Re-writing Reality: Utah Taxpayers Association Spins on iProvo

It’s almost become too easy to pick on the Utah Taxpayers Association when they get a story so very, very wrong. The latest work of fiction is their tortured stance on iProvo, one in which they perform twists of logic to support how things have unfolded with iProvo and yet continue to vilify what UTOPIA does. As usual, this requires a point-by-point breakdown of where they lack any kind of consistency and twist or invent facts to support their weak sauce arguments.

The UTA claims that both networks need to “consider all possible solutions”. The reality, however, is that the UTA has pushed only one solution on UTOPIA: to stop existing, take a financial bath, and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Apparently UTOPIA choosing a solution contrary to “commit immediate seppuku” will, in the UTA’s mind, mean that you haven’t bothered to consider all the options. iProvo, however, can choose to pay off the bond with public money and somehow still stay on the good side of the UTA. Huh? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

They then also cite the work of fiction they published in May concerning UTOPIA’s projected and actual budgets. The problem with all of those numbers, however, is that they don’t add up. Go to the State Auditor’s Office, add up the numbers for yourself, and see how none of them match the figures that the UTA is using. Believe me, I’ve tried. I spent 4 hours pouring over them and crunching them to try and get the same totals. I even consulted an accountant to make sure that I was doing it properly. It’s as if the UTA pulled numbers straight out of thin air and nobody had bothered to question it.

There is also the glossing-over of the disastrous Broadweave years, years that left the network in a serious state of disrepair and with a heavily tarnished reputation. They mention a merger of Broadweave and Veracity when it would be better characterized as Veracity absorbing Broadweave and doing the City of Provo a huge favor (especially since the mayor and council had no idea what they were doing). Of course, a private entity running the network and experiencing massive operation problems almost from the get-go doesn’t get into their “the private market is always better” worldview, so it has to be omitted.

I’ve also noticed that they aren’t screaming “sell” at iProvo even though one of the options on the table (and likely to happen) is for the city to maintain ownership of the network and pay off the bond. You know, the same thing that UTOPIA is doing but gets criticized for. So… paying for the network in UTOPIA cities is an unmitigated disaster, but doing it in Provo is “the least bad option”. Are you seeing the same pattern I am?

The worst of it is that the UTA is acting all butt-hurt that UTOPIA doesn’t want to listen to them. On what plane of existence would they want to? They’ve gone up to UTOPIA, thrown a drink in their face, kicked them in the shins, said something nasty about their mother, and then expect a seat at the table as they scream “I wish you’d never been born”? How exactly does that jive with their “water under the bridge” attitude towards iProvo? It doesn’t and it can’t. They’ve shown no indications of being willing to be constructive, just that they’re going to criticize every single move in the most shrill tone possible. After a track record of being anything but constructive, it’s hard to swallow that all they wanted was a seat at the table. The ultimate irony here is that they shut down discussion on their website with voracious moderation, but expect UTOPIA to allow their board meetings to act as a UTA soapbox for tearing the agency a new one.

If the UTA wants to be taken seriously, they need to shut their pie holes unless they have some actual constructive suggestions (and no, selling for pennies on the dollar doesn’t count). These double standards and loads of manure only further weaken whatever remaining credibility they might have had.

(Yes, I know a lot more about iProvo than I’ve written here. I have Veracity’s side straight from the horse’s mouth and will be meeting with Mayor Curtis on Monday to get their perspective. Expect something good and meaty next week, kids.)

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10 Responses to Re-writing Reality: Utah Taxpayers Association Spins on iProvo

  1. Blaine Nichols says:

    After an extended discussion in May of 2010 I hand delivered to UTOPIA CFO, Kirt Sudweeks, some interesting numbers which I had fabricated from the published information with which the UTOPIA boondoggle was foisted upon several Utah cities (which numbers I had given to Layton City officials on prior occasions). That day, he promised to get back to me within a few weeks and tell me why, and specifically where, my numbers were wrong.

    Its now 16 months later (with two subsequent emails in 2010 to Kirt, Alex and Steve) and still no response whatever from any of them . . . and still counting.

    My numbers were very straight forward and not all that complicated. They should have been a piece of cake for the CFO to respond to . . . or, at the very least, ask for any necessary clarification on.

    Could it be that the lack of response is due to the time which UTOPIA must have been spending on fabricating their creative and specious “budgets” so as to appear to be in compliance with State Law? Or is it because UTOPIA fears having any real numbers available to the public?

    I’d be willing to bet that my fabricated numbers are MUCH more accurate than ANY numbers which UTOPIA has fabricated, and re-fabricated, over the years. I am fully willing to sit and discuss them openly . . . and will readily acknowledge my errors if and as they exist. It would be refreshing if UTOPIA would show the same willingness to honestly look at the financial mess we face, and at the financial burden that must be carried by a citizenry forever bereft of the promised fiber-optic “in front of each home”, due to deceptions on the part of UTOPIA and her backers.

    UTOPIA is a financial failure and can NOT be saved. It will NEVER be built out and has most likely already (again) spend all its available money with relatively nothing to show for that brazen expenditure of public funds!

    UTOPIA couldn’t be saved even in 2002. It can’t be saved from financial ruin in 2011 or 2012 unless on December 21st the Mayan predictions indeed come true. It was built on phony numbers, with false promises and impossible expectations, by incompetent and/or incapable promoters, under uninformed but very gullible overseers (City Councils with ZERO capability in the discipline), against better advise, and with greedy eyes focused on benefitting and enriching a few individuals at the expense of the many. Such structures can never be saved.

    I’ll continue to await a response to my numbers which show that the Emperor Of UTOPIA Has No Clothes.

    • Jesse says:

      Blaine, that’s a creative story, but one that doesn’t stick to the facts. Kirt explained to Royce Van Tassell as to how he had made a mistake in his calculations using the most recent year’s data as an example. The data for that year was corrected, but none of the other years were.

      You also state outright that you fabricated numbers instead of using primary sources. Basically, you’ve confirmed that I am correct that you have lied about the numbers. Given that you will lie and confess to doing so, how do you have any level of credibility on the matter?

      Here’s where I also get lost. You claim, quite vociferously, that UTOPIA is flat-out fabricating numbers instead of following acceptable accounting procedures. You also claim that individuals are enriching themselves from public funds. If either of these is true, it is a crime and should be reported as such. As far as I am aware, no such report or complaint has been filed. Wouldn’t that mean you are failing to report a crime? And if it’s not true, are you not guilty of defamation? Why say “individuals” if you won’t name who’s doing the dirty deeds?

      You guys have dug yourselves into a hole from which your credibility simply cannot recover. I also find it telling that instead of addressing the arguments I have made, you’re simply making up more stuff and repeating the same boilerplate arguments we’re all too used to. Discussions are good, but you prefer to deliver lectures.

      • Blaine Nichols says:

        Jessie,
        From someone capable of only unidimensional thinking I would have expected such a response as yours of Sept. 10th. From you who claims to be a rational thinker when it comes to UTOPIA, I’d hoped for something more. Sadly our conversation has not started on a good foot. Hopefully it will improve.

        First . . . I challenge you, in any venue, to defend having cravenly called me a liar. For your understanding, I, young man, am anything but. I have not “confirmed that I lied”. I have no idea about the numbers to which you may be referring. I have, and will continue to, confirmed nothing other than the facts that I stated in my first submission to your blog. AND, whereoff do you come to question my credibility from such a flimsy position as you have taken? You have no knowledge of the numbers I presented (fabricated), attempt to lump me with others, and lecture me rather than addressing my simple statements. Indeed, you resort to unfounded name calling rather that requesting additional information or clarification of that wherein you might be completely ignorant.

        Second . . . Let’s establish some breadth to our vocabulary.
        A simplistic meaning of “fabricate” has to do with dishonesty.
        However, in its broader and more precise meaning, “fabricate” means to “make” something from something else.
        For example: from a simple rock, creative and inventive men fabricated the atomic bomb simply because they were capable of seeing the possibility within that rock while to one of unidimensional thought capability the only comparable use of that rock was as a relatively ineffective projectile.
        So, let’s step up and use the full meanings of the word “fabricate” as it was intended and not simply as a mindless instrument to bash another.

        Third . . . I’m not “you guys”, I may have met Mr. Van Tassell in passing but do not recollect when that might have been. I’m a simple curmudgeonly old man with absolutely ZERO association with “you guys” so . . . don’t lump me in there.

        Fourth . . . The “story” I related is precise, exact, uncreative and if you care to check with “primary sources” you will find that it sticks minutely to the facts. Should you care to see the numbers I fabricated I will be pleased to provide them to you for your perusal, analysis and comment.

        Fifth . . . You suggest that I should rely on “primary sources” in fabricating my numbers. With that suggestion I strongly concur; and, for 9 years have been told that those numbers would not be made available to me as they were proprietary. Consequently I was forced to rely on the numbers that were publically published to fabricate my analysis. If you can obtain, or facilitate my so doing, those “primary source” numbers . . . I’d be more than pleased to review them.

        Further, as I could NOT get those numbers when I tried . . . and . . . as I was told that Mr. Sudweeks would analyze my analysis and tell we exactly where I was wrong . . . I provided him with my fabricated numbers. And, just to keep your mind on the right track . . . If those numbers are not correct they can NOT be a lie under even the most twisted stretch of an irrational imagination because they represent exactly what the published numbers showed and, though I’ve tried for 8 years not one “official” from UTPOIA has told me wherein they are even mistaken. Should they be mistaken I’ll be so happy. 16 months since my numbers were last delivered . . . and still I wait for someone to tell me where I’m wrong.

        Hopefully I’m wrong . . . but I wouldn’t bet against it.
        I want fiber optic speed . . . but my numbers tell me I’ll never see it, although I will be paying dearly for it.

        Sixth . . . As for the enrichment question you raised, all I can say is: Somebody got all that money which the Taxpayers were promised would deliver something of value to them. Several Millions of Dollars are simply gone and the promised infrastructure has not come ANYWHERE close to delivery. And, there is no realistic projection as to how much more money will surely be DEMANDED in the next and subsequent go-rounds between now and bankruptcy.

        • Ronald D. Hunt says:

          Mind posting a link to your numbers?, I would be interested in comparing them to the SAO numbers myself.

          And Jesse has been fully open with any claims he makes, he has always posted links to the documents he references for his numbers, SAO site, Utopianet.org, even UTA when they post something.

          His posts are always well researched and the few times he has made a mistake he has made front page postings with retractions and corrected information. And he has never censored the non spam posts on his blog which is far more then I can say for ANY other source of information on the subject.

          So please post the links to your numbers, stand up and give an accounting of proof for the claims you put forward. In lue of that please understand any reasonable people will see your posts as little more the slander.

        • Jesse says:

          I think Ronald makes the point for me: I don’t censor, I post sources, and I post retractions when necessary. I’ve posted and continue to post criticisms of UTOPIA and any long-time reader can confirm such. You have no history with me, so keep that in mind as you post. (It would be unrealistic of me to expect you to go through my entire 5-year site archive, but I’m sure browsing around can give you a good idea of where I’m coming from.) Right now, I’m under the impression that you just wanted to leave some drive-by criticism and never appear again, a common occurrence around here that I accept as the price of an open forum. It’s also maddeningly frustrating to see FUD spread around so readily, but it is what it is.

          First, I’ll stand by my claim that you’re lying, and I’ll provide explanations as to why I stand by it. If you weren’t, you could and would produce the data. Show me who has committed crimes, what crimes they have committed, and the evidence to back it up. You otherwise have baseless claims. Share your numbers instead of making us take your word on it. Someone who doggedly makes claims without producing evidence is a liar in my book and will continue to be so until he does. To borrow a popular phrase from teh Interwebs, pics or it didn’t happen. This isn’t a place where we just take someone’s word on it.

          Second, you used the word “fabricate” both in reference to your own numbers and to UTOPIA’s with the subtext that UTOPIA’s were inaccurate. That alone gives the impression that your numbers are as made-up as you believe UTOPIA’s to be. I’m not willing to believe that you aren’t smart enough to know exactly what kind of connotations the word “fabricate” carries either. A polite person calls it dishonest; I cut through the crap to call it a lie. If you want to correct your statements, fine, but your original misdirection is exactly what I originally called it.

          Third and fourth, my apologies for the false association with the UTA. I was left with the impression that you worked with them on their highly-flawed analysis and thus had gotten the feedback you had said you didn’t. One thing UTOPIA never seems to get right is opening up and sharing data. I’ve been hounding them on it for years, but they’re just too scared of getting beaten up in the press. The problem is that people with nothing better to do and an axe to grind go get the data and the rest of us get sucker-punched.

          Fifth, I’m saying don’t make crap up. (I think I already made my point on your verbiage.) Both I and the UTA stuck to numbers available from the SAO. They chose to add up numbers in ways that make zero sense, especially after getting some feedback from an accountant. (They essentially added numbers into the actual budget without adding them into the planned budget.) Exactly what “numbers” were you looking for that you couldn’t obtain? I would also point out that Kirt’s job is doing the books at UTOPIA, not proving every individual wannabe analyst (myself included) right or wrong. If it was, the books would never be done.

          Sixth, nice backtrack there. First you say that a few people milked the project to line their own pockets, then you change your tune to a vague and non-specific “the money went somewhere” with the implication that someone took the money and ran. You’re not the first person to make such a claim with exactly zero evidence to back it up, and you won’t be the last to either do so or be called on it by me when you do it. Again, pics or it didn’t happen. If you don’t have evidence, you’re still lying in my book. Take that lump and move on, or show us the money. (And since you haven’t really been following along, I can tell you where the money went: at least 18 months of bond payments during the Qwest lawsuit that blocked construction, buying the needed fiber lines from Las Vegas to Portland, building a NOC, building a shared backbone between all of the pledging cities, getting stiffed by RUS, and somehow finding enough money left to actually hook people up to it in spite of the restriction to not bond for more than 50% of the network cost. Have you ever built a house with only 50% of the financing? Didn’t think so.)

          Sorry if I seem rude, but the claims you make are nothing new to me, you ask questions that have been answered time and time again, and, as they always have been, they are bereft of any evidence, documentation, or specific explanation. It gets old really fast, and I get tired of pointing out the same fallacies every few months. Show your work to the class and I’ll probably be more gracious. So far, though, I’m not holding out hope.

          (As an aside, calling me “young man” is pretty damn condescending and I think you knew it when you wrote it. If you think we got off on the wrong foot, that’s doing a 100-yard dash on it.)

  2. Ronald D. Hunt says:

    “It will NEVER be built out and has most likely already “

    It is being built as we speak, a stimulus grant is being used in several of the cities to connect fiber to many of the different city buildings and utility services. And their new UIA model is working very well to, and under their UIA plan they are currently connecting new customers in Clearfield, with Layton and then other cities to follow before the end of the year.

    Mind posting a link to your numbers?, I would be interested in comparing them to the SAO numbers myself.

  3. Blaine Nichols says:

    Jessie,

    Sorry, at the moment I simply don’t have time to respond fully to your latest. Not because of lack of interest, but I’m leaving today to attend to something much more important that a UTOPIA discussion.

    Just tried to quickly paste and post my numbers here, but as they are in an Excel format, it doesn’t seem to work.

    Tell me how to get those numbers to you and I’ll do so as quickly as I can. I’d love to have someone, factually, tell me if (specifically where) they are wrong, or how to improve them.

    Given that I’m leaving I may not be able to respond immediately but will do so as expediciously as possible.

    In the meantime, given your contacts with Kirt Sudweeks he may be able to get them to you.

    • Jesse says:

      Google Docs is the best way I’ve found to share spreadsheets. You could also upload it to a file-sharing site like Dropbox or Megaupload and post a link. If you want to send them just to me, my email address is on the FAQ page.

    • Jesse says:

      So… it’s about a month now with no work shown. Just sayin’.

      • Blaine Nichols says:

        Jesse,

        The elk hunt is almost over.
        Obviously hunting is much more important to me than endless discussions, leading nowhere, about UTOPIA.

        I’ve just gotten back to where I’m clearing my backlog. Found your email of the 12th and post. Fear not, I’m here. Hope you will thoroughly review and SPECIFICALLY respond to my numbers.
        No . . . they are not structured on “generally accepted accounting principles” as I do not believe in the same sort of magic which is generally applied to allow companies to spin their results. My numbers are simple, straight forward and direct. They were produced several years ago from information then published for public consumption. I pretend to no inside information and have relied solely on what the pocket Politicians and plundering Promoters of UTOPIA revealed to us. You are free to “update” them with any better information you may have. You are free to post them on your website and share them with anyone who will honestly respond to my concerns.

        They should be easy to interpret and I will be pleased to clarify any point thereon to the best of my ability. Twisting those numbers into any other format will defeat a clear analysis thereof. If there is better information than that which I have used, any competent individual should easily be able to adapt that new information to fit my simple format.

        I look forward to the discussion.

        The spread sheet is now being emailed to you as you suggested on Sept. 13. Not because of any derelection on my part, but, simply because of the nature of the beast and the fact that I had better things to do that day and the several following. Just sayin’.

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