Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Provo’s Ballooning Budget for FY 2022

Provo’s city council recently approved a budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which will total about $304,140,333. Provo’s budget only 2 years ago was about $254,000,000, which indicates a 20% increase over 2 years, which is significantly more than inflation, even as Provo’s total population has shrunk slightly over this same time-frame. Yes, that’s right, most of Utah County’s flood of new move-ins are avoiding Provo! Thankfully, Provoans are not yet fleeing in droves, like over-governed Detroitans or Californians have done, but they might start to flee eventually if present trends continue unabated.

Since Provo is now home to approximately 116,594 (and falling) residents, this means that each Provo resident’s share of this newest municipal budget is about $2,609/year (or $217/month), which is surprisingly close to the $2,812 that socialist-dominated Los Angeles spends per year per resident. In fact, Provo budgeted more spending per resident than Los Angeles budgeted only two years ago, as we previously reported. However, Provo’s residents include a higher percentage of children than LA’s—and, considering that Provo’s average household size is still something close to 3.24, this means that each Provoan household’s share of Provo’s newest municipal budget will average about $8,452/year (or $704/month).

Along with spending profligately, Provo also ranks among Utah’s most indebted cities, owing about $99,236,398 total (partly for various boondoggles), which averages to about $851 per resident or $2,758 per household. And this is sad because it’s generally bad policy to burden future generations (or residents) with present expenses. If Provo’s budget were perfectly balanced, and if Provo’s revenue came only from taxing its own residents rather than from outside sources (such as from state and/or federal taxes of citizens who don’t even live here), then this would mean that each Provoan household would be paying an average of $704/month, as well. Thankfully, Provo isn’t sending such huge bills every year to every household—but, even so, that’s still a LOT of hard-earned money to be told what to do!

And, speaking of being told what to do, Provo’s city code has also more-than-doubled since 2001, which may constitute one reason why it budgets are ballooning also. In fact, about 2011, Provo’s mayor supervised the development of Vision 2030 to serve as a central-planning guide for Provo’s city council, whose members have openly admitted their intentions of gradually translating its abstract vision into concrete code. This statist vision originally included provisions like “sustainable” development, “smart” growth, impeded traffic, public transit, Internet censorship, business subsidies, a municipal Obamacare, improving residents’ diet-and-exercise, and more. During a “checkup” of Vision 2030 in 2016, which was then deemed more successful than expected, Provo’s city council even discussed implementing mandatory city-regulated landscaping for every single-family home!

Do you like Provo’s ever-increasing centralized command-and-control? Are these “services” truly worth the $704/month that your household is paying for them? Perhaps liberty-lovin’ Provoans should give a bit more scrutiny to how politicians are spending their money! Ideally, a municipal government (like any other political system) 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. As noted previously, such municipally-owned-and-operated business ventures currently include a redevelopment agency, a power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a performing arts center, a recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a beach, a park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery.

Such ongoing statist trends are unworthy of Provo’s relatively freedom-loving residents, and they can only be thwarted by replacing Provo’s mayor and entire city council with liberty-lovin’ alternatives, not only in this year’s municipal elections but lastingly. So, if you want to keep Provo free and, therefore, both prosperous and progressing (unlike Detroit), then please involve yourself NOW to scrutinize this year’s city candidates and to actively promote any worthy ones that you can find!


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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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What Made Provo Great and What Will Keep Provo Great

We sometimes focus so much on fixing everything that’s going wrong that we may forget to acknowledge everything that’s going right. So, considering this, here are my thoughts about Provo for its 172nd birthday, for whatever they may be worth.

Provo was colonized in 1849 in April as 33 pioneer families from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived from 2-year-old Salt Lake City to build Fort Utah near the Provo River that flows from the Wasatch mountains to the east side of Utah Lake. They rebuilt Fort Utah one year later where Provo’s Pioneer Park now stands, and they renamed their new settlement Provo in honor of explorer Etienne Provost. Provo was officially chartered in 1851 shortly before its first Church stake was organized. It quickly flourished with the nickname “The Garden City” due to its many orchards and gardens, and it has since thrived to become Utah’s third-largest city, the hub of Utah’s second-largest metropolitan area, and the seat of Utah’s fastest-growing county.

Provo today enjoys one of the highest concentration of Latter-day Saints, and is one of the few cities to enjoy TWO beautiful Church temples. The Church’s influence has helped it to enjoy high rates of volunteerism, marriage, and birth. Within Provo, the Church operates Brigham Young University, which is one of America’s largest (and most sober) private universities, along with a huge Missionary Training Center, which sends zillions of missionaries worldwide every year to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gives Provo an unusual global reach, and perhaps an unusually-high concentration of fantastic foreign restaurants for its size. Provo is also ranked among America’s best cities for entrepreneurship and business and jobs. It employs many residents in health and media and telecommunications, and is part of the so-called Silicon Slopes that are helping to foster the Information Age. And it’s one of America’s conservative cities, with unusually low rates of crime, and it annually hosts one of America’s largest and longest Independence Day celebrations. It’s also a good place to live for people who enjoy the outdoors. Its only significant lack may be its nightlife. Altogether, Provoans rank high statistically in being young and healthy and attractive and happy and optimistic. Please feel free to peruse the articles referenced below for more information about some of these rankings. I’m among many who feel blessed to live in this area.

I believe that Provo’s “secret to success,” like that of any state or nation, is rooted in both commonplace virtue and relative freedom. Free people can achieve amazing things when guided by virtue. Sadly, it’s sometimes when societies are flourishing that they sow the seeds of their own demise. Since 2001, Provo has enduring worrisome trends toward increased debt, taxation, spending, central planning, city code, et cetera, which all need to be reversed lest Provo in 2050 resembles Detroit in 2010. Let’s please prevent such a decline by perpetuating all that’s best in our heritage. And this should include mobilizing our neighbors to involve themselves in local politics to effectively uphold all that’s best in America’s wonderful political heritage of rightful liberty under Constitutional law.



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Property Rights, Provo Grocers, and Zoning Laws

We each have equal God-given (or natural) rights that end where the rights of others begin. All of our rights can arguably be derived from a few basic ones, which may be categorized as rights (1) over our bodies, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature, (4) to interact contractually via mutual voluntary informed consent, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression. Those last two rights justify us in chartering political systems, to which we contractually delegate limited authority to assist us in defending our rights from others’ aggression so that we may remain free.

It’s sad when our public officers reject their proper role as rights-defending servants to become rights-violating masters, instead, even to the point of behaving like Earthly monarchs to rule over us, dictating how we citizens will exercise our rights as if we exist merely to serve their interests. This is not only immoral but also impractical, as the grandiose central plans that a few mere mortals arrogantly devise to coerce upon the rest of us are generally inferior to the plans that many mere mortals (especially with divine guidance) freely work out amongst themselves through persuasion coupled with voluntary cooperation.

This is also true of zoning, which originated among European socialists. This municipal variety of central economic planning curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork, retards economic progress, and lowers standards-of-living. Every one of its alleged benefits is provided better within genuinely-free markets, which allow the most economical allocation of resources. Houston developed well with hardly any zoning laws and, as a result, enjoys exceptionally affordable housing, while California’s zoning laws (combined with other regulations) have rendered housing so unaffordable that prices are driving residents away.

People often migrate in the direction of greater freedom, which is one reason why many Californians are currently migrating to Utah County, although they are mostly bypassing Provo for now. Their reasons for avoiding Provo remain unclear to us at present in the absence of any professional survey results. However, it’s possible that Provo is repelling new move-ins with its own proliferating regulations, as Provo’s city code more-than-doubled from 2001 to 2021.

Provo’s regulation explosion is partly guided by Provo’s Vision 2030 (or Vision 2050), which is a grandiose central economic plan that mayor John Curtis instigated in 2011, and that Provo’s city councilors have since attempted to translate (as they’ve openly admitted) from abstract vision statement into concrete city code. These efforts have included city council discussions about enhancing Provo’s existing mostly-1970s-era zoning laws that regulate buildings’ function with additional laws that regulate their form. At one Vision 2030 discussion in 2016, Provo’s city councilors even discussed the possibility of requiring all Provo homeowners to landscape their yards in a manner dictated by municipal law. During this surreal discussion, one attendee remarked something about how, if Provo residents didn’t like their local aesthetics, then they could fire their mayor for a successor with better taste.

Such form-based code, like traditional zoning, originated among socialists and has been touted as a means to implement “Smart Growth” policies. These are an attempt to forcibly redirect municipal development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center in the guise of “saving the natural environment.” Such overt environmentalism arguably conceals socialism, as socialists have long understood that rural landowners tend to be more patriotic and conservative than urban dwellers—so, by forcibly confining a town’s growth so that its city center develops in an urbanesque manner, socialists can perhaps help their ideas to flourish more easily within it. Such “Smart Growth” policies are also blatantly part of Provo’s Vision 2030, along with its successor Vision 2050.

Even without such form-based enhancements, Provo’s existing zoning laws still violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights to both property and contract, which form the basis of genuine free markets. For example, Smith’s bought some land long ago in west Provo with the intent to construct a shopping center on that land someday, and Smith’s management has since been waiting for it to make financial sense to do so. But Provo’s city councilors recently decided to forcibly hasten this process by rezoning this land so that Smith’s could no longer use its property to construct what it intended, while hoping that this impediment to competition will encourage other grocers to build stores in that same area. And those city councilors have also been examining alternative locations in west Provo on which competitors might build. Their primary motivation is reportedly to prevent west Provo residents from leaving town to buy their groceries, as this reduces city tax revenue.

Whenever the state forcibly overrides the market, the results are invariably detrimental. Frederic Bastiat wrote expertly about the persistent difference between the overt intent of public policy and what those same policies unintentionally achieve through indirect effects upon a complex system. For those same reasons that he stated so eloquently, forcing a grocery store into existence where it does not (yet) make economic sense for it to exist causes economic inefficiencies that hurt every consumer generally. Rather than centrally control or manipulate markets, it’s better to allow free people to freely work out such things amongst themselves. And, more importantly, it’s also the right thing to respect everyone’s property rights.

The “bottom line” is that zoning must end, including in Provo. Zoning violates rights and it does more harm than good. But zoning won’t end without significant changes in the sort of municipal politicians that Provoans have been electing. And those politicians won’t change unless/until more liberty-lovin’ Provoans involve themselves in municipal politics. And involvement won’t increase unless residents like YOU choose to engage in precinct-level activism by engaging your neighbors, motivating them, educating them, informing them, organizing them, mobilizing them, et cetera. Please choose to do so. And you’re welcome to use this website if it help any.


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Please Vote Against Utah Ballot Proposition 9

Although the 2020 general election will choose both federal and state officers, rather than local officers, this year’s ballot still includes an issue of pressing local concern, which is ballot proposition 9. Proposition 9, if enacted, would expand Utah County’s current county commission from 3 commissioners (currently Nathan Ivie and Tanner Ainge and Bill Lee) to 5 councilors plus a mayor.

This proposition is being sold primarily on the basis that it would separate our county commission’s legislative and executive powers from each other. This reasoning may sound great to Utahn patriots on the surface, but such executive power is already separated, and (moreover) dispersed among seven separately-elected county officers, which include county attorney, county sheriff, county clerk/auditor, county treasurer, county assessor, county surveyor, and county recorder. So, what’s the real reason for this proposed reorganization of our Utah County commission?

To uncover the real reason, it may help to consider the source. This reorganization was instigated recently by county commissioner Nathan Ivie, who (with support from fellow commissioner Tanner Ainge) has consistently voted for both higher taxes and increased central economic planning. And it has also coincided with efforts by Envision Utah to devise a grandiose central plan for Utah County, including where new residents will live, what sort of homes they will own, how they will landscape their yards, et cetera. And it’s arguably more than coincidence that such developments are occurring simultaneously.

These facts together suggest that Proposition 9 is (in reality) likely an effort to unjustly expand our county government to shoulder greater responsibilities (as recommended to it by Envision Utah) that will violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights, including our rights to both property and contract. If our county commission were to respect our rightful liberty as fully as it should, then it would lack any need to expand. Especially considering that the Utah County commission oversees only unincorporated land, which has shrunk over time. With ever-less land within their jurisdiction, why needlessly multiply the officers involved?

This expansion’s opponents include county commissioner Bill Lee, who has heroically stood firmly against Ivie’s and Ainge’s tax hikes and such, but without much success as a minority of one. Lee is warning that Salt Lake County endured a similar reorganization about 20 years ago that resulted in higher taxes, bigger government, and an all-too-powerful mayor. Lee also notes that Utah County’s proposed reorganization would likewise consolidate the executive power currently wielded by seven separate officers into a single kinglike county mayor who would likely usurp legislative power from the county council. We would do well to heed his warnings. And to reelect him.

So, please vote against ballot proposition 9. We don’t need to expand our county government to more-effectively violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights to property and contract and such.


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