Will Utah County Commissioners Break Utah’s Anti-Trust Laws?

Tomorrow, January 16, 2018, Utah County Commissioners will either embrace free market principles or break Utah’s Anti-Trust Laws, eliminate competitors and establish a monopoly.

The UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT November 21, 2017 specifically says, “This new zone would maintain the grazing of livestock on the open range and the location of activities and land uses not appropriate near urban centers in the dry mountain and desert areas of the county, while preventing any new earth extraction operations and other potentially incompatible uses with residential and agricultural uses from commencing operation.”

Now compare that to Utah’s Anti-Trust Laws: 76-10-3104 Illegal anticompetitive activities.

(1) Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade
or commerce is declared to be illegal.

(2) It shall be unlawful for any person to monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or
conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize, any part of trade or commerce.


Update January 17, 2018

Utah County Commissioners Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie voted in favor and passed the new grazing regulation. Next week’s agenda is to move many land sections on West Mountain under the new zoning regulation.

This was a sad day for Utah County. Many citizens attended and spoke. When it was my turn to speak I handed the commissioners a copy of their own words proving the intent was to eliminate competition. Bill Lee said it wasn’t phrased correctly. Regardless, the outcome will make no difference if approved next week. Only Commissioner Greg Graves voted against it but he at least agreed with me that because of what they are doing, prices will go up.

Utah County, as well as cities, towns and villages, may legally pass zoning laws regardless of what our conscience says is right or wrong. Pre-1913 there were almost no regulations in the United States and yet we manufactured more than any other nation in the world. The wealth per citizen was greater than today and its distribution favored the middle class.

I suspect regulations were pushed on the American people and sold to them via propaganda regardless of the proven free-market principles that worked, because regulations grow government and bigger governments borrow more and debt was the essence of the private Federal Reserve shareholders’ business model.

Regulations, although not upheld by lower courts, began with this Supreme Court briefing in 1926:

Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926)
https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/272/365/case.html

You may want to at least read the summary.

I doubt the United States or Utah County will turn to its roots that free-markets will prevail without government intervention until a constitutional government is recreated after a major catastrophe or God returns to rule the survivors.

If I may make just one recommendation for Utah County…

Dear Utah County Employees,

Please take just one minute to read this.

If I may make just one recommendation for Utah County, it is to learn how to conduct “Six Thinking Hats” focus groups.

You may not like or agree with the following summaries but my solutions are correct.

Problems:

Commissioners and their secretaries are overloaded.

The Commissioners’ Meetings allow for public input but the commissioners would rather citizens not ask questions, nor do they wish meetings to turn into Q&A forums or interrogation sessions.

The Community Development Staff are law-recommending central planners. They actively refine their thousands of regulations but mostly in a vacuum.

They do not have enough qualified employees to scale their services should demand increase rapidly. Neither do Public Works or the Health Department.

Public Works needs three times their budget to maintain the roads.

When challenged, Environmental Health Department employees are not interested in science, the Golden Rule or explaining their regulations. They practice unrighteous dominion and hide behind their lawyers.

Once passed, county regulations become law and are enforced by penalty of taxation, fees, forfeiture, denial and even prison.

Few regulations are ever abolished. Good employees are those who follow regulations. Regulations stifle and often abolish innovation.

Many non-government engineers and developers have told me they will not do business with Utah County. Some say whenever they’ve tried things took longer than expected and cost them too much money. Change requests were frequent and sometimes ridiculous. Extreme frustration is common.

Government employees are rarely fired for poor customer service.

Successful Provo businessman Stephen W. Gibson who wrote articles for Deseret News has a great rule: He asks himself if he would be displeased if an employee is fired. If he answers no then he fires them without hesitation.

Citizens don’t understand how bad things are until they try and get something done that requires dealing with Utah County.

The Solution:

The best solution is to get completely out of the services business. Let free-markets professionals take over so citizens may choose the best service provider for the best price.

Whether you stay in the services business or not, all Utah County employees should learn how to conduct a “Six Thinking Hat” focus group and then hold them regularly.

Focus groups are like charrettes — meetings in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

Unlike in America where the most dominant person prevails in meetings, using the “Six Thinking Hats” approach, problems and solutions are evaluated from six angles.

For example, for six minutes attendees will wear a red hat which represents emotion. One at a time, attendees discuss the issues from an emotional standpoint.

Next, the moderator may choose the white hat which represents facts and figures and the process is repeated. No comments other than facts and figures may be discussed during that time.

Dr. Gary Rhoads at the BYU Marriott School discovered it is best for the moderator to conduct exit interviews to gather new and summary information.

Think how much better county meetings, hearings and disputes would be if conducted using the Six Thinking Hats approach.

I guarantee that if you will buy Six Thinking Hats books for yourselves and employees, read it and conduct your meetings using that approach, great things will come from it.

Utah County Commissioners Delay a Clever Scheme to Fool Citizens to Eliminate Competition for West Mountain Gravel Pit and Mines

by Robert John Stevens, January 9, 2018

Summary

A scheme was devised to eliminate competition for the Kilgore Gravel Pit and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain.

The failed attempt influenced the Planning Commission to recommend to the County Commissioners a friendly new zoning designation named the Grazing (G-1) Zone. Citizens took the bait and passionately supported it at the meeting.

Once the new zone was approved, the next item was to approve regulation for the entire mountain be protected under the new grazing zone except for the Kilgore Gravel Pit, adjacent lands to expand their operation, and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain and to disallow future competitors.

The Article

Passionate public comments made at today’s Utah County Commissioner’s Meeting delayed the approval of new regulations that will eliminate future competition for the Kilgore Benjamin Gravel Pit and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations on West Mountain, at least for another week.

The diabolical scheme was cleverly disguised as desirable by first establishing West Mountain as a new grazing zone which has great appeal to county residents who adamantly oppose the Kilgore Gravel Pit and then eliminating future competition.

To understand, imagine you acquire a permit to establish an operation to extract and sell gravel from a beautiful mountainside. Neighbors who live in the area become infuriated. They hate the large trucks travelling to and from the pit, the noise, air pollution, dust, crop damage due to the dust, and the permanent scarring of the mountainside.

You know the road has no shoulders and wasn’t built to accommodate large trucks. Although you can command your drivers to be careful and obey traffic laws, you know other truckers are paid by the load and are therefore motivated to drive faster because if they carry more loads they earn more money.

Additionally, the speed limit is 50 mph through a four-mile equestrian/residential area and in many places along the road the adjacent land is three to five feet lower — definitely hazardous for pedestrians, bicyclists and smaller vehicles to compete with large, heavy trucks. You certainly don’t want to bear the enormous expense required to widen the road.

Angry citizens demand the county government require you to cease operations, perhaps by denying renewal of your permit.

Now just suppose you could create a scheme to fool the public, disallow future competitors and expand your operation all at the same time. Here’s how:

Influence the Planning Commission to recommend to the County Commissioners a friendly new zoning designation named the Grazing (G-1) Zone. Citizens will easily take the bait and passionately support it. Once approved, you then request the entire mountain be protected under the new grazing zone except for your gravel pit, adjacent lands to expand your operation, and the other existing mining and earth excavation operations.

Once approved, you’ve eliminated future competitors. No new mining or earth excavation operations may be formed on your mountain. Your operation is now an established monopoly.

I didn’t make these things up. Read the evidence:

The Utah County Commission has asked the Planning Commission to review a proposed new zoning designation, the Grazing (G-1) Zone, which is part of a separate application. This new zone would maintain the grazing of livestock on the open range and the location of activities and land uses not appropriate near urban centers in the dry mountain and desert areas of the county, while preventing any new earth extraction operations and other potentially incompatible uses with residential and agricultural uses from commencing operation.UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT for November 21, 2017

The meeting this morning was packed with angry citizens. When the public hearing began, I stood up first and opposed approval of the new zoning designation. I explained that a new zoning designation for grazing would create monopolies; however, knowing the population growth forecasts and that the commissioners want the Kilgore Benjamin Gravel Pit to remain in operation, I argued that in a free society, anyone should be allowed to sell excess dirt off their property and that the proper role of government is not to create monopolies.

A lady stood up immediately after I concluded my comments and said that was the stupidest thing she ever heard.

Later in the meeting, Robert Moore the Utah County Attorney explained to the commissioners that nothing they could do at today’s meeting would change the status of the Kilgore Gravel Pit and that the existing operations could expand within their boundaries.

Did the Planning Commission Staff work in collusion with the applicant? Why does the Planning Commission Staff Report designate the applicant as the Utah County Commission?

Although clever, this scheme follows a well-established pattern of deception by first getting a law passed to authorize illegal activities, and then to authorize otherwise illegal operation under the new laws.

When I discovered the scheme, I was amazed it had gone so far as to be recommended by the Planning Commission Staff for county commissioner approval.

Well-polished Commissioner Bill Lee, who graduated in Political Science from BYU, was wise enough to delay the commissioner vote until next week after being told by Attorney Moore that he had no authority at today’s meeting to appease the angry citizens and shut down the Kilgore Gravel Pit. He must have realized he couldn’t approve the regulations and create monopolies without immediate consequences. Commissioner Nathan Ivie seconded the motion.

Delayed political decisions are usually done to avoid public outcry. Some are pre-decided and just put off to be later passed unnoticed.

If there was no collusion, how can the Planning Commission Staff be so stupid to not recognize the scheme? Will citizens demand an independent investigation?

What will already angry citizens do when they realize they were fooled and led like sheep to support the opposite of what they want?


Supporting Documents

Pop and Dwelling Unit Forcast for Gravel Study West Mtn – Final

UTAH COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT November 21, 2017

County commission pushes back decision on rezone of more than 10,000 acresby Katie England, Provo Daily Herald, January 10, 2018

Governments Should Cease Monopolizing Services?

by Robert John Stevens, January 8, 2018

My experience with the Utah County Health Department is that I don’t think their employees like when citizens question their rulings or regulations. To me, that’s another reason for them to stop monopolizing services and permit businesses to take over. When free-market businesses are asked questions, they usually answer them promptly, know other customers probably have the same questions and then either train their staff to answer those questions, improve their products so the questions don’t need to be asked or are no longer issues, or post questions and answers on an FAQ web page.

Is Requiring Water Rights for New County Subdivisions Absurd?

by Robert John Stevens, January 2, 2018

Suppose Utah County requires every vehicle buyer to purchase so many gallons of fuel a year.

During inversions when our air is dirty and unhealthy, some want the government to force people to drive less but what do we do about vehicles that consume less fuel?

Some citizens rarely drive and some have shorter commutes to work.

Some may want regulations for vehicles to be clean so they are pleasant to look at. If owners of dirty vehicles won’t comply then does that sound reasonable to pass regulations forcing them to wash their vehicles? Should we bless the owners of car washes?

Do any of these ideas justify a government one-size-solution?

Probably not–reason suggests there are too many variables to adopt such regulations.

Likewise, we like to see green farms; therefore, should we pass regulations requiring any new subdivisions in Utah County to have so many water rights?

But what months must their farms be green? Even irrigated alfalfa fields turn brown in the fall.

Some vegetables and plants can be planted in the late fall or winter months. For those willing to grow peas and flowers with natural rainwater and harvest them before spring, should they be required to have a minimum number of water rights that they won’t need?

What about the want-to-be farmer who wants to build vertical gardens or use hydroponics?

What do we do about innovators who study water recycling and water reuse and claim better agricultural productivity?

I’d like for the government to get out of the business of water rights for new subdivisions. It is hostile to want-to-be farmers and innovators. It keeps families from settling on farmland and children from growing up on farms.

Do we want more farms and more farmers? Do we want more or fewer food imports?

Just as it makes no sense for Utah County to regulate how many gallons of fuel a buyer must purchase, it makes no sense to require more than culinary water for a household.

See water Use in Utah (149 pages)
See https://water.utah.gov/OtherReports/WaterReuse/WaterReuseAA.pdf

–Robert

Should Governments Seize Property and Ruin The Lives of Citizens Who Fail to Pay Their Property Taxes?

by Robert John Stevens, December 22, 2017

If you fail to pay your property taxes, should the government seize your property?

I’ve sat in several Utah County Commissioners’ Meetings where citizen appeals are reviewed. Each time county employees testify to the county commissioners that they sent property tax notices and still the taxes weren’t paid. Each time the commissioners unanimously deny the appeal and ruin lives.

This scene always reminds me of French revolution movie scenes where tyrants send innocent citizens to the guillotine.

Google, “What percentage of mail gets lost by USPS yearly?” How many times have you received someone else’s postal mail? Did you always promptly forward it? What if you are experiencing financial distress and cannot pay your property taxes?

There are approximately 600,000 citizens in Utah County. Guestimating 20% own property, that’s 120,000 property tax notices per year. If 1% of those are lost or stolen, then 12,000 landowners face property seizure.

Shockingly, the citizens who filed for appeals were not at the meetings. Why not? Probably because they felt they submitted valid reasons and expected mercy, forgiveness and civility.

Commissioner Bill Lee told me on Wednesday that it is the duty of every citizen to pay his or her property taxes and the tax notices are just courtesies. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Lee. He’s a fine person who has acquired a great deal of wisdom. At first, Bill’s argument sounded reasonable to me and then I remembered that most citizens in Utah County are Mormon, Catholic or Protestant and expect the county commissioners to Follow the Golden Rule as commanded by Jesus Christ and reiterated by modern apostles.

“Followers of Christ should be examples of civility…We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence…We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12).”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—Follow the Golden Rule.

If I were a commissioner I would never vote to seize the property of citizens who failed to pay their taxes. To exercise equal justice, I would approve appeals contingent upon reasonable accrued interest, not to exceed what local banks impose. There is no reason found in Christianity for governments to seize property and ruin the lives of citizens who are late paying their property taxes.

When are County Government Expenditures Justified?

by Robert John Stevens, December 12, 2017

I embrace Ezra Taft Benson’s rule of thumb for government spending—that if I ask my neighbors to pay for something and they deny my request then I am not justified in using government to force them to pay via taxation, forfeiture, penalty and/or by gunpoint. So when I talk about government theft, that’s what I am talking about.

I always thought county property taxes were used to build and maintain roads, bridges, water treatment systems, pay the sheriffs and to meet the necessary expenses of limited government.

The government of Utah County, Utah spends $78 million annually.

Utah County has approximately 600,000 residents.

This morning at the Utah County Commissioners’ Meeting, we watched them discuss five alternative plans for compensating county employees. A 5% across-the-board increase was proposed for non-elected officials. I had to leave early so I don’t know how it turned out but I spoke out again.

Today we learned they spend $55.5 million on county employee salaries and benefits or $91.66 per citizen. If only 20% of county citizens actually own land then on average they each pay $458.33.

Ask landowners if they want to pay $458.33 annually for county salaries and the majority will probably say no. Ask if they are willing to increase salaries and benefits by 5% annually and more will deny your request, so if the citizens aren’t willing to voluntarily pay and they don’t get to vote on such increases, then by Ezra Taft Benson’s rule of thumb isn’t that theft?

I understand the proper role of government is to provide limited services via the consent of the governed according to founding principles and to be wise stewards of those funds.

Since government by nature is inefficient, has no product or service to sell and isn’t governed by free market principles, then should county budgets be based upon foundational principles, the consent of the governed, limited government and reduced costs even if that requires layoffs?

Who benefits when governments diverge from foundational principles? Not the people.

How to Establish a County Government

by Robert John Stevens, October 20, 2017

County governments in the United States, particularly Utah County where I live, can currently be defined by this equation:

State Code + Stricter Restrictions via County Code = “Dig a pit for thy neighbor1.”

I never understood that phrase. I thought Nephi, in whom it is attributed, was joking. It applies perfectly to government regulations.

I would like to see all county governments:

  1. Operate as testbeds for innovation and thus become showcase counties for their state as well as the nation
  2. Hold charrettes (a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions) regularly with stakeholders for new ideas to be tested, proved and bad ones discarded.
  3. Privatize all possible services
  4. Set up a department that focuses on liberty, inalienable rights and the Constitution so they are always considered for every decision
  5. Focus on tasks that even most developers cannot do such as building roads, bridges and sewer treatment systems
  6. Prepare for all large-scale contingencies such as cataclysmic events where the trucking imports stop, earthquakes, nuclear war, EMP, etc. Citizens need leadership to prepare for such things now and in advance, and not to just be reactionary after the fact.

1 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:8

Subdivision Approval Increases Land Values and Borrowing Power Needed for Capital Improvements

by Robert John Stevens, September 27, 2017

For innovation to flourish, farmers, developers and entrepreneurs need capital.

Landowners need loans for a variety of reasons, but when governments such as Utah County deny settlement, to obtain higher loans from banks, landowners must agree to lien more of their property, take more risk and in some cases bet the farm.

For example, yesterday my parcel #8 in Benjamin, Utah, a 5.25-acre parcel, was recorded with Utah County as an improved, buildable lot causing its value on the Utah County records to soar from $89,400 to $192,300.

As raw land, local banks would only lend me up to 50% of its value compared to 75% now that Utah County declares it as an improved building lot:

50% of $89,400 is $44,700
75% of $192,300 is $144,225

That’s a 322% increase!

I desperately need a $400,000 loan to build, pave and dedicate a 3/4-mile interior road so Utah County will declare two more of my lots buildable, even though all the improvements are completed including a 62-foot paved road stub, but that required liens against nine, 5.25-acre unimproved lots. The risk of losing all of them is too great.

What if Utah County reverts back to its pioneer roots and declared all land to be buildable? Settlers then could exercise their inalienable private property rights, build on their own lands and make improvements as needed according to county specifications, and borrow a lot more with much less risk.

Now that my lot is declared bulidable, my taxes are higher and I don’t want higher taxes, especially since no buildings are built.

Until relatively recent times in America, all land was buildable. The Founding Fathers were careful not to interfere with private property rights. Until the establishment of the Federal Reserve banksters in 1913, there were basically no regulations in the United States and yet we produced the majority of the world’s goods and were the richest country in the world.

Today endless government regulations may solve problems but cause others. For the abundant life, citizens must be allowed to build on their own lands.

Modern innovations provide many alternatives for modern conveniences such as utilities, clean water and road materials, none which were available just 100 years ago when inalienable rights were honored and the middle class prospered.


Emails today between me and Brayden Brucker at Utah Valley Credit Union (UCCU):

Hi Brayden,

Yesterday one of my 5.25-acre parcels was recorded with Utah County as a buildable lot causing its value on the county records to soar from $89,400 to $192,300.

What percentage of a land’s value as determined by Utah County do you lend on? 40%, 45%, 50%?


From Brayden Brucker:

If it is considered an improved building lot – meaning it is ready to build on, we can go up to 75%. Raw Land is up to 50% loan-to-value. So we would lend between 50-75%.