Abortion letter, mayor’s Facebook posts spark firestorms
Mayor Dave Alvord posted a city council letter opposing abortion to his mayoral Facebook page. The post exploded with comments. The letter was sent to federal representatives, including Rep. Mia Love. Photo courtesy Dave Alvord
By Rhett Wilkinson
A debate on a recurring national issue hit South Jordan after the city council and mayor spoke out about it in a letter and on Facebook.
City council members Steve Barnes and Chuck Newton told the South Jordan Journal that they disagree with Mayor Dave Alvord on the handling of the letter. And two posts on the letter on Alvord’s mayoral Facebook page have generated controversy. On the first, hundreds replied; on the second, multiple persons reported that comments were deleted. Reports were also that a resident had to do with the letter.
In the wake of the national Planned Parenthood controversy, the council sent a letter dated Aug. 18 to U.S. Congresswoman Mia Love, Gov. Gary Herbert and state legislators representing South Jordan.
“As the South Jordan City Council, we represent more than 64,000 residents in one of the fastest growing cities in the country,” the letter reads. “We feel that abortive services and abortion generally are inconsistent with the values of many, if not most, South Jordan residents. We join with other elected officials across the country in requesting that… you support any legal opportunities which exist or may arise to defund abortive services.”
As of noon Aug. 25, Alvord’s first post with the letter attached generated 105 shares, 382 likes and 521 comments. Alvord’s second post expressing gratitude generated two shares, 71 likes and 25 comments.
Councilmembers Steve Barnes and Chuck Newton expressed concerns. Barnes said that it should have been made clear that the council alone was voicing their viewpoint. Newton said that the council shouldn’t wade into national issues.
“The problem is that these letters rarely have an impact,” said Barnes, who took issue with the line that reads that 64,000 residents are represented by the council. “We did a grandstanding gesture.”
Barnes took issue with the line that reads that 64,000 residents were are represented by the council.
The U.S. House of Representatives had gone to recess the previous week and the town should focus on issues having to do with public works, police and parks and more, Newton said.
“He needs to deal with the here and now, not the stupid and useless,” he said. Why doesn’t he call Mia and say ‘Hey Mia, why don’t you do something about this… before leaving Washington? Unfortunately, sometimes his focus has taken our focus away from where it has needed to be.”
About 20 percent of the comments were supportive of the letter and many opposing comments came from the same person, Alvord said.
“I take issue when people comment 10 times,” Alvord said. “I don’t think the comments reflected what the majority of our residents believe.”
Barnes added that he wanted to make a comment but couldn’t because he was banned a year-and-a-half ago from Alvord’s page. Barnes was listed on Alvord’s campaign website as an endorser. Jesse Stay, a resident, said that he was blocked from the page and his comments were deleted from the second post. He then offered screenshots on his Facebook page that indicated that Alvord messaged Stay’s wife and 15-year-old daughter in an effort to arrange to contact Stay.
Alvord wrote the following comment on the second thread:
“FYI this thread will not be a forum for debate on this topic. Please write your elected officials with your views and/or put opposing views on your own social media site.” He wrote other comments offering reasons why. One of those comments was that about 600 comments were found on last week’s thread.
Alvord said that the council was responding to resident Brent Nelson. Nelson was the lone speaker at the July 21 council meeting, when the mayor let him go beyond the typically allotted three minutes of speaking time. Following the meeting, Nelson and Alvord talked for 20 or 30 minutes, Newton said.
Nelson asked the council to get the Planned Parenthood business office out of South Jordan, which could be problematic because Planned Parenthood could sue the city if their business license was pulled, Newton said.
“I just would encourage residents to get involved and contact us,” Alvord said. “You will find that we are responsive to your request.”
The council in recent years has written letters on issues that go beyond South Jordan. A letter on the federal Marketplace Fairness Act was written about two-and-a-half years ago, and in Jan. 2014, one on caucus-convention reform, Barnes said.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday ordered all state agencies to stop funneling federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. The letter was dated four days later. Alvord claimed that Herbert made the order after the letter was sent.
“We’re a wonderful city and I don’t want anyone to feel disenfranchised if they have another view on abortion,” Alvord said. “We have other issues to work on. I pray that we are not divided.”
Note: The line “…who took issue with the line that reads that 64,000 residents are represented by the council” was not in the print edition of this story.