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Playing Politics 

The liberal-conservative divide, suspicious donations and political accountability.

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Politics Aside
Outdoor Retailer would prefer to be in a state that's less conservative than Utah. That's what Gov. Gary Herbert said, apparently missing the message. Even right-wing conservatives acknowledge that it's more complicated than that. It's rural, urban, liberal, conservative, environmentalist and, yes, economic. "You've got multiple corners that you have to try to square," Prof. Eric Herzik, political science department chair at University of Nevada, Reno, told NPR. Highlighting the complexities, a recent piece by The Wall Street Journal said profits from recreation drive politics. Those profits come from taxpayer subsidies, which apparently don't support enough federal-land maintenance. It's probably folly to think the state could handle that maintenance—or protect federal lands. But the issue is not a simple liberal-conservative divide.

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Strings Attached
Royce Van Tassell is right. "The interplay between competing philosophies helps students and faculty understand the world, challenge their own biases and expose the limits of their prescriptions," he wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune. But is that possible if a donation comes with considerable, albeit subtle, strings? That's the question surrounding $10 million that the Charles Koch Foundation donated to the University of Utah. The U has long been seen as a liberal hub of thought, underlined by this jubilation from the Deseret News: "For the better part of a century, Castro's Cuba and the University of Utah's economics department seemed like the last bastions of Marxist thought in North America—with the latter being subsidized by local tax dollars." The Los Angeles Times questioned that assertion and documented how similar donations fared at other universities. The Guardian called it "totalitarian capitalism." And it's coming to the U.

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Political Accountability
It's what voters have been saying for years: Why in the world would you vote for someone who does purely functionary work? The story of former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott brought that to light, and now Mayor Ben McAdams suggests we eliminate that elective office. Not so fast, Deseret News' Jay Evensen retorts, calling it an overreaction to the sad story. Of course, leaders should be accountable to voters, but those leaders should require political accountability and not a simple profit-loss statement. The debate should continue, not just for Ott's position, but also for assessor and surveyor. Voters surely can make their wishes known in elections for mayor and council members.


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About The Author

Katharine Biele

Katharine Biele

Bio:
A City Weekly contributor since 1992, Biele is the informed voice behind our Hits & Misses and Citizen Revolt columns. When not writing, you can catch her working to empower voters and defend democracy alongside the League of Women Voters.

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