All posts by ngochnour

Finding peace in God’s love

Originally published in the Deseret News.

“Rest in the fact of God’s love for you. Let everything that unfolds from now be in the shadow of that fact. God loves you and nothing changes that.”

I heard these words spoken by a religious scholar on a recent podcast. The scholar, who is also an ecclesiastical leader, was asked by the host how he counsels young people who are struggling. He answered the question emphatically: “I tell them nothing can get in the way of God’s love for his children.”

I found his words comforting the first time I heard them and find them comforting now. God’s love not only extends to all, it shines brightest in times of need.

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Why Utah should reform the state sales tax system

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt served during the state’s longest economic expansion. He once told me, “Decisions more than circumstances really shape our lives and our communities.” It’s a profound statement. We become our actions, not our inheritance. Utah policymakers would do well to keep this aphorism in mind as they grapple with tax reform this legislative session.

Utah faces a structural sales tax challenge. Taxable sales as a percent of the economy are shrinking, declining from 67 percent in 1980 to 42 percent today. That’s a dangerous trend even in good economic times, but in a downturn could compromise the state’s long-term prosperity and life quality.

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Utah’s coal transition belongs to all of us

Original published in the Deseret News.

Dinosaur bones, footprints, eggs and other fossils can be found throughout eastern Utah. It is a paleontologist wonderland because here, in Utah’s coal country, the last dinosaurs came to die.

Today, another kind of extinction faces residents in Utah’s coal country. If the economies in Carbon and Emery counties don’t diversify, many family supporting jobs will become extinct.

The area faces a silent recession caused by society’s actions to combat global climate change. The benefits are widespread, but the costs are concentrated in places like eastern Utah.

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There’s still much to learn from Watergate

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I was 10 years old when burglars were arrested at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The intruders had been caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents to help President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. In the months that followed, I, like a lot of people, watched in disbelief, even horror, as the abuse of power by the president of the United States was on full display.

This week, I received a welcome reminder of the lessons learned from Watergate — then and now. I attended an event in Washington hosted by the Deseret News. The gathering focused on the twin virtues of trust and integrity and featured perspectives from Bob Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter from The Washington Post, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a former law clerk for Judge John J. Sirica (the judge who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars) and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Insights were also shared by Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center.

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My political projections for 2019

Originally published in Utah Business.

While I love the start of a new year, I’m not sure if I’m ready for the dizzying array of political battles that will flood the airwaves and our electronic devices in 2019. We will be hit simultaneously with a capital city mayoral race and the beginning of a two-year battle for the White House and Utah governor’s office. Throw a new US Senator named Mitt Romney into the mix and it could be a lively year. Here are my 2019 political predictions:

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This Christmas rekindle a favorite Christmas memory

Originally published in the Deseret News.

When I was 9 years old, I woke up before the rest of my family on Christmas morning to take a sneak peek at the gifts. I remember my sense of wonder as I tiptoed down the staircase. The fireplace still gave off a slight glow from the raging fire on Christmas Eve. Lights twinkled on the tree. My Santa mother had followed our family tradition and placed some gifts under the tree and others unwrapped by our stockings, which were spread out on a couch or chair. Each child had their spot. It appeared to be the perfect Egan family Christmas.

And then I saw it. Prominently displayed by my sister’s stocking was the gift I wanted more than anything else: an authentic Mickey Mouse watch. I looked at her designated spot on the couch and then looked at mine. No Mickey Mouse watch for me. It must be a mistake I reasoned. My sister never said one thing about wanting the Disney-created watch. But there it was for all to see — my sister got the treasured watch and I didn’t. I returned to my room teary and disappointed.

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What Utah’s historically low fertility rate means for Utah

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Utah population estimates released this week confirm a deceleration in growth. Utah births fell to their lowest level in 18 years. With net in-migration also tapering off, Utah’s population increased in 2018 by a healthy but modest 1.69 percent.

There are many storylines about Utah’s growth, but of greatest interest to me is the steady decline in Utah’s fertility rate. Utah’s total fertility rate — a measure of births per woman — has dropped for 10 consecutive years. Utah’s current fertility rate of 2.12 is at a historical low and rapidly approaching replacement level. Demographers define 2.10 as replacement level, or the level of fertility at which the population replaces itself from one generation to the next.

This is new territory for Utah.

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What to expect as the McAdams bus heads to Washington, D.C.

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I remember the first time I heard about a guy named Ben McAdams. I was employed by the Salt Lake Chamber and working closely with Mayor-elect Ralph Becker on his transition team. The mayor-elect told me of his intent to bring on a sharp young attorney to oversee government relations for his administration. The new senior staffer was a Columbia law graduate who was leaving a lucrative position at a corporate law firm to enlist in public service. I took note and looked forward to meeting him.

In the years since, I’ve taken note many more times as McAdams has achieved significant public policy and political success in the Beehive State. As a senior staffer with Salt Lake City, he helped downtown Salt Lake City reinvent itself, as a legislator he fought for and achieved bipartisan victories on issues such as high-quality pre-kindergarten, and as a county mayor he helped create homeless resource centers and a plan for a convention-headquarters hotel. These are just a few of his noteworthy accomplishments in public service.

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Tech vs. Coal. How Can Our State Share the Wealth?

Originally published in Utah Business.

Utah’s Carbon and Emery counties possess immense beauty between the slot canyons of the San Rafael Swell, the rock art in Nine Mile Canyon, beautiful pasturelands, and a historic rail town. However, beautiful scenery isn’t all these counties have to offer; the regions also possess vast coal reserves and a rich history of coal mining.

More than half of Utah’s coal production occurs in these two counties, but production has declined by 47 percent since its peak in 2001. In fact, the area suffers from a near decade-long recession and is now among the most economically disadvantaged regions in the state.

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Don’t Let The Bozos Grind You Down

Originally published in Utah Business.

We’ve all experienced it: a boss, a coworker, a friend, a family member, or some other person who grinds you down. They use their negative energy to thwart, hurt, offend, or stand in the way of your peace and progress. In extreme cases, you may even struggle to pick up the pieces and stand your ground.

Many names exist for these types of people. In a work setting, it may be a control freak, a jealous coworker, or a power monger. In a family setting, it may be a sibling or uncle who always says something critical or tries to manipulate you. Among friends, it may be the person who never pays back a debt, always seems to criticize, or lets their jealousy or insecurities derail or detract from a healthy relationship. In some (extreme) cases, it can be a full-blown narcissist who targets you, someone who has an exaggerated sense of importance and an inability to recognize your needs and feelings.

I’m fond of a saying coined by Silicon Valley marketing expert and author Guy Kawasaki. Writing to entrepreneurs he coined the phrase, “Don’t let the bozos grind you down.” Mr. Kawasaki’s message was directed towards business startups, but I like to apply the phrase to everyday life. Too often we let people who don’t have our best interests at heart bring us down. I call these people “bozos.”

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