Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Breathing Life into Two-Five Drive

By Curmudgeon

The Standard-Examiner this morning reports that all of the Union Square condos have been sold. This is good news for downtown, and for Ogden. Of course, it took subsidies from the city to buyers to fund down payments, but it is good, finally, that the condos will be occupied.

Less good news for the clock tower commercial building, recently completed on the same block, and still nearly completely empty. The ground floor large unit would be a perfect site for an independent bookstore, which might also add some life to the street after dark. Mrs. Curmudgeon and I, when we dine downtown of a warmish evening, notice that the street is... well... dead. People drive in, eat, walk to their cars, drive out.

Living downtowns we've seen, and enjoyed, in other places have living streets after dark. People after eating wander the shops, poke around bookstores, walk off a calorie or two, stop for a desert. None of that now happens in downtown Ogden. An indie bookstore along the lines of The King's English in SLC could provide a big boost to the street life of downdown.

Not likely to happen though since the Junction developer is after a big box marketer some years down the road like Barnes and Noble [reknowned in my experience for hiring sales persons who don't actually read books].

So long as downtown remains a drive in, drive out location only, it's not going to take off. Advocates of the gondola/gondola scheme like to compare 25th to Park City's main drag. Well, the latter is alive with people nearly all the time, even when the sun goes down. 25th Street is not, and I don't see much changing by means of the Junction.

Perhaps I'm wrong about that. I hope I am. But we shall see.


Ed Note: This excellent Curmudgeon post has been unabashedly snatched from one of our comments threads and promoted to the front page, because it makes a couple of good observations and asks a very fundamental question about our downtown Ogden. Other readers have also commented here in the past about the recently moribund "after dark" atmosphere of Historic 25th Street. Is our "drive-in, drive out" car culture a primary culprit here?

What say our gentle readers? What is needed on and around 25th Street to change it into a more vibrant neighborhood? Will the permanent occupancy of the Union Square Condos and other planned downtown residences transform the area into a "living downtown," similar to other cities that Curmudgeon descibes? Or will our new downtown residents simply "hole up" in their new "digs" after sunset, the same way they did when living in the "burbs?"

What's it going to take to breathe some life into Two-Five Drive?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cool and Sexy or Just Plain Lame?

We received an email this afternoon from another of our gentle readers, the full text of which we'll quote here:
I assume you have seen this morning's paper. I had no idea--did you?--that the entire Mayoral Vision is based on the concepts of coolness and sexiness. This for some reason had not come through for me, but we have now been told. Bottom line, the raison d'etre for the Hub is to make Ogden cool and sexy---Godfrey is quoted as saying so.
A cooler and sexier word than "Hub," they obviously cannot imagine.
Well, how're we gonna feel, years down the road, saying, "I'm from Ogden, a cool and sexy town. And we owe it all to [cool and sexy] Matthew Godfrey." [Emphasis added.]
I am sure you will revise your previous opinions of him because of this.
We want to graciously thank another gentle reader for yet another great missive, and once again remind you all that this is truly your blog.

For those of us who've read the dozens of fawning Standard-Examiner articles on the "hub" concept, it should come as no surprise that a self-interested "clique" of people in this town think the appellation, "The Hub" is a really "cool" and "sexy." Matt Godfrey takes all the credit for this creative idea; and he nary utters even a sentence in public or private without pointedly mentioning "The Hub," even in mid-stutter!

Cool & Sexy?
But let's face it. When you look up the words "cool" and "sexy" in your online search engine, Matt Godfrey isn't exactly the first cool and sexy image that comes up, if ya know what we mean (and we think you do): 

Well... here's the link to the article to which our gentle reader refers, which makes reference to a Las Vegas Ski Show which Godfrey recently attended on the Ogden City taxpayers' dime:
A word of caution: Some people actually consider this site to be totally cool and sexy, believe it or not!

There are also plenty of other "uncool, unsexy" folks egging poor old Matt Godfrey on, we think, like these guys, for instance.

We wish these "visionaries" would all build their gondolas on their own dime, quit sticking out their "tin cups" in the taxpayers' faces, and leave "cool and sexy" Matt Godfrey to his main elected job -- policing our gang infested neighborhoods and fixing up the friggin' streets, sewers and water infrastructure in Ogden, until he's summarily voted out of office in 2007. Matt Godfrey suffers severe cognitive dissonance, methinks, when anybody calls him "cool"... or "sexy." Sheesh!

And what say our gentle readers? Is Godfrey a cool and sexy local icon, or what? Was he rolling out the c-notes like a kingpin when he went to Las Vegas last month with the "cool & sexy" ski guys? Or is he just a wannabe mo-mo schmuck from Harrisville who merely wanted to stay in his room and call his mama every five minutes?

Godfrey:  Cool and Sexy or Just Totally Lame?

You be the judge.

Don't let the cat get yer tongue...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Advice From Friends: America Needs to Clean Up Its Act

By Thad Box
Salt Lake Tribune

America is in moral decline. Most of the world knows it. A recent British Broadcasting Company survey shows that only Iran ranks below us in being trustworthy and honest. Countries most like us, our "natural family," tell us why.

Great Britain is our mother. Our founding fathers came from there. Our traditions and our culture originated there. Our rule of law came from English common law. We speak, sort of, the same language.

From that mother, four siblings developed: the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. All brought English values, abused their aboriginal people and ransacked their natural resources. All added non-British people, with varying degrees of success. All are strong economies with high standards of living. Each developed different personalities, but we are family.

This past year I visited Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I met people in pubs, their homes and public libraries. I read their local newspapers and bulletin boards, listened to what they say, observed their reaction when they heard my accent.

During January, Jenny and I were the only Americans among a group in New Zealand: eight from Britain, four from Canada, eight from Australia, two from New Zealand and one each from Iran, Finland and Austria. All were conservative, middle class, educated people.

Early on, our new friends said little about America. The term "immoral" was first applied to us when a Canadian couple mentioned that for many years they spent winters in Arizona. The woman developed a serious illness. Her Canadian health plan was not accepted in America. Hospital costs of her initial visit were so great they lost their Tucson house. America's health service, said her husband, was immoral.

Every country represented, except ours, had a national health plan. All provided better longevity, infant survival, immunization, affordable medications and other objective health standards.

The Iraq war, our torture of prisoners, secret prisons, holding people without charges and snooping on citizens without court warrants were seen as immoral acts. They saw Americans as no longer free, trading freedom for a false security. America has immoral leadership and people unwilling to hold leaders accountable. Skillful politicians keep voters focused on private actions that the far right see as objectionable. The poor and needy suffer while wedge issues keep religious zealots happy.

James Pilkington of Maraubra, Australia, (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 4), writing in response to the Anglican Archbishop Dr. Peter Jensen's condemnation of homosexual conduct, described what many see as the irrationality of the religious right in America.

Pilkington said the church is obsessed with cultural things that Christ did not address: homosexual behavior, sex before marriage, alcohol, sanctity of the family.

Pilkington argued that Christ taught brotherhood of man, not family unity. Jesus said he came to turn father against son. He said little about homosexuals, drinking or sex. Instead, he had a crazy obsession about helping the poor, the sick and the hungry. He taught that what people do to the least of humanity they do to him.

America claims to be a country based on Christian morals. Yet our policies are based on individual wealth, personal safety and cultural behavior. The richest country in the world does not adequately address human need. As we fail to take care of the poor, load debt on future generations and bully the rest of the world we turn friends into enemies. Even our siblings think we are hypocrites.

To become again an effective world leader, we must clean up our morals. We must become obsessed with helping people less fortunate, in our country and overseas. This opinion comes from people who care most deeply about us - our family.

Thad Box is a former dean of the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University.

The foregoing article is another reader submission.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Now Even Bill Buckley?

By William F Buckley, Jr.
National Review Editor at-Large
February 24, 2006, 2:51 p.m.
It Didn’t Work

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors. And so they join the clothing merchant who says that everything is the fault of the Americans.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elucidates on the complaint against Americans. It is not only that the invaders are American, it is that they are "Zionists." It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others' throats.

A problem for American policymakers — for President Bush, ultimately — is to cope with the postulates and decide how to proceed.

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure. It can defend itself historically, standing by the inherent reasonableness of the postulates. After all, they govern our policies in Latin America, in Africa, and in much of Asia. The failure in Iraq does not force us to generalize that violence and antidemocratic movements always prevail. It does call on us to adjust to the question, What do we do when we see that the postulates do not prevail — in the absence of interventionist measures (we used these against Hirohito and Hitler) which we simply are not prepared to take? It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn't work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

(c) 2006 Universal Press Syndicate


Well... ?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Plot Thickens Down at The Junction

Just as I had concluded this morning that today was another s-l-o-o-o-w news day, and that our gentle readers would have to remain content with the open thread that I set up yesterday, without even a taste of nutritious political "red meat," I remembered an email which I received a few days ago from one of our attentive and helpful gentle readers.

The message was brief, so I'll incorporate it in full:

For your information you will find attached a Notice of Claim served to Ogden City and Ogden City RDA today.

This is not about wanting or not wanting a high-rec center...this is about complying with the Utah Statutes re RDA. Ogden City must comply with Utah law just like the rest of us.

Dorothy Littrell
Along with this matter of fact missive came this attachment. It seems gentle reader Dorothy has once again thrown down the gauntlet.

I've been immersed in several projects, so I haven't had the time to research the law on this claim yet. Perhaps I'll find the time this weekend. For now, however, our readers should be aware that a "notice of claim" is a formal legal prerequisite to the filing of a lawsuit against a government entity.

In the meantime, I'm tossing this new news development out for our gentle readers' perusal. I wanted our WCForum readership to be among the first to know about it. Besides... I always take great delight in scooping the Standard-Examiner on important stories. There's really NEVER a dull day in Ogden City politics, as I always say.

I've faithfully reproduced the text and layout of Ms. Littrell's claim, within the limitations of html coding. I have, however, added links to the statutes that are cited in this document, for the convenience of any of our gentle readers who might be inclined to do their own research.

I'll add parenthetically that I had been curious myself as to whether our "boy wonders" at city hall had properly dotted the i's and crossed the t's to comply with the legal requirements for re-capturing the tax increment funds which were to be pledged for the rec center project. As our long-time readers will recall, I ran a reader poll during the last two months of 2005, but finally removed it from the sidebar, without "closing it out," because of lingering uncertainty about whether all necessary legal conditions had actually been fulfilled. I guess we'll be finding out soon, if Ms. Littrell's legal claim ultimately winds up in court.

And what say our gentle readers about this latest development in the always-gripping, ever-fascinating Ogden downtown mall saga?

Update 2/24/06 9:37 a.m. MT: Intrepid Standard-Examiner reporter Scott Schwebke fills in more detail with this morning's Std-Ex article. In yet another breathtaking demonstration of tenacious investigation and bold reporting, he apparently called Norm "Norm" Ashton on the phone and obtained this reassuring tidbit:

"City Attorney Norm Ashton said Littrell’s complaints are without merit and vowed to fight any lawsuit that she may file against the municipality. 'If she proceeds, the city will vigorously defend its position,' he said."

I'm sure many of our concerned townsfolk will breathe a sigh of relief over Mr. Ashton's confidence in this matter. Mr. Ashton, our gentle readers will recall, was similarly confident on the eve of litigation in both the Woobury and BDO/Army lawsuits.

Comments, anyone?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Afternoon Open Thread

Your humble blogmeister will be busy with an ongoing and labor-intensive partisan political project for the rest of the day, so it's time for another open thread. Here are some possible discussion topics though, which may provide fodder for further conversation:

  • The Dover Area School Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to pay $1 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs who successfully sued to end the policy of presenting "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution. In December, a federal judge ruled the previous board's decision to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

  • If you've been following the national news, you're well aware that President Bush has suffered a political firestorm over the last two days -- directed from both sides of the political aisle -- as a result of the administration's decision to turn over the management of six major U.S. ports to an arab-owned company. The "lefty" blogosphere is making hay with this story; and the latest news is that President Bush is now "backing away from it," saying he didn't know about it until it had been cleared by his underlings. One excellent libertarian website has a couple of good articles on this subject here and here, expressing a well-reasoned contrarian take.

  • On the local front, the Ogden City Council was "firing on all cylinders" at last night's meeting, approving a zoning change for a developer who plans to build a movie theater, a health club and a bookstore on Ogden City's North Street, about three miles north of Ogden's "The Junction" project. Whereas the Boyer Company had earlier urged the council to reject this project, the Council did "the right thing," approving the zoning change by a unanimous 7-0 vote.

  • Not only that, the council decided, in closed session, to immediately notify the Utah House of Representatives Rules Committee of its opposition to Senator Jenkins' Senate Bill 229. There had previously been considerable confusion and wheel-spinning within the council apparatus on this issue, and it is encouraging that the council at last decided formally to register its opposition to the bill that we've appropriately but affectionately dubbed "Godfrey's revenge."
Please feel free to chime in on any of the above topics, or whatever else suits your fancy. It's YOUR public forum gentle readers, after all. What, exactly, is on your minds today?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Designed to Keep Us Dumb and Docile?

We happened upon this interesting article whilst googling:
It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation. We hear shocking statistics about the percentage of high-school seniors who can't find the US on an unmarked map of the world or who don't know who Abraham Lincoln was.

Fingers are pointed at various aspects of the schooling system—overcrowded classrooms, lack of funding, teachers who can't pass competency exams in their fields, etc. But these are just secondary problems. Even if they were cleared up, schools would still suck. Why? Because they were designed to.

How can I make such a bold statement? How do I know why America's public school system was designed the way it was (age-segregated, six to eight 50-minute classes in a row announced by Pavlovian bells, emphasis on rote memorization, lorded over by unquestionable authority figures, etc.)? Because the men who designed, funded, and implemented America's formal educational system in the late 1800s and early 1900s wrote about what they were doing.
Read the rest of the article here.

Are there any school teachers in the house this Presidents' Day afternoon? Parents with school-age children? Students? Anyone who can shed some light on the thesis of this article?

What say our always enlightened and gentle readers about all this?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Sermon

The LDS Church, extremism and our leadership vacuum

By Jerold Willmore

Utah Voices
Salt Lake Tribune

2/18/2006 12:35 PM

During the waning months of Eisenhower's presidency, I was in Washington, D.C., working for Sen. Frank Church during the day, pursuing a graduate degree at night and campaigning for JFK against Nixon on Saturdays.

Sundays, I presided over the Sunday school in the LDS Washington Ward, attended by Secretary of Agriculture (and LDS Apostle) Ezra Taft Benson and his family.

America was locked in the Cold War. Worse, the fires of nuclear fear were fanned by McCarthyist "red-baiters," none more rabid than Robert Welch, president of the John Birch Society. Welch saw a communist behind every tree. He even called President Eisenhower "a communist dupe."

Benson's son, Reed, was the Washington representative for the Birch Society and a frequent speaker at Sacrament meetings, although his talks often reflected extremist right-wing political ideology.

During one such talk, he invited everyone to "an important conference" at the Marriott Hotel. About 40 of us showed up. Reed ran a 30-minute Birch Society recruiting film - a jingoistic diatribe by Welch himself.

Then Reed enthusiastically invited our questions but got an awkward silence. So, I rose to say that I found Welch's presentation demagogic, that Reed's super-patriotism was making an Americanist political front out of the LDS Church and that I wanted the record to show that he didn't speak for me. The meeting erupted in applause and broke up.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran the AP story the next morning. To its credit the LDS Church First Presidency responded with a statement strongly disapproving of its members supporting extremist organizations, whether of the right or the left.

The worldview of extremists is toxic because it's distorted by juvenile, two-valued thinking. They see everything simplistically, as black or white, good or evil, "you're either with us or the terrorists," etc. Real world subtlety, nuance and complexity are lost on extremists. For them the end justifies the means - even if it divides our country against itself.

Right-wing extremist fixation has shifted from anti-Communism to anti-terrorism. But their divisive tactics are unchanged. Their professed ends are still national security and cultural purity - and their means are still chauvinism and sanctimony. But if, as Samuel Johnson said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," then surely, moralizing is the first. For history teaches that those who wrap themselves in the flag ("Mission Accomplished!") and parade their religiosity (Terry Schiavo?) are neither patriotic nor spiritual. They're sitting in judgment on the "moral decline" of everyone else.

The self-serving claims of the self-righteous to "moral clarity" and "super-patriotism" are the tactic; neoconservative extremism is the result. Unfortunately, neo(new)conservatism and the New Testament have nothing in common.

Would Jesus do, even reluctantly, what the neocons do zealously - enrich the rich and impoverish the poor, bury our grandchildren under public debt and violate the law to lie, spy, torture and commit unprovoked aggression? Hardly.

The neocons have prostituted the press, distorted science, compromised government and religion by entangling one with the other and stained America's reputation for moral leadership.

Worse, neocons persist in raping God's green Earth instead of protecting it. Result? Catastrophic global warming will soon be irreversible. The true enemies of humankind are neocons who would drill or war for more oil - instead of ending its consumption altogether. Neocon denial, while pretending to be pro-life, is extremist, because pro-life begins with pro-environment.

Utah's congressional delegation is a virtual rubber stamp for this faith-based, counterfeit Bush administration. Might this be a good time for the LDS Church to reassert its leadership against extremism? Here in the reddest state of Utah, that leadership could repair the unconstitutional gerrymandering that has emasculated Utah's and the nation's checks and balances, return us to civil moderation and heal the religious divide - and the Earth.
Jerold Willmore is president of a leadership training company in Salt Lake City
The preceding article was submitted by one of our gentle readers. Standard-Examiner subscribers simply don't know what they're missing.

Don't let the cat get your tongue;)

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Godfrey's Revenge" Arrives in the House

Senator Scott Jenkins' Senate Bill 229 has cleared the senate by an 18-9 vote, as was reported yesterday by the Standard-Examiner's John Wright:
SALT LAKE CITY - One senator called Ogden's Civil Service Commission Mayor Matthew Godfrey's problem, but that didn't stop the full Senate from passing a bill Wednesday that would allow the City Council to abolish the commission.
Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, said during floor debate that he couldn't recall Godfrey's name. But Mayne said representatives from the fire service and law enforcement, as well as the Ogden City Council itself, oppose the bill.
This is an Ogden issue that particularly impacts the mayor of Ogden, he said.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the sponsor of the bill, reminded Mayne of Godfrey's name and said he is the son-in-law of former state Sen. Ed Allen.
It doesn't matter, Mayne replied. If it's his problem, let him deal with it. I'm just wondering why we're dealing with legislation to take care of one mayor's problem.
The Civil Service Commission oversees police and fire personnel matters and must approve hiring and firing.
Critics of the legislation argue Godfrey's administration requested it to remove a layer of insulation so the mayor can get back at Ogden firefighters, who did not back his candidates in November's City Council election.
But after the Senate passed the bill in an 18-9 vote, Ogden Management Services Director Mark Johnson said the Civil Service Commission is not Godfrey's problem, it's the city's.
Our ability to hire qualified firefighters and police officers is severely hampered, he said. This rumor that we're going to have mass layoffs is simply untrue.
For those gentle readers who are carefully following the progress of this bill, the following Real Audio files (from the excellent Utah Legislature Website) should be interesting:

Senate floor debate for day 30
Senate floor debate for day 31.

The bill has now been received and introduced in the House of Representatives, but has not yet apparently been put on calendar for debate. Thus, there still remains time to contact your house representatives, if you'd like to register your opposition to this bill.

For our readers' convenience, we are furnishing a link to the Utah House of Representative roster here, from which you can directly transmit your email message.

For those who have not been following this bill, you'll find a background article and many choice reader comments here.

Comments, Anyone?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Godfrey Puts UK PR Firm On Retainer

Click image to enlarge

We stumbled upon this curious item yesterday, whilst googling:

Ogden City, UT (OPENPRESS) February 15, 2006 -- Once again, Ogden City, Utah, USA is extending an invitation to the world much like it did during the Winter Olympic Games in 2002. That invitation was given to athletes and spectators to take advantage of what Utah boasts as “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Tens of thousands flocked to Ogden and surrounding Utah cities to see the games and came away impressed by the friendliness of the people, the beautiful scenery and the excellent amenities Ogden and the State of Utah has to offer. Today, the invitation is extended to companies in the ski industry from Europe to come to Ogden, which is quickly becoming a business center for ski companies from around the world.

Under the able leadership of Mayor Matthew Godfrey, Ogden City has been capitalizing on its close proximity to ski resorts and recreational areas, its advanced civic and economic infrastructure, and highly educated workforce to attract businesses in the ski industry to what Ogden City calls “The Hub.” Already a high number of major companies from the ski industry have decided to relocate to Ogden City. These include companies such as: Scott USA, Descente North America, Goode, Kahuna, and SnowSports Interactive.

The design of “The Hub” project is to create a ski business cluster and as such to be “The Hub” of the ski industry, both nationally and internationally. This is due to the announcement of a ski resort that is proposed to be built on the “urban side” of Ogden’s mountain range. Along with the resort was discussed the possibility of connecting the resort to downtown via a gondola. A separate gondola, funded by the resort owners, will go up the mountain to the pedestrian village and year-round resort [Emphasis added].
It would appear from this reader-submitted article that, win or lose, the taxpayers will be picking up the tab on this:

Ogden has already paid Bridge Atlantik $6,250 to begin marketing the city. The company will receive an additional $6,250 if it has articles published about Ogden in a minimum of 10 European publications and persuades one large- or two medium-sized ski companies to establish their U.S. headquarters in the city, according to the contract.

Even if Bridge Atlantik fails to deliver any companies, the money spent will be worthwhile, [mayor]Godfrey said.

"If they fail miserably and can't bring any companies, it will still create an awareness for our branding efforts," he said.
We will resist, for now, our usual editorial impulse to subject these news items to our own micro-analysis. But that certainly should not prevent our gentle readers from contributing their own $.02.

So what do our gentle readers think about all this?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ogden City Council Finds Its Legs

By Dian Woodhouse


It is amazing what a well-functioning local city government can do to boost one’s personal feelings of well-being. In fact, I am even currently experiencing warm and friendly thoughts towards the Boyer company for choosing “The Junction” as the name for the new downtown development. Score one for unity and working together-- those two concepts we all advocate but which happen in reality much less than one would like.

I attended the city council/RDA meeting last night, and thought I’d jot down a few things for those interested. It was a good meeting. As always, if I have made any mistakes in the following, corrections will be most appreciated.

It began with a presentation of Boyer’s plan for Phase 1 of the development by Greg Montgomery and later, John Gochner. It is important to note that this Phase 1 was the only portion up for approval last night--I had misunderstood this and thought that Boyer was to present its Grand Plan. But Phase 1 was what was presented. It is only the south part of the site, between 23rd and 24th streets, and the Plan has been somewhat revised.

The most important revision, I think, was the addition of more residential units. There will be 176 units fronting Washington Boulevard with more in the back, and street level units are also included--a change from retail on the ground level and residential above. This is actually more in sync with the original ideas from 2002 which emphasized “mixed use.” These complexes are three-sided and built around courtyards, in which will be parking. The idea here is maximum usage of available space--instead of having a row of fronts facing the street and parking in the back, there will be triangles of fronts with parking in the middle. Which is an interesting way to do this, I think.

Councilwoman Jeske asked what the comparison was to the retail units in the old mall with those in the new plan, and the answer was that the square footage dedicated to retail had been cut down by these residential units. There were 125 stores in the old mall, and with the planned square footage now being 233,000 square feet, it seemed to be a bit less than half, although no number was given. Mention was made that retail could also spring up around the development--on the east side of Washington and other surrounding areas, in response to the development, and this was hoped to happen.

Councilman Glasmann asked about the parking situation, and the answer was that parking would be roughly the same as in the 2002 plan. Parking in general was discussed extensively, since there is a bit less than is customarily allocated. But Mr. Montgomery brought up the fact that those living there might decide to keep only one car, as everything will be close and pedestrian oriented, and as for visitors to the residential units, the office parking will be available in the evenings when most of this visiting would occur.

There was also much discussion concerning the development wishing to be favorable to the Eccles Conference Center. It seemed that this was a priority of Boyer’s, which viewed increased bookings there as a mutual benefit to both the center and the development. Councilwoman Jeske asked if there were plans for another hotel in the development, since if the conference center functioned at capacity, we would not have enough hotel rooms. The answer to this was--not at this time, although this might be an option for Phase 2.

A very interesting part of this discussion was that evidently the plans include, at some future time, a median strip in the middle of Washington Boulevard. At this time, this concept does not include parking on this strip, and efforts will be made to slow the traffic on Washington by its presence, and also via curving the sidewalks out at the corners, as has been done on 25th Street, and perhaps also in the middle of the blocks to increase pedestrian access.

Citizen comment was almost unanimously in favor of this plan for Phase 1. Dave Hardman, the current president of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce, stated that, “We will never return to the retail magnitude we had in the early 80’s and 90’s,” and that therefore, the mixed use concept was a good one. He also mentioned that Earnshaw, a condominium developer at the site, has possibly sold all retail, all commercial, and all residential units in his building.

The manager of the Hampton Inn spoke and gave some interesting input, which was that hotel occupancy in Ogden had been down for the last three years, and that we are currently running at about a 50% occupancy rate. This development would raise that, obviously. He also stated that exciting things are happening at the old Ben Lomond hotel---that it would be "restored to its glory days of the 20’s and 30’s." I have no idea if he was speaking literally or figuratively here--but evidently there is something about to happen with that property that is positive.

Scott Parkinson from the Bank of Utah spoke also, mentioning that the corporate headquarters of that bank are here in Ogden, a fact that I did not know, and that they are solidly in favor of this project.

Virginia Hernandez cited the concern she had over not knowing whether the residential units would be exclusive to only some people or accessible to all. She spoke strongly in favor of diversity in the development, and is organizing some town meetings at which this topic will be gone into.

The motion to approve the plan for Phase 1 was made eloquently by Councilman Glasmann, seconded by Councilman Safsten, passed unanimously, and applauded.

Then the City Council convened. A few interesting things here--McKonkie, entering the budget for review, mentioned that Ogden can probably dedicate no new project areas for redevelopment, because a city can only collect increment on 10% ot taxable property and Ogden is currently hovering at 8.27%. He also mentioned old commitments between the city and the RDA that needed to be addressed.

Councilman Glasmann asked if there were a figure as to the overall debt on RDA projects, and was referred to the report, dated June 30th, 2005, which stated the third party debt as $12,875,000. Revenue streams are currently directed toward paying this, and there seems to be no problem with it currently. There was also “passthrough” debt, mentioned above, payment of which is contingent on inflows. Two figures were mentioned here--$515.000 and $119,000. There may have been more in the budget report itself.

Other business included the council approval of the appointment of Cindi Mansell to the position of Ogden City Recorder, the moving of funds from contingency to legal for the RDA, a thank you from the council, presented by Councilwoman Wicks, to all of those who participated in the site naming effort, (especially since the namec chosen was “one of ours,” too,) and a general plea that more individuals from the Hispanic community get involved in attending the meetings. I would certainly agree with that last, especially. Councilwoman Wicks also asked when construction for the rec center would begin, and the answer, by John Patterson, was that although much was going on “behind the scenes,” no construction was apparent, and a start date was currently unknown.

By far, the most important thing about this meeting to me was that the Ogden City Council/RDA seemed to have found its legs. Not as a rubber stamp organization, but as a well-functioning group of people who individually all think for themselves and also function smoothly as a governing body. Perhaps the difference between opposition, (which is fine, and allowable,) and infighting, (which is only destructive,) has been pinned down and dealt with. Possibly this feeling was in large part due to the fact that Phase 1 of the project was finally, at long last, given a green light. Or that it was Valentine’s Day or something. But whatever it was, there was a feeling there last night that things have finally come together and we’re on our way. This would be good.

Update 5/15/06 3:35 p.m. MT: A totally exciting addendum to meeting is that it was stated by Montgomery that the Episcopal Church will be able to purchase what it wishes, and it is also being considered to turn the two story planned building to the east of it to a one story one in order to allow light into the historic chapel window. Negotiations are in progress on this. -D.

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kent Pleads for More Central Planning

You had to know I wouldn't let this go by, without making at least a passing comment:

"Retired" Ogden City Councilman Kent Jorgensen caused this central-planning screed to be published in the Sunday Standard-Examiner letters section. He complains legislators are interfering with the "vision." He calls upon his fellow Utah socialists to write their legislators. He still doesn't understand why conservative legislators, elected representatives of the ALL the freedom-loving people of Utah, are clipping the wings of city council schemers and real estate developer wanna-be mayors in the State of Utah. He's preaching Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged plot theme all in reverse. He and his statist comrades still believe it's the government that makes it all happen in America, and that the luddites in the legislature are hampering the grand "vision."

I've talked til I was blue in the face about how wrong he and his cronies are. He doesn't understand the free market. He still doesn't even understand why he and his gang-of-six comrades were unceremoniously defeated. Perhaps some of our gentle readers will be willing to help "educate" Kent on this.

Comments, anyone? Let's try to help out poor old Kent on this.

Price Gouging, Anyone?

Hurricane Katrina cost Utah motorists up to $101.8 million in higher gasoline prices at the pump late last year, based on estimates from new government data. That comes to about $57 per licensed driver in Utah.

Deseret Morning News
Utah took $101 million hit at pump
February 14, 2006

Exxon Mobil Corp. set U.S. records for annual and quarterly profits Monday as it easily topped fourth-quarter earnings forecasts. The nation's largest oil company reported net income in the fourth quarter of $10.7 billion, or $1.71 a share, compared to $8.4 billion, or $1.30 a share, a year earlier.

CNN Money.com
Exxon Mobil sets profit record
January 30, 2006

The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years. New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.

New York Times
U.S. Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies
February 13, 2006

Weber County Forum upgrades Exxon Mobil (XOM), and the energy sector in general, to a "Strong Buy" for the year 2006. There are oilmen at the helm in the Whitehouse, after all; and there's a "killing' to be made for savvy investors in the energy sector. Back up the truck, and load up on energy shares. The oil and gas companies will be happy to assist us in continuing to maintain our energy-profligate lifestyles, but you'd better believe we're going to pay through the nose for it.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Keep the Civil Service Commission

We mentioned "Republican" Senator Scott Jenkins in an earlier article, and how he "killed" his own eminent domain revival bill when it became apparent his fellow Republican senators thought him to be "nuts." This previously obscure and relatively unknown senate hack has suddenly come to the public forefront recently, with a flurry of pro-neoCON bills.

We have no idea what's recently driving Senator Jenkins, nor why he's come to the neoCON forefront. Maybe it has something to do with Mr. Jolley, the Ogden City Council bagman lobbyist who, for unknown reasons, still remains on the Ogden Council payroll, despite the swearing in, a month or so ago, of a whole new non-rubber-stamp council group, who were elected to clean up Ogden City's dysfunctional city government.

At any rate, suburban Senator Jenkins still has another bill on the table which is designed to foul up the proper function of our city. Here's a link to his SB 229, which is a true marvel of "intelligent" neoCON draftsmanship. What Senator Jenkins did, in all his brilliance, (with the helpful assistance of Ogden City's Mark Johnson, we understand) was to take a magic marker to an existing statute, and cross out a word or two.

The purpose of this bill, of course, is to punish firefighters and police officers, the people upon whom we depend most primarily for our safety. The object is to remove an objective civil service board from public safety employee protection, and to reduce elite firefighters and police to "employees at will," just like the employees who cut the lawns in the parks... or the employees in the Ogden City recorder's office. What this bill will do, if enacted, is to give tyrannical Utah city administrators unrestrained hiring and firing authority over our professional and primary Ogden City public safety employees. If all goes well for the aparatchiks in the Ogden Administration, Public Safety employees will be grovelling VERY SOON.

I talked with Republican Utah Legislative District 8 Representative Joe Murray today. He knows more than a little bit about the firefighters, having served for about thirty years with the Ogden City Fire Department, before being elected to the state legislature. He's sympathetic to the firefighters, and also VERY sympathetic to the Ogden City Police Department, and their impending plight.

He pledged to me today, that he'll fight with all his effort to kill neoCON Senator Jenkins' ill-conceived SB 229, and to prevent the neoCON drones from reducing our Ogden City Police and Fire Departments to the equivalent of "parks" employees. Joe Murray understands that the layer of protection afforded by a civil service commission is essential to preserving high quality and professional public safety in larger Utah cities; and I'm assured he will not let our firefighters and police down on that.

Please email Rep. Joe Murray at this address, and offer your support for his efforts in this regard.

You can also email your other legislators from these sites:

State Senate

Utah House of Representatives

Let's stand up for the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our freedom and safety.

Tell your legislators to vote "NO" on neoCON Senator Jenkins' radical SB 229.

Reader comments are welcome as always

Friday, February 10, 2006

Stupid Legislator Tricks -- Updated

Senator Scott Jenkins's SB 210 was KILLED this morning in committee. May it rest in peace. And may Senator Scott Jenkins (R -alleged) of Plain City, "Republican" so-called, converse with his inner "still small voice," "repent of his Big Governent sins," and quit hanging out with the vile neoCON Godfrey crowd from now on. Methinks the erstwhile Senator dodged a bullet here, as the November election approaches. Let's just say the members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee gently saved him from making a great political blunder, and having his ass publicly kicked on the Senate floor -- within newspaper eyeview of his Republican constituents -- who would hear from their newspaper that he's the Godfreyite lacky who tried to revive eminent domain in Utah.

Senator Jenkins will be running for re-election in November, BTW, as our gentle readers may intuit from reading the preceding paragraph. And as Weber County Forum denizens will also remember, this bill was drafted at the request of Matt Godfrey, in the vile bowels of the neoCON Godfrey Administration, to punish feisty "little old ladies"who are willing to allocate their personal resources to advocate -- and successfully litigate --property rights protection for all of us.

Did Scott Jenkins dodge a bullet? Is he REALLY a TRUE Republican? Or is he a socialist who registers Republican, like so many totally flummoxed Utah Big Government socialists do these days? Does the fact that he owns a businesss blocks away from the WalMart project have anything to do with influencing his commie-style Big-Brother legislation? What the hell is wrong with him anyway, we ask?

What say we Weber County Forum readers about this?

Could there be a "taking down" of a neoCON schlump like Scott Jenkins in the works?

Here's the short answer: Yes.

Update 2/11/06 5:22 p.m. MT: Your humble blogmeister talked with erstwile Sen. Scott Jenkins by phone today. In his favor, he admits he "killed his own" "eminent domain rebirth bill," yesterday.

In truth, though, he has no shame about this bill, so he gains no points from property rights activists for being temporarirly hoodwinked. He admits he "horsetraded" it away in exchange for other legislative favors, and will introduce the bill again next year.

Hold your noses, folks. There's a dyed-in-the wool Big Government neoCON "RINO" Republican Senator operating out of Plain City. He knows exactly what he's doing; and he appreciates and understands the political obvious political risks. This is what happens, I suppose, when the owner of a plumbing supply store mysteriously gets elected to the State Senate. His nose is immune to bad smells, I suppose.

I'll give him a "hat tip" for being a totally honest Big Government Socialist, at least, I guess.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Do you feel "Safe Yet," or What?

"The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinised."

George Orwell,
Nineteen Eighty-Four

The U.S. government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of "terrorist activity."

US plans massive data sweep
Christian Science Monitor
February 9, 2006

Are we citizens of Weber County Forum the only ones "getting the creeps" here about the massive and obtrusive socialist government that we've brought upon ourselves in the name of "Big Brother security"?


Monday, February 06, 2006

Listen... and You Decide!

We've previously remarked here on Weber County Forum about the current Standard-Examiner misinformation campaign -- ongoing for almost a month -- whereby our monopoly newspaper of record has shamelessly maligned and slandered members of the new city council/RDA board, accusing them of "overly-aggressive" questioning of Ernest Health Inc.'s Darby Brockette. The Standard-Examiner editors have published articles almost daily, reinforcing what has become a constant Std-Ex "letters section" "Shame on the New Council" meme:

"Ernest Health packed its bags and broke off negotiations," we've been repeatedly told, "because some City Council members aggressively questioned the company's officials about its finances." The Std-Ex hammered this false meme again this morning, in the latest Scott Schwebke story.

Now, as we've said before, nobody who actually attended the January 10 session seemed to regard the RDA Board/Council as particularly aggressive or unkind. In fact, most of us who bothered to be in actual attendance that night applauded the Board/Council for its newfound "functionality" and common sense.

Nevertheless, the Standard-Examiner has persisted in its effort to mischaracterise the new council's behavior as "hostile and aggressive." One notably hyperbolic and over-quoted recent council election also-ran even ranted contrarily, notwithstanding the objective facts, that the event had been the equivalent of a public "strip search."

Well the wait is over, gentle friends. Our gentle readers no longer need to depend on ill-motivated second-hand reports, sour-grapes council-election losers, or neoCON carpetbagger newspapermen from Sandusky for an accurate rendition of the truth. After some gentle nudging of Council Director Bill Cook's office by your humble blogmaster this morning, the gnomes of the Ogden City IT department have this afternoon uploaded the full audio of the January 10 RDA Board meeting to the Ogden City website.

We're furnishing a direct link here, so that you'll no longer have to rely on hearsay reports and neoCON fantasy. Here it is, folks...

The full 1/10/06 Ogden RDA Board Audio.

The raw truth will now come out!

Listen for yourselves, gentle readers. Did the new council behave offensively? Were they rude to Mr. Brockette? Were they merely discharging their sworn obligations as Ogden City Councilpersons, in the most gracious manner possible under the circumstances, to obtain necessary and fundamental information that had been previously denied them by the Administration? Did the RDA Board session really have the qualities of a public "strip search?

As the Fox Cable talking heads constantly say... LISTEN... AND YOU DECIDE!

You already know what we think. What we'd like to know is what YOU think about all this.

We're looking forward to our gentle readers' comments.

Update 2/8/06 12:41 p.m. MT: Our own board "regular," and frequent contributor, Dian Woodhouse, has an excellent guest commentary appearing on the Standard-Examiner website this morning, wherein she offers her own very thorough analysis on this topic. Be sure to check it out. A severely shortened version appeared in the Std-Ex hard-copy "letters to editor" section this morning, too. Hard-copy subscribers without web access truly have no idea what they're missing.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Sunday Open Thread

Torn between the options of skiing our a** off again today, or sticking around the home to watch all the pre-Superbowl hype, we flipped a coin, and will be munching pizza, sipping suds and gazing at the Great American Sports Spectacle on the tube all afternoon, and well into the evening, we presume. Sports-wise, "this is definitely as big as it gets," as the old saying goes.

Consequently, we don't anticipate posting a main article today, and it's thus probably time to set up an open thread.

Possible topics from today's news, other than the Big Game itself, include two articles from the Salt Lake Tribune, and one from the New York Times:

If anyone has the burning desire to post thoughts on these topics, or any other subject under the sun, for that matter, please don't let the cat get your tongue. There hasn't been much "red meat news" these past few days, so perhaps it's time to "stir the pot."

What's up, everyone?


Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Week of Mirth and Merriment

This morning's Standard-Examiner reports that the old mall-site name-selection committee has whittled the contenders down to five:

OGDEN -- And then there were five. Like judges at a beauty contest, a 10-member panel of community members has narrowed 1,050 entries in an effort to come up with a stylish name for the former Ogden City Mall site, which is slated for redevelopment. The finalists are (drumroll please):

* The Rendezvous
* The Junction
* Summit View
* Two Rivers
* Wasatch Commons

The name suggestions from the public were placed into various categories that described such things as Ogden's railroad heritage, its recreational offerings and outdoor splendor.

There were also 50 to 100 "joke names" turned in, according to Linda Fonnesbeck, communication specialist for the Ogden Redevelopment Agency, who did not provide details.
Joke names? Whatever could Ms. Fonnesbeck be referring to?

And speaking of jokes, it appears that Utah State Senator Al 'The Prankster" Mansell also had them in stitches yesterday on Salt Lake City's Capital Hill, when he revealed that he was merely "pulling his fellow legislators' legs" with the 80-page SB170, which would have thrown Utah planning and zoning law back into early 1950's, a dark era predating the Beaver Cleaver family -- a time even before Fidel Castro became the quintessential grand central planner on a little island nation called Cuba.

Mansell's bill, the Senator now tells us with a completely straight face -- was merely a "message bill" -- a slight elbow to the ribs of the grand municipal central-planning schemers -- just a ruse to attract their attention.

Trouble is, some folks didn't "get" the joke.

The neoCON apartchiks and their fellow-travellers were in disarray all week, trembling in fear that their socialist aparatus would be dismantled, throwing our neatly-ordered Utah society back to the paleolithic era of the 50's, when property owners still enjoyed actual property rights.

The comrades at the Utah League of Cities and Towns were particularly unamused. Their normally-moribund website was suddenly all abuzz, with daily new articles, shrieking about the end of civilization as we know it.

The editors at Ogden city's own "Pravda of the Wasatch" were also duly-horrified. They got into the act with Wednesday's Std-Ex editorial, hysterically decrying a backslide into an era when citizens were actually treated as adults by their government. This editorial was shrill, even by Std-Ex Standards. From the bowels of the Std-Ex editorial room, oozed visions of "A Nightmare Scenario", brimming with socialist slogans and dripping with dire warnings about evil & greedy developers:

SB 170 rejects the 'greater good" philosophy that has guided planning commissions and city councils for decades.

It is a naked attempt to destroy an enlightened view of urban and sub-urban lifestyles and well-designed communities in favor of the crass desires of developers."
Did you hear that, Boyer Company? The Std-Ex editors think you guys' desires are "crass." I do hope the Std-Ex editors will be quick to apologize. We don't want them packing their bags and leaving town like the guys from Ernest Health did.

Senator Mansell's gag bill even drew discussion on Weber County Forum from otherwise rational (and always gentle) readers who likewise railed against the evil "developer class:"

"Who would you rather have making decisions over land use - city councilpersons who can be replaced (like in Ogden recently), or rich and greedy developers that are responsible to no one but mammon?. They only swoop into communities to strip all the cash they can, then they vanish only to go on and rape the next community," gentle reader Ozboy exclaimed.
All in all, it's been a week of mirth and merriment, I think.

And what think our gentle readers about all this?

Update 2/2/06 1:03 p.m. MT: I'm linking hereto this ULCT executive summary of Sen. Mansell's original bill, for those lacking the fortitude to plow through all the legalese.

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