Is your Utah town the best place to live in America? If so, Steve Vaus wants to hear from you. He might even make you famous.
Vaus has garnered national attention - notoriety as far as the San Diego Chamber of Commerce is concerned - for a letter "to the people of America" published in the Feb. 21 edition of national newspaper USA Today.A 15-year San Diego resident, Vaus bashed the poor quality of life in the city and wondered in print whether there was anyplace left in America where the "American Dream" still flourished.
"It's (San Diego) nicknamed `America's Finest City' . . . God help us all if it is," said Vaus, citing drive-by shootings, teens murdered in front of a local high school, traffic and domestic disputes, and the ocean, the city's greatest asset, "being filled with almost 200 million gallons of sewage per day thanks to a broken pipe."
For those reasons and others, Vaus said in his letter that it may be time to move, but where, he asked, has the American Dream gone to live these days?
Well, quite a few places, considering the calls and letters he has received since his letter ran in the newspaper. An Iowa attorney wrote: "Having traveled in all 50 states, I find Grinnell to be an outstanding home." The Grinnell chief of police wrote: "Life is still worth living and people still care about each other. Come see us."
One Michigan town boasted: "We are so convinced you will love our town we'll fly you here for a preview." A Colorado family wrote: "We live in the location Steve describes but it would be unwise to advertise it."
Vaus said he knew there had to be places "that have those old-fashioned qualities, but what amazed me were how many other people were looking."
In a phone interview with the Deseret News from his home, Vaus said he has not yet received any letters from Utahns touting their home towns as "American Dream" possibilities. "In fact, I haven't heard from anyone west of Colorado, which is fascinating when you think about it. Are there no dream towns west of Colorado? Or is it that no one there reads USA Today?"
Vaus says the response to his letter has set him on a Quixotic quest to find the perfect place to live. "I'm blessed with a job (record producer) which allows me to live anywhere I want. I can move if it suits my fancy."
Vaus produces the annual charity album The Stars Come Out For Christmas with such performers as Willie Nelson, Holly Dunn, Randy Travis and Kenny Loggins. The response to his letter has spurred him to to plan a new project.
"I'm starting a collection of all the letters and pictures I get, then I'll visit as many places as possible, write about them, compose songs, shoot video and create a modern-day American scrapbook. I want to help people re-discover old-fashioned America . . . lots of people are looking for it. And maybe I'll find my dream town."
The needs of most Americans are simple, says Vaus: "We want to live where people care about their community, their families, each other and their country. Where there's space for kids to play and grow. Where people greet one another on the street. Where we can get to know the local policeman, grocer, postman, minister, doctor, vet and mayor. Where we can contribute and make a difference."
Vaus said he visited Salt Lake City a year ago but for too short a time to judge its "Dream" quotient. But if there are Salt Lakers - or residents of any Utah town - who think it is, let him know.
"I would love to hear from schoolkids, moms, dads, everyone. I believe the truest test of a city is not what the Chamber of Commerce says about it but what the people who live there say about it."
So eager is Vaus to find the American Dream city that he is willing to publish his address, his toll-free phone number and fax number: Steve Vaus, 9590 Chesapeake Drive, San Diego, CA 92123 Tel. 1-800-448-7644 FAX 619-292-4099.