Sunday, March 9, 2008
Greetings friends and neighbors,
Many of you read this blog not because you agree with everything I have to say, but because you trust me to say it plainly and clearly without regard to any predispostions, or superficial politically correct nonsense.
This however, is my final blog entry. At my age I must take charge of my own health, happiness and that of my family. I hope you will understand.
I have recently spent six months trying to help all my neighbors in the district and community with their tax appeals and questions. And I finally have realized only legislative action will correct the injustices being suffered by so many due to onerous property taxation. My town is rapidly becoming a caretaker community without young people. Non resident part time vacation home owners are dominating once vibrant and thriving neighborhoods.
The more learned about state politics it is obvious the legislature has been taken over by real estate and developer interests. And fully half of the legislature is corrupted by real estate money. They must be taken on or the little people will continue to be ground into the dust while this nefarious influence continues to line its pockets at the little people's expense.
The local representative is so ignorant of what constitutes a conflict of interest he can not properly fill out a State COI Declaration. His two years in office have produced multiple Realtor Association sponsored (and perhaps authored) legislation, subdivision approval law which enables developers to bypass local planning commissions, and for two years he has sponsored a draconian deferral of property tax bill, also favored by his parent organization - the Realtor Association. A bill so disgusting I can not even repeat it here. (HB 357, 364, 463, 296, 78, 290) And he sat by as HB 466 "The Developer's Dream" Bill was passed without so much as a question. And after more than a year he waited until this 2008 session was almost finished before obvious "grandstanding and theater" lip service ineffectively for both this issue, as well as property tax reform.
Few if any seats in Weber County have four candidates, which should tell the GOP just how weak and dismal District 8 seat has performed. And if they were smart they would elect delegates to nominate another candidate instead of the incumbent. But no one is holding their breath, as the caucuses have been flooded with his relatives.
My family and I , do to a recent town council decision, have elected to make other plans for the future. Life is just too short to do otherwise.
Friends and neighbors scattered across this State have offered support as "soldiers" in the campaign. Many have begun to send unsolicited very generous donations and offers for full financial support. All I can say is a heartfelt thank you. Your donations will be returned and let's keep in touch. I wish you all the very best in the future.
Perhaps it is right that my little town become a ghost town of caretakers, except for wealthy non resident homeowners, to the delight of the Realtor Association and developer community. The Huntsville Town Council wills it so.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I thought you might like to know what actually happened this session relative to property taxation issues and how the effort fared.
"It is 2 a.m. and the session is over. Despite our efforts, little was accomplished on the property tax side with the exception of killing bad bills such as tax deferral and creating special benefits for limited numbers of property tax payers.
We did introduce the AV concept but there just wasn't any urgency felt on the part of legislators to deal with property taxes.
Legislators were much more concerned about illegal immigration because that poses the most immediate threat to their reelection. People who would never have voted for an immigration bill were falling all over themselves to cast votes on these bills in order to show that they are doing something.
This is a good lesson for us. We need the same urgency if we are to pass property tax reform. Also, we need a carefully planned "messaging" program in order to get property taxes through. Many immigration bills passed because we put the focus on identity theft and got the veterans groups involved.
Property tax bills that passed included Harper's HB54 which requires annual (computer assisted mass) reassessments in the bigger counties, SB29 which makes relatively minor changes in Truth In Taxation (drops the voter approval for tax increases above inflation thanks to our legislature), and SB38 - Transparency, which now only applies to state government. (The Association of Counties. Utah League of Cities and Towns , etc. and their lobbyists killed accountability of County Governments. Another example of our tax money being used to lobby against we the people, yet for hiding accountability from we the people.)
The extra sessions of the Revenue and Tax Committee that were to study property taxes was rolled in with a couple of task force bills as HB490. That bill died on the House calendar so there is no formal authority for extra sessions of the Revenue and Taxation Interim committee to study property taxes. When I talked to Senator Niederhauser around 1 a.m., he indicated that the funding had been set aside for five extra Rev and Tax Committee sessions and he thought that he could get the extra committee sessions without a formal resolution.
The bill to replace the school portion of the property tax with the sales tax went no where and the property tax for reading programs was not repealed.
For those of you in St. George, Senator Hickman announced that he will retire from the Senate at the end of his current term. The word is that Steve Urquhart will go for his seat. I hope this makes sense. It is late and I'm really tired."
Thanks Ron from us all. You should be in the legislature if the people in Davis County only knew who and what they were voting for....
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2008
D.W. Bell announces his candidacy as a Democrat for the Utah State LegislatureDistrict 8 seat currently held by Gage Froerer
OGDEN – Don Bell, a decorated combat pilot as well as ("in")famous F-16 testpilot, announced today, March 4, that he will challenge Representative Gage Froerer for District 8 seat in the Utah Legislature.
“Enough is enough, it’s time to send people to Capitol Hill who will represent all the people and not just special interests, it is time to bring some integrity back into the people's business” Said Mr. Bell.
“While the people of District 8 were being abused by horrific property taxes, my opponent was ineffective and participated in a propaganda campaign for 5 months against true property tax reforms. It is time to hold him, and the special interests he represents, accountable for the ineffective leadership and representation. My opponent has represented his own business interests and those of his cronies in the Realtors Association and development industry, while neglecting his constituents.”
D-Bell has fought for taxpayer rights in Ogden Valley. He has worked to form coalitions across Utah to lobby for property tax fairness and reforms while assisting many of the elderly with their property taxes.
When elected he will demand fiscal accountability and transparency from government and strict oversight of developers and their sponsored legislation at the expense of the people.
“When my wife Kay and I chose to retire in Utah in 1978 the state was a frugal, conservative and well run place to raise our family. The political times have changed since then and we now find ourselves governed by a consortium of special interest groups and their well placed elected operatives. We must clean out those who have infiltrated our legislature and return to basic logic and common sense legislation. In order for our greatest legacy, our children and grandchildren, to be able to afford to live here we must lower taxes and clean up the way things are run in state government."
Mr. Bell is on record as stating: “I will continue a relentless fight for lower taxes, significant property tax reform, ethics and campaign finance reform, which I believe most Utahns favor, yet our current representative has rejected for 2 years."
Mr. Bell's stand on gifts:
"I do not understand how gift accepting could be a part of Utah politics. All gifts and large campaign donations come with expectations."
"My pledge is to not accept any “gifts” of any value from anyone after I'm elected. During the campaign I will only accept contributions in small amounts and from individuals only. I will not accept special interest or political lobby money in any amount."
"As a United States Air Force fighter pilot I accepted no gifts or bribes to do my duty, and as a representative of the people of district eight I will accept no gifts in any amount for my service."
"My opponent and his Realtor and developer cronies are a big part of the problem, not a part of the solution. It is time for a change”
D-Bell has lived in District 8 for 18 years and in Utah for 30 years. He and his wife of 42 years, “K-Bell”, raised two children in Davis County while he served as the Chief F-16 test pilot at Hill AFB.
Both D and K-Bell grew up in Southeast Arkansas. He worked to put himself through high school and the University of Arkansas (BA Business) and the University of N. Colorado (MA). After a year working on the Gemini Project in St. Louis, Bell joined the US Air Force where he completed pilot training. For the next 20 years he was on a mission for his Country. In Viet Nam he flew 188 combat missions in F-4 fighters. He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and thirteen Air Medals, with 29 awards and decorations.
After the war he was selected for a special assignment with the Marine Corps where he attended Navy Top Gun school. While on his only staff assignment Bell helped to create and flew in an unprecedented 5 nation, 3 year, F-16 flight test program, based out of Hill AFB. He worked persistently with integrity and at times audacity, to insure a new concept of F-16 interoperability was successfully integrated into the European theater and NATO. Back at Hill AFB Bell flew production flight test missions. Returning to civilian life, Bell supervised engineers at Hill AFB for General Dynamics, for ten years before retiring.
D-Bell’s professional experience, honesty, tenacity and character will help all citizens of Utah, especially those concerned about legislative ethical behavior. He will work year round, without any conflicts of interest, representing his constituents ethically, honestly, and with dignity and professionalism.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
What is becoming one of my favorite newspapers, The Daily Herald, from the Orem-Provo area has published a "local opinion" by George Handley.
Believe it or not, George is apparently a BYU professor, native Utahn, Provo citizen, practicing Mormon and a life long Democrat. But that is OK, because I think after you read what George wrote you (like myself) will agree with the man.
And I hope you will carefully consider what Mr. Handley has to say.
The Rinos (Republicans in name only) most of whom have shown us just how corrupt they actually are...and who refuse Ethics reforms, campaign finance reforms and significant property tax reform, are as stilted and dirty as the money they have extorted and embezzled from us and from "special interests".
And like motor oil after 6,000 miles, their lubrication of Real Estate and Developer skids has left us citizens with worn patience, friction between property taxpayers, and chafed citizens due to conflict of interest, dirty, and unfiltered (by logic and common sense) legislation.
This session will undoubtedly go down as one of the most shameful and disgusting legislative sessions in history. To attempt to salvage incompetence and disinterest in record numbers of citizens voices, by 5th week desperate sideshow theatrics, knowing full well it is political grandstanding, is beyond political forgiveness.
We asked for property tax reform - we got nothing.
We asked for property tax relief - we got nothing.
We asked for common sense taxation on three-acre minimum size lots - we got nothing.
We asked for ethics reform - we got nothing.
We asked for campaign finance reform - we got nothing.
We ask simply to live in freedom and liberty - instead we got HB 466 taking those constitutional rights away from some of us by developer friendly legislation.
We asked that it be repealed - we are getting a political sideshow and grand standing.
We asked for a Blue Ribbon Study commission to research property taxation best practices - we got a GOP lead and majority of incestuous legislators funding themselves to waste our tax money further and more importantly slow roll and significant property tax reform measures. The findings will have no credibility and they were told specifically they must have citizen participation and involvement - we got nothing but fraud, waste and abuse.
And there was more. Much more...one in four bills introduced, at minimum, were conflicts of interest. For example according to the Deseret News, "• Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, a real estate broker, introduced four bills dealing with real estate law. " And he was involved in every one of the "we got nothings" detailed above.
If you are not convinced that Mr. Handley is correct about it being time to seriously consider voting for Democrats to replace Republican incumbents in Utah, you need to reconsider your grasp on reality. And you need to consider if the present one party legislature, left unchecked another session, will leave any Utah citizen with any rights.
"Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice." Harry S. Truman
We all need to ask ourselves if we think we have been "governed with reason and justice." If you think you have been...then "I got nothing for you but hope for the future and for change."
Monday, 25 February 2008
Local opinions: Political competition needed in Utah County
As a college student twenty years ago, I traveled behind what was once known as the Iron Curtain and saw firsthand how a single-party system creates a culture of public disengagement with politics. I learned that democracy without political plurality is not the rule of the people but the rule of hardened tradition and capricious power. Political competition keeps parties answerable to the people about what they are doing and why.
In Utah County (and I believe also in Weber County. machman), however, I believe we have seen a slow and steady erosion of democracy. We have seen many Republicans chosen for, not elected to, office and many who have never run against opposition.
Without a single statement from LDS church leadership to back it up, we have heard for years the empty claim, if not the unspoken assumption, that "good" Mormons can only be Republicans. This, a myth that makes reason stare not only in a plural society like America but in an increasingly international church, not to mention in a party as apparently inhospitable to Mormons as Mitt Romney's party is. Perhaps Romney's fate stings, but his spurning by the evangelicals comes as no less an assault than that experienced by Mormon Democrats in Utah culture for some time. Recently, I read one Republican incumbent in Utah County express "surprise" that a Democrat, and fellow Mormon, would choose to run against him. Surely such surprise is a symptom of a broken system.
Freedom depends on diversity. It is not secured through staid tradition, chauvinism, censorship, or intimidation. Consensus that relies on habitual and categorical trust of some and distrust of others is a threat to the free flow of information and to freedom itself. Freedom is secured in a culture that acknowledges diversity of opinion and celebrates genuine exchange of ideas. In a culture of exceptional homogeneity of belief, the preservation of political openness is even more vital. I suppose this is the same reason why the LDS church depends on councils, counselors, and auxiliaries. It impoverishes a church, as it does a plural society, for anyone to feel shamed merely because of a difference of opinion, as if holding a minority viewpoint were necessarily a symptom of following the wrong spirit.
In a single-party political culture like we have here in this county, our choices have become less meaningful because they are too few and too predictable. I believe this contributes to the growing public disengagement in local politics. Once our state officers are no longer answerable to us, there is nothing left for them to do but to try to distinguish themselves by being the most conservative crab in the barrel. Utah's political dramas have been reduced to a battle between moderate Republicans and the vocal extreme right wing, a group who have made it necessary for the otherwise politically reticent LDS church leadership to speak out in order to rein them in on such issues as immigration and gun control. As we saw in the voucher battle, the energy spent on these battles has drawn the Republican Party farther to the right and away from the middle where most Utahans find themselves.
Diehard straight party voters do a disservice to their own party and to democracy itself. I would like to challenge my Republican and unaffiliated friends to take a closer look at the Republican Party's political behavior in the state legislature. An honest look reveals a crying need for a more balanced two-party system. The Democrats who have announced their candidacy for state office in Utah County (an soon to be in Weber County, machman) thus far deserve close attention and, I submit, active support, not a partisan knee-jerk dismissal. They are socially conservative, morally upstanding, visionary, and well-seasoned by experience. Their political ideals are arguably more consistent with most polls regarding Utah voters' values on education, environmental stewardship, health care, and immigration than those currently in office. And even when they present new and challenging positions, maybe there is something we can learn by listening.
George Handley, a humanities professor at Brigham Young University, is a native Utahn and citizen of Provo, a practicing Mormon, and a lifelong Democrat.
Amen brother Handley!!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The second larger figure is the Total 2006 amount contributed by "special interests".
And the last two digit number (1-39) is a footnote which corresponds to notes which reveal additional special interest money given in the form of Jazz & concert tickets, meals, junkets (trips), green fees, etc.
Douglas Aagard* $4,050 $12,951
Sheryl Allen 3,300 37,829
Sylvia Anderson 3,500 30,560
Roger Barrus* 3,400 8,601
Ralph Becker* (D) 6,000 32,748
Ron Bigelow 5,000 37,101
Jim Bird 1,800 23,076
Jackie Biskupski (D) 5,000 48,412
Demar Bowman 2,550 13,351 (14)
Mel Brown 3,500 28,621
Gregg Buxton* 5,850 16,626
David Clark** 15,602 68,092 (15)
Stephen Clark* 3,950 18,501
Tim Cosgrove (D) 2,300 24,928 (34)
Greg Curtis** 52,366 309,129 (16)
Brad Daw* 4,400 15,551
Brad Dee** 10,719 50,385 (17)
Glenn Donnelson* 1,600 6,902
John Dougall* 4,800 16,541
Jack Draxler* 3,350 12,676 (18)
Carl Duckworth* (D) 5,823 22,657
James Dunnigan* 8,100 31,505
Ben Ferry 3,450 23,226
Janice Fisher (D) 750 16,834
Julie Fisher 2,800 14,600 (19)
Lorie Fowlke* 3,900 10,325
Craig Frank* 4,100 17,790
Gage Froerer* 14,500 47,199
Kevin Garn* 3,950 13,626
Kerry Gibson* 4,893 22,788
James Gowans (D) 2,333 24,347
Keith Grover* 4,250 17,745
Neil Hansen (D) 3,574 20,485 (20)
Wayne Harper 1,800 11,450
Lynn Hemmingway(D) 1,050 25,805
Neil Hendrickson* (D) 4,006 15,307 (21)
Christopher Herrod* (appointed mid-term)
Kory Holdaway* 4,000 18,541
Gregory Hughes* 10,650 42,469
Fred Hunsaker* 3,600 15,267
Eric Hutchings 3,800 19,765 (22)
Christine Johnson* (D) 2,250 45,100
Brad King (D) 2,250 14,251
Todd Kiser 4,650 23,666 (23)
Bradley Last* 6,000 24,801
David Litvack (D) 4,572 29,638
Rebecca Lockhart* 10,300 43,111 (24)
Steven Mascaro 2,500 21,900 (25)
John Mathis 0 100
Roz McGee (D) 6,250 42,295
Kay McIff* 2,300 11,421
Ronda Menlove 4,800 24,975 (26)
Karen Morgan* (D) 7,848 36,188 (27)
Michael Morley* 7,150 21,301 (28)
Carol Moss (D) 1,800 20,868
P. Neuenschwander* 7,324 35,537
Merlynn Newbold 2,800 17,050
Michael Noel 3,300 16,926 (29)
Curtis Oda* 7,000 28,829 (30)
Patrick Painter* 3,600 13,166
Paul Ray* 5,500 19,336 (33)
Phil Riesen (D) 1,750 45,897
Stephen Sandstrom 2,250 46,072
Jen Seelig (D) 2,400 26,453
Lou Shrutliff*(D) 5,590 25,039
Gordon Snow* 7,400 19,776
Ken Sumsion 2,800 22,538
Aaron Tilton 3,300 18,572
Stephen Urquart** 12,000 63,726 (31)
Mark Walker* 10,000 49,241
Mark Wheatley (D) 1,300 19,050
Richard Wheeler 3,800 20,351
Larry Wiley* (D) 5,050 24,402
Carl Wimmer** 5,500 51,585 (32)
Scott Wyatt* 3,850 9,496
41 of 75, or 56% of our House of Representatives receives more than 20% of campaign funds from Realtor/developers, construction, real estate finance special interests.
*combined contributions which include 20% or more including the candidate if that candidate is in the Real Estate/Development business.
** Based upon taking more than $50,000 a year over an above pay and benefits, per diem, mileage, and lodging during regular sessions and interim work sessions, for a volunteer public service job.
Legislators are paid for the days they are in session (45 days). The Compensation Committee elected to set up pay such that income tax deductions are maximized. In addition to paid days ($130) which can include extra days in “Interim sessions” they receive mileage ( .45 per mile) and per diem ($54/day) for meals, plus lodging ($94/night) even though 70% of them drive home most nights of the 45-day session.
The Gift Taking Story:
The “gifting” shown below is either money they spent from the “campaign funds” or additional “gifts” they accepted from special interests/lobbyists. You should notice in many instances our legislators have very different ethical standards when it comes to spending “free money”. Money given them by special interests which have expectations and who have invested in them with these expectations. The legislator’s rationalizations are almost humorous if not sadly true.
“One simple set of facts — not accusations — makes my point: In 2007, Utah's 104 part-time legislators took in a total of $250,000 in gifts from registered lobbyists — who, by a law I'm sure many lawmakers regret ever passing, requires lobbyists to list how much they spend on legislators.
In some other states, or even Congress, such gift-taking might be called "legalized bribery" — as indeed it has been called in Congress. But not in Utah. In Utah, it is the cost born by many lobbyists (although certainly not all) in trying to influence the Legislature.” Deseret News, 22 Feb. 08.
You should be able to see who your legislators are, what they are taking in and then decide for yourselves whether an incumbent or challenger should get your vote.
In summary, legislators spent at least $22,000 on cameras, TVs and computers which can be used for both campaign and personal use.
-At least $26,750 to put relatives on payrolls.
-$1,125 of campaign funds to park their vehicles.
-at minimum $13,500 to join or pay dues to a variety of political and civic groups.
-$48,200 to charities which could help build good will; fund for Crandall Canyon Mine disaster victims ($3,100),; Boy & Girls Clubs ($2,675);, Boy Scouts ($800); Human Rights Campaign ($700); schools, junior livestock shows, environmental groups and service organizations.
They gave a minimum of $81,600 to each other and political groups or parties.
40 of 55 (72%) of Republicans voted against lobbyists naming lawmakers who accept meals valued at less than $50. 20 Democrats voted for the measure apparently.
Friends and neighbors,
This "ethical absenteeism" has turned me into a Democrat...at least a Utah Democrat, meaning a very moderate fiscally conservative and responsible Democrat. The GOP Elephants have forgotten and therefore lost their way - except to the bank. One must ask themselves "If they can not run an efficient and fiscally responsbile, accountable and efficient campaign, how on earth do we expect them to run a fiscally responsible, accountable and efficient State government?"
1. Senate Majority Leader Bramble, R-Provo accepted dinner cruise and accepted the most disclosed gifts of any legislator last year – worth $1,170. “What I took last year in gifts was fully disclosed. We have transparency. We discuss this every year…and the feeling of the Legislature is that we have adequate disclosure.” $846 in meals; $200 in Utah Blaze tickets; $05 for a Great Salt Lake cruise; and $29 in Utah Jazz tickets. (Bramble had hundreds of dollars in Jazz tickets from Lockhart before Bramble paid Lockhart back for those events.) He went on a Great Salt Lake cruise ($107). $4,475 taken from lobbyists in gifts valued at more than $50 a day.
2. Senator Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, bought $149 in clothes with campaign funds and also had his car repaired ($2,500). He also spent $214 to a car dealer to “upgrade OnStar”. He spent $5,243 on personal expenses.
3. Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, took $1,083 in expensive tickets, meals and other items valued at more than $50. $6,777 in gifts costing greater than $50, and a $1,700 round trip to Florida to “look at a special interest’s privatization efforts. And then took in a lobbyists paid round of golf.
4. Sen. Dan Eastman, R – Bountiful, $500 for Jazz front row seat. But claims he paid Stokes for the ticket.
5. Sen. Brent Goodfellow, R-West Valley, gave himself $50 every couple of months for “gasoline use” in driving around his Salt Lake County-based district. Also used campaign funds to pay for passports or visas $120.
6. Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, accepted four tickets @ $97/ticket ($388) and vowed to reimburse Blue Cross and Blue Shield lobbyist Jennifer Cannaday.
7. Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, had a long list of interesting campaign expenditures, including some big money for baby-sitting, attending sports events and maybe helping relatives. Paid his brother to run $12,000. $4,540 on baby-sitters and nannies. $97 for membership in and neckties by Accuracy in Media. $79 on family meals and parking for family events at the theater, planetarium and museums. And he spent $589 on a digital camera. $37 for a Utah Valley University shirt. All from “campaign funds”.
8. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, paid himself $30,500 for loans to earlier campaign.
9. Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, accepted two $97 ($194) concert tickets. He also spent $6,972 on personal expenses. He said he paid for conferences he attended that had to do with his legislative work.
10. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, also accepted two $97 ($194) concert tickets. “The good Senator from Draper went on a nine-minute rant about how bad and evil the media was on reporting on lobbyists’ gifts, and how appropriate it was that lawmakers take dinners and Jazz tickets to ease the pain of being away from hearth, home and family.” YGBSM!
11. Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, raised the most in “campaign contributions” during 2007, the off-year, from special interests at $78,641. “legislators used at least $108,500 for travel, much of it outside of Utah to places such as China, by Senate President John Valentine and U. S. sites including Alaska; Orlando, Fla.; San Francisco,: Nashville, Tenn.; san Diego, Calif.; Boston; Savannah, Ga.; Chicago; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. He paid for passports and visas and other gifts worth $849, fifth on the taking rankings behind Clark, Dmitrich, and Bramble. Valentine said he considers eating a meal on a lobbyist’s “dime” is part of doing his legislative work because he is giving his time to the lobbyist.
12. Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi, accepted a cruise on the Great Salt Lake from lobbyists ($107).
13. Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville spent $85 on either a wedding gift or birth.
14. Rep. Bud Bowman, R-Cedar City, spent $60 on dry cleaning another $49 for shirts.
15. Rep. House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara, says no legislator runs or serves believing he’ll make money. Instead, it costs legislators to serve. Clark ranked fourth in overall gift receiving at $862. Clark was also mentioned for travel expenses to Germany and U.S. sites including Alaska; Orlando, Fla.; San Francisco; Nashville, Tenn.; San Diego, Calif.; Boston; Savannah, Ga.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
16. House Speaker Rep. Greg Curtis gave a $50 gift for either a birth or wedding. Curtis also accepted wedding gift to daughter for $83.77 from CEO of Utah Realtor Assoc., Kyler.
17. Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden received four $97 tickets ($388) for a concert.
18. Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan gave himself $6,300 in cash from campaign funds for what he simply listed as “income”. Draxler said he earns “substantially more” each day as a self-employed appraiser than he does as a legislator. That $6,300 is actually reimbursement for lost wages during his legislative work, he said. And he accepted $235 in Utah State football tickets.
19. Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, paid herself for loans ($100).
20. Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, went on the Great Salt Lake cruise ($107).
21. Rep. Neal Hendrickson, D-West Valley, spent $185 on dry cleaning or cleaning and $75 for a sports coat.
22. Rep. Hutchings spent $61 in dress shirts from Mervyn’s and $120 for shirts and $365 for suits and shirts say it was a “50-50 match with personal funds”.
23. Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy, spent $70 on a freeway HOV-lane pass and a new suit at the Mr. Mac sale $169 and he also paid $90 for special legislative shirts from the legislature’s “third House” operation. Another $59 on “candy for Halloween”. He spent another $170 on weddings or births gifts. $558 from “campaign donations”.
24. Rep. Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, gave $5,000 to her husband, Stan Lockhart, for his successful campaign to become chairman of the Utah Republican Party. Of course the Utah County Republican Party just had contributed the same $5,000 to her “campaign” prior. Golf green fees fro Utah Realtor Assoc. Kyler $88.86.
25. Rep. Steve Mascara, R-West Jordan, repaid himself $2,500 for a loan he made to his campaign. And also $814 for “auto expenses” at car repair shops or dealerships.
26. Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, went on the Great Salt Lake cruise ($107).
27. Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, spent $40 of campaign money toward a passport.
28. Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, used campaign funds to pay a $10 “parking ticket” to Salt Lake City.
29. Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, spent $68 on dry cleaning; uses his campaign account to
pay for gasoline used to drive around his eight-county district although he receives mileage reimbursements for travel to Salt Lake City. He spent $3,600 in partial rent for a Salt Lake apartment last year. And another $656 for “rent paid for part of session” in Salt Lake City. He gets $90 a day for hotel stays. He also uses campaign funds to pay for cleaning his suits and shirts.
30. Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, spent $443 for “legislative shirts”, $364 at Nordstrom for his wife’s dress fro swearing-in ceremony; $101 expense for a dress for a ball; $177 at Macy’s for a suit for her; $211 at New York Lerner went for “event clothes” for his wife; and $21 at Forever Young to buy her some Western boots. Oda spent $21 at Ream’s on his Western boots. And he spent $32 on dry cleaning or laundry. Let’s see $1,317 for his wife’s clothes and $54 bucks on himself. And he gave $144 to others for gifts. And then spent $50 on a class for concealed weapons class and $63 for “snacks” and another $20 for “pens & pads for legislative CCW class” plus another $156 to the instructor. Dinner from Utah Realtor Assoc. Kyler in Boston, $85.00.
31. Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St George, spent $48 to rent a tuxedo and $81 on dry cleaning/laundry. Accepted $85.00 dinner in Boston from Chris Kyler, Utah Realtor Association CEO.
32. Rep. Carl Wimmer, R- Herriman, paid himself $1,200 and his wife $1,000 for campaign/delegate organization work.” He then spent $528 at Mr. Mac for suits.
33. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, spent $103 on cleaning expenses.
34. Rep Tim Cosgrove (D)-Murray, accepted dinner for two in Boston from Utah Realtor Assoc. Chris Kyler CEO lobbyist for ($170).
35. Sen. John Hickman R-Washington Co., spent $7,592 on personal uses.
36. Sen. Scott McCoy (D)-Salt Lake County, spent $7,240 on personal uses including paying himself back some money he contributed to his own campaign.
37. Sen. Peter Knudson R-Box Elder, Cache, Toole Counties, spent $1,341 for personal uses.
38. Sen. Scott Jenkins R-Weber County, spent $1,608 on personal uses.
The above is only the tip of an iceberg and hundreds of thousands go unaccounted for.
39. Sen. John Hickman R- Washington County, spent $7,592 of his “campaign funds for personal use.
40. Sen. John Greiner R- Weber County, Ogden, is a quadruple dipper from the public trough. He is actually retired from the police force with full benefits. He is also current Police Chief with big salary. He is also retired from the Army Reserve with pension and he is drawing salary from his State Senate Seat. All of which makes him perhaps the biggest sucker attached to the public tit in Utah.
Monday, February 25, 2008
This is the first of two posts which attempts to answer the important question,"So Machman, who should we keep of the incumbents?" I can not tell you, nor will I try. But I will provide data taken from "followthemoney.org" for 2006 for campaign contributions indicators. I will suggest that the "campaign" contributions in 2007/2008 will very likely more than double these 2006 figures.
And I have researched using the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret Morning News articles and "numbered footnotes" to allow you great readers an opportunity to see who is "on the take and who is on the double take". Then, if you agree with me that such is corruption and graft, immoral and disgusting, you can jot down a few notes or print for reference during the upcoming caucuses, delegate selections, and candidate nominations. You can share them with your neighbors and spread the word and thus make a significant statement and difference as we select hopefully some more ethical candidates for office.
A friend from Bountiful suggests these are all just "good people caught up in a bad system". And he may be right. But if the system is bad why have they continuously refused to reform the system? Why do so many continue to take and take so much without sending the donations back? No, Ron...these who rationalize taking with both hands are corrupt and need to be replaced this November... Pure and simple. There can simply be no excuse for Utah being the laughing stock of the entire United States due to lax campaign and ethics laws.
It is up to you and your friends, neighbors and family members to help resolve this disgusting situation in our state legislature. I report....you decide, if you want these Cretans representing you in any way. And frankly if you do...you will deserve everything you get. Higher and higher property taxes, more and more development friendly legislation at the expense of citizens, more graft and corruption by the Realtor Association and its poodle law firms, more non solutions to problems, more legal abuse and the weakest fraud legislation in the entire Country, more waisted time on fluff resolutions while serious problems remain unaddressed. You will have earned exactly what you will get.
May I suggest you consider candidates who have character, integrity, and who believe that this whole money grubbing situation is simply dishonorable and disgusting. And an embarrassment to our State. May I suggest you consider voting against incumbents who have shown disregard for common sense ethical behavior and who have not delivered on promises for change so desperately needed especially now. Please use your "free agency" and your own judgment and reject these conflicted legislators who would not know a Conflict of Interest if it bit them in the arse.
( I apologise for the formating problem but this blog stuff doesn't seem to allow correct columns so you have to use your mind to figure it out... BEAK!)
The “campaign contribution” story (2006 data):
Real Estate, Inv., Total 2006 Other “perks”, Jazz
Developer, Const. “Campaign” & concert tickets,
Contributions Contributions meals, green fees, etc.
Gregg Bell $ 993 $ 8,568
Curt Bramble* 11,250 49,866 (1)
Chris Buttars 0 35,931 (2)
Alan Christensen* 1,500 3,600
Gene Davis**(D) 11,200 81,439
Margaret Dayton** 10,019 63,644
Mike Dmitrich*(D) 7,750 24,432 (3)
Dan Eastman* 3,050 8,850 (4)
Fred Fife (D) 0 0
B. Goodfellow** (D) 7,000 57,175 (5)
Jon Greiner** 13,000 93,951 (40)
John Hickman* 4,700 7,450 (39)
Lyle Hillyard 500 2,150
Scott Jenkins* 2,000 4,675 (38)
Patricia Jones**(D) 24,146 129,141 (6)
Sheldon Killpack** 20,500 93,452
Peter Knudson** 11,250 53,769 (37)
Mark Madsen 2,000 25,800 (7)
Ed Mayne (D) deceased 7,500 43,097
Scott McCoy**(D) 2,549 123,888 36
W. Niederhauser** 164,500 253,640 (8)
Darin Peterson 5,600 40,051 (12)
Ross Romero**(D) 5,850 90,850 (9)
Howard Stephenson** 5,500 52,804 (10)
Dennis Stowell 6,500 35,551
John Valentine** 15,000 135,088 (11)
Kevin Van Tassell* 17,460 78,126
Michael Waddoups* 6,950 21,990 (13)
Carlene Walker 650 4,450
17 of 29, more than 58% of Senate received more than 20% of campaign funds from the Realtor/Developer, Construction, Real Estate Finance special interest groups based only on 2006 public information.
We will not know about 2008 for another year. although last year, lobbyists and special interests doled out $279,000 in giveaways. These moneybags gave another $827,000 in campaign donations, according to a Deseret Morning News analysis.
*combined contributions which include 20% or more including the candidate if that candidate is in the Real Estate/Development business.
** Based upon taking more than $50,000 a year over an above pay and benefits, per diem, mileage, and lodging during regular sessions and interim work sessions, for a volunteer public service job.
Legislators are paid for the days they are in session (45 days). The Compensation Committee elected to set up pay such that income tax deductions are maximized. In addition to paid days ($130) which can include extra days in “Interim sessions” they receive mileage ( .45 per mile) and per diem ($54/day) for meals, plus lodging ($94/night) even though 70% of them drive home most nights of the 45-day session
Gifts less than $50 are not accounted for anywhere and legislators can spend their campaign cash however they choose.
Tomorrow it will be the Representative's turn and a detailing of the gifts as per the numbered footnotes.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Sometimes today's news is best reported by others. Such is the case again as "Rudi" of the Weber County Forum has uncorked the facts far better than I can. And it does help to know I am not alone in my preceptions. Such is the case with the Powerville fiasco and the way our Eden residents were treated. To give WCF the maximum coverage it deserves Rudi's piece is echoed here. Listen to the audio for yourselves and make up your own mind. And I suggest you also read the comments including the one from "Crumudgeon" a retired WSU history professor and Phd who is passionate about citizen's inalienable rights. You know, "the we hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are ...." part. If a developer can get by doing what has happened in Powderville, where are the people's rights?
Again I say, this situation just can not be legal no matter what "screwed up legislation" was nefariously passed by our representatives. This simply can not be allowed to stand. Something about the 14th Amendment and the "Equal Protections" Clause our "representatives" do not apparently seem to understand. For if they did they would have never voted 66 to 0 to pass HB 466, nor would our representative stand idly by as his constituents are being robbed of their "equal protections" by his buddies in the Realtor/Developer "mafia".
These people must go...back to high school and civics class, or basic government classes...but they must not be allowed to continue as our representatives unless you want more of this type of shameful, ignorant and abusive representation.
Folks, it is all up to you and me to change the face of our legislature this Fall or sooner. Vote against incumbents and let's get a fresh new unconflicted crowd into office.
"Better late than never, we hope"
We're quite delighted that the Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton has finally stepped up within the last few days, to report on the Powderville Town Incorporation land-grab. She's an outstanding Utah reporter, and hopefully, her intelligent reporting doesn't come too late. The people of Utah need to be informed about our Utah corporo-fascist problem. If anyone can do that, it's Ms. Moulton.From today's article Kristen reports about the effects of Tuesday's House Committee hearing, during which Committee Vice Chair Gage Froerer (who chaired the meeting) essentially told a pack of citizens from Ogden Valley: "just shut up."We incorporate here the key paragraphs from Kristen's article."A House committee Thursday endorsed a makeover of the law that guides town incorporations.But lawmakers turned a deaf ear to Ogden Valley residents who want the new law to block Powder Mountain's incorporation.The bill, HB164, proposed by Rep. Melvin Brown, R-Coalville, would replace HB466, passed with little discussion at the end of the 2007 legislation, a measure one representative - Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden - acknowledged Thursday was a "major screw-up."Please listen to the recorded hearing transcript now, gentle readers. If you take the time to hear it, you'll find that this House Committee didn't even address the "disenfrangisement issue." Perhaps Rep. Froerer didn't realize that the lumpencitizens would be listening in when he treated them so rudely. These people on the committee listened quitely while the Ogden Valley citizen-activists, who'd gotten up early in the morning and travelled to the capitol to address what they assumed to be an open-minded standing committee, (and who would hear and consider their concerns) -- got shut down by "Acting Chair " Gage Froerer -- who awarded their citizen activism, by limiting the last two of them to "one minute."If you have an ounce of political passion, gentle readers, listen to the audio transcript here.
After that, you can become "ticked off," along with your blogmaster. "Posted by RudiZink at 6:10 PM 4 comments Links to this post
Labels: Powder Mountain Rezone
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
In case you actually had to work today and missed what went down at the State Capitol, here is a summary. I listened as Ogden Valley residents were rushed into 60 second comments, an indication of a lack of respect for affected citizen opinion. It was the worst Committee meeting I have ever witnessed, bar none. I can only hope people will remember come November. These corrupted legislators need to be someplace besides in our legislature. And the corrupting money from the special interests they represent, instead of us, needs to be haulted. Help me help us in the caucuses and November. At this stage a vote against just about every incumbent would help to clean "our house" of the vermin who have moved in on our rights as citizens.
With sadness for our State,
From Rudi's Weber County Forum:
A Treasure Trove of Weber County Forum Articles & Documents
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"We link here the roster of the House Political Subdivisions Committee members who wouldn't lift even a finger to fix the "unintended results" of last year's HB466, which one local legislator admitted to have been a "major screw-up." All of these same folks will be coming around in November to ask for our readers' votes. We urge everyone to print out this list, and file it for future reference. Chalk this up as the most shameful day yet, in what's turning out to be the most shameful legislative session in recent memory.
House Political Subdivisions Committee - 2008
Rep. Fred R. Hunsaker, Chair Logan/North Rich Cache, Rich Counties
Rep. Gage Froerer, Vice Chair Weber County (Ogden) Valley
Rep. Sheryl L. Allen Davis County
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck ?? Recent appointee??
Rep. James A. Dunnigan Salt Lake County (Taylorsville)
Rep. Kerry W. Gibson Western Weber County
Rep. Richard A. Greenwood ?? Recent appointee??
Rep. Jennifer M. Seelig Salt Lake County
Rep. LaWanna Lou Shurtliff Weber County (Ogden)
Rep. Stephen H. Urquhart Washington County (St. George)
Rep. R. Curt Webb ?? Recent Appointee??
And from Tuesday's post on the protest:
"We have saved the most incredulously stupid comments for the end, and they were published in Marshal Thompson's Standard Examiner coverage of the Protest. Sadly, by a future Powderville resident and realtor in Gage Froerer's office named Erin Stokes.
We will give her the benefit of the doubt as she has obviously been drinking the Powder Mountain kool aid and could use a serious dose of reality. Her comments provide for a laughable and astonishing read:
"Erin Stokes, a real estate agent in Eden, said she can’t understand why some of her neighbors are against the in- corporation plan. After looking at both sides, she said, she feels a new town is clearly the best choice. “I listened to all the things my neighbors had to say. I talked to the marketing people for the developers, and they were very helpful,” she said.“I’m just really excited about it. I don’t see any negatives to it at all, and I’ve studied it a lot.”
She must be using a different text book for those studies than the rest of us.
And of course marketing people are helpful - they are trying to sale you something that you do not need!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING - House Bill 391
This Bill passed through the House Revenue and Taxation Committee today. It will shift 20 to 30% of property tax bill from our property tax notices in August to sales tax increase of 1.65% on non food purchases or unprepared food.
Based upon the House Committee debate I give it about a 30% chance of passing through the Senate. MM
2 2008 GENERAL SESSION
3 STATE OF UTAH
4 Chief Sponsor: Wayne A. Harper
5 Senate Sponsor: ____________
7 LONG TITLE
8 General Description:
9 This bill amends provisions in the Minimum School Program Act, the Property Tax
10 Act, and the Sales and Use Tax Act relating to certain property tax levies and the
11 funding of public school programs.
12 Highlighted Provisions:
13 This bill:
14 < repeals the authority of school districts to levy certain property taxes;
15 < requires a school district to abate certain property taxes raised for debt service to the
16 extent that money is available from other sources for the payment of bond interest,
17 principal, and redemption premiums;
18 < requires a school district to use the money received from the increase in the sales
19 and use tax to offset the loss of certain property tax revenue;
20 < prohibits a taxing entity from imposing a property tax rate higher than the taxing
21 entity's certified tax rate for three years;
22 < increases the sales and use tax on certain transactions by 1.65%;
23 < dedicates the revenue generated by the 1.65% increase to the Uniform School Fund;
24 < adjusts a school district's certified tax rate due to the repeal or amendment of the
25 property taxing authority of the school district;
2. The next Bill which passed unanimously in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee today was HB 333 S3. Senior Citizen Homeowner's Credit.
It basically now says the Circuit Breaker credit for those 67 or older and who can prove (first page of IRS 1040) that they earned less than $33,000 a year can apply for the credit. This 8th category adds in theory 5,792 parcels or properties statewide and extends the 20% additional discount. In other words on primary residences where we normally get the 45% discount off full market value, this new category, or increase in the maximum of the Circuit Breaker from basically $27,000 to $33,000 allows those who qualify for the Circuit Breaker provision to get an additional 20% reduction. So if your residence has a "market value" of $250,000, you would pay property taxes based upon 35% of that value ($87,500) instead of 55% ($250,000 X .55 = $137,500). And if you rent and qualify you get a whopping $50 credit.
It took two (2) years for the sponsor to understand that no one, and I mean no one, would accept the deferred taxes @ 6% interest penalty and a lein on their property. So that disgusting part of this bill was finally dropped after heavy senior citizen (I am one) lobbying against it. Committee Chairman Dougall said, "I have found no one who liked the deferred taxes with interest, part of this bill."
Again given the debate, I give this bill about a 60% chance of passing through the Senate based upon the fiscal note (how much the shift in taxes will be to other property owners) of between $300,000 and $400,000. The Senate will be looking for a relatively "cheap" way to go, so they can claim they actually did something about property taxes for the poor...defined as over 67 and under $33,000/yr. income.
When asked why the $33,000 limit, the sponsor (Rep. Froerer) said, "We wanted to keep it (meaning the fiscal note or tax shift) under $400,000. "Why" was never discussed nor asked.
Rep. Wimmer wanted to extend it to young couples and lobbyist Rowland agreed with him saying this is the way to target relief to young families. There was no further debate as time had run out.
Actually, the Utah Realtor Association did like deferred taxes and supported it for these two years, which has held it up unnecessarily. (Re Bryan Kohler's remarks from 19 Sept 07.)
Some other stuff passed but was relatively insignificant with regard to property taxation. Neiderhauser's bill to require an election to raise our property tax rate higher than the Consumer Price Index was killed in committee.
Senator Neiderhauser is sponsoring a bill that would fund a Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee Task Force (thus insuring they pay themselves) to study property tax alternatives over the Interim (a term they use to describe working session between the regular legislative sessions). The problem with his proposal is it will be manned by our elected Senators and Representatives (about six Rs and six Ds) who generally have no interest nor qualifications. It therefore will have no credibility or very little due to having had the foxes studying locks for the henhouse. They are making the most basic and fundamental errors and mistakes known to man. They have been told what to do and how to form a Blue Ribbon Study Committee but had rather pay themselves to come up with totally predictable results. Waste more time and more or our money giving the ruse that they are serious about property tax reform. This is not the case I regret to tell you all. They are serious about keeping the gravy train rolling along and getting rich off needless and exhorbitant property assessements and esculations. In maintaining the status quo in most cases.
I have said it many times and I say it again. This element simply has to be replaced with people who will represent me and you and not special interests like the Realtors Association and Developers who have taken over our legislature.
They are slick, mostly Political Science grads and lawyers who are prospering off the real estate and development business at our expense. They have been chipping away at every conceivable barrier against development at every level of government using a well funded "machine". We have recently seen the "Powerville" for example. And there are ongoing attempts to pass legislation to require municipalities to turn over publicly funded municipally owned golf courses, recreational facilities, etc. to developers. And many more insidious legislation has been passed and will be passed unless we wake up and fight back.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I just thought you might like to hear what I have been trying to tell you from another person, Cary Hobbs. His commentary was taken from the Salt Lake Tribune. Thanks Cary, I don't know how I could have missed your fine and painfully truthful article.
Privatization bill would crack open Fort Knox for developers
Article Last Updated: 02/02/2008 12:12:32 PM MST
The last several sessions of the Utah Legislature have sought to pass various measures attempting to limit the authority of our cities and locales to control their own destiny.
One of the first bills was an effort by former Senate President Al Mansell, a major real estate industry figure, to limit or prohibit local planning and zoning functions that affect developers.
Last year saw the disastrous bill by Mel Brown, giving developers the ability to incorporate their property into their own city without any input from the county government or neighbors, and without even requiring agreement by any of the other 100 required named landowners.
We have three of these monstrosities pending in court actions in Wasatch country, and House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, has refused to allow any "fixes" to the bill so far this year.
This year we are faced with the most insidious bill yet: a bill to privatize any government activity or property that competes with a developer or entrepreneur.
Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, has introduced bills that require cities to sell their golf courses to developers, close and sell their fitness centers, close equestrian centers so the "private" sector would not face competition.
Obviously this is like cracking Fort Knox for developers who are salivating over some of the choicest real estate in every municipality. Frank was quoted as saying "we need to step back and determine what is government's responsibility and what is private sectors." (The Salt LakeTribune, Jan. 29). Let's do that.
The principles of the Republican Party and democratic government in general have always been to have decision-making at the level closest to the people. For the state Legislature to dictate how our cities are run, how we choose to zone and plan, and what life-enhancing benefits we choose to offer in our communities is dead wrong. Un-American.
Our community facilities are operated and priced to serve all the citizens - the elderly, the poor, teenagers, as well as the top 2 percent of money earners who, with their tax cuts, can afford gated communities and exclusive and expensive golf if they choose.
Our children grow up in communities with opportunities to do something other than "hang out" at the Wal-Mart. The open spaces and trees of our golf courses enhance all our lives whether we play golf or cross country ski or just look at these beautiful parks.
Recreational facilities raise the property values of a community. They enhance our quality of life. Most importantly they represent the desires of the people who live in a community. That is a proper role of government.
What is not proper is for state legislators, who perhaps haven't even been to the communities they are seeking to dominate, to pass laws about what we can or can't do in our home communities. It's not proper to turn our jewels and treasures into multiuse developments or private, expensive, exclusive facilities.
It goes against everything the formerly Grand Old Party ever stood for. It is bad policy.
We know that the huge contributors expect a payback. We know that the largest groups represented among the legislators are developers and people whose business is real estate.
We know that this group of legislators has shown us they will never pass conflict of interest laws or ethics rules, so it's up to us to find people concerned with "the people" and not concerned about making money for themselves or their friends.
House Bill 75, House Bill 76, House Bill 120 and Senate Bill 45 sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, must be defeated. Call your state representative or senator and demand they keep to the proper role of government. If you don't, your family's quality of life in our beautiful state may shortly diminish forever.
If I may borrow a phrase from Rudi..."gentle readers", friends and neighbors we just HAVE to wake up and vote these Realtor/Developer legislators out of office. If no one else will run against Representative Gage Froerer. I will and I am "for the people" not for any special interests. Please spread the word as delegates will be chosen very soon. We do not need more of the same. We need ethics reform, property tax reform, campaign finance reform, and it will take several years to right the wrongs already done to "we the people" by this nefarious and highly financed Realtor/Developer mafia.
Spread the word. Tell your neighbors and attend neighborhood caucuses. Our literal future and our grandchildren's future depends upon you and how you vote.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Our Ogden friend, "Rudi", wrote this for the Weber County Forum. It is not specifically related to Property Tax Refrom, however; it is such an important issue to all of us in the Valley, I decided to repeat it here to make certain everyone has a chance to read it.
Experiencing Another "Utah Epiphany"
A short essay on political cowardice: So-called "remedial legislation" will still leave aggreived Ogden Valley citizens politically disenfranchised.
“We don’t want to deal with retrospect. There are numerous incorporations already going forward, and to roll back the clock would put us in a litigious situation.”
Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal.Standard-ExaminerFebruary 16, 2008
“Lawsuits are likely regardless of what happens, and the potential fallout from House Bill 466 last year needs to be stopped. Just because we opened the door and the animals got out, that doesn’t mean we can’t gather up the animals and put them back in the barn,”
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North OgdenStandard-ExaminerFebruary 16, 2008
Hoo-boy, gentle readers. After perusing the Standard-Examiner this morning, we're having one of those startling flashes of clarity that we call a "Utah Epiphany." Here we've been naively working like madmen over the past few weeks, trying to muster support for Senator Stowell's (R-Parowan) SB-25, which we believed to be curative legislation for the evils of last year's HB-466; and now we learn -- in this morning's Jeff Demoss story -- that the current version of this bill, which passed in the senate yesterday by a 26-1 vote, is not designed to operate retroactively. ("It becomes effective when the Governor signs the bill."MM)
Yesiree, folks, those gutless wonders in the senate passed a remedial bill alright; but it won't do anything to help those folks in Ogden Valley who stand to live for at least two years without elected town representation -- under the dictatorship of corporate Powder Mountain developer appointees. Senator Allen Christensen made a valiant effort to add a retroactive provision to the bill, according to today's story, but his cowardly Senate colleagues apparently turned him down flat.
(Senators pro developer and heavily "subsidized" by the Realtor Association and various construction and banking investment, development, and real estate money by the way. MM insert)
Our take on the solution to the current political predicament is of course very simple. It was the Utah State Legislature who caused this problem; and it's the responsibility of that same legislative body, (the entire body, including the senate,) to fix it. The solution seems fairly uncomplicated, we believe, if we can rely on the accuracy of today's story. The House of Representatives can pass one of the two other pending House bills which do contain retroactive provisions (HB-413 or HB-164,) and send one of them on to the Senate. Alternatively, the House could kick back a House-amended SB-25 (with retroactive provisions.) Whatever they do, we hope representatives like Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville) will have the courage to stick to their guns. Otherwise it will be, once again in Utah, the "little people" who are left holding the bag.
As to the threat of developer litigation, by the way, we'll offer that we are not impressed. And to our gentle readers we ask, in the event that litigation will be the inevitable result of the legislature's "doing the right thing," how, exactly will any developer prove damages? Will Utah developers with pending incorporation petitions argue that town incorporation is a vested property right? We believe it's pretty clear that town incorporation is a political "privilege," and not a "right." And even assuming that a pending incorporation petition is a vested and valuable property right entitled to protection in Utah courts, how would a court deal with the problem of the political disenfranchisement of those citizens who have been unwillingly dragged into new municipal entities at the whim of neighboring property owners, because of the unintended operation of an ill-conceived law that everyone (including legislators in the State Senate) seems to believe to have been flawed from the outset?
Senator Christensen is quite right, of course. There will be litigation regardless of the manner in which this situation shakes out in the legislature. And in the event of litigation we'll put our money on the litigants who have ALL the equities on their side, i.e., the 100 or so people of Ogden Valley, whose own property and political rights are being trampled by one greedy developer who readily admits its incorporation petition action is tactical, cynically intended to sidestep Weber County regulatory authority and "...take complete control of their own destiny". [Paragraph 4]If there is to be litigation, bring it on. In the meantime we call on all members of the Utah legislature to check out their own moral compasses. We think it's time to "gather up the animals and put them back in the barn," as Senator Christensen suggests.The State Senate's most recent inaction leaves your blogmeister with a profound sense of disgust this morning. It's difficult to believe that this situation is happening in America. Of course this really isn't America, good readers. It's Utah. We're again experiencing another Utah Epiphany, as we said.
And what say our the cyber-folks about all this?
Well done Rudi. The Machman and most in Ogden Valley salute you. I would be at the rally except for posting this to get the word out sooner.
If SB 25 is not amended to be retroactive, we as Ogden Valley need to consider pitching in with those who will be disenfranchised directly, using our resources to fight this in court. And we need to know exactly how such legislation was passed so blithely 66 to 0 in the first place? Where is the Ethics Commission? If they never meet nor do anything we need to demand an independent Ethics Commission which has the fortitude to actually do something for a change.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Looks like the tax break some were expecting for parcels more than one acre has bit the dust due to lack of data (research) and some legislators suspected of protecting the tax cheats who claim more than one primary residence.
And Senator Brown's bill to amend the ill conceived and not debated at all House Bill 466 which lets developers run over residents, planning commisssions and commissioners with impunity is being "slow rolled" to enable Powder Mountain developers to build a case for claiming undue hardship if they must restart their nefarious Town incorporation process.
And the Property Tax Reform Blue Ribbon Study Commission, I proposed back in September, has been predictably reduced to a funded interim group of incestuous and "conflicted" lawmakers and lobbyists. Which will, inevitably, simply pay themselves using our tax dollars, to end up saying, "There's nothing really wrong with the current Truth in Taxation System. It just needs a few tweaks here and there." There is no citizen oversight. There will be no citizen nor independent participation. And there will be no credible report nor findings. Just more waisted time - fraud, waste, and abuse heaped upon us taxpayers by those we have elected to represent us.
This is simply unacceptable. This corrupt behavior and lack of mature adult supervision must stop! And the only way is via the polls in November. I hate to say it, but there is so much corruption and graft infecting our legislature it is time to simply show all those with direct conflicts of interest, who take gifts and "campaign contributions" under the table, - they must all be shown the door in a massive clean sweep of the legislature.
They have truly earned our disrespect and disdain. I apologize to the few - the very few, who are fighting the good fight for ethics reform and campaign finance reforms. There are none who are fighting for property tax reform. And I hope to get either myself or someone in office with the fortitude and integrity to take these embedded nare-do-wells on and work to clean up our legislature.
With regrets for having to share the bad news,
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Utah Department of Commerce warns of investor fraud
TESSA WHITE - North County Staff
With the real estate market slowing down, many Utah real estate agents are asking how much of the slowdown is attributed to artificial price inflation brought on by real estate fraud.
With several ongoing investigations in the Alpine/Highland area, many homes are sitting vacant or struggling to stay out of bank possession with an inflated loan at above market pricing.
The Utah Division of Real Estate has recently targeted the topic in its news bulletin, indicating that investor fraud "may have played a sizeable role in aiding the double-digit price gains seen in the U.S. housing market since 2004."
Keller-Williams broker Alan Wade said he began to notice the trend of fraudulent investors last fall.
Wade said, "We turned away about 20 percent of the offers we had coming in because there were double contracts and other fraudulent activities involved."
The Utah Department of Commerce recently sent out a fraud alert identifying a "dramatic increase in illegal property flipping throughout the state ... most prevalent in areas of new construction and high end homes."
The Utah County Board of Realtors indicates that year-to-date home sales over $500,000 are up 29.4 percent over 2006. With Alpine and Highland being a hotbed of high-end homes, investors have been quick to buy.
While many are legitimate in their practices, local agents are seeing many people hurt by fraudulent investments. An agent at the Keller-Williams office in Alpine is working to help authorities stop an investor who has asked dozens of naïve clients to use their credit scores and names to secure more than 73 loans in exchange for alleged big money returns on property buys and flips.
There are several common scenarios for investment fraud.
The first scenario includes the purchase of a property at a lower price, but changing the list price on the MLS so an appraiser sees a higher value for the home. An appraisal is completed using the higher list price allowing the investor to show immediate equity, which is pulled out in the form of cash at closing. An appraisal is completed when the higher price is listed allowing the investor to pull out the extra equity.
The problem with this scenario is that it leaves a property that cannot be sold when default occurs because the home isn't worth as much as the loan. It also leaves the investor with "free money" to reinvest or spend.
A second scenario is an investor asking a seller to pull the real estate agent out of the loop and take the property off the MLS so a private, "more creative" deal can be done. Frequently, that deal includes third party private buyers with an interest stake, a request for the seller to secure a second loan with the buyer with promises of shared profits at resale, or asking for two contracts -- one with a higher price for the lender and another side agreement for a different price.
Wade said, "If you push the price of a home or land up and up, it affects people all up the chain. Not only does the price of homes inflate unnecessarily, but it creates a sense of panic when homes need to correct pricing in order to stay in line with a truer market price."
He indicated this is the slowest August and September he's seen in many years, and much of the slowdown he attributes to price "right-sizing pricing" as a consequence to investor fraud as well as an enormous amount of spec homes that were built on speculation that the current pricing was accurate rather than inflated.
Mark Wilkinson, Teri Jerman and Alan Wade, all agents and brokers in Alpine and Highland, indicate they have detected a clear increase in Multiple Listing Service (MLS) fraud. Most homes are listed through the MLS and as a result, it becomes a primary tool for appraisers to use for comparables. But when the comparables are artificially inflated to get a higher appraisal, it is illegal.
Wilkinson said, "I know of several agents who have been (offered) up to $1,000 to delist and then relist a new sales price on a home which is then available and usable information for a false appraisal."
He said this clearly affects the market because it creates a false sense of what homes are worth. Potential sellers come in and think their home should sell for more because their neighbor's home was advertised or sold for an outrageous price through investor fraud.
He said, "It is a house of cards. Lenders will lose money and because many loans are guaranteed by the government, ultimately the taxpayers end up paying for fraudulent transactions."
Although investor fraud has started to level off as prices have slowed in appreciation, the scenarios are more common than one would think. All three agents echoed the same sentiment. If the deal doesn't seem quite right, it probably isn't.
And the effect of fraud on neighborhoods can be devastating, leaving rows of high-end homes for lease or in poor condition as bank repossessions occur.
TIPS TO AVOID INVESTOR FRAUD
Never let anyone use your credit score or co-sign on a loan you are not willing to pay
Beware of buyers asking you to cancel your contract with a realtor before doing business
Don't sign purchase contracts that have undisclosed side agreements or addendums
Always make sure the purchase contract and closing documents list the correct price of the home
Watch out for excessive payments to third parties noted as "consultant fees" or unrecorded second mortgages
Ask your agent to check the property sales history on homes for multiple changes of ownership
Sellers should not sign any clause that indicates the home must appraise for substantially more than offer price
Watch out for buyers who ask you to end your listing with an agent or remove listing prior to an offer
Monday, February 11, 2008
Jury still out on whether Capitol 'specialties' present a problem
Copyright 2008 Deseret Morning News
By Lee Davidson and Bob Bernick Jr.Deseret Morning News
Published: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008 12:21 a.m. MST
One of every four bills introduced in the current Legislature creates an apparent conflict of interest for sponsors, a Deseret Morning News review shows.
That is not too surprising since Utah's 104 lawmakers work only part time in the Legislature, but full time as lawyers, teachers, dentists, Realtors, developers and at other jobs. Many push bills in areas of their expertise — considered one of the pluses of a citizen lawmaking body. While that can take advantage of their knowledge, it can also make them power brokers and leaders in arcane areas of the law, or help their professions.
Take, for example, Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem, one of two members who had all the bills they introduced this year in an area where they work in their private lives. She is an attorney specializing in family law, and her bills ranged from protective order amendments to joint custody amendments and stalking amendments.
"What is scary is when you have people voting" on bills "they really know nothing about," she said. But Fowlke says that rarely happens in the Utah Legislature, where people from different backgrounds help each other understand issues in their areas of expertise.
The individual expertise that 104 legislators can bring to lawmaking is invaluable, she said. "It is really helpful that we have so many different professions up here" to lend their wisdom to lawmaking.
She says she saw a need for better law in her area of family legal issues. "My emphasis has always been to clarify the law," Fowlke said. "Good attorneys follow the law. If you agree on the law, then you may (only) go to court over the facts."
But others see conflicts as problems. Claire Geddes, who has watched the Legislature for years as a public advocate, says conflicts are "the number one ethical problem at the Legislature — and legislators just don't take it seriously at all."
Geddes says votes there rarely break along party lines, and, "Instead, the issues break out along self-interest lines. It is infamous that they pass bills that help their own industries," she said. "The public loses big-time, and everyone just acts like it is OK because we have a part-time Legislature. It is not OK."
The Deseret Morning News compared all bills introduced in the 2008 session with legislators' conflict of interest disclosure statements and their known hobbies, jobs or former jobs and the jobs and financial interests of their spouses and close family members.
Of 799 substantive bills introduced this session, 210 created apparent conflicts of interest for the sponsors — or 26 percent of them. A similar review last year yielded almost identical findings, with 25 percent of all 2007 bills creating conflicts for sponsors.
Conflicts are so common this year that 71 of the 104 legislators, or two of every three, introduced bills that created such apparent conflicts. (A list of how many conflicts were identified for each member can be found at the PDF graphic link at right.)
Again, conflicts are not necessarily bad. But some of the more interesting ones noticed during the News review include:
• Rep. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, is also the Ogden police chief. He introduced nine bills dealing with law enforcement. One would allow police chiefs, such as himself, to declare "no-gang zones." Known gang members could be arrested if they refuse to leave such areas or return to them within eight hours.
• Rep. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, is an orthodontist. He introduced the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Practice Act amendments, and medical insurance amendments.
• Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, a car dealer, introduced motor vehicle amendments.
• Sen. Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful, a former car dealer, introduced a bill about the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Advisory Council.
• Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, a foundation director for Davis School District, introduced a bill changing accounting and reporting requirements by such school foundations.
• Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, works for Sterling Mortgage. He introduced a mortgage fraud bill.
• Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, a real estate broker, introduced four bills dealing with real estate law.
-Plus he has sponsored and cosponsored "Deferred taxation with 6% interest" legislation both last year and this year at the behest of the Realtor Association. A Bill on subdivisions which makes it easier to end run planning commissions. And now we learn he voted for HB 466, which gives all authority for creating Towns to developers at expense of citizen's private property rights. MM
• Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, former Utah Highway Patrol colonel, introduced a bill to make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense for which officers can pull over drivers, and introduced amendments to the "not-a-drop" DUI program.
• Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, is president of the Concealed Weapon Permit Holders Association. He introduced firearm amendments that would not require concealment of the firearm on a person who has a concealed weapons permit.
• Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, owns an insurance agency and introduced eight separate bills dealing with insurance issues. Over the years he has become the "go-to guy" on insurance matters.
"The (state) Insurance Department came to me this year and asked if I would carry some of these complicated matters for them," Dunnigan said, adding that he wanted the department to find someone else.
"But they asked who else could they get to explain this stuff" to legislators who know little about the technical aspects of insurance. "They asked, I agreed."
The Legislature deals with possible conflicts of interest by requiring lawmakers to file written declarations listing where they may have potential financial conflicts. Those declarations can be found at www.le.state.ut.us. Legislators can also verbally declare a conflict when they vote in committee or on their chamber floors.
Still, some legislators who are retired from their life-long professions list "none" for potential conflicts on their reports, even though they likely are drawing retirement checks from somewhere. And it is common practice for attorney/legislators to refuse to name their law clients, citing attorney/client privilege.
Also, Utah is one of the few states where legislators are required to vote if they are present even on bills where they have clear conflicts of interest. That has resulted in some odd legislative behavior.
In the 1980s before the Capitol was remodeled, the House area had a single woman's restroom behind the chambers. On one particularly tough vote, a female legislator locked herself in there, refusing to come out. The House clerk found a key, unlocked the door and the lawmaker was forced to vote.
Another legislator once hid behind the House kitchen door. A third used to visit the governor's office when she did not want to vote.
Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, started work on a bill last year to allow legislators to vote present, and not yes or no, when conflicts arose. But it would require the approval of the body's top three officers. However, he abandoned that effort.
Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said the effort was dropped because "there was no clear demarcation we could identify when you have a direct pecuniary interest."
For example, he said, should a teacher or a person on the board of a charter school vote for the education budget? Valentine said Bramble "found he could not come up with a line that was clear enough demarcation."
How about "I have divided loyalties on this issue and therefore I recuse himself." What is so difficult about that? How about an independent ethics commission since the whimps on the legislative version have never so much as investigated nor censored any of their "club". MM
Conflicts of interest received extra attention in the past year when Reps. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, and Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, had conflicts with potential construction of a nuclear power plant in the state.
They are members of or chair House committees that deal directly with nuclear energy. Tilton is an energy consultant who is looking into possibly building a nuclear power plant in Utah, while Noel heads a local water company that would sell the proposed plant $1 million of water each year.
Last summer, neither man publicly declared a conflict of interest during hearings on nuclear power until after their involvement was publicized by the media, with each saying they did not believe their private jobs were financial conflicts in that instance.
Contributing: Nicole Warburton
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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Friday, February 8, 2008
As you appeal your appeals you need to read and understand this short article from the Daily Herald. It is exactly what I have been telling our legislators and trying to tell local news. Sadly we are not really being listened too enough. One Senator even had the outrageous nerve to call HB 54 "his version of modified acquisition value" in a thinly veiled effort to silence our voices.
As usual, ironically a Provo newspaper gets it right, where the others remain clueless at the editorial level. Who would think we have to go to Provo/Orem to get at the truth? I salute the editors of the Daily Herald again.
Saturday, 02 February 2008
(House Bill 54) changes model for assessing property taxes
Rette Speight - DAILY HERALD
As officials supported the new mass appraisal system for determining property values, some citizens spoke out against it. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Harper R-West Jordan, amends provisions in the Property Tax Act in relation to property appraisal requirements for assessors. The bill was passed with some hesitation, but Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, said he believed that Harper is "trying to move [counties] into the 20th century."
The mass appraisal system would take samples of real estate dealings and create an average, which would be used to determine other property values.
Utah County Assessor Poulson said in August that his office uses a computer algorithm to assess the 150,000 properties in the county. But there can be errors in the system, especially when dealing with more than 100,000 properties.
"I am concerned as we move to a computerized system that we're giving a false hope to the people," said Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray. "If we want to be upfront, if we want to be able to evaluate the true value of the property we must provide the assessors the tools. I'm struggling to see how we're going to provide that for the citizens of the state."
Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, reminded the committee that "even though we're using a computerized system there's enough hands-on personal touches for evaluating the data. We can't forget that there's human beings running the system."
University of Utah economics professor Jim Gander spoke to the committee concerning issues of how the samplings were picked when determining the general values.
"I sense a feeling among most of the public that members don't feel comfortable with the existing appraisal system," Gander said.
Gander pointed out sampling problems, concerning what he calls "arms length dealing," or dealings between family members.
"What is missing is the information a willing buyer and a willing seller have," Gander said. "When homes are bought for moving in or establishing residence, that information is quite different than what speculators have. Any other sale is outside of a fair market."
These "other sales" might be what are affecting the market value, Gander told the committee. He is worried that this skewed model could be "why people aren't happy."
Poulson told the committee that although he and Utah County commissioners support the bill, Gander's sampling concerns are valid.
"If you're trying to sample the general population, if you don't have enough samples, you can go out and find more," Poulson told the committee. "But when you're dealing with real estate, you only have as many homes as are being sold. You're very limited by the amount of data you have. There are a lot of sales out there that we don't even have the access for the data."
Poulson also told the committee that Utah County has "some of the worst real estate fraud, not only just in the state, but possibly even in the nation."
Poulson said that Utah County is very involved with the transactions and data that is analyzed, and great effort it put into making adjustments to keep the property values fair.