Dee Grey

Utah State House

44

Salt Lake County

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Dee Grey

UAC 2022 Utah Legislative Candidate Survey Responses

Biography

Tell us about yourself: this could include biographical details, a list of hobbies, professional accomplishments, or anything you’d like to highlight. Please note that you will have an opportunity to discuss volunteer experiences, below.

I am a born & raised Utahn. I graduated from Dixie State (now Utah Technical) and then from the University of Utah. I have spent my entire life in the tech industry, from support, to software development, to my current career of managing and coaching high performing teams. I have helped multiple large and small organizations transform into inclusive, agile, organizations. These transformations consistently show improved revenue, employee satisfaction, and leadership accountability. I believe I can bring this inclusive agile approach to our legislature and help drive a more collaborative legislative body.

I came out as trans non-binary late in life, but I believe that I always knew I was queer in some way. This difference gave me the opportunity to create compassion, empathy, and understanding of everyone around me. While this is not an accomplishment, I do believe it helps shape the way I try and find common ground with people that are different from me.

I have an amazing partner and together we have three kids in a beautiful blended family. Most of my time is spent sharing films, books, and games with my kids. My kids drive my passion to make Utah a cleaner place.

Finally, I love video games. I've loved video games since I was a pre-teen, playing X-Wing on my brother's 486. I believe video games have a unique impact on our ability to process stories, understand complex narratives, and ultimately collaborate better with each other. I lead a World of Warcraft guild for 7 years in my 20's, and was amazed at how hard-working people were at playing a video game...just so they didn't let their teammates down. I realized people want to work, and want to contribute, and will do so if it creates valuable impact on their team and their work. This drives my current management and coaching efforts.

Campaign Strategy

Describe your strategy for victory in your campaign; i.e., what is your messaging? How will it appeal to a majority of voters in your district? Are voters in your district already aligned with your views? If not, how do you plan to persuade them?

My district was recently heavily gerrymandered to become significantly more red. However, I believe that I bring an approach that can bring people together, while helping us grow as a community. That approach is kindness. Kindness is the hard work of seeking, receiving, and giving feedback. Most of the voters in my area are not interested in extreme politics that are permeating the current Republican party. From censorship and book bans, to increased regulation on doctors and teachers, these efforts are not aligned with my district.

I plan to persuade the voters in my area to cross party lines by showing them how my opponent is aligned with these extreme views. I will bring a message of accountability to our legislature, communicating their lack of action on the crises threatening Utah today (Water, housing, teacher shortages).

As a trans non-binary candidate, I also hope to show that my identity, and my story, should not be erased from public view. That I can, and will, contribute to our community and our economy. The more free I am to do so, the better the community grows.

Why Run?

A decision to run for office can often be a difficult one: why did you decide to run for the Utah State Legislature, i.e. what are your guiding principles?

I decided to run because I believe that democracy only works when choices exist. There have consistently not been choices in my area for State Legislature candidates. That doesn't sit right with the values taught to me.

In addition to bringing choice, I wanted to run to give visibility to queer lives. I wanted our queer children to see a story of someone standing up and running for office. I hope I can inspire any one of them to not just stay alive, but to thrive and become a better politician than I can be.

Finally, I decided to run because I come from a family of educators. My mom was a kindergarten teacher. Our house was filled with educational materials that she purchased herself so she could deliver the best educational experience possible for her kids. I watched as my sister wanted nothing else but to follow in my mom's footsteps, but quickly found that she couldn't afford to. We need to attract teachers back to the profession.

Experience

What professional or volunteer experience do you have that’s pertinent to being a Utah State Legislator?

As an agile coach, engineering manager, and volunteer at the Rape Recovery Center, I have brought my skills as a collaborator, bridge-builder, and radical candid feedback provider.

The RRC gave me insight and empathy into the pain and difficulty of reporting and managing the emotional impact of rape.

My professional career as an Agile Coach and Engineering Manager gave me the opportunity to build bridges between organizations within a company, individuals within a team, and create accountability throughout the entire org chart.

Community

What community groups, nonprofit organizations, or professional organizations do you belong to or align with?

I served on the School Community Council for Golden Fields Elementary and saw how much the council members gave teachers a voice in what would help them best in the classroom.
I volunteered at the Rape Recovery Center and saw how hard it is to get the help you need here.

Endorsements

What local community members, professional associates, or elected officials have encouraged you to run for office or endorsed your campaign?

My major endorsements: AAPI Caucus, Equality Utah, Utah Parents for Teachers
People who inspired and encouraged me to run: Jonathan Johnson (CEO, Overstock.com), Erica Cuttita (Vice President, Pluralsight), My Children (best kids ever)

Book Recommendation

What book has most influenced your decision to run for public office?

Just Culture - Sydney Dekkar.
As an agile coach, I coach organizations to look at systems improvement to identify improvements in process and people management. I've seen systems analyses that changed minor process steps that improved delivery rates at exponential levels.
The author takes this approach and shows how it has helped the airline and medical industries tackle improvements that drive real change, not blame. He then took this approach and laid out how to apply it to our justice system.

Building Momentum

In our polarized political environment, it can be difficult to achieve the results you envision for your community. What are some strategies that might help you achieve your policy goals? Examples might include coalition-building with opposing-party caucuses, seeking support from established nonprofits, or cultivating public support from like-minded individuals and grassroots groups.

I have always been a bridge builder. From creating understanding between people of different political ideologies, to improving relationships between technical, product, and business missions in technical organizations. I have always strived to create understanding. I want to talk to every person in congress and understand who they are and what they care about, in order to understand how we align, so we can work together towards a better Utah.

I want to work with minority nonprofits to bring a voice to the legislature that is often missing.

I will focus a significant amount of my attention to improving the relationship between school boards and the legislature.

Finally, I will build a system of engagement for people in my district, and setting an example for all representatives. This will include regular virtual and in-person townhalls, collaborative problem solving sessions, as well as introducing phone and web apps that allow direct contribution to policy-making.

Priorities

Please list or describe the areas of public policy you intend to focus on while in office—please describe YOUR areas of interest.

Increased respect and support for teachers, including livable salaries and effective budgets.
Improved infrastructure that allows communities to become closer, more self-reliant, produce less pollution, and reduce housing costs.
Increased accountability and limitations for congressional alterations to citizen ballot measures.
Improved services that allow police to focus on policing, while opening up mental health crises to professionals and experts in that area.

Incumbent Successes

If you are an incumbent, were you the primary author of any bills that became law during your most recent term? Please share the one or two bills of which you are most proud.

Fiscal Philosophy

If you are elected and are able to have a bill passed into law, would you be willing to raise taxes to fund its enactment? If you would, instead, seek to cut funding from another program, what programs do you feel are funded to excess?

We already have the lowest taxation in history. The idea that we can build the infrastructure we need, combat our water issues, and enable better education, without raising taxes is fantasy.

Less than 7% of Utahns make over $200,000 a year. These top earners gain more from our system and pay less back into it. I want to fix this in order to improve the services we get from the state.

If raising taxes on these individuals would be a road block to Republicans passing the bill so they can protect their wealthy donors, I would work to reduce farm and water subsidies on high-water corporate consumers (alfalfa farms for example).

The Role of Government Role in Public Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strain on our systems of governance, public health response, and health care capacity. What do you feel is the role of the Utah State Government in the response to the current pandemic? In future public health crises? What role is appropriate for municipal governments, local public health departments, and local school districts?

I firmly believe that it is everyone's responsibility to contribute to reducing the impact of pandemics. The recent pandemic has shown how politically-driven misinformation has made personal accountability efforts as lacking. I would address this by either increasing accountability fopublicr those that spread disinformation, responsibility for individuals putting others in danger through lack of personal accountability, or simply enacting common-sense measures to reduce the community impact of highly contagious viruses.

It is clear that I believe that the state represents the people. The state also has the larger context, and larger responsibility, to the health of everyone. Individuals lack the ability to contextualize their choices at large scales, unless they're responsible for those choices. That responsibility can be either individual punishments, or allowing public health experts that are professionals to create guidance based on their responsibility to public health.

The Role of Expertise in Decision Making

Elected officials are chosen to represent our communities by their citizens but neither they nor their constituents are experts in the many fields that inform and even run the day-to-day work of government. How do you rank your information sources, i.e. who is most important to listen to? Committees, caucus leadership, constituent feedback, or professional experts?

I believe all choices should include a diverse group of voices.

I will rely on professional experts first, as they have spent the time, energy, and focus on the impacted areas. I would use this information to educate and seek feedback from constituents, committees and lastly caucus leadership.

Creating Consensus

The power balance of Utah’s legislature—in both the House of Representatives and the Senate—is skewed in favor of a Republican super-majority. What is your approach to creating understanding and compromise when it appears neither is possible?

I believe that we all share 95% of the same values and intentions. I will start by aligning on those intentions and values, and then using evidence-based analysis of outcomes to create a shared vision on how to address the issues. Impact is more important than intention, and should be the focus of how to legislate.

The Environment

The Great Salt Lake is in jeopardy. Fossil fuel consumption is a direct cause of the changes we are seeing to communities and habitats across the state. How do you foresee balancing short-term economic pressures against the need to have difficult conversations and make difficult choices in order to preserve Utah for our children and grandchildren?

I don't believe these are the options anymore. A lack of bold action now will create not just long-term impact, but short term as well. It will be impossible for us to manage a thriving economy if people are afraid to go outside when the wind carries carcinogens. Employees will be less effective if they are trying to manage health concerns created by the current amount of pollution. No economy will exist if we are unable to deliver water to our communities.

The previous generations have already made the short-term choices to ignore climate change. We are already at the point where our only option, short, or long-term, is to address these concerns.

Equal Rights

State legislatures are now where the personhood of women is decided. How will you engage with your colleagues on this issue—and will you vote to protect the right of women to full bodily autonomy?

I will align on the value of liberty and equal protection under the law. I will point out that if the state can control one body to force that body to physically support another citizen, this can, and will, be applied equally across the board. I don't believe the state should be able to decide to punish someone through permanent physical alterations for any choices, especially choices we all believe are valuable to make (we can't thrive as a society if we don't have sex and babies). If the state can control women's bodies to carry unviable fetuses to term to punish them for the choice of having sex, they can force any citizen to give up their bodies for another.

LGBTQIA+

Our communities seem more divided than ever over the topics of racial and LGBTQIA equity in our schools. In your view, what is the role of the Utah State Legislature in protecting or defining the rights of minority groups in our communities?

I believe that the legislature has taken the right step for defining requirements for our educators and administrators. On the topic of what is allowed to be taught, we already define that our education approach must meet evidence-based best practices. However, we carved out an exemption for the areas of sex and gender education. I would remove this exemption and allow teachers to use their expertise, continued education, and science, to determine how to teach these topics.

Anything else is choosing to use less-effective measures that harm our children, increase queer suicide rates, and reduce our ability to simply understand each other.

We do our kids an incredible disservice if we erase queer identities from education. Our students will graduate unable to attend college outside of Utah, be employed by our local or remote tech boom. Corporations and schools have already identified how inclusive, diverse, teams produce consistently better business outcomes. If our kids can't understand how to work with queer people, they won't be able to contribute to the industries that provide the highest economic impact in our state.

American History

Another ongoing stressor on our school system is the false notion that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught in Utah’s K-12 schools. What would you say to someone who is opposed to teaching a full accounting of American History in our schools?

Feedback is kindness. Teaching an accurate and full accounting of our history provides the kindness of knowing that we can do better. That we haven't seen the best of our country, but that we can become the best of our country...through hard work and honesty.

I like to use an analogy to hygiene. Imagine the idea that someone never bathed, never brushed their teeth, and never properly used the toilet. What would be the best approach to helping that person be able to contribute to society? Would it be ignoring their past choices, and ignoring the impact that those choices have on their current presence? This may be a nice way to avoid conflict, but it absolutely doesn't help the person. If instead we found ways to support that person, give them feedback and help in how to take care of themselves, they would be happier, healthier people able to contribute to our world.

Understanding the mistakes of the past allows us to address the impact it has on us now, and avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

Mental Health in Schools

Many underlying issues are adjacent to the debates over equity in Utah schools. For instance, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are prevalent among Utah’s youth. Do you believe Utah’s educational system has a role to play in supporting the social and emotional wellness of its students? If yes, how would you propose funding our educational system so it has the resources it would need to fill this role?

Absolutely. However, I don't believe it is only social/emotional services at school that will help. Improved economic outcomes for parents, giving them more time with their kids, less time being fed fear-based media, and more opportunities to learn child-devepment techniques would be my multi-pronged approach to improving the mental health of children.

You can't improve the mental health of children if you don't improve the mental health and environment that child spends their time in.

Vouchers

Another ongoing debate concerns school choice through vouchers for private schools. Do you support the appropriation of taxpayer funds for families to send their children to schools that are exempt from meeting state and federal educational standards and from following Civil Liberties law?

Absolutely not. Public funds should only go to public schools that follow laws that should apply to the public. I support the existence of private education, but if those profit-driven schools want to improve attendance, they must find their own ways to attract students and not use public funding.

Education

Utah ranks 49/50 in per pupil spending, coming in at $8,366 spent per student (according to the 2020 Census). Utah schools are run by a complicated network of professionals including school bus drivers, kitchen staff, administrative assistance, reading specialists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and administrators. To effectively support teachers and students, the entire school system must be adequately supported. What would you say to anyone suggesting that Utah's current budget surplus be used to pay for another round of tax cuts?

I would point at our lack of teachers, lack of subs, and lack accountability for teachers due to those things as ways to point out taht we don't have a surplus, as much as we have educators being taken advantage of.

A teacher's salary should be able to pay for a family. We should attract teachers with the same rhetoric we attract CEOs to Utah, as they provide as much, if not more, value to our communities.

Classrooms that have a team of specialized educators produce significantly better individualized outcomes for our students. This isn't up for debate, it's just whether or not we believe our kids are worth it. I believe they are.

Wild Card

Is there an unasked question you would love to answer? Please tell us about the issue you are passionate about that we have not touched upon.

I want to change the way that we talk about "politics". Currently, people say something is "political" when a minority of people don't like a subject. But we have to remember that our entire society is built upon politics. From the choice to accept money from the oil industry in order to zone our cities to require driving, to the choice to create a use-it-or-lose-it water rights system that incentivized wasting water, to allowing our farms to be purchased by foreign corporations, to the idea that weekends exist. All of these things we think are just part of life came from political choices of those before us.

Realizing this opens up significant possibilities in how we can approach our problems, and how "political" has been used as a weapon against minorities in order to silence and erase their existence. It's not just that the personal is political...it is all political.

Thank you for taking the time to read this candidate's responses to the UAC 2022 Utah Legislative Candidate Survey