Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Political pioneers, then and now, deserve thank

Published: Sunday, July 30 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

In the late 1980s, few recognized (including this obnoxious lawmaker) the leadership qualities of Gov. Norman Bangerter. Ignoring favorability ratings, Bangerter made tough and unpopular decisions. He worked tirelessly to persuade GOP legislators to set aside their normal inclinations and help him expand the tax base to maintain education and government services.

Democratic Rep. Kurt Oscarson was a charter member of the Sports Authority Board. Long before the "IOC bribery" controversy, Oscarson was relentless in his questioning of public funding for Olympic sites. tah's taxpayers still enjoy the protective measures that Oscarson pushed in the Legislature.

During the 1970s, John Florez and Alex Hurtado were political activists of Mexican-American descent who openly proclaimed the Republican Party was more in line with Latino ideals than the Democrats. Their "betrayal" generated outrage, especially when they hitched their wagon to Orrin Hatch and Ronald Reagan. However, their actions now provide bipartisan political opportunities to today's Latinos.

Twenty years ago, David Nelson was one of the few Utah voices demanding basic rights for gay and lesbian citizens. Aggressive in promoting antidiscrimination measures, he assisted in passage of the first hate-crimes legislation. Although Nelson frequently generated disagreement among supporters (including me), no one can dispute the courage he exhibited in the early years of this movement.

Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. He now is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. A former candidate for Salt Lake mayor, he served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. Pignanelli's spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a Utah state tax commissioner. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.

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