Utah think tank ranks Ogden 49th of 50 for individual freedoms

Thursday , December 03, 2015 - 10:19 PM13 comments

OGDEN — According to a new report released Wednesday by the Lehi-based Libertas Institute, Ogden ranks 49th of 50 Utah cities in terms of individual freedoms. Salt Lake City came in dead last, with Heber City taking the top spot as the state’s most liberated municipality.

The libertarian nonprofit took a close look at Utah’s most populated cities in relation to ordinances and fees that restrict personal freedoms. Over 100 metrics were used, among them alcohol sales, business permit fees, city debt, city-owned enterprises, free speech, gun regulations and sales taxes.

Cities in Davis County generally rated well, with Farmington (2), Woods Cross (3), Syracuse (5), Centerville (8), Bountiful (9) and Clinton (10) all appearing in the top 10.

West Haven (4) and North Ogden (6) represented Weber County in the top 10.

The final rankings utilized three major categories — individual liberty, private property rights, and free markets.

In terms of individual liberty, Libertas Institute ranked Ogden 42nd out of 50, giving it high marks (1) for the ease in which residents can search city ordinances online, but demerits (48) for imposing campaign contribution limits. Ogden also ranked low in this category (29) for gun regulations that exceeded state and federal law — including banning the sale of firearms at swap meets.

The Libertas report scored Ogden even lower (48th out of 50) in terms of private property rights. The city’s two-dog limit and ban on chickens in residential zones gave it a 45 in this category, and its cost of government in terms of total taxable income base ranked 50th.

The report ranked Ogden at 47th of 50 for free enterprise. The city received a score of 41 for owning six enterprises that compete with the private market and a score of 45 for its business license fees — which includes the Good Landlord Program that subjects landlords renting to tenants with criminal convictions within the last four years to higher business fees.

In terms of commercial regulations, Ogden scored a 42 due to several restrictions that include shutting down private clubs between 2 and 10 a.m., closing private parks from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and barring children in daycare from playing outside between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Conversely, Heber City got high marks for not imposing any campaign contribution caps, not employing lobbyists to represent it, allowing vacation rentals with certain conditions, permitting three dogs and four chickens and an unlimited number of beehives in residential zones, and not owning any enterprises that compete with the free market.

“Our report contains a treasure trove of data on cities,” Libertas Institute Policy Analyst Josh Daniels said in a statement, lauding the speed at which Utahns can now see how cities perform on several fronts. “Nothing like this has ever been done, and we’re thrilled to provide this service to our fellow Utahns.”

According to Connor Boyack, founder and president of Libertas Institute, many Utahns are frustrated with their city regulations but lack the time and expertise to delve into issues that matter.

“This Index provides a huge leap forward in both educating and empowering individuals throughout Utah to make a positive change in their community,” Boyack said in a statement.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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