Saturday, May 31, 2008

Public Transit Update: Boss Godfrey Takes Public Transit For One Day and Arrives At His Intended Destination One hour Late

Godfrey Mingles with the lumpencitizens, but has a bad experience

Here's the gist of the story from the most excellent Salt Lake Tribune blog, "Out of Context: The Tribune's political writers' blog":

"Who knew that going green would take sooooo long?"

But after sitting for 75 minutes on FrontRunner, waiting 10 minutes for a Sandy TRAX train and then discovering that he would have to march more than a mile to Liberty Park from the 1300 South stop because (contrary to what he was told) there was no eastbound bus, he was a bit agitated.
Godfrey reached the forum -- albeit an hour late.
"We have to have a transit system that works," he vented to the architect crowd.
Godfrey didn't properly study the UTA schedule, and thus arrived an hour late to the meeting. We seriously hope he hadn't been scheduled as a keynote speaker.

If he hadn't been such a half-assed planner as per usual, he'd have perhaps studied the UTA schedule more carefully. From today's article:

The mayor could have stayed on TRAX until 2100 South, where he could have hopped onboard a bus that wrapped around Liberty Park on 900 South.
Also, we're not the ones who will suggest that Godfrey is a complete dumbass, although we will suggest that he should have spent a little more time studying the UTA schedule.

We'll just say that we're sorry to hear that Boss Godfrey had a "bad experience with public transit."

It would have been nicer, we think, if the UTA people had scheduled limousine service for the little fellow when he departed FrontRunner.

My View on Ogden

Ogden City government as perceived by an insider

By Chad Phares
Former Ogden City Council Communications Specialist


May 16 was my last day of employment with Ogden City. I was offered a writing/editing position in SLC that I considered to be a better for for myself so I decided to take it. The pay is essentially the same. The career move was not about money. During the year-and-a-half that I was employed with Ogden City, I would check the blog from time to time to keep an eye on the pulse of those who contributed to the blog. I appreciate the nice things that were said about me from time to time.

However, it should be understood that while I worked hard and did my best, the increased transparency with the Council was certainly not my idea. I was just hired to implement it. There have been a lot of spiteful and untrue things said about some Council staff members and I think if people on the outside truly understood the kind of work that people on the Council staff do, I believe it would not have been said.

I'd like to say that Bill Cook is as good of a boss as I have ever worked for. He is open, honest, detail-oriented and hard-working. Seeing posts on here over the months I was employed by the City that claimed that Bill and the Mayor were somehow in cahoots was laughable. Bill is constantly pushing for more transparency and he is a big reason why the Council's communications effort was ever launched in the first place.

Council Policy Analysts Alan Franke and Sue Zampedri work just as hard and put in long hours. They care about the work they do and they do a great job. In fact, they are constantly having to go above and beyond the call of duty when they receive information from the Administration that is either incomplete or incorrect.

As far as the my dealings with the mayor go, I can't really say much. I think he never spoke more than five words to me. I have my opinions, some good, some bad. But he, like most people, has some good attributes and some flaws. So do I. I'd venture to say that you probably do, too.

As far as the Council goes, I will not name names. In general, I think there are some dynamic Council members who put a lot of work into their duties on the Council. By the same token, I think there are other Council members who probably could be more effective if they spent some more time delving into the issues.

Having said that, these are part-time Council members. They are being asked to keep up with all of the knowledge that the Mayor has, but this is a difficult thing to do. Being the Mayor is Godfrey's full-time job. Council members have other jobs that they often need to tend to. I think even those Council members who truly try to stay on top of things have difficulties doing so, because the workload is so hefty. The Council staff does all they can to help, but you can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink, you know?

I believe this Council has still not quite figured out who they are. There are different levels of experience, understanding and commitment. Each feels obligated to certain things. I think they are still searching for common ground.

In general, my experience in Ogden was nice. It is obvious that people are passionate about the city. I truly hope everything works out well with all of the projects going on.

By the way, here are my opinions about some of those things:

Gondola -- I think it would be a fun attraction that I would probably ride on once.
Mt. Ogden Golf Course -- Subsidizing it by $200,000 a year is not that big of a deal. There is plenty of money being wasted in other places. At least the golf course has some use.
Water Horizons -- This was kind of my baby. I think it will be good for the city, just remember all the good things that are happening when you start to get your summer water bills.

GOP Fur Flies in the Utah Treasurer's Race

Serious dissension within the normally cohesive Utah GOP?

With the June 24 primary looming three weeks hence, things are heating up in the Utah State Treasurer's race. This morning's Salt Lake Tribune reports that GOP candidates Richard Ellis and Mark Walker are exchanging nasty accusations. Cathy McKitrick provides the essence of the story below:
What one candidate called "doing the right thing," the other has labeled a fabrication and dirty politics.
Such is the present state of the Republican race for the state treasurer's job, a snoozer of a contest in most election years.
Richard Ellis, the current chief deputy state treasurer, filed a complaint Friday with the Lieutenant Governor's Office, saying that Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, violated state election law by offering him a job if he'd drop out of the race.
"This is a Hail Mary pass." Walker said of the allegation. "With three weeks to go in this long nominating process, it seems my opponent is getting desperate and his only option now is to sling mud."
Ellis said his decision to file the complaint stemmed from recent media reports. The Tribune received a tip about a March conversation that included the job offer. Ellis confirmed it, while Walker said the talk took place but no offer was extended.
"It likely wouldn't have surfaced if The Tribune had not received a tip," Ellis said. "Now that it has come to light, it needs to be dealt with. It's the right thing to do and I stand by that, even though it opens up a can of worms."
Read the rest of the troubling details here.

And now that this matter has been referred for official investigation, here's the rub: Assuming the matter is ultimately dropped into Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's lap, there are pesky conflicts of interest issues also to be dealt with. Today's story provides the gist:
Under state law, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert will review Ellis' petition and determine if an investigation is needed. If so, the information gets referred to state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Shurtleff is a hefty contributor to Walker's campaign and has publicly endorsed him, including nominating him at the state Republican convention earlier this month.
Today's story also helpfully provides the language of the statute that Walker is alleged to have violated:
Utah Code Section 20A-1-608. Promises of appointment to office forbidden
(1) In order to aid or promote his nomination or election, a person may not directly or indirectly appoint or promise to appoint any person or secure or promise to secure, or aid in securing the appointment, nomination, or election of any person to any public or private position or employment, or to any position of honor, trust, or emolument.
Whether this current brouhaha is symptomatic of a genuine rift within Utah GOP ranks we do not know. We do however vow to keep a close eye on this developing story, and further express our confidence that Lt. Governor Herbert and A.G. Shurtleff will handle this matter in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards.

As an aside... can we see by a show of hands how many Weber County Forum readers were even consciously aware that the State Treasurer post is actually a Utah elective office?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Morning Potpourri

Several other chewy items in today's Standard-Examiner
All links updated at 12:15 p.m. MT

By Curmudgeon

First, there is a very interesting op-ed piece by VIJAY K. MATHUR arguing that the first thing that ought to go in re: Utah's odd liquor laws is the state-run monopoly on liquor sales, which, he says, is wildly inefficient, prevents market competition from working, and is a painful example of the inefficiency of state socialism as compared to market capitalism at work. He deliciously points out the hypocrisy of Utah's right wing market-worshiping "conservatives" [politely so called] who insist that in this case a government monopoly over the sale of alcohol to consumers is much to be preferred. Don't miss it.

Second, there is a story announcing the opening, Tuesday, of the cleaned up 21st Street pond, and of coming water ski contests there sponsored by Goode Ski, and the coming organization of a water ski club to make the pond accessible to the general public. And it announces that a trail will be opened between the Intermodal Hub on 23rd Street and the pond sometime next year. Good on Goode, good on Godfrey for recruiting them for Ogden.

Finally, an interesting AP story about the conflict between scenic and historic preservation on the one hand, and energy development on the other, now playing out in Nine Mile Canyon. Worth a read, I think.

All told, a very chewy issue of the Std-Ex this morning. You'll get your half a buck's worth today.

Standard-Examiner: Godfrey's Behavior Was "Sneaky"

Rhetorical Question: Will the city council insist on "payback?"

Now Godfrey's administration has unwisely made itself look sneaky -- because it behaved in a way even the most objective individual would have to describe as ... well, sneaky.

Standard-Examiner
'Kumbaya' on ice
May 30, 2008

The Standard-Examiner editorial board finally chimes in this morning, on the topic we thoroughly discussed on Saturday: Boss Godfrey's "stealth" lobbying activities during the final days of the 2008 legislative session. This morning's lead paragraphs set forth the essential facts:

Remember that promising, positive relationship we saw developing between the Ogden City Council and mayor last week? It might already be time for last rites.
Why? Because council members just found out the mayor's administration outmaneuvered them months ago at the Legislature. The city's lobbyist, Rob Jolley, and the administration's management services director, Mark Johnson, convinced Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, to insert the following amendment into Senate Bill 294:
"The mayor of a municipality operating under a council-mayor form of government ... (a) serves as the executive director of an agency created by the municipality; and (b) exercises the executive powers of the agency."
The law took effect May 5, and it assures that the Ogden City Council can't remove Godfrey as executive director of the city's redevelopment agency (RDA). Ogden's mayor has traditionally served as the RDA's executive director, but it has always been at the pleasure of the RDA board -- which is made up of the city council membership. In the past, certain council/RDA board members have pondered aloud that they could punish the mayor by removing him from his RDA post.
With SB 294, that option is off the table.
The editorial goes on to properly label Godfrey's conduct as "sneaky," and then rhetorically asks whether there will be council "payback."

And from our point of view we think the Std-Ex raises a mighty good question. What, exactly will our new council do about this, we ask? Will the council finally get off its thumbs and assert itself? Or will the council just sit back and docilely take its lumps? If the actions of previous councils provide any instructive guidance on this, we suspect the council might be content to whine a little bit, and then fall back to the posture of ineffectual dupes.

We do see one bright spot that we haven't seen in previous councils for a good number of years however: Councilwoman Amy Wicks. Amy, in our view, is the smartest and most assertive council leader to have emerged as council chair during the three years that we've been attentive council watchers. If Amy has a mind to set things right, and restore the council's position to one of a true co-equal city government branch, we're confident that Amy is the kind of leader who can get the job done.

And now that we're in the pre-2009 budget run-up, we'd suggest that the immediate "canning" of the ethically-challenged city lobbyist, Mr. Jolley, would be a grand place to start. With the passage of Godfrey's SB294, Godfrey's position as RDA executive director is for the time being secure. That doesn't mean, however that the council can't give the back-stabbing Mr. Jolley "the old heave-ho."

And what say our gentle readers about this? Does anyone have any other suggestions about the manner in which the council can treat this matter in the future?

The blogosphere awaits our readers' ever-savvy comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Decision Time Looms for the Ogden Ice Tower

Further analysis of the proposed Ice Tower Project

By Dan Schroeder

If I'm not mistaken, the city council will be voting this Tuesday on whether to provide $200,000 in funding for the proposed ice tower. Since taxpayers are being asked to fork over a substantial amount of money for this project, and since I'm a taxpayer, I decided to try to learn more about it.

Now, I could have asked the city for information, but my past experience is that the city doesn't always cooperate with such requests. So I decided instead to go to the county, which has all the paperwork for the two ice tower RAMP applications. Guess what? I didn't even have to file a GRAMA request. The county gladly provided me with copies of all the documents, free of charge.

Most of what I obtained is linked here:
First ice tower RAMP application, January 2007
Progress report, December 2007
Letter from John Patterson, undated
Second ice tower RAMP application, January 2008
(To keep the file sizes under control, I've omitted the application cover sheets and many pages of relatively uninteresting attachments including illustrations, letters of support, documentation of the tax-exempt status of the nonprofit organization that would operate the facility, and a now-obsolete lease agreement for use of the Big D Sports Park.)

As has already been reported in the press, each RAMP application was for $200,000. The 2007 application was approved, with the understanding that the tower would be located at the Big D Sports Park. The RAMP authorities later approved an extension on this grant into 2008, as well as a modification to reflect the change in location to downtown Ogden. The 2008 RAMP application was turned down, and that's apparently why the administration is now asking the council for $200,000.

These documents should be read in conjunction with the very informative fundraising brochure that was posted here last Friday. The additional information in the RAMP documents includes the following:
• To fund the remainder of the ice tower construction costs, the city is apparently counting on major grants from the G.S. and D.D. Eccles Foundation ($400,000), the Land and Water Conservation Fund ($200,000), and the Swanson Foundation ($100,000), as well as smaller contributions from a number of private companies including Petzl, Black Diamond, Pyramide, Lowe Alpine, Cassar Jewelers, and Bank of Utah. The likelihood of actually obtaining these grants and contributions is unclear.

• The city has already spent over $30,000 for architecture, engineering, property appraisal, and advertising. Most of these expenses were initially charged against the 2007 RAMP grant, but the city was then informed that the RAMP grant could be used only for actual construction expenses, not development. Apparently this mistake has now been corrected, presumably by shifting money over from private contributions. But the details are murky.

• There's a bit more information about the nonprofit that would operate the ice tower. It is known to the IRS as Ogdens Hollographic Ice Tower Inc. (OHIT), but is now doing business as Ogden Climbing Parks. In January 2007 its board of directors had only three members: Jeff Lowe, Michal (or Michale) Glassman, and Chris Ford. (Interestingly, Glassman is listed as a WSU "professor" in the 2007 application but as a "developer" in the 2008 application. I can find no Glassman, with any first name, listed as an instructor in the WSU class schedules for 2006 or 2007. If anyone knows who this person is, please enlighten me!) By January 2008, four more board members had been added: Abraham Shreve (of Envision Ogden fame), Deanna Byck, Michael Beck, and Brad Roghaar.

• OHIT/OCP claims to have raised approximately $120,000 in "cash contributions and sponsorships" in the year prior to January 2008.
Through corresponding with the county regarding these documents, I also learned a bit more. RAMP can provide funding either to government entities or to nonprofit organizations. However, nonprofits cannot obtain RAMP funding for capital assets because there would be no way of stopping them from then selling those assets. That's why, in order to be eligible for RAMP funding, the city (rather than OHIT/OCP) must own the ice tower. Also, it is the county's understanding that the city (as owner of the facility) is making a commitment to maintain it "in perpetuity".

Unfortunately, there are still many questions that these documents do not answer:
• What evidence is there that the projected $300,000 in annual income, needed to cover operating costs, will materialize?

• What happens if there is a revenue shortfall?

• What are the provisions for renting equipment and providing instruction to users? (The four employees do not appear to include any climbing instructors, yet most users will undoubtedly need lessons.)

• How will the outreach activities, for at-risk youth and the disabled, actually work? Will these groups displace paying customers at certain times, and who will pay the staff needed to assist them and ensure that they can use the facility safely? What evidence is there that these groups are interested in using the facility? What level of physical ability is required to attempt ice climbing?

• Why is the tower to be located on 25th Street, surrounded by government and office buildings, rather than near the Salomon Center where there could be more synergistic activity? Where will users go for snacks? What will the rest of a family do while one member gets an ice climbing lesson?
As you can probably tell, I'm pretty skeptical about this project. While it seems from examples elsewhere that artificial ice climbing walls can be successful, it isn't clear that this particular project has the necessary ingredients for success. If it were 100% privately funded, of course, I'd have no objection whatsoever. Even some level of one-time public funding would be ok with me, if we could be sure that the facility would pay its own operating expenses over the long term. But I see no such assurance whatsoever. In fact, it seems likely that this $200,000 request will actually be made on an annual basis, indefinitely.

The Standard-Examiner Proposes Treating Tourists as Grownups

Even Don Porter would appreciate a quick "pop" now and then, we guess

Three cheers for the Standard-Examiner for today's editorial, entitled, "Liquor laws up for reform." Here's the lede:

When you think about it, it's sort of amazing it's taken this long to have a serious discussion about Utah doing away with its peculiar liquor laws -- especially the private club rules.
But that's exactly what's happening. Gov. Jon Huntsman has thrown his full support behind the Utah Hospitality Association's effort to do away with the statute that requires patrons at liquor-serving Utah taverns to be members of a private club before being served. This involves filling out paperwork and paying a fee to join before being allowed to buy a drink. Or, "guests" must be "sponsored" by current members and pay a fee to have a drink on a temporary basis.
It's theater of the absurd -- squared -- and has always been. Tourists are turned off, and the practice has long branded the Beehive State as a backwater for casual imbibers. Adults could always get a drink, but the cumbersome process guaranteed irritation.
It's time, we think, that Utahns ceased being perceived by tourists and imbibing state residents as "the Amish with more money."

And what say you, gentle readers?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Gentle Reminder: KUED Special Airs Tonight

“Ogden: Junction City of the West” chronicles bygone days when our city was run by and for grownups

By What Will It Cost Us

I would like to remind everyone to watch “Ogden: Junction City of the West,” which airs on KUED Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Wednesday(tonight). I would hope the Mayor and City Council also watch to see when Ogden was a fun city open on Sunday, rather than the kiddy land the mayor wants to turn Ogden into. The potential is still here for a better city and I hope the new residents that moved here for the High Adventure see what the city was like when citizens asked questions and didn't plow blindly ahead -- when we had a real downtown with pedestrians, shops, Saturday matinees sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and activities that were published well ahead of time.

Std-Ex Water System Rehab Part III: So It's Come to This...

A profound citizen mistrust of the Ogden City Administration is revealed

By Curmudgeon

This morning, the Standard-Examiner ran the last of its interesting 3-part series on water problems in Ogden and the recently adopted Water Horizons plan, engineered by the City Council after many years of administrative neglect. Today's story focuses on the skunky smell of tap water delivered to some Ogden homes last year [the result of an algae bloom the story says at Pineview that could not be entirely filtered out of the water.] Mr. Schwebke's front page story opens this way:

"Ogden --- Carolyn Nebeker initially thought it might be a stunt orchestrated by the city to muster public support of a $52 million water and sewer overhaul.
After all, what other explanation could there be for the foul-smelling water that flowed from her tap last August?
"Maybe the city was trying to convince us we needed to upgrade the water system," said Nebeker... recalling the time she wondered whether the water was intentionally left untreated.
Bad tasting water emerges from taps, and what is the first explanation that came to Ms. Nebeker's mind? "The City government" did it deliberately to convince people to approve more spending. Thus Ogden as we enter the ninth year of Matthew Godfrey's administration. I'm afraid suspicion like that is one of the inevitable casualties of having an administration that regularly pushes the envelop on ethical conduct.

You can read today's Scott Schwebke story here.

[The earlier two stories are linked in yesterday's WCF article.]

To be fair, that's not the whole story, of course. Part of it can be traced to the Utah Right Wing's endless whining that "government is bad, government is the source of problems, not solutions" and so on. [In fact, sometimes it's one, sometimes it's the other.] But still: an Ogden resident's water goes stinky and the first thing she thinks of is "the city government is doing it deliberately for political reasons." Not good. Can't help but wonder if we had an Administration whose pushing of the envelope on ethical matters wasn't the subject of continuing Std-Ex stories and editorials, if that would have been Ms. Nebeker's first choice of explanations.

The story raises another question: I thought Ogden got its drinking water from wells, not from Pineview. So, how could an algae bloom [stirred up by boaters, the story says] result in swampy-smelling and tasting water emerging from Ogden's water taps? Does Pineview's water work its way into the water table locally and so into the wells? Or are some neighborhoods in Ogden drinking treated Pineview water after all? Anyone know for sure?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Chirpy News on the Downwardly Spiraling Dollar

The "credit crunch" kicks into high gear as the dollar swirls down the toilet

Today's chirpy economic news from Bloomberg.com:

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose, trading near $133 a barrel in New York, after a militant attack in Nigeria disrupted supplies from Africa's largest producer. [...].
New York oil futures have increased 24 percent in the past two months and reached a record $135.09 on May 22 after the dollar posted its biggest weekly decline against the euro since March. A weaker dollar prompts investors to buy commodities as a hedge against inflation.
That's right, gentle readers, our falling dollar is the chief culprit in this inflationary oil price mess. Oil futures were already spiking prior to the Nigerian attack. We we can thank Fed Chairman Ben "Inflate or Die" Bernanke for that. In that connection check out this May 2, 2008 story from the Asia Times:

"Bernanke takes one more gamble"

And here's an interesting twist on the impact of the Fed's willful decision to sacrifice the fight against inflation in order to more aggressively fight US recession:

"Fuel suppliers demand airlines pay cash in advance".

From today's London Times Online story:

Airlines are being forced to pay cash in advance for jet fuel as the major oil companies tighten the screws on an industry that is being crushed by an extraordinary surge in the price of crude oil.
Sources within the airline industry indicate that credit is being denied to most of the leading American carriers and the practice is moving to Europe and Asia. So uncertain is the cash solvency of the industry that jet fuel suppliers insist on prepayments into special bank accounts.
A credit controller at a leading European multinational oil company told The Times that the oil industry was moving to jet fuel prepayment. “It’s common in the US and it is moving to Europe. We have been moving to prepayment since Swissair went bust.”
The long and short of it, in our opinion, really isn't that fuel suppliers are concerned about airlines' financial solvency. The real problem, we believe, is that the dollar is now dropping so fast that fuel suppliers want payment in dollars at current value. This is what happens in an economy experiencing hyper-inflation.

It won't be long, we suspect, before other suppliers of other commodities will follow the oil companies' lead, and will be demanding "cash on the barrel-head." And we foresee a time in the not so distant future when the dollar, still the world's reserve currency, will no longer be accepted by oil producers or refiners.

If you thought we had a bad credit crunch this week, just wait until the next.

Remember: As the purchasing power of your US currency descends to the point at which it's not worth the paper upon which it's printed... The Fed is doing this intentionally... for your own good.

Comments?

Down the Drain: Spotlight on a Standard-Examiner Three-part Series

The Standard-Examiner digs in on the topic of water infrastructure rehab

We'd like to put the focus this morning on a three-part Scott Schwebke article series now running in the Standard-Examiner. As most regular readers should be aware, Ogden City is now in the process of launching a comprehensive $52 million water system rehabiliation project, designed to correct water infrastructure problems our readers have been griping about for years.

Yesterday's article, "Ogden's water rehabilitation", is a fine piece of Ace Reporter Schwebke work. It provides a thorough overview of the existing problems with our dilapidated water infrastructure, along with a robust summary of the funding and fixes which are part of the city council-sponsored game plan.

Today's article, "Ogden residents eager for better water pressure," deals with the problems which are particular to citizens of Ogden's east bench.

We're pressed for time this morning, so we'll forego a lengthy analysis. There is however a segment of text from yesterday's article upon which we'd like to put the spotlight:

Jesse Garcia said that during his 15 years on the city council, no city administration has ever presented a comprehensive financial plan for addressing the most serious infrastructure needs.
About a year ago, the council decided to launch its own public input process, dubbed Water Horizons, which led to the rate study and ultimately funding for improvements, Garcia said.
“It was time to tackle this monster because if we didn’t do it now, the price tag would get bigger,” he said.
A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to the Ogden City Council for finally getting the ball rolling on this. While the Godfrey administration sat on its thumbs, the council commissioned a study, held public hearings and forcefully brought this project to fruition.

And there's a lesson for the city council in this, we think. Rather than sit back and wait for admininstration proposals, as our council has done in the past, the council has demonstrated that it has the power and the collective will to manage its own agenda, and find solutions to pressing Emerald City problems -- even when the administration is dragging its feet.

This bodes well for the future of other long overdue public projects, we think -- such as public transit.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Eloquent words to remind us why we celebrate Memorial Day

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial - 5/26/08

It is important that we not forget why we celebrate Memorial Day. We hope that these words from our shared past, eloquent in their simplicity and their grandeur, will help us remember and to honor the sacrifices of those who have died in service to this nation in times of war:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

- PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, a speech delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., on Nov. 19, 1863, four-and-a-half months after Union forces defeated a Confederate army over the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg.

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

- PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the concluding words of his second inaugural address, March 4, 1965, less than a month before the surrender of the Confederate Army under Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, at Appomattox, Va.

"Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."

- GEN. JOHN A. LOGAN, General Orders No.11, May 5, 1868, establishing May 30 of that year for honoring the Civil War dead.

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. Because of these sacrifices, the dawn of justice and freedom throughout the world slowly casts its gleam across the horizon.
"At this decisive hour in history, it is very difficult to express my feelings. Words will not convey what is in my heart."


- PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN, radio address to the armed forces, April 17, 1945, after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and less than a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces during World War II.

"About him we may well wonder, as others have: As a child, did he play on some street in a great American city? Or did he work beside his father on a farm out in America's heartland? Did he marry? Did he have children? Did he look expectantly to return to a bride?
"We'll never know the answers to these questions about his life. We do know, though, why he died. He saw the horrors of war but bravely faced them, certain his own cause and his country's cause was a noble one; that he was fighting for human dignity, for free men everywhere.
"Today we pause to embrace him and all who served us so well in a war whose end offered no parades, no flags, and so little thanks. We can be worthy of the values and ideals for which our sons sacrificed - worthy of their courage in the face of a fear that few of us will ever experience - by honoring their commitment and devotion to duty and country."


- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN at Arlington National Cemetery, May 28, 1984, to commemorate the tomb of the Unknown Soldier who fought during the Vietnam War.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Heads-up on an Ogden City Television Event

Issac Goeckeritz's “Ogden: Junction City of the West” film documentary airs on Wednesday

This morning's Standard-Examiner provides a heads-up on a television event which we expect to be of interest to Ogden City history buffs. We incorporate the lead paragraphs of this morning's Nancy Van Valkenburg story below:

Historically speaking, Utah has a reputation for a pious pioneer past. Ogden, not so much. Sure, many in our early community were industrious churchgoers. But we also had madames, prostitutes, bootleggers, gamblers and all kinds of colorful criminal characters. Ogden filmmaker Issac Goeckeritz, 26, documented it all in “Ogden: Junction City of the West,” which airs on KUED Channel 7 at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
The article goes on to provide "a sampling of five fun things we learned by talking to Goeckeritz and watching his 90-minute documentary, which debuted at Peery’s Egyptian Theater a year ago," including interesting vignettes and photos.

This morning's article is available here.

The Standard-Examiner also provides a short video excerpt from Goeckeritz's film documentary on its live website, to which we provide a link below:

"Junction City of the West" - video clip.

It's a bit slow-loading, (and there's a commercial, of course) but we think it's worth the wait.

This is one TeeVee event we definitely intend to put on our calender. It appears to be an excellent piece of work.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Science Saturday: a Few Interesting Science Articles We Bookmarked This Week

Fascinating science stuff gleaned from the googlesphere

Springville high schooler's science project might hold key to computing leap: Give this kid a scholarship!

Global warming on planet Jupiter?: Perhaps Al Gore can explain this.

The original white meat: Good traditional sources of protein in hard economic times.

How Are Humans Unique?: Preliminary evidence reveals Boss Godfrey lacks observable human traits.

We're toying with the idea of making this a late Saturday/early Sunday weekend feature, just for a change of pace.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Godfrey Goons Tick Off Council

When will Brandon Stephensen wake up and sniff the coffee?

By Fly On the Wall

Fascinating article in the Standard-Examiner this morning. Godfrey goons tick off the Council again, by adding language to SB294 at the last minute to assure the Mayor cannot be removed as executive director of the RDA board:
OGDEN — Some city council members are angry because they weren’t informed by the administration in advance about new legislation that gives Mayor Matthew Godfrey total executive authority over the Ogden Redevelopment Agency.
Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Sen. Curtis S. Bramble, R-Provo, became law May 5.
The last two lines of the bill contain an amendment requiring the mayor of a municipality operating under a council-mayor form of government to serve as executive director of the local RDA and exercise executive powers.
The Ogden RDA board is made up of city council members.
As usual, Godfrey denies any knowledge of the back room activities of Goon Johnson and paid lobbyist Goon Jolley.

I would have to call "Bullshit" on that one, Godfrey goons don't do anything without the knowledge and blessings of his lordship.

One more reason for the council to cut the funds to pay for a lobbyist that has only the Mayors' interests when persuing legislation.

And as usual Brandon Stephenson thinks the language was good, but he didnt like the trust issue it created.

When is Brandon going to wake up and sniff the coffee?

Update 5/24/08 10:45 a.m. MT: Kristen Moulton also provides a solid writeup in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More News Re "The Ogden Ice Tower"

More promotional gibberish from "Ice Tower Lowe"

We received from one of our gentle readers an interesting email about one hour ago, concerning one of our very most-favorite Weber County Forum topics. It's been almost a full month since we last broached this subject. We're elated to have finally received this new information.

The topic of course is Boss Godfrey's Ice Tower Project, otherwise known affectionately on this site as The Fortess of Mayoral Ego.

Today's reader email contained a marvellous Adobe PDF attachment, which we're absolutely delighted to provide to our gentle readers this Friday afternoon.

By way of background, our "chain of custody" information is spotty. Our understanding, however is that Ice Tower Project information which we are about to provide, was distributed by Friend of Matt (FOM) Jeff Lowe, to an Ogden medical doctor, possibly at the recent Ogden Surgical Society gathering.

We'll now end the suspense, and provide a link to this new information.

As we understand it, this material was personally presented as a request for donations from local Medical Doctors:
Tempted though we are to analyse this sales brochure line-by-line, we'll resist that impulse.

Rather, we'll focus on the most ridiculous parts:

Here, in the last paragraph of Boss Godfrey's endorsement letter (page two on the pdf @ 100%), we find this carney-promotional language from Boss Godfrey:

"The City is contributing significantly to this project and we would be grateful to have you join us as we make it a reality."

To our knowledge, the Ogden City Council has NEVER contributed one dime toward Boss Godfrey's ice-tower project. If we're wrong on this gentle readers, please correct us.

The sole amount of taxpayer money committed (conditionally) to this ridiculous project (according to our understanding) is limited to the $200 K in "conditional" RAMP money that was committed by the RAMP committee morons last year.

And here's another doozy! Jeff Lowe says climbing ice in ridiculous ice climbing towers (and assuming Jeff's questionable projections) will make $12 K in profit annually. This slight profit, would arise from a boondoggle that is now pegged to cost $1.6 million - Which Jeff Lowe is pitching to be publicly-subsidized.

"Nuff said." Time to hear from our gentle readers.

Consider this a Friday nite open thread, if you like.

A Call to Action Re the Utah Property Tax

Ogden Valley Forum argues the property tax system is broken, and needs to be fixed

We'd like to put the spotlight this morning on an article posted yesterday on Ogden Valley Forum, which springboards nicely off yesterday's Standard-Examiner story, reporting that some "insiders" within the Utah tax collection establishment consider the existing Utah property tax system to be efficient, well-run, and in no need of tinkering or fixing.

OVF contributors Larry and Sharon Zini differ significantly in their assessment of the Utah property tax situation, and argue that the Utah property tax law, as currently applied, is riddled with inequities and inefficiencies. We incorporate their lead paragraphs below:

Today's Standard Examiner article stating that Utah’s property tax system is “well run” is self serving for many of the political leaders in our fair state and is disingenuous and misleading.

It may be that our property tax system in Utah looks pretty good to outsiders, but a close examination of the details of our property tax system indicates it is favorable to some and unfavorable for many others, such as the elderly, on a scale that is clearly not understood by most taxpayers.
The authors go on to provide some interesting fact reporting and analysis, as well as a few suggestions, all intended to add "fairness" to Utah tax law. In a nutshell, Larry and Sharon propose that lawmakers and taxing authorities should adopt following corrective measures:

1) Shift public education funding from the property tax to the sales tax;
2) Require property tax reassessments across all Utah Counties on an annual basis;
3) Deny permits and petitions to property owners who are delinquent in their property tax payments;
4) Crack down on property owners who abuse the 45% "primary residence" property tax exemption.

All in all, it's a fine and thought-provocative article; one well worth a read.

Interested WCF denizens can read it here.

When you get done reading and cogitating... don't forget to come back to WCF with your comments.

And if you think the Utah property tax isn't your, problem, it's probably because you haven't been "bitten"... yet.

Special thanks to Larry and Sharon, for providing this thoughtful piece of work.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spotlight on Today's Std-Ex Op Ed piece

Lafray Kelley provides some sound and politically-generic advice

By Curmudgeon

I'd point out that there is an interesting, and well-written, op-ed piece in today's Standard-Examiner by LaFray Kelley, the chair of the Weber County Democratic Party. It discusses the relative importance of voting in state and local elections compared to national elections. Worth a look, I think.

Here's my favorite line: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

Damn, I wish I'd written that!

Ogden "Lands" Swiss Aircraft Company

Contrary to the headline, Jet Aviation hasn't actually "landed" yet, but does seem to be "circling the airport"

Just as was revealed by Curmudgeon in one of last night's Weber County Forum comments sections, this morning's Standard Examiner's hard-copy edition has the full story (under the clever front-page banner headline, "Ogden lands Swiss Company") on the prospective arrival of Jet Aviation, the Swiss aircraft company which is currently negotiating to lease 70,000 square feet of space in Mel Kemp's Ogden-Hinkley Airport facility. We incorporate Ace Reporter Schwebke's lead paragraphs below:

OGDEN — An international aviation company has signed a letter of intent with Kemp Development Inc. to establish a maintenance and repair facility and a fixed based operation at Ogden-Hinckley Airport.
Jet Aviation, based in Zurich, Switzerland, expects to begin operations at the airport in the fall, said Bryce Gibby, business development director for Kemp.
“They are the premier corporate jet provider in the world,” Gibby said Wednesday. “They are global and none is better.”
Dave Harmer, Ogden’s community and economic development director, said Jet Aviation would help Ogden toward its goal of becoming a hub for the aircraft industry.
“This is fantastic,” he said. “Jet Aviation is a major player.”
The company plans to employ up to 200 workers at its Ogden facility in the next two years.
Negotiations are ongoing to finalize a contract between Kemp and Jet Aviation, Gibby said.
We'll chalk this up as great news for Ogden City, and especially for Mel Kemp, who's been stuck with vacant rental space since mid-winter, when Adam Aircraft, Kemp's predecessor aircraft manufacturer tenant, executed a fatal financial "nose dive."

Contract details are still reportedly "up in the air," including the inevitable taxpayer subsidies, which will apparently be necessary to lure this big player to "drop its landing gear," begin its "final approach," "touch down" on the Hinkley Field runway and "taxi" into Kemp's empty hangar:

The city is in discussions with Jet Aviation to provide possible tax increment financing, said [Ogden Community and Economic Development Director Dave] Harmer. Jet Aviation also plans to apply for undisclosed financial incentives from the state, he said.
We're pressed for time this morning; so we'll skip our usual microanalysis. Suffice it to say however, we don't think Jet Aviation is a "fly by night."
Perhaps a few of our gentle readers would care to "fill in the blanks" with their own clever comments.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ogden City Saves $2.5 Million in Bond Interest Payments

Unfortunately, previously earmarked BDO lease revenue won't ease the ultimate taxpayer pain

According to this morning's Standard-Examiner story, Ogden City got a great deal yesterday on its new $49.1 million water infrastructure bonding, as is reported by Ace Reporter Schwebke in his morning story, "Wall street helps Ogden's interest rate on bonds." Here's the lede:
OGDEN — A nearly 200-point drop in the Dow Jones industrials on Tuesday will likely save the city about $2.5 million in interest payments for a bond package to fund sweeping water and sewer infrastructure improvements, municipal officials say.
The city council adopted a resolution Tuesday night to proceed with the sale next month of $49.1 million in bonds to finance the improvements.
Mike Goodwin, the city’s treasurer, said Tuesday’s tumble on Wall Street prompted skittish investors to turn to more secure municipal bonds like the ones being marketed by Ogden.
“Municipal investors looked at our options,” he said. “It was very good for us.”
Wall Street stumbled Tuesday after oil prices spiked to a new record above $129 a barrel and a government report raised investors’ concerns about the impact of inflation on consumer spending.
Jerry Nowlin, a senior vice president for Wells Fargo Brokerage who is assisting the city in marketing its bonds, said about 15 major investors committed Tuesday to buy from Ogden. “We had more buyers than bonds (available),” he told the city council.
As a result, the city was able to negotiate a slightly better interest rate on its debt service payments, estimated to save about $2.5 million over the 30-year life of the bonds, he said.
Market timing is tough even for the most seasoned investors, though. Look at what happened to the Dow today, however:


The Dow was down another 227.49 (1.77%). Obviously we're in a declining investor market.

Although it might be suggested that the Ogden bond underwriter (Wells Fargo) might have waited another day or two before nailing down investor commitments... we're not going to say that.

Our main gripe, even with these market-driven and highly fortuitous rate reductions, is this:

Prior to 2005, Ogden City was set up to finance water system infrastrastructure improvements from Business Depot Ogden (BDO) lease revenue. These bond payments could have been largely paid from BDO revenue under the arrangements at that time, rather than from taxpayer-paid water rate increases, if original commitments had been kept.

Instead, Boss Godfrey, in his "visionary" risk-taking mode, persuaded the former "gang of Five Counsel," rubber stamp Godfreyite lackeys at that time, to re-commit BDO revenues to the "Wreck Center Project."

How's that project doing, BTW, we ask. Does anybody really know?

Recent reports indicate Ogden City taxpayers are now on the hook for at least four "Junction" $3/4 million bond payments, notwithstanding whatever paltry payments are now being made by the very few existing"Junction" tenants.

Three cheers for the soccer moms, gondolists, sheeple from the wardhouses and otherwise brain dead Godfreyites who lifted the little twerp to a third term as Ogden Mayor in the last election.

What a shame it is that these nitwits can't be personally assessed for the future economic damage they will will have have caused to Emerald City.

Ogden Public Transit Update: Informative Editorial in This Morning's Standard-Examiner

The Std-Ex brings its readers up to speed on the current Ogden City public transit planning posture

Well-crafted and informative editorial in today's Standard-Examiner, summarizing the current posture of the streetcar option in Ogden city's public transit planning process. Today's editorial hits all the important high points:

1) "It wasn’t 'Kumbaya,' but it was close";
2) The administration and council "still disagree about which route transit should take, but they do agree that a streetcar is their vehicle of preference";
3) Both the administration and city council "take a dim view of bus-rapid-transit."
4) "Nary a mention of a gondola — although Godfrey did say, maybe cryptically or maybe not, that if the streetcar turns out to be too expensive, it would be time to look at 'other options.'";
5) The sudden arrival of Boss Godfrey within the pro-streetcar camp is "good news for Ogden."

Although much of the analysis in this morning's editorial will no doubt have a deju vu feel for our regular Weber County Forum readers, we're happy to see the Std-Ex editorializing on the subject, and going the extra mile to inform its general readership about the current status of public transit planning in Ogden.

So how about it, gentle readers? Is there anything either we or the Standard-Examiner left out?

Don't all chime in at once.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crime-fighter Godfrey: Foiled Yet Again

City Council Chair Amy Wicks becomes inadvertently involved in the Ogden gang problem

Interesting "conjunction of events" in Emerald City these last two days. Yesterday, the Standard-Examiner published this short piece, buried in a Top of Utah section sidebar. We'll republish the whole story, inasmuch as it was very short:
OGDEN - Police say they received eight separate calls complaining of people shooting guns in the city early Sunday morning. Eight different vehicles or residents were targeted between 2 a.m. and 2:50 a.m. Sunday.
Ogden Duty Lt. Scott Conley said damage was found at some locations where gunshots were heard. At one of the locations, on the 2700 block of Quicy Avenue, six 9mm shell casings were found in the street, and six bullet holes were found in windows, siding and shingles in surrounding homes.
On the 2800 block of Jefferson Avenue, four bullet holes were found in a Dodge Durango.
The total area spanned 26th to 30th street, and Monroe Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue.
Conley said a white sedan and a red sedan seemed to be travelling together, and the shots seemed to have come from the two vehicles.
He said one victim told police he received a message on his answering machine saying that he had started a war and he was next.
"We will be following up on all leads," Conley said.
Gang war in Ogden? Go figure. According to Boss Godfrey's 2007 municipal election campaign propaganda, Godfrey is a crime fighter; and no such thing could ever happen while crime-fighter Godfrey is in charge. Such events are impossible in Emerald City, under the little wizard's watch.

Of course we at Weber County Forum already know Godfrey lied about his so-called crime-fighting credentials.

And here's where the previously mentioned interesting conjunction of events comes in:

We got this email missive from Ogden City Council Chair Amy Wicks on Monday morning:
I was one of the people calling 911 at 2:45 early Sunday morning. We need to address the gang issue now...and not wait for Department of Workforce Services to possibly get a program up and running sometime after the end of summer. All of our neighborhood revitalization programs are a waste of time and money if we don't take care of this issue NOW. Would you feel good investing your own time and money in the East Central neighborhood if you woke up to the sound of gunshots in the middle of the night several times in the past year?
Godfrey the crime fighter? Ha...Ha...HA. Would YOU invest your money in Ogden while a declared Ogden "gang war" was going on?

At long last one of the responsible adults in Ogden City government has become acutely (and uncomfortably) aware of the wholly unattended gang problem in Ogden. And now that Amy's on the case, we're quite confident she won't let it rest.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Ogden gang problem... now that actual grownups like Council Chair Wicks are back in charge.

That's our take, although we do readily admit we haven't been attending crime conferences for the last 35 years.

And what say our gentle readers about this?

Utah's Sorry Campaign Law

The Deseret News lays into the Utah legislature

Excellent editorial in this morning's Deseret News, calling upon the legislature to "demonstrate a commitment to transparent government by changing these (Utah campaign finance disclosure) laws." From the editorial:

We have long been advocates for transparency in elections, rather than tedious and ineffective limits on donations. When laws limit how much someone can contribute to a campaign or how much a candidate can spend, the advantage always goes to the incumbent. In elections, money equals exposure. Information, on the other hand, helps voters enter polling booths fully informed.
But in Utah, the public has neither transparency nor limits.
The Center for Governmental Studies, together with the UCLA Law School, the California Voter Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, recently ranked states according to how well their campaign disclosure laws inform and protect the public. Utah came in 45th of the 50 states and earned an F grade.
Being the curious type, we navigated to the Campaign Disclosure Project (CDP) website; and yesiree, Utah's campaign disclosure law did indeed score an "F" grade as of the year 2007. According to the CDP site, Utah is in fact one of only six states receiving "failing" grades. That's quite a distinction -- one in which all Utah legislators must take great pride, we're sure.

There's plenty of interesting information on the CDP site, including this Campaign Finance Disclosure Model Law. In the unlikely event that any Utah legislator ever takes heed of the growing public outcry for wholesale campaign finance disclosure reform, we believe this "model law" would be a great "starter template."

We congratulate the Deseret News for for keeping the need for significant campaign disclosure reform in the public discussion forefront. We likewise encourage all Utah media to continue flogging this topic. If all goes well, this issue will rise to the surface during the upcoming 2008 general election campaign, forcing the legislature to finally address it during the 2009 legislative session.

Transit Investment: Some Real-world, Reality-based Suggestions

Kudos to Std-Ex columnist Trentelman and one GOP State Senator

By Curmudgeon

Excellent column this morning in the Standard-Examiner by Charles Trentelman --- a fine example of the "reality based world" that our legislators, most of them, seem reluctant to live in, or at least to legislate in.

The title of Trentelman's column is "No Cheap Road Around It: The Future Is Going To Be Taxing." He looks at the number of cars owned an driven in Davis County as an example. Davis County's population is expected to bump up by about a third over the next dozen years, with about 60K additional cars in the county. And right now Utah needs $16 billion just to maintain the roads we have and build badly needed new ones. Cost of building and maintaining new roads into the future looks like a financial tsunami for Utah taxpayers, and it's absolutely on the way.

Trentelman talks too about the need for transit investment to take some [but only a fraction] of those cars off the roads.

What's truly appealing about the column is (a) its conclusions are based on research, on defensible numbers, not on [as is far to often the case], election-driven hopin' and wishin' and dreamin'. [Latest example: Candidate McCain's promise that if elected, he will reduce federal taxes still more and yet balance the federal budget. No he won't, not any more than Reagan or Bush Two did following similar campaign assurances.] And (2) Trentelman does not succumb to the American Public Revenue Syndrome [APRS]: that, somehow, we can have the government do all we insist that it do [in this case, build ever more capacious highways, and maintain them to high standards] without our having to pay for it through taxes. [APRS is epidemic across the spending spectrum, not just involving roads. We want excellent schools, but we don't want to pay for them; we want an excellent military, but we don't want to pay for it... and so on.]

And Trentelman's actually found a legislator... a Republican legislator... who is taking a hard look at the facts, and drawing the inevitable reality-based conclusions: Sen. Sheldon Killpack [R-Syracuse] who's talking about bumping the state gas tax another 14 cents a gallon and charging congestion tolls [higher tolls for driving during rush hours into SLC for example] to raise the $16 billion Utah needs for road building and maintenance. Imagine that. [And compare it to the la-la-land proposals of Senators McCain and Clinton that suspending the 17 cent per gallon federal tax on gas for three months this summer --- costing the federal highway fund billions of dollars without in fact guaranteeing even that gas prices would go down a single cent over the summer as a result --- is what needs to be done.]

Kudos to Sen. Killpack, and columnist Trentelman, for making some real-world, reality-based suggestions.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What to Do with an Old Aeroplane Engine

Suffice it to say... this post is intended for true motorheads

Got an email today from one of our long-time gentle readers, with an interesting jpeg attachment. For motorcycle and airplane enthusiasts, this one is simply too good to ignore:

Query: What do you do with an old airplane engine? (Click image to enlarge.)


A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to gentle Ozboy for contributing this.

We do ever hope to see to see this extremely creative rig the next time "The Bikers" show up in Ogden to show off their custom scooters.

Suffice it to say... this post is intended for true motorheads. Either you "get it"... or you don't.

Next...

Golf Course Update: A Suggested Boss Godfrey Summer Project

Privatization -- exploring neoCON dream options

This morning's Standard-Examiner provides a brief update on Boss Godfrey latest management fetish: staunching the purported financial bleeding at Emerald City's Mt. Ogden Golf Course. Among other things, today's Ace Reporter Schwebke article provides an interim tally of suggestions heretofore submitted by various community-minded lumpencitizens. Interestingly, letting the course "go to seed" reportedly drew a plurality of the ersatz "votes."

There was however one creative solution which appears to have particularly caught our "can do" mayor's eye -- one that we agree ought to be thoroughly explored. We provide the gist from Scott Schwebke's opening 'graphs:
OGDEN — Mayor Matthew Godfrey says he will look into a recommendation that a not-for-profit organization be allowed to manage financially troubled Mount Ogden Golf Course.
The recommendation was the most intriguing by far arising from a March open house to gather public suggestions to resolve the golf course’s money woes, said John Patterson, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Leaving aside the still unresolved question, whether the MOGC would be running at a "break-even" if not recently saddled by Godfrey bean-counters with "repayment" of a debt arising from the course's original construction (a debt repayment obligation apparently NOT originally contemplated by previous Ogden City administration officials,) we agree that it might be fruitful for the Godfrey and his well-paid "suits" to aggressively explore private management options.

Privatization -- the neoCON dream.

A quick Google search reveals no shortage of golf course management companies who might be solicited to bring MOGC operations to a new level of operational efficiency.

We say it's time for Boss Godfrey to get moving on this. Soliciting bids for competent golf course management would be an ideal diversionary summer project for Godfrey and his "A-Team," we think, while some of Godfrey's other projects and schemes (Larry Mylar and Gadi Leshem, anyone?) continue to flounder into the summer. And who knows? If Godfrey were to pursue the resuscitation of our MOGC with the same level of obsession demonstrated with respect to his gondola delusion over the past three years, a highly persuasive (and charming) visionary like Godfrey would surely succeed in luring a golf course manager/developer who's actually willing to bring some of his own cash to the table -- right?

Well...?

Krugman: Stranded in Suburbia

The European lesson for coping with a world of high priced oil

By Curmudgeon

Paul Krugman's column in Monday's New York Times deals with how the US will eventually solve the problem of ever-escalating gas prices. From the column:

Any serious reduction in American driving will... mean changing how and where many of us live.
To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.
It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.
And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas — it’s starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.
Won't be easy. Many problems, like the transit chicken-and-egg problem:

Infrastructure is another problem. Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to justify transit systems unless there’s sufficient population density, yet it’s hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.
He points out that the probable solution, pretty much modeled on European lines, does not involve Americans giving up their cars, or driving tiny three-wheeled mini-cars. Most Europeans own cars that are fairly mid-sized [though many fewer families own more than one]. It's just that cars in Europe get much better mileage than comparable American cars, and that Europeans drive them much less. Which they can do because Europeans have invested much more heavily than we have [so far] in urban and sub-urban mass transit. Whole article is worth a read, as Ogden contemplates its transit future.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Ogden Marathon: Unqualified Success

An example how it can work when we all pull together

By Curmudgeon

Amidst all of our usual [and fully justified] grousing and grumbling about things not working as they should, I think we might give a nod to an Ogden event that went, from all I can see, very very well: the just completed Ogden Marathon.

According to this morning's story in the Standard-Examiner, there were more than 5000 runners registered for the event. I met some of them doing some carbo loading Saturday night. Nice folks, and very complementary about Ogden, and that was before the race, which I gather went off with nary a hitch and with [this year] good cooperation from the weather.

Big event. Teams of volunteers making it all happen as it should. Corporate sponsorship. Cooperation from the city government. Big success, apparently. And very good ink for Ogden and good reports going home with the runners.

When we pull together and plan well, we can do big events and do them well. There's also supposed to be video of the marathon on the paper's web page, but I couldn't find it. And a little odd that this morning's story didn't get front page treatment [just a banner saying story in Section B.]

Developers Gone Wild

Two Utah stories focusing on the effects of developer-abandoned projects

By Curmudgeon

Today's Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting story about what happens when developers are allowed to run amok with few or no restrictions on their conduct. In Draper, developers, out of cash and with the new homes market sagging, are simply walking away from half-finished projects, leaving half built houses or foundations behind them. Which is tanking property values in the surrounding homes. Draper city government is now trying to close the barn door way too late. But still, the city seems now to be embracing the heretical idea [in Utah's legislative majority] that government regulation of developers can be a good thing and might be a necessary thing.

Here's how the story opens:

Draper doesn't want to turn into a graveyard of unfinished homes.
In effort to brace itself for fallout from a slumping housing market, the city is targeting builders who walk away from unfinished projects, leaving behind skeletons of would-have-been homes. "This does create a safety concern and an eyesore," says City Councilwoman Stephanie Davis, adding that the city could at least require landowners to fence off their unfinished-home sites.
Several Draper residents, who already live next to long-abandoned shells, would welcome such a change. Take, for example, the Satre's, who are dazzled by the sweeping view of the Salt Lake Valley from their east-bench home's back windows.
But a glance out the front door tells a different story. A massive dirt mound and abandoned concrete foundation - peppered with unsightly graffiti and rusty concrete reinforcing rods have stood abandoned for three years atop a trio of would-be home lots in a neighborhood where many houses have sold for more than $1 million.
The full story can be found here. As I read it, I couldn't help wondering this: if Mayor Godfrey and his developer cronies had gotten their way, and they'd sold Mt. Ogden Park to build a couple hundred high-end vacation villas, would we all now be looking at benches filled with half completed homes and holes in the ground?

Second, the lead article in the Salt Lake City Weekly this week is about how, in Utah, developers and utilities get to do pretty much what they damn well please, with, often, unhappy consequences for the cities involved. Good account of how SLC permitted the destruction of a historic building in Sugar House, forcing out several successful non-chain small businesses, so a mega condo and commercial block could take their place... only to see the project stall in the weakening market, leaving a raw and gaping construction site where thriving businesses in a historic building used to be.

The City Weekly article can be found here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gutter Politics From the Salt Lake County GOP

The SLCGOP goes public with its flakey IRS complaint
"Uncle Tom" redux?

Interesting story in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, reporting that the Salt Lake County Republican Party has formally complained to the Internal Revenue Service, alleging officials of the NAACP's Salt Lake chapter have jeopardized that organization's tax-exempt status by actively recruiting opposition to the state senate candidacy of Salt Lake County GOP red-neck poster boy Chris Buttars. From this morning's story:

The head of the Salt Lake County Republican Party says officials of the NAACP's Salt Lake chapter violated the organization's nonprofit status by vowing to help defeat Utah Sen. Chris Buttars after the senator made racially offensive remarks.
Party chairman James Evans said he sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service on Friday, asking the agency to review the Salt Lake chapter's actions.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP, did not return messages left on her cell phone Friday, but told KCPW radio that the group focuses on issues, not candidates.
"We seek people that support the work of civil rights organizations like the NAACP, and we can do that. That's what has been said and that's what we will do," said Williams.
In February, Buttars said of a school construction bill: “This baby is black, I'll tell you. It's a dark, ugly thing.” Williams called for Buttars' resignation. He refused, claimed a “hate lynch mob” was after him, and vowed to run for re-election, prompting Williams to promise to work to recruit and support an opponent for Buttars.
The Salt Lake chapter is organized as a nonprofit under section 501(c)(4) of the law for social welfare organizations. Such groups, according to IRS publications, are permitted to engage in political activity, as long as it is not the group's primary purpose.
But Evans says that Williams' activity goes too far, even if they are a 501(c)(4).
“Actively trying to recruit someone to run against a candidate, I think, crosses that line,” he said.
He said he doesn't know the extent of the group's activity - only that Williams said publicly they were going to defeat Buttars. But he said the IRS would be able to find out if it investigates.
Regarding the merits, the IRS provides online information which we believe to be instructive on general standards applied to the pertinent 501(4)(c) compliance issues:

To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. [...].
To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements).[...].
The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity. [Emphasis added].
Even taking the above language into consideration, would be impossible for anyone to draw any firm and final conclusions about the merits of the Salt Lake GOP's complaint at this juncture. Still, it seems clear that IRS regulations generally provide 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations (such as the NAACP) fairly broad latitude for engagement in political activity, so long as such activity is not a "primary organizational activity." And notably, our morning googling reveals that IRS guidelines apparently provide no specific prohibitions against recruitment of political candidates.

We're thus going to go out on a limb and predict the the SLCGOP's complaint will amount to zero, zich and nada upon its ultimate investigation by the IRS. Given the Salt Lake NAACP's engagement in its demonstrably wide array of civil rights causes and activities, we believe the SLCGOP's argument that this war-horse civil rights organization's peripheral engagement in the Senate 10 race amounts to "crossing the line" into "primary" activity demonstrates the deepest depth of ludicrousness.

Of course, the lodging of the SLCGOP's IRS complaint isn't really about a good-faith question regarding NAACP compliance with IRS provisions anyway, eh, gentle readers? It seems fairly clear to us what today's story is all about. The SLCGOP lodged a complaint and apparently sent out a press release. County GOP Chair James Evans did a subsequent interview with the SLTrib's Robert Gehrke. The transmittal and publicizing of this complaint was plainly designed for political effect. The SLCGOP is stuck with a highly-vulnerable candidate in Chris Buttars; and the Salt Lake County GOP has now pulled out all the stops. A frontal attack against the NAACP will no doubt play well for the voters in in Buttars' Senate District 10. The Salt Lake County GOP is now engaged in gutter politics. How ironic it is, we think, that a guy like party chairman James Evans stepped up to play the race card. We suppose that the SLCGOP executive committee thought this would be "cute."

Comments, anyone?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ogden City Council Work Session on Transit Planning 5/15/08

Godfrey reverses course; opts for a full combo of streetcar alternatives analysis and EIR studies

By Dan Schroeder

The work session was held in the city council chambers (not the conference room), due to the large number of spectators. Those in attendance included the usual city council and administration staff, representatives from UTA and Wasatch Front Regional Council, reporters from the Standard-Examiner and Tribune, and over a dozen other interested citizens.

Council Executive Director Bill Cook began the session with a historical summary of how the council got to this point. Cook touched on the 2005 feasibility study (which recommended a streetcar between downtown, WSU, and McKay-Dee Hospital), the $200,000 allocation for further studies in the current fiscal year's budget (which the mayor has said he wants reallocated to other projects), the transit discussions held at earlier work sessions, and the mayor's recent "revelation" to the Standard-Examiner that he is now willing to support a further study of the streetcar.

Cook clarified the difference between a "feasibility study", which has already been performed for the transit corridor between downtown, WSU, and McKay-Dee, and an "alternatives analysis", which would be a more detailed study with considerable public involvement. An alternatives analysis is a necessary step toward getting federal funding for a transit project. The cost of the alternatives analysis would be at least $200,000, but UTA would probably pay half of this and WSU and McKay-Dee are both willing to contribute as well.

Near the end of Cook's presentation, both he and Mick Crandall of UTA emphasized that the longer Ogden waits to get started on an alternatives analysis, the harder it will be to obtain funding both for the study and for the project itself.

Next, Greg Montgomery summarized the Planning Commission's recent discussion of transit corridors. For historical perspective he showed a map of Ogden's old trolley lines, and told how the rise of automobiles and suburbs led to the decline of mass transit in the U.S. Even so, transit is still heavily used in many other parts of the world. He listed three reasons why many people want to increase use of mass transit: to relieve congestion on roads, to improve air quality, and to serve people who do not drive, such as the poor and the handicapped. [Montgomery did not mention several other good reasons, such as promoting economic development of urban neighborhoods.]

Finally, Montgomery described the Planning Commission's recommended transit corridors, in order of priority: (1) downtown to WSU, continuing south on Harrison to the junction with US 89; (2) a loop around downtown; and (3) a north-south route from North Ogden to South Ogden, ending at Ogden Regional Hospital. Council member Gochnour then asked Greg Scott of Wasatch Front Regional Council whether extending the WSU line south to US 89 would weaken its overall feasibility and eligibility for federal funding. Scott replied that yes, the southern extension of this line would attract fewer riders and therefore it would lessen the overall benefit/cost ratio.

Cook then passed out the results of what must have been an informal poll of council members, asking them to rank 13 possible transit routes (including several different routes between downtown and WSU, as well as corridors connecting downtown to other destinations). The highest-ranked route was the same as recommended by the 2005 feasibility study: downtown to McKay-Dee Hospital via 23rd, Washington, 26th, and Harrison.

Mayor Godfrey then began to speak, and the rest of the transit discussion centered on his proposal. In short, he stated that he now favors moving forward with an alternatives analysis of the corridor from downtown to McKay-Dee Hospital. Furthermore, he would like to combine this process with the full environmental impact study, to speed up the eventual application for federal matching funds--if the cost ends up being affordable. [This statement on Godfrey's part was a striking departure from the position he has held for the last 3 years, until as recently as the WACOG meeting only 10 days ago.] Near the end of the discussion, Council Chair Wicks remarked that she could now go home and die of shock. She was undoubtedly speaking for many others in the room as well.

Godfrey did add a few of his own twists to what he proposes to study. First, he would like to add a downtown loop route to the proposal. [There was very little discussion of this route and it isn't clear how such a route could be part of the same transit corridor. However, these details can presumably be worked out later.] Second, Godfrey stated that he strongly favors an alignment that would go south on Washington to 30th or 36th Street before heading east up to Harrison. He repeated his earlier position that the portion of Harrison between 26th and 30th (or even 36th) is not wide enough for a dedicated streetcar right-of-way, and added that an alignment on Washington would encourage more commercial development in places where it is wanted. However, he was clearly willing to include the 26th Street option in the study, to see how it fares compared to the more southerly alignments. Third, Godfrey vaguely alluded to newer streetcar technologies (probably battery-operated) that might, in his opinion, save money.

Godfrey remains strongly opposed to the bus-rapid-transit (BRT) option; he went so far as to say that if BRT becomes the preferred mode then the citizens would "come at us with pitchforks". However, he didn't explicitly object to keeping a BRT option in the study.

In the course of his presentation, Godfrey made a number of minor claims that were inconsistent with this writer's understanding of the facts. Among these claims were: that a streetcar has a maximum speed of only 25 mph; that there are no plans for higher-density development along Harrison; that the 2005 feasibility study took only a "cursory" look at alternative alignments such as the ones he is now proposing; and that officials at UDOT and WFRC have corroborated a number of his statements about feasibility.

Godfrey clearly stated that he is unsure whether projected cost of the streetcar will be less than the maximum that we can afford, which he put at $80-100 million. He said that if the cost turns out to be too high, then we will have to "face the reality and talk about the other transit options," putting "everything on the table." But he seems content to postpone any discussion of these "other transit options" for the time being.

There was no specific discussion of what source of funds Ogden would use to cover its share of the cost of the alternatives analysis and environmental impact statement. Crandall of UTA estimated the cost of the full study at approximately $500,000, and made it clear that UTA will cover approximately half of the cost, but said that not all the money would necessarily become available in the current fiscal year.

Once Godfrey had explained his current position on moving forward with the alternatives analysis and EIS, and answered a few questions from the council members, the council took a recess before moving on to other agenda items. At that point most of the audience (including this writer) departed.

Editor's addendum: The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton provides her own write-up here. The Standard-Examiner's Scott Schwebke version is available here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Godfrey Transit Vision to Be "Unveiled" at Tonight's Work Session

Word has it that Godfrey will have us all singing "Kumbaya"

Got this Adobe PDF attachment in an email from Ogden City Council Communications Specialist Chad Phares on Tuesday:

Let this serve as a reminder of tonight's city council 5:30 p.m. work session, wherein Boss Godfrey will reportedly reveal, inter alia, his El Grande Great But El Cheap0 Street Car Plan.

Anybody who attends tonight's council work session is invited to report in on the "nitty-gritty" in our comments section.

Article length submissions will almost surely be promoted to a new lead WCF article, of course.

And one other thing in closing: Chad Phares is definitely doing a bang-up job in his position as City Council Communications Specialist.

We don't know what we're paying him, but we think whatever salary he's drawing should be immediately doubled.

Whereas we admit that we were earlier concerned about the concept of our city council employing -- OK we'll just say it -- a propaganda specialist -- we'll just now backtrack and say we really like Chad's work. He always delivers council agendas on time, in a form that's truly professional, as illustrated in the PDF link above.

We're also encouraged, that under council chairwoman Amy Wicks's most excellent and forceful leadership, the Ogden City public transit problem is finally being "brought to a head."

Our Ogden City Council seems to be approaching the Ogden City Transit problem the same way they approached the water infrastructure problem earlier this year. Ogden City demanded leadership that time. While Godfrey was dragging his feet on the water project, Amy Wicks and sensible council members got it done. We predict it will be the same now with respect to public transit, now that we have stronger leadership on the council.

Next poster... please!

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