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Utah native scores big for Olympic Village at U.

When President Clinton vetoed funding for a land deal for the 2002 Olympic Village (maybe by accident), Utah officials appealed to the one friend they know they have in the White House: Mickey Ibarra.

The native Utahn heads the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which requires him to listen to concerns of local officials nationwide. He listened to his fellow Utahns and proved to be their ace in the hole.Ibarra worked for three weeks to salvage the deal - but in a way where the administration would not have to technically reverse itself on the veto. He succeeded Wednesday - but says he didn't do anything for Utah he wouldn't have done for others.

"But it helps that I'm from Utah because I'm familiar with the area - like I know the difference between Camp Williams and Fort Douglas. I also know the officials there. And I know the Olym-pics," he said.

And, he adds, that familiarity made it easier for him to come up with "something that is really a win for everyone" - where the administration managed not to eat crow for the veto, but the Olympics planners still obtain the land deal they sought.

After Ibarra negotiated with the Army and Office of Management and Budget, they agreed Wednesday to administratively transfer by next September 11 acres at Fort Douglas to the University of Utah for use for Olympic athlete housing.

Meanwhile, Army Reserve units will relocate to rented space elsewhere, costing an estimated $500,000 a year. And they will seek money to move permanently to Camp Williams ($12.7 million of which was a line-item veto this year) in the budget for 1999.

Utah officials have said the administration said it didn't know the Camp Williams move that Clinton killed in a line-item veto had any relationship to the Olympics. The first paragraph of a Washington Post story on that was even simply, "Oops."

However, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the president did know - but had to include it anyway because it met criteria he established to choose what should be vetoed. However, Army budget officials later testified to the Senate that the project actually did not meet two of his three criteria.

While McCurry said the White House would not change its mind on the veto and would fight efforts to override it, he said the White House would also seek other ways to save the deal.

Ibarra was working on it. He said he started as soon as Utah officials started calling him after the veto was announced.

"I've had the opportunity to get acquainted with Mayor (Deedee) Corradini (who was in the first meeting he attended at the White House in June) and Gov. (Mike) Leavitt. That helped," he said.

"I'd like to mention that at a time when they were understandably concerned, they did nothing but try to focus on finding a solution that would work for everyone involved," Ibarra said. "I'm just delighted that things worked out."

So is Ibarra's boss. Clinton issued a statement saying, "I am very pleased that, with the plan I am announcing today, the state of Utah and the University of Utah can proceed, on schedule, with plans for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Village."

Also pleased was Vice President Al Gore - who oversees an interagency task force for federal help for the Olympics.

"I, too, am pleased that we were able to find a very good solution to this issue," Gore said. "Today's announcement reflects our continuing effort to help the people of Utah, Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee to prepare for the 2002 Olympics. We plan to be good partners in this exciting endeavor."

It also brought some somewhat begrudging praise of the administration by Utah's Republican members of Congress.

"As I have said from the outset, it (the line-item veto) was an oversight on the part of the White House," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. But, he added, "The president has shown that he is willing to consider the legitimate needs of this important national undertaking that will benefit all Ameri-cans."

And Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, said, "This move culminates weeks of work by Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Utah delegation to move this land transfer ahead despite President Clinton's veto . . . I think this is a bipartisan solution for the greater good of the 2002 Olympics."