Anti-UTOPIA House Bill 60

To the members of the House Government Operations Committee,

We the undersigned believe that HB60 is a bad bill for business for the following reasons.

1) It restricts UTOPIA as an entity from expanding, regardless of whether its member cities are served or not, or whether other cities would like to join. This is a punitive effort executed by the Utah Legislature that takes control away from city members and management.

2) It hobbles one of UTOPIA’s necessary needs to interconnect member cities through backbone service. These fiber optic links currently under UTOPIA ownership allow service providers who may not have facilities in a UTOPIA member city to provide services throughout UTOPIA, increasing member city choice and competition. How are these interconnections supposed to happen under HB60?

3) It limits UTOPIA from collecting funds from potentially high take-rate areas outside member cities. Funds that could otherwise be used for payback of UTOPIA member city debt.

4) It limits UTOPIA from venturing into unincorporated municipalities, with no governing entity that would otherwise join.

5) It is discriminatory against advanced services. Municipal electrical line services are exempt from these restrictions as long as they have been in operation for over 50 years. Fiber optics have only been in broad deployment since the early 1980’s.

6) UTOPIA is under consideration for a dramatic ubiquitous expansion financed by a private entity. This is the wrong time for the Utah Legislature to throw down potential restrictions that could negatively influence their consideration. If the Utah Legislature wishes cities to be enabled to pay off their UTOPIA bonds, they will welcome all potential offers and take a “hands-off” approach.

Pete Ashdown – XMission
David Burr – Sumo Fiber
Randy Cosby – Infowest
Lane Livingston – Fibernet
Dan McComas – Reddit

Marriage Equality

In 2012, I was defeated in convention by a man who refused to stand up for an individual’s right to marry whom they wish. The Democratic candidate for governor in the same year also had the same stand. In this week, we have also seen Utah’s only Democrat in congress announce he would not seek another term. Jim Matheson has also shied away from marriage equality, and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, of which a key provision was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
For many years, I’ve been dismayed to see prominent Democrats cower and waffle when faced with the marriage question. Before the tide began to change in this country, when I ran in 2006, I was unapologetic in my support for individual marriage liberty. I asserted that demanding marriage licenses on a very private decision was not only wrong, but a benefit only to insurance companies as to whom you could claim as a partner.
What the court upheld this week was not an infringement on religious practice, but an affirmation of individual freedom. I hope that now and in the future, anyone seeking office, of any party, will stand for the rights of the individual and not fear saying so.

City Council Meeting on Utah Performing Arts Center

The City Council invites public comment on the financing plan for the Utah Performing Arts Center on Main Street, Tuesday, May 7 at 7pm in the City County Building (Room 315).

The bonds on the Salt Palace are being retired and the Mayor believes we can simply buy another $100+ million facility without voter consent. This while The Leonardo, The Aviary, and The Zoo all had to go to the ballot for a fraction of this amount. So, although the city claims UPAC will not require raising taxes, it won’t allow taxes to be lowered with the Salt Palace bonds being retired.

Several historic and beautiful buildings on Main Street will be demolished to accommodate the UPAC, while a parking lot across the street remains. This site was selected behind closed doors without public input.

Local arts organizations, who are already struggling for audiences, will see a negative impact.

Please come and respectfully share your opinion with the city council and the mayor.

Tuesday, May 7 at 7pm
City Building – 451 State Street, Room 315

Congratulations Move to Amend!

Move to Amend Salt Lake City has collected 11,251 signatures for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment. The amendment would clearly state that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The Salt Lake City canvassers needed to collect 9,000 signatures and they collected 2,251 more than they needed. This is the first citizen resolution to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot in Salt Lake City. Congratulations to all involved!

If you haven’t listened to This American Life’s recent episode, “Take the Money and Run for Office”, you should. Every American would be well served to take an hour and listen to what our elected spend most of their time doing in Washington. This is why I’m not taking PAC money. This is why I want public financing of federal campaigns.

NDAA, SOPA, and Upcoming Volunteer Meeting

Most of the emails regarding policy I have received recently have been in relation to two bills that recently came before congress.

The first, the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) for 2012 is a budgetary appropriations act which has non-germane language in section 1021 regarding indefinite detention. Although the White House assures us that this section “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”, I have to ask why is it being considered at all? Why do we let our guiding principals like habeas corpus, enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution only apply within our borders? Regardless of whether the language in section 1021 potentially applies to Americans, and I believe it does, I don’t think we should be suspending habeas corpus in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is not war, it is an international criminal act, and it should be prosecuted and treated by the standards of justice we hold true in the United States. In the case of enemy combatants, declaration and end of war needs to be rigorously defined by congress and prisoners of war should be detained with all concern towards their rights. The quagmire of Guantanamo represents an affront to American justice. Being detained for over a decade without rapid trial inevitably presents problems of human rights and return of the innocent. If we do not practice habeas corpus and rapid trial universally, it is only a matter of time before it is applied to all American citizens through concern of security and outright fear mongering.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) represents another case of congressional ignorance of technology. In spite of opposition from major technology companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter, congress continued to carry water for media companies demanding that they should have the ability to shut down any website without proper trial of criminality. Hearings were stacked with proponents in an attempt to squash opposition. To his credit, Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative, Jason Chaffetz saw through these tactics and opposed the bill. Unfortunately, it has merely been “suspended” for further wrangling in 2012. SOPA was an attempt to limit the openness and freedom of the Internet and I heartily oppose it.

I will be holding a volunteer coordination meeting Saturday, January 14th, from 1pm – 3pm at 780 East South Temple in Salt Lake City. All are welcome to attend.

Public Financing, not PACs

One of the impressions a first time candidate is given is that PAC (Political Action Committee) financing is an essential part of their campaign. In 2006, after two trips to Washington, numerous letters to “Leadership PACs” and endless meetings, the grand total of PAC contributions made up less than 4% of the overall money raised. The first thing I decided after the campaign ended in 2006 was to not seek PAC money again.

One of the regrets I have in the last campaign is being suckered by other elected Democrats into their email-address-sucking contests where supporters of each candidate were encouraged to “vote” for their favorite candidate. These contests never yielded any results for the campaign, and they only got the people who cared about my election stuck on mailing lists they didn’t ask to be subscribed to.

Yet the PAC system is what incumbents thrive on. The percentages reverse for people who are already elected, where PAC money is the dominant form of financing for those who carry the water. Which is why I’m done with it. Although I’m sure there are legitimate PACs pushing valid interests, I think the system as a whole is wrong. It continues to perpetuate our cash infested broken democracy.

I support public financing. I believe it will take a constitutional amendment to implement public financing on a federal level. Until that is done, the playing field between incumbent and challenger will always be in favor of the former, and money will continue to imbalance governmental interest away from the majority of Americans. Russell Simmons presented one such proposal recently. I find it ironic that he is doing it, while the author of the amendment remains anonymous, but I think the initial text is good. It is time we pushed this forward.

Of course, until that amendment is passed, challengers still face an enormous uphill battle. I can use your help in that fight.

Stop Federal Control of the Internet

Once again, Utah’s own Senator Hatch has cosponsored an Internet related bill that further paves the road to Hell. Of all the possibilities that could be exhausted in the lame-duck Senate session (like START ratification), carrying water for media companies is highest on the list. The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) bill passed unanimously out of committee today. One provision of this bill is that the Attorney General can direct Internet Service Providers to block websites that media companies claim are infringing copyright. As I have seen with the equally well-intentioned Digital Millennium Copyright Act, media companies tend to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to making accusations of copyright violation. DMCA has also been repeatedly used between competitors to hamper each other’s operations, all the while sticking the ISP between them as detective, judge, and jury. COICA is DMCA on steroids and is not good for the Internet. Since Senator Hatch is a sponsor and a repeat offender in regards to technology & copyright law, I suggest you call Senator Bennett’s office and hope that he uses his lame-duck powers for the people rather than the corporations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is following COICA closely and is a good resource for criticism on it.

Balance the Budget

The New York Times has a nifty web calculator for experimenting with proposed tactics for reducing the federal budget deficit. Although simplistic, it is an interesting exercise that counters the idea that the budget deficit can’t be fixed without privatizing social security or eliminating the Department of Energy and/or Education. I’d like to see a larger interactive budget calculator that allows you to tweak all aspects of federal taxation and expenses. It might reveal some interesting results. Here is what I came up with.

Mike Lee Campaign Apology

The Mike Lee campaign called me this afternoon to apologize for asking me to shut off my video recording. Apparently they have been visited more than once by someone with a video camera who is there only to disrupt the campaign, and both the staffer and the campaign communications director had no idea that this individual was not me, so they assumed the worst. The campaign promised to give me some time, on camera, with Mr. Lee if I come to a future event.

I appreciate their apology and I will try to take up their offer at another time.

I went to a Mike Lee “Meet & Greet”

Seeing Mike Lee was going to do a “Meet & Greet” in Salt Lake City today, I went to see for myself what this Republican candidate for U.S. Senate was all about. I asked him several questions and got answers that I agreed and disagreed with. I would tell you more about our discussion of his endorsers, the 4th & 14th amendments, his desire for term limits but his repeated votes for Hatch and Bennett, and why our government is a “tyranny” in spite of the supremacy clause of the Constitution, but unfortunately his campaign wouldn’t allow me to record anything.

It’s the 21st century boys. Get used to being on camera. Trying to block people from recording what your candidate says doesn’t bode well for being transparent and accountable in Washington.