Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ferreting Out Effortlessly the Most Ridiculous Emerald City News Stories Ever

Such stories pop up daily in the Standard-Examiner

A weekend invitation to compare and contrast the intellects of the very brilliant Peter Metcalf and "Dumb Curt"

We find several items of particular interest to Emerald City citizens in this morning's Standard-Examiner -- and in earlier articles.

First is
this Std-Ex "blurb," appearing on the left sidebar of today's "Top of Utah" section.

Boss Godfrey has put his free TeeVee channel propaganda project on hold... until AFTER the election. As always, the sleazy
Boss Godfrey sez he's just trying to be fair, and is not the least bit concerned about possible Utah Elections Code Violations or other legal repercussions.

Next... we find this most excellent Std-Ex letter to the editor today.

Here is the original Peter Metcalf Op-ed piece which letter-writer Woolsey mentions, arguing primarily that outdoor sports companies should ALWAYS stand for protection of the natural environment.

Here is the brain-artery-clogged Curt Geiger Std-Ex retort, which DENIES Mr. Metcalf's assumption that money-grubbing "ski companies" should ever act to protect such natural resources as our pristine Mt. Ogden Park "crown jewel."

We've never had a direct discussion on Weber County Forum about these two recently- juxtaposed op-ed viewpoints. Perhaps its time that we do so now, as we drop into another hot Utah weekend.

Poor mind-numbed gondolist Curt (a purported graduate of Bonneville high-school BTW -- his highest apparent educational life-achievement) wanders off (and embarrasses himself publicly yet again) in his personal attack on an actual UTAH outdoors company founder and CEO, Mr. Metcalf. Unlike Mr. Geiger, Mr. Metcalf is an actual outdoor sports company owner/entrepreneur.

Geiger is, of course, a mere COMMISSION SALESMAN for a Japanese company with a French name, unlike Metcalf, who actually founded and built his OWN company here in Utah.

Dumb Curt then inexplicitly launches into the ridiculous "suggestion" that all the "ski companies" who have as yet "located here" in Emerald City have done so... 'because of the "Godfrey gondola vision.'"

After that, the poor numbskull rambles into a parochial and sophomoric criticism of Mr. Metcalf's very awesome "Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd." -- mainly because Mr. Metcalf's company has the audacity to maintain its headquarters in Salt Lake City (and not Ogden... [nor Osaka.])

Update 6/30/07 2:40 p.m. MT: One of our gentle readers has already sent us some "instant analysis," via a comment, which we've earlier uploaded to our storage site, and now link here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Heads-up for Emerald City Citizens

Per WAPO: "Embezzler Offers Ex-Bosses Some Advice"
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 28, 2007; 11:51 PM

OGDEN, Utah -- A secretary who embezzled $1.12 million from a school foundation has advice for her former bosses: Hey, get better auditors.

Denise Aughney said her crimes would have been discovered years ago if someone would have looked closer. She pleaded guilty in April to theft, money laundering and forgery and was sent to prison June 7.

In an April 28 letter to the Weber School District, Aughney wrote: "I would hope that some things have changed and new policies are in place, that this is not so easily done again."

If auditors "had done their job this could have been caught during any of the seven years. I never changed any information during an audit to hide my crimes," she said in the letter, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Aughney took trips to Las Vegas, Disneyland and Hawaii and purchased a Camaro and a Waverunner, among other items. She wrote checks from the Weber School Foundation to cover credit card bills.

Schmitt Griffiths Smith & Co., the firm that had conducted audits for the district, declined to comment."
Not surprisingly, Schmitt Griffiths Smith is the same company that audits Emerald City, BTW!


Is anybody with a brain (other than Dorothy Littrell and us) watching the Boss Godfrey store?

Does anybody remember Arthur Anderson, Inc.?

"Think straight, talk straight" was Arthur Anderson's earlier, pre-Enron motto, before they became the embarrassment of the accountancy trade.

SGS & Co.'s recent motto seems to be: "No Comment."

Food for thought?

How to promote (and how not to promote) Ogden

By Dan Schroeder

Recently I happened to be at the Union Station visitor's information center and saw that they're giving out a free new booklet that promotes the city's outdoor recreation opportunities as well as selected restaurants, hotels, and other services. The 100-page booklet was created for the Ogden/Weber Convention and Visitors Bureau by a small local company, Out of Bounds Creative. It has terrific photography and terrific text. For instance, the introduction reads:

Don't come to Ogden expecting a typical mountain town.

This is the place that Al Capone said was too wild for his taste in the 1920s. And while we've replaced bootlegging, prostitution and gambling with skiing, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking, Ogden's soul will always be a bit rowdy.

If you want homogenized, we're probably not for you...

Anyhow, don't take my word for it--go down to Union Station and pick up a copy of this booklet. It's really good. Employers should give a copy to every employee they're trying to recruit to come here. WSU should send copies to out-of-state prospective students. Realtors should give the booklet to anyone who's looking at houses in Ogden. I certainly hope the mayor has sent a copy to every company he's trying to talk into relocating here.

Of course, being the negative guy that I am, I can't resist the temptation to make a comparison.

In many ways this booklet tries to tell the same story as the video that Producer Rupert Hitzig made in early 2006. Both tout Ogden's outdoor recreation opportunities, with notable mention of Ogden's historic downtown. The video is aimed more narrowly at companies that might consider relocating to Ogden, whereas the booklet is aimed at individual visitors and newcomers as well. But the basic message is intended to be the same.

The message that actually comes across, however, is quite different. For one thing, Hitzig's video has movie stars: the mayor, Curt Geiger, and Chris Peterson, with shorter appearances by Bob Geiger, Bill Wright, and a couple of downtown business owners. You get the impression that the real purpose of the video was to feed these guys' egos--and that they're giving you a lecture. The booklet, on the other hand, is written almost anonymously and reads as if it's coming as friendly advice from ordinary people like you. The result is that it's infinitely more inviting.

Hitzig's video is a sales pitch, full of obvious exaggerations that put you instantly on-guard. And much of what it says is deceptive, such as the claim that I-80 goes through Ogden and that Chris Peterson "will" build a gondola. The booklet is absolutely honest (though it contains a few inconsequential errors) and makes no promises about the future other than mentioning (very briefly) the FrontRunner's planned arrival in 2008, and the Salomon Center which was about to open when the booklet was published.

The video makes it clear that Ogden's "leaders" actually aren't all that happy with their city and are planning major changes--leaving viewers to wonder whether the city is really so great to begin with. The booklet is much more positive about Ogden, and shows readers that we love this place already.

Although most people won't notice this, I also find it significant that the video was produced by a southern California company, while the booklet was produced by a small local outfit.

Of course the booklet makes absolutely no mention of any gondola. But attentive readers will notice that it includes a couple of photos of beautiful spots that Peterson would ruin.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Subsidizing Urban Sprawl

Local officials seem to be stuck in a highway rut

By Dan S.

There are two articles this morning on a very important topic: Both the Standard-Examiner and the Tribune report that the Weber County Commissioners have voted to put a sales tax measure on this November's ballot. The measure would raise local sales tax by 0.25% (a quarter penny on each dollar), and spend the money on transportation projects. Although the details of how the money would be spent haven't yet been determined, it appears that most would go for roads and much less for transit.

It's important to realize that roads have never been funded this way before in Weber or Davis County. Roads are traditionally funded by the gasoline tax, none of which goes toward other government services. Lately, the legislature has diverted a significant amount of general fund money into roads as well. Roads in new subdivisions are traditionally put in by developers at their own expense.

Meanwhile, the only local tax money that goes to transit is the local option sales tax. If we want to make major new investments in transit within a reasonable time period, this is the only way the Legislature has allowed us to do it. Transit gets no gas tax money (even though drivers benefit from reduced congestion when others ride transit), and transit gets no general fund money from the legislature.

Another important point is that we're already spending vastly more on new highway projects than on new transit (except in Salt Lake County). The WFRC long range plan calls for over $6 billion in new-capacity highway projects in Weber and Davis Counties over the next 24 years. As Commissioner Zogmaister says in the Trib article, this proposed sales tax will "barely make a dent" in highway spending. But if you spend the same money on transit it can make a huge difference. For instance, the tax would raise much more than what's needed to build Ogden's proposed streetcar system (assuming a reasonable federal match to the local funds).

But instead of investing in central Ogden, our elected officials would apparently prefer that we subsidize sprawl in west Weber County and encourage our residents to commute to jobs in Salt Lake.

Well, obviously I could go on and on about this. But I'll shut up for now and just encourage everyone to keep an eye on this issue as the details get ironed out before the election.

Update 6/27/07 1:30 p.m. MT: We find two other Std-Ex items worthy of our readers' attention this afternoon.

First, we encourage our readers to check out this marvellous Sharon Beech letter to the editor. It comes as no surprise that the Godfreyite cult wants to shut her up. She speaks the truth frankly and unabashedly. Godfreyites, of course, can't handle the truth.

Secondly, we suggest our readers take a gander at this most excellent Std-Ex blog article (Mark Shenefelt): Forage, loot and pillage. We swear we couldn't have stated the case better ourselves. In truth, we're filing this blog piece in our file folder, under the heading: "Articles we wish we'd written."

Update 6/28/07 10:30 a.m. MT: Our readers are invited to jump into the conversation in the comments section below, where the discussion has morphed into comments in re this morning's Standard-Examiner article, wherein Boss Godfrey announces his intention to run for the Mayor chair again: Godfrey seeks third term as Ogden’s mayor .

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Godfrey Crony Files a Lawsuit

Gadi Leshem gets a little help from his friends

By Curmudgeon

Very interesting piece in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning by Ms. Moulton.

Here are the opening graphs:

OGDEN - A piece of land that hugs the Ogden River in the heart of the city's redevelopment area has triggered something of a bidding war.

And a lawsuit.

A limited partnership involving Gadi Leshem, a California businessman who has been investing heavily in downtown Ogden real estate the past two years, filed suit May 30 against Raymond and Mary Jensen.

The 2nd District Court lawsuit claims the Jensens refused to follow through on the $310,000 sale of a parcel that is nearly an acre in size.

But Raymond Jensen says that is not true. On Friday, he countersued.
Leshem's representatives, he says, did not close on the property April 30, as provided by the contract.

"I had already closed but they never showed," Jensen said. "They broke their contract."

So Jensen agreed to sell the property at 1803 Grant Ave. to another buyer for even more money.

That sale was held up when Leshem's partnership filed a claim of interest on the Jensens' title recorded with Weber County, a move the Jensens are fighting.

The property is in a prime spot in the 60-acre redevelopment area known as the Ogden River Project, where the city hopes to attract new boutiques, town houses and restaurants.
And from a bit further down in the story:

Raymond Jensen says Leshem first showed interest in his property - and trumped a slightly lower offer - in February, the same day Jensen told Ogden's community development manager, Bill Wright, that he planned to sell the parcel to a Park City developer that night.

"I told the city," Jensen said, "and the next thing I knew, my [real estate] agent had an offer from Leshem."

Wright said Monday that his recollection is fuzzy, but he does not remember telling Leshem that Jensen was poised to sell his property.
Two points possibly worth mulling:

(a) If Mr. Jensen's account is correct, it could be inferred that the Godfrey administration, or at least officials within it, see their role as notifying Administration cronies when a parcel they are interested in is about to be sold to someone else so they can cover the high bid to date. Now, this might not be an ethical problem if they provided the same service to non-cronies about properties their cronies have bid on so the non-cronies could top the current high offer if they wanted to. But in the Bootjack affair, a higher offer for city land by a non-Godfrey crony seems to have been passed over in order to sell city land to a Godfrey crony at a lower price. Imagine that.

(b) If Mr. Jensen's account is accurate [and I realize the matter is being contested in court and his account is disputed], but if his account is accurate, we can only conclude that Mr. Jensen actually tried to sell land that he knew a Godfrey crony wanted to a non-Godfrey approved buyer? What was he thinking? Didn't he get the memo?

Life --- and business --- in Matthew Godfrey's Ogden.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ace Reporter Schwebke Catches UTA and Godfrey Administration Officials with Their Pants Down

A sad testimony to the lack of candor of state and city government officials

The Standard-Examiner's Ace Reporter Scott Schwebke has done a yeoman's job these past few weeks, doggedly digging up the truth regarding what we've been referring to on these pages as Boss Godfrey's Secret Gondola Study. As our readers will recall, Utah Transit Authority (UTA) officials have steadfastly denied making any legal commitment for the funding of further gondola studies. Similarly, Emerald City administrative officials have also denied knowing much of anything about such a study (or studies,) notwithstanding the administration's voluntary production of this Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham Inc. study (they call it a "fiscal analysis,") commissioned by an un-named "somebody" in May of 2006, and delivered (and billed) to Boss Godfrey's administration in November of that year. For those readers who'd like to review the body of Mr. Schwebke's reporting to date, we have assembled (in reverse chronological order) our previous Secret Gondola Study articles in this special WCF collection, within which each of Mr. Schwebke's articles is thoroughly discussed and dissected.

This morning however, Ace Reporter Schwebke breaks entirely new investigative ground, revealing in this morning's front-page headline article that a $247 thousand federal grant was actually funded to the UTA last year, not merely to pay for a gondola study, but rather to fund a gondola plan. We duly incorporate Mr. Schwebke's lead paragraphs here:
OGDEN — An unanticipated $247,500 federal grant to the Utah Transit Authority obtained by a lobbyist for Ogden will allow the agency to fund a gondola plan for the city.

UTA has money set aside for the plan but has not disbursed any because it hasn’t reached an agreement with the city, UTA spokesman Chad Saley said. UTA sent a draft management agreement in December to Ogden’s Chief Administrative Officer John Patterson, but hasn’t received a written response, Saley said.

The city is working on a response to the draft agreement, Patterson said.

The money for the finance-and implementation plan for a gondola system would be provided to the city in exchange for a $247,500 Federal Transit Administration allocation awarded to UTA last year, according to a July 20, 2006, letter from Mick Crandall, UTA’s deputy chief for planning and programming, to John Arrington, the city’s finance manager.

"Ogden city has determined that its preferred use of the funds would be to refine the proposal for the aerial cableway which the city is pursuing as part of a public-private cooperative endeavor," the letter says.

Crandall could not be reached for comment regarding the letter, obtained by the Standard-Examiner from the city through a public records request.

In 2006, unbeknownst to UTA, the city secured the Federal Transit Administration funds which were approved as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s annual appropriations budget, Saley said.

Ken Lee, the city’s Washington, D.C., lobbyist, sought the federal funds on his own without direction from Ogden’s administration, Patterson said.

"He seeks funds when he sees that they are available," Patterson said.

Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he is unsure what led to the Federal Transit Administration allocation. “I don’t know how it came around,” he said.

The funds were allocated to UTA, which applied the money toward the purchase of a new bus already on order for the Ogden area, Saley said.

As a result of the federal allocation, UTA has been able to free up $247,500 from its general fund budget for the gondola plan, he said.
In view of these most recently revealed facts, it becomes painfully clear that both UTA officials and Boss Godfrey henchmen have played it very cagily in their press responses re this story until now. UTA had consistently taken the position that it had never agreed to expend, nor had it actually expended any of its own funds on further gondola study projects. Nevertheless, we now learn that UTA officials plainly knew very well about the substantial chunk of federal cash which was rattling around in a UTA account -- earmarked for a gondola plan -- but they inexplicably elected to keep mum about it.

Likewise the administration had fairly consistently taken the position, preposterous as it is, that it had been basically "in the dark" about the entire matter. (The ever-truthful Boss Godfrey should be reminded, by the way, that his administration is legally-chargeable with any knowledge that his Washington lobbyist/agent possessed regarding this federal grant.)

Now that this new information is out in full public view, it will be interesting to hear the explanations of UTA and Godfrey administration officials about the earmarked federal grant that both governmental entities "forgot" to mention.

Another Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to Standard-Examiner reporter Scott Schwebke this morning. He deserves his community's hearty thanks for his recent great work on this story. This new information ought to have been readily and voluntarily provided to him upon initial inquiry. It's truly shameful that he had to pry it loose via a GRAMA request.

Update 6/25/07 11:45 a.m. MT: For the benefit of our North Ogden City readers, who are being called upon to vote on the North Ogden $2.5 million "swimming tax" bonding proposal TOMORROW, we link this excellent Reach Upward Blog article, providing what we think to be an intelligent analysis of the issues at stake for the citizens of our neighboring city, along with a gentle reminder to be sure to get out to the polls tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Windsor Hotel Residents Told to Hit the Road

New owners reportedly have no clear idea what they'll do with the property; but they nevertheless want the present residents gone

We received this comment this morning from gentle reader Southsider in the previous article thread:

A little OT, the Sunday SE has an interesting story about the old Windsor Hotel, which the current owner (Villalobos) was trying to redevelop.

"The city gave me an ultimatum, either sell it or clean it up," Villalobos said. "I wanted to renovate it myself, but I guess the city wanted to get it done right away."

The Std-Ex website incidentally has a most excellent podcast version of this story too, leaning heavily upon the "human interest angle."

Current residents have been given two-week eviction notices by the new owners. Many of them apparently don't know where they'll be residing a fortnight hence. This story smacks of the same brand of callous disregard for those economically marginalized souls in our community which we've reported other times in this space before. Once again, Emerald City residents who have barely the means to keep a roof over their heads in the best circumstances, have been summarily told to pack their bags and hit the road.

Notably, the new owners are reportedly a little foggy about the prospective use of their newly-acquired downtown property. They'll hopefully know more, once they've consulted with their architect and engineers.

Oddly, they're opting to turn a rent-generating property into a vacant one. That's their prerogative as property owners though, we guess.

Still we wonder if it might not have made more economic sense for these young and eager new property owners to have formulated their plans BEFORE they kicked out their paying tenants. At the $140 a week per unit this fully-tenanted property is reportedly generating, this property appears to be something of a cash cow which could have been sensibly milked by these young fellows, at least in the short-run, while they get their act together.

Maybe these guys are made of money though. Maybe Boss Godfrey wanted the building vacated yesterday. It's stories like these, however, that give landlords their reputation for ruthless cold-heartedness. We think these guys may well be starting off on the wrong foot -- public perception-wise -- and these guys are certainly doing humane landlords no favors.

As for the outgoing former property owner Villalobos, we suppose it was easier to just cut and run, with Boss Godfrey and his henchmen breathing down his neck.

Not every downtown property owner has the grit of a Bruce Edwards or a Michael Moyal.

We're posting this on the fly, in the interest of continuing the discussion which has erupted in the previous article thread. We'll go ahead and move existing comments on this new topic over here. Once we've done that, we hope a few more of our gentle readers will chime in.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dueling CPAs

Dorothy Littrell throws down the gauntlet to a fellow CPA

Back on May 3 of this year, we started off a discussion with an article reporting about the departure from the Godfrey administration of Boss Godfrey's financial guru, Scott Brown.

As discussions are wont to do on this blog, the conversation meandered a wee little bit; and in no time at all our readers were talking about the mountain of public debt which Boss Godfrey has accumulated during his seven-year mayoral tenure. Our reader interest in this topic had been sparked by a Standard-Examiner article published one day earlier, wherein Boss Godfrey had gleefully announced a 9-year plan to pay down Emerald City's "$20 million debt".

Midway through the article comments, one of our helpful and attentive readers sent us a pdf file, entitled Ogden City Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Year Ended June 30, 2006, reporting on Emerald City's audited financial condition as of mid-2006.

We promptly uploaded it to our storage site and linked it in the comments thread, and further reader discussion ensued. Most of us were quite shocked, when we learned -- right there on page 124 of the budget document -- that the lumpentaxpayers were on the hook for at least $93 million in municipal debt, rather than the $20 million which ever-truthful Dear Leader had mentioned only one day earlier. These higher 2006 figures of course did not reflect the cost of the Junction project. We haven't received the final bill for that boondoggle yet.

Shortly thereafter, David Smith, one of our more articulate and conscientious WCF readers, "went public" with this disturbing and dissonant information, in this letter, which appeared in the May 13 Std-Ex edition.

And a little over a month later, the Std-Ex published this stern Boss Godfrey administration retort, penned by none other than Emerald City Financial Manager (and CPA) John Arrington, saying to the good people of our fair city, in essence, that "David Smith doesn't know what he's talking about." "RDA debt really isn't really city debt," Mr. Arrington said (presumably with a completely straight face.)

For those readers who are wondering why we're doing a re-hash of this series of events, we just wanted to refresh your recollections and bring everybody up to speed.

And in this connection we now link the latest letter in this revealing series of correspondence, which appeared this morning in the Std-Ex letters section. Our own gentle reader Dorothy Littrell throws down the gauntlet to her CPA colleague in today's letter; and we provide a short "teaser" excerpt below:

I call his attention to page 50 of the last Ogden City Independent Auditors’ Report as of June 30, 2006 which states:

"The accompanying financial statements include all activities of the City and Ogden Redevelopment Agency (RDA).

The RDA was included because the separate governing bodies of both entities are comprised of the same individuals and the City is financially accountable for the RDA."

I challenge him to restate his comments in another Letter with full disclosure of all current Ogden City debt whether General Obligation debt, RDA debt, Lease Revenue Bonds, Tax Increment Revenue Bonds, Special Assessment Bonds, Section 108 debt, Enterprise Fund Revenue Bonds, Defeased Bonds or Lines-of-Credit which totalled $91 million plus as of last June 30th.

I suggest that Ogden City officials read page 50 of the Audit Report signed by Schmitt, Griffiths, Smith & Co. on November 27, 2006 so they will quit insisting that RDA debt is not Ogden taxpayers’ debt."
We at Weber County Forum await Mr. Arrington's anticipated public response with abated breath. We love to watch professionals "duking it out," whilst dressed in expensive worsted-woolen suits.

Editor's special sub-topic note: There's been some discussion in previous threads about the Std-Ex editors' propensity to unilaterally edit readers' submitted letters. We talked to Ms. Littrell earlier this morning; and she's definitely "steamed" that the Std-Ex chopped the "meat" out of her originally-submitted letter. At the request of Ms. Littrell, we publish the full text of Ms. Littrell's letter, in its originally-submitted form.

We'll let our gentle readers be the judges. Did the Std-Ex editors substantially alter the meaning of Ms. Littrell's letter?

What about it, gentle readers?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Blogger's Manifesto

All libery-loving patriotic Americans are "lefties," according to the old political dialogue

Although we don't consider ourselves part of the "American liberal" political blogosphere, we do deem ourselves to be part of the western European liberal tradition, vigorously opposing authoritarianism, and embracing the concept of individual freedom, which ideals were embodied in the American Constitution upon the founding of this great nation.

Listen to "progressive" blogger "Digby," as she proceeds to "out" her long-running national blogger anonymity, and expounds on the great contributions to liberty which American bloggers provide in "The Information Age."

A Tip of the Weber County Forum Tam o' Shanter to the Democracy for Utah Blog for first providing this most excellent link.


Ace Reporter Schwebke Again Hits 'Em Where It Hurts

Boss Godfrey Henchman clarifies low-ball property value assumption

The Boss Godfrey administration continues to respond to the relentless investigation of Standard-Examiner Ace Reporter Schwebke, who continues to hound administration officials day and night for more more information about the Secret Gondola Study, covertly prepared by the Salt Lake City venture capitalist firm Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham, back in November, 2006.

This morning's Std-Ex showcases yet another article in investigative reporter Scott Schwebke's tour de force expose' series, this time addressing the $2 million sales price assumed in the LYR&B report.

Mr. Schwebke succeeds in setting Administration CAO John Patterson into back-pedaling mode, forcing him to admit that the Boss Godfrey never really intended to sell our cherished Mt. Ogden Parklands "crown jewel" for a mere 5% of fair market value. The Godfrey henchmen just pulled the $2 million low-ball figure out of their... er... hat at the time, Patterson admits. "We didn't want to be accused of padding the numbers," John Patterson said. Like every other assumption in this study, we just "made it up." With luck, adds Mr. Patterson, the city might squeeze as much as $7 million from real estate developer wannabe Chris Peterson, if administration officials play their cards right, [wink-wink.]

Now our regular long-time gentle readers will recall that we've had numerous discussions about the Mt. Ogden Parklands acreage over the past year or so; and we thus confess we also find even the $7 million figure to be pathetically low.

The most useful calculations we've seen to date spring from a reader-suggested comparative analysis of the recently-completed Golf City land transaction, wherein 20 acres of prime South Ogden residentially-zoned property sold for a cool $6 million. Applying the Golf City dollar-per-acre numbers to calculations of the Mt. Ogden Parkland property's 150 or so acres, we come up with a value of approximately $45 million.

So what Mr. Patterson seems to be telling us is that a proposed sale of prime Emerald City foothill property to Peterson at a hair over 15% of calculated fair market value (assuming highest use) would be a good deal for the lumpencitizens of Emerald City.

It's people like Mr. Patterson, supposed guardians of the public pocket-book, who make us eagerly look forward to the upcoming November elections. And remember -- John Patterson is part of Boss Godfrey's A-Team.

Hoo-Boy! We can't wait to check out the B-Team.

We've already seen the G-Team, by the way, and were not favorably impressed.

And before we get the inevitable chain of godfreyite comments chiding us for indulging in an apples-to-oranges comparison, we'll concede that the Golf City property was sold for residential development, whereas at least some portion of the anicipated Peterson landgrab "proposal" would supposedly remain devoted to open space.

With that in mind we'll suggest the true fair market value of the Mt. Ogden Parklands property probably falls somewhere between the figure quoted by Mr. Patterson, and the figure derived from our own calculations, based on a recent comparable sale, valued according to its highest use (residential.)

Notably, Mr. Patterson's comparables consist of two flatland non-residential golfcourses, whereas the Peterson "proposal" (so-called) is predicated quite substantially upon dense residential use.

Equally notably, Mr. Patterson frankly admits that the city has not bothered to order an appraisal. A competent appraiser could of course fashion a property-specific appraisal, calculating estimated value by factoring in proportionate residential and open-space use.

Before we start falling all over ourselves trying to arrive at a proper formula for calculating the true fair market value of the Mt. Ogden property however, the issue of whether we should even consider selling the property at all remains an open question.

And in that connection we'd like to highlight a fine Standard-Examiner article which appeared in yesterday's paper, in which Peter Metcalf, a local outdoor sports company executive, makes a strong case for leaving our Mt. Ogden Parklands property alone.

And before we close this morning's article, we'd once again like to thank Scott Schwebke for his valiant work in getting to the bottom of Boss Godfrey Secret Gondola Study document. And in that connection we offer a gentle reminder:

We still don't know who, if anybody, paid for the study. Any help that you can provide in this regard would be appreciated.

And one more thing. We loved this paragraph, Scott: "A sale price for Mount Ogden Golf Course hasn’t been formally presented to Peterson, who is spearheading the gondola project, Patterson said. Peterson could not be reached for comment." Pure genius! If the eight months missing-in-action Chris Peterson is currently "spearheading" this "project," we'd love to see his performance if he suddenly decided to start "sand-bagging."

Take it away, gentle readers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Godfreyite Freak Out

We gotta stop 'em before Zappa finds out and makes 'em do it in the movie

The lumpencitizens of Emerald City are treated to a virtual feast of red-meat political news in this morning's Standard-Examiner and Salt Lake Tribune. We hardly know where to start.

First on the menu we suppose, however, is this morning's Scott Schwebke story, wherein our suddenly Pulitzer Prize-material Ace Investigative Reporter relates the fireworks that occurred at last night's city council meeting:

OGDEN — Mayor Matthew Godfrey accused Ogden City Councilwoman Dorrene Jeske Tuesday night of trying to tarnish the administration’s reputation over a fiscal impact study for a gondola resort project.

Godfrey questioned a comment Jeske made Monday to the Standard-Examiner in which she likened him to a “pot calling the kettle black.”

The comment was in reference to Godfrey taking the council to task for failing to give him advance notice about their concerns regarding the study.

Godfrey said in a letter to the council he is disappointed the concerns weren’t raised during a meeting he attended Thursday with the council’s leadership just an hour before the questions were released to the Standard-Examiner.

Jeske told the Standard-Examiner that Godfrey had no right to criticize the council because he didn’t inform them of the study’s existence after it was completed in November 2006.

Godfrey asked Jeske during the council meeting to clarify her comments to the newspaper.

The council wasn’t informed about the study because it told the administration it didn’t want piece-mealed information about the gondola project, Godfrey said [with a completely straight face.]

Therefore, Jeske shouldn’t accuse the administration of withholding information, Godfrey said. “You can’t have it both ways,” he told her. Jeske responded that Godfrey seems to have a track record of keeping the council in the dark on important projects.

“There have been several times since I’ve been on the council that we haven’t been given information,” she said. “The study started a year ago. We knew nothing about it.”

City Council Chairman Jesse Garcia interrupted Godfrey and Jeske telling them they would have to continue their discussion after the meeting.

They did [for a little while, at least.]
The article goes on in some detail; but there's one element that Scott Schwebke neglected to fully report: Bad Public Behavior by our two favorite local nitwit ski haberdashers. We got this via email just a few minutes ago, from an Emerald City citizen who attended last night's council meeting:
Tonight was “Beat on Councilmember Jeske night." Bobby Geiger got up during “Public Comments” and accused the Council of trying to prevent the City from moving forward. Councilwoman Wicks answered his comments and so did Councilmembers Garcia, Jeske and Stephenson – all of them stating that the Council did not go to the State to snitch about Godfrey's $900,000 American Can bait-and-switch.
Then the Mayor said that he had only one comment for Councilmember Jeske – he wanted to know why she would refer to him as “the pot calling the kettle
black." Jeske answered him the same way as she did to Schwebke. Godfrey started to retort, but Garcia cut him off and told him to talk about it later.

When the meeting was over, Curt Geiger came up to Jeske and tried to start an argument by telling her that she had a moral obligation [we are not making this up] -- to contradict or stop Sharon Beech from saying the mean things that she does on "The Blog" [WCF, we suppose.] Then the Mayor came over and picked up his old argument. This went on for 5 – 10 minutes, and by then Little Bobby had come over to join in. He and Curt started in again and got so loud that I thought Officer Gardiner was going to come over and break it up. So Jeske then just graciously walked away – she apparently didn’t want to put Gardiner in an awkward situation.
We could be wrong on this, but perhaps the Geiger boys need to take a little "structured" vacation time. Thorazine might be a useful medication at a nice palm-draped spa in the Caribbean. Father-son lobotomies perhaps? Mebbe these boys ought to find a "hobby" a little less stressful than politics.

Next in order of importance, we guess, is a story probably a little more hum-drum, at least from the point of view of jaded Emerald City citizens who've grown accustomed to being mired in expensive and un-necessary lawsuits over the past seven years.

Boss Godfrey has predictably gotten us into another legal mess, according to this morning's second Ace Reporter Schwebke story:

OGDEN — Former Ogden Human Resource Manager Dean Martinez is suing three of the city’s top administrators, alleging racial discrimination contributed to his
firing last year.

Defendants named in the 17-page lawsuit filed in 2nd District Court include the city, Chief Administrative Officer John Patterson, Management Services Director Mark Johnson, and City Attorney Gary Williams.

Martinez, who is black, alleges actions by Patterson, Johnson and Williams resulted in 10 offenses including defamation, infliction of emotional distress, free speech violations and wrongful termination.

Martinez is seeking reinstatement to his former position with the city and unspecified damages for lost wages and emotional distress and suffering. He contends in the lawsuit his annual salary of $63,136 was less than that paid to white managers who worked for the city with similar responsibilities.
Schwebke says Martinez's prayer for damages is unspecified. Kristen Moulton however informs us this morning that Mr. Martinez is suing for at least a cool $.5 million.

And it's not that we haven't already had a heads-up on this. We warned about this probable consequence way back in December.

And what the hell! The 500 grand that Mr. Martinez seeks as compensation is mere chump-change to a big-shot like Boss Godfrey. The important thing is that Boss Godfrey proved why they call him "The Boss."

And why should Boss Godfrey worry about it anyway?

It's merely the taxpayers' money, afterall.

A Weber County Forum Tip O'the Hat to the very tenacious Dean Martinez for sticking to his guns.

We need more stiff-spined people like Mr. Martinez here in Emerald City.

He obviously ain't intimidated by narrow-minded and inexperienced Harrisville "plastic people."

("Harrisville... a real nice place to raise your kids up. Harrisville it's really neat! Churches... Churches... And liquor stores...")

And two more things before we turn the floor over to ya's. One of our gentle readers sent us copies of the two letters referenced in Ace Reporter Schwebke's recent articles. Check out the council's original Secret Gondola Study inquiry letter here. And you can find Boss Godfrey's insolent and juvenile response at this link.

And whatever you do... Don't let the cat get your tongues, gentle readers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Mayor with the Mostest

Boss Godfrey goes on offense with the council as per usual, and also commissions a popularity poll

Ace Reporter Schwebke this morning continues his relentless reporting on Boss Godfrey's secret gondola study, with the news that Boss Godfrey has now fired off an angry letter to the Emerald City council. In classic Boss Godfrey fashion, the Little Lord goes on offense when cornered, twists the facts, blames the victims (the council) and whines that it's the council (and not he) who is "fostering" all the ill will -- cunningly dodging the council's questions all the while:

OGDEN -- Mayor Matthew Godfrey is taking the Ogden City Council to task for failing to give him advance notice about concerns regarding a fiscal impact study for a much talked-about gondola project.

Godfrey said in a letter to the council he is extremely disappointed the concerns weren't raised during a meeting he attended Thursday with the council's leadership just an hour before the questions were released to the Standard-Examiner.

"I cannot see how this kind of action fosters good-will and positive relationships between the administration and city council," Godfrey said in his letter, which he provided to the newspaper.

Councilwoman Dorrene Jeske said Godfrey has no right to criticize council members because he didn't inform them that the study exists. "It's like the pot calling the kettle black," she said.
Councilwoman Jeske hits the nail squarely on the head with her above retort, of course. As the Standard-Examiner has previously reported, the $16,250 Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham study, completed in November of 2006, remained Boss Godfrey's little secret, until it inadvertently came to the council's attention earlier this month.

We don't have a copy of the council's letter. According to this morning's story, however, the letter enumerates two main queries:

The council asked Godfrey to explain a Dec. 22 expenditure of $16,250 to Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham Inc., a Salt Lake City firm that completed the study. The expenditure was later canceled.

The funds were to come from the city's Crossroads of the West Historical District account, according to city council Executive Director Bill Cook.

The council also asked the administration to detail two other financial postings of $16,250, dated March 9, for payments to Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham
Quite predictably, Boss Godfrey's response to the first question has solidified since he was first quoted on the subject a mere four days ago. This was Godfrey's "explanation" on or about June 15:

He said he has no idea what the council is referring to relating to the payment for the study.

"My guess is, there is confusion on who was supposed to pay the bill and it was canceled," Godfrey said. "(Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham Inc.) could have been paid for some other consulting work, such as bonding for the city."
Here is today's version, wherein he acknowleges his understanding of the question, and then blames it all on some dumb clerk in the accounts payable back office:

"It was a clerical error," the letter says. "When the error was discovered it was corrected. There was confusion from some about the city's role versus UTA's role. There is no nexus between the gondola study and the Crossroads of the West."
Yeah... that's the ticket. When under fire, blame your secretary for your problem.

Of course the second council question, i.e., "What about the two other $16,250 LYR&B book entries(?)" remains entirely UN-answered.

We hope for a future Schwebke article about this shortly.

In another related morning story, Ace Reporter Schwebke reports something that Weber County Forum readers already knew -- that Boss Godfrey has been running a pre-election poll. We give due credit to Boss Godfrey for doing this. He obviously understands that his email letters of support come mostly from the Crazed Gondolist Cult Letter Mill. We congratulate his effort to find out how he's perceived by normal, rational Emerald City citizens.

And in an effort to help Boss Godfrey properly gauge his level of popular support, we graciously offer Boss Godfrey free and unfettered use of our own highly-scientific ongoing mayoral popularity poll, which is conveniently located in our right sidebar.

Amongst our gentle readers, at least, Boss Godfrey is certainly "The Mayor with the Mostest."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sneak Preview of Boss Godfrey's "Junction" - Updated

Updated 6/18/07 with two additional eye-witness reports

By Tec Jonson

I visited the Junction last eve.

Was surprised to see admission was boosted to $30 day of show. I don't remember seeing that in the website but "Gotcha's" are what these things are all about. I opted to mill about the outside and smudge the windows with my noseprint.

Pretty decent crowd. Many attractive women. Cost Vida too crowded to sample. Glad I didn't pay 30 bills to wait in line for food. Flowrider seemed to be open even though the promotionals said it was going to be demo's only. Flowrider looks very fun. Can't wait for my turn. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and wanting to return. It is smaller than I pictured but can accomodate plenty. I was surprised to see the flowrider completely enclosed from the rest of the place allowing control over groups and time limits. Although you can view the action from Costa Vida while munching you cannot participate with hoots and hollers being walled off by floor to ceiling glass. The other flowriders I see online appear to be more integrated into the surrounding public areas and eating patios. This enhances the party atmosphere and allows audience participation. If you are inside the Salomon Center and wish to eat at Costa you must walk outside the building and around the side to enter. I may be mistaken but I did not see any passage directly from Costa into Salomon. I thought this to be pretty stupid and cheaping out in the plan. The sound of the wind tunnel from the outside is pretty loud. Sounds like an industrial process.

The climbing wall was mobbed. This place could fly but crowd numbers can be deceiving in the context of debtload. Walking away the crowds seemed miniscule from a distance. Looking down Washington Blvd the sidewalks are still empty, many adjacent commercial property still vacant and boarded up or posted for lease or sale. Ugly vacant lot right across street at 23rd with exposed concrete foundations and undercut retainers. Driving home up 23rd I see hundreds of Ogden's regular citizens porch hopping and enjoying a warm late spring evening. I wonder how many of them were even aware of the happenings down the street. There was as much or more street activity on Monroe between 23rd and 25th as at the Junction and there was no Sneak Peak event there.

All in all, it felt just like another mall but with some unique attractions. It will need to sustain at least this level of crowd day-in, day-out to succeed. Someone here mentioned the spire in front of the theater. I also find it odd. It is indeed reminiscent of many that grace some LDS temples. Could even be sacriligious. These kind of monuments traditionally were representative of a connection to the heavens. Putting this on the front of a movie theater that sermonizes in the form of blood n' guts, extreme violence and profanity, jackass experientials, sexual situations, etc. strikes me as kind of scary. Larry Miller you are a wierdo. I am with Curm. We need to see more intellectually challenging films. Political documentaries are the rage now.

See: "America: Freedom to Facism", "Iraq For Sale", "Loose Change"...

How about some Bollywood. I love Indian cinema. The soundtracks and dance arrangements are amazing.

Well that is my report and I'm stickin' with it.

Next Junction report will be after I try to flail my way to riding the flowrider.

Editor's addendum: Honorary Weber County Forum reporters Jordan Muhlestein and Scott Schwebke also attended last night's "sneak preview event," presumably with complimentary passes on wrist -- unlike Tec Jonson, our own reporter. (Once again Weber County Forum, the juggernaut of northern Utah electronic journalism, gets absolutely no respect.)

Ace Reporter Schwebke offers his keen observations here, and Mr. Muhlestein reports on the special 24/7 OPD security detail, which not surprisingly occurs courtesy of the taxpayers' dime.

Update 6/18/07 7:23 a.m. MT: In the interim since original publication of this article, we've received two particularly thoughtful and additional eye-witness reports of Friday night's Salomon Center "sneak preview." For our readers' edification, we link regular-contributor Ozboy's typically astute and humor-laden "take" here, and Not Pessimistic, Just Realistic's highly-detailed write-up & analysis here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Morning "Three-fer"

A Standard Examiner Trifecta

By Curmudgeon

The Standard-Examiner is packed this morning with interesting articles, editorials and letters, well worth perusing.

First, on the front page, Mr. Schwebke has a story on the City Council's continuing attempts to find out who paid for the gondola financial analysis that was the subject of yesterday's editorial in the SE. Here are the opening graphs of the story:

OGDEN — The Ogden City Council is questioning whether Ogden’s administration funded a recently released fiscal impact study for a controversial gondola project.
The council asked the administration in a letter Thursday to explain a Dec. 22 expenditure of $16,250 to Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham Inc., a Salt Lake City firm that completed the study.

The expenditure was later canceled.

The funds were to come from the city’s Crossroads of the West Historical District account, said City Council Executive Director Bill Cook.

The council also has asked the administration to detail two other financial postings of $16,250, dated March 9, for payments to Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham Inc. The council wants to determine whether those payments were actually made, Cook said.
Curiouser and curiouser.

Next, there is the SE's lead editorial on the opening of The Junction. It is a curious, and slightly schizophrenic piece. It opens this way:

"Some people are calling it a "risk," but as we look at The Junction development taking shape in downtown Ogden, it already looks like a victory to us."

And a bit further on, it berates those who opposed the Junction project from its inception:

"For many city residents, this day was hard to fathom. They predicted certain ruin and financial catastrophe. We know, because we still bear the lash marks: Years ago in this space, when the Standard-Examiner's editorial board encouraged the city to purchase the failed mall, demolish it and create something new in its place, lots of our readers responded angrily."

The editorial goes on to concede that:

"It's true, as we recognized at the outset, that this experiment in redevelopment has been expensive; the city has had to spread a lot of money around in the form of incentives. It's taken a share of profits from the Business Depot Ogden and more than a little debt to make this happen. Now, we hope, the momentum will be sufficient to begin making more happen -- along the east side of Washington Boulevard, north of Temple Square, etc. -- without the city having to prime the pump with taxpayer funds; we'll know soon enough."

OK, let me make sure I have this straight: According to the SE, the Junction is a victory, a success! [Hasn't opened yet, of course, but it's a success!] But the same editorial concedes only "hope" that the city will not have to "prime the pump with taxpayer funds" any further to cover the debt it has incurred already to fund the Junction's construction. Adding, fingers crossed, "we'll know soon enough."

Note to SE Editorial Board: If we are still "hoping" the Junction will be financially successful enough that taxpayers will not have to pour millions more into it, then your boosterism claim at the head of the editorial that it already looks like a winner seems a little out of place. I hope it does succeed. Very much. I hope it is successful beyond the wildest dreams of the Mayor and Council that invested city money in it. But we won't know that for a while. A little patience, please, before announcing victories. Let's let the evidence come in first.

Finally, there is a letter to the editor by John Arrington, Ogden's finance manager. He disputes the claim by some that Ogden's bonded indebtedness is $93 million instead of the approximately $20 the mayor claims. Mr. Arrington explains that "The Redevelopment Agency does have its own debt that is secured by new revenue generated by separate RDA projects. There is no city obligation for those debts, with two exceptions in which city assets were pledged in order to obtain significantly lower rates."

His argument would have been more convincing had he indicated how much Ogden city indebtedness the "two exceptions" involved, but, alas, he did not. [What is it with this administration about full disclosure? Why do they find it so hard?]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Comparison of Two Municipal Budgets

Red-meat material for bean-counters

News is just a mite slow in Emerald City this morning, so we thought we'd set up an open topic thread. This is something we haven't done on Weber County Forum for quite some time; so today we'll let our gentle readers drive the discussion.

As a prelude to that, however, we'll highlight a couple a couple of northern Utah print media articles which report on a common topic, i.e., 2008 municipal budgets.

The first, from this morning's Standard-Examiner, reports on the 2008 Emerald City budget, which was approved at last night's council session:

Ogden approves $107M budget

The second, this morning's Deseret News article, discusses Salt Lake City's newly approved 2008 budget:

Salt Lake City Council adopts $202 million budget.

Being the curious type, we googled population data and did a few quick calculations. Using assumed population figures for Salt Lake City and Emerald City of 182,000 and 78,000 respectively, we find that Salt Lake City operates roughly 20% more efficiently than we.

Significantly, we think, the Salt Lake City budget provides for the hiring of six new firefighters and ten new police officers. And we can't fail to note that we don't hear Salt Lake City citizens griping about dirty culinary water. And while we recognize that our neighbor down south may benefit from some economies of scale which are unique to a more populous city, we don't know whether this accounts for what we think to be an apparent inefficiency gap.

These articles, both published this morning, cry out for our gentle readers' comparative analysis, we think.

Please feel free to dive in with your own comparisons... or... talk about whatever you want to talk about.

Before we turn the floor over, however, we'll also attend to a housekeeping matter. We received one reader report this morning that our blog comment pop-up window has been malfunctioning since late last night. If any other readers are having the same problem, we'd appreciate your notifying us via the "contact" link in the upper-right sidebar.

Take it away, folks!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yet Two More Municipal Election Issues

Big-spending Boss Godfrey poses as a debt-reducer; Emerald City police warn lumpencitizens to lock their doors and buy a dog

By Curmudgeon

There are two SE stories this morning worth noting. The first describes Mayor Godfrey's call to shift more BDO revenues to bonded debt reduction and to build a "rainy day fund" for Ogden. Here are the opening graphs:
BDO revenues may cut Ogden debt
Mayor: $150K a year could eliminate it by 2016

OGDEN — The mayor is seeking $150,000 annually from Business Depot Ogden revenues to accelerate a payment plan aimed at eliminating the city’s $21.5 million general fund debt by 2016.

Mayor Matthew Godfrey has requested the ongoing funding as part of Ogden’s fiscal 2008 budget that will be considered Tuesday by the city council.

The proposal will require fiscal discipline that will ultimately free up money to create a permanent funding source for capital improvement projects, Godfrey said.

It would also establish a "rainy day fund" that could be used by the city in financial emergencies, he said.
Since I suspect the level of city debt might be an issue in the election this fall, I'm not surprised Godfrey is being preemptive in addressing it before his challengers do. Thus he can shape the discussion that follows. Wise of him. And too bad challengers didn't get out on this ground first.

Anyway, two points to keep in mind, I think: (a) the plan is based on anticipated revenues from BDO. I seem to recall at a Council meeting some months ago, the Council was informed that revenues from BDO for the previous quarter were in fact half what had been projected. So I wonder if the Mayor's projections on which his plan is based are sound ones or not. And (b) Mayor Godfrey has been in office for seven years. He has, by some accounts, hugely increased the bonded debt of Ogden City. And now, seven years into his tenure and only five months before the election he is expected to run in, now he's looking for ways to fix the city's finances? The cynic in me wants to mumble something about "where have you been the previous seven years on this, Mayor?"

Nevertheless, suspicions about the Mayor's pre-election sudden interest in fixing Ogden's finances aside, his plan deserves to be examined on its merits. I like the rainy day fund idea [all cities, all states should have substantial ones to help smooth out funding disruptions created by the business cycle... especially in this state where Republican legislators treat every surplus by assuming the good times are going to roll forever, and so use them to cut taxes, which inevitably creates a severe funding shortfall the next time the business cycle tanks... as it will, as it will.] So a rainy day fund is a good idea, so is putting the city's capital improvements budget on a sounder footing, and so is reducing the city's bonded indebtedness. The questions we need to look into, then, are these:
  1. Is the Mayor's plan solidly grounded in real-world projections of revenues, etc?
  2. And if it is, will the plan he's proposing achieve what he says it will achieve?
The answer to both questions may be yes. Or no. What the Council needs to do, now, is examine the Mayor's plan thoroughly and then decide to support it or not. Perhaps that scrutiny has already happened since one Council member is quoted in the paper as strongly supporting the plan. I hope so.

Second, there is a front page story on a topic I suspect will play no small part in the coming election in Ogden. Here's the opening lede:
OGDEN — A steady increase in daytime burglaries has police asking residents to be more cautious and keep an eye out for suspicious activities in their neighborhood. Detective Chris Bishop said teenagers and young adults, about 14 to 20 years old, are working in groups to break into houses and steal jewelry, cameras, computers and other small, valuable items.

While the burglaries are happening in areas all over Ogden, police have seen an increase in Shadow Valley and Ogden’s east bench, Sgt. Kyle Bosgieter said.
The cyber-world eagerly awaits our gentle readers' comments.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

American Government 101 Primer

A free remedial tutorial on the subjects of Civics, Ethics and Logic

By Curmudgeon

Did Bob Geiger, head of Lift Ogden and vocal supporter of the Godfrey administration, cut too many classes in Civics 101? Sadly, that seems to be so, based on the remarkable letter he wrote to the Standard Examiner and which appears in Sunday's paper.

Mr. Geiger is unhappy because Ms. D. Littrell has raised questions about whether Ogden complied with the terms of a $900K development grant it got from the state to convert the American Can building into a High Tech business incubator and educational facility. Ms. Littrell thinks Ogden did not comply and should have to return the money to the state. "Why", Mr. Geiger asks, "would a local resident want to reject nearly $1 million in state funds for our city?"

OK, Mr. Geiger, get out your pencil, listen carefully and take notes this time. There are several points involving basic civics that you should have picked up in high school, and certainly in college, or even along the way as you became a citizen activist yourself.

(a) The grant to Ogden was state money, raised by taxes. If there is a question about whether the money was improperly obtained or used, then any resident of the state is fully entitled to ask those questions. If I discovered that, say, Provo got a million dollar state grant to improve traffic safety in the city and instead used the money to build a public skating rink and marriage gazebo in a downtown park, I'd be pounding out letters to the AG and my state representatives pretty quick. The fact that this particular grant benefited Ogden is not a sound reason to ignore how the grant was used if you suspect it was used improperly. "It may have been improper, but it benefited us so asking questions about it is unwarranted" is hardly a standard of public ethics I'd want to prevail statewide. Nor, Mr. Geiger, would you if you put you partisanship aside for a moment and thought about it.

(b) There is absolutely nothing wrong with a citizen, in this case Ms. Littrell, asking questions about whether the city used a state grant properly. Citizens are supposed to keep an eye on what their government does and to ask questions about government conduct. Yes, truly, Bob. That's what citizens are supposed to do. [Civics 101 yet again.]

So, Ms. Littrell raised a question about the city's use of the money. The agency that gave the city the money then quite properly took her question seriously and investigated the matter. [That's what government entities are supposed to do, Bob, when citizens have questions. Really it is. You could look it up.] The governor's office of economic development then passed what it turned up on to the Attorney General and asked for an opinion about the matter, which he rendered. Damned if I can find anything wrong in that process, Bob... except of course for your apparent belief that Ms. Littrell should not be asking questions about Godfrey administration actions because... well, apparently because she had the temerity to ask questions about policies you liked. But that's they way things are in a democracy, Bob. Americans have a long tradition, reaching back to the 1760s of being, occasionally, downright uppity with respect to their governors, and asking questions, sometimes embarrassing questions, and demanding answers to them. Sorry you'd apparently prefer us to be a nation of sheep, but that's not the way democracy has worked, as a rule, here in the USA. Get used to it.

(c) In his letter, Mr. Geiger identifies a Mr. Tom Owens as "a local obstructionist." Mr. Geiger explains that one of the things that makes Mr. Owens "an obstructionist" is that he "placed a bid on the Bootjack LLC property" which the city sold instead to Godfrey crony Mr. Chris Peterson. Of course, what Mr. Geiger left out of his letter is the fact that Mr. Owen's bid for the property was $30,000 more than Mr. Peterson offered for the property. Mr. Geiger also does not tell his readers that the city sold the land to the Mayor's crony for $30K less than Mr. Owens offered for it. If Mr. Geiger really thinks offering more for city land when it's put up for sale than a politician's crony offers for it constitutes obstructing Ogden's progress, then all I can say is, next time Ogden puts up public property for sale, I hope we get several, in fact dozens, of "obstructionists" offering more for the land than the Mayor's cronies are offering. We should be so lucky.

Finally, Mr. Geiger goes off on a "guilt by association" rant, claiming that Mr. Owens and Ms. Sharon Beech and Mr. Dan Schroeder have said nice things about Dorothy Littrell and [he claims] have "trivialized" Amer Sports decision to move to Ogden. He notes that all appear as supporters of Smart Growth Ogden, and that it's sad that [by implication] SGO is involved in "trivializing Amer Sports as a precursor to cheering the rejection of a $900,000 investment in Ogden."

I wouldn't presume to answer for Mr. Owens, Mr. Schroeder, Ms. Littrell or Ms. Beech, all of whom are fully capable of defending their views. Nor am I authorized to speak for SGO. But I would note that I've been a strong supporter of SGO from its inception, I continue to work with the group now, and to my knowledge, SGO has issued no statement "trivializing" Amer Sports coming to Ogden, nor has it taken a stand on the $900 grant Mr. Littrell asked questions about.

Which leaves Mr. Geiger arguing this: that SGO must approve of everything Ms. Littrell or Mr. Owens or Mr. Schroeder or Ms. Beech does or says on any public matter because they all support SGO on the issues it advocates. SGO defends its views on issues on which it has taken a stand. But to ask it to be responsible for statements it has not made on issues it has not addressed seems more than a little unreasonable. I'm sure Mr. Geiger would find it unreasonable if people insisted he defend statements he had not made on issues he had not addressed.

But just for fun, let's apply Mr. Geiger's logic [politely so called] to his own views. Mr. Geiger apparently thinks it is wrong for a citizen to offer more for city land up for sale than the Mayor's cronies offer for that land, that doing so is "obstructionist." Mr. Geiger is, I'm informed, a veteran of the Marine Corps. From which we can conclude, using his reasoning, that all Marine Corps veterans support selling public land to politicians' cronies for less than others would offer for that land, because Mr. Geiger is a Corps veteran and that's what he thinks.

For the sake of elevating public discussion in the city of Ogden, I strongly suggest Mr. Geiger find a little time to take a basic American government course at WSU. The political science department offers them fairly frequently. If Mr. Geiger wants to apply for a grant to pay his tuition for the course, I'll happily write in support of that. I'd consider it my civic duty.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Mark Shurtleff -- Dead Wrong Again

Hey, nobody's perfect, right?

We find a couple of stories of particular interest in this morning's Standard-Examiner:

First, Boss Godfrey's American Can/Governor's Office of Economic Development grant is front page news again this morning, under a right column headline "Ogden's use of $900 of $900 thousand grant OK'd.":
OGDEN — The city hasn’t violated the terms of a $900,000 state grant used to purchase the former American Can Co. and shouldn’t be forced to repay the money, according to an opinion from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

The city has attempted to comply with the grant contract even though a provision requiring the American Can facility to become a "high-tech center" hasn’t materialized, Assistant Attorney General William C. Loos said in a four-page written opinion released Friday to the Standard-Examiner.

"It seems that they made a good-faith effort to develop a high-tech center and simply ran into some problems," he said.
It comes as no great surprise of course, to those of us who have been following this story, that Attorney General Shurtleff's office would provide Boss Godfrey with political cover in this politically-prickly matter. Above all else, the Emerald City political wonks who read Weber County Forum are keenly aware of certain "political realities."

We think gentle reader Ozboy got it "spot on" in his May 30 comment:
"The Governor, Republican that he is, is not going to go against and embarrass the Little Lord (also a Republican as Curmudgeon is fond of pointing out) in the months leading up to the election.

The governor may or may not like Godfrey, but he is not going to hang him out to dry - ever - for any reason. That is not how it works in Republican and LDS land. Remember, we do not criticize leaders, even if it's true."
And gloating in his high-chair on the municipal building ninth floor, Boss Godfrey could not resist dropping in yet another snarky comment, which left us more than slightly puzzled:
Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he isn’t surprised by Loos's opinion and hopes it ends a strong message to Littrell.

"I hope Dorothy Littrell and
her group (sic) will stop fighting Ogden’s progress," he said.
We're not sure which "group" Dear Leader" is alluding to here. In our experience nobody acts with more political independence than Dorothy Littrell. Dorothy Littrell -- the member of a group? Take it from us, Boss Godfrey. Dorothy Littrell doesn't do groups.

In yet another morning story dealing with yet another Attorney General opinion, the Standard-Examiner reveals (surprise of surprises) that A.G. Shurtliff was also dead-wrong on the law regarding the legislature's two twin voucher bills:

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s voters will get to decide the fate of school vouchers, the state’s highest court decided Friday.

The court, in a 4-0 decision, said the November referendum language will not be changed and that the creation of a voucher program will depend entirely on the outcome of the vote.

Before the decision, confusion existed as to whether the referendum could really repeal the voucher program because the referendum addressed only one of two bills that created the program.

"Should (House Bill) 148 be rejected by the voters … (House Bill) 174 would be without meaning," Associate Chief Justice Michael J. Wilkins read from the court’s findings Friday before a large crowd at the Matheson Courthouse.

The referenced confusion, of course, resulted from an earlier Attorney General opinion, which said that the two bills were independant and free-standing. Yesterday's Supreme court decision pretty well makes mince-meat of our neoCON AG's reasoning and rationale re the voucher situation. We think one Utah Legislator/blogger hit the nail squarely on the head in his article of yesterday:
The biggest loser in this chapter seems to be Attorney General Mark Shurtleff whose legal analysis (and political instincts??) appears to have been dead wrong. I guess Carol Lear and Jean Hill got it right. Instead of trying to fire them maybe he should listen to them. Note to State Board of Education: Keep taking your counsel from your long-time attorneys and ignore the Big Bully. The Supremes have got their (and your) back. I have a hunch a majority of Utah voters will too.
Ah yes! a reference to the voters; an allusion to the ballot box. That reminds us that there's a municipal election in November.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Spasm of Righteous Indignation

Your blogmeister recognizes a great headline when he sees one

We'll direct our gentle readers' attention this morning to two Emerald City-centered articles appearing in today's Standard-Examiner. Each addresses a topic previously discussed on our Weber County Forum pages.

First, Scott Schwebke reports on a main item of last night's city council meeting agenda, wherein the council at long last approved a resolution approving the sale of the fire-ravaged Shupe-Williams property, adjacent to Emerald City's Union station.
OGDEN — The Union Station Foundation got a sweet deal Tuesday night, receiving approval from the Ogden City Council to purchase the former Shupe-Williams Candy Co. property for $510,000, which is $5,000 below the appraised value.

City Councilwoman Susan E. Van Hooser said she is pleased the property will be sold to the foundation because it will allow Union Station to grow.

“The thrilling thing is that it allows them to fulfill their mission to expand their facilities,” she said.

The two-acre parcel is valuable because it keeps the station from being land-locked, said Jack McDonald, president of the Union Station Foundation’s board of directors.

The foundation’s purchase of the property should be finalized by the end of the month, he said.

The property has been vacant since a March 2006 fire that destroyed the Shupe-Williams building.

The sale agreement calls for the foundation and the city to share the cost of establishing a parking lot on the property at 2605 Wall Avenue adjacent to Union Station.

The city will be granted an easement across the property to reach the parking lot.

If the Union Station Foundation fails to make substantial building improvements on the property by April 30, 2012, the city will have the option of repurchasing the land at the original sale price.

We'll assume, at least for the time being, that the Union Station Foundation has plans for this property which go well beyond the establishment of a new parking lot.

A new museum perhaps?

For those readers interested in a little recent but labyrinthine history about this subject property, we link our past Shupe-Williams articles here. We do hope you'll enjoy the trip down memory lane.

We'll also note in passing that our city council still hasn't gotten the concept of relying upon the free market to dispose of surplus properties. Once again, another city-owned property winds up in the hands of an arranged buyer, without the benefit of any competition from prospective buyers in our currently robust Utah real estate market. Take note that even Ace Reporter Schwebke refers to this, in double-entendre, as a "sweet deal."

Significantly, this percipient transaction comes in at nearly the full appraised value, raising the question of what price this property would have fetched, had the council NOT disposed of it by the methods of Joseph Stalin, or even worse -- Boss Godfrey.

Secondly, this morning's Standard-Examiner lead editorial is a good one, we think, "sticking up for UTA" as it does, during a time when that quasi-public agency wears a target on its back. We think the Std-Ex "nails it" perfectly in the final paragraph:
Tension between the Legislature and UTA is nothing new. A few years ago,lawmakers erupted in a spasm of righteous indignation* after finding out that transit-authority executives are very well paid. Before that, in 2003, there was talk eerily similar to this year’s powerplay: giving UDOT authority over UTA. As we wrote at the time, the lawmakers’ inability to direct the operations of UTA seems to be the source of conflict — the Legislature covets what it cannot directly control. Lawmakers always say the reason they want consolidation is to better control costs and to streamline coordination between mass transit and roads. But they eventually come to their senses, because the fact of the matter is that the act of folding UTA into the state’s transportation department — the highway builders — would harm rural Utahns. As we’ve noted during previous skirmishes on this subject, UTA is funded with local taxes. It does not operate outside the urban Wasatch Front. In the Top of Utah, for example, people who live in Rich and Morgan counties don’t have to pay taxes that fund UTA operations they’ll never see within their boundaries Sponsoring lawmakers should consult planning committees like the Wasatch Front Regional Council — it already does an excellent job of transportation and transit coordination; legislators would also find out that the WFRC is unanimously opposed to HB 166. We second the sentiments of the Wasatch Front Regional Council: UTA should remain an independent entity. [emphasis ours.]

For a sampling of the kind of complaints which UTA has been drawing, check out this Salt Lake City blog.

We were on the verge not long ago here at Weber County Forum of having our own beef with UTA, as our gentle readers will recall, over a purported $200 thousand secret gondola study which Boss Godfrey ostensibly commissioned on UTA's dime. Fortunately our concerns about possible UTA financial imprudence were put to rest, in large part because of the ferocious investigation and reporting of the Standard-Examiner's Ace Reporter Schwebke. Stumbling across this crucial document of course, didn't hurt that effort either.

Like the Std-Ex editors and the WFRC, we have continuing confidence in the UTA.

We thus join the Standard-Examiner in urging our meddling legislature to keep your danged grubby mitts off the UTA!

So there!
*Pure poetry

Monday, June 04, 2007

Gotta Love Those Gondolistas

Another revealing Standard-Examiner letter from the Godfreyite/Gondolist brain trust

By Curmudgeon

Interesting pro-gondola letter in the Standard-Examiner this morning by one Milt Neely of Clinton.

What makes it interesting? Well, first, here's how the Std-Ex headlined the letter: "Ogden business owner happy with progress." Why is that interesting? Because nowhere in the letter does Mr. Neely indicate he is a businessman of any kind, in Ogden or in Clinton or anyplace else. Creative writing kudos to the headline writer on that one.

Mr. Neely is happy about "about all the positive changes going on in Ogden," and particularly about the River Parkway, which he enjoys a great deal. No problem there. Good things, and the River Parkway is one of them, please me too.

But then he goes on to say that "the gondola needs to be installed" because "it is a good risk to take." Does he offer any reason for thinking it's a good risk? Any evidence in support of his claim? Of course not. But it gets better. He then says: "I have seen this in another city, and it appears to be a major asset." Does he tell us what other city he has seen a gondola being a major asset? No, he does not.

Mr. Neely concludes his letter this way: "At this time, I would like to raise a middle-finger salute to all the critics who have stood in the way of Ogden's progress. There are those who get things done, and there are those who complain about what is being done."

Of course, it did not occur to Mr. Neely that many of those enemies of progress to whom he so happily gives the finger in this morning's paper [presumably for opposing the Peterson/Godfrey gondola/gondola/real estate speculation scheme] were major supports of and movers behind the various River Parkway projects... the only specific element of progress in Ogden that his letter mentions.

So, he likes the gondola, but he can't explain why; he's seen it work as a major asset in another city, but he won't say which one; and anyone who thinks differently than he does is an enemy to progress to be flipped off at will.

Gotta love those gondolistas. Class acts all the way.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ernest Health Gives Emerald City Another Look

The word is getting out on a subject most of we locals already knew about. Our beloved Emerald City is a fantastic place to live. So says the Salt Lake Tribune's Brandon Griggs in last Thursday's "Culture Vulture" column:

If you believe Bert Sperling, Provo is a better place to live than Salt Lake City, Logan is better than Provo, and Ogden is better than all of them. Sperling is maybe the best-known publisher of books ranking American cities according to such criteria as climate, cost of living, cultural opportunities and easy access to the Osmonds. (Just kidding on that last one.)
Further on down the page, Griggs devotes a special paragraph to our fair little city:

That brings us to Sperling's Utah champ: Ogden, which the book calls "the unassuming, shy but quietly prosperous little sister of booming Salt Lake City." To Sperling, Ogden is the sixth most livable city in the country, helped by high scores for its affordability, its job growth and, frankly, its proximity to Salt Lake. Way to go, sis.
With the string of flattering articles which have appeared recently in the national press, Emerald City is clearly on the public radar screen. Now that we're attracting public attention, lots of folks are checking us out.

In that connection, Ace Reporter Schwebke reports this morning that the long-silent Emerald City suitor, Ernest Health, has again raised its head, and is also giving us a "second look." Frankly, we're wondering what's taken them so long, inasmuch as we're the most livable city in their whole danged entire western U.S. operations region.

Curiously, the Standard-Examiner is still clinging to the the same knuckleheaded yarn that the newspaper mercilessly hammered for a full month during early 2006 -- i.e., that the then wet behind the ears and newly sworn-in 2006-08 RDA Board (the city council) ran poor old Darcey Brockette out of town with rude questions, the first time Ernest Health publicly expressed interest in locating to our city.

"Aggressive questioning" is what the Std-Ex (and Boss Godfrey) stubbornly continue to call it:
In January 2006, Ernest Health abruptly canceled its plans to build a $17.5 million hospital in Ogden after the RDA board, made up of city council members, aggressively questioned Brockette about the company’s finances and investors.
Those of us who actually attended that January 10, 2006 RDA session of course had a completely different take from that of the Std-Ex, about the events which transpired that night. What members of the RDA Board did that evening, as it has done many a night since then, was to ask (quite politely we thought) whether the Ernest Health folks would be willing to 1) disclose the identities of their principles, and 2) provide some basic financial information. The atmosphere was very cordial, according to our recollection; and Mr. Brockette agreed that his company would do so, mentioning that he "expected the Board to do its due diligence," and adding that his company itself was yet to complete its own due diligence.

The real problem, of course was the usual problem: Boss Godfrey. The RDA board had asked for certain information necessary to an important decision; and Boss Godfrey had refused to provide it behind the scenes. Thus the Board had to ask its questions in open session. At the time, our gentle readers will recall, Godfrey's lame excuse was that the new RDA Board had failed to put their information request in writing.

What developed subsequently was a month-long anti-council harangue from the Standard-Examiner, and an extended and petulant Municipal Government Academy Award performance from Drama Queen Godfrey, blaming Ernest Health's failure to abandon its ongoing due diligence, and to immediately sign on the dotted line, on RDA Board over-aggressiveness. Blaming the victim has of course always been Godfrey's strong suit.

This ludicrous meme is just flat wrong, as we pointed out in a series of concurrently-published WCF articles. Our own Dian Woodhouse even managed to have published two rebuttal articles on the Std-Ex pages, one of which still survives online.

Now that the smoke has cleared, and Ernest Health is again publicly expressing interest in our city, we hope that Boss Godfrey will cooperate with the RDA Board. Ernest Health would be a great asset for our city, we think. However, it can't happen unless all the key troops are marching in the same direction.

And while we're still on the subject we're going to say one more thing. Ace Reporter Schwebke's morning article characterised the Godfrey adminstration's efforts as "continuing productive discussions with Ernest Health aimed at persuading the company to build" its hospital in Emerald City.

We think that's the wrong attitude for these negotiations.

We suggest that Godfrey and his henchmen read Mr. Griggs' above linked article, and some of the other recent pieces which have appeared in other media, all touting Emerald City as a danged fine place to live.

If Ernest Health is now finally aware of the ample benefits of moving their company to our town, it seems to us that it's "they" who ought to be doing the "persuading."

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