Scott: We Need To Cut Back On Salt Lake Superiority

%28Courtesy+Wikimedia+Commons%29

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Elise Scott, Opinion Writer

 

Whether it be over football or politics, there has always been tension between the Salt Lake City metropolitan area and Utah County. The way both communities view one another is entrenched in rivalry, but I have to say that, as a Salt Lake resident myself, the derision we express toward anyone south of our immediate bubble is getting old.

Following the recent election, my social media feed was filled with screenshots of a tweet that read, “I’m from Salt Lake City, not Utah” above an election map. I understand that people were likely just attempting to express their grievances about an inordinately contentious election, but it reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago with a prominent local activist who said she “didn’t believe in volunteering anywhere past 2300 south.” As someone who has spent most of their life living much further south than that, it felt alienating. And as someone who wants to see positive political change in Utah, it was frustrating.

Change requires long-term vision, and those who fight for it shouldn’t treat it as something that ends at their community’s border. There are far-reaching policy changes that would benefit people all over the state, and we can only accomplish them if we see ourselves as connected to them. It is ignorant to act as if a city can be magically isolated from its greater environment. Salt Lake might be a haven for Utah’s political minority, but the community is in constant interplay with the surrounding state and statewide Legislature. Salt Lakers who pitch themselves as the morally and intellectually superior minority have chosen to emphasize ego over the future success of policies they care about.

It is also worth noting that, as time goes on, there will be at least some shifting of political and economic power out of Salt Lake and toward cities in Utah County. Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, has argued that the Point of the Mountain and the Lehi areas are quickly becoming the “uptown” to Salt Lake City’s  “downtown.” Gochnour said, “Population, power, political power, economic power, are all shifting south in the state.”

According to a 2017 research brief by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, Utah County’s population will nearly reach the population of Salt Lake County by 2065. Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on the fastest-growing regions across the country, citing three Utah areas — and none of them were within Salt Lake County. Not only is Utah County’s growth impossible to ignore, but many people will also actively wish to relocate there for tech jobs, which are growing twice as fast as other states, and affordable, family-friendly communities. Utah County residents are ready to urbanize, planning for a future of walkable mixed-use urban centers and public transportation instead of farmland. To ignore the things Utah County does right is to ignore the future of the Wasatch Front.

As frustrating as Utah County can at times be — the rejection of a county mayor-style government and mass parties during a pandemic come to mind — it is a flawed course of action to act as if our communities are so very different. No one should react to Utah County’s COVID-19 cases spiking by rejoicing on Twitter or signing a petition to build a wall on Salt Lake County’s southern border. They are our neighbors, and if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that all communities are hurting right now. And while it is understandable that miscommunication will occur during times of strain, we must be careful about leveraging hubris and disdain. This is hardly the political moment to double-down on division.

 

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@elisenicscott