CEDAR CITY – With mail-in balloting for the November general election already in progress, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City continues to advance detailed plans for Utah’s future.
During a Cedar City town hall meeting Thursday hosted by Southern Utah University, Peterson and running mate Karina Brown of Nibley announced an 11-point plan to facilitate growth in rural Utah.
“Chris and I want to protect hard-working folks and their families across Utah,” Brown said, explaining that their development plan is based on input from voters gathered while touring rural communities throughout the state.
“I’m proud to be a resident of Cache County and the wonderful community being built there,” the candidate for lieutenant governor added. “Providing opportunity for more rural growth is an issue I’m deeply passionate about. It’s been such a privilege to create this plan considering Utah’s 29 diverse counties.”
“This pandemic has shown the strength of Utahns and our communities,” Peterson emphasized, “but it’s also highlighted some of our weaknesses … Utah’s energy security, food security and economic security are directly tied to rural economic development. So Utah’s future depends on strong rural communities.”
The elements of the Democrats’ 11-point plan to facilitate rural growth include:
- Making broadband Internet access available throughout rural Utah to promote educational opportunities, healthcare options and business connections.
- Expanding access to affordable health care, including mental health treatment, throughout Utah by providing financial support to rural hospital and clinics as well as supporting tele-health programs.
- Creating a student loan forgiven programs for young would-be farmers and ranchers.
- Creating public-private meatpacking co-ops as an alternative to off-shore multi-national agribusinesses to protect the economic independence of rural Utahns.
- Expanding and nurturing Utah’s outdoor industries, including outdoor-oriented retailers, the tourism industry and federal/state land management efforts.
- Providing one-time tax credits to rural businesses that establish bona fide apprenticeship programs for youthful workers.
- Proposing legislation to create renewable-energy worker training grants and public financial support for green energy development.
- Proposing right-to-repair legislation to oppose anti-competitive practices by farm equipment manufacturers that require their machinery to be only repaired by authorized dealers at high costs.
- Fighting to increase Utah’s share of energy royalties and bring Payment in Lieu of Taxes from statewide real estate controlled by the federal government up to market values.
- Supporting Utah’s research universities to facilitate their efforts to lead innovation in information technology, bio-technology, aerospace research and the banking industry.
- Capping interest rates on payday loans and enhancing enforcement of existing laws prohibiting unconscionable lending, deceptive advertising and abusive loan terms.
The underdog Democratic candidates have been campaigning vigorously and publicly since early July.
By contrast, rival gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has apparently devoted the lion’s share of his attention since winning the GOP primary to the state’s seemingly failing efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The lieutenant governor’s public exposure since then has been largely limited to obligatory events like those recently hosted by the Utah Debate Commission and the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Peterson has meanwhile been a vocal critic of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, repeatedly calling for Gov. Gary Herbert and other state officials to demonstrate the political courage to impose a statewide mask mandate and other restrictive health precautions.
On Thursday, state officials reported 1,543 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, bring the number of Utahns who have succumbed to the coronavirus to 563.
More than a million Utahns have now been tested for the coronavirus and the rate of positive test results has been climbing steadily since early October.
“I don’t know what to do anymore,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn confessed as she announced those upward trending figures at a press conference on Thursday.
But Peterson responded to the skyrocketing statewide COVID-19 infection rates in early October with another 11-point plan to restore public health in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.