District 73 challenger Ty Markham and incumbent Mike Noel discussed issues at the October 9 forum held at the Kanab Middle School. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, with Daniel Church welcoming the large crowd.

Justice party candidate Ty Markham spoke of her background that had taken her from Utah to California, and back again. She said she learned early to solve problems herself. Markham raised a family, and worked as a therapist, and operated a school in California. She returned to Torrey, Utah, where she runs a bed and breakfast. “I love rural Utah,” said Markham, of her life in southern Utah. “The skills I bring to the job would be listening, mediation and problem solving.”

Incumbent Republican Mike Noel said he had spent the last 10 years working as State Representative for District 73. He listed some of his committee assignments in that capacity, and said he was proud to be a member of the Cowboy Caucus, a group of Republicans focused on conservative rural Utah ideals. Noel said his focus was to make sure there isn’t an over-burden of Federal government, a resounding ideal he mentioned throughout the forum. “I’m doing this for my children, your children, and our grandchildren,” explained Noel. “I want a future for rural Utah.”

The first Chamber-generated question concerned challenges facing rural education. Noel mentioned the Action Plan for Public Education, and how rural school districts were crippled from lack of funding due to counties having so much Federal land. He said District 73 has the most Federal land, crippling school district’s ability to generate needed property tax revenue.

Markham cited the challenges of being remote, attracting teachers and funding. She thought solutions should include more distance learning, pro-education state legislation, satellite campuses, and making sure the counties were getting all their PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) monies. “The yearly threat is from the Legislature,” said Markham. “We need the right priorities on the hill and right commitment.”

On rural healthcare, Markham said there are unique challenges in rural Utah, especially for the self-employed. She felt Obamacare could be tweaked.

Noel said he had served on a Medicaid Task Force several years ago. He feels the healthcare problem is growing. Noel feels that developing our natural resources might be the answer for numerous state and county funding concerns.

In the area of economic development, Noel stated that in 10 years in the State Legislature, he had never voted to increase taxes. In addition, he supports working with the State School Trust Lands, and supports litigation on the roads issue to keep and create better access for tourists, ranchers and other users.

Markham said that as a small business owner, she understands the challenges in rural Utah. She said she would work at the state level to make the state more business-friendly. She would also propose legislation to fund grant-writing teams to seek creative funding for rural projects.

Concerning the lawsuits over roads, Markham said she was in favor of all of us having access. “I do believe that they’ve wasted a lot of money in Kane County over them. The few roads they’ve gotten access to, they would’ve had already. I don’t think indebting taxpayers is the answer. We need to find ways to work things out at the table versus the courtroom.”

As noted previously, Noel feels passionately about the roads issue! “You don’t get the Governor and Legislature to commit millions for no reason,” he stressed, alluding to funds committed and spent over roads litigation. “They are our roads! They’ve been our roads for many years. We don’t have to ask the Federal government for permission!”

Concerning stances on resource extraction, Noel said that as a former BLM employee he knows there are enough regulations there to protect the land. Where the state takes two to three months to approve projects, the Feds take two to three years. He ridiculed the Federal government’s nonsensical approach to some resource management, including the recent move toward releasing wolves on the Paunsaugunt. “We can’t even go in and cut down dead trees on Cedar Mountain!”

Markham feels natural resources in southern Utah are immense and should be taken advantage of when extraction can occur without affecting peoples’ lives. She questioned why there are no taxes on coal in Utah, as there are in other states. “We have to be vigilant to protect peoples’ health.”

Questioned about a vision for southern Utah 10 years from now, Markham listed clearing timber, diversified economy, enhanced educational opportunities, develop renewable resources (such as hydro, wind and solar and bio-diesel fuels), develop regional clusters, (historic, recreational, etc.), create food production cooperatives and develop global markets.

Noel hopes that economic conditions and job opportunities will allow for young families to return to the area. “I’ve helped create jobs in this area.” To this end, he cited his own record with helping get the jail here. He wants resource development. “I want to see the roads open, our own law enforcement...not unelected Federal bureaucrats calling the shots. We need to be in control of our own destiny!”

Questions submitted by the audience included one regarding the open records GRAMA act that caused so much controversy two sessions ago. Markham said that leaders are accountable to the people who elected them. “My feeling is if this is a true Democracy, government must be honest, open and transparent.”

Noel, who was a part of the Legislature when the GRAMA bill was introduced, explained why he voted in favor of the open records bill’s scope being reduced. (It was subsequently overturned.) “The way the law is written now, a personal message can become public,” said Noel. He bemoaned fishing expeditions and blanket requests threaten individual privacy, as well as being costly for counties. “There is open transparency in government,” avowed Noel.

When asked about tourism and natural resource-based markets, Noel said tourism is huge, but bemoaned the lack of balance between the two. “When we close down a road, that shuts down access!” He criticized the GSENM in this regard. “We’ve got to live, (and do business) here.”

Markham cited the large revenues that tourism, recreation and hospitality bring to the area. “We need to protect our lands, but also have access. Do we want to spend millions fighting those battles with the Federal government? We do not have to have enemies everywhere we look! We need to develop a chorus of solutions, instead of one drumbeat.”

The question of using a portion of sales tax revenue to fund the Lake Powell Pipeline brought very different opinions from the two candidates.

“We have to do something to fund those water projects,” said Noel. He stressed it is important in preparation for the future, especially since Utah is one of the fastest growing states. “We need to set aside a small portion of future revenue for water. It’s our water, it’s our heritage.”

Markham disagreed. “I have issues with the Lake Powell Pipeline and its costs,” said Markham. She said that Utah’s population growth is slowing. “There are way too many unanswered questions, and wanted to know why Iron County pulled out!”

Concerning what to do when resources are gone, Markham said that while we can and should benefit from oil, gas and coal, we also need to develop renewable resources. “We need to become self-sufficient.”

Noel repeated his mantra that the Federal government should stay out. “If we did have more control over our resources, we could control our own destiny.”

The issue of how the economy would be affected without Federal government employees was questioned. Noel discussed underground bureaucrats, and mentioned he thought many Federal employees were paid over $100,000.

Markham said that we all must work together, “We need to work with the Federal government.”

On the Jackson Flat Reservoir project, Markham admitted not knowing much about it.

Noel, who has headed the project, along with the KCWCD board, said they began filling the reservoir about two weeks ago. “The reservoir is finished, and water is going into it. In about three months, it’d be half full, if we weren’t in a drought situation.”

Concerning term limits, Noel said that in general, it costs you money to be in the Legislature. He brought a laugh when he said it took at least a year to find out where the restrooms are (in the Capitol). “I think term limits are, if the people want me out, they’ll vote me out.”

Markham said that she is not in favor of career politicians.