Category Archives: Lobbying

Provo Municipal Elections and Voting System Reform

American elections, since their inception, have used plurality (or “first-past-the-post”) voting as their standard, but we should reconsider this default.

Plurality voting naturally encourages all political parties to consolidate into two major ones of roughly equal strength, which means that it renders a bipartisan duopoly nearly inevitable. America’s founders rightly worried about the rise of two major political parties that would alternately dominate our political system, and they warned us about this eventuality, although they apparently didn’t realize then that plurality voting would render this development almost inevitable.

Plurality voting also facilitates an array of other election problems like strategic voting (including voting against unworthy candidates rather than for worthy candidates), along with the “spoiler effect,” the possibility of minority rule, and increased susceptibility to gerrymandering. The “spoiler effect” is especially egregious, as it can incentivize citizens to vote against their true preferences, while punishing conscientious voters who ignore such pressure with worse results. This should ideally never happen.

The only way to alleviate these many problems is through reforming elections to use better voting methods.

Ranked-choice voting (which is also called instant-runoff voting) is a popular alternative to plurality voting in which voters rank their respective choices from first to last, after which the least-favored candidates are eliminated through multiple rounds of vote-tallying until one candidate prevails with majority support. This voting system is already a longstanding standard in political conventions. Ranked-choice voting replaces the “spoiler effect” with a milder “center-squeeze effect” that hurts centrist candidates, but it still promotes a bipartisan duopoly and it still allows gerrymandering.

Score voting alleviates these electoral problems even better (except for a negligible “chicken dilemma”) than ranked-choice voting. Score voting involves voters ranking each candidate on a scale (like 0-9 or 1-100), rather like schools grade students, such that the candidate who earns the highest average score wins. Score voting allows third parties (like the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, and the Independent American Party) to thrive, which is perhaps its greatest benefit. One study indicates that score voting minimizes Bayesian regret, meaning that its results are (statistically) more satisfying than either plurality voting or ranked-choice voting.

Approval voting is the simplest form of score voting, as voter rank each candidate as either acceptable or not, such that the most-widely-accepted candidate wins. Approval voting can use existing plurality ballots, which is an advantage. Approval voting may also operate in tandem with proportional representation, which allows multiple winners in proportion to their degree of approval, which divides political power among a greater diversity of factions. And mitigating the effects of factions is a worthy goal, as America’s founders noted.

Provo’s city council is considering transitioning its municipal elections from plurality voting to ranked-choice voting. Provo’s Open City Hall is currently surveying Provoans about this matter, and Provo’s city council will vote on it in May. I’m surprised that this proposed reform is enjoying support from some corrupt Establishment politicians, so I’m feeling a bit suspicious about it—so, if you have any theories about why they may favor it, then please share them. In the absence of clear reasons otherwise, though, please consider supporting such election reform, perhaps as an initial step toward something even better like score voting.

Even more importantly than improving voting systems, though, is ensuring that our elections remain both honest and accurate. Please consider lobbying your state and federal legislators regularly for election reforms (like these) that will restore election integrity—and please do so until they finally relent!



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Public Health Never Justifies Municipal Tyranny

Provo’s city officers are currently using their “bully pulpit” to encourage Provo residents to voluntary follow Governor Gary Herbert’s guidelines to “stay safe, stay home,” which is certainly within the limits of their political authority. But this blog entry (unlike most) isn’t directly about them—it’s about our state legislators who are currently debating a bill to enable them with tyrannical powers. We’ll consider these alarming current events in a moment, but let’s first consider the principles involved…

Political systems exist NOT to reign over us, wantonly commanding us in all things, but ONLY to serve us—and, even in serving us, only in a very specific manner, which is by expertly assisting us in defending our equal God-given rights from others’ aggression. This is the only proper use of the coercive power that they wield over us. And, even in helping us to defend our rightful liberty, American politicians are all further limited by Constitutional law, which they have all sworn a solemn oath-of-office to uphold, and which includes various power-restricting civil liberties such as due process.

These principles do not change at all during alleged emergencies, such as the ongoing coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic; instead, emergencies are times for politicians to do what they should do at ALL other times—to defend our rightful liberty in accordance with Constitutional law. So, for example, its fine for politicians to thwart one sick person from knowingly-and-willfully exposing another person to a deadly disease, all within the confines of due process. But it’s never fine for them to enforce draconian policies that impede the vast majority of healthy citizens from peacefully exercising their basic rights to worship or work or protest.

Despite such facts, seeming crises may provide ample false excuses for power-hungry politicians to usurp power from us citizens, which is usually hard for us to ever regain fully. Sadly, many American politicians, especially governors and some mayors, are currently doing exactly this in the name of keeping the public healthier than it would otherwise be. Although public health is a laudable goal, it should never come at the expense of our rightful liberty. Instead, our politicians should be defending us citizens in our efforts to freely go about our daily business as long as we don’t infringe upon other people’s equal God-given rights. And this includes allowing us citizens to freely take our own sensible precautions to remain healthy.

Utah’s state legislature is currently meeting in an online special session to consider “emergency” legislation to deal with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic. Such bills include HB 3009, which would empower local public officers (such as Provo’s mayor and city council) to declare emergencies and then exercise unchecked power in the name of keeping the public healthier than it would otherwise be. Such power would include ignoring due-process-of-law, detaining us indefinitely without charge, wantonly closing our churches or businesses, and prohibiting our Constitutionally-acknowledged rights to assemble and even protest. Such laws are unconstitutional and, therefore, they are also innately invalid—but they still shouldn’t be enacted.

Some defend this bill on the basis that these same powers are already granted to local health departments, and that this bill would simply transfer these existing powers from unelected bureaucrats to elected politicians—but neither party should wield such power. Police should only have power (within the limits of due process) to restrain sick people from engaging in behaviors that carry a reasonable chance of injuring and/or killing other people. Anything more than this is tyranny and usurpation. Please contact your state legislators to remind them of their oaths-of-office, along with the implications of those oaths, and also to urge them to oppose this bill as long as it continues to defy our rightful liberty and/or Constitutional law!


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Provo’s Big Budget for 2020

Provo’s city council recently approved a budget for the 2020 fiscal year. That budget will total about $254,000,000.

Divided among about 117,335 residents, this means that each resident’s share will be about $2,165/year (or $180/month), which is now slightly more than socialist-dominated Los Angeles spends per year per resident. However, Provo’s residents include a higher percentage of children than LA’s—and, considering that Provo’s average household size (in the U. S. census of 2010) was 3.24, this means that each Provoan household’s share of the city budget will be about $7,014/year (or $584/month).

And, if Provo’s budget were perfectly balanced, and if its taxes were levied only upon its own residents, then this would mean that each Provoan household would be paying an average of $584/month, as well. That’s more than some single Provoans spend each month on rent, even with Provo’s city council inflating local rental prices by restricting supply! Thankfully, Provo isn’t sending such huge bills every year to every household—but, even so, that’s a LOT of cash-flow!

Is your household truly getting $584/month in value from Provo city services? Perhaps we liberty-lovin’ Provoans should give a bit more scrutiny to where all of this spending has been going! (By the way, is are you a skilled liberty-lovin’ accountant who’d like to investigate this for us?)

Ideally, a city government (like any other government) should focus on rights-defense, and perhaps on some basic infrastructure like roads, but it shouldn’t be running either our economy or our lives, nor managing a vast array of business operations that are better left in the hands of private entrepreneurs. Sadly, Provo’s municipal government has increasingly engaged in the latter since 2001, as its city code has more than doubled, while Vision 2030/2050 is now guiding its city council toward ever-more centralized command-and-control. When Provo’s city council was seriously debating mandatory city-regulated landscaping for every Provoan home in 2016, this suggested (to some of us) that our fair city was in serious peril!

Such ongoing statist trends can only be thwarted through new leadership. So, if you want to keep Provo free and, therefore, both prosperous and progressing, then please involve yourself NOW to scrutinize this year’s candidates for city council and to actively promote any worthy ones that you can find!


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Provo Regulation Renders Housing Less Affordable

One sad side-effect of Utah County’s recent growth is that, as demand for housing rises sharply while supply lags behind it, average home prices are rising at about 10% per year, which is significantly higher than inflation. These trends may please some current homeowners who are seeing their assets rise in relative value, but it is also rendering local housing significantly less affordable for new homebuyers and/or renters, especially as wages remain stagnant.

In a healthy free-market economy, whenever demand for something (such as low-cost housing) rises, suppliers normally rush to satisfy that demand. If that’s not happening, then it suggests that there’s some sort of problem, which is usually political.

So, what is Provo’s city government doing to exacerbate such problems?

Provo’s city government already imposes limits on how many people can rent rooms together at a given residence. And its Vision 2030 asserts that Provo has “too many” renters and not enough homeowners and, as such, it proposes to restrict rental housing within Provo city limits while essentially redistributing Provo’s renters to other parts of Utah County. Such policies, which artificially restrict the supply of rental housing within Provo, raise everyone’s rent.

Within the last ten years, Provo city council members have also discussed enhancing zoning restrictions by adding form-based code to regulate not only the inward function but also the outward appearance of new buildings. And, at Vision 2030 meeting in 2016, they even entertained the possibility of mandatory city-regulated landscaping for every residence. Such restrictions impede the supply of new housing (whether to rent or to own) while needlessly rendering it more costly.

Moreover, Provo’s city code does not currently accommodate “tiny homes,” which are currently growing in popularity as some Americans seek simpler less-expensive housing in order to spend their earnings on other pursuits.

And what is Provo’s government doing to alleviate such problems?

Provo’s current “solutions” mostly center around increased political intervention into the marketplace through taxes, regulations, subsidies, partnerships, et cetera, to finagle the market into producing more of the sort of housing that its other policies are inhibiting from being built. Such public-sector solutions are normally both less efficient and more costly than their private-sector alternatives, and they tend to yield either mixed or even counterproductive results.

Rather than pursue a slow step-by-step course toward a state-run economy, we should instead advocate for genuinely-free markets, in which people’s rights to both property and contract are respected rather than usurped. If you agree, then please voice such opinions to our local politicians while they are now actively considering what policies to pursue to render local housing more affordable.


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Valley Visioning Workshops

You are urgently invited to attend one of many Valley Visioning workshops being held in early 2019.  Although these workshops concern Utah County generally, they could have tremendous impact upon Provo specifically.  One was already held earlier this week in Provo but, for those who may have missed it, you may attend another one on February 21st at 6PM at Orem High School.

As detailed in a previous blog entry…  Valley Visioning is sponsored by Envision Utah, which is a group of prominent Utahns who seemingly dislike market-driven growth for being too “chaotic” and “accidental,” but prefer for our political system to control such growth by centrally-planning it.  They’ve already fostered central plans for other parts of Utah and, now, it’s apparently our county’s turn.  But they don’t want to finalize their central plans for our county without first getting our input about what we want—so, these meetings will allow us to provide our input to them.  They intend to consider this input as they develop a communal vision statement for our county’s future that they intend to guide county-level central planning in the coming years.  Which apparently includes dictating where our newcomers will live.

This sounds much like what Provo has been doing on a city level since 2010-2011.  At that time, “liberal” Mayor John Curtis (who was formerly a Democrat) solicited residents’ advice as he created a comprehensive municipal vision statement called Vision 2030, which has since served as a guide to Provo’s City Council in (increasingly) centrally planning Provo’s municipal economy.  Vision 2030’s many goals include “sustainable development,” “Smart Growth” that redirects new development from Provo’s outskirts to its downtown, business subsidies, population redistribution, mandatory city-regulated landscaping (according to one city council meeting), promotion of mass-transit, a city-level Obamacare, and even oversight of each resident’s diet-and-exercise.  It looks like Orem is now following Provo’s example, along with Utah County—and, it would seem, other places throughout our nation.

So, if you don’t want central planners running the economy of our city or county or state or nation, but would prefer to leave markets free, then please choose to get motivated, educated, informed, and involved to help thwart these plans.  This requires us (in part) to both nominate and elect better politicians—and, since we can’t accomplish this feat with our one vote alone, we need to both engage and mobilized our neighbors, as well.  We Utahns who still value our rightful liberty need to build our ranks to become more numerous and/or effective than those of our statist adversaries, so that we can start to gain ground more than lose it.  If you find our website’s resources helpful in that goal, then please use them.


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