Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Standard-Examiner this morning has a story based on the administration’s emails obtained by Dan S. via GRAMA request and made public last week on Weber County Forum. [The Std-Ex, churlishly, simply says the story is based on ”according to e-mails obtained by the Standard-Examiner.”] Still, it’s a remarkable story.
Several notable things in it. For example, it discusses the Mayor's retroactive waiver of the competitive bidding requirements for hiring Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham to do a financial analysis of the now defunct [the Mayor says] Peterson proposal. About which Hizzonah has this to say:
"I sign dozens of documents every day," Godfrey said. He said he is unsure why Patterson requested the waiver more than a year after the city commissioned the study. "These kinds of things are brought to me routinely," he said.
Huh? Have I got this right? The Mayor is saying he was not aware of what he was signing? That somebody, presumably Mr. Patterson, just stuck it in front of him and he signed it without knowing what it was or why he'd been given it? That's what it seems to say.
Sort of make you wonder what we are paying the Mayor his hefty salary to do, doesn't it? I wasn't aware that blindly signing whatever anyone of his staff puts in front of him constitutes responsible governance. But apparently the Mayor does.
By the way, I hope Mr. Patterson noted that the finger pointing has begun, and the Mayor is pointing at him. You're not working for a stand up guy, Mr. Patterson. In fact, watching all the Godfreyistas scamper for cover, the Godfrey Gang is beginning to look a lot like the Tweed Ring.
It hardly needs to be pointed out, I think, that if the Mayor... or anyone who slides a piece of paper before him for his signature... can retroactively grant waivers to the city's competitive bidding regulations, then those regulations have been rendered entirely meaningless.
Other elements of the story suggest that instead of a new incarnation of Boss Tweed's ring, the Godfrey Administration should instead be called "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."
From the story: “I have never been a part of a mess like this project has become,” Patterson wrote in an April 13 e-mail to Arrington and copied to Management Services Director Mark Johnson, Community and Economic Development Director Dave Harmer and former Business Development Manager Scott Brown. “It is an embarrassment to the city.”
Indeed it is, Mr. Patterson. Indeed it is. But you'd better get used to this sort of thing. You work for Mayor Godfrey.
Overall, the frantic scuttling here and there trying to cover the city's tracks on this ---- reminds me nothing so much as the frantic scrambling of roaches living under a flat rock in a damp place when the rock is turned over and the sunlight shines in --- is yet more evidence, as if we needed it, of the Godfrey administration's preference of operating out of sight and in the dark, and its dislike of open government. Makes it hard to arrange sales of public land without bidding and at a lower price than others offer for it if people are actually allowed to watch what you're doing.
Rep. Hansen ought to ask the State Auditor to widen his investigation beyond how the Godfrey administration handled its grant money. Perhaps an audit of the Administration's general business practices could use a little sunlight... and disinfectant... too.
Remarkable story, even if the SE didn't credit Dan S. or WCF for breaking it. Don't miss it.
Editor's Note - Special GRAMA Document Collection: We are pleased to announce that we have uploaded the full 29-page Ogden Sierra Club GRAMA document production collection, discussed in our previous article on this topic. Chairman Dan S. has taken additional time to carefully "scrub" the data of private contact information, and has selected and provided the most interesting and relevant documents, which we link for our reader's attention: July '07 GRAMA Document Production Collection.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Amidst a sea of genuinely "ripe" issues churning around Emerald City's upcoming municipal election, we were amused to see what the Standard-Examiner deemed, in this morning's edition, to be pressing front page news.
As the lumpencitizens of Emerald City sit on the edges of their seats, awaiting Ace Reporter Schwebke's reporting on the positions of all mayoral candidates concerning last Friday's Ogden Sierra Club "bunkerbuster" press release, (and the pending State Auditor's examination of the American Can transactions,) our very most favorite Std-Ex reporter apparently received a tangential assignment -- to pose what presently remains a hypothetical question -- "Can you be Ogden mayor and a lawmaker at the same time?"
This morning's Std-Ex article reveals that Mr. Schwebke probably expended substantial effort in recent days tracking down various mayoral candidates and other "experts," each of whom (with the exception of Rep. Neil Hansen) responded with what we consider a to be a knee-jerk "no." The term "conflicts" also come up in a couple of the quotes. Rep. Hansen's response was far more thoughtful than that of any of the other quoted respondants, in our opinion. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Hansen told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
We've considered this same question ourselves over past weeks, and we confess we've been unable to come up with a simple "yes or no" answer either. As we see it, Representative Hansen's "potential" conflicts break down into two key areas. We'll attempt to address them briefly here, one-by-one. We don't pretend however to have the ultimate answer; and when our short analysis is completed, we'll turn the discussion over to our readers.
1) Conflicting constituencies. If elected to the mayoral office without resigning his house seat, Representative Hansen would be representing two technically-distinct constituencies: The people of Emerald City in general, and the folks who reside in Ogden's house legislative district 9, a district apparently completely overlapped by Emerald City's physical boundaries. In considering whether these two constituencies have substantially differing political interests, we're inclined to believe that they don't.
2) Conflicting time constraints. As most of our gentle readers are well aware, our current mayor, Boss Godfrey, who has acted as the business agent for his crony Chris Peterson (and contrarily to the interests of many of the citizens of Ogden) for the entirely of at least the past two years, isn't the first person we'd ask for ethical advice. But he does raise an interesting question regarding time constraints for a mayoral candidate who might not be immediately ruling out a dual legislative-mayoral role. Boss Godfrey mentions that he devotes sixty hours per week to "working," (about which we'll say many of us wish he'd cut back his hours.) Although he is quoted as characterizing such a dual role as a "real challenge;" he nevertheless doesn't characterize it as an impossibility. And for a recent example of a currently serving legislator who effectively serves a similar dual role, we need look no further than Emerald City's own Police Chief/State Senator Jon Greiner. Would the sheer constraints of available time prevent a legislator/mayor from adequately serving his constituents? Frankly we do not know. It doesn't however appear to pose much of a problem for Chief Greiner, we hastily observe.
Two other important points from today's article:
1) Representative Hansen makes it quite clear that whatever his decision, his primary obligation would be to serve the citizens of Ogden; and,
2) He is still nurturing hope of bringing several bills to the legislative floor for votes. One of these, NOT mentioned by Ace Reporter Schwebke, is his Anti-Ticket Quota Bill, which narrowly failed to make it to the Senate floor by a tied 2-2 Senate comittee vote last legislative session. In our opinion, all of Rep. Hansen's percipient legislation is important, not only to the citizens of Ogden, but to Utah residents in general. We believe that it is thus imperative for Rep. Hansen to arrange for these bills to be carried forward by some other legislator, before he commits to resigning his house seat, upon his still-hypothetical election as Emerald City mayor.
We also believe that if elected mayor, Representative Hansen will make the obvious practical decision, and devote himself full-time to managing the affairs of our city as our new mayor. Nevertheless, we congratulate him at this early juncture for not "playing it safe," and for his heretofore decision not to take the "Standard-Examiner's bait" -- and answer a hypothetical question better suited for one of those preposterous Standard/Net online polls.
And one other thing -- just for fun. Imagine the following scenario: a certain Ogden police chief/state senator (Greiner) who reports on his regular day job to an Ogden mayor/house representative (Hansen.) The possibilities in this also-hypothetical fact-set are quite delicious, we think.
Take it away, gentle readers. Web-surfers all over cyberspace are waiting to know what YOU think.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
In the Sunday edition of today's Standard-Examiner, there is an interesting article on blogs and bloggers. The title, "Be wary of bloggers who weave… a web of deception" sets the tone for an article that seems aimed at warning the reader of the rumors, gossip, and misinformation that permeates some blogs.
There were, I think, some interesting and apropos points made in the article. Such as that there seems to be a lack of sourcing and referencing, especially when it comes to the "comments" posted in blogs. Another interesting stat in the article is that it is estimated that one quarter of all Americans obtain information from blogs. This percentage is probably due to increase as the capabilities of traditional print journalism decrease and the interest and reach of the internet increases.
Then, in a very interesting example chosen by the author, Brad Gillman, he tells the story of a local blog, Davis County Watch, started by Tyler Farrer. This is a blog that really took off when Mr. Farrer investigated some of the financial issues of the South Davis Recreation Center and uncovered some controversial costs to the citizens of Davis County. Where have we seen an example of this before?
The article seems to admit that blogs represent a potent, new form of electronic journalism, and that the younger generation has embraced its power and dynamic response. However, the article warns the blog-consumer to consider the credibility of all blogs and blog posting by looking for external links to other sources and to consider the credibility of sources. Additionally, that media outlets will sometimes pick up rumors from blogs and publish them in an attempt to get the story.
The article ends with the tragic story of a Funny Car driver whose life tragically ends after a racing accident. The driver's family decided to pull life-support five days after the accident, however his death had already been reported on blogs. The unfounded rumors added to the hurt and anguish of the family. A very sad story indeed.
As a Weber County Forum regular, I found it hard not to see this article as a dig at my very own favorite blog. Although I would not expect the Standard-Examiner to use wcforum as the example of a local blog (never give your competition free ink), it was interesting how similar the example used (Davis County Watch) was to wcforum. I tend to agree with the author with regard to checking sources and external links, but does this not apply to all information we receive? Your thoughts?
Friday, July 27, 2007
We've just received another press release from the Ogden Sierra Club's Dan Schroeder, containing what we consider to be bunkerbuster information concerning Boss Godfrey's "Secret Gondola Study Saga."
In the interest of inserting this information into the public domain as quickly and efficiently as possible, we incorporate the entire document in full, without analysis or editorial comment:
Dear members of the press:We intend to take Sierra Club Chairman Schroeder up immediately on his gracious offer to provide copies of these documents. If all goes well, we'll be able to expeditiously obtain and upload the most relevant material to our storage site very soon, for our gentle readers' benefit.
In response to a GRAMA request submitted a month ago, I have just received from Ogden City a large stack of documents. Several of these documents contain information that seems newsworthy to me, although they leave many questions unanswered.
The documents center around the "Ogden Gondola Fiscal Impacts Analysis" study performed last year by Lewis Young Robertson & Burningham (LYRB), which was the subject of several news articles last month. Most of the documents are email messages exchanged among various city staff members and UTA staff regarding the arrangements and procedures for paying for the LYRB study. Among other things, the documents reveal the following:
• Whereas UTA was apparently willing to reimburse Ogden City for the cost of the LYRB study, high-level city officials repeatedly insisted that UTA instead pay LYRB directly. For example, a March 23, 2007 email from Ogden CAO John Patterson to Mick Crandall of UTA states that "it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to do so," referring to paying the bill from LYRB.
• In response, Crandall states in an April 2, 2007 email that for UTA to pay contractors directly "would be a violation of our procurement rules and accounting standards and UTA cannot make an exception." Crandall goes on to state that UTA "is very reluctant to interject itself into internal matters of a City" and is therefore requiring a written agreement in part to "ensure that the Mayor and the City Council both would concur at least in the use of these funds..."
• An April 2, 2007 email from Finance Manager John Arrington to Patterson similarly indicates that the administration's concern was to keep the City Council from learning about the payment: "we paid an expense in the past without out [sic] Council knowing and we are still suffering from that decision."
• A May 16, 2007 email from Arrington to Patterson again indicates that the administration was concerned about the City Council: "I hope we can get this done without dual payees (City and UTA) since the Council will be looking for anything running to or through the City. [City Attorney] Gary Williams doesn't like the duel [sic] check either, because it still implicates Ogden City."
• Val Brown of UTA expressed an additional concern in a pair of emails to Arrington on May 10 and May 14, 2007: "Frankly, from past experience we've been a bit disappointed in Ogden City's compliance with requirements ... we have audit reports indicating that in the past there have been some problems."
• Mayor Godfrey was involved in several of these email exchanges. For example, on May 15, 2007 he emailed Patterson asking him to "please work with John [Arrington] on this." On December 22, 2006, Patterson forwarded two of Arrington's emails to Godfrey, adding the comments "Does he have early onset Alzheimer's?" and "AMAZING!!"
• Although the bill from LYRB was for only $16,250, the city administration's intent was for UTA to use the rest of the money freed up by the $247,500 federal earmark to reimburse Chris Peterson for his expenses related to the gondola project. In his May 16, 2007 email to Patterson, Arrington states: "I think [Crandall] would be the one to have Chris work through also in getting his vendors qualified as direct pay providers. I'll be sending him an e-mail with UTA's procurement guidelines and ask that he work through UTA involving us for information purposes to get $231,250 of his expenses covered."
• On June 12, 2007, Mayor Godfrey signed an official memorandum to "waive the competitive selection process" for procurement of the services of LYRB for their study (which was initiated around March, 2006). Such a waiver is apparently required by the Ogden City Code. UTA had previously expressed its concern that the city follow its own procurement procedures in this matter.
• An email from lobbyist Ken Lee to Patterson, dated June 1, 2007, acknowledges his receipt of a copy of the LYRB study. Lee then asks, "Has it been leaked? Is the opposition up in arms yet?" In a second email to Patterson on the same date, also copied to Godfrey, Lee says, "I want to get it in the hands of everyone on the Hill. OK with that?" These emails seem to imply that Lee is engaged in a further lobbying effort on behalf of the Peterson project.
• On another subject (probably unrelated), Mayor Godfrey received an email on May 14, 2007 from Mori and Gadi Leshem, proposing that the Leshems lease a portion of UTA's property near 17th and Wall for use in a development they were planning. Godfrey then forwarded this email to Art Bowen of UTA. I contacted Bowen by phone and he indicated that UTA was not interested in leasing its property. However, the Leshems already own a large amount of property in this area and this email indicates that Godfrey is working with the Leshems on a development proposal of some kind. The City Council recently approved a rezone of the Leshems' property. As far as I'm aware, the public has not been told what sort of development is being contemplated.
Besides the documents provided in response to my GRAMA request, the City Attorney's office has withheld other "draft agreements and correspondence" that are protected because they are drafts or "by attorney-client privilege." Among the protected records is the draft agreement between UTA and the city. I spoke with Crandall by phone and he told me that he expects the agreement to be finalized very soon, and he'll send me a copy as soon as it is.
I would be happy to provide you with copies of any or all of the documents I've received. Alternatively, I'm sure you could easily obtain copies directly from the City Recorder's office. The full collection is probably about 300 pages, although much of it is redundant because of the way email replies usually incorporate the message being replied to.
I hope you can find a way to bring some of these details to the attention of the public. Please let me know if I can help in any way.
Dan Schroeder, Conservation Chair
Ogden Sierra Club
In the meantime, we present this "raw" information immediately -- for the enlightenment of those few remaining gentle readers who still entertain lingering confidence in the trustworthiness of Boss Godfrey -- the man who always "lies whenever his lips are moving" -- yet nevertheless claims to have "higher integrity than anybody in the room."
Update 7/28/07 1:15 p.m. MT: At our request, Chairman Schroeder this morning kindly furnished us a CD, containing electronic versions of the GRAMA-produced documents provided pursuant to the Sierra Club's GRAMA request. In that connection we have uploaded and linked some of these documents, to corroborate the allegations set forth in the forgoing press release.
Update 7/31/07 12:03 p.m. MT: We have now uploaded and linked the data contained in the above-referenced CD. Twenty-nine pages in all, these pages represent the most interesting and relevant material furnished by the Ogden City Mayor's Office, pursuant to the Sierra Club's July GRAMA document production request. You may view the full document collection here.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Some interesting Ogden ink in today's Standard-Examiner. First, a nearly full page color ad here touting the downtown Farmer's Market [where hopefully more farmers and more produce will begin appearing; the SL Farmers Market is awash in fresh produce and farmers there told me their crops came in early this season]. And highlighting up-coming show at the Amphitheater ["A Cappellastock 2007"] and touting "Ogden's First Annual Paddle Festival" scheduled for Pineview's Middle Inlet Beach on 25 August.
Next, some really good ink, an article on Barnes Aerospace's breaking ground on its new facility at BDO. From the story:
OGDEN — Officials marked another milestone in their efforts to expand the aerospace industry in the Top of Utah when they broke ground Wednesday on a 165,000-square-foot building at Business Depot Ogden that will be the new home of Barnes Aerospace.Finally, a story headlined "Godfrey issues drought order." Here are the opening graphs:
Barnes executives, local community and business leaders, and local Barnes employees were on hand for a ceremonial tree planting to mark the facility to be built on the northwest corner of 1050 South and Depot Drive. Barnes will relocate its 175-employee operation from 1483 W. 2550 South to a 120,000-square-foot space in the new building after it is finished in early 2008.
OGDEN — Consumers who use large amounts of culinary water could see their bills increase 20 percent under an administrative order issued Wednesday by Mayor Matthew Godfrey to address local drought conditions. The order is the first of its kind since the city council enacted an ordinance two years ago giving Godfrey authority to raise water rates to encourage conservation in drought conditions. The ordinance allows Godfrey to issue a drought order when the annual rate of precipitation affecting the Weber River watershed drops to a level of 70 percent or less of normal.[This is one time when Hizzonah's being a Republican works to his advantage. If he were a Democrat, then today's story would no doubt draw a blast from Cong. Rob "The Lemming" Bishop with a headline like this: Democrat Mayor Plans Higher Water Taxes .]
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
This morning's Standard-Examiner has a chirpy Bryan Saxton write-up today, reporting on yesterday's Emerald City Pioneer Days parade. The article strangely dwells on the world-famous Oscar Mayer Weinermobile for far too long, and mentions that the event itself ran for some two hours. All-in-all the article is quite positive however; and from a detached reader's point of view (we didn't make it to the parade ourselves - sorry,) we got the impression from our reading of this article early this morning that this locally-important annual state holiday event, a long-held tradition in Emerald City, designed to honor our pioneer forefathers - who dragged their families and possessions across the plains in handcarts and covered wagons -- went off without a hitch.
Within the last hour however we have received a dissenting opinion from one of our regular readers, an Ogden native, who's been attending this event on and off for some fifty years or more. We accordingly link the hot-off-the-press comments of gentle Ozboy, who, in his inimitable style asks the probing question, "Does any one hereabouts know who was in charge of the yesterday's parade?"
We invite our gentle readers who attended yesterday's parade to read and compare these two articles. Gentle Ozboy sets forth some troubling observations and raises some interesting questions, we think. Ozboy also offers a plausible explanation for why the parade ran on so long on a sizzling summer morning in late July.
So how about it, gentle readers? Among those of you who attended this event, who wants to throw in their own 2¢?
If you'd like to broaden the discussion to include Emerald City's Pioneer Day Rodeo, or other traditional Emerald City events -- what the heck? We invite you to chime in with your comments, good or bad.
It's a s-l-o-o-o-w news day, after all.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
OGDEN — A report card issued Monday by the Ogden Sierra Club gives Mayor Matthew Godfrey a D+ based on his overall environmental record during nearly two terms in office.Demonstrating remarkable pre-holiday journalistic initiative, Ace Reporter Schwebke interviewed Boss Godfrey on each of the ratings categories point-by-point, and furnishes an article filled with delightful Godfreyesque quotes like this:
Sierra Club leaders reached a consensus regarding the grade after evaluating Godfrey’s performance over the last 7-1/2 years in nine categories, said Dan Schroeder, the club’s conservation chairman.
The categories are sprawl and Legacy Highway, mass transit, bike routes, pedestrian-friendly development, trails, open space, wilderness protection, city utility services and municipal energy use.
"My goal isn’t to please Dan Schroeder — it’s to do what’s right for Ogden," he said. Seldom, we suggest, has Boss Godfrey snarkiness ever been better captured in the public press.
And we find within Mr. Schwebke's article this noteworthy example of the Boss Godfrey alternate reality, wherein the same fellow who tormented our community for two years over a proposal to commit hundreds of acres of Emerald City foothill open space to residential development, now poses as the most open space-friendly mayor in sixty years:
The Sierra Club gave Godfrey an F in the open-space category because of his “high-profile campaign” to advocate the sale and development of 175 acres of city-owned park land, including Mount Ogden Golf Course, and 60 acres of adjoining undeveloped property to developer Chris Peterson....Hoo-boy! Never let it be said that our little mayor is lacking in the chutzpah category.
Godfrey said the city has acquired more than 60 acres of open space during his time in office. That is more than any administration in six decades, he said.
In the interest of providing our readers some additional background on the factors contributing to the Sierra Club's scorecard revision, we also link yesterday's short press release here.
And while we're on the subject of Boss Godfrey, we're going to throw in an added bonus item, which has been sitting on the Weber County Forum back-burner for the last few days. Most of you will remember the classic Scott Schwebke article series, in which our favorite Std-Ex reporter exposed Boss Godfrey's "Secret Gondola Study Scheme," whereby Boss Godfrey obtained and then attempted to conceal from the city council $247 thousand in federal transportation money, which would have been secretly applied to Godfrey's apparently incurable Gondola Obsession.
In a nutshell, Boss Godfrey's Washington lobbyist had secured a federal grant for study of gondolas as a transportation alternative. Boss Godfrey hid the information on this cash grant from the city council for almost six months, then told the council one of his typical "tall tales" when confronted on the subject.
For a true life audio expose on how Boss Godfrey actually operates in real life, be sure to check out this reader-submitted text/audio combo link.
Helpful Housekeeping Tip. Several months ago, we completely converted our software to the new and "improved" xhtml Blogger II version.
Like all new and improved software everywhere, it's buggy, unpredictable and, well, difficult.
For almost the whole history of this blog we've "set" our comments section to appear in a pop-up window, which before our conversion to the new software allowed reader comments to be opened in "full screen view." Inasmuch as many of our readers are often "long-winded," this was a very good thing, indeed.
Lately we've received comments and reader emails complaining that our reader comments cannot be displayed "full screen," and are "scrunched up" to the left side of the screen, making reading lengthy posts "difficult" at best.
For the convenience of our readers we offer this browser-based workaround (This works in both IE and Firefox):
1) To read or post on this blog, right-click your mouse on "comments." This will bring up a menu;
2) Select and click on "open in new window."
This will open up a full page comments screen.
The problem relates to an internal bug in the new blogger software; and we do hope it'll be fixed within our lifetime.
In the meantime, this will make our reader comments much more readable.
That's it folks. The floor is open for comments.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
No, that wasn't the headline on the front page lead story in the Standard Examiner. But it could, and maybe should, have been. The headline actually is "Foundation, City too close?"
From the story by Mr. Schwebke:
OGDEN — A local foundation is being scrutinized by the state because a lawmaker who is also a mayoral candidate believes it may be too closely tied to the city.Several things worthy of note in all that. First, that the Mayor has not denied that the official address of the supposedly "separate legal entity" is his office in the Municipal Building. Second, the Mayor's staff has admitted that the Foundation has... well, has not followed its own bylaws. Third: well, yes, the Mayor is required by the by-laws to be the Foundation's head, and yes, the chair of the Council is required to be on the board, and yes, a handful of other Godfrey administration officials are on the board as well. But no, it's not a public body?
State Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, questions whether the Ogden Community Foundation’s February sale of the American Can complex in downtown Ogden was appropriate. He has asked for a state audit of the $3 million sale to Colorado developer Jon Peddie and investors.
Hansen is also questioning whether the foundation is a quasi-branch of city government, since five municipal officials, including Godfrey, serve on its 13-member board....
"There is nothing nefarious going on," he said. "It’s a separate legal entity." However, Hansen believes the city and foundation enjoy a much closer relationship. He questioned why the foundation’s articles of incorporation filed with the state in 2003 list its address as Godfrey’s office at 2549 Washington Blvd., Suite 910.
"If it’s run out of the mayor’s office, then it should be a public foundation and its financial books should be open so the public can see how money is being spent," he said.
Godfrey said the use of his office in the incorporation filing was a formality to get the foundation registered.
The foundation also seems to be a public entity because its bylaws require the mayor and city council chairman to serve on its board, Hansen said.
City Council Chairman Jesse Garcia said he doesn’t sit on the board and wouldn’t serve if asked because elected officials and municipal employees shouldn’t be involved. “I don’t think it’s right,” he said.
Johnson said the foundation is in the process of changing the makeup of its board and hasn’t closely followed some provisions of its bylaws.
This fails the duck test. [If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck... it's a duck.]
Note also the Mayor's response to a state representative simply asking questions about how the city used state granted funds, and whether the matter was handled properly: the Mayor charges political motives. Hell, the Mayor always charges political motives. As I recall, that was part of his [you should excuse the expression] "defense" when he was nabbed following a city employee's wife around downtown to learn if her husband was involved in opposing his policies. "Political motivation" is the perennial claim of elected officials who are caught with their hands in the public's cookie jar. [Charges against Congressman Duke Cunningham --- now a guest of the public in a federal penitentiary --- were called, by him, politically motivated at first. Former Rep. Ney of Ohio --- now a guest of the public in a federal penitentiary as well --- claimed charges against him were "politically motivated" too....]
A mayor with nothing to hide would have replied: "I welcome Rep. Hansen's questions and the State Auditor's audit. We've done nothing wrong and I'll be glad to have this cleared up once and for all."
But he didn't. Instead he began whining immediately "it's politically motivated." Seems Our Mayor thinks it is not fair or reasonable for people to ask questions about how he has acted in office. Apparently he wishes us to accept as a given that "the mayor can do no wrong." We used to live under a government based on the premise that "the king can do no wrong." But in most places, Americans believe we threw that system over in 1776. But then, most Americans don't live in Ogden.
The Mayor does have, however, I think one legitimate complaint, though not against Rep. Hansen, but against the Standard Examiner. In Calvin Grondahl's political cartoon this morning, the Mayor is depicted on the right identified as a wing nut, with that bit of hardware on his head as a hat. I'd be miffed about that too if I were mayor. [Sorry Mr. Grondahl. Couldn't resist....]
Finally, this morning's Std-Ex has a lead editorial explaining that the Std-Ex will, this election, break with tradition and recommend specific candidates, by name, in various races. The editors seem to think this will be a controversial decision. Can't understand why. Most major newspaper endorse candidates at election time. Looks to me like the Std-Ex simply catching up, at last, with the competition. For whatever reason, a good decision.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Anyway, speaking of the city council, here are my recommendations on those races since you’ll need to know who to vote for. Print this voter guide and take it with you to the polls on September 11, 2007.
Kent Petersen – Kent made most of his money by being smart enough to be born to a guy with a new car franchise – nice move, Kent. And all that scuttlebutt about him losing $1 million of his inherited cash to a Ponzi scheme with Wayne Ogden has nothing to do with his qualifications for office. After all, I lost $5 million of taxpayer money when he bulldozed Woodbury’s building on the old mall site without asking them for permission. What’s the big deal?
Royal Eccles – For years people have been complaining that there isn’t enough inherited-wealth elitism on the city council, so here it is. The name says it all. Remember, vote for the guy with the diamond pinky ring, and you can’t go wrong.
Kevin Irons, Dennis Howland and Blain Johnson – A bunch of nobodies I have in the race to Hoover up votes from all the people who can’t stomach voting for the likes of Royal and Kent. Kevin, Dennis, and Blain are three guys I know who the mayor can rely on, if by some snowball’s chance they win.
Brandon Stephenson – He’s unopposed, so bite me.
Amy Wicks – This chick investigated how much money I spent on the gondola, and came up with about six grand, when I have actually spent several hundred thousand. How incompetent is that?
Caitlin K. Gochnour – An outdoor nut who will likely vote in favor of squirrels and pine trees instead of the asphalt spreaders and gravel pits that are the foundation of our economy. She’s also a marathon runner – and she’ll need to be one, to beat my man Kent. Hey Cat, better get your sweat on, sweetheart!
Sheila P. Aardema – You’ve heard of “space freaks?” Well, this woman is an “open space” freak, so if you like the good, prosperous sound of dump trucks rolling past your house all day, you can forget about it with this pine nut. Plus, for you “small government” types, she’s the wife of a former Ben Lomond High School principal – in other words she’s married to a retired educrat. Sounds great, doesn’t she?
Dirk Youngberg – this guy is a city employee. Hey Dirk, if you don’t win, and I do, you’d better start looking for another job, if you get my drift.
Jim Freed – A gadfly from Smart Growth Ogden, and a general pain in the butt. He’s retired from Hill AFB so he’s basically another retired bureaucrat. Sounds real exciting, doesn’t he?
Hey, no wise cracks about my photo . . . Why aren’t I commenting on my mayoral challengers, you ask? Well, maybe you should just start thinking about the damage the mayor will do if he loses – between the time of the election and when he has to leave office in January – now that’s ugly.
So don’t let your wandering eyes stray to Hansen or Van Hooser. Remember whose prison dame you are.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Now that the mayoral race is on, we need to know which candidate can implement and execute a smart plan to revive Ogden's fortunes. The current mayor has acknowledged that Ogden needs more high-paying jobs and laments that his own siblings had to leave Weber County to earn a decent living, yet his preposterous gondola obsession has proved that he doesn't have the wherewithal to be the player we need.
Historically, Ogden never had to grapple with how to become great. Its golden goose, the railroad, was not the end-result of a chamber of commerce campaign or a major tax credit scheme from a legislature; it was a historical accident. When the golden goose died, Ogden's principal economic pylon collapsed. So Ogden has no tradition of figuring out how to jump-start its fortunes.
I'm disturbed that Ogden can't supply its citizens with many essential services. All the legal work for Union Square was handled by Salt Lake firms. The elegant Wattis house on Eccles Ave. is being restored by experts from Salt Lake. There's not even a Weber Club anymore; Ogden society now heads for Salt Lake's Alta Club. For Ogden to be truly great, it must be able to supply these kinds of needs from within.
It's not at all clear that becoming the outdoor sports hub we're reputed to be can make Ogden appreciably richer. What would it take to attract major economic engines? How do other cities do it? Is it a matter of federal largesse? Could WSU gear up to become more of a research park-type magnet for federal money than it presently is? What kind of industries could we get? Health care? Financial services? Insurance?
The arrival of the FrontRunner in 2008 offers a means to reinvigorate Ogden. Instead of merely being a place of embarcation to Davis and Salt Lake Counties, could Ogden market itself as a reverse-commuting destination? Could we attract industries and employers that would get white-collar commuters from Davis going north instead of south? Could we create a retail and entertainment district that would induce the consumers of Brigham City, Logan, and even Idaho to stop here instead of continuing on to Salt Lake? Does this mayor's hostility to alcohol and Sunday hours preclude entertainment forums that would attract the big spenders?
I believe a suitable mayor would've long ago begun scheming to advertise Ogden as a cool and fun (and ideally, even lucrative) destination via the FrontRunner. Is there any sign of such effort? (No, because it would detract from the gondola.) The silence from City Hall is deafening.
What would each of our gentle readers do if he/she were Ogden's philosopher-king?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Well here it is folks, our archived "short list" of the 2007 Emerald City Mayoral and Council candidates who managed to get their filings completed prior to yesterday's 5:00 p.m. deadline. In terms of name recognition they run the gamut, from a two-term mayor (Boss Godfrey,) a five-term State House Representative (Hansen,) three sitting incumbent council-members (Stephenson, Van Hooser & Wicks,) a prominent Ogden firefighter (Youngberg,) a perennial candidate (Thompson) to various others whom it's probably fair to politely characterise as "lesser-knowns."
It's an equal-opportunity playing field here in Emerald City at this point in time however; and in the next eight weeks (the municipal primary falls on September 11, 2007) we're sure each of these candidates will devote ample effort to speak up and show us exactly what they're made of.
For a slightly more fleshed-out overview of the field of candidates, don't forget to read up on this morning's two Standard-Examiner articles:
Five vie for Ogden Mayor
Godfrey has four challengers
And now that the 2007 municipal campaign is officially underway, we suppose it's fair to begin a discussion of these candidates, their past achievements and qualifications for office, here on our little backwater community blog.
Before we open the floor however, we'd like to issue a short admonition. Although our regular readers are invariably gentle and well-behaved, we realize that a number of trolls and "Godfreyite" lurkers regularly prowl this blog. For those who may consider the opening of a discussion of these candidates to be an invitation to "flaming," we suggest such readers to carefully read and understand our posting policy. During the next eight weeks, these rules will be strictly enforced. If we demonstrate a bias at all in the application of this policy, it will be toward the direction of civility. And as one reader has already suggested, we intend to come down hard on "poorly-founded allegations and accusations."
As we approach the primary election, we'd like to foster the highest possible level of civil discourse. That isn't to imply that we'll ban "negativity." In the case of at least one incumbent candidate, we know negativity is clearly warranted on the facts.
Even in that connection, however, we hope all our readers will remember our constant motto:
This board is for grown-ups.
Don't let the cat get your tongues.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Mayor Matthew Godfrey expects UTA to spend $247,500 set aside for the [gondola study] plan because he believes the gondola would provide cost-effective public transportation along a busy corridor from downtown to Weber State University. Godfrey believes Peterson will come up with a new proposal. "I think he will do something."
UTA may still pay for study
July 16, 2007
"My significant other right now is myself, which is what happens when you suffer from multiple personality disorder and self-obsession."
The Reluctant Hero
Ace reporter Schwebke is right back on the "secret gondola study" article series, with this morning's Standard-Examiner front page story. Boss Godfrey reportedly remains obsessed with his gondola to nowhere vision, despite his recent and sudden purported abandonment of the politically-disastrous golf course sale funding element. At least one voice on the council however, the ever-sensible Dorrene Jeske, reportedly believes it's time to consider realistic transportation alternatives:
OGDEN — The Utah Transit Authority may spend almost $250,000 for a gondola study, even though the future of the Ogden project is in doubt.What ought to be clear from this story is that our Emerald City Mayor still remains absolutely fixated on his "gondola vision," even in the absence of so much as a shred of evidence to demonstrate that it makes any sense at all. Boss Godfrey refers to the "private investment" which would ease the public sector burden of operating a transportation system within the WSU-downtown corridor. Yet in two years, no private money seems to have been committed to this project. And in the same two-year period, the single "investor" who appears to have shown even some slight interest in this "investment" has produced nothing tangible at all -- not so much as a plan or drawing -- not even hasty scribblings on a cocktail napkin.
Chad Saley, a spokesman for UTA, said the funds are still available but wouldn’t necessarily have to be used for a gondola study.
"The funds could be used to do another study if Ogden wanted to study streetcars and other transit modes."
Mayor Matthew Godfrey expects UTA to spend $247,500 set aside for the plan because he believes the gondola would provide cost-effective public transportation along a busy corridor from downtown to Weber State University.
"This has the opportunity to provide transportation along the corridor with no operational costs to (UTA),” he said. “Their interest is to have this investment made by the private sector."
However, City Councilwoman Dorrene Jeske said the UTA funds should not be earmarked specifically for the gondola, but for an overall mass transit plan for the city.
"We have got to address our transportation problems — the sooner the better," she said.
Once again our
We're encouraged by the quoted comments of Councilwoman Jeske; and it's our sincere hope that other council members will get aboard her bandwagon. It's well within the power of the city council to order that the one-quarter million in transportation study dollars, which are presently languishing in a UTA account, be applied to a realistic overall mass transit plan for the city; and we believe the council should do just that. Our city has already wasted far too much time and treasure pursuing Boss Godfrey's compulsive pipe-dreams. It's time, we think, to put our public transportation future "on track."
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Interesting Op Ed piece in Sunday morning's Standard Examiner by Don Porter, headlined "Ogden’s slow, consistent move upward can continue if we’re civil."
Porter reports that:
in the 1980s, an editor who has long since left the Standard-Examiner was fond of describing Ogden as “the meanest town in the West” — referring to the city’s feral brand of politics and penchant for personal attack.Porter says that as the gondola/gondola/park sale matter heated up, he:
had anti- and pro-gondola/golf course sale/resort development people calling my office, constantly, and making the most outrageous allegations that you can imagine — often of a personal and criminal nature. The various personalities involved in this debate — again, on both sides — were subjected to some of the most corrosive venom conceivable.Lest anyone conclude that Porter has no stomach for a good political fight, or is [in a word much applied to those who recommend some civility in discussing, yes, even the gondola/gondola "plan" or the park sale or even the Mayor] a "pantywaist," Porter notes that he has
no trouble appreciating hostility. If I find myself in the right mood, I actually relish using a rhetorical blowtorch. But the trick is choosing the right time and place to load up the flame thrower. I know well it had better be rare. If all you do is holler, your words lose their effectiveness in no time — and then that powerful weapon is rendered ineffective.Exactly right. The most common term on the national level for the "feral politics" [nice phrase that; due notice, Mr. Porter: I intend to steal it shamelessly in the future] is "the politics of personal destruction." Once it begins, compromise and cooperation for the common good become more and more difficult to arrange, and end the end, can become impossible. Which, as Mr. Porter argues, will not serve Ogden --- or, I'd add, any municipality, any state, any nation --- well.
Porter ends his piece this way:
A quibble: we do not need to "turn down the volume," Mr. Porter. It's important that the discussion of Ogden's future, what it ought to be and how best to achieve it, remain visible, even noisy [squeaky wheel theory]. What we need to do is keep the volume cranked up but turn the heat down. Way down.
Operating on the theory that if someone is not with you they are against you is no recipe for success in making a city prosper. Godfrey describes his decision to reject the golf course sale as a “compromise” with persistent critics. I hope he’s serious, and that the people who approve of his new position on the golf course will now engage him in a productive discussion on where to go from here regarding Ogden redevelopment and transit.
But the only way that’s going to happen successfully is if the people who have been shouting the loudest consent to turn down the volume.
Well, okay. Two quibbles. While Mr. Porter is careful to qualify his condemnation of the nastiness that has, I agree, been too often visible in Ogden politics of late, as applying to many or most, rather than all involved in it, I'd just add here that Smart Growth Ogden [full disclosure: I am an active supporter of SGO] has, I think, never descended to the feral politics he describes, but has focused its mailings, press releases, letters, public meetings and website content on issues, not personalities, on civil discussion, not venom. That some supporters of SGO have I wouldn't contest. But the organization has been careful, I think, not to. For evidence, see the SGO website here.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Ace Reporter Schwebke contributes an interesting news tidbit this morning, with a story reporting that the State Auditor's Office is in the process of conducting an audit of the American Can transaction:
OGDEN — A request from Ogden mayoral candidate Rep. Neil Hansen, R-Ogden,has prompted the state Auditor’s Office to investigate the city’s use of aFor those readers, by the way, who find it strange that Boss Godfrey has the capacity to unilaterally determine true "intent": Remember, Godfrey is a "visionary." He hears "voices."
$900,000 state grant in 2002 to purchase the former American Can Co. complex.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who is seeking a third term in November’s general election, said the audit request is a political move designed to discredit him.
"The intent is to make me look bad," Godfrey said.
We believe the most striking oddity in this story is Boss Godfrey's paranoid delusion that an audit of this sort is somehow intended to cast him in a bad light. The State Auditor's office conducts audits of municipal transactions constantly and routinely. Doing such audits is the State Auditor's job. Frankly, we find it find it astonishing that Boss Godfrey is complaining about this at all.
Further down in the article Godfrey tells our favorite Ace Reporter that "the city will cooperate with state auditors. 'We have nothing to hide,' he said."
And we think that's the whole point. If indeed the American Can transaction was on the financial "up and up," we don't understand why Boss Godfrey is grousing about it. If State Representative Hansen received constituent complaints about the tranasaction, it was of course his duty to pass them on to the Auditor's office, just as it's the State Auditor's duty to follow up with an audit, when the same citizen queries wind up on his desk. Surely even Boss Godfrey must understand this simple government 101 concept.
And we're wondering about one more thing: If Boss Godfrey is so terribly concerned that the pendency of this audit will somehow damage him politically, why did the normally-secretive Boss of Us All find it necessary or prudent to squawk to the Standard-Examiner about it?
While skeptics might leap to the conclusion that Boss Godfrey has gone public with this story to cultivate sympathetic political effect, we know that Dear Leader would never do anything like that. Boss Godfrey has more integrity than anyone in the room, as we all know. We therefore believe we can put any suggestions of disingenuousness quickly to rest.
And one more thing: Ace reporter Schwebke got this story almost completely wrong, from the article headline to the closing paragraph. This audit plainly has little to do with the $900,000 grant. The State Attorney General's Office has already resolved questions about the legal propriety of the application of the original grant funds, of course.
Assistant Attorney General Loos provides a hint of that in this paragraph:
"Loos said Thursday that while his opinion centered on Ogden’s compliance with the grant contract, the state audit will likely examine how the funds were used."
What the State Auditor's office will be doing in this audit, we believe, is to track the money trail in the transaction from the federal and state grants which seeded the original purchase, to the entities who wound up with the sale proceeds.
Among those entities is the mysterious Ogden Community Foundation, a shadowy and purportedly private entity operated from an office in city hall, chaired by The Little Lord Mayor himself, and populated by many of his Godfreyite henchmen. Our insider sources reveal that some within the State Auditor's Office suspect that this entity may in fact be a quasi-public, alter-ego subdivision of the city administration, subject under Utah law to audit by their office.
Now that the story has been taken public, it will indeed be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
And now for the Big News aspect of this morning's story. We were pleased to read this morning that Representative Hansen has quietly switched political affiliations, and is now a Republican State Representative. If you don't believe it (and we know this revelation will be particularly crushing to "yellow dog Democrat" gentle Curmudgeon,) go back and read Ace Reporter Schwebke's first paragraph.
It must be true; we read it in the paper.
Welcome to the Grand Old Party, Representative Hansen! With your constant fiscal conservatism, and love of open, honest government, we think you're a natural for the party of Abraham Lincoln.
Please don't all speak up at once, gentle readers.
Update 7/17/07 4:12 a.m. MT: Boss Godfrey now has two newspapers digging into the facts surrounding the American Can transaction. Check out yesterday morning's Kathy McKitrick story, in which Godfrey is quoted at his snarkiest.
Why Boss Godfrey won't just shut up about this, and let the audit run its course we do not know.
Perhaps it's because he has "more integrity than anyone in the room."
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Emerald City shoot-em-up. Although we normally don't cover the crime beat here at Weber County Forum, we can't ignore today's Standard-Examiner front page story, headlined: "Double shooting on Ogden street." In a scenario reminiscent of South-Central L.A., west-side Oakland, California, (or Tombstone Arizona, circa 1881) gunfire erupted yesterday between two vehicles travelling along Monroe Boulevard in broad daylight-- 20th and Monroe -- to be exact.
A neighbor who resides near the intersection where the shootings occurred described the aftermath of the incident, and told the Std-Ex reporter that "she just moved from a small town out of state and was not used to seeing 'stuff like this.'"
"We're quite shocked by 'stuff like this' this ourselves," your Ogden-native blogmeister also confides, in a rare WCF self-interview.
Now that Emerald City is "on the map" we suppose we'll have to get used to big-time street gun-play, just like many other cities who are map-worthy. As we learned during our interactions with Ogden police officers during the 2005 "public safety officer pay plan flap," Boss Godfrey's major anti-crime emphasis centers mainly on writing tickets to little old ladies who've inadvertently rolled through a stop-sign, or nailing crazed motorists with a burned-out tail-light. It's a question of mayoral priorities, of course. Busted gangbangers don't contribute much cash revenue to the city coffers, even when they're actively involved in blowing away other gangbangers.
The last time we spoke with OPD gang-unit officers about this, BTW, they told us they were seriously understaffed, with barely enough manpower to manage the bare paperwork. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to hear today from one of our "Ogden's Finest" officer readers, with an update on this situation -- so we can decide whether we need to arm ourselves for our own protection -- until after the November election.
River Project progress. We were pleased to read this morning's Std-Ex/Ace Reporter Schwebke Business Section article, reporting that the River Project is "taking shape." Ogden City's own Bingham Cyclery is planning to occupy its soon to be constructed building 200 feet from the river, and adjacent to the riverside bikepath/trail.
What makes this story especially newsworthy, we think, is that it's actually a local company who's received the mayor's favorable nod on this, rather than some giant international bicycle retailer conglomerate, who might have been lured here by generous tax increment discounts and other glad-handed favors.
A WCF Tip o' the Hat to Bingham Cyclery, with added best wishes for business success.
Lambs to the Slaughter. In other news, our northern neighbor Pleasant View, is taking a long look at getting aboard the economic development bandwagon:
“We want to encourage nice development,” said Councilman Kevin Bailey. He would like to see more restaurants in Pleasant View, as well as big box stores and offices.Hooray for Big Box Stores. That's what we call "nice development!" Just what that sleepy little residential community needs. Bring on the Big Box Stores, we say. Bring in the Big-Gummint central planners and schemers, too. We wonder which lovely Weber County community will be next to redraft their business plan to mimic the Riverdale, Utah model, and pave over their entire town with asphalt. Huntsville, Perhaps? We can only hope!
Somewhere in the background we seem to hear the bleating of lambs being led off to slaughter.
UDVA promoted to "cabinet" status. As a military veteran ourself, we are happy to read this morning that our former Ogden High School classmate Terry Schow's State Department of Veteran's affairs has been "kicked upstairs" to governor's cabinet level status. Terry and his dedicated crew have labored long and hard to browbeat the state legislature into doing the right thing, i.e., building a Veteran's Home in Weber County. Much to our encouragement, we are delighted to read that Terry and his staff will be able to bend the governor's ear about this, and various other important veterans' issues, from an office "right down the hall" from Chief State Executive Jon Huntsman's sumptuous office "digs."
Take it away, gentle readers.
Talk about any of the above; or feel free to start up a topic all your own.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
We want to call your attention to today's editorial in the Standard Examiner.
It reviews the Mayor's recent announcements regarding the Mt. Ogden parklands and the storied [but never produced] "Peterson Proposal," and today's Mayor Godfrey clarification about the "city gondola," stating in no uncertain terms that such a gondola will not be built with city funds, and would now only be built if Mr. Peterson agrees to pick up the entire construction, maintenance and operating costs.
The editorial is suffused with a quality far too lacking too often in the discussion of the gondola/gondola and "Peterson Proposal" so far. There is much to commend in it. Well worth the reading, every line of it. But let me highlight here a small portion near the editorial's conclusion:
"Godfrey backed Peterson -- at least in part, we presume -- because the developer kept promising to submit his formal proposal to the city, setting deadlines and then blowing them time and time again. As far as we know, there still has never been a full-blown, formal plan submitted to anyone in an official capacity."...absent the details it's impossible to know whether it deserves support."
Absent the details in such a document, speculation by both supporters and detractors has filled the void, and the Ogden community has been polarized on the topic....
And we will continue to wait with great anticipation to see where Peterson plans to go from here with his 1,440 acres east of Ogden.
The resort idea sounds interesting to us, but absent the details it's impossible to know whether it deserves support."
Exactly. And think how much better off Ogden would have been, how much rancor and ill-will might have been avoided if Mayor Godfrey had grasped that simple and common-sense-filled point two years ago: that absent the details... or what most might call instead "the facts"... his enthusiastic championing of the plan, his denigration of those who raised questions about it as "naysayers" and enemies of progress in Ogden, his administration's active support of zoning ordinance changes to accommodate a Peterson Proposal that never appeared [recall the "Ellison Ordinance" matter?] --- all of that, absent the details, the specifics, the facts, was ill-advised, inappropriate and did not well serve the interests of Ogden and its people.
Update 7/11/07 8:22 a.m. MT: Alert and gentle reader "Jill" provides a link to this morning's Salt Lake Tribune editorial, which presents a challenge to we citizens of Emerald City, to act decisively to permanently protect our precious open space.
This is must reading, we think, especially for our city council.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Ace Reporter Schwebke delivers a heart-rending front-page story this morning, reporting on the reaction in the gondolist cult camp to Saturday's five-star rated Boss Godfrey flip-flop.
The loyal gondolist lemmings had campaigned tirelessly for Boss Godfrey over the last two years, hoping to wrench seed money from the sale of our cherished Mt. Ogden parklands acreage, to be applied as a down payment toward their cherished amusement park ride to nowhere.
They're feeling more than slightly "let down" by Boss Godfrey, to say the very least, according to Ace reporter Schwebke, although even now they maintain "hope."
Amazingly, the plainly disappointed Curt Geiger even lets slip a telling amusement park metaphor with this curt statement: "The brass ring on the carousel went past us,” Geiger said, “and we didn’t grab hold of it."
Perhaps the amateur psychologists among us can provide some enlightenment on the true meaning of this.
And the usually upbeat Dave Hardman, President of the Weber/Ogden Chamber of Commerce, utters a crack that's positively nasty, in the context of his constantly grinning, Enzyte-guy normal demeanor. "It would be dumb of our community to miss this opportunity,” Mr. Hardman snapped.
Maybe it's just us -- but we are curious as to our readers' impressions of the possibly subtle meaning of this Dave Hardman comment. Did Dave Hardman actually tell Scott Schwebke that he thought Boss Godfrey's latest decision was dumb?
And courtesy of gentle reader Dan S. we refer our readers to this morning's most excellent Kathy McKittrick story on this topic. As Dan S. notes, the hiring of Ms. McKittrick by the Salt Lake Tribune was clearly Emerald City's loss, and Salt Lake City's profound gain.
But before we turn the floor over to our readers this morning, we're going to offer a few words of consolation to our poor Emerald City brethren who feel betrayed by the "visionary" leader who apparently "hears voices" of conflicting "instruction" from time to time:
1) Remember, when Boss Godfrey makes a promise while his lips are moving, you can expect his actual behavior to be the dead opposite of what he says. Based on careful observation of the Boss of Us All for almost eight years, we're going to go out on a limb and predict he'll in all likelihood sell the park to Chris Peterson anyway -- win or lose or lose the election -- shortly after the November polling date. If the little guy can unabashedly do an 180 degree flip-flop once, he can most certainly do it again. That's one thing you can definitely take to the bank.
2) And even assuming the low-probability alternative, i.e., that Boss Godfrey is breaking new ground -- and actually telling the truth at long last -- our despondent gondolist friends and neighbors should be reminded that the paltry $2-7 million that Godfrey expected to generate from the Mt. Ogden Parklands sale was just a drop in the bucket when compared with the $45 million projected urban gondola price-tag. Loyalist gondolists would have been compelled to beat the bush for another $38 million in investment capital anyway, even if Godfrey hadn't pulled the old last-minute political "switcheroo." Accordingly, the additional $7 mil is just "chump change" with regard to a wonderful project like this. We're sure eager investors will be beating down gondolist fundraiser doors with bags of investor cash, in order to get in on the ground floor of a sure-fire investment like this.
We do hope that our gondolist friends feel better now. As always, we're trying to "stay positive."
Take it away o gentle ones.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
With his job approval numbers plummeting below 40%, and the citizens of Emerald City now on the verge of civil war, Boss Godfrey made a stunning announcement on Saturday, demonstrating, much to our surprise, that he's not entirely devoid of political sense. In his
OGDEN — The city won’t sell Mount Ogden Golf Course to pave the way for a gondola and resort project, Mayor Matthew Godfrey said Saturday.The ever-elusive Chris Peterson, who has been unavailable for comment for the last 10 months, did manage to crawl out from under whatever rock he's been hiding under to register to Mr. Schwebke his "disappointment." We suppose we would be a mite disappointed too, if we were to learn that our bestest mayoral buddy had unilaterally decided to throw us overboard, with a sudden announcement that he didn't intend to deliver on our hard-plotted and schemed $200 million real estate windfall.
Godfrey told the Standard-Examiner he believes the project may still be possible, but added developer Chris Peterson, who has been working on a proposal for more than a year, would have to determine how it could be funded.
"It doesn’t mean the project will stop from moving forward," Godfrey said. "It may happen, but it will require Chris to go back to the drawing board."
Godfrey said concerns from residents who fear the city’s trail system in the foothills along the east bench would be adversely affected persuaded him not to sell Mount Ogden Golf Course.
Many of those residents offered to support the gondola resort project if the city retained ownership of the golf course, Godfrey said.
"This is a great way to compromise to help people feel better about the project," he said of his decision not to sell the course.
Godfrey said he has also determined there isn’t excess land at the golf course to accommodate a 200-home subdivision that Peterson wants to build on some of the property.
"I came to the conclusion we need all the existing area (that Peterson wanted to build homes on) for the golf course," he said.
Councilman Safsten, who at least had the good sense to avoid the humiliation of being ousted from his municipal ward 4 council seat (by taking himself out of contention for re-election in the upcoming November election,) nevertheless offers this boneheaded comment, adding new meaning to the term "political lame duck":
City Councilman Rick Safsten wonders, without the gondola resort proposal on the horizon, what will be Ogden’s next big economic development project? “This is the worst possible time to stop the momentum and take a breather,” he said.We extend to lame duck city councilman Mr. Safsten our profound sympathy for this unfortunate development, which deprives the good comrade of the opportunity to stick it to the citizens of Emerald City this one last time.
Notably, the Geiger boys, who are normally available to squawk into whatever microphone is placed in front of their noses 24 hours a day, were inexplicably unavailable when Scott Schwebke called for comments. Perhaps Mr. Schwebke forgot to look for them at the footings of the nearest tall bridge. Saturday's news most surely dampened the spirits of those remaining few who still linger in the gondolist cult camp.
We'll avoid the near-irresistible compulsion to wax on with our further analysis; and will instead now turn the floor over to you, our gentle readers.
Before we do however, we'll just volunteer one final closing comment:
The November election can't come fast enough for us. Happy days will soon be with us, once the lumpencitizens of Emerald City have snatched the opportunity to install a new government -- composed of actual adults.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Who is conducting the UNcreative writing classes for the Godfreyites?
Two more unimaginative letters from the same course in the Standard-Examiner today:
Naysayers ignore Godfrey's achievements
Reader thrilled with Ogden improvements
Such a sameness in tone. The buzz words we've all come to recognize and love:
And, of course, the shop-worn meme from the now apparently defunct Lift Ogden:
"These naysayers never have any suggestions on what to do! They don't want a gondola, but I haven't heard any better suggestions. They just fight against anything the administration tries to do."
Of all those who have reportedly filed for the upcoming election, only Neil Hansen and Amy Wicks actually addressed problems we have right now!
What do we know of Wald? Sexton? Where was he during the trolley discussions? Several meetings have been held on transit issues...it would have helped him to attend some of those.
Irons wants to make Ogden an "outdoor recreation mecca." Imagine that! What a new and original idea! Wonder if he's had a few creamed chicken dinners with you-know-who?
So far, only Hansen and Wicks have anything concrete to offer us. Hansen will have an open administration and he understands this city's needs. Honesty will prevail. Refreshing, eh? Wicks HAS served her constituents well and, thank goodness, she's put it in print that our infrastructure will be a priority!
Right now the Council must do all that is possible to protect our parklands from the Godfreyites.
"Fight Like Badgers"... good advice from Charlie Trentelman.
Council...go hire your own attorney. Stop listening to those city paid "naysayers" who tell you there is no way to put the parklands in trust.
Friday, July 06, 2007
By Dannie Donner
My wife Donna and I, together with our obedient children Denny, Dessa, and Deena loaded up the family minivan, together with our friends Dinty and Dottie Dingledine, and we all took a ride down to the Salomon Center this week. I thought I might relate some observations.
The parking garage looked great. The new paint really brightened the place. But then again, the Donner family has always loved parking garages. You haven’t lived until you’ve taken a rental car, locked the parking brake, and drug the back wheels screeching down three levels of a slick-floored big city parking garage.
While walking from the garage to the Salomon Center (or Sal’s Place as we called it,) we were in the company of numerous groups of excited youths – a good sign. As we peeked into Costa Vida Mexican Grill, I couldn’t help but remember that trendsetter of fresh Mexican grill restaurants: La Salsa, out in Riverdale. That restaurant presaged the coming of dozens of copycat “Fresh Mex” places, each of which lasted about two years before going belly up. Perhaps it’s harder than it looks to make a living wrapping black beans and rice in a flour tortilla, but hey, best wishes to Costa Vida.
Next, was the Flowrider. Dinty’s first comment was, “How do I get one of these in my backyard?” but the kid at the ticket booth couldn’t answer his question. There are currently only fifty of these worldwide, and I suppose, for good reason. Rather than pay $20 an hour for thirty feet of surf, why not just take a Southwest flight to So Cal for the day?
Next was the climbing wall. It costs $10 for adults for all day, or $60 a month. But do we not have the real thing around here for free? The most interesting feature was the benches made out of skis that you could sit on while watching the climbers. Outside the climbing center were those sandstone benches we’ve all heard about – basically a bunch of cubes – some with water coming out of them. I guess this is what $500,000 of illegally diverted highway money gets you, what, about twenty grand for each cube? Or maybe it was the under-market-value sale of the Wall Avenue property to the mayor’s crony that paid for the cubes, I can’t remember. But hey, if someone asks, “Got cubes?” we can say, “You betcha we got cubes, a half a million dollars worth of cubes!” There was a nice stainless steel sculpture there too – for me much more interesting than the climbing wall itself.
Next, we came to the i-fly. It costs $49 for two minutes for beginners, and $39 for two minutes after that. Dinty’s comment was the equipment looked reassembled – like it got taken apart in some other city and moved here. On the walls of the i-fly lobby were videos of a much nicer and larger wind tunnel facility. It appears here in Ogden we got the discount model – much smaller and cheaper looking. A crowd collected and sat down on the small row of bleachers near the i-fly, and the suspense was palpable as two guys suited up for a ride. As they climbed in and took off, a rush of excitement swept through the spectators. For the first 30 seconds, I determined that I HAD to try this MYSELF! In the next 30 seconds I decided I could probably live without it. And then, during the next minute or so, the crowd pretty much left while the two guys were still flying.
Gold’s Gym was the next stop. At the Ogden Athletic Club in South Ogden they’ve divided the place into sections, so you can feel a sense of privacy while exercising. At Gold’s, at the Sal Center, there were no partitions whatsoever, and it was packed with equipment. The last time I saw a field of that much twisted metal it was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Gold’s was an eerie, empty expanse of mechanization with a person here and there – as if silently waiting for the cyborgs to come and finish of the few remaining humans. It appears the Donner family will not be moving our exercise spa membership after all.
Next was the arcade, where the most interesting thing was the number of casino gambling devices present – one of which was a coin pusher I swear came right off the floor at Caesar’s. It appears that in Utah it’s illegal to gamble for “chips,” but it’s okay if you’re gambling for “tokens.” Send your kids to Sal’s Place, Mom and Dad, where they can gamble the carefree afternoons away. As far as the bumper cars – they moved so slowly and had so little room to maneuver they should have called the ride “Little Cindy’s Bumper Snails.” The mini golf cost $5 a person and was smaller and looked less fun than the one they have at Spare Time in Roy.
Next to the bowling alley there’s an enclosed booze bench for anybody who needs to get lit while visiting Sal’s. As far as the bowling, as I stood there watching the few lanes that were being bowled I noticed a smell. I wondered how, given it was brand new, that somebody could have already vomited in the place. I turned around, and there was a girl just passing behind me with a pizza. Hmmm, now that was some real smelly novelty cheese on that pizza. Bowling was about $4-5 bucks plus another $2-3 bucks for shoes, which seemed a little steep. You can find passes around town where six can bowl and get a pizza for $50 at Sal’s, which still seemed a little stiff to me.
The most interesting thing in the whole place was the virtual roller coaster. You sat in a flight simulator capsule while watching a computer monitor that was showing a roller coaster ride in outer space, or whatever. All the while, the thing tipped and turned you upside down and all around. One kid standing next to me commented on what the ride would probably make him do if he rode it. I had wondered myself how long it would take before this ride started smelling like the house pizza.
Last, was Big Larry’s Movie Hall across the plaza. Complete with a food court with four separate vendors, but few patrons, it appeared that the Fatmans’s Midas touch may have turned to lead here in Ogden. The only movie the Donner family wanted to see was showing just twice a day – an hour before noon, and 2 hours before midnight. Nice scheduling, Larry. But we may come back when they have something we want to watch, because we buy some of our cars from Larry (using our Costco discount) and we love Ogden. And the more we – the citizens – spend there, the longer it will take before we – the taxpayers – start having to cover the operating costs, which we will. We might as well get something for the money.
Overall, there were lots of kids everywhere and a sense of dynamism that I haven’t felt downtown since the Ogden City Mall first opened (which by the way, was another a government project that went bust before the bonds that built it were paid off.) And there has been some private development here and there, which hopefully will last longer than the Sal’s Place will before it starts losing money. So things are looking better, now that Godfrey has spent all our money, and while everything is still brand new.
On the other hand, if the Salomon Center were a public company, I’d sell the stock short tomorrow. Here’s some free advice for the mayor and his supporters. Six Flags, Inc. has been running amusement centers since 1961 and they still can’t figure out how to make them turn a profit.
Whether it’s a mall, a fun center, or some other government project: Just because somebody gets elected mayor, how does that make him a business wizard all of a sudden? We’re talking about lots of real money Godfrey has borrowed and spent – money that belonged to people who never gave their permission! You people push for deal after deal downtown and they all end up being taxpayer sink holes from one decade to the next. Please stop doing this! Have a burrito at Costa Vida while it’s still there, and think about it. Or perhaps, it would be best for Godfrey’s supporters to take a trip to the booze booth at the Sal Center bowling alley, get sauced, and try NOT to think about it.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The highly-talented and Emerald City community-minded Charlie Trentelman contributes yet another wonderful column to the Standard-Examiner this morning.
Today's topic: Dealing with self-serving (and often devious) real estate developers.
Mr. Trentelman begins his very instructive narrative with two Davis County examples of instances wherein developers have recently "baited" local officials into projects originally sold as trendy "walkable villages" -- and then subsequently "switched" -- into proposed plans reminiscent of the urban Big-box monstrosity, Riverdale, Utah.
Giant asphalt parking lots ARE "walkable," after all.
Mr. Trentelman has extensive experience reporting on the behavior of developers in northern Utah, having covered the "real estate developer beat" since the 1980's; and it's in this context that he offers some free and useful advice:
My advice to ... cities: Be ready to fight.Mr. Trentelman then executes a smooth segue, and launches into a discussion of the past performance of one Emerald City developer wannabe who has a grand (and entirely self-serving) "community-friendly" plan for the revival of our heretofore sleepy Emerald City. Yesiree. It's "gondola boy" Chris Peterson he's talking about:
If worse comes to worst, be ready to tell the developer “No!” even if it kills the deal.
Because, believe it: Your cities’ futures are at stake, and developers watch out for
In October 1999, three years of negotiations on a multimillion-dollar land swap between Snowbasin Ski Resort and the U.S. Forest Service were just days from completion.Although the the Standard-Examiner editor who wrote the headline tried to "soften" Mr. Trentelman's point slightly, with the article title "Trouble developing? Reagan said it best: Trust but verify," we do not believe that Mr. Trentelman intended to convey the message, (in light of the reminder of Peterson's past performance,) that anyone should ever again "trust" Mr. Peterson.
Peterson was Snowbasin owner Earl Holding’s real estate manager, so he was handling the negotiations.
This was huge.
Congress had ordered the swap; the fate of Top of Utah’s role in the 2002 Olympics rested on it.
When it looked like nothing could stop the deal, Peterson filed easements for a gondola line up Taylor Canyon.
Of all the properties in the deal, Taylor Canyon, with its commanding view of Ogden, its key links in the mountain trail system, was the jewel.
During talks, the Forest Service had insisted, repeatedly, that Taylor Canyon have no easements, no liens, no nothing.
Peterson filed the easements anyway, then told the Forest Service what he’d done.
Forest Service officials were blindsided, but reacted swiftly. The day the news broke, Wasatch-Cache Forest Supervisor Bernie Weingardt and Intermountain Regional Forester Jack Blackwell told Peterson and Holding that, without Taylor Canyon free and clear, there would be no land swap.
Both sides stared. Peterson and Holding blinked. The easements came off.
Did Peterson and Holding act illegally? No. Ethically?
You tell me.
Mr. Trentelman advises Farmington, Layton and Emerald City officials that they should be prepared to "fight like badgers." Mr. Trentelman however is a very nice man, and we think he was being overly polite.
Emerald City is an old blue collar town; and we're thus going to take the liberty of saying in old fashioned blue collar terminology what we think Mr. Trentelman really meant:
"A pox on you, Mr. Peterson -- and the horse you rode in on."
"The horse" in question... by the way, is Boss Godfrey.
And what say you, Weber County Forum badgers?