Utah Gov to Californians: Stay Home

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is advising Californians who would like to escape the high taxes, rampant crime, homelessness, and the heavy hand of Gavin Newsom to shelter in place. In short, Utah is full.

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C-SPAN covered a presser by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Cox, chair and vice-chair of the National Governor’s Association, following a meeting with President Biden. The group of governors was at the White House to talk with Biden and Harris about multiple issues such as the infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction and CHIPS acts, immigration, fentanyl, and energy.

A reporter asked about population movement, noting that in New Jersey, the majority has been outbound to other states. Murphy said the Garden State was a great place to raise a family and touted growth that was about average compared with other states. He also said that New Jersey leaders have worked hard to make sure the state was affordable for families. Those measures included across-the-board tax reductions.

Cox, on the other hand, took a different tack. He said at the present, the Beehive State doesn’t need any more new residents. He said Utah has the opposite problem as New Jersey and that the last census confirmed that it is the fastest-growing state in the U.S. He said, “Our biggest problems are growth-related, but we would love for people to stay in California instead of coming as refugees to Utah, so we’re always trying to figure that out.” When pressed, he said that he would love to see California cut taxes and regulations.

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Cox said that the biggest headaches are housing and water. He added that Utah is not looking to attract more people. He commented that his state has been named the best place to start a business, with Texas and Florida taking the number two and three slots. Concerning the Waters of the United States Act and the effect it will have on farmers and ranchers, Cox said he expected the matter would end up in court. He said his administration would continue to fight for the farmers.

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Here’s the clip from the C-SPAN video:

 

Cox made a valid point, even if at first blush it may sound a little ham-handed to those who recently arrived from the Golden State or are trying to find a U-Haul rental to get the hell out of L.A., so to speak. Many native Utahns and those who have lived here for a significant amount of time are non-plussed, to say the least, about the influx. And yes, some of that is related to people trying to flip Utah blue. I was at a city council meeting last year regarding a subdivision going up in our neighborhood directly across the street from an elementary school. One woman got up to speak and snidely announced that she was “from that state that everyone keeps telling her to go back to,” and then turned and flashed a smarmy grin, just daring someone to say something. And I thought, “That attitude, right there. That’s why you’re getting the blowback.” There is a feeling that people in California voted for bad ideas and bad politicians, and now that they have made their state unlivable, they want to feast on ours.

And then there is water. Historically, Utah has been the second-most arid state in the nation. Water is already scarce and the state is still in the midst of a drought that has been going on for decades. It has been said that more people have been killed over water in the west than anything else, since it is such a precious commodity. And as part of the Colorado River Compact, Utah already struggles with water supplies. Oddly enough, the California transplants in my old neighborhood were among those who watered their lawns until they reached golf-course quality. Apparently, no one told them that California was not the only state coping with drought.

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And frankly, there isn’t much room for many more people. If you look at a map, Utah seems to be pretty much made up of closet space. There are large stretches of land where no one lives. But 63% of the land in Utah falls under the aegis of the federal government, which includes tribal lands, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (the other BLM). So, much of that “closet space” is already spoken for. Try putting a subdivision up on BLM land. And I am sure that if you asked a tribe if it wanted to sell land to a private developer, it would rightfully tell you that tribes have “contributed” more than enough land over the years. Yes, there are places where private land is available for sale, but that number has shrunk. So you could live in one of the outlying towns, in which case you may have to drive for a while to avail yourself of the stores and amenities to which you have become accustomed. Or wait until someone builds them. Or you could live in the mountains. But places like Park City and Midway have astronomical housing prices, and even Heber is becoming more expensive. So you will probably end up in one of the valley cities. But the problem with that is limited space. You can only build so high up a mountainside. Unless, of course, you have millions to spend on a home.

The city I used to live in was one such place. It is bordered by mountains to the west and Utah Lake to the east, leaving a very narrow strip for development. The constant influx of people has increased congestion and accidents, and after we got out, the city saw an uptick in crime. And as development continues, one begins to see massive communities of row houses that look like penitentiaries from the road, with people squeezed in elbow-to-elbow. And developers have even affected the wetlands around the lake, impacting many bird species. There are volunteers who are trying to mitigate the problem. But I have yet to see any environmental powerhouses pushing back on development the way they have on oh, say natural gas rigs.

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Speaking of wildlife, the transplants in my old neighborhood were perplexed that their cats and small dogs kept disappearing. It took them a while to figure out that the hawks were sweeping in and making off with Fluffy, and that coyote packs came down from the foothills at night for the evening buffet. Not far from where I live now, a mountain lion had to be put down because it had moved into the area and discovered that the currently empty fields and swamps made the perfect hunting grounds. It had been relocated twice, so the only option left was to kill it. Well, folks, nature is going to do what it does. The closer you move to the wildlife, the more things like that will happen. Doesn’t anybody watch Animal Planet anymore?

And of course, there is the matter of traffic. Even before the Great Migration, the I-15 corridor through Utah and Salt Lake counties was awful. I have said that if there is NASCAR in hell, it will be exactly like I-15 through metro Utah. Chances have always been good that during a lane change, someone would lean out of their car wearing a metal hockey mask and beat your hood with a length of tow chain. That problem has only been exacerbated. Utah has had an inversion problem since I moved here 20-plus years ago. Now, there are days that I can’t even see the mountains. More people equals more smog.

So yes, Californians, stay home. You voted for the things that have wrecked your state. You need to repair your own divot. And cultural and political differences aside, we just don’t have any place to put you.

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