This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I have served on the Governor's Council of Balanced Resources since its creation in 2009, but no longer. Here's why:
At our last meeting, legislation by the Utah Legislature purporting to reclaim federal land for the state of Utah was discussed, though the main proponent of the idea, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, was absent.
When lawmakers were considering the legislation, Bob Abbey, director of the federal Bureau of Land Management, told The Salt Lake Tribune that "it's too bad we can't focus on our shared values, instead of litigating and spending money."
In keeping with that spirit of shared values, during the meeting I drafted a letter from the Balanced Resources Council to the BLM director, asking for his view of our shared values. I read the letter to the council and everyone agreed it was a good idea.
Alan Matheson Jr., the governor's chief environmental adviser and staff person for the council, asked that Gov. Gary Herbert be given a chance to review the letter. Two weeks later, I received a phone message that the governor was not willing to have his council send such a letter.
Matheson said that if Abbey wanted to write a letter on his own describing his perception of our "shared values," the letter could be reviewed by the council. Disgusted, I resigned from the council on April 13. Two personal experiences came to mind.
In 1991, I served on the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee at the request of committee president Tom Welch to work on Salt Lake City's bid. There were innumerable occasions when Welch misled me or fed me misinformation. After repeated occurrences, I drafted a private letter of resignation, which was leaked by someone on Welch's staff, prompting a flurry of news accounts. My Irish uncle, Tribune publisher Jack Gallivan, chastised me over lunch for not supporting the community.
I was in Washington, D.C., when Welch was indicted.
Then, in 1968, I was a student in Vienna, Austria. One of my all-time favorite professors, Kurt Steiner, was an Austrian Jewish lawyer in 1938 when Hitler's Germany took over Austria in the Anschluss.
In 1968, the 30th anniversary of the Anschluss, Steiner, often walked the streets with me. He would describe with great remorse how Vienna, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had changed overnight from a cosmopolitan city to one where fear and hate-mongering were commonplace. Even after 30 years he was puzzled why good, sensible people hadn't spoken out against Nazi extremism.
I raise these experiences because our political environment is once again being poisoned by extreme people who do not tolerate dissent, who act in secret, and who believe that they alone know the truth of things.
I mention the Olympic scandal because the story behind the story is that most people in the Olympic bid effort recognized that there was a great deal of unethical, perhaps illegal, activity going on with Utah's second Olympic bid. But in Utah we like to paint a pretty picture even in the midst of corruption.
I believe the governor's methods are akin to Welch's. As an accidental governor, he continues to run the state as if it were Utah County, where he served as County Commission chairman. And, whether it is "pay to play," mismanagement of confidential Medicaid files or cronyism gone wild, it is clear he doesn't want to do the right thing, just the politically expedient thing.
The state of Utah will spend more than $3 million defending indefensible legislation aimed at forcing a transfer of federal lands to the state. That $3 million, along with more than $8 million already spent on pursuing a fantasy claim of state ownership of RS2477 roads, would educate nearly 2,200 public school students.
When are Utahns going to speak out against extremism and elect responsible leaders?
Pat Shea is an attorney and a former director of the Bureau of Land Management in the Clinton administration. He lives in Salt Lake City.