Sunday, April 26, 2009

Standard-Examiner Editorial: A Call For Greater Transparency in Public/Private "Partnerships"

A top order of council business... to determine the identities of Leshem's Ogden Riverfront Development Co. investors
OK, but these developments involving the Ogden River Project, a 60-acre long-term project, concern us. We're spending money to tear down these buildings. The public needs to be confident that the business model and investors lined up are capable of bringing the river project to completion.

Standard-Examiner Editorial
OUR VIEW: Public and private entanglements
April 26, 2009

Top notch editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, generally arguing for greater transparency in public/private partnerships. The Std-Ex editors also specifically zero in on the undisclosed and reportedly fractured investor interests in Ogden Riverfront Development Co., L.L.P., and the prospective difficulties in confirming these anonymous investors' financial capability:
OUR VIEW: Public and private entanglements
Although the city council certainly has its hands full with a variety of projects simmering on the council front burner, it seems to us that recent revelations relative to the River Project are developing an aroma reminiscent of the Bootjack Stealth Transaction, wherein Boss Godfrey secretly transferred one downtown RDA property to his friend Chris Peterson, behind the city council's back. A top order of council business, therefore, would be to determine exactly who these investors are; or so it seems to us.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?


Curmudgeon said...

The editorial considers "partnerships between the public sector and the private sector" in Northern Utah. It's not opposed to them. However, the editorial argues, city and county governments need to take care that the public has full access to what the private half of a public/private partnership is doing. And it gives as an example of how not to do that: Ogden City's involvement with what everyone thought, and had reason to think, was Mr. Gadi Leshsm's River Project development. Turns out, it isn't. From the editorial:

In Ogden a bunch of dilapidated homes are being torn down in the Ogden River Project Area. That's a good thing, even if it costs the city $42,500 to destroy eight homes....

The homes belong to the Ogden Riverfront Development Company.... Now Leshem... has always been the main name associated with the Ogden River Project. It was reasonable to assume he played a larger role with ORDC. But he doesn't. [Other] Investors -- and an Ogden branch of Centennial Bank -- own the eight homes mentioned.
And no one will say who those investors are. The editorial continues:

But these developments involving the Ogden River Project... concern us. We're spending money to tear down these buildings. The public needs to be confident that the business model and investors lined up are capable of bringing the river project to completion.

And it concludes:

Public/private development, such as that in Ogden... have the potential to bring in economic revenue. But both sides need to work smoothly and make sure the taxpayers have a thorough knowledge of what is going on.

People might argue with the editorials' general support for public/private development collaborations, and doubtless some will. But its conclusion that such collaborations, when they occur, absolutely require that the public have full access to what the private half of the partnership is doing is exactly right. Sadly, the current administration in Ogden, headed by Hizzonah, Mayor Godfrey --- which put together the public/private collaboration known as the River Project --- has a long and well established record for preferring secrecy rather than openness, for obfuscation rather than clarity. This is the Administration, remember, that told the City Council it had no business asking the Administration who it wanted to sell public property to [the infamous Bootjack sale], and it's Godfrey's administration that tries repeatedly to stonewall those seeking access to public documents under the GRAMA law. The Sierra Club had to take the Godfrey administration to Court to try to prevent it from keeping secret public documents it apparently was convinced would be embarrassing if they were made public. [The court's initial rulings favored the Sierra Club and the administration has been ordered by the court to begin providing some of the information it tried to hide.]

Given all that, the SE's editorial call for greater openness and public disclosure by the Godfrey Administration is not, I'm afraid, likely to fall on sympathetic ears at city hall.

OgdenLover said...

I think it's time our underpaid, overworked, part-time City Council took advantage of their power to appoint investigatory committees of Council Members OR citizens to look into the River Project and FUNRE situations.

Of course Godfrey would call these committees witch hunts unless he got to name the members, but life is tough. It's about time city government was open and honest.

grandma jones said...

Today's guest commentary in the Ogden paper by Abraham Shreve exposes once again his lack of understanding that laws were broken by Envision Ogden and Friends of Northern Real Estate in the transfer of funds from one entity to another without proper disclosure regarding political campaign funds.

The more Abraham talks the bigger his foot grows inside his mouth.

Tom's two bits worth said...

It seems to me that the reason the tax payers of Ogden are now in the unfavorable position of having to cough up big dough to tear these junkers down is that Lil Lord Godfrey's bestest buddy Gadi is in big legal and financial trouble over his crooked California dealings and cannot otherwise do what all other responsible property owners in Ogden are expected (demanded by law) to do - keep their property clean, free of junk and minimally maintained.

So now the Sub-Standard, in another sub-standard editorial, is telling us that in fact Gadi the bust-out does not own the slum properties but in fact was an agent for the "real" owners in dealing with the city, who was also acting as an agent, to scam the previous property owners out of their land on the cheap using the threat of imminent domain.

We now are told that the "real" property owners are a closely guarded secret, but are made up of private investors and a local branch of a bank. Yet the tax payers are still being required to spend many tens of thousands of dollars for the clean up.

My question then is why? Why are we Ogden tax payers being required to spend our hard earned dollars to do what these secret property owners are not willing to do on their own property? Now that the pretense of Gadi's legal and financial problems as an excuse has been exposed, why doesn't the city administration get tough with these phantom property owners and make them do the right thing - just like the city would do to any of the rest of us that maintained a public nuisance?

Just like most everything else Godfrey does with our tax dollars, this deal just plain stinks. He is using tax payer's money to cover the expenses of private investors and banks that just happen to be his pals and co-conspirators in these crimes being perpetrated against the citizens of Ogden.

disgusted said...

Tom's two bits worth

couldn't have said it better. if gadi isnt the actual owner it kind of throws the whole argument that gadi cant afford to do it now out the window.

i would think too that if gadi is not the owner then the city should require to know who the ownership is of the property to be developed. after all the property involved in this project was gathered up by ogden city and sold and/or optioned to this entity.

is the city telling us they scared a lot of landowners into selling their property so the city could then sell it to an unknown buyer. if gadi sold the rights to the development does that go against the agreement with the city and how does the city know that these individuals will develop the same project that gadi sold to the mayor.

how does the city know if these people have the financial ware-with-all to develop the property and if they do why are they not doing something now.

city council needs to start asking questions.

Anonymous said...

As M. Godfrey's mayoral term comes to a close, watch for his backroom players to move big in order to claim whatever was promised to them.

This knot will be years in the unraveling.

danny said...

Did anybody look at the Grondahl cartoon with the editorial? It made me laugh out loud.

The editorial started off very well, "Public and Private Entanglements" and I appreciate the commentary, but in my opinion, after the title it was almost all downhill.

Some people want to tweak garbage so it doesn't smell, rather than just throwing it out.

Public-private partnerships are NEVER a good idea. They are NEVER additive. They ALWAYS simply divert resources away from the better uses to which those resources would have been put.

After all these years, this should be obvious to everyone. But the small number of parasites who benefit from these "partnerships" are very good at making their case. It's about the only thing they are good at.

Thanks SE, at least, for pointing out that yes, Godfrey's garbage does smell. I'm glad you have started to notice at least that much.

dan s. said...

The editorial gently pointed out one type of problem with public/private partnerships: loss of transparency due to the fact that private entities aren't subject to laws requiring open records and open meetings. Of course, Godfrey loves this and has exploited it many times. The Ogden Community Foundation comes especially to mind.

But there's another problem that the editorial didn't even mention: These partnerships create dependent relationships between the government and the private entities, giving each undue influence over the other. During his nine years in office, Godfrey has used these relationships to build a machine that keeps him in power while giving favored treatment to Friends of Matt. Just look down his list of campaign contributors, or look down the list of Lift Ogden supporters, or ask someone who has tried to do business in Ogden without becoming part of the machine.

Hey hipocritical Standard Examiner said...

When is the Standard Examiner going to print how much land and government grants and tax breaks it has recieved over the years?

Just so we can payer higher taxes!!

OgdenLover said...

Ogden's problem is that Godfrey is just a short, former pizza delivery boy from Harrisville. He wants desperately to run with the real estate moguls and become what used to be called a "mover and shaker." Anyone with money (or appearance or money) who is willing to stroke Godfrey's ego and make him feel like he's special can get him to do their bidding at the expense of the taxpayers. Look at how he acted with Chris Peterson, Gadi Leshem, and his other "friends".

This is why Ogden is in such trouble over private-public partnerships. Private takes all the profits while public gets no say in the matter and takes all the risk.

blackrulon said...

Could the first step towards real transparency being open and above board in dealing with the city council? No secret meetings with council members unless all applicable laws are followed. A full disclosure of how members of various citizen boards are selected. Perhaps even away to let the city council select some members. A periodic appearance of the mayor to answer questions from the city council would help to eliminate distrust between the mayors office and the city council. Yes I know that this is not the Ogden way but lets try it aand see how much more transparent city operations become.

OgdenLover said...

Sounds good, but it ain't gonna happen in THIS Ogden. Remember the Mayor's Gondola/Chris Peterson plan dog & pony shows? Anyone who asked a probing question or disagreed was ridiculed, not answered.

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