Thursday, June 30, 2005

Updated: Changing of the Guard at City Hall?

There's been a rumor circulating around Ogden in recent days, about the imminent departure of another Ogden City official, in the wake of the retirement of Ogden City Administrator Nate Pierce. I'd heard the rumor myself last month, but kept mum about it, at the request of a trusted source close to city hall. I did hint about it here, however, in an article where I whined about our seemingly top-heavy City government salary structure. Now that the "cat's out of the bag" with this morning's Standard-Examiner story though, I'll feel free to expand and expound upon it a little bit.

The news is that Ogden City's Economic Development Director, Stuart Reid, is leaving Mayor Godfrey's administration on July 15. As today's Scott Schwebke article reports, Mr. Reid considers his mission here in Ogden served, and he's moving on to greener pastures. Perhaps he has his eye on an economic development position in a state which still permits the use of eminent domain -- who knows? What the implications of this may be for the future course of Mayor Godfrey's administration is anyone's guess. My guess is that Mr. Reid's departure could be good news for Ogden City, depending on how Mayor Godfrey handles it. I'll try to briefly explain why that's the case.

As you'll recall, Mr. Reid was snapped up by Mayor Godfrey, after losing the Salt Lake Mayoral race, locally dubbed Rocky II, in 1999. Although he'd been the early favorite in that contest, Mayor Anderson the incumbent pulled off a late upset victory, after Mr. Reid's campaign "went negative." For those who've forgotten the details of that interesting electoral contest, you can take a little trip down memory lane right here and here. You can read more here, although you'll have to scroll down the page to the title "Uncommon Dissent," if you want the nitty-gritty about what the 1999 mayoral race was all about.

Prior to his defeat in the Salt Lake City mayoral election, Mr. Reid had served as Economic Development Director for SLC Mayor Corradini, during which time he developed a reputation for grandiose planning. Mr. Reid developed a true expertise in Utah's RDA law and related urban development, along with some expertise in municipal finance; and was an devoted proponent of "mixed-use" planning. There was, however, one glaring problem during his tenure as Salt Lake City's economic development director: Mr. Reid consistently demonstrated a pronounced bias against the inclusion of "affordable housing" in his vision for the mixed-use development of Salt Lake City. Mr. Reid, it seems, couldn't find a place in his vision for low income people. He was regularly criticized for this, and this indeed became an issue in his failed SLC mayoral contest.

Nevertheless, it's apparent that Mayor Godfrey's administration considered him an ideal candidate for the Economic Redevelopment Director slot in low income Ogden, and he was gleefully brought aboard in 2000, at a salary exceeding $100,000 per year. Ogden's economic situation was rapidly deteriorating at the time, and I'm sure he was regarded as a valued asset, if not a superhero in a cape.

Looking to the future, it will be interesting to observe the course that Ogden city takes toward redeveloping our downtown neighborhoods, now that Mr. Reid his headed out of the city hall door. In this connection, I think Mr. Reid's departure creates an ideal opporunity for Mayor Godfrey to chart a new and different course for his own vision for our downtown neighborhoods. Instead of ignoring and excluding the low-income folks who were just cluttering up Mr. Reid's version of "The vision," I'm hoping that Mayor Godfrey will adopt a more inclusive approach. Rather than doing everything according to a government-choreographed, grand and upscale master plan, maybe it's time for Mayor Godfrey to tone it down a little bit and reach out a little more to the private entrepreneurs in our own community.

The above remark leads to a topic that's been bugging me for almost a year now. Last summer, there were two Standard-Examiner articles announcing the refurbishment and re-opening of "Adams Place," the 165-unit residential complex at 25th and Adams Avenue, the old Ramada Inn, which had remained boarded-up and idle since its last closure in 1998.

As reported in a July 9, 2004 Jeff Demoss article, this property had been quietly acquired and remodeled by a local realtor/real estate investor, Carlos Herbon, for operation as a low-income apartment complex. As reported in the first Std-Ex story, this project received immediate accolades from the building owner, Woodbury Corporation, a big private investor in our community:

"It's nice to get someone in there again," said Mel Sowerby, Ogden leasing agent for Woodbury Corp., which has owned the building throughout its six-year tenant drought.

Herbon said 165 units equipped with a living room, bathroom and kitchenette, several of which are already complete, will be available starting in about six weeks. He said monthly rental rates will start around $250 to $275, with utilities included.

"We're just cleaning up the place now," he said. "We think it's going to add a lot to downtown." He expects the project will take nine months and nearly $400,000 to complete.

Aside from a second Demoss story, there was no public fanfare when the project opened for business; and Mayor Godfrey's administration has remained silent as a stone on the subject:

Unlike most projects under way downtown, the city is not involved in the Adams Place project. Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he has not been in the building since it reopened, and declined to comment on its potential value to downtown.
Somebody from the Ogden city administration ought to hang a medal on Carlos Herbon, as far as I'm concerned. We hear a lot of talk from the administration about "partnering" with private business for the improvement of Ogden, but most of this "partnering" seems bold and grandiose, in the style of the departing Mr. Reid. The administration's "cold shoulder" attitude has Mr. Reid's fingerprints all over it, I think. Instead of focusing on building Ogden by luring the Wal-marts of the world into town, perhaps it's time for Mayor Godfrey and his administration to chart a course toward facilitating and promoting "home grown" projects such as those of Mr. Herbon. Mr. Herbon is a community hero in my eyes. He's added a valuable asset to our downtown community, which is intended to serve a neglected segment of our community, and it's high time he received the public acclamation for doing it all himself, on his own dime, without a penny of public money.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I won't miss Stuart Reid even a little bit. Mr. Reid's departure could be good news for Ogden city... provided he's not replaced with a clone.

07/01/05 9:08 Update: The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton adds more information to this story with this article on Mr. Reid's departure, within which Ms. Moulten offers this interesting quote from Mr. Reid, re the current business climate in Ogden:

"Reid said he's more optimistic about Ogden's future than ever because the business community is finally paying attention to its role in reviving Ogden. 'They're fully engaged now,' he said. "

I'm not sure I can decipher what Mr. Reid meant by this comment, but you can bet your bottom dollar he wasn't thinking of Carlos Herbon, or other members of the local business community, who would independently build on the existing infrastructure, rather than march in lockstep to the beat of Ogden city's central-planning drum.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Grondahl Cartoon Poll


I've received several reader comments regarding yesterday's Grondahl cartoon. One reader emailed me and said that she was furious about it; and Ozboy also offered some provocative comments on the previous thread.

I haven't run a reader poll in this space yet, so perhaps it's time that I did. I've composed a few multiple-choice questions off the top of my head on this, but you can add your own option in the final box, and add additional comments when you check the poll results. You'll find the poll in the sidebar at the right of the screen. I realize, by the way, that not all of these choices are mutually exclusive. Just pick the "best" one, or type in one of your own in the box labelled "other."
Have at it.

Take the Grondahl Cartoon Poll

If anyone has any additional comments, please post them here.

Kelo Justice: Souter's Property Rights To Be Bulldozed?

In the "things-we-want-to-happen" news category of the day comes this press release from an online media source:

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare , New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. [Supreme Court Justice David H.] Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged".

. . . "This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

Via: The Claremont Institute Local Liberty Blog

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Democracy Breaks out Passionately in Ogden

I attended last night's community event at Ogden's Union Station, and would like to offer my obervations of what occurred.

The event was broken into three segments: 1) a half-hour introduction and anti-Rec Center "pep-rally;" 2) a general presentation on "modern" urban planning by the featured speaker Mr. Howard Blackson III; and, 3) audience participation.

The first segment basically boiled down to a spirit-rally for the anti-Rec Center event sponsors. Mitch Moyes and Sharon Beech played a shrill tag-team for the first thirty-five minutes, blaming the Ogden City administration for their two most recent failures, the petition drive and the federal court case. It was the same old stuff rehashed; and I won't go into it "at length," except to say that it went on for far "too long." One significant highlight of this initial segment, however, was a short series of remarks by one Aaron Mueller, a local real estate developer, who somehow wound up with the microphone in his hand. Before the mike could be ultimately wrested away, amidst much spirited booing and cat-calling from the partisan crowd, he managed not only to upbraid Mr. Moyes and Ms. Beech for their late arrival to the planning process, but also to read from a recent Standard-Examiner article a short quote from Judge Stewart, explaining his actual rationale for dismissing the plaintiffs' lawsuit: "Plaintiffs' allegations against defendants themselves simply do not establish federal jurisdiction, but, rather, appear to be a thinly veiled attempt to make a last minute end-run around state statute to accomplish judicially what they could not accomplish through appropriate procedural means." To say that Mr. Mueller's comments took the wind out of the event promoters' sails would be something of an understatement. It also set the tone for the final segment of the evening.

The second segment was the feature presentation itself. Mr. Blackson is a young, energetic and knowledgeable speaker. He delivered a detailed "power-point" primer on the key elements of successful urban planning: preservation of significant historical structures, concentric development (high density uses forcused in the center and progressively lower density radiating to the periphery,) the creation if liveable neighborhoods, the creation of a local employment-base, etc., etc., etc. Unfortunately, his presentation did not live up to its billing. Not only did Mr. Blackson fail to explain why the present Ogden city development plan "would not succeed;" he actually affirmed most of the current plan's basic elements. If anything, it demonstrated that Mayor Godfrey's administration is probably on the right track. For example, Mr. Blackstone emphasized the need for Transit Oriented Development -- the creation of healthy residential development within walking distance of commuter rail. Commuter rail will be coming to Ogden as early as 2008; and Ogden city's current downtown plan is obviously well ahead of the curve on that. This segment was also a little too long for the audience in attendance, and possibly too detailed, as well. By the time Mr. Blackson had completed his 1-1/4 hour-long 154-slide presentation, he'd lost about half of his original audience. Most of the folks who'd been cheering and "high-fiving" during the introductory segment had either fallen asleep in their seats, or had departed the building entirely by then.

Things picked up considerably in the final "audience participation" segment though. First to the microphone was Descente N.A.'s corporate Vice president, Curt Geiger. Mr. Geiger spoke for about ten minutes, and offered an articulate and passionate explanation of why his company had chosen Ogden, Utah as its new North American headquarters, when other more seemingly prestigious cities might have been selected instead. "'Americana' and proximitely to the ski slopes" was his story in a nutshell. He also gave Mayor Godfrey profuse credit for his company's arrival in town. "More ski industry companies will follow," he predicted.

The comments session moved forward from there, with other pro-development citizens speaking in their turn, both at the microphone, and from the body of the audience. Notable among those was Gary Nielsen, of Gold's Gym. He grabbed the mike and also spoke articulately and passionately. He complained that nobody from the CCFOF group had ever contacted him or his venture co-partners (Fat Cats) about their financial capacity to proceed with the Rec Center project, or about the project's financial viability, either. He pointed out that the terms of the Ogden lease were similar to, and typical of, other leases he has for other facilities, and criticized the people who are getting in the way of the deal he's made with Ogden City

As the meeting drew to a close, Mr. Moyes was walking around in circles, throwing up his arms, and muttering to himself. Ms. Beech was seated a row or two back, screeching at Mr. Nielsen to give up the microphone, to a background tumult of half-hearted boos and catcalls. The event promoters never got the microphone back until the lights were turned off unceremoniously by building management around 9:30 p.m. As the audience filed out of the room in the dark, the hapless Mr. Moyes and Ms. Beech never got the chance to make their final sales pitch.

I'd score it Pro-development - 4, Antis - 0. You can chalk this up as another failure for our local knights-errant, I think. Democracy broke out passionately in Ogden last night -- even within a partisan echo chamber -- and the anti-Rec Center "forces" couldn't be very happy about that, I think.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Windmill-Tilting, Act IV

There was a flyer circulated within this morning's Standard-Examiner, announcing an event this coming Monday in Ogden at 7:00 p.m. in the Union station lobby. According to the sponsor, Citizens Concerned for Ogden's Future, there will be a featured speaker, Howard Blackson III, a "renowned, respected urban designer," who will offer a presentation during which he will explain to all in attendance "why Mayor G's plan won't work," and "what will revitalize Ogden."

This is sheer speculation on my part, but I'd be willing to bet that this CCFOF "group" is the same batch of knights errant who got blown out of federal court yesterday, when they were hiding behind another concerned citizen acronym, CBCFOF, or something very similar.

Both the mode and timing of this presentation are also somewhat odd. If indeed this mysterious presentation includes an alternate plan for the old downtown mall site, why didn't these CCFOF people schedule this public sideshow earlier in the decision process? The Recreation Center process has been ongoing for years now. Why are they scheduling it now, on the very eve of the city council vote on the Rec Center bonding? The bonding's all but a done deal now. If these people had an alternate plan, why are they now bringing it up at the eleventh hour? Morever, why didn't they request that this presentation be calendered as a regular agenda item for consideration at Tuesday night's city council meeting, so that it could be heard by both Ogden's city's citizens and her government officials alike?

I did a quick internet search, and relevant web reference to Mr. Blackson came up as follows: Google -- 2; Yahoo -- 3; and AlltheWeb (my favorite search engine, by the way) -- 3. That's not an impressive number of hits, in my view, for a prominent figure in the flourishing urban design industry, but he may very well be an "up and comer." Mr. Blackson's own website does list some notable accomplishments, so I suppose there's actually no reason to question his professional competence.

I do wonder, however, how much research and effort Mr. Blackson may have expended so far. The cynic in me suggests that this is a last-minute situation. As you'll recall from yesterday's Scott Schwebke article, our little band of Don Quixotes dragged that unfortunate Salt Lake City attorney, Maxwell Miller, into their federal court action on short notice, to be pummeled about the head and shoulders by Judge Stewart and opposing counsel yesterday. I do hope he was well-paid for the embarrassment. Mr. Blackson's "presentation" smacks of the same thing, of course.

This raises a few further questions: Who's picking up the tab for this event? Is Mr. Blackman actually being financially compensated for his airfare and overnight accomodations; or is he arriving here at his own expense, in the expectation that he'll be able charm the local citizens into retaining his firm to re-design our old mall site? Have our lumpencitizen-activist crybabies fully informed him that his presentation will occur the very night before the Ogden city council is expected to rubber-stamp the current proposal? Does he understand the political position of the people he's dealing with?

So many questions...so few answers.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eternal Vigilance -- The Price of Freedom

There's a strange meme that seems to be floating around town that goes something like this:
Ogden City government is founded on a "republican" political framework. We elect our public officials at regular intervals; and between elections we citizen-folk should just sit back and let the "chips fall," secure in our abiding faith that the American system of government works -- and that our elected officials always act rationally and deliberately -- and always in in our best interests. Anything beyond that is deemed "obstructionist." The concept seems to revolve around the notion that the citizen electorate somehow fully delegates away its grassroots political power and civic obligation at the ballot-box, and that the only cure for official malfeasance or mismanagement is through the subsequent electoral process. It's a sort of "set it and forget it," mentality, if you will.

I've heard this basic attitude expressed many times, in many forms. Most recently, it appeared in a Standard-Examiner letter to the editor, penned by one Jeremy Taylor, of Ogden:

One of the most enduring and useful bits of advice given to me while I was growing up was to "lead, follow or get out of the way." It is unfortunate that the ranks of Ogden residents include so many who missed this advice and now both reject the pursuit and assumption of the heavy burdens of leadership, and refuse to follow our elected leaders.

They choose, instead, to try to block and stop every initiative of our leaders to move forward with the times. These recalcitrant neighbors don't like to be called obstructionists, but that is exactly what they are since they fail to provide timely and constructive alternatives to the vision, proposals and plans of our leaders.

These folks need to recognize that it is time for them to get out of the way, since they lack both the desire and skills to either lead or follow.

While I'll admit this argument has some merit, at least in excessive instances, the basic sentiment is still troubling to me in the general case. It seems to me that this view is fundamentally un-American, inasmuch as active citizen participation is fundamental to well-functioning American-style government, particularly at the "local" level. When properly and regularly applied, the efforts of community-activist citizens are actually an asset to elected officials. "Two heads are better than one," as the old saying goes.

If there's anything wrong with current American democracy, it's citizen apathy, in my view. Alert and politically-active citizens are the most effective guardians against government mismagement and excess. If there's any problem I see in the American political system it's the attitude of citizens like the above-quoted Mr. Taylor, who believe they're fully participating in the political process when they show up at their local polling place every year or two to give a thumbs-up (or down) to the politician of their choice.

I happened upon a good Paul Mackley article today over on the Weber Sentinal News website. Entitled "Citizens should challenge unjust laws, give feedback to local government," it truly sets forth what I believe to be the ideal role of citizens vis-a-vis their elected government, and also "weaves in" a pet issue of mine -- the necessity of observing common cultural morality and justice in the implementation of public policy. I'm going to quote a brief portion of the article here:
Recently I was reminded of the duty we have as citizens to uphold just law and support good leaders. I was able to spend a few days in the beautiful country of Austria — where the famous "Sound of Music" was filmed and the infamous Adolf Hitler was born. In May, Europe had the opportunity to reflect upon the tragic days of World War II as they celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

I had to ask myself, how did the rule of law become so perverted and run counter course to justice under the rule of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? Remember that Hitler’s National Socialist Party began with many seemingly benign social programs. Only later did it turn to book burning, Hitler "youth camps" and mass racial genocide. How did it happen? The answer is, "One step at a time."

There are times when we need to speak out and inject an ounce of prevention into improper public policy, not to mention a possibly even greater need to recognize and improve faulty private behavior, behavior that is out of harmony with the Ten Commandments. Silence often times condones, and if improper laws go unchallenged long enough, pounds of cure are inadequate to establish a course correction.

The founders in the United States knew that eternal vigilance was the price of freedom. John Adams said that "the constitution was made for a moral and religious people and was wholly inadequate for the government of any other." Benjamin Franklin said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." Even former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said that he would only support a public program or policy if it was in harmony with God’s laws, in harmony with the U.S. Constitution and had a positive affect on the character of the people." [...]
If you'd like to read the full version, you can find it here. This ought to be food for thought, good readers. I hope you'll read and consider this fine essay. Your subsequent comments will be welcomed of course, as always.

Officious Civic Crybabies Go Down In Flames

I've received word from two reliable sources that the plaintiffs in the case Moyes v. Ogden, the anti-bond petition case which was the subject of discussion here and here, was unceremoniously blown out of court this morning, just as predicted.

Unceremoniously may not be the most accurate description, though. According to one report, the plaintiffs and their newly-retained (eleventh hour) attorney were thoroughly embarrassed during a prolonged grilling by judge Stewart, who asked some probing questions about their proposed legal theories and profferred evidence. Judge Stewart reportedly only brought down the gavel and dismissed the complaint (without leave of court to amend) after making suitable inquiry and satisfying himself that the plaintiff's action was entirely frivolous, absolutely without merit, and that the plaintiffs themselves were completely clueless.

I'll update this post as the facts develop.

06/25/05 Update: Scott Schwebke's Standard-Examiner report fleshes out more details of this story here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

SCOTUS rules in Kelo; None of your homes are safe

From the Lone Star Times:
Hold onto your homes, folks – the Supreme Court has spoken in Kelo v. New London. Municipalities can use eminent domain to take your house, so that they can move in some business development that generates more tax revenue.

A divided Supreme Court ruled today that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as handing “disproportionate influence and power” to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

This was predictable. Few people honestly thought after oral arguments that the Court was leaning towards vetting the God-given rights of property owners. This is your Supreme Court, folks. We have a right to practice homosexual sodomy, but the state can take your home to build a new casino for Donald Trump. So much for our putatively “right leaning” court.

Whether this decision will have local implications in connection with the downtown Ogden Wal-mart "project" is debatable. Whereas the Kelo case didn't involve a supposedly "blighted" property, the local situation did.

What is important is that the US Supreme Court has apparently abandoned, by a narrow 5-4 margin, any pretense of adhering to the "public use" requirement set forth in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution as a prerequisite for public "takings."

Significantly, Utah remains the only state in the nation which statutorily denies the power of eminent domain to local redevelopment agencies.

Expect some fierce maneauvering during the upcoming 2006 Utah Legislative session as Utah's pro-property rights forces lock horns with the the Utah League of Towns and Cities, and their allies, the big developers and globalist box stores. If individual private property rights are now to be protected in the manner envisioned by The Founders, it will be up to the State Legislatures to ensure that.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Slightly Nervous in Ogden

The Standard-Examiner's front page was a real eye-popper this morning, with this magnificent aerial photo of Ogden's Lindquist Field. It's the best shot I've seen yet of that quirky little zig-zag out in center-field, which was designed to accommodate the commercial building at the northwest corner of the ballpark. And it provides a vivid graphic demonstration of the creativity of the people who worked together in the planning, designing, and financing which resulted in squeezing such a sweet little sports facility into such a relatively tiny piece of downtown Ogden real estate.

The photo graphic neatly merges into an article under the byline of John Wright, the Std-Ex's newest reporter. Although I've read another John Wright story or two on the Std-Ex "back pages" within the last few days, I believe this story is Mr. Wright's front page debut. If this is any example of Mr. Wright's work, I think we're all going to appreciate his further and future reporting, as he familiarizes himself with the issues and politics or our beloved Ogden city.

The article is essentially a historical piece, although it also has a strong government-subsidy pro-development undertone, as should be expected of any Standard-Examiner story, of course. There's also a pithy Bill Parker quote that really sets the tone for this article, and I just couldn't bring myself to leave it out of this post:

"You should have seen that area over in there. It looked like crap," Parker said of the site of the old Ogden Iron Works, northeast of 24th Street and Lincoln Avenue, where the stadium sits. "Without that ballpark, I really don't think any of that other stuff would have taken off like it has."
All in all, it's a well-written and interesting article, however; and if you somehow missed the hard-copy version, you can read it online here.

One particular detail in the article caught my special attention. According to Ogden City Comptroller, The Raptors ballclub pays a $70,000 annual lease payment for the ballpark. While I don't know much about professional baseball economics, I'd assume that's a fairly easy "nut" to crack, for a ballteam that draws 3,719 fans to the ballpark, on average, during its 36-game home-stands, at an average ticket price of, say, $4.50 per fan. This assumption doesn't take into account, of course, the fairly high operational expenses that a "travelling" ballclub like the Raptors must certainly bear. Still, it would seem that there's an obvious "commercial reality" in the Raptors' situation.

Having read this information, I couldn't help thinking of the latest Ogden City sports complex project, the Downtown Hi-Tech Recreation Center. Although the publicly-reported numbers are still a little fuzzy, it has been reported that the co-partnership between Fat Cats and Gold's will be on the hook for between $60,000 and $80,000 per month.

Don't get me wrong. I'll go on record as saying that I'm in favor of proceeding with this project, now that it's reached the final planning stages, after years of public input and planning. The real tipping point for me was a series of conversations I've had with both of the lessee principals, David Rutter and Gary Nielsen. They've both assured me privately that they're eager to proceed with the project, that they believe the project to be economically viable, and that they expect to make serious money through their joint venture in the years ahead. I'm all for letting these two individuals proceed.

Is the Fat Cat's/Gold's business plan viable? Is it based on commercial reality? Will their optimistic business plan survive the harsh underwriting standards of the bond underwriter and the Wells Fargo Bank -- who wlll be ultimately "standing by" with its letter of credit? Will the downtown sports complex experience the same sort of public acceptance and success as have our Ogden Raptors?

We'll know the answers to these questions very soon, I'm sure. But I'm still slightly nervous now, I'll admit. Let's just say that I'm experiencing the same "gut sensation" that I get when I'm standing at the "craps" tables in Wendover with a pair of "bones" clutched in my fist.

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Open Thread

If you have something on your mind concerning your northern Utah community that you'd like to share with our rapidly-growing readership, this would be a good place to do it. The floor's open to your observations and comments, folks.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities: Lessons in Competence & the Lack Therof

There were three similarly-themed articles involving citizen petitions re revenue bonding in today's Standard-Examiner.

The most interesting of the whole lot was this one, which reports how a group of competent Box Elder County citizens actually gathered more than enough signatures to get their local bonding issue put on the ballot. The battle's no means over in Box Elder County, of course, but these citizens have nevertheless cleared the first hurdle. The Box Elder County Clerk's office still needs to verify and compare the signatures to the voter registration rolls. Apparently they actually knew what they were doing though up there in Box Elder County, unlike our handful of Weber County clowns. The reason they succeeded, of course, is because it was an issue popular with the local Box Elder County citizenry, and it wasn't necessary to browbeat citizens to sign it, unlike here.

The "incompetence counterpoint" is this: Mitch and the boyz are about ready to get blown out of US District Court. Having failed miserably to get 20% of the local voters' signatures, they've decided to blame their own problem on everybody else, and make a "Federal Case" out of it, as we've discussed here before.

Here's the latest Scott Schwebke story on this:


OGDEN -- A hearing is slated for June 24 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to consider a motion from Ogden officials to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the group protesting the development of a proposed downtown high-adventure recreation center.

District Judge Ted Stewart has scheduled one hour for the motion hearing related to a complaint filed by Mitch Moyes, Sharon Beech and Rulon Yorgason against the city, Mayor Matthew Godfrey and the Ogden Municipal Building Authority.

The plaintiffs are members of Citizens & Businesses Concerned for Ogden's Future...

This really isn't "news" to regular readers here, of course. Nevertheless, the somewhat belated Schwebke reporting goes on:


Norman Ashton, attorney for the city, said the lawsuit should be dismissed because it doesn't assert claims that are legally viable.

"Our motion (to dismiss) is well-founded on facts and law, and we are optimistic it will be granted," he said.

I've read the complaint, and I can't imagine how it could have been any more inadequate than it already is, unless it were scrawled in crayon on the back of an envelope. Norm Ashton may not be the brightest litigation crayon in the legal crayola box, but he's definitely in "color harmony" in his above statement.

Finally, there was this Std-Ex editorial gem today. It's basically a re-hash of all the other whining that's been repititiously droned recently by this mysterious and shadowy local citizen's "group" that calls itself CBCOF. For some unknown reason, the Standard-Examiner editorial staff still apparently feels the need to give more voice to our local group of local Don Quixote windmill-tilters. Perhaps, as our regular poster Concerned Citizen suggests, the Std-Ex intends to tar all critics of the current city government with the same tarry broad brush.

I'm not going to delve more deeply into the subject matter of this guest editorial right now, but I am still wondering why these people are still complaining that the Gold's Gym and Fat-Cats principles aren't bring more money to the table. Why don't these obviously business-unsophisticated people realize that it's normal for an owner of raw property to build-out a building to suit the requirements of a long-term tenant? That's how it works in the real world, ferchripesake. These tenants aren't buying the property; they're merely signing onto a long-term lease. If they were buyers, the scenario would obviously be different. They'd then be required to put up substantial amounts of their own money. This is just one of my critiques of Ms. Beech's psuedo arguments. I won't go into its multitude of further problems though, unless and until a discussion develops here on the subject.

There's a virtual cornucopia of false assumptions and outright mendacity built into Ms. Beech's article that's far too complicated and elaborate to go into now.

And one other thing. Normal litigants usually know that it's improper to even comment on a pending case before its final resolution. The plaintiff Rulon Yorgason obviously knows that. Even the flamboyant Mitch Moyes seems to know that. For some strange reason though, their co-plaintiff, thinks its just fine to try her case in the press, even unto publishing a guest editorial about it.

Sheesh!

I'm still hearing that internal voice though, which keeps asking: "Why won't these dummies just GO AWAY?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Reader's Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council

As you are probably aware, I've extended a continuing open invitation to readers to submit articles for publication in this space. One reader has taken me up on this at last, and I'm thus posting, for your information and discussion, the following open letter, together with the author's short introductory cover letter, which I received this morning via email.

I'll also mention in passing, that by the posting of this letter, I'm not necessarily endorsing its contents. My object, in originally creating this electronic gathering-place, was to provide an open forum for the discussion of any and all issues of concern to the citizens of Weber County. The Rec Center is certainly one of those. This open letter is by far the most articulate statement that I've heard to date arguing against the rec center project. The article belongs here, especially in a context where the information contained herein has been effectively censored and blacked-out by the local outlet for the corporo-fascist neocon media moguls in Sanduskey. This place is all about free speech, folks! What little of it is left in modern AmeriKa, still exists here.

Read the letter. Then post your comments.

-----------------------------------
To: Weber County Forum:

I have been trying to get Don Porter [Standard-Examiner editorial page editor -ed.] to tell the truth re the proposed bonding for Ogden's sports complex.

These are the facts I tried to point out to the Mayor and Council from their own literature..And to Don Porter. They don't want to know the facts.

You have my permission to post this on your blog site.

Dorothy Littrell

-----------------------------------

Dorothy E. Littrell
Certified Public Accountant
228 West 3275 North
Ogden, Utah 84414
801-782-5906
d.littrell@comcast.net

May 31, 2005

Mayor and City Council Members:

I have been asked to look at the High Adventure Recreation Center Taxable Variable Rate Demand Bonds proposal for $8.9MM from Northland Securities, the $7.5MM Letter of Credit proposal from Wells Fargo and other documents pertaining to the Center as they affect Ogden residents and also Weber County residents such as myself.

I have spent many hours this past week reading everything available you have furnished the public and also going online to obtain financial information on the principals of Golds Gym and Fat Cats since your information did not provide that.

I have several concerns pertaining to financing and issuance of the proposed bonds. The following costs to Ogden City need to be itemized and taken into consideration in taking on this project:

1.) Variable rate of interest is to be reset weekly at current market rates for 20 years and to be paid monthly. Bonds are to be secured by a first mortgage lien against the property and leasehold improvements on the $8.9MM issue as well as the leasing revenues plus a direct pay letter of credit. Variable rates over a 20-year period can be very risky.
2.) Interest rate of Prime plus 7% in the event of default or a liquidity draw on the Wells Fargo Letter of Credit on the $7.5MM Tax Increment Revenue Bonds for 13 years can be very risky.
3.) Underwriter's fee is 1% of bond amount at closing plus .02 % annually of principal amount outstanding for a period of 20 years on $8.9MM offering.
4.) To get a bond rating of A or better in order to sell the $8.9MM bonds there will have to be another Letter of Credit from a financial institution.
5.) A Letter of Credit fee is 1% of the principal amount outstanding of the guarantee as of April 1 and is collected on that anniversary date.
6.) 1% of $7.5MM is $75,000. plus 1% of $8.9MM is $89,000. for letters of credit fees the first year of $164,000. In addition to the annual Letter of Credit fee there is a charge for figuring interest which is estimated to be $275.00 per month.
7.) There are the charges for a MIA appraisal compliant with FIRREA and USPAP; charges for a Phase I Environmental Report on the property; surveys, title review and lender's title insurance, UCC lien and other searches, customary insurance, legal fees incurred by lender regarding searches, etc. which can be very expensive.
8.) Attached is a December 13, 2004 MEMORANDUM from Deputy Director McConkie listing all Ogden City RDA projects and debt on each project. I am having difficulty identifying that list to the 10 identified redevelopment areas pledged to Wells Fargo for collateral on the $7.5MM Letter of Credit. Please explain why the two do not agree.
9.) Who is going to repay the $10,462,085 due Ogden City for Mall Redevelopment due 12/26/11?
10.) The December 13, 2004 MEMORANDUM list of RDA debt totals $49,276,790 with $20,265,839 due Ogden City, so I am assuming the difference of $29,010,951 is outstanding RDA debt on Ogden City's 10 RDA redevelopment areas which will be pledged as collateral for the $7.5MM Letter of Credit. So am I to understand that tax increment collected must first go to pay this RDA debt of $29,010,951 before any goes to pay Wells Fargo?

I have additional questions regarding the prospective tenant, Health & Fitness Holding, LC whose principals are Gary Nielsen, Sean Collins and Dave Rutter.

Landlord, Ogden City, is providing $11,928,740 for tenant's use to construct improvements plus $4,375,000. to purchase specialized equipment plus $2,450,000 for a SkyVenture vertical wind tunnel for total funds provided of $16,303,740 or more.

Documents provided do not name the person or persons designated as (landlord) Ogden City's representative for construction oversight nor are maximum fees set forth for Design Phase Compensation nor Design Phase Fee.

Guarantors are named as:
Total Fitness Center, Inc. LLC and DSI Enterprises, Inc. with no information as to their ability to guarantee. Public internet access provides information on Dun and Bradstreet and Smart Business Reports that indicates their financial capability is suspect.

Fat Cats-Provo had Tax Lien Filings in 2004 with Utah County Recorder for Federal Tax of $6,868. and with Utah County District for State Tax in the amount of $5,565. In 2003 the State Tax Lien amount was $6,387 and $1,141.

Fat Cats-Salt Lake City shows sales of $1,352,000. for 2004 with high credit risk of delinquent payments.

Why is there no security deposit on a project of this magnitude? Why is there to be no recording of this lease?

Why is Ogden City charging tenant 8% on past due rent when they are paying Wells Fargo Prime plus 7% on delinquent amounts?

The information furnished for SkyVenture, LLC shows a purchase by Ogden City of the equipment for $2,450,000. It also calls for minimum royalty payments of 5% of gross revenue or an annual minimum license of $25,000. to SkyVenture by Health & Fitness Holding, LC. Does this accrue to Ogden City as the owner of the equipment in the event Health & Fitness does not perform?

Ogden City's publication of the Mall Recreation Center Work Session dated May 17, 2005 of the Master ProForma Recreation Center Estimated Annual Income and Expenses begs the question of how this venture is expected to survive and justify Ogden City's investment of $16,303,740. I have attached that one-page calculation for your inspection.

Ogden City is going to have additional security expenses to patrol the parking lots and the improved properties which they have ignored in their projections of costs for the City.

Based on the financial information available about the High Adventure Recreation Center, my professional opinion has to be that this is a no-win adventure for all parties concerned including Health & Fitness Holding, LC with the Underwriters and Wells Fargo Bank being the only winners.

Signed:_________________________________
Dorothy E. Littrell, CPA

---------------------------------------

(I attended last night's City Council session, by the way, during which Council Vice-chair Jorgenson announced to the few citizens in attendance that Council voting on the Recreation Center bonding has now been re-calendered from June 21 to June 28.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

"The Land Of Oz" - Where Taxes Are Really Not

The Standard-Examiner's new cub reporter filed his best journalistic effort to date since his assignment to the Ogden City beat, I think, with an excellent Std-Ex story published just this morning. If this keeps this up, I'll surely be tempted to start calling him the Std-Ex's Ace Reporter very soon.

The headline reveals, "Ogden to Vote on $99 Million Budget -- City's plan includes up to 7 percent raises for employees." Beneath the headline, Scott Schwebke fleshes out the story:
OGDEN -- The Ogden City Council is expected to vote tonight on the municipality's proposed $99 million fiscal year 2006 budget, which calls for pay raises of up to 7 percent for employees.

Specifically, the budget recommends a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for all workers and merit increases of up to 5 percent based on performance.

"We feel good about being able to give employees raises," said Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey. "They have worked hard these last several years."
As I editorialized in a previous article here, the city Administration feels flush with cash, and is foaming at the mouth to give itself and its minions a nice fat pay-raise. It appears that at least one City Council member has already made up his mind on this too. Imagine that!
City Councilman Brandon S. Stephenson said the proposed budget will allow the municipality to live within its means.

"It's very conservative," he said. "We are just making it work so we don't have to raise taxes."
"Not raising [property] taxes," and "very conservative" too, utters the young Councilman, presumably holding a completely straight face all through the Schwebke interview. Well, the one follow-up question that I'd like to ask Councilman Stephenson that Schwebke didn't ask is: "what about this -- are you saying that an increased "user fee" isn't the same thing as a "tax hike" from the lowly taxpayer's point of view?
The City Council also said in the report it supports increasing water rates in fiscal year 2006 by 5 percent, which is higher than the regular consumer price index adjustment of 2.9 percent.

The additional 2.1 percentage point increase is required to fund the replacement of half of the pressure regulator valves in the city at a cost of about $900,000, according to the City Council. The second half of the valve replacement project is expected to occur in fiscal year 2007 and may require additional fee increases.

More than $30 million in needed improvements have been identified for the city's water system. An analysis will be completed in fiscal year 2006 to determine how to best fund the projects, according to City Council.
So the City Council is considering a $900,000 fee increase for repair of the dilapidated water system infrastructure, (to be followed by a similar one in 2007, and even more to come,) and I ask myself: What is a 5% fee increase, if not an additional "tax" on the taxpayers? On top of this, they plan to raise their own salaries with the extra cash that suddenly seems to be lying around idly, rather than to directly apply it to deferred-maintenance problems that they already know about, and which ought to have been addressed years ago. I don't get it. What I'd like to know is how people like Councilman Stephenson think they can flim-flam "the townfolks" by playing these silly semantic games, and refusing to recognize increased "user fees" for what they really are -- increased taxpayer expenses. Maybe they think we're just plain dumb. Come to think of it, maybe we are pretty dumb, in truth, inasmuch as we're the ones who elected to office people like Councilman Stephenson in the first place.

Sometimes I think our frequent commentator, Ozboy, may have a point when he refers to this little town of ours as "The Land of Oz." It's certainly Alice in Wonderland at the very least, I think. One thing's for sure... It's some kind of fantasy land, where the taxpayers never get invited to the feast, yet always wind up picking up the tab.

I don't know about you folks, but I'm planning to sit in on tonight's Council meeting. I'm hoping a few of you will join me to watch the dog-and-pony show. It ought to be good theater -- the theater of the absurd.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Weber County Blogs Double in Number

That means there is now a grand total of two now. This area isn't exactly New York City or Chicago, after all.

Still, there's another new blogger in town, folks. He's focusing on local issues like we do here at our WCF community blog -- but he's trying to put a focus on the "positive," which isn't a bad idea at all. It gets so very depressing around these parts sometime. I thus thought it was high time to introduce him and his blog.

This Blogger has been posting here recently under his blogger handle, UTmorMAN, BTW; and he's recently offered some excellent comments to several of the recent threads here.

His blog links emphasize ski area reports, and such other Utah winter sports stuff; so I'm automatically inclined to want to offer his blog my support, inasmuch as I've been an unreformed skier since about the time I first learned to walk, around 1949.

If you have any local favorite restaurants, other than the chains at the Layton Mall...he also has a post where he's looking for recos and restaurant reviews too; and there are other good things on his blog.

Check out UTmorMan's the good in ogden blog. Please also take note that I've linked his site in our WCF sidebar.

The more local bloggers the merrier I say! So please check out his site.

On a slightly different sub-topic, but still speaking of weblogs, there was a Jay Wamsley "Top of Utah Voices" article about blogs in the Standard-Examiner today. It's obvious that the blog phenomenon is making the entrenched print/broadcast media slightly nervous. The media monopoly seems unsure what to make of the bloggers. It was encouraging, though, that the Wamsley article, after wafting back and forth with the pros and cons like a feather in the wind, finally came down and closed with a "famous founding father" quote: "Thomas Jefferson said if the populace does not have enough information to make wise decisions, take not from them the power to choose, but give them more information."

I'll take that to mean that Mr. Wamsley believes blogs are actually O.K... but maybe I'll email him on that for a clarification, just in case.

For my own part, I'll suggest that the vast majority of issue-oriented blogs aren't intended to supplant the traditional media, which are bound, theoretically at least, by strict and formal journalistic standards. Rather, blogs are analogous, I think, to the corporate cafeteria, the local neighborhood coffee-shop, the barber/beauty shop or corner pub, where people gather to very informally discuss the current issues of the day, and share information and opinion. That's the same atmosphere I'm trying to encourage here; and that seems to be the direction that the good in ogden blog is headed too. This is all good, as Mr. Wamsley and Mr. Jefferson seem to suggest.

You can read the Wamsley article right here, by the way.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Coming to Rest on a Hornet's Nest

Late last month I published an article in this space, reporting that I'd stumbled upon a filing in The US District Court, entitled Moyes v. Ogden, et al., wherein our clownish local citizen-activist-type, Don Quixote, aka Mitch Moyes, and two other citizens of Ogden, were seeking injunctive relief and damages, with the object of delaying or stopping the downtown Recreation Center project. I remarked in a later update that I'd since met with one of the plaintiffs to review the complaint, and opined that these plaintiffs' "action" would be quickly and unceremoniously dismissed, because their ineptly-drawn pleading fails to set forth any cause of action against any of the named defendants. I further expressed my hope that the assigned federal judge in the case, Hon. Judge Ted Stewart, wouldn't impose heavy sanctions against these plaintiffs upon dismissal of this facially-inadequate filing, which appeared to me to be entirely frivolous. It appears, however, based on new information, that these plaintiffs now face a far greater array of problems with respect to this lawsuit than even I imagined.

Yesterday afternoon, I received a report, from a reliable source within Ogden City government, that the named defendants have now retained an eminent Salt Lake City law firm to vigorously represent their interests in this lawsuit. This law firm, an experienced federal litigation specialist, has reportedly recommended, and agreed to pursue, if necessary, an aggressive course of litigation, which will include not only the defensive action that I predicted earlier, but also the assertion of additional claims for further affirmative relief against these plaintiffs -- to include a very substantial claim for money damages. My source did not provide all the details, but I'll logically infer that defendants' counsel is now "upping the ante," and is in the process of preparing a separate counter-complaint in this matter, to possibly allege claims against these plaintiffs for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, or other similar tortious misconduct.

If that is indeed the case, then it would seem to me at this juncture that our three local knights-errant have blindly blundered into a situation where they find themselves sitting directly atop a virtual legal hornet's nest. These plaintiffs are in federal court, without even so much as the benefit of legal representation, and are thus highly vulnerable, especially in a circumstance where thay will be faced with serious opposition from an experienced team of professional litigators. What's important for these plaintiffs to recognize is that federal courts are a venue with a pronounced dog-eat-dog atmosphere, even in the best of circumstances, where all parties are adequately represented -- which is clearly not the situation here. To compound the plaintiffs' problem, federal judges take a very dim view of frivolous "recreational" litigation generally, and are usually inclined to deal with it harshly and punitively. To further complicate things, their case is assigned to Judge Stewart, an experienced federal judge with a reputation for being particularly "old school." Judge Stewart isn't someone who'd be fairly characterized as a "bleeding heart," in other words. He's definitely not the type of judge who can be expected to take these people under his wing because of their obvious legal incompetence, and it's unlikely that he'll cut these plaintiffs any slack at all. If these plaintiffs desire to "play" in his federal courtroom, you can bet your bottom dollar that Judge Stewart will insist that their performance conform to the same high standards as are practiced by everybody else who appears before him. If they fail to do that, you can expect that they'll suffer the inevitable consequences.

However noble these plaintiffs may have imagined their own motives and goals to have been at the beginning, these people appear to be now hopelessly outmatched. The hammer appears ready to fall on these plaintiffs. When it does, it'll fall down hard and fast; and these plaintiffs will feel the pain in their wallets, among other places.

If any of these plaintiffs had the sense that God gave a goose, they'd drop this lawsuit right now. They're already well over their heads. At minimum though, common sense and good judgment would at least seem to dictate that they consult a neutral local attorney, to explain to them how really lame their lawsuit really is. These people have gotten all caught up in their cause; and like all zealots who are mindlessly locked into their "stuggle," they seem to have lost all reasonable perspective in this situation. Good judgment comes from experience, of course, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. Let's hope for the sake of these ordinary citizen plantiffs, that they won't have to develop good judgment "the hard way."

If my source is correct (and I believe it is) these plaintiffs are presently faced with insurmountable technical pleading and proof problems, among other things. My perception is that they have absolutely no idea what they're up against. I'd hate to see any of these plaintiffs get hurt; but hurt is what they'll soon be, unless they immediately undertake some sensible corrective action. As the situation apparently now stands, they've come to rest on a hornet's nest; and they're sure to soon experience the hornet's sting, barring a quick and circumspect re-evaluation of their present predicament. An immediate exit strategy would be by far the best option.

That's my opinion; and I'm sticking to it.

Comments, anyone?

06/10 5:05 p.m. update: My source reveals that the defendants' attornies will "stand down" until the defendants' Motion to Dismiss can be argued before Judge Stewart, and that they'll be called off permanently if the lawsuit is dismissed, which is the result that anybody with at least half a brain would expect. I've independently confirmed with the Federal Distict Court of Utah that such a motion has been filed with the Court, and that argument on this motion is calendered for 06/24/05. This would seem to be an ideal point for these nitwit plaintiffs to make a graceful and painless exit, and I strongly suggest that they do just that.

I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, these amateuristic dopes are certainly the last ones on the planet whom I'd select to represent my interests as an Ogden taxpayer.

I keep hearing a voice in my head repeating the question: Why won't they just GO AWAY?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Questions for The Ogden City Council Concerning Municipal Largesse

The following letter appeared this morning in the Standard-Examiner letters section, and focuses on an important issue soon to be addressed by the Ogden City Council, i.e, whether to revive a City-wide policy of automatic City staff pay increases. He also suggests other alternative options, such as reducing local property taxes and cutting executive salaries: Whether the latter was tongue-in-cheek I do not know; although I do think its something that deserves some serious discussion here, at least.
Ogden has highest taxes in Northern Utah
Monday, June 6, 2005

In several weeks, the Ogden City Council will make some decisions relative to the 2005-06 budget.

This budget includes up to a 7 percent increase in pay for members of the city's work force. It has been stated the increase is needed, "otherwise we will lose some of the quality staff."

Ogden should be concerned about losing more of its quality taxpayers.

Its combined 2004 tax rate is 18.7 percent higher than South Ogden's rate; it's 22 percent higher than Roy's rate; and it's 37 percent higher than Riverdale's rate.

In addition to having the highest tax rate in Northern Utah, the taxpayers of Ogden also pay an aggregate 6 percent on their utility payments.

Options for consideration by the members of the Ogden City Council:

* Reduce the merit increase to 3 percent and base it upon the recommendation of an employee's supervisor.

* Fund the proposed 2 percent inflation increase.

* And fund these increases with a 10 percent decrease in the salaries of all department heads, CAO and the mayor.

Most Ogden department heads are paid a salary which is almost fives times the average salary in Weber County.

The Ogden City Council should look at a 5 percent pay reduction in the city's property tax rate for upcoming budget year and a reduction of the 6 percent utility tax to 5 percent.

Please start doing something for the "quality" taxpayers of Ogden before they all leave.

David Haun
Ogden
The Standard-Examiner recently published a pair of editorials opposing these proposed Ogden City employee pay increases. The first of these editorials, published May, 7, sounds some notes quite similar to Mr. Haun's:

When it's your responsibility to handle other people's money, it is best to be circumspect, not spendthrift. As the Ogden City Council formulates its 2006 fiscal budget, that should be its motto.
The attitude around city hall is one of smiles and good cheer, because there's enough money in the budget to give employees a possible 7 percent raise -- 2 percent cost of living, and up to 5 percent merit increase.
That's quite generous. Too generous, in fact.
The second editorial, which is even stronger in tone, truly identifies the problem with these proposed pay increases. "Taxpayer fairness" is the fundamental issue here, as the May 16 editorial so aptly points out:
Since taxpayers lay out, directly, the wages of public employees, why should they stand for them getting cost-of-living adjustments that most private employers don't offer, along with up to 5 percent merit increases that most, if not all, private companies don't offer?

If cities are finding they have enough revenue to offer up to 7 percent wage bumps to employees, they should consider lowering their residents' taxes.

Elected leaders should remember that private-sector employers were forced to keep wages low and lay-off workers to survive the years-long economic slump. Wage increases for government workers should closely mirror what's happening in the private sector.

We have nothing against public employees, but since they are paid via taxation,
they should never get more than the people funding their salaries. It's an issue of taxpayer fairness.
The Standard-Examiner is exactly "on the money" on this issue, I think, as is the former Weber County Assessor, Mr. Haun. Will the City Council show some financial discipline when these issues come up for a vote? Or will they continue to rubber-stamp this administration proposal, just as they have seemingly done so many other times in the past, with respect to so many other Administration proposals ?

Comments?

06/05 update: I discovered this Standard-Examiner article, on the front page of Section B. One highly-paid top-tier Ogden City executive, Nate Pierce, Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer, announces he's calling it quits.

Will there be more executive "resignations" to follow, as Our City Council whets the edge of the executive salary ax? Or will this departure be interpreted by the City Council as a dire warning of the danger in failing to cough up to our "indispensable" top officials the pay increases that they deserve and demand? So many questions -- so few answers.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Raptors Home Opener is June 25th

I unabashedly swiped this following article from the Ogden Raptors website:

The 2005 Ogden Raptors are scheduled to report on Sunday June 12th. Workouts will begin on Monday the 13th, and will continue daily till they board the bus to Orem on the 21st to play the Owlz. (formerly Provo Angels)

Familiar faces will be returing to Ogden this season. Pitchers Jordan Pratt, Aaron Klusman, David Pfeiffer, along with Outfielders Ryan Carter & BJ Richmond are going to bolster the roster. With new faces coming in, it's nice to have some people who have already been here helping the others with advice and what to expect.

The afternoon of the 12th, after the players have received their uniforms, caps, and lockers, players will be allowed to move in with their "Host Family" If you are a Host Family, contact the Thompson's for more details.

Season Tickets will be ready and picked up the first week of June. We will be calling of of you to come in and sign for your tickets. Unpaid balances must be taken care of at that time.

Don't forget the Home Opener is Saturday June 25th at 7:00 PM vs. the same Orem Owlz. Post Game Fireworks will be sponsored by AOL. Game Day tickets go on sale June 1st at 9:00 am. Don't delay, make your plans now. You can stop by the main ticket office at 23rd & Lincoln, or call 393-2450 for phone orders.

Raptors baseball, "There's Still Nothing Else To Do!"

In addition, it's "the only pro game in town" where young professional athletes compete publicly, and actually "hustle," sprint on and off the field at top speed, and do the same whilst shagging fly-balls in EVERY game -- unlike "hotdog" players in the "Majors" -- I might especially add -- like baseball players are supposed to do in professional baseball. If you haven't taken your family or significant other to watch a Raptors game, you're definitely missing out on one of the best entertainment deals in Weber County.

Lindquist Field has the "Big League Park feel," on a warm summer night in Ogden, without the world-class, ear-searing profane heckling and drunken cheap-seat bleacher-brawling, and the self-centered player egomania -- and the parking problems -- that go along with a ballpark in the "Bigs."

I also think we should rename it "Lasorda Field," for reasons that ought to be ovious to serious students of sports history, and for marketing reasons, but that's just me. Funeral directors and embalmers in Ogden somehow still get first "dibs" on the Ballpark name in the fine print though, I guess, because they put up most of the initial $$$$s, I also guess.

Notwithstanding that fact, naming a ballpark after a family of morticians seems about as creepy as it gets in sports world, dontcha think?

Ogden Raptors Homepage

Turning Up the Heat on Wal-Mart

By Don Hazen, June 3, 2005

With its stock gone flat and bad publicity in virtually every news cycle, Wal-Mart is feeling pretty defensive these days. Among recent company missteps are fines and monetary settlements for hiring illegal immigrants and allowing underage employees to operate heavy machinery.

According to a recent article by AlterNet reporter Kelly Hearn, a more complete list of Wal-Mart's myriad transgressions includes "union busting, labor law violations, shipping jobs overseas, artificially suppressing wages, financial improprieties by a top corporate officer and links to a powerful Chinese businessman allegedly involved in the weapons-trading arm of the People's Liberation Army."

In the face of a steady drumbeat of bad publicity, the company has recently started spinning its PR wheels to cover its tracks. First, Wal-Mart broke a long-held tradition and invited the media to its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters. The company has set up a new Web site that emphasizes its "positive impact on business." It has also shown sudden support for journalism schools, minority scholarships, and even -- gasp -- funding for NPR programming.

But Wal-Mart should prepare to dig much deeper into its PR budget, because its image is about to get much more tarnished.

[...]

Perhaps more insidious is that by building new stores as quickly as possible in as many communities as possible, and engaging in its trademark predatory pricing, Wal-Mart is rapidly destroying the small businesses that make up the fabric of rural and exurban life. And many of those businesses -- small newspapers, grocery stores, gas stations and more -- are hopping mad.

[...]

Read the full article here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clear Story; Foggy Journalism

In its never-ending quest to become the pinnacle of he said/she said jounalism, our local newspaper of record published an article this morning under the lurid headline, "Fat Cat's Credit Report Questioned." You can read it here.

Within the article were the usual quotes from a couple of people on opposite sides of the issue -- just to keep the readers on the edges of their seats -- including quotes fom Mayor Godfrey. One side says the other is wrong, and vice-versa, etc., etc., etc.

Buried halfway through the article is this, however:

"The report being circulated by CBCFOF indicates Fat Cats has a high-risk credit ranking and three tax liens in Utah County totaling about $18,810 and one tax lien in Salt Lake County for $1,141.

Two of the three liens in Utah County were dismissed, and one for $6,858 was released in 2004.

Clerks at the Utah County Recorder's Office, Utah County District Court and Salt Lake District Court said Wednesday there are currently no outstanding tax liens for Fat Cats listed.

David Rutter, co-owner of Fat Cats, said the information contained in the Experian report is inaccurate.

"We are always timely in paying our bills," he said. "We don't have problems."

That's the WHOLE STORY FOLKS! The information on the "naysayers'" internet-obtained "credit report" is totally bogus! Although the Std-Ex's "cub reporter" didn't explicitly spell it out, that's what the above-quoted paragraphs actually say.

If you ever tried to clear an erroneous credit "ding" from your own credit report you'll understand the problem. The big three credit reporting agencies are laws unto themselves; and sometimes it's practically impossible to clear errors from the reports of these data-collection behemoths. If you don't believe me on this, talk to your local Realtor about the problems that arise every day because of the sheer sloppiness of these giant credit reporting companies in everyday real estate transactions.

If the "cub reporter" for the Standard-Examiner has already "confirmed" that the "naysayers' claim is bogus, why did the Std-Ex set the story up in a he said/she said format article under that provocative headline in the first place?

He said/she said journalism is my answer to that question. The "unsolved mystery" style of journalism is all the journalistic rage these days, and definitely sells more papers. The days when newspapers simply reported the unadorned truth without some kind of "reader hook," are long gone, even in our small community. The Standard-Examiner's "journalism" is chorographed by the corporate types at the Carpetbagger Newspaper Ownership HQ in Sanduskey, of course, and we local readers ought to be hopping mad about the way our local news is so mendaciously reported.

Gawd do I miss the Glasman Family, and their local ownership of our hometown newpaper. If they were still running the Standard-Examiner, I doubt there would be such dissension and madness in local politics.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Another Good Day For Ogden City

Seems it's another good day for Ogden. A Standard-Examiner article appeared today, after a long reporting lull, announcing that the City Council, acting as the Ogden City RDA, has agreed to sell a one-acre lot on the old mall-site to a Salt Lake developer. This developer plans to build out a six-story structure, which will include retail space, above-ground parking, and residential condominiums, among other things. Project cost will be borne entirely by the his company, apparently, without so much as a dime of RDA or City money being contributed to the project. This is definitely good news for Ogden City! You can read the whole story here.

Mayor Godfrey told us a while ago that developers were waiting in the wings, while the naysayers called him a liar. So far Mayor Godfrey's story checks out completely, and the process of building up the former mall property begins to unfold, while the naysayers are proven wrong yet again.

Meanwhile, there was another belated story about the naysayers, reported today by our faithful newspaper of record. As reported here first, about four days ago, the Std-Ex now tells us that the knight-errant, Don Quixote activist Mitch Moyes has gone to federal court for some kind of vague injunctive relief. According to the Std-Ex story, the complaint alleges that the voter list obtained from the Weber County clerk's office contained errors, that signed petitions were "stolen," and that documents relevant to the Recreation Center project were "intentionally witheld." Of course there's no allegation in the complaint that any of the named defendants were responsible for any ot these unalleged misdeeds. It sounds like a tough proof problem, even if it does get to a trial on the merits -- which it won't.

Strangely, the petitioners didn't even bother to submit their signed petitions by the deadline, which probably means they've waived their right to complain about any discrepancies in the numbers required to put the bonding to a public vote. Even more strangely, the petitioners seem to have no hearing date set for their request for an injunction. My guess is that the defendants' successful motion to dismiss will happen first.

As I said before in an earlier-posted article, it's a good idea to hire professionals to do professional jobs. These naysayers' complaint will be dismissed faster than you can say "frivolous lawsuit."

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