Monday, September 28, 2009

Part 3 of Utah County ethics initiative hearing: mostly commentary on shouters out and some questions and answers

I’ll start off giving a little bit more of Craig Dennis’ remarks. I was tired and probably didn’t do them justice. As usual, my inserted comments will be in parentheses.

Craig Dennis: Washington and California are even worse at incumbent protection. California has some legislative districts almost as big as congressional districts. (Really?) Our state has very low voter turn out (among lowest 5 state in the nation) and low public engagement. Addressing ethics will raise voter participation. Should the legislature accept gifts or use campaign funds after they leave office? That is inappropriate.

On a business board, we have training and address conflicts. The public demands ethics. Take part. Take this bold step after endless delays.

During Mr. Dennis’ remarks, a lady from the back yelled “Please speak louder!” This was a repeated occurrence for the rest of the night. Now, in one sense this is a perfectly reasonable request. There were 20-30 people standing at the back of the room, including most or all of the Utah County legislators, and the doors were open to the hallway. On the other hand, I could hear everything fine seated from my seat near the back of the room and we were in a conference room on the 3rd floor of the Provo Library with little or no foot traffic out in the hall. The microphone seemed to be working fine. I think the main reason that the crowd in back, and this semi-shrill woman standing near the door in particular, had to keep yelling for the speakers to be louder is because they were the main source of distracting noise in the room. The people standing in back were almost 100% friends and family of the legislators (As I mentioned, the majority of the legislators and those who came with them arrived after the meeting had already begun.), and they were buzzing back and forth arguing points under their breath and talking the entire night. The low roar got worse as Ms. Jensen finished up her presentation and into Mr. Dennis’ remarks, and they quit even trying to be polite during the Question and Answer session. That particular woman, and some others, yelled out for people to speak more loudly every few minutes all during the 2nd hour of the meeting, but would not shut up themselves. I think any person attending that is not part of that group would confirm my account of the noise and interruptions coming from the back.

And while I’m on the topic, the legislative friend group had one other extremely annoying “public meeting strategy." The first time I wrote down when it happened was during the second answer in the Q&A session, but I took specific note of it because it wasn’t the first time it had happened. When the presenters, usually Janet Jensen or Karl Snow, would make a point that the legislators disagreed with, the little group in the back would loudly guffaw, nudge each other, and look around at each other for confirmation of how ridiculous the argument was. You could hear Senator Bramble specifically more than once, but it was widespread in the back. They seemed to think that this was an excellent persuasive tool to convince those in the room that ethics reform was unnecessary. In reality, I think it demonstrated to any seated in the room the arrogance of many in the legislative coterie and their inability to see anything from another point of view.

The Question and Answer Session:

Ned Hill explained that those in the audience had to write their name, county of residence, title, and question on 3 by 5 cards that were passed out in order to speak. He said that gathering the names, county, and title of everyone was a requirement of the Lt. Governor’s office for the public meetings. We were supposed to hand the cards to Don Jarvis who was in the aisle, who then passed them to Ned Hill. Mr. Hill then shuffled the cards and would pick one randomly from the stack in his hands, giving that person 2 minutes to comment or question. At first, the questions were short; as the session went on, people started using more of their 2 minutes trying to convince the crowd of their view, asking a question at the end of their speech. I think Mr. Hill did a good job of randomly choosing—both sides were represented and there was a stretch where 4 or 5 opponents of the initiative in a row were called to speak. (Of course, his wife was called as the last question before the meeting adjourned. I 85% believe that was random.)

Here, I will also note that while Senator Bramble indeed yelled out questions more than once, he was singled out a bit unfairly in the Paul Rolly column last week. There had been one out-of-turn question from the audience during Ms. Jensen’s presentation while she was fiddling with the Powerpoint, and others yelled out questions besides Bramble. The incident Rolly recounts when Bramble was shouted down was the 2nd or 3rd question Bramble had yelled out, but immediately before, another guy seated in the window alcove a few feet from Bramble had yelled out a question and gotten a response. I do, however, think it is fair to ding Bramble for hypocrisy, having watched his debate with RaDene Hatfield last fall. There was one moment in their debate when Bramble made a statement about something the legislature had done well. I can’t remember what it was—something like they had budgeted well—but some true statement of accomplishment. RaDene Hatfield quietly burst out “That’s true,” and nodded. Maybe it wasn’t the perfect behavior while your opponent is speaking, but it was an innocuous statement and it was obvious Hatfield had no intention to expound further. Bramble, however, stopped mid-sentence, glared at Hatfield, and brusquely asked something like “Can I finish? Do you want my time?” He had an icy look and was obviously affronted. The comment was nothing and if Bramble had just continued speaking, no one would have recalled it 30 seconds later. So Bramble has a double-standard. It’s OK to purposely yell out if he disagrees with the content of a meeting, but an insignificant aside while he is speaking is a cause of great offense.

Back to Rolly, it was also obvious that he got his info from only one source. While unquestionably the majority of the interruptions came from the standing crowd in back, there was a fair amount of shouting out by both sides at the questions and answers. Many times, someone would stumble over a fact, both questioners and Janet Jensen while answering—stating the wrong number of people, mixing up the pool of commission candidates and the actual commissioners, leaving out facts about the pay, etc. The mistakes were mostly innocent I believe, but the opposing side in the room would shout out corrections as the person spoke. I was glad the clarifications were made on both sides—they were often things I was thinking too—but it was half rude, half just disorderly. It should be mentioned that the loudest loudmouth of those in favor of the initiative was semi-public figure, John Talcott. I had only ever seen his name online, where he is a very opinionated and brash and recently resorted to insulting the appearance of someone he disagreed with. (He was actually seated only one or two rows in front of that particular blogger, and I hoped they wouldn’t see each other. I didn’t notice any interaction.) He was wearing the nametag we were given and loudly yelled out several times. He would correct people, rudely shouted out when Senator Valentine approached the front of the room by invitation of Ned Hill, and was the loudest voice shouting at Bramble that he had to wait his turn like everybody else. He was not the only one, but he was the loudest, even though he frequently yelled out himself.

On to the questions. I caught many of the names of those who asked questions and will include them. I apologize in advance to anyone whose name I misspelled. I missed other names, and will probably leave off a few names of questioners whom I criticize. I want everyone to get a true picture of the tone of the meeting and questions, but I don’t think every individual signed up for the by-name criticism an elected official receives. (And the questions will necessarily be imperfectly summarized. As I know from experience, it is tough to ask a clear, coherent question in a large public setting, and many of the questioners stumbled, restated, etc. as they asked their questions. I tried to summarize it accurately and think I did a mostly good job.)

Jon Morris from Pleasant Grove – How do you think taking the campaign funds left over at the end of a campaign benefits candidates or increases the number of people wanting to run for office? If they lose the money, what incentive will they have to return and be involved and run again? Janet Jensen – They only forfeit that money after 5 yrs. They can run again anytime within the next 5 years and use the money. Who does the money go to if it’s taken? To the school fund or to the charity of the candidate’s choice.

Blair Bateman – The ethics commission is chosen from 20 names. Who chooses the 20 names and how are the 5 commissioners chosen from those 20? Janet Jensen – The 20 people must be legal citizens, live in utah, be at least 25 years old, demonstrate leadership and service, be capable of neutral decisions even if a member of a party, and cannot have been a lobbyist, politician, or party officer within the last 5 yrs. The 4 leaders of the legislature, the head Republican and Democrat of both the House and the Senate, must choose 20 names unanimously. (This is one of the spots where a speaker messed up and corrections were shouted out. Jensen had trouble naming who those 4 people were and was corrected by people in the crowd. It was disorderly, but helpful because she was being unclear. Many of these corrections didn’t have the rancorous tone some of the other shouted comments did.) The 5 names for the commission are drawn at random from the pool of 20 names agreed on by the legislative leaders. This is an incentive to get good people. Since the legislators can't insure their "toady" will be picked, they will choose honest, trustworthy people. If the legislative leadership cannot agree on candidates, the pool of 20 will be chosen by the 5 people helping organize this initiative called "czars" on that handout you received. (The legislative crowd in back laughed loudly at that.)

Bramble shouted out here “Who are the czars?” Janet Jensen stumbled over the names, but Karl Snow and others helped her out. They are Chase Peterson, Karl Snow, Cassia Dippo, Jordan Tanner, former Republican Utah House Representative, and Carol Petersen, former chief clerk of the Utah House. Some people in back said “They’re the ringleaders of this thing.”

Someone yelled out “What if they die?’ Janet Jensen answered that "Of course there is a replacement mechanism.” I had read the bill and wrote down that I thought that wasn’t true. It isn’t and Karl Snow corrected that statement later in the meeting.

OK, I’m sorry, but I’ve had less time then I thought I would. I will have to extend this once again to another post. The majority of the questions and answers are yet to come.



Barbara said...

Thanks again for the time and effort you are putting into this. It is very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

See John Talcott in action on the unmoderated newsgroup. He recently deleted numerous posts through Google but they remain when viewed through another newsreader. Use Mozilla Thunderbird or Outlook to browse Newsgroups. List “” as your server and find “” newsgroup to see posting history of this person.

Anonymous said...

John posts as "jbtsax" on the newsgroup

John B. Talcott said...

I need to respond to Utah Teacher's personal comments about me on this blog. He/She wrote:

"It should be mentioned that the loudest loudmouth of those in favor of the initiative was semi-public figure, John Talcott. I had only ever seen his name online, where he is a very opinionated and brash and recently resorted to insulting the appearance of someone he disagreed with. (He was actually seated only one or two rows in front of that particular blogger, and I hoped they wouldn’t see each other. I didn’t notice any interaction.) He was wearing the nametag we were given and loudly yelled out several times. He would correct people, rudely shouted out when Senator Valentine approached the front of the room by invitation of Ned Hill, and was the loudest voice shouting at Bramble that he had to wait his turn like everybody else. He was not the only one, but he was the loudest, even though he frequently yelled out himself."

I find it most interesting that both Utah Teacher and "Anonymous" hide safely behind their cloak of anonymity to take shots at those of us who are not afraid to put our thoughts and opinions on the web using our real name.

Utah Teacher with an air of judgment and superiority takes me to task for my treatment of "Holly on the Hill", but then turns around and calls me names in his/her blog. My comment to Senator Bramble was "Everyone in this room is equal. There is a procedure for asking questions that you need to follow like everyone else".

I was shouting to be heard over his shouting. When he persisted shouting questions to the meeting chairman, I repeated what I said the first time. Only then did Senator Bramble glare at me and shut up.

My take on the situation was that the arrogant Senator Bramble needed to be reminded of the fact that indeed everyone in the room had an equal voice, and no one was better than anyone else.

If Utah teacher was expecting everyone in a spirited public meeting to behave as if they were in an LDS Sacrament Meeting, then it is evident that some of us who feel very passionate about the topic of ethics would disappoint that individual by our behavior.

My question is, "Who appointed Utah Teacher to be the judge of everyone else in a public meeting? I'll take passionate outbursts and shouting down an out of order arrogant public servant over smug,sanctimonious, passive- agressive anonymous criticism of others any day of the week. But that's just me.

John B Talcott said...

To the cowardly "Anonymous" who posted here trying to attack my character by introducing things written on another forum, let me say this.

It is obvious that you have "googled" my name on the internet to see what kind of trash you can dig up about me in order to attack my credibility. There is a very good chance that you "Mr. Anonymous" could actually be one of the members of the legislature that I have taken issue with on the internet. I would very much like to discuss this with you unless you are too much of a coward to reveal your identity. You can reach me at

UtahTeacher said...


I appointed myself judge to some degree when I posted opinions of various individuals’ actions or words at that hearing. It’s no different than you or anyone else once I venture into reporting more than just what people said. Like you commented on my other post, we have no control over each other’s judgment. We agreed on how Senator Bramble appeared arrogant; I thought you crossed the line into rudeness with some of your comments while you feel your were just being passionate about an important issue; you think my comments here are sanctimonious and passive-aggressive. You also appear to have no problem with my criticism of some of the other individuals at the hearing.

I think my comments give an idea to others how the meeting felt from my point of view, including watching the various speakers, questioners, and audience members. Right now, I don’t know if it is possible to post a negative opinion about someone or an issue without standing open to the criticism of being judgmental. A voucher supporter accused of me of “spewing hatred” or something to that effect last fall before the legislative elections. I am judging things and giving my opinion. You and others can judge the information credible or not. I stand by my posts.

You and I agree on many education issues in the state and on the value of this ethics initiative. (I’ve read many of your comments going back to the voucher referendum.) We disagree I think on how to argue our position. I worry that your in-your-face posting style does more harm than good, in terms of convincing fence sitters rather than just sparring with blowhards from either side of the political spectrum. That perspective is where my criticism came from.

I hope you found the rest of my reports to be useful information.


Sara Brate said...

I am continuing to provide easy reference/links to the video of the public hearing held in Provo that UtahTeacher wrote about in this post as well as three other posts. Hopefully this is useful because it's taking more time than I anticipated. Being one to never do a half-job, I shall continue!

This post comprises Part 5, and Part 6 (to 5:40)

Introduction of Craig Dennis

Question and Answer Period

Jon Morris from Pleasant Grove

Blair Bateman

Bramble asks, "Who are the czars?"