Monday, March 31, 2008

St. Anne's Shelter Back on the Emerald City Discussion Front-burner

Changes are afoot for the Emerald City homeless, according to this morning's Standard-Examiner

Two interesting Charles Trentelman pieces in this morning's Standard-Examiner, concerning Emerald City's St. Anne's Shelter. The first of these deals with administrative changes enacted by new shelter director, Jennifer Canter, which, in a nutshell, represent an abandonment of the shelter's heretofore "traditional flophouse format." We incorporate Mr. Trentelman's lede paragraphs below:
OGDEN — People who hop off a freight and need a place to spend the night can still do so at St. Anne’s Center, but they shouldn’t be surprised if the reception is a bit more bureaucratic than it used to be.
If they want to hang around for a few days, they have to follow more rules, tolerate procedures that are more strict and face a frostier welcome.
That’s intentional, said Jennifer Canter, the executive director of the center since September.
Canter is the third director in as many years at St. Anne’s — the fourth if you count ReAnne Hart, the interim director for most of last year who is still on staff as a case manager.
Canter, a member of the West Haven City Council, took over at St. Anne’s, which is still trying to recover from the confusion and discord inevitable from so many changes in leadership.
In addition to bureaucratic discord, she’s dealing with a massive change in the way homeless people are helped in Utah. Adoption by Utah of a 10-year plan to do away with homelessness means the end of the traditional “flophouse” format of shelter.
Charlie's second article partly reprises last year's Godfrey administration theme, i.e, moving St. Anne operations out of Ogden's downtown to a 12th Street location. Unlike last year's discussion, however, the administration's "vision" now seems to have been substantially pared-down. Whereas Ogden City CEO John Patterson was wild about moving the entire St. Anne's operation last year, Ogden City administration officals are now merely talking about a 12th Street facility for the "chronic homeless."

Last year we called for a full and open discussion of the St. Anne's Shelter dilemma. It appears that discussion has now finally begun.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Four Out of Five Utahs in Congress Prefer Earmark Secrecy

Only Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson is willing to publicly release his earmark requests

By Curmudgeon

Since politics seems to be in the air of late, thought I'd point out this interesting story in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune. The paper asked all of Utah's Congressmen and Senators to release to the paper and the public all the earmarks they requested in the recent appropriations bills. Only one agreed: Congressman Matheson, Utah's only congressional Democrat. Hatch, Bennett, Cannon and Bishop all came up with whining reasons why they wouldn't make their earmark requests public.

Republican Senator Bennett said he didn't want to deal with angry calls from people whose requests he did not put into the budget as earmarks. That was Republican Congressman Cannon's excuse too. Republican Senator Hatch said he didn't want to see his earmark requests "appear in a newspaper." Republican Congressman Bishop said he wouldn't tell because the appropriations process was flawed.

But when the Trib asked Democratic Congressman Matheson to reveal his earmark requests to the paper and the public, his reply was "Sure."

The entire article is worth a read. And worth remembering next time Hatch, Bennett, Cannon and Bishop start whining about spendthrift Democrats and fiscal responsibility and open government. Well worth remembering.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Weber County Ballot Update: A list of Current Pre-convention Candidates

A prelimary Weber County Candidate List

Now that the March 25 Weber County Caucuses have been completed, and convention delegates have been elected in the precincts, we look forward to the upcoming Weber County Democrat and Rebublican Nominating Conventions, which are coming up as follows:

Weber County Democrats:
County Convention: Saturday, April 26, 2008 -- 9:00 a.m. -- Ogden Eccles Center
State Convention: Saturday, May 10, 2008 -- Cal Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

Weber County Republicans:
County Convention: Saturday, April 12, 2008 -- 9:00 a.m. -- Orion Junior High School
State Convention: Saturday, May 10, 2008 -- 8:30AM -- Utah Valley State College

For those true political wonks among us, we post this link to information we were able to glean so far. The following list consists of all declared GOP and Demo candidates whose names might appear on Weber County ballots in November. These are the people who've declared as candidates, as we move forward into the party conventions:

Weber County 2008 pre-convention candidates.

We've also planted this list in our right sidebar, under "2008 Weber County Pre-convention Candidates."

Gawd do we love Weber County politics.

Don't let the cat get yer tongues.

Plush Park City Gated Community Bound for Bankruptcy Court

Luxury golf & skiing-oriented second-home community concept bombs -- even in Park City

One upscale gated Utah golf/ski community developer appears headed for economic oblivion, according to yesterday's story in

Creditors for the Promontory Club near Park City, Utah, are trying to force the upscale, gated golf community into bankruptcy.
An “involuntary petition” was filed in bankruptcy court Friday, about two weeks after a Utah judge said the club would likely seek bankruptcy protection if it couldn’t find funding to solve its financial woes.
The club, suffering from stagnate home sales, owes international banker Credit Suisse about $280 million, but it was a handful of other banks with smaller claims that filed the paperwork Friday. (Fully secured creditors cannot file involuntary petitions.) [...]
Promontory filing for bankruptcy protection appeared to be imminent after it and Credit Suisse didn’t come to terms on the sale of Promontory’s operating and development companies to the bank. Credit Suisse then sued Promontory claiming the club had not fulfilled obligations to the lender, according to a story that ran in the Park Record. [...]
Promontory, three miles east of Park City, dubs itself “a family-friendly, luxury second-home community in the heart of Utah’s Rocky Mountains, where legendary skiing meets world-class golf.” The development plan includes about 2,000 homes on 7,000 acres and boasts a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course.
Are plush, gated McMansion communities "a sure thing" for Utah economic development?

Is the golf & ski nexxus a formula for certain success?

Evidently not...

Hopefully Boss Godfrey and his crony Chris Peterson are taking careful notes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Golf Course Update: Ideas to Help Save Golf Course

Ogden golfer suggests mayoral attitude adjustment

Excellent guest editorial in today's Standard-Examiner. In response to Boss Godfrey's earlier request for Emerald City citizens to offer "input" re the purported cash flow problems at the Mt. Ogden Golf Course, Ogden resident Nan Nalder provides Std-Ex readers with some robust analysis, along with some helpful suggestions. We incorporate Ms. Nalder's key lead paragraphs below:
What is the difference between these activities: golf, soccer, baseball, picnics, walks through a city-owned park, tennis, Frisbee, softball, family organized games, music, concerts in parks, sitting on a park bench, any fun family games played in a park, and tax-paid biking and hiking trails? Answer: All the above activities are the same; they are recreation for the residents and taxpayers of Ogden. The only difference with golf is that it is not free to the golfer. Each time an Ogden resident walks or rides on the golf course he or she is charged $18 to $36.

How much do other recreational activities cost? Usually they are free. Senior Ogden residents pay their property taxes every year and are very happy to see others enjoy all the free parks and recreation provided by the city. Yes, they wish they could enjoy a soccer, baseball, softball or tennis game, but their arthritic joints won't let them. They can, however, get out on the golf course and play golf. Why? Because golf is a low-impact sport, and they love the recreation the game provides for them.

Historically, recreation has been a high priority for most communities. Our neighbors in Idaho Falls and Rexburg, Idaho, maintain and manage five municipal golf courses, and they have a much shorter playing season than Ogden. Why do these two cities continue to allow these non-profit recreational centers, and Ogden city doesn't want to? The answer is obvious: They use these golf courses, not only for recreation for their residents, but as an attraction for tourism to their cities. Yes, they see golf courses a lot different than Ogden city does.

What is Ogden's vision? It appears that it is ice climbing, wall climbing, bike riding, hiking, skiing, flying in an air chamber and video games -- anything but golf.

The mayor asked for solutions in solving the debt on the Mount Ogden Golf Course. The solution is simple: Change your vision.
Read the rest of this most excellent guest commentary.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

The Standard-Examiner Experiences a True Rodney King Moment

A plea for peace and harmony here in the Land of Oz

People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out

Rodney King
Spontaneous Utterance

We admit the Junction City mudwrestling that erupts from time to time is diverting, but it’s counter-productive and sullies the reputations of those involved. Being able to negotiate on meaningful issues of importance to the city is what Ogden leaders should be doing as a matter of course.

Standard-Examiner Editorial
Hunkering down, doing the job
March 28, 2008

The Standard-Examiner experiences a true Rodney King moment, and urges the Mayor and Council to just "get along".

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Query: Will Boss Godfrey hear the message, and learn the lyrics to the song, "Kumbaya?"

Some Not-So-Great Ink For Ogden

Snow Basin -- simply another Salt Lake City ski resort?
NYT reporters appear to have missed the Mayor's memo on the Ogden City "high adventure recreation" meme

By Curmudgeon

Some not-so-great-ink for Ogden in the New York Times this morning. There's a long and very appreciative article about Snow Basin, touting the food, the skiing --- think Vail, minus the crowds the article says --- and the magnificent lift systems, and the fact that you can still find untracked powder days after a storm while it's all gone by noon at the more crowded SLC Cottonwood Canyon and Park City resorts. Really an up-beat favorable article, telling serious skiers that Snow Basin is not to be missed.

What then is the problem? This: here is how Snow Basin's location is described --- "The ski area, 33 miles north of Salt Lake City...." Travel time to the resort is given in terms of minutes [45] from Salt Lake City. In the entire long article, Ogden is mentioned only once. The reporter rode the John Paul lift and the Mt. Allen tram to the top. And then: "After taking in the expansive vista off the ski area's back side --- the town of Ogden spread out below, and Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada in the distance...." That's it. Nary another word. Snow Basin is treated in the article as simply another SLC resort, just a little further off than the rest, and with no hotels. And there's this little town [not city] you can see if you take the Mt. Allen tram all the way to the top.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Welcome to Hyper-inflation

The recent price-spike in wheat signals turbulent economic times in America

The Standard-Examiner's Loretta Parks contributes an interesting article this morning, on the subject of the recent spike in wheat prices, and its immediate effect on our local Utah economy. With all due respect, we think Ms. Parks' article is evidence of the kind of myopia that results, when creatures of the world who haven't yet experienced inflation, fail to consider all variables in today's World Economic Environment.

Today's article is well researched, as Std-Ex articles go:

From LDS food storage people we get this:

LAYTON — Current wheat prices concern Carolyn Wade, who has practiced food storage for many years.
“I was shocked at how much it went up,” Wade said.
Wheat on Monday sold between $9.27 a bushel and $11.47 a bushel, depending on quality, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture Market News. The price is lower than it was a week ago, when a bushel of wheat was selling for between $10.29 and $13.19.
The Monday price is still much higher than in September, when the average price was $6.75 a bushel, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site. The price of wheat has been dropping during the week, and officials across the country expect it to continue to drop, but also expect it to be higher this year than last year.
In January 2007, the average price was $4.53, according to the Web site.
Wade, of West Point, said she is not overly worried because, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she has practiced food storage as her church leaders have recommended.
The last time Glade bought wheat, she paid $12 for 50 pounds. Her daughter in Layton called her recently and told her 50 pounds of wheat was selling for $36 at a local store.
“I have a lot, but I’ll need to get some now to simply do some baking and that’s going to be a real cost,” Glade said. “I just can’t believe it.”

Commercial bakers are also being hit hard:

Great Harvest in Layton increased its loaf prices in November by 25 cents a loaf and then had to raise it again a week ago, said Bourke Tarbet, the owner. Increasing wheat prices are increasing the price of flour, which in turn is increasing the price of bread.
Other Great Harvest owners have also raised prices in order to pay for the increasing cost of flour.
“My flour prices have doubled,” Tarbet said. [...]
“I guess farmers will grow more wheat, and it will take a couple of cycles for us to get out of this,” Tarbet said.
Further down the article, Ms. Parks quotes a Utah Department of Agriculture official, who echoes the sentiment of Mr. Tarbet, and characterises the recent spike in wheat prices as a mere supply/demand problem, which would, under general principles of economics, be ostensibly cured by a mere corresponding and inevitable increase in wheat production:

Richard Kestle, director of Utah Agriculture Statistics, said on Dec. 1, the U.S. had 1.3 billion bushels of wheat available.
In 2003, the country had 1.52 billion bushels of wheat in storage, which is a 26 percent decrease, he said.
The decrease in supply of wheat equals an increase in price, or “basic economics,” which eventually translates to higher prices for bread, pasta and cereals, Kestle said.
All of these people myopically characterise the rise in wheat prices as a short-term supply-demand problem, which can be ultimately corrected once grain producers ramp-up production and bring more wheat to market. While it's probably true that the increase in wheat prices is at least partly the result of supply-demand disequilibrium, we believe there are more fundamental market forces at work, which will continue to propel the price of wheat, and all other world-traded commodities upward, regardless of the mitigating effect of production-side increases.

Of course the recent upspike in wheat prices isn't unique. All commodities from corn, soybeans, steel, and precious metals are experiencing similar upward price-spikes.

The problem folks is the weak US Dollar, which continues to weaken each day that the US Government continues to resort to the printing press to create billions of more fiat paper dollars.

Nobody in the current generation has seen inflation. The last time inflation raised its ugly head was pre-Reagen... during the Carter Administration. Until now, the US Government and the Fed have kept commodities prices relatively stable -- until now, that is.

That leaves it to old fuddy-duddies like us -- who have lived through US recessions during our lives -- to spotlight the problem, and bring it to the forefront.

The ultimate problem is the weak dollar, however, folks -- and it's endemic in our current economy.

There are unmistakable signs that hyperinflation is in the air, for those who are paying attention, as a result of of seven years of US Government fiscal recklessness.

Here's a good article on this subject.

Read Up!

Our Resident Yellow-dog Democrat Takes the Weber County Commission to Task

We don't call him Curmudgeon for nuttin'

By Curmudgeon

Our elected Republican officials at... work? Interesting article by reporter Loretta Park in this morning's Standard-Examiner. It reports that the months-long battle between Davis and Weber Counties and UTA about whether those counties should add-back the .05% [that five-one hundredths of a percent, not five percent] sales tax on "non-prepared food items" to support UTA is over.

Late in the session, last day in fact, Sen. Bramble [R-Provo] snuck a provision adding the tax back in Weber and Davis Counties into a bill dealing with funding for airports. That Sen. Bramble's rider had nothing whatever to do with airport funding bothered him not at all. That the Weber County Commission was not convinced that UTA needed the added back taxes from their county bothered Sen. Bramble not at all either. That adding back the tax short-circuited months of negotiations between the Weber County Commissioners and UTA about UTA funding needs from those counties bothered Bramble, again, not at all. But then, sneaking riders into unrelated bills in the final hours of a session has become the trade mark of our the Republican leadership in the State Legislature. It's what they do.

What is really astonishing in the reaction to all this from Weber County [Republican] Commissioner Jan Zogmaister. Here it is:

"It was lumped into the bill with a lot of other things," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister. County officials were not included in the discussions between legislators and UTA, Zogmaister said. "We were kept out of the loop, and that's fine" she said. [boldface emphasis mine --Curm.]

Huh? The County Commissioners, Zogmaister included, decided not to reimpose the tax. They were convinced UTA did not need the money because of increasing other taxes allocated to UTA. Months of fact finding, negotiation, testimony, discussion [all on the public's dime]. Finally the wingnut Troika [Bramble, Curtis, Buttars] slip a rider into a final moments unrelated bill, take the tax decision out of the Weber County Commission's hands, rendering all that work, meeting, voting, discussing, fact finding by the Commission pointless, and it was all done by the legislators without so much as a by-your-leave to the County Commissioners, and that's just fine with Zogmaister? The County Commissioners were completely cut out of the loop on whether to impose a county sales tax they didn't think was needed, and it's just fine with Zogmaister?

Somebody remind me, what exactly are we paying her for? Perhaps she could tell us what other Weber County Commission responsibilities she'd be happy to have the legislature take over for her? Oh, and of course what cut in her pay she thinks should accompany the further reduction in her responsibilities as a County Commissioner. Don't hold your breath waiting.

The Weber County Commission has three members. All are Republicans. That is not healthy for the County. One of them ... alas not the "sure I'd like the legislature to run the County instead of us" Zogmaister... is up for re-election. It would be wise of the voters to replace him with the Democratic candidate. It is not healthy for any elected body to have members from only one political party on it. [And yes, I'd say the same thing if the Commission was composed of three Democrats and no Republicans.] You always want at least one member of such bodies willing to ask questions the other two would rather not have asked.

The Weber County Commission completely "cut out of the loop" on this County sales tax decision, and "that's fine" says Zogmaister?

Our Republican elected leaders at work. Amazing... just amazing.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday News Roundup

Mixed bag over at the SE this morning, but some stuff truly worth reading.

By Curmudgeon

First this:

"Cong. Bishop Says He Never Believed Bush on Iraq War".

Well, OK, that's not what the headline said, but it's what the story said. Bishop visited the SE editorial board for a "free wheeling" 90 minute discussion, during which he told the SE that "he never did buy the argument that weapons of mass destruction were the real reason the US went to war in Iraq." The real reason was Saddam Hussein was a bad man.

Mr. Bishop's trenchant analysis of the President's claim about WMDs as a reason to invade Iraq: "if we were really concerned about weapons of mass destruction, we really should have been bombing France." That was your Congressman speaking, folks. And he wants you to re-elect him.

By the way, Bishop now claims that had he been in Congress when Bush asked Congress to authorize him to invade Iraq, he --- Bishop --- would have voted "no." Sure. Right. One of the most notorious Bush Bobble Heads in the House, nodding 'nay' or 'yea' docilely as his party handlers decreed, would have voted "no" to Bush's war. And he thinks the war was handled incompetently by Bush. And he says now he favors a hard and fast deadline for Iraqi government reform, and a "sudden" removal of all US forces if they fail to meet the deadline. Rob Bishop said that? [Is he running as Democrat this time? Bush lied; the war was bungled by administrative incompetence; we should have a firm deadline for getting out. Has he endorsed Obama?] My god, the Republicans must really be scared. Bishop's astonishing interview can be found here. Going to be very interesting to see if the SE Board bought Mr. Bishops revisionist tap-dance. If they did, I have this bridge in Brooklyn I can let them have for a very reasonable price. Cash only. Small unmarked bills please.

Then there's a story on the Top of Utah page, reporting that the Council and Mayor are about to discuss Ogden City goals and objectives. The discussion will include Malan's Basin development, which means I'm willing to bet, gondolas, gondolas, gondolas. As usual, Mr. Peterson, the presumptive developer of a proposed Malan's Basin mini-ski resort and Tyrolian Fantasy was unavailable for comment. The Council and Mayor will also discuss trolleys, buses and ways to move Ogden forward, improve recreational opportunities, and so on. Stay tuned.... The article can be found here.

Finally, there is on the front page an example of pretty shoddy journalism. The story is about police capturing two convenience store bandits, one male, one female, in Woods Cross after a chase. The reporter is Jesse Fruhwirth. The forth paragraph of the story is this, in its entirety:

"The woman [arrested] garnered at least one whistle and several smiles from a road crew across Redwood Road as a female officer frisked her after the chase ended."

Where the devil was Mr. Fruhwirth's editor? The SE has a new news editor. Where did the paper find him? The NY Post? Has Rupert Murdoch bought the SE without letting us know? What will the headline be next time? Babe Bandit a 10, Gawking Construction Workers Say .

Not good work, guys. Not good at all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Emerald City Projects $800 Thousand Revenue Shortfall

More "surprises" in the Standard-Examiner today

By Rosemary

Sales tax revenue falls short

Ogden, other Top of Utah cities seek ways to offset impact

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — The effects of a slumping national economy may result in an $800,000 shortfall in local sales tax revenue this year for Ogden.
Based on early economic indicators, Ogden expected to receive about $15.5 million in sales tax revenue in fiscal-year 2008, which ends June 30, but is now projecting it will get only $14.7 million, said John Arrington, city finance manager.
The city received about $14.5 million in sales tax in fiscal 2007.
Arrington blames the projected shortfall on the sagging national economy, which is affecting consumer purchasing. “People are spending less on retail sales,” he said. Arrington has recommended the city council use a portion of $1.2 million in carryover funds from the municipality’s fiscal 2007 budget to offset the projected revenue shortfall. He favors that strategy over budget cuts in various city departments because it won’t affect operations. The council will have to decide before the start of fiscal 2009 how to address the shortfall, Arrington said. Councilman Jesse Garcia favors waiting until final figures are in before deciding. “You can’t address a projection.”
What $1.2 million left over from fiscal 2007? Why isn't that money (if it exists) being used to upgrade police, fire, and water departments?

Why do we have an expected deficit when we now have the ever-booming Junction? Guess no one comes to it because they are waiting for the ice tower to be built!

The Standard-Examiner Thumbs its Nose at its Public Service Obligation

Our home town newspaper breaks precedent, and charges fees for the publication of neighborhood caucus locations for the first time ever

By Curmudgeon

For a good... and chilling... overview of the economic conditions under which daily newspapers are operating these days, check out this story in today's NY Times.

From the story:
Critics of newspapers say that part of the problem is that the industry has lost its ability to surprise. Tell that to the guys who have just bought in. “The news business is something worse than horrible. If that’s the future, we don’t have much of a future,” Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company last year, said recently in The Baltimore Sun. “I’m an optimist, but it is very hard to be positive about what’s going on,” said Brian P. Tierney, who bought The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News in 2006. “The near term and medium term at the paper is more negative than what we expected,” said OhSang Kwon of Avista Capital Partners, which bought The Minneapolis Star-Tribune in late 2006.

These are all smart businesspeople, with significant success in other endeavors, who took a hard look at the wave-tossed publishing sector and appointed themselves as life savers. And very soon after jumping in, they too began foundering in the tall waves.
According to the “State of the News Media” report, the extensive cuts across the industry will cripple any potential rebound as newspapers lose authority and franchises in their markets. Mr. Appert remains confident that quality newspapers with a good grip on their audiences will find a way to remain in business through a combination of online and off-line revenues, even if the historically high margins will appear only in the rearview mirror.

John Morton, a longtime newspaper analyst, is more pessimistic. “The industry is meeting these challenges by cutting, by reducing the news hole and the people who fill it,” he said. “Newspapers have lived through recessions before and come back strong,” he added. “My worry is that when things do turn around, they will be coming back in an environment that is more competitive than ever because of the Internet, and that after all these cuts, they will have less stature, less product quality and less talent — all of the things that they need to compete.”
Critics of what the SE does [and I am often one] should, in fairness, keep in mind the economic conditions dailies operate under these days, and should recognize at least that the SE has found a way to earn a profit for its owners in conditions under which many other papers continue to lose money. As with most things, survival is job one.

This in no way diminishes one iota the paper's obligation to be the best possible daily under the circumstances in which it operates or its obligation to fulfill certain public service obligations any paper has, regardless of profit considerations [e.g. not to let its editorial positions, or worse, its news coverage, be dictated by its major advertisers, for example].

The SE failed its public service obligation when it began, this election for the first time, charging for printing locations of caucus sites. As Mr. Trentelman's article on the front page this morning makes clear, the caucuses are a fundamental part of the election process in Utah. As such, caucus locations should be printed by the SE as a public service, as polling stations for elections are.

And the SE should be ashamed of itself for not putting Mr. Trentelman's article up on its free access web page. It comes under the heading of public service too. Or should.

I'll cut the SE some slack on matters like depth and frequency of coverage for Ogden political matters on grounds of financial constraints, the fact that most of its readers are not in Ogden, and similar bean-counter concerns. They matter. Newspapers that go bust don't benefit the community in any way. But the paper gets no slack at all when, within those constraints, it fails to meet the standards of public service and quality work it ought to meet. And that its readers, in the city and out, ought to insist that it meet.

Godfrey Should Focus on Services

Another Standard-Examiner reader gets it "right"

Just to kick off this week's discussion, we'll highlight this morning's Jeffrey J. Campbell Std-Ex letter to the editor, which examines Boss Godfrey's latest obsession, to sway public opinion against the Mt. Ogden Golf Course:

"Godfrey Should focus on services"

Short but sweet to say the least; Mr. Campbell covers a lot of turf in his short letter. We'll add that its encouraging to find citizens within the Std-Ex general readership who are making the same comparisons and embracing the same arguments as are often found on our own Weber County Forum pages.

Comments, anyone?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Golf Course Update: Website Re-vamp Coming Within a "Few Months"

The mayor's anti-promotional efforts continue

By Dan S.

As I finally look at today's paper, I see there's yet another article about Mt. Ogden golf course. It's a remarkable article, about the city's plan to revamp its web site to promote the golf course "within a few months". There's no explanation of why this can't be done sooner, or, for that matter, why it wasn't done years ago. The only person quoted in the article is our mayor, who hastens to point out that "enhanced promotional efforts won't likely solve the course's financial woes", those woes being "due to its difficult terrain."

In other words, the mayor's anti-promotional efforts continue. We've now had something like five news articles in the last week in which he has told the public what a lousy course it is--on top of the long-term campaign that he began over two years ago. How a web site revamp in a few months can possibly make up for all that, I have no idea. It's absolutely clear that the mayor wants the course to keep losing money until the taxpayers agree to subsidize the redesign whose real purpose is to move the clubhouse closer to the gondola.

Growing Smarter: Residents Provide Recipe for Smart Growth

Developers and municipal leaders should give the people what they want
Urban Gondolas are inexplicably absent from the wish-list

By Curmudgeon

Interesting editorial up in the SL Trib this morning. Headline reads: "Growing smarter: Residents provide recipe for smart growth."

The editorial reports that a recent large survey of Utahns by HarrisInterative shows that residents of the beehive state are damn tired of air pollution, traffic congestion and urban sprawl. HarrisInteractive "convened focus groups and polled 1,262 Utahns, including 934 from along the Wasatch Front, and compared the results to a similar study in 1997."

The survey "painted a picture of what Wasatch Front residents envision as the 'ideal community,' a model that, if embraced by developers and planning officials, can help curb sprawl and address related problems. The people want a mix of lot sizes and housing types, primarily moderate-sized single-family homes and town houses. (Salt Lake County participants want some apartment buildings sprinkled in.) They want easy access to public transportation - buses, rail and TRAX - and open spaces: parks, gardens, playgrounds, recreation fields, nature preserves and trails. And they want neighbors who represent a mix of ages and family stages. Nearly three-fourths of the survey participants favored communities with the above attributes, which constitute a recipe for vibrant, diverse, livable, sustainable neighborhoods. Developers and municipal leaders should give the people what they want. "

Public transit. Parks. Open space. Public recreation areas. Playing fields. Trails. Reigning in sprawl and over-development. Be nice if Mayor Godfrey's Crack Development Team would take notice of the survey and what it revealed. Maybe when they get done with searching for the 275 public parking spaces that went missing recently and still have not turned up, they'll read the HarrisInteractive Survey and think about how it might guide Ogden's development policies. Maybe they'll convince Hizzonah to drop his opposition to a transit upgrade [trolley or BRT] between downtown and WSU and McKay-Dee [the Mayor's foot-dragging is now entering its third year], trying to protect that route for his flatland gondola obsession. Maybe....

Ok, ok, I know. But we can hope, can't we?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Golf Course Update: The Open House

Short report on City Council Open House, Wednesday, 19 March 08

By Dan S.

No time for a full report, but here are a few things I learned at last night's open house...

About 2/3 of the $2 million "golf course debt" consists of interest that the accountants didn't even keep on the books until a couple of years ago, when they went back and retroactively figured out what the interest accumulated over the many preceding years should have been. The claim is that the city's auditors told them to do that, but I'll bet the auditors did not tell them that this interest had to be added onto the golf course debt, rather than somewhere else in the city's balance sheet.

Consequently, the new interest on the debt that the golf course is supposed to pay each year has risen dramatically. In 2004 the new interest was less than $20,000, while in 2007 it was just over $100,000. That's partly because of the compounded interest, and partly (apparently) because the interest rate has increased. If the debt could be somehow paid off or forgiven, the annual golf course deficit would immediately drop to a little under $200,000.

The name(s) of the professional golf course designer(s) that the city has consulted is/are a secret. However, the conceptual drawing of a redesigned course that was on display showed the initials "J.G." Apparently this person is unwilling to put his/her name on the design at this time. The claim was that this is because the work was done pro bono, and to use the designer's name, the city would have to pay a fee.

The $6 million cost of such a redesign does not include relocating the clubhouse or paying off the existing $2 million debt. So it seems to me that implementing this option would actually require bonding for about $10 million.

J.G.'s conceptual design shows an unlabeled dashed line along the approximate alignment of the previously proposed Malan's Basin gondola.

Those in attendance at the event included Mayor Godfrey, council members Jeske, Stephens, and Gochnour, John Patterson, George Benford, John Arrington, Todd Brenkman, and other golf course personnel, as well as Curt and Bob Geiger and Gadi Leshem. From where they were standing and what I heard them say, the Geigers and Leshem seemed most interested in the redesign option.

Editor's Addendum: Ace Reporter Schwebke also provides a writeup on last night's open house event, in this morning's Standard-Examiner.

Although we've already had some discussion of last night's open house in yesterday's article comment section, we're posting a new article for the sake of continuity, and to allow those readers who haven't yet commented to offer their impressions of last night's event -- or alternatively -- to blow off a little pent-up steam.

Have at it, gentle readers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Golf Course Update: The Work Session

Report on City Council Work Session, Tuesday, 18 March 08

By Curmudgeon

[Prelude]: During the public comments time at the Council meeting that preceded the work session, Mr. Bill C., speaking on behalf of the Mt. Ogden Golf Course Mens' Association, told the Council that the hastily called public meeting for Wednesday night had not given his group enough time to prepare statements and alternative plans for the golf course. He and his group did not understand the perceived “urgency” [as Mayor Godfrey put it] of the situation. He told the Council that the Mt. Ogden Golf Course Men’s Association was preparing alternatives to the four outlined by the Mayor, alternatives that would not leave winners and losers in their wake, but would make everyone involved with the golf course a winner. He urged the Council not to rush to judgment but to wait for the Men’s Association to complete its recommendations, which he said would be done within a week. He said he did not intend to challenge the Mayor’s figures regarding the golf course’s income and costs — “They are what they are” he said. But the Association would be talking about how original mistakes that were made in funding the course, about the origins of the current debt, as well as how to deal with it. He insisted the recommendations the Association would make would “not divide” the community but would unite it.

The Work Session convened following the close of the Council Meeting. Mayor Godfrey began by congratulating the management of Mt. Ogden Golf Course [MOGC] for all they had done over the previous four years to turn things around, to increase the number of rounds played so that the course at least broke even. But, he said, it hadn’t worked, and the course was still losing in the area of a quarter of a million dollars a year. Rounds played would have to increase by about 30K a year over what they were not before that would change, he said. [...]

Read Curmudgeon's full article here.

Comments are invited, as always.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spotlight on Our Championship Golf Course

A reminder of two important public events

This morning's Scott Schwebke article should serve as a reminder of tonight's council work session, and and tomorrow's town meeting, during which Boss Godfrey will begin his full-court press to address purported loan arrearages and revenue shortfalls related to the Mt. Ogden Golf Course. We provide here the story's opening paragraphs:
OGDEN — The city would have to spend $4.3 million over the next decade to cover anticipated revenue shortfalls and eliminate existing debt at Mount Ogden Golf Course, according to a scenario proposed by Mayor Matthew Godfrey.

The proposed payment plan to address the facility’s lingering financial problems was one of four outlined in a memo Godfrey sent to city council members last week.

Godfrey said the $4.3 million payment plan calls for a tax increase, which would allow operations at Mount Ogden Golf Course to remain unchanged.

He will discuss the options with the city council during a work session tonight and will hold a town meeting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers on the third floor of the Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd.
Although we believe that today's article probably represents a good faith effort on the part of the Standard-Examiner to provide its readership a detailed explanation of the financial condition of the Mt. Ogden Golf Course, we also believe the data in today's article and graphic table is deficient, inasmuch as it comes from the Godfrey administration alone, and not from an independent audit, of the type we called for in our article of March 13. The net result, of course, is that the Std-Ex has regurgitated Godfrey administration figures, splashed them all over the front page, with little or no attempt to verify their accuracy or reliability. Notably, Ace Reporter Schwebke mentions a negatively-amortizing "loan," relating back to the time of the original 1984 course construction, but fails to mention that no original loan documents exist to either prove the existence of any such loan, or to reveal that such loan, if it indeed exists, would have been a loan from the city to the city.

We believe it would be foolhardy to take drastic action on the future of the golf course until independently obtained figures are available for analysis; and we urge the Emerald City lumpencitizens to attend each of these events (torches and pitchforks in hand) to urge city council restraint, until we have a true and reliable picture of the financial posture of our crown jewel championship-quality golf course.

We'll also extend an invitation to anyone who might wish to submit a report on the events occurring in tonight's council session, either by way of our comments section or via a full article.

We're on a tight schedule today; so we'll leave the microanalysis to our gentle readers. Who will be the first to comment on the several red flags and outright errors appearing in this morning's Std-Ex article?

Monday, March 17, 2008

All Government Officials Seem to Be On Prozac

Bear Stearns meltdown aftermath

Fascinating action in the world financial markets news today, in the wake of Bear Stearn's weekend meltdown. In the wake of the fear in Asian Markets earlier today, US markets responded with a yawn by today' US market closings.

By way of background, BTW, The Fed apparently put a rubber hose to the Bear Sterns Board of Directors over the weekend and convinced them that they should sell their company for pennies on the dollar. As we'll see, we'll wonder whether the BSC stockholders will go along with the FED plan to wipe out all stockholder equity.:

Here's the wrap-up for today's market trading activity:

Asian stocks took a big hit early today, while today's trading on the NYSE reveals that most NYSE traders yawned, gulped another few Prozac tablets, and accepted the fact that nanny government will avoid market forces, and enact "Happy Times." Yes.
The Dow finally finishes up a 20 points.

Gold, which went as high as $1030 last night, has now settled down to 104.30 at this very moment.

Bear Stearns executives now face the first of many predictable lawsuits.

People who are concerned about the current condition of the US economy should chime in here right now!

We predict that when the economy finally tanks, as it inevitably will, the pain will be much worse, than if the government ( and the Fed) had stood back and allowed out economy to fall into the situation now... rather than later.

Heads should roll in election 2008.

City Golf Courses: Per Se "Big Mistakes?"

Libertarian ideology bumps up against the populist principle of promoting "the public good"

Public golf courses were a recent topic of the day over at the Utah blog Gazelem, wherein Travis Grant adopts the libertarian position, i.e., that "city governments should keep their hands out of areas that should be left to the private sector." It's a short article, so we'll incorporate its text in full:

City Golf Courses are Big Mistakes
13 March 2008 — Travis Grant

City governments should keep their hands out of areas that should be left to the private sector. One key example of this is city owned golf courses. Private enterprise has found a lot of success by building golf courses. City governments have hoped to capitalize on the successes of others and have started to build golf course after golf course. This has over inundated the world with golf courses.

Recently Ogden has found that their Golf course is a loser in the financial world. With out some sort of change, it will be a failure. So to whom does the mayor turn to save the golf course? The citizens of citizen of Ogden get to pay the bill.

Although I am not opposed to turning it into a park as suggested in the article, The smartest move would be to sell the property. Either the new owner could turn it into a profitable golf course, or build houses on it, or something.

No matter what the decision, the tax payers lose. Property is selling low right now, so it isn’t a good time to sell, so the citizens lose on the sell. If they turn it into a park, the citizen have to pay tax, to make it so. Or the worst deal of all, would be the renovation to make it more profitable.

Cities need to keep out of the private sector. Whether it is Utopiah, golf courses, or other business. It is destined to fail.

While we do agree with the general proposition that public entities ought to steer clear of activities which directly compete with private business interests, we wonder whether there is any palpable distinction between an ordinary public park and a public golf course, aside from the fact that public golf courses are generally better maintained than public parks, and thus designed to return some revenue to the operating government entity. If we assume from the semi-purist libertarian position that it's OK for public entities to operate ordinary parks as a matter of principle, why not public golf courses?

There also appears the problem which we've discussed earlier here, i.e., taking Boss Godfrey at his word, when he asserts, without a scintilla of evidenciary support so far, that the Mt. Ogden Golf Course is losing the kind of money he says it is.

As an added bonus, we direct our readers' attention to this morning's Standard-Examiner letter, wherein Ogden's Anthony Pena chimes in on the topic.

What say our gentle readers? Anybody want to talk golf courses, and the proper role of government this morning?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bear Stearns Rescue Inked

JP Morgan Chase to acquire BSC at a 94% discount to the bank's Friday closing share price

From the the London Guardian moments ago:
The cash-strapped Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns was rescued from the brink of collapse tonight through a takeover by rival JP Morgan Chase for the rock-bottom price of $236m.

After a weekend of frenetic negotiations, Bear Stearns' board approved a stock-for-stock buyout at a valuation of just $2 per share. In a sign of the desperation of Bear Stearns' plight, the deal is at a 94% discount to the bank's closing share price of $30 on Friday night.

"The past week has been an incredibly difficult time for Bear Stearns," said the 85-year-old firm's chief executive Alan Schwartz.

"This transaction represents the best outcome for all of our constituencies based upon the current circumstances."

Before the credit crunch set in, Bear Stearns had a market capitalisation of more than $140bn. But the firm was hit by an evaporation in confidence culminating in a bank run by clients last week.

Without a buyout, Bear Stearns would almost certainly have been forced to declare itself bankrupt. Senior management rushed to negotiate a takeover before the start of the week's trading on Asian markets to avert mass withdrawals of funds by clients in Japan, China and elsewhere.
Asian nations hold massive quantities of dollars. We'll update this post when news on today's Asian market sentiment becomes clear.

Dow Jones Market Watch also reports that the Fed has cut the funds rate to 3%, to inject more cheap money into the failing economy.

Gold is now trading at $1027 on the international spot market as we enter this data, BTW... up twenty bucks an ounce from only three hours ago. Still a bargain, in our view, at least in the long run.

Bush Jokes About WMD

GeeDubya cracks himself up

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The World Economy Heads Down the Toilet

The economic roller coaster begins its downward decent and picks up speed

By Danny

Bear Stearns, founded in 1923, is busted after a run on the bank. The Fed saved it, by illegally diverting funds through JP Morgan.

And 20 Canadian asset-backed commercial paper trusts declared bankruptcy today.

An English bank has been nationalized. Trust funds are being frozen and are going broke.

After bouncing up toward the 1K benchmark for the past week, Gold finally closes on the New York Mercantile Exchange above $1,000/oz for the first time ever:

The economic roller coaster begins its downward descent and picks up speed.

New Emerald City bonding, anyone?

Have a nice day.

Breaking News: Wienermobile Spotted Near Emerald City

Added bonus: Another WCF blogmeister brain-storm

We've been avid long-time subscribers to the Standard-Examiner. Hardly a day goes by when we don't scour its pages, looking for news items worthy of spring-boarding a discussion here at Weber County Forum. And there's nothing we enjoy more than when Don, Andy and the rest of the Std-Ex editors latch onto an interesting topic, and follow it month to month, providing neat and tidy updates for Emerald City citizens. We found one of those this morning in the Std-Ex Lifestyle section. There's been an Oscar Mayer "Wienermobile" sighting here in Northern Utah. Becky Cairns provides the full story here. The Std-Ex is ever-vigilant in its wienermobile coverage, as we said. We link two of the many earlier articles here and here. Story-wise, the Standard is "all over it."

Reading today's story, and pondering this thoroughly charming vehicle, it occurred to us that many a company or world celebrity has made use of such a promotional automobile to create and maintain a positive public image. Adopting a custom-designed "ride" is good marketing, we think. Here are a few examples of this:

The "Batmobile":

The "Popemobile":

We think you're probably already getting our drift; so we'll save bandwidth and cut straight to another neck-snapping WCF segue:

We've come up with what we believe to be a particularly grand idea, as we've been puttering around the Weber County Forum editorial office this afternoon, with way too much spare time on our hands. Some might even call it a genuine brain-storm.

The "Godfrey Administration Official Wienermobile" (Staff Limo):

Imagine this fine signature vehicle rolling down Washington Boulevard on a hot July morning, as a featured entrant in our Pioneer Days Parade, with the faces of Boss Godfrey, John Patterson, Dave Harmer and Mark Johnson pressed up to the wienermobile's dome-liner windows and Bobby Geiger at the wheel, waving frantically at the gathered throngs of adoring lumpencitizens. Imagine this incredible custom machine cruising up to the latest Emerald City ribbon cutting, with the full complement of Godfrey and his entire A-Team on board -- all dressed in $5000 Italian suits. Cadillac convertibles are passe, we think; and they won't put our city "on the map." We have no doubt however that the "Godfreymobile" will. And that's what we all want, right? To be on the map? One thing we already know: The Std-Ex is already pre-disposed to give this gimmick plenty of ink, just as it does all other knuckleheaded Godfrey Gimmicks.

And the Gondolists keep saying we naysayers never come up with any good ideas.


Please offer your own comments on the latest WCF brainstorm... or feel free to regard this as an open thread.

Pork Barrel Politics: Per Se Bad?

Two Utah Senators pat themselves on the back for bringin' home the bacon (what there is of it)

Fascinating story in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, under the headline: "Utah senators proud of pork." We'll incorporate here the opening 'graphs:

WASHINGTON - Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch love their earmarks. And they don't want to give them up.
The Utah Republicans say members of Congress should be splitting up federal dough to send home instead of letting Washington bureaucrats divvy up the funds. And they backed their point late Thursday by joining many of their colleagues in voting against a one-year ban on earmarks.
The proposed prohibition on any earmarks in the fiscal 2009 budget failed by a 71-29 margin. Bennett says he is proud of all the earmarks he has pushed through for Utah, and proud of the Senate for maintaining the constitutional right to the purse strings.
"Opposing earmarks is an attempt by some lawmakers to give the impression of fiscal responsibility when there is none," Bennett said in a statement. "Eliminating earmarks will not reduce overall federal spending, and yet earmarks have become the scapegoat for the government's lack of fiscal discipline."
The rise in the number of earmarks - in addition to several controversial ones like the so-called "bridge to nowhere" - has made them a dirty word in politics. This fiscal year alone, Congress earmarked 11,612 projects costing $17.2 billion, according to the government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.
Hatch says he understands that some are opposed to earmarks, but believes that "limited congressionally directed spending" has often proved effective for getting federal dollars for local projects.
"Without this funding, federal spending priorities in Utah would be decided by bureaucrats and other non-Utahns instead of by our elected leaders and local officials," Hatch said.
Although we've in the past leaned toward the intuitive view that the outright abolition of federal earmarks would likewise lead to the reduction in federal spending, we're now sitting on the fence with respect to this issue. We know the basic tendencies of the folks in Congress to spend every dime they can, regardless of any minor roadblocks which are put in their paths. The real question is where the money will be spent. As both our Hon. State Senators suggest, the presently-existing system does at least provide some mechanism (however feeble) for returning some Utah taxpayer dollars to some local projects -- which is probably a good thing -- we believe. We wonder how much of this taxpayer money would come back to Utah in the absence of a system allowing earmarks.

Being the curious type, we resorted to Mother Google, and came up with some interesting information (the most recently available 2005 data), showing Utah as tenth from the bottom of the list in earmarks per state, and eighth from the bottom per capita. Ironically, and assuming that these figures are typical of any given year, this sets us to wondering whether Senators Bennet and Hatch should be applauded for the pittance that they do bring back home, or criticized for failing to bag far more pork.

We don't know the answer to these complicated questions, gentle readers, so perhaps you'll all chime in and tell us what we ought to think. Are congressional earmarks bad per se, or does it all depend on the nature of the earmarked projects? Would the across-the-board abolition of federal earmarks result in a net reduction in federal spending, or would Congress merely find other ways to spend the dough in the federal coffers? In the absence of a system allowing congressional earmarks, would Utah receive a greater share of federal funding, or would Utahns be left with no bacon for breakfast? Wouldn't it make more sense to forget the whole earmarks problem, and instead lobby our legislators for "balanced budget" legislation? And yes, we do know all about the Alaskan "bridge to nowhere" boondoggle, and would in that connection invoke the old legal axiom: "Hard cases make bad law."

So many questions; so few answers.

We do hope our gentle readers will deign to help us out on this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weber County Demo Candidate Re-treads

And where is the GOP candidate to oppose Godfreyite Gondolist Edgar Allen?

The most excellent Salt Lake Tribune's political writers' blog, Out of Context, expands on our article we posted yesterday. Boss Godfrey's loving father-in-law, former state senator Ed Allen, has filed his papers for the Legislative District 10 race. Woe be unto all of us, if there is no GOP candidate in this race to oppose this neoCON idiot. From today's story:

Reincarnation is not just a religious belief -- it's also a political strategy for Democrats in northern Utah legislative races.

The minority party has dug up two former occupants of the political graveyard to run for office.

In House District 10, now held by Democratic Rep. LuWanna Shurtliff, former state Sen. Ed Allen has signed up as a candidate. Shurtliff had not filed as of Friday, raising questions whether she might have had enough after 10 years.

Allen, a medical doctor, hasn't. His legislative life was ended prematurely with the last Republican-controlled redistricting. His Senate seat was rejiggered to ensure that he never got to serve a full four-year term and that a Republican would take over. The accompanying picture, btw, is not the current Edgar Allen.

As of Friday, no Republican had filed for the seat.
You can read the full most excellent Out of Context article here.

The article also deals with the Jenkins/Olsen Senate District 20 race.

Trivial pursuit question: Is Senator Scott Jenkins of Senate District 20 the cousin of anyone we know in Emerald City politics?

Another "Developer's Dream Bill" Slides Through the Legislature

Gov signs law that curbs citizens' power to challenge developers

By Curmudgeon

It is with great sorrow that I bring to your attention this article describing yet another "Developers Dream Bill" that slid through the recently ended legislative session, and that Gov. Huntsman has signed into law. It is a law that was introduced by a Democrat, Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City. It pains me to point out one of the pitifully few Ds in the legislature as a compliant tool of the Developers and Real Estate lobby, but fair's fair.

Here is how the SL Trib headlined the story: "Gov signs law that curbs citizens' power to challenge developers." It is a very accurate headline.

From Cathy McKitrick's story:
A proposal limiting the public's ability to challenge city land-use decisions passed through this year's legislative session with hardly a ripple.

But things might not be quiet for long. Some fear the two-page SB53 - crafted to satisfy developers, Realtors and the Utah League of Cities and Towns - will tie the hands of residents who oppose controversial developments.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City, said SB53 was intended to clarify existing law. "You can petition against the ordinance but not against the process - that's what this bill says," Goodfellow said during Senate floor action last month. Salt Lake City land-use attorney says the bill is more than just a clarification - and the public has lost its voice in the process. "It introduces land-use language that was not included anywhere before," said Jeff Owens, a land-use attorney with the Salt Lake City-based firm of Strong and Hanni. "With SB53, voters cannot initiate any referendum to change a land-use ordinance," Owens said. "So zoning laws cannot be taken to the public at this point and time...."

Robert Rees, the legislative research attorney who helped draft SB53, confirmed that a portion of SB53 is fresh. "It is brand-new language in the code," Rees said. "The idea behind it was to codify case law that suggests that land-use initiatives are already somewhat restricted."
Mr. Rees comments above make laughable Mr. Goodfellow's sniveling claim that his bill changed nothing, but merely clarified existing language in the law.

The truly disturbing part of all this is that it continues the trend, so painfully apparent in Utah law of late, of diminishing bit by bit the public's role in the governance of their own towns and communities, and in particular, the elimination of the referendum as a way for the public to correct excesses and over-reaching by locally elected officials, just as the public did in the statewide referendum which eliminated school vouchers. This new law gets around that by simply placing whole categories of decisions by local governments involving zoning and development beyond the reach of referendum at all.

Sickening in its own right; doubly so when the perps are aided and abetted by a Utah Democrat. Mr. Goodfellow should be ashamed of himself.

Leaders Caution Faithful on Scams

LDS Church advises members to invest wisely

The fleecing of the flock at the local wardhouse is an all-to-familiar theme here in Utah we believe; and we wonder if devout LDS church-members will ever get wise to the fact that it isn't smart to put blind trust, (let alone your life savings or entire retirement account) into the hands of somebody who says he's real smart, just because you know him from church.

Weber County Forum
Ogden Financier Gets the Criminal/Civil "Double Whammy"
February 7, 2008

While all investments carry an element of risk, that risk can be managed by following sound and proven financial principles; first, avoid unnecessary debt, especially consumer debt; second, before investing, seek advice from a qualified and licensed financial adviser and third, be wise.

Salt Lake Tribune
Letter from the First Presidency
L.D.S. Church

March 13, 2008

LDS Church leadership finally puts out the word to the faithful flock, according to yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune:
Just weeks before a Mormon entrepreneur is expected to plead guilty in a scam that defrauded about 800 people of $180 million, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is warning its members to steer clear of financial scams.
In a letter by the church's First Presidency read to its congregations Sunday, the church said it is "concerned that there are those who use relationships of trust to promote risky or even fraudulent investment and business schemes." It is unclear if the letter targeted Utah congregations or its entire worldwide membership.
The church declined to answer questions on the letter and whether the case involving Ogden businessman Val E. Southwick and other recent cases like it triggered it. A spokesman would only say that "the principles of personal discipline in financial management and of avoiding debt have been taught by church leaders from the earliest days of the church."
But what sets this letter apart from earlier messages is that it specifically addresses fraud and urges members to invest "wisely with responsible and established financial institutions."
Read the full story.

We'd of course interpret this message broadly, to include a warning to watch out for scammers in government.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Call for a Full Accounting of Mt. Ogden Golf Course Operations

Get reliable information first, before taking drastic action

Just as threatened promised earlier this week, Boss Godfrey has scheduled a town meeting to solicit public input on curtailing the growing debt of Mount Ogden Golf Course that he now claims to total $2 million, according to this morning's Ace Reporter Schwebke story.

It's evidently driving the mayor nuts that Emerald City's Crown Jewel Park is running negative revenue, and by gum, Godfrey intends to do something about that -- right now. Whereas he'd earlier vowed to schedule a public meeting "within the next few weeks," he's now put the matter on the front burner, with a town meeting set for Wednesday, March 19, 2008. After many years of purported losses, we're wondering "what's the sudden rush?"

Mr. Schwebke also reports the "unveiling" of four possible options for the golf course:
1) Put the matter on the ballot and let the public decide whether to continue subsidising the course through a blanket tax increase,
2) Ask the public to approve $6 million in bonding to redesign the course to make it more "playable."
3) Forget the whole thing and let it go back to "seed."
4) Impose a punitive Special Assessment District on the naysayer Mt. Ogden neighbors whose collective political action forced Boss Godfrey on the eve of the last election to abandon his scheme to sell the park to his crony Chris Peterson.
Today's story also reports the calendering of a work session with the city council on March 18.

As to the council work session, now that Godfrey is dropping the issue in the council's lap, it would seem to be the ideal time for council leadership to demonstrate true leadership, and to set the tone for Mayor-Council relations for the next two years. We believe that the council should take the initiative on this issue, demand a full accounting of golf course income and expenses from the time of the course's original opening in 1984, including scrutiny of the amortization of the "loan" which golf course management ought to have been paying down over the past 24 years. This is something that should be done prior to considering any of the "options" now being put on the table by Mr. Godfrey.

All of the above option scenarios, all of which are quite drastic, depend upon Godfrey's assertion that the golf course is losing money at the rate he says it is. Although we'd like to be able to take Godfrey's word for it, past history demonstrates that we can't.

We hope every interested Emerald City citizen will attend Wednesday's town hall event, and press the administration and council for a full accounting. Likewise we call upon the council to order a full accounting, preferably from an independent auditor. Addressing any of Godfrey's proposed options would be "premature" at best, we believe, until we have numbers "on the table" upon which we can rely with confidence.

This, by the way, is the same approach that has been urged as a constant, here at Weber County Forum: Obtain and study the facts first -- then undertake action, if necessary.

The floor is open for reader comments.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Grift Ogden Announces a New Cartoon Contest

We got an email a few days ago from our friends at the Grift Ogden Website:

New: A call for cartoons featuring Powder Mountain Towne.

New Also: It looks like is offline, so we're declaring the winner of the Gondola Wars. We win, they lose. We rule, they rue.

As our regular readers will recall, the folks who run this website (WSU physics students and perfessers, we think [?]) have conducted a highly creative sort of cartoon guerrilla war over the past few years, via the medium of humorous and jagged cartoons drawn on classroom blackboards.

Our readers will also recall the cartoon/graphics contest they sponsored last year, on one of our favorite local topics, Gondolas.

Here's the winner of the last Grift Ogden Gondola Contest:

1st place

The second and third-place finishers follow in sequence, etc.

We thus encourage all cartoonist readers, and those who are adept at at anything from cartoon drawing to Photoshop to submit their graphic creations with regard to the Ogden Valley connection. Who knows, you may even win a free pizza, hand prepared by the very lovely Juanita, proprietor of the most-excellent Pizza Runner -- the danged best gourmet pizza between the left and right coasts?

Ogden Valley residents, we think, should also welcome Grift Ogden/Ogden Valley into the fight.

"A picture is worth a thousand words," after all. And Grift Ogden/ Ogden Valley is all about graphic images.

Go to the site, Weber County artistes, and submit your own graphic and artistic images.

Demos Field a Full Slate of Legislative Challengers

Check out our new 2008 candidate roster

The Standard-Examiner has a couple of stories this morning, concerning the upcoming Weber County election 2008 legislative races.

Weber County Democrats announce that a full slate of nine Democrats have filed to run for the state legislature in this Marshall Thompson story; and Charlie Trentelman reports that incumbent GOP Congressman Rob Bishop faces two announced challengers for his 1st Congressional District seat, including one from within his own party.

As the April party conventions approach, we'll make a conscientious effort to keep our readers informed about who the candidates are for each party; and in this connection we've set up a Weber County legislative candidates page, which we'll keep updated as the final candidate selection process occurs. We'll also add this page in our upcoming elect 2008 module, in our right sidebar, shortly.

At present, we've added page links for those candidates who have web pages available through the public domain; we also invite all candidates to submit their own web pages, through the email link in our upper right sidebar.

Looks like a robust election season coming up.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Update 3/12/08 11:05 a.m. MT: This is too funny. This morning's Marshall Thompson story reports that a seeming political newcomer, "Ted Allen" has entered the House Leg. Dist. 10 race, upon the retirement of Democrat incumbent Lu Shurtliff. Being the curious type, we navigated to the Weber County elections page. And who is this Ted Allen guy? None other than Emerald City Gondolist D. Edger “Ed” Allen. That's right gentle readers... Boss Godfrey's father-in-law hisself!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wednesday News Roundup

Today's important stories per Curmudgeon

By Curmudgeon

Tantalizing lead story in the Standard-Examiner today. The story is, Ogden is likely to be the hottest job market in Utah over the next quarter, as well as one of the top ten job markets in the nation. The story quotes Mayor Godfrey saying "I think we're doing the right things that have really changed the paradigm."

Now, I know it can be argued that Hizzonah has had little to do with the good jobs picture in Ogden, that broader trends and factors account for most of it. And that may be true. But it seems also true that Godfrey's actions have had something to do with it. And besides, if the local economy goes south [as I hope it will not], folks would be piling on the Mayor for letting it happen. And so, fair's fair, he gets to take some credit for a strong economy when that happens.

Then, too, there is a front page story about the Mayor's calling a public meeting to get public input about how to handle Mt. Ogden Golf Course's [alleged] $250,000 a year deficit. The Std-Ex, sadly, once again, simply prints the Mayor's assertion that it is in fact losing that much annually. It would be nice if my Home Town Paper did a little digging into the matter and let its readers know if that is in fact true, and if it's not, why not. May be true; may not. I'd like to know. Being the old reprobate that I am, I think that's the sort of thing home town papers are supposed to ferret out and explain, rather than just taking the government at its word. Que no? Rudi has of course addressed this subject in the lower article.

Finally, there's also another front page piece reporting that Ms. Litrrell has denounced the judge's ruling her lawsuit against the Mayor and assigning costs to the plaintiffs as "demeaning and inflammatory." And reporting that she does not intend to appeal the judgment because it would cost many thousands of dollars more.

All in all a pretty meaty day for the front page of the Standard-Examiner. Not a bad deal for four bits.

Boss Godfrey Again Hints That It's Now Time to Sell Mt Ogden Park

Through the juggling of books, Boss Godfrey says that Ogden's "Crown Jewel" is a loser

Interesting Standard-Examimer article this morning , wherein the Godfrey-lackey Std-Ex, aka the Boss Godfrey House Propaganda Organ, once again reprises the Boss Godfrey message that the Mt. Ogden Golf Course is losing money, and thus must impliedly be ultimately sold to Godfrey crony Chris Peterson.
Annual revenue losses, combined with original construction costs, have pushed the course’s debt to more than $2 million, he said. The city subsidizes the course deficit through its annual operating budget. From the article:
Godfrey promised not to sell the golf course and hopes to meet soon with the city council to discuss options to help it financially break even.
He declined to specifically disclose those options, but said a tax increase approved by voters or a course redesign could be among the strategies.
“It’s really getting out of control,” Godfrey said of the debt. “We have to decide how to address the problem.”
Godfrey also hopes the public will offer suggestions during the town meeting, for which a date and location have not been set.
We're in the midst of conducting Real-life frenzied Political business right now, so we'll skip our usual microanalysis.

We invite our gentle readers to provide that.

The floor is open for reader comments.

Fed Fright: Bernanke Sets Up Multibillion-dollar Emergency CDO Bailout

The U.S. Government sets the stage to trade $billions in U.S. government bonds for worthless mortgage paper

By Dorothy

Interesting article this morning on Agora Financial's website. When you read today's article it becomes obvious that the Federal Reserve has just nationalized all the banks who are bankrupt because of greedy speculation in the subprime mortages - which means that you and I are going to pay off the banks' debts just like we taxpayers were forced to do when the Savings and Loans went belly-up for making bad housing loans in the '70's & 80's. Here's the skinny:
You have to admit, widespread panic at the Fed is entertaining.

One week after calling Mulligan” on the entire mortgage bubble, Bernanke is suggesting we pass the entire mess onto the next generation. God forbid the baby boomers ever take responsibility for their own actions.

The Federal Reserve announced this morning that it will make an additional $200 billion available to strapped lending institutions. But instead of firing up the printing presses and going about business as usual, the Fed has unveiled a whole new plot, and a handy acronym to go with it: Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF).

The new initiative, like the old Term Auction Facility (TAF), will provide short-term loans to distressed financial institutions. But instead of enticing banks with cheap interest rates, the Fed is now offering to swap mortgage-backed securities for U.S. Treasuries.

Thus, a bank swelling with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paper and other “AAA” mortgage-backed assets can unload it on the Fed for the next 28 days. The Fed wants banks to take that money and lend to the masses, thus stimulating the economy. No word yet how much additional debt it will take for the government to absorb this mess.

The new TSLFs will begin on March 27.
The painful part is that the Federal Reserve is not part of our government, but a private consortium of investors, many of whom are in Europe and other parts of the world.

The bigger - worst - part is that our President and Congress do not have a clue about what has just been done to all of us including them and their heirs. How stupid can we get as a nation?

We are now in the process of trading U.S. government bonds for worthless mortgages in the billions that the banks cannot get an investor to take off their hands... The day of reckoning will eventually arrive for this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

WaPo Hypothesis: Are Christian Wackos Now Being Sent to the Back of the Political Bus?

WaPo has an intriguing article re this

Fantastic article in yesterday's Washington Post, under the headline "Culture Wars? How 2004."

WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. makes a historical comparison between the times in the 1920's, the last time that religious zealots had any measurable political power in America, and present times, when Christian Wacko political influence seems to be in ebb tide. Here's some of the Good Stuff from Dionne's article:

If you were looking for a presidential election that revolved around religion and "moral values," you wouldn't start with President Bush's victory in 2004 -- nor, indeed, with any recent election. You'd go back to 1928. Now there was a culture war.
At that moment of great prosperity, the two big issues were whether the United States should continue its experiment with Prohibition and whether it should elect Al Smith, New York's Democratic governor, as the first Roman Catholic president. It wasn't even close. The "drys," who favored the ban on booze, overwhelmed the "wets," who wanted to be rid of it. And the Catholic Smith was clobbered by Republican Herbert Hoover, who carried several Southern, predominantly Protestant states that had been voting Democratic since the aftermath of the Civil War. "We shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation," Hoover declared, and most Americans believed him.

Then, a little more than a year after Hoover's buoyant prediction, came Oct. 29, 1929. After the great stock market crash, the question of whether Americans could legally consume alcohol seemed rather less pressing. The controversies over Smith's Catholicism abated. By 1936, the year of Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide election, the culture war was forgotten, replaced by a nonviolent class war against those whom FDR called "economic royalists." [...]

Ancient history? Hardly. The lessons of that earlier age are eerily relevant to the current moment in American politics. When major crises intrude, culture wars can fade awfully quickly. They did so in 1936. There are many signs that they're fading again in 2008.

Boiled down to basics, Dionne's political hypothesis is that, when economic times get tough, (like now) pragmatic American voters give the "small issues" the heave-ho, especially with respect to nutty American preachers.

Interesting read, to say the least.

And we wonder. According to Dionne's essay, which candidate, gentle readers, is the modern Herbert Hoover analogue... and which one is FDR... assuming the analogy is true?

Credits: A Tip O' the Weber County Forum Tam-O-Shanter to the Utah blog Democracy for Utah blog, for first putting us on to this story.

Surely there's someone who will comment on this.

Our Mendacious Mayor Suffers More Blowback

The lumpencitizens await the inevitable Godfrey retort

Boss Godfrey receives more blowback in this morning's Standard-Examiner, resulting from the leaked email which he evidently "planted" in the 3/1/08 Std-Ex, in an apparent effort to discredit Emerald City Council Chairwoman Amy Wicks. This morning's letters column has a letter by Ogden's own David Smith, asking a few pointed questions... and providing some proposed answers, none of which are flattering to Boss Godfrey:

This newspaper recently ran a story about Ogden Mayor Matt Godfrey’s claims that Council Chairperson Amy Wicks won’t meet with him privately (March 1 news story, "A communications battle brewing in Ogden"). Amy’s response was that she meets with him all the time, in regular public meetings. But the Mayor, for some reason, is obsessed with meeting with her alone.
A couple of questions come to mind. First, what does the mayor wish to say to her in private that he doesn’t want heard in public? Second, does the mayor think he is the Godfather, and that all whom he summons must come, under penalty of public pillory if they don’t?
Amy Wicks was recently re-elected by the largest margin of any candidate in the council races. She was immediately elected to be chairwoman by the other council members. She is one of the most polite and considerate of persons, keenly interested in the opinions of others, and one who fills her public stewardship with both energy and skill. This newspaper endorsed her, as well.
The present situation is reminiscent of a few months ago, when the Godfrey administration was attacking Jesse Garcia, who was the council chairman at the time. Now that she is council chairperson, it appears it is now Amy’s turn for this treatment.
She ran on a platform of being independent, which she is. I suspect that characteristic is the real problem the mayor has with her.
As our WCF readers without short-term memory deficit will recall (not you, Viktor), we also discussed Irene Voit's letter yesterday.

By our count, Boss Godfrey is now batting 0-2 (.000) with the general public. Godfrey is definitely taking his lumps from the lumpencitizens.

Looking into our trusty crystal ball, we're going to go out on a limb and predict that Boss Godfrey will soon be moseying down to the paddock, and saddling up one of his letter-writing warhorses to respond in some way to these two highly critical letters. As we all know, Mayor Godfrey is one of those folks who thinks he's right about everything. Surely he won't allow the Voit and Smith letters to stand unaddressed.

And who will be the trusty Godfrey-lackey to be put in harness to defend Boss Godfrey's "honor," gentle readers? One of the Ballantynes? Little Bobby Geiger? The sway-back old nag Jay Cavendish? We'll be pulling up our political Barca-loungers, waiting to find out.

For our part, we'll be sitting on the edge of our seat, awaiting some articulate rationale, explaining why ANY city council member should meet privately with Boss Godfrey, in defiance of the principle of Open Government.

Take it away, gentle readers. We know you're out there; we can hear you breathing.

© 2005 - 2014 Weber County Forum™ -- All Rights Reserved