Interim Governor Gary Herbert visited SLCC’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus last Friday morning campaigning for re-election on Nov. 2. The only other viable candidate in the race, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, also visited the campus recently.
SLCC’s Student Body President, Liu Vakapuna greeted the crowd of over 100 students, faculty and community members before the time was turned over to Herbert.
Herbert began his speech with a story of his time in the military in the Vietnam War era and the change in voting age during that period.
“A lot of the young people ended up feeling like they were being sent into harms way, but we have no vote… the watch phrase was ‘If we’re old enough to fight and die for our country we ought to be able to vote.’ I supported that and the constitution was changed,” Herbert said. He also stated that in his time serving as Lieutenant Governor, he became aware that the 18-25 year old voters “don’t vote enough,” and stated that he was encouraged by the early morning student turnout to the campus event.
Herbert continued his speech with a background of his time in politics and the issues of the 1980’s that have influenced his leadership leanings. Herbert worked as a real estate broker and developer and was “giving people the opportunity to live the American dream.” He got involved in politics “mainly out of self defense and frustration” in his business career. Mortgage and prime rates were much higher than they are now and he stated that unemployment in Utah was also in double-digit percentages.
With a growing inability for he and other Utahn’s to make a living, Herbert moved his efforts into the political arena, eventually becoming the Utah County Commissioner in 1990. He served in that position for 14 years before becoming the Lieutenant Governor in 2004. When then Governor Huntsman accepted his position as US Ambassador to China in May 2009, Herbert was elevated to the position of Interim Governor of Utah until the special election being held this coming November.
Herbert expressed his priorities in office to be, “growing the economy, focusing on education, and developing our natural resources.” He repeatedly touted Utah’s ranking by Forbes magazine as “the best state to do business” as evidence of the state’s economic progression.
Herbert cited Utah’s national leading birthrate, adding an average 11000 new students per year, and a reduced budget as the two major challenges facing education today.
“My focus on our economy and my focus on education are joined at the hip,” Herbert said.
A goal of the recently formed Education Excellence Commission formed by Herbert was that two thirds of Utah’s adult population would have a post high school education by 2020.
Before a brief question and answer session, Herbert’s final talking point was Utah’s energy potential and his assembly of the Balance Resources Council, which he says helps the government be “good stewards of the land, protect what we need to protect, but develop the natural resources that we have.”
He cited an example of this process in action as the Colorado based Bill Barrett Corporation’s (BBC) approved project in Central Utah to open 600 natural gas drilling sites, purportedly bringing $1.5 billion dollars to central Utah’s economy. What wasn’t stated was that this was part of a larger project by the BBC to create nearly 3000 wells in the Rocky Mountain Region, primarily used in an environmentally dangerous process called “fracking.”
Fracking involves the injection of chemicals into the ground that force natural gasses to come to the surface. When asked by a student after the formal presentation about environmental concerns surrounding the fracking process, Herbert stated that he “was not the scientist to make the decision” and that the scientists he relied on for data see “no evidence that fracking hurts our water supply.”
From stacks of index cards, from which audience members wrote down what they wanted to ask the governor, came questions about national healthcare, equal rights for gays and tobacco.
His answer in regard to national healthcare began with an anecdote of his daughter’s experience in Montreal, Canada.
“I have children that live in Montreal. They have a much more socialized approach to medicine up there, and if they [his children] were here they would tell you what we have in Utah… is much better than what they have with their socialized system. My daughter…had a child up there in Canada, and when she went to sign up for prenatal healthcare they said, ‘Fine, we’ll have you signed up, and you can come in 10 months.'”
He also stated that 50 “democracy laboratories” trying healthcare plans would likely produce real healthcare answers that could be shared on national levels.
When asked about equal rights for gays, Herbert talked about Amendment 3 in the Utah State Constitution, which defines marriage as a union between man and woman. He went on to note that anti-discrimination ordinances were being discussed and implemented on city and county levels and “that we’ll probably have some change over time, and may even move, lead to a statewide law. I don’t think we’re at that point yet but that’s the direction we’re moving in.”
When further asked about this issue he stated, “I’m a local guy, I don’t like micromanagement from the top down. It’s just like different laws that reflect the local community.” Herbert also said, “We ought to be good people and good Samaritans and treat each other with respect and civility without a law making us do that.”
When asked about tobacco the governor proudly noted that Utah is one of the healthiest states and that he does not support additional tobacco taxes because that would base a state income on tobacco consumption, which he hopes will decrease over time.