Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blumner: A chilling vision of a world without newspapers

By Robyn Blumner
Tribune Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many questions -- so few answers.

Monday, November 28, 2005

There's a New Kind of Venture Capitalist in Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's what I learned from attending the event:

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

Here's what Grow Utah Ventures does:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give it a hearty "thumbs up."

Comments, anyone?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

24/7 Gluttony

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

Some tidbits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cool, "Clear" Water -- Guest Commentary

All day I've faced the barren waste,
Without the taste of water:
Cool water. (Water.)
Old Dan and I, with throats burned dry,
An' souls that cry for water: (Water.)
Cool, (Water.)
Clear, (Water.)
Water. (Water.)

Keep a-movin, Dan,
Don't you listen to him, Dan,
He's the devil, not a man:
Spreads the burning sand with water. (Water.)
Dan, can you see that big, green tree, (Water.)
Where the water's runnin' free? (Water.)
It's waitin' there for me and you? (Water.)

Cool, (Water.)
Clear, (Water.)
Water. (Water.)

Written by Bob Nolan.
(C) Music Of The West / Unichappell Music Inc.)
From "Showcase Of Hits"
Copyright 1958, Phillips

By the always-eloquent Enthused Citizen:

A HINT OF THINGS TO COME? Ogden City's Infrastructure. Nearly 100 years old. Roads, storm drains,the sewer system and the city's water supply... which means culinary. Like a taste? A little sip maybe? There's plenty of water available, here, take a look:

Click to enlarge

This is what we have, right up on Ogden's Central East Bench."Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry, and souls that cry for water; cool, CLEAR water." Catchy little number, that. Hardly clear, though. The pipes are rotting away, sediment plugs the end lines, and the result is that what comes out of these fire hydrants is the same stuff that comes out of many East Bench homes' indoor water faucets. During the High Adventure Recreation Center 2005B Bond vote, Jesse Garcia was overheard to say, "I apologize if I care about the Infrastructure. My vote, therefore is 'NO.'"

His meaning, of course, is that the BDO revenue stream that will assure the Lender, Wells Fargo, of receiving its payment should the LLC comprised of Gold's Gym and Fat Cats go South and fail its financial obligation of over $57,000 per month, will now be used to cover that possibility...instead of those money's original intent. And that was to shore up (pardon the play on words) the City's aging Infrastructure.

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Read it and weep, and enjoy your drink:

Click to enlarge

If you live below Washington, enjoy the Spring run-off. It's actually called a flood and it's brought to you courtesy of the lack of city revenue needed to give the old Infrastructure a re-do.

Gary Nielsen and his bunch get it all. Maybe he'll be selling bottled water down at the Rec Center and can pipe in some of the West Ogden run-off for the Flo-Rider.

At least things will be up and running at the old mall site. Plenty of money to ensure that.

Just hold your nose and close your eyes when you're at home.

-Enthused Citizen

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's a Done Deal

Just as it would be madness to settle on medical treatment for the body of a person by taking an opinion poll of the neighbors, so it is irrational to prescribe for the body politic by polling the opinions of the people at large.
c. 427-347 B.C.E

We're not making decisions based on sticking our finger in the wind. We're making decisions based on what we think is in the best interests of the community.
Matthew Godfrey
Ogden council to take hint?
November 10, 2005

The advantage of public opinion is like that of the weather-gauge in a naval action.
Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe
ME 14:226

In another city council shocker, the Gang-of-Six "delivered" for the Mayor last night, approving the $16 million rec center bonding, along with another $22 million in sundry and assorted long-term debt, and a pledge of BOO revenue as loan collateral. The mayor's rubber stamps performed predictably, with lame-ducks Filiaga, Jorgenson and Burdett in the forefront. The sitting council proved to the townsfolk yet again, even in the wake of their November 8 public spanking, that they don't give a dang what the voters of Ogden think.

This came as no surprise of course, to those of us who are avid Gang-of-Six watchers. Neither public opinion nor election referenda mean anything to mind-numbed Godfrey zombies. Jorgenson and Burdett had in fact publicly proclaimed their minds were already made up, several days before final council deliberations. They'll consider themselves "the annointed ones," the priestly neo-platonic "philosopher kings," even up to the very day they're given "the bum's rush," and are unceremoniously and summarily ushered out the city hall back-door in January. The result was really quite anti-climactic, I think.

For a succint report on last night's council session, you can read this morning's John Wright story.

And for an added bonus, the Standard-Examiner website kindly provides a truly weird video clip on the council session, including some classic Fasi Filiaga remarks .

I'm not going to go into a long discussion on this. We've been beating this dead horse on Weber County Forum for many months now, and said everything that needs to be said.

Still, I'd like to invite you all to post your impressions and outlooks, now that the rec center is all but a "done deal."

What are your thoughts, gentle readers?

Does anyone wish to do a post-mortem on this?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Guest Editorial -- Steve Huntsman

So the Ogden battle is between the young 20 something's and the old dotty people huh!

-Steven Huntsman
Freelance opinion writer

Kristen Moulton’s SL Tribune article on 21 Nov, 2005 divided the Ogden recreation center supporters into two groups. I quote from her article:

"The great divide: Those who oppose the recreation center generally fall into two camps.

A large portion of the population - older and in the habit of voting - may not understand the complex financial deal Godfrey has put together. They instinctively worry that the city is taking too big of a gamble, and they worry that Godfrey is transforming "Junction City" into Ogden Inc. "........

"While the opposition has been loud, Godfrey supporters have been trying to match their volume at public meetings. Many of them are in their 20s and 30s and have caught the vision. Dustin Chapman, a Weber State University student, says that when he talks to people his age, "Every one of them wants this. It seems foolish to me to get right to the edge of having this be successful and starting over."

I believe the Tribune author correctly depicted the situation here in Ogden. Unfortunately I believe this is a slap in the face of all that is good in America. The old people of this country should be our leaders because of their knowledge, their life experiences, and their wisdom; they have been through both depressions and economic booms as well as World Wars and many fought to preserve our freedom today. This makes me sad, not in how it was artfully described by the author, but in comprehending how older Americans in the Ogden area are perceived by the younger adults on this issue.

Now on the other side, not to categorize because I have high hopes for the next generation, but most of us understand that many of the young adults or 20 something's have been raised on oft times virtue less Movies, the TV and many aggressive video games and countless numbers have never worked at a steady job, served in the military or run their own businesses. I would also bet that not one of them have reached the status of statesmen yet like many in the older generation. I ask, whose sagacity should we be listening to on this issue?

I can understand Ogden’s dilemma, I believe I honestly can. For 30 years they have tried with city project after city project to fix a dying city center. They feel helpless and believe this is the only option presently available to revitalize downtown. It is my impression they do not know what else to do except proceed with another city project.

Unfortunately my opinion of what the Ogden City administration has done thus far is a gloomy one. I do not know another softer or more sensitive set of words to describe the current situation. So I call it what I imagine it to be; that being 30 years of legalized plunder. When any government uses the sacred tax funds, taken from each of us by force to develop a business monopoly it is plunder.

Presently Ogden city owns an astonishing “$186 million in net business assets” notably BDO rental property and now they want to get into the retail rental business properties with the rec. center. Is this a monopoly or is there someone bigger in the Ogden rental business? I'm of the opinion, and this is my belief only, but there is no greater evil in government than what has been going on in Ogden government for the past 30 years using these immoral State laws.

Thankfully our wise State legislators saw what was happening with the RDA law abuse in this last legislative session, and the potential corruptions associated with RDA’s and have eliminated the ability of the municipalities and counties to use this tool to build sports centers after Dec. 31, 2005. I believe they did this because the RDA laws have been converted into an instrument of plunder. I also believe this is immoral for the city to use the now nearly outdated laws to proceed further on this project. If they do, then I imagine most will lose respect for them as leaders and respect for the law in general.

Once we as a society lose respect for the law, all is lost. The far advanced 20 something's, believe that because it is legal, it is a legitimate tool and therefore not plunder, and also that the old people “are foolish” for not going along with the plan.

The older people or nonconformists who in reality are simply petitioning for free enterprise; are now being told “they do not understand the financial complexities” and that not building a recreation center would shatter the foundation of Ogden as a productive society.

I’m of the impression what these 20 something’s are really saying is; the old dotty people are behind the times and are simply foolish to assume that Ogden will be both a monopoly and robber of our sacred tax funds. After all, this is a cool project; let’s get it underway, I wanna climb!

The facts are: Ogden City has taken this mall property by force specifically for controlling retail development in downtown. Ogden City has taken another $186 million by force from the tax payers to enter into the industrial rental business and is now heavily competing with private landlords from neighboring cities for tenants. By force, Ogden city is now proceeding to further indebt the tax payer via bonds backed by the city BDO properties as collateral to give money (in the form of buildings) to private businesses using law (i.e., this takes the wealth of all and gives it to a privileged few). If I’m not mistaken all these three are legalized plunder.

I perceive the city now not only has a monopoly on prime industrial real estate in Ogden, but it can also decide via business licenses or tax incentives which businesses it will or won’t allow into BDO, or into the Ogden Airport Economic Development Zones (patterned after China’s -EDZ’s), as well as the amount of rent to be paid. If I’m not mistaken this is legalized plunder.

It appears to me that Ogden city is doing nothing short of taking taxpayer funds by shear force and using them with fiat control as they give or some might say bribe a lucky capitalistic seeking business into Ogden. Any citizen would be committing a crime if they tried this, so does it not stand that the city would also be committing a crime. The government after all has no more rights than the collective individual rights.

Using this new rationale of taking and giving shall we all not get in on the plunder? My business needs just as much help after all and I demand the right to relief. Shall we not all demand relief and new buildings for our businesses to succeed and compete? Liberty now means no competition right! So where will the plunder stop along this line of thinking, or shall everybody just plunder everybody? I should think that free enterprise with nobody plundering anybody is the better option.

Based upon the premises that moral laws are used to protect property, and immoral laws violate property, I make a bold statement here. If I am not mistaken the monopolistic plunder Ogden City is now involved in can constitute socialism. Is not socialism defined as fiat government control of the lands, the businesses, and the capital of a community and the distribution of that capital as the governing body see fit. This "blazing new territory in partnerships with business" as Mayor Godfrey puts it, confuses the distinction between legitimate government and business. So anyone opposing this socialistic approach to control by the city administration is accused of being antigrowth for downtown Ogden.

Is the Ogden leadership not convinced that if they left persons free to follow their own inclinations that Ogden would crumble to poverty rather than production, and to ignorance rather than knowledge? As downtown Ogden dies out are they not acting the creator part by implying the people are incapable to think and act on their own as intelligent, free and equal human beings? “Can we not plan ahead and judge for ourselves” wrote Frederic Bastiat “and are we not just as intelligent as they (legislators)?” Or does the sweeping of four supportive recreation center council candidates including incumbents out the door in the last election somehow show how uninformed and unwise the citizens really are?

If what Ogden city was doing was founded in Liberty; then I doubt many would oppose it. This issue is however a very conflicting political and emotional struggle which many find repugnant. We know from history that perverted laws generally cause conflict when people are forced to accept them. Again the reason; when the law violates property instead of protecting it, you can always expect conflicts to be present. After all does not every individual have the inalienable right to use force for lawful self-defense of his property?

In 1849 the statesman Frederic Bastiat continued on this topic, “The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property…..Its mission is to protect persons and property. The law is justice - simple and clear. If you exceed this proper limit…… you will be lost in uncharted territory…”

As mentioned earlier I feel for Ogden leaders and the dilemma which they have put themselves in. They believe they are on a train ride which if they bail out now only spells further doom for downtown Ogden. It may very well be true. However, continuing the path of government controlling of this prime retail property is corrupt and can bring no more good except a loss of liberty.

It is my opinion that if Ogden really wanted to promote growth in downtown they would lessen the bitter and strangling controls they currently have on the Ogden businesses. By loosening the noose on all and not just a capitalistic few, downtown would have an equal chance to flourish like it does in many free communities all across the world.

Ogden legislators, lets listen to our elders on this one and put down this monopoly, put down the perceived legalized plunder and more government controlled apartments, shopping centers and rarified recreation centers. Let’s get back to the proper role of government, that being protecting us from the government. Our continued Freedom after all, is what’s really at stake here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Rolling the Dice

It's Monday, the eve of what is certainly the most crucial city council vote in memory. The city council is poised to vote tomorrow on the latest incarnation of the mayor's rec center plan, a plan which will bind the townsfolks' existing BDO revenue stream for the next 25 years.

Mayor Godfrey has a lot of himself invested in the current plan. It's been on the drawing-board four at least four years. In its original form, of course, it involved the lofty neoCON goal of having the city enter into a "partnership" with the private sector. It had been predicated for the most part, (until last month,) on private financing. Private parties would lease the new facility, and "other people's money" would build out the site. The townsfolk would NOT be placed "on the hook," (except for a little "tax increment money," which is "free," as every grand-scheming urban central planner knows.)

So Scott Brown and the gnomes in the city economic development department located a couple of prospective lessees (Gold's and Fatcats,) and proceeded to peddle the project to lenders and bond underwriters around the country, looking for somebody to take the bait. After a few years of peddling and conniving, though, no lender would get involved. What ought to be obvious to attentive readers is that the private credit market has given Gold's and Fatcats a no confidence vote.

At that point, gentle readers, sensible folk would have seen the writing on the wall. Private lenders have a bias, of course. They're in it for the money. They avoid projects that don't demonstrate "economic viability". They do their own private "feasibility studies;" and they don't invest in projects that are likely doomed to failure.

Failure of course is not an option for the current Gang-of-Six. They're "can-do" folks with zero risk aversion. Why should they be risk-averse? It's not their money they're playing with. Failing to find a private investor who was interested in their obviously doomed private-financing scheme, they did what risk-takers (some would call them gamblers) everywhere do when they're a little short of cash, and their credit ain't so great -- they visited a loan shark.

The net result? The Bank of New York will finance the project; and Norwest Securities will underwrite the bonding. But the taxpayers will now be fully"on the hook" in the event of the lessee's default; the private investors won't bear any real burden. The original plan has changed utterly, in one giant flip-flop. In the event of default of the Health Club lessee co-partnership, Bank of New York will have recourse to 100% of BDO lease revenue for the next 25 years, or until the bond debt is paid off, whichever happens sooner. The formerly private project has now thus become a palpably public one.

This eleventh hour course-change presents another serious problem though, which puts the city council in a genuine ethical predicament. Over the course of the past several years, opponents of the rec center project have incessantly demanded the completion of a "public feasibility study," something that is mandatory for all public projects. In response to these demands, the mayor's office has consistently demurred, arguing that all necessary preliminary studies would be done by the private lenders, and that a public study would be redundant.

The problem for the city council now, is that they're thus forced to consider this project in the complete absence of such a study. The Mayor's sudden flip-flop has created and ethical problem for the council of extreme magnitude. What the council is being asked to do on Tuesday night is to approve a highly burdensome and risky project without even the slightest fundamental information necessary to make such a decision. All they have is the mayor's blue sky promises -- and their own emotion.

"Larry Miller will come," says, Mayor Godfrey. "Boyer will come. Others will come. The rec center will be a "business development magnet for Ogden," so says the mayor.

None of these folks are under written contract, of course. None of them has even provided so much as a letter of intent. Not even Gold's or Fatcats principals have made a written commitment. Gary Nielsen in fact joked with me last week that he could kill the whole project at any time, simply by refusing to sign on the dotted line. That's how truly flaky this project is. "Trust me," says the mayor. The mayor has "the true vision," of course.

I don't know about councilpersons Jorgenson, Burdett, Filiaga, Stephenson and Safsten, but I'd be feeling mighty "put upon," having something like this laid in my lap at the tail-end of a lame-duck council session, if I were sitting on the city council. Sure, these folks have a lot of themselves "invested" in this project, just as does the mayor. I'm sure they're all brimming with emotion over this project, and its truly bizarre timing and fact circumstances.

Nevertheless they should remember that they are fiduciaries, and holders of a public trust. Nobody in their right mind would approve this project in its present posture, given the paucity of objective data that is available. A wrong decision in this matter will have possibly devastating personal-legal consequences; and I hope they will all be thinking about that. Hopefully they'll respond to their rational faculties, rather than their emotional ones, as they arrive at Tuesday's decision.

A couple of other tidbits for this morning's reading:

Kristen Moulton frames Tuesday's issues nicely in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune story.

And I've learned from email scuttlebutt that mayor Godfrey will be staging a "rally" on Tuesday afternoon in the municipal gardens, adjacent to the council chamber. Mayor Godfrey's political base these days, mainly consisting of teen-agers and twenty-somethings who don't vote, it would seem, will be carousing and listening to a live band, in anticipation of Tuesday night's council meeting. Lacking anything concrete on paper, I suppose an emotional rally is all that remains. "Any port in a storm," as the old saying goes.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Will the city council honor their fiduciary obligations...or simply roll the dice?

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Pressing Item for the New Council's Agenda

For those Ogden City townsfolk who've been eagerly awaiting the opinion letter from independent counsel regarding the legality of the Stuart Reid $43,000 severance windfall, the wait is far from over. No, gentle readers; the letter hasn't arrived.

It will not arrive imminently either, I am informed, because it will bear bad news for the Dear Leader of the Gang-of-Six. In an unprecedented act of arrogance, mendacity and political cowardice, the lame duck and motley Gang-of-Six "leadership" (comrades Safsten and Jorgenson) has called off their law dog, and instructed counsel to withhold the letter, according to yesterday morning's John Wright story:
After the city contracted with Reid to serve as the city's representative to Business Depot Ogden, the council requested that an outside attorney look into the question of whether his severance pay was legal. But City Council Executive Director Bill Cook said he subsequently informed the attorney that the council does not want the opinion.

"I can tell you that there will not be a legal opinion provided by outside counsel," Cook said Thursday.
Bill Cook doesn't want to see a formal written opinion on the legality of the severance deal; and neither does the Gang of Six. Above all, neither Mr. Cook nor council leadership want the Ogden townsfolk to get their hands on such a letter. Such a letter would be very bad for the political health of one particular Mayor in one politically-troubled northern Utah town.

As our regular readers will recall, I spent some time and energy earlier this month, obtaining the text of the Ogden city employee pay ordinance which was in effect at the time of Stuart Reid's original hiring, in January of 2000. There existed no legal authority for the mayor's unilateral award of a secret voluntary-retirement severance benefit for Mr. Reid in January of 2000, in my not so humble opinion, just as no such authority exists now. Apparently that's also the expressed informal view of outside counsel too, even though there will be no formal written opinion.

The legal analysis isn't complicated. It depends merely on a plain reading of the statute. You can read my analysis here. The severance bonus was illegal, It violated the law. Bill Cook and council leadership are aware of this by way of informal communication with the council's independent lawyer.

And there's that other dangling issue too. Bill Cook is quoted in John Wright's story regarding the subject of the council's changing the "pay plan" ordinance:
"However, the council is considering an ordinance to modify the current severance pay policy. They decided they wanted to take proactive action, so that's what they're going to do. ... The intent is to make changes to the ordinance regarding future similar situations," says Bill Cook.
As you'll recall in this connection, Councilman Jorgenson had earlier "let slip" the fact that the city council leadership was considering "tweaking" the Ogden City "pay plan" statute to ratify Mr. Reid's generous going away present. Several of my sources close to city hall had also confirmed this quite recently.

The latest reliable formation, however, is that the council will only go so far as to "tighten up" the statute, to prevent similar occurrences in the future. It's the council leadership's most recent intention now, I was informed late yesterday afternoon, to merely add statutory language which would explicitly require council approval of all future severance packages. It is NO LONGER the council's plan to take any action to ratify or approve the Reid severance deal, according to a source I deem reliable. What a difference an election makes.

In the wake of the November 8 election council house-cleaning, it would seem that there exist now some limits beyond which the council will not act to protect our aggressive but politically-weakened municipal CEO. In this connection, I'd expect that the Stuart Reid severance question ought to be one of the first matters of business to be brought up by the new council, after their January 2006 swearing-in.

I'll keep following this story, and provide updates as the story develops.

And what think our gentle readers about all this, I ask?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This is No Feasibility Study

Today, in response to my written request to John Patterson, Chief Administrative Officer for Ogden City, I received a copy of the only feasibility study in the files of Ogden City re the Rec Center.

This study was finally found and discussed in a meeting by John Patterson, Dave Harmer and Mark Johnson before it was given to me as the official study on which the Rec Center is being promoted for a vote Tuesday night.

This is no feasibility study of the Rec Center.....

It is a feasibility study supposedly for Fat Cats. It isn't even that.

It is a hodge podge of 69 pages done by a bowling association representative who has copied pages of ads in magazines and statistics on bowling all over the country. There is one page that attempts to list some numbers that do not make sense.

It lists the lease payments from Cat Cats as $360,000. per year to Ogden City. It is my understanding that bond payments for the Rec Center will approach $80,000. per month.

This is an affront to the Ogden City Council members who are supposed to vote Tuesday night on a massive 25-year debt when they have no adequate financial information on which to base that vote.

This is unforgivable on Dave Harmer's part, who says he is a CPA.

You can bet that he would not make a personal financial decision based on this study. He certainly wouldn't invest his own money with no study to look at on Gold's Gym.

So why is he pushing this debacle for the Mayor? Can he need his job bad enough to give up his professional integrity?

The Utah Code does not cover stupidity on the part of government officials.

The Utah Code does, however, cover the oath of office that these elected officials must take.

An official must perform with fidelity in his position. There has been no part of due diligence nor fidelity on the part of Ogden's Mayor.

And now he wants to put the City Council members in the same position of failing to perform with due diligence by witholding pertinent information for their decision making process.

All City Council members should vote to table this Project until they receive some accurate financial data.

They have sworn to uphold their office with due diligence and they should force the Mayor to allow them to do so.

Dorothy E. Littrell, CPA

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Top Speed Home to "Eden" in Dave's Boxster

Okay. Some of our gentle readers are needling me, and complaining that it's "too quiet here."

I'm having trouble understanding why it's so friggin' "quiet," actually. It's YOUR blog, o my gentle Weber County Forum Readers. There's no reason you folks can't "stir the pot" whilst I'm temporarily away.

Remember that "website design" project I talked about last week? It was something I promised some people I'd complete about four months ago. I've put about 50 hours into it in the last four days (including a few nights of NO sleep,) and it's almost done now. I made an executive decision and decided I'd finish it up now, and leave our gentle readers on their own for a coupla days... so's it wouldn't take me another four months to finish it, and disappoint some other people who'd also relied upon me. Web site projects are the ultimate oxymoron. Website design is where "math geeks" try to get in touch with their normally-undeveloped "artistic" side.

Consider this an Open Thread, please, if you'd like. My "other project" is durned-near finished, and then I'll get back to the serious business of exposing Ogden City government hypocrisy here ad nauseum.

In the meantime, I did attend tonight's "public comment session" at my old alma mater, Mount Ogden Junior High School tonight. So mebbe we can make THAT a topic for discussion tonight.

My perception is that poor Dave Harmer is conducting these public discussions, with zero core belief on his part that the Rec Center project is a "good deal" for anyone. Poor old Dave Harmer has become a mere half-hearted shill for the Godfrey "vision." It's a heckuva bad way to end a decent corporate career, for poor old Dave H, I think.

He "walked through" tonight's presentation. When called on the question of whether the Ogden City Council has an adequate "feasibility study" to rely upon, now that the Rec Center has ceased being a "privately financed deal, and has now become a "publicly-backed" project -- the poor guy had no answer at all. His standard retort: "That was before my time." "OK, Dave, thought I. He referred to some half-arsed "study" that was done long ago, where the only input came from the Fatcats principals. Of course he hasn't actually read it himself.

The poor guy was making eyes through the auditorium wall at the Mount Ogden Junior High parking lot all evening, where his silver Porsche Boxster was parked -- the one we taxpayers paid for. Don't think for a minute we didn't.

Did I fail to say I don't blame him?

All Dave wanted to do tonight was cut the meeting short and drive home -- at top speed - with the Blaupunkt 8-speaker stereo turned on full-blast -- possibly to attend to his "trophy" wife. C'mon... guys who drive Boxsters ALWAYS have trophy wives, right?

He knew he was talkin' sh*t tonight.

A quality guy like Dave Harmer won't last long with this neoCON city administration.

He could have retired comfortably WITHOUT the Boxster, I think, and will probably soon wish he'd done just that.

Did any other of our gentle readers attend this meeting, BTW?

Howbout the one Tuesday night?

Did anyone catch the clip of Mitch Moyes Tuesday night on channel 13... running around the council foyer waving his arms and muttering under his breath, in typical political pose?

Comments, anyone?

Take it away, o gentle readers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kangaroo Courts Redux

It's "crunch time," gentle Weber County Forum readers. Our "lame-duck" " Ogden Gang of Six, aware that the last of the "visionary and probably hallicinatory(?) sand" is now draining from the neocon-statist hourglass, is rushing as many big borrowing/big spending "bills" to the city council front-burner as possible.

The latest is this: Kangaroo Courts.

The following is from the pen of the most excellent John Wright, whose article of this morning has mysteriously and stingily failed to appear in today's online Standard-Examiner edition. Here's more WCF red meat on the whole Kangaroo Court Concept, which actually "sucks," I think.

How nice it is for Ogden city to have its own revenue-raising police force to write citations, along with its own Kangaroo Kourt to bleed us all dry by enforcing them. What a perfect business model for the perfect business enterprise.


How dumb are Ogden City citizens? NOT THAT dumb, I suspect.

Is a justice court a "cash cow" or not? The dopes at city hall can't seem to keep their stories straight.

My guess? It'll be a cash cow; and the underprivileged will pay for it.

This Ogden City Kangaroo Kourt Koncept is just another thing that now needs to be ethically "put off." The fewer burdens the Gang-of-Six lay on the new 2006 council -- the better.

Amongst the Gang of six, Lame Duck Jorgenson, was originally elected on a campaign lie.

Lame Duck Filiaga, who seemed to have had a functioning brain in his head as recently as January, 2000, (when he voted against reducing the city's options by tearing down the Old Mall,) seems to have had a "health lapse" of some kind. Gee whiz. A "stroke?" How many brain cells were wiped-out with that event?

Lame Duck Burdett, of course, who was appointed as a councilperson, at the suggestion of the "little mayor," -- and was NEVER even elected by the people -- has thus privately expressed her "fealty" to the "people" who appointed her, who are NOT the "people" she's supposed to represent.

Yet this pack of morally and physically-corrupt morons will be legally entitled to bind us financially for the next 20-25 years.

America -- what a country!

John Wright's excellent Standard-Examiner (Std-Ex motto: All the news that's fit to sell) story warns about the latest money-grubbing scheme. Yes, gentle readers. Tomorrow night's City Council session will consider... Kangaroo Courts as an infinitely-profitable city revenue source.

"Read all about it," as street newspaperboys used to say on the Ogden city streets back in my daddy's day...

And get ready for NEW Kangaroo Court "user fees."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Gone But Not Forgotten

Those unfortunate informationally-deprived people in faraway places, who don't receive hard-copy Standard-Examiner Sunday editions delivered straight to their doorsteps, may have missed one hum-dinger of a Mark Saal "Life at the Top" humor piece this morning. Bookmark this under "Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction."

Life at the Top: Hmmm, maybe we should get these guys to rank humor columnists . . .

I'm hoping our gentle readers will get as big a kick out of this as I did. Too funny.

Utah Business Online Link

Rec Center Public Comments Information

For the convenience of our readers, I've added the calendar of upcoming Rec Center Public Comment Sessions to the WCF sidebar, under the heading "Hot Topics and Threads."

I can't over-state the importance of attending the next three regularly scheduled public events -- and submitting written comments -- prior to the final Redevelopment Agency Special Meeting on November 22.

Written comments may also be submitted via e-mail to the following addresses:



If your email program supports a "read receipt" function, I'd suggest using it, to ensure your message isn't "lost" or "misplaced."

Be sure to provide contact information, including your name, street address, phone number and e-mail address.

If we're going to prevail on the present city council to exercise prudence and common sense with respect to the rec center project, we'll need to let the council know how we feel about it, in no uncertain terms. We're already hearing "noise" from some of the Gang of Six, and their lackeys, that last week's election results will be ignored. So it may be sdvisable to give them another dose of reality.

I'm not suggesting an e-mail spam campaign, mind you; but I do believe our decision-makers deserve to hear the views of all citizens who have reservations about this project.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Open Thread

I'll be busy today working on a new website that I have under construction.

It's something of a slo-o-o-o-o-o-w news day, so I thought I'd set up an open thread. If you wish to comment on the rec center project or Tuesday's election, please continue to comment on the several previous threads. If you'd like to open up new topics, please feel free to do it here.

I did catch this Deseret News article this morning, addressing the difficulties Utah disabled veterans experience, in dealing with the V.A. benefits program. This is a pet subject of mine, as I'm a Vietnam-era veteran myself. Although I've been lucky enough not to have had to rely upon V.A. benefits, I have many friends who've struggled to receive the benefits to which they're entitled. Have any of our gentle readers experienced similar problems? This is probably something to think about on Veterans Day, methinks.

And what else is on your minds, as we move into the weekend, gentle readers?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Godfrey vs. The Townsfolk

For an excellent illustration of the paternalistic and anti-democratic attitude that seems to still prevail within the now-publicly-repudiated Gang of Six, our gentle readers need look no further than this morning's John Wright story. The three outgoing council lame ducks still express no real desire to listen to the voice of the people. They announce they'll do damn well whatever they please with respect to the Rec Center project, although they'll do it under varying rationales.

Donna Burdett says she'll weigh "competing" interests:
Burdett, who was defeated by Dorrene Jeske, said she is unsure how she will vote. She said she feels the rec center is crucial to redevelopment of the vacant mall site. But, she said, she must balance what she thinks is best for the city with what the people want.

"I think that if this was a referendum on the mayor, that would certainly include the rec center, and if people truly don't want it ... then there's no reason to vote for it," Burdett said. "I certainly don't want to ram anything down somebody's throat at the last minute."
That's right, folks. She still hasn't decided whether Tuesday's vote was an actual referendum. She'll weigh the subjective best interests of "the city" (translation: the mayoral administration) against "what the people want," just as she's always done, since her appointment to the city council. It's a choice between the Mayor and The People. That's what she's telling us.

Even the ever-clueless Kent Jorgenson seems to recognize the direct conflict between the will of the grand schemers in Mayor Godfrey's office, and the public will, as it was clearly expressed through Tuesday's general election "referendum" vote:
"The citizens communicated with their vote that they're not excited about the direction the city's taking, and if that's applied to the rec center, you have to take a hard look at the whole decision," he said.
Of course we've heard Councilman Jorgenson sing the same song many times before. He's always going to take a "hard look." "My mind is not yet made up," Comrade Jorgenson always solemnly reminds us, minutes prior to lodging his each and every pro-vision rubber stamp vote.

For an expression of flat-out anti-democratic audacity, however we get this from the council "elder statesman, the "go-to guy" in the Gang-of-Six brain trust:

Filiaga, who did not seek re-election, said the election will not affect his vote because he thinks the majority of people support the rec center, whereas only 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

That's right, folks. Rather than heed the voice of the Ogden townsfolk who actually showed up to exercise their voting franchise, Filiaga will apply the "unexpressed will" of some vague and imaginary "majority" who didn't even bother going to the polls.

And of course we get this entirely predictable anti-democratic gem from Dear Leader up on the ninth floor:

Godfrey said: "We're not making decisions based on sticking our finger in the wind. We're making decisions based on what we think is in the best interests of the community."
"Sticking our finger in the wind?" For sheer hubris, that one takes the cake. Of course we already knew that Mayor Godfrey doesn't give a damn what the unwashed townsfolk think. "Screw the people; Ogden is a republic - like the old Roman Republic," Matt Godfrey constantly reminds us.

Ace reporter Wright sums it up pretty well in his final two paragraphs, which include a pithy Bill Glasmann quote:
Those elected Tuesday said they hope the current council ensures the rec center makes financial sense for the city before approving it. Glasmann, Jeske and Doug Stephens, who was elected to Filiaga's seat, ran on anti-rec center platforms.

"I hope they don't tie our hands and get us into some mess that we can't unravel," Glasmann said. "The future of our town is dependent on this thing working, and that's a big gamble, that's a huge gamble, and they've got to be very careful with that," Glasmann said.
And what say our gentle readers? Will the outgoing Gang of Six finally take the moral high-road, and obey the will of the people as their final important legislative act? Or will they depart their offices in public disgrace, having once again succumbed to the will of their politically-wounded Dear Leader of the Gang of Six?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Important Community Event Tonight!

The citizens of Ogden are brimming with joy over last night's election victory. And we have due cause to congratulate ourselves, with "high fives" and hearty "slaps on the back." We took the first step yesterday, in "taking our great city back." Last night's victory was the result of a battle that was hard-fought, and we deserve a few moments to sit back, and savor the fruits of our efforts.

Even so, we must also remember that other battles loom on the political horizon, and that now is no time to nap. We're in the middle of the 30-day Recreation Center public comments period, which is preparatory to the "lame duck" council's Rec Center bonding approval.

I just got around to checking my calender, and here's something I ALMOST overlooked:

* PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE (Wednesday, November 9, 2005, 7:00p.m.)
Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave., Browning Theater (located at north end)
-Educational presentation for citizens regarding the proposal.
-Question and answer session will be included. Comment forms will be provided for input to the City Council.
I contacted Bill Cook's office about an hour ago, and confirmed that this event is still "on" for tonight.

If it's NOT on your calender, please add it NOW, and PLEASE plan to be in attendance. Ogdenites have an unfortunate pattern of ignoring events such as these. When we fail to show up and register our opposition, the Gang-of-Six assume we just don't care. If you're opposed to the recklessness of the Rec Center financing, you owe it to yourselves and fellow citizens to be in attendance.

For your convenience, I'm linking a copy of the Ogden RDA's earlier press release, which announces this, and other upcoming public comment events.

Let's keep our eye on the ball, people.

Update 11/9/05 9:55 p.m. MT: I attended tonight's "informational session," along with MANY prominent Ogden City political activists. I'll resist posting my own observations for now, and await the input of others who attended this event. Let's have our MANY gentle readers who attended the event drive the discussion here.

Comments, anyone?

This Morning's Std-Ex Election Story

As I walked across the municipal building parking lot around 10:20 last night after the final votes came in, the Standard-Examiner's John Wright sprinted by me at top speed, looked over his shoulder and yelled, "Drop dead deadline!"

He obviously filed his story late; and it thus failed to make the Std-Ex's website this morning.

For the benefit of our out-of-town readers, I'm providing John's story, which I've manually entered from the hard-copy edition.

Here's John Wright's take on yesterday's election results.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The Ogden Townsfolk have spoken.

They're tired of having grandiose and hare-brained projects shoved down their throats.

They're tired of city councilpersons who get elected, and then tell the voters "shove it," and then taunt the people who voted for them, based on their political lies.

They're tired of ego-maniacal mayors, whose idea of the constitutionally-guaranteed "republican form" of government is the same as the old one in the Roman Republic, when Rome was ruled by a dictator -- or the one that Plato, inventor of the "republican government form concept" had in mind when he made this memorable quote:

"Just as it would be madness to settle on medical treatment for the body of a person by taking an opinion poll of the neighbors, so it is irrational to prescribe for the body politic by polling the opinions of the people at large." —Plato

Mayor Godfrey says something like that constantly at almost every city council session.

Ogden citizens are tired of arrogant elected public servants who consider "the people" to be "rude" and uninformed.

The Ogden voters apparently got tired of even looking at the botched likes of Jorgenson & Burdett, and rejected Steve and Dori out of hand.

Why did they get rejected? Perhaps the Godfrey "taint."

Go figure.

Can you say "Referendum?

Anyway, here's the hand-carried rough vote, which I received tonight by from City Recorder Gloria Barret:

At Large "A"
Bill Glasmann -- 3,751 -- 56.05%
Kent Jorgenson -- 2,941 -- 43.95%

At Large "B"
Donna Burdett -- 2,906 -- 43.35%
Dorrene E. Jeske -- 3,786 -- 56.48%

Municipal Ward 1
Jesse M. Garcia -- 499 -- 59.05%
Dori Mosher -- 346 -- 40.95%

Municipal Ward 3
Steve Larsen -- 701 -- 41.19%
Doug Stephens -- 1,001 -- 58.81%

The People of Ogden 4; Gang o' Six 0.

There may remain a few uncounted votes.

The message remains the same though.

The voters decided to put FOUR COMMON SENSE ADULTS on the next city council.

I think the people have spoken; and I offer them my heartfelt congratulations for their Ogden common sense.

Let's hope the outgoing lame duck council doesn't do anything "really stupid" as their "last revenge."

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Tonight's Election Results

As our gentle readers will recall, we ran a real-time election results update the evening of last month's primary election, with Bill Glasmann graciously calling-in results from the Ogden council chambers as the vote tallies arrived from the counting room and were added to the council chamber tote-board.

I've received several queries today about this, from readers who wanted to know whether I'm planning to do the same tonight.

Although it was fun monitoring last month's vote count, and the experimental "project" generated lots of traffic here, I regret to announce that I'll be down in the council chambers myself tonight instead. I'll be sharing the excitement with all the council candidates, and will try to do some interviews, which I intend to post here later.

As an alternative, I'm posting a link to the Ogden City's own website, which is being set up to provide the very most current information. I'm told it will be updated straight from the counting room, and will thus eliminate the short "lag" that occured last time, when the tally was transmitted from the counting room, to the council chamber, and to me, through Bill Glasmann's cell phone.

Here's a link to the Ogden City Website. I hope it all works out. I just installed it and checked it out. It's refreshing away automatically, and seems to be working just fine, so far. It's VERY COOL, I think. Readers with low resolution video settings might want to view it their browser's full-screen mode. Kudos to the folks in the Ogden City IP department.

I'm also adding this link to the candidate information module in the right sidebar.

I'm further informed that you can monitor the results on Ogden City's Channel 17.

Don't hesitate to chime in here, as the final vote comes in.

Progress and Proverbs

"It's just a question of, again, if people are supportive of continued progress, or if they want to stop the momentum completely and start over again," Jorgenson said. "There would be more impasse. Is that to the benefit of progress?"

Challengers against mayor's plans
November 6, 2005

"If you're motoring full-speed ahead in the wrong direction, where do you wind up?"

"If you're standing in a hole...first, quit digging."

Weber County Forum
Home Sweet Ogden -- the "Smell" of Success
September 19, 2005

Click to enlarge


Monday, November 07, 2005

The Reid Severance Bonus Legal Problem

Most of our long-time gentle readers are familiar with the Stuart Reid Severance Bonus Legal Problem. Inasmuch as it has been much discussed, I'm not going to summarize it further. New readers can find the basic story here.

On October 9, 2005, The Standard-Examiner published Mayor Godfrey's own written defense of Mr. Reid's $43,000 severance windfall. In that article, Mayor Godfrey sets forth his legal position. It's VERY short, and it fades, unfortunately, into some kind of weak equitable argument. You can read it here for yourself:
Stuart received exactly what is allowed for under Ordinance 99-46, just as other Ogden employees have over the years. Ordinance 99-46 also allows for an employee who has received severance to be immediately rehired by the city. While we did not operate under the ordinance because my agreement with Stuart predated it; we are still in perfect harmony with it. It's important to point out that hiring Stuart's company at Business Depot Ogden is saving us money compared to what his predecessors were being paid, and he comes to the job understanding all the issues.
The Standard-Examiner had also attempted to "explain" Mayor Godfrey's supposed legal argument in this 10/02/05 article:
An agreement that allowed former Community and Economic Development Director Stuart Reid to receive $43,561 in severance pay predated an ordinance that would have prohibited the payment, Ogden officials say.
The verbal agreement between Reid and Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey was struck when Reid began working for the city in January 2000, according to Chief Administrative Officer John Patterson. Under the agreement, Reid was to receive severance pay upon leaving the city.
In March 2000, a city ordinance took effect prohibiting employees who resign voluntarily, which Reid did this July, from receiving severance pay.
"The ordinance was not effective until after Stuart Reid was an employee of the city," Patterson said.
As you'll also recall, the public murmurings finally reached such a fever pitch that even Chamber of Peoples' Deputies Chairman Safsten eventually sent the question off to independant counsel, for an opinion on the bonus's legality.

Well... it's been over a month since the council did that, and the townsfolk still await the formal legal opinion.

The question actually came up at the recent League of Women Voters' Candidate Debate, where one perspicacious audience member asked this question of our Godfreyite Gang of six candidate Comrade Kent Jorgenson:

"Has the council received word yet from independent counsel about the propriety and legality of the Stuart Reid Severance? If not; will we receive it before the date of the general election?"

Comrade Kent Jorgenson answered the question succinctly, although not completely. "No, we haven't received the formal opinion yet," he said. Then Comrade Jorgenson rambled on and volunteered, "But we have received some information. We'll hold a work session to discuss it next week. We may have to tweak a statute."

"Tweak a statute? What statute(?) I thought. Before a follow-up question could be asked, the undisciplined event wandered off into pandemonium, and then time ran out.

Being the curious and impatient type though, I thought I'd check it out myself. How difficult is it to read and interpret a statute, I asked myself?

Very difficult is what I found out.

Researching an old Ogden city code section is a problem, I found. Local sources for the Ogden Municipal Code (like the so-called Weber County Law Library) use a "loose-leaf" code update service. When old code sections are amended, the old sections are just ripped out and replaced with the new ones. That makes the old statutory language unavailable. Fortunately, though, the Ogden city recorder's office maintains council ordinance archives; and I was finally able to piece it all together with a few trips to city hall.

I'll report what I found. This is the code section that existed at the beginning of the year 2000, when Godfrey and Reid entered into their purported secret handshake deal. I'm linking here the language of Ogden Municipal Code section 3.44.080, which is the city employee "Classification and Pay Plan" ordinance that was in effect in January of 2000, when Stuart Reid was first hired as Ogden City's Economic Development Director. As our gentle readers can see, there is no reference in the ordinance to a granting of any power to the Mayor to award severance packages. There is in fact no mention of "severance" at all.

The mayor takes the position in his guest editorial that his wings were clipped in March of the year 2000. Code section 3.44.080 was re-numbered as Ogden Municipal Code section 2-6-9 at some unknown point in time, pursuant to a general code reorganization, but the above code language remained intact until December 14, 1999. It was at that point that the outgoing city council, fearful of a "rolling or staff heads" with Mayor Godfrey's new incoming administration, passed the "ordinance 99-46" that Mayor Godfrey complains about in his above quote. This ordinance tacked an additional paragraph "F" to the existing code section 2-6-9 provisions, granting the Mayor the authority to negotiate severance packages, but only in the event of involuntary terminations. The amendement, which Mayor Godfrey did not sign, went into effect on March 22, of the year 2000.

Although Mayor Godfrey has characterized this amendment as a "limitation" on his power to award severance benefits, a plain reading of the pre-existing statute doesn't support this view at all. What's clear is that this December 14 amendment operated as a slight expansion of his Mayoral power, in instances where employees might be involuntarily terminated, i.e., FIRED. Lacking the power to award severance packages under the original code section in the first place, his position seems... well... UNTENABLE, shall we say politely. We are always very polite here on Weber County Forum, of course.

In my never-ending quest to simplify matters even to the point of allowing dimwits like our local board vandal "Mr. President" to understand them, I've created this color-coded code version. Remember, the text that appears in black is the version of the code that existed at the beginning of the year 2000, at the time Stuart Reid was originality hired. This is the code language that was in effect when Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Reid made their purported "oral arrangement." All the rest was added after Mr. Reid's hiring.

It isn't complicated. Read the code and determine for yourself, whether the Ogden city code had granted Mayor Godfrey the legal authority to grant Stuart Reid his $43,000 severance bonus, either at the time of his hiring, or at any other time after that.

Careful readers will note that the city council in 2004 passed a code amendment explicitly reserving the right to amend employee pay at any time at its own discretion.

I suspect that this is what Comrade Jorgenson had in mind when he suggested that the council might have to "tweak" a statute.

What he's talking about is covering the Mayor's butt. My insider "snitches" confirm this; and tell me that's going to happen AFTER tomorrow's election, regardless of how the election goes.

I'm telling you, we have to watch the gang of six like a hawk. There's apparently no limit to what they'll try to pull over on we dumb townsfolk.

I'll also issue a disclaimer. Due to the above-mentioned research contraints, I haven't researched the entire Ogden City Code as it existed at the time of Stuart Reid's initial hiring.

If Mayor Godfrey claims he had the severance bonus-issuing power by virtue of Section 2-6-9 though, he's definitely in need of better legal counsel than the ones he has advising him now.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Walling-in the Church of the Good Shepherd Again

Somebody is circulating untrue rumors about council candidates WHO ARE SUPPOSEDLY OPPOSED to our oldest downtown neighbors, the Church of the Good Shepherd, in their noble effort to purchase an additional portion of the old Mall-site.

We've previously discussed the issue here and here.

Dear Leader Godfrey is completely against selling another square inch of property to the Episcopalians. The Church is Tax-exempt; and tax base is the only thing former-LDS Bishop Godfrey cares about. Godfrey has an LDS Bishop Stuart Reid plan for retail stores. And when it comes to Stuart Reid-conceived grand plans and central scheming, Mayor Godfrey will never budge an inch.

Here's the list of current council candidates who are in favor, on record, of selling the targeted little piece of land to our solid neighbors, The Church of the Good Shepherd, according to a question that was lodged at the recent League of Women City Council debate:

In favor of selling to the Church of the Good Shepherd:

Jesse Garcia
Dori Mosher
Donna Burdett
Dorrene Jeske
Doug Stephens
Steve Larsen
Bill Glasmann

Here's the one who's NOT!

Kent Jorgenson.

Church of the Good shepherd parishioners should think about this as they go to the polls tomorrow, as should their "truly Christian" LDS neighbors.

This one is a "no brainer," I think.

The beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd should never be "walled in" again.

Non-LDS Christians -- or others with different non-Christian beliefs -- should never be treated as outsiders in our wonderfully-diverse city.

What say our gentle readers about this?

More Than His Fair Share of Chutzpah

From this Morning's Salt Lake Tribune Letters to Editor:

Article Last Updated:11/06/2005 11:14:54 PM
Salt Lake Tribune
Remembering Rosa Parks

The passing of Rosa Parks brought to mind her visit to Utah in 1992. During her visit she was hosted by the Salt Lake Area NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church presented Rosa with her family history and the NAACP organized a dinner to celebrate her life.

As a board member of the NAACP at the time, I was moved by Rosa Parks' quiet dignity and a gift of an autographed copy of her biography to my then 13-year-old daughter. Rosa formed a relationship between the two that changed my daughter forever. This personal experience inspires my daughter to teach her newborn son to care for all people no matter their race or ethnicity.

While Rosa's bravery in refusing to get out of her seat on the bus started a movement that literally changed a nation, it should not be the only thing that defines her legacy. She enlightened two generations of children by her example and teaching them to love one another. Because of her lifetime of giving, so many of the rising generation will be taught what she taught their parents and grandparents. This really is the greatness of her legacy.

God bless Rosa Parks for her courage and love that changed so many. May we emulate her example in our churches, work, homes and communities.

Stuart C. Reid

Stuart Reid?

Could this be the same Stuart Reid who was run out of Salt Lake City because of his disdain for low and moderate income housing?

The same Stuart Reid, who authored the aborted Wal-mart Land-grab?

The same Stuart Reid whe created the RiverWalk scheme,which would oust the disadvantaged and politically powerless from their economically-desirable properties along the Ogden River, for the sole benefit of wealthy developers?

The same Stuart Reid who accepted a secret $43,000 "severance bonus" in a "handshake deal," outside of the earshot of the Ogden city council and their taxpaying townsfolk?

The Same Stuart Reid who holds high ecclesiastical office in the "gentile" church which doesn't consider itself a gentile church?

I ask the latter because he surely seems to have more than his fair share of chutzpah -- if indeed this is our Stuart Reid.

Anybody want to give me a little help on this?


Editor's note to those readers who have been awaiting more Stuart Reid red meat. No this is not the article I promised. I'm still awaiting more data (evidence) before I publish it. Patience, gentle readers. Consider this one an appetizer;)

This thread is open. I'll be busy politicking until mid-afternoon, at least. Consider the topic to be wide-open.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tonight's Meet the Candidates Event

I attended tonight's downtown "Meet the Candidates" event, at the Marshall White Center.

I'll give you my intitial impressions.

This was a first-time event for the downtown group, "Ogdenites In Search of Information;" and it went off without a hitch.

Unlike previous Ogden candidate events, this one was top-notch.

Cris Rodriguez, a newcomer to political event moderating, performed like a seasoned pro.

The League of Women Voters, who staged the last public format, and treated it like some kind of local comedy show, should cry in shame, and talk to Cris Rodriguez about how to run a legitimate political event.

Here are my initial impressions:

Steve Larson is a "rambling" sort of guy. You never know what he's going to say next as he waves his arms around and expands on whatever comes into his mind at any particular moment; and neither does he. It's all impromtu, and even he can't quite predict what's going to fly out of his mouth from any moment to the next.

By contrast, his opponent, Doug Stephens, is constantly on message, methodical, sensible and entirely businesslike.

Jesse Garcia displayed his deep knowledge of Ogden city business, while his opponent with the BIG RED PERMED HAIR punctuated her message many times on the microphone with "valley girl" ums and ahs, tediously demonstrating she had no idea at all what she was talking about.

Jeske came off great tonight, too, thanks to a decent microphone. Dorrene wasn't designed for public speaking, but her voice finally came through tonight, when she told the audience steadfastly what she stands for, unlike her rubber stamp, stern school-marm opponent.

Bill Glasmann scored a major KO, when he made an impassioned plea to support the Marshall White Center as a city institution, and the downtown families who rely upon it.

And tears welled up in my eyes when Mr. Glasmann mentioned his boxing promotion background, pointed to the blue curtain on the west side of the gymnasium, and referred to the boxing ring that's hidden there, amidst the cheers of the crowd of about 75. He mentioned the Ogden "Hepcats Club" fighters he'd promoted, like Cookie Valencia, Ricus Daniels, Terry Lasalle, and my old running-mate, Donny Greenfield. They were all Ogden friends of mine.

Meanwhile, the Davis County-reared Kent Jorgenson and Donna Burdett just sat at the table like a couple of dull lumps, blinking like a pair of wooden dolls. These people have no idea of Ogden culture and tradition. These two dopes are totally out of the Ogden loop!

Speaking of Burdett, she went totally haywire tonight. For some reason she got pissed off, and started launching on the crowd and the other candidates. People in the audience were open-mouthed, when her face suddenly contorted demonically, and turned beet-red and sneering. She berated the audience, and informed them that the 6,000 citizens who signed the spring anti-mall bond petition, seeking a vote on the mall project, didn't have any idea what they were signing. Donna knows best, says the halloween mask-faced, ranting neoCON Donna Burdett.

When one citizen from the crowd yelled, "We the people," Burdett just sneered, glared and hissed.

Another one in the crowd to my left whispered to me, "What a bitch." "Oh, Yeah, I said." It was really quite startling.

That was an impression shared by most of the crowd in attendence too, I'll venture. It really was quite ghastly.

Burdett pretty much shut her up after that, after finally realizing that she'd completely lost her composure, and had inadvertantly revealed her true evil and malignant self to the crowd.

The "Home Ec" major from BYU wife-of-a-dentist actually thinks she's smarter than everybody else. How scary is that, anyway?

So what you say, gentle readers?

Does anyone else have comments about tonight's most excellent political event?

Is there anyone who'd like to comment on tonight's downtown Meet the Candidates Night?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NeoCONS Godfrey, Burdett, Jorgenson and Larsen take a hit!

The US house of Representatives, responding to intense public pressure, just overwhelmingly passed the "Private Property Protection Act of 2005," which will bar the federal government, states and localities from using their power of eminent domain to seize property for private economic development projects.

Godfrey, Burdett, Jorgenson and Larsen are already crying their eyes out over this, and will be absolutely apoplectic when a similar bill sails through the Senate very soon.

Federal legislators of all political stripes will drive a stake through the heart of American mainstream Trostky-style neoCONS very soon.

We have to do our part locally, though.

Be sure to show up at the polls on Tuesday, to vote the BIG-GOVERNMENT, BIG SPENDING local neoCONS OUT!

Vote NO on Comrades Jorgenson, Burdett and Larsen.

Maybe we should fire that "professional lobbyist," too, since he'll be beating a dead horse VERY SOON -- and maybe we should apply that dough to the hiring of an independant accountant to look into Godfrey's possible financial shenanigans instead.

Just a thought.

I have a red-meat Stuart Reid expose coming up this weekend, by the way. Be sure to stay tuned.

What say our gentle readers about this?

Pre-election Updates

Out of a sense of sheer civic obligation to our gentle readers, I'm continuing to follow John Wright's latest series of articles, profiling our 2005 Ogden city council candidates.

These articles are about as thin on facts as any you'll find, and they are certainly not the kind of information intelligent voters could rely upon to make an well-reasoned choice in this very important upcoming election; but you can read yesterday's article on the At-Large B race here, and today's article, on the At-large A race, here. This is not meant as a knock on John Wright. He's done about as well as any able reporter could, in distinguishing the competing candidates one from another, given the limited column space he's been afforded.

I've added these articles to the sidebar for your future reference, and will do the same tomorrow, upon publication of the anticipated final article.

If you have any questions or comments about any of the council candidates, feel free to offer them here.

And don't forget to check out the rest of the election information in our data-rich sidebar. Weber County Forum is by far the most complete information source for the 2005 Ogden council race, if I do say so myself.

Update 11/4/05 7:12 a.m. MT: This morning's John Wright article, profiling the candidates in Ogden's Ward 1 city council race, has been added to the sidebar.

Update 11/4/05 9:32 a.m. MT: For an excellemt summary of what the Ogden city council race is really all about, check out this morning's Salt Lake Tribune article, by Kristen Moulton.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What if Things Go South?

Seemingly awakened from his long neoCON slumber, Chamber of Peoples' Deputy Chairman Comrade Safsten is suddenly asking the very same question the wary Ogden townsfolk have been asking about the Rec Center scheme for over a half-year, according to this morning's John Wright story. "What if things go south?" he asks.

That's a very good question, Chairman Safsten; and we're glad you finally got around to asking it. GE Commercial Credit, the lender who'd originally been lined up to finance the Rec Center project, apparently asked that question too, just before they pulled out of the deal. The new lender, Bank of New York, also apparently made the same query. Having gotten a very unsatisfactory answer, they demanded extra security, in the form of a public guarantee. And it would come as no surprise at all if we were to learn that other un-named commercial lenders may have asked the same question and politely said "No thanks," upon taking a little closer look. A south-bound trip is a distinct possibility, as the Rec Center deal is now structured. An $80,000/month lease payment over 20 years would seem a pretty tough nut to crack, for an Ogden bowling center/gym combo, even assuming that bright and creative young entrepreneurs are manning the helm.

"Shuddup Comrade Safsten," the rest of the Gang-of-Six say! "We're the annointed ones, after all, and we NEVER talk 'out of school.'" "And we NEVER EVER plan for failure."

I've taken a certain amount of heat over the past few months for my tentative support of the Rec Center project. I always looked at it as an-arms-length transaction, involving a ready, willing and "able" set of prospective lessees on one side of the transaction, and an eager land-owning prospective landlord (Ogden City) on the other. My less than enthusiastic support had always been predicated, however, on the assumption that the entire transaction would either stand or fall on its own economic merit, and that the taxpayers would never be placed on the hook. If the deal were to go forward, commercial lenders and securities professionals would take care of the feasibility studies and credit qualification themselves, by operation of the mechanism of the free market. Failing that, the project would just "go away."

Well, my assumptions have proven mostly correct. The Ogden City administration has peddled the financing package all around the country; and the original deal has now fallen flat on its face, due to its inherent lack of economic merit. Lacking the confidence that Fat Cats & Golds have the financial capability to perform their lease obligations, the only prospective lender left standing, The Bank of New York, has demanded and gotten, at the eleventh hour, a 100% public guarantee. As far as the lender is now concerned, the Fatcats/Gold's principles could file their bankruptcy petition any time at all, and The Bank of New York won't be out a single dime -- and the taxpayers will be left dangling on the hook.

Mayor Godfrey and Chairman Safsten have pulled the old "bait-and-switch" on the taxpayers of Ogden. It's high-time at least one of them started asking a few questions.

The additional questions they're asking are the wrong ones however, gentle readers. Instead of asking whether the project should be scuttled entirely, or at least put on hold for a public feasibility study, they're motoring full speed ahead, hoping to squeeze "additional security" out of the hapless Fatcats/Gold's principals.

John Wright reports this amazingly naive Dave Harmer comment from last night's council work session:

"Harmer said although the lease agreement is "substantially" finalized, he would ask attorneys involved in negotiating it whether there are additional guarantees the city could request."

It's time for Dave Harmer and the other clueless Ogden city big-shot development poseurs to wake up and smell the coffee. If Fatcats and Gold's wind up in bankruptcy court, the Ogden city taxpayers will be standing in a long line, along with other creditors. Fatcats and Gold's run multiple debt-laden operations up and down the Wasatch front -- and its unlikely there will be sufficient assets to make any creditor whole.

I say It's time to pull the plug on this deal, Mr. Harmer and Mr. Safsten, and to ask yourselves honestly whether anyone in his right mind would proceed onward from here.

The further pursuit of this project has gone far beyond careless and is in the area of outright reckless -- and there could be personal legal repercussions.

And what say our gentle readers about that?

Update 11/4/05 4:32 p.m. MT: It seems the Standard-Examiner editors chimed in on the some note in this morning's editorial.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Clear Choice in Ward 3

This morning's Standard-Examiner has a John Wright story clarifying the political positions of the Ward 3 council candidates on three hot-button Ogden issues.

As to the Recreation Center project, candidate Doug Stephens takes the common sense position of the Ogden townsfolk, "I think the private money needs to take the initiative there instead of having the taxpayers bear that burden," he said. In contrast, Steve Larsen, Mayor Godfrey's hand-picked gang-of-six recruit, believes running up the public debt another $18 million, and guaranteeing it with 100% of the BDO lease revenue for the next 20 years, in reliance on the performance capability of a couple of small-time and possibly flaky lessees, is a good bet. Otherwise Ogden city will go "belly-up," Larsen says, in a truly odd (and possibly bizarre) non-sequitur.

Stephens is firmly on the record in his opposition to eminent domain abuse, whereas candidate Larsen, Wal-mart fan extraordinaire, is willing to "fudge" on his principles, and tread on the property rights of the common townsfolk, so long as it yields he and his neoCON money-grubbers a few more dirty tax dollars for the Ogden City government big-spenders. His ultimate dream, of course, is to pave over the entire Ogden downtown, and fill it with box-store parking lots -- like the town of his dreams -- Riverdale. He "loves the poor folks," he constantly reminds us, so long as they're willing to be forcibly cleared out of their homes and businesses whenever giant corporations like Wal-mart arrive in town, looking for a "free lunch."

For some reason the "gondola plan" remains a political issue, even though such a plan doesn't actually exist . Candidate Stephens takes the logical, common sense position on this: "If I had to make a decision today, it probably would be not to support it because I don't have the facts," he said. Larsen, of course, loves the non-existant gondola plan. "Nobody will come to Ogden on (commuter rail) without the gondola and the rec center," he said. No, I am not making this up; that quote is right there in the John Wright article, I swear. Besides, the gondola is the mayor's pet project; and the constantly-groveling Larsen never disagrees with anything the mayor promotes.

Could the choices in the Ward 3 race possibly be more clear? The voters can choose between Stephens, who exudes prudence, fiscal responsibility and common sense. His opponent, the ever-cluless dreaming and scheming Steve Larsen will make the ideal Matt Godfrey sock-puppet.

And what say our gentle readers? How many of the townsfolk who live outside of Ward 3 envy the folks there who will have the pleasure of saying "no thanks" to another potential "rubber stamp?" Don't be shy; and don't let the cat get your tongues.

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