Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Any chance of action on immigration reform in the near future?

Published: Sunday, Nov. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Halloween is over, but politics is still scary: Many Utah leaders are still pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Any chance of action in the near future?

Mike Terry, Deseret News

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Halloween is over, but politics is still scary. Some current issues:

Many Utah leaders are still pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Any chance of action in the near future?

Pignanelli: "Action is the real measure of intelligence.”Napoleon Hill.

Immigration reform is the test of intelligence or stupidity for federal lawmakers. After the turmoil of the recent government shutdown, the answer is obvious to everyone outside the Potomac Beltway. Democrats need to concede some entitlement reform in exchange for GOP support of strong immigration legislation. This is a win-win for partisans and a bigger victory for the country. I hope such a pragmatic solution will be obtained in 2014. (With similar gullibility, I also believe the Utes will receive a bowl bid.)

Webb: It is insane that we can’t get this done. It would be a great economic boost for the country and morally the right thing to do. Washington dysfunction is getting way past the point where it is an interesting curiosity. Every American is being hurt and jobs and the economy are suffering — all because neither side will budge from its rigid ideology.

President Obama is beset by problems on all sides. Is he going to accomplish anything in his second term?

Pignanelli: The political left is launching the harshest artillery of criticism against Obama with observations that he is aloof and unwilling to engage with Congress and the public. This approach must be altered to build a legacy beyond Obamacare — the expected benefits of which will not bear fruit for some years. In the wake of the budget shutdown, he has the opportunity to develop a deal with Republicans to secure budget restraints along with immigration reform. But as even his greatest defender — the New York Times — notes, he must stop lecturing and start deal making.

Webb: The Obama administration has proven conclusively that the federal government is too big, too unwieldy, too expensive and too onerous. We need balanced federalism in this country, with many current federal programs devolved to the states — with accompanying revenue. Every president seems to fail, in part because their job description is too large. Obama wants to take care of us from cradle to grave instead of doing well the limited things the federal government should be doing.

The Deseret News now controls the assets, and receives 70 percent of the revenue, of MediaOne, which sells advertising and prints and distributes the printed editions of the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune. Any ramifications for political coverage in Utah?

Pignanelli: As a custodian/security guard embedded in the bowels of the predecessor to MediaOne (Newspaper Agency Corp), I witnessed two rival newspapers, with vastly different cultures, wage a war of words that were printed on the same press. (Yeah, 35 years ago I was proficient at cleaning up the messes of others, and I now excel at creating my own.) Competing publications throughout the country had similar arrangements and were instrumental in the financial success of the 20th century news industry. These joint operating agreements are now being altered to reflect 21st-century realities.

Malcontent residents are griping the change to MediaOne will give the Deseret News' corporate parents additional influence over the Tribune. This is nonsense. The change to the operating agreements secures complete independence of the Tribune website (not that any control was exercised against it before) and allows both papers to pursue different digital strategies.

Political coverage continues to change and evolve. Although fewer reporters exist, there are more eyes watching government activities through the Internet. True journalists will have contacts in the various watchdog organizations and can write compelling stories that appeal to readers as customers.

Webb: When I worked for the Deseret News many years ago, the Tribune was dominant with double the circulation of the afternoon Deseret News. LDS Church ownership of the News was considered by many people to be a liability. But both papers were profitable and newspaper executives were happy.

Today, the Internet and digital age have ravaged the news business, but have given the Deseret News a great new opportunity that it is smartly exploiting. Now, through digital means, the newspaper can serve the international membership of the LDS Church and people worldwide who hold similar values. It’s a big audience, and through audience and market research the newspaper has learned what news and information this audience wants. Thus, the websites of the Deseret News and KSL radio/television have exploded, reaching enormous audiences, and the print editions have caught up and surpassed the Tribune.

The Tribune is owned by a New York-based hedge fund and is left serving a dwindling print newspaper readership in Utah, although its digital audience is growing.

I am an old guy who likes hard news. My generation of newspaper readers is dying out. Utah is best served by having two good, competitive newspapers. That’s what we have currently, and I trust it will continue.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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