ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Democrats held a convention at the Washington City Community Center on Saturday, where they discussed issues including an initiative to put seven county commissioners on the November ballot instead of three.
The initiative, submitted to the Washington County Clerk’s Office last month and created by two Republicans, would replace the current three full-time commissioners with seven part-time commissioners. The goal is to provide more representation for the county’s population. Chuck Goode, chair of the Washington County Democrats, signed the initiative along with five others.
“Three is just not enough and we’d hope that with seven there might be some (representation),” Goode said at the convention.
Utah Democratic Party chair candidate Dan Hicken added that the initiative will benefit Republicans and Democrats in Washington County. His conservative friends and relatives support the measure because they would like to see Democrats “shake things up,” he said.
Several presenters spoke at the convention, covering topics such as new legislation that includes transgender identification on state paperwork, statistics from the Dove Center, the Lake Powell Pipeline and homelessness.
The Utah Supreme Court recently ruled 4-1 in favor of “gender marker” changes, making it possible for those who identify as transgender to change their gender on all state identification records. Valerie Cazier, vice chair of the WDC, read a letter from Equality Utah to the WDC about the legislation. The letter also announced that Equality Utah plans to hold events in September for Pride Season, COVID-19 regulations permitting. More information about their events can be found on their Facebook page.
Susan Ann Stauffer, a clinical counselor at the Dove Center, gave an update on the Dove Center’s past year. The COVID-19 pandemic required the Dove Center to change some of their services and the center has seen an increase in requests for services, she said. In an effort to keep everyone safe, the Dove Center has been housing people in hotels and paying for it, which has grown expensive, Stauffer said.
“For women to be in abusive situations and isolated in quarantine has really exacerbated the situation at home,” she said. “Our monthly call volume averages have continued to remain high ever since. The average length of that hotline call has remained above average, so what that means is when people call in, they’re more desperate, there’s more despair, the hotline call is taking longer.”
Lisa Rutherford spoke about her advocacy against the Lake Powell Pipeline, which would deliver water from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow for Washington County. The project would lead to increased water rates, property taxes and impact fees on new developments, which will affect housing and rental costs, Rutherford said. She added that Southern Utah uses much more water than other parts of the state and needs to get better at conserving.
“We are not keeping up when it comes to conservation,” she said. “We have to manage our water supply better and still meet growth without burdening this county and our state.”
Goode spoke about housing and homelessness and how to approach it. Homelessness is not an economic problem, he said, but a condition caused by a lack of social competencies. His solution to the issue in Washington County would be an increase in caseworkers and resources to re-train individuals who need social assistance. Caseworkers can identify what each individual needs help with, and every individual is different, he added.
“As soon as you turn your back, their social dysfunction comes out again,” Goode said. “Don’t consider homelessness a nuisance… Get the caseworkers and the resources for the caseworkers in place, and you’ll really help a lot of people.”
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