Provo’s city council is currently considering how to replace its current city center.
Reportedly, those deliberations have mostly been conducted behind closed doors so far, which is quite curious. Secrecy is entirely inappropriate for the government of a free people, as great men like Patrick Henry have recognized, with rare exceptions (such as concealing sensitive information from adversaries during wartime). Beyond those rare exceptions, we citizens need to know what’s going on—otherwise, we can’t effectively govern ourselves as we should. We would do well to discover why our current city officers don’t want us to be privy to their discussions about our city’s future. What might they be trying to hide?
In any case, a new city center may be needed, since the current city center is seismically unsound—plus, it was built during the 1970s and, over these last four decades, it has increasingly struggled with the effects of both both overcrowding and aging. As for aging, it is reportedly suffering from structural cracks, water damage, mold, and some (cosmetic) loss of stucco. And, as for overcrowding, some of Provo’s city bureaucrats are reportedly using janitors’ closets for offices or jail cells for storage, while others estimate that they “need” more than twice as much space as they presently have. However, this overcrowding may be needless—although some has almost certainly resulted from the amazing doubling of Provo’s population since the 1970s, the rest may have resulted from Provo’s city officers aspiring to do far more than merely help defend residents’ rights, but to actively run the entire city by multiplying ordinances while engaging in central economic planning. Such arrogated power generally results in more hired bureaucrats who require more space in which to work—and, so, if Provo didn’t maintain such a statist city government, then it probably wouldn’t need so much additional workspace. And less workspace would also require less cost.
Speaking of costs, they may be high for this new city center. Provo’s most expensive building ever built was (and perhaps still is) Novell’s building H, which cost nearly $90 million to construct in 2000, and Provo’s new city center is projected to cost between $44.5 million and $59.7 million. This would definitely cost more than the $39.5 million Provo Recreation Center completed in 2013, and far more than the lovely (but money-losing) Covey Center for the Arts nextdoor to the current city center, which cost about $8.5 million to build circa 2007. The expensiveness of a new city center is apparently partly due to rising construction costs, which doubled between 2013 and 2018—and it might be worth asking why these costs have recently skyrocketed. It might also help to scrutinize these proposals to ensure that they’re not overpriced.
This isn’t the first time that Provo’s city officers have considered selling Provo residents into financial bondage to fund massive public-works projects. They spent $40 million circa 2004 to build a sloppily-managed shoddily-built money-losing fiberoptic network that they eventually sold for $1 to Google Fiber, which replaced much of this network for failing to meet its high standards. They then spent another $39.5 million circa 2013 for the Provo Recreation Center, which is doing alright so far, but which would fare even better (especially in the long run) under private-sector management. And they plus their Orem counterparts are now jointly spending another $65 million (plus about twice that much from both state and federal taxpayers) for a Bus Rapid Transit system that they’ve admitted isn’t sufficiently demanded by UTA riders to justify its existence, even at the UTA’s 80%ish-taxpayer-subsidized rates. They claim that BRT will become demanded as Utah County grows rapidly, but they seem to be conveniently overlooking the fact that nearly all present Utah County growth is bypassing Provo (which has only grown 4% or so since 2010) for places like Elk Ridge, Vineyard, Highland, and especially the cities west of Utah Lake, which are nowhere near BRT lines. Considering this sort of fiscal history, we would do well to scrutinize their current spending proposals.
Whatever may develop with this proposed new city center, we Provoans definitely need to uphold better candidates to city office—virtuous wise statespeople who will respect our equal God-given rights, rather than statists who would eagerly sell us into financial bondage in order to play entrepreneur, or hire swarms of officers to eat our substance as they try to politically control our municipal economy. That will only happen if we can persuade enough of our neighbors to join us. Please go do so—and please feel free to use our Free Provo website if it helps any.
- John Curtis: “My Idea for a New City Center” (2012 Mar 13)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Provo Municipal Council gets fresh look at city center reconstruction ideas” (2017 May 16)
- Roanoke Times: “Editorial: Patrick Henry was right about government secrecy” (2018 Mar 15)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Which Utah County cities are growing the fastest?” (2018 May 30)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Provo Municipal Council mulls options for new city building” (2018 Jul 10)
- Free Provo: Problems: Borrowing-and-Building
- Facebook: Free Provo