Christine Johnson | ParkRecord.com
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Christine Johnson

PR

Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.

I am a proud, unapologetic Democrat. Though I respect my opponent, we disagree on how to create progress in Utah’s Legislature. He believes we need a moderate voice in the closed Republican caucus, and I disagree. The solution to excess Republican influence is not more Republicans, but more Democrats. If elected, I will be the most progressive voice in the Utah Legislature. I not only have the endorsement of Sally Elliott, and the Salt Lake Tribune, but I am the only candidate in the state endorsed by the progressive national organization, EMILY’s List. I believe Democratic values of fairness, balance and free agency are what Utah needs most. I have spent the past seven months working to understand the needs of District 25 and how its community members want to be represented. I am self-employed and can devote the time necessary to meet constituent expectations, not only during the session, but all year long.

I share Summit County’s focus on education, health care and open space and will sponsor legislation that focuses on improving quality of life for all Utahns. I offer balance to the Legislature, as an openly-gay individual, as a woman and as a progressive, forward-thinking Democrat.

1. The Legislature has considered loosening its development rules, most notably in a bill that stalled in the 2006 session. Please describe the fairness of the state’s rules regulating developers. Please describe one change to the rules you support and, if there are none, discuss why the rules, in your opinion, are adequate.

Communities create long-term sustainability when development is paced with community need and anticipated growth. This includes compatibility, forward-thinking environmental building and balance in preserving open space. Sen. Mansell s legislation in 2006 to essentially cut off community input and favor developers was shortsighted.

As chair of the East Central Community Council in SLC, I fought with other community leaders to quash those efforts and foster continued relationships and compromise between neighbors, community leaders, activists and developers.

Fully funding the LeRay McCallister Fund will give an edge to communities in their fight to preserve open space.

2. Utah s tourism industry is critical to the economy of Summit County, employing scores of people and generating lots of the area s taxes. Please outline your opinion of the Statehouse s role in promoting tourism. Please discuss one new program you would support that would boost tourism in Summit County.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill in 2005 (SB1002), which set up a tourism/marketing performance fund for the purpose of allocating monies for tourism. This year, the Office of Tourism will receive $7 million from the general fund, $3 million for meeting performance standards, and $3 million for exceeding the natural growth. Once 45th for tourism spending, and now approximately 19th, Utah is doing better when it comes to supporting tourism.

The Legislature can continue support of tourism by securing appropriations to improve and update our welcome centers, improve our 29 points of entry with signage that conveys state branding and considering long-range needs of housing in areas where tourism is dependent on entry-level hospitality employees.

Modifying liquor laws that eliminate the need for club memberships may also help.

3. Even after changes to the state s liquor laws, people in the entertainment industry remain unhappy with what they see as a restrictive and confusing set of rules. Are the liquor laws adequate and do they accomplish their goals? Please discuss one change that you would support.

The Utah liquor laws are still too restrictive and confusing. While abolishing them altogether is probably unrealistic, I do support lobbying the governor aggressively to ensure that the makeup of the board of the DABC represents the entertainment industry. We should also expect and demand that the DABC Board consist of both alcohol- and non-alcohol-consuming members. Currently, there is only one member who consumes alcohol and thus, interests of alcohol consumers in the state are not fairly represented. Also loosening the liquor laws will help promote tourism. Many potential tourists feel our liquor laws are too restrictive and have misconceptions about alcohol availability in Utah. We need to work on changing those perceptions and, like it or not, perception is reality to first-time tourists.

4. The Statehouse continues to have difficulty shedding an image of shortchanging Utah students. Is that a fair assessment of the amount of money that is budgeted for education? Please discuss one idea to ensure that the state s schools are funded adequately.

Our children deserve better! We should provide the best learning environment we can afford, and we can afford it! But, are we willing to make those who use the education the most share the financial burden? We spend a decent amount on education, but not compared to the number of children we educate. Although well intended, the governor s tax plan will not yield the monies necessary for education and predicts only a five percent per share increase in 2007. We should consider adopting Jones-Mascaro legislation that reduces tax deductions for families with more than the average number of children, or we should consider bonding for transportation needs to free up funds for public and higher education. This is my No. 1 priority. No vouchers! No tuition tax credits! Invest in schools — no excuses!

5. Lots of Summit County s traffic problems are either on or near state-owned roads, notably S.R. 224 and S.R. 248, even after both have been upgraded. Do the state roads in the county function to your liking? Please describe two methods the state could promote in Summit County to make the area a better place for drivers.

The biggest challenge in transportation is getting folks out of their vehicles and into mass transit. Fortunately, a recent study of Summit County transportation needs indicates that a large number of commuters are willing to participate in shared rides from Park City to Salt Lake City. The state can take advantage of this willingness by allocating funds along state roads for park-and-ride lots (Silver Creek Junction and Richardson Flat, for example) and working with both public and private enterprise to create people-moving solutions. Hopefully, the recent study will create a dialog about the county s needs and foster a productive relationship between the state and county to design attractive, cost-sharing solutions.

6. School districts continue to accept students who do not speak English as their native language, mostly those who speak Spanish. Please rate the state s efforts to integrate the non-English speakers and describe one initiative you support addressing those who do not speak English.

My stepfather was an immigrant to this country who learned to speak English in a third-grade classroom where not even the teacher spoke his language. Imagine if there had been a bi-lingual teacher who could accommodate instruction in not only English, but his language. What if the other children in the class were studying his language as part of their curriculum? We ask a great deal from our teachers, but if salaries were strong enough to draw bi-lingual teachers to teach an immersion curriculum, everyone would win. When children are taught almost exclusively for testing, and schools are penalized for children who are not at grade level, regardless of their language ability, we have no choice but to adapt and improve as our population changes. I will support creative legislation that fosters an environment of success for all our children and welcome suggestions from educators who live this classroom experience.

7. Utah allows some undocumented immigrants to hold what are known as driving-privilege cards, which allow them to drive but are not recognized as official identification. Do you support keeping the driving-privilege cards intact or doing away with them?

I am angry at our federal government s continued blind eye on the problem of illegal immigration and frustrated by the notion that the states must address the negligence of the federal government.

I support doing away with the driving-privilege cards.

This is a failed policy in the state and does more to make a statement about class and privilege than about immigration.

As I understand it, driver licenses are based more on residency and less on citizenship. Driving privilege cards are bad policy and divisive, both fiscally and socially.

8. Please discuss your opinion of Utah s tax structure. Should taxes go up, be cut or stay as they are now? Please address in your answer your opinion of the so-called primary-home exemption, which makes property more expensive for people who own houses but do not live in the state all year.

Utah s imperfect tax structure is further flawed by the addition of the quasi-flat tax. The food tax should be eliminated and the Jones-Mascaro tax plan accepted by the Legislature. When it comes to tax policy, we should look for transparency, predictability and sufficient funding for the programs reliant on tax revenue. The primary home exemption of real property taxes is a wise one. Imagine the severe impact on Summit County s ability to provide destination services if all properties used as second residences were suddenly exempt from full property taxes. The higher expense of operating a resort community is supported by these taxes and benefits not only the second-home owner when using the residence, but also the community at large.


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