Heard around the West

  Holy flying s...! "Feces rained from the Utah skies again," this time in Sevier Country, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Two homes and two cars were splattered in February. This is Utah's fourth poop-bombing, and police agree that a jetliner was the likely culprit. Last spring, three homeowners in the Utah towns of Riverton and Taylorsville blamed passing airplanes for dumping toilet wastes onto their roofs. The Federal Aviation Administration never confirmed that the airborne goo came from commercial jets. One victim of this latest "shower of muck," homeowner George Stewart, says his wife first noticed the problem when she looked out the window and thought a bird had flown by. "I went outside and there was no way it was even a flock of birds. The sight was atrocious ... I have no doubt it was an airliner." Police officer Spencer Snow said the "poop splotches' were not a pleasant sight: "I wouldn't have wanted that all over my house."


In Arizona, a legislative committee thinks the state needs to prepare itself against a surprise attack - not from the sky but from our own government. Capitol Media Services reports that the House Committee on Federal Mandates and States' Rights approved a bill that says if there's a federal effort to seize people's weapons, or if martial law is declared, Arizona has the right to secede from the Union and declare its sovereignty. After the bill moved to the full House with two Democrats dissenting, Bill Brotherton, one of those outvoted by the committee, said he agreed that Arizona had a problem, but it wasn't the federal government sending tanks to Phoenix. He said, "One of the more important issues that we have is mental health in this state."


At the same time, the Arizona Senate was considering a bill that would require a supermajority - a two-thirds vote of the people - to pass any ballot initiative about wildlife. Recent successful initiatives banned cockfighting and trapping. Frustration with ballot-box directives led Republican Rep. Barbara Blewster to support the tougher initiative rule. As she told the Arizona Daily Star, "We have to really watch too much democracy because it's mob rule."


The Northwest keeps searching for a substitute for gas-guzzling cars. In Seattle and Portland, a novel experiment is under way. The concept is simple: Most cars are unused about 20 hours in a day, so sharing a car means fewer cars can be driven by more people more often. Seattle Flexcar asks that you pay a $25 membership fee and then an hourly rate, depending on the amount driven in a month, reports the Seattle Times.


A more radical proposal has emerged in the ski resort town of Telluride, in western Colorado. Commissioner Art Goodtimes says his county, San Miguel, should encourage hitchhiking as public transportation. "The number of single people in single vehicles is scandalous," said Goodtimes in the Telluride Daily Planet. Other commissioners noted that thumbing might incur liability problems; meanwhile, any suggestions are welcome for unclogging commuter traffic along the winding mountain road leading to Telluride. Art Goodtimes can be reached at 970/728-3844.


Forget cars, sport utility vehicles or pickups; just get a golf cart - at least for local errands. That's what some 2,500 residents of Senior Estates in Woodburn, Ore., were doing until the state refused to license the wee vehicles. That turned retirees into "senior outlaws," since most refused to stop tooling around, reports the Statesman Journal. On weekends, golf carts swarmed through the development's streets as "seniors looked for garage sale bargains." Now, off-course cruising will continue, thanks to a new ordinance passed by the town. It allows anyone to pilot a golf cart as long as it stays within the retirement community. So far, says city councilor Kathy Figley, "We haven't had an epidemic of grannies running people down or hitting each other head on."


In Reno, Nev., residents complain they can't see the mountains for all the billboards in the way. Jim Pilzner, a former city councilman, says he's bugged by giant advertisements that feature sagging bellies. "I don't think liposuction billboards contribute to scenic beauty," he told Associated Press.


How can a school district save $700,000 without firing anybody? In Seattle, administrators went to the bathrooms of the 100-school district. There, they found some toilets more than 80 years old; many were flushing a whopping five gallons at a time. The result: the district ripped 2,200 toilets out, replacing them with low-flow models that use only 1.6 gallons per flush. The water bill savings equaled the annual salaries and benefits of 13 elementary-school teachers, reports the Seattle Times.


Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or betsym@hcn.org.