Sen. Howard Stephenson, with whom I often disagree, made some waves when he declared that college might be a waste of time. On the surface, it seems like a silly argument. College graduates still earn more than non-graduates and many skilled job positions still require a degree. That said, the return on investment has been getting much longer and many skilled professional without degrees often have just as much earning potential. I think this opens up a broader discussion on the real value of a college degree and a high school diploma.
My jaw just about dropped when I saw that Qwest’s top lobbyist, Eric Isom, was running for a seat in the state legislature. (House District 15, to be exact.) He’s currently up against 3 other Republicans at the upcoming convention. What’s shocking about this is that if delegates in his district truly knew who he is, he’d be turned out on his head. In this post, I intend to full lay out why Eric Isom is completely unfit for public office in our state.
For starters, there’s the whole lobbyist thing. It’s bad enough that Sen. Howard Stephenson is both lobbyist and legislator, but to add one more to the heap? Mr. Isom comically claims that, if elected, he would resign his position as a lobbyist at Qwest and take another position with the company. How exactly does that resolve the conflict of interest? Even if he resigned from the company entirely, I doubt that would magically balance his votes as a lawmaker. I don’t know what other employment Mr. Isom would find given that his position prior to that was as a lobbyist for the GOP. Do you really want another professional lobbyist in the legislature?
As part of Eric Isom’s work with Qwest, he has sought out the elimination of price controls on basic phone service which sharply increased costs for customers across the state. Qwest is also reportedly seeking a $50M rate increase from you, the taxpayer, to finance their network construction plans. This is despite receiving over $2.7B in benefits from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to build advanced fiber optic connections to every customer in the state and promote better competition for phone service. Do these sound like the actions of someone who’s looking out for the taxpayer… or looking for a handout for a multi-billion dollar corporation? Do you think he’ll stop doing it once elected?
It’s also worth noting that residents of Layton could see a nice, hefty tax increase thanks to the actions of Mr. Isom’s employer, Qwest. In 2004, Qwest successfully lobbied for SB66, a bill that placed strict financing restrictions on any municipality seeking to build a municipal telecommunications system. Layton was a part of UTOPIA at the time and was stuck with a commitment to build the network while not being allowed to bond for more than half of the total system cost. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper when you could only borrow half of the money! This restriction combined with Qwest’s frivolous lawsuit against UTOPIA, which was dismissed, has seriously degraded the financial health of the network and will likely cause increased taxes, decreased services, or both in Layton for at least several years. Do you want someone in office who would represent and push those aims?
Delegates and voters in Utah State House District 15, do not vote for Eric Isom. To do so is to encourage more malfeasance and corporate welfare at the hands of his current employer, Qwest.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah “Taxpayers” Association, finds himself in the middle of picking market winners and losers in Paul Rolly’s latest column. Apparently our lobbyist senator pressured a purchasing committee to pick a favored vendor even going so far as to have the RFP re-written to be tailor made for the company. Now the company is bankrupt and the state is out $3.5M with nothing to show for it. And yet, this same Senator and the organization he heads spend an awful lot of time talking about how UTOPIA is unfair market competition and how the free market should rule.
Howard Stephenson, you’re a hypocrite.