Air quality should be a top priority in the legislative sessions

pollution-cartoon-(1) Colby Patterson
Arash Tadjiki

Arash Tadjiki

The Republican Party of Utah has a fairly clear, concise and quite good-sounding platform which it ratified in 2009. It declares that the function of government is “not to grant rights, but to protect the unalienable, God-given rights of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.” Pretty standard American political boilerplate stuff right there if we are being honest. But there’s a reason it is the standard message in this country. Even if you don’t believe in God, the statement comes down to a simple, open and accepting message. So I call on the Republican party to stand by the message which they have adopted in their party platform, and to work for the benefit and well-being of all Utah citizens who they represent. Not just in the issue of marriage equality, but also in air quality.

Utah Republicans have done a laudatory job in many areas which they note in their platform. On Ethics and Standards, they declare that they will work to “expose and stop corruption,” and with other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they have dedicated time and treasure to the investigation into John Swallow. The Utah government has repeatedly defended the right of citizens to bear arms for “security and defense of self, family, others, property…” and just in this session, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, has announced three bills with the Sutherland Institute which they have stated “will protect Utahns’ religious freedom” according to the Tribune, another right which the Republican Party Platform supports.

However, while they have worked hard to support these ideals, some actions by Republican lawmakers have seemed questionable in their dedication to the support of the happiness and property of many Utahns. Not to beat a dead horse, but the current issue of same-sex marriage comes to mind. This is a complicated issue, and conflicts with the Republican party’s affirmation to respect “the traditional family,” as well as their commitment to the Constitution of Utah. But it does have a strong effect on many Utahns, and lawmakers ought to remember that as they deliberate and wait for a final ruling on the case.

Utah — particularly the Salt Lake Valley area — also faces a scourge in the form of terrible air quality. There are many contributing factors but everyone from private citizen to the largest corporation should work to lessen our impact. Some advice the director of the Utah Division of Air Quality gave back in March was to focus on “driving less, driving smarter, making sure we’re using the transportation system as best we can” according to Radio West. But as Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City has noted, bus services have been cut, which are the “bread and butter of the transit system.” Republicans such as Rep. Jack Draxler from Logan and Rep. Lowry Snow of St. George are members of the Clean Air Caucus, a group which is dedicated to pushing through bills to help ameliorate the deplorable air quality situation. All Republican and non-Republican lawmakers alike need to come together and allow state organizations and citizens more freedom to both regulate air quality and to fund public transit systems for our state. If the Republican party wants to help the life, liberty and happiness of Utahns, they can start with our air quality.