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:
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:
"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.
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.