A place for me to save a few thoughts

A Public-Private Partnership in Orem

A utopia is a community or society with near perfect qualities. In Utah, UTOPIA, which stands for Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, is a clearly imperfect Internet connection agency. The original idea was for UTOPIA to run fiber to every home and business and then let Internet providers compete for customers attached to the fiber. The cities which partnered with UTOPIA would put up the money and then make the money back through fees from the Internet providers.

In my city of Orem, Utah, we went $50 million in debt (that’s more than $500 for every man, woman, and child in the city) to build the fiber network. Unfortunately for us, the money is spent and the fiber reaches only one-third of the residents. The fees from those lucky enough to use the Internet service are not enough to cover the interest on the debt and continue the build out. We are in a very fine mess, a deep, deep debt hole.

You might think the city is ready to give up and get out of the Internet business, but, no. The city is proposing a Public-Private Partnership. Our city government would partner with a private company to provide every residence and every business a fiber-based 3 Mbps Internet connection. 3 Mbps is a rather slow connection, a DSL-like speed. Faster speeds would be available for an additional charge.

What is the catch? How will we finish the build out? Our city government will force every residence owner to pay $18-20 dollars per month (adjusted annually for inflation) for up to 30 years. Businesses will also pay $36-40 per month (adjusted for inflation) for up to 30 years. Even if someone doesn’t want the service, and even if someone never uses the service, he or she will still be obligated to pay the monthly fee for up to 30 years. It’s not like electricity or gas, where you can stop paying and lose the service. It’s like the water, sewer, and garbage services you must pay every month your house is occupied.

Utah is one of the most conservative states. Orem is probably one of the most conservative cities in Utah. I have to wonder how our city government could have decided to get into the Internet networking business. As much as we all like to think we believe in a government with limits, we still manage to venture into areas better served by private, competing companies. We manage to prove over and over again that governments do not run businesses well.

The Deseret News Drives Me Crazy

The Deseret News drives me crazy. I live in Utah, I’m LDS, and I lean to the right politically. You would expect the Utah based, LDS-owned newspaper to be a perfect match for me, but it’s not. Most mornings when reading the paper, I feel like the news has been edited through the strangest, left-leaning, out-of-focus lens. It is maddening.

In today’s May 9, 2014 paper, a front page headline reads, “Immigration: U.S. warns schools against bias.” In this article, the Obama administration, which is definitely not the same as the U.S., is reminding schools they must accept immigrants without asking for documents or for information about their citizenship status. The headline should read, “Obama Administration Reinforces Bias Against Non-Immigrants.”

On page A3 the headline reads, “S.L ranked high for upward mobility—but is that still true?” Even though the research was released less than a year ago, the paper and The Atlantic are asking if the research conclusions are true. Cited as problems are Salt Lake City’s low per-student funding for schools, the income gap between the richest and the poorest, the struggles of the Millennials, and the volatile housing market. I would suggest Utah’s per-student funding hasn’t changed much in the last year, and that the other three problems are getting worse because governments are interfering more and more in our so called free market system. It seems as if the newspaper is advocating for more government spending and more government interference. The headline should have read, “Big government advocates don’t like recent study.”

I could go on and on about today’s edition, but I’ll mention just one more story. On A15, which is part of the Editorial section, Mary Barker, a SLC political science teacher, tells us a parable about Adam and Ben to honor those who tried to raise the minimum wage last week. In her story Adam and Ben work in the same coal mine. By the end of the story, Ben’s grandson ends up being the lazy, rich, absentee owner of the mine with no regard for anyone but himself. Adam’s hard-working grandson ends up out of work, poor, and powerless against Ben’s spoiled, powerful grandson. She explains that the abuse of power is responsible for our low minimum wage, excess CEO pay, and income inequality. I have no idea why this way far-left political commentary is in my newspaper.

I’ll say it again.  The Deseret News drives me crazy.

Grandkids 2014

Here’s the latest picture of all our grandkids.  You can tell some of them weren’t happy about posing for a picture.

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Could this be 2019?

I had a disturbing dream last night. I’m sure the dream had something to do with the video I watched yesterday of high schoolers complaining about the new food requirements and fainting from lack of nourishment (YouTube video entitled “We Are Hungry”).

In my dream I was visiting a little girl in a hospital. I was trying to sneak her some food. 

She had been born prematurely, with a body weight under 5 pounds. This put her in the position of not yet being a person. Until she could gain sufficient weight to be a viable living human as defined by the government, she was not allowed to have a given name or to leave the hospital. She was assigned only a number until her weight and height would satisfy government standards.

Because her mother was unable to nurse her, she had to be fed formula at first. The small amount of formula she received was regulated by the government. With the many regulations against child obesity, the amount of nourishment she received was severely limited. She couldn’t get enough to eat to grow enough to show up on the government growth charts.

The little girl in my dream was crawling. In addition to small amounts of formula, she was given food pellets in carefully measured quantities. Real food was not allowed as it required too much preparation. Real food was available only to viable humans.

The penalties for sneaking food into the hospital were horrible. I somehow knew that her father had been imprisoned for doing just that.  Besides, food distribution was very carefully controlled. The government decided what you ate and how much you ate. Being overweight had harsher punishments than drug use or criticizing the government. Farmers markets and home gardens were a thing of the past. Everyone bought their calorie-controlled food with an EBT card in a government grocery store.

There was no realistic recourse in the courts. Since the government was now my advocate in all things, I couldn’t hire a private attorney. Lawyers who still had jobs had to work for either the executive branch or the judicial branch of the government. This wasn’t in my dream, but I assume police officers were no longer allowed to eat donuts.

I was tremendously discouraged. Gmail, the only email option, had become Government Mail, and all apps that might have been used to enlist help from others were distributed and monitored by the government. iTunes had become GTunes, and the iPad was now the GPad. The news media formally changed their name to GMedia, and private bloggers had disappeared.

Could my dream be a look into the future? Could it be 2019 and could Michelle Obama be the sitting president? I hope not. Pete

The Best Super Bowl Ever

We invite our whole family to come over for dinner on Sundays. If everyone came we could have up to 27, but usually we have 10-12. I do most of the cooking because Marieta could be happy never cooking another meal in her life, and she would rather set up tables and do the dishes.

On February 2, 2012, known by some as Super Bowl Sunday, Joe, Ellen, David and their families came over, so there were 16 of us. We were having finger foods. I spent the first half of the game cooking and serving the food, catching only glimpses of the game and the commercials.

By the end of the second quarter, the grandkids were ready for something other than the game. I spent half-time getting them settled downstairs with Peter Pan on the big screen.

Just as I sat down for the second half, Ashley, David’s oldest, came up and asked me to watch Peter Pan with her. I spent the 3rd quarter with Peter on the screen and Ashley snuggled against my arm.

Just before the start of the fourth quarter, David, Ellen and their kids left for home. As I sat down to watch the last part of the game, Shelby, age 2, came in with Julie and Casey. Shelby looked at me and said, “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Let’s jump.” Yo Gabba Gabba is her favorite show, and “jump” means jumping on the huge family room sectional couch.  Downstairs we watched Yo Gabba Gabba while Shelby jumped, danced and sang along. We finished just as the game ended.

Later in the week I would watch all the commercials commercial-free on Hulu and the fourth quarter while on the elliptical. I was happy for the Giants, but I was even happier for me. Grandkids are so much more fun than anything else, and I didn’t have to watch even a second of Madonna.