Gov. Spencer Cox hosts town hall meeting at BYU

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox answers a question submitted by a student. Cox responded to questions from the BYU community during a Town Hall meeting at the Hinckley Center on Oct. 24. (Andrea Zapata)

Gov. Spencer Cox answered questions from the BYU community during a town hall meeting at the Hinckley Center on Oct. 24.

Cox spoke on various topics brought up by members of the audience who submitted questions online. Among these topics were the proposition on the development of Utah Lake, water conservation, the governor’s activity on social media, election fraud and the Utah U.S. Senate race.

BYU students enjoy an afternoon of pizza and a conversation with Gov. Cox at the Hinckley Center on Oct. 24. (Andrea Zapata)

The Utah Lake development project

Cox talked about the Utah Lake Restoration Project, which includes a proposal to build a series of islands on Utah Lake. According to BYU professor Ben Abbott, the project and development plans could have a devastating long-term effect on the ecosystems of the lake.

“The Utah Lake is one of the most under appreciated and underutilized assists that we have in the state,” Cox said. “It’s kind of a trash lake.”

Cox said he hasn’t taken a position on the project yet but believes the lake needs “love and care.”

“I do believe that making an improvement in the environment of that lake by reducing the things that are being dumbed will be better for our water storage,” Cox said. “It will be better for the Great Salt Lake and will also be better for the economy and the enjoyment of the people who live here so that it becomes a destination where people actually want to go and recreate.”

Water conservation and the Great Salt Lake

Cox also talked about water conservation and the Great Salt Lake and said he is “very optimistic about the future because people are committed.”

“I’m less worried about our water situation today than I was a year ago. I thought it was going to take us a five year plan to convince Utahns that we need to make sacrifices and use less water, but then it all changed,” Cox said. “I can tell over the course of six months — I saw it change because I never got asked about the Great Salt Lake or water but I get asked about it all the time now.”

Cox said people who willingly sacrifice and change their water usage will have a great impact on the situation.

Cox’s Twitter activity

Cox talked about his social media engagement, especially on Twitter, and about what his goals interacting with Utahns over social media are.

Cox said he saw Twitter as an opportunity to engage with people and and it helped him connect with Utahns, “almost like having a town hall every day.”

“More so recently, it seems like my goal is to make everyone mad — at least that is what I seem to be accomplishing lately,” Cox said.

Cox said he is enjoying Twitter less because he thinks it has become a more polarized platform and there is less civic engagement. He also said he will soon begin use social media less.

“I am worried about the negative implications that these social media companies and their products are having on our society,” Cox said. “So I suspect in the coming days, you’ll see probably less of me.”

Election fraud worries in Utah

Cox also talked about what state-level political officials can do and have been doing to restore confidence in the electoral system amid the upcoming general elections on Nov. 8.

Cox said Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson has been working with county clerks and inviting anyone to visit their county clerk’s office to “sit down, go look at the machines, watch them, process them, and show citizens how everything works” to make sure no one can see another person’s vote and that a vote is accurately counted.

“This is truly remarkable because I have had people walk in there who are convinced that Utah elections are fraudulent,” Cox said. “And they come out and are the biggest defenders of the voting system, saying they were wrong.”

Cox said Utah will keep working and messaging to inform people about the election process, but “as long as there is people, especially politicians who believe that if they lose it must be fraud, then it’s impossible to ever get on top of this issue.”

A close race for Senate

Members of the audience asked Cox about the Utah race for Senate between Mike Lee and Evan McMullin.

Cox said he thinks it is a fascinating race because Utah has not had a close Senate race for a long time.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as close as some of the polling says right now,” Cox said.

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