Tag Archives: subsidies

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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Preventing Privatization

Our city’s ice-rink was built for use in the Olympic Games in 2002.  It has since served local residents in various ways, while being co-owned by both Utah County and Provo city.  Sadly, its usage fees have been subsidized by taxpayers in both jurisdictions.  Our county commission recently showed interest in divesting its share of ownership in this ice rink, which might have constituted a good opportunity to fully privatize this facility—but Provo’s city officers eagerly kept this facility fully in public hands by making a deal with Utah County to eventually assume sole ownership of it.

Provo’s city officers seem determined to maintain each-and-every publicly-owned facility that they currently oversee, and to keep expanding that array.  Their current roster of city-run businesses includes a redevelopment agency, a monopolistic power company, an airport, a local television channel, a library, a money-losing performing-arts center, a rather-profitable (for the moment) new recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, the ice rink mentioned above, 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 new museum and/or beach.

As Provo’s city officers play CEO of a growing collection of business operations, this arguably distracts them from their core (and only proper) role, which is to help us to expertly defend our rights from others’ aggression.  Also, they’re not defending but (sadly) violating our rights whenever they wantonly help themselves our hard-earned money in order to subsidize other people’s expenses, such as through Provo’s new RAP (recreation, arts, and parks) tax.

Let’s please encourage our city officers to stop redistributing our paychecks, to stop playing entrepreneur, to fully privatize Provo’s present publicly-run business ventures (as it did once before with iProvo), and to focus on helping us to defend our equal God-given rights.  You may find their contact information below.

Also, let’s strive to persuade our neighbors to elect better city officers in 2019 who will do the right thing on their own without needing to be lobbied.  This is a great time-of-year to spend time outside knocking on neighbors’ doors in order to try to proselytize them to support the cause of freedom.  In doing so, you’re welcome to use our website’s resources if they help any.


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Provo’s Subsidies to Local Businesses

Provo’s mayor and city council have together articulated a statist vision for our city’s future since 2011 through both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050—and, despite changes in our city’s officers over these last 7 years, our current ones are still seeking to transform this same statist vision into reality.

This vision includes subsidizing politically-favored business activity, including local relocations, startups, and/or expansions (see Vision 2030 5.4.2, 9.1.2, 9.3.2; Vision 2050 6.2.4, 6.3.2, 6.8.4).  Mayor Kaufusi polled some residents during her campaign last year about what sorts of businesses they want to open franchises within our city, and she presumably considered this input to compose a “shopping list” of business chains to target.  And, at Provo’s recent city-sponsored Tech Summit, its city-employed moderator, while soliciting ideas about what Provo could do to help startups, was even bold enough to ask local entrepreneurs, “Do you want us to give out free money?” (see the city’s official YouTube recording of this event from 13:02 to 13:32).  Thankfully, none of those attendees dared to say “yes” in response to this offer, but this incident illustrates how interested our current city officers are in redistributing our hard-earned money as they please—if only they can only identify willing recipients.

Providing financial assistance to businesses should not be mandatory but voluntary.  If an economic cause is truly worth funding, then it shouldn’t be hard to persuade enough people to freely choose to finance it.  Such generosity (whether for business causes or for personal ones) is generally laudable and strengthens our charity, whereas theft may allow our charity to atrophy, even if such theft is perpetrated in the false guise of “compassion.”

And I don’t use the word theft figuratively but quite literally.  It’s important for us to understand the innate difference between forcibly taking and freely giving.  If I go to a park where I see a homeless man and feel compassion for him and give him $20 and maybe a job offer, then that’s a virtuous act of charity.  If I go to a park where a homeless man sees me and puts a gun to my head and demands that I give him $20, then that’s a corrupt act known as theft.  Some people may struggle to see much difference between these two incidents, since the same amount of money is transferred from the same person to the same person in each case, but those similarities are only superficial, whereas the underlying differences involved are profound, as are the long-term effects on both parties.  The latter is not only a genuine sin but also a genuine crime—it’s an act of aggression, against which we’re justified in defending ourselves.  And, in defending ourselves, we’re also justified in calling upon other people to help us with that task, from bystanders to hired bodyguards to taxpayer-funded police officers.  Assisting us with our self-defense is the ONLY proper role of any political system, and politicians violate that role whenever they side with aggressors instead.  And aggression doesn’t change its fundamental nature simply by becoming both popular and legal.   Robbery remains robbery, whether a lone gunman helps himself to what’s in our wallet, or whether he lobbies a politician to legally do the same thing legally on his behalf.  And  also whether the armed robber is an unemployed homeless man who wants some spare change or an otherwise-respectable local businessperson who wants some extra dollars in his coffers whether people want to donate those funds or not.

Since such legalized plunder is being actively promoted and/or solicited by our current array of city officers, we would do well to retire them all as quickly as possible, and to uphold successors who will not only respect our rightful liberty but also expertly help us to defend it.  This isn’t a task that we can each do alone, so please go try to persuade your neighbors to both cherish and understand freedom, while preparing them to vote better both this year and beyond.  And, if your find our Free Provo website helpful in this regard, then please make the most of it.


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