GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he doesn’t defend President Donald Trump’s Tweet banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
And Herbert added: “People should be treated fairly, with equality for gay people” and transgender and so forth.
Herbert was speaking at his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference, where he said he’s willing to call a special session to get more money to fight lawlessness around Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood if that is needed.
Herbert touched on a number of issues in answers to reporters’ questions:
-- Utah State Highway Patrol troopers or other sworn public safety personnel may end up patrolling the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City, as part of Herbert’s renewed effort to end lawlessness in the streets around the homeless shelters.
Herbert reiterated some statements he made Wednesday after a unique, two-hour-long meeting with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, House Speaker Greg Hughes, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, Attorney General Sean Reyes, and others, over the lawlessness in the Rio Grande neighborhood.
In a matter of 18 hours this week, two men were killed in the area.
“This area has the highest rate crime rate in the state,” said Herbert, who named Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox as the “point man” on the homeless/lawlessness battle.
Herbert said in six months we will all see a remarkable change in the area – both in Pioneer Park and the homeless shelters – and that within a year “you will see me playing tennis” on the park’s courts.
When families with small children can walk those streets safely, and use the park, that will be proof that things have changed there, he added.
Herbert declined to put a price tag on what it will cost to clean up the area – but said the state, city, and county would spend what is necessary to see success.
And Herbert promised that success would come, and quickly – well before The Road Home, the large 1,100-bed shelter – closes by June 2019.
This past Monday Utah celebrated the July 24 annual anniversary of the Mormon pioneers coming into the valley – “To make the desert bloom like a rose.”
And, similarly, the Rio Grande area will “bloom like a rose” by next summer, Herbert promised.
Herbert said one solution to finding more jail beds for Rio Grande offenders may be to open up now-vacant quadrants of the Oxbow jail, run by Salt Lake County.
He also said the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams may be used to temporarily house some offenders.
An ongoing battle with former Democratic Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder led some GOP lawmakers to tell UtahPolicy.com they weren’t going to pay to open those now-closed Oxbow beds.
But Winder has resigned his post to become Moab police chief, and new opportunities now appear possible.
“We are going to do this,” said Herbert. “We are going to take back the streets” in that troubled neighborhood – where open drug use, open drug purchases, have plagued the area recently.
Current laws against vagrancy, public drunkenness, and trespassing will all be used to pick up troubled homeless folks and get them into addiction and mental health treatment if that is what they need.
“We have the political will to do this,” said the governor. “But there is no silver bullet solution.”
-- Herbert rattled off a long list of all the great things Utah has done in conservation and protection of public lands.
But the annual summer convention of the Outdoor Retailers starts this week – and it will be their last one in Salt Lake as organizers have decided to go to Denver from now on, angry with Utah GOP leaders’ actions on opposing the Bears Ears National Monument and other public land issues.
Herbert said “shrill” headlines in the news media didn’t help the state’s attempt to keep the OR here.
He said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative was very fair to conservationists, and perhaps tried to save too many acres from development – since Bishop wasn’t able to get it through the House last year.
-- While saying he doesn’t support it now (he wants to learn more about it), Herbert said it is “worthy of the discussion” over the idea of an independent redistricting commission.
A good-government group, headed in part by former Democratic lawmaker and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, is trying to get such a commission on the 2018 ballot via citizen initiative petition.
“I’m not prepared to say yet” whether he supports the initiative or not, said Herbert.
The initiative as it now stands would give the governor an appointment to the commission.
Many GOP legislators oppose such an idea, liking the power they have now to draw their own district boundaries and those of the Utah’s four U.S. House seats.