Category Archives: Activism

Centrally Planning Utah County

Some people want our county government to centrally plan our county’s economy, and they are already making progress toward that goal.  More details are provided below—but, first, let’s overview some of the principles involved…

Anytime people remain sufficiently both free and virtuous, they tend to enjoy various blessings, including progress both as individuals and as a society.  Such advancing free societies develop without any obvious central guidance—and yet, despite that absence, somehow people still build homes and grow crops and mine ore and teach school and cure disease and supply countless other products and/or services that people demand, and do so more efficiently and effectively with each passing year.  Such orderly activity not only occurs spontaneously without any centralized direction, but central economic planning would actually harm it; one reason for this is that it’s impossible for any tiny oligarchy (even in the Information Age) to effectively oversee a vast complex system in which each person plays such a highly-specialized role.  In any case, the more advanced a given civilization becomes, the harder it becomes to centrally plan it, and the worse it fares whenever some would-be oligarchs attempt to harness it to serve their will.

Some people crave such power, though, and delude themselves into believing that the world (or their nation or their state or their city) would become so much better (or even “perfect”) if only they could subjugate their neighbors to their will and then reign over society with kinglike powers, directing everyone where to go and what to do.  Such power-hungry people are naturally drawn to politics, and even to public office, in which they strive to corrupt our political systems away from their proper role of defending rights toward a perverted role of controlling society.  Such centralized command-and-control essentially involves enslaving society, which practice is innately evil—and such evil means always lack the power to produce good ends, regardless of their intentions.  And this is why, although many statists may genuinely intend to create heaven-on-Earth, they almost invariably create hell-on-Earth instead to the extent that they’re allowed to implement their respective visions.

Statism isn’t only found in past horrors like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but it has found favor among some Americans, as well.  It’s what reduced Detroit from a rich thriving metropolis to bankrupt crumbling ruins.  It’s why the middle class is currently fleeing California in droves.  And it’s even taking root here among us in Utah County.  Some Utahns might find that last statement surprising, considering Utah’s well-earned reputation as a highly conservative state—but it might make more sense to those who understand that very few Utahns actually bother to vote in local elections, while the few who DO bother to vote don’t necessarily represent majority views.

A small percent of Provoans supported John Curtis to win election in 2009 as Provo’s mayor, after which John quickly began working on Vision 2030/2050, which arguably became his most enduring legacy.  This document is more than a mere vision statement for what our political elites (after considering public input) decided that they want Provo to become, but it was intended from its inception to serve as a central-planning guide for our city council, and to become slowly transformed into city code.  Although this vision includes many relatively-benign provisions, it does include some rather alarming ones, such as dictating development, subsidizing politically-favored businesses, expelling renters, running monopolies, censoring communication, and even implementing a mini-Obamacare at the city level.  All of this from a former Democrat who seemingly never changed his views as much as his label.  And his successor, Mayor Kaufusi, seems well poised to perpetuate his legacy.

Mayor Kaufusi is now rallying Provoans to participate in developing a central economic plan for our entire county, as well, so that we can help “figure out where growth should go” as we “ensure Utah Valley grows the way the people who live here want it to.” This visioning process is being overseen by a group of wealthy and/or powerful Utahns called Envision Utah.  Envision Utah has criticized Utah County’s past relatively-free-market growth as being “chaotic” and “accidental”—and, as such, they are seeking to subjugate our local economy to our local politicians, who will override the free market by imposing their own political plans for our economy.  Rather than develop this central plan entirely on their own, Envision Utah has deigned to allow public participation—and, so, we local residents can visit their Valley Visioning website to complete a survey about what sort of future we want for Utah County.  One of this survey’s many interesting questions (which Mayor Kaufusi was seemingly referencing above) is about what percent of Utah Valley growth should be allocated to which cities—and, so, if we want 100% of new move-ins to come live in Provo, and 0% of them to live anywhere else, then we can tell Envision Utah so, and perhaps they’ll decide to decree it accordingly.  But why are we choosing where other people will live?  State-controlled-and-assigned housing may be perfect normal in communist nations, but it’s not a practice that we should accept here (or anywhere).

Please actively oppose this effort to develop a central economic plan for Utah County (and to continue the plan for Provo).  Please urge both your neighbors and your public officers to do likewise.  And, if your public officers choose to support central economic planning, anyway, then please rally your neighbors to uphold better candidates in next year’s local elections—candidates who will help preserve free markets by defending our equal God-given rights to both property and contract.


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Centrally Planning West Provo

As populations freely grow and shift, they change the way in which land is used.  Such changes may occur either through voluntary contractual interactions among free people or through coercive decrees from oligarchs—or something in between.

But it’s not the place of politicians to dictate how everyone else’s land is to be used—such decisions are rightfully made by individual landowners.  Besides, if landowners can’t truly decide how their own land is to be used, then are they truly its owners, or are they merely caretakers of public land?  It’s sad when politicians treat their constituents’ land as if it were their own land by issuing edicts about how it will be used.  It’s not the proper role of public officers to reign over society like oligarchs, but only to help keep us free by expertly helping us to defend our equal God-given rights from others’ aggression.  And those rights include property rights—the right to determine the use of our own property, provided that our actions don’t interfere with the equal God-given rights of others.  It’s a basic principle that, whenever we violate others’ property rights through trespassing or theft or damage or other such means, we engage in criminal wrongdoing, which we may justly prosecute but not perpetrate.

Centralized economic planning is not only wrong in principle but it’s also impractical, as history abundantly proves.  Highly centrally-planned economies like that of the former U. S. S. R. were parasitical economic basketcases that would have likely collapsed many times without regular infusions of economic aid from the West.  Meanwhile, the West thrived economically due (in part) to relatively-free markets, in which both property and contractual rights are generally respected (as they should be), while decision-making remained dispersed among relatively-free people rather than concentrated in the hands of very-powerful oligarchs.

Unfortunately, Provo’s city council appears to have embraced the principles of central planning, as evidenced by documents like Vision 2030/2050, and its councilors remain eager to dictate development in west Provo.  They met earlier this week on Tuesday evening to consider approving a new land-use map that will help determine what will get built where in west Provo.  If you missed the meeting, then please contact your city councilor to let him/her know that you favor economic development planned by free people rather than by city officers.  And let’s please strive to elect better city officers in 2019 who will respect your rightful liberty on their own without needing us to lobby them regularly.


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Mayor Kaufusi Is Listening, So Please Speak Up!

Provo’s mayor Michelle Kaufusi plans to embark upon a “listening tour” around Provo this autumn. As part of this tour, she will welcome input from residents during meetings at the following times in the following places:

While she’s listening more intently than usual, this may be a prime time for us liberty-lovin’ Provoans to speak up about various things that are concerning us, such as our growing array of city-run businesses, increased central economic planning, multiplying municipal ordinances (and city employees) along with increased business regulation, subsidies for startups, overpriced underused public transit, and an official vision for our city’s future that includes a variety of statist goals.  These are items that our blog has highlighted since this year began, while many additional concerns are outlined on our website.  We shouldn’t be upholding such statist policies in our city, or even acquiescing to them, but actively seeking to thwart them—not through threats or condemnation but through effectively persuading others (whether our neighbors or our elected politicians) to change their hearts/minds for the better.

Perhaps our passionate reason will never persuade Mayor Kaufusi (or our city council) to implement any major course-changes, but we should at least try.  And also try to help our neighbors to vote more wisely in 2019.  In fact, if you’re not already knocking on your neighbors’ doors regularly to try to build passionate well-informed support among them for better local government, then there’s no time like the present to formulate such plans, especially while the weather remains favorable.


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Cheap Electricity & Free Trees

It’s great to have electricity.  And it’s great to have trees.  But it’s not so great for our local politicians to give us both federally-subsidized electricity and taxpayer-funded trees.  If I want a tree, then I should be able to buy one, but I have no right to compel my neighbor to pay my bill for it.  If my neighbor wants to pay my bills, anyway, then that’s wonderful—but such money should be freely given, not forcibly taken.  Ditto with saving money on my electric bill—charitable assistance is great, but taxpayer subsidies are not.

Some people might neither understand nor accept the difference between plunder and philanthropy—but our politicians should ideally uphold this difference, and NOT legally perpetrate theft but prosecute it.  In fact, all politicians should expertly help us to defend our equal God-given rights to our bodies, our property, our children, contract, defense, et cetera, so that we may remain free, rather than trying to reign like monarchs over our lives (including our bank accounts).  And this includes our city officers.

So, the “bottom line” is that we need to privatize Provo City Power, along with the city’s Trees for Energy Conservation program.  And we also need to elect more local officers who will defend our rights to our property, rather than dictate how we will spend our paychecks.  Cheap electricity and free trees are nice, but they’re not something that we should legislate our neighbors into giving us.  Please contact your city officers about these changes, and please mobilize your neighbors to vote better in 2019.


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Provo’s Control over Rental Properties

This month, Provo’s municipal government has incrementally increased its control (again) over local rental properties, thereby further subjugating otherwise-free local markets in violation of our rights.

We each have equal God-given rights, which (in their most basic form) include rights (1) over ourselves, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature to adulthood, (4) to interact contractually with others, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression.  Those last two rights together constitute not only the “non-aggression principle,” but also our right to charter political systems to expertly assist us in defending ourselves.  Meanwhile, our rights to both property and contract together are essential to free markets.

And free markets are what we should ideally have.  Which involves respecting each other’s rights to property ownership.  Whenever we own something, it means that we enjoy absolute authority to decide how to use that thing within the limits of our God-given rights.  And, if we ever overstep the limits of our own rights to infringe upon the equal rights of others, then the state may justly intervene to help thwart such rights-violations—but, otherwise, the state has no legitimate authority to dictate property usage.  We may not always approve of our neighbors’ decisions about how to use their own property, and we may freely exercise our rights to say so—but, ultimately, it’s their choice to make (and to hopefully learn from), and not our choice (or our politicians’ choice) to enforce upon them.  Relatedly, we should be perfectly free to contract with each other as we please, without politicians and/or bureaucrats intervening to dictate contractual terms, except as needed to help defend people’s rights.

Unfortunately, we no longer enjoy a free market in rental housing here in Provo, as our municipal government has increasingly arrogated control over such properties, dictating the details of how they are both managed and rented.  This control has increased over decades through many incremental steps, including caps on occupancy during the 1980s, a landlord licensing law in 2003, and a new disclosure ordinance that barely took effect this month.  Although such laws are presumably well-intended, they nevertheless attack rights that they should be defending, which renders them not only illegitimate but also damaging to Provo’s economy.  Central economic planning imposes burdensome “red tape” that innately stifles healthy innovation, whereas genuinely-free markets facilitate such innovation, which yields steady improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness that foster both prosperity and abundance.  We would all benefit from such abundance, but we don’t benefit from politicians commanding us in all things—they should simply help us to defend our rights as needed, but otherwise stay out of our way.

Sadly, Provo’s current array of city officers show no significant interest in reducing such burdensome regulation—in fact, both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050 indicate their interest in increasing such economic regulation, including by artificially restricting the supply of rental housing within Provo’s city limits in order to drive more renters out of Provo into other parts of Utah County, allegedly for our own collective good.  As for driving those “excessive” renters out of town, though, it seems that this excess does not necessarily include ALL renters—in fact, Mayor Kaufusi recently stated that she intends to actively “ensure that Provo attracts and retains young single professionals.”  Such statements demonstrate a sad lack of understanding of the proper role of government—it’s not our city officers’ responsibility to determine our city’s “ideal” demographic mix (more of one sort of people but less of another sort) and then enforce it through public policy, but only to help us to defend our rights so that we may remain free.  They likewise shouldn’t be choosing which local startups to subsidize, which existing businesses to relocate within our city limits, where those businesses will operate, what sort of outward appearance those new shops will have, et cetera, as they are currently seeking to do—we didn’t hire them to dictate our local aesthetics (although some might disagree), but only to maintain our rightful liberty.

Regaining our freedom includes repealing such burdensome regulations, and allowing our neighbors to both manage and rent property as they please.  Yes, this could mean that some neighborhoods will become slightly more crowded with student renters than they already are—but I believe that our attitude about such potential nuisances should ideally conform with Thomas Jefferson’s wise pronouncement that “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”  We could learn much from him about maintaining proper respect for our neighbors’ rights to both property and contract.

So, let’s choose freedom!  And that includes upholding new city officers in 2019 who (unlike our current set) will not aspire to run our lives, but only to protect our rights so that we may remain free people, rather than mere cogs in a communal wheel.  You may learn more about Provo’s ongoing political degeneracy on our website, along with how you might act to effectively reverse such trends.  With your help, Provo can remain one of America’s best cities, rather than following the same sad path that led once-thriving Detroit to ruin.  And there’s no time like the present to start on this project, especially while our weather remains so well-suited for knocking on neighbors’ doors.  Will you join us?


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Provo’s Proposed City Center

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.


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Staying Among America’s Best Cities

WalletHub recently ranked Provo as America’s second “best-run” city, based upon its performance across a wide range of categories, as compared with the size of its city budget.

And Mayor Kaufusi, to her great credit, acknowledged that this was not an achievement of Provo’s city government alone, but something that we Provoans all achieved together.  I would add that free people tend to accomplish amazing things whenever they freely choose to work together toward noble goals—and that I believe that Provo has become such a great place to live because it remains a relatively virtuous-and-free place to live, and because its virtuous free residents voluntarily choose to do so much good on their own, rather than relying on relatively inefficient/ineffective taxpayer-funded programs to accomplish the same ends.  For the moment.

Sadly, such achievements are not innately self-sustaining.  And Detroit arguably provides an excellent example of this point.  Detroit during the 1950s was also a thriving city with a high standard-of-living.  Sadly, though, its municipal government began transforming during the 1960s, as its focus shifted away from defending people’s rights toward trying to run their lives—including their municipal economy.  Over time, both its industry and its residents slowly fled to freer places, leaving a cityscape full of crumbling ruins, costly public-works boondoggles, and denizens who were unemployed or even criminal—and this shrinking tax base was required to support a growing (and terribly expensive) army of city bureaucrats.  These trends inevitably led to bankruptcy during the 2010s, as this once-thriving city finally (by a thousand figurative cuts) governed itself to death.  And its demise should serve as a tragic lesson to all cities nationwide.

We Provoans should beware of similar trends here.  Recent city officers have been selling us into financial bondage in order to finance risky business ventures like iProvo and the new Recreation Center—tasks that should be left to private entrepreneurs.  They’ve also been seeking to raise taxes, multiply ordinances, disrespect our equal God-given rights, and increase their control over our municipal economy.  They’ve even approved a Vision 2030/2050 central-planning guide that includes tasks like controlling both development and demographics, forcibly restricting the availability of rental housing, mandating city-regulated landscaping, censoring the local Internet, running a city-level Obamacare, and supervising our diet-and-exercise.  We would do well to nip such trends in the figurative bud before they ultimately bear the same sort of fruit that they did in Detroit.

Such political repentance won’t happen unless/until we sufficiently overcome apathy, ignorance, and uninvolvement in order to uphold better city officers, and to effectively help our neighbors to do likewise.  So, please choose to include these among your goals for the near future.  And, if your find our Free Provo website helpful in this regard, then please make the most of it.


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