Rediscovering the Proper Role of Government

by Robert John Stevens, May 8, 2017

Friday afternoon I hand-delivered to Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee and his assistant Brian Voeks new copies of Ezra Taft Benson’s immortal, “The Proper Role of Government” in hopes Bill will give up central planning and endorse the founding principles of liberty that made America great.

Every American should read and rediscover its concepts at least once a year. I read it again on Friday.

Regulations are Destroying the United States and Utah County Where I Live

by Robert John Stevens, May 2, 2017

Noxious weed regulations aren’t important to most people but can be used as an example of why regulations are destroying the USA and our counties.

To develop a 5.25-acre parcel in Utah County, Utah, a developer must buy a noxious weed certificate declaring the land is free of noxious weeds. I got mine from Buffo’s Pest Control in Provo for $500.

Who benefits? Pest control businesses.

Utah County, where I live, is 2,144 square miles in which 2,003 square miles is land and not water; 96% of land in Utah County is outside of the incorporated towns. In such a vast, undeveloped area, temporarily clearing a single lot of noxious weeds is of little to no value. Statistically, it is of no consequence.

This morning, at the public Utah County Commission Meeting, changes to new subdivision regulations for noxious weeds were presented to the Utah County Commissioners1 for approval.

During the public comments period I asked the commissioners, “Who makes regulations? Help me understand the process. I see staff recommendations and your approvals but have any developers been consulted? Is there a meeting where developers and farmers are brought into a room for discussion?” Commissioner Bill Lee responded, “Sure, lots of them.”

I doubt any farmers and developers were consulted.

“Has anyone inquired about how long it takes for weeds to return? I mean, wind blows seeds around.” They just stared at me.

I then asked, “Suppose I laser level my 5.25 acres. That pushes the dirt around and destroys noxious weeds at least to the point where living plants aren’t visible. Should I still be made to pay for a noxious weed certification?” Commissioner Lee responded, “This meeting is not a question and answer session.”

Immediately after the meeting, government employee Bryce Armstrong2 told me that the changes to the noxious weed regulations were for out-of-season bonding. A developer cannot get a noxious weed certificate after September so during the fall and winter months Utah County requires a bond $1,000 per acre for noxious weeds. That’s $5,250 for a 5.25-acre parcel.

Bryce also said there is a Planning Commission Hearing where public questions are allowed.

Regulations are destroying America. Unelected central planners think it is their job to create regulations to control every aspect of our lives. This is not the America that the Founding Fathers devised. In fact, before 1913 there were almost no regulations in the United States because the founders and subsequent lawmakers knew it was essential to protect liberty which is “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.3

Since God is the creator of noxious weeds and nobody knows the extent of how many there are in 96% of 2,003 square miles, and the wind blows seeds all around, does it really matter if 5.25-acres are cleared from noxious weeds? It does to our county central planners.

School children are still taught to recite the pledge allegiance which concludes with these words, “with liberty and justice for all.” There is no liberty when central planners regulate every aspect of our lives.

Wouldn’t it be better if whenever a regulation is proposed that the government actively invites stakeholders to a meeting? Posting a meeting agenda on a government website isn’t enough to gather farmers, land developers and pest control owners who have a stake in noxious weeds.

If no stakeholders come to a planning meeting then no regulation changes should be made other than their elimination.


1The commissioners in attendence were Bill Lee, Greg Graves and Nathan Ivie.

2 Bryce Armstrong is the Associate Director of Utah County Community Development

3 Google’s dictionary also defines liberty as freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control and freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

President Trump is Right about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War

by Robert John Stevens, May 2, 2017

President Donald Trump is right about Andrew Jackson and that the civil war could have been avoided. Discussions on how to solve the slavery problem were well underway in Jackson’s day. For example, Mormon Church Founder Joseph Smith, who died a year before Andrew Jackson, proposed an ingenious solution in his 1844 campaign for the President of the United States that could have not only freed the slaves but avoided the American Civil War’s 620,000 deaths:

Eliminating slavery was another important part of his platform. He wrote in General Smith’s Views: “The Declaration of Independence ‘holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;’ but at the same time some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin.” Instead of simply calling for the abolition of slavery, Joseph Smith’s platform would have Congress “pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from members of Congress.” — Joseph Smith: Campaign for President of the United States

Former Congressman Ron Paul has repeatedly argued that all other civilized nations ended slavery without fighting a civil war.


Fact Check: Could Andrew Jackson Have Stopped The Civil War, As Trump Said?

How Much Longer Will Politicians Ignore Liberty?

Politicians’ odds of being re-elected may greatly depend on what they do for the cause of liberty. Some may yet do us all a great service while in office. Others can be educated if they’d just read an article a day at mises.org and watch the Ron Paul Liberty Report. Most though will not be re-elected after a major crisis.

Absurdities of Dealing with a Tyrannical Government in Utah County

by Robert John Stevens, April 25, 2017

My wife picked up a feasibility letter today signed by Craig Bostock, Water Quality Program Manager, at the Utah County Health Department (UCHD). My response below should help the reader see the absurdities of dealing with a tyrannical government, their unaccountable employees and their obsession to torment citizens.

Hi Craig,

Attached is a scanned version of your letter dated April 25, 2017 which states, Groundwater was observed on Lot 8 at 18″ from the surface and R317-4 requires that an appropriate alternative on-site wastewater system be installed.

Your 18″ measurement is very alarming because it contradicts all previous and adjacent-parcel readings.

We’re not looking for the worst measurement at the wettest time since the 1983 flood, just the best place on 5.25-acres to install a wastewater treatment system.

When the ground is this wet, water may be observed in any depth hole because water finds the path of least resistance and is a function of the draining land versus the rate the water can evaporate and percolate through the hole.

For example, a puddle in the street or in your front yard is not necessarily the groundwater level.

Just weeks ago, excavator Brian Sorensen dug a deep trench on the NE side of parcel #8. Jason Garrett from UCHD came and measured from the surface to the top of the gray/black line and said that was a previous water level, perhaps from the 1983 flood.

Jason measured the top of the gray/black line at 22″ from the surface but the water was at 28″. Brian Sorensen, potential buyer Ben McKinnon and I were all witnesses.

From those findings, I’d expect your letter to say, “We recommend you install your wastewater system at the NE location where water was observed 28″ below the surface.”

I wasn’t there to witness the 18″ surface-to-water level observation. Who reported it? Who were the witnesses? From which hole was it taken?

As Hugh Hurlow the Senior Scientist at Utah Geological Survey wrote on April 7, 2017, “If they are dense clay, they may be previous deposits of lake mud (higher levels of Utah lake or, if much older, Lake Bonneville); or if they are more coarse-grained and contain organic material they may be old soil horizons. They probably do not provide information on past groundwater levels.”

From 2008 thru 2010 the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) measurements for groundwater on parcel #8 (then numbered 5) were 54″, 44″, 32″, 4′ 11″ and 4′ 3″.

The 32″ level was an anomaly. UCHD officials told me to dig a trench deeper than 6′, place a perforated PVC pipe and backfill. Groundwater experts today recommend the perforated PVC pipe be encased in course-grain sand.

In June of 2010, parcel #8 was flood irrigated, mud clogged the pipe’s holes and then UCHD came and measured the water at 32″ from the surface.

To prove the water level was much lower, I had a 7′ trench dug next to the clogged pipe but UCHD ignored that measurement and it was conveniently not recorded in their log.

Your new 18″ reading contradicts the measurements taken from both adjacent parcels. Groundwater experts know groundwater levels from adjacent parcels will not vary much.

After Jason Garrett left, I had Brian Sorensen dig a shallow, 3′ hole on the NW to see where the black line was. It was inches lower so we left the hole open and later emailed Jason to invite him to come see it.

If the 18″ was taken from the shallow NW hole, note the inconsistencies to measure the groundwater level:

1. For the NE hole, the top of the gray/black line was used.

2. For the NW hole, the water level was used.

Instead, you wrote, “Groundwater was observed on Lot 8 at 18″ from the surface…”

Average and all previous measurements were once again ignored.

To lower groundwater levels, a future homeowner can easily install an underground pipe to channel water to the Benjamin drainage canal as was done in the 1920s for adjacent parcel #6.

Excavator Brian Sorensen rebuilt that pipe and connected it to the nearby manhole.

Absent the Benjamin Drainage System and underground pipes, few if any parcels would survive your scrutiny.

That too may a better solution than to penalize and require a more expensive, alternative onsite wastewater treatment system.

If the possibility of wastewater backup exists, homeowners are more likely to choose a system where that is less likely to occur, and state code already exists, so why then is UCHD involved in this endeavor when it can be easily handled by the private sector?

Please adjust your letter to accurately reflect the cumulative data.

Best Regards,

Robert Stevens
P.S. See also the attached UCHD measurements from 2008-2010.


Emails received April 26, 2017

Mr. Stevens –

As discussed yesterday and previously, it is inappropriate for you to demand that the Health Department to adjust a letter by these sorts of methods. You may inquire as to whether the determination was deemed to be final, and if it is a final determination by the Health Department, you may appeal the determination pursuant to Utah County Health Regulation 17-01..

Carl Hollan
Deputy Utah County Attorney
100 East Center Street, Suite 2400
Provo, Utah 84606
Tel: (801) 851-8005


Hi Carl,

I left you a phone message. Now that I’ve caught your attention, may we set up a time we can speak in person and offline? Please schedule a time today or next week and I’ll come. Or may I take you to lunch?

–Robert


Robert –

Thank you, but I must decline. I do not have any authority to order Craig to take any action and it would be inappropriate to meet for that purpose. You have an avenue for recourse through Utah County Health Regulation 17-01 and I would ask that you please use the legal processes already established.

If you decide to request a hearing on this determination I will review all of the pertinent details with the Health Department so I am prepared to respond. However, until you follow the procedures outlined in Utah County Health Regulation 17-01 there is no legal avenue for anyone except for Craig and his supervisors in the Health Department to alter his determination.

Finally, while I appreciate that this process has been frustrating for you, I must request that you please refrain from personal attacks against County employees. County employees are happy and willing to assist you through these processes, but personal attacks will not be tolerated.

Thank you,

Carl Hollan
Deputy Utah County Attorney
100 East Center Street, Suite 2400
Provo, Utah 84606
Tel: (801) 851-8005


Good Morning Carl,

I am sure you’re doing your best as a county attorney and are defending your beliefs and understandings.

Google defines a personal attack as, “Making of an abusive remark on or relating to one’s person instead of providing evidence when examining another person’s claims or comments.”

If that is not your definition of personal attack, then please send me yours.

By Google’s definition, I’ve clearly outlined evidence of abuses I’ve received and have provided supporting documentation. In a normal business, such documented complaints would be taken seriously. Other engineers have received similar abuses from Craig and are ready to testify.

Email is a poor way to communicate. I just want to meet with you so I can understand all the avenues I have to right wrongs and to learn more about the history of those who have been in similar situations. When we meet I think much good can come from it that will save us both much time.

Again, as a citizen, landowner and taxpayer of Utah County, may I meet with you personally?

–Robert Stevens

Costs and Regulations Keep New Farms From Emerging in America

by Robert John Stevens, April 25, 2017

Today I attended the 9:00 a.m. Utah County Commissioner Meeting and when public comments were requested, I walked to the guest speaker’s pulpit and read to the three commissioners1, Google’s definitions of:

liberty — “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views”

oppression — “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.”

I highlighted the words oppression and prolonged in relation to the fourteen years I’ve worked on developing my 103 acres in Utah County. I told them that before I finish I will have sold more than half of my land just to pay the utilities and government fees required to live on my remaining farmland at a cost of more than $2 million.

I reported that Commissioner Lee and I sponsored a team of BYU students this winter semester whose mission was to determine how unused county lands can be used for agriculture.

After interviewing dozens of farmers, orchard growers and residents, the students reported that the remaining farmers are elderly and their children don’t want to continue farming.

Unless an American grew up on a farm, it is highly unlikely he or she will want to become a farmer.

Today, costs and regulations have made it impossible for most citizens to buy land, build a home and start a farm.

Contrast that to the Utah pioneers who after paying $1.50 for recording and surveying fees, moved onto their property and went to work.

Pioneer families struggled. Hard work was required to get ahead. Employers today would love to hire children that grew up on farms but few can be found.

One BYU Professor friend tells me that he can’t wait to retire because students today do not know how to work.

Because excessive governmental regulations crushed competition, almost no new farms have emerged in Utah County for decades.

The students discovered that most food grown locally is exported outside of Utah County and most of the food we eat is imported. Because regulations protected farmers and halted new farms from forming, big corporations filled the growing public’s need for food. Walmart, Costco and supermarket chains have access to worldwide markets and buy our foods from farmers and distributors thousands of miles away.

Fruit is tracked to the very tree where it was grown.

Utah County won’t remove any regulations unless mandated by the state of Utah—Employees say to change or remove a single regulation would require them to conduct a study to see how that would affect all their other regulations.

A citizen may request a regulation wording change for $300 and will have the opportunity to discuss the issue publicly at a commissioner meeting. Most likely the wording change will be denied. To make matters worse, county employees will not re-word it for acceptance.

I told the commissioners that if I ever ran against them, I’d print their 292 pages of land-use ordinances, and staple them together as one long scroll so voters can see its length. Commissioner Graves laughed and said there are many more regulations than that.

He’s right of course. Add the Utah County Health Department regulations, the state regulations, and more.

Commissioner Graves said all those regulations exists because there were lawsuits.

County regulations aren’t footnoted. Many are probably out of date. Fear and uncertainty also prevent changes.

It has become obvious to me that politicians highly favor large institutions and very wealthy people. If an American wants to do good for the human race, he probably first needs to educate himself, develop a product or service and become wealthy.

As my son Andrew so wisely states, “We are a big-business society. The little guy is only cool when he stops becoming the little guy.”

Footnotes

1 Commissioners Bill Lee, Nathan Ivie, and Greg Gregs

Nights after a Societal Breakdown

by Robert John Stevens, April 18, 2017

Last night at 2 AM a neighbor’s car horn honked for ten minutes and we all awoke to see if it was our car—perhaps this was a glimpse of how nights may like after a cataclysmic event causes a breakdown in society.

Men, organized into small gangs, will loot and steal to feed their families.

Defending a Mink Farm at the Expense of Citizen’s Rights

by Robert John Stevens, April 13, 2017

Suppose you buy land in the country to enjoy more space and fresh air but years later a farmer buys 40 acres next to you and builds a mink farm. Countless flys fill your home and barn, the air both inside and outside stinks of mink feces, you see dead minks lying in feces piles, and minks literally terrorize and attack you or your spouse.

You’re not alone—Your neighbors all experience the same horrors.

This is exactly the situation in Payson, Utah where dozens of neighbors rallied and testified at the April 11, 2017 Utah County Commissioners Hearing to consider farmer Beckstead’s petition for agricultural protection.

Farmer Beckstead knows his minks are damaging the property values of his neighbors and making their lives miserable so he applied for agricultural protection to use the force of government to protect his interests from nuisance laws.

Whose rights are violated? Clearly the neighbors were there first. If farmer Beckstead loved his neighbor as Jesus taught, would he pollute their air with the smell of mink feces?

Farmer Beckstead lives in Lehi about twenty miles to the north—Unless his families’ noses lost their ability to smell, he knows better than to live at his mink farm and suffer like his neighbors.

Minks aren’t just pets that have learned to happily co-exhist with humans—they are vicious, angry aggressors who sometimes carry rabies and other diseases. Children won’t know that so when they see one on a nearby school playground, they’ll gather around and try and touch it and pick it up.

Will agricultural protection protect Farmer Beckstead from lawsuits?

Neighbors report seeing minks all over their lands. Even if Farmer Beckstead could contain his minks, he can’t contain the smell that lures incoming minks looking for their own species and mates.

One man explained how he lost a fortune developing nearby one-acre parcels because after the mink farm was created, buyers lost their appetite.

Farmer Beckstead has the right to farm as long as he doesn’t violate the rights of his neighbors but since he obviously had and plans to continue to do so, he sought for agricultural protection. Rather than repeatedly break the Golden Rule, he could sell his mink farm today for a profit into Utah County’s strong real estate market and buy land far away from others.

The Utah County Commissioners heard but ignored the neighbors’ highly emotional complaints and ruled in favor of farmer Beckstead. After repeated, unsuccessful appeals to Payson and Utah County government, will the neighbors persist, give up and play dead or will they eventually defend their liberties and inalienable rights with violence as the Declaration of Independence authorizes?

My family and I lived in Highland Utah, about a mile from a mink farm. Driving by the farm we always noticed the putrid smell. As more residents moved in, opposition grew. Because of the united angry citizenry, the farmer was finally asked to leave.

Utah County Commissioners should have known better than to favor Farmer Beckstead who clearly violates the rights of his neighbors and grant him special agricultural protection. This issue will not go away; instead, it will just get worse as the population of Payson increases.

Citizens don’t care about Utah County’s hundreds of pages of regulations, especially when they contradict their built-in conscience that tells them to love their neighbor as themselves and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I think very highly of all three Utah County Commissioners, enjoy watching them grow in their callings, and consider Bill Lee a very good friend so I recommend that we all re-read Ezra Taft Benson’s 32-page masterpiece, The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner.


April 11, 2017 Utah County Commissioners Hearing

PUBLIC HEARING TO CONSIDER APPROVAL OF THE PROPOSED BECKSTEAD AGRICULTURE PROTECTION AREA APPLICATION, WITH THE UTAH COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS MODIFICATION REQUEST TO EXCLUDE THE ROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY WIDTHS FROM THE PROPOSAL, REDUCING ACREAGE AND REQUIRING A VARIANCE; APPROXIMATELY 40.028 ACRES LOCATED IN SECTION 7, T9S, R2E, IN THE WEST PAYSON AREA OF UNINCORPORATED UTAH COUNTY