It's game time.
So said Gov. Mike Leavitt Monday night in his 10th State of the State address, telling Utahns the state is ready to welcome tens of thousands of visitors and 3.5 billion TV viewers to the Olympic Games — and it is ready to spend the next 1,000 days creating new jobs, educating more children and adults, and making the state a better place to live.
As Leavitt spoke, a large cloud hung over Rice-Eccles Stadium, where crews continue to prepare for the Feb. 8 opening ceremonies. Games organizers said the cloud did not come from testing the Olympic caldron.
The Games and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States were recurring themes in Leavitt's half-hour address, which ran a little overtime as he paused for applause and to introduce 4-year-old Natalie Wright, who was saved from a brain tumor in part through a new computer-aided imaging system developed by her father and University of Utah researchers.
While Leavitt has not said if he'll run for a record-setting fourth, four-year term in 2004, speculation is Leavitt will retire from office and, thus, his 1,000-day plans detailed Monday night and hinted at for months will carry him to the end of his public career.
Among the promises Leavitt made:
Four new charter high schools where students will earn high school degrees plus two-year college associate degrees in biotechnology, engineering and medical devices, digital media, and plant and animal genetics.
A new San Rafael National Monument in southeastern Utah, which he will ask President Bush to designate in the near future.
A completed Legacy Highway in south Davis County and a commuter rail system from Brigham City to Payson.
An Olympic legacy hiking/biking trail and stream system throughout Utah.
25,000 more working Utahns covered by medical insurance.
An Olympic monument, using one of the caldrons located now around the state, on the Capitol grounds; the flame would be lit at important state moments.
New state themes, to be known around the world, like: "A deep snow base . . . an even deeper technology base" or "Life-enhancing genetics . . . life-enhancing experiences."
Creating "economic ecosystems," where education, research, capital investment, work force and government support make new industries flourish.
While Leavitt has been criticized in the past for having more ideas than follow-through, the governor said Monday that his goals are achievable.
As he has said many times, education is key.
This year "we will announce four-year retention agreements with nearly 400 of our most skilled technology, math and science teachers" in public education to keep the teachers working, he said.
The state will provide 250 more teachers with scholarships to get advanced degrees in those subjects. And 225 principals, administrators and school superintendents will take the T-plus certification program to help them create tech-smart schools.
His new education initiatives were funded in his proposed 2002-2003 budget. The 10 new scholarships for minority students, named after the late state Sen. Pete Suazo, to earn master's degrees in the Western Governors University will be funded through private donations, Leavitt said.
In the Democratic Party's response, Senate Minority Whip Ron Allen, D-Stansbury Park, who is considering a run for the U.S. House this year, said Democrats usually don't disagree with the majority Republicans in the state House.
"But when we do it's how to nourish and preserve the core Utah values of freedom, liberty, honesty and integrity," Allen said.
Speaking of the recently completed and painful process of dealing with the $202-million revenue shortfall in the current year budget, Allen said Democrats "believe schoolchildren should be held harmless, not made to pay. The cutbacks should come from many different sources, not just a few."
Republicans were insensitive in harming education, care for children and the elderly, Allen said.