Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Is tearing down the prison and relocating worth the cost?

Published: Sunday, Jan. 12 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Webb: I can lay awake at night worried about plenty of things (especially going bald and global warming!), but NSA spying is not one of them. Terrorist attacks are a much bigger threat than NSA compiling billions of records showing that one phone number called another phone number. The numbers become relevant only if national security personnel are tracking a terrorist and want to know who he called. The right-wing/left-wing outrage is all out of proportion. Where’s the damage? Who’s been hurt? Let’s worry about things that actually hurt people — cancer, auto crashes, homelessness, poverty, even lightning strikes and avalanches (and going bald and global warming!). Agonizing over NSA is a waste of perfectly good angst. If the feds want to hurt me they have far easier methods than NSA data. They have the Internal Rvenue Service, drones sporting Hellfire missiles, and Obamacare. Don’t be a sucker for the “sky is falling” cottage industry. By the way, Edward Snowden is a traitor, not a hero.

Air quality will be one of the major issues in the upcoming Legislature. Can Utah’s 104 lawmakers clean up Utah’s air?

Pignanelli: This question always leads to the traditional snark that if legislators would limit speechifying then the air would be dramatically clearer. Our representatives have limited but important options including moving more government fleets and operations to natural gas and increased telecommuting. The uncomfortable fact is that air quality is dependent on lifestyle choices Utahns make in business and personal activities.

Webb: Lawmakers will do a number of meaningful things, but one easy, simple and substantive step would be to give local governments a tool to expand and improve public transit if they and their voters wish to do so.

Some 57 percent of pollutants trapped in inversions are caused by automobiles. Many local governments wish to make public transit service more convenient and frequent to reduce auto pollution and congestion. But the Legislature needs to lift the cap on transit funding so county governments can place transit funding proposals on the ballot if they so desire. Giving local governments this tool isn’t a tax increase, or even authorizing a tax increase. But if local leaders wish to improve convenience and frequency of buses and trains, it would give them the ability to ask voters if they agree. A simple, painless step toward better air quality. What’s not to like?

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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