Midday Commentary on Last Night’s News — Nov. 19, 2015

Where the hell to start? Syrian refugees? UTA? National monuments? Oh hey, pot! It was interim yesterday, though to be honest, if you are reading this and didn’t know that, you really need to find another line of work. • An interim committee approved a bill that makes medicinal cannabidiol available to certain Utah patients with certain conditions. It leaves out THC, which is the, shall we say, mind melting part of marijuana. While perhaps a step forward, Sen. Mark Madsen is less than pleased. “[I]t’s folly to pull out…

What, or who, will it take to rescue UTA?

Is it time for new leadership at UTA? With the failure of Prop 1 in Salt Lake County, where opposition to the transportation tax was unfunded and supporters raised $675,000, blame was quickly placed on UTA for sinking the transportation tax. UTA would have been the recipient of 40% of the revenues raised by the tax hike. UTA executives make high six figure salaries and regularyly enjoy exotic foreign trips to research other metropolitan transit systems; consequently, sympathy for subsidizing public transit has fallen. While Salt Lake County voters in the past have supported bonds for things like…

Is Utah County Prop 1 good or bad for Highland?

On November 3rd the final votes will be cast on Utah County Proposition 1 which reads: “Shall Utah County, Utah, be allowed to impose a quarter-of-one-percent (0.25% or the equivalent of 1 cent for every $4 spent) sales use tax for the specific purpose of transportation improvements such as roads, trails, sidewalks, maintenance, bus and rail service, and traffic and pedestrian safety features, with the revenue divided among the county, cities and towns, and the public transit provider within the County.” Earlier in the year state law makers pass SB…

Rep. Jeremy Peterson: Spending your tax dollars on education

The Utah Taxpayer Association recently published data on Utah’s 41 school districts and how they spent tax dollars for the last fiscal year. Here is their report: 2015 Utah School Spending Report – Utah Taxpayer Association There is some really interesting information in this report.  I wanted to take a look at Ogden and Weber School Districts specifically to see how they compared to the state average.  Here are some charts I created from the data:   Let’s take a look at spending per student in various categories.  Instruction costs…

How is UTA Doing By the Numbers?

One thing that I’ve been asked since my article on Wednesday on Bus Rapid Transit is how UTA is doing. There are news articles saying that their numbers are improving, but there is a higher taxpayer subsidy now than there used to be. At the bottom of the Legislative Audit there are some numbers that are instructive in illustrating how UTA is handling their stewardship: Measure 1: Revenue Passenger Miles (RPM) RPM is a standard metric that is used across mass transit, from public airlines to private transit authorities. By…

UTA’s Bus Rapid Transit proposal is an expensive, unnecessary boondoggle

Here we are at the start of summer, and the hottest topic in Utah County is whether or not we should run a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line from the Orem FrontRunner station, down University Parkway, around BYU, and down University Avenue to the Provo FrontRunner station. The more that I look at the topic, the more I doubt the benefits. Here are three reasons that we should stop and think about BRT before committing taxpayer dollars (from Utah or from the federal government) to this project. UTA has wildly…

UTA’s $2 Billion Debt Means Higher Sales Taxes On The Way

The Utah Transit Authority is a sort of government agency which is mostly funded by taxpayers. It gets some federal government grant money, has some fare revenue, and charges a bit to advertise on its buses and trains. But by far the bulk of its revenue comes from state sales taxes. And it’s asking for more. A few years ago UTA made the decision to go all in on FrontRunner and Trax lines. They scaled back bus routes and piled money into building train infrastructure. And they racked up $2…

Macquarie Senior Vice President Argues Benefits of Match with UTOPIA [The Hub Debate]

This is  a Hub Debate on the proposed Macquarie acquisition of UTOPIA. Participate in the comments or submit a response for publication to UtahPoliticoHub@gmail.com. Resolved: “UTOPIA cities are being offered a lifeline by Macquarie and, despite the estimated $18 to $20 per household utility fee increase, should take the deal.” Pete Ashdown, CEO of X Mission, blogs about a great moment from a recent public meeting in which an elderly gentleman, who was around when Murray debated whether to install sewer and water lines, told about the critics back then who said they didn’t want…

Many Reasons to Say ‘No’ to UTOPIA [The Hub Debate]

This is  a Hub Debate on the proposed Macquarie acquisition of UTOPIA. Participate in the comments or submit a response for publication to UtahPoliticoHub@gmail.com. Resolved: “UTOPIA cities are being offered a lifeline by Macquarie and, despite the estimated $18 to $20 per household utility fee increase, should take the deal.” Taxpayers in UTOPIA, Utah’s largest and most spectacularly failing municipal telecom system, have many reasons to “say uNOpia to UTOPIA.” First, a $1.8 billion tax hike is preposterous. Second, UTOPIA failed throughout its 10-year history. Third, it’s wrong to require every resident and business…

UTA: Doubling Down on Failure

Imagine for a moment that you own shares in a company. This company has had a history of disappointing financial results and hasn’t hit their financial targets for a long time. Nevertheless, you own a part of it and you hope that one day your investment will be worth something. At the shareholders’ meeting last year, the CEO and Board of Directors put forth a proposal to bonus the executives based on a series of criteria. If they hit each of 5 targets, they would be given a bonus. At…