Westside Railroad Tracks
In 1999, the Utah Legislature enacted a bill that diverted royalties from mineral extraction into a fund that could be used by impacted communities to aid with infrastructure. The reasoning was that some areas of our state were disproportionately impacted by mineral, oil, and gas extraction, and that this revenue should aid with roads, schools, city building, and other positive growth in those communities. That fund is known as the Permanent Community Impact Funds.
In its eighteen-year history, the fund has largely fulfilled its purpose and aided in the infrastructure development in impacted communities.
I believe that North Salt Lake, West Bountiful, and Woods Cross qualify for infrastructure support from this fund due to the large impact that refining has on our communities. All three of those cities have east-west corridors frequently blocked as refinery trains unload ethanol. Our cities would greatly benefit from these investments funding overpasses or underpasses across rail crossings, alleviating the pinch points created by the refineries.
North Salt Lake Landslide
Photo credit: Thatotherperson
Three and a half years ago, a large landslide occurred above Parkway Drive in North Salt Lake. While some efforts have been made to stabilize that hillside, a permanent fix is not in place and instability persists.
Recently, the gravel pits in North Salt Lake sued the city to rezone historic gravel pit lands that had been zoned residential for gravel extraction. Their plan is to blast within a quarter mile of the landslide. The city has resisted these efforts and has been sued by the gravel pits for access. As the city has reached out to the state for help, it appears that there is little oversight of these potentially catastrophic activities.
I fully support the enjoyment of personal property and feel that the gravel pits should be able to extract product from their lands as long as the practice of doing so does not harm those around them. But in this case, they are increasing the risk of another land movement in a residential area.
As your legislator, I will work to ensure that every precaution is taken to reduce the risk to the area above Parkway Drive until permanent stabilization can be created. If it is determined that stability of the land mass is threatened by gravel extraction, I will strongly oppose the close proximity blasting action by the gravel pits.
Woods Cross Damaged Homes
Homes in Woods Cross have been severely damaged by the ground settling as the aquifer is depleted. We need to start a state-wide discussion about the impact of aquifer depletion and work to provide relief for affected homeowners. I will raise awareness in the Utah Legislature and work to connect elected officials from Woods Cross with those of similarly impacted communities across the nation. We cannot turn a blind eye to our neighbors as they deal with this disaster.
Party Convention vs. Directory Primary
Political parties in Utah should be free to select their candidates for office according to the will of the party members. The State of Utah and its Legislature should not have authority to interfere in the selection of those party representatives. However, when comparing the impact of each process, the caucus/convention process is a better method for selecting candidates than a direct primary.
When I ran for the city council in 2009, I was a political outsider. I knew one member of the city council, I did not know the mayor, and I was not connected to any of the political influencers in the city. But, I had issues I cared about, and I was willing to work hard.
Despite nine candidates running in that election, I won because of the strength of my ideas and my work ethic. Similarly, the caucus/convention process allows anyone to get elected who has good ideas and who is willing to work hard.
There are just over 11,000 registered Republicans in Legislative District 20. In the caucus/convention process, those 11,000 voters meet in individual caucuses to select delegates. Those delegates then select candidates at the county convention. It is not practical for candidates to meet with all 11,000 Republicans in this district, but it is possible to meet with every one of the delegates, to have meaningful conversations about important issues with them, and ultimately, to be judged by their merits.
Because the number of delegates selected at the caucus are limited, the cost of meeting every one of them is reasonable. Candidates with good ideas and limited funding have an equal chance of being selected as the candidates with wealth or special interest funding. Ultimately, the best candidates are chosen and prepare to face challengers from other parties in the fall.
In a direct primary, candidates are not required to meet with voters face-to-face. To get on the ballot, they are required to gather signatures with a petition. Signing a petition does not constitute an endorsement, and the number of signatures required discourages meaningful discussion as signatures are gathered.
A direct primary encourages the use of third party signature gatherers. In fact, an entire industry has sprung up around gathering political signatures in Utah. A wealthy candidate can hire a disinterested company to gather their signatures; pricing can vary for this service, but I have heard that the rate is around $6 per signature. For the House of Representatives, a wealthy candidate, or one funded by special interests can pay $6,000 and ensure themselves a place on the ballot. There isn’t a review of their experience or views on important issues; Signature gathering is simply purchasing a place in our democracy.
After signatures are gathered and the primary campaigning begins, the distance between the candidate and the voter widens. Candidates court the electorate with mailers and pre-recorded phone messages. Large signs are purchased, and prominent space is rented for their display. Because the candidates must connect with 11,000 individuals instead of a smaller number of delegates, large amounts of money are spent and the opportunity for discussion is wasted.
Under the direct primary process, elected officials are ultimately selected based on the strength of their financial backing, and the quality of their graphic designers, not the quality of their ideas.
I believe strongly in the power of representative democracy. I prefer candidates with bold ideas over candidates that only have big pocketbooks. I believe that the process of candidate selection that “levels the playing field” and gives anyone a chance at political service is the caucus/convention system.
State Government Overreach
In 2015, members of the Utah Legislature got the impression that cities in Utah had outlawed short-term rentals like Air BNB. In response, they proposed legislation that would make it unlawful for communities to restrict short-term rental in Utah. The problem was, however, that most city councils in Utah had done nothing to restrict short-term rentals. The few that had restricted rentals had done so sparingly, and in response to voice of their community.
Fortunately, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, along with mayors and city councilmen across the state intervened, and compromise was made that preserved the local authority over zoning. As a city councilman of North Salt Lake, I had the opportunity to participate in that process.
This is just one example of the dozens of laws proposed every year that aim to usurp the powers of local governments. Unlike states, cities are not sovereign, and only enjoy the powers and authorities that have been granted them by the state. I believe that we should trust local elected officials to make decisions for their communities. The one-size-fits-all solutions that are sometimes proposed by the Legislature are rarely the solutions to the issues that face our cities.
Just as the Federal Government should refrain from interfering in state governments, state officials should empower local mayors and city councils. If problems can be solved at the city level, then city officials should solve them. Similarly, issues that can be resolved at the county level should be resolved by county officials.
As your elected representative to the state, I will fight for cities to keep the power and fight against laws that attempt to centralize powers to the state government.
The Utah economy has outperformed the US average for the last decade. This is due to our hard-working and skilled workforce coupled with a consistent, conservative state tax and regulatory policy.
That being said, as a small business owner of two restaurants, I know first hand the challenges small businesses face.
Private enterprise will flourish when a level playing field exists that is stable and predictable. Government regulation must be minimal and corporate tax rates should be low. The first rule of the legislature when it deals with the Utah economy must be to “do no harm.”
Where possible, the state should encourage innovation and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit. Programs to turn research from our universities into start-ups will pay dividends as those businesses expand locally. However, any use of public funds to spur economic activity must be done with prudence and accountability.
Wasatch Front Air Quality
Photo credit: ElTiempo10