Retiring Gov. Norm Bangerter will be remembered for pumping the Great Salt Lake - a crisis he solved in the first year of his administration - the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates asked 613 Utahns this past week which two things they believe Bangerter will be remembered for. In open-ended responses (Jones didn't suggest any answers) 52 percent mentioned the Great Salt Lake pumps.Responses dropped way off after that, with 31 percent not able to think of anything and 5 percent to 6 percent mentioning achievements such as balancing the state budget, supporting education and doing a good job.
Bangerter doesn't have to worry about being dubbed a tax-raiser.
Only 2 percent think he'll be remembered for tax increases. But in 1987, Bangerter pushed through the Legislature the largest tax increase in the state's history, which spawned a citizen tax protest movement, three tax-cutting initiatives and a tough, bitter 1988 re-election.
Jones also asked respondents their opinion of Bangerter's job performance. Sixty-six percent approved of the job Bangerter did as governor, 25 percent disapproved and 9 percent didn't know. (See a history on B1 of Bangerter's job-performance ratings as measured in Deseret News/KSL-TV polls conducted since 1985).
Asked if they thought themselves better off, about the same or worse off today than they were in 1985, when Bangerter took office, 42 percent of Utahns said they are about the same, 33 percent are better off and 16 percent said they're worse off. Ten percent didn't know.
Bangerter has sometimes wondered aloud how many Utahns would remember the pumps. The answer is in: many!
While it appears Bangerter will be associated with the three huge pumps that now sit mothballed on the lake's west side - stopped several years ago after the lake was drained to a safe level - it was actually the administration of the late Gov. Scott M. Matheson that came up with the pumping alternative.
However, Matheson left office in January 1985, leaving the newly elected Bangerter and Legislature to make the final decision on how to deal with the rising lake.
Faced with waters washing out vital railroad lines and threatening parts of I-80 in Tooele County, Bangerter pushed for the quickest, surest solution - pump unwanted salty lake water into the West Desert, where much of it would evaporate. The thick, briny overflow then could run back into the lake so extraction industries could continue to collect salt and other minerals.
It worked. The pumps can be used again if the lake ever rises to critical levels.
In Bangerter's 1988 re-election, a tough race where the governor came from 35 points down in the polls to eke out a 2-point victory, he was often criticized for the pumps. One bumper sticker passed out by Democrats read: "Pump Norm to the West Desert." But Bangerter got the last laugh: He won.
Deseret News/KSL-TV poll
Norm Bangerter leaves office in January after eight years as governor. What two things do you think he will be remembered for?
Pumps (Great Salt Lake)..........52%
Good job/good governor............5%
Did little for education..........3%
Number polled statewide: 613.
Error margin: +/- 4 percent.
Conducted Dec. 7-10, 1992. Copyright Dan Jones and Associates.
1992 Deseret News.