We’ve documented here — in part — local PAC AFCitizens’ casual relationship with the truth and their well-established tendency to get the numbers wrong. It seems reasonable to wonder, why would I ever vote for a candidate they endorse?
(Bad numbers seem like an odd problem from a group which considers itself the real fiscal conservatives in the room and which includes a CPA in its leadership, but sometimes our passionate ideologies get the better of us.)
For the record, their flier endorses two candidates: Kevin Barnes and Allen Simpson.
Here’s why their support should not disqualify Kevin Barnes for a responsible citizens’ vote.
- He’s not passing out their flier. (Allen Simpson is.)
- They didn’t ask for his permission to put his name on their flier, and he didn’t know they had done it until he saw it.
- Some of the fliers have been going out with his name crossed out — so someone is having second thoughts.
- He’s not toeing their inflamed anti-incumbent line, and he’s not using or endorsing their bad numbers.
All I knew of Kevin Barnes before the first meet-the-candidates event I attended was this: he served on the City Planning Commission (a fine incubator for good city councilors), and those who watch such things say he served intelligently and well; he is highly regarded in the community; and his son has a street named after him in American Fork, which is one small way we honor some of our war dead. (I don’t present the last of those as a qualification for public office, just as one of the few things I knew.)
After listening to Mr. Barnes’ balanced, reasonable approach to government, and his abundance of common sense, and his respect for the complexity of even a small city’s government, I began to wonder: What had he done to earn AFCitizens’ endorsement? He didn’t sound like someone they would like. So I asked him point-blank about these things.
I’ve already told you some of what he said. My general conclusion is, he’s not one of them. They endorsed him because he’s not one of the evil incumbents who studied our road dilemma, judged that jump-starting reconstruction with a bond issue was the best deal for the taxpayers, and asked the voters whether we should do that. I can vote for Kevin Barnes, and he’ll be an excellent city councilor.
Notably, Barnes has stated that the proper level of debt and taxation for a city depends on what its residents want. This is at odds with AFCitizens’ vitriol. He doesn’t denounce publicly-funded quality-of-life programs, such as a library, a recreation center, and arts and sports programs. By contrast, the far right in Utah (including the Utah Taxpayers Association, the source of the bizarre study which badly misreports American Fork residents’ tax burden) tends to argue that these things are not legitimate uses for public funds.
In fits of pre-remedial economics, they like to declare that if there’s a demand for these things, the private sector will step up and meet it, and the public sector shouldn’t. In many cases that’s sound thinking, but sometimes it stumbles and falls over something called large externalities. Those are a longer discussion for another day, but the idea is that the overall benefits of some things are much greater than the personal benefits to individuals using those things, so the free market tends to underserve demand or need. For example, robust arts and recreation programs may be a major factor in fostering economic growth in a city, but only a small fraction of that benefit goes to people who use the programs. So the level of those programs individuals will fund directly through ticket sales and through use or membership fees is far below the level of maximum benefit — which is a good case for public funding.
In any case, it seems reasonable to conclude that Kevin Barnes’ name really doesn’t fit on AFCitizens’ flier — I mean that as high praise — and to vote accordingly.
If you agree, how about telling your friends? Share this graphic (or this post) on social media. Help them learn before they vote.