Neighborhood Meetings and Caucus Meetings

Provo recently reminded residents through its YouTube channel about its “neighborhood chair” program.  This program involves residents in each of Provo’s 34 neighborhoods regularly electing one of themselves to serve as a “chair,” who will then host periodic neighborhood meetings in which residents may discuss their various concerns and/or suggestions, while providing a regular line of communication about such issues between neighborhood residents and city councilors.

We urge you to participate in this program, along with your like-minded neighbors, to help champion the principles of a virtuous free society over the practices of centralized political command-and-control, as exemplified by Vision 2030 and/or Vision 2050 (see our previous blog entry).

In doing so, please remember that it’s better to save than to condemn, and to toss figurative life-preservers than to cast figurative stones—and that the best way to defeat our enemies is by humbly striving together with them to unite around objective truth-and-righteousness, thereby helping them to become our friends over time.  Our statist adversaries often have good intentions, but foolishly pursue those goals through bad methods—and, so, we need to help them to redirect their efforts from the wrong means to the right ones, instead.  Tools like persuasion, contract, volunteerism, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, economic activism, et cetera, are always better ways to accomplish anything than unilateral coercion, which is generally acceptable only as a last resort in defense against aggression.

Alongside trying to proselytize our neighbors to embrace freedom, these neighborhood meetings may also be good opportunities to actively seek out virtuous wise neighbors to encourage to run for city office.

Speaking of elections, we’d like to mention another very important political meeting to attend, although it’s not directly related to Provo…

Utah’s two major parties will hold their biennial precinct caucuses next Tuesday to elect both county and state delegates for the next two years.  This year, those delegates will scrutinize candidates for public office and then convene to narrow down their options to one candidate for each office as their party’s official nominee—or two candidates (in some cases) who will then face each other in a primary election so that voters may make the final decision.  Next year, those same delegates will follow a similar process to choose candidates for party offices.

Party officers, by the way, generally belong in one of two categories—one sort believes that the grassroots should govern the party through sound parliamentary procedures facilitated by respectful officers, while the other sort believes that the elites should rule the party, and should violate party rules as much as they can get away with in order to finagle the grassroots into doing whatever the elites want.  This dichotomy generally parallels the timeless universal spectrum between those who favor “bottom-upward” political systems that help citizens to defend their rights against others’ aggression, and those who favor “top-downward” political systems that reign over society.

This endless political struggle is currently manifesting itself in a raging conflict over Utah’s longstanding caucus system, as many liberty-lovin’ Utahns (represented by Keep My Voice) want to continue it, while certain statist politicians (represented by Count My Vote) want to destroy it in favor of primary elections alone, and are allegedly resorting to lies, harassment, threats, and bribes to accomplish this goal.  Primary elections alone were used from 1937 to 1947, and were shown to reduce voter participation; they also render votes more affected by both biased journalists and wealthy donors, and allow the “spoiler effect” in which candidates may win with only minority support, as we recently saw when “liberal” John Curtis defeated two “conservative” Republicans in a primary election to become the Republican nominee with only minority support.  These sorts of problems encouraged Utahns to adopt a hybrid caucus-convention-primary system in 1947 that has persisted until recently with only minor adjustments.

So, please encourage your like-minded Republican neighbors to participate in their respective caucus meetings to help preserve Utah’s caucus system, while upholding wise virtuous rights-defenders to both public and party office.  And please feel free to report any victories to us that we might want to share with others.


Opposing a Statist Vision for Provo

We Provoans who value our rightful liberty would do well (for reasons detailed below) to lobby our city councilors from March 6th to March 27th (as they’ve voted to allow) about a revised General Plan for our city that they’ve been drafting since last year.

This revised central plan will merge our present General Plan’s Chapter One together with two city documents full of central-planning guidelines, namely Vision 2030 and Vision 2050.  Vision 2030 was instigated in 2010 by newly-elected mayor John Curtis, in cooperation with his like-minded city councilors, who together appointed a system of committees that gradually developed it through 18 months of careful deliberation, while both inviting and considering (but not necessarily heeding) public input, before finalizing it all on paper in 2011.  After using Vision 2030 to guide their central planning for five years, and then noting (in John Curtis’ words) that “so much of 2030 has already been accomplished,” our city officers sought additional public input about their plans in 2016, which they considered as they composed a similar plan called Vision 2050.  Along the way, Provo’s city councilors made it perfectly clear that their intent has been to gradually transform these abstract vision statements over decades into concrete city code.  So, if we want to know what these city officers envision for our future city ordinances (which have been proliferating greatly in recent years), then we should scrutinize this pair of vision statements.

Although these documents together present many fine aspirations for Provo’s future, most such goals/objectives are best accomplished through both loving persuasion and voluntary cooperation, rather than through the heavy hand of political edicts.  In fact, our political system should ideally focus on its core (and only proper) mission of helping us all to effectively defend our rights against others’ aggression, while leaving all other concerns to free people in a free society—and our politicians should NOT seek to compel us to live up to anything-and-everything that suits their fancy.  What follows next is a brief overview of some of the worst city ordinances envisioned by these documents, accompanied by some of our commentary.

  • Censoring Internet communications (perhaps) in violation of our rights to speak freely (see V2030 5.2.3).

Vision 2030 expresses concern about “the risks associated with free and open access to the Internet,” along with a legislative goal to “provide safe and secure Internet access.”  It’s unclear if this phrase refers to wanton electronic censorship or to something more innocuous (as some have suggested) like restricting children’s access to pornography at Provo’s public library; but, in any case, we urge caution.  While Vision 2030 was being composed, Provo owned a shoddy overpriced money-losing fiberoptic network called iProvo, which our city council had built from 2004 to 2006 using a massive $39.5-million-dollar loan (which Provo taxpayers are still repaying), but later sold in 2013 to Google Fiber for only $1 (while paying hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in related expenses); this transfer-of-ownership perhaps explains why this entire section about censorship was excluded from Vision 2050.

  • Reconstructing Provo’s infrastructure to impede private traffic in favor of public transit (see V2030 12.1, 12.2; V2050 9.1, 9.2).

Vision 2050 calls for neither eliminating nor minimizing traffic congestion, but “managing” it in such a way that it discourages people from driving.  This may (or may not) imply joining a recent nationwide trend of so-called “road diets” that are now severely obstructing traffic in various major U. S. cities for the purpose of “encouraging” drivers to give up their automobiles for politically-favored alternatives.  Provo’s city officers may be fulfilling these goals right now (at least in part) through their insanely-expensive road-reconstruction project to establish Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which they have admitted isn’t justified by current consumer demand.  We should note, by the way, that even this current relatively-low demand is highly inflated due to heavy taxpayer subsidies, without which all UTA fares would be at least several times more expensive.

  • Dictating which buildings will get built where, while regulating the details of both their form and their function, all in accordance with the principles of “sustainable development” and/or “smart growth,” but in violation of property rights (see V2030 1.5.2, 1.6.2, 2.1.1, 2.2, 2.4; V2050 1.3.5, 1.5.4, 1.6.2, 2.1.3, 2.2, 2.3.6, 2.5, 2.7.3, 2.8.1, 4.6.1, 6.6, 6.7, 6.9, 9).

Although zoning is common, some cities like Houston have thrived without it, as it curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” and wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork.  While traditional zoning controls only the function of buildings, newer zoning trends control their form, as well, and this seems to be referenced in Vision 2050—in fact, Provo’s city councilors in 2016 discussed the idea of mandatory landscaping for all residential homes, which they would regulate through city code.  Some consider such form-based code to be vital in implementing “smart growth,” which forcibly redirects development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center, thereby concentrating municipal residents into high-density walkable urbanesque cores served by public mass-transit, which is exactly what these documents envision for Provo.  “Smart growth” is a closely-related concept to “sustainable development,” which has become associated with “watermelon” environmentalists who advance communistic principles under the guise of protecting nature.  Communists have long favored such “delandization” policies in nations that they’ve sough to subvert.

  • Redistributing demographics, including by expelling renters from Provo to other parts of Utah County, in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 1.5, 2.1, 2.3, 5.3; V2050 1.5, 2.1, 2.3).

Provo’s city officers have expressed displeasure with Provo’s current owner-renter balance, along with a desire to exercise political power to artificially restrict rental housing (which would inflate rental costs for students while unjustly enriching landlords), subsidize homeownership, discourage relocation, and even encourage each neighborhood’s residents to have diversity in their ages.  It’s unclear exactly how our city officers might enforce age diversity—perhaps each block would be assigned a mandatory elderly couple?  In any case, our public officers shouldn’t decree who lives where—such decisions should be made contractually within a free market.

  • Expanding Provo’s current array of city-run business ventures, regulating what it doesn’t run, and subsidizing politically-favored relocations and/or expansions and/or startups, all in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 4.7, 5.4.2, 7.3.2, 9.1.2, 9.3.2; V2050 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 4.7, 4.8, 5.3.2, 6.2.4, 6.3.2, 6.4, 6.8).

Provo’s city officers seem to want to control (or at least manipulate) our municipal economy as much as we’ll let them.  Their current roster of city-run businesses (which should all be fully privatized) includes a redevelopment agency, a monopolistic power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a money-losing performing-arts center, a rather-profitable (for now) new recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a city park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery, with plans to possibly add a museum and/or beach.  Such additions might be funded through Provo’s new RAP (recreation, arts, and parks) tax, through which our city officers may entertain us as much as they please while sending the bill to taxpayers.  But it’s not right for our politicians to be running and/or regulating our businesses, which distracts them from their proper role of helping us to defend our rights.

  • Socializing Provo’s health-care system, while ensuring that Provoans maintain proper diet and exercise (see V2030 6.1, 6.2).

Vision 2030 expresses a desire to guarantee every Provoan “access” to health care, which appears to be a city-level version of “Obamacare.”  Which may explain why, after our nation’s Congress passed the unconstitutional Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, this section was excluded from Vision 2050.  What also disappeared were goals about ensuring that all Provoans live healthier lives.  As for how Provo’s city councilors considered enforcing such health laws, we can only speculate—perhaps it would involve regular home visits from “health enforcement agents” to ensure that we’re all talking enough walks and eating enough vegetables?  Creepy…

  • Recruiting residents to help implement this statist agenda (see V2030 5.3.5, 10.1.3, 10.2, 14.3.4; V2050 7.1.3, 7.2, 11.3.4).

Provo’s city officers also want to educate Provoan children to engage in “sustainable development,” and to understand the “roles of government,” which they seemingly believe is to reign over the rest of us—and to harness some Provoans as volunteers to help them to render their statist vision a reality.  Rather than trying to finagle us into serving their interests, they should be helping us to remain free to pursue our own interests within the limits of our equal God-given rights.

Please lobby your city councilors against such such goals, and please encourage fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise!  Since these goals/objectives were generally their idea, they might resist relinquishing them, or they might eliminate them only on paper while pressing ahead with them in practice—but your efforts may still either slow or pause their statist plans enough to have an impact while we’re in the process of helping our neighbors to choose better successors.  And we hope that you’re already actively proselytizing your neighbors, as well, especially as our local weather is growing milder.  As a reminder, you’re more than welcome to peruse our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources.


Provo’s Mayor and Central Planning

Provo’s newest mayor, Michelle Kaufusi, is simultaneously serving as a columnist for the Provo Daily Herald, which is helping to extend the reach of her “bully pulpit” to expound her views.  It’ll be nice to know what she’s thinking and intending over time.

In her first column yesterday, she wrote about how to preserve Provo’s “unique, family-friendly, close-knit feel” as it grows, and proposed three solutions, about which we’d like to comment briefly.

Firstly, she proposed “a neighborhood-first city.”  The details of what this phrase means are not obvious but remain somewhat debatable—but, in any case, although it’s a fine thing to maintain distinct neighborhoods within a city, there’s one political unit that’s always even more important than any neighborhood.  And that unit is the family, which is the basic unit of any society, including of any church or state.  In fact, each individual household constitutes the Earthly source from which all political power is delegated to public officers.  And each political system should not only respect the equal God-given rights of its constituents, but it should also help defend those rights, even when doing so contradicts the special interests of certain groups.  Like neighborhood majorities.  So, it would be better to propose a family-first city.

Secondly, she proposed “smart urban planning.”  Although it’s alright for the city to plan some things like public streets, the rest is best planned by the many rather than the few.  No small oligarchy of central economic planners, now matter how expert, can plan a city better than its residents interacting contractually within a genuinely-free market.  The people should decide what gets built where, not their city councilors and definitely not their mayor.  The purpose of a city’s mayor should not be to direct his/her constituents’ efforts like a monarch, but rather to defend their rights as a servant, while allowing them to work out the rest amongst themselves as free people.  Free people, when guided by virtue, can accomplish amazing things—in fact, they always work best as free men and women rather than as slaves.

Thirdly, she proposed “an aggressive plan to increase economic development in our city.”  Again, it’s free people who should freely develop their economy, while their public officers should simply help defend their rights to do so, rather than dictate those efforts.  It shouldn’t be a mayor’s responsibility to make a “shopping list” of specific businesses to bring into town, and then devise strategies to finagle them into doing so via subsidies or tax-breaks or other special favors, all for the purpose of increasing the city’s tax revenue so that it can control everyone better.  Instead, public officers should simply help defend everyone’s equal God-given rights, and equally welcome ALL legitimate businesses into town by maintaining a genuine free market—a market in which entrepreneurs naturally thrive according to how well they serve residents (NOT how well they curry political favor), and in which they are equally free (including from burdensome regulations) to figure out how best to do this, as long as they don’t overstep their own God-given rights to violate the equal rights of others.  Economies always perform best when they’re kept free, not when they’re whooped into submission to serve political objectives.

Either we the people rule our public officers, or they rule us.  A controlling state makes a weak citizenry, but a strong populace makes a strong city.  And that’s the “Provo Strong” that we should want—a strong community in which residents fully respect each other’s equal rights, while learning to exercise their own rights well within their proper limits, and freely loving/serving each other to do likewise.  This characterizes the virtuous free society that will help Provo to remain a thriving place to live.  By contrast, our city will dwindle if we persist along our present collectivistic course toward well-funded central planning that will run our municipal economy and direct its growth.

So, let’s work together for a freer Provo, including by upholding more city officers who will respect our rights NOT reign over our lives.  Which includes preparing for our city’s next round of elections in 2019.  We invite you to please visit our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources, and we hope that you’ll encourage your fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise.


Provo’s City Council Prioritizes Statism

Provo’s city council recently went on a retreat to choose their top five priorities for our city over these next two years.  Sadly (although not surprisingly), their final selections had little to do with defending our equal God-given rights better, but much to do with increasing their central planning of our city’s economy.

Our city council’s topmost issue is apparently zoning compliance.  Zoning has become rather commonplace in America, but any practice can become popular without being right.  And zoning not only violates both our property and contractual rights, but (as some hard data proves) it also curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” and wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork.  Some American cities like Houston have thrived with barely any zoning laws—but, sadly, Provo’s city officers seem determined to not only maintain present zoning laws, but also to extend those laws to include “form-based code,” which would regulate the form of buildings in addition to their function.

A second issue is housing, as our city councilors apparently intend to determine what sort of housing should be built where, and then ensure that it gets built accordingly, rather than leave this task to free people.  And their remaining three top priorities include budgeting for “outcomes,” for Vision 2050, and for economic development.  As for this last item, they are apparently assuming that they shouldn’t leave the economy free to grow on its own, but should actively direct that development according to their central plans—even though such planning-by-the-few is rarely as good as planning-by-the-many that naturally occurs in a genuinely-free market.

The most dangerous priority of these five is arguably the one about funding Vision 2050, which (for those who don’t already know) is an abstract vision statement that Provo’s city council has stated that it intends to gradually transform into concrete city code.  Its various statist provisions include forcibly redirecting development away from the city’s outskirts into a high-density downtown core, dictating what gets built where, impeding private cars (in order to encourage public mass-transit), encouraging symbiosis between city institutions and relatively-big businesses, attracting politically-favored companies into town, subsidizing politically-favored startups, running ever-more local monopolies, regulating homebuilding along with (mandatory) residential landscaping, restricting the local supply of rental housing, redistributing city demographics as they see fit, and even overseeing our diet-and-exercise.  Its predecessor, known as Vision 2030, also proposed both Internet censorship (seemingly) and our own local “Curtiscare.”

Such oligarchic trends, if allowed to continue, will inevitably run our now-thriving city economy into the ground.  And this course won’t change until enough Provoans “wake up,” pay attention, and then start voting for something better.  And that won’t happen unless/until we make it happen.  So, let’s please work hard over these next two years to help our neighbors to prepare themselves to elect better city officers in late 2019.  We invite you to please visit our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources, and we hope that you’ll encourage your fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise.


Provo’s State-of-the-City in 2018

Provo officially inaugurated Michelle Kaufusi this January 3rd as its newest (and first female) mayor.  She delivered her first state-of-the-city address this January 18th, which proposed both good and bad for Provo’s near-future.

As for the good, Mayor Kaufusi encouraged both community spirit and volunteerism, which is always commendable.  She also proposed a new wastewater treatment facility, which sounds like a fine idea, as long as it’s genuinely needed.  And she proposed a newly-consolidated customer-service department to better help patrons of the city’s growing array of business ventures.  So far, so good.

It’s this latter item that introduces the bad, though, because no city should ever need a customer-service department.  This department has become necessary only because our city officers have followed our federal government’s bad example by running so many businesses.  In fact, for all practical purposes, our city’s mayor currently doubles as C.E.O. of over a dozen city-run business ventures, which now include a redevelopment agency, a power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a money-losing performing arts center, a thriving recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery.  And, by the way, our city officers have shown interest in expanding this list to include both a museum and a beach.

Altogether, this diverse array of at least 16 businesses arguably constitutes far too much responsibility for a single conglomerate to manage effectively, especially a conglomerate that’s entirely led/managed by politicians.  Whenever such public businesses perform well (as Provo’s new recreation center has been doing), it’s always a rare-and-fleeting exception to the timeless universal rule, which is one reason why we would do well to fully spin-off all such businesses into the private sector.  Another reason for such spin-offs is that our public sector should avoid distracting itself from its core responsibilities (and proper role) of expertly helping us to defend our God-given rights.

And our politicians should definitely only defend rights and never violate them!  Sadly, our city officers have already been infringing upon our equal God-given rights by trying to centrally-plan development in west Provo, while cracking down on landlords’ private property rights, which are two other sad items that Mayor Kaufusi mentioned in these remarks.  If she continues to exert ever-more political control over our now-thriving city economy, then such control will ultimately devastate it, much as Detroit governed itself to death in 2011.

So, altogether, Mayor Kaufusi seems poised to perpetuate the relatively-statist policies of her predecessor, sadly, and to fulfill her campaign slogan of wanting a “strong” Provo—which, as best as I can tell, includes rendering our city government strong enough to control the local economy and even decree grocery stores into existence at will.  This means that we’ll need to remain vigilant, and prepare ourselves to mobilize our like-minded neighbors to oppose such bad policies—and to help them to choose better in 2021.  If you haven’t already done so, then please peruse our website to learn more about what’s wrong with Provo, along with how we might solve those problems together.

Do you agree with this analysis?  Why or why not?  What more can or should we be doing to foster a freer Provo?   Please leave your feedback below.


Provo’s General Election Results for 2017

America’s general election was held yesterday and, in Provo, that included elections for both mayor and three councilors.  Election results are not yet finalized, since our county clerk has not yet counted all ballots cast; but, if present trends continue, then here are this year’s election results…

For mayor, Establishment candidate Michelle Kaufusi, who seemingly wants a municipal government “strong” enough to decree grocery stores into existence, has defeated both fellow Establishment candidate Sherrie Hall Everett, who apparently wants to keep Provo “moving forward” toward the statist Vision 2030 future that she helped plan for it, and write-in candidate Odell Miner, who didn’t seem especially likely to either continue or reverse such trends.

For city council, Provoans re-elected incumbents David Sewell and David Harding, plus seemingly-like-minded newcomer George Handley.

These candidates were elected by only about 8,000 participating voters, who together constitute about 19% of Provo’s 42,000-ish registered voters, as well as less than 7% of all 117,000-ish current Provo residents.  This is an unusually large turnout for an odd-year election in Provo, but such high turnout likely resulted entirely from this year’s special election for U. S. Representative.  Altogether, these 8,000 participants, by majority vote, upheld Provo’s increasingly-statist status quo of higher taxes, deeper debts, increased spending, multiplied ordinances, disrespected rights, et cetera, which is tragic for one of America’s most “conservative” cities.

We Provoans who value our rightful liberty can do no more for it in this election, but can only start preparing for our next one.  We need to engage our neighbors in conversation, identify and/or proselytize like-minded ones, educate them, inform them, activate them, and organize them for perpetual victory.  And also actively seek out worthy candidates whom we can encourage to seek public office, and then uphold in doing so.  Which will hopefully avert a bleak future like Detroit’s and perhaps render Provo’s best days yet-to-be again.  Will you commit to engage in such political activism over these next two years—and beyond?


Provo Mayor 2017: Miscounts and Write-Ins

For those who haven’t already learned about it, Utah County’s clerk has discovered that at least 150 Provoan’s votes for mayor this year were never counted; also, Odell Miner (who placed third in this year’s primary election for Provo mayor) has now officially filed as a write-in candidate in this year’s general election to provide an alternative to statists Kaufusi and Everett.  We still favor Miner best of these three, but not enough to endorse him at present.