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Read what key figures say ‘the Utah way’ is

Opinions vary from governors to lawmakers, lobbyists to business executives.

(Rick Bowmer | The Associated Press) Then-Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during the Utah Republican Party 2016 convention in Salt Lake City. Herbert coined the term "the Utah way."

The Salt Lake Tribune asked politically engaged Utahns to give us their definition of “the Utah way” and what issues they think could benefit from this attempt at solving problems.

Spencer Cox, Utah governor

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

“The Utah way is a mindset to think creatively about solutions to community problems and invite a wide range of parties to come to the table. The Utah way involves intense collaboration, real selflessness and a desire to find actual solutions as opposed to cheap political victories.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“We’ve invited the Biden administration to think differently than previous administrations about national monument designations and governance. We initiated meetings with Interior Secretary [Deb] Haaland, hiked with her in Bears Ears and asked for more local input on these decisions. We are also advocating for a legislative solution so these boundary issues aren’t perennial political footballs.”

Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County mayor

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson speaks during a news event at the Utah Capitol on Monday, March 15, 2021.

“I don’t believe ‘the Utah way’ has ever meant one thing. It means something different to each Utahn, because each has a different background and sees our state from a unique lens. I see our state and Salt Lake County changing in amazing ways. Our communities and neighborhoods are growing and changing, and all the while we are becoming more diverse and (hopefully) more welcoming. The Utah way has always meant that we are an inclusive community moving forward, and we work together to solve problems.”

Gayle Ruzicka, Utah Eagle Forum president

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gayle Ruzicka, political activist and leader of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, speaks in 2019.

“I believe the Utah way is Utah’s strong families who love and support one another, always giving service to each other. I also believe the Utah way is giving service to those around us, our neighbors, friends, church and community members and even those people we don’t know. Utahns love God and believe that they should love their neighbors as they love themselves.”

Mitt Romney, U.S. senator

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney speaks Friday, June 18, 2021.

“In Utah, we place great value on the reverence for freedom, respect for others, and the importance of service and civility. In areas of disagreement, we Utahns have a long history of working together in good faith to find areas of common ground, and our country could stand to gain from the example Utah has set.”

Luz Escamilla, Utah state senator

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, speaks during a committee meeting Jan. 29, 2020.

“When I hear ‘the Utah way,’ I think about the uniqueness of negotiation that happens in Utah when making some difficult decisions and bringing consensus to that process. The way we get consensus is not perfect, but I’ve seen it be something more inclusive than what you see in other places. For sure, way more inclusive than Washington, D.C. And that’s, I think, what gives us some hope that in the midst of some lack of balance of power, there’s still that opportunity of consensus building.”

Stuart Adams, Utah Senate president

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, speaks during a special session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

“It’s Utahns’ ability to set aside differences, and in a spirit of collaboration find the best solutions for our state. It’s unifying around a cause or purpose to better the lives of Utahns. The Utah way is the reason we have the best economy in the country, one of the lowest unemployment rates and is why we are the fastest-growing state. Our collaborative approach sets us apart.

“Even when we disagree, we aim to respect and understand one another’s perspectives to find common ground.”

Brad Wilson, Utah House speaker

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, answers questions about the special session at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

“When I think of the Utah way, I think of the many times we’ve been able to come together as a state to address a challenging issue in a way that benefits the community collectively. Business leaders generously donate their time, expertise and financial resources; elected leaders genuinely listen and try to understand a variety of perspectives before voting on a policy; and members of our communities selflessly serve in so many unseen ways and without any fanfare. From our earliest days, we have operated with a deep respect for hard work and personal responsibility, balanced with an uncommon concern for our neighbors. More than anything it is that natural empathy and commitment to serve others that sets us apart.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“So many of Utah’s challenges today stem from our remarkable population growth. As our state grows more diverse and we welcome new people into our communities, we will need to also welcome new ideas and perspectives while helping out new friends appreciate the fundamental values that have made Utah a place they want to call home.”

John Curtis, U.S. House member

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. John Curtis speaks during a debate in 2020.

“The Utah way is to find a path forward without asking anybody to compromise where they are. So if it applies to the LGBT community, we were one of the first states in the country to put forth a nondiscrimination law. It’s not perfect, but it was groundbreaking. I mean, look, the Utah Compact for immigration, we were way ahead of everybody on immigration and far more moderate than you would expect from Utah. And so to me the Utah way is hard work, a civil approach from people who respect each other’s opinion.”

Gary Herbert, former Utah governor

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Then-Gov. Gary Herbert gets ready to leave the governor’s mansion in 2020.

“I coined the phrase Utah way based on the uniqueness of how we solve problems in Utah and actually do solve problems. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes and stumble along the way. But by and large, we have a way of bringing people together, respecting differences of opinions and doing it in a civil manner, finding common ground and actually finding things that are mutually beneficial.”

Ben McAdams, former U.S. House member

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Then-Rep. Ben McAdams speaks on election night in November 2020.

“The Utah way means we genuinely care about finding solutions to our challenges. It doesn’t mean we always succeed, or that everyone is going to agree on the outcome, but it means that we will do our best to find consensus. Sometimes we come up short, but oftentimes we succeed. The Utah way means that a willingness to listen to people with different ideas and different life experiences is part of our DNA and that puts us in a better position to overcome our differences.”

Scott Howell, former Utah legislator

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Scott Howell, a former state legislator and chairman of the Pioneer Park Coalition, speaks in 2015,

“Learning from those that you disagree with and not annihilating your opponents set the stage for better outcomes for all human beings. This hypothesis assumes the other person has sincere and good intentions… ‘The Utah way’ sees compromise as a way, not to give up what you want, but to get something better for all.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“The role of police in society in general and its relation to race relations is an issue that needs some attention… The environment is another area — finding compromise between the needs of local economies, Federal dictates, and environmental treasures. Utah should lead out in working better with Native Americans.”

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, speaks in February 2021.

“’The Utah way’ is a lofty aspiration that when applied properly can be powerful and transformative. When difficult issues impact multiple communities, they should be invited to the table to work them out together. That was the case in 2015 during our work on nondiscrimination and religious liberty. We found solutions together. Neither side compromised our values, but rather, we discovered new ways forward that respected each other and forged areas of common ground.

“Bringing diverse voices to the table is hard. It requires expanded empathy and patience. But when we ratchet down the vitriol, and seek areas of agreement, incredible things can happen.”

Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, speaks in 2018.

“I would offer that ‘the Utah way’ is the way Utahns collaborate to prevent and solve problems. In some circles, it’s referred to as our “secret sauce.” Academics have another name for it: social capital – the network of relationships in a society that enable it to function effectively.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“In the near term, the most important issue that would benefit from the Utah way is housing affordability. Our state needs to build more low- and medium-priced housing quickly. Creating this supply requires developers, local government, state government, our federal partners, neighborhoods, and the business community to partner to solve current problems and prevent them from worsening.”

Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Scott Anderson, president and CEA of Zions Bank, speaks in March 2020.

“Utahns have a proud history of leaning into challenging issues and working to create shared solutions. From immigration reform to anti-discrimination, the Utah way is about coming together on tough issues to find common ground.

“In an era of political polarization, the Utah way upholds civil discourse and collaboration. It’s not only a proud tradition in our state, it’s also an ideal we should continue striving for.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“As Utahns grapple with drought, fire danger and the effects of a hotter and drier climate, I believe the Utah way of cooperation and community mindedness is the best way to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“I believe we can meet our goals without imposing mandates that hurt business and rural Utahns, but instead using incentives and common-sense free market principles. While Utah isn’t going to reverse the warming of the planet by ourselves, we can lead by example and show the rest of the country and the world how to take on this great challenge, the Utah way.”

Deeda Seed, Center for Biological Diversity

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Deeda Seed of Stop the Polluting Port Coalition speaks in January 2020.

“The Utah way is more aspirational than real. It’s the pleasing notion that Utahns work together across differences to develop solutions to public policy problems. In my many years of working on public policy issues in Utah, I have seen some examples of people working successfully to bridge differences, resulting in important public policy changes. However, these instances involve human rights issues — LGBTQ and immigration issues are two notable examples.

“On the environmental issues I’ve worked on such as addressing climate change, protecting public lands and stopping the harm from the proposed Utah inland port, I haven’t seen any evidence of the Utah way.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“The issue of critical race theory might be a good topic for thoughtful conversation across differences. Utah has not dealt well with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the conversation about ‘critical race theory’ is an example of this.

“Also the climate crisis would be a good topic, because that conversation gets at all of the critical environmental issues we face in Utah.”

Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, speaks in March 2019.

“The Utah way appears to be the nickname given to efforts by policymakers to thoughtfully address an issue in a bit of a different way than has been considered elsewhere.

“We also saw this idea play out with our efforts to legalize medical cannabis. Due to the LDS Church’s interest and involvement, there was a strong desire to forge a different path than had been trod by other states, and come up with something unique that could satisfy stakeholders on both sides of the issue.”

What issue could benefit from the Utah way?

“Rethinking the ‘war on drugs’ and how we handle those who have substance abuse and mental health problems. Also, repealing the death penalty.”

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