As 11 Utah cities weigh the important decision of whether to continue negotiations with Macquarie Capital regarding the UTOPIA Network, the Utah Taxpayers Association has aggressively stepped up to once again cry foul and to vociferously criticize almost every aspect of the proposal.
While it is the Association’s right to do what they are doing and to act as a “straw-man” with the appearance of an independent voice, those involved in the debate and discussion have the right to know that the Association is acting once again, on behalf of their large telecommunications company members who see UTOPIA as a competitive threat and who would really like to see UTOPIA disbanded.
If the Utah Taxpayers Association really represented the taxpayers of Utah in this discussion and not just a few of their special interest members, they would be stepping up to offer careful and critical commentary as well as suggestions that only an organization with their exceptional skill-set and expertise can advance. But no, now and in many other instances, they are using their powerful voice to really say the things a few of their well-heeled members, who consider UTOPIA to be a competitive threat, want them to say.
For years and years, the Association has prided itself on its ability to look into matters in almost every community in the State. For the most part, those communities have graciously and openly provided the Association with whatever information they have requested. Perhaps it is now time for the Association to reciprocate. It is time for the Association to open its books. How many membership, sponsorship and other dollars have come to the Association from telecommunications companies in the last ten years? The Association will say that such information is confidential, but if they are not willing to be open and transparent, as to their key sources of funding in the midst of an important debate like the one currently in question, then their voice and input should be considered in question and be largely ignored.
The Association has branded itself as “Your Tax Watchdog.” It may be time for one “Watchdog” to take a long hard look at another “Watchdog.” Utah’s Investigative Media should undertake a very careful and thorough look at the Utah Taxpayers Association’s sources of funding for their current UNOPIA and other similar campaigns.
Lewis Billings is the former mayor of Provo