Friday, October 27, 2017

Be a Community HERO: Be an Informed Voter

It's not too late to vote! Follow these simple steps to make a difference:

1. Register

If you haven't received your ballot in the mail, you need to take action to be able to vote. Register online or in person by October 31st to receive your mail-in ballot.
  • Online at
  • In person at
    Utah County Clerk's Office
    100 East Center Street, Room 3100
    Provo, Utah 84606. 

For more information go to or call 801-581-8128

2. Get Informed

Here are some great resources:

3. Vote

4. Serve & Celebrate

Join us for the third annual Election Night Service Project. This year we'll be joined by Tinesha Zandamela, David Sewell, Wes Marriott, and all their rabid supporters. This year the event will be held from 6 to 8 pm, so you can come celebrate and serve with us and still get to the election party of your choice to watch the woefully incomplete results get announced.

815 S Freedom Blvd, Provo

This service project has food, friends, and fun, and is a great way to celebrate the end of the campaigns while doing some good in the community. Here is a post from two years ago.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I'm In!

This morning, exactly two years after doing it the first time, I filed with the Provo City Recorder to run for the Provo City District Five Council seat.

I have served to the best of my ability. I'm striving to make it as easy as possible to follow what the Council has been doing and shed as much light as possible into my thinking behind the votes. If I have earned your vote, I invite you to support my campaign. If you are undecided, I invite you to stay tuned and learn more about how I represented District 5. If you don't support my efforts for another term, the good news is that there are six more days for candidates to file. Go encourage someone more suitable to your liking to run, or consider running yourself.

I have split my blog in two. This is the campaign portion. If you are looking for the governance portion with all of the pre-meeting and post-meeting reports, you can find them at

Monday, May 22, 2017

Who's In?

Our representative democracy works best when voters have options to choose from when electing their representatives. In order to have choices at the ballot box, people have to be willing to run. The filing period for Provo municipal races opens in 10 days and only stays open for 7 days. Please consider who you would like to represent you and encourage them to run. Consider running yourself.

There are three City Council seats on November's ballot, along with the Mayor's seat. I've heard of several people interested in the Mayor's seat, being vacated by Mayor Curtis, and a few for the City Wide District seat, currently held by David Sewell, who is standing for reelection. So far I haven't heard any interest in District 2. It is currently held by Kim Santiago and she has indicated that she isn't running again. I also haven't seen any announcements, other than my own, for District 5.

Two years ago, three of us filed to run for the District 5 seat. Within a couple of weeks, the two other candidates had withdrawn. Fortunately, a member of our community stepped up as a write-in candidate, so I wasn't unopposed for too long.

We need multiple good candidates to provide a real choice to our neighbors. As I said a couple years ago, "Having an opponent also gives the campaign a sense of urgency and brings it more sharply into focus...I believe that healthy discussion and debate leads to better ideas and broader and deeper understanding...and, in the end, a better representative will be elected, whoever that may be."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Let's do this!

After careful consideration and family deliberation, I have decided that, win or lose, standing for re-election is the right thing to do.

I have learned so much in the past year and a half. I feel that has been a significant investment and that I am even better prepared now to do the work of the people.

I have tried to be open and transparent. This blog chronicles almost every issue I've faced and vote I've taken, often including my thoughts, and feelings, and reasoning. I will be participating in debates and campaign events in the coming months, but I hope to have earned your vote through the way I've represented you and the interests of Provo since taking office.

I welcome all the support that I can get so that I can keep my primary focus on the work of the Council. Send me an email at if you are interested in helping out. I imagine it'll be a couple months before the campaign gets going.

I am hopeful that voters of District 5 will have several good candidates to choose from this cycle. I have heard of one other person who is interested in running. Please encourage good potential candidates to consider running, or throw your own hat in if you feel you could represent our neighbors well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Should I Run Again?

For a few months now, I've been asked in various ways whether I am going to run for reelection.

Serving the community on the Council has been very rewarding. I feel that I've been able to make a positive difference. I don't have any serious regrets about things I've done. I am comfortable with the effort I put in to move things forward and the care with which I have cast my votes. My regrets are reserved for the things that were left undone, the ideas and requests that I didn't get to.

I am at peace with my overall effort. I am giving as much of my time, energy, effort, and thought as I can while trying to balance the other aspects of my life. If more should be required of our City Councilors, then the office will likely become the domain of retirees and the independently wealthy.

My family, particularly my wife, has sacrificed the most to enable my service on the Council. I need to have their blessing before I commit to run again. We've set a deadline of April 10th to make the decision. I figure that Conference, Spring Break, and the run up to Easter will provide my family a good opportunity for some soul-searching.

Whether I run again or not, I hope that the voters in District 5 will have multiple good candidates from which to choose. I welcome challengers who care about our community and feel that they can help direct our city into the future and represent our residents.

If I choose to run again, I will also welcome the active support of people who feel that I have done a good job and would like to see me serve another term. I have never tried to campaign while serving in office, but it doesn't sound pleasant. I would need a lot of support. And yes, I'm talking to all those who are pushing me to run, please consider if you are willing to help with a campaign. ;) 

Monday, February 6, 2017

An Open Letter Regarding HB 164

Senator Curt Branble
Senator Deidre Henderson
Representative Dean Sanpei
Representative Keith Grover
Representative Keven Stratton
Representative Margaret Dayton
Representative Norm Thurston
6 Feb 2017

Dear Senators and Representatives,

The Provo Municipal Council is in the midst of a multi-year effort to better align our fees and other revenue with the costs of providing the related services. Having services paid for by the people receiving the services is a good general principle of governance. I believe I understand the motivation behind House Bill 164 - Municipal Enterprise Fund Amendments, which, as currently proposed, would limit the ability of cities to transfer money from enterprise funds to our general funds. It follows this principle to limit the use of the money collected in power bills to power related costs.

But there are other principles of good governance which must be balanced. One such principle is that the more local government is, the more responsive and accountable it can be. The circumstances in Provo are different than in Salt Lake or in Fairfield. There should be a compelling reason to restrict the freedom of local communities to govern themselves and to tailor the revenues and expenditures of their own communities to meet their own needs.

Provo is home to some excellent institutions. We love having them as part of our community. They are a part of our identity. We enjoy playing host to both the institutions and the many residents of other cities who frequent them. These institutions and their patrons benefit from the general services that the City provides -- parks, streets, public safety. They add to the cost of providing these services but may not directly pay for these services through property taxes. While this is not unique to Provo, I do not know of another city in the State where roughly half of the land is tax-exempt.

Roughly 19% of our general fund revenue comes from enterprise fund transfers. Our utility rates are still competitive, below the average in the area. Provo residents benefit from the sacrifices of earlier generations who invested in creating publicly owned utilities. Our residents are in essence our shareholders. The dividends that are paid out to shareholders in corporate utilities are returned to our residents in the form of lower property taxes, possible because of our ability to transfer money from our enterprise funds to our general fund.

If HB 164 is passed, our utility rates will go down, and our property taxes will have to go up to maintain the same levels of service that the City currently provides. Because so much of our property and so many of our service generators are tax exempt, the magnitude of the property tax burden is multiplied on those who do pay property taxes.

In the case of Provo, the principles of government being as local as possible and of having services paid for by the people receiving the services are both best by not passing HB 164.

Thank you for reading and for your service to the people of Utah.

David Harding
Provo City Council -- District 5

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What is in the best interest of the community?

That is the standard that I use when making any decision as a member of the City Council. Of course, the answer is not always apparent (law of unintended consequences, anyone?), and different people have different opinions as to what is the right answer, but before I vote or choose where to put my effort, this is the question I try to answer.

There has been some recent frustration bubbling up with Council members unwillingness to consider changes to City ordinance which would allow a microbrewery to sell alcoholic beverages in the City, or even to engage much in a discussion about it. In one comment, someone wondered why Councilmembers wouldn’t just do what’s best for the community. So I wanted to respond a little bit about what goes into my decision process about what is in the best interest of Provo. But before we do, let me address a couple other thoughts that have been expressed along with this frustration.

The Public Has Spoken!

I am grateful to the administrators and members of Provo Forward, Our Provo, and the new New Provo Developments. They have been a valuable resource to me before I joined the Council and continue to be now that I’m on the Council. As much as I enjoy frequenting them to hear the opinions and ideas of others and sharing a few of my own, it is a mistake to think that members of these groups are samples representative of the residents of Provo. Even if one of these groups (or the people who speak up in the groups) come to a consensus, that does not mean that it is the consensus, or even majority view, of the residents (or voters) in Provo.

But the Poll Proves It!

Speaking of gauging the majority view, I’m sure everyone here recognizes that the wording of a survey question will affect the outcome. If you word a survey question like, “Are you open-minded enough to want a brewery in the City, or are you a religious bigot wanting for force your morals onto everyone else?” I hope you wouldn’t interpret the lack of negative responses to mean that everyone in the City is for it. Before you point out that none of the poll questions in the groups were framed that way, consider that the hostile environment can be set before the poll question is asked. These groups, at times, have been quite hostile to differing opinions. It can be intimidating (and painful) to speak up when the rest of the posting members are aggressively promoting the opposite view. Note that before and while these polls were active, posts and comments were made similar to the fictitious poll question I wrote above. In the last “New Provo Developments” brewery poll, members were asked if Councilors should discuss the proposal. 46 votes were in favor, and 5 were against. This is out of 27,000 or so group members. Provo, by the way, has roughly 116,000 residents.

Moral Legislation!

Speaking of politicians forcing their morals on the public...I grew up in SLC, so I’m familiar with the arc of some of the political issues that happenings there over the past 25 years. It has surprised me how many issues now facing Provo have parallels with what happened in Salt Lake over the past few decades (take Trax and BRT, for example). For years Salt Lake had more lax laws regarding smoking on public property than many comparable cities around the Country. Anytime proposals were made to restrict smoking on the city or state level, howls would go up about government officials forcing their morals on others. It finally took an ex-Mormon and smoker by the name of Rocky Andersen to push through smoking prohibitions in public parks. No one could question his motives. It went from a moral issue to a public health issue.

So let’s get to some considerations when determining what’s in the best interest of the community.

Everyone Else is Doing It!

That is not an argument that I put much weight behind. Provo is a special place. We have a pretty good thing going. We are listed high on many national measures for quality of life. So I’m not too anxious to be like everyone else. That’s not to say that we can’t look to other places and learn from the things that they have tried. But on its own, “other people are doing it” doesn’t sway me much when weighing out what's in the best interest of the community.

I Don’t Understand It, So Change It!

When we don’t understand something, it is human nature to assume that it has no reason. “Well that’s a silly law, the people who put that into place must not have been thinking.” I try to approach existing laws with enough humility to assume that even if I don’t understand the reasoning, the people who enacted the law thought carefully about it and had a good reason. This is not to say that mistakes weren’t made in the past or that as the community and circumstances change we shouldn’t update our laws. But it does mean that it is incumbent on me to study and try to understand the intent of the law before I go about changing it willy-nilly. This can take a lot of time and effort. Which gets to the heart of the matter.

Just Do It Already!

Not only do I consider the community’s best interest when voting, but I also have to make this calculation when deciding where to put my effort and spend my time. Even if something, by itself, is in the best interest of the community, it may not be in our best interest to pursue if it displaces something of greater importance. You all know this already, it’s called opportunity costs, but it is easy to lose sight of.

Some people are passionate about allowing a brewery in Provo. For some, it feels like the most important thing. Others are very concerned about BRT. They may feel that it is the most urgent issue. Some are exasperated that I’m not jumping at the chance to wade through the fine print of contracts and GRAMAed email of other officials. For others, BRT isn’t even an afterthought and what they care about is how West Provo is or isn’t going to develop. For others, the Council’s position on rooftop solar is the only issue that matters to them. Some people are leaving Provo because of the impacts of zoning non-compliance (mostly over occupancy) on things like parking and noise. They can’t understand why the City can’t resolve the issue and enforce the law. Others are on the opposite side, wondering why the heavy hand of the government is persecuting people for living the way they want. I hear from people all the time who are passionate about issues. Many of them are frustrated when they don’t get the response from Councilors that they think their issue deserves.

When I first took office about a year ago, I had so many great ideas for tweaks to make the City a better place. By attending meetings and talking with City employees and residents, I ran my “to do” list up to 72, before I stopped adding. You can imagine my disappointment when the Council chose to select only 9 issues as priorities. Nine should be easy to accomplish, right? I was told that we could add more as we check some of them off the list. Guess how many we added? None. Take a look at the priorities that we set last year. Now, not everything that we accomplished last year was on this list, and we made a lot of progress on some of these issues, but consider how much work there is to do. I don't consider even one of these priorities as "checked off". My point is that there are so many important things to be done in the City, more than can be accomplished. We have to prioritize where we put our time. We have to chose which issues to engage in. Some of the more active members of the Council are already putting in 20-25 hours a week. Some of us are also trying to hold down full-time jobs. We are looking for ways to be more efficient and more effective. I often question if I’m putting my time where it matters most. These are difficult questions. I have made this blog a priority, I think communication and transparency are critical, but I sometimes wonder if the blog is worth the time investment. Could I have tackled another issue or two last year if I didn’t preview each meeting and file a meeting report afterward? There are many things that I regret not getting around to as a Council member, many ideas never floated, emails marked for responses that never happen, meetings not attended. At times I think that being on the City Council of Provo should be a full time job. But that would prevent many people, including myself, from serving.

Back to the Brewery!

Alright, with that background information, let’s consider the brewery request. If I remember what I was told, the brewery can operate in Provo -- they can brew beverages-- but they can’t sell their brews here. I do not know the details of why not. We obviously have bars in Provo, we have a state liquor store, and some types of alcohol are sold in grocery stores. And other places, including in Utah County, allow for brewpubs. Again, I’m not clear what prevents this in Provo. I have been asked if I would sponsor the item to be on a Work Meeting agenda. I ask myself, is it in the best interest of the community to sponsor this item? Is it in the best interest of the community for me to spend time on this? Is this going to improve the quality of life here? What’s the likelihood of it passing? What are the potential Pros? More vibrant downtown? Improved convention center draw? A business that some residents want? What are the potential Cons? Abuse of alcohol is the costliest of any drug in the US, with costs to the economy estimated at 2.5% of our GDP ( Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Substance Abuse: The Nation's Number One Health Problem, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ, February 2001). Would this change to our code make any difference in the public health in Provo? Should I spend my time trying to learn more? What issue that I’m currently working on should it displace? How does it compare with say improving zoning compliance? Visioning for the Future? Plans for West Side Development? What impact would it have on the time and efforts of others? Other Councilors? City staff? Community Development generally works on the ordinance language for items like this. What else are they working on? The plan was to write a Neighborhood Master Plan for each of our 34 neighborhoods, it seems like we wanted to be a third or so done by now. We have completed three. We just approved a text amendment drafted by Community Development that will allow “The Mix at the Rivers Edge” to add the residential component of their project to the old zone that governs the current Plumtree Plaza. Community Development said that they would have preferred to propose a new Mixed Use zone, but instead just made modifications to the current SC3 zone, because of time constraints and their workload. I feel the City needs a Mixed Use zone, I asked them to try to work the creation of such into their priorities. Should work on the proposed brewery text amendment be a higher priority than the creation of the SC3 zone?

All this and much more have gone through my mind in just trying to decide if I want to take a closer look. After a rough appraisal of all of these questions, I decided that it is not in the best interest of the community for me to spend my time looking further into whether or not the Council should schedule a Work Meeting discussion on this item. I do not know enough to decide whether allowing brewpubs would have a net positive or net negative effect on our community. I have decided that there are more important things for me to work on. Speaking of which, I’ll now see if I can finish up the report for the 17 January meetings, and work on the proposed policies for Westside development for the subcommittee that I chair. If anyone is interested in that issue (which was the number 2 response of another Facebook group poll) check out our work here.

I wonder how many people made it this far. I realize the irony of writing such an essay about prioritizing the use of time spent serving the City. But hopefully you can see how a simple, "I have other priorities to work on" wouldn't tell the whole story.