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The City Journals

Lt. Gov. Cox answers questions, listens to students’ concerns

Jun 18, 2018 02:18PM ● By Julie Slama

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox talks to Bingham High government and political science students on subjects from suicide to school safety. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

“Most of you don’t know what a lieutenant governor does; to be honest, I’m still figuring it out after four years,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox joked with Bingham High government and political science students. “It’s not a job I ran for but was asked to do.” 

With making the students comfortable, Cox then detailed how he is trying to encourage more Utahns to become involved and vote in upcoming elections. 

“Why are voters apathetic?” he asked students, then pointed out that many of them will be 18 in November so they can register and vote. “If it were more competitive, then it would matter. However, in our state, most voters believe Republicans will win, and it’s those who speak out, are the ones that we listen to. You can really make a difference and change things with your voice.” 

Cox, who didn’t intend to become a politician, said “too many people get into office and can’t see that they need to solve the problems and leave. Instead, they focus on the one thing that matters: getting re-elected.” 

When students posed Cox the question whether he will run as governor, he responded, “My wife and I are thinking about it.” 

He credited her with helping him to decide to accept the lieutenant governor position. 

“She told me, ‘You can never complain about a politician again if you’re not willing to commit to making a difference yourself,’” Cox said. “So I cut my pay, changed my commute from two miles every day to 200, and have had time away from my family, but it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Everyone has a duty to give back, to make things better.” 

Cox said Utah is the fastest growing state in the country. 

“We usually are the No. 1 birth rate — your parents are all involved in that — and No. 9 in immigration. People want to live here for our strong economy and our beautiful place with five national parks and skiing. But we need to look at transportation and education and the fact that Utah is the second-driest state,” he said. 

With education, Cox said every year lawmakers “pass 100 bills on education that don’t go into effect until May, so they’re not implemented until fall and by January, they’re already working on the next 80 to 100, so they have no way of realizing if they’re effective.” 

By volunteering in schools and understanding issues better, state legislature could make a bigger impact, he said.

Cox also pointed out that is where students, who are the experts in knowing what is needed in schools, could have their voice by expressing it to their state leaders. 

With air quality, he pointed out that the air is “much cleaner than it was 10 years ago.”

“We have made huge strides and have become hyper-aware of the dangers of bad air,” Cox said. “We can’t change the inversion since we have mountains on both sides, but still the biggest place bad air comes from is cars and trucks. If we introduce all-new cars with tier-three engines and use tier-three gasoline, we’d make huge strides in our pollution reduction.”

His vision for 20 years down the road: no car owners.

“We’d ride share everything, and a solar or electronic car would pull up in front of your house and for $1, you’d get to where you’re going with the option of picking up another two people on your way,” Cox said. “Cars can talk to each other; it’s in our technology to do it, we just need to test it.” 

On a more personal issue, Cox told students to look around and realize that many of their classmates in the room had contemplated suicide. 

“Sometimes, life sucks,” he said. “It does for me and can for you with pressures of homework, getting good test scores and a million other things going on. Many people who think of suicide think they are not alone. You are not alone, and it does get better. There is always someone you know, a trusted friend, a teacher and administrator, who really cares about you. I’m available; you can find me on twitter, Facebook or email. I’ll listen and able to help.”

He also directed students to the statewide SafeUT electronic device app, which provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program. 

“We need to talk about mental health and not have it be a subject to hide anymore,” he said. “We have 3 million people who care, and if we all showed that, we could make a world of difference here in Utah.” 

Advanced Placement U.S. government teacher Carol Shackelford said she hoped the engaging conversation would get students excited about their future. 

“I hope they can see how they can be knowledgeable about issues and influential by using their voice and voting,” she said.

Senior Turner Buschell admitted he didn’t know who Cox was beforehand but appreciated what he shared with students.

“He answered our questions on bills about inland ports and clean air, to suicide and school safety and made sure we knew we could vote,” he said. “I’m intrigued about (some issues) and will read more so I can learn about them. I’ll probably talk to my senator to learn more.”