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 Big BRT Boondoggle

Perhaps a better headline for this blog entry would be… “Provo Sells Its Residents Deeper into Financial Bondage in Order to Squander Millions of Their Hard-Earned Dollars on a Tax-Wasting Traffic-Congesting Slightly-Faster Bus Service That Barely Anyone Demanded.”

The Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA’s) new Utah Valley Express (UVX) bus line will finally begin operating on August 13th (Monday), nearly two decades after Utahn politicians first conceived it.  This bus service is a form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which uses special buses (and bus stops) to convey riders at a somewhat-more-rapid pace than a standard bus could; it will transport its passengers back-and-forth along major Provo-Orem thoroughfares (both through Provo’s downtown and alongside Orem’s University Mall) between southwest Orem’s FrontRunner station (near Utah Valley University) and south Provo’s East Bay area (near Provo’s South Towne Centre mall).

This massive public-works project was joint-venture between federal and state and local politicians, who cooperated to compel hundreds-of-millions of U. S. taxpayers from Key West to Prudhoe Bay (although especially here in Utah) to spend over $200,000,000 altogether to reconstruct our local city streets to accommodate this new bus service, while leaving every Provo/Orem household burdened with repaying nearly $1,200 (plus interest) of added municipal debt.  That’s a tremendous of money to pay, which might be alright if it were being used to construct a highly-demanded service that would greatly improve our local (or even national) quality-of-life.

So, what did we get in return for that massive financial investment, along with enduring all of the hassles of road-reconstruction over this last year?  Well, it seems that (during its peak hours of operation) Provo residents can now wait up to 10 minutes (at most) to catch a fancy new bus that will transport them to their destination up to 10 minutes (at most) faster than driving.  Yes, that’s what we got, which is arguably not much (if any) of an advantage!  Moreover, this dubious advantage is only true as long as both one’s origin and one’s destination lie along the same select 10-mile-long strip of Provo-Orem city streets—which, for the vast majority of us, is a relatively rare occurrence.

The rarity of having both one’s origin and one’s destination confined to a single 10-mile-long path, plus the very-marginal improvements in transit-time that Bus Rapid Transit provides over standard bus service, together help to explain why the greatest demand for this BRT service has never come from UTA riders but from Utahn politicians.  In fact, Provo’s city councilors have previously admitted that there is insufficient public demand to justify the UTA providing BRT service to Provo/Orem at this time—but, despite this fact, they chose to support the development of BRT anyway, while assuring us that public demand for BRT would increase as Utah County continues to grow rapidly.  Although this claim may be true, it’s also arguably exaggerated, because nearly all Utah County growth is (so far) bypassing the Provo/Orem area to enlarge other nearby cities, especially those cities situated across Utah Lake that are not located anywhere near the UVX route—so, if we Provoans need to wait for ongoing local population growth to justify the existence of BRT, then we might need to wait for a very very VERY long time.

As an aside, it may be worth noting that demand for BRT is currently insufficient despite the fact that UTA fares are already heavily subsidized—in fact, according to a state audit in 2008, for every $1 that UTA riders paid in bus fare, Utah taxpayers were charged $4 to cover the rest, whether they liked it or not.  Such forcible taking is not only sinful but criminal, as a matter of principle, whereas freely giving is a wonderful thing that’s good to freely encourage.  In any case, considering the fact that standard UTA bus service has already been a severe money-pit for Utahns for years, it’s arguably reasonable to suspect that the UTA’s newly-built completely-subsidized insufficiently-demanded BRT service may prove to be an even bigger boondoggle for our city than its shoddy money-losing iProvo network was a decade ago.  Such business ventures are arguably better deferred to actual entrepreneurs than to politicians who like to play entrepreneur.

If local demand for BRT is to grow significantly at all, then it will result less likely from any ongoing population growth than from Provo’s city council gradually achieving its “Vision 2030” and/or “Vision 2050” goals for our city.  These documents are more than mere vision statements, but they have been actively guiding our city councilors in centrally-planning our city’s future, and they include various socialistic goals for Provo such as “sustainable development,” along with the closely-related concept of “Smart Growth” (or “New Urbanism”).  Smart Growth involves allegedly saving our natural environment from urban sprawl by exercising political power to forcibly redirect a city’s economic development from its outskirts to its downtown, which then develops into a high-density urbanesque walkable core served by public transit.  And this is precisely what both of these documents clearly envision for Provo’s future.

So, if Provo’s central planners continue to implement their collectivistic vision for our city, then we’ll likely see artificially-fewer suburban homes in west Provo and artificially-more urbanesque high-rises in downtown Provo.  However, this probably isn’t exactly what will happen, because most people relocating to the Provo area who are faced with the disappointment of forgoing a Provo home for a Provo apartment will probably just bypass Provo altogether to go live in a nearby city like Vineyard—which is exactly what they have already been doing.  Even so, Provo’s downtown population is still definitely growing, and its rising faction of quasi-urbanites will soon be able to enjoy a free cushy bus ride to either a mall or a FrontRunner station entirely at taxpayer expense.

Yes, I wrote entirely at taxpayer expense.  Rides along the UVX route will not merely be subsidized by Utah taxpayers like rides on other UTA routes (as previously mentioned), but they will apparently be billed entirely to U. S. taxpayers for at least 3 years through a U. S. Department of Transportation grant.  So, whenever riders step on those buses, they won’t pay a cent at their time-of-service, but they (along with hundreds-of-millions of other citizens from Honolulu to Bangor) will be billed for that bus ride in the form of federal taxes at some point, whether they like it or not.  Which, again, is wrong—our political system should help us to defend our rights from others’ aggression, not compel us to pay each other’s bills.

It’s bad enough that we Provoans are being forced to both construct and maintain an insanely-expensive taxpayer-money-guzzling underdemanded bus service that hardly anyone wanted and the vast majority of us will rarely (if ever) use… but it’s even worse that this bus service seems well-designed to impede the flow of “normal” traffic around our city.  Until now, this same UVX bus route was served by normal UTA buses that were simply one vehicle among many on our city streets, both using the same traffic lanes and obeying the same traffic signals as all other vehicles around them—but, now, these BRT buses will have their own special center lanes all to themselves, which are seemingly narrowing all other lanes around them while entirely eliminating at least some of the helpful left-turn lanes that Provoan drivers have been using.  This may contribute to widespread traffic congestion while rendering it significantly harder for many of us to speedily get from one point to another—so, basically, hundreds of private car-drivers will arrive at their destinations slower, in order for dozens of public bus-riders will get to their destinations just a tiny bit faster, which doesn’t sound like a very worthwhile trade to me.  Perhaps we should have expected this, though, because this is exactly what our city council envisioned in both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050—deliberately slowing the flow of private traffic while deliberately giving preference to public transportation.  So, we can’t say that we weren’t warned—and in writing, to boot!

Just as our city councilors warned us about what they were planning, this blog entry should perhaps also warn us that, unless we start to choose our city’s public officers more wisely, then they’re going to keep doing more of the same.  BRT is just one step among many their plans, and they’ve already informed us well about what other steps they’re planning to take.  In fact, their vision statements have been surprisingly clear about the sort of socialistic dystopia that they seek for us—one in which they centrally-manage our city’s economy (and its development), regulate its Internet, redistribute its demographics, and even oversee our health and diet and exercise and recreation and such, all with relatively little respect for our rightful liberty.  Perhaps they’ve been so surprisingly forthright about such plans because relatively few Provoans seem to notice (much less object) to what they’re doing enough to pose a serious threat to their goals.  Please prove them wrong!

Perhaps the “bottom line” of this Free Provo blog entry is that, if you value preserving and/or restoring the relatively virtuous free society that helped Provo to develop over time into one of America’s best cities, then please get involved NOW to build support among your neighbors to elect better city officers next year.  And, if you discover that our website helps you at all with that task, then please feel free to use it accordingly.  Happy doorknocking!


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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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Provo Serves Initiative 2018

Although we’ve repeatedly criticized Provo’s recent and current public officers, we’re always glad when they do something right.  Public officers are not only responsible to help defend our God-given rights from others’ aggression, but they also enjoy a “bully puplit” (as Theodore Roosevelt once called the U. S. Presidency) from which they may advocate good principles.

And it’s good to advocate good principles for many reasons, including because virtue is innately intertwined with freedom—only a free people may live virtuously as fully as they should, and increased virtue innately accompanies increased resistance to being brought into bondage.  The reasons for the latter are myriad—virtuous people tend to be industrious and generous, resist seeking vengeance, feel less tempted to lust for Earthly wealth and power and glory, enjoy less desire to be either slavemasters or slaves, and generally find fewer excuses to inappropriately coerce their neighbors.  But, regardless of the details, virtue and freedom require each other—and, moreover, they mutually support each other, as they innately facilitate peace, prosperity, abundance, progress, civilization, and happiness among those who enjoy them, whether as individuals or as communities or as entire nations, all of which helps to render our world a bit more like heaven-on-Earth.  And this is why we should desire both.

Another useful way to view this relationship is that being free is only a first step, while learning how to exercise our freedom well is the quest of a lifetime.  And this lifelong quest is something that we both can and should freely choose to help each other to do well, although as a moral duty alone, and not a legally-enforceable obligation (because, otherwise, we wouldn’t remain free).  So, it’s good for us to encourage our neighbors to choose well—and even for our politicians to encourage their constituents to freely go accomplish worthwhile tasks that aren’t part of the proper role of government (which would include virtually any worthwhile task beyond rights-defense).

So, having now expounded these general principles somewhat, we’d like to specifically thank Provo’s mayor Michelle Kaufusi for encouraging Provoans to engage in charitable service this May as part of the city’s annual Provo Serves Initiative.  Kudos.  If you’re not already aware of this initiative, then please watch this Provo City video for details.  And, in any case, we urge you to identify some pressing need within your neighborhood or nearby that would be good to help fulfill—perhaps something that our politicians might try to accomplish coercively even though they shouldn’t do so—and then freely choose to help it get fulfilled in the right way.  It not only feels better to foster what’s right than to thwart what’s wrong, but it also provides fewer excuses to statists to try to accomplish those same worthy goals in an incorrect manner.  So, please choose to serve—ideally not only this month but regularly if you’re not already doing so.

Sadly, although our city officers have definitely gotten some things right, they’ve fared rather poorly in other respects, as they’ve arguably sought a strong city government that does more to reign over us as oligarchs than to serve us by keeping us free.  So, please make the most of this beautiful springtime weather to go kindly confront your neighbors in person, proselytize them to the cause of freedom, and help them organize themselves to vote better in future elections.  And, if you find our website helpful for this purpose, then please make the most of it.


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