Saturday, October 27, 2007

SLC mayor money follows the winner-- Becker

People give money to candidates for three main reasons, which some times overlap. 1) You support them on a personal level (Jim Matheson hit up his East High classmates in his 2000 race) 2) You support them on an ideological level (I gave $100 to Wes Clark in 2003 because I agreed with his views on foreign policy) 3) You think they are going to win (re-)election, and you want to have audience with the person who will shortly be in power (Why Hatch raises millions with no effort).

So when news reports came out that Becker had an amazing two months of fundraising and Buhler not so hot, most people with a brain would say duh! Here's how Buhler spins the bad news
Buhler's campaign has taken in about $144,000 since Aug. 31, bringing his total to $465,000. [Becker has raised $590,000 in his campaign for mayor, including $268,000 in the past two months]

"I'm the underdog in this race, so it's always a little more challenging to raise money," he said. "I feel very gratified for the support I've received, and we're still raising money, of course."
Let's look back at the money race at the beginning of August shall we?
As you can see, Buhler had raised slightly more than Becker had at that point, but also spent more on billboards (and both were behind Jenny and Keith).

And here's what I said two weeks after the primary, when the Tribune was trying to portray this as a neck and neck race. (Now of course, they gave up and endorsed Becker):
Make no mistake about it, Ralph is going to barn storm the entire city with volunteers knocking on doors. He is going to raise money from people looking to make a safe bet without much effort. He is going to be organized and disciplined. And he is going to win the race by 15-20 points.
In another mini-edition of "I called it," here's an excerpt from a Becker campaign press release:
Ralph Becker’s campaign received a big financial boost on Friday [October 19th, 2007], thanks to a phone-a-thon that raised $56,365 in just seven hours.
I am not saying that people that gave during this phone-a-thon or any other in the last two months must be only from type 3, but surely the reason Ralph funding has doubled in three months is because he is cruising in the polls.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Utah's undemocratic branch strikes again

Sounds like we need to see which legislator owns a golf course.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is backing legislation that would vest tremendous power in a 15-member board appointed by the governor which would have broad authority to decide what services towns, cities, counties and the state can provide and what unfairly competes with businesses.
He believes the state's proper role includes making sure "local governments aren't getting into the business of business and putting private concerns that have invested their capital out of business," said Stephenson.
Stephenson, who chairs the Government Competition and Privatization Subcommittee, said lawmakers keep hearing from business owners who say their survival is being threatened by competition from government-owned entities, and said that is the path the former Soviet Union took and it paid a price. He also noted that government has a built-in advantage because it is exempt from taxes that businesses must pay.
Under the proposed bill, labeled as a "working draft," any business owner that felt he or she was being hurt by unfair competition could go to the Government Competition and Privatization Commission, which would decide if the activity was a "core government function."
If not, it could order the government to stop and, if the municipality refuses, go to court to seek fines and penalties.
Here are a list of these government operations that the Republican controlled legislature wants to do away with:
* Catering and reception halls. Operators have said the low prices to rent public buildings, like Red Butte Arboretum or the Salt Lake Library for receptions undercuts private reception centers.
* Municipal golf courses. They can charge lower rates than private courses.
* Recreation centers. They compete with private gyms.
* Trash collection. Cities disposing of their own trash cut into opportunities for private firms.
* Ambulance services. Some cities are offering municipal ambulance services, competing with private entities.
Because in the bizzaro world of the legislature, the goal of government is to protect business, not citizens that have to pay for things.

Local governments don't do these services to make money but to serve the people of their county/city/town. If the people in these areas don't want, say for Salt Lake County to own horse stables, they would tell their elected officials that or run against them. Unlike the Soviet Union, Utahns currently have the power to prevent their local government from doing things they don't like and have done it in the past. Water in Ogden, for example, isn't fluoridated. But people like to play golf, for example, and not everyone can afford to join the Country Club. The public likes these services and since these places don't have to operate on a profit, they are cheaper to run.

Private businesses that do things that local governments do can earn their business by doing their job better than the local government. And I thought privatization meant that everything would be cheaper because the marketplace is so efficient, so why should these businesses need the legislature to close down these government venues and services.

Beyond my opposition to the substance of what they are proposing to do (privatization for the sake of benefiting lobbyists at the expense of the public), I don't like the way it is being done. Local governments are accountable because officials are elected. This commission, however would be completely anonymous and unaffected by public sentiment since they are appointed.

Huntsman's passive-agressive support of vouchers

Governor Huntsman signed HB 148, thinking it would become law. He resisted a referendum, then supported it for a day he knew Romney would be on the ballot in Utah. As far as I know, he didn't sign the referendum. (Ralph Becker handed me the referendum petition to sign during the blogger open house.) Huntsman said he would vote for vouchers.

But now that the vouchers bill is doomed to failure at the November ballot box, Huntsman is trying to back away from vouchers. He spoke out in support of vouchers, and voucher supporters used his statements in an ad. So now he is attempting to be not as supportive of vouchers while doing nothing to keep the ad off the air.
"I don't think there's much I can do about that," Huntsman told reporters at his monthly press conference on KUED Channel 7 when asked about turning up in pro-voucher advertisements.

"As a public person, you're out there and what you say is reported and filmed," the governor said. "I'm on record supporting vouchers for years."
Actually sir, I am sure if you said please don't use me in your ads, they would honor it, because it would be embarrassing to them for you to make such a statement in public.

Huntsman, you can't claim you aren't trying to convince Utahns to vote for Referendum 1 when you are starring in a pro-voucher ad.

So next year, when Huntsman tries to claim he was a key person in the anti-voucher efforts this year, I will be sure to remind him otherwise.

Becker wins in flawed U student straw poll

The Tribune is pointing out the narrowness of Becker's straw poll victory-- 45 to 42 over Buhler among U students-- which one might assume is Becker's base.

However, a couple of things to keep in mind.
  1. An equally unscientific poll--an online poll on the Chony's website-- has Becker winning 57% of voters with Buhler only garnering 12%.

  2. The University of Utah is a commuter school (2,300 out of 28,619 students live on campus), meaning a large segment of their student population does not live in Salt Lake City.

  3. According to the Utah Daily Chronicle, in 2006, "Only 12 percent of the student body (3,461 students) voted in the [student body] elections, which is down 6 percent from last year's 18 percent (5,111 students)." That is, those students who do live in SLC are also not that likely to vote.

  4. According to the article, this was the partisan breakdown of the straw poll:
    Thirty percent of the U. students identified themselves as Republican, 29 percent as Democrat and 33 percent as unaffiliated or independent.
    That's not the makeup of voters in SLC city elections. Dan Jones, who repeatedly has accurately polled this and other races notes that in his last mayoral survey, "Thirty-four percent of city voters said they are Democrats. A third said they are political independents. Only a quarter said they are Republicans." Ergo, this straw poll is skewed against Democrats like Becker.

Yet despite all of this, Becker won the straw poll. To me think this further shows that Dan Jones' numbers--Becker 51-Buhler 33--seem to be holding steady.

shoe leather

How do you win elections? Is it high-priced strategists, focus groups, paid broadcast ads and rallies in airplane hangers? No. It is meeting and greeting voters on their turf and talking to them face to face to convincing them to vote for your candidate.

And what is Becker doing, according to his press release? "Becker and his supporters have walked door-to-door over 90% percent of Salt Lake City’s 157 voting
districts." They have walked "Monday through Saturday, every week, since March – a just under 150 days and nights." There are about 100 volunteers. Most importantly, "[m]ost voting areas have been visited twice by the campaign while just over 50% have been canvassed in three times."

It seems Becker is going to stick with what got him a surprisingly large primary victory: shoe leather.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

O ye of little faith: Romney edition

Yesterday, Romney rightly made fun of Giulliani's rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series, despite spending more time in front row seats at Yankees games in 2001 after 9/11 than at ground zero. Romney, who I swear I saw sitting behind home plate during an earlier playoff game this year at Fenway Park, is supposed to be a Red Sox fan.

Forget those lame bets between politicians over big sporting events -- you know, those wagers of whatever food item for which a city is famous.

Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo wants to put something important on the line -- his candidacy. His campaign called ABC News to issue this challenge: The Colorado congressman will drop out of the race if the Rockies lose the World Series -- if rival Mitt Romney agrees to pack it in if the Red Sox lose.

Romney has a lot at stake -- he's leading in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, is competitive nationally, and has invested more than $17 million of his own money in his campaign. So the former Massachusetts governor is not taking the bait, even though the bet looks pretty safe -- the Sox shellacked the Rockies 13-1 in game one Wednesday night.

Asked to respond to the proposed bet, spokesman Kevin Madden issued a terse statement this morning: "The governor is in the race to win the race."
What a coward! The Sox just destroyed the Rockies 13-1 last night and he won't bet to get rid of Tancredo? It seems Romney places his political career over the Red Sox winning the World Series. I know fans that would have traded major organs to see the Red Sox win the World Series.

Deseret News' Math better than PCE's

Remember how I said that the "average" tuition dollar number put forth by supporters of vouchers was intentionally misleading and bad math? And then voucher supporters got into the weeds saying I didn't know the difference between the mean median and mode? Well, amazingly enough, the Deseret Morning News seems to agree with my analysis:
Even if voters approve giving $3,000 a year per child in state vouchers to help non-wealthy families pay private school tuition, families would still need another $4,800 or so per child to afford typical annual tuition in Utah.
That is according to calculations and research by the Deseret Morning News. The figures are similar to state tuition averages calculated by the anti-voucher Utahns for Public Schools.
The News telephoned all private schools listed by the State Office of Education about their tuition and enrollment. Some refused data or did not respond. The newspaper also excluded from calculations many treatment centers for drugs and other problems where overall treatment costs (usually very high) did not break out tuition for schooling there.

The research resulted in a database of 64 private schools, in which more than 13,700 of the 16,000-plus private school students estimated by the state are enrolled.

With it, the newspaper calculated a weighted average (which takes into account how many students pay tuition at different levels). It used "normal" tuition rates, not counting discounts for such things as multiple students from the same family or subsidies by Catholic parishes for members at Catholic schools.

For all private schools providing information, the weighted average for tuition was $7,824 a year per student — more than $4,800 beyond what the $3,000 state voucher for non-wealthy students would cover.

For just those private schools that have identified themselves to the pro-voucher Parents for Choice in Education as willing to take vouchers now, the weighted average is a trifle lower: $7,777.
So turns out, the $4,500 is total BS. Color me unsurprised. PCE complainted that DesNews included K-12, not K-8 like they did. Why do you suppose PCE doesn't want to average in high school tuition? Because that is the most expensive. Most people who support vouchers want them for their kids' primary and secondary schooling, not just K-8. Really, what would the point be to go back to public school for high school after being in private school for all of your childhood?

Oh but there is more about how unfeasible this voucher bill really is.
A $3,000 voucher would fully cover average tuition at nine of the 62 schools that provided data. Another seven schools had average tuition between $3,000 and $4,000. Twenty schools had tuition between $4,001 and $5,000. And 28 schools had tuition over $5,000.

Of note, many private schools could not accommodate many more students if they wanted to take advantage of vouchers to enroll.

For example, the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Salt Lake, the largest private school system in the state with 5,407 students in 14 schools, estimates it has capacity to add only 317 more elementary/middle school students and 373 high school students.
Not even 10 schools in the whole state of Utah will both a) take vouchers and b) cost less than $3,000 so that the families that make little money could send them to private school without additional out of pocket expenses.

The article doesn't say which 9 schools those are (and where they are located). Suffice it to say that only a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of thousands of children in Utah's public schools could fully utilize vouchers under this terrible piece of legislation. Which is probably why 61 percent of Utahns oppose it.

Matheson makes some moves

So it seems Jim managed to get his name in the press several times today for doing good things. Let's take a took at them.
  1. "It's a bad idea to use public money to spend on private academies," said Matheson about Referendum 1. "I'm telling people to vote against it."
    Republicans Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Congressman Rob Bishop and GOP legislative leadership have endorsed it.
    Matheson says he agrees with encouraging educational innovation and giving parents choices, but vouchers won't accomplish that.
    "That's not what this is about," he said. "This is about taking public taxpayers' funds out and putting them into private schools."
    Guaranteed public education is one of the great traditions America and Utah, he said.
    "It has produced an educated population that has made us a super power. As we now face the challenges of the global economy, this is not the time to be taking resources from the public education system. That would be a mistake."

  2. It is good to be in the majority.
    Matheson's bill is aimed to "jump-start" more advanced mine communications, his office says, and would direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to launch an initiative to come up with a new deep mine communications system.
    "This is a time for an all-out effort, in order to spare mining families from the ordeal that the families of the Crandall Canyon miners and mine rescuers endured," Matheson said.
    "We need next-generation technology that tracks and communicates with miners when accidents occur. Mine safety is our top priority and as we learned in the Crandall Canyon mine tragedy, there's a gap in our ability to locate these miners when tragedy strikes," Matheson said.
    This is a good way to prevent things like Crandall Canyon from happening again. (Banning retreat mining, rather than just studying it, Sens. Bennett and Hatch, is also a good approach)

  3. Jim is also helping Moab by lashing out at the DOE for slow walking clean up of the tailings ponds.
    "The serious contamination threat to the Colorado River cannot ultimately be resolved without removal of the tailings pile." That's why he is continuing to push the DOE "to end the delays and move forward with the cleanup," Matheson said.
    Now that he is on the committee with jurisdiction over their funding, the Department of Energy will start to listen to Jim.

we all want to know

"Does America get its free taco still?" -- Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck, reminding viewers of his in-game promotion for Taco Bell's stolen base promo.

Our quote of the day. GO SOX!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

more voucher fuzzy math and smear tactics

Paul Rolly lays the smack down, again.
For a certified public accountant, Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble needs to brush up on his math.
Bramble had an opinion piece in the Provo Daily Herald on Saturday that argued that voters should approve private school vouchers. He noted that from 1995 to 2005, Utah's public school enrollment increased by 34,423 students. He said that between 2005 and 2015, the projected growth will be 154,752 students, "a staggering 450 percent increase."
He goes on to say that "it's not hard to see what a 450 percent increase in student population is going to do to public education."
But according to his own figures, the 154,752 is not a 450 percent increase in the student population, which currently is about 540,000. It's 450 percent of the 34,423 students that represented the previous 10-year increase.
If there were a 450 percent increase in the student population by 2015, we would have 3 million student-age children. That's about a half-million more than Utah's entire population. To reach that figure, every woman in Utah of child-bearing age would have to have six more children.
The Provo Republican then argues that in order to pay for the 450 percent increase, we would have to triple the income tax. But in actuality, the projected 154,752 new students represent a 28.5 percent increase in the student population.
I am sure that Sen. Bramble would love every Utah woman to have six more children, but it another case of lying to hide the fact that vouchers just don't add up. So if giving a disingenuous representation of facts and figures isn't working, it is time to go back to the old standby, slander.
Backers branded those opposing vouchers for private schools "bigots," and accused them of spreading lies.
[ CEO Patrick] Byrne said the vouchers simply shift control from the educational bureaucracy to parents. "It's not about accountability. it's about bigotry," he said.
[Utah Education Association's Vik] Arnold countered: "It is the private schools that choose to accept students or not. That is where there is bigotry - if indeed there is bigotry, Sir."
Meanwhile, voucher opponents pointed out all of the loopholes in this poorly drafted bill.
At the debate, Alan Smith, a lawyer for the anti-voucher Utahns for Public Schools, belittled the program as flawed, describing a hypothetical private school called "Professor Harold Hill's Think Method School of Government and Civics." His school legally would accept vouchers - offering parents a $1,000 kickback - though only offering three class meetings a year in a public park. The students would simultaneously continue their education in public schools. "My school is perfectly kosher under the bill," Smith said.
Sounds like a good debate, too bad I am in D.C. and couldn't make it. Tell me what you thought of it if you went.

Buhler's contradictory arguments

Remember how Buhler said that Becker was an ineffective "dreamer" in the state legislature? Now he says,
"Most of the funding for our schools comes from the state Legislature, so I would like to suggest that we keep Ralph at the state Legislature awhile longer," Buhler said during a debate hosted by the Salt Lake Rotary Club today at the Downtown Marriott.

"If (Becker) keeps working at it, he can convince more of his colleagues to support public education more than they are now," Buhler said. "So the best thing you can do for public education is vote for me and keep Ralph in the Legislature."
I guess he can't complete his "to-do" list without some doing from the "dreamer." Or maybe he has given up on that pathetic rhetoric.

Becker shot back wondering why Buhler didn't do anything positive for education during his one term as State Senator.
"I would invite Dave to go up there to the Legislature, where I've been beating my head against the wall for a number of years on this topic, and carry on the fight," said Becker, Democratic leader in the state House. "As a Republican, you may be able to do better."
If you read the whole thing, they had few substantive disagreements, but argued more about strategy (Becker's blueprint as a good or bad idea, not what exactly Buhler's idea would be).

"Mr. Positive" proceeded to try out more attacks that fell flat.
Buhler told the Rotarians he has "lots of respect" for Becker, but insisted he is more effective. He tweaked his opponent for passing too few bills at the Legislature, including none on public safety or liquor reform.
"I'm very practical," he said. "I'm very results oriented."
For his part, Becker refused to take the bait. Instead, he said he wants to strengthen public education, keep the capital green and help foster the city's chances for becoming a model across the region "and across the entire country."
"Rather than criticize Dave," he said, "I'd invite you to look at my record . . . and make your own conclusions."
More debate coverage was also here.

Oh and if you are a U student, please vote in the online straw poll on the SLC mayors race. No Freeping please.

not the best word choice

"I took a city that was full of pornography and licked it to a large extent."

-- Rudy Giuliani.

I really didn't need to know what Rudy likes to do with dirty shows, movies, and magazines, but that's just me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

join in on the voucher debate tonight

So many of you in the bloghive have written great posts delving into the voucher issue by the numbers and by investigating suspicious supporters. I urge supporters and opponents (and especially undecideds) to attend tonight's debate on vouchers at my alma matter.
Voucher bill sponsor Rep. Greg Hughes and founder Patrick Byrne and will face voucher opponents Vik Arnold of the Utah Education Association and Allen Smith, a lawyer for Utahns for Public Schools. Each side will be given 10 minutes to state its position, after which questions from the public will be taken. Refreshments will be available afterward.

* When: 7 p.m. tonight
* Where: Sutherland Moot Courtroom at the S.J. Quinney Law School, U.ofU. campus, 332 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City
* Parking: West Rice-Eccles Stadium lot
It is not often that you can get a real debate on the issues in Salt Lake near a TRAX stop. Come and join in the revelry.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Romney's in denial

People keep clamoring for Willard Mitt Romney to give the speech about Mormonism in 2007 like JFK gave about Catholicism in 1960. And yet the much desired speech won't happen, instead, he gives sound bites like these:
"I think the reason that some 28, 29 percent are not comfortable voting for a Mormon is they think they're voting for Harry Reid."

-- Mitt Romney, on polls showing people aren't comfortable voting for a Mormon, "Face the Nation," CBS, 10/21
While it is true that the Majority Leader has low national and local approval ratings neither polls give us cross tabs (Democrats versus Republicans, percentage of each in their sample). For example, every time the media talk about how low Congress' approval rating are, you have to remember that Democrats are mad at Congress because on their inability to end the war, as well as the constant folding on important issues like FISA and Habeas Corpus. Republicans meanwhile, actually have started liking Congress more since they were able to scuttle immigration reform and have thus far kept the war from ending etc. My point is, Reid's approval among liberal activists is very low because of FISA (he is reportedly not honoring Sens. Dodd and Feingold's hold of retroactive immunity for telecoms who illegally let the NSA spy on Americans) and other issues. Not because he is Mormon.

Also, these polls don't tell us Reid's name recognition nationally. I would bet you that most people in the U.S. don't know who Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi are, let alone that Sen. Reid is LDS.

Whereas the reason a little over a quarter of those polled say they won't vote for a Mormon is because these are the same religious conservatives who believe Romney's religion to be a cult and has about as much vehemence for Mormons as they do for Muslims.

And he knows this, that's why Romney is trying to be BFFs with haters like Bob Jones III, whose college did not allow interracial dating until 2000. Bob Jones University also fought allowing blacks into their school all the way to the US Supreme Court in 1983. More hypocritically for Willard, this same man, Bob Jones III called Mormons and Catholics "cults which call themselves Christian" on the schools website in 2000.

Then again, Romney had opposite views on just about everything only 5 years ago, so I guess Bob Jones III must be a model of consistency in Republican circles.

Millioniare vs. Millioniare vs. BYU place kicker

The race for Utah's 3rd Congressional district heats up. Mike Leavitt's brother, David, is worth "between $31 million and $81 million." Poor little Chris Cannon is worth a paltry sum of somewhere between "$2.1 million and $7.5 million." Both of them are richer than 99.999% of their fellow Utahns because of their family. And David Leavitt's family corporation is pitching in:
Leavitt raised $27,000 from his immediate family — most of whom work for The Leavitt Group of insurance agencies and related family businesses, which are the basic foundation of David Leavitt's wealth, as well. Each of the six Leavitt sons and their father, Dixie, own a similar share in the family businesses, which spring from a small independent insurance agency started years ago by Dixie Leavitt in Cedar City.
"I raised more money than Cannon did, even if you don't count the Leavitts," said David Leavitt. "But there are a lot of Leavitts. And if you can't count on your immediate family to support you, you've got problems."

Most of the 14 Leavitts on his report gave him the maximum amount allowed at this point in the race under FEC rules — $2,300 apiece. They can give more if Leavitt comes out of next spring's Utah State Republican convention, either as the sole party nominee for the 3rd District or gets into a late-June primary election with another GOP candidate.
Oh and don't forget Jon Huntsman's ex-campaign manager and chief of staff, the place kicker for BYU.

Read about this football "heroics" at the 1988 Freedom Bowl. Full disclosure: I am a Utah man.