|Rep. Jim Matheson answers questions from Emery High students.|
Rep. Jim Matheson visited Emery High during his recess from Congress for Easter. He met with students from history and government classes. Rep. Matheson told the students, "It's important for you to know that I represent you. I represent everyone in my district including those who aren't old enough to vote. I go to schools a lot to see what's on students' minds. I have been a Representative to Congress now for eight years. I run every two years. There are three districts in Utah and we are going to get another district. I have been assigned to the energy and commerce committee which also includes health care, food and drugs. It's a great committee to be on."
Matheson said more people work for him in Utah than in Washington DC. He introduced Pam Juliano who represents Rep. Matheson in the Emery and Carbon county areas. Matheson answered questions from the students.
Matheson told the students he supports coal fired generation. "It's not a matter of if we are going to burn coal, but how. If there are clean ways to burn coal then we ought to look at it," said Matheson.
Matheson was asked about nuclear power. He said nuclear power is cleaner and doesn't emit CO2 gases and nuclear power produces 20 percent of the power for the United States, but it is very expensive. There hasn't been a nuclear power plant built in the last 30 years in America and there is also the question of what to do with the waste. Nuclear generation also uses a lot of water which isn't plentiful in the West, so nuclear may be a good fit for other areas but not for desert Utah.
One student wanted to know why Matheson is a democrat. He said his democratic roots run deep with his great-great-grandmother who was the postmistress of Parowan leading the way for the Matheson family. His father, Scott Matheson was also a democrat and the governor of Utah in the late 1970s and early 80s. Matheson said, "I like to tell people that political parties only mean so much and you should vote for the person."
Matheson was asked about the political climate in Washington. He replied for the most part Congress works well together and people just don't hear about the times a bill passes without a lot of controversy because the media doesn't think that's very interesting. They are only interested in the controversial bills. Matheson said there are 435 members of Congress. There are extremes in both political parties and Matheson considers himself a part of the radical center. He believes the political parties need to get away from the rhetoric.
A student wondered what Matheson thinks is his biggest accomplishment so far in Congress. Matheson reflected on the South Moore cut-off road in Emery County that is under construction at this time and will eventually be paved from Moore to I-70. He was responsible for securing most of the funds for that project.
Matheson is also proud of his stand against the testing of nuclear weapons. He has taken a firm stance in getting help for downwinders and helping to ensure this doesn't happen again to Utah residents. His father, Scott was a downwinder who contracted cancer as a result of being in the path of nuclear fallout during the early days of nuclear testing in Nevada. The government lied to the people of Utah saying the testing was safe, when in fact it caused high rates of cancer among people in southern Utah in subsequent years. "This nuclear weapons testing issue has touched a lot of families, including those from Emery County," said Matheson.
Matheson was asked to reflect on the Crandall Canyon mine disaster. "It takes a special person to work in a coal mine and we want to make sure coal mines are as safe as possible. It's been a few months since the disaster, but it takes awhile to figure out what happened and learn from what happened. We need to honor those families and the victims."
Matheson said he hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate yet. He is a super delegate who is uncommitted at this time. He feels by remaining uncommitted, he will be able to talk to the candidates and let them know about the issues that face rural Utah. He thinks politicians back East aren't familiar enough with the issues of those living in the West.
Matheson was asked how he felt about the George W. Bush presidency. He said that Bush encountered a historic event that changed America with the events of September 11, 2001. "It changed the dynamics of his presidency and I think he responded in an aggressive way. Bush has been more partisan than I would like. He has been very aggressive in pursuing power for the executive branch of government," said Matheson.
One student wondered how Matheson viewed a woman running for president. He replied gender shouldn't be an issue, qualifications are more important.
Matheson responded to a question on gas prices. Prices are determined by supply and demand, at this time there is more demand than supply which forces prices up. In the short term, more production should be established.
"In the long run, I hope technology takes us to a new place, vehicles that run on ethanol from plant sources or electric cars; to get us out of the current situation, we need technology to take us out of this cycle," said Matheson.
Matheson was asked about wilderness in Utah. He commented Utah needs protected places, but it's not wise to retreat to an extreme point of view on wilderness lands. "We need to take a common sense approach. There are some places where ATVs shouldn't go. Most ATV users are responsible," said Matheson.
Matheson continued his tour of his district with a visit to Bucyrus mine machinery in Huntington and later holding a meeting in Price on the housing crisis.