Thursday, July 31, 2008

In the Midst of the US recession, Oil Sheikhs Fly Their Lamborghinis to Britain... for an Oil Change

We'll call this a "glass half full message," for the ailing world and US economies

In the USA, a nation that's simultaneously suffering the ill economic effects of...
A doubling of U.S. foreclosures, coupled with a precipitous housing price decline;
A 16% Price inflation in food prices from 2007-2008;
A shuddering increase in domestic gasoline prices;
Desperate women abandoning office work to earn big bucks as pole dancers....
We'll just say this:

In the midst of this continuing story of the economic downfall of America, we get this glorious report from "The Sun," one of the United Kingdom's great scandal sheets:

Sheikh flies Lamborghini 6,500 miles to Britain for oil change

This story is really great! Here are a few excepts:

• The £190,000 supercar was put on a scheduled flight from Qatar to Heathrow – then flown BACK after the oil check.
• Money was no object as the flight would have cost the owner – thought to be a Sheikh – around £20,000.
• The move sparked fury from green campaigners.
• An airport worker said: “This car doesn’t have a carbon footprint – more of a crater.”
• The overall cost of sending the Lamborghini to London for the oil change would have cost more than £23,000.
• His black-and-gold supercar costs £3,552 to service at an approved dealer – on top of the £20,000 to freight from Qatar to Britain.
• A cargo handler at Heathrow blasted the car’s environmental damage. He said: “It would have been far more efficient to fly mechanics out there.”
Click image to enlarge:


Delightful Gondolist Rant on Today's Std-Ex Editorial Page

Bob Geiger resurfaces with a new op-ed piece, in a posture as cranky and illogical as ever

Absolutely delightful and entertaining op-ed rant in this morning's Standard-Examiner, by Emerald City's #1 rabid gondolist, Bob Geiger. Responding to Tuesday's Std-Ex op-ed piece, within which Weber State University Provost Vaughn politely noted the broad and favorable national and international attention which Ogden has received as a recreational tourist destination over the past few months, Mr. Geiger inexplicably caroms into a stinging tirade against various Weber State University professors and administrators who stood on the front lines during our community's raging 2005-2007 gondola debate, which ultimately resulted in the WSU regents' April 2007 decision to hang on to the foothill raw land, which Chris Peterson had targeted for his Golf Course/McMansion buildout.

This Geiger article, which could have been alternately entitled "Lift Ogden Sour Grapes Redux," is a marvel of that special brand of Geigeresque illogic and passion, which has been missing from the Std-Ex for so many months. For our own part, we'll say we're glad to see little Bobby back ranting on the Std-Ex editorial pages. This morning's crabby contribution added greatly to our morning mirth.

We have a tight calender this morning. So we'll dispense with our usual microanalysis, and leave the picking of nits to our gentle readers.

Before we close however, we'll make note of our favorite Geiger morning non sequitur (paraphrased):

President Milner opposed the knuckleheaded Godfrey/Peterson landgrab/gondola plan, ergo, she's opposed to Ogden's economic rebirth.

Take it away, gentle readers. There's plenty of red meat to be plucked from this morning's steaming Bob Geiger op-ed carcass, we think.

Be sure to let Mr. Geiger know exactly what you think.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Socialism "Rescues" What's Left of Capitalism

Stirring tales of our existence within the Right-wing American corporo-fascist state

Well it's all official now, U.S. Taxpayers. We're all co-partners in the 2008 banking industry meltdown, and our supposedly "recovering" alcoholic president just issued the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve (U.S. Bankers' Union) a blank U.S. Treasury check by quietly signing the Fannie/Freddie bailout bill into law this morning. Here's the gist, from the ever-reliable Raw Story website (Don't forget to read the reader comments):
In a seeming effort to blunt attention to the fact he was signing a bill he once rebuked as socialistic, President George W. Bush quietly approved a massive mortgage rescue bill shortly after 7 a.m. in the Oval Office and announced his signature by email.
"Only a few aides and administration officials were present, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Steve Preston and James B. Lockhart III, the Director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO)," Politico's Mike Allen remarked. "The White House announced the signing by e-mail moments later."
A senior Bush official told Allen the Administration had no desire to herald the Democrats who shepherded the bill through their congressional committees, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).
And no... we're not about to completely blame the approval of this bill on the current pack of Congressional democRATS who ushered this bill through a compliant Congress without amendments.

This nitwit neoCON Bush had a hand in it too.

Yes. It's the Republicans in Congress who allowed the "mortgage problem" to fester during their inattentive watch.

But it's the recently elected congressional democRAT majority who adopted the "socialist solution" -- with the help of our neoCON president, of course...

Food for thought for our gentle readers, as the congressional Demos usher in a new era of American high taxes and hyper-inflation.

Having said this... we hope our gentle readers won't let their cat get their tongues.

Two Ogden Projects Put on Varying Degrees of "Hold"

Larry Myler's Ogden Midtown Hotel/Waterpark is actually just plain defunct

Just to get the discussion rolling this morning, we'll direct our readers' attention to this revealing Scott Schwebke story, from the front page of this morning's Standard-Examiner.

The story isn't exactly breaking news, but rather reports something most of us already knew or suspected: Stuart Reid's ambitious Ashton Square condo project is on indefinite hold; and Larry Myler's Hotel/waterpark project is now officially defunct. Mr. Reid blames it all on the economy, but Mr. Myler's excuse is far more interesting. And it's not a consequence of Myler's twin "Midtown-branded" financial disasters in Orem and Clearfield. It's all about gondolas (or lack thereof,) Mr. Myler's spokesman, Rob Storey informs us, (with a completely straight face). From this morning's story:

OGDEN — Two major projects touted as shining examples of Ogden’s downtown renaissance are officially off the table.
Midtown Development has canceled plans to build a $115 million luxury hotel and waterpark because it appears a proposal for a twophase gondola system between downtown and Malan’s Basin is dead, Rob Storey, an official with the Orem-based company, said Tuesday.

And the intrepid Scott Schebke provides more:
Midtown’s plans for a hotel at the northwest corner of 23rd Street and Washington Boulevard and a waterpark across the street always hinged on tourism being generated by a gondola system and a proposed resort at Malan’s Basin, Storey said.
“The buzz (about the gondola and resort) definitely attracted us to the area," he said.
And here comes the clincher, an astounding revelation that's never been reported before, (according to our recollection):

Midtown had offered to spend about $15 million in profits to construct an urban leg of the gondola that would have begun at the intermodal hub at 23rd Street and Wall Avenue, stop at the company’s downtown hotel and end at Weber State University on Harrison Boulevard, Storey said. [Emphais added]
How 'bout that? It would appear that Mr. Myler may have been one of those mysterious private financiers the gondolists had been whispering about these past several years.

Quick sidebar to Dave Harmer: We guess it's OK to call off the search for those 275 parking spaces. It's obvious now that this that was just another lame and mendacious excuse.

Sadly, we predict that today's news will provoke groans in what remains of the Emerald City gondolist camp:

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Big Bailout: America as a Full-Spectrum Kleptocracy

First class Fannie/Freddie Bailout rant from LewRockwell.Com

Last week, Congress went on record regarding its priorities: With a handful of noble exceptions (conspicuous among them the stalwart Rep. Ron Paul of Texas), they demonstrated a willingness to ruin what remains of the dollar and destroy the Middle Class in order to rescue – temporarily – the ├╝ber-rich Robber Class

The Big Bailout: America as a Full-Spectrum Kleptocracy
July 29, 2008

First class rant this morning on the Fannie/Freddie bailout topic from William Norman Grigg, of LewRockwell.Com. This is one our readers surely won't want to miss:

The Big Bailout: America as a Full-Spectrum Kleptocracy

Reader comments are invited, as per usual.

Pausing to Consider How Others See Junction City

Spotlight on today's thoughtful Michael Vaughn Op-ed Piece

By Curmudgeon

Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, And foolish notion.

Robert Burns
Robert Burns Quotes

Things in Ogden are pretty good right now. The international media have recognized that fact. Residents of Ogden need to take a moment to pause and enjoy the city's many benefits that have resulted in the well-deserved praise Ogden is receiving.

Pausing to consider how others see Junction City
July 28, 2008

Interesting op-ed piece in this morning's Standard-Examiner by WSU Provost Michael Vaughan, headed "Pausing to See How Others See Junction City." He did a Lexis/Nexis search to see how Ogden City was being reported about in the national and world press. Interesting results:

Given what Ogden has to offer, I wasn’t surprised to see that our town was getting some much deserved national attention. However, I was a bit surprised by the sheer number of national articles featuring Ogden. I was also taken aback by the fact that Ogden is attracting a considerable amount of attention in the international press.[...]
In the past 20 months, dozens of articles in the national and international press have praised Ogden. This explains why you can’t spend a day skiing at Snowbasin without hearing at least a little French, German or Italian being spoken in the lift line.
As I finished it, I couldn't help thinking: All this good ink from all around the world, about Ogden... and nary a flatland gondola in sight. Imagine that.

Worth a look.

Read the full editorial here.

Faux Trolleys in Ogden: Where Will the Funding Come From?

An invitation to put on your thinking caps

Chirpy editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, adding new information on the privately operated trolley buses which were sighted shuttling passengers during last week's Ogden Pioneer Days celebration. Contrary to our earlier speculation, the editorial reports, (to our considerable relief,) that the mayor's administration does not intend to divert funds from Ogden City's ongoing combined alternatives analysis and environmental impact study, but instead seeks other funding sources to assist this private venture in operating its four bus shuttle fleet. From the editorial:
John Patterson, Ogden’s chief administrative officer, says the city does not have access to any transit funds right now, but is on the hunt for money to help the entrepreneurs succeed. He said specifically Ogden would not cannibalize a previously announced “combined alternatives analysis and environmental impact study” for mass transit in Ogden. (That money will fund a corridor study to determine the best routes and methods for mass-transit upgrades in Ogden.
We'll tentatively join with the Std-Ex in recognizing this new private venture as a welcome solution to the logistical problem of shuttling visitors from the FrontRunner station to various downtown and outlying destinations. We'll withhold our full approval however until we find out where the actual funding will be coming from. The "devil's in the details," after all, and our attitude will surely sour if this supposedly private venture turns to the city council for substantial city taxpayer funding.

In an earlier article, one of our readers suggested that downtown business owners who would benefit from this shuttle service might be voluntarily tapped to provide some of the money to keep these faux trolleys on the road. This seemed like a sensible idea to us. So in closing we'll pose the question: What other ideas do our readers have for funding this much needed public transportation solution? Should business along the shuttle route be assessed involuntary contributions to be expended toward this venture? Is it possible that the UTA might cut the red tape and enter into its own contract with this private company, which will surely add value to the presently existing FrontRunner service?

Our gentle readers are always full of good ideas. Let the brilliant suggestions flow forth.

Monday, July 28, 2008

More on the D.B. Cooper Mystery

Ace Reporter Schwebke unleashes an internet news feeding frenzy

We imagine Scott Schwebke little imagined what effect his July 27 article would elicit, on the subject of world-famous hijacker/extortionist/possible WSU military law professor DB Cooper.

Here's a Googlesque sampling of the stories so far.

And check out this video from one of our all-time favorite sites... Coast to Coast Radio (we admit it's never been quite the same since the departure of Art Bell):

Compare the photos. Uncanny resemblance with this "Wolfgang Gossett guy" in the middle, innit?

And we could be wrong, but do believe it's possible that the Standard-Examiner is wasting its highly valuable Ace Reporter Schwebke resource in his current beat, which is basically devoted to the journalisticly demeaning task of mindlessly regurgitating the press statements of Boss Godfrey, Dave Harmer, John Patterson and the various other empty and overpaid suits who inhabit the Ogden Municipal Building ninth floor.

Nice Job, Schwebke on this one, BTW.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Salt Lake Planning Policy Experiences an Attitude Adjustment

Council devises formulae for trading off parking slots with "walkability" amenities

Interesting editorial in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, regarding a bold new Salt Lake City Council policy which we'll for the time being label "experimental." This morning's lead paragraphs provide the gist:

Is it possible the "age of the automobile" is coming to an end?
Probably not anytime soon. Nonetheless, Salt Lake City recognizes the benefits of neighborhood business districts with fewer motorists and more cyclists, walkers and TRAX and bus riders, and is doing something about it.
In a move that would have seemed heretical if not downright deranged a decade ago, the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to change the city's rules to require small businesses to provide fewer parking stalls and more bike racks, benches, scooter stalls and baby-buggy areas.
But it's more than a rule change; it's evidence of an attitude shift. City Council members can foresee the effects of more cars and more miles driven in city neighborhoods: unhealthy air, traffic congestion, ugly expanses of asphalt. And they have decided to be proactive to discourage driving, a decision that can only be a good thing for Utah's capital, where the air is already a health hazard during inversions.
The rule change will require businesses to provide two parking stalls per 1,000 square feet of floor space for a restaurant or small business. But owners can avoid that requirement by adding pedestrian-friendly amenities and controlling parking around their businesses.
The article goes on to describe various formulae for trading off parking slots with various "walkability" amenities, unto the point where some businesses, under a proper set of circumstances, could be let "off the hook" for automobile parking requirements entirely.

Lots of interesting questions arise from this circumstance, we think.

Will businesses who avail themselves of these rule exemptions experience a commensurate reduction in business patronage? Is it still too early in the gas price crisis to pry most folks from their cars? Will downtown or neighborhood entrepreneurs even have the courage to risk their future business incomes on a auto unfriendly concept that some might even now deem "deranged?" Does the SLCity council deserve a Weber County Forum hat tip for taking action on a revolutionary public policy such as this? Is a forward thinking policy like this something that could ever happen in MattGodfreyWorld? So many questions; so few answers. And here's one more for our readers' contemplation:

Lots of fun living in the post-Peak Oil period, ainnit?

Don't let the cat get yer tongues.

More Thoughtful Commentary on the Fred/Fan Mess

Fannie and Freddie: Bail 'em out, then bust 'em up

Thoughtful well-crafted guest commentary in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune, by the Heritage Foundation's J.D. Foster. Mr. Foster offers a proposed solution to the impending Fannie/Freddie bailout mess, and frames his opinion piece like this:

News that the Treasury is preparing plans to bail out housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FM2) has infuriated the American people. And rightly so: It's their money, after all, on the line. If they understood the whole truth, they'd be even angrier - but they should vent their fury at the guilty parties.
Foster then launches into a nice mid-article rant about entities which are deemed "too big to fail," and the all too obvious "seeds of trouble" (enormous size, inadequate capitalization, single industry focus, heavy political involvement) which were blindly ignored by the one governmental body which had the political power to have prevented the Fan/Fred problem from descending into its current crisis condition. Anger's OK, says Mr Foster, so long as it's properly directed:

Americans should direct their anger at Congress, which for years refused to heed the warnings, even as it worked to protect its gravy train of political contributions.
And finally Foster arrives at his proposed solution:

Anger isn't enough, however. As Congress readies a bloated housing bill, Americans should demand Congress ensure this kind of financial threat never looms again. Strengthening the federal regulator for FM2 is fine, but we really need to break these financial goliaths into many, much smaller and truly private companies. Unfortunately, there isn't time now to scheme the breakup of FM2 properly. Instead, Congress should separately task the General Accountability Office and the Federal Reserve with producing a study with its recommendations on how FM2 might be restructured into a variety of private, separate companies. Once cut down to size and properly regulated, these new companies would pose little risk in and of themselves, would never become too big to fail, and so would lose their implicit guarantee of a future bailout. It's not enough to call in the ambulance. We need to catch the mugger who perpetrated this crime-and make sure he never haunts the neighborhood again.
Not a bad editorial all in all; and definitely worth a read. This is the kind of mental exercise recommended to shake out the weekend cobwebs on a Monday morning, we think.

And what think our gentle readers about all this?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

D.B. Cooper: A Professor From WSU?

Never underestimate the wordly expeience of that seemingly mild-mannered guy on the bus, with his nose buried in a book

By Curmudgeon

Hell of an interesting story front-paged in Sunday's Standard-Examiner by Scott Schwebke, about D.B. Cooper, the now legendary skyjacker who parachuted out of a commercial jet plane carrying $200K in ransom money, and disappeared from history.

Uncovering his true identity and fate has become almost a cottage industry among crime writers. But if what's reported in today's Std-Ex proves out, D.B. Cooper was a faculty member [ROTC instructor] at Weber State University when he pulled off his crime.

So, you out there who would cavalierly dismiss all those faculty types as other-worldly nerds, think twice. That mild-mannered professor with his nose in a book on the bus yesterday morning may have depths unsuspected in his [or her, for that matter] off-campus life. Ya never know....

Update 11/2/08 10:45 a.m. MT: This morning's Std-Ex story adds tantalizing new information in re the locally-centered D.B. Cooper story:

Attorney focusing on former WSU ROTC instructor

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Afternoon News Roundup

Invitation to embark upon yet another Saturday open topic thread

Lacking any bonafide red-meat news this weekend, we thought it might be useful to set up an open topic thread. Before we turn the floor over to our gentle readers however, we'll lay out a few topical discussion ideas. Here are several items that either caught our eye in this morning's news, or which we bookmarked earlier in the week:

1) As the U.S. economy plunges deeper into recession, we find two Deseret News articles this morning, demonstrating that the Utah economy is by no means immune to the recessionary market forces which currently plague the national economy:

Utah records $100 million in red ink
Foreclosure rate in Utah jumps more than 113%

2) With respect to the ongoing political debate concerning the propriety of Utah public employee retirement "double dipping," the Utah Court of Appeals has issued a pro taxpayer ruling regarding Utah public employees who simultaneously hold down multiple state jobs:

State employees can't double dip on retirement

3) City Weekly's Salt Blog hammers bicyclists who fail to obey the rules of the road:

Stupid, stupid bicyclists

4) The KUTV website has a heartwarming story about how one ex-gangsta turned his life around, and became a proud and productive member of Ogden's Finest:

Former gang member is now an Ogden cop

Feel free to chime in on any of these selected topics; or start up a conversation all your own.

Consider this our Saturday open topic thread. Last one out, don't forget to turn out the lights and lock up.

Congress Finalizes the Fan/Fred Bailout

U.S. Taxpayers became full partners in the mortgage market melt-down mess under an hour ago

Chalk up another victory for American "nanny government." The Fannie/Freddie bailout, which we've railed about recently here on Weber County Forum, just cleared the U.S. Senate by a 72-13 vote. All that's lacking now is the president's signature. We incorporate CNNMoney's lead paragraphs below:

NEW YORK ( -- The Senate on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a landmark housing bill that will offer up to $300 billion in loans for troubled homeowners and establish a government rescue plan for mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The House passed the bill on Wednesday just hours after President Bush reversed his long-standing vow to veto the bill. Bush is expected to sign it soon.
The legislation, one of the most far-reaching housing bills from Congress in decades, marks the centerpiece of Washington's efforts to address the nation's housing meltdown.
This bailout legislation is so knuckle-headed that even the Voice of Wall Street, The Wall Street Journal, condemned it in a strong editorial yesterday, rightly labeling it the "scandal" that it is.

Hold on to your wallets, folks. If you think inflation is bad now, just wait. You ain't seen even the beginning of it yet.

In closing, we've embedded an instructive YouTube video below, featuring an interview with commodities guru Jim Rogers, who provides a clear and succinct analysis of the economic downside to this unprecedented act on the part of Congress, to make U.S. taxpayers full partners in the banking industry melt-down mess:

As an added bonus, true gluttons for punishment can also visit this site, for an outlook (and an additional video) even more gloomy than Mr. Sinclair's. (And be patient, gentle readers... this last page [and the incorporated video] takes a few extra seconds to load -- although it's most definitely worth the wait.)

Our readers' ever savvy comments are invited as per usual.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Pro-Godfrey Spin from the Standard-Examiner

The stats say crime is going up; the headline says just the opposite

By Curmudgeon

The Standard Examiner this morning has a front page story discussing crime rates in Ogden in 2007. It reports that aggravated assaults and robberies were up 19%, burglaries up 10% and auto thefts up 7%. An included graph shows that homicides, larceny and arson are also up (Click to enlarge image):

And how does the Standard-Examiner headline the story? This is how:

"Ogden Mayor: Fight Against Crime Going Better in '08"

Here is what Hizzonah has to say in the story. [Note: he has his verbal fog machine on overdrive]:
City officials anticipated a rise in 2007 crime statistics and reacted last summer, said Mayor Matthew Godfrey.... "With the Crime Reduction Squad and the focus we were putting on (central Ogden), crime stats are going to shoot up."
Let me see now: the Mayor put special emphasis on controlling crime and so, he says, naturally, crime rates were going to increase? [Up is down, In is Out, War is Peace in the happy world of Matthew Godfrey.] While arrest stats might increase as a result of a Crime Suppression drive by the Mayor and City police, crime rates should not. But they did.

But wait. Hizzonah is not finished yet. He then told reporter Sam Cooper this: "But what we've seen is crime is already starting to go down. In the last six months we've seen a dramatic reduction of crime."

Did the Mayor offer any statistics to back up that claim? If he did, the Std-Ex isn't telling. Did Mr. Cooper press him for some corroboration of his claim? If he did, the story doesn't say.

So, a long story reporting rising crime rates in very nearly all categories in Ogden in 2007, and what does the headline point to? The Mayor's one sentence uncorroborated claim based on numbers we're apparently not permitted to examine, that things are getting better.

A sad performance by the Std-Ex this morning. And a very inaccurate headline that counters very nearly the entire import of the article beneath it and that highlights instead the Mayor's uncorroborated and unsupported [and apparently by Mr. Cooper unexamined] claim that things are getting much much better now.

They Really Could Use the Help

Truth in advertising at its highest level

Under one of yesterday's Weber County Forum articles, we stumbled upon this highly amusing Jason W. comment, which we incorporate in pertinent part:

"...I note with glee a house classified in the Gondola-Examiner regarding a page designer position. The solicitation seeks someone with a solid knowledge of 'grammer.'"

In the fast paced course of internet events, this amusing little typographical (?) glitch has already been noted by a blog which keeps track of such things. Check out this morning's Regret the Error article:

They could really use the help

Well... we thought it was highly amusing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting Hosed at the Gas Pump

Another Weber County Forum gentle reader submission

Taking a road trip this Pioneer Day holiday? Something to think about, perhaps.

Hilarious YouTube video clip, produced by the Zucker brothers:

Check out the hi-fi letterbox video version and resource links via the Nozzle Rage website.


The Gondola... It's Baaa-ack

Signpost editorial manages to straddle the issues, and to leave the paper standing firmly and boldly nowhere in particular

By Curmudgeon

It's baaa-ack. The gondola that will whip Ogdenites straight to Snow Basin. That particular pipe dream seems to have more that the nine lives cats are supposed to get. Its latest manifestation appeared in an editorial in the WSU student paper, The Signpost. [Title: "Will The Giant Icicle Save Us?" ] The editorial discusses Mayor Matthew Godfrey's vision for Ogden's future:
The goal is to make Ogden a high-adventure destination with ski shops, outdoor clothing companies and a gondola that goes straight to Snowbasin. As an all-around outdoor stop, Ogden could become a tourist hotspot. Weber State could potentially benefit from this attention too. Students could hop the gondola and ski before class. The holographic ice-wall is one-of-a-kind and might attract climbers internationally. Maybe ice-climbing would even be offered as a course. This is the vision of many, including Mayor Godfrey.
Readers of the editorial do not learn that the Mayor's proposed flatland gondola would not go to Snow Basin, but only from downtown to WSU. Nor will they learn that the proposed up-mountain gondola with its base near WSU would not go to Snow Basin either, but only to a proposed and highly speculative vest-pocket ski venue to be built, maybe, on the west flank of Mt. Ogden in Malan's Basin. Nor will they learn that Snow Basin management has said no, repeatedly, to the idea of an over-mountain gondola connecting Ogden to it. Or that Snow Basin management got so tired of Mayor Godfrey implying [wink wink, nudge nudge] that his two-gondola solution would connect to Snow Basin that it contacted the Standard-Examiner about the matter, and Mr. Trentelman subsequently did a story about Snow Basin's flat rejection of any kind of over-mountain gondola to Ogden.

That Mayor Godfrey has an interest in not letting the facts get in the way of what he wishes to voters to believe is understandable. But journalists should set a higher, a much higher, standard for themselves. [Unless their dream is to someday work for Fox News of course.]

To be fair, the editorial in The Signpost is somewhat skeptical about the feasibility of it all, but in the end, the paper's editors want to believe. And so they end up with an editorial that wanders around, larded with "on the other hands" and that fails, in the end, to take much of a stand at all:
We are skeptical, after all, we are journalists. We want to know if it will work. Are there hidden costs? Who really benefits? And who is paying for the other million dollars needed to erect the wall? Seriously, do people actually like climbing ice cubes? You'd think your fingers might get cold.
We are skeptical yet idealistic. Deep down we hope something will bring about real change, because we think Ogden has a bright future. The vision is lovely. The debate, however, is a mess. But the debate occurs because we all know something needs to happen.And we are open to change.
Declaring itself "open to change" is, for an editorial board, the equivalent of a candidate for office boldly proclaiming his [or her] undying support for motherhood, apple pie and the flag. It's like Orrin Hatch coming out, as he did yesterday, for "fair" Senate hearings on polygamy. [Who advocates unfair hearings on anything?]

The Signpost editors are to be congratulated for not swallowing the Kool-Aid Hizzonah is pouring uncritically [as the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce did], and for raising some of the right questions. But in the end, the editorial manages to straddle the issues, and to leave the paper standing firmly and boldly nowhere in particular.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hottest Elected Female in Utah Contest

The Elected Hotties Blog provides another opportunity to vote for Amy Wicks

Can we see by a show of hands how many Amy Wicks fans there are in Weber County? Oops. There were so many hands in the cyber-air that we simply lost count.

Just as all of us on Weber County Forum were toning down the celebrations about Ogden City Councilwoman Amy Wicks' top finish in last week's' Elected Hotties Hottest Utah City Councilwoman Contest...
We now find out there's another Elected Hotties Contest brewing on the heels of the last; a top level run-off sort of thing:

Who's the hottest elected female in Utah, the Elected Hotties blog asks?

Time to return to the Elected Hotties site to vote for Amy again.

Consider it practice for Amy's inevitable Mayoral Run in 2011.

The Standard-Examiner Announces Ogden's New Faux Trolley Fleet

Godfrey's dream bogus street car system suddenly appears fully in place

Fascinating article in this morning's Standard-Examiner, announcing that the fake trolley buses foreshadowed here have now suddenly appeared on Ogden City streets. Ace Reporter Schwebke's lead paragraphs provide the initial lowdown:
OGDEN — Rubber-wheeled trolleys are making a comeback in downtown Ogden, thanks to a newly established company.
Two trolleys, owned by Innovative Transportation Services Inc., are debuting this week with free daily rides from the FrontRunner intermodal hub at 23rd Street and Wall Avenue to Ogden Pioneer Stadium.
The inaugural run is tied to the city’s annual Ogden Pioneer Days celebration that concludes Saturday.
The vintage-looking yellow, blue and red trolley buses have received a favorable reception, with long lines of passengers waiting to ride them, said Jeanie Milne and Anthony Laub, owners of Innovative Transportation Services, based in Ogden.
The story goes on to report that a these two above-named local entrepreneurs have come out of nowhere to acquire four of these rubber tired monstrosities, (presumably with their own money, right?) and that routes and itineraries are already planned between Ogden's tourist hotspots.

And here's where the story turns from strange to bizarre. Even thought the idea of using faux trolleys was originally Boss Godfrey's idea, he feigns complete surprise about this latest "public transit" development. Here's more from this morning's story. We swear we are not making this up:
Mayor Matthew Godfrey said city officials were surprised but pleased to learn that Innovative Transportation Services had already purchased four trolleys.
“We think it’s a great idea and hope to see it up and running,” said Godfrey, who has long advocated a downtown trolley system.
And here comes the Godfrey money quote:
It’s possible the city may be able to contract with Innovative Transportation Services using existing municipal funds already budgeted for transportation services, he said. [Emphasis added]
Our gentle readers will no doubt remember the $200,000+ federal grant which the council believed Godfrey had agreed to allocate for further Ogden public transportation studies, i.e., real street cars?

Connect the dots, gentle readers. It would now appear that Godfrey has other ideas for the use of that money, and that the council has yet another fight with the administration looming. Get set for Ms. Milne's and Mr. Laub's arrival at a city council meeting very soon, looking for a taxpayer handout.

Who will be the first to comment?

Fallen Ogden Activist Remembered for Her Fighting Spirit

Twin Tributes from Councilwoman Jeske and Tom Owens

By Dorrene Jeske

I want to thank Tom Owens for his Letter to the Editor in this morning's paper. Your tribute and all the others on this blog the past few days are fitting and appropriate for such a beautiful and great lady as Sharon. It has been extremely hard to write anything because it hurts so much to know that I won't be able to call her, go to Salt Lake with her, to dinner with her and Base or a dozen other things that we did.

I haven't known Sharon really that long -- just since before I ran for the Council. We spent a lot of time together and she was tireless in her support. As I got to know her better, I learned of her back and feet problems and how much pain she was in when we were putting up my signs. That is the kind of person she is -- selfless with a heart as big as the universe. When anyone took the time to really know her, they couldn't help but love her. If you were her friend, there wasn't anything she wouldn't do for you or give you. She was always concerned for others. She grew up in Florida and truly exemplified real "Southern hospitality."

Her ideals and integrity were high and she lived the tenets of her religion every day. She had high expectations of others and would let them know when they were not living up to the standards or oaths that they had taken. She was the guardian/protector of those who could not stand up for themselves and she was always trying to make this world (and especially Ogden) a better place.

The world and particularly Ogden has lost an extraordinary, great and wonderful LADY! She will be missed more than she ever dreamed possible.

For those who may have missed Sharon's Sunday obit, the funeral is set for 11:00 this morning at the Country Hills Ward Chapel, 1401 Country Hills Drive.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: Ogden Valley Forum Double Header

Read the revised Kimball Wheatley Manifesto; together with some savvy negotiation tips from Eden resident Steve Clarke

For those WCF readers closely following developments in the Powder Mountain saga, we'd like to direct your attention to yesterday's article on Ogden Valley Forum, from which we incorporate Blogmeister Valley's lead paragraphs below:

This morning we are posting what may very well be TWO of the best pieces of Ogden Valley literature to appear on our pages during our entire 2+ year history.
You may recall the Kimball Wheatley Manifesto, which graced our forum in February. We thought it so important, that we gave it a semi - permanent home on our right column. Well, Mr. Wheatley has one upped himself and we present to you "Act II." In addition to Mr. Wheatley being a "Citizen of Ogden Valley and the United States of America," he is an Ogden Valley advocate and former Planning Commission member.
In part two of this mornings double header, Eden resident Steve Clarke weighs in on the Powderville proposal with his expert analysis. In addition to Mr. Clarke’s role as Ogden Valley Advocate, Steve is the Chairman of the GEM Committee, a recommending body to Weber County. Steve offers some negotiation points that he feels Weber County cannot cave on in his very strategic and tactful style.
Follow the link below to read the full article, which indeed presents some thoughtful discussion and analysis:

A Powderville double header with Analysis by Steve Clarke and Kimball Wheatley.

And whatever you do... don't let the cat get your tongues.

Faith in Bank Bailout Dims

Banking industry losses set to deepen

Sobering economic news story from Reuters:

The nightmare scenario for U.S. economic authorities is here: confidence in their ability to rescue the country from a housing-led financial panic is now at its lowest level since the crisis began.
This means losses for investors, already totaling nearly half a trillion dollars, could mount even further over the next few months, with implications for business investment and the overall health of the economy.
"You see a massive potential for financial meltdown on a global scale," said T.J. Marta, fixed-income strategist at RBC Capital Markets. [...]
The scariest thing about it is that things seem to be getting worse rather than better. Gerard Cassidy, another RBC analyst, estimates that more than 300 U.S. banks could close their doors in the next three years, double what he had estimated back in February. Only a handful have failed so far.
Read the full story here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Boss Godfrey Takes Another Bite Outta Crime

The mayor adopts a "zero tolerance policy" for the parents of "gangstas" and other "taggas"

Although everyone in Ogden knows that Boss Godfrey ordinarily displays a near complete blind eye to crime, we lumpencitizens are also gratified to know that there are certain exceptions.

For example, Boss Godfrey is a true crime fighter, when it comes to bicycle thieves.

And we know he has a very low tolerance for purportedly crooked (and insuborbordinate) whistleblowers.

And now we learn from the Standard-Examiner today that Godfrey's most detested segment of the Ogden criminal element is composed of "taggers" and other vandals, who use spray paint to sloganize and damage public and private property. Here's an example of the work of the taggers Boss Godfrey reportedly intends to shut down... by calling and suing their moms: Shocking, ainnit?

We don't know which particular children are in the mayor's gunsights over this, but judging from the nature of the graffiti, we're gonna presume that either Boss Godfrey or Ogden City Attorney Gary Williams has already called the former Lift Ogden Chairman's mom.


Powder Mountain Update: Misguided neoCON Soul Spouts Off in the Standard-Examiner

Poor old Russ Brown attempts to "pull rank" on Valley "newcomers" with unspecified aristocratic genealogy

Disappointing letter in today's Standard-Examiner from a misguided soul from West Haven, by the name of Russ Brown. This "deep thinker," who's probably never even visited Ogden Valley in his whole pathetic life, nevertheless offers his unfettered views about un-reigned growth in Ogden Valley. Descending as he claims to be from the "founding fathers," he attempts to "pull rank" with his dubious yet unspecified aristocratic genealogy, and assaults recent Ogden Valley "newcomer" arrivees (some from godless California, by god) who've invested their own cash, and spiffed up their properties under the rules of the existing General Plan, hoping to make our pristine and bucolic Ogden Valley their comfortable final home. How dare they oppose untrammelled growth, says Mr. Brown. Adding insult to injury, he offers up standard canned "neoCON truisms," such as these:

Companies like Powder Mountain will bring us great opportunities -- jobs that will keep our children close to home, tax revenues that improve our schools, and our quality of life.
Living as he does in West Haven, he has no skin in the game, so it's thus possible for him to spout off, and make broad unthinking statements about a subject he plainly knows absolutely nothing about. And far be it from him to respect the views of Weber County residents in communities other than his own, when they act to protect their own community interests.

The poor schmuck obviously has no knowledge of the dangerous Powder Mountain access road; and no understanding of the dangers of multiplying the density in the fragile Ogden Valley mountain desert environment by a factor of at least ten. Likewise, he exhibits no obvious comprehension at all about the scores of other issues that make the massive proposed Powder Mountain Development a disastrous fit for Ogden Valley. Simply put, this poor fellow simply spouts the usual neoCON pap, probably hoping, at the least, that his own West Haven property values will go up, in the wide wake of this mindless proposed megadevelopment. Perhaps he'd feel differently, if a similar development invasion were happening in his own back yard. Who knows however. It is possible that a guy like this could be a hopeless and impractical corporo-fascist ideologue, we suppose.

Nevertheless, it's probably fair to speculate that this poor fellow's views are not so different from many ambivalent citizens of Weber County who actually have no clue what's going on in Ogden Valley right now.

Those of us in Weber County who are attuned to the nuances of this issue obviously have much remaining to do even now. We need to sing our song to the high heavens, and edumacate everyone in Weber County about this issue. So far, the message doesn't seem to have yet sunk in, judging from today's Russ Brown missive.

Any ideas about we can all do, other than writing letters to the County Commission, blogging incessantly and hiring skywriters? People like Russ Brown aren't necessarily evil, we think... just ill-educated. And we suspect they remain numerous.

And if any of our gentle readers know this "Russ Brown" person, give him a thump in the skull, c/o Rudi.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Proposed Solutions for the Northern Utah Police Fuel Price Crisis

Chief Greiner's proposed draconian solution faces off with some less publicly burdensome alternatives

A couple of weeks back, we focused on another dire consequence of the current fuel price crisis, noting that upwardly-spiraling gas prices are putting a crimp in northern Utah police department budgets. The OPD fuel budget, in particular, reportedly suffered a $130 thousand shortfall during the past fiscal year, according to this July 6 Standard-Examiner story.

But we learn from yesterday's Std-Ex story (The SL-Trib has the AP version this morning too) that Ogden City Police Chief Greiner hasn't been simply twiddling his thumbs while the situation's continued to fester however. He's put on his thinking cap, and has come up with this possible solution: A traffic ticket surcharge. Here's more from yesterday's Sam Cooper story:

OGDEN — With record fuel prices stretching budgets, two police agencies in the Top of Utah are considering proposing a fuel surcharge on some traffic violations to help offset rising costs.
Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner said Friday he would like to add the surcharge to traffic tickets and accident-related citations, but is awaiting a legal review of the idea before moving forward. Adding the charge would require the city council to adopt a new city ordinance, he said. [...]
With uncertainty about future energy costs and the possibility of a full year of $4-a-gallon gasoline, the additional revenue could help the agency avoid making cuts in other areas.
A $20 surcharge on tickets associated with traffic accidents could generate between $55,000 and $60,000 per year, Greiner said.
Chief Greiner isn't entirely sure this idea is legal however. The story further reports that he has the Ogden City Attorney's office checking it out.

A traffic ticket surcharge? Why not? It seems a another clever way to squeeze a little more milk from the trusty Justice Court Cash Cow. With thousands of motorists blithely driving around Ogden every day, the lumpencitizens are ripe for the pickings.

Still, Chief Greiner's solution seemed a mite heavy handed, we thought, particularly in these hard economic times, as more than a few lumpencitizens are scrambling to put food on the family dinner table. It's one thing to milk the Godfrey administration cash cow; and quite another to march her down to the slaughter-house, we think. And being the curious type, we googled, and came up with this interesting story from yesterday's online New York Times edition, discussing how other U.S. police agencies are coping with the fuel price crisis:

As Gas Prices Rise, Police Turn to Foot Patrols

Police officers walking a beat? Now there's a novel and innovative idea. Whether it will catch on with the Chief, who patrols Ogden's streets in his air-conditioned Cadillac we don't know. And whether it would be popular for patrol officers who'd be required to "hoof it" for a few shifts every week (and mingle with the citizenry) remains another unanswered question. Foot patrolling isn't the only innovation mentioned in the article however.

Lest we be accused of being dreaded naysayers, who never come up with alternative solutions, how about something like this:

OPD could buy two or three of these fast, agile and fuel efficient (51 mpg urban/64 mpg highway) American-made Buell "police specials" for the price of every one of its present passenger sedan gas-guzzlers; and we doubt this cool and sexy mode of transportation would find much objection among patrol officers. Most of the traditional squad cars could be mothballed for the warmer summer months, and the OPD could thus save beau coup fuel bucks.

And what say our readers about all this? Are there any among the intellectual giants of Weber County Forum who have other creative police agency fuel saving ideas?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Article Spotlight: Two Public Transit Oriented Stories From This Morning's SL-Trib

Utah Rail Transit priorities -- Present and Future

By Curmudgeon

Two interesting stories in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, on Frontrunner and the impact it's had already, and the future of rail transit in Utah.

The first article discusses the surprising Saturday traffic Frontrunner carries between Ogden and Salt Lake City. Just about the same number of people as it carries on Monday through Friday [commuter heavy days]. This in particular caught my eye:

Saturday trains carried an average of 7,113 people in June, compared with 7,809 on weekdays. FrontRunner does not run on Sundays.
The train has inspired a wave of intrastate tourism, and as many day-trippers are heading north to Ogden as are riding south to the bigger city, said Paul O'Brien, Utah Transit Authority rail general manager. "People get off the train [in Ogden] and ask, 'Where's a good place to eat lunch around here?' " O'Brien said.
The question is, is Ogden doing anything actively to promote, tap, assist the pleasure travelers riding the rails north?

The second article discusses the Wasatch Front's need to invest a great deal more in rail infrastructure over the next decades than in road construction, or we will find ourselves in a competitive disadvantage of significant size. Here's a taste:

The Salt Lake region and the other burgeoning "megapolitan" areas of the Intermountain West need renewed federal cooperation to build more such connections, the Washington-based Brookings Institution finds in its latest metropolitan study, "Mountain Megas: America's Newest Metropolitan Places and a Federal Partnership to Help Them Prosper." If Congress continues to shrink from infrastructure spending and to insist its money go mostly to roads, Brookings scholars predict Utah could sprawl in ways that choke productivity. The Salt Lake region must keep up with 1.5 million newcomers over 30 years.

Chewy Trentelman Column on the "Costs" of Progress

Progress, or something: Watching the passing scene fade

By Curmudgeon

Charles Trentelman has a chewy "Wasatch Rambler" column this Sunday morning, discussing the difference between change and progress and balancing what might be gained by development [broadly considered] and what might be lost. Here's a taste:

I know: If we don't grow, we die. Quit fighting progress. Don't slam the door after you come in. People in Ogden Valley used to talk like that. They dreamed of growth making them rich. In a way, it did. They're all living in million-dollar homes and eating oatmeal because of their newly inflated property taxes. Now they're trying desperately to slam the door on that Powder Mountain city proposal....

Change happens, but the question has to be asked: Is losing the things we love worth what we get? Are city planners protecting what really matters? Is it even possible to slam that door?
Thoughtful piece of Sunday morning reading. Worth more than a glance.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Amy Wicks: Utah's #1 City Council Hottie

Ogden's Council Chairwoman finishes first amongst a field of five extremely well-qualified Utah city council hotties

Well, the most most recent Elected Hotties Blog contest is now concluded. All the votes are logged and tallied. So who's the "hottest" city councilwoman in Utah, according to the expert readers of that most-excellent blog?

Ogden City's own City Council Chair Amy Wicks -- that's who.

This from this morning's Elected Hotties announcement:

Our 20th Elected Hottie won a major battle of north vs. south over the past two weeks. An aggressive campaign to elect St. George Councilwoman Suzanne Allen got under way shortly after our poll was launched. But Amy had her share of local support, too.
So, what makes Amy so hot? Here we go:
According to her bio, she's been elected twice to the Ogden City Council and is the council's chairwoman. She works for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome and was interviewed last week by STLtoday. When she's not debating the future of Ogden's water system, she loves (deep breath) snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and whitewater kayaking.
We of Ogden of course always knew that Amy is always a top vote-getter. She finished #1 of all council candidates in last year's municipal election, after all. This, despite having no significant campaign warchest. And her unique combo of brains, athleticism, charm and, yes, danged good looks always seems to propel her to the top, as the true "woman of the people" that she is, just as it did in this most recent instance. Everybody in Ogden loves Amy, save Boss Godfrey, Bob Geiger, a few scattered Gondolist relics -- and prominent Ogden City Godfreyite Jay Cavendish, of course.

Even considering her formidable Ogden City electoral achievements these past eight years, we believe this latest achievement is particularly "special," coming as it does, from a Utah political blog which never indulges in political acrimony, and instead focuses entirely on the fun side of Utah politics.


Write it down so you don't forget it, Boss Godfrey.

We invite you all to prowl the Elected Hotties site through the link we've provided above. Once you've done that, we believe you'll fully come to understand what we mean when we tout this most remarkable voter-generated achievement. Everyone in the competition is definitely most hot, wethinks.

Our beloved City Council Chairwoman won a tightly-contested race here, indeed.

Comments, anyone?

Vacant House Burns in Ogden River Project Neighborhood

Ogden Fire Department resources wasted due to the negligence of one Ogden property owner

Tantalizing article in this morning's Standard-Examiner, regarding a house fire in the neighborhood adjacent to the Ogden River -- 262 W. 20th St. -- to be exact. It seems this vacant residential property had been occupied at the time of the fire by three "transients," who were escorted from the burning structure by responding Ogden City firefighters, and later interviewed by police and a fire marshal in connection with the incident. The structure had been slated for demolition, the article says.

This set our minds to speculating, of course; and we wondered whether this particular property might have been one of absentee property owner Gadi Leshem's River Project properties, about which the Standard-Examiner's Don Porter complained in this fine and hard-hitting April Editorial:

"Roll out the bulldozer".

As anyone who is familiar with real estate management is well aware, vacant properties are prime targets for arson, along with the full range of other criminal activities which occur when properties are left abandoned and unattended. In this instance it's clear that Ogden City Fire Department resources were unnecessarily wasted on Friday, due to one landowner's apparent negligence in failing to secure and/or demolish his abandoned derelict property.

This brings us back to the fundamental questions, of course: Does this property belong to Leshem? If so, nobody can argue that he wasn't forewarned. We don't like to point the finger, but we do believe this is a question which needs to be answered.

Can any of our gentle readers shed any additional light on this? Is there an Ogden firefighter-WCF reader in the house this morning?

Whomever the landowner turns out to be however, we hope Ogden Fire Chief Mike Mathieu promptly sends him a hefty bill.

And what about our Ogden City administration's code enforcement responsibility in this? How many other unattended properties along the Ogden River front are vulnerable to similar incidents?

Update 7/19/08 11:31 a.m. MT: One of our sharp and resourceful readers takes our above query out of the realm of speculation, and confirms that the offending subject property indeed belongs to Leshem. This from gentle reader Southsider in the lower comments section (per the Weber County Parcel Search Engine): "LESHEM, MIRI TRUSTEE".

The Godfrey crony plot sickens.

Governor's Office Approves $8.3 Million Tax Incentive Package

GOED puts bags of taxpayer cash on the table, to lure an international airplane maintenance and repair heavyweight to Ogden

Great economic news for Ogden City this morning, with this front page Standard-Examiner article, reporting that the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) has followed through on the story reported last May, and approved a multi-million dollar incentive package to lure an international airplane maintenance and repair heavyweight to Ogden's Hinkley Airport. We incorporate Jeff Demoss's lead paragraphs below:

OGDEN — The state has approved a package of incentives totaling more than $8.3 million to secure Ogden-Hinckley Airport as the expansion site for an international airplane maintenance and repair company.
The Business Development Board in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development approved the incentives for the Swiss company Jet Aviation at a Friday meeting.
The incentives would be awarded on a post-performance basis, meaning the company would have to meet specific benchmarks in terms of jobs and other economic contributions to get the money.
According to this morning's story, Jet Aviation will occupy the 91,000-square-foot facility at the Gateway Center, which was vacated by Adam Aircraft last winter, when that fly by night company went unceremoniously belly-up. Unlike the now defunct Adam Aircraft however, Jet Aviation appears to be robust and viable; and can be reasonably expected, we think, to deliver these significant benefits to our local economy, as projected by the gnomes at the GOED:
• 650 new locally-recruited jobs;
• Wage scale 50 percent above the Weber County average;
• $6.9 million of its own investment in the expansion of business operations;
• $420 million in new state wages;
• $28 million in new state tax revenue.
As our gentle readers have to be painfully aware, Weber County Forum isn't overly fond of of the whole concept of awarding taxpayer handouts to private entities. Unfortunately, corporate welfare is integral to the the economic development game as it's currently played in America; so we'll just bite our tongues, reluctantly go with the flow, and close with this observation:

If the taxpayers of Utah are hell-bent to court businesses with bags full of taxpayer cash, it's industry powerhouses like Jet Aviation that we should be courting.

All-in-all, Jet Aviation will be great for the local economy, we believe.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good News For Utah Fishermen and Assorted River-users

Power to the people, right on!

Danged good news for stream fishermen, kayackers and assorted other users of Utah's rivers and streams. The Utah Supreme Court apparently issued a decision today, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, proclaiming that all you folks who spend your summers in search of the wily troutfish, or just navigating Utah's many river watercourses in variously competent floatable devices, can now legally set foot on the "stream bed" of river-adjoining landowners' properties, whenever you dang-well want. Here's the gist, from today's SLTrib web article:
Utahns who fish, float or swim in public streams and rivers may also touch and walk on the beds of those waterways, even when the water flows across private property, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday.
In fact, the high court noted that without the ability to touch streambeds, members of the public cannot effectively enjoy their right to recreational activities.
The only caveat, is that water users must behave "reasonably and cause no unnecessary injury to the landowner," the high court ruled.
"It's an exciting decision," said attorney Robert H. Hughes, who argued the case before the high court in April. "I'd call it a landmark decision in the body of law on public waters.
"I think anglers in Utah will be very happy to hear about this."
So here's the deal. If you set foot on the stream bed on some shotgun-toting, trigger happy Morgan County (pick your county) farmer's land... whilst fishing or floating on the Weber River (pick your river)... be sure to have a printed-out copy of Salt Lake Tribune article of today in hand.

We're also sure that this article will spare everybody who's involved with more than a little political grief, and hopefully NOT a volley of buckshot.

Just another helpful post from yer old pal Rudi.

Read the Utah Supreme Court opinion here.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Update 7/19/08 11:55 p.m. MT: More on this blockbuster Utah real estate law story from today's Std-Ex. The Utah Supreme court is talking "public easement rights" here, gentle readers, rather than "incidental rights" of folks who use public waterways for commerce. This decision is really "big" for the recreational watercourse rights of Utahns. It'll be most interesting to see where the court cases cases go fom here.

The Standard-Examiner Opines on the Fannie/Freddie Bailout Dilemma

Added bonus: an instructive supplementary article and a revealing video piece

The Standard-Examiner this morning finally weighs in on the Fannie-Freddie bailout situation, which has dominated world financial news since the past weekend. And the editorial board gets it mostly right, with savvy observations such as these:
America, you just bought giant ownership stakes in two privately held companies that hold and/or guarantee half of all U.S. home mortgages. How does it make you feel?
Over-extended? Sick to your stomach?
Us, too. This home-foreclosure crisis was getting scary long ago. Now it’s getting worse. [...]
The Freddie and Fannie watchers are growing nervous because it is suspected the companies don’t have adequate cash reserves to weather this housing trough. According to a report by The Providence Journal newspaper, the $83 billion Freddie and Fannie hold in reserve is a pittance of a rainy day fund when stacked against the companies’ combined $5 trillion in debts.
So, the federal government — the White House is taking the lead, but the movie is supported by congressional Democrats — is stepping in to buttress Freddie and Fannie against anything like a collapse. Congressional Republicans have so far been reluctant to go along, calling the plan “socialism” and worse.
So far, so good; but then the Std-Ex goes "soft in the knees":

We wonder, though. Allowing Freddie and Fannie too close to default could damage financial markets around the world, not to mention perhaps a cascading smashup of the U.S. markets.
In a situation that could potentially be so grave, we wonder: What other option is there?
The other option, of course, would be to allow market forces to solve the problem, which is what's supposed to happen in a so-called "free market economy."

And granted, the failure and market liquidation of Freddy and Fanny would cause serious short-term disruption, as these entities moved through bankruptcy court, where viable assets would be efficiently identified and liquidated, and the nonviable ones written off. And yes, this would be a severe blow to G.E.S. stockholders and other financial institutions who hold all these entities' hokey $5 trillion in debt paper.

The aftermath of the mortgage market meltdown will however be painful, regardless of which approach becomes public policy.

So once again we ask the question: Is turning the American taxpayer into what's known in investment circles as "the bagholder" the better of the solutions?

Just for kicks, we'll segue into another solution offered by one of our favorite financial sites, "The Onion": Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In

As an added bonus we provide this humorous and topical video clip, which was contributed by Gentle Curmudgeon in one of our lower comments sections last night:

We thought it would be useful to launch into the coming weekend with something light.

Consider this an open topic thread, if you like.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ben Lomond Hotel Heads for the Auction Block

Ambitious hotel development project hits a slight snag... i.e, Foreclosure

It was a mere six months ago that the Standard-Examiner delivered optimistic Emerald City economic development news, with the announcement that a Las Vegas investor had acquired the venerable Ben Lomond Hotel. Ian Dixon, president of UIG Resorts reportedly intended to renovate the Ben Lomond’s lobby, install an upscale restaurant, convert existing commercial space into 147 condominiums, and ultimately build a 200-room tower near the hotel’s parking garage.

What a difference six months (and an economic recession) make. The Std-Ex reports this morning that Dixon's ambitious project, or at least a portion of it, is headed for the auction block:
OGDEN — A notice of default on a $5.3 million bank loan has been filed against a corporation that owns condominiums and suites within the historic Ben Lomond Hotel.
The notice filed with the Weber County Recorder’s Office indicates 2510 Washington LLC is in default because it has failed to make monthly installment payments to Financial Freedom Loans Inc.
Information was unavailable Wednesday regarding whether foreclosure on the Ben Lomond is imminent. Timothy W. Blackburn, an Ogden attorney representing Financial Freedom Loans, was out of the office.
The notice doesn’t detail whether the default involves all of the hotel and doesn’t list the principal owners of 2510 Washington LLC.
It’s unclear whether the entire Ben Lomond is owned by a single corporation or multiple individuals, said Tom Christopulos, the city’s business development manager
We had a fairly robust discussion on the this topic back in January, in which a number of our gentle readers expressed reservations about the wisdom of launching another hotel project in the Ogden market, where existing hotels already seemed to be struggling with low occupancy rates. On top of that, a few of our readers expressed concerns about the financial capacity of UIG, whose sole apparant assets appeared to be limited to a website, some undeveloped acreage in Paraguay and the Phillippines, and a vague business plan emphasising mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and... get this... web design.

According to this morning's story, this is one of the few downtown development projects that hasn't been on the public dole, so this doesn't appear to be a project where taxpayer dollars are at risk. Nevertheless, the apparent failure of this project piques our curiosity, and we're curious about what happened here, as a highly ambitious privately-financed developer seems to have hit the terminal skids.

Was Mr. Dixon and his company simply hamstrung by the tight credit market, which has existed since at least March of 2007? Did Mr. Dixon make the original puchase on the basis of flawed due diligence, learning only after acquiring the property that The Godfrey Vision wasn't quite the "hot real estate ticket" that had been portrayed by the administration? Did Mr. Dixon lack the financial capacity to pull off such an ambitious project in the first place, as several of our readers suggested? Did Mr. Dixon acquire his ownership interest in the property merely as a short-term play, with the intention of "flipping" it for a quick profit, once the newly-sworn in Boss Godfrey, secure in his third four year mayoral term of office, set forth to work his high adventure destination magic? Does this latest story development have anything to do with gondolas... or lack of gondolas?

We realize these questions all call for plenty of speculation, since today's story is a mite thin on the facts. And in the next few days, time permitting, we plan to mosey on down to the County Recorder's office to find out who's really in title... and whose property interests are truly at stake.

In the meantime however, we invite you all to put on your thinking caps, and offer your own insights at to what may be happening at the Ben Lomond Hotel.

And if any of you are privy to additional facts to add to the discussion, we'd love to hear about them.

Comments, anyone?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Larry Myler Update: Contractors and Lenders Fight Over Who'll Be the First to Be Paid

Friend of Matt (FOM) Myler adds new meaning to the phrase "going for broke"

Just for the sake of archival consistency, we'll post the latest news in the deteriorating Larry Mylar multi-county Mid-town Development situation. For the full history, check out our blog archive here.

The Provo Herald published an article on Larry's latest travails with respect to his Orem "Midtown" project yesterday; and the Deseret News followed it up with its own revealing article early this morning.

As all our regular gentle readers will recall, Larry Myler was the bigshot developer who trumpeted a 14-story hotel development here in Ogden in January of this year, (complete with a gondola portal and fancy water park,) only to put the project on hold in February, under the pretext that Boss Godfrey and his A-Team "had misplaced 275 parking slots" -- or so was the transparently lame explanation.

What's fairly obvious from each of the above stories is that Mr. Myler is broke, and that his next publicity will no doubt involve the U.S. Bankrupcty Courts.

So what about it, gentle readers?

Did Ogden City dodge a bullet, or not, with regard to this typically insolvent Friend of Matt?

Just for fun, can any of our gentle readers name one single FOM who IS NOT broke, these days?

The G.S.E. Bailout Plan Redux

More blowback from the U.S. mortgage industry meltdown

On Monday we commented about the proposed G.S.E. bailout plan, which was hastily cobbled together over the the last weekend by officials of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department, with an object of expanding FED authority to provide rescue taxpayer funding, to prevent the twin public/private hybrid mortgage industry entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from further sliding into financial oblivion.

We watched FED Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, during which he made his first pitch to congress for expanded FED financial and regulatory authority.

We've been scouring the web for one particular video segment of yesterday's committee hearing, and the one we were searching for finally popped up on YouTube about an hour ago. We hope you'll share our delight, as Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning tears FED Chairman Bernanke "a new one." (WCF Disclosure: We have no idea who the Arab guy is who rattles on in the left frame, or why he chose to mug and comment on camera. Fast forward to 1:42, and you can skip most of the guy's blathering, and get to the real red meat):

As an added bonus to those political wonks among us whose eyes don't glaze over when presented with discussions involving economics issues, we'll also link two highly instructiive articles on the topic of the government's percipient intervention in this matter, and what it all possibly means for the U.S. economy: The Financial Tsunami: The Next Big Wave is Breaking Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and US Mortgage Debt Freddie, Fannie, and Curses on FDR
Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Southwick Parole Hearing Set For December... What???

Not to worry folks -- the Std-Ex editorial pranksters were just having a little fun with a "crafty" teaser headline
Our prediction? Val Southwick won't be coming home for Christmas

By Curmudgeon

Sometimes, I have to wonder about news judgment at the Standard-Examiner. It's running this morning, front page of the Top of Utah section, big bold black letter headline, this story: Southwick Parole Hearing Set --- "Man Convicted of Fraud to Go Before State Board in December".

I reacted as, I suspect, the Std-Ex intended its readers to react: What? The man convicted of the biggest fraud in the history of Utah is up for parole after only six months? After being sentenced to nine consecutive 1-15 year terms? What the hell?

So I read the story. Here's the first paragraph:
The state Board of Pardons has set a December parole hearing for imprisoned Ogden financier Val Southwick, but he’s not going anywhere. Setting the hearing is the policy norm for all inmates whose cases do not involve a death, said Jim Hatch, board spokesman. “All inmates, except those with a homicide, automatically have an original hearing after serving six months,” he said. “The fact he’s having this hearing doesn’t mean there’s been any review done or any kind of quick release anticipated. It doesn’t portend a release at all.”
So I have to wonder... where's the story? He's up for a mandated first hearing six months after being incarcerated, as all who have committed non-lethal crimes or crimes not involving children undergo. That's it. The lead paragraph and more further down makes it clear he is not going home for Christmas. So, where's the news? Why did this essentially nothing story lead the Top of Utah section with a bold all-across-the-page headline? Or was tricking people into reading the story the goal all along?

I don't know. Maybe putting "Southwick" in the headlines as often as possible works as well as putting "gondola" in the headlines to sell papers. But there seems, really, to have been no real story here, and certainly not one justifying banner headline treatment on the front page of the local news section.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: The Developer's First Proposed Developer-agreement Draft Is At Last Revealed!

The Powder Mountain initial written developer proposal lands in the Weber County Commission's lap

We got an email from Justin Morris, of the Weber County planning staff a few minutes ago, regarding the "Powder Mountain Development situation".

Here's the prefacatory information provided by Mr. Morris: "The proposed development agreement in linked under Pending Projects at the County Planning Website."

And here's the link to that site:

Proposed Powder Mountain Development Agreement page

Embedded within the page is the following pdf document, which appears to be to be the first publicly-available draft of the Developers's (Western America Holdings, LLC and Eden Heights II, LLC) written proposal.

In releasing this proposed developer-proposed agreement, the Weber County Commission also issues this caveat:
In accordance with our commitment at the close of the public hearing we are making the proposal of Powder Mountain available for public review. Please note that the County Commission has not agreed to the terms and provisions of this agreement. Each Commissioner finds certain terms of the agreement unacceptable and will not approve the agreement as presently constituted. The Commission is appreciative of Powder Mountain’s willingness to discuss a development agreement in lieu of incorporation but Powder Mountain and the County remain far apart on certain major terms of the agreement.
We haven't had time to review the document ourselves. We thus throw it out for the comments of our gentle readers as a matter of first impression, just as it is for the Weber County Commission.

Our special compliments to Weber County Commissioner Dearden, who promised us he'd send the draft agreement to us for public inspection, as soon as it would be available. And here it is... one day earlier than the Developers promised.

The time has come to start digging into this document, gentle readers. The Weber County Commission obviously seeks the lumpencitizens' input.

Let's NOT let them down.

A Gentle Reader Asks: Shouldn't Five Utah Legislators be Recognised For Their Political Courage?

A great question originally posed by the Deseret News

One of our gentle readers lodged a comment in a lower article comments section today, upon which we've decided to put the WCF spotlight this afternoon. Here's what our sharp-eyed reader said:

"Hey Rudi, What would you say of this article?":

Deseret News: Applaud 5 Utah lawmakers for their courage

We have good news this afternoon for one gentle reader, whom we'll identify as Where's the Beef.

The mighty Glen Warchol has assembled that, and several other recent topical articles in his most-excellent Salt Lake Tribune blog article of today.

(Amazing what a blogger can contibute when he's actually paid for blogging, innit? Some of the rest of us in the Utah blogosphere eke enough out barely enough, from google ads and such, to pay for our ISP connection -- if that. )

Indeed there are many questions to be asked of the ethically-challenged BYU Law school graduates who run our Utah Legislature.

The bigger question, we believe, is whether docile Utah Republicans will show up to vote this pack of GOP crooks in yet again in November.

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