The governor, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates and other officials are saying we must plan for growth — for a near doubling of Salt Lake County population in just 20 to 25 years. The message takes many forms: jobs depend on growth; economic viability depends on growth; we must have smart growth, sustainable growth, clean growth. We will plan for a better way to grow.

Wasatch Front air quality has already deteriorated and is a major health concern for those with asthma and other respiratory issues. A doubling of the population, a massive increase in Kennecott's operations and an expansion of the oil refineries will guarantee worse and even terrible air quality in the very near future. We already have trouble meeting EPA's minimal air quality standards. We will asphyxiate on our own growth.

Can't our leaders understand that growth is the problem? "Your problem is our solution," says an economic development professional in rural Utah. She wants some growth in her rural region. Why can't our increased population be in Delta, Grantsville, Beaver, Scipio or Cedar City? Why can't the communities along the I-15, I-70 and I-80 corridors be empowered to grow? Why does it all have to be in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties?

There are many wonderful small cities and towns throughout the state, and most of them would welcome some job and economic growth. Yes, there are infrastructure needs and issues. Yes, there are manpower and education/training needs and issues. Yes, there are financial and related needs and issues. But the main need and issue is leadership. There is an almost total lack of vision among our major elected officials — our so-called leaders.

If they can't get their heads out of the proverbial box, if they can't begin to look at problems and opportunities from new perspectives, then they should have the good sense to resign, or we need to un-elect them on Nov. 6.

Our collective health and happiness depend on looking at and planning for growth in very different ways. We need leaders who are not mired in antiquated assumptions and paradigms who can indeed confront real reality and think and act creatively.

Joe Andrade is an independent, unaffiliated candidate for Congress in Utah's newly redesigned District 2 (