at right, and Britain. They are among the contingent of Congolese refugees living in Ogden. By TIm Vandenack
I made contact with several who volunteered with the refugees and last March started reaching out to them so I could meet with some of the refugees, who came from United Nations refugee camps, mainly in Uganda. Between other stories and responsibilities, I started meeting them, learning their stories, how adjustment is going and more about the Congo. Other Standard-Examiner reporters had written about them in 2016 when they first arrived, before my time here, and my idea was to write about their transition to life here thus far.
It was fascinating — they have gone through a lot in their country, beset by strife and violence, yet they carry on, maintaining an upbeat demeanor. One man who works with refugees called them “the lucky ones” because they are among the few who have found a way out of the tough conditions of their home country:
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Utah U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney poses with a well-wisher during a campaign visit to Weber State University in Ogden on March 13, 2018. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — Elections and politics have been my main focus of late, but not the only focus.
There ‘s been immigration, beer, U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney’s visit and more about the investigation into Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson. Here are a few recent favorites:
Dusty Williams, co-owner of Talisman Brewing Co. in Ogden, in the new tavern area of the locale. By Tim Vandenack
Here’s some more:
Weber County roads employees’ charges led to Gibson probe, ex-official says, April 10, 2018: This was a long follow-up on the Gibson issue, citing a former Weber County employee involved in bringing the issue to the attention of investigators. Whatever the case, Gibson announced soon thereafter that officials had decided he wouldn’t be charged.
- Ogden beer drinkers rejoice: 2 brewers expanding, 2 new ones in the works, April 2, 2018: Four, count ’em four, projects were in the works to bring more beer/beer-consuming options to Ogden.
US Senate hopeful Mitt Romney offers up praise for Trump at Weber State stop, March 13, 2018: The former presidential hopeful stumped in Ogden and I sat down with him for a few minutes at the Weber State University campus.
North Ogden amphitheater lawsuit raises specter of having to tear out upgrades, March 1, 2018: This issue lingers on. I covered the first day of court in a preliminary injunction hearing in the case and more is coming.
Ogden DACA recipients mull return to shadows as U.S. immigration debate sputters, Feb. 7, 2018: Some immigrants with DACA status talk of returning to the shadows as the debate over granting them a means to remain legally sputters.
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson, right, at a Feb. 20, 2018, meeting. He’s the focus of a police probe but he and his backers say he’s done nothing wrong. Commissioners Jim Harvey and James Ebert are also pictured. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson is the target of an Ogden Police Department investigation of some sort.
Public information is hard to come by, but it’s been a surprise, the fact of an elected leader here, seemingly out of the blue, falling onto the radar screen of law enforcement. Gibson has rebuffed any notion of wrongdoing and any hint of what may be behind this has actually come from him and his supporters. They suspect a multi-million dollar flood-prevention project in western Weber County may be at the root of things, but they say nothing untoward happened as the project, overseen by the county and completed in 2015, unfolded.
The apparent sticking point is that Gibson, through his family dairy operation, owns land in the area where the project occurred, abutting the Weber River, in fact.
Here are a few of the stories I’ve done thus far:
- Gibson backers, officials say river project handled properly as probe continues, Feb. 21, 2018
- As Gibson police probe continues, Utah DNR head remains supportive, Jan. 23, 2018
- Weber County Commissioner Gibson denies wrongdoing, says he’ll stay in post, Dec. 15, 2017
- Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson facing Ogden police investigation, Dec. 13, 2017
Most of anything that’s come out has been sided in favor of Gibson. Police are saying little as things proceed.
Monday Jan. 22, 2018
Taylor residents, left to right, Eric Page, Greg Bell, Michelle Peasley and Shae Bitton, worry about runaway growth in the zone west of Ogden. They’ve been pushing for more controlled growth. By Tim Vandenack
TAYLOR — Growth is the mantra along the Wasatch Front in Utah.
Though viewed as a good thing by many — an indicator of the strong economy and popularity of the area — expected population increases and expansion don’t have everyone clicking their heels. In the rural Taylor area in western Weber County, west of Ogden, some are leery of growth, worry it will happen too quickly and there will be too much. It may be inevitable, but residents in the area want more control over how growth evolves and they’ve been clamoring to be heard.
Here are a pair of stories:
The Taylor people aren’t the only ones worried. It’s been an issue in North Ogden (among other places), near the site of a planned large-scale, high-density development of apartments and townhomes. Here are a pair of articles from last year:
Laura Rentmeister, left, and sister Kathy Rollman hold a photo of their mother Verna Marriott. By Tim Vandenack
In a different vein, I recently wrote the sad, tragic story of a woman suffering dementia who inexplicably left her home early one morning, got lost and ended up dead in the yard of a home a half-mile away. Sounds like she lived a full life, had many who loved here. Sad, nonetheless:
Ogden woman’s family finds solace after her death in cold, but questions linger, Dec. 28, 2017
Wednesday Dec. 27, 2017
A few of the Latino entrepreneurs in Ogden (clockwise from top left): Javier Chavez, Ana Maria Medina, Gustavo Ortega and Miguel Hernandez. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — Ana Maria Medina, who came to the United States from Mexico as a teen, brought by her mom, used to work the fields of California, picking strawberries.
It’s tough, hard work and she eventually moved on to cosmetology, working many years in the salons of others and now, finally, operating her own beauty shop in Ogden.
“She was already running the place where she was. Might as well run her own business,” said her daughter, Gabriela Valencia, who prodded her mom to take the leap. “She went from working in the fields with the strawberries to cleaning homes to being owner of a salon.”
Many in the sizable Latino population here may stick with service-sector and lower-paying jobs, but more and more are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles, launching their own businesses. U.S. Census Bureau numbers show an uptick and it’s the focus of a recent deep dive I did for the Standard-Examiner looking at local Hispanic business operators.
Those I spoke to came from humble backgrounds in Mexico, never saw business as an alternative when they were growing up. Here in the United States, though, they see the opportunity and have seized it:
The online version contains video of those I interviewed and colleague Sheila Wang gathered up some of the data (look here) that offers a glimpse into the Latino community here.
Sunday Nov. 26, 2017
The Ogden School District $106.5 million bond proposal generated sharp debate and still does, even after its defeat at the polls on Nov. 7, 2017. Some of the signs, pro and con, in front of Polk Elementary in Ogden on the eve of the vote. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — A proposed $106.5 million school bond in Ogden sparked sharp debate, failed at the polling place but remains a point of contention.
Ogden School District officials proposed the bond as part of continuing efforts to modernize schools, make facilities safer and, by offering sparkly new buildings, prevent parents from transferring their kids to schools outside the system. Foes worried plans to enlarge three schools, particularly Polk Elementary, would turn them into large student repositories and charged the proposal wasn’t well thought out.
It kept me busy on the eve of Nov. 7 elections after I unexpectedly inherited the education beat, at least temporarily, and now, after its narrow defeat at the polls, it remains a live issue. The needs at Ogden schools remain, so the question becomes — what now? Do school officials come up with a new bond proposal, do something else?
Here’s some of my coverage:
- Ogden school officials reserved on idea of putting reworked bond plan to voters, Nov. 24, 2017
- Ogden school bond’s failure muddies things, but most say upgrades still needed, Nov. 12, 2017
- Ogden voters turn back school bond proposal, Weber bond measure passes, Nov. 7, 2017
- Ogden Latinos criticize lack of outreach by school officials on bond proposal, Nov. 7, 2017
- Polk, Horace Mann, T.O. Smith parents see good, bad in Ogden school bond plan, Nov. 4, 2017
- Ogden’s Polk school at heart of debate over $106.5 million bond proposal, Nov. 1, 2017
- Ogden School District spokesman, principal fined due to wording in bond message, Oct. 24, 2017
I’ve done only some school reporting, but it’s important stuff, I’ve enjoyed digging into the issue.
Sunday Oct. 8, 2017
Clarissa was born in Mexico, brought to Ogden as a young girl, but says the United States is home. She’s one of many left wondering what comes next after President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — They’re here lawfully, for now anyway.
But some of the formerly undocumented immigrants who have secured permission to remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, approved under President Barack Obama, are still uncomfortable getting too much publicity. I spoke to two young Ogden women with DACA status in the wake of President Trump’s decision to halt the program, Gisela and Clarissa, but they only wanted their first names used, worried about backlash, chiefly to their undocumented parents.
That shows how touchy the immigration issue is. More significantly, though, their comments shed light on the people most impacted by Trump’s decision, young people who regard the United States as home but, because they were brought here illegally by their parents, live in a sort of limbo.
Here’s the story: Ogden immigrants worry after Trump axes DACA, say U.S., not Mexico, is home.
It’s a big topic in Ogden, as in many places, because of the heavy Latino and immigrant population here. Some are directly impacted, like Gisela and Clarissa. Others are impacted because it affects their immigrant friends and relatives.
Here’s another related story, written in the wake of Trump’s DACA decision: Ogden advocates fear DACA decision will push immigrants back into the shadows.
Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017
Rufino Bocel, who now lives in Centerville, came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1991, in part to get away from the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War, then still simmering. He’s one of many I spoke to for a package of articles on Central Americans in Utah. By Tim Vandenack
OGDEN — Most of the Latinos in Utah (like the United States as a whole) have roots in Mexico.
But not all of them.
A subset in the Ogden area and Utah as a whole come from Central America, most notably El Salvador and Guatemala. I’ve long wanted to zero in on non-Mexican Latinos and finally put together a package for the Standard-Examiner.
It took several months, gathering information here and there, searching out contacts, visiting people. I attended services at three evangelical churches, which draw a fair number of Central Americans. I also ate at a Salvadoran restaurant here in Ogden, broke bread with a group at a Pentecostal church and dug into U.S. Census Bureau numbers and other data on killings (violence pushes many out of the region).
I knew that gang activity and the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s have pushed many from Central America, but it was eye-opening hearing the stories over and over of violence. It’s a far cry from the sorts of stories I’ve heard from immigrants from Mexico, pushed largely by economic concerns (though that country has its fair share of violence, too).
Here’s what I pulled together:
SALVADORANS, CENTRAL AMERICANS COME TO UTAH FLEEING GANGS, VIOLENCE: The main story, offering the accounts of the violence many have faced before coming here to the United States, whether legally or illegally. “If I hadn’t come, they would’ve killed me,” Rafael Moreira told me, alluding to the gang threats he faced in El Salvador.
CENTRAL AMERICANS ON FOOD, GANGS AND BEING MISTAKENLY IDENTIFIED AS MEXICAN: This is a series of photos and quick observations from several of the people I interviewed. “Sometimes the customers ask, ‘Can’t you make tacos, burritos?’ We say, ‘No, sorry,’” said Luis Pineda, operator of an Ogden Salvadoran restaurant, La Cabañita Salvadoreña. “They ask us if we’re Mexican. We say, ‘No, we’re Salvadoran. We’re from El Salvador.’”
SALVADORAN WOMAN SEEKING ASYLUM SAYS UTAH OFFERS PROTECTION, PEACE OF MIND: This tells the story of Araceli, who faced extortion from Salvadoran gangs as the operator of a small clothes stand in a market and paid twice before closing her shop and coming to Utah with her family. “If you don’t give it to us, we know where you live,” one of gang members had threatened back in El Salvador.
Some of the people I met, things I saw in reporting a package of stories on Central Americans in the Ogden area and northern Utah for the Standard-Examiner. See the stories at Standard.net, Visuals.Standard.net. Clockwise from upper right: A woman during a service at Shalom Christian Church in Ogden, home to a large Salvadoran contingent; Ana Canenguez, left, and other women making pupusas, a Salvadoran food, in a south Ogden neighborhood; Rufino Bocel, originally from Guatemala, at the Light and Truth Pentecostal Christian Church in Ogden; Iris Mencia, originally from Honduras, now living in Riverdale, photographed in Ogden; and Marcos Candray, originally from El Salvador, at Shalom Christian Church, where he serves as pastor. #elsalvador #guatemala #honduras #utah #ogden #immigration
Sunday Feb. 26, 2017
Employees from Beto’s Mexican Food in Ogden pose outside the restaurant on Feb. 16, 2017, Day Without Immigrants. By Tim Vandenack
I’m now reporting from Ogden, Utah, for the Standard-Examiner, the local paper here. A big change from The Elkhart Truth in Indiana, but it’s exciting to be here and there’s plenty to write about.
I’m writing about the sizable Latino population and immigration — a particularly hot topic with President Trump‘s focus on the issue.
Here’s what I’ve written on the matter:
- “After protest, Ogden immigrants, advocates say fight for reform will continue,” Feb. 23, 2017.
- “As part of Day Without Immigrants protests, Ogden businesses close for the day,” Feb. 16, 2017.
- “Trump’s border wall talk spurs anxiety, resolve, dismay among Ogden Latinos,” Jan. 28, 2017.
Another unfolding story, in a decidedly different vein, has been the case of an expensive house built atop a rise in south Ogden that is gradually disintegrating, putting the home at risk.
Here’s what I’ve written:
Just last Friday, I visited a small community north of Ogden, Garland, to see how people there are coping with flooding, brought on by a particularly heavy accumulation of snow and quick melt-off last week when temperatures rose:
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