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Friend: Legislators need to listen to their constituents

By Daniel Friend - | Oct 17, 2018

As I speak with constituents on the campaign trail, I often ask them, “When was the last time a candidate knocked on your door?”

Their most common answer? “Never.”

Occasionally someone will mention a mayoral or city council candidate coming by.

I can count on one hand the number of people who’ve told me they’ve had a candidate for the Utah legislature visit them. And I’ve personally contacted more than 2,400 of them so far this year.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m saddened when I hear this, but I’m no longer surprised. It should be obvious to anyone who follows Utah politics that our Republican supermajority legislature stopped listening to constituents long ago.

That’s why we have three ballot initiatives going before voters this election (and we almost had four). On issues from gerrymandering to healthcare to medical cannabis, the people of Utah have been ignored by the legislature to the point where they’ve had to take matters into their own hands to pass the laws they want in our state.

This is not how it should be. Legislators should be actively seeking input from their constituents. That’s why I ask almost everyone I meet, “What would you like to see Utah do better?”

The answers are telling. Constituents in south Provo and north Springville want better schools and higher teacher pay. They want cleaner air and quicker road construction. Tenants want fair treatment from their landlords.

All of these issues should rightfully be addressed by our state legislature, but they have been neglected for years. Utah is dead last among the states in per-pupil education spending. Our teachers aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. Utah County’s air quality is often worse than Los Angeles’. And renters are abused too often to count.

The state legislature has the power to fix these things, but they haven’t. Instead, they’d rather spend the people’s time and tax dollars tinkering with the blood alcohol level or creating the most opaque inland port authority possible.

We deserve better.

To get it, we have to jettison the old tradition of voting straight-ticket Republican. We have to evaluate all the candidates for an office based not just on their positions and temperament, but on how hard they will work to represent our families and our community.

There’s nothing wrong with a Republican winning an election, but Republican candidates should have to put forth enough effort to truly earn that win. And so should a Democrat, or a member of any other party.

When I speak with constituents at the door, I promise them that if they decide to send me to the legislature, they’ll see me again. I’ll be back at their door before the next election, asking them how I’ve done and what they want the state legislature to do next. This is how representative government should work. This is how it can work again, if we will elect legislators who listen to constituents first and foremost.

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