Utahns say air quality, job availability important factors in quality of life

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19 2013 5:10 p.m. MST

However, last winter was also one of the more difficult as far as air quality goes, with more than 40 days of inversion, according to Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake City mayor and executive director of the Utah Clean Air partnership.

"If we cut industry altogether, it only eliminates 11 percent of our air pollution," Wilson told a group gathered Tuesday for a lunch discussion about quality of life issues. "It's us. We're driving cars. We're using propellants and aerosol cans for hairspray and other products. We're doing a lot of things we can control."

To fix air quality issues in Utah, Utahns need "to care" and to have a plan and stick to it, he said.

Riding to work using the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX system, Wilson said, "is not only for better air, but it has outstanding people-watching."

Wilson said it takes him about 10 minutes longer to ride his bike to the nearest TRAX station and commute by rail than it takes to get to work by vehicle.

"Our stake is deep. It is personal. It is you and me and the family. It is our community. It's our culture at stake," he said.

The Utah Foundation report includes jobs and air quality in its six "action items," as they were ranked in high importance, but quality is lower than expected. Others action items include public education, acceptances of one another's differences, and water quality.

"Education is the building block for most of these quality indicators," said Richard Kendell, former teacher and state commissioner of higher education and current interim president at Southern Utah University.

Kendell said education issues, including illiteracy in the state, can be remedied.

"We have to start earlier with many children," he said Tuesday. "Getting young people off to a good start makes the whole system work better."

Five factors were rated above average in both importance and quality, making them stand out as Utah successes. According to the report, those factors include higher education, availability of quality health care, level of support and help provided by people, good parks and recreation areas, and safety and security from crime.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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