Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mia Love's Non-denial Denial

In this TV ad, Mia Love claims that the rumors about her education plan are false.

You know the plan.  The one that would get rid on the Department of Education?  Well, that was her plan in 2012, even though she claims it wasn't ever her plan (which means she's either lying in 2012 or 2014).

However, she is allowed to change her plan.  This plan issues the "truth" about her plan, but doesn't actually present anything about her plan (other than saying the rumors are false).It does, present some problems that would very easily be fixed by eliminating the Department of Education.

Mia Love has no plan, other than not the plan she had in 2012, because that was never the plan.

Sounds like Mitt Romney, version 2012.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mayor Love's Current Department of Education Plan Doesn't Add Up

Mia Love's current education plan includes bringing the Department of Education's salaries in line with Utah teacher's salaries.  It said so on a TV ad I saw tonight.  It says so on her web site.  She even said so to the Salt Lake Tribune, as captured in this video:

It sounds nice, doesn't it?  However, the reality is going to be difficult.  First, let's look at how much an employee at DoEd makes.  According to Politifact, the average DoEd salary is somewhere in the neighborhood of $103,000.  How does that compare to the average Utah Teacher Salary?  According to the Daily Herald, the average Utah Teacher salary comes in at just under $50,000.

However, a dollar in Utah gets you further than a dollar in Washing DC, where those DoEd workers live.  According to this Cost of Living Calculator for CNN Money, Someone making $50,000 in Salt Lake City Would have to make $73,578 to have the same level of living in Washington DC.

And, I won't even touch worrying about education requirements or anything else at this point.  Nor will I talk about the logistics of cutting someone's salary by half or even a quarter.

However, if Mayor Love wants to look at some expensive salaries, one need look no further than right here in Utah  (all of these salaries include benefits):

The Assistant City Manager in Saratoga Springs makes $118,000.  He is the 6th-highest paid person on Saratoga Spring's payroll. (source)

The State Superintendent for public schools is costing the state of Utah $250,000 (or over 2 DoEd employees or 5 Utah teachers) (source)

UTA's Rail Service General manager is costing us $511,000 (or 5 DoEd employees or 10 Utah Teachers). (source)

And, let's remember that, should she win next week, Mayor Love's salary will be $174,000.  Significantly higher than that of a typical DoEd staffer.  And over 3 times the salary of a Utah teacher.

Maybe we should bring Congressional salaries in line with Utah teacher's salaries.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

State Director of Elections Misinforms About Election Law

Even a great reporter can have a story get off course when misinformed by those they interview.  Especially when those they interview are supposedly experts in their field.  Even Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune is not immune.  I don't blame him, since the expert he interviewed is Mark Thomas, the state director of elections.

He should know the law.  But he totally missed on this one.

The story goes like this:  Back in June, it appeared on election night that Jim Dyer beat incumbent Jim Withers by one vote in the GOP primary for the Millard County Commission.  However, when the day of the final canvas came, there were several absentee ballots that had been misplaced, and the final tally had Withers up by 5 votes.  Mr Dyer challenged seven ballots, but the county commission, acting as the board of canvassers, rejected the arguments and accepted the results.

Dyer sued in court, and Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock found enough evidence of illegal votes to cast doubt on the outcome of the election.  Because she could not determine who received the highest number of votes, she threw out the outcome of the election and ordered the county clerk to hold a new primary election.  However, there is some doubt about whether one could be held in time, and I agree.  However, where things move on from here is murky.  Here's what Mr Thomas at the state elections office had to say:

The way I read the statute is it says the office becomes vacant. So we’re still trying to read the opinion and provide some guidance to the county."

Thomas said it appears the law would call for someone to be appointed to fill the vacancy. That appointed commissioner would serve until the next election in 2016.

However, that's not entirely true. The office does not become vacant, because the ruling only affects the 2014 election, not when Withers was elected. The office is still held by Withers until January 1, 2015, when it will be filled by the winner of November's general election.  Since there is no longer a Republican Nominee (since the Republican primary was voided), and no other candidate filed to ruin, there are currently no candidates on the ballot.  However, there is a way to win without having your name on the ballot: a write-in candidacy.  potential write-in candidates have until September 5th to register.

If I were a party's chairman, I would be doing some heavy candidate recruitment right about now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

John Oliver Takes On Utah GOP Chairman's Industry

Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans owns Checkline, a payday lending company.  Keep that in mind when you watch this segment from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chris Stout for Salt Lake County Auditor

This year's June 24 primary elections seem somewhat unsexy.  And the least sexy of the races is the race for Salt Lake County Auditor.

But enough about the candidate's looks.  This isn't a Presidential election.

The race is against Jeff Hatch, who held the seat for one term before losing in 2010 to the now-incumbent (who lost in the Republican Convention), and Christopher Stout, who has previously run for US Senate and State Treasurer.  My vote is for Christopher Stout, and here's why:

I first met Chris in 2010 when he was running for US Senate.  He got into the race because he didn't see evidence of any other candidate running, despite the fact that Sam Granato had announced he was running six month prior (but hadn't yet done much of anything in his campaign).  I found a candidate who stood on principles of doing the right thing and having the utmost integrity.  Running as the underdog, with the Party Machine behind his opponent, he never stood a chance at Convention, but this didn't stop him from putting forth a great effort.

I want an auditor who will find places where the government is not spending my tax dollars efficiently.  I want an auditor who doesn't feel indebted to other county officeholders for their endorsement.  I want Chris Stout for County Auditor.

Further, look at just about any overpass and canal fence line in the county, and you will see a Jeff Hatch sign.  Guess what?  All I see is a waste of campaign dollars, and someone with a disregard of local and federal laws.  That is not who I want for an Auditor.  Look at Jeff Hatch's campaign disclosure.  He had to file an amended disclosure.  That raises a red flag for someone who wants to handle the accounting for the county.  The amended parts of the return account for 76% of the contributions received and 66% of the expenditures for the period since April 1.  Do you want an auditor that can't get a simple financial disclosure completed correctly on time?  I don't.

-Bob Aagard

For more unsexy races, check out this list of 10 races to watch from Utah Politico Hub

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Time To Talk About Guns, Violence

Every time a mass shooting happens in America, we talk about how we need to have a discussion about gun violence, and how to prevent it.  But, we say we'll have the discussion "later," when the emotions from the latest shooting die down.

I still get emotional when I think of the fact that my best friend's family left Trolley Square at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2007.  They parked near where a young man with a gun had parked.  Had they spent 15 more minutes enjoying their dinner, they may have been victims of the shooting.  Two days later, instead of getting married, he could have been preparing for a funeral.  Or, the funeral could have been his own.

I still get emotional when I think about turning on the TV after picking up my nephew from Kindergarten on December 14, 2012 to see that someone killed 20 Kindergartners.  Even though it happened on the other side of the country, it still hits as close to home as Trolley Square.

And, about the time we start to forget about one mass shooting, another appears on our TV screens.  Let's face it, the emotions are never going to die down.

After two people set off bombs made by pressure cookers at the 2013 Boston Marathon, we set about changing policies to make sure that this type of thing never happens again.  But, when it comes to gun violence, it's never that time.

There are several things that we need to look at, the first is gun regulation.  I'm not talking about taking away your right to own a gun.  However, the four most overlooked words in the US Constitution come from the Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia...."  Our militias are far from well-regulated.

Next, we need to stop glorifying the terrorists.  Googling "timeline of gun deaths" brought me to a handy interactive timeline from the LA Times that went from a shooting at a McDonald's in 1984 to the latest shootings in California last week.  I'd link to it, but it highlights one of the problems we have in reporting gun violence: it shows the faces of the perpetrators.  We know everything about the people who committed the crimes, but nothing about the victims.  Do the names Daniel Rohrbough, William David Sanders, or John Tomlin sound familiar? Probably not, but they are linked to two more familiar names: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrators of the shootings at Columbine High School. We've seen a lot about the ranting and writings of the guy in California last week than we'll ever hear about what kind of people he killed.

We also need to look at the violence that is so often accepted as a cultural norm.  There was a play produced at Pioneer Theater that generated some controversy recently.  You see, Pioneer Theatre publishes "content advisories" for all of the plays they produce so that you can have a pretty good idea if there is going to be anything "objectionable" in the play.  In this particular play, two men kiss right before the end of the first act.  This generated some complaints, especially since it was not included in the "content advisory."  It was not included because this particular scene is a major plot twist, As until this point, the only two male characters we've met (and there are only three men and two women in the entire play) are an older playwright and a former student of his.  What nobody complained about was what happens before the kiss: We believe we see the playwright viciously murder his student, only to discover that it is part of a plot to kill the playwright's wife so that he and his student can live together happily ever after.  In other words, killing your wife, that's OK.  Kissing another man:  Horrible.  And, it ignores the fact that they gay couple are the bad guys.  Look at the box office charts for nearly any weekend.  Over half of the movies are rated PG13 or R for violence.  And the MPAA will tolerate much more violence than it will sex or language.

Lastly, we need to have an honest, open, adult debate about this.  For far too long we've allowed the fringes of our society to dictate the political debate.  Taking away everyone's gun won't make us any safer than arming everyone will.  But somewhere in between is a solution.

What that solution is, I don't know.  But it's a discussion worth having.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Endorsement: None of the above for Chair

This began as a post on Facebook.  It started to get a little long, so I moved it here:

A 29 county plan sounds nice, but ignores the reality that 4 counties have fewer than 2,000 voters.  That would be like Howard Dean's 40 state plan if seven of the states were the size of Wyoming or smaller.  Regional Headquarters makes more sense, but I'd like more details.  Corroon's campaign seems to be half-assed.  It's like he's daring us to vote for Richard Davis.  Raising a ton of money doesn't do you a bit of good without the ability to put together a good message.  Peter Corroon's expensive flier is a perfect example of how we do a good job at fundraising, but a horrible job of spending that money.

Yes, it's been a short campaign.  However, it's a campaign that I had thought about jumping into myself.  I had a pretty comprehensive platform from the start, especially compared to the lack of anything coming from either candidate.

I didn't undertake the race for a variety of reasons. One was money.  I just didn't have the personal resources to start up the campaign, especially in such a short time.  Another was the fact that my personal life and career are at turning points right now, and I didn't need to risk them.

If it was only those reasons, I would deeply regret my decision not to run.  I could have at least made the race interesting.  I would have at least forced the other candidates to actually mount good campaigns.

However, last night at the Taylor/Mayne Celebration, I realized a big reason not to run: Todd Taylor.  I have been not been taking care of my health like I should.  I know that Todd's weight and the stress of running the party were two major factors that lead to his young death.  I seriously need to spend some time working on bringing my weight down.

However, I am reminded of a conversation I had with Todd one of the last times I was at the old party HQ.  He told me that we are a party of good ideas, and that I am a person of good ideas.  Rather than simply complain about how thing should be, I should use my voice to share those ideas.  And so, with that in mind, here are some of the things I would have focused on as part of my run for chair:

-We desperately need to engage with voters, especially young voter, where they are.  That means significantly increasing our profile online.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Having a Dynamic Web Site, and more.  We don't have to rely on traditional media to get our message out anymore, so why are we?

-We need to focus our attention on areas that should be voting Democratic, but aren't.  West Valley and Ogden should be as deep blue as Salt Lake.  We need to recapture the labor presence in coal country.  We need to bring an environmental message to South Eastern Utah.

-We need to let Utah Democrats know that they are not alone.  We need to showcase our diverse body.  We need to point out that we have very conservative members of our party, but we need to also embrace our progressive side as well.

-We need to change our messaging on abortion.  While abortion is not a major issue to many, it is a major sticking point to many of my friends and neighbors who would consider voting for a democrat, if not for that one thing.  We need to tell Utah voters that abortion is ultimately a medical decision between a woman and her doctor, and the last people that should be making those decisions are our Utah Legistalture.

-We need to tell people that while there are many natural factors involved in our inversions, there is a lot that we can do to help make our air healthier for us and our children to breathe.

-We need to concentrate on helping the "least of these."  We have a real poverty problem here in Utah, and it is only getting worse.

This is just a small list, typed together in less than an hour.  Unless either candidate can show me that they have focused on the issues at hand for longer than that, I plan on voting for neither candidate.