Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: Time for the Lumpencitizens to Get Even More Involved

A Standard-Examiner writeup and some legislative contact information

This morning's Standard-Examiner reports on yesterday's House Political Subdivisions Committee hearing, in which House Legislative District 8 Representative Gage Froerer maneuvered to move SB-25, in an amended form containing a retroactivity provision, toward a full debate on the House floor.

In her opening paragraphs, Std-Ex reporter Loretta Park compares the two bills which are now headed for deliberations in the House of Representatives: the newly-amended SB-25 (which contains a retroactivity provision), and HB-164 (which does not.) The bills are near-identical, Ms. Parks reports, except for the provision inserted in the former bill by Rep. Froerer's amendment, which would push the effective date of that bill back to January 1, 2008.

We put up an audio link yesterday, by the way, for those readers who might be interested in hearing yesterday's committee deliberations.

For those who would instead prefer to read a short written digest of yesterday's committee meeting discussions, Ms. Parks provides a good one this morning in her closing paragraphs:

"...Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville made an amendment, which he called 'The Powder Mountain amendment.' It pushes the effective date to Jan. 1, 2008.
The amendment was approved unanimously, which surprised the committee chairman, Rep. Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan.
'I suspect this will be a split vote,' Hunsaker said and asked for vocal roll call vote.
'That was no split vote,' said Doris Donat, the committee’s secretary.
But Stowell doubts the House will approve his bill with the amendment.
'I know some of the leadership people are against it,' Stowell said. 'It is a legal law we passed last year.'
Stowell said he is also concerned there will be lawsuits.
'I have a lot of empathy for the people who lost their voting rights,' Stowell said. 'I don’t know if you want to send this to court and also not get this bill out of the House.'
Froerer said at least the amendment will start a discussion with the representatives before the bill hits the House floor.
Also no matter what happens, Froerer expects lawsuits to hit the courts.
'They will either be from the developers or a class-action suit from those who lost their voting rights,' Froerer said.'"

What's obvious from the above text is that there are still a few legislators (like Senator Stowell) who are dragging their feet, and playing lapdog to a handful of highly-conflicted "leadership people," whose primary allegiance seems to be toward the real estate development industry whom they represent in private life, rather than to the citizens of Utah, some of whose fundamental God-given rights to participate in self-government would be callously stripped away in the absence of a bill containing firm retroactivity provisions.

We're also pleased that the entire committee remained un-cowed by the "lawsuit bogeyman;" and we compliment Representative Froerer for doing his own research on the underlying legal issues. As Rep. Froerer commented, there will be litigation "no matter what happens," and we agree with that. If the State of Utah is destined to become mired in a lawsuit however, it's much better that we stand in defense of the fundamental right of citizens to self-govern, and that we occupy the moral high ground, we think.

We'll note in passing that during the many decades we've been actively playing the game of politics, we've never been more proud of any elected officials than we are of Rep. Gage Froerer, and the entire House Political Subdivisions Committee, which is composed of Republicans and Democrats alike. If you take the time to listen to the recording of the committee meeting provided in the link above, we believe you'll detect a sense of exuberance in those committee members, at having "done what's right." "Choosing the right" is always the most satisfying course of action,we believe.

Hopefully the members of the State House of Representatives will see it the same way, pass both bills, and drop the predicament back into the State Senate's lap, where Senator John Valentine, President of the Senate, who has publicly vowed to kill a bill containing retroactivity provisions, will have the opportunity to check his own "moral compass."

And for those readers who would like to become more involved in the process, as the two bills move forward for discussion in the House, we provide a link to the House membership roster, which contains handy contact information, including email links. If all goes well, the full body of the House of Representatives will be the next stop for these two bills; and we know how much our House Reps love hearing from their constituents. Remember, Viktor... it's SB-25 which contains Rep. Froerer's retroactivity amendment.

8 comments:

althepal said...

If a retractive bill passes, I can't wait to hear the Powder Mountain developer argue in court (with a completely straight face) that HB-466 property rights protection should rightfully include holding 150-odd Ogden Valley citizens as political hostages for 1-3 years.

I definitely want to be there to hear them run that one by a judge.

They'll be laughed out of court.

Curmudgeon said...

Althepal:

If the developer sues, as well he might, he will sue on grounds that the retroactive provision of the new law cannot be sustained, that the state cannot change the rules in the middle of the game. He may well win on those grounds.

The issue you raise --- that the original bill is unconstitutional on its face because it removed the right of representation from the new town's citizens for two years, and made town officials all appointees of the developers instead --- is a wholly different issue. The developer's attorneys are absolutely not going to raise that issue. I doubt the judge would permit the state's attorneys to raise it either, because it is not germane, really, to the retroactivity question, which is the grounds on which the developers will almost certainly bring their case.

The other issue... and you are right, it's the far more fundamental one... would have I think, to be raised by a suit brought by the townspeople or someone else with standing in the case, challenging the constitutionality of the original act.

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

You wrote: Also no matter what happens, Froerer expects lawsuits to hit the courts.
'They will either be from the developers or a class-action suit from those who lost their voting rights,' Froerer said.'"


Well, of course he's right about that. But let us not forget that if Mr. Froerer had been awake, paying attention and doing his job when the original town formation bill passed without examination late in the session a year ago, we would not now be facing lawsuits no matter what is done. [To be fair, Mr. Froerer was not alone in falling asleep at the switch; the bill passed, I think, unanimously. They were all dozing off.]

Had the legislature done its job, had the legislators taken the time to understand what the bill they passed so cavalierly said and would do, we would not now have to pay state funds to go into court over the travesty that was passed.

Certainly, kudoes to Mr. Freoerer for, belatedly, acting to clean up the mess he and his colleagues created. But voters would have been much better served had he and his colleagues done the job we pay them to do right the first time.

Budd said...

TERRY: It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.
CHARLEY: Oh, I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
TERRY: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.

~ On The Waterfront (1954), written by Budd Schulberg

althepal said...

"The developer's attorneys are absolutely not going to raise that issue. I doubt the judge would permit the state's attorneys to raise it either, because it is not germane, really, to the retroactivity question, which is the grounds on which the developers will almost certainly bring their case."

I gots news for you, Bub:

All the issues will be on the table in the highly likely event of a lawsuit, regardless of who files the first court papers.

There will be filed cross-complaints and counterclaims among and between all the potential plaintiffs and defendants here, including, but not limited to 1) the developer, 2) the State of Utah, and 3) the citizens of Powderville (either as a class or as individual parties)

All applicable issues will be ultimately before the judge who will ultimately decide the case. The adjudication will not be limited to any single party's pleadings.

That's why the developer's case will be "laughed out of court," as I said earlier.

Zeke said...

Budd, quit breathing that clam juice on me. They are dusting off the hot seat for me.

ozboy said...

I don't necessarily think there will be any law suits if these developers and land owners are half way smart about it.

I think, as Rudi has pointed out so well, there are some very fundamental constitutional issues that have to be adjudicated in the middle of these developer's claimed rights.

I've seen way too many times where city, county and state elected bodies have done things not necessarily in the interest of their constituents because of threats of law suits. When these legislative bodies have stood up against such threats and acted in the best interest of their citizens, you very rarely see any actual law suits filed.

A smart group of owners and developers would realize they have a hugely unpopular deal going on right now - right in the face of the biggest real estate bust in 22 years. They will undoubtedly weigh off anything they could possibly hope to gain in a law suit against the enormous bad will they will be creating in the populous. Bad will in a down market is a recipe for disaster in the development world.

They will realize that after all the bad feelings and the bad real estate market has past they will still own the land and development rights.

I think they are only bluffing about law suits because they know how successful that can be with some chicken shit legislators. Instead I think a savvy group will take the a long view and will not attack the very operatives that the real estate and developer powers have installed in the State's halls of power. They would be nuts to carry through with law suits, against their paid suits, in the Legislature. Wouldn't they?

The power structure in the legislature is looking for a easy way to weazil out on the citizens and let their developer buddies get a free ride on this one. The only way they will shut the door on their pals is if a sufficient number of citizens voice outrage against the huge ethical breech that is at the heart of this Powder Mountain fiasco.

Call or email your representatives and give em a piece of your mind on this important issue of fairness. The only thing that ever nudges these people toward high ethics is what they derisively call "Public Clamor".

Curmudgeon said...

Althepal:

Perhaps. We shall see.

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