As the year following a big election begins, political expectations are high. In coming days, new politicians, swept to power with lofty promises of bipartisanship and a genuine spirit of problem-solving, will make solemn oaths before taking office, pledging fealty to the nation and its Constitution above all else.
Unfortunately, history holds that those promises collectively devolve into business-as-usual rather fast, especially as the political focus turns toward the next presidential election.
Therefore, a main editorial focus for us in 2019 will be to hold officeholders to the lofty rhetoric that got them to power — rhetoric essential to the integrity and trust voters demand.
In Washington, power will be divided, as Democrats take control of the House. For the first time in a while, Utah will send a Democrat, Ben McAdams, to sit in that body. His razor-thin margin of victory suggests a need to work across the aisle and to seek compromises, even as his voice as a part of the majority ought to bring attention to Utah’s unique needs.
A Rasmussen Reports survey last month found that 56 percent of likely voters in America still agree with President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 assessment that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” This follows an earlier poll that found only 10 percent believe government spends tax money wisely.
Entering the New Year with a partial government shutdown over a relatively small expenditure for a border wall does not suggest much reason for hope. We believe, however, that there is reason to expect members of Congress to look beyond political considerations and work toward lasting solutions that are in the nation’s best interest, and we plan to hold McAdams and the rest of Utah’s Washington delegation accountable for their actions.
The same holds true for those elected to state and local offices.
In Utah, 2019 will mark the scheduled openings of three new homeless shelters in Salt Lake County, each designed to house and treat different demographics. It also will mark the scheduled shuttering of the old Road Home shelter on Rio Grande Street in downtown Salt Lake City.
Some may see this as the culmination of several years of multi-jurisdictional planning and strategizing over solutions to a homeless problem that had devolved into an untenable, crime-ridden mess around the Road Home. Instead, it is but another step in a long process.
A lot of money — $100 million in 2017 alone — has been invested in this multi-shelter approach. Legislative auditors recently concluded there is little evidence, given the lack of definitive data, that any of this has reduced the number of homeless people in the state.
Meanwhile, closing the Road Home will leave the Wasatch Front with fewer overall beds to handle emergency shelter needs such as might be needed during a week like this, when temperatures are dangerously cold. Also, the Road Home recently was selected to run the new men’s shelter. We plan to monitor this closely to see if the organization can avoid the types of problems that have plagued its downtown shelter.
Politicians need to be nimble. They need to be unafraid to admit if plans aren’t working as expected and to change strategies.
The overriding goal always must be to provide genuine help to those who, for whatever reason, are destitute.
Likewise, the nation continues to grapple with how to treat asylum-seekers and others who would enter across the southern border. Here, as well, Americans cannot lose sight of the humanity involved; the real stories of families escaping danger and seeking hope in a prosperous nation.
The focus on possible criminal infiltration or the need for security cannot supersede this need to care for the least among us — many of whom come here in search of the same things that have motivated millions to come through many generations.
On Monday, Utah began enforcing a .05 blood-alcohol limit for drunken driving, the strictest in the nation, but certainly not in the world. As much as we support this change, keeping in mind the need for safer roads, we plan to urge officials to carefully track and monitor its effects. Only with reliable data can Utahns know whether the law should be tweaked or whether it is achieving its desired goals.7 comments on this story
The Deseret News editorial board has a proud tradition of sharing its areas of focus for the coming year each New Year's Day. Naturally, we intend to continue writing opinions on an endless variety of subjects during 2019. It is impossible to predict what will dominate public discourse as the year proceeds.
But these issues exemplify our overall focus on good governance, the plight of the poor and needy and public safety — needs that will drive much of our concerns, and we hope those of our readers, during the New Year.