Cox gets a B after Covid and drought test first kid


Looking back on Wyoming Governor Spencer Cox’s first year in office sets the stage for the goals that lie ahead.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Governor Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference, December 16, 2021 at the Eccles Broadcasting Center in Salt Lake City.

When Governor Spencer Cox was asked recently to grade his first year in office, he gave a politically understandable, and perhaps not entirely wrong, answer: Incomplete.

That is a fair point. So much of 2021 has had to navigate one crisis after another – drought, fires and ongoing pandemics – that have derailed and overshadowed five new governors. military, even after the Legislature stripped him of most of his ability to respond beyond a series of negotiations with each other.

Cox told me last week: “If you go back and look at June and July, which is August, things have really started to turn and we are starting to work on it” on the agenda. of the government. “Then the delta wave hit and it felt like everything had to be put in the afterburner again.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

But an “incomplete” is too easy. Finally, the year is complete. So I decided to look back at Cox’s freshman year and assign scores in several key areas, as well as the measures by which he should be assessed next year. Here’s what I came up with.

Utah has suffered from drought for more than two decades, but it reached crisis point in 2020. While the governor’s tools were limited, Cox issued a ban on fireworks on state land and Reduce watering at state buildings.

At least as important, however, is how the governor is using his platform to drive conservation demand for homes – and it seems to have worked. Cox cites a 9% reduction in water consumption as evidence that we can change our behaviour.

The real test will come in 2022. Cox has proposed spending $500 million on water conservation and improvement projects, including $50 million to restore the disappearing Great Salt Lake. He will need to promote more efficient farming, phase out our green lawns, and change the way Utahns pay for water, so the real costs reflect the value of the scarce resource.

And finally, the state must get serious about addressing the underlying cause – climate change – as a problem Utah leaders are still reminding around.

From the outset, Utah’s vaccine rollout has been smooth and effective. Cases have dropped and life is somewhere close to normal again.

Then the legislature stripped of most of the governor’s emergency powers.

Instead of using his veto to try to stop the usurpation of power, he negotiated some concessions and relinquished his powers. When the deltaic expansion occurred, there were what he can do less than beg people to get vaccinated and wear masks.

It is difficult to predict what Covid will do in 2022. Hopefully the omicron wave will shorten, we will be spared new variations and life will return to normal. But if the wave drags on, the governor will be powerless to react.

One of the most important roles for the governor is to set the agenda and articulate the values ​​of the state. Cox did just that — whether it was condemning the January 6 uprising, rolling back laws targeting transgender children, or denouncing racist practices that arose in Utah schools.

That role will become even more important in 2022. On social media, Cox is genuine and speaks from the heart. The state needs that voice, and it needs that voice to push back against the worst trends in its party — like Republicans pushing to ban diversity in schools, undermining our elections or targeting targeting LGBTQ youth.

Even better, he can back up important words with specific actions.

In a state dominated by one party, it it is important that the governor acts as an examiner of the legislative branch. Cox’s record in that regard is mixed.

In his first State of the State speech, Cox told lawmakers he was willing to use his veto pen.

“I will veto some of your bills. Probably more than my predecessors. Please don’t take it personally,” he said. “You’re going to override some of those vetoes. I promise not to take that personally. It doesn’t mean I’m ugly or you’re weak. It is simply part of a process.”

He vetoed four bills, including one sponsored by his brother-in-law, Senator Mike McKell, but three others were insignificant.

And he let other laws become law, including losing the power to respond to the pandemic and approving redistricting maps that the Legislature passed, bypassing the independent committee approved by voters. . However, he is credited for threatening to veto bills targeting transgender athletes.

Cox is very popular in Utah and next year he should use that political capital to be more assertive and not let the Legislature push him.

I might be tougher on the governor not because of the challenges he faces with a new administration.

What does he need to do next year? I think he summed it up well when I asked him what he would consider a successful 2022.

“The big hope is that we will have significant legislative changes to water conservation measures, [continue to increase] Cox said. “The third is that we’re going to continue what we started, and that’s a big change in the way we’ve developed the economy in this state, with a greater focus on people and less incentives for everyone. Work. And I guess Wednesday will continue to see progress in rural Utah, in improving the rural economy. [areas and] opportunity for every Utahn. ”

It’s a to-do list. Let’s hope the administration has some breathing room it can provide. Cox gets a B after Covid and drought test first kid

Yasmin Harisha

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