Ted Wilson promises a decade is all the time it will take to make Utah's overcrowded, beleaguered school system the best in the country.
Wilson, a Democrat who will challenge Gov. Norm Bangerter in November, said Saturday that the state needs to improve its school systems without raising taxes."(President John F.) Kennedy issued a challenge to put a man on the moon. I challenge Utahns to have the best educational system in the country in 10 years."
Utah needs improved latch-key and employer-sponsored day care programs because 64 percent of wom-en now are in the work force, he said. But with the tax rollback movement, Utahns have shown they can't bear the burden of higher taxes. Wilson proposed re-prioritizing state revenues, bonding to create a guaranteed student loan program for university students and encouraging parental support for local schools.
Despite the problems Utah faces, Wilson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, said he's optimistic about the future. "This state will come around. There's nothing wrong with Utah that one good election won't solve."
Delivering a speech laced with humor, Wilson spoke at a Shared Ministry workshop at the First Baptist Church, titled "Communities in Transition: Facing the Challenge."
"I'm trying to avoid campaign rhetoric today, which, by the way, I have to give occasionally in order to win an election," Wilson said.
Wilson detailed some state problems, saying the dismal economy has led to conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons, rural and urban areas and union members and management. Utah ranks 48th in the nation in per capita income at $11,246, while the state's high birthrate translates to overcrowded schools. In addition, some 25 percent of Utah's high school students don't graduate.
"We need to re-establish that vision of the flood of '83, when everyone came out (to help)," he said. "We all know when there's a flood, we all know when there's a calamity coming out of the mountains, and we tend to respond to that."
The state's strength is in its rugged, natural environment and its people, who mirror that. "We live in the most beautiful, stunning environment in the world, particularly if you add the aspect of access," Wilson said. "You can't escape being like your terrain. It is an inevitable former of what you are. Those strengths will allow us to overcome Utah's problems."
He stressed that Utahns need to make a positive effort to improve the state's image, without being defensive. "We have a new liquor law where you can enjoy a civilized drink. We ought to advertise that. We're the only ones who know about that."
The state owes responsibility to its rural regions to help in the transition from an agricultural- and mining-based economy to one based on selling the region's natural beauty, he said.