The following topics are among state issues Gov. Gary Herbert addressed with Salt Lake Community College students during his visit last Wednesday to the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
Education: “I’m a big believer in education. The more skills you have the more doors will open up to you,” he says. “We’ve put $1.326 billion dollars of new money in education in the last four years,” and he says there will be more to come. “The results are dramatic,” he says, as they demonstrate improved scores in math, reading, language arts, and science.
Technology: “I am kind of old school. I don’t know much about social media. I go to the grocery store to buy celery,” he says and adds that within about 5 minutes there is a post about him. He jokes, “How many got tweeted out that the governor just threw his cell phone?” Conversely, he says Utah has long been at the technological forefront in development and use. When compared nationally, he says Utahns are on top with the “highest percent of home computer use.”
Energy: “Energy is kind of a foundation for a good quality of life. The good news for us is that we diversify. I don’t like us to have all our eggs in one basket.” He says, “What the American people want is sustained energy.” He spoke of the tough questions in three areas of “sustainability, affordability and clean.” He says the market will drive new inventions to lower energy costs via the free market response to carbon-based fuels, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing. “We are now awash with natural gas. We are the largest consumers of wind power,” says the governor. Yet, he underlined a future concern, “The number one issue that no one is talking about, and that I’m very concerned about, is water.”
Pollution: “Coal is on its way out. Is that because we pollute more or is it geology? We pollute less than any capital city, but we have inversions here.” He says we have regional haze and it doesn’t help to exaggerate the problem or to compare us to Los Angeles pollution. “Eighteen days a year we have air quality as bad as LA’s, not worse,” he says. “We’ve screwed down the industry just about as much as we can.” He adds we are meeting all the Environmental Protection Agency requirements and that industry is putting in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the problem. He points to taking closer looks at reducing pollution from other source problems; such as the 55% from cars and the 25% from homes and small businesses. He says the good news is in the positive forecast for the next 10 years.
Economy and Jobs: “The key to low unemployment is jobs…. We set a goal at the depths of the recession to create 100,000 jobs,” and he says they accomplished it. He references Utah’s low unemployment at 3.5 to 3.6. “That it looks pretty good on paper, because we have more people employed,” he says. “We have the third most diverse economy, it’s the best place for business and Utah has the most fundamentally sound businesses.”
Homelessness: “We reduced chronic homelessness better than any other state in the nation… We still have work to do.” He says over a decade ago it became a primary issue and he was involved in making a statewide plan. Although the governor says there have been improvements, there are those who prey like magnets on the them and other issues magnify the problems, such as substance abuse. He says he works closely with the Utah State Department of Workforce Services, but that we can all be part of the solution. Giving the example that if someone from the classroom gave him five dollars for lunch, he would have the entire amount to go buy lunch. Yet, he said administrative dollars significantly reduce the amount available by the time they make it to the intended recipient.
Community Service: The governor quoted his father as repeatedly telling him in his youth, “Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy.” He urged students to become active in serving the community. “You can find all sorts of ways to stay involved,” he says.“We are the number one most charitable state in America and the number one in volunteerism.” He calls for anyone can help. “You can volunteer. We take our staff a couple of times a year down to the food bank and stock food. We can all do that… there’s a myriad of ways.”
Patriotism: He describes the benefits of a “rebirth of patriotism” after terroristic attack on September 11, 2001. “I saw people rise up. We flew flags, we sang songs, you couldn’t buy a flag in the store.” However, he says that on November municipal elections the turnout was bleak. “A whooping 25% show out to vote” he says and emphasizes we can do better.
Civic Responsibility: “I have never, ever missed voting. I’m proud to say that,” he says. “I served in the military during the Vietnam era — a very unpopular war.” At that time voters had to be 21 years of age to vote. “June 1971, the age was reduced to 18; the poorest [voting] demographic are the 18 to 25 year-olds. At least vote.”