Fairpark Gazette: Thank you so much for sitting down to visit with The Gazette! What would you like to tell the residents of Fairpark?
Rep. Sandra Hollins: First, thank you for having me! Well, let’s start by talking about voting. I just want west side residents to know that this is a very important election and I want them to come out and vote because their vote equates to their voice. I saw it in the mayor’s election and I want to make sure they show up for this election as well. I was so proud during our caucus night. I was very proud to see the lines and the amount of people who came out for caucus night, and so I want make sure those same people come out to vote. I want to make sure that those who aren’t registered to vote get registered and that their voices are heard. We could really turn this state people! There are so many democrats and if you count all the democrats who think their voices don’t matter, and they get together, you find it DOES matter. When I’m out campaigning, I hear of so many people who say, “I don’t vote because I don’t think it will make a difference, and it does make a difference. It makes a HUGE difference!” One of my concerns is the number of young people who have no interest in voting, but I noticed in the last caucus night the number of young people who are excited about this presidential race and who are out and interested in politics, which gets me very excited about politics. I met a number of young people who have never voted before who said this was their first time participating in the political process. I met a young man who was a refugee and he got his citizenship last year. That this was his first time to vote. And not only did he register to vote, but he became a delegate! He came and sat by me and we talked and talked. He had a lot questions about the process and what needs to be done, and who’s running… He was just so curious. He just jumped in with both feet! I loved that.
FG: We just made it through the legislative session. We didn’t have a lot of wins, but one of the things we were happy about was the Fairpark Bill coming out.
SH: The Fairpark Bill was a huge win. I went into this legislation session determined that we were going to save the Fairpark. That was one of my platforms that I ran on, and I was just proud that we were finally able to get it through. Of course I’ve got to acknowledge that the Fairpark Community Council played a big role! We all came together – Representative Angela Romero, Senator Luz Escamilla, and Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, the city council and all the surrounding community councils. There were a lot of hands on deck and a lot of working behind the scenes to get it passed, but I am so happy we were able to get that done. We have some important issues on the west side, and I think there is strength in numbers. If we come together, we have a loud voice!
FG: What are the top three issues you’re working on this year?
SH: Well, I have three big goals right now. The biggest one for me right now is education. Up at the legislature this week, I had an opportunity to meet District 2 Congressman Chris Stewart and I told him, “I want you to come to our district because it’s a unique district and I want you to come meet my residents.” I took him to Riverside Senior Center and I wanted him to meet my seniors because they are very active politically. After that, I took him to the Escalante School because I wanted him to speak with some of the teachers to talk about some of the unique challenges they face.
We had a chance to talk about different kids from different cultures, different languages, and he said, “I wasn’t aware that you had these unique challenges, but I want us to work together, and we should stay in contact” so I’m going to do that. I’m excited to continue working with him. I’ve been talking with other principals in our area to see what we can do on the federal end to see how we can get more Title 1 money coming into the school systems. That’s one of my goals I want to work on.
Next on my list is the prison. We got the prison, and the majority of the residents didn’t want it. So now that it’s here, my focus now is the jobs. There are a number of people in our community who work in construction, or who own their own construction business. I want to make sure the playing field is level so those people have and equal opportunity to bid for those contracts or get those jobs.
Next is the halfway houses. I have started a conversation with the Governor, along with Rep. Romero and Sen. Escamilla about the need for halfway houses to be disbursed throughout the state. That’s going to be my next push. Those are my three primary goals to start working on in this upcoming legislative session.
FG: What else is happening up on the hill?
SH: I’m still working on closing the prison pipeline, and criminal justice reform. Those are two things that I’m passionate about because they are impacting our community. Unfortunately, the bill I put forward called “Ban the Box” bill [about identifying criminal records on job applications] didn’t make it up this year, but I will bring it back up in 2017 and be pushing for that. The reason that I brought it up this year is because constituents have told me they are dealing with this issue and are having a hard time finding jobs. I’m looking at how we get those people back to work. Utah has a very robust economy, and not everyone is able to participate in that economy and they should be able to. If someone wants to have a job, they should be able to get one.
When I was speaking with my colleagues, they understand the need for this type of bill. I’m not saying that a business would be required to hire a person with a criminal background, but just to get them in the door. Statistics show that if that happens, the person is much more likely to get employed. I actually received a call on Monday from the White House that they have been following the bill and wanted an update on where it was in the process. I told them that I’d be running it again in 2017 and they were excited about it. This has been one of President’s Obama initiatives, so he is looking at it and they asked how they could help. So I was excited about that!
FG: That is wonderful to hear! There is a lot of talk around the city right now about affordable housing and the homelessness issue.
SH: As you know I’m a social worker, so I understand the importance of having affordable housing and a lot of people don’t know there is an affordable housing shortage in this city. My concern is that District 23 of the west side isn’t the only place that needs affordable housing — we need affordable housing throughout this entire state. There are folks in St George and rural areas that need affordable housing as much as people here in the Salt Lake valley. This is been something I’ve been voicing concerns about. District 23 of the west side has never been a not in my backyard community. We’ve always done our part to embrace people, but I also think affordable housing needs to be spread throughout the city and state. I’m all about moving new families in. I would prefer to see homes built instead of apartments, to see people own their own home and build wealth.
Most people don’t know this, but my husband and I got our home through the first time home buyers program through the city. We were a young family. My oldest daughter was only three months old. It was Dec 24, 1993 and that’s how we purchased our home. We have been here a long time! I would love to see young families move into the district who are going to be here to raise their kids to be a part of this community. I was excited to see the bill pass to see the homeless shelter in Midvale stay open. That was one of my concerns also. I didn’t think our district was the proper place for that shelter.
FG: What was it that sparked your interest and how did you get involved in politics?
SH: I was asked to get involved and wanted to get involved in my community. I’ve always felt like if I lived in my community I needed to be involved. My husband believes in that and I taught my children that. We don’t live in a community without giving back to it. Former representative Jen Seelig knew me and asked me one day about getting into politics. At first I said no, but then later on when she was looking to retire, she asked me again and I thought about my work as a social worker and what I do, and how I can impact people on a bigger level. I love this community. I love living in this community, and the love impact I can have on this community so I decided I was going to run.
FG: What would you say to someone who wants to get involved, but doesn’t know how?
SH: Two things. Start with your community council! I think if you want to start getting involved, that is the best way to start. That way, you get to know your neighbors, and the issues, and you get to be a part of the solution. My second suggestion — Well, I’m running for my second term! Vote, vote, vote!
Feature image credit: KSL