Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SB 199 Compromise.

Looks like things have changed with regards to SB 199. After much discussion Mr. Bramble has realized the controversy he has caused by banning the PTA from our public schools. The D-News had a quickly little blurb about the compromise: (See Here)

Apparently there is still some strife between PTOs and PTAs; so the bill will still move forward creating equal opportunity to both groups. But at least the fee waivers have been removed and potential disaster averted.

The PTA spoke this morning in the Senate Business and Labor Committee in favor of HB 129 - Alcoholic Beverage Amendments Related to Minor. It reminded me, thought not perfect, the PTA is does many great things for our State.

Good compromise.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Internet Usage vs. Newspaper Subscribers

Since the announcement of SB 208 there have been a lot of statistics thrown around about who uses the internet and who doesn't. The newspaper's argument is not enough people use the internet in Utah, especially the 65 and older. They also believe the control should stay in a third parties hands. SB 208 supporters say lots of people use the internet and the legislature can stay neutral on the publishing of legal notices. Since facts have been called into question on both sides of the isle, we thought it would be interesting to research this information and find some real answers.
Lets begin our research using the medium in question--the newspaper:
According to the Deseret News (Dec 17, 2008, See Here), Utah is the 2nd highest state in the nation for internet usage. In 2007 we hit 82 percent of households using the internet, this is up from 63 percent two years previous (Oct, 31, 2005, See Here). Now according the United States Census, in 2005 there were 791,929 households in Utah. (2005, See Here). Now let's assume we are still in 2005 and only 63 percent of the households use the internet. 63 percent of our 791,929 households in Utah gives us 498,915 households are internet users. Still how many people use the internet? The average household size is 3.07 giving us nearly 1,531,669 potential internet users in the state of Utah. Even if there is only one person in the household who uses the internet, this would be 498,915 people.
Now for newspaper subscribers: In the same article from Dec 17, 2008 Utah was the 6th lowest state in newspaper subscriptions. The 2007 data reported we had 12 subscribers for over 100 residents. With a population of 2,427,350 this equals 202,279 people.
The difference shows at least 296,000 more people use the internet than subscribe to the print newspaper.
Now for demographics. Over the age of 65, the Salt Lake tribune reported, 70 percent of this demographic do not have the internet. (See Here) The Pew Research Center & American Life Project (same place the D-News got some of their 2005 data) actually shows 41 percent of people over the age of 65 use the internet. Interestingly between the ages of 50-64 - 72 percent use the internet. (See Here) Als, their 2009 Generations Report states:
"While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online (2009)." (See Here, Page 2)
Since the introduction of broadband, the report has found older generation usage of the internet has tripled, with 37 percent going online for the purpose of reading the news. (Page 5)
We have now established more people are using the internet than reading the print newspaper. We have also established more of the older generation is using the internet for news than believed and this is increasing very fast. What you didn't know is 70 percent of internet users go online to read the news. (Page 5); by this rational we can assume a lot of people read newspapers, either online or in print. The newspapers have all ready recognized this, they know legal notices needed to go online; therefore they have created a website to do so (See Here). Now the legislature wants create a website to do the same and now we have an argument.
What is this argument really about? Not internet usage and demographics.
It is about two things:
1. Money
Both entities will charge you to publish your legal notices. It is going to come down to who will do it cheaper and save tax payers money. If the newspapers new legal notices web page charges the same rates or higher, they lose. If the Utah website charges higher rates than newspapers, they lose. SB 208 has shed light on an issue that cuts into the pockets of Utahns. Supporting SB 208 means we want the cheapest and most efficient way of getting this done. If the bill fails and pushes newspapers to give the best and cheapest service possible, then so be it.
2. Power
Newspapers like being the distributors of information. Joel Campbell in a recent comment to this blog made mention I want you all to believe bloggers are the only ones who can communicate online. He would in turn want you to believe only newspapers can distribute legal notices and the possibility of another entity (government or not) could even attempt to do so would be preposterous. Newspapers are not the only medium to receive information and to believe legal notices BELONG in newspapers is misguided. Will removal of the these legal notices bring down newspapers? No. It will take away some of the power newspapers have been used to as distributors of information.
This is not an anti-media bill, nor are my comments. However I feel passionate about finding ways to ensure people save money. Publishing of legal notices costs people money, in some cases a lot of money. If we can easy that burden, that fee, that tax, I say lets do it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

SLTribune - WEB ONLY Editorial Against SB 208

The Salt Lake Tribune posted an editorial against SB 208 yesterday afternoon. Their argument is not enough people use the Internet to justify moving legal notices to a state website. Ironically this editorial was posted as a WEB ONLY editorial.  (See Here).  

The Tribune opines SB 208 would disenfranchise 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 whom all get their news via newspapers.  So why push your argument only to the Internet, if the people whom you want to speak out against this bill don't have Internet access?  I guess the Internet was just a faster and easier way of getting your message across, not to mention cheaper.

SB 208 would transfer the publishing of public notices in newspapers to a state website.  The idea would be to cut the cost of public notices and make it easier for Utahns to find the needed information.  The Tribune argues there is no guarantee this will be cheaper and their soon to be released website is much better.  However what they don't tell you is there is legislation to remove the current public notice fee cap (See SB 161); which would allow them to charge more for public notices.  If their website is going to be cheaper, why do they want to remove the cap to charge more?

I am sure this editorial will be published in the Tribune either Saturday or Sunday, but it is quite ironic it was a web only special to begin with.

A Conversation Regarding SB 199

The following is one of many possible conversations Sen. Curt Bramble could have had in deciding to write SB 199:


Constituent: Sen. Bramble, how is the legislature going?

Sen. Bramble: Going well, but I am running out of good ideas for my own legislation. How are you doing?

Constituent: We are doing okay; we are on our way to pay our $5 PTA dues.

Sen. Bramble: $5 PTA dues?

Constituent: Yes, every year we have to pay $5 to our local PTA? It is so expensive!

Sen. Bramble: Why do they charge dues?

Constituent: Well they need money for training, conferences, workshops, supplies, and newsletters. Then the PTA in turn votes as a council to push issues in the community, state and nation to help better education. Not to mention all the fundraising they do to put thousands of dollars into the school system.  Accomplishing all of this takes money.

Sen. Bramble: This is horrible idea! They should be able to do that for free, not charge $5.

Constituent: Oh some PTAs charge more, try $7 and other PTAs charge fees of only $1.

Sen. Bramble: I can't believe this, this injustice! We need to change this!

Constituent: Well are you ready for the kicker? Not all of the dues go to Utah PTAs. We send, on average, $1.75 to the National PTA.

Sen. Bramble: That is it! I can't take this anymore. I am going to write legislation that BANS the PTA from all schools; unless they are willing to get rid of these ridicules dues. If that means your schools loses out on valuable supplies, fundraising dollars and parent participation; then so be it. But we can't continue to have an institution like this running in Utah. Who cares if we are last in per pupil spending, the PTA has to go.

If you think this conversation is absurd, read SB 199. (See Here)




Thursday, February 19, 2009

SB 199 - Revenge? Other Bloggers think so

Under the shadow of Sen. Buttar's latest embarrassment an intense conversation is brewing regarding SB 199.  I thought I would post some links to keep you all in the loop of this terrible bill:

This bill is clearly an attack at the PTA and a waste of tax payer money.  

SB 199 – Paul Rolly Blog Post

I thought I would spotlight Paul Rolly's Salt Lake Tribune blog post on SB 199. See Here

Mr. Rolly does a great job highlighting why this bill is nutzo!

He says in his blog:

If Bramble's SB199 is passed into law this year, Utah will be the only state in
the nation that prohibits the PTA from participating in school activities.

A spokesman for the national PTA office in Chicago said no other state
has a provision that comes close to the Utah proposal, and to his knowledge,
there has never been such a law targeting the PTA in that manner.

Hey likens this bill to the antics of Sen. Chris Buttars and our loco liquor laws here in Utah.

Email you Senator and stop this bill from passing. You can find a link on the right side bar for email options and search options.

Comments are always welcome:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sen. Bramble’s PTA Hate Bill - SB 199

Senator Curt Bramble is on the rampage again, this time he is out to get the PTA. His new rant comes in the form of SB 199. Apparently he is upset at the PTA and their requirement of dues. The current relationship of public schools and the PTA must be damaging to society in the eyes of Mr. Bramble. For this bill is targeted directly at the PTA and their relationship with public schools.

This bill requires an education entity to allow all parent groups equal access
to certain opportunities and resources.

He makes this sound like there is some sort of discrimination towards parental groups. Has parental group violence reached an all time high? Do we need new parental group hate crime laws? I can be the first to recognize the tension between the PTA and other groups, but is it really this bad?

He proposes to all but eliminate the PTA and their relationship with our local schools. His bill, SB 199 states schools are not to work in conjunction with a parent group that requires the payment of dues as a condition for participation. See Lines 52-58.

Why is this absurd? Two reasons:

  1. Not all PTA dues are the same. Some PTAs charge more and others less. Each PTA organization sets their dues— $5 is not universal. Rolling Rivers Elementary PTA in Granger, charges only $1, North Sanpete High PTA charges $2.75. Is Senator Bramble really saying we should stop working with them because they charge $1 a year? What about the PTAs that do not charge a due and instead get their funds via fundraising?

  2. More importantly - This could be a huge loss to schools! In Ogden, the local schools partner with Goldenwest Credit Union and the local PTAs. Every year they coordinate a 5k Race and donate plus match all the entry fees to the runner's school of choice. The PTAs jump all over this donating, man power, time, money etc. This is all done to help the schools pull off this huge event. PTA participation is crucial to the success of the event. The Goldenwest 5k has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Ogden schools. According to Sen. Bramble's legislation, this partnership would now be illegal. He could be jeopardizing thousands of dollars that go to our kids?

Why is he on this vendetta against the PTA? Maybe because Sen. Bramble's 2008 election opponent was RaDene Hatfield, the president of the Provo PTA Council (See Paul Rolly for the rest of the story) and is upset with their alleged involvement in her campaign.

Whether you are pro-voucher or not, this bill is disturbing and damaging to Utah's students. Bramble is out to get the PTA on this one and is going to hurt education in the process.

Comments Welcome:

$1.5 Billion in Stimulus coming to Utah

After the exciting news of our FY 2009 and FY 2010 revenue projections, I was excited to hear about the anticipated stimulus numbers. Total stimulus for Utah = $1.5 Billion. Remember the Federal Government dictates where the money is to be spent; so I wonder if the legislature will be able to make some adjustments to get the most out of these funds. Rep. Wallis mentioned there may be certain strings attached to the money and they would like to review those before acting on the one-time funds.

I was only able to look at the numbers for a few seconds. But here are three highlights:

  • Total = $1.5 Billion
  • $213 Million for Roads and Bridges
  • $89 Million for Food Stamps.

Will this stimulus really help? Hopefully for this year at least, however going into next year (FY 2010) with a shortfall of $235 Million will entities like higher education be ready for these cuts.

I welcome your opinions about the stimulus.



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rep. Wallis Town Meeting / Gay Rights Vote

Today was an eventful day for District 10's esteemed Representative.  His day ended with a Town Hall meeting here in South Ogden.  But he made headlines at the capital being the only republican to vote for HB267.  The measure would have protected transgender and gay Utahns from employment and housing discrimination.  Wallis has jumped party lines and voted to yes to help push it through committee and into the legislature.  Unfortunately the bill failed to get the votes needed and died in committee. 

During tonight's Town Hall meeting, Rep. Wallis shared with us his reasoning for voting for HB267.  If you remember from my post on January 9th 2009 (See Here), Rep. Wallis sent out a legislative survey asking his constituents what there top priorities are for the 2009 legislative session.  The response rate was nearly 40 percent, which by marketing standards is huge.  From the survey he found 55 percent of District 10 supported expanded civil rights for gay and lesbians.  Therefore he felt obligated to vote for it and push it onto formal debate in the legislature.  He did point out he wasn't sure how he would have voted if it had made it to the legislature, but it did deserve debate.  I agree with his decision and hope we can expand these rights to everyone; however this is a post for another day.

Some more of the survey results are as follows:
  • 22 percent said economic development and health care were top priorities
  • 28 percent said we should do nothing on transportation projects and wait for the economy to improve.
  • 25 percent said we should use money to stimulate the economy by recruiting news business to Utah. - Rep. Wallis is working on legislation to help with this.
  • 38 percent said we should ban gifts to legislators and 27 percent felt they should ban personal uses of campaign contributions. On Hotels Reimbursement Wallis said, "If you need it, use it. If you don't, you lose it"
  • 69 percent said they support measures to combat illegal immigration (Like last years SB81)
  • On health care it was about neutral when it came to who should pay and health care access.
  • 72 percent support changing Utah liquor laws
  • 73 percent support property tax assessment changes
We spent a lot of time talking about health care access, economic development and stimulus packages.  Mr. Wallis explained he is working on legislation to create in incentives for companies to invest in Utah, not just relocate.  This will probably be ready for the next legislative session.  

A number of great questions were asked and we had our resident conspiracy theorist try to tell us the government is evil.  But in the end, Rep. Wallis handled himself well and scored some big points with all those in attendance.  Many people mentioned they were really impressed and were glad he would go out of his way to hold this meeting.

Great meeting and look forward to the next one. 

Rep. Brent Wallis – Town Hall Meeting Tonight

Tonight is our semi-monthly City Council Meeting. From the looks of the agenda, there are a lot of things that will need to be covered. Not to mention Rep. Brent Wallis will be there to hold a Town Hall Meeting with all those in attendance. This is a great chance to get to know your legislator. The meeting starts at 6 pm.

We will be doing some live Tweets from the meeting, plus a blog post to follow after the meeting.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Website of Interest -

This President's Day I thought we could highlight a web page recently emailed to me. is a website of information and news stories written by local residents of Utah. The diverse list of contributors include city council members, former AP reports, former mayors, and cancer survivors.  

Some of their most recent articles include:

  • Utah's Best Food Blogs - A great collection of blogs related to food and restaurants in Utah.  Great list and reviews.  I especially like the one about the Gastronomy Blog, I am Market Street Grill Fan.
On this Holiday, take some time to read about some new Food Blogs or read some great local content.  Check out

Sunday, February 15, 2009

$2.5 Million Basketball Court Should Be More.

Interesting letter to the editor in the Std Examiner yesterday.  (See Here) Kim Schmeling  is asking South Ogden City and Weber County School District to join forces and build a recreation center/pool at the new South Ogden Jr. High.  Little does she know that the City Council is already planning on building something with the WCSD--A $2.5 Million Basketball Court.  Sorry Kim, you will still have to drive to Clearfield.  

On a personal note, I am torn on this issue.  As much as I would love a rec. center, now is a tough time to be raising taxes.  However if we are set on building one then we should do it right. Otherwise we will look back five years from now and wish we had done more.  I think our city council is not seeing clearly on this issue and apparently the public feels the same.    When 10 people at a public meeting said they hated skateboarders, the outlawed in South Ogden.  When 20+ people say they want a pool the say, "sorry we no better." Why do the continue to push this basketball court?

Confusing isn't it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

MediaOne and their E-Edition Scam – It is All About the Money

I am a reader of the both the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune and the Standard Examiner. Fortunately, since the creation of the Internet I have been able to read all three via their respective websites. I use their free editions and have been very happy with their websites. I learned today that MediaOne is charging people for the E-edition of the newspaper regardless if you have a compute or not. In fact the cost is higher than their Sunday only Print Editions. If you get the Sunday Only paper you are being overcharged for their electronic edition of the paper. Today—I canceled my subscriptions.

In my renewal notice for the newspaper and I noticed next to each line item on the bill it says I was receiving the E-Edition of the paper. Not knowing what this was, I went to the Tribune website and found their e-edition at the top. I remember now deciding never to purchase it since the majority if the information is in their free edition. Am I getting charged for an e-edition I do not need? I called MediaOne to ask if I was being charged. The conversation went like this:

{BenJoe} Hello, I have been getting three Sunday papers for the last few months so my wife can clip coupons. I was wondering if you could tell me if I am being charged for the E-editions of the paper since it is included in my bill.

{Vanessa} Yes you are it is required to have the e-edition if you get the Sunday paper.

{BenJoe} Really, well how much is the e-edition?

{Vanessa} [Approximately] $6.00 a month per paper.

{BenJoe} So each month you are charging me $18 for an e-edition that I don't use. I just get the Sunday paper for the coupons.

{Vanessa} Yes, that is our policy if you get the Sunday paper only, you must have the E-edition.

{BenJoe} What if I didn't have a computer?

{Vanessa} You would still have to pay for the e-edition.

{BenJoe} So with a 12-week renewal will end up charging me $54 for the E-edition?

{Vanessa} Yes. This is our policy.

{BenJoe} My renewal only costs $82.00 for a 12- week renewal, so th cost difference is $28.00. Are you telling me it is more expensive to get the e-edition of your paper than to just get a Sunday paper?

{Vanessa} Yes, that it is our policy, you must have both. You can avoid this if you went to a daily paper. But the Sunday paper comes with the E-edition.

{BenJoe} Please cancel my subscriptions.

{Vanessa} OK, thanks that is done.

Do you see the scam? They are charging you MORE for Internet usage of a paper than the regular Sunday Print paper. A chunk of my coupon savings have been eradicated due to an e-edition I never use.

This same thing is happening with their legal notices in the paper and will continue to get worse. HB 161 is designed to remove caps on publishing of legal notices, then their NEW website will launch just in time to OVERCHARGE the consumer for things that should be free or at least cheaper! Believe me I am not anti-media. I love the media and enjoy reading multiple newspapers every day, but this is ridicules. The newspapers will try to squeeze every penny out of the consumer as possible; this is all about the money. SB 208 would help elevate some of this cost. Their own argument against SB 208 is not enough people have computers to use the system, is now called into question when they are charging people who don't have a computer and get the Sunday only paper.

Yesterday I spoke with a woman who runs a daycare business, she told me of the hundreds of dollars she spends every year in posting legal notices for their daycare. They are required by law to do this and it is a huge cost to them. A bill like SB 208 would help free up some of the much needed cash flow in her business. I urge the support of SB 206 and cancel your Sunday papers.

Now I need to go tell my wife.

Comments welcome.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Argument Against SB 208

Since yesterdays introduction of SB 208 the blogosphere has been swarming with activity, including activity from the Legislative Monitor for the Utah Press Association—Joel Campbell (aka Foiguy). See His Blog Here. He has made the rounds to the blogs emailing and posting the following argument against SB 208. His post to my blog came around 2:24 am, so I know he was up late

Here is his post:

The truth is that newspapers get it. A simple phone call or questions of legislators who are familiar with the idea would have shown that the Utah Press Association agrees on the the need to expand the reach and accessibility of use of public notice. However, we believe that public notice should be both in newspapers and on the Web. For the past two years, with the agreement of former Senate President John Valentine and Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, Utah's newspapers have developed a new centralized Web site that is now in beta testing. Also, for several years we have maintained and continue to maintain, Both of these Web sites have been searchable by key words. The new Web site will be RSS feed capable and a fully searchable database of statewide public notices. One will also be able to subscribe to e-mail feeds on a particular key word. We believe that we have developed one of the most sophisticated legal notice Web sites in the United States.

The Utah Press Association has also pledged to create an advertising campaign that could help citizens better understand and access public notices. As has been the case
for centuries, public notice is best served by a third-party, independent source. There should be a be check and balance on government power. In other words, should the fox be watching the henhouse when it comes to legal notices? Also, should the government be in the business of creating its own communications bureaucracy? Also, there are real costs associated with creating and maintaining a public notice Web site. Currently, along with the initial startup costs, the Utah Public Meeting Notice Web site has at least one full-time staff and ongoing costs through the Utah Department of Archives.

Joel Campbell
Utah Press Association
Legislative Monitor

Mr. Campbell debates some good points regarding government and their roll in this process. But I think there is a flaw in this thinking. He says they have already developed and are working on a better system for posting legal notices. Their website and their new website that is being tested are the examples of such work.

Will this really be cheaper for the tax payer to use?

Part of the goal for SB 208 is to save the tax payer money. If it is cheaper to use then why does legislation like SB 161 exist (See Here). This removes the maximum charge for legal notices; giving publishers an opportunity to charge higher rates on the publishing of legal notices. As long as legislation like this exists then the idea of newspapers running their own website concerns me. They will still charge the same amount if not higher to offset costs. Remember, the goal of the UPA is to keep this in the hands of the newspaper. The feel this is where it belongs, you can read this on their legal notices website:

Utah Press Association is announcing it's intent to keep public notices where they belong... in the Newspapers. Every year we fight the battle to keep Legal Notices in the paper - and not just published on government websites. With the implement of www . utahlegalnotices . com several years ago, we had one more arrow in our arsenal. Even though a time consuming process of uploading legal notices, we have only 2% non-compliance. The system currently in place is working to the level that we, as a group of fighting newspapers, need.

If this is not a war cry, I don't know what is. Did you notice that last line? "The system currently in place is working to the level that we, a group of fighting newspapers, need." Do they feel they need this or are entitled to it?

The newspaper system has been monopolizing this system far too long and now they are afraid of losing it. With cities like St. George spending nearly $20,000 a year in fees for public notices, newspapers are scared to lose that kind of revenue.

SB 208 is not anti-media; it is to help the tax payer. If doing so means taking it out of the hands of the media, then so be it.

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SB 208 – Watch out Newspapers!

Today I was introduced to SB 208 – Creating a Legal Notice Online Depository (my title not the bills). In connection with the Senate Site and Senator Steve Urquhart a press conference was held for bloggers regarding this bill. It was a great experience to call in and watch the press conference from South Ogden; however I think I will make an effort to get down there for future ones. Senator Urquhart did a great job moderating the conversation and helping us understand the questions asked. I think this is a unique method of enlisting bloggers behind the cause of a piece of legislation, especially since it is sure to bring heated debate from the newspaper lobby.

This potential legislation would develop a searchable online database for all legal notices in the State. Currently Newspapers have the monopoly on the publishing of legal notices. It is estimated tax payers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these legal notices alone. Sen. Urquhart mentioned some people have even been forced in to foreclosure because of inability to pay the legal notice publication fees. SB 208 would create a depository for all legal notices and make it cheaper than posting it in the newspaper, saving city government and the regular tax payer thousands of potential dollars. The bill piggy backs on the already popular public meeting notices website (See Here) and would follow a similar format. Citizens could log on and pay a small fee to upload their legal notice, and then it could be searched by topic, city and date.

"We want to create better notice and a bigger pool of people who know what is
going on," Senator Urquhart.

SB 208 could do just that, make it easier for people to find notices and cheaper for those who need to post them. This is a win/win for the consumer and local government. However, look deeper and you will see turbulence on the horizon from the newspapers of Utah. As newspapers see circulation drop, classified ad space has dwindled and ad revenue is disappearing from competition such as KSL.COM and the internet. You know there will be an all out battle to keep legal notices in the newspaper and away from a central website. This is a form of revenue for newspapers and the apparent need for such revenue is demonstrated in legislation being proposed to remove caps on legal notice publishing fees. A quick Google search brought up a website that helps newspapers publish legal notices and has already posted info against such legislation. (See here: This poorly designed and out of date website attempts to keep a placeholder on the internet to thwart such discussions of central depositories. I am sure this website will be updated quickly as the esteemed Senators bill is prepared.

On the national front, Arizona and South Dakota are working on similar legislation and have received scathing editorials from the local newspapers demanding such legislation be stopped. Their arguments include: pulling legal notices from papers cuts off the public from information, not enough people have the internet or a computer and therefore miss this important information. (Source: To believe newspapers are the central and only form of communication is ignorant and pathetic. To counter these arguments you simple need to gather some basic statistics from the Newspaper Association of America. On their website,, you can see they don't even classify legal notices as an area read by most people. According to their 2008 readership report only 95 Million adults read the daily paper and 113 Million read the Sunday paper. Computer user statistics, according to Computer Industry in America, shows there are 264 Million PC users and 220 Million internet users, as of Jan. 2009.

The argument we are cutting readers off from Legal Notices just doesn't hold water. More people have computers and use the internet than read the newspaper. Senator Urquhart's bill puts money back into the tax payers pocket and helps push information out to nearly 51 percent more people than a regular newspaper will. The newspaper industry is concerned about the loss of revenue to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do not be fooled by the future editorials and reports, this is about money for them. This is probably why Senator Urquhart wanted bloggers to get this information to help counter act the newspaper attacks to come. Smart.

Whatever the motives, I enjoyed the blogger brief and I support SB 208

Sunday, February 8, 2009

State School Board Takes a Pay Cut

A small side bar article in the Davis section of the Standard Examiner caught my eye yesterday. Leave it to a Weber County resident to help the state save some money.  State School Board member and Hooper resident, Greg Haws, made a recommendation to cut their annual stipend by 3.6 percent and the novel idea of using the Internet to distribute agenda's and other information.  Total savings will be over $4,000 a year.  

I found it interesting, by law the State School Board can not be forced to cut costs.  However they [the State School Board] has made the recommendation to cut themselves voluntarily.   Thanks Mr. Haws for looking at ways to save money.

I am curious as to why this didn't make into the Weber County edition of the paper.  

You can read the whole sidebar here: (See Here)

Friday, February 6, 2009

How to make Greiner's Gang Bill Constitutional.

Twice a year the LDS church holds a conference in Salt Lake City. This brings scores of people to temple square. Some of these people attending are not of the LDS faith; instead are of other faiths and their desire is to preach and demonstrate their faith. In the past this used to be very chaotic in nature, many times ending up in physical confrontations between LDS members and other religious groups. Whom started the fights are not important, just that they happened. In the end, areas in Salt Lake have been deemed as Free Speech Zones allowing these groups to congregate and protest. They are not allowed to do so outside of these areas. You may remember something similar happening during the Olympics.
Looks like Greiner's bill is all but passed and signed by the Senate, but if you wanted to make it constitutional for every Gang Free Zone that is created, a Free Speech Zone needs to be designated giving the gangs a place to go. This way they have a place to express themselves in the ways they see fit with in the confines of the law. Until this happens, this bill (new law) is unconstitutional.

Griener's Gang Bill back in the Senate.

SB16 is still alive and ticking. After a 56-17 vote in the house this unconstitutional, human rights violating piece of legislation has passed and re-entered the senate. Following yesterdays debate, an amendment was proposed to help soften the blow of of it's unconstitutionality. Rep. David Latvick (D. Salt Lake - Minority Leader) proposed the changes yesterday during the bill's third reading. It now heads back to the Senate where it passed previously with flying colors. It appears this civil liberty nightmare is headed for a win.

To the credit of Rep Latvick, the bill was attempted to be ammended to require a public hearing before you can assign an area a gang free zone. In addition only trained officers in gang prevention can enforce this new law. However if you have ever been to a public hearing for a city council, 90 percent of the time the council's mind is made up. Our most recent meeting is a great example of that. See all the amendments here: (See Here)

Even after gang identification training a law enforcement officer can decide if you are in gang just by your hip hop clothing or tattoos and still get it wrong. Since the bill has no fiscal note for training, we have to assume this will be done locally. Maybe it will be a 1 hour PowerPoint in the break room on how to identify hip hop clothing. Either way, this bill brings with it a lot of unanswered questions and concerns.

I anticipate a flood of controversy after this bill passes the senate.

Interestingly enough the penalty for being a gang member in a gang free zone is not as bad as skateboarding in South Ogden. Greiner's Bill - Class B Misdemeanor $100 fine, South Ogden Skateboarding Ordinance - Class C Misdemeanor $1,000 fine.


The Standard Examiner has front page article on this subject: See Here

Rep. Latvick admits the following:

"While we’ve made gains in how to identify gang members, it’s not an exact science"
Going back to my previous point, an officer can go through a 1 hour training and all of the sudden is an expert in gangs. Then anyone who even appears to be in a gang can have his civil liberties violated. Soon certain types of music will be black listed because it could be gang related. Does anyone else sense Big Brother is gaining power?
Update: It appears I was wrong, the amendments did not pass and is moving on as is. I have made those corrections.
Comments welcome.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

HB274 Making Progress - Other Impact Fee Bills

As we discussed in a previous post (See Here) Rep. Wallis has proposed a bill geared towards the assesment of impact fees. This bill has made it through the fiscal analysis office unscathed. It does appear there are some concerned voices out there but things are going well.   A great blog post on Lincoln's Legislitave Blog, written by Lincoln Shurt-The Director of Legislative Affairs, has analyzed not only Rep. Wallis's bill [HB274] but also a few more regarding impact fees.  It is worth a read to fully understand the bills.
Each of the bills mentioned are worth a read, but I am watching SB135 and HB274 closely. Remember Weber County is getting hit hard on impact fees from the Weber Sewer District and future laws could affect those fees.

SB135 - Wants to limit the impact of fees to certain areas or groups instead of spreading it amongs the entire group.  This could very interesting, especially those who will get charged.  Though impact fees can hit hard, it could hit even harder if it is not divided equally and properly.  This will be an interesting one to watch.  You can read the entire bill here: (SB 135)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Greiner's Bill in limbo?

I just got an alert that Greiner's Gang Bill, SB 16, has been circled. Usually this is done to postpone debate and resolve some issues, but the bill won't lose its place on the calendar.

Since I refuse to download Real Media Player I haven't been able to follow the debate.

I will keep you posted

What is it like to be freshman legislator?

Nice little ditty in the Standard Examiner today about our new legislators. (See Here) It covers the hectic life of our new legislators and how they are adjusting to the fast jam packed pace. It is a fun little Standard article. Interestingly Rep. Wilcox had emergency gall bladder surgery and is now being pushed around in a wheel chair.  Also Rep. Wallis love his Blackberry to keep caught up. I have to admit, I like my blackberry too.  It sounds like they are adjusting and doing their best get things done.  We will be following them all closely in the weeks to come.

Also in the Standard yesterday was a nice article summing up some of the higher education woes for Northern Utah. (See Here) Utah State has some creative ways to deal with budget cuts including, a furlough during spring break and small pay cuts.  However I was surprised that Weber State still had no plan on how it would handle the cuts.  Did they think it wouldn't happen?

There is a little news round up for you, more local and legislative posts to come.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

$2.5 Million For a Basketball Court

South Ogden City Council held a public hearing for the proposed rec. center gym space basketball court to be built in connection with the Weber County School District and the New South Ogden Jr. High. As expected the majority of the comments were directed against the proposal. Though a few people did speak out in favor, the general consensus from the comments was we do not want a tax increase and if we must then let's make it worth it.  Finally we learned this gym space will be no more than a glorified basketball court for the bargain price of $2.5 million.

    Mr. Darrington presented an outline of how the facilities would be run, explaining it would closely match the Central Davis Junior High/Layton City Gym Facility. You can see a diagram of the facility here (See Gym Facility). (I have also added the Gym Facility to our download section.) However as the night continued we found out, it will not be as close to this facility as we may have been lead to believe. For instance there will be no pool, no fitness equipment, and no walking track. Once citizens heard no walking track, the whispers in the room quickly turn to the realization this [the gym space] is a $2.5 Million basketball court, nothing more. Granted our kids do have to drive all over Weber County to play basketball, but is this really a smart move with taxes?

Mr. Darrington presented a cost breakdown by property taxes to help us understand how much we would be paying, he used an old salesman approach in explaining the cost:

  • If your house assessed for $100,000, you pay $2.19 a month.
  • If your house assessed for $175,000, you pay $3.83 a month.
  • If your house assessed for $250,000, you pay $5.47 a month.

Most of the attendees saw right through this math and pointed out we don't pay property taxes monthly, we pay them annually. So in reality it should look more like this:

  • If your house assessed for $100,000, you pay $26.28 annually.
  • If your house assessed for $175,000, you pay $45.96 annually.
  • If your house assessed for $250,000, you pay $65.64 annually.

The cities financial planner for the bond answered an interesting question from one of the concerned citizens. This citizen pointed out it would be cheaper to pay a general obligation bond than it is to pay a sales tax bond. The financial planner corrected him by saying thought this is true a sales tax bond allows you to avoid the cost of an election. 

Is the city council looking to avoid an election because they know the citizens of South Ogden would not pay for $2.5 million basketball court? Is that why they are rushing into this bond? This kind of decision should go to the general public.

A few people spoke for it. One in particular was Mike Junk, Ogden City Attorney (and he taught my business law class at Weber); was for the proposal and gave a good lawyerly argument in the gym/rec basketball courts defense. Interestingly most of those who spoke for it also said they thought we should expand this. The resonating theme: Why just build a basketball court for Jr. Jazz and Volleyball? If we are going to spend the money let's do it right.

Conclusion: Though this idea has merit and will be of use, only a small percentage of South Ogden citizens will use this. It is extremely limited in what it can be used for and is a waste of money. If people are going to raise their taxes, then let's do this right. Mayor Garwood himself said he would never use the facility. So why are we raising taxes for everyone if no one is going to use it? In the end as one citizen said, "This is in the bag," and he is probably right; the council has made up its mind regardless of what the majority of those who attended had to say.

On a darker note, right after the council was done explaining how this was the smart thing to do and could afford this, they went ahead and made an announcement they are cuting the city budget by 5%. Ironic, don't you think. If the city can't afford its own budget, how are we going to afford this basketball court?


Monday, February 2, 2009

South Ogden City Council Will Not Be Canceled

The Standard Examiner reported yesterday our City Council meeting was canceled.  I thought this was incredibly odd since this Tuesday's meeting is a crucial meeting in South Ogden raising our property taxes.  Fortunately it was retracted today.  (See Here) Council Meeting is still on! I 
As many of us prepare to attend the meeting, feel free to review the multiple posts I have had regarding the rec enter gym space:
Do not miss this meeting! If you are not happy about a property tax increase during a recession (which is economically counter-productive) then come to this meeting.  I understand the benefits of this gym space, but am against a tax increase.  Also, are they still considering adding $500,000 for a new building at the City Works offices?  Come find out at the City Council Meeting tomorrow at 6 pm.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

HB 274 - Local Government Fees and Charges

Rep. Wallis is gearing up for his first legislative bill, HB 274--Local Government Fees and Charges to State Agencies.  This exciting bill would insure impact fees (fees charged to gov agencies and eventually passed on to the tax payer for new utilities, facilities, etc.) are not overcharged.  It appears Mr. Wallis has found a loop whole in the state code allows agencies to potentially overcharge impact fees to local governments.  Currently impact fees are subject to creative interpretation allowing some extra to be charged.  This essentially is a tax on the Utah resident.  Heading into tough economic times this is a very creative way of insuring we are not over-taxed.

South Ogden will be facing a big impact fee increase starting in February. (See More Here) With this law in place we can be sure we are not overpaying.  Not to bad for Rep. Wallis' debut bill.

Last update, it was in the Fiscal Analysis office awaiting a fiscal note.

We will keep you posted.