1. Please describe your background and what has prepared you to serve in the elected office you seek?
I am a fifth-generation Utahn and have lived in the Sndyerville Basin for the last 14 years with my wife Rochelle and three Jessie, Will and Sophie. I have a B.A. in accountancy from the U of U and have spent the last 25 years running our family agricultural and real estate business. For the past four years, I've been honored to serve on the Summit County Council. I have broad experience in natural resources, production agriculture, federal lands, water rights and conservation, mineral development, real estate development and investment, general business, finance, budgeting, and local government. I have a track record for bringing people together to find common ground, win/win solutions. I'm a hard and creative worker for studies the details of a matter to add texture to the bigger picture. These skills have served me well in business and county government and will be an asset as your representative on Capitol Hill.
2. Earlier this year the Utah Legislature approved S.B. 64, a measure that ties teachers' compensation to their students' performance. Do you support that concept, why or why not? Also, do you feel that the Legislature does or does not do enough to support funding for education?
More emphasis should be placed upon assessing teacher effectiveness, including compensation consequences or employment termination for continued poor teacher performance. Obviously, student performance is one metric for assessing teacher effectiveness. If all students were equal in family circumstances, socio-economic factors, aptitude, and outside support, merely measuring their performance on tests or graduation rates might be fair. But that's not reality. Students coming into the classroom are not homogenous and it would be unfair to judge the teacher of a remedial subject by the same standards as an AP course teacher.
As for education funding, for years we as a state have been able to spend the least and get above average results. That is no longer the case. Funding (investing) in education needs to be put on a priority-parity with other critical investment needs like infrastructure. Additional funding is not the whole answer; other reforms are needed.
3. Do you believe state agencies are too lax or too stringent about enforcing air and water quality standards? If elected would you advocate more or less regulation of industrial emissions?
The EPA has delegated to Utah Department of Environmental Quality primacy on air quality regulation, which is something we should preserve. We have a capable and talented team of professionals at the UDEQ. We should make sure that they have adequate funding and resources to do their job. They should also be allowed to do their job free from undue political influence. Our topography is challenging (mountain valleys susceptible to wintertime inversions). While industrial pollution has actually declined over the last few decades, emissions from vehicles have increased. The state should encourage the use of compressed natural gas and energy efficient cars and trucks to help reduce this transportation cause pollution. Additionally, protecting water quantity as well as quality is equally important. In our zeal to put every drop to beneficial use, we could jeopardize the long-term wellbeing of our citizens and our environment.
4. The Utah Legislature has tried to address ethics reform, including measures to ensure lawmakers are not unduly influenced by contributors. Do you think those efforts have been adequate or do you think additional ethics reform is necessary? Also, what is your personal policy regarding campaign contributions?
Legislators are public servants whose sole focus should be on doing the public's business and not in furthering their own private interests or those of their friends. Ethics reform is sorely needed, especially in limiting campaign contributions, prohibiting sitting legislators from being lobbyists, having a cooling off period of at least two years before a former legislator can become a lobbyist, conducting the public's business in the open, completely and timely disclosing all campaign contributions and expenditures, and disclosing conflicts of interest and recusing oneself from the dialogue and votes when conflicts exist.
Sometimes it takes a lot of money to run for public office and especially so when challenging an incumbent who has the advantages of name recognition and the bully pulpit. I have been grateful for and have accepted campaign contributions from individuals, businesses and associations, with very few exceptions.
5. Last year, lawmakers passed House Bill 363, a Health Education Amendment that would have severely curtailed what could be taught in sex education classes. The bill was eventually vetoed by the governor. Some said the bill was representative of a trend toward more values-oriented legislation. Do you think that is a fair characterization and, if so, is that an appropriate role for state lawmakers?
I was grateful that the governor vetoed HB 363. It would have taken away from parents the right to have their children receive more than an abstinence-only sex education. I find it somewhat ironic that some in government can be such emphatic advocates for self-governance and agency in some matters (especially in dealing with the Federal government or laissez faire economics) but can so eager to curtail personal rights. I think it dangerous to try to legislate values, because one man's values may be anathema to his neighbor. Unless there is a clear and compelling public health, safety, or welfare need to tread in the domain of dueling values, I am very hesitant to restrict individual and family self-determination. I prefer to find common ground that respects and tolerates individual differences while still enacting legislation for the common good.
6. In its last session the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 148, the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which demands the transfer of about 20 million acres of federally owned land to the state. That land could then be sold or leased for commercial uses. Do you support or oppose that bill and why?
HB 148 is premised upon the much disputed claim that the federal government has breeched its obligation to orderly dispose of federal lands after Utah obtained statehood. In reality the primary reason a large percentage of western states is still in federal ownership is that these lands were (are) unsuitable for homesteading and development. Proponents argue that federal land managers are holding these lands hostage from their rightful development and inclusion in our property tax base, thereby causing us to underfund public education.
I am opposed to HB 148 because: (a) many of these lands are cultural and ecological treasures that belong to all Americans, (b) our quality of life and our sustainably thriving outdoor recreation industry rely upon these lands, and (c) while at times cumbersome, federal ownership and management provides a wholesome check and balance on the myopic and unfettered appetite of some for one-time extractive industry gain.
7. Like many states, Utah has tried its hand at enacting its own immigration laws. In recent years, lawmakers have passed (and then rescinded) in-state college tuition discounts for undocumented students who attended high school in the state. They have offered and then discontinued driver permits and have debated legislation that would give local law enforcement officers the ability to determine a person's immigration status. Where do you stand on those specific issues?
I believe in the principles of the Utah Compact, especially that immigration is primarily a federal issue. However, the three specific questions raised here address important issues well within the state's purview. I am in favor of granting in-state tuition for undocumented students who have attended Utah high schools. I see nothing to be gained from raising artificial barriers for these young people to obtain more education. Education is the great equalizing influence and fosters good citizenship. Likewise, I am in favor of reinstating the driver permit for undocumented persons. They will be driving vehicles on Utah roads anyway and these driver permits required them to obtain insurance and meet certain minimum standards. I am opposed to having Utah public safety personnel enforce federal immigration law. Our law enforcers have enough to do with limited budgets without wading into the federal domain where serious reform is needed.
8. Please differentiate your platform from that of your opponent.
I am a business and local government leader, with hands-on experience with many of the issues facing the State of Utah. I believe in the power of "and" meaning that the best decisions and outcomes are the result of bringing many points of view together to find practical, long-lived, win/win solutions to our problems and opportunities. I believe that with diversity and differences there is also strength.
My opponent is a bright and capable attorney and scholar. He seems focused on reforming the political system, especially legislator ethics. These are laudable causes, most of which I support. However, crusading for reform comes at the cost of reduced influence among those who haven't yet caught the vision of these reforms.
I prefer to work on some of the urgent and imminent issues facing our state, such as educating a world-class citizenry, finding good balance between our economy and our environment, and bridging some of the gulfs that divide us. I believe we should think about most decisions from a triple bottom line perspective: is it good for our people, our economy, and our environment?
Please support me as the Wasatch Back's representative on Capitol Hill. You will not be disappointed.