Thursday, December 29, 2005

Game-Day Open Thread -- Updated

Possible topics:

  • My Utah Utes lead the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets 20-10 going into the Emerald Bowl half-time, much to the suprise of even many diehard Utah fans -- and the national sports press corps(e). Despite suffering a 20-0 deficit early in the first two quarters, the "jackets" seem to have found their "game." What will be the final result? Disgruntled BYU losers fans are invited to chime in.

  • That uneducated moron Utah Senator Buttars has an "Intelligent Design" bill coming up in the next legislative session. Here's a link to his rank stupidity. Be sure to read ALL the comments.
I'm also graciously providing one Utah bloggers' local responses to Sen. Moron's flakey bill, here. As an added bonus, here's a little cheat sheet, for those of you who lack a "science" background, and might actually take the botched Sen. Buttars and his medieval moronic ilk seriously.

AND PUH-LEASE! Let's not have anybody here tell me Senator Buttars is NOT a moron. Some things in life are self-evident.

This is your forum, gentle readers. If anyone wishes to get something "off their chest" during the current Weber County Forum "Holiday Hiatus," besides any of the above, please feel free to "do" it here.

You can discuss any of the suggested topics, or start a jagged one of your own.

You know what to do.

Who wants to be the first to post his/her comments?

Update 12/30/05 7:57 a.m. MT: A tip of the hat to Brad Wooden, of Ogden, whose most excellent and rational rant appeared in this morning's Standard-Examiner letters section. He hits the nail squarely on the head, in a cranky style and tone, well-worthy of a Weber County Forum Gentle Reader.

Update 12/30/05 1:48 p.m. MT: For those interested in a lively discussion of the "Intelligent Design" situation, Utah House Majority Whip Steve Urquhart has one happening on his blog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No Harm; No Foul! Welcome Boyer Company! - Updated

I suppose we can chalk this up as the anti-climactic story of the year. We ALL knew this was going to happen.

The city council (acting as the Ogden RDA board) ratified the Boyer development contract and Phase 1 site lease (with Phase 2 options) last night, by a unanimous 5-0 vote. That's right. There were no dissenting votes. Nor should there have been. All-in-all -- it's a fair and even-handed deal, in my not so humble opinion. What few things that are a little out of whack can be easily fixed by the new city council.

Now I know what some of you are going to say: "Rudi! You've sold out! You're back in Mayor Pee-wee's pocket again. You've sold out to the neoCONs," you'll say.

Well... As President Kennedy used to say, "Let me say this about that:"

I obtained copies of all the relevant documents yesterday, and took a couple of hours to scrutinize them. Having done that, I realized that some of us had unduly gotten "our panties in a bunch" over what seems now to me a "tempest in a teapot" situation.

I've reviewed the operative documents, as I said. They are completely fair and equitable, in my opinion. They reflect give-and-take negotiations. They're exceptionally well-drafted and craftsman-like, from a lawyer-drafter standpoint. There are also no acute NO "red flags" that I can find; (and I've been reviewing documents such as these for decades.) The operative documents protect both Boyer and our Ogden RDA (the Landlord.)

There are fifty-plus pages to these documents, so you can assure yourselves you won't find them all dutifully (and manually) posted here. So forget that. There is a short "Executive Summary," though, which fairly accurately sums up the important details of the Development and Lease agreements that were ratified last night.

I'll say frankly that I feel very sorry for the outgoing councilmembers, who've maintained their "citizen frigidity" for all these years.

Methinks the semi-functional, sometimes drooling, sometimes "nodded out" Fasi Filiaga sums it all up for the outgoing "lame ducks" with this great quote from John Wright's headline "Top of Utah" story:

“This is our decision,” current Councilman Fasi Filiaga said (somehow repressing the urge to tell shark-capturing stories of his Tongan youth,) addressing two council members-elect in the audience. “You have plenty of things to do. ... This is my last night, and I want it done.”

These people "own" the mall site projects, after all. They have the psychological need to feel like they've "done something" during their dismal tenures, as the city hall screen door slaps them on the backside at the end of the year, I think.

It's all about ego, of course, with the outgoing, Godfrey-compliant city council.

My take on the Boyer deal: No harm; no foul.

It could have been a helluva lot worse.

Welcome aboard, Boyer Co. Our fingers are crossed; and we're all counting on you.

Comments, gentle readers?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Question the PATRIOT Act Now – Before It's Too Late

December 27, 2005
Weber County Forum Rudi-Annotated version
Via: U.S. (R) Rep. Ron Paul

Okay. I confess I doctored it up with my own links. So read it anyway.

Recent revelations that the National Security Agency has conducted broad surveillance of American citizens' e-mails and phone calls raise serious questions about the proper role of government in a free society. This is an important and healthy debate, one that too often goes ignored by Congress.

Public concerns about the misnamed PATRIOT Act are having an impact, as the Senate last week refused to reauthorize the bill for several years. Instead, Congress will be back in Washington next month to consider many of the Act's most harmful provisions.

Of course most governments, including our own, cannot resist the temptation to spy on their citizens when it suits government purposes. But America is supposed to be different. We have a mechanism called the Constitution that is supposed to place limits on the power of the federal government. Why does the Constitution have an enumerated powers clause, if the government can do things wildly beyond those powers – such as establish a domestic spying program? Why have a 4th Amendment, if it does not prohibit government from eavesdropping on phone calls without telling anyone?

We're told that Sept. 11 changed everything, that new government powers like the PATRIOT Act are necessary to thwart terrorism. But these are not the most dangerous times in American history, despite the self-flattery of our politicians and media. This is a nation that expelled the British, saw the White House burned to the ground in 1814, fought two world wars, and faced down the Soviet Union. Sept. 11 does not justify ignoring the Constitution by creating broad new federal police powers. The rule of law is worthless if we ignore it whenever crises occur.

The administration assures us that domestic surveillance is done to protect us. But the crucial point is this: Government assurances are not good enough in a free society. The overwhelming burden must always be placed on government to justify any new encroachment on our liberty. Now that the emotions of Sept. 11 have cooled, the American people are less willing to blindly accept terrorism as an excuse for expanding federal surveillance powers. Conservatives who support the Bush administration should remember that powers we give government today will not go away when future administrations take office.

Some senators last week complained that the PATRIOT Act is misunderstood. But it's not the American public's fault nobody knows exactly what the PATRIOT Act does. The Act contains over 500 pages of detailed legalese, the full text of which was neither read nor made available to Congress in a reasonable time before it was voted on – which by itself should have convinced members to vote against it. Many of the surveillance powers authorized in the Act are not clearly defined and have not yet been tested. When they are tested, court challenges are sure to follow. It is precisely because we cannot predict how the PATRIOT Act will be interpreted and used in future decades that we should question it today.

Original "un-doctored" article


What happened to the "true conservatives," I ask?

What happened to the guys with the elephant lapel-pins who used to believe in small and frugal government, jealous protection of God-ordained individual constitutional rights, and non-intervention in international affairs?

Why, exactly, do we behave as a nation of grubby and greedy frightened rabbits?

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Three Scrooges

For your reading pleasure, gentle readers: three disparate interpretations of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol.

1) The socialist take

2) The anti-libertarian take

3) The traditional-sentimentalist take

A universally popular tale -- susceptible to so many plausible interpretations.

Merry Christmas to all... from your home-grown die-hard political wonk.

Feel free to offer your comments and counter-arguments.

A Christmas Eve massage on Christianity and the Christian "Taproot"

Food for thought this Christian holiday season

Friday, December 23, 2005

Pre Christmas Friday Pot-luck

Like most bloggers, I'm planning to "lighten up" in my postings as we move into the Big Holiday, so I thought I'd post a couple of things on lighter note than the cholesterol-laden and heavily-marbled USDA choice red meat that's usually on the menu here, clogging the arteries and neurons of our gentle readers here at the "Black Angus Restaurant" of community forums.

First... here's one slab of lean meat I've had simmering "on the back burner" for a couple of days:

The Standard-Examiner breathlessly reported on Tuesday, that Ogden City's Finest, the Ogden Police Department, are the slimmest and most emaciated batch of law enforcement officers in the land.

The theory cited in the Std-Ex article is Chief Greiner's "physical fitness program" as being the cause of all this.

My theory is that the guys and gals in blue are all working on starvation diets, which goes along with the starvation wages. A "tip o' the hat" to Mayor Godfrey, for inadvertantly keeping Ogden's Finest physically fit. As always, Weber County Forum will alway "ingratiatingly spin" the news in Mayor Pee-Wee's favor. I always give credit where it's due.

Some would wonder about Chief Greiner's passing the test, just to look at him. Nobody with a brain thinks he's exactly starving-- especially with his wealthy (Lindquist) family connections. Maybe he just sucked in his gut before he got measured for his vest. Who knows?

Secondly, I'm going to post that "Holiday Light Display" again... the one that I posted and then deleted last week, after complaints that it had "locked up" the computers of some of our gentle readers who still don't have broadband connections. Here is is again... back by popular request. Remember... this link is NOT recommended for slow internet connections.

Last but not least, for the mainly-testosterone-propelled, there's the latest "Hooters" calendar.

I received this via email from my brother-in-law from Canada, who originally hails from the "Great White North," the land of the Ice and Snow, even in this era of global-warming. Print it out. It's the ultimate gift, I swear, for the macho outback camo-clad "woodsman" on your last-minute gift list:




Click to enlarge

Comments, anyone? Consider this an Open Thread, if you'd like.

Update 12/24/05 9:27 a.m. MT: Apparently, the lightshow wasn't a big hit with the local Sheriff's Department.

And here's some more background info on the Christmas light display.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fantastic Displays of Holiday Generosity

We wrote earlier this week of the emotionally wrenching story of Rita Fernandez and her husband Humberto "Bert" Fernandez-Vargas. Mr. Fernandez-Vargas had been deported to Mexico in 2003, under circumstances where the cold application of federal law could not have clashed more harshly with the human equities of the circumstances.

One of our gentle readers framed it best, I think:

Curmudgeon said...

Let me see if I have this right.

We had a stable family, owning a home, paying a mortgage and other taxes, raising kids and running a small business. Following the deportation, we have lost a small business, a mortgage is in foreclosure, a stable family has been disrupted, and a wife and mother are about to become homeless and go on welfare to live.

I need a Compassionate Conservative to explain to me how "the people" have gained on this exchange.
In a truly fantastic display of holiday-season generosity, members of the greater community have rallied to the aid of the Fernandez family. Not only have the necessary funds been donated to cure the mortgage loan arrearages, but the sum of $45,000 has also been contributed, on very short notice, to pay off the entire mortgage, as Shane Farver reports in this morning's heart-warming Standard-Examiner story.

Whether this story would have had such a happy ending, had it occurred at any other time of the year, is anybody's guess, but congratulations are owed to the many people who reached into their pockets to help the Fernandez family.

Donations are still being accepted to finance Mr. Fernandez-Vargas's upcoming US Supreme Court appeal, whereby the Fernandez family seeks to overturn the deportation order and re-unite the family. For more details, read the Shane Farver story in today's Std-Ex.


Marshall White Donations: Speaking of holiday generosity, and on a slightly different topic, I'll note in passing that donations can also be made to the Marshall White Center Sub For Santa Program which we discussed here on Tuesday. I spoke with program director Fritz Backman yesterday, and he'll be available until mid-afternoon today, to accept your generous donations. I'll note additionally that our gentle readers have been "coming through" on their pledges with some very sizeable contributions, and Mr. Backman thanks us all for our generosity. If you'd still like to help out the Marshall White Center kids, call Fritz today at 598-5170.

Reader comments are invited, as always.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lame-Ducks "Own" the Mall-Site Project for the Next Seventy Years, Jorgenson Says

It would appear that an Ogden city/Boyer Company mall-site management/development contract is all but a done deal, gentle readers, according to this morning's John Wright Standard-Examiner story.

The lame duck city council has suddenly added one remaining "big-ticket" item to its dwindling agenda. Ratification of the Ogden city/Boyer pact has been set for the December 27 council calendar; and after that date there will realistically be no turning back -- not within most of our lifetimes.

"Under the proposed "development agreement," the Boyer Co. would lease Phase I of the mall site, which covers most of the area between 23rd and 24th Streets, from the city for 40 years, with options to renew for another 30 years. The Boyer Co. would be responsible for developing the land and would split with the city the revenue from subleases with the tenants."

John's article enumerates other significant contract terms:

1) Boyer will be obligated to "develop" a multiscreen theater, 50,000 square feet of retail space, and 40,000 square feet of retail space on the Phase I site. (John's report is silent, unfortunately, about specifically who will be legally-obligated to pay for the future build-outs, or whether Ogden city will be absolved from participation in any future financing. The article does say, however, "[t]he Boyer Co. would be responsible for developing the land..." so perhaps future financing won't actually be the taxpayers' problem.)

2) Boyer will have an option to develop Phase II of the mall project, which is the area between 2250 South, Washington Boulevard, 23rd Street, and Kiesel Avenue.

Assuming that Boyer exercises all available options, this would apparently bind virtually ALL the available buildable land at the mall-site for the next seventy years. The citizens of Ogden City will be in bed with the Boyer Co. well into the lifetimes of our grand-children. Whether this is a good or bad thing I do not know. What I do know is that Boyer Co. knows how to drive a hard bargain.

I will say that it's encouraging, though, to see that Boyer Co. will apparently be "ram-rodding" this project. At least our city fathers seem bright enough to recognize that they lack the capacity to handle something as complicated as this themselves. And we'll all have to concede, I think, that the Boyer Co. has done a better than decent job with BDO.

John reports that there's already been some squabbling about the timing of the ratification. Whereas our newly-elected councilpeople complain that the contract ratification should be put off until they are seated, the lame-duck council, forever true to their nefarious past patterns, indicate that they intend to shove one last project down the citizens' throats, before their reign of terror is ended.

"I feel we own this project because we worked on it," lame-duck Comrade Jorgenson says.

I'll be doing some research on this today, and will try to gather a little more information about the precise terms of the Ogden City/Boyer contract. If I come up with anything interesting, I'll be sure to report back here with an update.

The Standard-Examiner's IP people apparently forgot to upload today's edition to the StandardNET website, so I can't furnish a link to today's hard-copy story. They say they're 'working" on it. I'll post a link if the story ever appears. (I mention this, because the Std-Ex hard-copy edition featured a multicolored map that seemed to indicate that the small parcel which the Church of the Good Shepard has been trying to acquire, is now excluded from the above-mentioned Phase I map. Could this spell good news for Rev. Linton and his congregation? We can only hope.)

In the meantime, what say our gentle readers about all this?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Marshall White Center Needs Our Help

I received this missive in this morning's email:


I've been helping the staff at the Marshall White Center provide some assistance during the holiday season to those in our community who truly need it. They have selected very needy families with children that participate in their programs or live in the area adjacent to the Marshall White Center.

There are several children selected for their Sub for Santa Program that are still in need of sponsors. I have listed their needs (and wants) below. Non perishable food items are also appreciated.

1 year old female wears size 12-18 mo clothes and diapers
Needs age appropriate toys and books.

3 year old male wears boys size 3-T clothes
Loves anything with motorcycles or Spiderman

5 year old female wears size girls 4-5 slim clothes
Loves Carebears and Strawberry Shortcake

7 year old female wears girls size 8 regular shirts and
Likes Bratz toys and board games.

Do you think this is something WC Forum readers may wish to participate in?

If so, let me know how I can help facilitate this. The staff at the MWC would need the items by Thursday evening.


Amy Wicks

I phoned Marshall White Center and spoke with Fritz Backman, who is in charge of the Marshall White Sub for Santa program. He confirms that the details that Amy mentioned are still un-filled as of this morning, and that there are several other children who also remain in need of donations, in addition the ones Amy mentioned.

Donations may be made by donating pre-purchased items, by "gift card" or the old-fashioned way -- cash. Unfortunately it's too late to submit a donation by check; it takes about two weeks for check funds to wind up in the Sub For Santa fund. I suspect there may be other methods, however. Your donations are of course tax-deductible. To make arrangements for your sponsorship, please call Fritz on his mobile phone at 598-5170. Marshall White's main number is 629-8346, (although the telephones seem to be monitored by one of those damnable "voicemail systems.")

If you'd like to make a holiday difference for some of our community's less-privileged folks, dig into your pockets and contact Fritz directly. Let's support the Marshall White Center, and the people who depend upon it, even though it's not part of the administration's "vision." Time is of the essence, of course. Be sure to designate that your donations with the reference: "Fritz Backman -- Sub For Santa Program."

Fritz thanks us in advance for our support.

And thank you, Amy, for the "heads up."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Charlotte Conference Reports

Our gentle readers will recall our December 3, 2005 article, wherein we discussed our Ogden City council delegation's four-day National League of Cities conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. As you'll recall, they'd received some gentle "ribbing," about hob-nobbing the the neoCON faction.

The convention ended last weekend; and our delegation returned to Ogden, with box-loads of information in hand. Both council-members-elect Dorrene Jeske and Bill Glasmann graciously volunteered to provide us full reports. True to their words, I received detailed articles yesterday evening. In the interest of conserving front page-space, I'll make them available through the following links:

You can read Dorrene's Jeske's report here.

You can read Bill Glasmann's report here.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank both of these new council-members for expending the time and energy to inform our readers about the Charlotte event. It's obvious that they both worked hard and learned much.

What's more, it's very encouraging to observe that both of these new council-persons are delivering on their campaign promises, even prior to their formal swearing-in, to keep the townsfolk informed.

Their lame-duck predecessors arrogantly behaved as if our Weber County Forum readership, numbering now in the thousands, didn't even exist. Of course, that's no different than how they treated the general public.

A tip of the hat to Dorrene and Bill, I say.

It's a new day in Ogden, I think.

And what think our gentle readers about this?

No Home for the Holidays

Deseret Morning News, Saturday, December 17, 2005

No home for the holidays
Ogden woman couldn't pay for house after husband deported

By Dennis Romboy
Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — A woman who has scrambled to make ends meet since U.S. immigration authorities deported her husband may not have a home for the holidays either.

Rita Fernandez cries in front of her Ogden home. The mortgage company has foreclosed on the house and it will be sold.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

The house Rita Fernandez and Humberto "Bert" Fernandez-Vargas shared for more than 20 years is scheduled to be sold at public auction Wednesday, just four days before Christmas. The mortgage company foreclosed on the house after she was unable to keep up the monthly payments.

"I don't know where we're going to go or what we're going to do from here," said Fernandez, whose birthday is Tuesday. "Some birthday present, huh?"

Fernandez lives with the couple's 16-year-old son, Anthony. Her mother lives across the street, but moving in with her would bring other complications. She has other family members in the area who she said have helped her all they can.

A homemaker with few job skills, Fernandez found work at a local market about six months ago. She earns $800 a month. The monthly house payment is $700. The tiny, two-bedroom home surrounded by manufacturing plants on Ogden's industrial west side is valued at about $60,000. The couple rented it before buying it in 2000.

"It's not a rich house, but I love my house. I do," she said.

Metwest Mortgage Services initiated the foreclosure, and Salt Lake-based Lundberg & Associates is handling the trustee's sale. A spokeswoman for the firm declined to talk about the property.

Fernandez earlier sold her furniture and other household items, including her artificial Christmas tree, at a yard sale to pay bills and keep food in the cupboard.

She's now thinking about selling her cherished glass vases and other collectibles.

Anthony worked part time at a restaurant but was let go after school started in the fall.

The family was featured in the recent Deseret Morning News series "Life in the Shadows," which examined illegal immigration in Utah.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Fernandez-Vargas in September 2003 during a routine interview on his application to become a permanent resident. Unbeknownst to him, the government had reinstated a 1981 deportation order.

Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, who was deported to Mexico, earns only $10 a week.

Tyler Sipe, Deseret Morning News

He first came to the United States as a teenager around 1970. He was deported three times, most recently in 1981. He returned in 1982, eventually settling in Ogden, where he married Rita, an American citizen, fathered a son and owned a trucking business. By all accounts, he was an upstanding and taxpaying member of the community.

Fernandez-Vargas mounted a legal challenge to his deportation that has worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments are expected next spring. The outcome could clarify the rights of hundreds of thousands of longtime illegal immigrants to seek permission to remain in the United States.

Fernandez talks to her husband twice a week on the telephone. She dreaded telling him about the house, but finally did this past Wednesday. "He was really, really upset," she said.

Fernandez-Vargas, who lives in Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, recently found a job installing heaters in homes for $10 a week. Much of his income goes to rheumatoid arthritis medication.

Workers at Misc. Pickins' Mercantile where Fernandez works help her out as much as they can. Owner Lesley George is thinking about having a sale with part of the proceeds going to Fernandez.

Donations to the Fernandez family are being accepted at c/o Lesley George, P.O. Box 444, Roy, UT 84067 or by calling 801-334-6345.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Note from Bob Geiger

Watch for more Ski companies to come

By Bob Geiger

Do you remember a little while back when all the discussions were going on about what to do downtown…a guy on your blog went on and on about how we should be pursuing the Medical and Technology industries rather than the Ski and Recreation industry?

Do you remember me responding that the Medical and Technology industries will not pioneer the rebirth of Ogden that the pioneering would have to be done by smaller industries that create an appealing environment for the bigger Medical and Technology industries to follow?

Do you remember me telling your readers to watch closely….they might see a move by the medical community in downtown Ogden if the Rec Center, Hub Concept, and Gondola continue to move forward?

The Hospital that is on the front cover of today’s paper is the project that I was referencing…and it happened in response to the approval of the Rec Center and to mounting evidence that the other components (Chris Peterson, Scott USA, Larry Miller, Others) would become reality. The evidence presented itself, and not more than a couple of weeks later, there is serious discussion of a Hospital downtown…IN WALKS THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY…

More is happening and coming every day. I wish I were at liberty to tell everyone. The companies in question want to be discrete, but they came this week because the Rec Center provided sufficient proof that the Gondola and other components are going to be a reality.

I read how your readers think, and I don’t believe that they are giving sufficient credit to the efforts of our elected officials and our business community. I wonder at what point they will assess the mounting evidence and say: “Good Job”. It may come after it is all said and done, but what does that say for your readers. They certainly aren’t the people to listen to when you’re trying to move forward.

For almost a year, your readers tried to sell the Mayor as a Crazy, Stupid, Dishonest Man because he thought that a bowling alley and a Gold’s Gym would revitalize Ogden. They refused to acknowledge that the plans were bigger and broader than a bowling alley and a Gold’s Gym. They kept calling for “written proof” from Larry Miller, and the like. Well, written proof is no longer necessary, and even in the face of all that is happening, they have refused to soften their rhetoric and at least acknowledge that the plan seems to be delivering some valid momentum and have a scale and scope that would make sense to a lot of sane people, including 5 of the 7 city councilmen.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to hi-lite that what the business leaders and elected leaders are saying isn’t just rhetoric. It is information that materializes with tangible results that occur over time-lines that preclude some observers from connecting the dots and recalling the facts and statements that they are given.

Watch for more Ski companies to come. Hollywood has been visiting with WSU….Why? because of all of these projects….watch for results there….they’ve been working with Chris Peterson.

It’s not the critic who counts. It’s the man who is actually in the arena. We need positive thinkers who get things done.


Bob Geiger


Bob Geiger is a corporate executive with Ogden-based Descente, N.A, an Ogden community pro-development activist, and semi-regular contributor to Weber County Forum.

WalMart Buys Silence From The American Media

Via: The Left Coaster:

"Peter Hart and Janine Jackson make the case over at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting that WalMart gets a lot more than advertising with their large ad budgets. They seemingly also get as an extra intended benefit -- an American media that is uninterested in doing balanced investigative journalism on WalMart's practices."

It seems to me the same can be said with respect ot our local home-town newspaper, too.

Disregarding the issues surrounding the eminent domain debate, do we really want to be a Wally-Mart Town?

Anybody have any particular thoughts on this?

Car-Dealer "Wisdom"

Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
XXII - Of Cunning
Essays, Civil and Moral
The Harvard Classics, 1904-14

I caught this morning's interesting Deseret Morning News story , concerning the peculiar business parctices of a Boise car dealer, a Fortune 1000 company, with 94 dealerships in 12 Western states. Lithia Ford certainly knows how to make money. It had $2.7 billion in sales last year.

Perhaps by coincidence, this morning's Standard-Examiner contains this "stirring" editorial, concerning another car-dealer -- a "guy who [also] knows how to make money."

Mr. Miller waxed lavish in his praise for Ogden Mayor Godfrey at Tuesday morning's rec center groundbreaking, for flouting the public will, and throwing caution to the wind in his conduct of the affairs of the public. "It's no fun not taking risks," car-dealer Larry Miller says.

Is it possible these two media articles might possibly share a common theme?

Multiple common themes, perhaps?

Just a thought.

What say our gentle readers about this?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Guest Editorial -- An Essay on Taxation Without Representation in Utah

Utah’s on the same destructive path with RDA’s as English Parliament was in 1765 with the Stamp Act.

-Steve Huntsman

In Feburary 1765, 240 years ago, the minister of finance, George Grenville, persuaded the English House of Commons to pass a controversial bill called the Stamp Act. The bill passed, becoming law on Feburary 13. As a result, and from that point on, the American colonists were required to:

“Purchase government-issued stamps to be placed on all legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, advertisements, and many other articles which were sold or distributed in the colony’s”

As most American’s today know, what followed as a result of the stamp act was only an embryonic seed to the list of grievances, which led ultimately to the Declaration of Independence and a Revolutionary War. Why? What principle or human rights were violated?

Merely, taxation without representation by an arbitrary governing body.

Benjamin Franklin, who had been sent to England by the colonist Assembly to defend the colonies against this act, wrote a full 12 years prior to the revolutionary war about the act, “A total separation….will be the final consequences” and that America “may suffer at present under the arbitrary power of this country (British Parliament)….and the (colonists) think them (these resolutions) unconstitutional and unjust.” Italics added.

Following the Stamp Act, the enraged colonists in addition to rioting, began ignoring the stamps themselves altogether, and completely boycotted many British goods.

In time, the colonist’s actions had the desired affect; in short, the British (currently at war with France) had their tax coffers ruined, and the British merchants began begging Parliament to repeal the act. This act was eventually repealed, but the fight; well it was just beginning. Reader, keep this principle above in mind as I move to present day.

Applying correct historical principles to today

While I am not speaking for North Ogden City, I am one of their local elected representatives at present, and for those interested, I do, without delight, have the power granted to me by the Utah Legislators to raise, and yes to also lower, North Ogden citizens property taxes, that is with a majority Council vote and following due process, which includes public hearings, etc. I do not bring this up for adulations, but quite the contrary as the statements in this article would be considered suicidal by most politicians seeking office. So why do I boldly bring this up, that is, by not using a fictitious pen name with fictitious examples?

Because, it is important for the reader to recognize the proper procedure for a municipality in Utah to both raise and allocate its taxes on its citizens; to legally collect the tax, and in turn to use the tax to pay for roads, police and fire protection, and infrastructure and other public services deemed appropriate and made legal by the State legislators.

In fact, most citizens will normally submit to paying their portion of the property tax, without the threat of force, because they can generally see some benefits from it. I am not arguing for, or against property tax on real-estate property. However, what I am arguing is that taxation in this case above is done with representation. The citizens of North Ogden and Ogden who elect, have to make a tough choice in two years. They can keep us, or toss us out in favor of a better and hopefully wiser group. This is not arbitrary government. This is proper government, and local legislators who decide to levy and in turn spend the taxes of their citizens must answer for their choices in the voting booth every 2 to 4 years.

While most of us, myself included, dislike and oppose taxing our real-estate property, we continue to pay it and continue to re-elect those willing to provide those services, but not those who abuse these sacred tax funds. Local taxes are for our mutual public benefit and safety.

This is the intent of what our founding fathers envisioned when they penned the constitution and amendments. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the constitutionality of taxing your home and property, the fact is, it is taxation with representation, and most people decide they are willing to pay it, and public force is generally applied with justice only to those who decide not to pay. People willingly do this for good police and fire protection, good roads and good infrastructure and a good military.

Applying this in-correct principle to today

Suppose North Ogden City decides to build an aquatic center by spending the taxes from other citizen’s property tax (those outside our city). Let’s choose to spend taxes for those who live in say, Weber County. Most wise and trusting people believe this would not happen. Believe it or not there is a law in Utah currently under legislative moratorium which allows this very thing to happen today.

Most of us believe and have faith in our method of taxation because we are represented. However, if most citizens understood, which I fear many do not, that there was a loophole in the law which has been allowing municipalities to violate your rights with arbitrary government controls (that is, acting without representation) you would want to repeal that law would you not?

That law in Utah Code is the Redevelopment Agencies Act (U.C.A. 17B-04), commonly referred to as an RDA. When a local city, let’s take North Ogden, or Bountiful, or Sandy or Ogden for instance, decides by their own local control mechanisms to spend your taxes on their own recreation centers like Ogden’s, a luxurious and rarefied townhouse rental project, a BDO industrial park or any of their other ($186 million worth of) non-essential municipal infrastructure business assets, they are spending a portion of your tax dollars on their own cities local and arbitrarily chosen projects.

All around us we read about the repercussions of RDA projects. Just this year, Weber Country had to raise its property taxes (already the highest in the State) citing municipal RDA projects as one of their main reasons for the libraries and other essential government tax shortfalls.

The State School Board of Education has published figures near $100 million which they will lose because of statewide RDA projects. The facts are; the people who live outside Ogden cannot vote in Ogden city’s municipal elections, but must bear a portion of the burden of paying the tax and associated tax debt on their arbitrary projects. This is in fact, taxation without representation. And as such, despite being now legal in Utah, the RDA law is, if I’m not mistaken, unconstitutional law, and is unworthy of our mutual respect and support. I would ask then, shall justice be denied the people forever? Or is this taxation without representation an embryonic seed of what is to come? While some say; this is 12 years prior to “A total separation….will be the final consequences” of this act.

A pro and con argument

Some might argue that while we do have representation with the State Legislators on RDA law, this would therefore not be considered a “taxation without representation” case. To a point I agree, as today we are blessed with the opportunity to vote in, or out, or to persuade the thinking of the State Legislators. And Ogden City also agrees, because they recently hired a lobbyist at $45K per session to persuade the lawmakers to vote with them on continuing the use of eminent domain and the funding of RDA’s.

Not to get off the point, but let’s discuss roads to round up this discussion. Let’s specifically consider the case of the gasoline tax for the sake of reason. The fuel tax in Utah is a defined and exact percent tax, levied legally by the state to promote the general welfare; it is also defined to be used specially for road purposes. Each city and county as well as UDOT is allocated a portion of these collected statewide fuel taxes, based upon population, to either repair, maintain or install new roads in a city or county under the state guild lines and discretion. I have no right to vote for or against a neighboring city’s pot hole repair plans, nor do they mine, so are they and I not therefore taxed without representation?

Not really. Because the state has determined and most people agree, that putting in roads is a legitimate government function which we must all pay for and all benefit from. The funds are not to be used on any arbitrary project, such as a building or baseball diamond, but only on roads to promote our mutual free commerce and for the transportation good of the people.

In the case of the RDA, the legislator’s original intent and purpose of why RDA’s were started was to remove blight. Municipalities and cities jumped on the band wagon of this taxing tool to further promote any good project the city might come up, that is to “promote the city” welfare. The law was changed over time, year after year until the law got so mystified and projects so rarified, that our legislators stepped back and put a one year moratorium on RDA use in the 2005 legislative session. In addition, the new law has outlawed recreation centers and sports complexes after the end of this year as well as removed the tool of eminent domain to build a Wal-mart or other such commercial retail projects. Thank you legislators. And my goal in penning this is to further convince the state lawmakers to support RDA reforms.

I am of the opinion that if this act is not repealed or reformed again in this 2006 legislative session, there will eventually be a rebellion by the people, because of this arbitrary control, of supporting unprincipled taxing use, as well as using capitalistic controls to support one business over another. This is again; accomplished using the tool of taxation without representation on a city to city basis, which only pits one city’s economic goals against another. This is a zero sum game for the people and the associated tax coffers.

Is following the colonist plan by boycotting another rarified sports complex, and plot for another repeating and doomed mall disaster to stop these arbitrary government actions the best approach? Or is free enterprise starting today a better solution?

I feel compelled to call this law what it is. In the words of a wise sage who once gave this short maxim;

“If laws be made of polished marble, then the dirt thrown on them will not long adhere, but dirt thrown on a mud wall may stick and incorporate.”

What say ye gentle readers?

Helpful Crime Prevention Primer

When property owners suffer property crime, what do they normally do? Call the police? Not Chris Peterson. Chris apparently calls the Standard-Examiner.

It appears our new Malan's Basin community benefactor is having vandalism problems again, according to Sunday's John Wright story. It seems a week doesn't go by without some danged trespasser vandalizing the expensive and valuable equipment:

There have been three incidents of theft and/or vandalism involving equipment being used to clear vegetation to facilitate planning of the resort, said owner Chris Peterson via e-mail Friday. The resort is planned to be built on 1,440 acres he owns in and around Malan’s Basin.

In the most recent incident, someone hiked more than a mile onto Peterson’s property last week and used heavy rocks to smash $3,600 worth of equipment, he said.

My first question, upon reading John Wright's Sunday story: "Why is Mr. Peterson leaving valuable and vulnerable property out in the open in the first place, especially after earlier acts of vandalism and theft?"

Being the curious type, I phoned the Weber County Sheriff's department yesterday, to obtain a little more information on this serial vandalism story. I spoke with Lt. Jeff Malan, who is familiar with the facts of the case. The vandalized "equipment" in question, it turns out, is portable tree and brush removal equipment, chainsaws and the like. Despite the winter snowpack, Mr. Peterson still has crews working on the Malan's Basin slopes. Rather than packing this portable equipment in and out each day, they've been leaving the equipment out in the open -- "chaining" it together, "hidden" under a tarp. Until now, Mr. Peterson's crews have continued this pattern of behavior, and have thus repeatedly suffered acts of theft and vandalism.

I asked Lt. Malan what security measures an owner of "remote" property such as Mr. Peterson ought to take, to avoid criminal acts of this kind.

He told me it's no different in the back-country than in the city. If you value your property, you don't just leave it lying around. The best approach, he said, is to pack it in and out daily. Second best is to lock it up in a secure place. "If you leave valuable equipment out in the open, it WILL be stolen or vandalized," he said. The problem is aggravated, of course, when property owners keep their properties open to the public as Chris has so graciously done, he added.

I have some experience in this realm, being part-owner of fair-sized outlying ranch spread in Eastern Weber County. The ranch has been family-owned for almost eighty years. And there are a few ancient and hard-learned country propositions I'd like to pass on to our friend, Chris.

  • Even "No trespassing signs" are of limited utility when posted on out-back properties. Most people are law-abiding and honorable, but there's a select element of the population who ignore them entirely, especially when posted on properties that are off the beaten track.

  • A property's seeming "remoteness" offers only a false sense of security. You'd be amazed at the number of people who wander around in the back country, whether open to the public or not.

  • Even a highly competent and professional law enforcement agency like the Weber County Sheriff's Department can't patrol or investigate a crime on your property, if it's snowed-in and inaccessable by vehicle. Even an emergency response can take hours; so it's best to protect yourself. Malicious trespassers have some perception of this.

  • If you can't remove your valuable equipment from your property entirely, it should be secured in a locked steel out-building.

  • Employment of full-time caretaker is probably the most effective old-fashioned precaution.

  • The typical out-back vandalism incident is a "crime of opportunity," Rather than one directed at an individal property owner. An act of vandalism on an out-of-the-way property is thus most likely a purely random act.
This latter point of course raises another entirely different question -- whether the Standard-Examimer's reporting of this story constitutes responsible journalism.

We don't get even two paragraphs into the story before the Standard-Examiner begins with the innuendo and finger-pointing.

It’s no secret there are those who don’t like the idea of a year-round resort in Malan’s Basin and a gondola connecting it to Ogden’s east bench.

But in the last several weeks, opposition to the proposal may have risen — or sunk, as it were — to a new level.
The Std-Ex even went so far as to have contacted contact local Sierra Club president Dan Schroeder, who, naturally, labelled the vandalism "deplorable."

I think it's a bit early to get into the finger-pointing and labeling. And from the perspective of securing Mr. Peterson's vulnerable equipment, I think Mr. Peterson may be a little bit tardy.

And having been a part-owner of a tree-service company for several years myself, I'll note that I recognize it's a major pain in the rear to haul light but unwieldy tree removal equipment in and out of a remote job site. Nevertheless, it's a practical necessity.

Get smart, I say, Chris. Haul your light equipment out at the end of the day, or lock it up in a sturdy steel box. I'm tired, frankly, of hearing the whining. It's not that I lack empathy. I'd love to see these criminals caught in the act. It's just that it's hard to muster much sympathy for somebody who utterly fails to look after himself.

And what say our gentle readers, if anything, about this matter?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ogden's Big Adventure Begins!

Today's the big day folks! This is the day our "Ogden Adventure Begins". In case this important event has somehow fallen off your calendars, here's a helpful Weber County Forum reminder:

The High Adventure Rex Center project is scheduled to be formally-launched this morning at 11:00 a.m., on the old downtown mall site, with a gala ground-breaking ceremony. Hordes of neoCON dignitaries, central-planning schemers and eager Kool-Aide sipping, starry-eyed twenty-somethings will no doubt be in attendance, wrapped up in their winter attire, picks and shovels in their mittoned hands, slapping each other on the backs for shoving another of their grand schemes down the throats of an unwitting and unwilling public.

It doesn't matter a whit that the boy-genius at city hall hasn't yet managed to firmly nail down the final cost for this taxpayer-backed boondoggle (the 15-day "window" ends this coming Wednesday.) "The show must go on," says our democracy-challenged mayor.

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but your friend Rudi will be in attendance too, trusty notebook in hand (and trusty camera in pocket) jockeying to do an interview or two. I'll dutifully report back here later, in the event I'm able to "score" any of that nutritious and tasty "red meat," upon which our gentle readers so obviously thrive.

Comments, anyone?

Update 12/13/05 5:24 a.m. MT: It appears that some several of the posters during yesterday's discussion on this thread were correct. According to this morning's Standard-Examiner story, Larry Miller apparently did announce plans to build a cinema complex adjacent to the High Adventure Rec Center -- after yestrday's ground-breaking ceremony. Our gentle readers can read all about it here:
City officials, along with representatives from the private sector, donned hardhats and thrust gold-painted shovels into the dirt Monday morning to mark the start of construction on an $18.5 million high-adventure recreation center at the downtown mall site.

But they were upstaged to some extent by Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller and the unveiling of his plans — including the drawings — for a 12-screen theater complex to the south.

After the ceremony, Miller said he expects the complex, with a price tag of $11 million to $15 million, to be complete by Nov. 1, in time for the 2006 holiday movie rush.
Oops! Rudi is now resolved to stick around until the crowd disburses at all future Ogden City events.

The rumor is that Larry Miller has actually submitted "something" to "somebody" in writing. My guess is that this is merely a written "proposal" for the 12-screen theater complex referred to in the article -- although that's completely my own speculation. Significantly, the Boyer Company is not yet under contract with the city. Inasmuch as Boyer company will supposedly be writing the contracts for tenants at the mall site, it's probably too early to expect that Mr. Miller has yet entered into any binding occupancy agreement.

It's all very mysterious. Of course, folks with "vision" always "move in mysterious ways." I'll dial out later this morning and try to fill in some of the blanks, if I can.

In the meantime, gentle readers, please don't hesitate to offer any additional information or comments that you may have.

Update 12/13/05 10:48 a.m. MT: Although the Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton alludes that Larry Miller has signed on to occupy part of the Ogden mall site for his proposed 12-screen theater project, a trustyworthy high-level administration official informs me that this is not true. Mr. Miller has merely submitted a written proposal, I am told. Mr. Miller is NOT under contract yet, according to my source.

The plot sickens.

"Show us the contract," sez Rudi.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Scientific Insight from the Lovely Jennifer

There was a great John Wright article published by the Standard-Examiner a couple of days ago regarding the lingering "gondola" issue. For unknown reasons, the "Lift Ogden" folks spent thousands of dollars in the early days of the Ogden Municipal elections... Apparently trying to confuse the election issues... And trying to bring the "excitement" of their "pet" issue to the fore.

They even spent $10,000 sending out this total POS promotional brochure.

It seems that a WSU Econ class has released some significant research this week, using the best mathematical quantitative analysis techniques available.

They've "scientifically" quantified the impressions of Ogdenites re a publicly-supported gondola... even after the "full-tilt "Lift Ogden Gondola autumn PR Blitz.

John Wright reports their findings, and they seem pretty clear. Ogdenites are "unexited" about a publicly-funded gondola, and are unwilling to spend significant public moneys on such a project.

Despite the two straight months of Lift Ogden hype and hoopla, Ogdenites think it's a crock of "you know what."

The uber-tiny personal validation-needy Napoleon-sized farmboy from Harrisville on nine however sez the results of this poll are not "scientific."

In that connection, here's the text of an email I received re this from "the lovely Jennifer," a regular WCF gentle reader, and a math and econ major @ our home-town WSU:

Okay, you have Mr. God-free saying he thinks the survey was premature. He is quoted as saying "You're asking people to give you feedback when they don't have enough information," Godfrey said, "I think they're well-intentioned, but it's certainly not going to be a scientific poll."

First, what about the pamphlet circulated a while ago,and numerous articles and such in the Standard about the project? Heck, even my son in high school knows about the Gondola project - Going up to Weber State, then to Snow Basin (his words).

Second, saying the survey project was certainly unscientific could not be further from the truth. I have had the same course, taught by the same professor (and chair of the Economics Dept at WSU), and the WHOLE COURSE is all about learning how to scientifically, statistically, analytically evaluate economic choices and outcomes. Econometrics is the name of the course, and it is defined as "Application of mathematical and statistical techniques to economics in the study of problems, the analysis of data, and the development and testing of theories and models." ( What could be more scientific than that? And in case anybody is wondering - Economics is the study of the choices people make. So, conducting a survey among people about a choice that is in front of them is indeed scientifically justified in an economic sense.

How's that?

The Lovely Jennifer.
"Nuff said," I think.

A state-of-art Weber State University economics department class-assignment poll confirms what I already learned anecdotally, while walking precincts in Oct-Nov:

Ogden people are NOT excited by the heavily-touted "Gondola Vision."

Perhaps Ex-Utah legislator Allen and his dimwit neoCON son-in-law might want to take their whole friggin' publicly-supported "Gondola Vision" back to the drawing board.

"Unscientific" my ass.

Comments, please.

This board is all about reader comments.

And my hearty thanks to the Lovely Jennifer for her comments.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Interesting Utah Tidbit

Tantalizing post from another blog, "Right Side"

Mormon Anomaly: Harry Reid

This article raises numerous interesting questions. Is a "Mormon" merely somebody who "has the faith" and technically exists on the membership rolls? Or are ther other necessary credentials -- like serving a mission -- and having a "temple recommend" -- and "slavishly voting Republican" attached?

Is it a mortal "sin" to be a registered Democrat, or a gay Mormon? And what about "jacks?" Is modern Mormonism inclusive in a Christian sense -- or is there a snooty and snobby status hierarchy who would remove "jacks" to the gutter? Are there people within "The Church," who still remain dead-set on maintaining the cultish "escaping from Nauvoo" mentality?

Don't fergit to chime in on this, gentle readers.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gang-of Six's Last Official Townsfolk-Defiant Act? - Updated

For an example of sheer Orwellian audacity, Ogden townsfolk need look no further than the 2002-2005 Gang-of-Six. In a last-minute gesture of public defiance, the Ogden city council will rubber-stamp tonight (drumroll)...

Emperor Godfrey's Eminent Domain Lobbyist!

Yes, gentle readers. The administration that can't find in the budget the chump change that would be needed to hire a street-sweeper for Ogden's 24th Street pigeon-poop, is set to stick it to the taxpayers with a $45,000/yr professional lobbyist -- with a mission to condemn homes and businesses of some of our fellow citizens, to satisfy the corporate greed of Almighty Walmart.

Although I could rant on for hours about this, our gentle readers will be relieved that I don't have the time for that. I'll be tied up in meetings for most of the day; so I'll leave that all to you.

Please don't hesitate to chime in with your views on the latest Gang-of-Six story. This is a good one to get the ball rolling today, I think.

In the alternative, consider this an open thread.

I'll be back.

Update 12/7/05 8:43 a.m. MT: In yet another demonstration of its disdain for the public weal, the lame duck Gang-of-Six operated as the well-oiled machine its been these past four years, appropriating $45,000 for the hiring of "eminent domain lobbyist" Rob Jolley last night -- by the usual 5-2 vote. For those who may have missed this morning's Standard-Examiner article, you can read the sad story here.

There's no reason on earth that this resolution could not have been delayed until the new council's January 3, 2005 swearing-in, as Councilman Garcia suggests:

"Garcia said the vote should have been delayed until January, given that some of the new council members may sit on Ogden’s Legislative Coordinating Committee. The committee is charged with identifying issues of importance to the city at the state and federal level before making recommendations to the council."
To what extent this resolution may be reversible, I really can't predict. What's likely though, is that the current council, by its action last night, has at least ratified the Jolley contract, thus binding Ogden city for the full $45,000 contract price, regardless of what Mr. Jolley's future agenda may turn out to be.

Whereas many of us had hoped the mayoral administration would adopt a new spirit of cooperation, in the face of its its decisive November 8th election defeat, Boss Godfrey instead demonstrates that he still remains -- and will remain -- the man "in charge."

Rather than extend the new council a simple courtesy, and put this decision off for another three weeks, Mayor Godfrey instead chooses to play political hard-ball. This does not bode well for council-administration relations, as we move into the new year, I would think. This is more than bad political form. It's an insult to the taxpayers of Ogden, and the new council they decisively elected.

And what think our gentle readers about this?

Comments, anyone?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Something New in the Legislative Wind

There was a Deseret News article published on October 24th, regarding some important new legislation which will be brought to the Utah legislative floor during the 2006 session. I had put it on the "back burner" during our heated Ogden election campaign. That doesn't mean the story wasn't important.

Now that the election smoke has cleared, I'll mention it here.

I had an informative conversation earlier this afternoon with the bill's sponsor, Rep. Peggy Wallace.

Here's the gist of her proposed new legislation, as reported by Deseret News reporter Brady Snyder, although Rep Wallace feels Brady didn't get it completely right:

The mayor of Salt Lake City and other mayors in Provo, Ogden, Murray and elsewhere could see much of their power stripped this legislative session.

A state lawmaker is seeking to rein in the duties of "strong mayors" throughout Utah, making them operate to use a corporate analogy more like a chairman of the board rather than a CEO.

Under a bill that Rep. Peggy Wallace, R-West Jordan, plans to run next year, cities of the first and second class that maintain a mayor-council form of government would have to hire a city manager to take over many of the mayor's duties.

Jobs like the hiring and firing of appointed workers, negotiating with unions and arranging the sale and use of real property would all be stripped from the mayor and handed over to the city manager.

It would be the city manager, then, that would function as the city's new CEO.

"With a good city manager there's going to be a lot more oversight on a day-to-day business," Wallace said.

The Mayor, however, wouldn't lose all power.

He or she could still work with the City Council to set policy for the city, develop new programs and concentrate on economic development.

Wallace said the specific duties assigned to the city manager as opposed to those that would fall to the mayor will be spelled out specifically in the bill so there is no confusion.
Now does this sound like a good idea? I mean we in Ogden are all witnessing the flaws of a "strong Mayoral government" in excess. The "little guy on nine" actually behaves as the Roman Republic's first emperor-dictator. "I won't stick my finger in the wind," he says. The voice of the "people" means nothing to the imperial-Roman Matt Godfrey, in spite of Thomas Jefferson's constant admonitions re the necessity of constant public input.

Besides...Ogden City has become a giant Real Estate Development Company anyway. Perhaps its time to have professionals take the management helm -- Under council control, of course.

I'm not going to comment further on this. Rep Wallace has agreed, however, to provide me copies of her proposed bill, once it's in readable and comprehensible form.

I'll definitely keep Weber County Forum readers "up to speed" on this.

I'd like to do whatever it takes to see Emperor Godfrey stay on for as many terms as he likes -- so long as his powers are restricted to cutting ribbons and presiding over weddings.


Don't let the cat get yer tongues.

Millions Needed for Water, Sewer System Updates

By Steve Groves - Correspondent
Weber Sentinel News
Posted on December 2, 2005

When could flushing your money down the toilet be a good thing? Perhaps when it means spending money on sewer systems and a water treatment plant to help keep pace with growth, replace and update aging components and prevent major shutdowns. Turning on the tap, doing laundry and flushing the toilet are daily activities to which we do not give much thought until we cannot perform them.

While there is no imminent threat of major malfunctions, local water systems and the sewer treatment plant are aging and will not last forever. Lance Wood, general manager for the Central Weber Sewer Improvement District, said the treatment plant is 50 years old and normal plant life is usually 20 to 30 years.

Wood said, “We are just about at our capacity now, and we have a growth rate of 3 percent annually.”

The district has hired MWH Engineering from South Jordan to evaluate the plant and system and make recommendations. In a preliminary report released Oct. 17, MWH estimated it will take from $80 to $120 million in improvements and new facilities to meet the area’s projected needs for the year 2025.

MWH Project Director Cory Duncan said failure to keep up with demand and not maintaining the facility could result in failure to meet EPA and state purity standards for the output secondary water that could lead to fines of as much as $25,000 a day.

Wood calculates daily water usage at 110 gallons per person for each of the 150,000 residents in the district.

While the final report is not due till the end of the year, Wood said, “We’ve been working on this for a few years and we are looking for funding from all sources.”

Ogden’s culinary water system is also not keeping up with demand and could need as much as $130 million to maintain needs till the year 2025. Ogden’s Public Service Director George Benford said the infrastructure of Ogden’s water system is 75 to 100 years old while the average design life is 50 years.

In an engineering study prepared by Sunrise Engineering, Inc., of Draper, there are numerous problems in the city system ranging from red rusty colored water to lack of enough pressure for fire protection. Benford admits some parts of town are worse than others, but “We have more needs than funds,” he said “When we go to the city council” the fire department may need a new fire truck so we compete for the dollars.”

He added that the success of the “Slow the Flow” conservation campaign actually hurt the water department because of reduced revenue.

Public Utilities Manager Marvin Zaugg said, “We don’t want the people to have a huge water bill, but the current rates paid are not enough to do all we want.”

Mayor Matthew Godfrey agreed, saying, “We need a philosophical change in the city council to charge rates high enough for replacement and not just repair. We’ve known about these needs for years, and there is a study done every two or three years and they all say the same things. Political motives prevent the council from raising rates.”

The 301 miles of distribution pipeline provide an average daily demand of 255 gallons per person with a peak day factor 473.4 gallons per person. Current policy calls for a residential main pipeline to repair 20 breaks or leaks before the line is replaced and five repairs in a medical or commercial water main.

The Godfrey said, “Leaks are the best barometer. Some of these pipes, even though they are 60 to 70 years old, are still in great shape.”

Ogden’s budget for 2006 is just over $109 million. With estimated costs for overhauling the sewer and water systems approaching $300 million, critics of the mayor question his push for the use of taxpayer funds for the proposed recreation center at the downtown mall site.

“The money comes from separate sources. It is not a choice between infrastructure and economic development. The High Adventure Recreation Center will broaden the tax base. It is an investment in the future that will create jobs for the future. By law the funds for the recreation center cannot be used for the city infrastructure,” Godfrey said.

Sentinel News asked Godfrey if he felt voters sent him a message this election by replacing council members who favored his project with three who specifically objected to the development. He called that idea media hype created by a reporter for a Salt Lake newspaper.

He said his opponents “don’t understand the long process of information gathering and decision making that took place. They came in at the end without all the facts. Show me a critic that’s created anything.”

Godfrey said Larry Miller is ready to build movie theaters and the Boyer Company restaurants if the city does its part with the Treehouse Museum and High Adventure Recreation Center. The museum is under construction.

According to Godfrey, the only sure way to fail is to not do the project.

“Private business is not getting a dime from us. The buildings will be city owned. A recent survey showed 28 percent of the movie-goers at the Layton Mall were from Weber County. We need to keep the daters here. This will be a regional draw,” Godfrey said.

When asked how the mall would affect existing Ogden taxpaying businesses, Godfrey said, “Welcome to free enterprise.”

Sentinel News asked him how city help is free enterprise.

Godfrey said, “I challenge anyone to show me a decaying city center that has recovered without government intervention.”

Newly-elected Ogden city council member Doreen Jeske said she is open minded, but “nothing is going to change the fact that he wants to use taxpayer money for a private park. Gold’s Gym is private and requires a membership. According the mayor’s own figures, only 12 percent of the public will use it.”

Bill Glassman, also newly voted to the council, said, “So far we’ve spent over $30 million in purchasing, demolition and legal issues and haven’t poured a footing. I may not know the specifics, but I know due diligence has not been done. This is a bag of snakes. I would like to be able to get in and dig and find the facts before I vote.”

Godfrey said he hopes “the new council members will be courageous and help Ogden progress.”


Editor's note: Posted with the permission of the Weber Sentinel News. Read the original article here.

I'll add that it strikes me as odd that Mayor Godfrey seeks to blame the entire infrastuctural "deferred-maintenance" problem on the Ogden city council -- a council that's been his slavish "rubber-stamp" for the past four years. Everybody knows that it was his idea to plow every available city dime into the rec center project, a project that's deemed risky even by its own proponents. And correct me if I'm wrong about this, but wasn't it Mayor Godfrey's very own idea, to pledge 100% of the BDO lease revenue (which had been ear-marked for infrastructure) at the very last minute, as loan security, in order to save the rec center project?

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Big Doings For the New City Council

There are big doings next week for a delegation of the 2006 Ogden City Council. The National League of Cities and Towns is throwing it's 82d semi-annual Congress of Cities and Exposition, (America’s Cities and Towns Teaming Up for Tomorrow, December 6-10, 2005.)

Sounds like a lot of fun -- the perfect way for new city leaders to get the neocon centralist-planning "bonding experience":

Charlotte’s “Incredi-Bowl”…..
The closing celebration brought to you by Wachovia
Saturday, December 10, 2005
7:30pm – 11:00pm (Hall C – Charlotte Convention Center)

Are you ready to celebrate! Come celebrate your time here in the incredible city of Charlotte as we bring to you the best of our teams in one location….Charlotte’s “Incredi-Bowl”.

We are “Teaming Up” with the most incredible sports around the Carolinas and bringing it to you! From the thrills of NASCAR and touchdown fun of the Carolina Panthers to our new Charlotte Bobcats, icy Hot Checkers, and Wachovia Cup championship golf there will surely be something to celebrate about! You’ll enjoy strolling around the Incredi-Bowl and testing your skills at some of the best in sports. Enjoy the incredible roaming entertainment associated with our local teams and be sure and get your photo with one of our celebrity mascots!

The room will be filled with incredible sports d├ęcor from all of the Carolina’s best. NLC Delegates will enjoy culinary delights sure to inspire the best of sports fans and top any tailgate you’ve ever seen! Beer, wine and soft drinks will be complimentary. Diverse local entertainment will take the stage to WOW the rowdiest of crowds and you won’t want to miss our exciting “Half Time” special entertainment from the Four Tops!

It’s the best of our sports teams and we’ve brought it all to you! The game is about to begin….Welcome to the Charlotte Incredi-Bowl! Continuous shuttle service will run between the Charlotte Convention Center and NLC hotels beginning at 7:15pm.
In spite of the hype, there's plenty of of oppotunity for our new council to learn a little bit. Bill Glasmann and Dorrene Jeske are flying to Charlotte Monday night, and Jesse Garcia and Council Director Bill Cook will be there Wednesday...after the Tuesday night council session.

To those who ask: "How are we gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Parree Charlotte," I just say: "Don't worry, They won't get infected with the 'neocon disease.'" Charlotte definitely "aint" Parree; and savvy people like Bill, Dorrene and Jesse definitely have their heads screwed on straight. I can't speak for Bill Cook. Who knows how he'll behave, once he's walking Tobacco Road heheh.

The advantage of our elected council's attending an event like this is that they'll be exposed to all the new ideas. Notwithstanding all the "party hype," there are numerous good workshops happening in Charlotte.

I'm hoping at least one of them will be willing to offer a report on the event here, after they get back.

And what say our gentle readers? Are our new councilpersons stepping into the neoCON "Lion's den," to be ineluctably "sucked into" the "central-planning" mindset? Will they be irredeemably compromised by partying and having photo "ops" with the Carolina Panthers professional cheerleader squad? Will they all take the workshop on "eminent domain" and come out power-hungry to steal local private properties for the benefit of Wal-Mart? Will they "catch" the neoCON RDA influenza?

I "thinks" NOT.

The Ogden City townsfolk haven't elected such a "stiff-spined" collection of native Ogdenite councilpersons in years.

"Little Caesar" will be learning to say "please," and "thank you," if he knows what's good for his political future.

And what thinks the rest of our gentle readers about this?

Will the "bully on nine" learn to "play nice?"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lurching Toward a Rec Center Ground-Breaking. -- Updated

The Ogden rec center project continues to lurch on inexorably, the Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton reported in yesterday's edition.

Notwithstanding a variety of pesky "loose ends," such as the lack of signed agreements with the building contractor and materials suppliers (concrete, steel and lumber,) the city's bonding package is ready to hit the market. Moreover, a "ceremonial" ground-breaking has even been tentatively planned for Monday, December 12th, at 11:00-12:00, (according to an unimpeachable source of mine close to city hall.)

Although the Tribune article suggests that Ogden city expected to have "$16.2 million in hand" by Tuesday afternoon, such a scenario is unlikely, inasmuch as all legal prerequisites for the project are not yet fulfilled. What's more likely is that such funds are being held by the lender in escrow, to be released only upon finalization of all prerequisite underlying contracts.

In this connection, optimistic statements continue to flow from the city administration's incessantly optimistic Dave Harmer:
"Harmer said the construction agreement with R&O Construction is expected to be signed this week, and the costs will be nailed down within the next two weeks. Concrete, steel and lumber prices have been rising, but Harmer said the final costs should be in line with projections. 'We estimate we'll be OK,' he said."
These are not minor details, gentle readers. If city officials are pleased with the legal posture of this project a short 31 days from the January 1, 2006 "drop-dead date," they certainly shouldn't be. With major players like the general contractor and materials suppliers remaining "out of contract," this project could have a thrilling finale, as the unsigned project players jockey for position days prior to the project deadline. Don't think for as minute that the unsigned players are unaware of the short timeline here, and that they won't play the running clock to the hilt.

Attentive readers will note that our rec center poll still remains in the sidebar, by the way, with 90% of participants betting the project won't happen. Be sure to vote in the poll, if you haven't done so already.

If any of our gentle readers have additional comments, please don't hesitate to chime right on in.

Update 12/2/05 1:52 p.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner was Johnny-on-the-spot with its rec center ground-breaking announcement this morning, confirming our report yesterday that a public ceremony has been set for 11:00 a.m. on December 19. Most of the details in John Wright's article were "old news" to our gentle readers. We've already had a pretty good discussion of this topic. Here's a quote from John's article:
Also on Tuesday, the city signed a construction agreement with Ogden-based R&O Construction, the general contractor for the rec center, Harmer said.
Under the agreement, there is a 15-day period during which the two parties will
finalize construction costs, he said.
One important additional detail does emerge from today's article, however: R&O Construction apparently inked some kind of pact on Tuesday. Although the construction contractor and "the braintrust on nine" have no idea at all how much the necessary construction materials will ultimately cost, the city has finally put at least one of the major players under some vague contractual obligation. This is all government propaganda, BTW.

The nature of that legal obligation is unclear. The parties to the agreement have not yet "nailed down" materials costs, as John Wright's article aptly points out. Materials costs are essential element in any enforceable construction contract -- and that essential part has been curiously "left out." Until firm terms are worked with suppliers out for price and delivery, the R&O-Ogden City contract is a sham and is probably unenforceable. Today's Std-Ex article is yet another example of the '
suits from Sandusky" scamming their readership, and sucking up to what's left of the Godfrey Government.

A second detail also comes to the fore. If it turns out that the project, as planned and sold to the City Council, can't come in "on budget, the Roman Style "emperor on nine" announces he'll feel free to carve out whatever part of the project he chooses to eliminate -- just so that the project will come in within the council-authorized budget.

Query: The council authorized bonding for a specific project, which would include a flo-rider pool, a wind-tunnel, and a state-of-art climbing wall..

If materials costs come out overly-exorbitant, which one of these would the Mayor whittle away?

And here's an even more fundamental question: Does the "little guy on nine" have even the bare legal authority to modify the rec center plan, now that the council has approved a very specific one?

My answer to my own question is NO. Mayor Godfrey has been authorized to implement a specific plan -- the one that was presented to the council. He hasn't been authorized to implement a whittled-down one. Anything he does contrary to his authorization is ILLEGAL.

If our imperial mayor wishes to hack parts off the rec center project in order to make budget, he'd durned well go back to the city council for further approval.

The little guy is still hawking that Imperial Plato emperor neoCON thingy, where he says he won't "stick his finger in the wind," and he imagines himself a "Philospher King.'

Too funny!

And one other thing! Gentle Reader Dorothy Littrell, CPA, has crunched the numbers and graciously offers a sobering professional analysis of how much the rec center scheme will cost the taxpayers in interest, on a monthly and yearly basis.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blumner: A chilling vision of a world without newspapers

By Robyn Blumner
Tribune Media

Last week, I wrote about Are Men Necessary?; this week my topic is: Are Newspapers Necessary?

This might sound odd to those of you who are reading this while drinking your morning coffee, the same way you have consumed the news for years, if not decades. But the question is being asked inside the industry. No, not asked - studied, analyzed, crunched and turned upside down and shaken.

That's because the road ahead does not look rosy. Without a new economic model or a change of reading habits by thirtysomethings, local daily newspapers may soon become a relic of another era - a time when Americans had an inclination to understand the complexities of the world around them, as opposed to what Britney named her kid.

Flagging circulation is the biggest fret, because advertising rates are pegged to readership. There has been a 30-year decline in newspaper circulation that has sped up in recent years, and the readers that remain are decidedly older. Only 23 percent of people age 18 to 29 say they read a newspaper "yesterday," while 60 percent of people 65 and older say they had, according to the Annual Report on American Journalism. The only salvation is that the type of reader whom advertisers find attractive is still subscribing. Seventy-two percent of college graduates and 74 percent of families making more than $75,000 are regular readers.

Meanwhile, People magazine is thriving, ranking first in 2004 in advertising revenue among domestic magazines. That's 14 years straight.

Younger people are not abandoning newspapers entirely. They are turning to online sources. But unless those measly ad rates for online advertisers take a spike upward, there soon won't be any paid staff reporting the news to fill those online versions.

The squeeze is coming from all quarters. Google, the Internet search giant, has just announced that it's launching Google Base, a database for its users who are invited to submit anything they want, including classified ads. These ads are a newspaper's bread and butter, representing about 35 percent of annual revenue. Which 35 percent of the paper would you want to do without?

Wall Street has also taken a whack at the industry. Not satisfied with a 19 percent profit last year, the stockholders of the newspaper chain Knight Ridder want it sold. How are profits increased when ad revenues and circulation are lagging? By slicing a paper's news-gathering to the bone. The Miami Herald, one of Knight Ridder's flagships, is now a thin gruel compared to the hearty stew it was in the 1980s, before budget cuts to satisfy investors gutted its news staff. Corporate ownership doesn't direct the editorial content of newspapers as much as eviscerate it.

So newspapers are in trouble. I realize that other old-guard businesses are foundering as well. General Motors is teetering, as are a number of major airlines, but newspapers are distinct from other commodities. Newspapers have a vital role to play in informing citizens about what their government is up to and readying them for democratic responsibilities.

Of the importance of the Fourth Estate, Thomas Jefferson said: "The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

A recent study found that newspaper readers are less politically polarized than consumers of other media, because they receive more comprehensive and balanced coverage of issues.

Could broadcast and cable news offer the same breadth and depth? They could, but don't and won't. As Ted Koppel ended his run on "Nightline" last week, he bemoaned the way advertising was driving the content of news. "More emphasis is placed now on trying to tailor the news and tailor the stories we cover to the perceived interests of our favorite commercial customers," Koppel told NPR.

Why were stories on Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway served up endlessly, when major issues such as our crushing deficit and private-sector pension defaults received little notice? Blame producers in search of female viewers age 18 to 39, the premier demographic for advertisers.

Fox News gives its audience what it wants, too. That's why, in 2003, a survey from the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 67 percent of its loyal viewers believed the fallacy that Saddam Hussein was connected to al-Qaida, whereas only 40 percent of those who relied on print media were confused on that point.

Welcome to the "informed" electorate of a newspaper-free world. It's already starting to give us the government we deserve.
Comments, gentle readers?

Does the slavish Godfreyite Standard-Examiner suck so hopelessly bad that we'd be better off without it entirely? Do thirty-somethings read only online pro-gondola articles? Will future generations read anything intelligent at all? Will manufacturers of stone-age implements be the successful entrepreneurs in a Brave New Neocon World?

So many questions -- so few answers.

Monday, November 28, 2005

There's a New Kind of Venture Capitalist in Town

The above announcement appeared on page 2B of the morning's Standard-Examiner.

Being the curious type, I clicked the Grow Utah Ventures website around 9:15 a.m., clicked through various pages, and managed to find the phone number of Alan Hall, the driving force behind the venture.

Unlike most "top dogs" in other venture capitalist companies, and much to my surprise, Mr. Hall answered my call HIMSELF.

No, Alan Hall doesn't "screen" his phone calls. At least he didn't this morning. Take it from me. If you've ever phoned venture capitalist firms you'll know -- CEOs usually don't take their own calls. There's usually a hierarchy of flunkies to plow through until you get to talk on the phone with "Mr. Big." Mr. Hall is the refreshing exception.

To make a long story short, Mr. Hall had about two minutes to talk to me. He was on his way to this morning's "ribbon cutting," he said. He was pressed for time, so we made the conversation short. The upshot? There was a 10:00 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning at the olde Ogden Greyhound Bus Depot site -- and I was invited.

You'd better believe I "beat feet" to be down there. I even put an incipient "Ogden Good Landlord" article on hold.

Here's what I learned from attending the event:

Alan Hall has put together a brilliant plan that he calls an "entrepreneurial/business incubator." It really is quite exceptional.

Here's what Grow Utah Ventures does:

  • Systematically screens and identifies successfully-likely and talented entrepreneurs from a wide range of candidates
  • Provides the best of these "seed money," in the form of a substantial "investment." (What Grow Utah Ventures does is provide venture capital to business "startups," in exchange for a 1/3 share of the new companies.)
  • Provides these select new companies non-fee-based (free) "mentoring and coaching."
  • "Places" these companies in "startup" offices, such as the olde Greyhound Depot on 25th Street. (The space will be partitioned -- and there will be a common conference room.)
  • Maintains and recruits a private "investor pool," to finance "projects" as they arise.
It's an turn-key "incubator" for business start-ups, in short.

I'm going to give Mr. Hall a hearty "tip of the hat" for this venture. It's a big, labor-intensive project he's chosen for himself. I normally look at "so-called" benevolent projects with a jaded eye, but I think there's more than a little genuine benevolence in Mr. Hall's current project.

And here's the other upshot! The profits of Grow Utah Ventures will be "recycled" into further Grow Utah Ventures projects, for the time-being at least. Alan Hall will NOT take profits, even for his own benefit, at least so long as the project keeps running, I would assume.

Kinda reminds me of Weber County Forum. I'll take profits later -- MUCH later.

I've been screaming my lungs out here on Weber County Forum about the need for leadership from the private sector. Mr. Hall has duly stepped up to the plate. Unlike Larry Miller and others, he's purchased the Greyhound Depot building NOW, rather than waiting to see how things "shake-out" later.

Mr. Hall deserves MORE than a "hat-tip," I think.

What say you about Alan Hall's "business incubator?"

I give it a hearty "thumbs up."

Comments, anyone?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

24/7 Gluttony

The Deseret News carried a fairly disheartening article this morning, comparing and analyzing the relative property tax "bite" between Utah's 25 most heavily-populated communities. The analysis compares the tax bill for a $200,000 home in these communities, and takes into account the taxing disparities that occur when similar homes are situated within varying special taxing districts.

Some tidbits:

"Some of the areas with the highest taxes among the top 25 most populous communities are: Kearns (as high as $1,942 on a $200,000 home), West Jordan (as high as $1,937 on a $200,000 home), Ogden (as high as $1,909), Cottonwood Heights (as high as $1,864) and Salt Lake City (as high as $1,843)."

Yeah, we're right in there with Kearns and Cottonwood Heights.

Significantly, Ogden City is "25th from the bottom" of the list (meaning the most heavily taxed) for homes taxed at the lowest rates, and "fourth from the top ranking" for homes taxed at the highest rates, as the handy table demonstrates. Ogdenites are getting gouged, any way you look at it.

Our gentle readers will no doubt recall the fiscal 2006 budget approval process late last spring, when there was a little extra cash laying around in the city treasury. The city council awarded city employees (including $100K+/yr. top execs) significant pay hikes, but there wasn't a dime left to give the taxpayers even a little break when the smoke cleared. Instead, the council increased taxpayer user fees.

It would appear that our new city council has its work cut out for it in the new council session.

Perhaps they'll take a second look at exorbitant executive salaries. We really don't seem to be getting much "bang for the buck." Perhaps Godfrey prodigy Stuart Reid could benefit from another "fling" in the private sector.

Please feel free to use this space as an open thread, if you're not sufficiently outraged by this Deseret News analysis to rant on a little bit.

Front and center, gentle readers. Most of you have recovered from your recent but temporary Thanksgiving gluttony, I'm sure; whereas our city government is unrepentant, and practices it year-round.

Comments, anyone?

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