If Republicans win control of the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah will chair a subcommittee that oversees the District. Chaffetz, who sleeps on a cot in his office when he’s here in D.C., sees nothing wrong with giving power over local affairs to lawmakers who represent people far, far away. It’s in the Constitution, after all.
We don’t think he’d like it much if Washingtonians got to decide what happens in Provo, Utah, the largest city in his district. But we figured we may as well pretend we can, anyway. So we pored through the Provo municipal code and its city budget, and now we want your votes on how Chaffetz’s home should conduct its business. Of course, since the District is the only city in the nation that’s required to bow to the wishes of outsiders, these votes won’t be binding. But still!
Quite a few Republicans, including Chaffetz, have been critical of the District’s gun ban. But Provo bans the discharge of firearms within its own city limits. If Congress is going to make D.C. allow guns here, why should Provo’s citizens be barred from shooting at home?
Sensibilities in Provo are rather delicate; the city bans a wide range of “lewdness, profanity, nudity, obscenity and pornography” in public. Don’t dream of using “abusive, menacing, insulting, slanderous, or profane language” or “the uttering of obscenities,” or you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Likewise, it's illegal to "possess, import, write, compose, stereotype, print, design, copy, draw, paint, or otherwise prepare” illustrations or photos of sexual conduct. Which is to say, Chaffetz’s love of the Constitution may not extend all the way to the First Amendment. We think Provo’s citizens could handle a little profanity or nudity. Loosen up out there!
Gay Marriage in Utah
In Utah County, where Provo is located, the rules for marriage licenses specify the applicants must be “male and female.” Clearly, the District’s enlightened attitude toward gay marriage hasn’t made its way out west yet. Let’s put that to a vote. (After all, at $50 a pop, the licenses could help the county keep its books balanced—and every little bit helps!)
No Dancing With Your Beer
Utah liquor regulations have a long, and complicated, history, and Provo is no exception. The city code only deals with beer, not hard alcohol, and even that’s quite restricted. Provo forbids the sale of beer in “a dance hall.” But beer’s been enabling people to get past their self-consciousness and hit the floor for centuries! Why shouldn’t Provo residents be allowed a little liquid courage before they ask someone to dance?
Provo maintains a municipal cemetery, operated by the city sexton. The Provo City Code says the sexton can remove flowers from graves after five days, and flowers are only allowed on the headstone or cement area near graves. Which seems a little rash; grief is a complicated process, after all. And why is Big Government telling Provo citizens how they can mourn?
Spare a Dime?
Like many cities—including the District—Provo’s municipal finances have suffered during the recession. The city’s proposed 2011 budget included a 6 percent cut. Clearly, times are tough. One way to find a little more revenue: the Reserve at East Bay Golf Course, owned and operated by the city of Provo. We doubt many members of Congress would think Washingtonians were entitled to cheap golf in this troubled economy. Why should Provo citizens get to play golf seven days a week for the low price of $595 a season? Let's double the fees!
Thanks to Utah’s public records laws, you, too, can stick your nose into Jason Chaffetz’s hometown’s business. Start with the Provo FY 2011 budget (PDF). And then dig into the City Code. If you have other suggestions for how Provo’s government should run itself, leave them in the comments. And don’t let the fact that you don’t live there stop you—after all, when it comes to Washington, it sure doesn’t stop Chaffetz.