Gov. Norm Bangerter lambasted Ted Wilson's economic development plan, standing in front of vacant store fronts Friday on Third South in downtown Salt Lake City and blaming Wilson, a former mayor, for the demise of the city's southern business district.
When Wilson detailed last week his nine-point plan for Utah, he said he ran the risk of criticism by being so specific. He was right.Bangerter said most of Wilson's plan is just a copy of what Bangerter already is doing as governor. The other parts of Wilson's economic development plan were "ridiculous," "ludicrous" or would actually harm Utah's economic future, the governor said.
It was Bangerter's hardest attack yet in the campaign.
The governor still trails Wilson by 10 points in polls. Although Wilson's support has been slipping, Bangerter's hasn't gained and the governor clearly needs to make an impact these final three weeks before the election if he hopes to win.
Bangerter released a comparison of what Wilson suggested and what Bangerter has done as governor. The governor said he's doing most of what Wilson suggested, although some comparisons were liberally made. For example, Wilson proposed holding monthly news conferences detailing success stories in Utah business. Bangerter said he's been doing that for four years, although the monthly meeting of the state's economic development committee is attended by few journalists and is rarely front-page news.
Said Bangerter: "Ted promises to establish regional economic development committees. We established them in 1985. Ted promises to establish revolving loan funds to help small businesses. With the assistance of state government, 17 local governments have already started such funds. I could go on and on. Ted, where have you been?"
The governor was especially critical of Wilson's idea - in an effort to improve Utah's national image - to give prizes to journalists who write the most pro-Utah articles in national publications. Bangerter said that would be bribing journalists and is a ridiculous idea. "I don't know how he can suggest that with a straight face," Bangerter said.
He again criticized Wilson for suggesting a state bond to "jump start" the economy. "Ted Wilson proposes doubling our debt. This will cost taxpayers $200 million in interest. It is a tax increase waiting to happen," Bangerter said.
He said a bond would harm, not help, Utah. "Utah's economy is growing at 4 percent a year the last four years, one of the best in the country. We're coming around. Ted promises to do what I've already done. Look at our records. Look at the vacant buildings in Salt Lake City and what I've done for Utah."
Bangerter said Third South used to be bustling with business. Now 12 of 15 stores are empty. "Everything has gone to the malls up north (the ZCMI and Crossroads malls)."
The governor decline to say that the malls shouldn't have been built, however. "Although Ted Wilson did give the building permits for the (Crossroads) mall." The governor said, "Ted doesn't have a record of economic development in Salt Lake City to be proud of."
But most of the Wilson's plan shouldn't be criticized, Bangerter added, because "it is part of the program I've been implementing the past four years."
Wilson's camp couldn't disagree more. Kathy Loveless is the staff person who has overseen Wilson's economic development package. "We held 25 meetings with Ted and the presidents and chief executive officers of Utah companies, most of whom are Republicans. These people are disgusted with the state's economic development. They say it's dead. They say they've been ignored, that they haven't had their phone calls to the governor's office returned. We took their ideas, molded them, and this is our plan.
"The fact that Norm Bangerter says he has already done what they suggest shows so clearly that he has failed. Our plan comes from the businessmen he was supposed to be trying to help," Loveless said.