SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes, the best way to spend a warm summer afternoon is to lie on the grass and contemplate the passing scene. The second best way is to do it from an office chair. Here’s what I see as August begins.
Inland port: So now opponents of Utah’s new port seem to be hanging their hopes on an obscure line in the Utah Constitution that says the state can’t give municipal powers to any special commission.
I suppose they could try to keep the port tied up in litigation for a while, but state lawmakers could simply find ways to change the rules if they had to.
Meanwhile, the opponents are ignoring what may be the biggest threat to the port — President Donald Trump’s trade war.
According to 2016 statistics published by Globaledge.msu.edu, the state sent nearly $2 billion in imports to China and purchased nearly $650 million of goods in return that year. Mexico and Canada also are top trading partners, with auto parts and motor vehicles ranking among the top items being traded. Those figures could rise much higher with an inland port, but not if high tariffs are in place.
Set tariffs high enough and the port might go the way of the Cold Fusion Institute in a few years.
Of course, many of the port’s opponents are liberal Democrats who wouldn’t think of lending support to anything Donald Trump wants. And yet it’s worth noting that both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton ran on protectionist agendas in 2016, as well.
I support the inland port, and free trade. The city’s northwest quadrant makes a lot of sense as a port location, where goods can be shipped directly from the coast via train, highway or plane, cleared through customs here and redistributed in the West.
It’s time to let the thing start rolling and fix problems as they come along.
Words and deeds: Who says the way politicians talk doesn’t affect how the public acts?
A few months ago, Buzzfeed published a study of Muslim-bashing by state and local Republican leaders nationwide. In 49 states, the website found everything from proposed laws that would discriminate against Muslims to public statements, such as one from a Nebraska state senator who reportedly said any Muslim seeking to enter the country should be forced to eat pork first.
The lone state where none of this happened? If you said Utah, go to the head of the class.
Not long after, newamerican.org published a study titled “Anti-Muslim activities in the United States.” It catalogued crimes against Muslims in each state from 2012 to the present, as well as opposition to refugee resettlement. The lone state to record no incidents, according to the study? Utah, again, despite a population here estimated at nearly 5,000 Muslims.
Gluttons for punishment? Money magazine studied federal labor statistics and came up with a list of the fastest-growing occupations in each state. In Utah, that would be the job of a roofer.
The July publication date of this study may just have been coincidence. But as I look out the window on a 95-degree day and wonder how hot it might be on a roof, I contemplate what might be an equivalent fast-growing job in winter, well-digging?
Civility: You may have noticed your congressional representative isn’t holding as many town hall meetings as he or she used to. It may have something to do with all the shouting and yelling of a couple of years ago, like the kind Jason Chaffetz endured before deciding it would be more fun to be on TV than on the Hill.
Maybe the people of Duluth, Minnesota, have an answer to all this.
A Wall Street Journal column by Gerald Seib this week noted how community leaders there rallied behind a list of nine guidelines for civilized debate — things like listening to others, showing respect, being agreeable and apologizing.
Seib said the mayor credits these principles for helping the city work through some divisive issues peacefully.
It all sounds so simple, just as it must have sounded when most of us heard these rules for the first time on the first day of kindergarten.