Friday, October 10, 2008

October Admission--Representative Frank talks out of the other side of his mouth in a national forum as Senator Stephenson's little sidekick

I want to take us back to two bills that became laws and one that failed. They all dealt with forced privatization of public services and were sponsored and co-sponsored by Senator Howard Stephenson and Representative Craig Frank. HB 75 and SB 45 passed; HB 76 did not.

Voice of Utah wrote a post in January that made fun of HB 76 and Rep. Frank a little bit. Rep. Frank eventually saw the post and responded with two posts of his own on his Under the Dome blog, claiming that his bill was misrepresented. (Rep. Frank's blog is currently inactive and malfunctioning--the formatting is all messed up and there were comments from Voice of Utah and others that no longer show up, though you can still read his posts and watch the embedded video. Notice his most recent post on Mar. 24th with his coded claim that teachers can't be Republican delegates.)

In that second post of Rep. Frank's, he titles specifically references the Voice of Utah blog and says "STOP THE LYING, DUDE…READ THE BILL… HB75 (2nd SUB) DOES NOT PROHIBIT MUNICIPALITIES FROM BUILDING COMMUNITY POOLS"

He types his command to not lie in caps while ironically ignoring the fact that the post in question specifically mentions the failed HB 76 and even quotes from it. The now missing comments contained some further disagreement about Rep. Frank's misinformation. Rep. Frank also specifically denies in his video in the first post that he is going after community "recreation centers, and swimming pools, and other local entities."

Wednesday's UPD gets a big hat tip for showcasing the recognition that Sen. Stephenson and Rep. Frank received from a national advocacy group for smaller government called the Reason Foundation. (I agree with many principles espoused by smaller government advocates. I definitely agree with the Reason Foundation's apparent push against mandated, universal preschool. I strongly disagree with Reason Foundation's ""Director of Education and Child Welfare," Lisa Snell, that all public education is wrong and that vouchers should be mandated in all states.)

The two Utah legislators were recognized as Innovators in Action for "getting government out of the business of business." The detailed interview with Frank and Stephenson is on pgs. 14-20 of the newsletter, but because of the unnumbered introductory pages, it shows up as pgs. 18-24 when I'm looking at it in Adobe. When interviewed in a setting outside of Utah, which government activities does Rep. Frank consider to be illegitimate?

Quoting Rep. Frank from pg. 16:
It’s my belief that government shouldn’t be in the business of business. For example, you’ve got some of our local governments that are providing rec centers, pools and other facilities that are going head-to-head with local, private gyms...

And on pg. 20:
As the inventory and accounting systems are further developed in the future, I’d like to see some of those “taboo” entities that were excluded through this process, reintroduced for further investigation—independent entities, public and high education, etc. ...
Every time we say “less,” we increase freedom. If we don’t do these things, we do just the opposite—take away someone’s freedom. Because I’m part of the process, I know that for a fact.

First, Craig Frank purposely misled his constituents. He heard the outcry criticizing his HB 76 bill which specifically addressed county and municipal functions and forbid even potential conflicts with conceivable businesses as detailed by Voice of Utah. He then misled voters by pretending the claims were false attacks on his HB 75 and denied on his local blog that he would get rid of community pools and rec centers. But when Rep. Frank discussed the bills with the national advocacy group whose water he is carrying (and who apparently sent "experts" to help convince the legislators to vote for the bill. See pgs. 19 and 20), he voiced his true opinions, apparently secure that either no one would see, or that no one would care. He may very well be right when speaking of his district.

Second, Rep. Frank has the sadly common view among extreme right-wing Republicans in Utah that education would be improved by being totally privatized. It's "business" that should be done by business, rather than a public necessity. Senator Stephenson predictably agrees and throws around the false boogie man of socialism to justify his extreme views. You can get quality cars and toasters on the free market...if you can afford them. So education would be better that way too...

From pg. 15:
Somehow we like the idea that free markets bring us the highest quality of food anywhere in the world at low prices, that we get quality cars and appliances, you name it…the free market works just great. But when it comes to the education of our children, socialism is good enough. When it comes to golf courses, socialism is preferable. When it comes to fitness centers, socialism is great.

I don't expect Representative Frank to lose his election, but I believe that is due more to party loyalty rather than the majority of his constituents holding his extreme views. I think most of them would be angry if Rep. Frank and Sen. Stephenson tried to force their ideological agenda by butting in on local rec centers, golf courses, or Pleasant Grove's rights to contract garbage service. The two legislators view public education as "socialism" and belittle anyone with views more moderate than theirs. I know Utah can do better than that.


Jeremy said...

I'm pretty libertarian and have to admit that on the topic of government being in the business of business I agree with Rep. Frank's most recent views (not the views he lied about not having earlier).

That said...I can't stand politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths. I am pretty cynical and I don't like most politicians but this is an example of disgraceful scumbaggery that deserves to be highly publicized.

Great post and thank you!

Jesse Harris said...

I've had limited dealings with Rep. Frank regarding these bills and I found him to be far too meddlesome in issues of local control and far too unwilling to truly consider the opposing side. The same could be said of Sen. Stephenson, but word on the street is that he's had a change of heart about UTOPIA after a meeting with TenX Networks. There's at least some small glimmer of hope.

UtahTeacher said...


I actually support smaller government in many ways too. The impact of the two bills may be OK if it results in things like the copy contracts and office supply changes that save hundreds of thousands of dollars in administrative costs. I think the president's power should be much more limited as was originally envisioned, and both parties should stop their savior complex with whomever is elected president. I even agree with UTA's opposition to school districts helping with RDA's like Cottonwood Mall.

I can see your views on rec center, pool type stuff from your libertarian leanings. My family uses the Orem rec center all the time and some combination of Gold's Gym, private dance lessons, private pools, and private racquetball courts would NOT be an adequate replacement. I definitely feel my quality of life is enhanced and am glad local voters can support a project like that. I wonder under what circumstances you think respect for local government decisions should be overruled by others' beliefs on the role of government. Frank and Stephenson seem to support local control...except when it disagrees with them.

What about the Stephenson/Frank view of public ed? I know you were OK with the general idea of vouchers, but not the last bill. What about complete privatization? Is public education "socialism" or "educational welfare" as it's often called in Utah Valley? I'm interested in what you think.

I'm interested in your thoughts as well Jesse. I'm happily surprised Stephenson would soften since he views a common thing like a rec center as socialism. Maybe he'll soon find it in his heart to not view laptops for preschoolers as a substitute for smaller K-2 classes too. And if UTOPIA can work out somehow, I will be very, very happy since I love my internet service. I'm worried about this refinance and hope it starts making money soon.

Jeremy said...

I consider education and UTOPIA examples of public infrastructure. The idea that education can be privatized just doesn't make sense to me. I'm torn on vouchers/tax credits. They might be an effective path for a public/private hybrid but the law would have be to far better than that last mess.

Play golf, racquetball, and go swimming on your own dime. My family is strapped for cash as it is...we shouldn't be paying for your recreation. Sorry to be so blunt but there it is :-)

Jesse Harris said...

What it takes is hitting them with a good sales pitch. You need to show them the utility of the "product" you offer and prove that you're doing it better than anyone else. That's how you change their minds and win their hearts. And it'll be the hardest thing you ever do.

The way I see it, states are meant to be playgrounds for various systems of governance including defining what services that government should provide. Local governments should be even moreso. That's why I don't have a problem with a city deciding to open up a rec center; there are plenty of other cities to move to that don't have one so that you don't have to pay for it. So long as local governments aren't all cookie-cutter, I'm in favor of letting them do pretty much whatever they want (within some reason, naturally).

Since, as a state, we've decided we like and want publicly-funded education, attempting to deconstruct it can and should get you tossed out on your head. That said, I think that counties and cities should get more say in what types of education systems get public money. If Provo decides it wants to do vouchers, let 'em. If it works for them, great. If it fails, nobody else pays for it. I get really tweaked whenever anyone assumes that a single state-wide solution will fix everything and prefer solutions that are local and limited in scope.

Anonymous said...

I am fine with cities hosting recreation centers. They don't require year-long memberships and signing away your firstborn like private gyms do. However, I am disturbed by the local school district trying to impose a one-size-fits all education on all children. There are too many dropouts too consider the system successful. I currently have 5 children in 4 different schools because they have different learning needs. I am so grateful to have that option. Sometimes the private sector is more economically viable than the local government and should be used. As long as the city provides a good option, we have the choice to pick our best fitness program. I consider my children's education just as important.