Tag Archives: taxes

Provo’s Big Budget for 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Our Politically-Managed Airport

It’s wonderful that we enjoy a nice regional airport here in Utah County, and that it’s apparently prospering well enough to merit some expansion, which will increase its capacity to benefit its growing number of customers, and will produce positive “ripple effects” upon everyone who lives in our county.

But why is this growing local transportation hub being run by politicians rather than by entrepreneurs?  And why are its managers lobbying legislators to compel us (and others) to fund its expansion, rather than raising such capital from profits or savings or loans or investments or whatnot?  The state exists to exercise its coercive powers to help us to expertly defend ourselves from others’ aggression, NOT to figuratively pick our pockets to fund its growing array of business ventures, which are beyond its scope, and which distract it from its proper role.

Such business is best left to the private sector, where it normally operates efficiently and effectively and innovatively, while any exceptions are generally both rare and fleeting.  These norms-and-exceptions are reversed in the public sector, in which politically-managed businesses often exercise state power to defend their poor performance from unwanted competition.  Although our local airport may (or may not) be faring alright for the moment, it would fare far better if our city officers were to fully privatize it without any lingering political “strings” attached.  We need to set this airport free!

Sadly, Provo’s current public officers don’t appear to share such views, and haven’t done so for a long time.  Which is why Provo’s expanding municipal government now runs 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, none of which are involved in defending our rights.  And it’s also why we who value our rightful liberty need to get educated, informed, and active in our local elections or else these ongoing statist trends may slowly ruin Provo just as they’ve ruined Detroit and other cities (or even entire nations).

As Utah’s weather improves, we urge you to please go kindly confront your neighbors, engage them in discussion about these issues, and organize like-minded ones for regular victory in our city elections.  And, if our website helps for that purpose, then please use it.  If you succeed, then we can regain a lean city government that effectively defends our rights, while allowing us the freedom to keep Provo such a great place to live, hopefully for many generations to come.  And wouldn’t that be worth the bother?


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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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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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