“If we are going to change the world, we must learn to be better.” Governor Spencer Cox told an assembly of Kanab High School Students at an assembly on Monday, May 8. “We must learn to disagree better - disagreement is good. Hating each other isn’t.”
Left to right:
Governor Cox took time to shake hands with many of the students and staff, and answered many of their questions one-on-one. Photos by Ty Gant.
The Governor chose to have his visit to Kane County occur at Kanab High School, so he could address the next generation.
According to the Governor’s office, he has made it a goal to visit all 29 counties in the state of Utah, and his tour through a few locations in Kane County comes during the ending phase of that journey. In his opening address, Governor Cox spoke on themes of hope, optimism, how the decision makers of the past were not helpless and how we and the decision makers of today are not helpless. With the tone and theme of the assembly set, a panel of students were invited up to the stage to sit with the Governor and ask questions - five students joined the Governor on stage and their Q&A started:
Q: “With the record snowfall this season, what preparations are being made for flooding?”
A: “There is some flooding right now, and there’s probably more to come. We’ve allotted five million dollars to flood prevention across the state; we’re distributing sandbags, we’re clearing riverbeds and improving ditches and culverts so the water flows better.”
Q: “What is your stance on funding for private education?”
A: “I believe we have a duty to help educate all children regardless of where they go, but that should be limited; most of our public funding should go to public schools. A fairly small amount of funding is going to provide choice to people, but my job is to make sure our public schools are the best in the country.”
Q: “What do you think about TikTok and its effects? Should it be banned?”
A: “I’m worried about all social media, but there’s a few ways TikTok is especially dangerous. I’ve banned it on all state devices - the Chinese government has a hand in it and is actively harvesting your date for their use. We’ve passed bills regulating social media … we’re not trying to ban all social media, just make it safer and more healthy.”
Q: “How much does Utah have in its rainy day fund, and when is enough enough and time to give back to taxpayers?”
A: “We have about 1.3 billion, and I believe now is the time to start giving back to taxpayers; we’re already putting tax cuts into effect. In the state of Utah, we’re very careful with how we spend our money … and that’s given us that rainy day fund.”
Q: “What are your views on gun rights, and what can we do to protect our schools?”
A: “I’m a firm believer in the second amendment and our right to bear arms. We also need to keep our students safe - we just passed the most comprehensive school safety bill we’ve ever passed in Utah. We’ve put together a new commission for best practices. We have 70 million in new funding to implement safety measures. Another thing we have that no other state has is the SafeUT app, I hope you all have it. It was originally designed for mental health crises … but now you can get on there and anonymously contact public safety officials too. We have prevented serious tragedies in this state because someone saw something that worried them and they spoke up.”
With the student panel’s questions concluded, Governor Cox took the opportunity to ask the students a few questions in return, asking their feelings on school, on the future and what it holds and their opinion on the nation as a whole. Once the students were applauded and they took their seats back in the crowd, the Governor concluded his address by speaking on citizens of the US’ opinion of the nation and its status; he cited a survey that asked people to describe the US in a word, and the majority replied “divided.” He described his hope for the future, and stated that if we the people want to change the world for the better, we must learn to “disagree better,” to learn to compromise and come to understand opposing views without turning to hate or attacks. “That’s not how we work,” said Cox. “When someone comes after you calling you stupid and attacking you, you’re not going to change your mind - you get defensive.”
Once the address finished, the students were given the chance to line up to shake Governor Cox’s hand and ask questions face to face - as well as to pose for a few photo ops. Following the students, few members of the general public took the same chance.
At the end of the public portion of the speech, the Governor allotted time specifically to be interviewed and answer the media’s questions - the Southern Utah News is grateful he kept to that promise, which, by dint of this reporter being the only media present, meant an exclusive interview.
While the Governor touched on many of the concerns common to the area - water use, housing and its availability and the job market - in his public address, he was able to answer some specifics:
Q: “Many of our readers have expressed concern on the outflow from Lake Powell; just when it seems like we’ve had a good water year to raise the levels, we are told more water is being diverted out. How do you answer those concerns?”
A: “Well, I definitely share those concerns. We have the Colorado River commission - we’ve never had a stronger voice as to what’s happening on the Colorado … but we’re one water area along a very long line of rivers and lakes. We’re happy when the people up the river send more to Lake Powell, but that means the people up at Flaming Gorge might have a little less. We’re frustrated when we lose water from Lake Powell, but the people down the line need consideration too … the good news is, it has been a great water year, we’re going to see improvement in the entire system.”
Q: “You’ve mentioned a lot of legislation that has been put into place this year, but administration takes time to work. When can we expect to see the effects of this legislative session?”
A: “Well, typically things take a scale of either a few months or a few years. Anything with a budget will start to go into effect after July 1, as the budget resolves. Some of the legislature institutes entire new programs and incentives that might take a few years to really start having a major effect … Much of our water conservation efforts will start working in July. We have new incentives for turf buyback, and we’re trying to replace grass that only ever gets mowed and looked at but never used for anything. We have 200 million dollars coming statewide for Agriculture Zoning upgrades, better equipment and more efficient methods to bring down water use and make agriculture more efficient. In the long term, we have the Great Salt Lake Commission and new water laws in the works.”
Q: “And the legislature and policies specific to the housing issue?”
A: “That’s more on the scale of a few years, but we will see it - it’s a matter of supply and demand. Demand is going way up, and naturally the prices will too until the supply adjusts, so we’re working on supply. This summer, in fact, we’re putting in a new incentive program that provides grants to new starter homes, on the condition that they’re new construction. We want to encourage starter homes and new families. Otherwise, many of these new projects take a few years to have a major effect, but we will see it happen.”
With that, Governor Cox’s visit was concluded - with just a few more counties on the agenda before the tour comes to an end.