Issues

Arts

Well living is contextual.  Specifically, it requires a context that offers diverse options.  If some of them are identified as public goods, then government may reasonably assist in providing them.   Such as parks, trails, playing fields, indoor and outdoor recreation centers, golf courses, Frisbee courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, ice rinks, skateboard parks, and the list goes on. 

But to stop there neglects other, essential options—libraries, indoor and outdoor cultural events centers, theaters, concert halls, art galleries, museums, exhibits, amphitheaters, civic performing groups, and the list goes on.  Allowing one province of options to overshadow the other risks imposing the less well.

 

Campaign Limits

Three proposals here, one of them for elections, namely, ranked-choice voting.  Its efficiency and validity commend it as a preferred alternative to traditional methods involving primary elections.  Instead of casting one vote for one candidate, the voter chooses between candidates by rank-ordering them (1, 2, 3, . . .).  Elections results are tallied according to candidates’ overall rankings.

Contributions to political campaigns reflect wealth inequity.  Contribution limits should be established in order to eliminate the inequity and stanch the obvious danger of distorted loyalties. 

Also, terms of electoral service should be limited to stanch the infection that is political careerism and the equation of representation to re-election.  For example, if elected to the Utah House, I will serve no longer than four years.

 

Diversity

Not for its own sake but for its pragmatic virtues.  It enlarges the realm of possibilities and compounds resources.  It multiplies strength and beckons the unknown.  Or it can go wrong and be corrosive and venomous, stoking barbarity. 

Legislators will be wise to respect both sides of the diversity card, its upside and its down.  They should carefully identify categories of diversity, then pose the question “Which diversities will contribute most to the quality of life in our state?”  Answering the question will require further stipulation of what such quality is made of and how its ingredients should be rank ordered.  With this background established, legislators can proceed to enacting strategies for growing the higher-ranked diversities, with complementary timelines.

Economy

Economies come in many sizes and shapes and interact with each other in ways often unpredictable, even though vast clouds of economic data are available. 

Most people view “the economy” as unassailably complicated but typically express three concerns about it: “Are there existing threats to my income?  If there are, what should I do about it?  What should the government be going to help me financially?” 

Measures of economic performance focus on levels of inflation, employment, trade, productivity, debt, and revenue.  In the national context, Utah’s economy has performed commendably following the Great Recession but by explicitly dodging hard issues—accessibility to healthcare, income inequality, education funding, affordable housing, upgraded infrastructure, clean air and water, accessibility to public lands. 

Rising disparity between haves and have nots and between urban and rural populations, together with public educational decline, crumbling infrastructure, unhealthy air and water, and severe housing shortages, threaten Utah’s economic vitality and future.  Viable, agreed-to solutions based on common ground and a long view are in short supply.

 

Education

At some point, Utah’s guardians of its educational establishment will pay the price of their long neglect of formal teaching and learning and stop hiding behind the convenient cover of birth rate, family size, and near-average test scores. 

The net effect of a Utah public education, whether secondary or postsecondary, will continue to decline because it continues to occur on the cheap, barely staving off being in last place nationally.  Whatever citizenly virtues have kept the ship of public education afloat will recede as the state’s population booms. 

Unless funding is increased dramatically and undivertedly, unless teachers are paid and resourced well beyond the status quo, students will continue to be shortchanged, their educations and prospects stunted as the legacy of knotted purse strings.

 

Faith

It is essential for making the world go round.  A basic form of if-then.  A bet.  The question is how much the if entails and, especially, whether the entailment is personal.  The level of one’s faith corresponds to how much is in the if—how much the person puts in.  Once put, then one waits.  And waits some more, trying to tell whether something happens in turn.  If it does, at least to some extent, faith may increase.  But, if not, then it may decrease. 

Often faith is religious.  But not necessarily.  One may have faith in others, in nature, in the future.  Its only premise is if-then.  There is also bad faith, when the if-then is purposely bogus.  It is an occupational hazard of politicians, who are noted (fairly or not) for deceit, double-dealing, cynicism, and other corruptions.  Legislators are wise to cultivate good faith, individually and collectively.  They do so by first listening, then learning, weighing, drafting, advocating, and ultimately voting as the voice of her or his constituency—that is, by representing. 

 

Family

It is fashionable to lament “attacks on the family” or “the crisis of families”.  Such phrases typically are ambiguous and do little more than raise blood pressure and heart rate.  Lacking definition, they send an uncertain message.  What, after all, is a family?  And whose crosshairs is it in?  To effectively identify the needs of families and to effect legislation that successfully meets those needs is a tall, but not unworkable, order.  

I suggest four steps for legislators’ to take.  First, to identify the discrete categories of family to which legislation should be addressed.  Second, to identify and rank order the discrete needs in each category.  Third, to identify already-successful legislation (in the US and abroad) that fits those needs directly (or, if none exists, to propose creative legislative prototypes).  Finally, to craft legislation that is both on target, vetted for unanticipated consequences, and passable.  Make sure it always includes provision for ongoing review of relevant results and retuning.

 

Growth

Like its neighbors, Utah is largely uninhabited by humans.  Vast stretches of potentially habitable space abound.  But Utah and its neighbors are devoid of the natural resources to unlock that habitability. 

Still, there is abundant opportunity to grow the population, given the attractions of natural wonders, low crime rates, and new jobs.  The operative concept is sustainability, that is, keeping the ship afloat while enlarging and upgrading it. 

In other words, growing while achieving and sustaining prosperity for all, native and newcomer.  To do this will require tradeoffs between developers and regulators, between consumers and conservationists, between necessity and fairness.

 

Inequality

There is no end to inequality.  It is a given.  Reducing its inevitable burden is the goal.  Identifying its many faces, estimating its cost, then designing and installing public policies and cultural redesigns for its reduction are daunting tasks—the kind that call on better angels. 

This will be the stopper—the failure to stir sufficient good will, benefit of the doubt, and openness to produce a critical mass of acknowledgement that there are others whose otherness offends but who nevertheless qualify as fellow being.  If achieved, this may well rank as a civilizational turning point.

 

Infrastructure

Public and private evidences of the undoing of infrastructure are everywhere, often documented in reports and contestations.  Absent criminal intent, the culprit is the deferral of maintenance, the logic-maiming claim that “we couldn’t afford to fix it,” made with a straight face. 

Whether involving public transportation, public utilities, public amenities, or other public services, the spotlight falls on brokenness, moldiness, outmodedness, neglect, unsafeness, uselessness, or inconvenience.  “Get it fixed!” is hardly responsible demand. 

Instead, wisdom—the sort that saves in the long term—may insist that future-cost funding for replacement or repair invariably be paired with new construction.

 

Taxes

The subject is toxic.  It motivated the nation’s founding but has no virtuous appeal at this point.  One makes one’s peace with taxes or continues to despair or to seethe. 

Taxation’s bad rap has at least three sources—near-unfathomability, the stench of compulsion, and all-the-way-down unfairness. 

Potential remediation is obvious and should be pursued energetically and with eyes wide open.  Shrink the tax code to bite-size.  Incentivize payment positively.  Publicize easy-to-make-sense-of analyses of tax inequities and inefficiencies as well as recommended policy adjustments for extending the tax dollar.

 

Add your name below if you support Hal's non-partisan pragmatism. 

You can also read the United Utah Party's official legislative agenda, which Hal has officially signed and supported. 

Who's signing

Susan Fix
Michelle Stone
Lynn Sorenson
David Keller

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