Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Bears Ears, Donald Trump and a rocky start

So much to write about. So little space. Someone (Frank?) should lobby the Legislature to pass a law giving Pig/Webb more column inches. Here are three topics getting plenty of buzz.

Drama is brewing on public lands in Utah: Will President Obama declare a Bears Ears National Monument? Or will Rep. Rob Bishop get his Public Lands Initiative (PLI) through Congress?

Pignanelli: "The most basic decision a modern politician must make is whether to be aggressive or conciliatory." — Dick Morris

Newsflash: Presidential campaign politics impact the declaration of national monuments in Utah. In 1996, with only 24 hours notice to Utah’s governor and congressional delegation, President Bill Clintondeclared 1,880,461 acres as protected wilderness in the Grand Staircase-Escalante region. Most politicos concurred the president's hurried tactic secured environmental support in the upcoming election.

The Bears Ears designation is subject to similar forces. If Hillary Clinton remains competitive with Donald Trump in Utah, there will be less incentive to jeopardize this potential windfall. However, should Clinton’s unpopularity re-emerge, then Obama will view any action as risk-free. On the other hand (there are at least three hands in political complications), Obama cares about his legacy. Placing the controversial area in wilderness solidifies him as an environmental leader. Conversely, Obama may not want to be forever remembered for derailing an exhaustive effort to compromise on an explosive issue. The politics are conflicting.

Webb: The PLI would better protect the environment and a whole lot more land than a Bears Ears designation by the president. Bishop, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and other members of Congress need to keep working with reasonable conservation groups to get a bill that can pass Congress and be signed by the president.

This is too important to fail. If PLI falls apart and the president designates Bears Ears, it will create a firestorm of anger and blow up any semblance of federal-state cooperation on public lands. The backlash against the federal government and environmental groups will be immense and the rise of radical groups will be fueled.

Both sides should tone down the rhetoric. Some conservationists have told me they have a hard time thinking Bishop, other members of Congress, and some state leaders are negotiating in good faith when on one hand they seek compromise on PLI, but on the other they demand state takeover of most federal land and criticize every federal environmental regulation. Great distrust exists on both sides.

We need to keep working on PLI. Fight through the differences. Bishop and his colleagues have done a terrific amount of excellent work. The proposal has many elements that will benefit Utah forever. It would be a shame to see it fail.

Should Utah Republicans follow the example of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and endorse Donald Trump, or play the Paul Ryan waiting game and see how Trump conducts himself?

Pignanelli: Speaker Ryan possesses integrity, deep intelligence and the character to apologize when he missteps. A person of this stature could not immediately endorse Trump. Clueless to the intellectual tradition of conservatism, Trump is equally ignorant of the many new-wave proposals promulgated by Ryan for government reform. Also, Ryan is providing protection for his House colleagues to respond to this impactful development.

Huntsman, without the shackles of office, endorsed Trump's ability to bring new voters in the party without expressing support for his bizarre platform. Huntsman could be outlining a shrewd direction for Republicans — Trump’s populism with Ryan's vision. Waiting for the development of a pragmatic course is the safest route for Utah politicians. Otherwise an immediate endorsement of Trump begs the awful question "So you support what he espouses?”

Webb: Trump is going to win the Republican nomination fair and square. He got the votes and won the delegates. But, personally, I feel no need to jump on the Trump bandwagon just because he’s the nominee. I will wait and evaluate his policy positions as he provides more details before the general election. (Assuming he is capable of articulating thoughtful policy positions.)

However, top elected officials and candidates, especially those in Congress and especially those running for re-election, are in the hot seat because their political security may be tied to his. Voters want to know if they support Trump. Candidates want to avoid offending either side. Ryan and other congressional leaders will follow Sen. Orrin Hatch in supporting Trump. They really have no choice but to endorse the party nominee.

Huntsman obviously wants to stay relevant and involved, and the Trump horse seems the best to ride (all the way to secretary of state?). Let’s see if he raises money for Trump. Huntsman has also had a positive relationship with Hillary Clinton, so he could win no matter who’s in the White House.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has had a bit of a rocky (no pun intended) start. What’s going on between her and the City Council

Pignanelli: The wrestle between the council and mayor is not surprising. She was elected with a specific mandate — redirect her office to focus on the objectives that engaged every successful metropolis for 5,000 years — providing safety, basic services and economic development. But if city leaders need a vision, I hereby present a simple goal that achieves much: remove the bicycle lanes on 300 South.

Webb: Biskupski is a bit standoffish. She has her own style. But give her some time. Let her get her people in place. She’s been in office only five months. The city needs great leadership and vision to maintain its momentum and take it to the next level. Biskupski has that potential.