Least free? Once again, Salt Lake beats Ogden

Sunday , December 06, 2015 - 7:15 AM1 comment

OGDEN — Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

I’ve worked in Ogden for 30 years. When my pregnant wife and I first moved our little family to this area back in the spring of 1985, the one thing that quickly became evident from talking to the locals was that Ogden has long struggled with an inferiority complex.

The source of that complex became just as instantly apparent. With Salt Lake City a mere 30 minutes down Interstate 15, it was natural for Junction City to feel excruciatingly self-conscious about its place in the Beehive Universe.

Fortunately, the times they are a-changing. All due respect to Salt Lake, but many Ogdenites are beginning to realize their town is infinitely more interesting, more real, more livable than her big sister to the south.

But now, with one little report, O-town is back to being second banana again.

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

Ogden recently finished runner-up to Salt Lake City in yet another statewide report, this time for “Least Free City in Utah.”

It’s all courtesy of a report released a few days ago by Libertas Institute, a Lehi-based nonprofit public-policy organization “working to advance the cause of liberty in Utah.” In that report, Ogden ranked 49th out of 50 cities in terms of individual freedoms — second only to, you guessed it, Salt Lake City.

To draw attention to the findings, Libertas Institute put up a billboard in downtown Salt Lake that reads, “SLC! You’re the LEAST FREE CITY IN UTAH.” The billboard also includes the mention of a website, FreestCities.org, in case you’re interested in obtaining more information about this fairly outlandish statement.

Of course, finishing runner-up in this dubious distinction earned Ogden no such billboards — just that gnawing feeling that, once again, we’re sitting second fiddle.

(And at the other end of the scale, according to Libertas, Heber City is the freest city in the state, followed by Farmington. Which is curious, because it means that this columnist lives in the second-freest city in Utah, but works in her second-most-restrictive city. Personally, I don’t see either.)

So here’s the thing: I don’t agree with all of the Libertas Institute’s conclusions. After all, liberty is a two-headed coin, and the same regulation that restricts one freedom may actually promote another.

However, while ranking Utah’s cities on a sort of “liberty scale” feels fairly ridiculous, I do give the organization all sorts of props just for compiling and presenting this mass of interesting data in one place.

The report looks at 22 metrics, in three general categories — individual liberty, private property, and free enterprise. It compares 50 Utah cities on everything from free speech, truancy laws, gun regulation and animal restrictions, to land-use prohibitions, taxes, beer-sale restrictions and business licenses.

So, for example, if you favor fewer gun regulations, Syracuse and West Haven would appear to be better towns for you than Kaysville and South Ogden. If you’re a truant junior high school student, you’ve got better odds of wandering the city during school hours in Brigham City and North Ogden than Layton and Roy.

Wanna keep chickens or bees? You’ll find Farmington and Logan more welcoming than Clearfield and Ogden. And as far as alcohol licensing goes, North Ogden and Woods Cross are more accommodating than Syracuse and Clinton.

While some of the simplified conclusions may be a bit misleading, Libertas Institute has certainly produced an incredibly fascinating report. And it’s infinitely more accurate than some online check-cashing service deciding to name Provo the state’s most self-conscious city.

Because everybody knows that’s Ogden.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

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