Saturday, February 16, 2008

Balancing Luxuries Against Necessities

Plea to keep government expenditures in perspective

By Ogden Lover

OK, the Standard-Examiner reports this morning that the ice tower project just got an extension on its $200,000 RAMP tax grant because it's behind schedule.

I think we've lost perspective on this in the recent discussion. It does not matter that Mr. Lowe has an impressive list of accomplishments. While it is sad that he has MS, that is not the point either. The question is whether the ice tower will be a good thing for Ogden. Even more, will it be worth the cost to Ogden taxpayers at a time we need to use any available funding for infrastructure repairs. Residents in the northern part of town know how badly the water system needs repair, we may need to spend more on snow removal this winter and be left with damage to our roads that also need work.

The ice tower is a luxury. Infrastructure is a necessity.

Let's hear from our readers about this.

16 comments:

david s. said...

Ogden Lover makes a mistake in suggesting RAMP money could go for infrastructure. It’s money that is supposed to be used for recreation and arts and such things, only.

I wrote a letter to the county commission asking them to deny the funding for Jeff Lowe’s monument to himself. Neither Jeff Lowe nor the city are credible on this project, which began as a request for $200K to put up some of Lowe’s hardware which was supposed to be largely privately funded. Now, they want eight times that much so Matt Godfrey can build another financial black hole.

What politician ran on a promise to gild a pile of Jeff Lowe’s junk with $1.6 million? On the other hand, ALL of them ran on a platform to preserve and extend open space. So now, they vote for Lowe’s nonsensical project, and do NOTHING to fulfill their election promises.

I suggested they use RAMP money to buy undeveloped bench land that the public can use for free. This would be hugely popular, in contrast to Lowe’s project that almost no one will use.

Of course, you don’t have a line up of contractors and leeches asking for preservation of open space, because it would put no money in their pockets. Can the city council, county commission, RAMP board and others spend our RAMP money for the single most important recreation priority in the county, which is open space? Watch and see. BTW, if somebody knows how to contact the RAMP advisory board I would greatly appreciate having that information.

Curmudgeon said...

Adam Air is still flying... on Channel 17. Channel surfing a while ago, I happened on Mayor Godfrey's Personal Channel. And what was playing? The head of Adam Air was on, explaining how successful the company was, how it planned to be completing 100 planes a year at its Ogden facility, how it was going to employ several hundred people, and do business with Ogden suppliers. Yes, folks, the same Adam Air that closed it's Ogden operations about a month ago, and which has now gone entirely belly-up. But it still lives on Channel 17, flying high with predictions of growing success.

After a bit, it became clear the Adam Air segment was part of a promotional film touting successful companies have moved to Ogden in order to become still more successful. Goode skis was next on the film.

Apparently, the Godfrey administration does not watch its own TV station these days. So let me help them out, good citizen that I try to be:
-------------------------------
Dear Mayor Godfrey:

Permit me to respectfully suggest that including a segment on Ogden's business promotional film touting a company that moved to Ogden and shortly thereafter went under is not, from a public relations point of view, a wise thing to do. Permit me to suggest that you have someone at whatever shop produces the city's promotional videos to delete the Adam Air segment of the film before you air it again on Channel 17 [where it runs a lot, I gather]. It is, I am told, a relatively simple process, deleting a segment from a film. [Ask Rupert The Producer if you need technical assistance.]

If someone buys Adams Air and it reopens [as I sincerely hope it will], the segment can be spliced back in. And for heaven's sake, please make sure the Adams Air segment is no longer included in the promotional video if you intend to show it at trade fairs seeking new business for Ogden.

Yours very truly,
Curmudgeon
----------------------------------

Bill C. said...

ack to the topic at hand, Mr. Lowe implied, in fact stated that it was this RAMP board, not Ogden City that pushed for moving this bogus artificial nitrogen powered icicle from the Big D river park to downtown. This is the start of sky rocketing costs for the project. Since when does the RAMP BOARD get so involved in a project from conception to deception, in an effort to further fleece the public?

OgdenLover said...

My point was not that RAMP funding was being used for the ice tower. We all have seen how city funds somehow become appropriated for various aspects of projects like this, and the money needed seems to keep growing and growing.

We are entering or are already in a recession. Maybe it's time to stop finding new ways to spend money and concentrate on where it is absolutely needed.

Curmudgeon said...

OL:

Who allocates RAMP money? Who decides where it goes? And how are they selected? Elected office holders? A special appointed board?

Bill C. said...

Dear Ogden Lover, your point is valid, unfortunately the law (bill) that created this tax, and I believe was voted for by the citizens is specific in that all revenues can only be used for recreation. This was a recreation revenue generating tax.
I'll grant you that it passed in what was generally concidered a time of plenty, but the specific language of the law stands.
Repealling the law won't do any good with regards to your suggested priorities because those funds would disappear and not be there for use in other areas.
That said, David's point is pretty good in one regard, just because the we have this money is no reason to just waste it.

another great Idea!! said...

This article came from the Riverdale city council minutes, of June 20th 2006


Bill Francis with the Imagine Company spoke. He reported that he has been hired by Ogden City to manage and run Channel 17. Channel 17 has been provided by Comcast as a government access channel. Mr. Francis stated that he is here with Mayor Godfrey’s approval to approach the other cities in Weber County and invite them utilize Channel 17. He noted that Ogden City has paid all the up-front fees to start the station. Each city that wishes to join would be charged based on their population and the fee for Riverdale would be $175 per month. He also explained that businesses could be approached to pay the fees in return for having their business advertised. The City could place things such as a calendar of events or City Council meetings on the station. These items could run anywhere from 20 to 60 times per day. Mr. Francis distributed information to the Council.

Bill C. said...

Ogden lover, you are a talented and creative individual, why not come up with a way to unite raw sewage and high adventure outdoor recreation in an effort to enable the use of ramp funds for infrastructure. Oh shoot, lying little matty and Lowe have all ready done that.

ha ha ha said...

"Cities Pin Hopes on Lobbyists"

Utah - Salt Lake Tribune - Published on: 1/16/2006

Issued: January 27, 2006




The 2005 Utah Legislature was not kind to Ogden. Mayor Matthew Godfrey realized there would be a vacuum when House Speaker Marty Stephens vacated his seat to make an unsuccessful run for governor. Godfrey and several city council members tried to fill the hole, traveling to Salt Lake City to meet with lawmakers. Still, the Legislature adopted restrictions on redevelopment that quashed the city's attempts to condemn land for development. Lawmakers also scraped together limited funding for a veterans' nursing home and a children’s museum in the city.

Godfrey and other city leaders decided they would not be caught flat-footed again. They paid a local government lobbyist to influence the 2006 Legislature. It is the first time in at least six years the city has had a lobbyist. "As we learned last year, it makes a big difference having someone in leadership to have access to the right people, get things done and, many times, stop things from happening," said Godfrey.

If lobbyist registrations are any indication, other local governments have learned the same lesson. While the banking industry, medical insurance companies, and state employee union have not significantly increased their lobbying corps, city and county governments have. For the 2006 Legislature, lobbyists will outnumber lawmakers three-to-one.

Legislators are preparing a sheaf of bills aimed at limiting the scope of local governments, from land-use decisions to the forms of local government. Two separate pieces of legislation would block cities from hiring lobbyists.

Last year, Salt Lake City hired former Mayor Ted Wilson as a lobbyist, in part to smooth lawmakers' animosity for Mayor Rocky Anderson. Although Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan likes to call himself a lobbyist, the city has now supported the mayor with four additional lobbyists. With lobbyists for the Tetris Group already lobbying for Salt Lake County, Mayor Peter Corroon hired four new lobbyists to fill in when Tetris' wide clientele poses a conflict. In all, the county will pay less for more representation – $120,000 compared with $150,000 last year.

Minor Machman said...

Hmmm...If memory serves me right, I recall finding $122,000 of Recreation, Arts, Museums and Parks money being diverted to the Washington Terrace Library building fund. It was in the Weber County Budget (tiny print 60+ pages and near the back). And as I also recall, being the only person in attendance, out of 223,000 residents of Weber County on the 6 Dec. 07, for the public hearing on the budget.

When I questioned it, I was told it had to do with installation of some IT or intercomm features in the new library. "It is a far stretch for the use of RAMP money don't you think?" No answer.

These distribution boards are frequently manned by people who mean well, are civically minded, but do not have their ethics feet firmly placed on mother earth.

For example, Community Development Block Grant money was created to dole out Federal Tax money for just what the title says. And it was intended for use to imporve public access to buildings for disabled, meals on wheels programs, senior citizen services, etc. to make improvements such as playgrounds in parks in eonomically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

However; the way it has been perverted in Utah, these same minded board members have actually written guidelines/criteria saying CDBG money will not be approved unless it is for infrastructure improvements...tha hell with what it is really intended for. So it has been used annually to fund Huntsville's culinary water line replacements and I am sure similar infrastructure projects throughout the State if not at least Weber County.

Little wonder why the Federal authority responsible for oversight of CDBG funding is seriously considering cutting off all CDBG money to Utah.

You can bet your bottom dollar (and maybe you already have by voting for this decidedly "botique RAMP tax") the same sad end will come to RAMP grants and eventually a repeal of the tax. From abuse, misuse, and prostitution of its true original intent.

The people who control it think they are doing the will of the public, but you should attend a Town meeting when the discussion of what to apply for and how to justify it comes up for discussion.

It will "water your eyes" gentle readers! So what the Hell! Go for it...use both all the CDBG and RAMP money to repair Ogden water line infrastructure and road repairs, snow removal, etc. That way another 9.1% pay raise for all Weber County employees can be in next year's budget. It is certainly better than using it for an ill conceived and never used giant year round popcicle. What is the use rate of the vertical big blow-job...sky diving thing? I would be very surprised if it is a real money maker.

I love this place! Never dull. MM

Tec Jonson said...

We may never know the profitability of the Salomon Center and it's individual attractions. The city, by Godfreys exquisite negotiating or rather giveaway power, cleverly blanketed the Salomon in a very favorable lease to Gold's owners. Less than .50/ft which represents 1/2 to 1/4 of market rates. Unless Nielsen's want to reveal their losses(doubtful) or profits(doubtful) we will never see the feasibility of this low-level-indoor-adventure city-owned and privately-operated recreational facility. I guess if it remains leased by Gold's for the next 15 years, the books will show it as a success, unless Nielsen's pulls the plug if the overhead gets unmanageable which could be quite likely in such a building with rising energy costs. They can always sublease it at a profit as long as the Salomon remains a recreational facility by leasehold terms. No doubt they already have a portion of their ass covered by subleasing to FatCats and Costa Vida at a more market rate. Any businessman would be foolish to not take a giveaway lease and maximize it in the sub. There is nothing about the flowrider and the iFly that could be not managed by the city and get direct return in it's 4 million dollar investment in capital equipment.

Curmudgeon said...

MM:

Playing games with designated funds goes on, granted. But I can understand why things like RAMP taxes pass. It's because people believe the money raised must be used for the designated purpose and not go into the general fund for they know not what.

The games are endless. In another city, they put a library tax on the ballot, with ironclad guarantees that every damn dime raised would go to the city's libraries. And every dime did. But once the tax passed, the Mayor promptly cut the library's usual annual appropriation in the general budget by exactly the amount the library tax would raise. People who thought they were voting for better libraries discovered that, in the end, the tax would not result in so much as an extra dime for the libraries.

I am pleased to say, the local newspaper dug that story out, front paged it, and the resulting firestorm of public outrage forced the Mayor to back off and restore the regular funding, so the library tax was, in the end, used for the purpose for which it was passed. But absent a local newspaper which took gleeful pleasure in holding elected officials to account, and a public willing to raise holy hell when it realized it was being scammed, the scam would probably have worked.

As for the current situation: I still think designated tax revenues for Recreation, Arts, Museums etc are a good idea. And I recognize that the people who allocate the funds within each county/city [who does the allocating, MM? Councils? County commissions? A state RAMP board?] are going to make decisions about spending the money that, probably, I would have made differently.

There's room for disagreement about priorities. I probably would not have marked 200K for the ice tower. But I don't think it's a decision that should turn out crowds with burning brands and pitchforks... provided it is the only public money allocated to the project. Provided it serves as it was intended, as seed money [so to speak] to fertilize much much larger contributions from private sources. If the project can't raise sufficient private funds, the RAMP money comes back for re-allocation. Or it should.

Designated tax abuse certainly happens. Your examples are good ones of localities treating designated taxes like RAMP revenues as part of the the general fund. But overall, seems to me the general public gets more benefit from RAMP tax funds than not, the occasional mis-use notwithstanding. We live in Utah. Adequate money for Recreation, Arts and Museums and such like would not be forthcoming much, I fear, from the Utah Legislature. The RAMP tax serves a useful purpose. And on the whole, I think Ogden City has benefited as intended from the uses to which the RAMP taxes have been put.

If the press would watch the allocation process like hawks and spotlight abuses, the RAMP tax would be more useful still.

Interesting post, MM. TY.

Bill C. said...

Curm, I believe that a couple of grey areas have had a little exposure to some light, even with the sketchy reporting we've recieved from the SE.
These funds can only go to publicly owned recreation, not private ventures. Which say's the mayor has misrepresented this Icicle thing from day one. Ogden Climbing Parks is a 501 C3, not Ogden City Government, how can this money be controled by Lowe? What's the legal connection that allows this? Who does make the determination of allocation? And also if it's legal?
I hope some one at the SE would see the need for an article of explanation.

Curmudgeon said...

Bill:

Interesting post. Be nice if the SE or SL Trib... or somebody... unscrambled the thing and just laid it out plain.

ozboy said...

Just to prove that Utah does not have an exclusive on nut job NeoCon Politicians that squander public money on dumb ass ideas, here is an article off the wire about kindred spirits in Pa.


Star Struck politicians

disgusted said...

tec
from what ive read the city still owns the rec center as such there is no property tax paid to the city only rent. rent alone that can't justifies the $23 mil investment. rent of $700,000 per year. rent that won't even pay off the original investment or cover interest expenses on the investment.
the contract lease payment won't increase either unless the owner shows a big profit which he is not motivated to do.
bet you the owner will make right up to the max allowed before his rent increases and then shelter the rest of the profit if it ever makes a profit in another company or show higher op costs to hide the profit. seen this trick done a dozen times.
question is how long will this fad activity at the location last before the leasee starts to loose money and picks up and leaves the city with a single use building. my bet is three years before this whole deal is passe.

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