Air Quality

Hello Friends,

Today we talk air quality.  I’m surprised it has taken me this long to address this topic, as this is one of the most urgent issues I think our government should be tackling.  I am going to continue to be honest and candid with you as I ask for your vote, and I am going to admit to you right out of the gate: I may have waited on this topic because I’m not 100% sure how to fix it.  This is admittedly a very complex problem, with no easy solutions, and there certainly isn’t a one-stop fix that will totally solve this massive problem.  I do have some thoughts though, on how we can start to mitigate the issue, and I am ready to rely on the best scientific minds among us to counsel me on how State legislation can help this matter once I’m in office.

I started compiling the shattering statistics about air quality in our state, but then decided that I’m not even going to belabor the point about how urgent the situation in this valley is.  You already know how bad our air quality is. Every Utahn living on the Wasatch front knows - all one needs to do is look out their window in the winter months.  Not one of us can look at that blanket of disgusting smog covering our beautiful valley every winter and reasonably doubt the implications the air quality has for the health of our citizens, and our children in particular.  Asthma, COPD, cardiovascular disease, the potential negative impacts on tourism and wildlife, our contribution to the global warming crisis, the list of ills our air quality exacerbates and the reasons to address it goes on… If you do still have doubts about the danger of the situation, go read this recent DAQ study summary and then come back: http://snowbrains.com/watching-the-air-quality-along-the-wasatch-front/

I have learned a few things about this issue through meetings with Utah Moms for Clean Air, HEAL Utah, and Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment. I’ve also read studies and attended meetings regarding this issue with the Weber County Board of Health over the last few months. As a result, I’m ready to say that there are some things we can do immediately to reduce the harm that our dirty air causes.  These are truly simple, attainable steps:

  • Diesel - HEAL Utah statistics say that transportation is the cause of 48% of our dangerous emissions. Davis and Salt Lake Counties have already forced emissions testing for diesel vehicles, and the debate is still going on for Weber County.  My thoughts are that we need to do this immediately, it is one step in the right direction.

  • Education.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I DIDN’T KNOW about this stuff 6 months ago. I had no idea how letting my car idle, cold starts, and wood burning all impact our air quality in a pretty significant way.  I love a warm car and a warm fire as much as the next person, but now that I know these things contribute pretty substantially to the air quality in the valley, I can let some of them slide, and I think the rest of the state needs to be educated about how much these little things they may be doing on a daily basis are impacting us.  If people know, they’ll change their behavior. We need to set up education programs in schools and we need to be enforcing laws that are already on the books and expand those that make sense: http://www.slcgov.com/idlefree/ordinance

  • HOV/carpooling incentives - it’s been done for decades because it works. We’re a friendly, happy community, and we can share some car rides to Salt Lake City if it saves us money, gets us there quicker, and reduces air pollution, right?

  • Release all restrictions to purchasing electric cars and support infrastructure for them.  Why would we not allow the purchase of electric cars like Tesla or the forthcoming Chevy Bolt? If you have the desire and the means, there is absolutely no reason the state should be limiting your ability to do this. It is simply illogical at best and cronyism at it’s worst to ban the sale of these cars here.  Furthermore, we need to support electric charging stations at every turn so that Utahns can adopt this clean technology without fear of running out of power.

Longer-term, yet equally important actions we should take involve:

  • Coal vs. clean energy - We must reduce our reliance on coal burning for energy folks.  The average American utility company gets 40% of their energy from coal burning, our utilities get 65% from coal!  I understand some Utah families rely on coal as their source of income, but I am sorry, we need to take the long-view on this.  I want to support any family that may find financial difficulty from a shift to cleaner energy, it’s the right thing to do.  

  • Industry - More frequent monitoring of stack testing, increased fines for polluters who exceed their permit limits and look at options for moving facilities away from population centers.

  • Wind and solar energy - these are growing fast, and will help but funding and technical support are needed to update all of our buildings, not just homes, so that we limit emissions.  Stronger energy codes for new buildings and implement innovative tools to encourage energy retrofits for existing buildings of all kinds.

  • Public Transportation - Let me say that I understand in this still-rather-rural-state is not as strong as it is in other states.  It lacks in infrastructure and people still really need their cars to go about daily business in this state - myself included! (Confession: I love my car.)  I think enhancing public transportation options is a long-term solution to this problem that we should definitely take a look at.

I’m open to, and encourage you to share your thoughts on how we can fix this together. We must each own our own role in contributing to this problem, and we must each own our responsibility in helping to fix it. I’m not a specialist on this issue, and the above thoughts are what I have landed on for the time-being.  I want and need to learn more, and it’s important that you know I will readily change my mind on any of the above stances if I’m given the evidence that shows I should, or if there is a better way to tackle the issue.  

We might have to change our thinking and our habits in order to fix this problem, but a little personal adjustment and inconvenience is worth the payoff of insuring our children are healthy, and that the beauty of this state is maintained. When my kids looked out our front window in Roy every evening at sunset, they didn’t have to see the sludge that we see now, they just got to enjoy the amazing backdrop of beauty that I was so proud to raise them in, and I desperately want to get back to that place. I want a smog-free winter-sunset again and I think we can do it if we work together.   

Thanks as always for reading, for reaching out if you have thoughts, and for your vote in November.

Opiates in Utah

Today I want to write about an extremely troubling problem our state is facing: Opiate abuse and addiction.  According to the Utah Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2014, 32% of Utah adults aged 18 years and older had been prescribed an opioid pain medication in the previous 12 months.  According to the CDC, Utah has gone from 10.6 drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 22.43 in in 2014.  That is a doubling in our rate of drug overdoses in the last 15 years.  Utah is not unique in this regard, but we are among the states suffering the most from this epidemic.  In fact, Utah is currently NUMBER FIVE per capita in the nation for opioid related deaths, and Weber county is right up there with some of the most affected counties.

http://public.tableau.com/shared/8433M6YTF?:display_count=yes

I could spout statistics all day that show how severe this problem is for our community, but I can also tell you that virtually everyone I’ve spoken to in the last few months has friends or family that have struggled because of the presence of opiates in this state, and I am not excluded from that statement.

As a result, I want to propose that we have an open and honest conversation about this problem, which impacts us all.  I want us to stop shaming people who fall under this same, tragic track again and again. We all have family or friends who are affected by this epidemic.  These people are, for the most part, productive members of our society, with strong family bonds and great futures, but they get sidelined by and hooked on opiates that are legally prescribed to them and very possibly temporarily needed, yet they quickly spiral into becoming addicts who will sacrifice their own and their families well-being because of the disease of addiction. They find themselves in dark and lonely places doing things they never could have imagined because they suffer through these addictions, isolated and unsupported.  

We need to pull this subject out into the light and tell our friends and community members that suffer so, that we want to help them, we understand they are not at fault, we want to make sure they don’t die because of this problem, and that they are not alone in this monumentally difficult battle.

This is a public health crisis for our community, and I believe there are achievable steps we need to look at taking to mitigate it:

  1. We need to reduce, at every turn, the unnecessary prescription of these these drugs in the first place.  Thirty percent of all Utahns are being prescribed these highly addictive drugs for pain every year.  That wasn’t the case 20 years ago.  We need to figure out why these prescriptions are being written at such a high rate.  It seems unlikely that the incidence of pain has increased so much in 20 years.  Something else must be going on.  

  2. Accordingly, we need to look to alternative forms of pain management - we need to study and understand the viable alternatives to using opiates to manage pain.  We may have unwittingly created a situation in this state where drugs that are less damaging and lethal (like alcohol and cannabis) have more stigma than a drug that is far more lethal, yet legally accessible, and culturally approved by a doctor’s prescription. If scientific data backs up the anecdotal remarks I’ve heard from many voters, then medical cannabis may be an option not only to reduce pain, it may even help with recovery from said opiate addictions.  There is recent promising research on this issue and it bears following up: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/13/one-striking-chart-shows-why-pharma-companies-are-fighting-legal-marijuana/  

  3. We need to create safe spaces for those suffering from opiate addiction where they can access treatment without fear of stigma or arrest, where they have access to knowledgeable support, clean needles, and an understanding community.  Additionally, those arrested for opiate-related offenses need our support and effective medical treatment, not our disdain and punishment.

  4. We need to focus on effective, evidence-based treatments. I have been visiting local addiction treatment clinics as part of my research on this issue.  Some appear to be doing a good job, but, our current approach is clearly not working.  We need to survey the country and even the world to identify the most effective treatment models and our legislature needs to appropriate the money to help our existing or new clinics implement the most provenly effective treatment programs.

  5. Naloxone is a drug that can save the life of a person in the midst of an opiate overdose.  We need to make sure that every police officer, firefighter and paramedic is equipped with Naloxone and trained with how to use it to save a life.  We also need to make sure that families who are suffering with this addiction have Naloxone at home, and that they can get it without fear of stigma. Naloxone saves lives.  

This is a complex and urgent issue.  It is also an issue I care about deeply.  If you entrust me with your vote, I will make preventing opiate addiction and helping those afflicted a top priority.

Public Land Management

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been really busy reaching out directly to my constituents.  I think I may have spoken to a thousand people already, and have truly enjoyed learning so much from listening.  I’ve also had many of my platform stances confirmed, and feel really good about the support people seem willing to give my campaign – it is clear District 9 is ready for a change!

So many subjects have come up in my discussions that it is almost difficult to pick what to discuss here, but a couple of subjects are appearing more often than others, so I hope to touch on a few in detail in the coming weeks.

Today I want to discuss public land management.  Many voters have asked my stance on the transfer of federal land to state control.  I realize this is a complicated subject, and have the utmost empathy on what management of federal land means to our farmers and ranchers in particular.  I want to be unequivocal however, that I oppose bills like the one my opponent co-sponsored in 2012: HB-148, and that was signed into law in March of that year.

A few reasons for my opposition are as follows:

1.       Waste:  We simply don’t have the money to sue the federal government for control of federally managed lands, and embarking on such a path makes no sense because the courts have repeatedly upheld the authority of the constitutional and legal authority of the federal government to manage these lands.   Nevertheless, Governor Herbert, with the support of our Republican state legislature, has set aside $2M just to BEGIN a legal battle with the federal government over these matters (and has already spent untold amounts.)  This is wasteful spending.

2.       The current system generally works well:  Despite what some may believe, federal management of lands in our state generally works well for ranchers, recreationists and the public at large.   For example, check out this description of “Tread Lightly” (Who in fact, just completed a project with USDA Forest Service at Spawn Creek Trailhead, not far from District 9, with the Wasatch Outlaw Wheelers: https://www.treadlightly.org/projects/worm-fence-atv-trailhead-educational-kiosk-project/   However, where there is room for improvement, or specific conflicts between federal management and local uses of public land, we should work cooperatively with federal agencies and lobby our representatives in Congress to make the changes that we want—we should not resort to wasteful litigation that is doomed to fail.   

3.       Economics: The preservation of these lands, many of which are some of the most precious resources we have, is also absolutely imperative to our local economy.  For example, our federally managed national parks host approximately 6 million tourists per year, with each visitor spending money at Utah businesses for things like food, gas, lodging and other services.  All this cash flows into our state, and the feds pay to manage the parks (with some of that federal money going to employ Utahns).

I understand the designation of and the management of these lands is a particularly difficult subject for ranchers, but I believe the conflicts that exist can be resolved through collaboration, not wasteful litigation.  Overall – if we look at our long-term prospects and resources, we must acknowledge that the preservation of the non-renewable resource of our State's natural beauty is the best choice we can make for the economy.  One only needs to drive through Vernal to understand that the Dinosaur National Monument is a precious economic engine to that city, while still being incredibly well managed under federal control.

The bottom line is: while I acknowledge the complexities that ranchers and the federal government face when it comes to these lands, I believe the federal government actually does a pretty dang good job partnering with the state and that we benefit from it financially.  I am opposed to spending what will likely be many millions of dollars suing for control of these lands and think we should focus on spending our state dollars in much more productive ways (on education for example).  Given that this was one of only 8 bills that my opponent co-sponsored in his nearly six-year term, I don’t believe he’s spending his time on the matters that will actually improve the lives of his constituents.

Please stay tuned - I'll share more about what I think so that you can make an informed decision in the booth in November!

 

Gun Safety

Hello Voters! I had hoped my first content-heavy blog would be about air quality, or education, issues close to my heart.  However, gun safety is an issue that matters to all Utahns, and since I sent the following letter yesterday in response to the NRA's questionnaire, I wanted to share that response publicly with all of you here:

Dear NRA,

I received your National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund questionnaire, which you introduced with the following, highlighted caveat:

If you choose not to return a questionnaire, you may be assigned a ‘?’ rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues.”

I will not be responding to your questionnaire, but I’d like to make it clear that I fully support the Second Amendment to our Constitution.  Every citizen has the right to bear arms.  Like all rights, the right to bear arms is not absolute.  For example, we cannot entrust guns to those whom we have good reasons to expect are unable to safely handle them, such as people suffering from mental illness, people without training in gun safety, and those who have a history of criminal violence.  Exercising any right carries with it certain responsibilities.  But the NRA has too often focused solely on the right to bear arms as if it were absolute, while disregarding the duty of gun owners, and indeed all Americans, to ensure that guns are used safely. 

Many of the NRA’s statements and positions attempt to paint any sort of gun regulation in a negative light—even reasonable regulations like expanded background checks, which the majority of Americans support.  Besides being at odds with public opinion, the NRA’s absolutist stance is an insult to those thousands of American adults, and worse, American children who die each year that we fail to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals and those with no training or experience. 

I fervently believe that state and federal legislators have a responsibility to reduce the tragedy of gun violence where possible. This belief does not make me hostile to the Second Amendment, it makes me a rational human being. 

I sincerely wish that the NRA would change course and begin using its influence to enact reasonable gun regulations to reduce the harm caused to our country each year by gun violence.  A simple way to start would be for the NRA to immediately begin lobbying for the repeal of the so-called Dickey Amendment, which bans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting scientific studies on gun violence, and which the NRA continually lobbies to keep on the books.  If we want to solve gun violence, we need to understand its causes.  Our best path to that understanding is surely through providing resources to our best scientific minds.  That is the way we put a man on the moon.  That is how we eradicated smallpox and prevent myriad other diseases.  That is how we have dramatically reduced and continue to reduce traffic deaths.  We can do the same thing with gun violence. 

I challenge the NRA to transform itself from a special interest lobby that caters to the gun industry by intimidating candidates, into a civic partner that is committed to reducing gun violence through rational regulations, while protecting the Second Amendment right of law abiding Americans to own guns.

Dear voters:

This questionnaire is a perfect example of how special interest groups try to bully candidates into drawing a hard line in the sand when none is required.  We CAN do both: we can protect our Second Amendment rights, AND we can pass rational gun regulations that will save lives.  The NRA’s threatening rhetoric is a major stumbling block to such legislation, and I will not let them force me into a box or tie my hands.  That is why I have dismissed the NRA’s questionnaire.  That is why I have challenged the NRA to change course.   

Responsible gun owners have nothing to fear from reasonable regulations.  My husband is a gun owner, and I know that most responsible Utah gun owners do not have a problem with reasonable requirements concerning registration, background checks and training for gun owners. 

The NRA serves a group of rich gun manufacturers attempting to fleece millions of Americans into thinking their rights are under attack.  I expect to receive an NRA rating of “?” or worse.  But don’t let this special interest group fool you.  I don’t want to take law abiding citizens’ guns away, I just want to make sure the people who have them are safe. Period.

Why I'm Running

Welcome to my blog! I’ll let you all in on a secret: I’ve never “blogged” before, but I’m looking forward to introducing myself to curious readers and explaining my stance on specific issues a little more in-depth as we lead up to November 8th. By sharing my thoughts here, I hope you will be able to make the most informed decision in the voting booth. 

I thought it might be a good start to highlight some of the reasons I’ve decided to run.

The “About” section of this website touches on my experience, and how, through my many years in management and volunteering, I feel this is a natural progression of my commitment to the West Haven/Ogden/Roy community.  However, I’d like to be a bit more frank for a moment:  I, like so many Utahns that I speak with daily, have become incredibly frustrated with the level of political discourse in this country, and the stagnation and combativeness I see when I turn on cable news.  Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of hours thinking about and feeling this frustration: “Why can’t we get things done?” “Why does compromise and courtesy seem to be dead in politics?” I realized, after watching a TED Talk about mayors a few months ago, and putting the pieces together with my own experiences volunteering in our local community, that the best way to change the political climate in this country would be to stop talking about the frustrations I see on a national and international level, turn off the TV, and focus on what I can do locally.  Right here, in our very own community, where if we look each other in the eye and work together as neighbors to achieve goals, I think we can achieve a lot.

I want to participate in writing our narrative as a local community, and I hope that by engaging with all of you here, at home – we might actually begin to overcome that stagnation and attack the problems that face us all, because our problems are shared.   There are compromises that need to be made, and we will not always get our way. Of course, we all learned that lesson as children, but I think we all need to relearn it, and I do believe that if we take care of the people right in front of us in a pragmatic way, that together, we can change the tone of politics in this country, and begin getting some things done again.  I hope you’ll join me in ACTING on our problems, in rediscovering the thing that makes this an incredible place to live, and join me in my effort to take care of each other once again.  

If you’d like to watch the TED Talk that helped inspire my run, by Political Theorist Benjamin Barber - you can see it by clicking the link below.  Thanks for reading, and please stay-tuned for other blog posts to include my thoughts on Air Quality, Healthcare Access, Education, and more. 

Thanks, as always, for your support.  Please feel free to comment – I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you better as well.

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/08/462270486/does-the-road-to-changing-the-world-go-through-city-hall