Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Even a Blind Squirrel Finds an Acorn Now and Then

There's a link in the sidebar of this blog that I've had here for several months now. Dubbed Utah Planner's Corner, it's a blog operated by a hard-core Davis County central planning uber-bureaucrat by the name of Wilf Sommercorn. No. I am not making this name up. It would have been "Wilt Sommercorn," had I made it up.

Most of the material that he posts there is heavily "pro-central planning," which causes a pain in my wallet every time I even think about that kind of authoritarian governmental control that he takes for granted. It's especially nerve-wracking to know that Stalinist central-planners like Comrade Sommercorn operate freely and openly even in Davis County, without drawing so much as the slightest modicum of attention from the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI. Where is J. Edgar Hoover when we need him?

I'd previously put Mr. Sommercorn's blog in our WCF Blog-roll, because he unabashedly posts lucid, unadorned and frank admissions about how the crafty statist central planners actually "think."

He posted a surprisingly good article which took me aback yesterday, though The article goes to the question of whether it's best to make ivory-tower planning decisions by means of small groups (like City Councils and Planning Commissions)... or whether it may be best for central planners to listen to the "Collective Wisdom" of the greater citizen community.

Mr. Sommercorn's article has implications re our present Ogden City Council, I believe. Mr. Sommercorn advances some interesting arguments re the disadvantages of small-group "groupthink," which concept most certainly applies to the the present Ogden City Council "Gang of Five."

Here's a link to Mr. Sommercorn's surprisingly excellent article. As an added bonus, you'll find our friend, local politico and WCF regular, ARCritic, has posted a couple of comments there.

I was wondering where she'd been. She's not so nearly AR (anal-retentive) as here. When she's over there, she seems to royally suck-up to the great Central-Planning Zen-Masters.

I've also created an book-link in the right sidebar, for anyone who's interested in ordering and reading Surowiecki's "Wisdom of Crowds." I can sell it to ya at a discount!

I've already ordered it myself, BTW.

Heap up your comments, gentle readers.

Silence is not golden.

"Lift Ogden" States its Case

Gondolas are back in the news today, thanks, at least in part, to the John Wright article in this morning's Standard-Examiner. Descente North America's Bob Geiger and Ogden lawyer Bernie Allen have collaborated with Ogden's Pinnacle Marketing, and whipped up a slick 16-page sales brochure, touting the benefits the two-legged gondola plan which their "group," Lift Ogden, has been strongly promoting recently.

Brimming with vivid color photos and impassioned testimonials, the brochure is included as an insert in this morning's paper. Except for the appearance of the John Wright article, I probably would have overlooked the brochure myself, as it was embedded in a stack of advertising material such as I normally put straight into the trash.

I think it's a good thing that "Lift Ogden" is keeping the discussion going regarding this fascinating transit proposal. There are forces within the community who are already trying to nip the gondola idea in the bud; and I do believe the concept is worthy of robust public discussion.

In the event you're one of the poor souls who don't get your very own daily Std-Ex delivered to your very own front porch as I do, you can view a PDF version of the brochure online at Descente's web-site here.

I've pored over the entire brochure several times this morning, and my own impression is there's way too much "hype" in this pamphlet to suit my analytical mind. The tone of the first ten pages is "inspirational," and downright "dreamy" enough to make an analytical type's eyes bleed.

Starting around page-11 however, there are a couple of pages that actually address at least some of the "objections" (the pamphlet authors labeled these "myths",) that have been raised as to this project. If you can get through the first ten pages, which I deem to be marketing "fluff," there is some actual actual factual information, including a short "outline style" section, entitled "SECOND: Physically unite the key components," which indicates at least some attempt on the authors' part to tie the whole concept together with our greater Wasatch Front urban environment.

We had a pretty vigorous and detailed discussion about the lower "leg" of the gondola project here on Weber County Forum a few days ago, too. If you missed my WCF article and the ensuing 80+ reader comments, you can read it all here.

I hope some of our gentle readers will give the brochure a thorough reading, and post your own impressions here. Perhaps a few of you still have some unanswered questions, which we can direct to Mr. Allen and Mr. Geiger.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Where's the Beef? -- Open Thread

One of our gentle readers has made it clear in an earlier thread that he's "licking his chops" to get on with some red meat discussion here, and I'm happy to accommodate him. Inasmuch as Rudi will be pre-occupied into the mid to late afternoon with certain pressing real-life obligations, he probably won't get around to posting a new substantive article until later on in the afternoon today.

With that in mind, here's an open thread. Feel free to get the hot coals going, and don't hesitate to start broiling up what ever red meat you've brought with you. Let's make it "pot luck" until Rudi gets back.

One possible topic that you might want to discuss -- and this is just a suggestion -- is the table manners of some of our gentle readers, with respect to certain city council candidate newcomers whom Rudi's invited here.

Rudi's already getting concerned emails about this.

What sort of etiquette ought to be observed here, anyway? Will we treat our new guests with dignity and respect -- or will we behave as baboons here at Rudi's picnic table?

Monday, August 29, 2005

More Hazmat Delays; Ogden City Officials Go to a "Happy Place"

For those who've been trying to keep up on the possible hazardous materials problem at the Ogden Recreation Center project site, the results of the soil and groundwater tests are now in. And what are the results? More tests will probably be needed, as John Wright reports in this morning's Standard-Examiner article. Ouch!

OGDEN -- Additional soil and groundwater tests may be needed before Ogden can begin construction of an $18.5 million high-adventure recreation center proposed for the downtown mall site.

Results from two rounds of tests conducted by the city indicate the presence of petroleum and tetrachloroethyline, a solvent, in soil and groundwater at the mall site. The test results have been forwarded to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The city is seeking a letter from DEQ assuring one of the institutions involved in financing the recreation center, GE Commercial Finance, that the petroleum and tetrachloroethyline pose no liability. The rec center building would be collateral for $8.9 million in bonds.

DEQ environmental scientist Mark Crim said Thursday he has conducted a "frontline" review of the test results and forwarded them to two other offices within his agency for further analysis.

"First off, there needs to be a more comprehensive definition of the contamination," Crim said. "I'm suggesting that the two other entities that will review it beyond me may request additional subsurface studies."

Crim said he does not know when the current analysis will be complete, or how long it would take to conduct additional studies if necessary.

If the city does not get the matter resolved soon, it could see further increases in the estimated cost of the recreation center.

It goes without saying that increasing project costs are becoming more than a minor problem, but that isn't stopping Ogden City officials from maintaining a strong-willed and optimistic attitude.

Despite continued delays -- the City Council initially approved it last December -- Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he is not about to give up on the recreation center.

"The rec center is absolutely critical for the mall project, so for me to throw my hands up ... would be foolish," Godfrey said. "It's not a question of it being too hard or too difficult or anything like that. We've got to do it."

The general contractor for the recreation center, Ogden-based R&O Construction, reportedly has guaranteed current construction cost estimates only through the end of the month.

However, David Harmer, Ogden community and economic development director, said he does not believe the city is in "imminent danger" of another increase.

"We had talked about Sept. 1, but I think things are holding OK," he said.

It may well be that Mayor Godfrey and Dave Harmer are disciples of the great Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill... or Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore" perhaps, as advocated by one web "advice" source:

You may call me crazy. but it's true.

When I recently saw one of my favorite movies, "Happy Gilmore" starring Adam Sandler, I realized that this movie has an extremely important success principle that you should know about to achieve success in the new year.

Let me explain:

In the movie, the main character, Happy, can't find a stable job and can't seem to make his dream of playing hockey come true.

..And after Happy fails to make the hockey team for the 11th time, his girlfriend gets fed up and leaves other words, his life seems like a complete failure.

Then his life turns around when he makes a very important promise to his Grandmother and himself that he will get her house back from the government, which may be auctioned off unless Happy comes up with $270,000 in 90 days.

So, what does this have to do with success?

You see, soon after he made that promise to his grandmother, he realized that he had an amazing talent to drive a golf ball, which he developed as a hockey player.

..And by stating his desire to make enough money to get his grandmother's house back, new solutions began to appear that would have otherwise gone by unnoticed.

Do you have any hidden opportunities around you? You'll only find them if you make it known to yourself and to others what you are looking for.

Once Happy becomes a professional golfer and starts taking home big checks, the antagonist 'Shooter McGavin' hires a man to intimidate Happy while he is golfing, so he will not win the championship.

This strategy of intimidation takes its toll on Happy, and Happy's game falls apart because his mind becomes clouded with self-doubt and intense irritation.

Although it looks as if Happy won't get the house back after all, Happy's strong desire to accomplish his promise and goal attracts a mentor to him who recognizes Happy's skill and determination to succeed.

His mentor, Chubbs, teaches him how to overcome his mental obstacles and this is what he says:

"Happy, go to your happy place. Picture what you really want and go there." When happy does this he pictures his grandmother winning the lottery, a new girlfriend, and other pictures of his most wildest and successful dreams.

With this picture in his mind Happy easily overcomes all obstacles with confidence and defeats "Shooter Mcgavin" in a stunning victory to win his grandmother's house back.

So, here's the success principle that you can use to bring the success you desire in the new year. I like to call it:

The "Happy Place" Success Principle - Once you've decided what you want picture yourself there. I like to call this your "Happy Place." By picturing your "happy place" doubt and fear will disappear because you are certain of what you want and your mind will become clear...

I prefer to call it the Jiminy Cricket syndrome myself -— the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.

Whatever you wish to call it, though, you have to award our Ogden City officials a few bonus points for their sheer determination, right? Lesser mortals probably would have thrown in the towel quite a while ago.

And what say our gentle Weber County Forum readers about this?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Steel Shortage Delays Children's Treehouse Project.

Surely the latest Ogden mall site news does not bode well for Ogden City's downtown Recreation Center project, with the expiration of the general contractor's contract bid coming up three days from today -- on September 1: The Standard-Examiner's Jeff Demoss reports this morning that the Treehouse Children's Museum project has suffered recent construction delays -- due to a now-looming world steel supply shortage.

OGDEN -- Construction of the new Treehouse Children's Museum, one of the first tangible signs of rebirth at the former Ogden City Mall site, was progressing smoothly and steadily until the time came to start putting up the steel frame about a month ago.

Construction crews were ready, but the steel for the project wasn't there.

"It seems like a wave of demand hit just about the time we pulled the trigger," said Dan Osmond, site foreman for Big-D Construction, the general contractor on the project. "Things were slower in the spring, but then the demand hit like a tidal wave just a couple months ago."

The lack of available steel delayed the project only about two weeks, but it shows how a worldwide surge in demand for steel and other building materials is having an impact everywhere, including in the Top of Utah.

Shortages of steel have delayed some building projects in the area, and rebounding prices this summer have caused headaches for project bidders who see project costs rise from the time they are bid on to the time materials are delivered.

Treehouse Museum director Lynne Goodwin said the approximate $3.6 million price tag on the project has grown some due to material cost increases, which Big-D and the team of subcontractors and suppliers on the project have helped offset.

"There have been challenges, but because we're a nonprofit, everyone involved has tried to help keep this project in line with our budget," Goodwin said.
We discussed the potential problems resulting from concrete price increases in an earlier WCF article, but this is the first we've recently heard about steel shortages.

Click to enlarge image.

Last year at about this time, steel shortages, resulting from frenzied industrial activity in China and elsewhere in Asia, caused a severe price spike that's reflected in the above past year's stock charts of U.S. Steel and Nucor (which is mentioned in the Std-Ex article.)

The steel shortages and price increases that occurred just about this time last year didn't abate until about March of 2005. Steel is a "cyclical" commodity, the price of which responds powerfully to changes in world supply and demand. If there's a persistent steel supply shortage in the works, as occurred last year at this time, the whole Recreation Center project could be in severe jeopardy, unless Ogden City can lock-in something resembling current price terms with the general contractor, Ogden-based R&O Construction, prior to expiration of its bid at the end of this month.

What are the chances that R&O Construction will want to take that risk?

The Ogden City administration has to be sweating bullets over this.

Comments anyone?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Disneyland Planning Dilemma

There's a Salt Lake Tribune article that appeared in this morning's edition, which reports that a well-heeled and ready, willing and able cash buyer has made a "formal offer" for the purchase of a fair-sized chunk of the old Ogden City downtown mall-site. This organization isn't some fly-by-night, by the way. This organization has been a "player" in downtown Ogden City since at least as early as 1874.

The organization I'm talking about is the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. They've apparently made a "firm" purchase offer:

In a formal offer this summer, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah asked Ogden City to sell the land to the east of the historic church and its social hall. Good Shepherd wants to build a second, larger chapel that could accommodate the 400-plus members of the congregation and be surrounded by park-like landscaping.

Not only would such a church allow the parish to handle the big crowds it sees on holidays and for funerals, it would reintroduce Ogden to a piece of its history that has been virtually hidden behind the walls of the mall's parking terrace for a quarter of a century - the 130-year-old chapel.

"It's not just history," says the Rev. Adam Linton, rector of Good Shepherd. "We're very committed to downtown Ogden. It [the plan] makes us a real anchor and a resource."

This offer is apparently getting in the way of the Ogden City administration's uber-tight grand plans, though:

Dave Harmer, the city's new director of community development, said he and his staff have been too busy this summer trying to line up financing for the high adventure recreation center to respond to the church's offer to buy property.

The church wants all the land, roughly a half block, between its existing property and Kiesel Avenue, a north-south road that will be re-established down the center of the new development. The city, however, wants retail shops to line Kiesel Avenue east of Good Shepherd, Harmer says.

City and church leaders figure negotiators will come up with a solution by winter.

I guess it all depends on whether the Rec Center project succeeds or fails by the December 31, 2005 drop-dead-date.

I ask you though, gentle WCF readers, wouldn't it make more sense to snap up a good-faith offer from a long-time investor in downtown Ogden, rather than to cultivate these rather vague central-planning Disneyland delusions?

Here's a map from the administration's "grand vision," which graphically shows what the debate's about. It'll wipe out about four yet to be leased (or built) retail shops:

The "Vision"

Gimme a break, people. Isn't it possible that the "central scheming scammers" could yield just a little bit, for the sake of the plans of the "Church of the Good Shepherd," one of the long-time ("gentile") institutions of Ogden City?

There are lots of "movers and shakers" within the body of parishioners of the "Church of the Good Shepherd," I would think, just as in the past in Ogden. I can't help but think that ignoring their standing offer is anything other than a dumb political move.

Comments, anyone?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

An Invitation to All Ogden City Council Candidates

As most Ogden City Council candidates know, I've been dialing out since the Ogden City filing deadline, to recruit all non-incumbent candidates to contribute campaign information to Weber County Forum.

Against my better judgment (because it entails a lot of work), I've decided to provide separate web pages to each and every candidate (including any incumbent) who's running for an Ogden City Council seat, right here on this blog.

I've spoken to most of the contenders; and most of them have agreed to participate here. There are one or two who don't even have an email address. To those people, I just say "good luck." Not having an email address is the pretty much the same thing as not having a telephone in the early part of the twenty-first-century, I think.

I've sent out an email to all the council candidates whose email addys I've been able to identify up through today. If you know of a council candidate whom you support, and I may have left out... please tell him/her about this invitation. Believe me... I've been tryin'...

What I'll be looking for is an initial "campaign statement," i.e, Why you're running for a council seat. Biographical info will be helpful too, as well as anything else that belongs in an initial campaign brochure.

A little bit later I'll be submitting a campaign questionare, asking where each candidate stands on the important Ogden City issues.

I'm planning to set up individual web pages, and get the whole thing rolling around Saturday, September 3.

Submit your info, people. For those candidates who don't have their own website, it'll give you "web presence."

For those who are a little more web-sophisticated, I'll be happy to link your campaign website from your own page.

The whole purpose of this is to get the word out for your candidacy, people. Experience dictates that the Standard-Examimer won't even seriously report that there's a municipal election going on...until after the primary race is over.

Submit your stuff to Weber County Forum email

Update 8/27/05 3:46 p.m. M/T.: One good way to provide your campaign statements, folks, is to include your text within your return email via "rich text" format. The next best manner of submission is to include "rich formatted" text files as attachments. Although my own software can read at least eight different versions of "MS word format," I've already run into a situation where one candidate's info is unreadable because of its oddball Microsoft formatting.

The second-easiest way to submit your text is in pure "text" (ascii) format. If you have graphics or images you'd like to include, please send your image files separately via "attachments." Once your data has been submitted, I'll send you sample "proofs" before I publish next Saturday.

If your word processor has the ability to save your file in "html," (Hyper Text Markup Language,) that's the easiest and best of all. That way I can just copy and paste all your data to your own WCF webpage, embedded graphics images and all.

This is what I meant when I said that doing this is a "pain in the keister." Most word-processing programs don't translate directly to HTML web-format. Some "word processor output can't even be read, in spite of the fact that I have robust sofware that can read many of the "tower of babel" word-processor versions that many people use.

Thanks for your patience, candidates. It'll all be worth the trouble once your statements are submitted and posted, I'm sure.

Stop the Presses; Ogden City Council Disagrees with Mayor

In what amounts to a true local "man bites dog" story, John Wright reported yesterday in this Standard Examiner Story that an actual disagreement has arisen between the Ogden City Mayor's office, and the almost universally-agreeable Ogden City Council majority. Although there seems to be no disagreement at all about the object of hiring of a professional lobbyist to browbeat the state legislature into returning to the city the power to seize the private property of Ogden citizens -- in order to transfer it to giant multinational corporations like Wal-mart -- it seems some kind of turf-battle has now developed.

Whereas Mayor Godfrey desires that our new paid legislative-relations professional report to, and receive his orders directly from his office, the suddenly-obstinate Councilman Kent Jorgensen has gotten his hackles up, and insists that Ogden City's new lobbyist become the City Council's sock-puppet.

The true sticking point appears to be Mayor Godfrey's pet project, the proposed intra-city gondola. Mayor Godfrey has been outspoken in his support for such a system, and he plainly enjoys vigorous support for it from at least a portion of the Ogden community. Councilman Jorgensen, on the other hand, is employed by the UTA, which frowns on unusual projects such as this. It certainly wouldn't "sit well with the powers that be" in the UTA power structure if Councilman Jorgensen failed to put his foot down on something like this now, would it? After all, whose special interests was he elected to represent, anyway?

I swear you couldn't make up a story like this if you tried. The fact that someone from our notably slavish "rubber stamp council majority" is having any kind of disagreement with the Mayor's office at all would be news in and of itself. The fact though, that City Councilman Jorgensen actively and vocally promotes his employer's agenda, even while running as a candidate for re-election, prior to any significant public discussion of the issue, makes this story one well worth savoring.

It's my belief that our Ogden City lobbyist, (if we're going to have one at all,) should serve under the direction and control of the Mayor's office. The Mayor is our city executive officer, after all, and any arrangements or proposals that he might make for alternative forms of public transit would still be subject to the advice and consent of our city's legislative body, Councilman Jorgensen's Ogden City Council.

This whole brouhaha smells of political posturing to me. Any argument that the Ogden City Council should employ its own professional lobbyist is well beyond preposterous. My bet is that this is just another way for Councilman Jorgensen to put his name in the public forefront as November approaches.

What say our gentle Weber County Forum readers about this?

Update 8/30/05: 9:14 a.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner editorial board chimed-in on this issue Sunday in its lead editorial, advocating my concept of putting the new city lobbyist under the direct management of the Mayor's office, with the City Council maintaining legislative oversight and control, in the same manner as Salt Lake City's lobbyist arrangement. This is how it ought to be, I think.

Notably, The Std-Ex Editors wasted no opportunity to whine again about restoration of the City RDA's eminent domain power,which is actually the main objective in hiring the new professional lobbyist.

In a nation where recent polls have shown that upwards of 95% of the citizens oppose the use of the condemnation power for economic development projects, it's truly astounding that the editors of our home-town paper (and our Ogden City officials) can be so completely out of touch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No More Notches in the Weber County Belt

Inasmuch as the Ogden City Council Recreation Center bond vote had been dropped from the Ogden City Council calender, I skipped Tuesday night's meeting. I received an email from one of our gentle readers who did attend, though, reporting that this session was not entirely without its "entertainment value," as the City Council continued its holy quest last night to scrape up every available penny to cover the ever-escalating cost for the Rec Center Project. In that connection, this vigilant and attentive WCF reader reports that there occurred some quite lively and impassioned verbal exchanges between Chamber of Peoples Deputy Chairman Safsten and our local town Don Quixote, followed by the typical intervention of the always cool-headed Mayor Godfrey, who reportedly restored order before fists started flying, and calmed everybody down, as often happens during Ogden City Council sessions. A good time was had by all, so reports our avid WCF reader.

For the Standard-Examiner hard-copy subscription-impaired readers amongst us, you can read John Wright's fine article, in which he reports what happened in the City Council Chambers Tuesday night.

Coincidentally, the Weber County Commission held its own lively and well-attended meeting Tuesday evening, as was also reported in the Std-Ex. It was during this meeting that the commission approved its new budget, resulting in a 17% across the board tax increase for all property owners of Weber County. We talked about this earlier here. And yes, they went right ahead and did it. Weber County got most of the extra taxpayer funding that they were originally looking for.

I think it was an interesting conjunction of public sessions on Tuesday night. On the one hand, we had the Ogden City Council, wringing out every possible source of funding in a seemingly heroic effort to keep the High Adventure Recreation Center project alive. On the other hand, we had the Weber County Commission, which has generally run a tight ship, and avoided raising property taxes for seven years running, now biting the political bullet and doing what taxpayers like the very least -- raising property taxes. It was inevitable that this day would come, as tax increment dollars from the variety of ongoing Ogden City RDA projects get recycled into new projects, and diverted from Weber County government.

Inflation is a reality in our economy, notwithstanding the government's "rigged" CPI figures. Anyone who buys groceries or fuels-up an automobile knows that. County government isn't immune to the effects of price inflation, of course. And the County maintains a sizeable motor pool. The problem is that the Weber County Commission will take the direct heat from this necessary tax hike, when the real problem in large part originates with Ogden City RDA, which is perceived by Weber County and other local taxing authorities as being somewhat "inwardly-directed" and "ungenerous," shall we say.

I spoke with one of the Weber County Commisioners last week on this topic. He was very gracious and accomodating as to the actions of Ogden City officials, on the surface of the conversation at least. Although he assured me that this tax hike didn't represent the "throwing down of the gauntlet," as I'd suggested in an earlier "open Thread" article, I couldn't help but detect a hint of tension in his voice as he told me that.

While Weber County and the other taxing authorities who show up on your tax bill have much to gain in the long-run if the City administration's grand plan succeeds, these same entities also have everything to gain, and nothing to lose in the short-run, if the Rec Center project isn't commenced by the end of this year. In that event, much of the substantial tax increments from the ten or so existing Ogden City RDA's that would otherwise flow into the Rec Center project for the next twenty years would instead revert to Weber County, (and these other various taxing entities that you see on your Weber County property tax bill,) by operation of law. it's millions of dollars that we're talking about here, folks.

Something tells me that there's a storm brewing between our city and and county governments, that the county belt-tightening has reached the point where no new belt notches are left, and that our Weber County Commissioners are keeping their fingers crossed, and quietly hoping that the Rec Center project falls flat on its face, because of its ever-increasing financial weight.

For those who are curious about the ten or so Ogden RDA projects whose tax increments will be tied up in the event that the Rec Center project goes forward of planned, I'm furnishing a map from the excellent Ogden City website.

Comments, anyone?

IE Users: Click to enlarge image

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gangs of Zion

For some odd reason certain misinformed people of Utah try to type-cast Ogden as a haven for miscreants, evildoers and criminals. Most Ogden locals know that's simply not true. I think Ogden City is a whole hell of a lot more like Mayberry, USA than Detroit -- or even Salt Lake City -- if you're honest about it.

I caught this great piece in Sunday's Provo Herald, and thought I ought to throw it up for discussion.

In the interest of saving front-page bandwidth, you can read this most excellent and entire Tim Sullivan article here.

Now C'mon people. Now that you've read this article... Is Ogden really as bad as some people say?

I say Ogden is still Mayberry, USA.

What say our gentle WCF readers about this?


Sidebar note to Don Porter: Rumor has it that last Sunday's Provo Herald was printed up on the Std-Ex's high-tech "presses," and then delivered to Provo by truck. Is there any truth to this rumor Don? ;-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Bernie" Makes a Point

Some snivelling little weasel keeps anonymously posting "off-topic" referrals to Bernard Allen's website here. The latest referred to a a blog entry that relates, at least impiedly, to a Standard-Examiner article that tells how bad Ogden gets the shaft from the Governor's office on local judicial appointments. You can read "Bernie's blog article here.

I honestly don't know why Bernie decided to set up his own blog, rather than to just post on this one, which I've worked my a** off for almost four months to set up for discussion, and to build up respectable readership from all political viewpoints, with a notable degree of success.

Maybe he just likes to rant to himself.

He does have a point about this, though: Ogden City "takes it in the shorts" every time the Governor of Utah brings in a carpet-bagger judge up from Salt Lake City (to buy a home on the southern outskirts of Ogden) to administer justice in our town. District Court judges should be familiar with the communities in which they reside and administer "justice." Above all, judges should be accountable to the communities over which they preside. Recent appointees don't even come close to that. The same thing's been going on, of course, since the coming of the railroad to Ogden, when the local Ogden "Bishop's Courts" determined they had no actual legal "jurisdiction" over "gentiles*." (See, e.g., Ogden Anecdotes, (1985 Ed.) by I. Woodhouse, p. 26.)

The Governor's office acts like a remote Roman Emperor in the appointment of Ogden District Court judges. Bernie's entirely correct on at least this single point.

Does anyone here have any comments about the low-quality of judges that Utah Governors have historically appointed from SLC to the Ogden Branch of the Second Judicial District -- especially recently?

Comments, anyone?


*Readers who reside in the real world should understand that the term "gentile" locally refers to anyone who isn't "Mormon." It's just another in a long line of local cultural "quirks."

CAFTA Fight Shows We Can Stop the FTAA

"So-called free trade pacts are no longer a theory
to many Americans, as was the case when Congress
approved NAFTA in 1993. Almost a million Americans
have lost jobs as a result of NAFTA alone."

CAFTA Fight Shows We Can Stop FTAA
By by Tom Gow
The New American, August 22, 2005 Issue

The closeness of the CAFTA vote — despite the political pressures the administration applied — shows that we can defeat the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas.]

In the wee hours of July 28, pro-CAFTA forces squeaked out a razor-thin victory in the House by a vote of 217 to 215 — overcoming their final hurdle. The administration had signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement in May of 2004, but refused to allow Congress to vote on the agreement for more than a year, until sufficient support could be lined up. The fact that the administration dared not submit the agreement to Congress sooner, and then had to engage in an embarrassingly transparent display of arm-twisting and vote-buying to get it passed, is powerful testimony to what the informed opposition against CAFTA had accomplished.

We had high hopes of defeating CAFTA. But we are not discouraged, since the CAFTA battle has helped us enormously to build opposition to a more dangerous threat — the Free Trade Area of the Americas — and to make it more difficult for the global architects who want to impose an EU-style supranational government on the Americas to move forward with the FTAA.

On January 16, 2002, President Bush declared "we're determined to complete [the FTAA] negotiations by January of 2005." Those negotiations are still not completed. Moreover, the FTAA agreement was to have been approved by Congress and put into effect this year. That timetable appears to have been shoved back at least a year.

The momentum in the battle to stop the FTAA may be swinging our way. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted, "Free trade supporters cheered the Central American trade pact's passage … but said the narrow victory may provide little momentum for reaching their larger goal: a trade zone spanning the Western Hemisphere."

So-called free trade pacts are no longer a theory to many Americans, as was the case when Congress approved NAFTA in 1993. Almost a million Americans have lost jobs as a result of NAFTA alone. Moreover, the trend toward open borders is becoming increasingly visible. Indeed, the CAFTA battle has bought us valuable time to more fully inform and activate Americans who already recognize these alarming trends.

It was a welcome surprise that CAFTA proponents had to work so hard to assemble their majority. Since much of the opposition to CAFTA was based on partisan politics and narrow economic concerns, we were pleased that the pro-CAFTA forces had so much difficulty.

Many who mistakenly view CAFTA as a "minor trade agreement" were undoubtedly puzzled by the amount of persistence, determination, and back-room dealing the administration and the GOP congressional leadership applied to get CAFTA passed. The sheer volume of political pressure is only puzzling, however, until it is understood that CAFTA is not about exporting more American goods to a handful of small countries with little purchasing power.

CAFTA-FTAA proponents have necessarily kept CAFTA's real significance hidden from public view, even downplaying the fact that CAFTA is a steppingstone to the FTAA. Instead, they deceptively argued that CAFTA was about "free trade." This same deception is being used to build support for the FTAA. The real purpose — to integrate the Western Hemisphere and to eradicate our borders — is being ignored and even denied.

This same strategy of deception was also employed decades earlier to get the unsuspecting peoples of Europe to accept the Common Market and (much more recently) the European Union. Europeans were told that the Common Market was needed to facilitate trade and build prosperity, but the intent all along was to build a regional government as a steppingstone to world government. Of course, to expose the NAFTA-CAFTA-FTAA process, we have the advantage of being able to point to the Common Market-EU process as well as to the fact that FTAA architects approvingly cite the EU as their model.

To stop the FTAA, we must focus our opposition on the conspiratorial agenda to build an EU-style government of the Western Hemisphere, not on partisan politics or even on economic grounds. We must also keep in mind that the NAFTA-CAFTA-FTAA scheme, like the Common Market-EU scheme, is a process. Not everything is revealed in the agreements, and if the FTAA is approved, the envisioned power grab (like the EU) will unfold over time. And so we must expose the forces and long-term goals.

We also must apply informed pressure on Congress by building solid, informed constituent clout. Clout, not reason, is the primary language of politicians. Unfortunately, too many congressmen are schooled that their primary accountability is to their party leaders, whom they believe can control their careers. These party leaders are in turn under the sway of the Power Elite whose objective is to consolidate power in a world government.

Building and applying the necessary clout to expose and overcome this top-down conspiracy is only possible through organization. By far the best way to build grassroots opposition and stop the FTAA is to become active in a local chapter of The John Birch Society. During the CAFTA battle, JBS chapters were the focal point of inspiring determined action to pressure Congress to vote no. The closeness of the CAFTA battle shows that the battle to defeat the FTAA is winnable.


Editor's Note: I'd like to thank one of our gentle WCF readers for the submission of this interesting article. A web-based version can also be found here.

Co-Workers and Employers Band Together to Exploit Government Largess

I happened across this fascinating Patty Henetz article this morning's Salt Lake Tribune:

Co-workers band together to lease vans from state rideshare program

Waiting list: Though disputes sometimes arise over driving styles, the program is in high demand

By Patty Henetz
The Salt Lake Tribune

Jim Peterson, who works at the VA Hospital, heads to the parking lot to
a UTA van that he drives for 11 of his co-workers. The van pool takes the
workers to and from their homes in Davis and Weber counties. (Ryan Galbraith/The
Salt Lake Tribune)

Every time Lisa Porter makes her 70-mile round trip between her home in Tooele and her job in Salt Lake City, she helps the Utah Transit Authority reduce congestion on the state's freeways, saves money on gas and insurance, reduces wear and tear on her car and cuts back on emissions hazardous to the environment. As a bonus, she gets to decompress with nine other women who also work at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, so that by the time she faces her family, she's relaxed.

"It kind of gives you a cool-down time if you've had a bad day," Porter said while on her way home this past week.

Porter is one of more than 3,000 Utah workers who have joined forces in UTA's custom rideshare van-leasing project that has become so successful the agency is scrambling to secure more vans and reduce a one-year wait list.

UTA doesn't advertise the service, said Scott Miklos, the van pool rideshare supervisor. Rather, agency marketing specialists visit companies to explain how the transit option can save money for employees and employers while also saving millions of driving miles.

Madelyn Roundy, a human resources worker for Autoliv, a global auto safety device manufacturer, got on board. She convinced her employer the van scheme was a good idea after it closed its Ogden plant nearly two years ago and transferred 13 production lines to Brigham City, a 50-mile round trip from Ogden. Employees didn't want to move, but dreaded the long trip to work.

She told her bosses all they had to do was allow the employees to take pre-tax payroll deductions to pay for the van pools. Because the Internal Revenue Service allows companies to deduct up to $105 per worker per month tax-free, the company would pay less in payroll taxes. In turn, the employees had less taxable income and saved transportation dollars.

Now she manages 11 van pools, with two more due to start up this week.

"I have not even promoted this. But the more gas prices go up, the more people are interested in getting on a van," Roundy said.

In 1997, UTA leased out 27 vans. Last year the agency leased 246 vans and saved 35 million vehicle miles, Miklos said. Since 2002, the program has saved nearly 89 million miles. The cost to participants is about 4 cents per mile. Each van pool
includes at least two members who are designated drivers.

"We have probably close to 80 groups waiting for the 27 new vans I will have this year," he said, adding he is trying to persuade UTA to purchase 30 more from its own funds to satisfy demand.

Miklos figures that Autoliv van pool riders already saved 680,000 vehicle miles during the first six months of this year and at least $5,000 in payroll taxes per year. The eight Veterans Administration vans saved 484,000 miles for the 6-month period.

You can read the rest of the article here.

At first glance, this UTA program seems like a good idea -- a real "feel-good" story. If UTA statistics can be taken at face value, it's a win-win for employers and commuters alike. Look at all the gasoline and highway miles we're saving, says the UTA. And it's good for the environment, too!

But what about the taxpayers? A program like this, founded upon federal tax incentives, and requiring UTA management and funding, puts most of the financial burden of this program squarely upon the tax-paying general public. And unlike traditional public-transit systems, which serve a general ridership, this program is designed to favor only particular riders and industries, and not the general public.

The "secrecy" aspect of this program is bothersome, to say the least. UTA doesn't advertise this program. If this program has been in operation since 1997, why hasn't the UTA publicized it? And what criteria are used by the UTA to determine which group gets a van, and which doesn't? And of course there's the overall question: does it make sense for the federal and state government to subsidize companies like Autoliv, who move their operations from our communities to outlying locations, thereby displacing a locally-situated work-force, and requiring this ride-share solution? And how much -- exactly -- does this van-pool program cost the taxpayers, anyway? Surely the UTA isn't making money on this, like a private vehicle-leasing company would do.

Perhaps our Ogden City councilman Kent Jorgensen could provide a little information on this. According to his Ogden City website profile, he works by day as a UTA "ride-share specialist." What about it Kent? Are you listening? Can you help us out on this?

I'd certainly like to get more information. Maybe Rick Safsten can shed some light on this story. He's and Autoliv manager after all, according to his Ogden City web profile. Perhaps he can enlighten us on whether this van-leasing program operates merely to assist displaced local workers -- or whether it was intended to help "grease the rails" for Autoliv, when it decided to slide its operation out of town.

And what about our gentle Weber County Forum readers? Surely there's someone within our rapidly-expanding readership who can fill in some of the blanks here.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Recreation Center Bond Vote Dropped from Council Calendar

When sorrows come,
they come not single spies,
but in battalions.
-William Shakespeare
(Hamlet-Act IV - Scene V)

I confess I'd lost count, but thanks to John Wright, we learn from this morning's Standard-Examiner page C-1 headline story that the Ogden Recreation Center vote, most recently continued to Tuesday, August 23, 2005, has been again delayed -- now for the ninth time. This time the City Council has taken it off-calendar completely, rather than setting it for some fixed future date. This decision was apparently made last Thursday.

According to this John Wright story, Another problem has cropped up. Although we were earlier informed that the city had obtained a bank letter of credit, to comply with state law, and to permit bond interest payments to be made during the construction phase of the project, somebody wasn't being entirely forthright about it, evidently. It now appears that the RDA still hasn't come to terms with the "bridge" lender, Zions Bank. Until that happens, there is no letter of credit, people.

To further complicate matters, the R&O Construction bid apparently expires on September 1, 2005. After that date, all bets are off, and the project contractor will have no legal obligation to perform at the original contract price. This is certainly not encouraging, inasmuch as we learn, according to Mr. Wright's story, that project costs increased $2.3 million last month alone, due to the late-discovered oil contamination delay. This "environmental" problem, incidentally, has also apparently not been yet resolved.

You can read Mr. Wright's entire story here.

As most of our gentle readers are aware, I've come out in favor of proceeding with this project, which I've viewed as a simple arms-length transaction between ready, willing and able lessors and lessees. I've always believed, however, that it would be the lenders in this transaction who would ultimately determine the feasibility of this project, through operation of mechanism of the free market.

It appears to me that this is what is actually happening here, and that the degree of caution now being demonstrated by the lenders and bond underwriter evidences reluctance, which is not encouraging for proponents of this project. It's difficult to put a positive spin on this latest development.

Mr. Wright's article mentions the increasing cost of concrete as being a primary factor in increasing materials cost, and I'll briefly comment on that. The problem with concrete is that it's heavy and bulky, and that it's transported to the construction sites in heavy trucks, truckload by truckload. The factor that accounts for the increased cost of concrete is not the cost of the material itself, but the cost of fuel that powers the trucks. Anyone who purchases gasoline at the pump is painfully aware of what's happening with fuel prices. Fuel price is such a cost "wildcard" that many cement contractors around the country build in a delivery surcharge, to "hedge" against sudden fuel price increases. You can expect some serious inflation in the original construction price, I think, if the city and the construction lender wind up back at the bargaining table, upon expiration of the existing contract bid.

Comments, anyone?

Friday, August 19, 2005

True Crime Stories: Shoplifters Focus of Massive Riverdale Manhunt

I've been pondering whether to mention this Standard-Examiner story, which appeared in yesterday's edition. The large wide-angle photo image was the first thing that caught my eye as I retrieved my newspaper in the pre-dawn darkness yesterday morning; and I assumed at first, (as many other Std-Ex readers may have done,) that this grim-visaged group of heavily-armed local law-enforcement's finest was in hot pursuit of an armed and dangerous felon -- or possibly Osama bin Laden himself. (Photo by Robert Johnson/Standard-Examiner.) This photo image has been "cropped," by the way. The original hard-copy edition showed two additional equally grim-visaged and well-armed law enforcement officers to the right of the photo.

It wasn't until I got back inside the front door and into the indoor light that I actually caught the article headline: "Shoplifters Focus of Riverdale Hunt."

I'll incorporate a few of Shane Farver's opening paragraphs:

RIVERDALE -- It was a show of force worthy of hunting down a gang of the most-hardened criminals.

Twelve officers, some carrying automatic weapons, from five Top of Utah police agencies, two dogs and a helicopter combed the woods near the river parkway in Riverdale Wednesday afternoon.

Their quarry? Teenage shoplifters.

"We were giving chase and decided to use the resources available," said Riverdale Lt. Dave Hansen in explaining the heavy turnout of law enforcement.

You can read rest of the thrilling story about the big Riverdale dragnet here.

At first I brushed this story off as just another particularly trivial example of bureaucratic overkill -- employing sledge-hammers, where fly-swatters would do. After a day's hindsight however, I think this story has implications that go far beyond mere bureaucratic silliness. In an era where law-enforcement dollars are tight, I think the citizens of Riverdale need to ask themselves why it was necessary for the City of Riverdale's "watch-commander" to call in officers from five police agencies, together with two dogs and a helicopter, to apprehend four terrified teenagers who'd already bungled a petty property crime. It's a question of proportion, I think; and I'm pretty sure somebody is going to bring this story up the next time some local law enforcement official starts crying the "dress blues" over funding shortages.

Don't get me wrong on this. I'm very sympathetic to the needs of local law-enforcement. I think however, the City of Riverdale needs to take a long hard look at the management-level personnel who were responsible for this situation. Lt. Dave Hansen didn't do his brother and sister officers any favors in this circumstance, it seems to me. I wonder how many law-enforcement dollars were expended in connection with this Keystone Kops event?

What about our gentle WCF readers? Does anyone have any thoughts or comments on this?

As an added bonus for Grondahl fans in the hinterlands, I'm also incorporating this morning's excellent cartoon, which also addresses this topic:

Click to enlarge

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Political Breakfast Served From Behind the Bar

The Standard-Examiner has graciously provided more red meat for the Weber County Forum breakfast menu this morning, with its publication of this Jim Stavrakakis guest commentary, in which Mr. Stavrakakis severely chastises some good citizens of this community who stood up for the private property rights of their neighbors during the recently-defeated Wal-mart landgrab.

I'm going to incorporate Mr. Stravakakis's article in full, since it's short and doesn't take up much bandwidth (or Brainwidth). Before doing this however, I'll just comment, that Mr. Stravakakis seems to be of that same pseudo-progressive mindset that holds that homeowners and business-people who fight to preserve American core values, i.e., private property rights, are "shameful," "petty" and "selfish." What's more, Mr. Stravakakis makes it very clear that he and his "progressive" fellow travelers suffer serious disappointment and inconvenience, now that they'll all apparently be forced to drive all the way to progressive West Haven, to purchase baskets-full of cheap and shoddy Chinese-manufactured "goods."

Here's the full text of Mr. Stavrakakis's article (I no, am not naking this up):

Guest Commentary
By Jim Stavrakakis
The recent news story about the commercial successes surrounding the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Harrisville should be "must reading" for all those who opposed Ogden's plans for a Wal-Mart -- a similar development -- and all others in Ogden who advocated for the city's plans to develop the deteriorating west side of the community ("Businesses sprout around Wal-Mart," Aug. 7). This is, indeed, a message and a lesson learned for everyone.
Those who opposed the development should be ashamed. Do they realize they have killed a potentially sales-tax-revenue-rich source that is so sorely needed to be one of Ogden's financial saviors? It is nothing short of pure selfishness to stall or kill Ogden's plans to accommodate such a prosperous commercial development.
Those who favored the plan will realize the disappointment that comes with being forced to travel outside Ogden to make retail purchases that are offered at the proposed retail store, as well as to patronize the other businesses that would most certainly crop up -- just as they did in Harrisville.
What a shame that doomsayers can stop healthy commercial growth in Ogden because of pure pettiness.
They now can sit back and watch Wal-Mart go west to progressive West Haven, whose elected officials are sure to cooperate with developers and inherit the financial windfall that the proposed development promises.
It is mind boggling that intelligent people -- CPAs, real estate agents, store clerks, auto mechanics, etc. -- profess allegiance to living in Ogden, yet demonstrate such lack of respect to the community by throwing up roadblocks and denying our elected officials the necessary tools to proceed with vitally needed business and commercial developments.
Ogden residents ought to mobilize and become boosters and make certain that the city ensures growth and prosperity that is so valuable to the future of our community.

Stavrakakis is a retired social worker, professional bartender and community activist. He lives in Ogden.
Bon appetit, WCF readers!

I'd also like to personally thank the Standard-Examiner's Don Porter for delivering this wonderful plate of USDA prime red meat for our gentle readers, as they sit down for their morning cocoa and open the WCF front-page. It certainly makes one local blogger's life much easier when he doesn't have to scour the internet for hours to find something suitable to serve on the breakfast menu for our information-hungry regulars.

And Jim! How about whipping me up a spicy bloody Mary to wash down all that tasty red meat?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

When City Governments Go Bad

One of our gentle reader-regulars submitted a news piece to me today. The article concerns how the autocratic neoCON city government of New London, Connecticut has responded to the surly individual property owners who fought the central-control statists for their homes for over a decade... and then lost in the uber-liberal US Supreme court. Here's the link.

This story is an illustration of what happens to a city when it's dominated by heartless and ruthless central planning types like Commissars Jorgensen and Safsten.

Here's an article excerpt:
Those who believe in the adage "when it rains, it pours" might take the tale of the plaintiffs in Kelo v. New London as a cue to buy two of every animal and a load of wood from Home Depot. The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the city's original seizure of private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought confiscation.
In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the homeowners are being offered buyouts based on the market rate as it was in 2000.
We have a major battle going on in Ogden. It's between the citizens and their aggressive government, who justify every assault against individual rights under the aggressive Marxist slogan -- "for the greater good."

This cadre of disgusting statist city government central-planners won't stop... just as Jorgensen and Safsten won't.

They're ruining our great and unique community, as we all know. But we can drive these people out in November.

Make sure you're registered to vote, people; and tell all your friends what's happening here. The upcoming November municipal election is possibly the most important election in recent Ogden history.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Individual Liberty and Ferrets

I'm actually astounded at the readership that's accumulated with this blog. Whereas I'd expected to round up a few hundred regular local readers to read and comment on local happenings, our Weber County Forum regular readership now numbers in the thousands, and it expands from a heavy concentration around Ogden, to significant numbers around places like Washington, DC, and to many other points on the compass.

For the sake of those unfortunate WCF readers who live away from Ogden, the center of the Weber County Universe, I'll provide current links to the "ferret story," something that's launched a real awareness of the "hard-hearted coldness" of Ogden City government in many warm local hearts. It's been mentioned often enough in our gentle readers' WCF comments that I feel compelled to offer information for those unfortunates who, unlike I, don't get a gleaming hard-copy of the Standard-Examiner delivered on their front porch in the wee hours every morning.

This is the original Std-Ex story, which launched the whole phenomenon.

Here is the next day's story.

You can read part of the flurry of outraged "letters to the Std-Ex editor" here and here.

For a top-notch compassionate, humane and on-the-money Std-Ex editorial, don't miss this. I'd thought for a time that the Std-Ex was a lost cause, compassion-wise, but it seems I was wrong about that.

Please don't let the cat get your tongues. Comments are always welcome here, even from you who live in the boon-docks.

Ogden Before the First Central-Planning Commissars

A few weeks ago I traded emails with a WCF regular, who suggested that I write a piece on the condition of the Ogden Mall-site, before the mall was built. The project has died a slow death, due to our mutual realization that it would probably take a knowledgeable local historian with a long memory to accomplish such a task with even minimal competence.

Last week though, Centerville Citizen, another respected board WCF semi-regular, made a thoughtful comment about his disembarcation from the north-bound bus from Centerville on Saturday, when he decided to check out the situation in Ogden for himself.

As he stepped off the bus he was confounded; and his instincts told him he was in a dangerous place.

His comment jogged my memory; and I'm thus publishing this 1979 photo of the Mall-site before it became a mall.

Comments, anyone? Is there anybody who posts here who can identify any of the businesses which thrived on the west side of Washington Boulevard north of 24th street, before the last band of "young turk" public planners knocked it all down to build a downtown mall?

Does anyone have comments about this?

Image via Union Station Museum Exhibit

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Ogden Horses Are "Off and Running," Election-Wise (Updated)

I've verified this afternoon that there are the nineteen citizen-aspirants for the four Ogden City Council seats that are up for grabs in November. I verified this by standing inside the city recorder's office when she slammed the front door shut this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. It's a fairly large list. Unlike last time we had a municipal election, I predict that this will be a very "energetic" city council race. Here's a list of the "horses" as they leave the gate:

Ogden City Council Candidate Roster
2005 Elections
8/15/05 -- 5:00 p.m.

Municipal Ward 1

Jesse M. Garcia, 750 Healy Street, 778-6834
David Berghout, 2669 Madison Avenue, 399-3472
Dori Mosher, 719 Belnap Circle, 778-0482

Municipal Ward 3
Ronald L. Hale, 1058 Rushton, 622-2687
Stephen J. Larsen, 1467 Jefferson Avenue, 564-5000
Mitch Moyes, 1710 Capitol Street, 399-3279
Clifton Douglas Stephens, 1131 16th Street, 393-9796

At Large Seat A
Daryl S. Andersen, 2849 Eccles Avenue, 391-6515
James E. Carrell, 2634 Quincy Avenue, Apt. 1, 686-0107
Bill Glasmann 1730 28th Street 628-1799
Kent W. Jorgenson, 1364 Arlington Drive, 393-1885
Jack McWain Sr., 1659 Childs Avenue, 627-6035
Kori Munns, 2906 Taylor Avenue, 612-1234

At Large Seat B
Joshua Belka, 2622 Madison Avenue, 499-1880
Donna S. Burdett, 4421 Taylor Avenue, 394-1521
Jeff LeFevre, 934 N. Quincy Avenue, 782-5359
Steven M. Prisbrey, 625 Iowa Street, 668-8824
John H. Thompson, 1506 24th Street, 621-1808
Dorrene E. Jeske 1056 E. 425 N. 782-5827

I promise there will more information on each of these people here on Weber County Forum as November approaches.

One of the things I'll be trying to do here, by the way, is to put together a list of questions to each of these candidates. Although I've already composed a few of my own, I wonder -- do the gentle readers of Weber County Forum have any questions they'd like to ask these candidates?

Comments or candidate questions are invited, as the horses head off into the first turn.

Here's a map of the Ogden precincts, BTW... just in case you don't already know which "big government" incumbent you plan to vote against this November.

Update 9/16/05 11:13 p.m. MT: This morning's Standard-Examiner features another fine John Wright article, which provides more information about the ongoing Ogden City council race. It turns out, Mr. Wright reports, that the number of candidates (19) running for council seats is unprecedented, at least within the memory of City Clerk Gloria Berrett, an employee of 22 years.

Mr. Wright's story goes into a discussion of the political dynamics which have resulted in this long list of council candidates, and also provides information from background interviews. Anyone who intends to follow the council race from its very beginning will find this article a good starting point.

Among the quotes that Mr. Wright provides in this aticle is this one from incumbent Ogden City Council Vice-Chair and council candidate, Kent Jorgensen. It really is quite astonishing, I think:

Some of those who qualified to run have been outspoken critics of the incumbents, but Jorgenson defended them.

"Clearly we're making great strides and we're bringing in more business, we're not increasing taxes," he said. "We're clearly adding value, but for some reason we're not communicating that."

Jorgenson also said he feels there is a misperception that the council and administration are one and the same.

"I hope we're not lumped in to how people feel in general about what the mayor's doing, because a lot of times we don't have control over what his agenda is," he said.

There you have it, gentle readers. It's not Jorgensen and the city council "gang of five" who are "out of touch." The problem is that the citizens who've stepped up and committed to removing Mr. Jorgensen and his fellow incumbants from office are merely uninformed. For some odd reason they haven't gotten "the message," and don't understand what a great job Mr. Jorgensen and the gang of five have been doing for the citizens of Ogden -- or so says Councilman Jorgensen.

What say you, gentle readers? Is it the citizens of Ogden who are out of touch?

And what about the bulk of the city council? Is it true that it actually has a mind of its own?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

City Council Hires "Communications Specialist"

It is the absolute right
of the State to supervise
the formation of public opinion.
-Joseph Goebbels

We're not trying to spin it,
like in a public relations mode,
but we're actually trying to educate,
to give information about what we're
thinking or what the problem is,
get the feedback on how we can solve
it, and then to make some decisions.
-Councilman Kent Jorgenson

John Wright reports this morning that the Ogden City Council has created a new staff position to improve communications with the citizens of Ogden:

OGDEN -- In an effort to improve communication with citizens, the Ogden City Council has created a new position and set up a committee to implement a 52-page plan.

Communication problems have been evident, council members say, when it has come to hot-button issues like a proposed high-adventure recreation center, redevelopment areas and water rates.

To better inform citizens, they have hired a communications specialist for $28,700 a year and set up a five-member committee to implement the plan, drafted by a consultant at a cost of $5,000.

"We're not trying to spin it, like in a public relations mode, but we're actually trying to educate, to give information about what we're thinking or what the problem is, get the feedback on how we can solve it, and then to make some decisions," said Councilman Kent Jorgenson, a member of the committee. "We feel that we have to engage the public."

Council members are compiling a list of 1,000 stakeholders who will receive regular updates on council business via e-mail. They also plan to prioritize initiatives so they can establish individual communications plans for each.

The master communications plan offers guidance on things like framing messages, targeting audiences, disseminating information and gathering feedback. It covers such things as demographics and media relations.

In addition to the $5,000 it paid Ogden-based Design Solutions Integrated Marketing to draft the plan, the council has set aside $10,000 to implement it this year.

All funding for communications will come out of the council's $618,000 annual budget.

Communications specialist Linda Fonnesbeck will work up to 35 hours a week, producing news releases, designing surveys, gathering data, working with the local government television channel and producing reports.

Fonnesbeck also will be a member of the City Council Communications Coordinating Committee, or C5, along with Jorgenson, Zampedri, Council Executive Director Bill Cook, and Design Solutions Integrated Marketing President Jodi Holmgren.

Holmgren called the council's commitment to providing timely and accurate information to the public a "major improvement."

"I think the important thing is just that they have unanimously identified a void," she said. "I think there's a lot of exciting things going on in the community, and this will allow the community to have the information more readily."

I'm going to keep an open mind on this for now, but I already see numerous 'red flags."

The first oddity of this new arrangement is that it seems to be centered around the city council, and not the city administration itself. I've been urging Mayor Godfrey for quite a while to implement something like this on his own behalf, to promote more exchange of ideas between the city administration and the public. Yet this new communications apparatus is set up as the city council's "baby" The problem in this is that the Ogden City Council seldom speaks with one unanimous voice on any issue or subject.

There's also a second tricky problem. While it's admirable for the city council to provide a contact point between itself and the public for the exchange of information and ideas, there's a fine line between information and propaganda.

For example, it would be great to have an easy interface through which the average citizen could obtain accurate and coherent information about the details of the Rec Center bonding (other than by digesting the city's 151-page web-based PDF,) but the line between information and propaganda is crossed immediately if the raw data is to be interlaced with references to "noble ideals," or "grand visions."

Then there's the problem of electioneering. Mayor Godfrey has been repeatedly criticized for using city-owned channel 17 for political purposes. Although I've believed that such criticism was unwarranted in that case, I do see serious ethical problems with the establishment of the instant city council communications operation, especially with councilman Jorgensen occupying a chair on the steering committee, and most especially where he's running for re-election this November. Councilman Jorgensen exhibits repeated blind spots when it comes to potential conflicts of interest; and here's just another example of that.

There are many other potential problems and pitfalls in this situation that need to be discussed and explored.

I therefore invite our gentle Weber County Forum readers to do just that.

Whether this new city council communications agency will ultimately operate as a true two-way information interface for the general public -- or something more closely resembling Herr Goebbels's propaganda ministry -- remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I've already requested via email that Weber County Forum be added to Ms. Fonnesbeck's contact list.


Open Thread

Although I'd intended to publish a little more on the proposed Weber County property tax gouge, I couldn't get any of the commissioners on the phone yesterday, so I'll have to put that project off. I'll be occupied for most of the day doing personal "chores," so I'll turn the place over to you folks to conduct an open forum.

One pet theory that I've been nursing, since learning of the proposed Weber County tax increase, is that the Weber County Commission, in making the proposal, may be firing a "shot over the bow" of the rival Ogden City administration over the "hoarding" of tax increment dollars that would otherwise flow to the county government. In other words, this proposed property tax increase, which would violate the campaign promises of at least two currently sitting Weber County Ccommisioners, may be as much about political posturing (as the 2006 Utah legislature begins preparation for its next session,) as about raising new county tax revenue.

I heard the same theory expressed by several people yesterday, as I visited Ogden's downtown farmer's market. If anyone else has any thoughts on this topic, it would be interesting to hear them.

And if there's anything else that you'd particularly like to discuss on any subject at all, please feel free to start up the conversation here.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again*

Surprise of surprises, The Std-Ex's John Wright reports this morning that the city council hearing on the pending Downtown Ogden Recreation Center, previously calendered for August 16, 2005 has been once again re-set, this time to Tuesday, August 23. If all goes well, this will be the last continuance.

We've already thoroughly discussed the oil contamination problem that arose at the seeming last moment, and caused the last re-calendering, but now there seems to be yet another belatedly discovered glitch, according to Mr. Wright's report:

Although results from those [environmental] studies are not expected before Tuesday, council members had planned to move forward with the public hearings.

But in the meantime, officials discovered that under state law, the Municipal Building Authority cannot make payments on bonds used to finance a building that is not complete. That means GE Commercial would not have been able to collect payments while the recreation center is under construction.

"We had to find a way to protect GE during that time period," Harmer said.

The city has secured a letter of credit as collateral for bonds that would finance construction, Harmer said, but has not had time to clear the letter with GE Commercial.

I'd love to have been that proverbial "fly on the wall" in Ogden Community and Economic Development Director David Harmer's office in the days following Stuart Reid's departure. Although he's a clean-cut guy, and probably doesn't regularly use the kind of language some of our gentle Weber County Forum readers sometimes do, I'll bet he's muttered a at least a few choice words from time to time. He got handed a real can of worms. I'm sure, however, that everything will get ironed out in due time, now that we have an experienced manager like David Harmer in charge of things.

If it doesn't happen pretty soon, however, the upcoming November Ogden City municipal elections could easily morph into that "citizen bond referendum" that that some Ogdenites were pushing late this spring.

There's also another interesting wrinkle in this story. The new city council bond vote date now falls on the same date as a Weber County Commission hearing and comments session for a proposed Weber County 21% property tax increase. Although I'd planned to attend the Ogden City Council session on the bond issue, I think I'll be sitting in the county commision chambers at 6:00 p.m. on August 23. For those who were unaware that our county commission was planning to take another large bite out of our wallets you can read this notice which appeared in the Standard-Examiner this morning. It's a sure bet I'll be posting a seperate article on this latest county commission proposal sometime this weekend.
*Yogi Berra

Totally Hard-Core

Are these guys nuts, or what?

These shots of avid ski enthusiasts Scott Appleby, Mike Allen and Kevin Brown were taken at Snow Basin after they hauled their gear to the top of Porcupine on August 7.

Very cool.

Who needs ski-lifts and thermal underwear?

I can hardly wait for next February's Pineview water-skiing images.

(Via the Std-Ex's new photo blog, which could also develop into something very cool, I think.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

When Errand-Boys Go Bad

It's been over two weeks now since U.S. House Representative Rob Bishop stuck it to his Utah constituents with his late night CAFTA flip-flop. He's taken plenty of political heat over this, just as he knew he would. The latest public criticism comes in the form of a reader letter published in the Standard-Examiner today. It's clear and to the point, and I'm thus publishing it here, just so our gentle WCF readers will have some understanding of the kinds of complaints Rep. Bishop is no doubt receiving in his office mailbox:
Utah has been betrayed by our congressional delegation. With their recent votes in favor of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our U.S. representatives collectively thumbed their noses at all of us.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature voted in favor of a resolution to keep us out of these free-trade agreements. This apparently fell on deaf ears with our national representatives.

If even one of Utah's congressmen had voted against CAFTA, it would not have passed. This was one vote where Utah could have made a difference.

How is it that our representative from northern Utah, Congressman Rob Bishop, was firmly against CAFTA until the moment of the vote? Could it be that he suddenly saw the light? Or is it more likely that he finally succumbed to the tremendous pressure from the Washington establishment?

I also find it ironic that Bishop can vote against the World Trade Organization, and yet be in favor of CAFTA. CAFTA's charter makes it perfectly clear that it is wholly subservient to the WTO.

As Bishop himself admitted, CAFTA has more to do with politics than trade. The ultimate goal of these agreements is progressive regionalization. Once we succumb to regionalization, it will not be difficult to incorporate these regional bodies into a world government envisioned by the founders of the United Nations.

When our elected officials vote for regionalization, they vote against representative government, against our Republic and against the Constitution. It's past time we held them accountable.

Jeff Wheelwright

Mr. Wheelright's commentary centers, of course, on the cluster of issues that go to the merits of free-trade agreements themselves. And although he takes aim at the entire Utah congressional delegation, I'm simply going follow Mr. Wheelright's lead and focus on the actions of our own Rep. Bishop, who's supposed, in theory at least, to be especially responsible to the needs of the citizens of Northern Utah.

It can be said with certainty that the rapidly-expanding body of international law encompassed by international agreements such as CAFTA, will not only transform the foundations of our economic, legal and political systems but will also drastically effect our very culture itself. As the economic "playing field" is globally "leveled" by the dissolution of existing trade barriers between nations, we're bound to witness plenty of disruption, as American wage and price levels decline, and international courts begin enforcing our international treaty obligations.

We've already seen some interference in our domestic legal system, as local state legislative acts have been effectively "annulled" by conflicting provisions in NAFTA. We'll likely see lots more of this in the future, as individual international disputes wind their way into the international courts. Domestic wage and price levels have been in decline since the passage of NAFTA, too, and both US manufacturers and wage-earners are clearly feeling the pinch. Jeff Wheelright is right on track in his concern about Rep. Bishop's sudden performance turnaround. If there are readers here who'd like to discuss any of these issues, I'm offering this article so we can do just that.

There's also a second "cluster" of issues though, that come to the forefront here. By this I'm referring to questions that arise concerning the relationship of a U.S. Congressman to his citizen constituents, and what duties and obligations are owed by him when we send him to Washington with specific instructions on how to vote on particular legislation. What do we do about a congressman like Rob Bishop, who promises one thing, and does entirely the opposite -- in the middle of a hot Washington night?

That's exactly what Congressman Bishop did in this particular CAFTA instance. Although he campaigned and was re-elected on his promise to oppose heavy-handed international trade treaties, he then turned around and did precisely what he promised not to do. "CAFTA isn't nearly as bad as NAFTA," he meekly assures us, and besides -- it's all far too complicated for country bumpkins back in the province to understand anyway.

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but here's how I look at this problem: Congressman Bishop is analogous to an errand boy for the people of Utah, who's there in Washington at Utah citizens' bid and call. When we send him there to deliver a package of specific principles, we don't expect him to deliver a different one -- one that's put together by Tom DeLay. I don't know about you folks, but I'm growing pretty tired of political errand-boys who who start exercising complete and unbridled discretion, the minute they're out of earshot.

It seems to me that there's only way to deal with an errand-boy who carroms off on a tangent or personal "lark." What we do with such an errand boy is fire him.

This issue also has local implications too, I think. What do we do locally when we have a pack of errand-boys who ignore our instructions and do whatever they damn well please? Do we keep them employed, in the hope that they'll occasionally get it right every now and then, or do we simply cut them loose and replace them?

I'm throwing out this topic at the suggestion of one of our gentle Weber County Forum readers, who's also responsible for the "Stop the FTAA" graphic that now appears in the WCF right sidebar. I mention this only because it has been suggested on another thread, that I'm not fully-attuned to some of the issues that are important to some of the readers here. We can't have that now, can we?

If anyone would like to discuss the actual merits of international free-trade agreements, why not do that here? And how about this "errand-boy fidelity" question? Does anyone have additional thoughts on that?

Your comments, as always, are invited. Let's hear what you think on this topic.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

They Just Keep Going, Etc.

As more evidence of the current administration and city council's steely determination, John Wright reports that Ogden City has now hired a professional lobbyist to browbeat members of the Utah legislature into reinstating the condemnation power back to our Ogden RDA. Despite the wide grass-roots popularity of Senator Bramble's S.B. 184, (which stripped the eminent-domain power from the RDA toolbox last spring,) -- and various national polls that demonstrate overwhelming public opposition to the government use of the condemnation power for economic development (in the neighborhood of 95%,) our Ogden City government still continues to "persevere" and blindly "move forward."

It's a short article, so I'll just incorporate it in full:
OGDEN -- City officials have hired a lobbyist, at a cost of $45,000, to represent their interests at the Utah Legislature.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey said the lobbyist, Robert Jolley, of Salt Lake City, will deal with a variety of issues on the city's behalf, including potential changes to state law concerning redevelopment areas and the use of eminent domain.
In the past, the city typically has sent an employee to the Capitol to act as an internal lobbyist, a practice Godfrey described as very disruptive.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill that eliminated eminent domain as a tool for redeveloping blighted areas.
The bill is blamed for stalling two Ogden projects -- the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at 21st Street and Wall Avenue and the riverfront development project between 18th Street and 20th Street and Washington Boulevard and Kiesel Avenue.
"There's broad consensus across the state that some of the actions that were taken were damaging," Godfrey said. "My assumption is that will be a main topic this year, and he'll (Jolley will) be key to staying on top of that for us."
City Council Chairman Rick Safsten said the council is supportive of the administration's efforts to ensure that legislators understand Ogden's perspective on RDAs and eminent domain.
"We need this legislation to be able to move forward," Safsten said.
Jolley declined to comment.
I'll give these folks at the City Politburo and Chamber of People's Deputies due credit for one thing -- their actions certainly aren't poll-driven. I'm sure indeed that there is a "broad consensus" within the Utah League Cities and Towns echo-chamber, at least.

"The people be damned," says People's Deputy Safsten. "We're gonna edumacate the legislature this session, and edumacate them good!"

And what say our gentle readers about this? Will Comrade Safsten succeed in educating Senator Bramble and the rest of the state legislature this next go-round?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sledge-Hammer Solutions to Fly-Swatter Problems?

Yesterday's Standard-Examiner printed another front-page John Wright story, which was mentioned several times yesterday in Weber County Forum reader comments. Entitled "Short-term Quarters," Mr. Wright's article reported on a month-old Ogden City ordinance, aimed at prohibiting long-term stays at Ogden hotels and motels.

Mr. Wright provides a nice summary of the ordinance and its effects in his opening paragraphs:
OGDEN -- For Larry Crossley, the Millstream Motel on Washington Boulevard is a good fit.
Left disabled by a car accident 13 years ago, Crossley can't walk far, but it's a short cab ride to any number of retail establishments on 12th Street.
Living at the Millstream, which he has done for the last 18 months, also allows Crossley to limit his banking to two transactions a month. He receives a check for about $1,200 in Social Security disability insurance and writes one for about $700 that covers his rent, gas, electricity and cable.
"I make one payment, and I don't have to worry about it," Crossley said. "This (living here) is just a matter of convenience, really."
Crossley and scores of others who live in a handful of motels on Washington Boulevard soon may be inconvenienced, however, by an ordinance the City Council approved last month.
The ordinance prohibits hotels and motels from keeping any guest for more than three months in a one-year period, if the guest has no other permanent residence.
City officials say the ordinance is necessary because the motels are generating a high number of police calls; because they weren't designed for long-term stays, which creates health and safety issues; and to help stimulate the revitalization of downtown.
But residents of the motels fear the ordinance could render them homeless, and owners of the establishments say it could put them out of business.
WCF readers can read the rest of yesterday's article here. I do hope WCF readers will take the time to do this.

As is proving to be the case with thought-provocative John Wright articles, Mr. Wright brings to the forefront issues and questions which require additional thought -- and discussion. Here are a few that immediately come to mind. I'm sure that there are others too:

Do the stated public "objects" of this ordinance, i.e., reducing the number of police responses, conforming residency terms to original design, and helping stimulate the revitalization of downtown fall within the scope of what we expect of out local government; or are they overly-broad?

And even assuming, for sake of argument, that these objects fall within the legitimate scope of government regulation, does the ordinance, as drafted, attempt to do more than it needs to do? Could this ordinance have been drafted more narrowly, to create a less adverse impact to the interests of property owners and long-term residents who depend on such facilities? Has the Ogden City council used a sledge-hammer to solve perceived problems that would be better solved with a fly-swatter?

If the residents of these motels have to be "booted" every ninety days, where are they expected to go? Other motels? The streets? Is this ordinance intended to drive these residents completely out of Ogden?

And what about the treatment of the motel owners themselves? Is is fair that these property owners should have learned about the impairment of their property and contract rights only after the ordinance was passed? Even though there may not have been a statutory requirement that they receive notice and opportunity to be heard, wouldn't fairness have dictated that they would be invited to argue their "points" before the Ogden City council, prior to having their rights summarily stripped from them?

As I've mentioned before in this space, it's my fear that Ogden City is presently governed by an overbearing, cold and heartless soviet-style city government that's completely lost touch with its own citizenry. Am I alone in this perception, or are there others who'd like to chime-in on this topic this morning?

Have at it, gentle readers...

Update 8/15/05 1:11 p.m. M.T: The Standard-Examiner has a particularly compassionate and humane editorial in this morning's edition, and Don Porter also printed a thoughtful reader letter on the subject. The Std-Ex editorial board and its readership seems to understand the difference between fly-swatters and sledge hammers. What's wrong with the government of Ogden City?

You can read today's editorial here, and Joy Ditter's reader letter here.

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