Friday, September 30, 2005

This Completes the Std-Ex Series.

The Standard-Examiner has published the last in its anticipated series of four articles, profiling the nineteen candidates vying for the four available Ogden city council seats. The Std-Ex editors have really knocked themselves out on this, having gotten the final of these articles out in print a full three days prior to the Ogden municipal primary election.

Today's Lynze Wardle article contains delightful campaign tidbits from each of the four candidates running for Fasi Filiaga's Ward 3 seat.

Among them, candidate Steve Larsen has a "secret plan," (which has an eerie "feel" about it, reminiscent of another secret plan, in another American era far, far away.) Ron Hale admits that he needs "more information," (which is not a reassuring thing to hear from a council candidate at this late stage of a primary campaign.) Doug Stephens, the article notes, was the candidate who failed to stop the Filiaga juggernaut when now-retiring incumbent Filiaga first ran for the city council in 1998. And candidate Mitch Moyes says, among other things, that he plans to "open a driver's training school" sometime in the future. This latter platform plank will no doubt be a real vote-getter, for those of us who navigate the streets and byways of Weber County, demolition-derby style, practicing the ultra-defensive and self-preservation-intense driving skills that white-knuckled local drivers necessarily develop in order to safely drive from local place to place.

I've added this story to the Weber County Forum sidebar, along with the other similarly information-rich Std-Ex articles that have been run in recent days on the topic of the Ogden city council race. Be sure to check the whole candidate info section out before you head to the polls on Tuesday to vote out all the council incumbent "rubber stamps." There's lots of good information there.

Comments, gentle readers?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Office Building Coming to Ogden

Thanks to one of our attentive and helpful gentle readers, I'm able to "scoop" the Standard-Examiner and the corporate carpetbagger "Suits from Sanduskey" once again.

New Office Building in Downtown Ogden

What's interesting is that there's no mention of public bonding, sweetheart deals, etc.

Will this be the expected pre-election "October Surprise?"

Don't count on it.

There will be another earth-shattering announcement -- re the gondola project, perhaps?!?!?!

Our slovenly rubber-stamp government has grown desperate. There WILL be much more happy news.

There are egos on the line as the elections approach; and our somnambulent city government will pull out all the stops -- with the slavish Std-Ex editorial board following right behind.

Keep your eye on the ball, people. It's time to send Jorgensen, Burdett and Larsen packing.

Don't lose your resolve because of a few well-timed news announcements. The church building was coming anyway.

We have them on the ropes; and they know it.

Comments, anyone?

Update 9/29/05 11:56 p.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner ran two excellent John Wright stories on this topic this morning. You can read them here and here.

First Responses to WCF Candidate Query

I've received two responses already from the short questionaire that I emailed to the council candidates last night. Click here for these two Ogden city council candidates' most timely responses. You'll also find a new link to the questionaire in the Weber County Forum sidebar. I'll update it as new responses "come aboard."

I don't know about the rest of our gentle readers; but I think these two candidates deserve extra points for stating their views quickly and upfront, and not trying to run sleazy "stealth campaigns."

Update 9/29/05 11:04 a.m. MT: Three more questionaire responses have been added as of this time and date.

Update 9/29/05 1:32 p.m. MT: Steve Larsen and Jeff LeFevre have now submitted their responses, bringing the total to seven.

First Things Last

Well, Ogden city officials have finally gotten around to it; and there are photos to prove it, according to this morning's John Wright story. Ogden city crews are now working to repair washed-out Country Hills Drive, which has been unusable since last spring. Of course they had to scramble a little bit to accomplish this. They "diverted" $300,000 from other infrastructure projects; and the city's "contingency fund is now tapped-out. "We just don't have an extra $400,000 sitting around anywhere," Community and Economic Development Director David Harmer said.

This should come as no surprise to our gentle Weber County Forum readers. We've all watched with amazement as Ogden City government has already begged, borrowed and stolen every available dime to keep the Rec Center project alive. And we've shaken our heads in disbelief, as our city government has squandered discretionary money on big-city luxury items, like a full-time paid lobbyist, a public relations person for the city council, and of course our prodigal adopted son, Stuart Reid. And there have been many other items such as these.

If you ask the average citizen about municipal government priorities, you'll find roads at the top of the list. Police and fire services would be right on top, along with water and sewer services, too. These are the things normal citizens expect of our city government. These are the services that justify city government's very existence in the first place.

I was talking to one of the current city council candidates a couple of weeks ago about the legitimate priorities of city government; and the candidate told me something startling. This candidate had attended a city council candidate orientation, and was presented with a booklet, sort of a manual for city council operations. The candidate kindly furnished me a copy of the booklet, and I've read it cover to cover.

At page 7 of this booklet, joint Council-Administration "goals" are clearly enumerated. Here they are, gentle readers. These are the present city council priorities. Feast your eyes on this:
  • Revenue Enhancement
  • Downtown Development
  • Natural Resources, Recreational Amenities
  • Neighborhood Stability.
And here are the priorities which are conspicuously absent. These are the things that didn't even "make the cut:"
  • Infrastructure Maintenance and Repair (Roads, Sewer and Water)
  • Police and Fire Services
I don't know how the citizens of Ogden have allowed our government's priorities to get so fouled up, but our current leadership has obviously gotten it exactly backwards. And no, it isn't a single aggressive and ambitious city mayor who's responsible for this. Responsibility lies squarely in the present city council's lap.

Road repairs and other traditional services are not a priority for our present city government. That's the official policy.

With a primary election coming up in less than a week, we citizens have an opportunity to set things right. Don't sit on the sidelines this year, gentle readers.

I don't care what challenger you vote for in the primary. There are numerous good challengers in the race. The important thing however, is that you show up to oust the council members who've gotten us into this mess, Jorgensen and Burdett, and to turn away Filiaga's heir-apparent too.

It's time to take back our government, folks, and fire the people who've turned the city's priorities on their head, and adopted the official policy of putting first things last.

Comments anyone?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Party Time!

Just so our gentle readers don't think I've been completely goofing off today; here are the latest Weber County Forum developments:

I've posted today's Standard-Examiner candidate interview article in the sidebar, and will similarly post the last one in the series, along with the three previously posted ones, as soon as it becomes available.

I've also linked the website to the Weber State University Perfessers' new anti-gondola website, Smart Growth Ogden, in the right sidebar too. The site's not yet up and running, yet, but I wanted to be the first to allow our gentle readers to hear any arguments why Chris Peterson should be prevented from developing his Malan's Basin property according to his American private property owner's own desires. Check it out. It was "under construction" the last time I checked, but I'm sure it will be available soon. For those who missed the news about this new web resource, you can read all about it in today's Standard-Examiner article.

I'm also proud to announce that Weber County Forum registered its 30,000th visitor today. Trite though it may seem to say it, we obviously couldn't have accomplished this without the support and mouse-clicks of our many gentle readers, for which interest and loyalty I thank you all!

Thanks again to you all for your support!

Believe me, I shall continue to exert all my efforts to keep this humble board up to the level of 24/7 crankiness that you all crave.

Red meat will always be available here on Weber County Forum, for those who return to this site regularly.

And there's a pending question, Steve Larsen: Where exactly do you stand on the eminent domain question?

Think -- It's Your Future Too

By Bennie Hanna

What I don't understand, and I'm being serious here, is how some of you people think this bunch of guys, EC's "Gang of 6," (Godfrey, Safsten, Jorgen, Filiaga, Stephenson & Burdett) are in any way qualified to make the decisions that they have. None of them, to my knowledge, has EVER owned or operated their own business, and until you lay your ass and bankroll on the line, you don't really understand the dynamics of the "deal."

None of these guys is a realtor or real estate broker. None of these guys is a developer. None of these guys is a builder. None of these guys is an investment capitalist, stock broker, or entrepreneur. They are but elected officials with no developmental track record, no frame of reference as to what it honestly takes to put a deal together and then take it to fruition. They risk your money and mine, money from the "General Fund," money that if they lose, they can get it back through impact fees or Block Grants. They use RDA TIF for the seed money, not theirs, not even money from the people they plan to GIVE the completed projects to.They do not have their own money on the line, nor do they bet their house or their 401K. THEY HAVE NO VESTED INTEREST in these deals, they have no RISK, and one needs to experience that, at least once in awhile, before one can understand the "art of the deal" (thanks for the quote, Donald Trump).

An example of the correct way to do these things is Carlos Hebron. Here's a guy who sold real estate for years, made some bucks on "flips," started his own brokerage, kept a couple of rehabilitated houses then put them on the line to finance Adams Place. He invested his own money his own blood, sweat and tears, and in the span of 8 months accomplished what Godfrey and Reid have yet to accomplish in 2 to 3 years downtown, and those two have the power and the finances of Ogden City behind them. Planners, Inspections, the whole bunch, all bending over backwards for these City projects yet they can't sell a freaking condo. Hebron, meanwhile, is about 2/3 full, with supporting business also on site. These City guys have nothing on the line, no money, no blood, sweat and tears. They put on their blinders and charge forth, recklessly, paying attention to nobody. They have big time developers like CityVenture walk out on them because they insist on being in charge yet they don't know how to do the deal . CV spotted that and took their money and ran....don't blame them. Wonder how this David Allen guy's going to feel in another year? Donald Trumps they're not.

Please, before you get sucked in, LOOK, LOOK at what they've accomplished. They couldn't get Shupe Williams off the ground, even by selling it for a lousy hundred bucks. The buyer said it was not within the realm of reason to put money in it....too expensive to rehab, and if he did, those condos hadn't sold anywhere in town, he knew that, and passed. Look at the 2 or 3 housing projects that took 4 years to sell out, some still only half sold. Look at Jefferson Avenue, Townhouses going for $129K, down there, in a crime area, all unsold, most poorly constructed. Is that smart planning, or what?

Stuart Reid says Channel 17 is the way to market this stuff, that that was the reason the Union Square condos failed to sell....give me a break, Channel 17? My gawd, people, what's he thinking? The problem was the concept and the construction....swing on by and take a look at the model, then tell me you'd move you and your family down there, even if the transients or meth freaks weren't in the area. Desolate, backed up to a power grid, barred in with really no yard, overlooking the backs of deteriorating buildings. Not a place I'd enjoy calling "home."

They abused eminent domain until they lost it and WalMart along with it The wreck center: 9 DELAYS....9 freaking delays! All because they don't know what they are doing and won't hire somebody who does. The Woodbury suit, which they lost. The Army's upset because they violated the agreement made at inception .... they "thought a diversion of funds was OK to do. Have they ever heard of a phone? Maybe dial up the Army, float the idea, see what they say, then, depending on the answer, give it try or back off. But no, charge straight ahead, into the fray, and now we're in debt $10 mil plus interest, everyday, for the Wreck Center the entity that's supposed to pay it back. But the Wreck Center's still, after 4 years, a pile of contaminated dirt. The old mall was one hell of a buy, wasn't it?

Union Square. The corner building, vacant, ready to sell or lease, but deals keep falling apart, and now, THEY'VE DRIED UP. The project in BK, subs broke and twisting in the wind, David Allen into it $900,000 in CASH, waiting for the influx of buyers. 2 of 14 residential units sold, and one of them is up for sale....the owner has given up and wants his money back because nothing is happening down there.

The Street Festival: 125,000 people, goods and wares lining the street, big money made by everyone that day, festivity in the air, a good time had by all. And now, cobwebs! Godfrey tried to fix what wasn't broken, he thought he was a promoter and he's never sold a ticket to anything in his life. He single handedly torpedoed the Street Festival (by dumping the beer, the sponsers, and the arm wrestling) an icon that a hundred thousand people looked forward to and showed up at. Why? because he didn't know what he was doing and did it anyway. First Night....also GONE.

Firemen running engines short handed because they don't have the funding. It's all going to keep this insanity afloat. Marshall White Center, privatised; Union Depot, our heritage museum, nearly closed, roof leaking, broke. The Infrastructure, $148,000,000 to get back up to par again, yet there's only a $6,000,000 allotment for it in the budget while he POURS dollar after dollar into these projects that he absolutely doesn't know anything about. And you think they should have "intervened sooner." Damn it, use your head.

Now, before you rail on me, think of this: if they did know something, anything, about these things, ONE of them would have worked. Can you tell me which one has? Which one is solvent? Which one is paying back its taw? Which one is up, running, vibrant, and doing what its intended purpose was?

And again, you think these guys waited too long to get involved. My gawd, people,'s your future too.


Editor's Note: This article was originally submitted as a comment on another thread, and has been edited and slightly modified with the permission of its author.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Recreation Center Poll

I received a reader email, suggesting another poll. This particular reader is interested in finding out whether our readership believes that the Ogden High Adventure Recreation Center will ever come to fruition, based on the information we've obtained to date.

As many of our longer-term readers already know, I created a similar poll back in July, when oil contamination was first discovered on the old mall site. This poll was published in conjunction with this Weber County Forum article , and was phrased as follows: "What will be the result of the new mall-site environmental report?" I've since closed down the earlier poll, which yielded the following results, with a total of 45 votes cast:

Clean and "good to go" (29) 64%
Oil contamination will "nix" the deal (16) 36%

We've received additional information since that time, so I think our reader poses a fair and very interesting question.

So gentle readers, given the new information that we've now received, I'm going to ask a new question:

Will all necessary legal prerequisites for the Recreation Center project be fulfilled prior to the January 1, 2006 "drop-dead date?"

You can take the poll here, or vote in the "panel" which I've placed in the right sidebar.

Take My Poll

Your comments are invited, of course.

Stuart Reid -- SLC Reject -- Back in the Spotlight Once Again

Although I took a day off from blogging yesterday, I can't fail to belatedly offer a little something about a couple of articles that popped up over the past two days in the local print media, while I was away from the computer.

The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton filed this informative story on Friday; and John Wright's story made the Standard-Examiner's front page yesterday morning.

Once again, public attention focuses on Stuart Reid, who's been re-hired under his new Limited Liability Company (LLC) "alter ego," to manage Ogden's Business Depot Ogden (BDO) business park.

As you'll recall, Mr. Reid first arrived on the Ogden scene in 2000, upon being hired by Mayor Godfrey to serve as Ogden city's economic development director. He'd headed north to Ogden, fresh from a failed Salt Lake City mayoral election run, where he'd been soundly trounced, in a come-from-behind finish, by Ogden home-boy Rocky Anderson. Never being a man to accept defeat gracefully, he took the Ogden economic development reins firmly in his fists, and then proceeded to wreak revenge on the citizens of Anderson's boyhood home town for the next 5-1/2 years. During this time he concocted many grand plans and schemes, among them the "Wal-mart Superstore Landgrab," the "Union Square Taj Mahal on 25th Street Bankruptcy," and my own personal favorite, the "Downtown Toxic Theme Park and Recreation Center." As goes the old axiom though, all good things must come to an end. And so it seemed with Mr. Reid's tenure in Ogden, as he "retired" as Ogden City's economic development Department CEO on July 15 of this year. Mr. Reid had served his mission in Ogden, he said. It was time to follow the private sector's siren song, and find a job more suitable to his prodigious talents. There were private jobs available "out there" at three times his meager $100,000+ annual Ogden salary, he explained; and the time had come for him to land one of those.

Mr. Reid's departure was not entirely without incident however, for there were murmurings of "improproprieties" even as Mr. Reid voluntarily walked out the City Hall door. Mr. Reid, it was reported, had departed Ogden city with a little bon voyage present -- in the form of a $43,000 severance package, we learned, under circumstances that might not be entirely "kosher" under the City Code. Although there was plenty of grumbling from some townsfolk at the time, discussion of this little possible indiscretion never caught the media's attention, and soon faded into silence.

It might have remained that way too, except for what I'll gently label "retirement remorse." Once out in the private sector job market, it somehow became clear to Mr. Reid that he hadn't "given" enough of himself to Ogden city. Within a month of his departure, he was right back on the public dole again, with a freshly-inked $78,000/yr pact, putting him in charge of the Ogden BDO.

This of course breathed new life into the issue of Mr. Reid's "questionable" severance package; and at some point, the city council finally got around to formally asking the mayor's office "What the heck is up?"

We got part of that answer last week -- maybe. "Somebody" from the mayor's office delivered a hand-written response to the city council's query last week, adopting the legal position that Mr. Reid's July departure had actually been involuntary -- Mr Reid had been asked to resign. Both Mayor Godfrey and Mr. Reid were quick to refute this, though; both of them even now maintain that Mr. Reid left entirely of his own volition. In this connection, Mr. Godfrey takes the further position that the granting of Mr. Reid's severence bonus was entirely right and proper -- that he has the legal power to grant such rewards for voluntarily departing department heads, presumably with authority originating somewhere in the Ogden city code.

Just out of curiosity, I located the Ogden Ordinance defining the Mayor's authority for the granting of severance benefits. It doesn't seem all that complicated to me. I certainly see no support in the ordinance for the Mayor's position. It's pretty obvious, in fact, that the applicable ordinance has been drafted to generally permit the negotiation of severance benefits only in cases of involuntary termination.

In this connection, Paragraph F of the ordinance provides: "Severance pay will not be made to otherwise eligible employees who:... 3. Voluntarily terminate employment with the city." In the same connection, the next sub-paragraph specifies that a "...requested resignation shall not be considered a voluntary resignation and will entitle the eligible employee to severance pay benefits..."

There is another paragraph in the ordinance that "grandfathers" severance agreements made prior to the enactment Of Ogden City Code Section 2-6-9: "If prior to the effective date hereof, employment agreements exist with different severance terms, then the eligible employee will be entitled to the benefit of the more advantageous terms." Perhaps this is the provision upon which Mayor Godfrey "hangs his hat." Section 2-6-9 has been revised at least four times since Mr. Reid's originally hiring in the year 2000.

What's also interesting, is that Mr. Reid's asserted "severance bonus" is predicated upon an alleged earlier "verbal agreement" with Mayor Godfrey. There seems to be nothing in writing, thus raising an obvious "statute of frauds" problem. Neither Mr. Reid nor Mayor Godfrey however deny the existence of such a purported agreement, and it's doubtful, under the circumstances, that Mayor Godfrey would or could assert the Utah statute against Mr. Reid defensively, especially now that Mr. Reid has already received his entire compensation.

Another unanswered question is whether any written employment agreement that did exist between Mr. Reid and Ogden city contained an "integration clause", declaring it to be the complete and final agreement between the parties. The presence of such a clause would negate the argument that Mr Reid's employment arrangement was founded in part on prior oral agreements.

I'm also going to note in passing that there appears to be a whole separate plot-twist involved in the "handwritten response to the council" situation. As to that, here's an interesting tidbit from Kristen Knowlton's story:
In a handwritten answer to the council under the heading "Administration's Response" this week, Mark Johnson, the city's management services director, said Reid had been asked to resign.
"After discussion with the mayor about his leaving, the mayor, as required and appropriate, asked Stuart for his resignation," was the administration's response.
Godfrey said Friday afternoon that he did not authorize that answer to the council's question and that it is not true.
Johnson did not return telephone calls seeking comment. However, he told the executive director of the council, Bill Cook, that he had not written the answer that appeared above his name, Cook said Friday night.
The answer, Johnson told Cook, was written by Godfrey's right-hand man, chief administrative officer John Patterson, after Johnson had signed the paper. Patterson did not return a call Friday night.
Perhaps I'll be writing a bit more on this odd element as this interesting story evolves. Was it all a "big mistake," or were Mr. Johnson and Mr. Patterson merely trying to "cover for the boss?" And I will further remark how truly odd it seems that a high-level Ogden city employee such as Mr. Johnson would deem it appropriate to affix his signature upon a blank page, without first having at least dictated his intended comments. One would hope that this doesn't reflect the normal customs and practices in our beloved Ogden city government.

So many questions...; so few answers. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll surely be sitting on the edge of my seat, awaiting the opinion of the Ogden Council's newly-retained and hopefully learned independent lawyer.

For those who'd like to apply their own legal brainpower to the problem, here's a link to the applicable Ogden city code section, which I've copied to the WCF archives. And for the truly diligent among us, I'm linking an online version of the entire Ogden city code right here.

And what about our gentle readers? Comments, anyone?

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Plate of Crow With a Side of Relief

I exchanged emails yesterday with one of our gentle readers, thanking me for the candidate information included in the Weber County Forum sidebar. She complained that she'd been carefully reading the Standard-Examiner, and had found nothing about the Ogden city municipal primary race, (although she did feel quite up-to date on the happenings in places like Roy and Layton.) She would have no idea at all even who the council candidates were, she complained, nor any idea what they stood for.

I responded with well-practiced snarkiness that this was typical of the Standard-Examiner. As a long-time Std-Ex reader, I said, I've observed that it's not uncommon for the Standard-Examiner to entirely ignore Ogden city elections, until a day or two before the actual voting occurs. I went on to explain that I've worked off and on over the years as a local poll-judge, and that it was quite common to have voters show up at their local polling-place in a state of utter confusion, having not the slightest idea even of the names of candidates, let alone what their respective positions might be.

I continued with the explanation that this was the reason I'd set up the the WCF candidate info section in the first place -- to do an end-run around the Std-Ex's observed historical pattern of nonchalance. I couldn't resist, in closing, to comment, (with much additional snarky self-satisfaction,) that I regard the Std-Ex editorial board as the city administration's unofficial house propaganda organ, and that I doubted we'd get any useful candidate information out of our home-town paper until close to October 4, if at all.

An absense of information favors incumbents in any election, of course. It's better to deal with the "devil you know... ," as the old saying goes, "...than the one you don't."

But lo and behold; I was just flat wrong. And it may thus may well be that I'll be sharing a plate of that tasty crow, right along with our board regular Ozboy.

It seems the Std-Ex has been busy working behind the scenes on timely election coverage. This morning's Standard-Examiner in fact features a decent little John Wright article, based upon interviews with the candidates for Ogden's At-Large Seat B. I'll assume this article will be part of a continuing series, which would be a very good thing, I think.

My calendar's busy today, so I'll just put this article up without any of my own comment, except to mention that some of these candidates' positions may have changed since these interviews were given. The Lift Ogden group announced just this week that the two-tier gondola project would be funded entirely with private money, whereas these interviews were conducted before that announcement. It's my understanding, though, based on an email received earlier this morning, that further Std-Ex articles on the other three council seats will contain updated position statements reflecting Lift Ogden's admirable change of posture.

I'll also add a link to this Std-Ex article, and all future articles, on the Weber County Forum sidebar, (within the candidate information section,) for the convenient reference of any of our gentle readers who'll need to review these articles prior to the primary election

Since I'll be out for the balance of the day, please feel free to also use this as an "open thread. "

Comments, anyone?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tax Revenue Compulsion -- an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

John Wright brings downtown development to the forefront of the news again this morning, with this excellent update on the efforts by Ogden's Church of the Good Shepherd to purchase a parcel of real property at the old mall site. This is something that's been discussed before in this space, of course. Mr. Wright does an excellent job of framing the competing interests.

The historic downtown church, located at the corner of 24th & Kiesel, has a burgeoning membership, and needs room to expand. They're conducting four Sunday services daily in the little church, and they've reached their physical limits to growth. They've thus made an offer to purchase a small target parcel, adjacent to their existing church. The land is entirely vacant and unencumbered now, and under ordinary circumstances, it would be the time to accommodate this excellent downtown neighbor, who's been holding religious services and preaching the word of the Lord at its present site for over 130 years. There's an aesthetics issue at work here too. Sunlight is streaming through the picturesque church chapel's stained-glass windows for the first time in almost 25 years, now that part of the visually monstrous parking stucture has finally been torn down. In another place and time, I think, selling this parcel to the Church of the Good Shepherd would be regarded as a political "no-brainer."

Things are not so simple these days in Ogden city though, because the central planners have "other" and "greater" ideas. They have a master plan still on the drawing board, which is the only gameplan in town -- as far as they're concerned at least. The plan is designed to maximize tax revenue. There's no room for anything else. The taxpayers have instructed the government to run itself "like a business," with attention to the "bottom line." And like single-minded bureaucrats everywhere, they've taken the concept to its logical extreme. There's apparently no room for expansion of churches in downtown Ogden anymore -- no "room at the inn," so to speak. Churches, formerly one of our society's primary cultural institutions, do nothing for improving the city's tax revenue stream, it seems.

I've been pondering this "running government like a business" theme for some time now; and I think it's time we gave the concept a careful re-examination. This is simply speculation on my part, but I think know what the citizens think: running government like a business indeed means running a tight ship -- watching the bottom line. What it does not mean, however is this, methinks:

  • Neglecting revenue-neutral services, like the police and fire departments;
  • Ignoring deteriorating revenue-negative infrastructure, like roads and the water system;
  • Imposing taxes on fundamental city services, and mis-labeling them user fees;
  • Building empty residential taj mahals on lower 25th street, with the sole object of increasing the property-tax revenue base;
  • Seizing Ogden city citizens' private property to be replaced by tax-revenue generators like Wal-mart.
  • Putting churches, one of society's fundamental institutions, on the community development back-burner.

Chairman Rick Safsten, Dear Leader of the Chamber of the Ogden City People's Deputies, provided a John Wright this surprising quote in this morning's Std-Ex article:

Council Chairman Rick Safsten said he is undecided on the issue. He said many have questioned the way the city built the parking garage around the church, which avoided the wrecking ball only because it is protected by state and federal historic registers.

The church's historic status, as well as the fact it is well-maintained and has been a good neighbor, are factors that can not be ignored, Safsten said.

"All of these things should be added into the calculation, along with the financial analysis," he said.

"We shouldn't treat a house of worship or an historic property with exactly the same consideration as we do a retail proposal. If that were the case, we couldn't make any justification for anything but business, and that is not what life is all about."

Has Chairman Safsten had an epiphany, and finally seen the light? Does he finally recognize that there are other worthy objects, beyond the current tax revenue obsession? Or is he simply playing it politically "smart," on the eve of the Ogden municipal primary election?

So many questions; so few answers.

And what say our gentle readers about all of this?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Earl's a Hall of Famer Now

Dale, Earl & Ray Miller
It's been a long time coming, but the day has almost arrived. Tomorrow night, Earl Miller will be inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame. As far as I'm concerned, there's nobody in Utah who's had greater influence on the sport of skiing, than Ogden's own Earl Miller; and there's no one more deserving of Hall-of Fame status.

Not only did Earl Miller operate the Snow Basin Ski School for 44 years; he coordinated the Standard-Examiner/Ogden City Recreation ski school program for almost that same length of time. This program, a veritable low-cost ski instruction factory, offered affordable basic ski lessons to thousands of northern Utahns who otherwise would not have been able to afford the more expensive traditional variety of ski teaching.

Moreover, Earl was a renowned instructor and racing coach, and an innovator of American Ski Technique. And when it came to writing the book in American-style ski instruction, Earl Miller was just the man to do that. Earl Miller is a local legend, as the Standard-Examiner's Bryce Petersen explains, in this morning's Xplore section article. I'll incorporate a few of Mr. Peterson opening paragraphs here:
At least we've got M. Earl Miller.
On Thursday, the longtime Snowbasin ski school director and Weber State College coach will be inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame.
He will be one of only 21 in the Hall of Fame, which accepted its inaugural class in 2002. And he will be the only one there for his accomplishments in the Top of Utah.
In general, the Hall of Fame -- housed in the Alf Engen Ski Museum in the J. Willard Marriott Library on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City -- is an elite group of ski innovators, educators and resort founders from Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.
It's an extension of the Ski Archives, which documents and recognizes prominent skiers from the area. Among the files there are transcripts from a series of interviews that Ogden resident Joseph Arave recorded with Miller and his wife, Gladys, in 1990. At the time, Arave was the ski archivist for the fledgling museum.
"My charge was to do anything to document the history of skiing and I wanted to make sure Ogden didn't get left out, that it wasn't all Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon," Arave said.
Other Ogdenites have been recognized by the museum, but Earl Miller is the first to rise to the very top.
"There are a lot of people that the ski archive recognizes ... that probably won't rise to the level of Hall of Fame inductee but were very significant in the ski industry," said Arave, a member of the hall's selection committee.
But Miller, whose Ogden credentials are as impeccable as his ski credentials, made it.
You'll find the full article here.

This article runs along side a second companion piece, enumerating other notable local skier "celebrities" who might have a crack at Hall of Fame induction in the future. If any of our gentle readers would like to see whether they made the Hall of Fame short list, they can scour this second article here.

There's talk going around town that there's a possibility that Ogden city could become a notable "ski town," and that all we need to do to accomplish that is to build a couple of multi-million dollar gondolas. "Bullshit," I think to myself, every time I hear that meme. Ogden's always been a ski town, as far as I'm concerned; and it wasn't fancy contraptions, but rather people like Earl Miller who made it so. Earl Miller learned to ski in an earlier age, when skiers didn't need such fancy gizmos. The photo on the left demonstrates what an uphill ski conveyance looked like in Snow Basin's early days; and local legend tells that a similar ski "lift" was once situated at the bottom of Snow Basin's old "School Hill." Click the photo to enlarge it, so you can examine what was regarded as innovative lift technology around the year 1946.

I "borrowed" both of the photos in this article from the University of Utah Marriott Library Utah Ski Archives here. There are plenty of other interesting historical photos on that site, for anyone who'd like to take a look. The photo at the top, by the way, shows Earl Miller running gates with his two younger boys. That's Dale on Earl's left, and my old pal Ray on the right. The old axiom that "the family that plays together, stays together" was never more true than with the Miller family.

Anybody want to talk skiing today? How about Earl Miller anecdotes? Is there anyone among our gentle readership who remembers the days before trams and gondolas? How about some nice "when I was a youngster" stories?

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

This Will Be On the Test

Just for fun, I thought I'd present our gentle readers with a set of locally-operative facts, just to test the reasoning skills of our Weber County Forum readership:

  • Earl Holding's Sinclair Oil is the owner of Snow Basin, on the eastern slope of Mt. Ogden;
  • Chris Peterson (Earl Holding's son-in-law) has purchased the entire historic Malan Family property on the west side of Mt. Ogden, running from the top of Mt. Ogden, to the eastern border of Ogden city's Mt. Ogden Golf course;
  • Mr. Peterson has announced he'll build a four-season resort (including a modest ski hill,) and a gondola to link from the vicinity of the Weber State University campus to upper Malan's basin;
  • A local community activist group, "Lift Ogden," supports the Peterson venture, and touts a second gondola system, linking the Ogden Intermodal transit hub to the vicinity of the lower Malan's Basin gondola terminal; They've spent thousands of dollars hyping the project and trying to generate general public support;
  • There's gossip circulated about a mysterious giant hotelier who'll build a $200 million luxury hotel in Ogden, conditionally, upon construction of the Downtown-WSU lower gondola leg;
  • Earl Holding's Sinclair Oil happens to be deeply involved in the luxury hotel business;
  • Lift Ogden and other gondola promoters campaign briefly to sell the lower leg as a legitimate public-funding-eligible public transit alternative, then suddenly back down, and admit the lower leg is intended mainly to transport tourists from the soon-to-be-constructed downtown hotel to the bottom of the Malan's Basin Gondola. In a complete turnabout, gondola promoters then confidently announce last week that all the subject projects - both gondolas, and the hotel -- will be entirely privately-funded.
  • There's an election coming up in two weeks, and the local newspaper of record, the slavishly pro-city administration Standard-Examiner is starkly silent on election issues about which Ogden's citizenry is all abuzz. While Ogden citizens are talking about throwing out a couple of city council incumbents, the best the Standard-Examiner can do is publish a few puff pieces about various downtown projects which, although floundering, "aren't as bad as they were a couple of months ago."
Those are the facts, gentle readers, as have been reported in the local media. Having examined these facts, can we draw any reasonable inferences from the so-far reported facts? Taking this set of assumed facts into consideration, are there any reasonable inferences about whom this mysterious "hotelier" may be? And what about these private funds which will be expended to build-out these projects? Do the facts provide sufficient information to reasonably infer the true identity of this mysterious financier?

And if this secretive character is indeed the multi-billionaire Earl Holding, (which is my tentative conclusion at this point,) why the cat-and-mouse game? Has Mr. Holding kept his cards under the table so far, just to test the public's tolerance for contributing public money?

And if indeed a "private deal" has now been struck, why aren't the City Administration and the "Lift Ogden" folks already crowing about it? This is much bigger than the Scott USA deal, and the Ogden city administration didn't skip a beat in taking immediate credit when that old-guard recreation manufacturer announced its relocation to its new Ogden city site. Mr. Holding would be deserving of a ticker-tape parade, as far as I'm concerned, if he's willing to carry out these grand plans on his own dime. Mayor Godfrey could even ride along with him, smiling and waving from the back seat of Mr. Holding's open Mercedes-Benz stretch convertible.

Could the delay in the announcement be have some other purpose perhaps? Remember there's an election coming up, and many of the Ogden city townsfolk are salivating to roll some council incumbent heads. Could it be that the Ogden city administration has borrowed a page from the national political play-book and crafted a means to suddenly rehabilitate the current city council's sagging credibility?

Is there an October surprise in store?

Am I the only one who's connected the dots?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Home Sweet Ogden -- the "Smell" of Success

The Standard-Examiner put its two "top gun" reporters on the front page today, under the delightfully enigmatic headline, "Home Sweet Ogden?"

John Wright writes on the "troubled" Union Square condo project, and Lynze Wardle reports on three other Ogden sluggishly-selling and city-subsidized real estate residential "projects" in our inner city "frontier land." Rather than go into my normally hyper-detailed analysis, I'll just cut through the "happy talk" and set forth the salient details here:

  • Union Square: Only 23 of the 44 Union Square units have sold, since the project's "Phase One" completion in 2004;
  • Jefferson Townhomes: Only 3 of the 7 "pricey"($126,900 and up) townhomes have sold since their completion in 2004;
  • Lincoln Townhomes: It only took eight years to sell all the units;
  • Legacy Park: Only 16 of the 23 lots have sold since the project was first put on the market in 2001. Seven lots remain unsold, even to this day. The rest of the neighborhood continues to deteriorate while the project residents hole-up in their downtown fortress.
Keep in mind, gentle readers, all this has been happening during a period when mortgage interest rates have been at 45-year lows, in a general Utah real estate market which has generally been very "hot." And not only that, the city has provided additional incentives, such as $5,000 "Own in Ogden" grants, and free horse-stalls under the Ogden Stadium, about a mile north-east. For the life of me, I can't understand why people aren't standing in line to snatch up these wonderful properties, in downtown Ogden's historic "hood."

Lynze Wardle offers this interesting tidbit:

Unfortunately, not everyone has the "urban pioneering spirit" to buy a home in one of Ogden's older neighborhoods, said Terra Venture Realtor Sue Wilkerson.
You said a mouthful, Sue. Our gentle readers should take note that these are the words of a real-estate professional. She works in the business of real estate, and knows what she's talking about. I think she hits the nail on the head when she brings up the "frontier" analogy.

The problem here is plain and simple. These projects are entirely inappropriate for the neighborhoods in which they're situated. No real estate developer or investor in their right mind would build such projects themselves on their own dime, because very little market for such properties exists. What they're after is the public money.

It's the same old story every time the government central planners take charge of things. Being entirely oblivious to real-world market forces, and having no personal stake in weighing the risk against the reward, they throw millions of dollars of public money into the hands of construction contractors, architects, lawyers, bond-dealers and the whole motley group, and build residential taj mahals on 28th and Lincoln Avenue -- and lower 25th Street. Undeterred by their present failures, they nevertheless blindly persevere. Phase two of the Union Square project is scheduled on Wall Avenue in the near future, we're told, and the Lincoln Townhomes second phase is on the drawing board, too. The problem, of course, is that it's the taxpayers who are left holding the bag.

Now I know I'll be catching some flak about this article. Some folks will say, "Well, at least they're doing something!" And to that I would just say, "If you're speeding along at top speed in the wrong direction, just exactly where do you end up?"

And to those who ask whether I have a better plan to offer, I'll invoke the old cowboy proverb: "If you're standing in a hole...first, quit digging." What we're doing now is plainly not working.

My complements go out to reporters Wright and Wardle for their two excellent articles. It was a tough task your editors gave you, my friends, trying to put a positive slant on what any sensible person would see as abject failure.

And to those gentle Weber County Forum readers who are eligible to vote, I'll just say this: We have a city council that's turned a deaf ear to the citizens of Ogden. There's a "wisdom of the crowd" that's entirely ignored. There are two council incumbent candidates who rubber-stamp every administration proposal that lands on their desk, including some of the above-mentioned projects. They've been putty in the developers' hands. They've abdicated their duties as citizen watchdogs. They will continue blunder along, unless summarily turned out of office. I don't care who you vote for; just don't vote for Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.

And if you have any doubt about what to do when you get into the voting booth -- think about Ogden city's downtown mudhole.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Madness, Genius or Obfuscation

The citizens of northern Utah were greeted with a remarkable lead editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, discussing -- what else -- the "Godfrey Gondola." It's a pretty good editorial, all-in-all, which takes into account many of the factors that left Ogden city in the unfortunate condition it's presently in: the departure of the life-sustaining railroad, the long-time Ogden up-mountain gondola dream, and the persistent Ogden "cultural inferiority" complex -- and then there's the inevitable "madness or genius question," of course.

I have to hand it to Don Porter, though. After wandering a little bit, this editorial actually finally cuts to the chase. It frankly addresses the precise question many of us have been asking. Even assuming we citizens are alright with the general concept -- mad or not -- who exactly will be asked to pay for it, we ask? Apparently there's been a recent "shift" in the approach to the problem of project financing among the gondola-boosters, the Std-Ex editorial writer reports. Bingo, Don Porter, I say!

For a time, the gondola's supporters imagined they might be able to sell the idea as mass transit, and thereby snare massive federal and local transit funding to help pay the construction costs. But a thorough transit study put that idea to rest.

Now Lift Ogden is frank in its description of the intra-city gondola: It's a tourist attraction, something that will perhaps ferry students to Weber State, but that will be foremost a unique asset to draw skiers to Ogden via a soon-to-come commuter-rail station, on up to Malan's Basin and, perhaps someday, over the top of the mountain to Snowbasin. And it will enhance the city's already growing reputation among ski-industry companies -- a handful of which have relocated to Ogden in the past year.

It's audacious, if not mad. But what has us intrigued, and inclined to support it, is what a pair of our editorial board members were told recently during a meeting with Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey: The city portion of the gondola would only be built at the same time as the university-to-Malan's Basin line, and it would be financed entirely with private funds -- the city's contribution would be the rights-of-way along the surface streets.

We've been told the same by members of Lift Ogden: The business community will find the funds and build this thing.

That, in our book, is a vision we can get behind. It's not mass transit, as we remarked in an August editorial, but a tourist ride. It's to be paid for with private funds -- including operation and maintenance in the years ahead.

I had an interesting telephone conversation with one of the "Lift Ogden" folks a couple of days ago, in which we discussed the "financing" obstacle. He told me that a private investor group was in the process of being assembled, with the object of at least contributing to the construction of the downtown gondola leg. I heard the same thing in last Tuesday's "Lift Ogden meeting, and Bob Geiger told me the same the next morning. The Std-Ed article further corroborates that, of course. The "devil's in the details," after all, and the financing of this project is one devil of a detail.

I hope the Std-Ex is right, and that the taxpayers of Ogden won't be expected to pick up the tab on this, if the project indeed moves forward. And in terms of selling this plan to the public at large, I believe a well-heeled group of local citizens with cash on hand would work wonders in selling this plan to the lumpen townfolk. It's encouraging to hear that out local gondola-boosters are at least talking about putting their money where their mouths are.

If they can do it all with private money I say, "let's do it."

I do have a couple of questions, though. When they speak of "private funds," are they speaking of strictly local private investors, or is it public bonding they're talking about, in whole or part? If municipal bonding is involved, public property security issues come into play, public property is put at risk, and the financing therefore isn't strictly "private."

And another question -- why are we talking about this right now, with a municipal primary looming in a little more than two weeks? It strikes me as odd that this project is being frantically brought to the public forefront by the Std-Ex editors at this time, when we could be devoting our attention to the dismal records of our current city council rubber-stamp majority block-vote, who haven't accomplished very much in the last two years, other than to drive Ogden city deeper into debt. As the Std-Ex editorial says, this gondola dream has been alive "for decade, after decade, after decade." It's not as if we need to solve this decades-old problem in the next week or two. What's up with this anyway, I ask? A skeptic might even come to the conclusion that somebody's trying very hard to obfuscate the real issues, and to change the subject, right on the eve of the upcoming elections. Now's the first time in a couple of years to replace a couple of citizen-unfriendly councilmembers! Why isn't the Std-Ex talking about that?

What about our gentle readers? Does anybody have anything to say about this situation, other than just to roll their eyes?

As an added bonus, today's Std-Ex editorial cartoon from the always-excellent Calvin Grondahl, (and a tip of the hat to Centerville Citizen for the suggestion):

Utahns Must Defend Freedoms

By Steve Huntsman
Weber Sentinel News
September 2, 2005

As Americans we still live in the greatest country. We have wonderful rights and privileges, and most agree our Founding Fathers were inspired as they wrote for us our great “national treasure,” the U.S. Constitution.

In this document, our founders made it possible for Utah to become a separate and very powerful state of a union. We have the right to elect both local officials as well as national representatives. As a distinct state, we have the right to form legislative bodies and pass laws, as well as the right to say “no” to intrusion on a national or world level upon our God-given rights. What a blessing this is. We can boldly say, because of Article IV we Utahns are part of a strong union, have a republican form of Government, and as such, are still the freest people on this earth. However, our Constitution is now under attack.

In a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Kelo vs. New London case (in a narrow 5-4 vote), freedom-loving Utahns were disappointed when the court chose to allow government bodies the use of eminent domain to acquire property in redevelopment of non-blighted areas in cities. In fact, most wise and freedom cherishing Utahns now feel trampled upon and at risk ¾ that our Constitution is under attack. We have an obligation as Thomas Jefferson said to rally the people back to this written document. We also have the obligation to pass our own legislation and keep Utah on a solid footing. In truth, our elected legislators are bound by oath to support and defend, regardless of religion or decision by the Supreme Court, our Constitution.

Today the Utah Municipal Land Use Development Act (U.C.A. 10-9-102) gives municipalities the right to control city growth and aesthetics, preserve property values and make the rules necessary for the development of our land. This law is a major intrusion upon the constitutional common law rights to own and control property.

Now the Supreme Court has opened the flood gates for cities and towns to go one step further. They can now use force, if necessary, to take ownership of that same property. We as Utahns must stand on higher ground. The West can and must say “no” to this type of intrusion as our wise leaders did this last legislative session when they reigned in local RDAs who were baiting retail developers. I add my voice to the many other warnings that say, “All is not well for your rights” and that there is a global attempt by the United Nations to amputate them.

In June, the United Nations held an international conference in San Francisco. The United Nation’s goal was to think globally but to act locally to promote something called “sustainable development” and a “world environment.” Their target was our local mayors. The mayors attending were wooed by the U.N. elite from Kofi Annan to Hollywood activists.

The United Nations knows that if it promotes local action by the mayors, it can subvert the checks and balances which our Constitution now provides at a state level. The United Nation’s goal is not to promote protecting us from government harm (the proper role of government envisioned by our nation’s Founding Fathers), but rather to seek to plan and control our growth, to remove God from government and to make nature the central principle.

As most of you know, the American Civil Liberties Union has already been a willing accomplice to this end. And if you do not think local mayors have much influence, think about the negative affect Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has had on our state with the help of the Sierra Club.

Simply put, the United Nation’s goal of sustainable development including its “think globally — act locally” initiative is all an effort to subvert the constitutional form of government. Its goal is to promote local law to take away your property and civil rights. Laws already on the books in Utah (like U.C.A. 10-9-102) already allow municipalities to act as they want to remove your freedoms. Because of the state mandate, which mirrors many parts of the U.N. agenda, our local cities in Utah can now pass laws using the guise of “protecting property values” to control your home and business.

Has government now become the harm? When our local city leaders act to force their ideas of environmental beauty and aesthetics upon our shoulders, it is not praiseworthy. The elevated mandates force expenses and cast out the poor from our cities in favor of a utopian society. They could go so far as to pass an ordinance that would require all mailboxes to be built of silver in an effort to promote aesthetics and preserve property values.

This legislative session, let us support those individuals and create legislation in Utah that defends our common law rights to own and control private property. Our legislators are derelict in their responsibility to the oath of office which they took to defend our Constitution if they do not pass laws which prevent local officials from going beyond the mark. The best is yet to come for America, and we must head in the right direction to preserve our children’s rights to the same freedoms we now enjoy.

Link to original article

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Letter Don Porter Refused to Print

In the short four months that I've been running Weber County Forum, I've developed a real appreciation for the Standard-Examiner's Don Porter. Don has been the Std-Ex editorial page editor ever since the retirement of Flora Ogan. Don and I go way back. I've been writing cranky letters to Don for over ten years, even to the time when Don was the Std-Ex TV writer. It wasn't until I began publishing my own stuff, however, that I realized how good Don Porter really is.

Don and I had a telephone conversation not long ago, concerning an article he'd submitted for publication in Weber County Forum. He wanted to set the record straight about the details of the acquisition of the Std-Ex's new headquarters at Ogden city's Business Depot Ogden, and I was happy to afford him the opportunity to do so. During this conversation we also talked shop a little bit, and he commented about some of the difficulties of running a small town newspaper in the modern age, in which many younger people don't read newspapers, but get their news from electronic media instead. He talked about new approaches to attracting readership, and the necessity of creativity in newspaper publication. I confess I have sympathy for the plight of the local print journalist in this modern age, when anyone on earth can regularly read the New York Times or the Washington Post for free, with only a few clicks of a mouse button.

I've been thinking about what Mr. Porter said, and I've finally gotten around to the conclusion that Don Porter and I are both quite similar in our approaches. What Don and I both do, gentle readers, is post the most controversial, edgy, and cranky stuff possible, with the object of provoking the strongest possible strong readership response. This is what keeps readers coming back. They crave red meat.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Don ran this Fasi Filiaga "guest editorial" last Thursday. This one goes beyond controversial. It goes beyond edgy. It even goes beyond cranky. This one is flat-out preposterous. If Don Porter's intention was to provoke a reader response, he certainly got his money's worth -- if my own Weber County Forum email inbox is any gauge of that. My inbox has been filling up with responses to this over the past couple of days. I can only imagine what's happening with Don Porter's.

In general, the responses have mainly centered on these points:
  • There were thousands of Utahns who worked feverishly to drive a stake through the heart of eminent domain abuse; it wasn't just Dorothy Littrell,
  • Participation in Ogden city politics isn't limited to lifetime residents,
  • Wayne April didn't kill the recreation center project; 'twas bad economics, poor management and contamination killed the beast,
  • Mr. Filiaga's ghost writer probably flunked logic 101.
  • Mr. Filiaga is the poster boy for everything that's wrong with the current city council.
It goes on, gentle readers. I'm not going to go into meat of it, except to say that there's enough wrong with Mr. Filiaga's article to fill three Weber County Forum front page editorials and use up a whole lot of bandwidth. I'll leave it up to our gentle readers to flesh out the numerous defects in Mr. Filiaga's arguments.

I will however post one particularly excellent reader response that I received. This one is particularly interesting, inasmuch as it's written by one of the three local citizens whom Mr. Filiaga assailed in his article. I'm also informed that it's one that actually reached Mr. Porter's email box, but was rejected for publication, for reasons that are somewhat unclear. Perhaps I don't understand Mr. Porter's methods as well as I thought, come to think of it. In Don Porter's defense, though, I'll also note that newsprint and ink ain't cheap, unlike web bandwidth.

So at any rate, I'll shamelessly exploit the fruits of Mr. Filiaga's highly provocative guest editorial, and post the reader response that Don Porter refused to print, for the enjoyment of our gentle readers:
228 West 3275 North
Ogden, Utah 84414

September 15, 2005


I am the "outsider", that "woman from North Ogden", that Ogden City Councilman Filiaga and Police Chief Greiner give credit to for singlehandedly stopping the proposed Wal-mart RDA fiasco in Ogden.

First of all, my fight was against the use of eminent domain to seize private property from private citizens to give to another private entity which just happened to be the largest corporation in the world.

Second of all, Ogden City officials were going to borrow $2.1 million in order to bring in the wealthiest corporation in the world so private property could be seized with sales tax revenue being pledged for five years to pay off the bribe.

What Ogden City fathers didn't get then, and still don't understand, is that my fight was about citizens' personal rights under the Constitution. Ogden City fathers refuse to acknowledge that citizens have rights. Fortunately, the Utah Legislature understood the constitutional issues and passed Utah's eminent domain law which prohibits such violation of constitutional rights.

I am no outsider. I practiced as a CPA in Ogden for thirty years. I bought property in Ogden when I moved here in the 60's. What is more important is that I am a citizen of Weber County and that all of Ogden's RDA projects are taking away tax monies that Weber County needs badly.

Mr. Filiaga has been a councilman for eight years so I would say that he has helped create Ogden's financial problems by blindly siding with Mayor Godfrey on all the issues that have created the morass Ogden is in.

Why aren't Mr. Filiaga and other City Council members calling for City Attorney Ashton to look into the latest shenanigan of Mayor Godfrey's rehiring Stuart Reid's corporation after Mr. Reid either quit or was terminated and received a financial lump sum payout of retirement benefits? This is a shady deal if I have ever smelled one.

For those of you who don't follow Ogden's incredible financial deals, Mr. Reid masterminded the Ogden RDA for a few years as a "carpet-bagger" from Salt Lake. He created the 25th Street Condo plan which has bombed. He gets credit for the River Walk Project which would have seized more private homes under eminent domain . And I know you have heard of the climbing wall and Gold's Gym proposed for the old mall site.

It is good that Ogden's City election is in process. Please know your candidates and vote wisely because it will affect all of us in Weber County.


Dorothy Littrell
I can't imagine why Don Porter wouldn't publish this letter. Having been attacked by Mr. Filiaga, surely Ms. Littrell deserved equal space for her retort. I confess I simply don't get it.

Perhaps our gentle readers can help me out on this. Comments anyone?

Friday, September 16, 2005

WCF Housekeeping Tidbits

I received a nice email yesterday afternoon from one of our gentle readers, thanking me for the candidate information that I've included in our Weber County Forum sidebar. She'd just returned from the city recorder's office, she reported, having already cast her absentee ballot. She went on to say that she had cast her vote, at least in part, based on information contained in the WCF candidate roster section. So it would appear that my significant labors in establishing this informational feature are actually paying off.

In that connection I'll also note that I've added some additional informational sections, including critical 2005 Ogden municipal election dates and deadlines, as well as a link to a Weber County Clerk's web page, detailing important voter registration dates and procedures. I hope our WCF readers will find these features to be helpful.

If you have any questions about dates and procedures, please check out the information I've provided in the sidebar. In a similar connection, I'll also welcome suggestions as to the kinds of additional election information you'd like to see made available here.

On another note, I've finally succumbed to the continuing requests of some of our gentle readers to "ride herd" a little more closely on the discussions here. I suppose it's time that I did that, as we're now into day three of a little flame war that's been ongoing since early Wednesday morning. This action really goes against the grain for me, as I'm a zealous advocate of unrestricted free speech. Recent developments have unfortunately demonstrated, however, that there are always a very few individuals who will push a "good thing" to its limits, thus ruining it for everyone.

I've thus composed off the top of my head a written list of prohibited conduct, which I've labeled Comment Posting Policy The provisions of this policy will be in force from here on out. Words cannot express how personally distasteful it is for me to be compelled to do this. Nevertheless, I've put far too much energy into developing this site to allow it to deteriorate into the condition of a Yahoo chatroom late on a Friday night. Having said that, I'd also like to emphasize that the conduct of the vast majority of the posters here continues to be civil and decorous. It's only two or three individuals who seem to be causing the problems here. They know who they are, and so do I.

I've also added a link to this forum policy document to the right sidebar, for the future reference of folks who wonder why their posts may have suddenly disappeared. This will be my last comment on this subject. This is not a topic which will be open to discussion.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ogden City's Possible Fate-- as Foretold by Bob G.

As mentioned earlier in the comments to another Weber County Forum thread, I'm in the process of researching an article on the "Lift Ogden" group. I'm still contacting the group's movers and shakers, one by one, and hope to post a comprehensive article imminently.

In the meantime though, I'll pass on something Descente's Bob Geiger told me yesterday. We had a long and candid conversation, and here's one cat that he let out of the bag:

He warned that Ogden city is on the verge of having a number of older downtown buildings meet the fate of the wrecking ball, and that we would be learning all about this very soon. We'll have more dirt parking lots downtown, he suggests. Without some kind of aggressive intervention, the mess downtown will get worse before it gets better, in other words.

Lo and behold, the Standard-Examiner ran a John Wright story which fulfills Mr. Geiger's prediction, in this morning's edition, under this catchy headline: "Final Wrap for Candy Building." Another grand old lady of Ogden city's "golden age," the Shupe Williams Candy Company factory, will be meeting its final end. You can read all about it here. According to the story, this structure has been vacant since 1967, so we can well imagine what awful shape it's in. This also raises the question -- how many similar downtown buildings does Ogden city own -- and how many of those are scheduled for demolition?

If nothing else, I'm going to keep in close contact with the Geiger boys if I can. It's obvious that they're privy to at least some "insider information," which is the red meat that our gentle Weber County Forum readers crave.

What's also obvious, though, is that the Geigers and their company have a strong vested interest in cultivating a positive public attitude (Bob Geiger characterizes this as "cautious optimism") toward aggressive redevelopment in Ogden City. Descente is planning a symbiotic clustering of ski-industry businesses that goes far beyond anything we've read about in the Standard-Examiner, according to Mr. Geiger. The further deterioration of downtown Ogden would of course be highly contraproductive to that effort. It thus becomes quite apparent why Descente has become so very actively involved in Ogden city affairs. This is quite admirable, I believe. If there is any general negative quality of the citizens of Ogden city that I've observed, it's apathy and complacency. We all have a vested interest in the happenings in our community.

Comments, anyone? Are there aspects of today's this article, or the John Wright article, that you'd like to focus upon? You can use this as an open thread too, for anything else you'd like to bring up. My calender's fairly busy today, so perhaps I'll turn the forum over to you folks for a while.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Plot Sickens

Kristen Moulton adds still more information to yesterday's Stuart Reid re-hiring story in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune:

OGDEN - A month after leaving Ogden with a $43,561 severance, Stuart Reid has signed a $77,828 annual contract to oversee a city-owned business park.

Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he feels lucky to have Reid, Ogden's former director of community development, at the helm of Business Depot Ogden (BDO). "I'm surprised he would want to do something like this."

But City Council members Rick Safsten and Jesse Garcia are not happy about how they found out about Reid's new business relationship with the city - from the rumor mill and not from the mayor's office.

"It doesn't say much about the communications to the council from the mayor's office," said Safsten, who is chairman of the council. "It raises questions. Why are you hiring someone that just left the city?"

The council has a host of questions for Godfrey about Reid's departure and his contract to oversee Business Depot Ogden. That is the huge business park on the city's northwest side that was given to the city by the federal government when it closed Defense Depot Ogden in the late 1990s.

The article adds detail about the nature of Mr. Reid's recent severance package:

Godfrey gave Reid a severance as if he were being terminated, but the mayor said Monday that Reid resigned.

A 1999 ordinance allows a severance of one month's pay for every year of service for department directors or members of the mayoral or council staff who are terminated or who refuse a job at lower pay, said Michael Goodwin, city treasurer.

Godfrey said that ordinance does not bar him from treating "good" employees the same way, if he chooses.

"We can do what we want with people who are good," he said.

Because Reid was with Ogden City for five years, he was paid the equivalent of five months of his annual salary of $104,547, as well as for more than 322 hours of accumulated vacation pay, or $16,217, when he left July 15, said Goodwin.

Am I wrong about this, or did out Ogden City Mayor just say that Mr. Reid, who authored the downtown mall, Union square and Wal-Mart fiascos, received a $43,561 severance bonus solely at Mayor Godfrey's discretion?

It seems the Mayor's office is being rather cavalier in it's treatment of the taxpayers' money in this instance to me. If Stuart Reid's prior performance is deemed "good" in the Mayor's eyes, I'd love to see a performance he labels bad.

Please consider this an update to yesterday's WCF article, and feel free to offer your observations and comments on this, gentle readers.

You have to know that something's rotten in the land of Oz when even people like Mayor Godfrey's right-hand man, Comrade Safsten, start asking detailed and probing questions.

I suppose that it would be fair to say that Mr. Reid really is pretty good, in one sense of the word, at least, if he succeeds in pulling this deal off.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Unfair Play for the Hub?

One of our gracious and attentive readers emailed me this news article late last week, under the email title, "The Hub Loses one." This was the first that I'd heard about the relocation of Rossignol's headquarters to Park City, and I thought to myself, "Well, Ogden city can't win 'em all."

After reading the article, I mentally reeled off a short list of the factors that I would consider, if I were a well-heeled ski-industry executive, looking for a new place to locate my corporate headquarters:

  • A few minutes drive to the slopes,
  • Nearby freeway transport access,
  • Ready, willing and able young local work-force always looking for new ways to connive a ski-pass,
  • Plush local homes for well-paid executives to reside,
  • Stunning mountain setting,
  • Great restaurants, night-spots and other extravagant community amenities,
  • Annual opportunity to mix and hob-nob with leading lights in the film industry, (who knows, maybe a ski exec could even pick up on some young "starlets" now and then)
  • Reasonably good Utah skiing at my doorstep,
  • Close proximity to other 4-season recreation,
  • International panache and prestige.

"Yes, Park City would be an excellent locale for a ski company re-location," I thought. "Hey wait a minute; why did I not become a ski industry executive myself?". (I actually worked for a time in the ski industry in my youth. Talk about missed career opportunities!)

The news of Rossignol's corporate relocation has not set well with some in our local Ogden city community, however, as this morning's Scott Schwebke article attests. Both the Mayor and the Descente Geigers are hopping mad about the way this deal was brokered. They're crying foul, and blaming Governor Huntsman's economic development bureaucrats for pulling the rug out from under Ogden City. They seem to be charging that state bureaucrats steered Rossignol, a powerhouse ski-business "big fish," to another competing "resort community" -- just when they may have thought they had it on the hook.

One of the Geigers was so upset that he even wrote an angry letter to Std-Ex editor Don Porter about this, (although he appears to miss the point when he attributes the problem to community "negativity.")

There's been rumor floating here and other places about a tense recent meeting between Mayor Godfrey and Governor Huntsman's state economic development people, wherein Mayor Godfrey "showed" at least one of them "the door" -- something about Huntsman's people demanding an accounting of Mayor Godfrey's ski industry "prospects." It's all been pretty vague though, and Scott Schwebke doesn't shed much light on it, even though he mentions it in his article. I'm sure many of us would like to get a deeper grasp of the facts on this.

And I think Mayor Godfrey may have a pretty good point, when he complains about the Governor's apparent policy conflict, whereby Governor Huntsman promotes the concept of developing "industry clusters" on the one hand, while giving at least lip-service to the concept of treating all Utah communities "non-preferentially," on the other.

What about our gentle readers? Do you have any thoughts about this? Did meddling State economic development people literally pull the rug out from under our Mayor, and local ski industry people, by luring the Rossignol headquarters away from "the Hub?" Did officials from the Governor's office actually "hustle away" one of Mayor Godfrey's legitimate re-location" projects?" Are we in Ogden City merely getting the usual "red-headed-stepchild" treatment that the politicos in Salt Lake City have always given Ogden city, going back to the days of Brigham Young? Did the Governor's economic development bureaucrats play unfairly in the Rossignol re-location, or does Rossignol's choice for their new HQ site merely reflect the fact that ski industry executives like to live the "life of Reilly" at fancy ski resorts?

And help us out, gondola fanatics. Some of you claim to be well-connected with the locally-situated ski industry. Is there anybody who reads Weber County Forum who can give is the straight and unadorned story on this purported "meeting" that was ostensibly held in Mayor Godfrey's office a short time ago? Opie? UTmorman? Do either of the Geiger boys ever silently "lurk" here? This thread's open for full discussion of this topic. How about we get going on this?

Emerald City Playhouse Stages Rasputin Encore Performance

Here's another Ogden City political story for your "truth is stranger than fiction" files, Weber County Forum readers. For those who are delicately-disposed, perhaps it would be best to be seated before you read this. According to a John Wright story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, a new manager has been contracted to manage Ogden's BDO, and you're not going to believe your eyes when you find out who it is. Well, he's not really new; he's actually an Ogden city re-tread. Yes, you remember him, gentle readers; it's that guy who "retired" from his position as Ogden city economic development director a brief two months ago, with a fat five-figure severance package in his pocket. As you'll recall, it was reported at the time that he was leaving for the green pastures of the private sector, his noble public service impulses having been fulfilled.

Believe it or not, Mayor Godfrey, in his infinite wisdom, has contracted with the bumbling Stuart Reid, whose idea of entering the private sector seems to be forming his own Utah LLC, and getting straight back onto the Ogden City public teat. I'll leave it to John Wright to provide the mind-boggling details:

The city has outsourced management of Business Depot Ogden to former Community and Economic Development Director Stuart Reid.
Reid stepped down as community and economic development director July 15, after 5 1/2 years with Ogden. During that time, he worked on controversial redevelopment projects, including the downtown mall site and a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter.
On Aug. 29, his company, S.C. Reid LLC, entered a one-year renewable contract with the city to manage BDO for $77,828 annually, according to records obtained by the Standard-Examiner from the Recorder's Office.
Reid will take over the duties of Kevin Ireland, who was earning $67,319 when he stepped down in August to become director of Ogden's George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park.
As community and economic development director, Reid was paid $102,497 annually when he left the city.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey said Reid's familiarity with BDO will be an improvement, as the facility has had three managers in the last 2 1/2 years.
"There was no continuity out there at all," Godfrey said. "Part of the benefit of Stuart is continuity. ... To get him back at this price is a real coup, from my perspective."
Reid could not be reached for comment.
As BDO manager, Reid will be charged with representing the city in its partnership with The Boyer Co. in marketing and developing the 1,118-acre business park near Interstate 15.
Reid has a long work history at The Boyer Co., from its development of the Sugar House District and Gateway projects when he was business manager for Salt Lake City in the 1990s, to the downtown mall site and BDO in Ogden.
"Obviously, we welcome Stuart," said Blake Wahlen, general manager of BDO for The Boyer Co. "He has a great background, and his relationship with the city is great."
City Council Chairman Rick Safsten said council members have not yet received responses to several questions they submitted to the administration after learning the BDO position was being outsourced.
"Stuart is an extremely capable, energetic, passionate person, and that's a good thing, but I don't know the answers to those questions, and until I have those answers, I'm not ready to give a full response," Safsten said. "Maybe this is the greatest idea since sliced bread, but no one's explained it to me as why that would be the case."
BDO is a former military installation that was transferred to the city in 1997. It has more than 6.5 million square feet of industrial and office space.
BDO is 70 percent full, Wahlen said, with 60 to 70 tenants employing more than 2,500 people.
Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has doubts about this latest development. As Mr. Schwebke's's June 30 article notes, Mr. Reid was the grand schemer responsible for the planning of that downtown Recreation Center project, which is presently mired in a sea of contamination and financing issues. And he's the genius who rammed the now-languishing upscale Union square condo project down the city's throat, a full four years before the arrival of the rail transit system that was supposed to create a market for downtown residential condos. And his fingerprints are all over the Wal-Mart fiasco, where our ham-handed city government became the poster-child for eminent domain abuse, requiring the Utah legislature to intervene, by stripping the condemnation power from our overly-aggressive Ogden RDA. Surely, with 6.5+ billion people now residing on this planet, there must have been some competent person, other than the obviously incompetent Mr. Reid, whom Mayor Godfrey could have chosen to act as the city's interface with The Boyer Company, the de facto "manager" of the Ogden BDO.

And what about the $78,000 no-bid contract that has been awarded Mr. Reid's new shell company? What exactly will Mr. Reid do for the citizens of Ogden city that The Boyer Company isn't already doing? Somebody please tell me, why does Ogden city need to have a city executive getting paid the big bucks, essentially to look over the Boyer Company's shoulder, while the Boyer Company does what it does with such demonstrable competence?

And what about that fat severance package? Will Mr. Reid now be required to pay it all back? It's my understanding that Ogden city has a policy against re-hiring fired workers. If Mr. Reid wasn't actually fired, why did he receive a severance package at all? I received a tip on this story late last week, by the way. The administration "responses" that Chamber of People's Deputies Chairman Safsten refers to in today's John Wright article pertain precisely to this question, I am told. In a nutshell, some city council members believe that the the "re-hiring" of Mr. Reid is violative of city policy, and they've formally asked the mayor's office about this. It seems to me that in this situation, the council should stand firm, and refrain from approving Mr. Reid's contract, especially if such a non-re-hire policy actually exists. Perhaps the Ogden council will take this opportunity to demonstrate, two weeks before the municipal primary election, that they're not the completely spineless "rubber stamp" that they've heretofore appeared to be.

What say you, gentle readers? Should the Emerald City Playhouse give Mayor Godfrey's "rasputin" an encore performance? Does the bumbling Stuart Reid deserve another prolonged "feed" at the Ogden city "public trough?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wealth, Poverty, and Blithering Idiots

by Bill Bonner
Friday, September 9, 2005

Politicians and bureaucrats are being wrongly blamed for the New Orleans debacle.

"When government fails," is also the headline of The Economist's latest piece on the subject. So great was the failure of government, according to The Economist, that it has resulted in, "The shaming of America."

French citizens thought their government should have mounted its own rescue operation - pulling U.S. citizens out by helicopter as it had airlifted out French nationals during recent insurrections and civil wars in Africa.

British papers are appalled; they thought America was a civilized place.

Cuba offered disaster relief. So did Iran, and Honduras, the poorest country in Latin America.

The head of FEMA - a Bush appointee - was described by Maureen Dowd, who ought to know one when she sees one, as a 'blithering idiot.' The Economist suggests -attributing it to 'Bush supporters' - that New Orleans Mayor Nagin, who is black, " proved more adept at berating the federal government than at implementing the city's pre-prepared emergency plan." Andof course, Bush himself has been portrayed as lackadaisical, incompetent, uncaring and stupid. The debate is about which officials - federal, state or local - are the most incompetent.

Here, uncharacteristically and quixotically, we rush to defend our public officials as we would rush to the aid of drunk trying to find his car keys.

First, we begin our defense with a long list of admissions. We do not dispute the basic facts. Yes, all of the named - and many more never mentioned -officials are numbskulls. We wouldn't trust any of them to drain our bathtubs, let alone rescue a city from floodwaters.

Also, we admit that they could have made a better show of it.

In today's International Herald Tribune, Simon Winchester compared the response of today's politicians to those 100 years ago:

Read the full article here...


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Political Correctness & Truth in Journalistic Labelling

The Standard-Examiner's managing editor had an interesting piece in today's edition. I really like the weekly "Behind the Headlines" feature, by the way, wherein several alternating Std-Ex editors variously give us a an insiders' view of newspaper publishing.

According to today's article, the Std-Ex editors are finding themselves in some kind of dilemma, on the question of how to "label" the citizens of New Orleans, Louisiana, as these people are being forcefully spirited out of their neighborhoods and homes, to be "relocated" to podunk American places, far from their own homes and relations.

The editorial dilemma, explains Std-Ex head honcho editor Andy Howell, is whether to label them "evacuees" or "refugees." You can read about this tempest in a teapot here.

For my own part, I'll suggest that we might consider throwing out Andy's dilemma, and and await more facts to eliminate the possibility that we may ultimately have to label some of these displaced people for what some of them seem to have become -- if we're going to label them at all -- "detainees," for reasons you can read about here.

Comments, anyone?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yesterday's News Today

It seems like only yesterday that I posted an article lamenting the "drips and dribbles" of information that was coming out of City Hall re the Peterson Gondola project. (Actually I posted my laments the day before yesterday... on Wednesday)

But who's counting the days anyway? The important thing is that our Ogden City Lord Mayor was on johnny-on-the-spot yesterday, providing an excellent explanation of the whole kit-and-kaboodle, the whole Grand Scheme, in yesterday's Standard-Examiner editorial section.

Lo and behold, we now have an article that describes the whole Grand Plan.

It's intricate and exciting, so says our Lord Mayor. It's like a Swiss watch, wherein every little "component" relates in an engineering-way, to all the other components. If one fails, the whole machine fails, so says the Lord Mayor of Ogden City, Utah.

It's thrilling to ski industry executives too, Mayor Godfrey repeatedly reminds us.

"Are you guys really going to build a gondola from downtown to the ski resort," the ski company board chairman asked.

"You're totally nuts, arntcha," is what he probably mumbled under his breath.

Well there it is folks, in all its fascinating interlocking engineered intricacy.

You be the judge whether it's exciting... or merely scary.

There was a second article published yesterday in the Std-Ex, which falls again into the "drips and dribbles category," I'm afraid. It says something about Ogden City's proposed "leasing" of the magnificent trails that penetrate the canyons east of Ogden City. Those of us who've used those trails over the years didn't even know we might have been "trespassing," as we wound our way up through waterfall canyon to the bottom of Malan's basin over the past 150 years.

Here's the story about the City's plans for the trails system over the old Malan family property, which has now become the latest prize in the extended Sinclair Oil family estate.

And here's a little something about the Prescriptive Easement issue, which the local "pine-cone eaters" are raising re this situation. I'm not at all sure myself whether the City's leasing of the trails leading up to the eastern mountain face would extinguish a prescriptive public easement, if it exists at all. I seriously doubt it though -- and I know more than a little bit about such matters.

I'll offer my apology to local Std-Ex readers, for whom this article may seem to be "old news." I'd planned to post something like this yesterday, but my non-cyber real-life got in the way. I'm posting this now, mainly for the sake of the many Weber County Forum readers who check in here from the hinterlands, just so they can keep abreast from afar about the continuing strange happenings in the land of Oz.

What say our gentle readers though, about easements, the Grand Plan, or any of the rest of this?

It's YOUR forum people. Please don't be shy about chiming in.

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