Questions From PR27

April 6, 2018 pjohnson 0 Comments

Hi County Delegates,

Thanks to everyone for serving in your precincts!  I love being a part of this process, both as a delegate and as a candidate.  I must say though, being a delegate and needing to choose good folks was a lot less intimidating and more fun than needing to get people to choose me as a candidate.  In any case, I am excited to serve in whatever capacity I can.

I was given a list of questions from Beth, a precinct chair in PR27 that I was happy to provide my opinions on.  The questions were relevant to the conversations we’re having about our state so I thought I would share the questions and my thoughts on them with you.  You may have received my letter in the mail by now, if not, please feel free to reach out with any other questions or concerns you would like me to consider.  I would also love to hear from you or visit with you sometime before the convention.  Please feel free to reach out to me and schedule some time if I haven’t contacted you yet.

What are your views on improving education in our state? Particularly, how can we do a better job of attracting and keeping quality teachers in our public schools?

I see three issues related to improving education in our state.

  1. Find ways to get it closer to home.  We have become too dependent on the state for answers which leave our education to the whims of pie charts and bar charts, which haven’t always had a great track record.  Solutions can be determined better the closer to home they get.  Finding ways to allow the community and families themselves to play bigger roles should be a priority.  This would include accountability measurements and funding that is more focused on parent/community participation rather than just school districts, administrators, and test scores.
  2. That leads to the second issue, find ways to have teachers shine brighter than administrations.  It has been a slippery slope and the common disease of most governments that the larger they get and the more control they take, the smaller the folks start looking on the front lines.  While Utah has a decent track record for governance that is flaunted on political and government websites, I have yet to see a great stat about teacher or parent participation.  That means finding ways to highlight and reward good teachers, give school boards and communities more leeway to seek them out, and shrink the bureaucracies that tend to hold them back rather than let them flourish.
  3. Utah spends over 25% of its budget on education.  Because the state plays such a big role financially and administratively, it has become cumbersome and unwieldy.  Many programs are cast out to the wind in hopes they work without any accountability attached.  For example, a 3rd grade literacy program was launched 10 years ago with 20 million dollars with no visible results.  This last session they scrapped it and presented a new program.  Without accountability, we should not be wasting funds on things we can only hope for.

What can be done to improve transportation in the state, both roads and mass transit?

Some of the same problems presented by the role and size of government in education has plagued our transportation as well.  While sitting in on a transportation committee meeting in this last session, I witnessed a couple of different legislators express their hopes that the over 200 page bill presented by UTA will make all our transportation dreams come true because they didn’t have the ability or time to read the entire bill.  They had to take UTA’s word for it.

While there have been some good things done with transportation, ie. Front Runner and infrastructure improvements, other expensive things have stopped making sense.  For example, Front Runner removes the need for extra lanes on the interstate, Trax takes up to as many as 3 lanes in cities.  In some cities that may make sense, but it doesn’t in Orem.  It would make more sense to take Front Runner down to Spanish Fork and do something more related to an interstate which is more related to the state’s jurisdiction rather than leaking into our communities where they are taking up more space than they are alleviating.

What are your thoughts on the proposed name change for UTA?

I haven’t heard the benefits of what the change would do for UTA or Utah and I’m not sure what benefits would convince me to spend millions of dollars to simply re-brand.

What are your views on naming a Utah state highway after President Trump?

I don’t find this a horribly relevant issue so I have a hard time caring much for it.  If I had my druthers though, our state highways would be named after good Utahns that have done so much for our state and our country.  The perfect candidate in my mind right now would be Jon Huntsman!

What are your views on SB54 and Count my Vote?

One of the reasons I’m running is because of my passion for the caucus system.  My approach to this issue is to have healthy concerns about the legalities of SB54 but be more focused on the strength and vibrancy of the caucus system.  I am running to be a delegate’s candidate.  It is the responsibility of an elected official to be accountable to the delegates who get them there.  It is their seat in the house or senate by representation of the folks in their neighborhoods who counted on them to represent them.  I intend to come back to LD61 and report directly to the delegates in whatever fashion I can.  It is my wish to make SB54 completely irrelevant due to a strong caucus system.

What can be done to encourage economic development?

While the government is not responsible for the success or failure of an economy or a creator of jobs, constitutionally or otherwise, I realize that how well it runs and stays out of the way can encourage a stronger economy.  It is the free market that is the key factor in a healthy economy.  Given that, here are two major issues that can “encourage” a healthier economy.

  1. Strengthening the higher education system. Constitutionally, it is the responsibility of the State of Utah to maintain public schools, at least one agricultural university, and a higher education system.  I had the opportunity to see Keith Grover play a major role in this area as a co-chair over higher ed.  He has done a good job in that position.  Because higher education has to compete in our state, it has to be efficient and strong. Competition is its accountability.  Keeping our universities strong produces more entrepreneurs, skilled workers for the workforce, and builds strong character.
  2. Stay out of the way of small businesses. It has become a bad habit for our state to tax anything it can define or put on a chart.  We need less regulation, licensing, and taxation of small businesses to let them flourish.

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