Monday, September 29, 2008

More Communications From the Godfrey Bunker

Fear and anger ooze from the Godfrey camp

Last Friday we published a series of emails, revealing fear and anger from within the Boss Godfrey Camp. Godfrey and his minions were fuming about a strong opinion letter, which Councilwoman Gochnour had obtained in "due diligence" from an official from the State Historic Preservation Office. Although the Godfreyites nit-picked about formalities involving the release of the letter, significantly there seemed to be no complaints about its well-reasoned conclusions. This article of course provoked a very robust response from our WCF readership.

We're therefore delighted this morning to provide yet another glimpse into communications within the apoplectic Godfreyite bunker. Here are three more emails, intercepted and submitted by a trusted source close to city hall, and found in our email inbox this morning:

At 9:00 a.m. on Friday, Godfrey became even more "deeply troubled" than usual. The Emerald City master of back-door dealings and administration secrecy apparently experienced a philosophical conversion, and suddenly became an advocate of conducting city business "in the light of day for all to see":

Matthew Godfrey Email - 9/26/08

By 11:29 a.m., Emerald City CAO John Patterson had gotten into the act:

John Patterson Email - 9/26/08

By late afternoon, the ever-faithful Sue Wilkerson had thrown in her own two cents:

Sue Wilkerson Email - 9/26/08

In our humble view, it seems these Godfreyites continue to operate in an information bubble. Well informed Godfrey watchers (including the city council, apparently) have been aware since as early as November of 2007 that a variety of volunteer committees, including Landmarks, were to be stacked with Godfrey loyalists, and that a variety of Ogden City volunteer committees had thus shed their presumptive credibility.

As to the question of "threats," we believe Godfrey and his lackeys ought to read Weber County Forum a lot more frequently... and thoroughly.

And before closing we'll ask: Is it just us... or are other readers concerned about the tone, subject matter and volume of ex parte communications occurring between supposedly "neutral" Landmarks Commission Chair Sue Wilkerson, and the Ogden City Administration?

Have at it, gentle readers.

11 comments:

dan s. said...

Even if one or more Landmarks Commission members were threatened, I suspect it will be hard for anyone to prove it. Therefore, it was probably unwise for City Council members to make such an accusation in a public meeting. This accusation has now become a distraction from the main issues involved here.

One of the main issues is this: Whether or not there were any threats, the Landmarks Commission has lost its credibility. Godfrey replaced three members immediately after the election. He also had multiple opportunities to replace all the other members during his first eight years in office. So there's no reason to expect that the Commission is independent of the mayor and his administration in any meaningful sense.

Now the Commission has formally recommended an ordinance revision that, according to SHPO, "could easily lead to enough loss of architectural integrity within this small National Register district for the entire district to lose its National Register status."

I strongly suspect that the Commission members were not fully aware of how the ordinance could jeopardize the district's National Register status. After all, the SHPO letter wasn't written until after they made their recommendation. As volunteers, the Commission members rely heavily on the professional advice they get from the administration staff. It was really those staff who dropped by ball by not ensuring that the Commission was fully informed.

Curmudgeon said...

Couple of points. First, if it was alleged at the Council meeting that Park City had lost its "Historic District" designation as a result of imprudent zoning changes, and in fact it has not, that needs to be corrected. Ms. Wilkerson was right to have checked out the claim... I'm for anybody checking out any claim made before the Council, or by Council members or administrative spokespersons in the course of debate. And I see no problem with her emailing city officials in her capacity as chair of the commission.

That said, I notice that none of the three emails deals in any way with the substantive question: would granting the variance put at risk Historic 25th Street's Historic District designation? They want to probe the threats claim; they want to examine whether the UHF was "authorized" to have expressed an opinion on the matter to the Council. They want to question whether the UHS letter was proper to be sent.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Administration is seriously interested in making the case that the zoning variance for the Windsor was and remains a good idea, and that the Council was ill-advised to reject it. [I said "for the sake of argument."] If that is the case, then the Mayor and his spokespersons and Ms. Wilkerson and the Landmarks Commission need to address the substance of the objections, which were two: (a) the variance would put at risk 25th Street's Historic District designation and (b) the new ordinance would remove the Council from needing to approve subsequent variances like this one.

Until the Administration can deal with those substantive objections, it will not be able to win its case with the Council or the public.

One final note: it has seemed to me for a while, and seems to me still, to be tactically foolish to attack the Commission as a pack of fools and hirelings of the Mayor. This Commission is going to vote on many more matters during its tenure, and denouncing the members as "idiots" or "sycophants" or "in the Mayor's pocket" is not likely to make the members receptive to critiques of new proposals by those making them. The commission... only three of whose members are brand new, as the Mayor points out... has a record of having done very good work for Ogden over time vis-a-vis historic preservation and establishing Historic Districts. They may be wrong in this instance. But their being wrong in this instance is thin evidence for arguing that the commission is filled with idiots or lick-spittles of the mayor. I doubt very much that the Commission members eagerly sought appointment to an un-paid post on an advisory committee so they could draw heaps of abuse on themselves by docilely following the Mayor's every dictate. I don't see reason to doubt, at this point, that most of the Commission members devote their time, and it takes time, to do the best for the city they can on historic preservation matters.

And we ought at least to consider, given the above, that the Commission believes granting a variance for the Windsor --- currently an unoccupied and deteriorating property in a key location on lower 25th Street --- may have been well advised as the best available option under the current circumstances.

Perhaps it would be wise then --- meaning it would serve Ogden well --- to open a discussion with the Commission members, the Mayor, the developers, the Council and anyone else who wants to chime in, regarding the merits of the matter. In that discussion, again, the Mayor and the Commission will need to establish that the Heritage Society and Utah Historical Society are incorrect in saying changing the height limit will endanger the Historic District designation. That's a high bar for them to clear, since both organizations have a lot of standing in the community on preservation matters. But we ought to be open to listening to the Commission's arguments, and the Mayor's, for supporting the variance and the new ordinance, if they are willing to make their reasons public. [Note to the Godfrey Gaggle: the developers having "brought millions of dollars to Ogden" does not address either of the substantive arguments underlying rejection of the ordinance. ]

That discussion is not likely to happen, though, so long as Godfrey, and Paterson and Wilkerson keep discussing only the propriety of the Utah Heritage group and the Utah Historical Society of having spoken at all to the Council on the matter. If they have a case to make, they need to make it on the merits of the matter. So far, they're not doing that. They won't be taken seriously until they do. If they can.

polybius said...

Curm-
It is an issue in Park City, has been for years. If Sue W. knew what she was talking about (which she claims to do), she would know that. Maybe it hasn't been removed from the national register, yet, but it may (see links below). I have never heard anyone say that the district is not on the national register anymore, just at risk (just like Ogden - but even more so). It seems to me like Sue Wilkerson is not paying attention or is being loose w/ the facts.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20061231/ai_n17087653

http://www.sltrib.com/athome/ci_10402686

ozboy said...

From the Urban Dictionary:

STRAW DOG

a straw dog is a scapegoat group, place, person or idea in which we dump our evilness, so we can blame it and then by attacking, dissing or destorying it, we externalize it outside of us so we feel free of sin.

America often uses an 'out group' as a straw dog, such as Communists, terrorists, labor unions, gays, in order to deflect attention from the bad things we're doing, such as exploiting the environment or third world labor.

Do you think the Godfreyites would really resort to straw dogs?

Curmudgeon said...

Polyibus:

Several people have reported that at the Council meeting at which the Council voted "no" on the variance, someone stated that Park City had lost its Historic District designation. Not that it was "an issue" or under debate in PC. That it had been lost, period. Ms. Wilkerson says she called city officials there to see if that was so. It was, she says, not so. If the claim was made at the Council meeting, she was right to check, and that incorrect information needed to be corrected. That's all I commented on, since that's all Ms. Wilkerson says was in error. So far.

david s. said...

I was at the meeting in question.

I did not hear anybody say that the Landmarks committee had been blackmailed or threatened.

But I did hear people point out that committee (and others) were purged into becoming a group hand picked by Godfrey for their political reliability. As such, they are simply extensions of Godfrey's opinion, and are not a review board.

In other words, they may do a lot of things, but one thing they will never do is disagree with Godfrey.

So whether your are talking about a Staff opinion, or a Landmarks Committee opinion, you're talking about Godfrey's opinion.

Also, the ordinance was itself a clear power grab. That alone was reason enough to vote no.

On the other hand, the historical groups that were there arguing against the ordinance seemed to be objective, and had no political skin in the game as the Godfrey people did. Let's face it, Wilkerson takes money from the city (Godfrey) for work anybody could do. She needs to earn it somehow, doesn't she?

It appears the administration is trying to confuse a rather simple issue once again. Big surprise.

And as far as the assertion that people should talk the issue, I said as much myself at the meeting.

But that will not happen because of the well-documented way this administration does business. I hate to see the Windsor folks leave. But if they insist on pursuing their appalling VW popup design and given how little they have done after the city virtually gave them the building a year and a half ago, then let them leave if that's what they want.

The vote was taken. Other than for the reliable Godfrey people on the council, it was unanimous. It's over now. Time to move on.

dan s. said...

david,

I think the allegations of threats were allegedly made at Thursday's work session, not at Tuesday's meeting.

q cannon said...

Dan was correct in saying that Godfrey replaced the three Landmarks Commission members who were experienced, trained and most importantly independent -- not obligated to Godfrey as Sue Wilkerson is. In case some may not know -- Godfrey has “officially” made Sue Wilkerson the real estate agent for the City. Those HUD homes that the City has renovated and other City properties are run through her agency. With Ms. Wilkerson so compromised and chairman of the Landmarks Commission and three new, untrained, inexperienced board members, is it any wonder that the commission favors the Godfrey point of view for the additional floor on the Windsor Hotel instead of being in line with the Utah Heritage Foundation’s, the Utah Historic Preservation Office’s and the Weber County Heritage Foundation’s points of view? It really makes one wonder why they would be at odds with the THREE HISTORICAL AGENCIES in the State. It seems that the LMC are the mavericks. I’d like to hear their justification for their decision. Do you think that they would give one if asked?

Thank goodness we have enough strong, independent council members who aren’t afraid to make the hard decisions that are the best decisions for the City.

disgusted said...

as suggested by david s above. just the fact that the administration was trying to take decision making powers away from the council was reason enough to veto the vote.
council does not have to answer to the few godfrey hand picked. they have to answer to the residents and frankly i think they did. if they dont like your decisions tell them to run for office.
way to go council.

ravi said...

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Ringo said...

ravi

If you like it so much how about bringing on a little sitar music to liven it up a bit?

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