Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Powder Mountain Update: The Town Incorporation Aftermath

A Powderville post-incorporation post-mortem

Several new articles this morning, reporting on yesterday's Powder Mountain commission hearing aftermath. Our calender's tight this morning so we'll be brief, and merely post the links, without any of our own jagged commentary.

This morning's Standard-Examiner/Charlie Trentelman story:

"Commission approves town of Powder Mountain -- but begrudgingly"

And this story, from the Deseret News:

"Weber commission approves Powder Mountain incorporation"

We'll also highlight two informative Ogden Valley Forum articles posted earlier this morning:

"Powder Mountain Incorporation OK'd"
"Utah's Newest town and the Perps Chosen Six - Welcome to Powderville, aka Powder Mountain Town"

We think this ought to bring everyone up to speed.

Although we've already had a fairly robust discussion under our earlier thread, we encourage those readers who are not "talked out" to pick up any further discussion here.

Have at it, gentle readers.


Dan S. said...

Today's article was not one of Trentelman's best.

Tuesday's vote brings almost to a close a contentious battle between Powder Mountain ski resort and residents of Ogden Valley over whether, and how, Powder Mountain will expand.

Surely nobody believes this. The battle will continue for years--probably decades--under any scenario. And I've never heard of any valley residents opposing expansion under the existing zoning, which would allow over 1200 additional dwelling units. So it's "how", not "whether".

Some of those who would be residents of the new Powder Mountain town are opposed to the creation of the town.

This one sentence, buried near the end of the article, is the only attempt to represent the viewpoints of the many residents who are being given no say in the decision to incorporate or in the selection of the mayor and town council. Where are the quotes? I was standing right there when Trentelman interviewed two of these residents. And the word "some" gives no hint that 40 of these residents have already organized and elected their own government in exile, as the Standard-Examiner reported on February 25.

Finally, Trentelman should have pointed out that three of the six nominees are members of the same family.

Let's hope there's a follow-up article. Soon.

speedo said...

All residents of Weber County should write to the Weber County Commissioners on this issue. Whatever happens up at Powder Mountain, it will impact all of Weber County.

Powder Mountain has some investors waiting in the wings and a large negative public reaction to the incorporation may give them pause. One has to wonder If the investors are truly aware of the limitations of the road and traffic problems

Curmudgeon said...

One comment, and one cynical speculation.

First, the comment. It was fashionable not too long ago for WCF posters to denounce the SE as hopeless and to argue that the SL Trib provided better coverage of Ogden and Weber County news. I'd just like to note that as of now, the SL Trib has one very brief article, provided by AP [a wire service] on what happened at the commission meeting --- barely more than one healthy sized paragraph [link here]. The Deseret News did a better job. However much some of us might think it slips up now and then, and it does, the SE is still a necessary source for Ogden-Weber news, and if you're going to have only one source [never wise], it is the one source you need to have.

Now the speculation: Been thinking. Let's say I was a Republican County Commissioner --- I'm not, of course. I was raised properly. But for the sake of argument, let's assume I was. And let's assume I knew I was going to cast a vote depriving my constituents of the right of representation and even the right to vote, in order to serve, yet again, the interests of the Utah Republican Party [a wholly owned subsidiary of the Utah realtors and developers lobby], and I knew that vote would be strongly, and justly, criticized, and not only by the constituents who I was going to deny the right to vote.

In those circumstances, I might want to look around for a way to at least pretend to show a little backbone [politely so called], to at least pretend I had something more to do during the Commission session than be a Bramble & Curtis potted plant. Why, it might occur to me to get together with the Powder Mountain resort developers and the shills they were going to ask me to approve as the town's Mayor and Council, and to see if we could not come up with a way to provide me and my fellow Commission realtor lap dogs a little protective cover. Like, say, submitting only one name for Mayor and only five for the five Council seats, so I could rise in high dudgeon and demand that more names be provided! [Note: the County attorney at the meeting, and I believe Ms. Zogmeister both noted in their remarks complaining that the developers had only submitted six names... one for mayor and five for council members [three from the same family]... that they'd communicated with the Resort development petitioners earlier regarding the number of names to be submitted.]

The petitioners would still get their way, since the Commission has to pick from a list they approve, the Commission would get to stamp around, puff our their chests, and look like they were actually doing something significant, reporters would write about their showing "backbone" and "flexing their muscles." Mr. Dearden in particular would have a little cover come election time. And absolutely nothing of any substance would have changed.

Do I know that happened? Of course not. Is it possible that happened? Yes, I think it is. Would I put such skullduggery and flimflam past the all-Republican Weber County Commission? Not on your life.

Just musings on the morning after....

jest mulling this over said...

There is something that permeates the air when you get close to it about this whole deal.

The Cobabe family owns the land around Powder Mountain Ski Resort and probably holds a large note receivable from the developer for the purchase of land made from them.

To allow this government entity to move forward is like allowing a family to incorporate their land holdings to benefit themselves in the future.

Voting with my feet said...

Incest. Insane and inane incest. Lawyers who don't know or understand the basis for law, prudent man law or common law. And a BYU trained legislative mafia of Realtor/developer self interests in control of the State legislature, County Commissions, Economic Development Committees, City and Town Councils and even the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

The only hope is given enough rope they will eventually hang themselves. The ignorant and compliant disenfranchised who cling to the notion, "the Bishop will tell me what I need to know and think", will never respond and toss these brethern out at every level of government.

Utah will continue to be a very bad place to live unless and until that happens.

Monotreme said...

This gave me a bitter, cynical laugh.

Weber County Ethics Pledge

Note that it was approved unanimously by all three commissioners, just like the Powder Mountain incorporation.

It's hard to see how they managed to "guard against...the appearance of undue influence" in this particular case.

dan s. said...

Item 3 of the ethics pledge is troubling:

"Not revealing confidential or sensitive governmental information, either anonymously or with personal attribution, unless I have a good faith belief that there is a compelling public interest in revealing the information."

This effectively puts the burden of proof on whoever would want information to be revealed. But that's backwards. Utah's open records law puts the burden of proof on the government to show that information can be withheld. And this law is based on nothing less than the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

Curmudgeon said...


First amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It bans the government [initially only the federal government, but after the 14th Amendment, all governments] from acting to inhibit anyone's right to speak freely [except under certain judicially limited circumstances, e.g. crying "fire" in a crowded theater, etc.] I don't quit see how Utah's open records law is based on First Amendment guarantees. I don't see how the First Amendment inhibits the government's ability not to speak if it wishes not to. Am I missing something?

dan s. said...

Following up on my previous post, perhaps I should add that the words "confidential" and "sensitive" are not defined in Utah's open records law, so in the context of the ethics pledge, I would interpret these words to mean that some official decides the information is confidential or sensitive, and some other official is expected to honor that decision, whatever the law might say. That's not the way it's supposed to work.

dan s. said...

Curm: You raise a subtle (and perhaps controversial) point. See this Supreme Court opinion by Stevens in 1980:

Curmudgeon said...


Doesn't seem much to bear on the matter, except tangentially. The case dealt with whether the press had the right to attend a criminal trial. Trials being under our law open processes... at least before Bush became President... the court ruled the press could not be excluded. That there was no agreement that this necessarily involved some kind of broader first amendment obligation on the part of government to make available any or all information that might prove of interest or significance to the press or public seems clear from the fact there there were five, count 'em five, concurring opinions. Narrow decision on a narrow issue involving press access to public criminal trials.

Whatever right of access, however narrowly defined, might have sprung from this case on which the majority had so much difficulty agreeing as to its broader significance, has not survived, I think, decisions of the Roberts court relating to government's right to deny access on national security grounds, and the court's flat unwillingness to inquire into the "reasonableness" of the grounds on which government makes that claim.

I don't think it is, or ever has been, established law [absent other specific state or federal legislation] that there is a first amendment right [via the 14th amendment] for state governments to provide information to the press or inquiring public. Most states do have such "open government" laws --- viz. Utah's "open meetings" law and GRAMMA provisions. But such rights to access as exist under those laws are grounded in legislation, not in a constitutional right under the first amendment.

Interesting question, though, for how can there be full, free public debate of matters of government policy and practices in the absence of the information the citizenry needs to make such debates meaningful? Is the first amendment right of free speech necessarily diminished to the point of being violated by government's refusal to provide information requested [except, again, under limited and judicially defined circumstances.]

dan s. said...


I'm sorry I didn't have time to respond to you in full. I still don't have time. But if you want more evidence that many people consider open records laws to be founded in the Constitution, just look at the legislative intent language in Utah's open records law:

I could give you other citations as well but suffice it to say that this is not my personal theory--I've researched it in considerable detail.

I agree with your point that there are differing opinions on this question and that it isn't fully settled by any means. But I think the prevailing view is actually the one that I expressed: The press cannot function without reasonable access to government records, so open records laws are founded on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

dan s. said...

Getting back to the topic of this thread...

This morning's Trib finally reports on Tuesday's County Commission meeting. The article is by Christopher Smart, so I guess Kristen Moulton must be on vacation. In Smart's words, "a showdown still looms over who will govern" the new town. He quotes the Powder Mountain spokesperson saying she believes they've already complied with the law by providing a list of six names from which the county commission can appoint six governing officials. This could get interesting...

Curmudgeon said...

Since the All-Republican Weber County Commission made it painfully plain that they consider their role in this matter to act as potted plant rubber stamps for Rep. Curtis and Sen. Bramble, and that they will exercise no independent judgment, and display none of the courage we ought to expect from elected officials who are told to strip their constituents of the right of representation and the right even to vote for their "elected" [ha!] municipal officials, reporter Smart's claim that it isn't over yet is touching. Unrealistic, but touching. As the Immortal Yogi is might have put it, "the fat lady has already sung."

Since the Powder Mountain Resort developers must approve in advance anyone on the list of nominees for mayor and town council from with the Commission must, docilely, appoint those officers, Powder Mountain's first mayor and a majority of its council will consist of shills for the resort developers. This little staged playlet in which the Weber County Commissioners pretend they have backbones [despite all evidence to the contrary], and that they actually do something to earn their pay besides saying "Sir, yes, Sir!" to directives from Curtis, Bramble and the Utah realtor associations that finance so many Republicans' campaigns, will in the end change nearly nothing.

Potted Plant Rubber Stamp Commissioner Dearden is running for re-election. If he loses, that might began to change some things down the road. Nothing else will.

Skeets said...

Voting with my feet makes a solid point. The pecking order in much of Utah is:

Mormon Church/Republican/Good old boy network/friendships. The powers that be never let common sense, the public trust, or duty to the citizens get in the way of that loyalty chain.

It is easy to see why Weber County is so poorly run. No one in the media will accept criticism of the leadership. They will not dig in on any story that may have an unhappy ending or expose the County leadership and their foibles.

dan s. said...

Geez, Curm, you seem so intent on attacking Dearden (because you want to get his opponent elected) that you're blind to the possibility that any good at all might come out of the commission's insistence on looking at other candidates beyond the six the developer has already nominated.

As I read the statute, the developer essentially has veto power over any candidate. But the commission is clearly interpreting the statute to imply that the developer has to submit a list of more than six names. It's at least a possibility that the number of potential "shills for the resort developers" among the town's residents is quite limited, so the longer the list has to be, the more non-shills we'll end up with.

Also, if it is documented that the developers have vetoed a large number of otherwise qualified candidates, I think that will strengthen the residents' case in a subsequent legal challenge to the process.

And finally, the mere fact that the process is being delayed works to the advantage of the residents, since it gives them time to strategize and decide what to do once the town government is in place. There's even a possibility of a legal battle between the developer and the county, which could drag on for years.

edentribe said...

Today's SL Tribune articles on this:

Curmudgeon said...


On the Powder Mountain Town "election" [politely so called] and whether Tuesdays little Kabuki dance by the Commissioners ends up having much significance beyond a a symbolic one: we shall see.

And of course I want to see the only Weber County Commission Republican potted plant up for election this November defeated. Had the Powder Mountain fiasco never happened, I'd still want that, as you note. But I'm more involved in trying to make that happen than I would normally be, because of the issues involved. He was asked to vote "aye" to striping his constituents of their right of representation. It doesn't get, here, a whole lot more fundamental than that. And he voted "aye." This is not merely about Powder Mountain and the extent to which it should be allowed to expand. It now involves, in my view, a far more significant matter: whether here in Zion it is permissible for the legislature to strip citizens of the right to vote, and whether it is even marginally acceptable for an elected County Commissioner to vote "aye" when asked to assist doing that. That moves it, I think, several orders of magnitude beyond my normal anti-Republican bent.

government with integrity said...

Wouldn't it have made sense for Dearden to make a deal with Bischoff and Zoggy that Dearden would have some testosterone and vote "NAY?" Then the other two could vote "aye" and Dearden comes out looking like he stood up for his constituents just in time for the upcoming election.

What about the Sunshine law, you ask? Gimme a break. If two of the commissioners discuss county issues, then it is considered a public meeting and it must be posted as such. Do we think that the commissioners never discuss county issues when their offices are within 20 feet of each other. The sunshine law is broke on a daily basis.

We need more commissioners so some integrity can be returned to the office. Yes, that would mean more money for salaries, but a price we must pay.

dan s. said...

I've never understood how a 3-member commission could possibly be compatible with open meeting laws. Better, I think, to switch to the mayor-council form of government, as Salt Lake County has done.

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