Thursday, May 31, 2007
This morning's Standard Examiner bumps the $900K grant story to the first "Top of Utah" page, promoting it from the side bar of the previous day. And it's also on the free Std-Ex site.
As for the assumption made by some that Ogden will be found in violation and have to repay, the article says this: GOED spokesman Clark Caras told the Std-Ex the fact that the Governor's Office of Economic Development is looking into the matter "doesn't mean GOED suspects the grant funds have been handled improperly." "We haven't seen anything wrong," he said.
Further down, the story quotes Ogden's director of community and economic development, Dave Harmer. He is, he told the Examiner's Scott Schwebke, "confident that plans... to transform the complex into the North American headquarters for Amer Sports Corp. fulfills the intent of the grant."
"The original purpose of the grant," he told Schwebke, "was to help the city save a historic building ... for productive economic use." Harmer also said that "the definition of what constitutes a high-tech center is vague, adding that Amer, which uses cutting edge technology, enables the complex to meet the intent of the agreement."
I don't know if the city's use of the grant followed the terms of the grant or not. But I do know this: the kind of breezy sophistry Mr. Harmer peddled to the Std-Ex is exactly the kind of thing that undercuts public confidence in government --- all government --- and leads to the kind of democracy-crippling cynicism about government I see in students every day.
If Mr. Harmer's view is right, that "high tech center" doesn't really mean "high tech center," that the term is so vague that it can mean virtually anything... or nothing... that "hey, the building will have some machines in it, some of them new. Close enough" is a significant and truthful response to the questions raised, then we have to wonder what the point is of the Governor's Office of Economic Development granting money for any particular purpose at all. It might as well just hand bundles of cash over to cities, regardless of what the cities claim they will do with the money, and say "Here's the loot. Do whatever you like."
Of course, Mr. Harmer may not be entirely objective about all this, since he signed the grant approval when he was working as executive director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Which leaves Harmer in the interesting position of arguing that that Harmer guy working for the state signed a grant so vague and full of terms so ill-defined, that that Harmer guy working as Ogden's director of economic and community development, can recommend the City's doing pretty much anything with the building the grant helped pay for, so long as it has some new machines in it someplace.
Becoming clearer by the day why Mayor Godfrey thought Mr. Harmer would be a good fit for his administrative team.
And in Mayor Godfrey's Ogden City, the beat goes on....
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
First, we find Standard-Examiner sidebar blurb, reporting last night's Emerald City council approval of Colorado developer John Peddie's American Can development agreement, under terms of which Mr. Peddie will accept a fat chunk of tax increment dollars, and invest $21.5 million in improving the American Can "complex."
The only major fly in the ointment for the Emerald City taxpayers, it would seem at this point, is the question of the legal posture of Emerald City with respect to a Governors Office of Economic Development grant. $900 thousand of state money was apparently provided for renovation and improvement of the historic canning factory back in 2002, with the express condition that such funds be expended to build a high-technology school campus. Inasmuch as this condition has not been fulfilled, state government officials are pondering whether they want their money back.
The incessantly optimistic Emerald City Economic Development Director, Dave Harmer, assures us, of course, that this is no problem at all, and that an unidentified "group" of supposed local naysayers simply don't understand the grant provisions.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton also reports on this story this morning by the way, sans Mr. Harmer's rosy optimism.
Secondly, our favorite Ace Reporter informs us that the Emerald City Council last night approved a new mixed use zoning ordinance, affecting about 50 acres in the second and third phases of the proposed River Project, which extends from 20th to 18th streets between Washington Boulevard and Wall Avenue.
Despite the objections of a number of "several" affected property owners (our sources counted eight) who showed up at last night's meeting to vigorously protest these zoning changes, four of the six council members in attendance (Safsten was absent) nevertheless saw fit to rubber-stamp the latest cavalier invasion of Emerald City property rights. We suppose that from way up there behind the council dais these mere "whiners" and "complainers" (whose property values are adversely affected by this decision) looked as insignificant as ants.
Being the curious type, we dialed out a couple of times this morning, contacting the two citizens mentioned in this morning's article, just to flesh out the meager information which Scott Schwebke provided.
Ruth Kendrick, of Ogden Chrome Plating, graciously took our call, framed the issues, and set forth for us her neighbors' general objections (to which we've added our snarky editorial embellishments):
The new zoning changes are premature at best; even the Boss Godfrey admits phases 2 & 3 of the River Project may not be implemented for years -- if ever they are to be implemented at all.
The new zoning effectively rules out expansion for any of the industrial business owners in the area. We speculate whether the new vision in our Brave New MattGodfreyWorld apparently embraces only cutesy little restaurants and boutiques.
Any future expansion occurring in the area will be henceforth faced with niggling new "aesthetic" restrictions. We suppose that all future expansions in the riverfront area will be well-adorned with grassy lawns and palm trees.
Mrs. Kendrick only mentioned it in passing, but her company does employ a substantial number of employees (fifty or so) at her Emerald City facility. One wonders how long her company will be inclined to continue employing people -- in such a palpably small business-unfriendly environment.
We also spoke with Creative Welding's Ray Jensen, who was not the least bit reticent in expressing his displeasure with last night's council action. He tells us he's been battling the city for years. Bad enough as it is to be situated in a redevelopment project area, he now has to cope with an additional industrial-unfriendly zoning ordinance. His property is currently up for sale, and he's leaving town as soon as he can find a buyer who can live with current zoning restrictions.
And there's more! Mr. Jensen also reports he has filed a lawsuit. One thing's for sure: the Boss Godfrey administration contributes to a full-employment economy -- for litigation lawyers, at least.
As to our question whether Mr. Jensen would consider relocating his business to another Emerald City location, he succinctly told us this:
"If Ogden City GAVE me another Ogden City property, I'd refuse it."
Such is the condition of the small business owner in Emerald City.
Such is what amounts to the Emerald City news today.
The floor is open for our readers' comments.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
We honestly don't know what's come over Standard-Examiner reporter Scott Schwebke recently, but we'll remark that his journalistic performance has been most excellent of late. While most of our readers gentle were out playing on the long Memorial Day weekend, Ace Reporter Schwebke was slaving away, adding another reportorial gem to his already excellent series of articles exposing Boss Godfrey's $200 thousand secret Gondola study.
Yesterday's front-page article reveals these further essential facts, wherein the stories of all the "players" grow increasingly divergent:
A spokesman for Lewis, Young Robertson and Burningham Inc., the Salt Lake City-based company who prepared the study (over a year ago) claims UTA paid for the study that measures cost and revenue projections for a proposed gondola system stretching from Ogden’s downtown intermodal hub to Weber State University.
UTA has failed to provide a copy of the purported study pursuant to the Standard-Examiner's GRAMA request, claiming it doesn't have a copy of the study. UTA has of course previously denied either paying for the year-old study, or agreeing for the payment for such a study.
Key gondola proponents, including developer Chris Peterson, Ogden Mayor Boss Godfrey and Lift Ogden chairman Bob Geiger, claim they don’t know who funded the study.
Boss Godfrey of course continues to admit having a copy of the study, and even claims "I would love to have (the study results) come out." Yet he nevertheless declines to voluntarily provide a copy to the Standard-Examiner, preferring instead to play "cat and mouse" with the home town newspaper's pending GRAMA request. Ominously, Boss Godfrey apparently continues to contend that this year-old study is merely a "draft," raising the distinct possibility that he'll claim that it's "work product," a category of information legally excluded from GRAMA document production requirements.
We'll resist the impulse to engage in any microanalysis at this time. We believe it's impossible to draw further conclusions until our favorite Ace Reporter relentlessly digs out further facts. Scott Schwebke's reporting on this story has nevertheless been most revealing thus far -- like the journalistic equivalent of peeling back the layers of a rotten onion.
We do believe it is fair to draw one early conclusion at this juncture however: Somebody ain't telling the truth.
In spite of low-volume site traffic over the weekend, we have had some reader comment on this story in the previous comments threads. In the interest of keeping our new Secret Gondola Study article category on-topic, we'll thus dutifully move some of those earlier comments over here.
In the expectation of the usual flood of post-weekend readers, we now establish this new article thread.
The floor is open, gentle readers.
The world is waiting to know what you think.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Weber County Forum Sunday sermon
By George Will
Deseret Morning News
Via The Washington Post
MINNEAPOLIS — The campaign to deny Luis Paucar his right to economic liberty illustrates the ingenuity people will invest in concocting perverse arguments for novel entitlements. This city's taxi cartel is offering an audacious new rationalization for corporate welfare, asserting a right — a constitutional right, in perpetuity — to revenues it would have received if Minneapolis' City Council had not ended the cartel that never should have existed.
Paucar, 37, embodies the best qualities of American immigrants. He is a splendidly self-sufficient entrepreneur. And he is wielding American principles against some Americans who, in their decadent addiction to government assistance, are trying to litigate themselves to prosperity at the expense of Paucar and the public.
Seventeen years ago Paucar came to America from Ecuador and for five years drove a taxi in New York City. Because that city has long been liberalism's laboratory, many taxi drivers there are akin to, as an economist has said, "modern urban sharecroppers."
In 1937, New York City, full of liberalism's itch to regulate everything, knew, just knew, how many taxicab permits there should be. For 70 years the number (about 12,000) has not been significantly changed, so rising prices have been powerless to create new suppliers of taxi services. Under this government-created scarcity, a permit ("medallion") now costs about $500,000. Most people wealthy enough to buy medallions do not drive cabs, any more than plantation owners picked cotton. They lease their medallions at exorbitant rates to people like Paucar who drive, often for less than $15 an hour, for long days.
Attracted by Minneapolis-St. Paul's vibrant Hispanic community, now 130,000 strong, Paucar moved here, assuming that economic liberty would be more spacious than in New York. Unfortunately, Minnesota has a "progressive," meaning statist, tradition that can impede the progress of people like Paucar but who lack his knack for fighting back.
The regulatory impulse came to the upper Midwest with immigrants from Northern Europe, many of whom carried the too-much-government traditions of "social democracy." In the 1940s, under a mayor who soon would take his New Deal liberalism to Washington — Hubert Humphrey — the city capped entry into the taxi business.
By the time Paucar got here in 1999, 343 taxis were permitted. He wanted to launch a fleet of 15. That would have required him to find 15 incumbent license-holders willing to sell their licenses for up to $25,000 apiece.
As a byproduct of government intervention, a secondary market arose in which government-conferred benefits were traded by the cartel. In 2006, Minneapolis had only one cab for every 1,000 residents (compared to three times as many in St. Louis and Boston), which was especially punishing to the poor who lack cars.
That fact — and Paucar's determination and, eventually, litigiousness; he is a real American — helped persuade the City Council members, liberals all (12 members of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, one member of the Green Party), to vote to allow 45 new cabs per year until 2010, at which point the cap will disappear. In response, the cartel is asking a federal court to say the cartel's constitutional rights have been violated. It says the cap — a barrier to entry into the taxi business — constituted an entitlement to profits that now are being "taken" by government action.
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment says no property shall be "taken" without just compensation. The concept of an injury through "regulatory taking" is familiar and defensible: Such an injury occurs when a government regulation reduces the value of property by restricting its use. But the taxi cartel is claiming a deregulatory taking: It wants compensation because it now faces unanticipated competition.
When the incumbent taxi industry inveigled the city government into creating the cartel, this was a textbook example of rent-seeking — getting government to confer advantages on an economic faction in order to disadvantage actual or potential competitors. If the cartel's argument about a "deregulatory taking" were to prevail, modern government — the regulatory state — would be controlled by a leftward-clicking ratchet: Governments could never deregulate, never undo the damage that they enable rent-seekers to do.
By challenging his adopted country to honor its principles of economic liberty and limited government, Paucar, assisted by the local chapter of the libertarian Institute for Justice, is giving a timely demonstration of this fact: Some immigrants, with their acute understanding of why America beckons, refresh our national vigor. It would be wonderful if every time someone like Paucar comes to America, a native-born American rent-seeker who has been corrupted by today's entitlement mentality would leave.
George Will's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Washington Post Writers Group
© 2007 Deseret News Publishing Company
Thursday, May 24, 2007
This morning's Standard-Examiner has a front page above the fold banner headlined story about the pending UTA-funded feasibility study of Mayor Godfrey's flatland tourist sky ride to Weber State, which has been the main Weber County Forum topic of discussion, for nearly the entire week.
It is very interesting. Among other things, it confirms that the new feasibility study will be a kind of do-over for the Mayor of the feasibility study already paid for and done, minus looking at the only two options the previous study identified as viable mass transit options for Ogden. UTA told Schewbke that the new study will examine [among other things], the gondola's "financial feasibility" and "potential ridership" along with its "environmental impact." Though of course the UTA has allocated no funds to study the environmental impact of a street car line [the recommended transit option of the earlier study], or of a BRT system [the second choice of the previous study]. So: a partially UTA funded study recommends streetcar first, BRT second, gondola not recommended at all, and what happens? UTA allocates money to re-study the financial feasibility fo the gondola, and its environmental impact, and no money [so far] to study the impact of streetcar or BRT... which environmental study must be done before federal funding can be accessed. But to be fair, so far as we know, the Mayor has not asked for a dime to study the envrionmental impact of the options the earlier study endorsed. He's only asked for money to study, again, the feasibility and impact of the option the earlier study rejected: the sky ride. The question is, what in the world possessed UTA to agree to give it to him?
The new UTA funded study is on life support at the moment, UTA says, because the city hasn't submitted an acceptable management plan for the study it wants UTA to pay for. The Mayor says he hasn't done that because he's trying to "clarify" its management role. Been trying, apparently, for about a year now, when a preliminary agreement with UTA was reached.
The story reveals that Godfry already has "gondola data" from a "preliminary financial analysis" done by the SL City consulting firm of Lewis, Young, Robertson and Burningham. "Godfrey declined to provide a copy of the report to the Standard Examiner because, he said, it is a draft document."
"Draft document" is beginning to look like Godfrey-speak for "the results came out wrong, and we're not going to release it until its re-done so the results come out the way I want them to."
The Std-Ex is filing a GRAMA request for the information Godfrey is refusing to release. Godfrey also claims he "doesn't know" who paid for the report he has but won't release. We are to believe a study of the financial feasibility arrives in the mayor's lap and he has no idea who commissioned it? The consulting firm that did the study isn't returning phone calls on the matter, it seems. And, according to the Standard Examiner, "Chris Peterson... did not respond to an e-mail seeking information on whether he financed the consultant's study."
The Mayor's not talking, Chris Peterson's not talking, the consulting firm's not talking. Thus are public affairs conducted in Mayor Godfrey's Ogden
Kudos to the Std-Ex for staying on the story.
Update 5/24/07 8:59 a.m. MT: One of our gentle and attentive readers has transmitted to us a letter, which we speculate might provide the basis for Boss Godfrey's bizarre contention that he has some kind of an "agreement" for UTA funding of his secret gondola study.
Our quick perusal reveals that UTA's contingencies are quite clear, and that the UTA placed a number of serious hurdles in Boss Godfrey's funding path from the outset. It would seem that UTA at least a year ago shared most of the concerns which have been also been registered here at WCF during the last year or so, and it is evident that the UTA has been anticipating the same competent level of feasibility analysis that many of our gentle readers have been consistently demanding from the Boss Godfrey administration.
What say our gentle readers?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
While the article starts out with Mr. Allegra's comments, reaffirming yesterday's UTA position, i.e., that UTA has made no agreement for the funding of yet another gondola study, Mr. Allegra then seemingly makes an abrupt 180-degree turn, suggesting that UTA is head over heels in love with the "concept" of Gondola transit in Emerald City, with the apparent insinuation that such UTA funding will be readily available, merely upon Boss Godfrey's submission of an "acceptable plan."
Perhaps significantly, Mr. Allegra makes no mention of a year 2004 UTA gondola feasibility study, in which flatland ski-gondola transit finished dead-last in a field of three.
We've been out all day and thus haven't been able to devote much time to ponder what Mr. Allegra's reported statements really mean -- if anything.
So we ask our readers this: Is Mr. Allegra officially "hedging" on UTA's statements of yesterday... or are these merely the inarticulate mumblings of that UTA "guy" whom the UTA lawyers would really prefer not to make statements to the press?
Perhaps out gentle readers can help us out with their interpretations.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
In yesterday's WCF article we opened a new chapter in the ongoing Boss Godfrey saga, springboarding a lively discussion off yesterday's Scott Schwebke/Standard-Examiner gondola study expose'. It was within this article that our favorite Ace Reporter revealed that our city council is looking into a purported Utah Transit Authority-funded study, whereby $200,000 of UTA money had been reportedly devoted to the question of whether gondolas represent a feasible transportation alternative in Emerald City.
Mr. Schwebke's report went on to quote Boss Godfrey and his loyal henchman John Patterson, as representing that UTA had agreed to fund this new gondola study. "UTA agreed more than a year ago to fund the study," said the ever-reliable Emerald City CAO John Patterson.
Being the curious type, we put a call into the UTA offices this morning, requesting a call-back from UTA Executive Director John Inglish, the UTA representative who purportedly entered into this alleged "agreement" with Boss Godfrey. All-in-all, we've in the past regarded the UTA as a "class act" for the most part. We'd hoped Mr. Inglish could explain to us how his normally prudent quasi-public agency got roped into such a patently absurd arrangement.
As luck would have it, Mr. Inglish was out of town today. That didn't prevent a knowledgeable UTA spokesman from calling us right back however. We spoke with Chief UTA communications officer Andrea Packer just a couple of hours ago, and she gave us the very information for which we had been looking:
Although UTA officials have been having preliminary discussions with Emerald City officials for a "considerable period of time," those discussions have to date "fallen short of a funding commitment," she said.
"There is no agreement for UTA funding of a gondola feasibility study," she told us. "UTA does not consider itself on the hook" for whatever pending study Boss Godfrey is presently "managing."
UTA has spent "not a dime" on this study. Ms. Packer further assurred us.
Referring back to yesterday's Scott Schwebke story, we confess we'd gotten the distinct impression that this study is nevertheless "in the works," notwithstanding UTA's professed financial non-participation. The study was reported to be at least in the "draft stage," according to Boss Godfrey:
"Godfrey said he has received a draft of the study’s financial analysis, but declined to provide a copy to the Standard-Examiner because he isn’t sure if it has been finalized by UTA," according to yesterday's article.
From the above it's apparent that somebody is paying for this pending $200,000 study.
If the UTA isn't footing the bill, we ask "who is?"
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to decieve. - anon.
Seems to us Boss Godfrey has some 'splainin' to do.
Monday, May 21, 2007
There is a story that's been rattling around the Emerald City rumor-mill for over a month, concerning a purported $2o0 thousand Utah Transit Authority study (we've heard the figure $250 thousand,) aimed at studying the feasibility of gondolas for Emerald City.
This story has finally emerged on the public radar screen this morning however, thanks to this morning's Ace Reporter Schwebke Magnum Opus. We incorporate here the lead paragraphs from this morning's Standard-Examiner article:
OGDEN — The city council is looking into a claim from the city’s administration that Utah Transit Authority has agreed to spend up to $200,000 to study the feasibility of a controversial gondola proposal.The most troubling aspect of this story, to us, is that there seem to be two opposite versions of the facts, depending upon who's telling the story:
Council Chairman Jesse Garcia said the board wants to verify Mayor Matthew Godfrey’s promise that no municipal money is being used to finance the analysis. “We are being told that UTA is behind it,” he said. “There are just things we need to find out.” The council learned about the study from the administration last week, Garcia said. John Patterson, the city’s chief administrative officer, said UTA agreed more than a year ago to fund the study. “It’s old news,” he said. Godfrey said there was no reason to inform the council earlier about the study, which is designed to determine if a gondola is compatible with UTA’s mass-transit objectives.
"It is UTA’s component and doesn’t involve us," he said. "All of this (the study’s findings) … has to come before the council before it makes a final decision (on the gondola proposal). It’s not like it’s secret. The city council has also said it doesn’t want piecemeal information."
Godfrey said he and UTA General Manager John Inglish mutually decided the study should be undertaken.
UTA spokesman Kyle Bennett said it is his understanding that the study is being managed by the city.
He referred questions about funding and the status of the study to UTA Deputy Operations Director Mick Crandell, who could not be reached for comment.
Godfrey said he has received a draft of the study’s financial analysis, but declined to provide a copy to the Standard-Examiner because he isn’t sure if it has been finalized by UTA.
Whereas the city council says it learned of this study only recently, administration spokesman Patterson says it's "old news" -- despite the fact that the Godfrey administration apparently didn't tell anybody about it.
Whereas Boss Godfrey seems to maintain, with a completely straight face, that "it's UTA's component" (whatever that means,) UTA's spokesman insists the study is being "managed by the city."
We especially loved the part of the story where the Boss Godfrey administration admittedly kept the whole situation under wraps -- because the council doesn't like to receive "piecemeal" information. We're betting Boss Godfrey's pinocchio nose grew a full couple of centimeters when the little dissembler suddenly blurted out that tall tale.
We thank Standard-Examiner reporter Schwebke for finally bringing this story out in the open, even though today's report leaves many questions unanswered. And we offer kudos to the city council, for drawing a line in the sand. Additionally, we agree generally with councilman Safsten's possibly prophetic take:
Councilman Rick Safsten said it is troubling that the council has been kept out of the loop regarding the study and predicted it will provide ammunition for gondola opponents.What may not have occurred to councilman Safsten is this fundamental rule which operates in the twisted, inverted MattGodfreyUniverse:
“Those who are most opposed to this will go nuts,” he said.
We sincerely hope Mr. Safsten (and indeed all other council members) will write this down so they don't forget it again. We lumpencitizens, of course, already have the concept down pat. And Mr. Safsten is right: it drives rational and honest people "nuts." Whether it drives delusional gondolist Godfrey-lackeys like Mr. Safsten any more "nuts" than they already are... that's an entirely different question, of course.
There are other interesting aspects to this story; but we'll leave the full analysis to our wise and gentle readers.
The floor is officially open, this rainy Monday morning.
We'd be most interested to hear what our readers have to say about this.
Friday, May 18, 2007
It never ceases to amaze us to observe how every discussion thread develops a life of its own, here at Weber County Forum.
What started out as just another ho-hum garden-variety expose of yet another Boss Godfrey prevarication in yesterday's article, has now carromed off into a heated discussion on the topic of illegal immigration.
While we're tempted to avoid the conversation altogether (we have gentle and delicate sensibilities, after all,) we're going to temp fate, throw a little more fuel on the fire, start a new thread and link a Standard-Examiner Op-Ed piece which appeared in this morning's edition:
The Day Without Farm Workers
We believe that the "illegal immigration issue" is highly nuanced, and that the above article reveals one chink in the armor of those who would opt for draconian police state action against the 12-20 million illegals who've unlawfully crossed our borders, and attempted to live "the American Dream."
We also believe this article reveals one of the practical nuances which argues against neat & clever solutions to the "illegal alien problem."
Do you like peaches that have the taste and texture of cardboard? That's the fundamental question that Farmer Masumoto asks of us.
What do our gentle readers think about this?
Make your arguments and post your links, gentle readers. We know this is a hot-button topic for many of you.
We may decide to move a few of your comments from the previous thread here, just to kickstart this discussion, BTW.
Please promise though, as you enter into this potentially inflammatory invited discussion, that you'll all kiss and make up in the morning -- Smooch!
Update 5/19/07 10:36 a.m. MT: At risk of further stirring the pot, we post an interesting article on the proposed "immigration reform" bill at Townhall.com, where there's a very lively reader discussion in progress.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
We don’t have the luxury of making decisions based on personal preference or politics.
Matthew "Boss" Godfrey
Emerald City Mayor
May 17, 2007
Yeah.. that's the ticket! Yeah, you betcha!
Saturday Night Live
November 6, 1985
Ace Reporter Schwebke has picked up on the story we reported on Tuesday, and confirms this morning that Boss Godfrey has succeeded as planned, transferring on May 2 that prime FrontRunner-adjacent Wall Avenue property to his European travelling companion and all-around crony Chris Peterson, notwithstanding Tom Owens' higher $300 thousand purchase offer.
Whether Boss Godfrey and Mr. Peterson merely extended the pre-existing option agreement prior to its expiration, or drew up a new contract from scratch [ignoring the standing Owens offer(s)] we do not know. That's just another piece of information that Ace Reporter Schwebke "forgot" to report.
What Mr. Schwebke does tell us however is that Mr. Owens is taking it all philosophically: "I’m not surprised that it didn’t happen, because I’m not a friend of Matt," Mr. Owens said.
Mr. Owens' statement of course stands in stark contrast to the delightful above-captioned "John Lovitz moment," wherein Boss Godfrey evidently told Ace Reporter Schwebke, with a completely straight face, that Boss Godfrey NEVER plays favorites. Whether Mr. Schwebke believed him, we do not know.
At any rate, we thank Mr. Schwebke for this humorous gem of a quotation.
In an another related Std-Ex story, Amy K. Stewart reports about a slight Ogden School District dilemma. Specifically, due to price inflation in the construction industry, the Ogden schools system is now $40 million short of the the funds necessary to complete its ambitious renovation plans, for which it received public bonding approval only last November.
Can we see by a show of hands amongst our gentle readership how many of you don't believe the lumpencitizens of Emerald will receive similar "sticker shock" when the final bill for the various "Junction" projects come flying in sometime next year? As we know, the Salomon Center plans, like the Ogden School District ones, are almost two years off the drawing board.
And for those Emerald City employees who may have missed the memo:
The taxpayers will be throwing a big party on June 20th.
Have at it, gentle readers.
You've been eerily silent, of late.
Whatsamatta? Cat got yer tongues?
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Accordingly, we refer our readers this morning to three news articles which appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret Morning News and Standard-Examiner over the past weekend:
- Historic Farmington rock house destined for preservation
- Bidding war boosts price for historic home
- Historic Farmington parcel sold at auction
"One of my motives was to protect the side yard from some idiot wanting to buildA Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat goes out this morning to the very community-minded Mr. Owens, another gentle Weber County Forum reader (and recent contributor) who has demontrated the point that individual citizens can have a strong influence on development in their communities, provided they're willing to do it the old-fashioned way, i.e., putting their money where their mouth is.
a McMansion on it," Owens said.
"I wanted to make sure that whatever gets built on the rest of the land is in keeping with Farmington's ambience."
We also believe that the foregoing fact set illuminates an important point of basic economics: Sellers benefit when transactions are carried out openly in the free market. As illustrated in the Farmington example, the court-ordered auction process generated a sale price far in excess of the expectations of the sellers. The process of selling to the highest bidder yielded a result most favorable to the Judd Family.
Before we wind up this article, we'd like to highlight another wrinkle to this story. Over the past few months we've been carefully following developments in the bootjack stealth transaction, the unfortunate instance wherein Emerald City Mayor Boss Godfrey hoodwinked the city RDA Board into authorizing the sale of a prime piece of downtown, FrontRunner station-adjacent real property to his crony, Chris Peterson.
Last month we learned that Mr. Peterson apparently did not exercise the purchase option which had been craftily engineered behind the scenes for the benefit of Chris Peterson. Nevertheless, the sale to Mr. Peterson was destined to inexorably move forward, according to this Ace Reporter Schwebke story.
Although we have been unable to officially confirm it, our sources reveal that the subject Wall Avenues parcels have been subsequently sold to Chris Peterson for the RDA Board-authorized $270 thousand sales price. The availability of this property was of course NEVER advertised, NEVER listed on the MLS and NEVER subjected to the natural processes of the free market. In essence, this prime chunk of downtown real estate was apparently placed into the hands of a Boss Godfrey crony in private.
A few weeks ago we mentioned in one of our comments sections that during the open option period (which ended on March 24) one of our gentle readers had conveyed a verbal backup offer to the RDA Board for this property, at an offered price of $300 thousand. Subsequently, we learned, the same reader again tendered that offer, this time in written form.
Although we were not authorized to disclose the identity of the offeror at the time, we are now privileged to do so: That gentle reader, who made a cash offer $30 thousand in excess of the RDA Board authorized price, was none other than Tom Owens, the same Tom Owens who hung in there steadfastly, to perfect an ownership interest in his Farmington target property last Thursday.
As to his written offer for the Emerald City property, his high offer was all but ignored. Late in April Mr. Owens reports that he received a short email from one of the "suits" in the Emerald City Economic Development Department (the always-reliable Dave Harmer, if memory serves,) informing him that the property was already "under contract," and that the transaction was expected to "close within the next several weeks."
So much for the operation of the free market in Emerald City. So much for Boss Godfrey's fiduciary obligation to secure the highest possible price in the disposition of surplus RDA properties from a ready, willing and able buyer. So much for the concept of opening the downtown development process for anyone except "Friends of Matt." Ogden home-boy Tom Owens got completely shut out of Boss Godfrey's sweetheart dealings. So much for influencing Emerald City community development the old-fashioned way.
This situation is something all lumpencitizens should remember, as the November elections approach.
We hope you enjoyed the segue.
Feel free to discuss this topic... or consider this an open thread.
Take it away, gentle readers.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I'd encouarage everyone to read this article from today's Standard-Examiner about Box Elder County's ongoing attempt to force the Selman family to open their ranch to ATV recreationists. It's a classic story of abuse of government power, with a good measure of incompetence mixed in. In this case, all levels of government (including the State Parks Department and the Forest Service) are lined up against the private land owners.
I got involved in this issue because of the Sierra Club's interest in the adjacent Forest Service land. Bret Selman called me when he saw my name in the paper a few years ago, and we've become good friends. The Selmans have been terrific stewards of the land and have been extremely generous in giving permission for interested groups to enter their property for nonmotorized recreation and wildlife viewing. They just don't want it to become a motorized thoroughfare.
The disputed route is on property that the Selmans have owned since 1952. The county is claiming a prescriptive right-of-way along the route, but I think this claim is unlikely to hold up in court because the route has been gated and posted closed to the public for several decades. In fall 2005 the county brought criminal charges against Bret Selman for placing a lock on one of the gates that block the route. Those charges were finally dropped in January of this year when a new County Attorney took office and apparently decided to try the different tactic of simply sending the bulldozers up and ripping out the gates. Meanwhile, the Selmans have incurred thousands of dollars of attorney's fees.
As the article says, the county passed a resolution a couple of weeks ago and informed the Selmans that it would be removing their gates. However, the map that's part of the resolution actually shows a different route that's blocked where it enters a parcel of Forest Service land before crossing onto the Selman property. So the Selmans weren't even given any notice that the county would be bulldozing this particular route.
Reader comments are welcome, as always.
Update 5/14/07 8:33 a.m. MT: We link here a supplementary web article, fleshing out more of the background facts concerning the Selman situation. It would appear from a reading of this article that the various federal and state government agencies mentioned are actively driving a perverted modern version of manifest destiny from the political backstage, with absolutely zero regard for the law of real property as it pertains to property owners like the Selman Family.
Why are these government entities seemingly hell-bent to build a road through the Selmans' land?
Surely it can't be all about ATV access.
Don't let the cat get your tongues.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Looking for a good time in downtown Emerald City tomorrow afternoon? Why not enlist in prominent local musician Brad Wheeler's Harmonica Army II?
You can read Brad's introductory letter here. More information is available on his Harmonica Army II website.
Charlie Trentelman also wrote a few words about this event in his Wasatch Ramber column, earlier this week.
Long-time readers will recall that we promoted the Harmonica Army I event last year on Weber County Forum. And your blogmeister also joined the Harmonica Army throng of 1200 or so lumpenmusicians who delivered their rendition of "The Saints" that last cool October 2006 afternoon. Unfortunately we failed to eclipse the standing record of 1800 wailing harmonicists, despite feverish enthusiasm and last minute pleas for reinforcements. Thus this spring encore performance, where a world record will be put under siege again.
Come one; come all. Enjoy the Emerald City festival atmosphere at Lindquist Field. Food and beverages will be available at the concession stands (including adult beverages, according to a reliable insider source.) As for music, there will be plenty of that. How many musical events do our readers attend, we ask, where attendees are actually invited to play with the band?
We'll meet you there on Saturday.
Rudi will be wearing his usual "white carnation."
Be sure to say "hello."
Update 5/13/07 9:05 a.m. MT: As several readers have already reported in the lower comments section, yesterday's Harmonica Army II world record assault went off without a hitch, (at least in the eyes of the harmonicist-attendees,) despite a decidedly non-record turnout of around 1,000. Although the old record still remains intact, this slight "glitch" didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the gathered crowd one danged bit. Yesterday's Harmonica Army Bivouac definitely had that old-tyme Emerald City "feel" to it -- that indescribable kind of spontaneous community camaraderie which used to exist in our city prior to the advent of the "G-word" -- a very strange point in Emerald City history when events in this old blue-collar town began to take on the "restrained" look and feel of Provo church picnics.
The Standard-Examiner's Molly Bennett provides a good write-up this morning, so there's no reason for your blogmeister to be long-winded with the facts.
We will say however that we spoke briefly with Brad Wheeler shortly after the event; and YES! There will be a mustering of troops next year for an Harmonica Army III event!
For those readers who crave graphic images, we offer a few random ones here, along with our confession that we had so much fun mingling and schmoozing with the folks in the stands, we dang near forgot about our pocket-camera. As you can see from these pics, our classy and sweet little Ogden Raptors ballpark makes a dandy backdrop for any public event. We were pleased, BTW, to meet and greet at least a dozen gentle Weber County Forum readers who stepped up and greeted us.
As compensation for our admitted lack of diligence in capturing a full album of still shots however, we link for our readers' pleasure this most-excellent Standard-Examiner video clip.
And speaking of the Ogden Raptors -- please don't forget their June 22nd home opener, in which connection we post this pre-season letter from Raptors Owner Dave Baggott, which we received (coincidentally) by email yesterday.
If you haven't yet taken in a Raptors game, we suggest you plan to do so this summer. It's the closest thing in Emerald City, convivial community atmosphere-wise, to a Brad Wheeler Harmonica Army Jazz Band Concert -- now that we think about it. Be careful though. You might get hooked like we did, and become dyed-in-the-wool Ogden Raptors fans.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
OGDEN — An aircraft manufacturer’s request for a city council resolution endorsing the authorization of as much as $22 million in industrial revenue bonds sailed to approval Tuesday night.What's clear from this article is that the Boss Godfrey administration is quite sensitive about the mountain of debt which Boss Godfrey has accumulated during his seven years on the Emerald City throne. Ace Reporter Schwebke thus slavishly adds the always-reliable Dave Harmer's assurance that this new bonding will not place the Emerald City taxpayers "on the financial hook," even in the event of a bond payment default:
Aero Ventures LLC sought the “inducement” resolution so it can begin the process of relocating from California’s San Fernando Valley to the Ogden-Hinckley Airport where it intends to purchase the Ogden Jet Center.
The city council must next adopt a final resolution that allows bonds to be sold. The bonds would be secured by a mortgage on the Ogden Jet Center property and the value of the project.
State law allows municipalities to issue taxable industrial revenue bonds without incurring any financial liability, said Dave Harmer, Ogden community and economic development director.Indeed, Utah law does contain special provision for industrial revenue bonding, pursuant to Utah Code Section 73-10d-5. On the face of it, Mr. Harmer is technically correct, provided Emerald City doesn't do an eleventh-hour "flip flop," and suddenly sweeten the underwriting pot with additional performance guarantees. Boss Godfrey has a history of doing that, of course, as long-time WCF readers will recall.
A lender will evaluate the credit worthiness and financial strength of Aero Ventures and decide whether to provide funding, said Harmer. If the company fails to repay its financial obligations, the lender has recourse against Aero Ventures not the city, he said.
Being the curious type, and wondering about the economic viability of the subject company, we did a little googling this morning on Aero Ventures LLC. This is what we found:
• According to the Utah Department of Commerce website, Aero Ventures LLC is a Utah-qualified Limited Liability Company, registered in December 2006.
• Business address: 3348 S 1575 W SUITE # 2, Ogden.
• Agent for service of process: This guy (Max Feiz). We note that Max "loves flying, too."
• According to a May 5, 2007 Std-Ex article, Aero Ventures, LLC is a subsidiary of Aero Visions International, which operates from the same above Ogden address. A visit to the AVI website reveals that the parent company has a "well-diversified" product line. The company evidently dabbles in everything from "scenic mouse pads" to "advanced experimental aircraft."
• Neither diligent googling nor an extended "prowl" of the AVI site yielded anything about existing "facilities in California," although such was also mentioned in today's, and the May 5 Std-Ex articles. The fact that we didn't find it of course doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
• The AVI site does provide a link to the SkyShark aircraft which is mentioned in today's Schwebke article, although it's unclear whether AVI has to date manufactured a single commercially-available airplane (or kit.) The photos of the aircraft on the site are obviously artists' renditions.
• Neither company seems to be publicly-traded, so public records are unavailable to determine either company's financial strength.
Does this fledgling aircraft manufacturer have the financial capacity to make this new bonding fly? Only time will tell, we guess.
Boss Godfrey and Dave Harmer believe this company is OK however, so we guess that ought to be good enough for us -- Right?
For our own part, we'll be watching this transaction closely.
And please don't let the cat get yer tongues.
Update 5/9/07 1:27 p.m. MT: Truly diligent readers interested in further general information on the subject of industrial revenue bonding (a unique sub-set of municipal bonding devices) can follow a couple of good links here and here.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Front page story in this morning's Standard-Examiner talks about Riverdale contemplating a fifty percent hike in property taxes. From the story: "The spending plan also would increase business license fees by 15 percent, utility rates by 10 percent and create a 2 percent franchise tax on cable TV, gas, electricity and telecommunications."
These substantial tax increases are the result, the story says, of two things: (a) the Republican state legislature's insane crusade to cut taxes without rhyme or reason --- in this case, limiting by law the amount of money communities can raise via sales taxes. That put a major hole in Riverdale's budget which it will now have to fill by a huge boost in taxes and fees. And (b)because "the city’s public safety costs are three times higher than a typical city of its population because of the traffic and crime surrounding Riverdale Road."
And the cautionary tale for Ogden? Simply this: all growth is not necessarily good growth. Uncontrolled growth can, overall, sometimes not be beneficial for the residents of a municipality. [And if the Riverdale corridor does not represent unwise sprawl, I'm hard put to think what might.] As the story notes, because of the kind of uncontroled unwise growth in Riverdale, its crime control budget is three times [that's 300% folks] of the budgets of other cities its size.
What Ogden ought to be looking at is not simply "growth" --- at whatever price to the city, like selling off the city's biggest park for private gated vacation home development for example --- but smart growth, or what's sometimes called "sustainable growth" --- sustainable in two senses: growth that is not flash in the pan, that degenerates over time and leaves the city worse off in the end. Look, for example, at all the smaller towns that welcomed Wal-Marts as huge tax generators, only to see their locally-owned small businesses and downtowns destroyed in the process, and then watched as Wal-Mart changed its business plan to Super Wal-Mart regional centers, and began closing regular Wal-Marts in smaller towns, leaving those towns with boarded up downtown business districts, few locally owned small businesses left, and in the end no tax revenues from the closed Wal-Mart local stores either.
And "sustainable growth" in the sense that the growth accommodates to, and sustains [and improves] the quality of life within the city. That's smart growth and that's what Ogden should be looking at, and planning for. Not growth for growth's sake alone, at any price, at any cost to the city and its present residents.
The traffic and crime choked Riverdale corridor may be some people's vision of smart growth --- it's not mine. And it shouldn't be, and I hope it won't be, Ogden's.
Monday, May 07, 2007
First and foremost is this Tim Gurrister headline story, suggesting a fundamental legislative overhaul may be in store in the Utah justice courts system:
Sweeping changes are in store for Utah’s justice courts.We at Weber County Forum have been griping about justice courts since the summer of 2005. We've complained about them here, here, here and here.
Under proposals that could go to the next session of the Legislature, the small-town courts could require that judges be full time, college educated and paid as state appointees. They would no longer be appointed by — or suspected of bowing to — a mayor, city council or county commission.
And all would face re-election.
We are thus delighted to read that a Utah Judicial Council Committee is studying the problems inherent the Utah justice court system; and we strongly urge the legislature to place these courts under the jurisdiction of the State Supreme Court where they logically belong, thereby eliminating the disgraceful separation of powers municipal "cash cow" problem.
Secondly, we find two front-page articles in this morning's Std-Ex edition, on a subject near and dear to our hearts. Peewee's Playhouse -- and various and sundry other monuments to Boss Godfrey's ego -- will be opening to the public, starting in June. Read the latest hoopla here and here.
This is happening none too soon, we say. The downtown mall site has been an economic albatross for what seems like years. We'll soon find out whether outfits like Fatcats and Gold's Gym can carry their own weight. We'll soon learn whether a downtown site, whose use throughout most of the history of our town depended upon a foundation of retail commerce, can survive on a business model predicated upon fun and games.
Who will be the first comment?
Friday, May 04, 2007
More good ink for Ogden in today's Standard-Examiner. First, a new much-touted industrial training center located at BDO is about to open. Here's the opening graph:
OGDEN -- More than 700 tons of high-tech machining equipment is installed and ready to go in a new manufacturing training center at Business Depot Ogden, which is being billed as the first of its kind in the nation. The 53,000-square-foot training center, at 550 S. Depot Drive, is a unique public-private partnership between Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College and jet engine manufacturer Williams International.Second, a front page story announcing that the folks who ran the summer XTERRA games in Ogden last year will be running winter games at Snow Basin next summer. Here are the opening graphs:
OGDEN — Team Unlimited, a television events and marketing company, announced Thursday the first-ever Xterra Winter World Championship will be held March 8-9 at Snowbasin Ski Resort.Rumors that Mayor Godfrey, following the XTERRA winter games announcement, was heard throwing paper weights against the wall in his office and muttering curses because the XTERRA people had been so stupid as to choose the Ogden area for their winter games when it does not have a flatland sky-ride to carry contestants, staff and spectators between downtown and Weber State University have not yet been confirmed.
The championship is expected to draw as many as 300 athletes from around the world who will compete in a new multisport event that combines cross-country skiing, mountain biking, running and snowshoeing, said Tom Kiely, chief executive officer of Team Unlimited.
Media exposure and local spending by event organizers, athletes and their families for meals and lodging and other expenses could eventually be worth an estimated $5 million to Weber County’s economy, he said.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
It's the end of an era in Emerald City, fellow lumpencitizens. This morning's Ace Reporter Schwebke story reports that Boss Godfrey's financial brain has jumped ship:
OGDEN — Scott Brown, Ogden’s sometimes controversial business development manager, has resigned.During the short period during 2005-06 (when Boss Godfrey permitted Scott to take and return our phone calls,) we had a fine and candid dialogue with Mr. Brown; and to a very large extent we share Mr. Harmer's assessment. Scott is an extremely talented guy -- so long as his activities are confined to the finance arena, at least. As we all know, Scott's not so hot, when it comes to political commentary.
Brown’s last day on the job was Monday, said John Patterson, the city’s chief administrative officer. Brown could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
However, he has said he informed his bosses, Director of Community and Economic Development Dave Harmer and Mayor Matthew Godfrey, more than a year ago that he would stay with the city long enough to oversee completion of the Salomon Center, a $19.5 million, high-adventure recreation facility slated to open in June at the former Ogden City Mall site.
A replacement for Brown could be hired within a month, Patterson said.
Brown began working for Ogden in 1999 and was being paid $85,991 annually when he left. He didn’t receive a severance package from the city, Harmer said.
“He’s a talented guy who has contributed a lot to the city,” Harmer said. “I’m sorry to see him go.”
And there is absolutely no doubt in our minds that Mr. Brown will be missed by Boss Godfrey, and some of the "suits" on his "A" team. The entire $multi-million borrow-and-spend edifice which surrounds our Emerald City RDA is Scott Brown's "creative" handiwork. It will be interesting to see whether Boss Godfrey (or anyone else who is hired as his replacement) will have the brains and cajones to keep it propped up.
It comes as no surprise, of course, that Mr. Brown's voluntary departure was NOT accompanied by a severance bonus. Even authoritarian blockheads like Boss Godfrey are minimally capable of learning their lessons -- especially in a municipal election year.
And we look forward down the road to the prospective early announcement of Mr. Brown's "retention," under some anticipated future "consulting contract" -- or other lucrative "retirement arrangement." We know that Boss Godfrey always "takes care" of his "friends";" and that it's highly unlikely that Mr. Brown will be necessarily cut out in the future from the fruits of Boss Godfrey's municipal "spoils system."
Have at it, gentle readers. It's time to indulge in reminiscence about Scott's past accomplishments, we think, and to contemplate the future of Emerald City, assuming, in a "worst case scenario," that Scott Brown has actually exited the stage permanently.
Don't let the cat get your tongues.
Update 5/3/07 5:27 p.m. MT: Speaking of bonuses, I can think of ONE Ogden guy who deserves one. OPD officer Ken Hammond has just been awarded a very prestigious national law enforcement award. Read all about it here.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
News is a mite slow so far this week on the Emerald City home front, so we thought we'd set up an open thread. In that connection we'll reel off a few suggested topics, just to get the ball rolling this morning.
First, the Standard-Examiner reports that the school voucher repeal petition which we discussed in March has been officially certified to be placed on the ballot. Although recent polls suggest most people oppose the voucher law, our enlightened legislature isn't making this ballot measure simple.
During the 2007 legislative session, our legislature actually passed TWO school voucher bills. Unfortunately for the petition proponents, who gathered a total of 124,218 certified signatures, the petition addresses only one of these bills:
The certification puts the voucher law, House Bill 148, on hold until the election, although a second voucher law not targeted by the petition could let the program move forward.We'll certainly be sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see how it all works out; but in the interim, the Salt Lake Tribune editors propose a very practical solution:
The second piece of legislation, House Bill 174, contained amendments to the original bill and as such should not stand alone, Burningham said.
“When the trunk is uprooted, the branch engrafted then, too, must undoubtedly fail,” he said, quoting an unrelated decision by former Utah Supreme Court Justice Dallin Oaks.
But those who support school vouchers say the second bill contains enough of the language found in the original bill that the second bill can stand on its own — even if the original bill is repealed. That opinion is shared by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
So, what now? Well, here is what I call on Gov. Huntsman and my fellow legislators to do: The governor should call a special session (he likely has to anyway to put the referendum on the ballot for the February Western States Presidential Primary) and put on the call a bill to suspend any taxpayer-funded private-school voucher program, i.e., both HB 148 and HB 174, until after the referendum.Whether Governor Huntman has the political juice to arm-twist our largely neoCON legislature into bundling school vouchers as a general ballot issue is questionable; but we do like the SLTrib's suggested approach.
The bill would instruct the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel to write ballot language for the referendum explaining that the referendum vote is on the broader question of vouchers.
This would make it crystal clear that the referendum is about vouchers in general, a popular up-or-down vote on taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.
If the referendum passed, the issue would be settled and the bill would bar the implementation of HB 148 and HB 174. If the referendum failed, then the game would be on; Utah would have a voucher program. My fellow legislators should support this proposal. This is what was intended in seeking the referendum on HB 148 all along.
Next, foul odors are front page news again in the Top of Utah Section. Emerald City officials are now calling for a few good noses. And in an extreme example of diligently digging out the facts, the author of today's Std-Ex story has spared no research effort in providing us a Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer link.
And last but not least, we link this very interesting Wall Street Journal story, dealing with luxury golf courses, political cronyism, broken promises and criminal investigations. Whether there are any lessons in this story pertinent to our situation in Emerald City we do not know. This story does however provide food for thought, we think.
That's it for starters.
Let the games begin.
Update 5/1/07 7:45 a.m. MT: Gentle Curmudgeon has just now graciously furnished us tonight's council agenda, which includes the proposed final approval of last week's Mixed Use Ordinance agenda item, on the "common consent" calendar. Perhaps a few of our gentle readers will show up tonight with their steely-eyed stares. Pitchforks and torches are NOT recommended.
Update 5/2/07 5:33 p.m. MT: In response to some discussion in the herein comments section, we provide a link to today's Std-Ex article, which reports, among other things, Boss Godfrey's purported "plan," to pay down 20% of Emerald City's current $100 million direct or contingent debt within nine years.