Kathy Lofft, Democrat
October 22, 2008
1. The two entryways into Park City, S.R. 224 and S.R. 248, are state-managed highways under stress from traffic increases, with backups along S.R. 248 being especially worrisome to officials in Park City and Summit County and commuters. Please talk about your preferred solutions to the two entryways, with particular attention to measures that could reduce congestion on S.R. 248.
1. Park-and-ride options are good first step towards resolving traffic congestion, but "reversible" lanes may be required to facilitate movement during peak travel times. "Constructing a bridge or tunnel to enable pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the road may help relieve back-ups on Route 248 also. The state should be looking at creative ways to relieve the traffic burden and improve flow. For example, it could incentivize employers that allow employees to work staggered schedules or compressed work weeks. Instead of using stop-lights, the state could install more roundabouts, which keep traffic moving and prevent cars from idling when they don’t need to. The state should encourage the development of mass transit options to get people out of their vehicles. Expanded bus and/or light rail service could substantially relieve congestion on our roads. To encourage use of such services, the state could provide incentives to employers that subsidize public transit.
2. Utah has attracted significant numbers of immigrants in the last decade, with many coming to the state from Mexico. Please discuss what public benefits they should receive, including your opinion about whether immigrants should be eligible for tuition breaks that other Utahns receive at state-run colleges and universities and driver permits.
2. Our country is in financial crisis. The stock market is tumbling and banks are failing. In Utah, growth is slowing, unemployment is rising, over 300,000 Utahns are uninsured and much of our air and water is polluted. None of these is a direct result of illegal immigration. Nonetheless, the legislature decided to pass legislation, S.B. 81, to try to deny illegal immigrants access to certain rights and services. I do not believe this is the right priority for Utah at this time. Moreover, S.B. 81 is a deeply flawed bill. If you favor "strict construction", remember that S.B. 81 undermines the powers of the federal government under the U.S. Constitution. If you’re a fiscal conservative, note that S.B. 81 imposes an unfunded mandate on government. If you support good governance, recall that S.B. 81 was passed without the legislature having first consulted with the authorities charged with enforcing it.
3. The economy of Park City and surrounding Summit County relies heavily on tourism, with winter being especially lucrative and summer becoming busier. Please discuss the Statehouse’s role in boosting tourism to Utah, and whether state funding for tourism is at an appropriate level. Do you propose any new tourism programs?
3. The state budget includes funds to market and promote tourism in Utah. In recent years, during a budget surplus, the legislature increased the funds available to promote tourism. With the state now experienced a budget shortfall (which may get worse before the next session begins in January), increases in tourism funding may not be forthcoming. Of course, the legislature could do other things to help promote tourism. It could promote measures to preserve and protect Utah’s air and water. If people learn that seven counties in Utah are on the EPA’s non-attainment list for fine particulate matter, and that fifteen of Utah’s fishing spots have consumption advisories based on mercury contamination in fish, they may be less likely to travel to Utah. The legislature could also modernize Utah’s liquor laws to make the state more welcoming to those who are not used to having their consumption regulated by politicians.
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4. Legislators after Census 2010 will redraw district boundaries for the state House and Senate and the U.S. House. In the previous round of redistricting, after Census 2000, Summit County was split between two state House districts. Please discuss the ideal redistricting scenario for Summit County, including whether you see keeping the county within one district as important.
4. In October 2001, the Wall Street Journal called Utah "the worst example of redistricting abuse in the nation". Analysts described the legislature’s post-2000 census redistricting as "patently partisan" and "an example of flagrant gerrymandering". District 53, which includes all or a portion of five counties, hugs the Wyoming border, reaching all the way to Colorado on one side and nearly to Idaho on the other. In our area, neighbors on either side of I-80 in the Snyderville Basin actually have different representatives in the legislature! This alienates voters from the political process, and makes it nearly impossible for challengers to run and win. These issues can be addressed if the legislature is willing. For example, the state could require the use of "neutral criteria" in redistricting. This would require that political subdivisions, such county lines, be respected. Utah could establish an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission, which other states have done.
5. Voters defeated an effort to introduce school vouchers to Utah, which would provide taxpayer-funded assistance to parents with children enrolled in private schools. Please discuss the theory of school vouchers — their promise and their problems. Would you support a renewed effort to provide school vouchers?
5. The nation’s first universal voucher law, H.B. 148, narrowly passed the Utah legislature in 2007. On a popular vote, "Referendum 1" was defeated 62% to 38%, in some cases (including in Summit County) by a greater than 2 to 1 margin. It’s been reported that the legislature may not introduce a voucher proposal again anytime soon. With 96% of our children in public schools – and 82% of parents indicating they wouldn’t move their children to a private school even if vouchers were available – our limited resources should be applied to benefit the greatest number of children possible. Whatever you think about vouchers or about H.B. 148 (you can feel differently about the two), you should agree we owe it to our children, to ourselves and to the future of Utah to ensure our public education system is capable of providing quality instruction to every student that chooses to enroll.
6. State liquor laws have long pitted the hospitality industry against Utah legislators, who tightly regulate what establishments may serve liquor. Please discuss the successes or faults of the liquor laws, including your opinion of club-membership requirements. Are there any changes you propose to the liquor laws?
6. The plain fact is that many of Utah’s laws are different than other states – our liquor laws are just one example. The state relies heavily on tourism and the revenue it generates. Liquor laws that are unfamiliar and difficult to understand do nothing to promote Utah as a "friendly" place to visit. Some people claim Utah’s liquor laws attract visitors to the state. I’ve seen no empirical evidence this is true. My own personal experience, the weight of anecdotal evidence and reports from the hospitality and tourism industries suggest that exactly the opposite is the case. Promoting moderation is a laudable goal, but not at the expense of the state’s development. Utah should eliminate the club-membership rules, which are not serving their intended purpose. It should ease rules that unreasonably restrict wine and beer tastings and liquor production, and lower the substantial mark-up on alcohol to benefit small business owners.