Monday, February 26, 2007

An Ethics Pledge for Emerald City Officials?

A proposed Emerald City Code of Ethics is in the news this morning, thanks to this Scott Schwebke story:

OGDEN — The flap over a pending property sale to a corporation owned by would be developer Chris Peterson is one reason the city’s council and administration need to adopt a code of ethics, says Councilwoman Dorrene Jeske.

If such a code were in place, the administration might have been required to inform the Ogden Redevelopment Agency in advance of Peterson’s involvement with Bootjack LLC, before agreeing to sell the corporation three parcels off Wall Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets, Jeske said.

The RDA approved the land sale in December, but only learned this month that Peterson owns Bootjack.
Weber County Readers were of course the first to learn about the "Bootjack" sweetheart deal. Gentle reader Ogden Red spilled the beans here first. And with all due deference to Mr. Schwebke, many of us consider the latest official indiscretion to be something more than a mere "flap."

Although today's article refers to a draft proposal, Ace Reporter Schwebke offers us little of substance, aside from vague reference to some kind of "pledge":

The proposal calls for the council, Mayor Matthew Godfrey and the city administration to annually sign a pledge outlining their obligations to the public, she said.

The pledge would require that all three entities disclose potential conflicts of interest, promise to handle land transactions honestly and perform all duties ethically, Jeske said.
Thus we're left to speculate on the strength and breadth of the said proposal.

As our regular readers know, government ethics is a pet topic of ours. We rant about it often. We're highly in favor, here at Weber County Forum, of anything our elected public servants can do to promote the highest ethical standards for our government officials. We thus applaud Councilwoman Jeske's interest in this subject, and offer our unflagging support for anything she can do to help clean up the ethics of certain Emerald City government officials.

And if we can offer our own suggestions, we'd urge her to incorporate these minimal requirements in any "ethics pledge" which she might propose:

• Full adherence to all existing conflicts provisions under Utah Law (Utah Code 10-3-1301 et seq.),
• Full adherence to all existing conflicts provisions under the Emerald City Municipal Code (Title 2 Chapter 7), and;
• Adoption of provisions which would prohibit acts which would constitute appearances of conflicts of interest, in addition to conflicts which are actual or potential.
And while we're on the subject, we do hope our city council will also devote some attention to enforcing the Utah and Emerald City legal provisions above cited. In the most recent Bootjack transaction, wherein option rights to an unmarketed RDA property were deceptively granted to a Boss Godfrey croney, Boss Godfrey may have already run afoul of existing law. Whether our asleep-at-the-wheel council will ever lift a finger to enforce any of the above provisions is another question entirely. Only time will tell, we suppose.

So what about it, gentle readers? Who among our WCF readership would not be in favor of a robust City-wide Ethics Pledge? Would it be a good idea to adopt such a pledge -- to be taken by all elected officials, department heads and city employees? Dare we suggest that the council begin its own investigation of possible violations of currently-existing conflicts provisions?

Who will be the first to comment?

Update 2/28/09 10:38 a.m. MT: Several readers have mentioned in the below thread this morning's Standard-Examiner lead editorial. Although we thought this editorial to be weak, half-baked and lame, we link it here anyway for the convenience of those folks who don't have their own hard-copy Std-Ex edition... (that guy who logs in daily from Singapore, for instance.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Gushing Torrent of WCF Hat-tips

Kick-starting a weekend open thread

As we approach the weekend, we thought it would be useful to highlight a few web items that have caught our attention recently, but never quite made it to the Weber County Forum front page.

First, we direct our readers' attention to this George Handy letter, addressing the question of the intent of the Malan family and Emerald City officials, at the time Mt. Ogden Park was transferred to city ownership. Mr. Handy is a prominent Ogden lawyer who has clear contemporaneous recollection of the circumstances surrounding the transfer of this property. His letter refers to an Ogden City ordinance which was enacted by the city council in 1962. He also recalls in private conversation that the original deed, conveying the property to Ogden City, contained a restrictive covenent, prohibiting use of the property for anything other than the purposes above-stated. Unfortunately, he has informed us that this document has mysteriously disappeared from the County Recorder's office. Not to worry. Finding that deed is one of George's front-burner projects. We'll continue to maintain contact with Mr. Handy, and let you all know if he comes up with the document. For the time being, we'll rely on the intent expressed in the ordinance.

In that connection, we've obtained a recorded copy of that referenced ordinance from the County Recorder's office, and uploaded it to our storage site. We accordingly link this document here, for the general information of our gentle readers. Readers will note that this 1962 ordinance indeed specifies that this property was at the time "designated and set aside as Mt. Ogden Park and dedicated to the public by Ogden City to be used by the public for Park, recreation and general community purposes."

Mr. Handy's letter makes a fine case for honoring the original intent of Gideon Highley Malan -- that the property be preserved "as a resource to be used for Ogden and not for a private developer. " We obviously couldn't be more in agreement with this sentiment.

Secondly, we direct our readers' attention to a lead editorial and companion opinion piece which appeared in yesterday's Standard-Examiner. The Std-Ex editors rightly characterize this year's Utah legislature's feeble attempt to enact basic ethics legislation as at least a "baby step" in the right direction, (assuming the senate finally falls in line and approves the legislation.) Doug Gibson's op-ed piece is far more blunt:

"We just need to ban all gifts, period. It's that simple."

We congratulate the folks at the Standard-Examiner for continuing to hammer this issue.

Finally, we thank Ogden's Finest for nailing the little creep who pulled two Emerald City armed robberies early yesterday evening. From information in today's Standard-Examiner story we believe it's reasonable to speculate that the perpetrator (who got shot - hopefully in the derriere) may be the guy who's been plaguing Emerald City with a recent string of similar aggravated robberies. We never cease to marvel at the quality of our Emerald City OPD. Chalk up another victory for the good guys.

Weber County Forum hat tips go out this morning to attorney George Handy, the Std-Ex Staff, and Ogden's Finest.

Please feel free to discuss these topics, or treat this as an open thread.

The floor is open. What's on our gentle readers' minds, as we move into another Emerald City weekend?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hoodwinked and Flim-flammed Again

When will the council wake up?

Late to the party again, the Standard-Examiner finally gets around to reporting a story which broke days ago on these very Weber County Forum pages. Chris Peterson's stealth acquisition of three Wall Avenue properties directly adjacent to the new FrontRunner train station is front-page news with this morning's Scott Schwebke piece.

Ace Reporter Scwebke has done some reportorial "digging" since we first published the story, and has come up with some very revealing facts and quotes.

First, we learn that that the principals in the transaction were in fact Chris Peterson and his brother:
Community and Economic Development Director Dave Harmer confirmed that F.L. Peterson and Chris Peterson are brothers and are likely going in together on the purchase of the parcels at 2127, 2131 and 2151 Wall Ave.
The Ogden Redevelopment Agency, made up of the City Council, authorized Mayor Matthew Godfrey in December to sell the land for $270,000 to Bootjack LLC, operated by F.L. Peterson.
Secondly, we find out that the Godfrey administration wilfully (and fraudulently, we think) concealed and suppressed this highly material information from the Emerald City RDA Board:
A city government official, who asked not to be identified, said the administration sent a memo earlier this month to City Council Executive Director Bill Cook explaining why Bootjack’s ownership was not initially divulged.
“It would have created too much controversy and questions,” the official said... .
Boss Godfrey has been caught red-handed with his grubby little paws squarely in the cookie-jar in this transaction, folks. Boss Godfrey and his soul-less lacky Dave Harmer very well knew that disclosure of the identity of the actual Godfrey crony principals in the Bootjack LLC would cause an uproar; and they thus intentionally withheld this troubling and incriminating information.

Once again our Council/RDA Board has been flim-flammed and hoodwinked by the crafty, conniving and ethics-challenged Boss Godfrey. The conduct revealed here is reprehensible, we think.


The floor is open.

Update 2/22/07 8:42 a.m. MT: Ace Reporter Schwebke again furnishes more particulars on this topic with this morning's story, wherein Chris Peterson finally comes clean, admitting that he's the true owner of the purchase option for the Bloom Recycling parcels. Asked about his plans for the property, Chris resorts to his usual schpiel.: "It's a secret," says Boss Godfrey's very best buddy.

"I think that people will be intrigued by and excited about the plan when it is released," says Chris. We're sure that's true, say we. We are always thrilled whenever Boss Godfrey's cronies are lined up preferentially to reap real estate profits hand over fist, as the result of Boss Godfrey's sweetheart deals.

Meanwhile our dumbfounded council/RDA board sits idly, scratching its head and twiddling its thumbs; and Boss Godfrey continues his unfettered tenure as Emerald City's Rogue RDA Executive Director.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Snoozers Will Be Losers

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul"

George Bernard Shaw
Government Quotes

The Standard-Examiner reports this morning on the progress of House Bill 365, which would restore to Utah RDAs the power to condemn private property for economic development purposes:

OGDEN — It may be easier for the city to acquire private property for the long-awaited Ogden River Project if the state Legislature approves a bill restoring eminent domain as a tool to tackle urban blight.
House Bill 365 would allow cities and towns to use eminent domain if petitioned by 75 percent of property owners with at least 50 percent of the land value within an urban-renewal project area.
“It would definitely help the river project,” Ogden Community and Economic Development Director Dave Harmer said of the bill’s potential impact. “We would like to see it pass.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is awaiting a final reading by the House and, if approved, will be forwarded to the Senate.
The measure is being pushed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns with support from several municipalities including Ogden, said Mark Johnson, the city’s management services director.
“There are a lot of cities that have (blighted) urban downtown areas that need help,” he said.
While sponsors and proponents of this bill are deceptively framing this legislation as a purely anti-blight measure, with important property rights protections built in, it is clear from the above statements of Mark Johnson and Dave Harmer that the true effect of the bill will be to restart the Big-Government Economic Development Juggernaut, to put centrally-planned schemes like the River Project back on track -- and to allow petty politicians like Boss Godfrey to continue to build monuments to themselves -- on the backs of Utah property owners.

What is particularly ironic is that the Utah legislature, which launched a national property-rights revolution in 2005, seems now to be leading the charge on behalf of government schemers and central planners, to restore the power to government to seize the property of private citizens and turn it over to selected private developers. Once again there are elements in the legislature who believe it's okay to balance fundamental private property rights against a vague concept of "public good" -- mostly for the benefit of private developers.

The Castle coalition, a national property rights advocacy group, neatly sets forth the case for the American people below. In this connection, the coalition has assembled the 2005-06 national polls to prove up the true sentiment of the American public, who overwhelmingly oppose the use of the eminent domain power for private economic development:
Tax-hungry bureaucrats and land-hungry developers generally support eminent domain for private commercial development. That’s no surprise. After all, when cities can take any apartment building and replace it with luxury condominiums, or condemn any corner store and replace it with a Wal-Mart, using eminent domain is much easier than buying property from willing owners.

Ask pretty much anyone else, though, and there’s clear consensus. Americans across the nation from all walks of life-regardless of their religious or ethnic background, political affiliation or geographic location-say the use of eminent domain for private gain is wrong. There is near universal agreement that taking private property should not be taken just so someone else can make more money-regardless.

The following polls all reflect this sentiment. Since the Kelo v. City of New London decision, polls all across the country have reflected the fact that Americans find the landmark-and now infamous-Supreme Court decision just plain wrong.

Make no mistake. House Bill 365 is barrelling along full-steam. The bill was approved by the House Rules Committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote. It's no wonder that powerful pro-development lobbies like the Utah League of Cities and Towns consider the passage of this legislation a fait accompli. For a real eye-opener, be sure to listen to the audio record of the House Rules Committee's 2/15/07 hearing. We were astounded, frankly, at how easily the Rules Committee rolled over.

If the citizens of the state of Utah wish to nip this latest attempted encroachment upon fundamental private property rights in the bud, the time to act is NOW!

In our never-ending effort to seamlessly provide our gentle readers the tools to effortlessly contact their legislators, we provide Utah House contact links here. The House vote is not calendered yet, but it will no doubt come up on short notice. It took a tide of citizen input to thwart Utah's land-grabbing bureaucrats in 2005; and now's clearly no time for Utah citizens to rest on their laurels.

Your legislators apparently need to be reminded again about the difference between right and wrong.

Your property could be the next to be seized.

Snoozers will be losers.

Comments, anyone...?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Strike Three

By Ogden Red

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Within Ogden City three strikes and the City Council should rein you in. The Ogden City administration in my book has now taken that third strike with our City Council. But to recount how we got to strike three please remember that strike one was the botched Chianti/Shupe-Williams land sale in which the administration told the City Council that they had a completed deal to sell the Shupe-Williams land to Chianti so the council needed to approve the sale. Chianti then publicly stated that they had no interest in the transaction as the City had proposed it and weren’t buying the property. Strike two was the St. Anne’s Shelter move in which the administration assured the Council that the Shelter wanted to move from their current location and that the Council needed to request money from the State Legislature to assist with the Shelter’s move. We have since learned that the Shelter’s Board of Directors didn’t even know of the discussions with the City and yet the City is still asking the State for money for people that don’t want the money. Now we go on to strike three as presented below.

Once again our administration is up to no good and most people would call this a definite strike three. It has just come to light that the Ogden City RDA has recently sold a very desirable piece of property on Wall Ave. to a crony of the administration for $270,000. The property was sold under an option agreement to Bootjack LLC which turns out to be none other than Chris Peterson and company. A true copy of the operative December 22, 2006 option agreement is linked here.

This property was sold without any public bidding process and involves a piece of land approximately an acre in size, which has tremendous retail and commercial value once the Frontrunner comes to town. It is located on the same side of Wall Ave. between 21st and 22nd Street as the Frontrunner terminal. Of course the excuse that the administration will put forward is that the money was needed for The Junction (cost overruns, which the administration won’t acknowledge) but why aren’t the residents able to bid for these prime pieces of Ogden real estate? Why are these sales made in private? Is the city getting the best price; and why aren’t the same demands being made of this purchaser as with others?

Point in fact is that Bootjack LLC has no stated viable use for the property or timetable for developing this property. More than likely they will just profit off of Ogden City’s administration’s generosity with the residents' money. Remember that when the Union Station Foundation wanted to bid more money for the Shupe-Williams property than the next closest bid by more than, something like 50%, they were told that their bid was no good because they could not give a timetable for the development of that property. Bootjack LLC has neither plans to build nor any timetable. Clearly this lack of consistency in reasoning is an example of how this administration is operating. This latest land sale, and the land’s huge potential for appreciation with the coming of the Frontrunner, appears to represent the administrations subsidy of Mr. Peterson’s development efforts with our money. With the Frontrunner so close to arrival, why did the city sell this property now? Why didn’t the City get a loan against the property to meet any short term requirements or open the sales up to the public that would have realized the potential of the location and possible offered a much better price to the City than it received from this sale? A public sales process would have only taken 30 to 45 days to complete and this option agreement allows the buyer up to 90 days to close the deal. This sale reeks of favoritism and there is a high likelihood that the City did not get the best price for the property.

Rumor has it that Peterson has suggested that he will offer this property to Weber State University in exchange for property behind the University. Logically one would find it hard to see why the University would find one acre isolated 5 miles from their main campus of much use. The property would need to be much larger for any use other than retail (its highest value usage) and in order for that to happen the city would need to exercise eminent domain on all the houses behind this property. Not that the current administration is above doing that, but one would still have to feel that the University would not find two separate campuses so close together and yet so far apart, to be of much benefit. As such Mr. Peterson’s or the administration’s use of this excuse as to the potential use of this land is to say the least once again lacking for reasonability. Secondly, if the University doesn’t show any interest in the property, then we have squarely placed an administrative crony in the middle of any future real estate dealings involving property on that side of Wall Avenue.

What is very apparent here is that as a friend to the administration, the City is for sale and as a resident you are expected to pay for that friendship. It’s about time that the residents of the City start expressing their discontent with this out of control administration that operates behind the closed door, under the table and has excuses for everything after the fact.

It’s about time that the City Council starts counting up the strikes and starts to meaningfully change the way that they conduct business with this administration.

The administration shows no respect for the City Council’s authority in their dealings with the Council and shows no intent on changing that either. This administration has shown that they cannot be relied upon to operate within the legislative intent of the law, something that has worked with prior administrations. The current administration feels that the end justifies the means, so if the Council interferes with the administration, the administration simply goes around the Council, or doesn’t provide the Council with the needed information to make an informed decision or doesn’t tell the Council about something until it’s a done deal. The Council needs to start enacting resolutions that require their approval before things happen in this City rather than after they have happened.

It is each City Council Member’s responsibility of office to be the checks and balances to the administration and it is each City Council Member’s responsibility to write if needed or to amend the City Laws to make sure that the administration operates within the City Laws and their intended meaning.

The Council should consider their staffs as assistants to that purpose but understand that they can only provide a basic frame work for any resolution that needs to be amended. Any Council Member that expects anything more from their staff is shirking their own responsibility of the position. The Council Members need to be the ones that generate the amended language to any modified resolution and the Council need to discuss these proposed additions to the resolution with other Council Members in order to arrive at a majority agreed upon intent and wording. Council members are the checks and balances, not the staff. The City Council cannot allow these recent types of actions by the administration to continue.

The Council needs to add stronger language to all our City Laws that in effect will require the administration to fully inform and seek the Council’s prior approval before the administration makes any moves that involve the Council's involvement or consent, a modification that wasn’t needed with previous administrations.

This is be the only way to safeguard our community from the administration's uncontrolled actions and the only way to protect the Council from further administration actions that end up as a Council embarrassment.

The City Council cannot consider that they are doing their job if they allow these types of actions by the administration to continue. This property sale to Mr. Peterson can only be called one thing, strike three.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sowing the Seeds of Boss Godfrey's Third Mayoral Campaign Run

Property seizure on the Godfrey agenda; nary a word about gondolas

By Curmudgeon

Several interesting recent stories which might be of interest to Ogden and Weberites.

First, eminent domain powers to take private land, including homes, to sell to other private developers, are it seems about to return. Full story in the SL Trib here. The Trib details the enthusiastic support for the return of eminent domain powers to take private property to benefit another private entity by Ogden's very own Godfrey administration spokesperson Mark Johnson:

"Two years ago, the Legislature stopped cities from using eminent domain for redevelopment projects.

At the time, Ogden's effort to replace homes and businesses in a blighted downtown neighborhood with a Wal-Mart was cited as an abuse by legislators who subsequently put a moratorium on such use of eminent domain.

Under an amendment to HB365 approved by the committee, Ogden would be able to pick up where it left off in trying to acquire homes and businesses in that area north of Union Station - as well as in the Ogden River Project area.

Mark Johnson, Ogden's management-services director, praised the measure.

"This really helps some of the key projects in the city, such as the river project, which is part of the downtown rebirth."

The second phase of the Ogden River Project - a plan to transform 60 acres north of the LDS Temple downtown with new homes, shops and restaurants - has been stymied by the moratorium, he said. "

And then yesterday, there was the opening salvo in Hizzonah Mayor Godfrey's re-election campaign, fired appropriately enough by Godfreyista Councilman Stephenson in an op-ed piece in the Standard Examiner. The evidence of Councilman Stephenson's enlisting in the Corps de Godfrey can be found here.

Stephenson's piece is remarkable as an example of political sophistry at its best/worst [pick one]. It rings all the old Godfrey Gondola Amen Chorus chimes... like wondering what would have happened to Ogden if naysayers back in the day had prevented the railroad from coming here, and likening current opponents to vague un-named plans of the Mayor and others to the non-existent RR protesters in Stephenson's imaginary history. Stephenson insists that we "must" -- all of us -- actively support the plans of Ogden's Mayor to bring new business to the city, whatever those plans may be. Stephenson notes that a dozen companies have come already, and he concedes [somewhat grudgingly] that fast access here to mountain recreation is at least a reason they came. But that's not the major reason they came. What was that reason? Well, let Councilman Stephenson explain it for you:

"However, most of those that I have communicated with admit that the most compelling reason they came to Ogden is the excitement generated by projects and proposals currently under way, and because of the progressive and can-do attitude of the mayor, his administration and other city leadership. "

I found it interesting that nowhere in his op-ed piece does Mr. Stephenson so much as mention any of the following terms: "gondola" or "Peterson" or "Peterson proposal." Not to be found anywhere in his essay. Not once. Imagine that. Nary a mention.

Notice too that at the recent Godfrey-organized "Envision Ogden" announced at its founding meeting that it is taking "no position" on the gondola proposal.

From which I think we can conclude two things: (a) The Godfrey campaign brain trust has concluded that the gondola and Peterson Proposals are not winning issues for the Mayor in his pursuit of re-election. So the Mayor's surrogates like Mr. Stephenson have been directed to keep them out of their campaign screeds. And that (b) should the Mayor be re-elected, all the vague "plans" mentioned in campaign tracts like Stephenson's will be revealed as [ta-da!] the gondola and Peterson proposals to buy Ogden's public open space on the benches and turn them into a real estate development to finance the Mayor's crony Chris Peterson's development dreams.

Just like last time. We know now that Hizzonah was already canoodling with Mr. Peterson about selling the golf course and public bench lands to finance gondolas here, gondolas there, gondolas everywhere! before his last re-election. The Mayor just didn't happen to mention it during the campaign. Looks like he's working from the same playbook this time: keep the gondola/Peterson proposals off the stage as campaign issues, until the morning after the votes are counted, when he will trot them out yet again. And no doubt he will be campaigning hard to elect compliant Council members as well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thanking Officer Hammond & His Numerous Associates

WCF Stands up unequivocally for Officer Hammond of the OPD.

Covering the crime beat has never really been our news niche here at Weber County Forum, but we're going to make a small exception here. As our regular readers already know, we're staunch supporters of Ogden's Finest. And on Monday night, at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, Officer Ken Hammond showcased, for all the world to see, the courage and dedication to public service which we believe pervades our entire Ogden Police Department. We had the honor of meeting scores of Ogden City police officers last summer, during the notorious Vangate brouhaha; and if one theme constantly rang through for us in these meetings, it was the high level of idealism, public service motivation and law enforcement professionalism which was present in every officer we met.

During the course of the numererous newspaper stories and video-taped interviews we've all witnessed on this topic during the past three days, Officer Hammond has consistently revealed himself as the reluctant hero -- the off-duty policeman who merely did his duty -- just as any other police officer would have done. In this manner Officer Hammond gives his brother and sister officers a strong vote of confidence, a tribute which we believe to be well-deserved. It's clear that he believes that any other conscientious fellow officer would have displayed similar heroism, under different fact-sets. Having gotten to know numerous other highly-conscientious OPD officers in recent months, we'll forthrightly say we agree with him.

By this we do not mean to detract from Officer Hammond's individual accomplishment. He is truly an individual hero, in our view. Unlike the Std-Ex editors, we see no point in roundabout rhetorical exercise. To have retreated to a defensive posture within the restaurant where he'd just eaten would have been an entirely acceptable course of action under the circumstances. Taking the offensive, as he did, was a truly heroic act.

Ken Hammond is a genuine hero; and we thank and congratulate him for his courage and dedication to duty.

Having said that, we're going to offer our thanks to some of the other folks who we believe contributed to Officer Hammond's Monday night yeoman effort. In this we'll cast a broad net. There's plenty of vicarious credit to go around, we think:

  • Officer Hammond's lovely wife, who had the presence of mind to contact the SLCPD, and guide them to the combat zone;
  • Officer Hammond's fellow brother and sister OPD officers, who serve with him on a daily basis, providing ongoing inspiration and cameraderie;
  • Management level OPD staff, who somehow succeed in recruiting, training and retaining dedicated folks like Officer Hammond, in spite of the lousy pay and difficult working conditions. Yes, this would include Chief Greiner, whom we will not expect, judging from recent video clips, ever to master the subtle art of appearing either warm, fuzzy or cuddly on camera.
And what about Mayor Godfrey you ask? After all, he sits at the apex of the chain of command.

Yeah -- we caught those TV images Wednesday night, with Boss Godfrey grinning, preening and repeatedly nodding at the cameras. Somehow we can't wipe out last summer's lingering mental images, from a time when The Scowling Boss of Emerald City was busily -- and mean-spiritedly we think -- trying to stick a cheap-skate pay-plan to Officer Hammond and his public safety colleagues. And as ever-gentle regular reader Curmudgeon might offer on this topic regarding Boss Godfrey: "Further [this] deponent sayeth not."

And what say our gentle readers? Did we leave anybody out?

Feel free to use this thread to offer your further comments, kudos or critiques on the Officer Hammond topic. We think this story has definite legs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Traffic Citation Quota System or Not?

We'll let our gentle readers be the judge.

The Standard-Examiner's Jeff Demoss reports this morning what has already been discussed here in a lower thread, i.e., that House Rep. Neil Hansen's House Bill 255 (prohibition of traffic citation quotas) was stalled yesterday in Senate committee by a tied 2-2 vote.

Whereas Representative Hansen contends that a traffic citation quota system exists in Emerald City, Senator Greiner continues to alternate between flatly denying the existence of such a system -- to a possibly tacit admission -- that "traffic citations are [merely] a small part of sweeping performance evaluations that rate officers in 18 criteria."

Similar to being "only partly pregnant," we guess.

Being the curious type, we rustled up copies of OPD's Performance Evaluation Standards (PEP) sheets, and uploaded them in PDF format to our archive storage site. In this connection we link here as an example the PEP sheet applicable to Emerald City's Traffic Officers. Interested readers can scroll down to the bottom of the left colum of page three, where you'll come across the column labeled "citations," setting forth traffic citation standards for "traffic officers." We'll leave it up to our readers to be the judge as to whether a system of traffic citation quotas actually exists here in Emerald City.

We'll also note parenthetically that numeric citation standards exist for all other Emerald City officers, including Traffic Master Officers, Uniform Division Officers and Uniform Division Master Officers and plainclothes.

For the moment we'll resist the impulse to submit the attched PEP sheet to our own micro-analysis. Instead we'll leave it up to our readers.

Query: Traffic citation quota system in Emerald City or not?

You be the judge.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Greiner Shows His Heart

A Weber County Forum Tip o' the Hat goes out today to Freshman Senator John Greiner, who had the sack yesterday to stand up against the Right Wing Socialist parochial school cult.

Jon righteously voted "NO" yesterday to the neoCon "school voucher plan," , i.e. HB148, which will ultimately empower elitist religious schools, promote British/Brahmin-style social stratification, and relegate the "lower classes" in Utah to the educational gutter.

Sooner or later these sappy religious wingnut voucher wackos will have to conclude that we all live on this planet together, or the "lower classes" will one day soon be storming the gates of those who would think they can live in a cultural "Beaver Cleaver" bubble during the upcoming 21st century.

We heartily congratulate Senator Jon Greiner for his good sense, even though he came out on the short side of the vote -- this time, at least.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Six-Month Zoning Amendment Moratorium Perchance?

Updated with Curmudgeon's Detailed Planning Commisssion Notes

It appears to us at first blush that Boss Godfrey and Uncle Greg got pretty much everything they were asking for at last night's Emerald City Planning Commission meeting, according to this morning's Scott Schwebke story.

Although the commission wound up amending the proposed Sensitive Area Overlay Zone ordinance language to include a +30% slope building restriction, even that slight concession to popular opinion appears NOT to be engraved in granite. As we learn from Curmudgeon's "quick and dirty report" in last night's lower comments section, the slope restriction prohibition will be revisited by the Planning Commission in the near future, upon presentation to the commission of a new "Hillsides Area Zoning Ordinance."

So as it now stands, we now have 1) an SAO ordinance emerging from the Planning Commission for City Council approval, 2) a yet unrevealed Muxed Use Development ordinance which will be considered by the Planning Commission in about a month, and 3) a new Hillsides Area Ordinance, the apparent hip-shot brainchild of last night's PC meeting. All of these ordinances involve foothill development. And now we find them broken up into three separate PC calendars, with one already headed to the Council for approval.

Oh boy.

And by the way... does anybody know what happened to that Mt. Ogden Neighborhood Plan process, which kept many lumpencitizens busy over the last summer?

While some may conclude that Boss Godfrey and Uncle Greg simply have absolutely no clue what they're doing, the skeptics among us could easily make the argument that Chris Peterson's zoning wish-list is now being craftily carved up into little bite sized pieces to be handed to the council for approval piece-meal. Administration of bad-tasting medicine in small doses is a time honored tradition both in folk-medicine and government. Some of us believe this is exactly what's happening here.

If we had our druthers, we'd urge the council to take the following approach to the flurry of foothill development zoning ordinances which are even now streaming out of the Planning Commission Chambers:

Abstain from approving any of these zoning changes piece-meal. Insist on a comprehensive rezoning scheme. Don't be steam-rolled into altering Emerald City's zoning status in any respect, until all PC recommendations are on the table. Above all, refrain from approving any of these until the underlying Mt. Ogden community plan has been completed, and amended into the general plan. The council demonstrated no hesitation a few weeks ago in imposing a six-month moratorium on River Project Area development, for the purpose of allowing the Emerald City Planning Department to get their ordinance "ducks lined up." We merely propose the same for Emerald City foothill development. What's the big rush, we ask?

Just a few helpful tips from yer old pal Rudi.

The floor is now open for any gentle readers who can explain the meaning of all this.

Update 2/8/07 9:34 a.m. MT: In the interim since the posting of our original article, gentle Curmudgeon has graciously drafted and submitted a detailed and extended article, reporting on the Planning Commission discussion of the Sensitive Area Ordinance portion of last night's meeting. We believe our gentle readers will find the interchanges between and among the various commissioners extremely interesting. Read Curmudgeon's most excellent and thorough report here.

Curmudgeon acknowledges that this article may contain inadvertant recordation and/or transcription errors. As always, readers are thus encouraged to chime in with any alterations or corrections which may be in order.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tuesday Night Council Happenings

City Council Notes 02.06.07
By Gentle Reader Sharon

I attended the very short (one hour) and under attended CC meeeting last night.

Once again we were honored to have the Boy Scouts in attendance. The young men were from Troop 233 and were : James Monson...Citizenship in Community/Nation Merit Badge, Jared Petaine, Personal Fitness, Jacob Petaine, Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge, Dave McComber, Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge and Michael Florence, Communications. If I didn't get their names and spelling right....Councilwoman Jeske can correct me.

It is so refreshing to have the Scouts lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. This is something I've brought up to the Council a few times in the past. So, kudos to the Council and especially Councilwoman Jeske! She's been a Scouter for over 30 years and these fine young men from Troop 233 are from her neghborhood.

After the usual approval of minutes of past CC meetings and some housekeeping that is taken care of in their earlier work meeting, according to Chair Garcia, we were left with two agenda items.

Planning Commission Reports: "Proposed Ordinance 2007=3 amending the zoning map of Ogden City to reclassify as Multiple Family Residential--East Central (R-3EC) property heretofore classified as Cetnral Business District Zone (CBD), generally located along the north side of 24th Street between 578 East and Adams Avenue and the east side of Adams Avenue between 23rd Street and 24th Street."

Mr. Montgomery presented this with a map of the area. This is being rezoned to Residential in order to 'stabilize the area', and as Mr. Stephenson noted to " maintain the character of the neighborhood". Only one person commented. A Mr. Fahid ?...could not catch the last name. He left early. He was concerned that his business which is on the corner of 24th and Adams would be rezoned. He was assured that his business would not be affected and urged to meet with Mr. Montgomery. The gentleman had a rather heavy accent, and unfortunatley I couldn't follow all that he said. Unanimous approval by the Council.

New Business: TREEHOUSE MUSEUM SUPPORT..."Proposed Joint Resoluton 2007=3 expressing support for the Treehouse Museum's request for funding from the UT State Legislature." They've already rec'd $800,000. of the one million they were allotted, and now are asking for the other $200,000. Unanimous approval by the Council.

Chair Garcial opened the floor to comments. Ms. Va. Reyes spoke about the people she represents in the inner city and their concerns that their homes not be rezoned from residential. Chair Garcia responded that he's asked her many times for the list of all the people she says she represents!

Perhaps he thinks there's some redundancy in the representation as HE represents the same people he told her.

A young man, Steven VanWaggenon, who just moved here in Dec. spoke about the "great industries and great buildings in Ogden....they set us apart, we should be taking some serious looks and support our businesses because we're going to have a different caliber of people' coming to Ogden." He then gave a rousing cheer for the gondola! THIS is what is bringing business to Ogden. He said 'let's close escrow on our old buildings..let's restore our old buildings'. He told me after the meeting that he's bot the old Berthana (Dance Hall??)...which is now a strip club according to Mr. VanWaggenon.

Then I spoke. I hadn't intended to bring up the gondola...but....since it was already in the room, so to speak..

I suggested to Mr. W. that he "educate himself. Mr. Peterson's Att'y admitted the gondola is at least 10 to 20 years away!! Also, it's been mighty quiet lately and that makes many of think something is afoot. And here it is. The gondola is back! We have businesses and new residents in Ogden...and there isn't a gondola in sight!"
What I really wanted to address was the lack of lighting downtown. I've brought this up before, and rec'd blank stares.

My husband nearly hit a man on WA Blvd recently...dark night, dark clothes. We were inches from him. The experience left our hearts pounding and we were weak in the knees. I suggested we have OVERHEAD lights on the Blvd, and those 'walking' electronic signs denoting crosswalks.

I urged the Council to "get on with the business of infrastructure, clean water on 23rd East, the welfare of our citizens. Have any of them been in the inner city and asked how many WANT a gondola? Will ride it? (more than once?), How many have $15. to take a one minute ride at the rec center?

Every person I've talked to does NOT want the gondola....and they should get out and actually talk to the folks. Get their heads out of the sky and come back to the ground."

Susan Van Hooser said that she'd had an experience similar to ours..nearly hitting someone. She asked the mayor directly what is being done about lighting? He replied that this is a 'state issue'. Feisty Ms. Van Hooser then asked , 'aren't we meeting with UDOT in March?"...Cook said it was UTA, but UDOT could be invited. Godfrey explained that signage comes from the state....'Well'....Susan pushed..."I think we need a plan to present to THEM on what we need!"

What a gal! Godfrey said, 'we've been talking about this for five years and we've gotten to this point'. HUH? The only point I see is that someone is going to be killed on the Blvd...and there goes another lawsuit against the city!

I wonder if the driver who hits a dark-clothed pedestrian on the unlighted street can also sue the city?

We were the only three speakers. Councilwoman Jeske commented that other cities are buying up their open spaces...and we must protect ours.

Steve Van Wagoner came over to me at the end of the meeting. A very nice young man. He said he's been talking to a lot of businessmen who want the gondola and some of the ski companies are here because of it. (Geiger, he asserted, was not one of them). I urged him to educate himself and get on this blog. Gave him the blog address. I hope he weighs in. Suggested he ask questions of Dan and Tec and the other really smart and informed people on this blog.

Well, that's what happened in our metropolis tonight.

Any misreporting of the facts can be corrected by Dorrene Jeske. Safsten was absent.

Update 2/7/07 10:36 a.m. MT: We link for our gentle readers' attention Ace Reporter Schwebke's Std-Ex story, wherein he reports that the above-referenced Mr. Van Wagoner says he is willing to spend millions of dollars to transform a downtown strip club into a top-flight music venue if an urban gondola project materializes. Why not spend those millions on a classy gentlemen's club -- like this one, we ask? That would certainly be unique! We also suspect this idea would be a big hit with at least one or two employees of the Emerald City Economic Development Department! Heck, the whole "A" Team could use it as an after-hours think tank!

Hey... we're just trying to help.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hansen Anti-Ticket Quota Bill Passes the House

House Rep. Neil Hansen's anti-Ticket quota HB-255 bill has passed the house and is now on its way to the senate for Senator Greiner and his other senate colleagues to now vote on it. This will be an "acid test" for the good homeboy freshman Senator, we think. The House vote on Rep. Hansen's bill was 38 yes and 35 no, BTW.

House Representative Hansen is the only state-level politician in Northern Utah regularly standing up for the citizens of Emerald City, so far.

If all goes well, Our hard-nosed blue-collar House District 9 rep will be "healing our wonderful city," a year or so from now as our Mayor.

How sweet that will be.

Contact your State Senate legislators now, and demand that Rep Neil Hansen's HB-255 anti ticket quota bill become law in Utah...

"Power to the People...right arm!"

Monday, February 05, 2007

Write It Down So You Don't Forget It

We'll kick off the new weekday thread with a wrap up of several Standard-Examiner weekend items which we believe to be of particular interest to our Weber County Forum readership.

First, we link a Sunday Guest Commentary by Smart Growth Ogden's Mary Hall. This excellent guest piece provides a succinct overview of the concept of mixed use development, together with a discussion of Emerald City's General Plan, and the manner in which it was compiled to guide development in our community, as a reflection of our community's collective vision. It also cites a series of "elements" which are addressed in our community's General Plan, and are also common to successful mixed-use ordinances in other communities.

All-in-all, we consider Ms. Hall's Sunday piece to be "must reading" for anyone interested in local zoning issues. And keeping in mind that another mixed-use zoning ordinance discussion is on the planning commission agenda this coming Wednesday evening, we hope everyone will read and re-read Ms. Hall's commentary in advance of that meeting.

Secondly, we direct our readers' attention to Sunday's delightful lead editorial, in which the Std-Ex editors clumsily attempt to clarify their newspaper's position with respect to "Ogden's gondola proposal." What's apparent here, we think, from a reading of the following language, is that even the Godfreyite/Gondolist Std-Ex editors are finding it increasingly difficult to remain nominally "on the fence" with regard to the Landgrab Swindle:

"We urge Peterson to make the specifics of his development proposal public as soon as practical. Until these details are thoroughly aired, we cannot in good conscience throw complete support to, or completely reject, what could be one of the largest developments in Ogden's history."

That's right. The Std-Ex still remains "on the fence," notwithstanding the complete absence of any specific information on what Weber County Forum readers label "The Peterson Non-proposal Proposal." The Std-Ex editors have now taken to mentioning their conscience, however, so we guess that has to be something positive. And the fact that they're at least bringing up the option of "rejecting" this ridiclous concept altogether could be interpreted, we suppose, as a plus.

"Write it down so you don't forget it," the Std-Ex editors say.

"What a pack of gullible and spineless schmucks," say we.

And lastly but not leastly, we link yesterday's fantastic Calvin Grondahl cartoon, which graphically summarizes the current Emerald City political atmosphere, re the Godfrey/Peterson land grab/gondola scheme. Particularly astute readers will carefully note Grondahl's insertion of several of your blogmeister's personal favorite political action motifs: tar, feathers, a rail... pitchforks and torches. If the Std-Ex publisher had half a brain (which it doesn't) it would be handing the editorial board its walking papers, and putting Calvin Grondahl in charge of the whole operation.

So what's on our readers' minds this fine Monday Morning?

Update 2/6/07 7:29 a.m. MT: Mary Hall informs us that the Planning Commission's Mixed Use Ordinance discussion, originally calendered for this coming Wednesday, has now been dropped from Wednesday's PC agenda. "The discussion will be continued for another month," according to Greg Montgomery, inasmuch as "it is not ready."

Wednesday night's agenda will however include discussion of equally-controversial proposed Sensitive Area Overlay Zone Ordinance Revisions. We link here PDF formatted uploads of the most recent version of the proposed SA ordinance, together with the Planning Commission's revised SA Report, wherein PC staff recommend "approval of the proposed ordinance language revisions to the sensitive area overlay zone and the addition of a regulation regarding cutting into hillsides over 30% in all zones."

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