Monday, November 7, 2016

The King-men vs Freemen Battle Continues

As we approach election day tomorrow, a scriptural story comes to mind of a military and religious leader who was trying to protect his people. Factions within the country would overturn their freely elected government and establish a king. Of course those in favor of a king were those who had royal blood (whatever that means) and would be able to take power over the people.

At the same time, enemies from another country were attacking. Rather than give in to the King-men and settle things internally after taking care of the outside enemies, the Freemen took care of the internal threat first. Only having cleansed the inner vessel could they have the strength to stand up against external forces.

It's important not to take the comparison too far, since we do live in a different day and time. We settle disputes in a different way than they did two thousand (or even two hundred) years ago. But watch how those in power spend more time trying to keep themselves in power than they do truly governing according to the will of the people and with the people's interests in mind. It seems that half of what incumbent politicians spend their time doing is raising money and campaigning for themselves and their friends. They set up systems where the longer they have been in office, the more power they have.

From term limits to random committee chair assignments to instant runoff voting to abolishing closed door meetings to publicly funded rather than donor funded elections, there are many steps that could be taken to level the playing field. But as much as the two major political parties fight against each other, they know that they both need to maintain the status quo of an uneven playing field and collude to maintain power between the two of them. As long as legislators can create their own rules, which right there is your biggest conflict of interest, the field will remain uneven.

Not Just a Water District

If a vacuum salesperson comes to your door, would you write a blank check, leaving it to the experts to select the best vacuum and what to charge you? As a smart consumer, you would make the decision yourself after reviewing their proposal and competing options, even when they tell you the offer expires if not accepted immediately.

Regarding the water district for Cache County, shouldn’t we do the same and analyze the proposal? Surprisingly, there is no binding proposal. We are only voting on whether there will be a water district. Like a contract that says you can’t hold them to anything the salesperson just told you, we are voting for the creation of a water district which mirrors Nancy Pelosi’s defense of Obamacare, “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it.” Contrary to the claim in a recent letter to the editor, voting no is not doing nothing but rather actively looking for the best proposal.

There are draft bylaws, which will only be finalized and approved by the appointed board after the district is created. The initial board will be appointed, not elected, and they may or may not choose to allow boards in the future to be elected. Future boards will likewise be able to change their own bylaws. They will assuredly not place term limits on themselves.

I don’t think anyone is acting maliciously, but there are no protections in place in case that happens in the future. We can hold future boards accountable by not reelecting them, if the board chooses to open themselves to elections and if we are willing to vote them out. Lyle Hillyard, a signatory in favor of the district, has yet to be held accountable for being the Senate sponsor of the 2011 bill that would have hidden a significant portion of legislators’ electronic communications from the public. This was at the same time that Hillary was running her private email server to hide her communications from the public, which she has not been held accountable for either. Hillyard has not utilized his seniority to push the legislation that would allow the county a seat at the table on water issues without a water district, which should be a simple option.

Proponents of the district are downplaying the new dam that the water master plan calls for. Why not discuss it openly? If we need Fourth Dam in Temple Fork up Logan Canyon, and the water district is what will pay for it, let’s say that, so we can make decisions with all available information instead of allowing elected and appointed officials to give us only part of the story and so we can have necessary protections ensured rather than hoped for.

As long as Utah political leaders continue to make decisions in closed-door meetings, do not build in protections against conflicts of interest, take money from loaded special interest groups, and hide information from their constituents, we will continue to see trust in our government degraded. This isn't about a water district. This is about true leadership, or lack thereof.