Bountiful City May Circumvent Referendum For New City Hall

A month ago, I noted that Bountiful residents had a “Last Chance To Stop Bountiful City From Blowing $21 Mil Of Your Taxes“. Here’s an update.

First, the good news. It appears that the referendum signature gathering was successful: Ballot petition drive exceeds expectations. The story notes 3,900 signatures were collected in a very short time but I understand the total is closer to 4,100. Those totals, however, are before the signatures are vetted/verified. Nevertheless, referendum proponents expect that they will comfortably meet the threshold for a referendum as they collected a good cushion of extra signatures (about 1,400 beyond the required 2,765).

Now my warning. Cities and politicians don’t like to lose on these things. As I talked to people on this, I remember someone asking me if I thought the referendum had a chance. I told them politicians will use whatever they can to invalidate a petition or, failing that, pull an end run around a vote outcome. Low and behold, about a day or two later I read this in the Clipper (Deadline nearing for city hall referendum petitions):

The committee said that once the signatures are gathered and verified, city administrators can either accept the petitions and put the issue on the November ballot, or reject them, citing the vote to approve by the council was an administrative, rather than a legislative, decision. A final decision on acceptance or rejection could come before the end of January, Collinwood said. [Emphasis added]

Therein is your caveat emptor: Politicians will protect their pet projects tooth-and-nail. Don’t get complacent and think this is on the way to being won. It is not.

For ongoing updates on the referendum and the city hall issue see: NoNewCityHall.com and the Better Bountiful group.

 

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Last Chance To Stop Bountiful City From Blowing $21 Mil Of Your Taxes

About a month ago, the city council voted unanimously* to ignore citizen pleas and dump $21 million to please yet another round of special interests. They continue to justify it as something that won’t raise taxes, when it reality it will, just not immediately (they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul – see also: Fund Utah schools by ending corporate incentives).

You now have one last chance to stop this money grab and you can do it while Christmas shopping. A citizens referendum is prepared and needs your signature before January 6th (it takes a minute don’t put it off!). Just swing by K & J Auto or contact the Better Bountiful group. Details (edited for brevity):

The long-awaited Referendum is finally, ready to sign!

THANK YOU!  We have come a long way together, and owe it to your great support.  With people focused on the holiday season we need your help now, more than ever!  Please see below for details on how to help and ensure we get the signatures we need!

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  •  Visit one of the locations at the given times below and sign the referendum.
  • Or, even better, we need volunteers to collect signatures on the approved forms (See where to obtain them below).

WHERE DO I GO TO PARTICIPATE?

  • K & J Auto (10 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday, 10 am – 3 pm Saturday)

o   310 South Main Street

One quick easy trip. That’s it….and since your downtown anyway, why not check out some of the local merchants offerings for Christmas (hint, hint).

For ongoing updates on the referendum and the city hall issue see: NoNewCityHall.com and the Better Bountiful group.

*One member on the council (Harris) was partially fooled into voting for the entire amount when the council presented the spending as an all-or-nothing package (not allow for components to be split up). Just a typical political move from entrenched politicians to get junk funded (wish more people like Ted Cruz would call them out on this type of crap and simply say ‘fine, I’ll vote no to the whole thing then’).

Bountiful City Council Sophistry For Their New City Hall

A bit over a month ago, I warned that Bountiful City Council had begun another foray at getting their new city hall. A few days ago I got their glossy propaganda pamphlet telling my why I should be happy to see $21 Million more in taxes be spent so “visionary” politicians can put their names on new projects paid for by taxpayers. The pamphlet’s rationale is simply absurd:

The author attempts to justify a new city hall as an economic driver for Main Street. I’m sorry, a new city hall is not a tourist attraction. The same clients coming for permits are not going to all-of-a-sudden start burning cash on Main St. because city hall has a new car smell. Private business is an economic driver, not pretty new government buildings with no additional services.

Further, Main street is not an easily accessible area and unless they want to gut blocks of city to totally restructure the roads from I-15, it will remain the same. This ‘revitalizing Main St’ shtick as a justification for pet projects that have been going on for well over a decade. Enough already.

Other justifications for the spending include a plaza for chalk art, a car show, and undefined community events. All seem like they would qualify for the RAP Tax we already pay (they’re double dipping). All already have perfectly adequate venues and interest groups are welcome to fund improvements (if they actually even want any in the first place) rather than tapping school and county tax funds.

The taxes not increasing thing is bogus. RDAs are a synonym for “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in my book or as a state Legislative Audit report states:  “When RDAs take property taxes as allowed in tax increment financing (TIF), other taxing entities suffer. .” Yes, tax rates will not increase…yet. What happens is that the schools and Davis county just gave up $21 Million in revenue. In a few years they’ll need a building or have some other spending shortfall. Then we get tagged with urgent demands for a tax increase or extension of a prior tax increase (bonds) ‘to fund these critical needs for the children’ or for public safety – the same project(s) that would have otherwise been funded by the forgone RDA money. So, yeah, there is an indirect impact on our tax rates, be it an increase or, in the case of bond extensions, rates that were not reduced (and money not returned).

Finally, the pamphlet claims a net $17 Million benefit (with a 261% ROI). If that is true, the RDA is unnecessary and a developer should jump at that kind of a return. So, I guess we don’t need the RDA after all, hooray!

Addendum: The Better Bountiful group appears to be the main opposition. It has recently set up a website (NoNewCityHall.com) specifically dealing with this issue. One of their first and greatest challenges will be to overcome the involvement inertia so well describe by Rose and Milton Friedman.

 

Another Warning On Government Private Sector Intrusion (Davis Conference Center)

In 2009, I wrote up a brief post on the Davis County Commission having a fit about a pole dancing event at their tax-funded conference center. Back then I stated that, as far as I was concerned, it was tough luck because government involvement had turned the facility into a public venue without the right of service refusal found in private property*.

Looks like Dallas is dealing with something worse than a pole dancing event and as the blog author notes, they too can stuff it thanks to government involvement in the facility (Why Dallas is wrong to ban porn convention from city-owned property):

The problem is the convention IS guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution under the “right of the people to peacefully to assemble” in the First Amendment and Section 1 of the 14th Amendment under the “ No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ” It’s not like the porn convention broke the law when it came to Dallas last year (something Dallas’ own police chief told the City Council)…

This also brings up another issue: the fact the convention center is owned by the city. It’s a legal grey area because there are fees groups have to pay before they’re allowed to host an event. If the convention center was private, there wouldn’t be a debate over the issue (and the convention organizers are suing) because it would be a contract between two private entities. The private owners of the convention center could say to the organizers, “No thanks, we don’t want your money, enjoy your refund,” and it’s doubtful a judge would rule against them because of due process in the 14th Amendment.

I recommend reading the post. The situation serves as yet another example of why government should stay out of things best left to the private sector

*Caveat: the right of service refusal on private property has been diminished in favor of certain politically-correct groups (especially if it involves wedding cakes). After all, some people are simply “more equal” than others…

Early Warning: City Tax Increases For UTA And Kickbacks (Update)

The Bountiful City Council is poised to pursue recommending tax increase on the November ballot.  Likely they used this vapid, boilerplate resolution provided to them from the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT – a tax-funded municipal lobbying group that lobbies the legislature to increase you taxes – go figure).

Basically, if they are able to pass the tax increase, UTA  (Utah Transit Authority) will get 40% of it for improving their service (…and free up funding for more outrageous executive bonuses). Meanwhile cities get 40% of the take and counties get 20%. Effectively, the legislature set this scheme up so everyone get’s a juicy kickback by getting this thing passed. As one person I know put it: Imagine if the city were to agree with Comcast to slap a fee on every homeowner for Comcast internet improvements under the agreement that Comcast will give the city/county 20-40% of the fee?

Of course, if Comcast and the city rigged a deal like this, there would be an investigation and things would not be pretty.  However, since government and a government-spronsored private organization (UTA) is involved, this is somehow kosher.

This tax will be on top of several new, and proposed 2015 taxes/fees (note there may be more, these are just off the top of my head):

  • Statewide property tax increase of $46/average home ($250K, I think) (SB97)
  • State gas tax increase (now 12% which also automatically increases the revenue as wholesale price increases up to a threshold of $0.40/gallon (HB362)
  • Directed by the Utah Legislature (SJR6) Chaffetz has proposed a law that would require all online businesses to collect Utah sales tax from Utah citizens

Fortunately for cities, ULCT (along with Utah Chamber of Crony Capitalists-afilliated groups and front organizations) is going to help cities with the get-out-the-vote campaign (see the “When” section). Based on the aforementioned resolution and linked document, cities are likely to make hay of their road maintenance shortfall to convince you to spit up 40% overhead to UTA. Quite frankly, the shortfall is of their own doing – if they would’ve focused on core government functions instead of pet projects like recreation centers, theater for plays, art displays/festivals, special-interest museums, etc (see the tags linked above). Maybe it’s time they check their priorities and adjust such first before further burdening families.

Unfortunately, for those who expect some fiscal responsibility and oppose these intra-governmental kickback schemes, things will be tough. The above crony groups will use their coffers to swamp the media with ads etc as they will see a return on investment (at your expense) and attack opponents as ‘miserly’ for such a small increase (again, ignore the other increases this is heaped on).  Plus, they also have the advantage of  the “Concentrated versus Diffuse Interests” effect so eloquently identified by Milton & Rose Friedman many years ago.

Good times ahead, or something.

UPDATE (8/18): The Davis County Commission voted to stick the measure on the ballot:

The motion was unanimous with votes from Commissioners.
Milburn – on the UTA Board of Trustees.
Smith – CEO of  Davis Chamber of Commerce – Chambers are involved in PR for the tax increase (see my above link), I’m betting Davis Chamber will chip in too…
Petroff who stated: “putting the sales tax increase on the ballot is not a hard decision for me.”

UTA’s ‘not so dazzling’ State audit reports can also be found (via Evelyn Everton’s twitter) at the links:
2014
2012

UPDATE (10/17): The ballot proposal is known as Proposition 1 (“Prop 1”).  Please vote NO on this most recent piece of crony capitalism (see also today’s post: Prop 1: Funding The UTA Money Pit With Government Kickbacks).

UPDATE (2016): For historical reference, Bountiful’s City Council passed the “vapid resolution” unanimously on June 23, 2015.

Heed Bastiat: Bountiful RAP Tax (2014)

Bountiful’s RAP (Recreation, Arts, and Parks) Tax is up for renewal in a few weeks.  While  it may be well intentioned, it represents a means for favored special interests groups and politicians to fund their pet projects at the expense of their neighbors and fellow citizens.  Long ago, Frederic Bastiat warned about the practice of drifting from core government functions and dubbed it “legal plunder“. More recently, economist Milton Friedman revealed why these special interests often prevail.

Ironically, often these special interest tax campaigns are bankrolled and pursued by those who can most afford them and the projects they fund.  Those most able to pay and benefit distribute the otherwise voluntary burden to those least able to do so.  They also tend to argue that their burden is a light burden and attempt to shame those opposed as unrefined and miserly.  Their tax may be small but it is heaped upon all the other taxes and fees placed upon us.  Make no mistake – it adds to families’ financial burdens to fund very non-critical functions.

Then there are the pitfalls of these funding pools.  It introduces government inefficiencies and pressure from groups or politicians to aggrandize projects into legacy projects.  Costs balloon and the project becomes orders of magnitude larger:  something we recently witnessed in Bountiful (this time it had a happy ending…for now).  Not to mention the pitfalls of the types of events that are funded.  Just to add insult to injury, the politicians and benefiting groups hold a groundbreaking, thank themselves for the hard work….and totally neglect taxpayers.

I guess all I can say is that I have a lot of hobbies and interests I enjoy participating in.  I take the time and money to pay for those and don’t demand that my wealthy neighbor, the widow on a fixed income, or a struggling young family pay for or subsidize my fun.  I am fortunate and grateful that I get to voluntarily donate and assist others.  I would just ask that the same courtesy be granted to me and to those least able to pay.

Please vote no on the RAP Tax (“Proposition 6”) and let folks willingly fund the projects they value rather than forcing others to pay for them.  ​A community that voluntarily helps one and other is a true community.

 

Rerun: Bountiful Mayor And Use Of City Resources During Election

It’s been about 7 years since Bountiful City under Mayor Joe Johnson’s watch broke Utah election rules and used city property and employees* to push for a bond election and tax increase for the South Davis Recreation Center.  Some things don’t change much.

Frankly this is fairly minor but it does provide another data point.  In a message sent to Davis County Republicans endorsing incumbent Commissioner Petroff, the mayor decided to go ahead and use his city-provided email in the election message:

…The standard of hard work set by JP is one that regularly impresses me.  I mean this sincerely when I say that no one I know in county government works harder on behalf their constituents than JP.  He has demonstrated a knack for taking on tough issues and with hard work and vision he finds answers to challenges that have eluded others.

If you have any questions about my support for JP, the upcoming primary election, or even a concern you might have about local government, please feel free to contact me: jjohnson@bountifulutah.gov  (email) or 801.[redacted] (phone).

Thanks for your time, and remember to cast your vote for Commissioner John Petroff on June 26th.

Sincerely,

Mayor Joe

Bountiful

Old habits die hard, I suppose.  I also wonder if the phone number he used is a city supplied phone or his personal phone.  Puzzling too, is how neither the Davis County Republican Party nor Petroff took notice of the use of government resources in an election email.  It doesn’t reflect well on their quality control.

*See also “Costs already rising for Davis Rec Center” (SL Trib 12/7/2004), “Winning was ugly in So. Davis rec center vote” (Standard Examiner 12/2/2004), “Complaint filed over rec center” (Standard Examiner 11/30/2004), and “Complaint filed against rec center” (Standard Examiner 11/19/2004)