Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vouchers -- Will the REAL Legislative Fiscal Analyst Please Step Forward?

In my last voucher thread, Rep. Urquhart stated that the voucher math is rather straight forward. However, judging from the debate the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's report has created in the blogosphere I would respectfully disagree.

I would like to offer top posting to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to explain the results of his report regarding HB148 and 174. However, if blogging on the issue in a private site is unacceptable, than I wonder if there could be some other opportunity to have the man who came up with the numbers explain the report, and respond to questions about the report to anyone in the blogosphere. I will fully admit that there may be something that I am missing in the math, but if that is the case than I know I'm not alone.

I would like to ask if Ric Cantrell, Steve U., or some other blogger on Capital Hill could help set up such an event?

Monday, October 22, 2007

For a Laugh

Apparently I'm having a rough time posting YouTube video today. Brian Regan is one of my favorite comics, and one of my favorite diversions from work. This bit rocks even though it is voiced over some Japanimation film.

Romney: Either not much of a Mormon, or Not Much for Intellectual Honesty

Okay, this comment by Mitt Romney struck me as particularly disingenuous.

"No president could possibly take orders or even input from religious leaders telling him what to do," Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "My church wouldn't endeavor to tell me what to do on an issue, and I wouldn't listen to them on an issue that related to our nation."

First off, for years presidents have used evangelical pastors like (can't remember the name) Jimmy Swagart (???) as so called spiritual advisers. You can't tell me that those religious figures have not had effects on some decisions that American presidents have made. Second, if Romney is a stout Mormon, the positions and doctrines of the LDS church have an effect into your decision making. (i.e. abortion, gay marriage, and Utah's much lamented liquor laws) For Romney to say, "I wouldn't listen to (LDS leaders) them on an issue that related to our nation" shows a epidemic lack of intellectual honesty.

Personally I would rather hear an LDS presidential candidate (who is worth voting for) acknowledge that the teachings of the LDS church are a core part of their values, and that as such those values will (should) be a major part of his decision making as President. Someone whose decision making is not influenced by their values is like a ship with a captain who has a compass and map but would rather be guided by the whims of his crew and shipmates. They may travel making good time, but with a completely unintended destination.

Romney went on to say:

"I am not going to try and distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith. The same kind of philosophy that's associated with other Christian faiths and the Jewish faith and others is very much consistent with (Mormonism)ours."

While I agree with Romney on the later point, it appears that (by denying that the Church will influence his decisions as a President) he is distancing himself from his faith. I believe most voters would be more likely to have empathy with Romney if he acknowledged that his faith would effect him, and bring to light some of the Christian values his faith typifies.

Bad form, Romney.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rangel & the AMT

One of the most daunting issues facing American taxpayers is the alternative minimum tax. This piece of the American Internal Revenue Code came about in 1969, when Congress heard testimony that 155 wealthy individuals paid little or no tax in 1966 (the average inflation-indexed income of the 155 individuals would be near 1 million dollars today) Instead of fixing the problems in the regular tax code, Congress introduced a new tax system based on adding certain regular income tax adjustments or deductions back into taxable income. (extremely vague description) If the AMT is lower than the regular amount of tax than no AMT is owed otherwise the difference is added onto to regular amount of tax and the taxpayer pays AMT in full.

This has been one of the most poorly crafted pieces of the Internal Revenue Code. For starters it was not adjusted for inflation so therefore it is affecting more and more of the middle class taxpayers, it disallows deductions for state and local income taxes creating a double taxation effect in some cases, and many other serious problems.

I have commented on Charles Rangel, and his expressed desire to repeal the AMT. In a recent news letter from the National Association of Enrolled Agents it appears that serious AMT reform is likely not going to be a menu item this year with leaders from the House and the Senate both introducing additional 1 year inflation patches. However the house is still working on a massive reform package that will, among other things, include an elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Some of his other initiatives include, expending the child tax credit, the earned income credit, and the standard deduction, all tax provisions that are beneficial to middle and lower income taxpaying families. The article also mentioned nearly 1 trillion dollars in tax increasing offsets. I would assume that this would include increasing the capital gains rates back to their pre-Bush levels. This would be a bad move, taxing savings and investments heavily is not the right idea, as we enter a phase in American history where retirees will outnumber workers by a significant margin, and our Social Security system is still in peril of being broke before this era is complete, we need to keep as much savings and investment income in the hands of American taxpayers as possible.

Now the AMT also adds another element to the voucher issue. It was brought up at the end of my last post that it may be better if we support school choice to get the law enacted now and have the legislature fix the flaws in the legislation later. For me though the AMT is like a bright red flag against this kind of approach, Jeremy from Jeremy's Jeremiad eloquently stated the problem in earlier comment on this blog:

"I'd love to be able to buy the idea you guys have proposed that there is a possibility that the voucher program could be made to disappear if it is a flop. The problem is that I can't think of another example of an entitlement program that was easily revoked after government started handing the money out...even when the vast majority of beneficiaries were wealthy types who didn't need the entitlement in the first place.

This plan is a great example of a possible perfect storm of government waste that can't be undone. If things go poorly and only 2-3% of public school students use the vouchers do you really think Republicans will agree the experiment they've invested so much political capital in is a failure? They'll let it go another 10 years. By then all the rich kids who never would have been in public schools in the first place will be receiving vouchers (and they likely won't be the small $500 subsidies the program currently hands out to wealthy people...some legislators are already apologizing for how small those vouchers are). Will the Republican legislature be able to count on many of its rich donors to go along with revoking the state entitlement that helps pay for their kids private schools?"

That is what I finally have seen as the end result of the HB 148 and 174 voucher plan. If bad law is enacted, it becomes institutionalized and entrenched. In my experience government may see the error of past legislation, but usually it isn't until there have been years of waste and misappropriation. Even after lawmakers see the error it is difficult to remove the error because of constituents who now view the "experiment" as an entitlement.

I would rather (however unlikely this may be) that lawmakers revisit the proposal, find a means of making vouchers a truly cost-efficient means of providing school choice to taxpayers while creating savings for public schools.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vouchers -- Humble Pie

I have been swamped at work still finishing off returns from the 2006 filing season. (I have two days left thanks to an underhanded trick of the trade) :) As the month begins to progress work has continued to pile and I'm doubting that I will have the time to complete the earth shattering, in-depth analysis I was hoping to be able to present before the November vote.

I have been reviewing the LFA report again and again, and I have hit a paradigm shifting roadblock in my support of vouchers. I do still believe vouchers would produce a fairly decent net savings for the first few years (savings ranging somewhere near4-6.2 millon or in a worse case scenario a loss) , but there will come an equilibrium within 5 to 6 years where the savings break even, and when vouchers fully implement in the 13th year and onward vouchers will inevitiably begin to net annual losses. One might argue about the ambiguities of savings from private school student who would have gone to private schools with or without vouchers and the students who may attend private schools because vouchers make the difference, however it is impossible to get around the fact as time goes by (especially after year thirteen) all students in private schools will be receiving voucher money (whether or not they wanted or needed vouchers to incentivize them out of the public school system).

Judging from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report, from year 13 (and I assume from then on) vouchers will net annual losses between $43,088,978 and $59,492,020. There may have been some options that could have alleviated this undesirable effect of subsidizing students who were "no-matter-what-the-cost" private school bound such as requiring a 1 or 2 year period of public school attendance for voucher eligibility. However, with the exception to the eligibility of current Utah-residing, school-aged students no such requirements were included in HB148 or 174.

Idealogically, I do agree with the philosophy of allowing taxpayers a say in how their tax dollars are used to fund the education of their children. The one size fits approach to public education needs innovation and options. Charter schools are a great menu item in our education mix, and I believe providing more accessibility to private schools would also provide another great option for students who need a non-traditional approach to their education needs if it could be done without creating an additional drain from Utah's taxpayers and from the already underfunded public schools system. However, referendum 1 doesn't succeed in this point. After the 13th year and beyond it would be a drain on the public coffers, and I'm afraid it would be viewed as nothing more than another entitlement program.

If HB148 or 174 would have had a provision forcing voucher recipients to enter public school for at least a year or more before being voucher eligible, the thirteen year savings to loss issue may have been solved. This is not the case, HB148 would have its beneficial savings for a season but in the long-run would become a drain of Utah's tax dollars. I hope that if and when Ref 1 is voted down the Legislature reconsiders the issue, and looks at how to resolve the 13 year crunch.

Regretfully, I think I will be dropping my support of referendum 1 with the forlorned hope that the idea doesn't die permanently in this state. If this damages my credibility -- so be it. The idea is good, but the plan's execution has that 1 major flaw for me. This paradigm shift has not been an easy one for me to embrace.

I blog for myself. I find clarity in writing and verbalizing my opinion, and often I find out through my writing that I am wrong.

Have fun everyone!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vouchers -- Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report

Ric Cantrell has provided me with a full breakdown of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report. I don't know that this complete of a copy has been published anywhere. Take a look. I think it provides some clearer insight into one of -- if not the most important arguments in the voucher debate. I will do the same after the extended tax filing deadline passes tonight. I may need a couple of hours to brush up on price elasticity of demand, however I look forward to doing some (hopefully) useful analysis of this issue.

If vouchers will do (provide overall savings to the public school system, while providing taxpayer choice of how and where to educate their children) what proponants believe they will do, than vouchers deserve favorable consideration. However, if their is no financial or class size benefit to the public school system while subsidizing private schools than vouchers are a bad idea and should be voted down.

To me this is the issue! Everything else is noise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Vouchers -- Thoughts on the New Approach the Legislature Should Take When they Pass Another Voucher Bill in a Few Years

I'm close to throwing in the towel on referendum one due to the abysmal way PCE has conducted the campaign to support vouchers. I can only do so much and reach so many people on my humble little blog. Now I do plan on completing the spreadsheet I have mentioned previously, and I do continue to write in support of Utah's voucher bill. However, Utahn's for Public Schools have ran a very visible, well-planned, efficient, and (judging from the visibility and efficiency) well-funded campaign, while Parent's for Choice has conducted a inefficient, visibility-lacking, possibly poorly-financed, and definitely poorly-managed campaign. I feel rather hopeless for the chances of Referendum 1's passage.

Given the relative hopelessness of the current situation, I thought I would convey a little advice should the Legislature decide to pass a repackaged voucher-type bill in the distant (or not so distant) future. The HB148-174 voucher bill had always faced one major challenge even if the referendum never came to the ballot and/or the referendum passed on Election Day -- separation between church and state. Arizona has a voucher plan that uses tax credits. Many voucher opponents feel this law was passed under false pretenses, although I don't know how anyone couldn't understand the law's intent given that the tax credit was issued only to private school students because they go to private schools. I digress. Given that the funds from the refundable credit are given first to the taxpaying parent, then to a School Tuition Organization (STO) than the STO awards the scholarship to the student at the private or religious institution of the student's choice. The tax credit was deemed constitutional during its only court challenge (Kotterman v. Killian -- Arizona Supreme Court). It appears that the main factor that made Arizona's tax credit survive judicial scrutiny it the buffer of the STO between the State of Arizona the taxpayer and the religious tuition-receiving educational institutions.

Utah's current voucher plan did not have any such buffer, and I would guess has (possibly had) a strong chance of being deemed unconstitutional.

However, tax credits are like blood in a shark tank to tax fraudsters, and such a plan would carry a heavier added cost of policing the plan to make sure abuse is limited. However, I believe a tax credit would have been a better engine for vouchers to overcome the hurdle of separation between church and state.

Monday, October 08, 2007

PCE -- Possibly HB148 and HB174's Worst Enemy

So PCE hasn't done a very good job in bringing to light the positive aspects of vouchers. They started out with a proven winner, associate the opposition with the far left, a campaign strategy that led to John Swallow being elected to the House of Representatives over Jim Matheson..... oh wait a minute he was beaten soundly. Apparently the accusation is out that PCE is paying spam bloggers, one swashbuckling spam blogger in particular.

I'm wondering when are they going to lay out a real campaign. The money spent on TV ads so far have been a waste. The pirate is a waste. If the referendum 1 election result is dependent solely off of the quality of the political campaigns only I'd have to say I would expect Utahn's for Public Education could win in a walk.

This organization has made me feel rather hopeless regarding the chances for Referendum 1 to pass. Spend some money on making arguments regarding the benefits of vouchers, benefits of competition, savings to the education system, reduced public school class sizes, right of self-determination by parents of Utah's school children. Do something! Pay me to blog about the benefits of vouchers, at least I would make some points about the actual issues. Enlisting the disingenuous buccaneer in such a valuable cause to me is insulting.

Hattip Jeremy and Bob Aagard

Friday, October 05, 2007

Vouchers -- Financial Analysis "Its About the Money"

This is a revision of the post I wrote last night.

Yesterday I was reading some comments at Steve Urquhart's blog and I noticed there seems to be confusion on how much savings there will or will not be from voucher implementation. I spent some time last night writing a spreadsheet model based on certain assumptions (no currently attending private school students could receive vouchers, only students switching from public to private, out of state move ins, and new kindergartners will receive vouchers -- 100% savings per voucher issued) however I realize a large flaw with my assumption due to the fact that many new students (out of state move ins, and new kindergartners) many not have ever gone to public schools without vouchers. As far as my calculations go I don't really see any circumstances where there would not be a net financial benefit to public schools because of voucher implementation, however I haven't figured out how to account for the money that isn't saved due to voucher receiving students who never would have attended public school without vouchers. I would like some help making the model as accurate as possible -- if interested in collaborating or if you just want to access the spreadsheet please email me. If anyone knows how to make a Google spreadsheet open for anyone to view and alter please tell me. The idea with the spreadsheet is that anyone can alter the variables and see the net effect on savings from those changes.

I believe vouchers provide a powerful means of increasing per student spending in state of Utah. By allowing parents the right to take a portion of the money the state was going to spend on their kids for education elsewhere, the remaining funds can be stretched to help increase per student spending on the kids that stay in public school.

I also believe giving taxpayers the right to determine how their tax dollars are used to educate their children is the right move. I don't believe the one size fits all model of education for which most public schools operate is best for all Utah children. Charter schools are a fantastic asset to the state's educational menu. Vouchers provide another menu item for parents to tailor how best to meet the educational needs of their children. Vouchers also can save money for public schools to improve education for public school children.

Utah's public schools are great, I am product of them and I pretty sure that most of my children will be schooled in public school as well. However I believe vouchers are a worthy experiment that can help improve Utah education in many aspects.

Best Tounge n' Cheek Comment of the Month -- Vouchers

Very Sincere Hattip to Alienated Wannabe,

With the voucher vote coming up, I have been trying to muster up the energy to get back into the debate. I'll probably start writing heavy on the issue after the extended tax deadline on October 15th. Till then read the bills (which are available on this blog and almost any other Utah blog) analyze some of the pro's and con's (if possible without being sucked into the BS that UPS and PCE have peddled) and make as informed a decision as possible as to what will most benefit Utah education. Now for the comment of the month, Rob was announcing UPS anti-voucher signs had arrived and how to order some to which fellow voucher supporter AW replied:

"For those interested, I am also taking orders for my PRO-VOUCHER yard signs. I borrowed my son's crayons and made them myself. They are really cool looking, and they have catchy slogans like the following:

1) Edward Kennedy, Nancy Palosi, Moveon.org, Joseph Stalin and Charles Manson are all opposed to school vouchers. Don't be like them. Join our 90% plus Active Mormon Legislature, an enthusiastic Governor Jon Huntsman, and the Hosts of Heaven in voting to protect our noble Utah law granting parents the choice in deciding how to best educate their children. Support vouchers! (A bit on the long side, but I am confident that passing motorists can catch it all if they read fast.)

2) Vote for vouchers, or be damned!

3) Don't be like all those dumb public-school-educated L-worders out there. Vote for vouchers!

4) What would Ronald Reagan do? Vote for vouchers!

5) Satan's plan is to take away your choice, just like the anti-voucher evil doers. You are either for us or against us. Vote for vouchers!

6) The Utah Axis of Evil: The UEA, the Utah Democratic Party, and Rocky Anderson -- all opposed to vouchers. Need I say more?Or, my personal favorite:

7) Go ye out from among the wicked. Vote for vouchers!

Please place your orders on my blog. I look forward to hearing from you. Working together, we can protect the rights of Utah parents to raise their children according to what they think is best. That is all I want.



That comment made my day!

Seriously, if you vote against vouchers your going to hell.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dixie State College -- Administration V. Alumnus

Posted below is an email detailing the rancor in the discussions to make DSC part of the University of Utah. Although, I am personally in favor of Dixie becoming a full part of the U of U. I would agree that racism is being drummed up as an issue where it shouldn't and probably doesn't exist.

" Let me see if I can set the record straight on all that has happened over the last several weeks. The DSC Board of Trustees in conjunction with the DSC Administration approached law makers, Board ofRegents members and administration officials of the U of U some time ago to determine if it would be possible to develop a "closer affiliation"with the U of U in order to bring more degrees to Dixie. It was determined after that meeting that there was interest by all parties in this affiliation and that the talks should continue. The DSC Board ofTrustees was charged with the task of drafting a proposal outlining the preliminary details of this "closer affiliation." An announcement was made that DSC would seek such an affiliation and that there would be aperiod of 2-3 weeks of discussion with students, faculty, community, and alumni regarding what this proposal would ultimately look like. Discussion began.

I have to insert here that what I say from this point on will be colored by my personal bias on what has happened since the original announcement. I have been for, and fought for, the retention of the name Dixie and for the retention of the Rebels name/mascot. I have never wavered from that goal and have made 6 trips to St. George overthe last 2 1/2 weeks to preserve those traditions. I lost that fight and I am bitterly disappointed. President Caldwell called me on or about the 6th of September to let meknow that the announcement was going to be made within the next day or two and asked me for my support and feed-back. An hour long discussion ensued. He told me that the proposed name of the college within the language of the proposal would be "University of Utah St. George," and outlined to me the benefits of this "closer association" with the U ofU. As you know, we have been the ugly step-child of the Board of Regents for some time now. In the 5 years we have been Dixie State College, we have managed 8 baccalaureate degrees and two certificates.This affiliation with the U of U will dramatically increase our access to U of U resources and has the potential of essentially raising Dixieto university status within 18 months to two years. It is fully possible that we could expand the baccalaureate degrees offered to our students into the 50s within a very short period of time. I told him that I was in favor of the affiliation with the U of U provided that“Dixie” remain in the official name of the college and that we retain our own identity and autonomy. There was no discussion of the“Rebels” mascot at that time. President Caldwell indicated to me that every effort would be made to retain our identity and autonomy citing that current drafts of the proposal retained separate boards of trustees and separate budgets for the two institutions, but that the recommended name would be “U of U St. George.” I told him that I would not be in favor of anything that did not include “Dixie”prominently and officially in the name and that I felt there would be extreme community, alumni and student resistance to the name “U of U St. George.” He offered no further comment except that there would be a period of discovery and discussion over the next 2-3 weeks.What followed was anything but a period of discovery and discussion. What became immediately clear was that Shandon Gubler (Chairman of the Board of Trustees) and President Caldwell, as well as a few other board members and members of the DSC Administration had clearly made up their mind on the issue and that the 2-3 weeks would be a full court press to sell everyone on becoming U of U St. George and upon dropping the“offensive” name “Dixie” from the college’s official name. Every community, or student meeting that I had the opportunity to attend was pure propaganda to that end. Shandon Gubler attended an Alumni Board Meeting and pulled out the old year books from the 60s with their Confederate symbols and asked if “this was really the message we wanted sent out to the world and we enter a national, or even international, stage?” He seemed to forget that the flag and Rodney Rebel disappeared from the campus long ago and that we no-longer even print a year book. He spoke very persuasively about the fact that Dixie could not progress past its current state without losing its name and that he felt that the U of U would not be willing to accept the affiliation with the name “Dixie” attached. In the end, he told us that we should support getting rid of the name Dixie because it was the right thing to do for the college, and that the U of U had not made that demand that that, in conversations with members of the U of U administration including President Young, he was told they would not make that a condition of the proposal. We were told that all options were on the table. Many of the alumni board were affected and even emotional at the end of the meeting. In a side conversation after the meeting, Shandon told Connor Shakespeare (Southern Utah Alumni Chapter President) that we would remain “Rebels.”

Student meetings were laden with language like: “Do you want to continue to be Dixie State College with limited options, or do you want to be U of U St. George with the full support of the U of U?” Never that there might be a second option of reaching the desired level of affiliation and retaining the name “Dixie.”At one point, President Caldwell interrupted a DSC Student Council Meeting to tell them that he expected to receive a letter from officials at the U of U mandating that maintaining the name “Dixie” would kill the deal, and essentially telling them that they could not continue to be Dixie and that they should cease their opposition to the proposal. When Jennifer Shakespeare (DSC Student Body President) called Shandon Gubler to request a copy of the letter she was told that there was no letter, and that there would be no letter. Ralph and Sherry Atkin got involved at some point and circulated a petition that was ultimately signed by over 500 members of the community including most of the college’s biggest local supporters and donors, not to change the name to anything that did not include “Dixie” in the official name of the college. A community meeting was held in the Gardner Ballroom and was well attended by community leaders, donors, and alumni. The meeting was billed as on open discussion. What we got was a carefully orchestrated barrage of ethnic minority students talking about how offensive the term“Dixie” was to them; a carefully written statement from the chair ofthe faculty senate in opposition to “Dixie;” an “older”student who was returning for her degree again opposing the name Dixie on the grounds that it might limit her options for the future, a single mother who needed her degree in order to make more money to support her family, and a student from Snow Canyon High School who said that she would not attend Dixie State College if it bore the name “Dixie.” It was clear to all that attended that each of these individuals had been pressed into action by either the head of the campus Diversity Center (who also spoke in opposition to Dixie;) a member of the administration (one identified herself as having been requested to speakby Donna Dillingham-Evans – Academic VP) or by a member of the Trustees (the high school student who spoke and only identified herself by her first name, turned out to be Shandon Gubler’s daughter.) Many community members spoke to retain the name Dixie. Ralph Atkin asked President Caldwell: “If the Board of Trustees votes to retain the name“Dixie,” will you support their decision?” To which PresidentCaldwell answered: “I don’t have a vote,” followed by a spew of rhetoric worthy of his Juris Doctorate that answered nothing. In fact,several questions were asked and none were answered. I wanted to ask Miss Gubler if it had always been her intention not to attend Dixie State College due to the offensive nature of its name even though her father was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, but I had already had my turn at the microphone. I did have the chance to let the students of ethnicity know that I was happy that they had decided to come to Dixie and that I felt bad if they had in any way felt unwelcome here. I feel that diversity on our campus is critical, and I told them so. I told them that until this moment I had never witnessed any expression of racism on this campus and that it was my home that this would always be the case at Dixie. I did remind them that they had a choice in coming to Dixie State College and apparently decided to come in spite of the offensive name.

The next day, a final meeting was held for Dixie College students. Itwas poorly attended, mostly by a group of the most ardent supporters of retaining “Dixie.” What was surprising to me (actually not) was than not a single one of the students who had spoken so passionately against “Dixie” were in attendance – not one!

Last Friday an “emergency” meeting was held off campus. It was attended by many influential members of the community and members of the Trustees. In that meeting they were told that the University of Utah had decided to withdraw from the discussion based upon issues of governance and the “Dixie” name. The issue of governance was that“University of Utah St. George’s,” Board of Trustees will become a board of directors that will answer to the U of U’s Board of Trustees. What this means is that we are being acquired by the U of U and that we will no-longer chart our own course without approval from the U ofU’s Board of Trustees. Senator Bill Hickman and Maureen Booth dissented on the vote based on the fact that we are giving up governance of the college. Everyone else at the meeting voted in the affirmative based on a belief that the deal would be dead without making these concessions.

On Monday, the Dixie State College Board of Trustees voted to draft aproposal to be sent to the University of Utah with the following provisions:

--The proposed name of the college will be University of Utah St.George, with the unofficial tag line “Dixie campus.” The Hurricaneand Kanab centers would, likewise, eventually be able to call themselves“Hurricane or Kanab campus” respectively.

--the mascot/name “Rebels” will be removed from DSC (we will needto find a new mascot – we will not become the U of U Utes)

--The DSC Board of Trustees will become a board of directors and will answer to the U of U Board of Trustees.

If in fact the U of U would have refused the deal with the name Dixie than and only should the concession to kill the name Dixie have been made. I'm afraid over-sensitivity and politcial correctness have been the main culprits. It is surprising that push for P.C. was made on DSC's end and not the U of U's end.

--Ralph Atkin was able to get language into the proposal that the students of the college could still refer to themselves as “Dixie”could sing the Dixie Songs and essentially uphold Dixie Traditions andthat the U of U would recognize their right to do so.

Some final thoughts:

There is a huge amount of detail that I do not have the time to include(heated personal conversations with President Caldwell and Shandon Gubler, conversations with alumni and alumni board members, etc….) In the end, it is my strong opinion that it was the design of the current administration and several of the trustees to eradicated the name“Dixie” from the campus from the get go. I strongly believe that the actions of the University of Utah were, in the end, strongly influenced by members of our own administration and board of trustees seeking support of their point of view. I believe the mandate from theU of U to drop the name “Dixie” from the official name of the college and the Rebels mascot/name were directly solicited by ShandonGubler or President Caldwell or both. My basis for this belief is that we were told that the U of U had stated that they would take no stand on these issues, but as Ralph Atkin and others began to garner support for“Dixie” from key members of the Board of Trustees it began to be apparent that they might lose the vote at the trustees meeting. I believe that Shandon and/or President Caldwell solicited officials from the U of U to take a stronger stand to bolster support from trustees who were either in favor of retaining “Dixie” or were undecided. We still have no official document from the U of U administration stating their opposition to either “Dixie,” or “Rebels.” Everything was done by “conversations” between Shandon Gubler and, as yet, un-named individuals from the U of U administration.

Though there is language in the proposal that gives lip service to retaining the “Dixie” name and traditions, I think it is naive to believe “Dixie” or its traditions will long endure in an atmosphere now charged with such negative emotions. The “D” on the hill will still stands for “Dixie” for as long as it remains, and the songs still sing of “Dixie” for as long as students and alumni will singthem. If “Dixie” is perceived as a term of hatred, how long do we really think it will last in a school that no-longer even controls its own destiny – that has given up its right to self determination to a larger university that has nothing invested in it keeping its name orits traditions alive. I would say that the proponents of this proposal are just fooling themselves, but I think they are more savvy than that. I think the believe they are fooling us.

An even larger issue in my mind is that the actions of the administration and/or certain trustees of DSC have irreversibly raised the issue of racism on a campus where no racism previously existed. Itis my belief that one or both of these parties solicited support from the director of the Ethnic Diversity Center on campus to find students of ethnicity willing to oppose “Dixie” in the public meeting based on in being a term of hatred toward blacks. I further believe they presented those students with one sided evidence to that end and then requested that they represent that point of view at the public meeting. Indeed one of the students who spoke of “Dixie” being a term ofracial hatred and stated that she was considering leaving Dixie College over this issue, spoke only one week earlier to a group of the campus ambassadors (she is herself an ambassador) stating that Dixie was not offensive to her and that she had never experienced any expressions ofracism on campus. I believe that the actions of those individuals in the administration and trustees who leveraged that emotion in their cause are both irresponsible and reprehensible.

From a philosophical point of view, I believe that the perceived connotation of any term or expression (like “Dixie” or “Rebels”)lies primarily in the mind or minds of the person or group who either uses or receives that term. A few weeks ago I was hiking Havasupai Canyon. I was approached by a Native American who, with derision, called me a Mormon. I simply said, “Yes, I am a Mormon; I am proud to be a Mormon.” I am descended from a religious minority who was singled out, with government authority, for extermination in the state of Missouri, driven out of Ohio and Illinois, and persecuted by mobs to the point of being forced to leave the United States and relocate to a desolate wasteland in Mexican territory at the edge of civilization, based simply on the fact that they were “Mormons.” My ancestors were brutalized for who they were and for what they believed. Some died along the trail to Utah. The term “Mormon” is a term of hatred to some. To me it conjures up images of self sacrifice, devout goodness, and a personal belief in God. To me, “Mormon” is a term of endearment. It is not offensive to me because I have chosen to see it in a different light than those who might use it as a term of derision.

Yes, the Southeastern region of the United States is referred to as Dixie. And yes, it was the location of the Confederacy during the Civil War. And yes, it was the region where slavery was practiced until a Civil War was fought to end that terrible era in our history as a nation. Likewise, Germany was the region that gave birth the Third Reich and Nazism and to the genocide of the Holocaust. And if memory serves me, I believe the founders of the this nation were once called“Rebels” by those who sought to oppress them. Why is it that we can now say “Germany” with impunity but the “Dixie” still carries the stench of the Confederacy?

Maybe we should remember that “Dixie” is also the place where a woman named Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus because she was black, and where Rev. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream….” -- the very birthplace of human rights in America (I'm not sure many people think of Washington DC as Dixie fo the old south, but I digress)

…or a desolate region of Southwestern Utah where a group of pioneers ofthe Mormon Church were sent by their prophet to grow cotton, struggled to survive, and said they had been called to “Dixie.”

I’m a Mormon from Dixie! I must be really depraved! One might even call me – a Rebel.

Monday, October 01, 2007

U of U-Dixie vs. U of U-Saint George: What's in a Name?

Dixie State College is trying to gain approval to become a part of the University of Utah. Most people believe this would be a huge benefit to the town. For years, it has been a frustration that the largest metropolitan area south of Provo has limited higher education. If you want any graduate degree or an undergraduate degree in anything but Education or Business you had to move or you had to to commute over 100 miles a day to attend classes at SUU. Gaining access to the full spectrum of degree programs offered by the U would be tremendously beneficial, not to mention shedding the Dixie "party school" image. I think it is safe to say no one thinks DSC becoming part of the U is a bad idea for Saint George. The problem is the name.

On one side of the isle you have folks like Ed Kociela of the The Spectrum (or as an esteemed local professor of mine referred to as the Rectum) who feel the name Dixie has such strong racial connotations that we need to shun association with the nickname of the southeastern Confederate states. In the other corner you have locals and alumni, who feel the school will lose its history and identity if Dixie is lost from the name. For example, my parents belong to a group of fanatical alumni (PB alumni) who have been faithful at having reunions for more than 30 years. This group is one of the foremost fighting the loss of Dixie from the institutions name.

Personally I don't feel keeping the mere name U of U-Dixie would be that detrimental to the schools image that people would not come to this school simply because of the racial connotations. However if the name Dixie is enough of an issue to the U of U to stop the merger, than the name Dixie needs to be put to rest for U of U-St. George for the betterment of the community.

Informal Poll: Which name works U of U-Dixie or U of U-St. George?

Subprime Mortgages and the Bankruptcy Protection Act

There was an interesting post at Utah Amicus. The title of the post, "Did Orrin Hatch cause the Sub prime Mortgage Meltdown,"made me wonder what kind of BS Steve Olsen was peddling. But the post brought up a solid point that the Bankruptcy Protection Act may have helped fuel the conditions that have caused the mortgage failures of the past year.

The only thing I would add is that mortgage brokers need to be brought under the auspices of Federal regulation. For example, securities dealers and brokers are heavily regulated they need to provide a thorough analysis of a customers financial situation to determine whether their situation is feasible for investing. Until a year or so there was absolutely no licensing requirement for mortgage originators, and despite the licensing requirement that was introduced I have seldom (to never) seen mortgage originators conduct any real solid analysis of a lendee's financial situation to determine how much loan a borrower could afford. Many times I was approached by loan originators to write "CPA letters" for some of my tax clients that were slightly outside the realm of honesty. That type of behavior in other financial services industries would lead to expulsion from practice, unfortunately during the housing boom (bubble) the loan peddlers operated unregulated and unfettered.

During the boom here in Southern Utah, middle class families were being put into 300k sub prime loans left and right with little or no explanation of what would happen in a few years if they didn't refinance the loan or sell the home out of the loan, and absolutely NO effort to determine whether the home buyer could afford a 300k+ home. There are many home buyers who will be left picking up the pieces. We lost one family to foreclosure from our neighborhood this week, and I'm sure many other families in this town and nationwide will suffer the same consequences.