Guest opinion: Difficult issues facing Utah require working together

Utah’s success is not guaranteed. Let’s resist the extreme partisan politics we see on a national level and come together as neighbors, friends and fellow citizens to shape our future. I am running to be the state representative for House District 40, which includes part of Millcreek, Sugarhouse and Holladay. My wife and I grew up in this district, we love it here. As a teacher and educational administrator, I have substantial experience working with people of all ages, genders and with diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. We can honor diversity and work together to ensure that we successfully meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

COVID-19 will continue to be a violent disruptor to our economy and state budgets. Leaders must listen, work with constituents, innovate, and promote safety while strengthening the economy so we can fund the things that matter. 

I am an advocate of quality public education and its priority in the state budget. Pressing educational issues include dealing with COVID-19, funding, tax reform, and improving education through innovation. We must ensure steady education funding and improve teacher compensation and resources. I have heard countless reports of teachers preparing their classrooms and providing needed materials at personal cost. This is a travesty! We can do better. We must do better. At the same time, I will work for greater transparency, so schools are accountable for the tax dollars they receive without undue administrative red tape. 

Poor air quality has negative effects on our physical and mental health. The legislature can incentivize clean air in many ways. I propose we adopt a Utah Hybrid Challenge. Let’s develop a low-cost framework to support purchasing hybrid or electric cars. Each upgrade could significantly lower the pollutants in our air. 

Additionally, some government agencies and private-sector companies can promote work-from-home opportunities. The pandemic has demonstrated great digital productivity. Tele-work can be a reasonable option for many. For some businesses, optional 4-day work weeks would reduce daily commute emissions. During the pandemic we witnessed dramatic improvement to air quality due to reduced auto emissions. Let’s apply what we have learned!

Our population is dramatically growing. The state legislature is a big-time player in preparing for this growth. It will either inhibit or facilitate commerce, infrastructure, green space, and general livability in our state. This preparation or lack of preparation will have a dramatic impact on our quality of life and culture. I believe local communities will have the best answers to these challenges and their input should inform legislative decisions about growth and development.

Every citizen’s quality of life will be impacted by our collective response to those that are less fortunate or vulnerable. These include those needing mental health care and the homeless. We need to come together, innovate and find solutions! We can increase access to mental health treatment. We can do better serving our homeless. Utah has wonderful resources from caring health professionals, churches, concerned citizens and the business community. I am certain that working together we can greatly improve access to quality mental health care and reduce homelessness.  

This is a remarkable year in so many ways. We are witnessing diverse and powerful voices coming together and calling for the eradication of racial inequality and prejudice. This is the great ideal that this country was founded upon. Tragically, it also divided our country with brother killing brother before a “new birth of freedom” was won. This is OUR time to ensure that we are “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all!” I stand for liberty, equality, and justice for all. I practice kindness, respect and inclusivity.

I approach this election as a citizen. I have never run for public office. I am a career teacher. Nevertheless, I am excited for this moment to facilitate unity, to come together and successfully meet our shared challenges. I pledge to listen, to work across the aisle, across supposed age or racial or gender lines, and develop partnerships to explore solutions, build consensus and succeed together.

Jeremiah Clark is the Republican candidate for Utah House District 40. His election opponent has been invited to submit a guest opinion.