by Howard Stephenson

The beginning of a new year provides a good occasion to learn from some of the dumbest and smartest things said by public officials during the past year. These were all published in the monthly Utah Taxpayer newsletter of the Utah Taxpayers Association throughout 2005. Enjoy!

“If you’re a 35-year-old white male, chances are you’re beyond our target demographic”
(Real Salt Lake Soccer Club marketing director Trey Fitz-Gerald commenting on proposals for a taxpayer funded soccer stadium.)Source: City Weekly — 12/16/04

“The Utah Taxpayers Association does not make campaign contributions or treat officials to meals. Yet state policy is rarelydeveloped without its input. Consequently, the UtahTaxpayers Association is now the most powerful business association in Utah.”
Frank Pignanelli in a column regarding lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Source: Deseret News — 1/30/05

“It would be nice if the county could take a mulligan on that purchase, but it appears that county
officials will have to play this one where it lies”
Salt Lake Tribune editorial on Salt Lake County’s South Mountain Golf Course which is a financial drain on the county. A golf task force has been created to look at the problem.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune 3/7/05

Real Salt Lake officials were “pretty ambitious to blow into town and ask for all these things before
playing their first game.”
Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler commenting on RSL’s inability to defeat legislation prohibiting RDA subsidies for stadiums.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune 3/4/05

“It’s going to sit there for years and not be developed.”
Farmington City consultant Gary Jones, arguing for RDA tax subsidies to develop open space in Davis County. Based on his logic, 80% of land in Utah ought to receive subsidies because it is going to sit there, undeveloped, for years — perhaps centuries – without development. Oddly, many of the advocates for tax subsidies to develop Farmington’s open space were among the loudest voices in favor of last November’s failed Initiative 1 which would have provided tax subsidies to protect open space like that in Farmington’s proposed RDA.
Source: Deseret News 3/31/05

Given the diminishing economic prospects for Americans without a quality education, the need for reform is clear.
Information provided by the Manhattan Institute in which they showed that despite a 50% increase in per-pupil spending over the past two decades, nearly one-third of U.S. public school students fail to graduate, and two-thirds of all students leave high school unprepared for a four-year college. Source: Deseret News 3/29/05

“There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it and it costs like hell.”
Author P.J. O’Rourke commenting on mass-transit. Source: Wall Street Journal 3/16/05

“Although they are persistently and unabashedly evil, the Utah Taxpayers Association has a valid point. Redevelopment Agencies and their artificial manipulation of the markets, real estate , and taxes, have got to go.”Columnist Ruby Ridge Source: Salt Lake Metro 2/3-2/17

“Furthermore, public power utilities do not have access to the wide variety of tax benefits, such as accelerated depreciation and investment tax credits.” Provo Mayor Lewis Billings in congressional testimony regarding tax “advantages” that investor-owned utilities have over city-owned power companies. City-owned power utilities already enjoy the ultimate tax advantage by being exempt from state and federal income taxes. They also do not pay a host of taxes to fund schools and state and county government. Source: Congressional Testimony 4/27/05

“We are charging a franchise fee equivalent with Qwest. We’re very conscious of the fact we need to play on a level field with private providers.” Provo City Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Parker regarding Provo’s city-owned fiber optic system which will not be paying sales taxes on business inputs and will not be paying property taxes on its infrastructure, unlike Qwest, Comcast and other private sector companies. Source: Deseret Morning News, 6/2/05

“If Real Salt Lake skips town or the league folds, it’s better to have an empty stadium at the Utah State Fairpark than in Sandy or Murray .” Comment by reporter Heather May, Salt Lake Tribune, regarding one of Mayor Rocky Anderson’s reasons for building a stadium at the fairpark. Source: Salt Lake Tribune 5/27/05

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, dissenting from 5 – 4 majority in Kelo et al v. City of New London.

“The buyer would have to believe they can run the golf course better than we [the city of Cedar Hills] can,” said Councilman Jim Perry, “which in my opinion is a very reasonable assumption.” City Councilman JimPerry Commenting on options for the Cedar Hills Golf Course which was purchased by the city against the advice of the Utah Taxpayers Association. The golf course is now mired in red ink. Source: Deseret News, 6/22/05

“Ronald Reagan was the worst president of the Twentieth Century. He neglected need and glorified greed.” Don Gale speaking to the Utah State House Democratic Caucus Fundraising Breakfast, Source:

“When someone asks how you can possibly justify higher taxes, don’t try to answer. Instead, point out the good things we have done with tax money.” Don Gale speaking to the Utah State House Democratic Caucus Fundraising Breakfast, giving advice on how to raise taxes. Source:

“On the other hand, rightbrain skills are the most human skills – art, music, creativity, analytical thought, innovation, compassion, service. That’s where tomorrow’s opportunities will be.” Don Gale speaking to the Utah State House Democratic Caucus Fundraising Breakfast, claiming that the need for skills such as math accounting and data gathering are fading. Source:

“Bonuses don’t encourage (teachers) to remain in the profession,” Rusk said. “We want the dollars on the salary schedules so everyone benefits.” UEA President Pat Rusk responding to a question of longtime UEA member Joel Palmer, who asked Rusk what the UEA plans to do about a new merit pay proposal brewing in the Utah Legislature. Source: UEA Road Trip Diary 9/19/05

“Tax competition is clearly at play here, but I also think the drive reflects a general shift in Europe towards less acceptance of high tax rates.” Erik Nielsen, an economist with Goldman Sachs in London, referring to the game of trying to lure businesses by setting tax rates lower than neighboring countries. Source: Wall Street Journal 10/3/05

“I’m not a Nancy Workman and I’m sure as hell not a Deedee Corradini.” Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson responding to critics of his breaking of a city ordinance by buying alcohol with taxpayers money. Source: Salt Lake Tribune. 9/28/05

“Because a successful development could produce more revenue for state and local government without any tax rates being increased, Checketts could arguably tap that source without breaking his promise not to increase the tax load on others.” Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board arguing that increased retail activity at and around Real Soccer Stadium in Sandy City would generate “new” tax revenue for state and local governments. Source: Salt Lake Tribune October 14, 2005

“How much money would we save if we didn’t build schools to accommodate voting?” Senator Mark Madsen’s question a spokesperson from State Office of Education, who had just explained to the Education Interim Committee that one of the reasons new school buildings cost so much in Utah is that they are used for other community purposes such as elections Source: Recording of 10/19/05 Education Interim Meeting

“As taxes go, the RAP tax is painless — it’s virtually invisible. It adds only a penny to every $10 purchase.” Daily Herald editorial board arguing in favor of raising taxes on a median income family by about $30 every year, apparently because the tax hike is so small. Besides government needs the money. Source: Daily Herald 10/24/05

“When Utah has used tax cuts to return budget surpluses to the people, it has averaged around $20 per person. That’s enough to take your family to a fastfood restaurant, providednobody surpersizes their french fries.” Daily Herald editorial board arguing against cutting taxes on a median income family by about $80 per year, apparently because the tax cut is so small. Besides government needs the money. Source: Daily Herald 11/27/05