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I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with members and leaders of Utah’s minority community. They represent Latino, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern cultures.
Some have worn the uniform of the U.S. military. Others have left their homelands seeking a better life. Some are second or third generation Utahns. They are political candidates, business owners, and community visionaries.
Minorities now make up 20% of Utah’s population – more than a half million people. Four out of 10 new Utahns, either through birth or immigration, belong to a minority.
This is the new face of Utah and I’m proud to call them my friends and to describe what I would do as Governor to ensure they have the right opportunities to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
There are many ways we can show our respect for the contributions they are making to Utah.
First and foremost we must see them as fellow citizens, neighbor and friends – be inclusive not exclusive. Over the past three decades, I have worked alongside many from Utah’s minority community in both my business, military and political life. I have been enriched by the beauty of their culture, their hard work, love of family and their desire to make Utah a really great state.
I support the Utah Compact and have signed it. As Governor I will also oppose legislation that runs contrary to the Compact.
This distinguishes me from my opponent Gov. Gary Herbert, who disclosed during a Gubernatorial forum at the Salt Lake Chamber last week he did not sign the Compact. When asked if he would veto legislation inconsistent with the Compact he did not answer the question directly, saying he preferred not to speculate.
The signers of the Compact included mayors of major cities and Salt Lake County, the state’s AG, two former Republican governors, former U. S. Senator Jake Garn, members of the Episcopalian, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the United Way, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, the publishers of the state’s two largest newspaper, and a host of other civic groups and citizens. The LDS Church did not sign it but issued a “statement of support” calling the compact “a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform.”
As The New York Times expressed in an editorial, it would be hard to find “a clearer expression of good sense and sanity.” I agree. It is pro-family, pro-business and explains the proper role of law enforcement. It states that a free society must adopt a humane approach to immigration with a spirit of inclusion. And ends with the statement that “Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.”
Under my administration I will take an approach toward immigration perfectly expressed by the Compact, one that “reaffirms our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.”
I would strongly urge any citizen in Utah who feels as I do to go online and sign it.
The State Office of Ethnic Affairs
I will restore the State Office of Ethnic Affairs which was eliminated in 2011 and replaced with a voluntary board. The Office of Ethnic Affairs is not just a symbolic recognition of the growth and vitality of Utah’s minority population. It should be a place where those in Utah’s minority communities feel they have a voice in shaping policies that serve and impact them.
The office was originally created in 1972, during Gov. Cal Rampton’s administration. I’m so proud to have his son, Vince, as my running mate. That vision and spirit of inclusion started by Cal Rampton will also be a hallmark of my organization. Over the years, Governors of both parties have shown a keen interest in listening to and advocating for Utah minorities.
During the time I served as Director of Economic Development in Utah the minority division was assigned to my office. I saw first-hand the entrepreneurial spirit that is such a vibrant part of Utah’s ethnic and racial groups. I also saw real problems that they encountered in health care, education and housing. A new generation is encountering some of those same issues — especially in health care and education — and we must as a state give our best effort to solve them.
Sadly, the close bond that should exist between the minority communities and Utah Governor’s has been broken. And not just symbolically – with the elimination of the Office of Ethnic Affairs – but from a lack of meaningful contact between Utah’s minorities and the state’s chief executive.
The word within the minority community is that they are no longer a priority to the decision-makers at the top. Legislative leaders say they eliminated the Ethnic Affairs Office to save money in the state budget – about $750,000. But why is it that the poor and minorities are the first to bear the burden of budget cuts and austerity measures in this state?
The Office of Ethnic Affairs is a bridge bringing government closer to the people it must serve. By eliminating the office, the governor and the state legislature sent the wrong message to the minority community — a message that they are less valued.
At the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce Gubernatorial forum last week Governor Herbert said the Office of Ethnic Affairs was closed because “it took away people getting paid and not doing work.” He went on to say that he’s “not into hyphenated names.”
Such comments are highly insensitive, inconsiderate and represent a certain callousness toward Utah’s ethnic and minority community. They should never be uttered by a Governor of the state of Utah. For the record, I’m in favor of hyphenated names, Cooke-Rampton.
Greater Minority Representation in my Administration
I will openly encourage and appoint qualified members of the minority community to be represented on state boards and commissions and to take leading roles in my administration. I will also encourage their participation in the political process at the grassroots or local levels.
Leaders in the minority community have told me that recent immigrants are often taught to fear government in their home country so when they resettle in the United States they bring those same fears with them. We want all our citizens to be law-abiding , but we also want them to feel that they are part of the political mainstream, not the fringes.
When people feel empowered and listened to, potential problems and misunderstandings can be avoided.
Utah has not seen the kind of hatred and intolerance that is often reported in other states and communities and we want to keep it that way. Young people need mentors, advisors and guides. What better example can we set for them then to see representatives from their own culture in places of power, influence and leadership. I will do that.
I am keenly aware that our public school system is not adequately serving some segments of the minority community.
For example, 21.6 percent of our high school students don’t graduate or don’t complete enough credits in their four years to earn a diploma. About 50% of these students are Latinos. This trend must stop. This is a tragic loss of talent and promise and has the effect of keeping these students from achieving their greatest potential.
We need to encourage more programs like “Latino in Action” which serves 54 Utah schools including Granger and Kearns High Schools. This program encourages Latino students to utilize their language skills in supporting their schools and communities. Once a week these students travel to an elementary school and sit alongside students to work on math problems and word pronunciation. One Kearns High School group has logged 500 hours of community service outside of high school service. The best news of all is that seniors in the “Latino in Action” program graduating at a 100% graduation rate and have an 85% college entry rate.
The Utah Hispanic Business Leadership Foundation and the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are also leading the way by creating sustainable scholarships for Utah Latino students and adults.
Energize the Minority Business Outreach
Small businesses are the engine of Utah’s economy. Ninety-seven percent of all employers in the state are small businesses and half of private sector jobs are generated by small businesses.
It is a fact that Hispanic-owned businesses launch at twice the rate of the national average. Yet, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, these enterprises tend to remain small and have fewer people on their payrolls, partly because it’s hard for them to obtain commercial bank loans.
In Utah, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses jumped 78 percent between 2002 and 2007. And just like national trends, many Utah Hispanics own small businesses or are self-employed.
I have served on the National Board of Directors for the Small Business Administration and want to make sure that our minority communities are getting every benefit from the SBA’s innovative loan and financial aid programs.
I want the minority community to see Utah as a land of economic opportunity. As such, we need to make sure that unnecessary barriers are removed and doors are opened so all who have entrepreneurial dreams can flourish.
I want to rebuild trust and strong relationships with the minority community in Utah. They will know under my administration that the Governor’s office has a real and sincere interest in their wellbeing.
I want to ensure that the minority community is getting proper access to health care, education and housing so they can build a better future for themselves, their families and children.