Friday, December 29, 2006

Toward Reasonable Local Ethics Legislation

The Standard-Examiner editorial board is definitely "on a roll" this week. For the second time in three days Std-Ex readers are treated this morning to a strong editorial, aimed at promoting honesty and integrity in local government.

In the instant case, our Weber County Commissioners have been considering enacting ethics legislation (inexplicably called a pledge,) which would would prohibit Weber County elected officials from exploiting their elective positions for private gain during "or after" their term of office. Whereas, it had appeared in an earlier Std-Ex article that the commission was in agreement as to the the appropriateness of this measure; the Std-Ex now opines that two commissioners have gotten cold feet.

Commissioners Bischoff and Dearden now reportedly believe the proposed language is overly broad, and we do believe they may have a valid point. As proposed, the prohibition would trail off into perpetuity, and could arguably subject outgoing elected officials to ethical scrutiny for entire lifetimes. This would be unreasonably burdensome we believe, and we thus suggest that the commission enact the legislation with a reasonable "tail," a year or two -- or some other finite time limit after leaving office.

With this exception, we believe enactment of the proposed legislation would be a very good thing, and we urge our gentle readers to contact their commissioners to suggest that they pass something tangible and reasonable. All elected public officials should be bound to conform their behavior to avoidance of conflicts actual, potential and perceived, both during their public service and for a reasonable time after leaving office. We believe this legislation would be a step in the right direction.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Credit When it is Due

A giant Weber County Forum tip o' the hat to the Standard-Examiner editors for today's magnificent pro-liberty editorial. We join the Std-Ex editorial board today in standing up for a continuous and rigorous separation of church and state, even in MoMoLand backwaters like Kaysville.

As this excellent editorial recites, some of the more "pushy" Kaysville city council brothers in Mr. Mac suits have informally decided to close down recreational opportunities for kids of all religious persuasions on Monday nights in Kaysville, in order to accommodate the L.D.S. "family home evening."

We incorporate here a few key paragraphs of today's magnificent pro-liberty editorial:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..." City governments must be neutral when it comes to religion. They should neither promote nor prohibit religious observances.

If a family, LDS or not, believes that Monday night -- or any other night -- should be set aside for worship or obedience to the doctrines of their faith, they have a choice to make between recreational sports and adherence to their religious philosophy. But they must not depend on the state, or in this case the city, to make that choice for them, because it is an impingement on the secular freedoms of their neighbor who does not share that belief.

It is precisely this sort of well-intentioned intrusion into the lives of non-Mormons in Utah that fosters resentment and furthers the cultural divisions within our communities.

"Halleluja," we say. Make that a "double, we add, in honor of the upcoming New Years' Eve Holiday. We also wonder why L.D.S. families in can't incorporate Monday night sports/recrearation activities into a true family gathering. Your blogmeister springs from a family of hockey players. Some of out best family-bonding experiences sprang from local week-day sports events, with young family members occasionally (and always wrongfully) cooling their heels in the penalty-box.

We can't doff our headgear fast enough to congratulate the Standard-Examiner today.

Whereas we often criticize our home town paper for it's seeming mealy-mouth attitude toward certain local municipal totalitarian types who wear the trapping of the L.D.S. faith, it's nevertheless encouraging to witness the Standard-Examiner standing up for "what's right" today.

On another note, we learn from this morning's Std-Ex edition that another Emerald City career attorney will be flying the City Hall Chicken coop.

Andrea Lockwood, another city attorney with zero apparent recent courtroom experience, has now reportedly been appointed by Matt Godfrey to don a dark judicial robe, pound a gavel in a courtroom in Emerald City's Kangaroo Court, and extract revenue from we lumpencitizens.

God help Judge Lockwood if any experienced trial attorney shows up in her courtroom to make an objection. God help any pro-se litigant who tries to do the same. The rules of evidence and procedure are complicated enough for seasoned litigators. We think she'll soon find herself way over her head. We don't envy her in this, and in fact offer our sincere sympathy.

Having said that, we congratulate Ms. Lockwood for this latest career move. After a distinguished career in city government, she moves out of the limelight, just as the corrupt Boss Godfrey empire comes tumbling down. Very smart, wethink.

Comments are invited, of course.

Update 12/30/06 5:37 a.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner is truly a wonder to behold when it embarks upon one of its infrequent crusades. In that connection, read today's guest commentary on this subject here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post-Christmas Open Thread

Well, it's Tuesday morning and we hope all our gentle readers survived another Christmas holiday relatively intact. For our part, we spent a wonderful day or three basically goofing off with family and friends. In short, our Christmas weekend was near-completely relaxing and enjoyable, with the exception of a few hours on Saturday, when we "joyfully" engaged for a couple of hours in our time-honored and traditional Christmas pastime -- frenzied last minute "full contact" Christmas shopping. As for goofing off, we definitely intend to do lots more of that, between now and the first of the year.

Still, we realize that we owe some obligation to those gentle readers who've become hooked on blogging at this site. And in that connection we set up yet another open thread for those gentle readers' out-pourings. Cold turkey will not be served up here, especially for gentle readers who may have found a new computer "under the tree" yesterday morning.

And to get the discussion going, we throw out two Standard-Examiner pieces, and one from New West Magazine. In keeping with our observation of the long Christmas-New Years holiday season, a couple of them even relate loosely to the extended holiday theme:

First, weight loss is a constant post-Christmas holiday topic, of course. And on that subject, what better place to look than MattGodfreyWorld for leadership? Boss Godfrey is of course the ultimate mayoral lightweight, a great source for guidance on the subject. So don't miss this Scott Schwebke front-page article explaining Boss Godfrey's program for whittling his minions and underlings down to size, and fattening their wallets in the process. Emerald City, you see, is not merely a municipal corporation that performs governmental functions -- it's also a Municipal Fat Farm, offering substantial year-end cash prizes. The photo of the elvin John Patterson removing his footwear for his weekly weigh-in is worth the price of the mouse-click, we think. We swear it's the very first time we've ever spotted him NOT text-messaging on his trusty Blackberry device

Then here's a great story of local interest -- A Hometown Boy: Ignored -- by WSU Provost Mike Vaughan. Thanks to professor Vaughan we learn that a couple of the weirdest films of all time were directed by an unsung Ogden native, film director Hal Ashby. (Ever hear of him? Us neither.) Unsung and weird; imagine that. Ignore Emerald City "homeys" at your peril, is something we ALWAYS say.

Last but nt least we link the obligatory (New-Years' oriented) locally-written piece, complaining about the dearth of State Liquor Store outlets here in the Land of Zion.

"Shop early and often" seems to be message we get from this article, as if we didn't already know that.

The floor is open. And we know the above isn't exactly the kind of "red meat political news" we like to discuss here at Weber County Forum. Still, we'll take what we can get.

At the very least, feel free to test out your new computer equipment here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidaze

By Rev. Alan Jones
Via The San Francisco Chronicle

It's good to know that word has come down that it is OK to greet each other at this time of year with "Merry Christmas!" The current crop of vociferous atheists have OK'd it, and it's good to see that they are in agreement with those on the political right who want Christmas to be honored. From the atheists' point of view, what is the harm because the holiday is meaningless. It is the winter solstice and we can all -- atheist and believer alike -- enjoy a bit of holiday cheer. I put off Christmas as long as I can (because it does not really begin until Dec. 24) but the pull of the season (as in shopping) gets harder and harder to resist -- all that struggling in a shopping mall, looking for presents that people really don't want.

In our effort to honor the separation of church and state, we get worried around religious festivals and do our best to squeeze out all spiritual significance. In spite of the recent rehabilitation of "Merry Christmas," some of us have a sneaking feeling that it would be better to greet each other with the generic "Happy Holidays!" rather than "Merry Christmas." Better Frosty the Snowman than the crèche. Better the Sugar Plum Fairy than the Shepherds and the Magi.

We like the chance for a break from work but are anxious about "beliefs" spoiling the holiday season. We don't want one set of beliefs dominating at the expense of others. In some places, the holiday symbols get all mixed, like the image that once appeared of Santa jolly on the cross in the big shopping district of Tokyo. But maybe we're going about the question of religious symbols and the holiday season the wrong way.

Lurking beneath the surface of our culture, there is a serious error in the way we have come to view the role of beliefs in our lives. I think beliefs and convictions are important, but we tend to put the cart before the horse. Most people still equate faith with believing certain things about God or the sacred. The mistaken idea is that you have to swallow a few correct beliefs before you can embark on the spiritual journey.

It might come as a bit of shock for a priest to admit that I find it increasingly hard always to tell the difference between believers and nonbelievers. The difference that matters to me is between those who are awake and those who are asleep, between those who are open to a change of heart and those who are not. Noted religion writer Karen Armstrong points out, "In all the great traditions, prophets, sages and mystics spent very little time telling their disciples what they ought to believe." They were invited to trust that "despite all the tragic and dispiriting evidence to the contrary, our lives did have some ultimate meaning and value. You could not possibly arrive at faith in this sense before you have lived a religious life. Faith was thus the fruit of spirituality, not something that you had to have at the start of your quest."

It would be great if believers and unbelievers would call a truce and recover this ancient wisdom of inviting people to live a certain way before they were clobbered with doctrines of belief or unbelief. How about leading a compassionate life? How about recognizing the dignity of others? How about showing up at rituals and ceremonies which help us wait before mystery?

So, what about Christmas?

When I am asked questions at this time of year about the divinity of Christ and the status of Mary in the life of faith, I invite people simply to look lovingly at a woman (in the first instance, any woman) with a baby (in the first instance, any baby) in her arms or at her breast, and ask themselves, "In the light of this image, how should I be in the world? How should I behave? How should I treat others and myself?"

As I am touched and moved by the symbols and stories of other traditions, I live in hope that the symbols and stories of my tradition might touch and move others without there being any sense of religious imperialism. A woman holding a baby is hardly threatening, and surely an image that is not owned by any particular religion exclusively. The point is, there's only one family -- a holy family -- and it's us -- all of us together. I mean all of us -- without exception. There's only one ethnic group. All of us -- together, of whatever belief. We're in this together.

Happy holidays!

The Rev. Alan Jones is dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

With Competent Leadership Like This, How Can Emerald City Fail?

Strange Stories From a Bizarre Municipal Corner of the Universe (MattGodfreyWorld) Part XXVIV.

By Gentle Curmudgeon

Well, this one takes the cake. I've not been overly impressed by the efficiency and ability of the Godfrey administration overall, as you all know, but I have to admit this one left me speechless. It seems the Godfrey administration successfully convinced the City Council [acting as the RDA board] to sell city property for half a million dollars to a company that didn't want to buy it! A company that is not interested in buying it and has said so flat out. Here's the lede paragraph from Mr. Schwebke's delightful story in this morning's Standard Examiner, Top of Utah front page:

OGDEN — The Ogden Redevelopment Agency agreed Tuesday night to sell a portion of the Shupe-Williams property for $268,142 to enable Chianti Holding LLC, the parent company of Contempo Ceramic Tile Corp. to build a new showroom and
warehouse. There just one problem.

Chianti has no plans to purchase the land that encompasses about an acre on Wall Avenue, according to Richard Pease, president of the company.

“We would like to stay where we are,” said Pease, adding of Contempo Tile is happy with its facility at 1938 Lincoln Ave.

“We are not buying it (the Shupe-Williams) property.”
But wait, it gets better. On the Godfrey Administration's recommendation, the RDA board refused to sell the land to the Union Station Foundation, which does want to buy it; and instead, agreed to sell it to the Godfrey-endorsed company which doesn't want the land.

I am telling you, they couldn't make up stuff this good on Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show or Letterman. [I wonder, is that how Mayor Godfrey earned plaudits as a major mover and shaker by a N. Utah business magazine lately... by offering to sell city land to people who don't want to buy it? Wow! Talk about innovative leadership!]

But wait... it get's even better. Having agreed to sell one parcel of land to a company that doesn't want to buy it, the Godfrey administration also plans to sell a second parcel at the same site to the same company... which doesn't want to buy that parcel either. From the story in this morning's SE: The city also plans to sell a second Shupe-Williams lot to Chianti Holding for about $242,000, said Community and Economic Development Director Dave Harmer.

Harmer seemed taken back when informed Tuesday night by the Standard-Examiner following the RDA vote that Chianti Holding had no plans to buy the properties.

Harmer said he would contact Scott Brown, the city’s business development manager who has been handling the land sale, about the status of the Chainti Holding’s interest in the property. Brown did not return a phone call Tuesday night seeking comment.

This is the administration that wants us all to trust its business expertise and judgement to make the non-existent Peterson Plan a success in Ogden? Yes sirree Bob, I can see businessmen and investers lined up clear to Vernal just waiting for the chance to let Mr. Godfrey, Mr. Harmer and Mr. Brown lead them in investing in Ogden.

Update 12/21/06 6:20 a.m. MT: Scott Schwebke follows up yesterday's Shupe-Williams bungled sales approval story with slightly more information this morning. Chianti Holdings still hasn't actually committed itself to buyng the property, but owner/principle Jan Kucera does at least hedge a little bit, indicating that his company is interested in the property, at least. The main obstacle, it appears, is Boss Godfrey's insistance that Chianti donate all profits (equity)from the sale of its current property to the city, Inasmuch as Chianti says it needs these monies to build-out a new facility, this presents more than a minor obstacle, we would surmise.

And the city council, which is regularly treated by the Godfrey administration as a troublesome and unnecessary "fifth wheel" of city government, appears actually united for once, taking umbrage at being made to "look like a buch of goofballs." As an added bonus, Gang-of-Six holdover Comrade Safsten frankly admits that he is "befuddled" -- something many of our regular readers had long suspected.

Meanwhile, Scott Brown insists it's all but a done deal, notwithstanding the patent denials of Chianti's CEO and controlling shareholder. And Dave Harmer calls it business as usual. And the Shupe-Williams story moves from the realm of the strange, to that of the bizarre.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Matt Jones Update

Five months after the "vangate caper", which rendered Boss Godfrey and Emerald City a Utah-wide and national laughing-stock, the internal OPD/Matt Jones investigation finally reaches a crucial tipping point, reports Ace Reporter Schwebke, in this morning's Standard-Examiner front-page story.

In a classic Godfreyesque style, Boss Godfrey and his loyal underlings will be meting out "discipline" just in time for Christmas, says Assistant Police Chief Tarwater, who has been handling the investigation. Whereas we had all been hoping for the expression of an act of charity or contrition on the part of the Emerald City administration during this holiday season, Boss Godfrey and his underlings, the penultimate holiday "grinches," intend instead to recommend punishment for Officer Jones within the next few days, "ranging from suspension without pay to [outright] "termination."

This is all happening within a context wherein Weber County Attorney Attorney Decaria has essentially exonerated everyone involved in the matter, of course, including officer Jones, as Ace Reporter Schwebke accurately reports:

"Decaria concluded in a report released last month there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Jones for any crime."
The continuing disciplinary action turns on allegations that officer Jones, in the company of other OPD officers, lifted a couple of wallets during traffic stops, reporter Schwebke adds. These were of course among the allegations we thought had been resolved by Mr. Decaria investigation. In that connection we have obtained a hard-copy version of the investigative report of Mr. Decaria's own investigators, which will convert to electronic form, upload and post here as an update later today, time permitting, so that our gentle readers can draw their own conclusions as to the nature of the "charges" still pending against Officer Jones.

As an aside, we'll also make note of a misreporting of facts in this morning's story, whereby Mr. Schwebke refers to a "...sliding evaluation scale that included the number of tickets issued among 18 factors in awarding merit raises to police." For some odd reason the Standard-Examiner is reluctant to label it for what it is -- a ticket quota.

Our intrepid Ace Reporter then continues with this outright mis-statement: "The sliding evaluation scale has since been rescinded by the City Council."

As regular Weber County Forum readers are well aware, the above statement is untrue. While the council DID alter the pay plan for public safety officers, (to put them on par with other city employees,) a traffic citation quota still exists in Emerald City. Emerald City police officers' pay still depends, at least in part, on the number of traffic citations they write. Emerald City's Finest are still being mis-used as Emerald City revenue agents, to feed Boss Godfrey's Justice Court cash cow. This is not a minor point, we believe. Nor is it a point we'll have forgotten in November 2007, when Boss Godfrey stands for re-election to a third mayoral term.

Okay, gentle readers -- many of you have been clamoring for a Matt Jones update.

Now that you have it, what will you do with it?

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Tip of the Hat to Everyone Within Sight

We begin this morning's thread with couple of stories which are bound to leave all computer geeks (that's you - more later) breathless:

First, Emerald City is tied for the #1 spot as geek capitol of the U.S. (75,000-124,999 population category) according to this morning's fascinating Scott Schwebke story:

OGDEN — For the second time in as many years, Ogden has taken top honors as one of the nation’s most technologically advanced mid-sized cities.

Ogden tied with Roanoke, VA, for first place in the 2006 Digital Cities Survey for municipalities with populations ranging from 75,000 to 124,999. Orem placed third in the category, and Salt Lake City finished fourth for cities with populations ranging from 125,000 to 249,999. The survey was sponsored by the Center for Digital Government.
According to information on the Center for Digital Government site, the most wired big city (250,000 or more population category) Corpus Christi, Texas. Tied for first place in the 125,000-249,999 population category were Alexandria, Virginia and Madison Wisconsin.

Top vote-getter in the 30,000-74,999 population category was Delray Beach, Florida.

For the convenience of those gentle readers with geek curiosity (and a little extra time on their hands,) we've linked the websites of each of the first-place winners above, along with a couple of the other Utah cities mentioned in this morning's Scott Schwebke article.

We invite our readers to make their own comparisons. Frankly we think Emerald City's website is by far the very best. A trifle cartonish in style, granted. In that connection however, we must keep in mind that we're also the only top-ranked city with an actual bona-fide child-mayor.

We'll also add that we believe Emerald City would have been the hands-down winner in all categories, except for one glaring fault. Yes, we still find this language seemingly etched in granite on the Emerald City website, within Boss Godfrey's gondola information FAQ:

6. Do the plans include the gondola connecting to Snowbasin?
The plans do involve a leg of the gondola that would go to the top of the mountain, which would allow skiers with a Snowbasin lift ticket to enter Snowbasin. That leg will require an environmental study by the Forest Service to approve, while the rest of the project can be built on private property without Forest Service approval.
Perhaps Boss Godfrey's IP people will fix this problem prior to the next Center for Digital Government survey.

And a few paragraphs earlier we suggested that our gentle readers were all computer geeks (a term of endearment, of course.) Last week's news is proof of that. Time Magazine issued its "Person of the Year" issue last Wednesday; and you'd never have guessed whom that person is: Our Gentle Readers; that's Who. From Time Magazine's December 13 article:

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

We thank the editors of Time Magazine for the truly delicious segue. And as we quickly lurch toward our 200,000th Weber County Forum page-load, we offer a hearty tip 'o the hat to all our gentle readers who have so eagerly embraced "the new digital democracy."

Consider the above ramblings a kickstart to a new open thread.

What topics are on our gentle readers' minds today?

Update 12/22/06 5:15 a.m. MT: America's numero uno print medium narcissist bitterly complains here about other people's purported narcissism.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Give a Little Bit to Marshall White This Season

Newly Updated 12/19/06

Christmas is fast approaching -- the western cultural time of giving. And what do we do here at Weber County Forum, when Western European culturo-religious mores dictate generous giving?

We put the arm on our gentle readers, that's what!

We did the same last year, and appealed to your gentle and generous instincts, and collectively managed to donate a little more than a thousand bucks to the Marshall White Center Sub for Santa program within a short few days, when the program was in genuine crisis... on very short notice.

Thanks in large part to the generosity of our gentle readers last year, the 2005 Marshall White Sub-for-Santa Program was an overwhelming success.

This year, Marshall White is in slightly less-desperate straights. Notwithstanding Boss Godfrey's attempts to kill it off and sell it to the Salvation Army... The Marshall White Center still remains pretty much the great community resource it's been since 1968.

Nevertheless... there remain still three apparent Marshall White applicant families who need help for Christmas. The program still needs your help. Boss Godfrey isn't chipping in a dime of city or personal money for this, BTW, (Boss Godfrey wishes the Marshall White Center would just "go away.") We talked about this with Fritz Bachman... who runs the Sub for Santa program:

There remain three families in need, for whom the Marshall White Sub for Santa program lacks resources:
  • A single mother with kids aged 6yrs (girl), 9 yrs (girl) and 14 yrs (boy.)

  • A recently-separated mother of three. Kids: 3yrs, 5 yrs, and 10 yrs (girl)

  • A stiill-intact family. Dad lost his job; but the core family is still together so far. Four kids aged: 4 (girl,) 7 (boy,) 12 (boy,) 14 (boy.)
But for the grace of God all go all of us.

Once again it's up to us all.

Please help these families through your generous donations to Marshall White Sub 4 Santa.

Please get on down there with cash donations, like we all did last year.

You can also call Program Director Fritz Bachman @ 598-5170 to arrange your special donation, or call the Marshall White Center @ 629-8346.

Checks cannot be accepted, BTW... due to Boss Godfrey's bureaucratic B.S.

Update 12/19/06 10:55 a.m. MT: Amy Wicks just posted an update in the lower comments section, the full text of which we incorporate below:

The Marshall White Center still needs your help- I have pasted text from an email sent today from the MWC director below:

Hello to all,

Fritz and I would like to say thank-you to all the people that have helped so far with our Christmas programs. Unfortunately we are still short on food items such as potatoes, rice, noodles, cereal, hams, and juices. We need these things to make food boxes for people in need in our community. There are plenty of canned goods but we will accept more. If you would like to help us with our food boxes please drop of items at the center by December 22nd at 5:00 pm.

Thank-you for your help,


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday P.M. Tidbits

We find several Weber County Forum topic-specific articles in this morning's Standard-Examiner.

First, we link to this morning's Scott Schwebke story, wherein the Emerald City Council breathlessly announces the official release of its Urban Gondola/Tram Comparison Report, compiled by council staff in lieu of accepting Boss Godfrey's gracious invitation to an all-expense-paid Telluride junket.

We're running a little behind today, so we haven't yet subjected this report to our usual micro-anlysis, although it appears at first glance to be a mere a re-hash of the material we'd thoroughly discussed here in an earlier comments thread (and other places.)

Have at it, gentle readers. Please feel free to offer your own micro-analysis.

Next, Ace reporter Schwebke has again been working feverishly on the fast-developing Dean Martinez story. From today's Scott Schwebke article we gain this brand-new information:
• Former Emerald City Human Resources Manager Dean Martinez had formed an administration-unapproved internal affirmative action committee, for the purpose of exploring ways to improve employee hiring and promotion practices. This unauthorized act didn't apparently wash with Boss Godfrey's current practices, which are geared, according to Mr. Martinez, more closely toward favoring white L.D.S. guys in suits. Godfrey thus pulled the plug on the committee, but did spend thousands of dollars producing a nice (Rupert Hitzig?) video, we are told. Boss Godfrey remains of course entirely unaware of any existing hiring/promotion policy problems. "If we had any problems, I would already know about them," suggests the All Knowing One on Nine.

• In classic neoCON fashion, the administration is sticking to its story: "Martinez is merely a disgruntled employee; and his claims are entirely without merit."

• The Standard-Examiner, which has utilized state law open-records request procedures numerous time recently, with mixed success, has now filed a new GRAMA request, seeking salary information on all Emerald City division managers.
The floor is open for further comments, analysis or speculation...

Or address whatever you wish to address.

12/14/06 4:05 p.m. MT: Being the curious type, we googled "Dean Martinez" and came upon this revealing web-page, from a more optimistic time, gleefully announcing the hiring of Mr. Martinez, and setting forth his ambitious original "mission statement."

As added bonuses, be sure to read Mr. Martinez's October 3, 2003 Std-Ex letter to the editor, in which Mr. Martinez "butters up" his prospective boss, and the Cathy McKittrick piece, written before Mr. Martinez had actually begun to work with real-life Boss Godfrey cultural xenophobe.

12/15/06 7:50 a.m. MT: Kristen Moulton weighs in on the council's Gondola/Tram Comparison report with this morning's SL Trib story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Short Note on the Sudden Passing of a True & Dear Friend

We have an announcement to make to our WCF readership; and we'll keep it short -- and hopefully sweet:

To our great regret it is our painful but necessary task to inform our readers of this:

Dian Woodhouse, our good friend and regular Weber County Forum contributor, passed away yesterday, as a consequence of a sudden and massive heart attack, which occurred late Sunday morning.

Despite the valiant efforts of the medical staff at the McKay-Dee ICU, and the prayers of Dian's many close friends, Dian's injuries proved too severe to sustain life; and Dian's mortal body was pronounced dead at approximately noon yesterday.

We are told that she just quietly "slipped away," peacefully and painlessly.

We have been in daily communication with her loving husband Matt since mid-afternoon Sunday; and we anticipate he will provide us a short update/eulogy sometime soon. Obviously we can't provide a timeline on this. Matt is currently experiencing the understandable "grieving process," and is also unfortunately occupied with the many trivial formalities that always attend the passing of a dearly-loved one.

We are now beginning to receive comments and condolences in the lower comments section, and we have thus decided to provide this special comment thread, both for those readers who may wish to publcly express their comments or condolences, and for the information of those readers and admirers who had not yet become aware of this unfortunate event.

Mere words are insufficient to express our own pain and grief, upon the passing of our true and dear friend Dian. Dian was one of those glorious and noble souls whom we "happen upon" very rarely in life. Suffice it for now to say that we simply express our deep gratitude that Dian happened upon our own live's paths. We will all be the better for Dian's having spent her last days with us, we think.

Update 12/11/06 9:02 p.m. MT: Dian's husband and soul-mate Matt has graciously tranmitted to us this evening a brief eulogy, for those who'd like to to learn a little more about our very remarkable Dian.

Update 12/16/06 9:29 a.m. MT: We link here this morning's Std-Ex obituary, and make special note (for readers who have been inquiring,) that Dian's memorial service will be held at Larkin Mortuary (24th St. & Adams Ave. - Ogden) on Wednesday, December 20th @ 12:00 p.m.

Update 12/22/06 6:20 a.m. MT: Ellen Fagg provided a nice tribute to Dian in Wednesday's Salt Lake Tribune. We link it here, for those who may have not already seen it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Heads-up On a Developing Political Firestorm

Recently-fired Emerald City Human Resources Manager Dean Martinez was a vocal Boss Godfrey supporter in the autumn of 2003, as Boss Godfrey's re-election campaign was winding to a crescendo, according to this morning's Scott Schwebke story story. Nothing unusual about that we think. Mr. Martinez had been apparently jockeying for a Emerald City staff position in the new administration, a position which Mr. Martinez attained in 2004, when he was hired as Emerald City's Human Resources Manager. Buttering up your prospective boss is good politics, we believe, especially when the future Boss is a guy like Boss Godfrey, an insecure man who demands unyielding (and unflinching) loyalty from his underlings.

There's evidently been lots of water under the bridge since 2004, however. Mr. Martinez of course has now been summarily "terminated." Boss Godfrey and Mr. Martinez are now trading allegations in the press. Both Emerald City and Mr. Martinez are "lawyered up" too. This story has the makings of a good old-fashioned Emerald City street-corner political brawl, we think. We're certainly keeping our trusty barcalounger and popcorn readily at hand.

The first salvo in what we believe to be a developing public battle-royal was launched pre-emptively on December 9, 2006, with this Charles Trentelman story, in which Boss Godfrey and his minions took the public relations offensive. They announced that Mr. Martinez had been fired, and were quick to paint Mr. Martinez into a public relations corner, accusing him of all manner of terrible mis-deeds:

John Patterson, the city's chief administrative officer, said Friday, "As of Monday, Dean's employment with the city was terminated. He was terminated for cause, and generally for dishonesty, for misappropriation of public documents and for other missteps, other misconduct, I guess is the best word."
Aside from vague references to a "discrimination complaint," and the obtaining of "...some documents from the city to use to amend his initial complaint...," the Trentleman story was somewhat factually thin, with little information pertaining to substantive issues -- except for attorney Retallick's denial of his client's misconduct, and the general statement that the events revolved around the mysterious discrimination complaint .

Today's story however fleshes out the facts a bit more, we think. From today's story we learn this, among other things:

1) Mr. Martinez had apparently been pursuing a course of reviewing city personnel files, assembling evidence to establish allegations of preferential treatment for certain other department heads, in order to "prove up" his complaint.

2) The allegedly "misappropriated" materials were actually personnel files, documents that would be presumably accessible by Mr. Martinez in the course and scope of his job. The gravamen of the administration's allegations, aparently, is that he took these files home for copying, and "leaked" them to a "third party."

3) At least one of these files reportedly included information related to a "sexual harrassment complaint" which we can reasonably infer to have been internally "hushed up."

4) Mr. Martinez pending discrimination claim included allegations that he had himself suffered pay discrimination, allegedly on account of "race."

Our own confidential sources disclose that the facts heretofore reported are "just the tip of the iceberg," and that there still remains much to be revealed in connection with this story. In the same connection we're hoping to interview Mr. Martinez, who has a standing invitation to bring forth his side of the story here, assuming he can clear some kind of statement through his own attorney. Among other things, we've also learned from independant sources that Mr. Martinez had been a little too cozy with local union reps for Boss Godfrey's comfort, a circumstance which would have caused "job security" problems, even in the absense of a formal discrimination complaint. Mr. Martinez had reportedly been actively working to build up a relationship of trust between his own Human Resources Department and Emerald City employees, a situation which administration officials simply would not tolerate. As we all know, Boss Godfrey rules the Emerald City Republic with a fist of iron. From his lofty perch on the Emerald City Hall ninth floor, Emerald City employees appear no more significance than ants.

We post this article today as a heads-up to our readers. You can be assurred we'll be closely following this story as it develops -- which we believe it will.

In the meantime... the floor is open. Feel free to discuss this. or any other topic.

Update 12/13/06 7:05 a.m. MT: Yesterday's Scott Schwebke story refers to a Dean Martinez email in which Mr. Martinez "change[s] his tune about supporting a possible re-election bid by Godfrey in 2007. " Today's Std-Ex editorial page presents, in guest commentary form, what we surmise to be the full text of that earlier email message, in which Mr. Martinez expands his percipient complaints in further detail. It seems that Mr. Martinez believes that Boss Godfrey's "tight" government leadership culture presents a primary obstacle to achieving the diversity hiring goals which were announced upon Mr. Martinez's original hiring. Mr. Martinez is not the first, of course, to remark about Godfrey's apparent all-male, all white leadership hiring bias. Nor is he the first to take note of the vast dissonance between the public Godfrey "talk," and the objectively observable Godfrey "walk."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reviewing and Revamping the City Code

Over the course of the past few days, we've had some spirited discussion in our lower comments threads concerning the issue of re-vamping the Emerald City Code to restore council approval power in real estate transactions involving "significant parcels." Currently, the applicable city ordinance vests that power almost entirely in the mayor, with council oversight and control limited only to transactions lacking adequate consideration. Curiously, the ordinance does provide for bare formal notice and public comments in such transactions -- yet actual council approval power is conspicuously and mysteriously lacking in the current version of the ordinance.

Perhaps coincidentally, today's Standard-Examiner editorial generally calls upon local Utah city governments to review their own ordinances, in order to refine responsibilities vis-a-vis the various branches and offices in local government. "Be certain that your cities are functioning according to the letter of state laws...," the Standard-Examiner admonishes.

The power over acquisition, management and disposition of real property is granted by the letter of state law to the city council, per provisions of Utah Code Section 10-8-2. Under this code provision, "(1) (a) A municipal legislative body may... (iii) subject to Subsections (4) and (5), purchase, receive, hold, sell, lease, convey, and dispose of real and personal property for the benefit of the municipality, whether the property is within or without the municipality's corporate boundaries;..."

Additionally, Utah Code Section 10-3-1219.5 provides as follows: "In the council-mayor form of government, the council shall, by ordinance, provide for the manner in which... (1) municipal property is bought, sold, traded, encumbered, or otherwise transferred;..."

Unfortunately, the former "lame-duck Gang of Six" council amended Ogden City Code Section 4-3A-5 (presumably under dictate of the latter above state code section) to delegate almost all authority for the transfer of city-owned real property to the mayor, (in December of 2005 we believe, during the last month of its term of office.) This ordinance amendment amounted to an irresponsible and inexplicable over-delegation of the council's state-designated property-transfer approval power, in our opinion, and an near-complete abdication of the council's role under state law to serve as a check and balance against the executive branch (the mayor.)

We join the Standard-Examiner in its admonition that "[a] little work could save a heap of trouble down the road," and we accordingly urge our readers to contact their councilmembers and demand that the council act with all deliberate speed to restore to itself 1) the power to reject transactions which it deems to be not in the city's best interests, and 2) the approval power over all transactions involving properties defined as "significant parcels" under the City code.

Restoring the council's proper role respecting real estate transactions would be a fundamental formula for good representative government, we believe. In fact, there is no arguable reason, in our view, that the council should defer to the executive branch in any matter involving acquisition, management or disposition of "significant" Emerald City properties.

Reader comments are of course invited.

Update 12/12/06 10:27 a.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner reports a quick and public-spirited response from the Syracuse City Council, whom the Std-Ex editorially-criticized only a week or two ago, for a purported lack of transparency, in its recent reshuffling respective council-mayor powers. The Std-Ex editors report that the Syracuse Council will tonight host a 20-minute power-point presentation, explaining the council's rationale, and arguing their adherence to state law requirements.

Hopefully the citizens of Emerald City will be invited to a similar power-point discussion soon, wherein our own council will be able to explain the near-complete abdication of their legislatively mandated role, i.e., supervision of Emerald City property acquistion, management and dispostion.

Either that, or they can just fix the danged problem.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekend Kickoff Bits and Pieces

As we enter the weekend, we submit three print media articles for our readers' attention, as another weekend kick-off potpourri:

First, the absence of a palpable Peterson Plan is again strange Standard-Examiner front page news this morning, with an Amy Stewart headline piece, reporting that key local government decision makers still remain entirely outside the Peterson information loop.

Members of the Emerald City Council and Weber State University officials reportedly met in semi-annual joint session last Thursday to compare notes on the Peterson Land-grab. Unfortunately the information available to share in connection with the Landgrab Scheme amounts to exactly zero, zilch, zip & nada.

All the council has gotten from Chris Peterson so far is dead silence, says Councilwoman Wicks. And the council's carefully-compiled 184 council questions remain entirely ignored. WSU officials stand in a very similar position, of course.

Lacking anything substantive to talk about on the subject, WSU and Emerald City officials apparently reverted to a discussion of comparative bureaucratic plans and procedures to review the Peterson Proposal -- should such a proposal ever arrive at all.

We would consider the current state of affairs nothing more than antic comedy, were it not occurring right here in our beloved home town. Unfortunately, we find it difficult to laugh. The stakes are too high to work up much mirth. And it's discouraging to observe our conscientious public officials being compelled to run around in circles, as they faithfully perform the obligations of their public offices. On top of that, Peterson's secretive and uncommunicative behavior has been quite disgraceful, we think.

It's difficult to imagine the current mind-set of our official decision-makers concerning this topic at this juncture. They have a myriad of factors to consider. Still we think it's fair to speculate about what must be running through their minds at this point in the Peterson melodrama. Surely they must be coming to some conclusions, and drawing common-sense inferences about Mr. Peterson's aptitude for following through with his grand-scale project. And in this connection we think it's possible to consider what we'd be thinking, if we were standing in their shoes. If we were the official decision-makers what conclusions would we be drawing -- so far -- about Mr. Peterson's competence, capacity -- and character?

Our conclusions so far are not at all favorable. In our view Mr. Peterson has demonstrated a continuing pattern of aloofness, inattention, secrecy, duplicity and lack of follow-through. His inability to meet deadlines is demonstrably consistent. We think his continuing failure or refusal to keep our city council and WSU officials informed of his progress, if any, demonstrates discourtesy, at the very least, and outright disrespect, in a less-generous-case scenario.

Our official decision-makers ought to be reaching these same conclusions, we would logically speculate. They're only human, afterall.

And what think our gentle readers? Even assuming for sake of argument that Mr. Peterson has the financial capacity to pull off this project, is Chris Peterson the guy you would choose to ram-rod such a grandiose project? Would he be a tolerable public-private "partner?" Is it reasonable to expect that Mr. Peterson's performance, once he's in the developer driver's seat, would be any different from the level of performance he's demonstrated during the 1-1/2 years he's been in the Emerald City spotlight? So many questions -- so few answers.

Secondly, we move to the first page a link provided yesterday in a lower comments section by gentle reader Curmudgeon. The Standard-Examiner printed a fine article earlier this week, dealing with the topic of street cars and trolleys. We invite reader comments on this article.

Finally, we bring to the forefront a December 1, 2006 Std-Ex guest editorial, relevant to the Parklands Land-grab scheme. We find this article to have been particularly significant, in that it comes from a member of the locally-prominent Goddard family. Susie Goddard Hulet is of course the daughter of Jack Goddard, a well-known local real estate developer and financier. We've been keeping this article on the back burner, and have now decided to throw it out for discussion.

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Toward a "Flexible But Firm" Mixed Use Zoning Ordinance

12.06.06 Emerald City Planning Commission Meeting Notes

We just returned a few minutes ago from the Emerald City council chambers, where the Planning Commission held a hearing on the following agenda item:

Continuation of Public Hearing, to amend the Zoning Ordinance concerning creation of Chapter 39 - Mixed Use Zone. (The Ellison Ordinance)

In a nutshell, the commission tabled the matter for further study in a special work session, to be held on January 24, 2007.

We expect to publish our own synopsis/report later tonight, or early tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we're opening this thread for readers who attended this event, and who might have a burning desire to immediately comment on their own observations and impressions.

The floor is open, gentle readers.

Update 12/7/06 8:52 a.m. MT: As promised, your blogmeister links this report, on last night's Planning Commission Mixed Use Ordinance hearing. Please don't hesitate to chime in with your comments or corrections. Dian was under the weather yesteday, BTW, so your blogmeister files this as a reportorially-rusty stand-in.

Update 12/7/06 7:38 p.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner finally makes today's Ace Reporter Schwebke shameless Pro-Godfrey propaganda spin-article available online here.

Gawd save the Standard-Examiner editors and publishers from their unholy alliance with the mayoral "son of perdition. "

Lettuce prey.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Peterson's Attorney Wrote Proposed "MU" Zoning Ordinance

Updated 12/5/06

Ogden Sierra Club December 4, 2006 Press Release:

Records recently obtained from Ogden City show that Tom Ellison, a Salt Lake Attorney representing Chris Peterson, drafted a proposed new zoning ordinance that the Planning Commission will consider this Wednesday.

The city provided the records to the Ogden Sierra Club in response to a request pursuant to the Utah Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA). Most of the relevant records consist of email messages between Ellison, Ogden City Attorney Andrea Lockwood, and Ogden City Planner Greg Montgomery, with successive drafts of the proposed ordinance attached. The earliest draft came to the city from Ellison on August 16. Subsequent revisions by Lockwood and Ellison consisted of minor clarifications that did not alter the essential features of the ordinance (see below for an example). Roughly 90% of the language in Ellison's August 16 draft remains in the version of the ordinance now being considered by the Planning Commission.

The ordinance is titled "Mixed Use Zone (MU)", but it is actually a general-purpose zoning ordinance that could accommodate virtually any type of use. In a letter to Mayor Godfrey dated July 21, Peterson asked the city to adopt such an ordinance, referring to it then as a "Planned Community Development Zone." Much of the language in the ordinance was borrowed from a similar "Specially Planned Areas" ordinance adopted last year in Iron County to facilitate large resort developments. Ellison was also involved in drafting the Iron County ordinance, on behalf of a client who is now developing a resort near Brian Head.

In his November 1 staff report recommending approval of the new ordinance, Montgomery makes no mention of how the ordinance was drafted, or of Peterson, Ellison, or Iron County. Rather, the report claims that the ordinance is intended to allow the development of high-density urban mixed use centers and villages, as identified in Ogden's General Plan. The ordinance itself, however, does not seem to require mixed use, and could potentially be applied to any parcel of land in the city. The ordinance simply states that the allowed uses in an MU zone "shall be those uses specified in an approved development agreement . . ."

Ordinarily, a "mixed use" zone would be applied only in areas where high-density development is desired. It would include minimum density requirements and other elements to encourage an urban, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. Many cities have used such ordinances successfully in recent years to promote redevelopment and economic growth. An example would be Ogden's existing Central Business District (CBD) zone, which was recently expanded to include the River Project.

The records recently obtained from Ogden City also show that Ellison's office played a role in drafting an extensive revision to Ogden's Sensitive Area Overlay Zone ordinance. The revision would remove the current prohibition against building on slopes steeper than 30% within the overlay zone. After a lengthy public hearing on November 1, the Planning Commission tabled that proposal until February.

Another email exchange between Ellison and Lockwood discusses how they should respond to press inquiries about his involvement in drafting the proposed ordinances.


We invite our gentle readers to read the full press release here. It's chock full of details, documents and links, and paints a picture that isn't very pretty, in the face of assurances from certain of our Emerald City public servants, that the two zoning and planning ordinances which are suddenly and feverishly being rammed down the townsfolks' throats "have nothing at all to do with Chris Peterson, or the Mt. Ogden Park land-grab."

Comments are invited, of course, once you've taken the time to read this blockbuster article, and to fully digest the revealing evidence which is meticulously embedded therein.

Have at it, folks; and don't forget to get back to us with your own 2¢.

Update 12/04/06 11:45 a.m. MT: Don't forget Tom Ellison's Iron County crafted, rurally-designed MU ordinance will be coming up for consideration, discussion and/or approval by the Planning Commission, in the Emerald City council chambers, @ 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December Six (6).

And we dutifully provide a handy Planning Commission contact link, just in case some of the folks would like to contact our appointed Emerald City Planning Commissioners, and register our gentle readers' views re this pending idiocy, in advance of Wednesday's commission meeting. (This updated link is also available in out WCF upper-left sidebar.)

Update 12/4/06 1:34 p.m. MT: The danged best reporter in northern Utah is now onto this story. We link Kristen Moulton's afternoon article here. We also thank one of our 'anonymous" readers for the heads-up.

Update 12/5/06 8:14 a.m. MT: The Standard-Examiner's Jordan Muhlestein picks up on the Ellision Ordinance (Mixed Use Zone) story this morning, in classic Std-Ex he said/she said style. The Sierra Club's Dan Shroeder continues to press the argument that the proposed ordinance, drafted and submitted by Peterson's "mouthpiece, is specific to the Mt. Ogden Parklands Landgrab, while Andrea Lockwood, Boss Godfrey, and the usual pack of Godfreyite suspects contend that Lockwood's "revised" version is designed to implement improved general planning/zoning policy only.

Mr. Schroeder argues that the two versions are substantially (and substantively) identical, whereas Lockwood claims her version is new work product.

Adding surreal frosting to the cake, Boss Godfrey's minions now contend that the adoption of the obviously project-specific Ellsion Ordinance is perfectly OK, and grounded upon "standard practice" -- i.e., that it's perfectly normal for a city to completely up-end its existing planning/zoning scheme, in order to accomodate a yet uncommitted developer-suitor.

As an added bonus, the Std-Ex has uploaded both document versions to their website, inviting diligent readers to make their own comparisons between another 18 pages of turgid legalese. You can be the judge of whether the proposed MU ordinance is a brand-new approach, or merely a Tom Ellison knock-off.

WCF Compliments also go out to the Standard-Examiner for its fresh new website design (which is unveiled this very morning,) and to Curmudgeon, for coming up with the brilliant "Ellison Ordinance" moniker.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Hog Farm in Malan's Basin

Meditations on Mixed Use (MU)

By Dian Woodhouse

"In other words, you can put anything you like into such a zone--a sprawling residential subdivision, a Walmart, a hog farm, etc...."

Dan Schroeder - Sierra Club
Weber County Forum Comments
November 3, 2006

When we think of "mixed use" in an urban area, thoughts most likely run to just that--a mix of uses. Small shops, patisseries, coffee shops, boutiques, perhaps with apartments over them--all of this in the mind's eye is charming and pedestrian friendly, a place to browse during the afternoon, get dinner in the evening--in short, an ideal place to be. The first plan by Citiventure for the Junction site, for instance, with its impressionistic, somewhat peaceful artists' conceptions, communicated these thoughts very well.

The proposed Mixed Use Ordinance, however, up for a vote by the Ogden City Planning Commission on December 6th, does not provide for these things at all. Although it is titled "Mixed Use," it does not mandate that land so zoned will be mixed use. Basically, what "mixed use" means in this proposed ordinance is that all previous zoning rules and regulations are out the window, and a developer decides what to do, runs that by the Planning Commission and the Council, and if they approve the project, it's on its way.

No matter what it is. It doesn't even have to be "mixed." It can be totally one thing, as Mr. Schroeder has mentioned above.

Those favoring such a designation point to pesky zoning rules and established standards for development which make it at times very difficult, if not impossible, for a developer to make a concept a reality. It would be much easier, they say, if the developer and the city planning department could work closely together in the formulation of a Master Plan and Development Agreement so as to get these projects going.

For instance, if someone did indeed wish to annex the Malan's Basin area to Ogden City and establish a hog farm on it, perhaps with an accompanying horseback riding enterprise and a drink stand, a mixed use designation could be placed on that tract of land to make this possible. The problems one might traditionally have foreseen with such an enterprise would be negated by the developer's demonstration of "feasibility."

15-39-2, Subhead B, Point 9 of the proposed MU Ordinance, for instance, states: "The applicant has demonstrated the adequacy of the proposed transportation systems, including integration with public transit, consideration of efficient vehicular circulation to, from, and within the development and the provision of pedestrian and bicycle trails and ways within the development and the development agreement contains a mechanism to assure the provision of such services in connection with any development approved pursuant to the development agreement."

Turgid prose, yes, but the fact remains that if the developer could demonstrate efficient transport of hogs by gondola to and from the farm, citing decrease in pollution levels and no traffic congestion, and should that developer also demonstrate the not only practical but picturesque qualities of workers and visitors walking and bicycling among the pens carrying buckets of feed, Point 9 might be pretty well taken care of.

Or, let us take Point 4: "The applicant has demonstrated the feasibility of obtaining culinary water and sanitary sewer services to serve the requirements of the mixed use project in accordance with generally applicable standards of the City, and the development agreement contains a mechanism, etc., etc."

It is well known that hogs do not cook nor bathe, nor do they require the sanitary facilities necessary to humans. Therefore, one would imagine that the supply of culinary water could be quite limited, but would be nonetheless adequate for this enterprise. And if a state of the art sewer treatment plant could be included in the Master Plan, one would have to conclude that the prospective developer had adequately complied with Point 4.

In fact, if one looks at the provisions of Subhead B, Points 1 through 15, a hog farm just might work. Especially since Point 12 states: "The proposed development will be regulated by development standards contained in the development agreement that are appropriate for the size, nature, and location of the proposed project."

In other words, the project will dictate the standards. It need not comply, as projects have in the past, with existing standards. By its very nature, it will dictate its own. Given that set of parameters, anything would probably work anywhere.

But, you say---Nobody would want to put a hog farm in Malan's Basin. For one thing, it's against regulations to have hogs within the city limits. For another, it is counter to the open space provisions in the General Plan, and the MU Ordinance itself states in the very first paragraph that uses must conform to the General Plan.

In response to the first objection, that of farm animals within city limits, the proposed ordinance, 15-39-3, Allowed Uses in a Mixed Use (MU) Zone, states:

"The uses allowed in a MU zone established pursuant to this chapter shall be those uses specified in an approved development agreement for the subject project. The uses shall not necessarily be limited to those uses otherwise allowed in the Ogden City Zoning Ordinance or otherwise allowed in any other MU Zone."

Hogs just might be in. Nothing to prohibit them there.

And insofar as the General Plan is concerned, it can be changed. We know, for instance, that amending the plan is listed in the process steps for the Peterson project.

But back to the original objection---that nobody would want to put a hog farm there---suppose someone did? Suppose someone suddenly realized the indisputable truth that the completion of this project would result in us having the only gondola fed, mountain top hog farm not only in the country, but in the world, and that this would have the potential of becoming a major tourist attraction? And suppose that someone came to the Planning Commission with a Master Plan to do just that, demonstrating that it could indeed be done in all the ways that the MU ordinance states that feasibility must be demonstrated?

And also suppose that someone then presented the Planning Commission and the Council with a Development Agreement, which would commit that everything that would ensure that feasibility would be done? Had complied, in other words, right down the line as outlined in the MU Ordinance.

How are our elected and appointed officials going to tell that someone no?

Waffling vaguely around with such statements as, "We don't want one there," or "It wouldn't be aesthetically pleasing," are statements of opinion, based on taste and emotion, and the proposed MU Ordinance has nothing about MU having to be aesthetically pleasing. Only that the developer must demonstrate that it will work, and that certain things, like sanitation, emergency services, water, etc., will be provided for, and that the enterprise must be described and committed to in a variety of ways which will be outlined in the Development Agreement.

In fact, if faced with a developer who has provided a Master Plan and a Development Agreement, and who had meticulously complied with the feasibility and descriptive requirements outlined in the MU Ordinance, the Planning Commission and the Ogden City Council would be hard pressed to find any reason to deny the proposed development.

Even if nobody wanted it but the developer.

Which, one suspects, is one of the reasons that the MU Ordinance is being proposed in the first place.

It seems that the only rules that the developer will have to follow under the MU Ordinance will be the rules outlined in the Development Agreement, which will be written by the Developer and approved by the Planning Commission and the Ogden City Council, and also with the vague term, "generally applicable standards of the City." We look at that approval process as a safeguard, but in jettisoning current regulations in favor of a procedure outlined in a Development Agreement, it might happen that there would be something undesirable not dealt with, that need not be dealt with, in that Agreement that might otherwise provide a legally based reason to deny, but since it wouldn't be in the Agreement, there would be no justification for denial.

If there is no justification for denial, the only course that will remain open to the Commission and Council will be to approve.

Although the zoning regulations and established standards in the present codes may very well be cumbersome and difficult to work within, they also serve the purpose of giving our officials some backing for the decisions they make. One would think it would be much easier to waive an existing ordinance in a special case than it would be to have no ordinances at all to back up one's decisions. The proposed MU Ordinance could be viewed in terms of being an extreme pendulum effect, swinging from having too many rules and regulations to having none at all, and making them up as we go. And while that might provide all kinds of freedom for development to proceed unhindered, it also might give rise to some very negative situations, too.

The Planning Commission votes on the MU Ordinance on Wednesday, December 6th, at 5 PM in the City Council Chambers.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

GRAMA Case Update and Some Sage Advice

Standard-Examiner managing editor Andy Howell this morning provides his readers an update on the status of the St-Ex's case against the Emerald City council, concerning the council's denial of his newspaper's council applicant information GRAMA request.

HOT SEAT: Based on legal advice, we have decided not to pursue our case against the Ogden City Council over public access to applications for a vacant council seat. Instead, we will work to close what I call a loophole in the state's Government Records Access Management Act that allows for applications for appointment to an elected position to be treated the same as regular job applications with a government entity.
As an added bonus, Editor Howell throws in some anecdotal information -- and some sage advice -- for those who have future political aspirations in our 21st-century information age:

What concerns me, however, is that during negotiations with the
city, it was mentioned that some of the 39 applicants feared they and their
supporters would be harassed by bloggers if their applications were made public.

My advice to these applicants is if you can't stand the heat, stay out
of Ogden politics.
A Weber County Forum Tip o' the Hat to the Standard-Examiner for having kept the City Council's feet to the fire on the GRAMA denial issue. And we agree with the editors' ultimate decision. It's time to apply the Std-Ex's legal resources productively, we think, in a manner best calculated to prevent the occurrence of similar problems in the future.

As for Mr. Howell's sage advice, we couldn't have said it better ourselves. Political insiders, machine-cronies and back-room dealers, who've become accustomed over the years to dealing in secrecy, are now put on notice that the lunpntownsfolke will continue to shine a very bright light on the doings of our local government. Public scrutiny ain't necessarily harrassment, by the way.

And in our own cranky way, we'll re-phrase Andy's sage advice slightly, in our own decidedly UN-diplomatic way:

Cockroaches don't like the light of day, and will scurry away when you pick up whatever it was they were hiding under. So long as electrons continue to flow back and forth along the internet information highway, we'll continue to shine a very bright light on everything our public servants do.

That goes double for the six-legged varieties.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spotlight on Transportation Issues

Notes for the 30 November Work Session of the Ogden City Council

By Curmudgeon

The meeting began at 5:15 P.M. with a presentation by Mr. Doug Hattery, Deputy Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council. He had been invited specifically to discuss the pending revision of the WFRC long range transit study, and the three possible new transit route plans, two of which include a route between the Intermodal Hub in downtown Ogden and Weber State University as a designated transit corridor [meaning, Mr. Hattery explained, a corridor with sufficient potential as a transit route that a major investment of funds to improve it would be justified] and one of which does not. Mr. Hattery and Mr. Gregg Scott [also of the WFRC] both told the council that in their view, based on the feasibility studies that had been done by the WRFC, that the downtown to WSU corridor made “the most sense in terms of transit” and should remain in the new Long Range Transit Plan as a designated transit corridor. Mr. Hattery was asked specifically about Mayor Godfrey’s suggestion that if a gondola went in, privately funded, over the same route, transit funds would be “freed up” to be used on projects elsewhere in the County, such for example as a trolley line along Washington Ave. to Riverdale. And so it might be wise, in anticipation of the gondola, to remove the downtown Ogden to WSU corrider from the WFRC long range transit plan. Mr. Hattery replied that in his view, the Long Range Transit Plan should continue to list the downtown to WSU route as a priority transit corridor. If non-public funded gondola is built along that route, all well and good. But [in response to questions from several members], if no privately funded gondola is built, and if the downtown to WSU route is not included in the Long Range Transit Plan, then the city would have to wait some years, for the next revision of the plan [it is revised at four year intervals] before a street car or BRT [bus rapid transit] line over that route would be eligible for federal funds, since a project “must be in our long range transit plan to be eligible for federal funds.”

Don't miss the rest of Curmudgeon's article, which also discusses one of our favorite topics -- what else(?) -- GONDOLAS. Read Curmudgeon's full report here.

We thank gentle reader and regular contributor Curmudgeon for providing this detailed and top-flight narrative; and hereby open the floor for reader comments.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Bad Cop" Guilty of Rescuing Baby Chicks

Another Stange Tale from the Very Strange MattGodfeyWorld

By Gentle Reader Sharon

Matt Jones took home baby chicks which he rescued from a raid on cock-fighting. His crime? He didn't clear the 'rescue' with his superiors!

WELL...anyone who would snuggle up baby chicks and take them to his farm obviously cannot be trusted to do his duty in stopping errant drivers and writing traffic tickets! We don't want "heart" on the force, boy.

Apparently DiCaria is talking out of both sides of his mouth when he states that Greiner had no evident cause to suspend Jones last July for any wrong doing in the alleged wallet snatchings. He was one of 10 officers on duty...and another time, one of 25!!! officers on duty when the allegations were made.

In the next breath, DiCaria states that Greiner proably DID have sufficient cause.

Read all about it in Kristen Mouton's excellent Trib articles yesterday and today.

The cops THINK their internal 4 month long investigation is winding down. It's all in the hands of Greiner's subordinate.

Three and one-half weeks til Christmas and what will happen to Matt Jones and his family? As Matt is quoted, "If they had anything on me, you think they would have fired me by now."

This Police Department under the leadership of Chief Greiner is committing an egregious act against this officer.

I don't recall seeing any other officers who were on scene at those alleged thefts being put on administrative leave.

Did I miss something here?

Will "Santa Claus Godfrey" (making the self-serving magnanimous gesture) order Matt back to work and hand him his gun, badge and car so he can support his family? His cop's pay is not enough...and I'm sure his little ones are expecting Santa to leave their wishes under the tree.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings

Council Notes: 11.28.06

By Dian Woodhouse

Those who looked at the agendas in the Standard Examiner this past Sunday will have noted that most of the third column was occupied by Ogden City business. "Ogden Council/Redevelopment Agency, 5 PM work study session" was followed by "Ogden Redevelopment Agency 6 PM work session," which was followed by a 15 point Ogden City Council agenda, followed by a closed executive session. Following this, the Council would reconvene at a Special Redevelopment Agency meeting, one found out tonight, and the newspaper evidently combined the items in that agenda under the 5 PM work session in Sunday's agenda notices. All this not to commend the individuals involved, but instead to say that this is a back-breaking workload. And if I may, I will state as I have before that the RDA should not be made up of Council members, but instead be a separate body of people from the community. And the aforementioned workload is only one of the reasons why.

Editorial comments aside, the Council meeting convened at 6 PM with all members present. Mark Johnson was sitting next to the Mayor and John Patterson was absent. The meeting began with Councilwoman Jeske reading a resolution honoring the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1481. The list of why this organization should be honored was a lengthy one, and everyone, not just the Council, stood and applauded when the presentation was made.

Next, Bob Bushell accepted a Good Neighbor Award on behalf of Home Depot for the West Ogden Park renovation.

Then the minutes of the Closed Executive Session of October 24th, 2006, were approved on the basis of review by Councilwoman Van Hooser.

Next were three Common Consent Items: Appointments to the Ogden City Arts Committee, an appointment to the Weed and Seed steering committee, and an Honorary Street Name at BDO, such street to be designated "Andrews Way."

This last item was struck from the Common Consent items via a motion by Councilman Stephenson, who informed us that the street to be designated had changed somewhat from the original request, and that therefore this should not be approved at this time. The other two items, however, passed unanimously.

Members of the Ogden City Arts Advisory Board now are: Tami Crowley, Travis Pate, David Wolfgram, Kent Jorgenson, and Richard Scott, all reappointed, and new appointees are: Kate Bruce, Larry Wayne, and Margaret Favero.

Also approved was the appointment of Councilwoman Susan Van Hooser to the Weed and Seed steering committee.

Next were two public hearings, at which no one from the public spoke. The first dealt with moving $360,000 from the Capital Improvements Plan to the Junction Project. This was explained by John Arrington, who stated that this money was appropriated "from potential revenue that will come from BDO." This money was originally designated for CIP on 24th Street, but since that project is not on time, it was decided to instead use that money for The Junction. The street money for it will be used instead for streets in The Junction, as well as sidewalk and curb money with the exception of curb and sidewalk money for sites by schools.

One council member asked if what this did was eliminate the CIP project and put its money in the mall, and it was answered that yes, that was the case for this year. Understood was that next year the 24th Street project could be reinstated.

Proposed Ordinance 2006-73 to move this money to the Junction site was adopted unanimously.

The next public hearing dealt with the medical bonus for the employees outlined in last week's notes. Mr. Arrington noted here that the bonus will be distributed to the employees through the payroll department. Councilman Safsten asked if this were going to be an ongoing thing, and Mark Johnson responded that this was an option, that an agreement could be made with the insurance company to do this. It was also revealed that there were 88 employees who would not be eligible for this, as they had opted out of the insurance program, and there were also some new employees, in whose cases the bonus would be pro-rated.

Councilwoman Jeske stated that the deductible for a family might be too high, and was immediately contradicted by other council members who said that their personal deductibles were higher, that other family deductibles were higher, etc., etc.

Councilwoman Van Hooser requested that if this is indeed to be an ongoing program, the Council should be informed of what was to transpire with it in writing. "...maybe you didn't understand it," Mr. Arrington said, going on to say that the matter had indeed been previously discussed. At this point Chair Garcia stated that having something for the Council in writing, as Councilwoman Van Hooser had suggested, would be a good thing, and the vote began.

The motion to adopt Proposed Ordinance 2006-74 to amend the budget in order to make these medical bonus disbursements possible passed with Councilwoman Van Hooser and Councilman Stephens dissenting. Councilwoman Van Hooser made it clear that she was not "against" city employees, nor was she against giving them money. "I didn't like the way it came down," she said, "Going to the media first and not the Council." Councilman Stevens also made it clear that his vote was not "against" the city employees, but rather that an option had been available to have a portion of the insurance rebate ($150,000) go to the city and a portion ($157,000) go to the employees. Characterizing this option as "a win/win situation," he stated that there were many areas in which that money could have been used beneficially had the city obtained it.

Next, there was a presentation by Greg Montgomery regarding signs, always a hot issue in Ogden. Proposed Ordinance 2006-77, which passed unanimously and had no public comment, will amend Section 18 of the Ogden Municipal Code. "The city must follow state law," Councilman Safsten said, and hoped that "if we have new signs, they are more appropriately placed."

Next, under Administrative Reports, was some departmental reorganization. The background to this was presented as follows by Mr. Binford: In June of 2003, Engineering was moved from Public Works to Community and Economic Development. Building Services was then moved to Engineering. What Proposed Ordinances 2006-78 and 2006-79 will basically do is put things back to the way they were before June of 2003. The Ordinances will also eliminate two positions.

"It's the same people doing the same job reporting to a different person," Mr. Binford said. Also mentioned briefly was the fact that Mr. Harmer "is including the development community," meaning, one assumes, feedback from it, in this reorganization, in order, one assumes again, to ensure that it will be a satisfactory method for that community to work with the city.

"It's important to be always looking for ways to do things more efficiently," Councilman Stephenson said, and the motion to adopt both these ordinances passed unanimously.

The final item under Administrative Reports was Proposed Ordinance 2006-80, which revised fees for the Fire Department Reports that are sent to insurance companies. It will be $15 for a normal report and $25 for an investigative one, and it was mentioned that these fees had not been raised in thirteen years. The ordinance passed unanimously.

Under New Business, it was brought up that the Council might wish to consider canceling its regularly scheduled meeting which fell on December 26th, 2006. This the Council did, considering and canceling in record time.

There were no public comments, but there were some from Administration, Staff, and Council.

Mayor Godfrey addressed the mention of the perception that Ogden was a business unfriendly city. "We are not satisfied with the perceptions that are out there," he said, and went on to state that he did not wish people to think that Ogden was unfriendly to business. On the contrary, he wished Ogden to be a leader in facilitating businesses, and the reorganization of the departments mentioned above was a step in that direction.

Council Executive Director Bill Cook made mention of the passing of John Wolf, a former Ogden City Council Member.

Councilman Stephens spoke in favor of the reorganization, stating that it "shows we have an innovative city." He also wished to pay tribute to those who organized the Christmas Parade, stating that our ushering in of the holiday season was one of the top in the state.

Councilwoman Jeske agreed with this last, and also wished to commend the staff who put lights on the trees and made the municipal gardens look so beautiful.

The meeting then adjourned into Closed Executive Session.

Not having stayed through this to attend the subsequent Special RDA meeting, I shall post its salient agenda items here:

Mall Parking Structure Phase II. Proposed Resolution #2006-18 approving the Planning Commission recommendations for Phase II of the Ogden Entertainment Center Parking Structure. (...roll call vote.)

Mall Plaza Design. Resolution #2006-20 approving the design of the Ogden Entertainment Center Plaza. (...roll call vote.)

Public Hearing: Budget Opening for Mall Parking Structure and Plaza. Proposed Resolution 2006-17 amending the budget for the Fiscal Year July 1 2006 to June 20, 2007, by increasing the anticipated revenues and transfers for gross increases of $14,810,213.00 from sources as detailed in the body of this resolution, and increasing ther appropriations for a gross increase of $14,810,213.00 as detailed in the body of this resolution. (...roll call vote.)

Public Comments, etc.

Perhaps someone will write in and tell us how that went.

Update 11/29/06 9:55 a.m. MT: Scott Schwebke writes in with his 2¢.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Malan's Basin Resort "Feasibility" Reprised

As our gentle readers will recall, we first published Don Wilson's Malan's Basin Feasibility Opinion Letter , embedded within within one of our main articles on September 20, 2006. The Standard-Examiner also published an abbreviated version on September 23, 2006. This letter, which had been originally prepared and submitted to the Emerald City council on July 15 2006, represents, in our view, the most significant document publicly released to date, regarding the feasibility of establishing a ski-industry type resort in Malan's Basin. This document has been cited repeatedly by various members of the community since its public dissemination, and our above-linked archived article remains one of the most frequently visited and emailed pages on Weber County Forum.

The unique combination of Mr. Wilson's professional engineering and ski area management backgrounds has made Mr. Wilson's letter impossible to ignore, and it certainly has not suffered that fate -- except by Mind-numbed Emerald City Gondolists, who have been deafeningly silent to date on the issues raised by Mr. Wilson, and who seem to wish the letter would just "go away."

The continuing silence is broken at least slightly by today's Kristen Moulton article however, which reprises the Wilson letter issues, and provides a few meager responses, from none other than the usually-elusive Chris Peterson himself.

We invite our gentle readers to read Kristen's article, and to compare Mr. Peterson's tangential responses with the robust and precise information provided in Mr. Wilson's letter.

As an added bonus, we also link here the full text of the responsive November 17, 2006 Chris Peterson email, to which Ms. Moulton refers in her article. We'll add that we have received this foregoing text from several different sources over the past week, under circumstances which lead us to believe this particular material is entirely accurate and authentic.

We'll resist the temptation to offer our own additional snarky editorial comments, except to suggest that Mr. Peterson's foregoing email text must stand on its own merit (or lack thereof,) and that Mr. Peterson may have inadvertantly provided us considerable insight into one wanna-be developer's intellectual capacity and professional competence.

We propose that our readers use today's thread to work out the cobwebs after a long weekend. What did Chris Peterson get right, we ask, (if anything?) And what did he get dead-wrong? And what objections did Mr. Peterson ignore entirely?

Who will be the first to comment?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread

Blog readership patterns are something we watch with great interest here at Weber County Forum. Blog traffic tends to follow a predictable ebb and flow, with readership steadily increasing on Mondays through Thursdays, and then gradually tapering off on Fridays through Sundays. Absent important breaking news, long holidays such as the current Thanksgiving one, even more strongly exhibit the weekend tendency. This is due in part, we think, to the fact that local print news agencies, upon whom we often depend as providers of topic-springboards, tend to operate with limited holiday staffs, and thus reduce news coverage during these extended periods. Another factor, we think, is that a fair-sized segment of our readership inexplicably find other things to do on weekends and holidays besides blogging, a state of affairs we franky find difficult to comprehend and also deem borderline horrifying, here within the first decade of our brave new 21st-centuryt cyber-society.

Our web statistics also reveal however that we have a core segment of dedicated readers who continue to log in daily, regardless of the condition of the calendar. We've even heard from several of them via email. "Post something new," they beseech us. And it is for those dedicated and hard-core gentle readers that we now resist the impulse to take the rest of the weekend off, and have instead decided to establish now a new Thanksgiving weekend open thread.

We invite our readers once again to chime in on whatever topics suit their fancy, and consider this thread wide open. Your humble blogmeister will be distracted this afternoon, watching his alma mater (Utah) battling the evil BYU juggernaut. We doubt we'll post anything new today, unless our beloved Utah Utes somehow miraculously defy the punters' odds.

Just to get things rolling, however, we're linking three items found whilst googling:

First, it seems that Emerald City employees will be receiving an unexpected pecuniary bonus, just in time for Christmas. We don't know whether this is a good thing or not. Perhaps our gentle readers will share their own takes on this:

City health plan pays off -- Ogden city employees to get $307,138 in bonuses

Next, our readers will recall that we made a great fuss a few weeks ago, about the Emerald City Council's failure and refusal to provide application materials submitted by the five finalists for the recent vacancy on the City Council. The Standard-Examiner was irked enough about denial of its GRAMA request, that it unleashed its media lawyer, it appears. Today's Dave Greiling column informs us today that the impasse has been at least partly resolved, with the voluntary production of materials on another three of the five candidates. We thus invite our readers' comments on the latest posture in this matter. Should the Std-Ex continue to press Emerald City authorities for the release of the other yet-undisclosed candidate information (John Thompson,) or should the Std-Ex just let the whole matter slide from here on?

In the end, Ogden comes through on public access issue

Finally, we link a thought-provocative Michael Moore piece from the L.A. Times, which reflects upon the aftermath of the November 7 election. Like him or not, I believe we can all agree that Mr. Moore makes a few pretty danged good points. Or can we?

Michael Moore's pledge - The liberal filmmaker extends an olive branch to disheartened conservatives (Free registration required)

The floor is open, and we're leaving the lights on while we prepare to occupy our trusty barca-lounger, to obsess over this afternoon's BYU-Utah "Holy War."

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Update 11/26/06 10:55 a.m. MT: One of our sharp-eyed readers got this morning's Standard-Examiner story right in the lower comments thread:

"I just read the Standard-Examiner this morning, city recieves less than expected on settlement from Shupe Williams fire. Doug Stephens says they will have to cut back in other areas to make up the difference.

When are the Council going to relize that this is the same phoney cost estimates always submitted by the Mayor and his croneys. This is so typical of Matt Godfrey and his little over paid bunch of minions."

Keep in mind that this morning's reported half-million dollar shortfall operates in addition to another half-million dollars by which the RDA fell short, when it last January activated a $3 million credit line in anticipation of the originally-expected Shupe Williams $2.5 million insurance settlement.

Of course Boss Godfrey is completely unfazed by all this. And we just loved this Boss Godfrey quote: "'We are not caught in a deficit situation,' he (Godfrey) said Friday. He didn’t provide any details."

That's a million buck shortfall, gentle readers. Have no fear. Be assurred that Boss Godfrey can pull chump-change like that out of his ass, if he needs to. All hail the ever-unruffled Boss Godfrey.

"God save us from God-Free," other more prudent Emerald City citizens wail, as they check their calenders and bleakly observe that the next municipal election/Godfrey referendum remains still nearly a year down the road.

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