Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Emerald City Council Double Header

The FY2010 city budget and campaign financing disclosure ordinance revisions return to tonight's council calender
Added bonus: Live blogging from the Emerald City Council chamber!

We'd like to remind our readers of two important items set for tonight's special city council meeting agenda:

FY2010 City Budget. Consideration of the proposed budget for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. (Continue/not continue public hearing to June 16, 2009 – voice vote)
Campaign Financing Disclosure. Continued consideration of Proposed Ordinance #2009-39 (as tabled and amended from June 2, 2009) amending the Ogden Municipal Code by amending Chapter 8 of Title 1 to revise campaign financing disclosure requirements. (Adopt/not adopt ordinance – roll call vote)
Now that Boss Godfrey has inked a management contract with the non-profit OWCAP, it will be fascinating to observe how the council deals with the mayor's proposed zeroing out of 2010 funding for the Marshall White Center. Will the council just roll over, or are the council and mayor still poised for a showdown?

The campaign finance disclosure matter was put over from last week's meeting, so the council could re-draft the heavily flawed version which was drafted by our heavily-conflicted Godfrey lackey City Attorney Gary Williams. We'll of course make every effort to obtain an electronic version of the re-drafted ordinance, for posting under this article as an update, prior to tonight's meeting.

We hope a significant number of WCF readers will put tonight's meeting on their calenders and attend this event.

Our city council deserves all the citizen input and support that they can get.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Update 6/9/09 5:45 p.m.: Dan S. is now sitting in the council chamber, and will attempt to "live blog" here, via his iPhone. This technology worked extemely well the last time Dan experimented with it; and hopefully our readers will stay tuned in and find the info he provides to be both timely and informative.

42 comments:

Dan S. said...

From the published agenda, it appears to me that the council will take public comments on the budget but not on the campaign finance ordinance. So if you have comments on the latter, get them to the city council before the meeting starts.

Amy Wicks said...

Dan-

We will take public comments on the campaign finance ordinance.

RudiZink said...

One thing's for sure. The council needs to allocate $100 grand or so right now, to put a full time municipal government expert lawyer on the council payroll. That's just for starters, of course. After that, they should spare no expense in hiring their own other technical experts.

That's how the federal government operates, (upon which model Ogden city emulates its own current form of government...) and that's the model the city council should follow, starting yesterday.

If Ogden city is to have the democratic luxury of co-equal branches, it should now pony up, and put both branches on an equal footing.

When the city adopted the Council-Mayor form of government way back in 1992, all the technical experts in city government gravitated to the city administration.

Meanwhile, the city council was left with very little "in house" technical expertise.

The Ogden city council is now seriously outgunned, because, until now, they've never dealt with an executive tyrant like Godfrey.

If Ogden City Government is going to seriously emulate "the federal model" wherein the legislative and executive branches operate as "coequal branches of government", the city council should "lawyer up" quickly, and at least put $100k into the 2010 budget, to hire a full time lawyer, for the inevitable Council v. Godfrey lawsuit.

After that, they should hire their own accountancy expert(s).

Dan S. said...

Greetings from the City Council conference room, where I'll be attempting to live-blog tonight's study session and meeting. (Not sure I'll have the stamina to stay for the work session afterwards.)

Dan S. said...

Plenty of folks as study session begins. Council members Wicks, Stephens, Johnson, Garcia, and Gochnour (by phone); Jeske expected soon; Stephenson excused. Alan Franke begins going through the agenda. In peanut gallery are myself, Bill Critchlow, John Patterson, John Arrington, Mara Brown, and one other. Two other council staff also here.

Dan S. said...

Campaign finance ordinance:

Johnson wants to add "intent" language: "The purpose of the ordinance is to promote full disclosure by the candidates and to provide voters with the information they need to make decisions" or something similar. Wants this incorporated into the motion that will be made.

Language limiting contributions to $1500/$7500 has been added, as has disclosure of last-minute contributions over $750.

Williams and Jeske have arrived.

Dan S. said...

Stephens asks if disclosure of late contributions will put a burden on the city recorder. Wicks believes burden will be minimal.

Williams clarifies: This is just disclosure of the individual last-minute donations, not a full amended statement.

"Late-breaking news": Contribution limits applied to PACs could create ambiguity. Sounds like he doesn't want to limit contributions to PACs, just contributions from PACS to candidates. Another minor language change (unclear).

Dan S. said...

Jeske objects to reducing penalty to an infraction. "It doesn't mean a thing when you get $20,000 and your penalty is $500."

Williams says he's done research and other cities, almost without exception, make it an infraction. The only exceptions are cities with very old ordinances. [This is in Utah.] Williams: "If your political enemy thinks he can put you in jail..." it's not a good thing.

Wicks: What about cities that have only one newspaper?

Williams: Looked at cities of all sizes.

Jeske: Penalty doesn't fit the seriousness of the violation.

Garcia: It should be a serious thing.

[End of discussion on this matter.]

Dan S. said...

RDA report is being distributed. Richard McConkie is here to answer questions. "This really is a status quo report." Talking about a project but I can't tell what it is. "We fully expect that they're going forward." No change on Walmart project: going forward as far as we know.

Schwebke arrives.

Dan S. said...

Johnson: Turns out he didn't actually have a conflict with respect to the vote last week (mistaken identity regarding the property owner).

Study session adjourns.

Dan S. said...

Regular council meeting begins. All present except Stephenson (excused); Gochnour is on phone. Patterson is present but not Godfrey.

Dan S. said...

Appointments to Urban Forestry Advisory Committee, Ogden Housing Authority. Voice vote--approved.

Minutes of previous meetings approved.

Public hearing on employee salary schedule... no public comments, but continued to next week.

Public hearing on budget... looks like quite a few folks are here to speak on behalf of MWC.

Dan S. said...

Citizens point out certain elements of contract with OWCAP: OWCAP would effectively purchase MWC for much less than its value. City would agree not to set up any similar facility. Pool would be done away with. Hours of operation would change. Commercial use?

Dan S. said...

More public comments on MWC: Godfrey, Garwood, etc. are "power-driven individuals". OWCAP board has forgotten its obligation to serve the disadvantaged. If the mayor doesn't want disadvantaged people in Ogden, where would he have them go? They are not telling the residents the truth. Why weren't other nonprofit organizations considered? Back-door deal.

Dan S. said...

More comments on MWC: Some citizens haven't been able to get copies of the contract. Some terms in contract are unclear. Why is city willing to pay OWCAP $360,000 but not willing to pay $350,000 to maintain MWC ourselves? Would instructors need to reapply for their jobs through OWCAP?

... MWC is a place not just to swim but to socialize. We have a community. We would hate to see the legacy of Marshall White die. Selling the MWC is wrong. We feel betrayed. We will do whatever it takes to fight this.

Dan S. said...

Rep. Neil Hansen: Deeply opposed to having another group come in and manage the MWC. Government is responsible to taxpayers in how funds are spent. When the city decides to privatize a venue, it's saying it doesn't want to be accountable for tax dollars any more. That's an injustice to the taxpayers. We need to have accountability.

Dan S. said...

Campaign finance disclosure:

Jeske suggests lowering limit for mayoral candidate contributions from $7500 to $5000. All seem to agree.

Public input: Dan Schroeder and Jim Hutchins both spoke.

Complaint process: Asst. City Atty. Mara Brown claims that the complaint process is too political now, and giving city attorney discretion to ignore violations would make it less political!

Dan S. said...

Jeske suggests that it was self-serving for Williams to remove the complaint process. She would like that put back in.

[They're not following Robert's Rules: There's no motion on the floor so it's unclear how to amend it!]

Add PACs to requirement to identify themselves in communications? Brown says that may interfere with state law [this is baloney].

Stephens would like to look at complaint period [apparently wants to restore it]. Jeske agrees. Wicks points out that provision for private party to bring suit isn't going to be very affective.

There's procedural confusion. Must they reach consensus on any amendments? They seem to believe that they have to postpone the other issues.

Johnson claims there could be a conflict or inconsistency if complaint process is restored.

Garcia: We can always go back and change it later. [yeah, right]

Jeske: Change infraction to misdemeanor. Nobody else seems willing to speak in favor of that. Stephens specifically seems to oppose it. Jeske sticks to her guns but no support from the rest.

Dan S. said...

Gochnour: Can complaint process be put back in? Brown: that would need to go back to city attorney for review because other provisions may conflict. [who does she represent?]

Dan S. said...

Gochnour makes motion, including $5000 limit for mayoral candidates but no other changes from what's in writing in front of them.

Garcia seconds motion.

Jeske asks if they can make other amendments. Wicks says there's no time. Franke says they must vote immediately.

Vote is 5 in favor, Jeske opposed, Stephenson absent.

Only in Godfrey's Ogden said...

The pols get a $500 fine for a campaign "infraction" while a resident who runs lets his grass get too dry is subject to fines up to $500 A DAY.

Dan S. said...

Public comments: lots more speak on behalf of MWC.

I spoke about sewer rates (more on this later).

Comments from council:

Jeske explains her no vote on campaign finance ordinance: the ordinance isn't strong enough.

Stephens: MWC offers a lot of value to our city.

Garcia: Thanks to all who gave comments on all issues. Quick comment about MWC dispute last week.

Patterson speaks up out of turn to argue with Garcia, WIcks cuts him off.

Gochnour: We should take a lesson from SLC experience with Library Square controversy. Applause!

Adjourned!

RudiZink said...

Bravo, Dan!

Many thanks!

Dan S. said...

Just checked the WCF home page: Rudi, I'm on a laptop over WiFi this time, so I can actually type. Never could have tapped that much text into my iPhone!

Now we're back in the council conference room for the work session on the transit study. Consultant Barry Banks, a co-worker of his, and Bruce Cardon from UTA are presenting. Council members are eating supper as they listen.

Dan S. said...

Banks: Bottom line of transit study is to maximize ridership and minimize cost. Secondary considerations: right-of-way impacts, economic development, serve WSU and McKay-Dee, make the system visible, build community consensus.

Local preference is for streetcar but study will examine BRT also.

Total capital cost cannot exceed $125 million; $100 million would be better. Assumed to be 50% federal and 50% local (mostly from sales tax that passed 2 years ago).

Dan S. said...

Banks is describing federal approval process, schedule. Looks like next public outreach meetings may occur in mid-July [I'll believe it when I see it].

Now he's describing the alignment alternatives, which are divided into three segments: downtown, cross-town, and WSU-McKay Dee area.

Sidekick Robert now starts going over the map of alternatives. [A slightly older version of this map is posted here.]

Dan S. said...

Continuing discussion of alignments...

One option for downtown is a small loop, going north on one road and south on another. A variation would go farther north, to 20th Street. [This is Godfrey's idea.]

Wicks asks whether a circulating loop shouldn't be a separate project, given the "purpose and need" that was previously agreed to.

Robert: ...talking with the city [he means Godfrey]... lots of Ogden's development is occurring north of 23rd Street... may save money by putting maintenance facility somewhere near 20th Street.

BAT_girl said...

Fantastic job Dan. Good use of Ogden City free wifi.

Dan S. said...

Banks now begins discussing cross-town alignments. Principal options are 25th, 26th, 30th, and 36th.

To minimize impact on Harrison, part of alignment might use a single two-way track. They're not sure there's room for dual tracks on Harrison north of 30th Street.

(Taking property would trigger a more cumbersome environmental analysis.)

Dan S. said...

Banks is still discussing cross-town alignments...

Another option is to go up 25th or 26th to Monroe, jog south to 30th, then continue east up to Harrison. Banks has concern about longer travel time with this option.

Stephens: Don't we get more riders if we stay in inner city?

Banks: We'll need to model that (and haven't yet). 603 bus already does pretty well in terms of travel time and streetcar would need to do better.

All east-west travel would be a lane shared with autos, even on 36th Street.

Ogden City apparently has new development planned for Washington and 36th, and wants to serve that development. [First I've heard of this.]

Dan S. said...

Now Robert is talking about WSU-hospital area. It'll be hard to serve all for "corners": WSU main campus, Dee Events Center, old hospital site, and new hospital.

One option goes all the way up Edvalson to Skyline, while another goes straight down Harrison, and a couple are in-between, going through campus. The intermediate alignments would have to cut through a residential area around Country Hills Drive, so a small number of houses would have to be taken.

Stephens: Is McKay-Dee insisting that the system actually enter their property, or is it good enough to stop on Harrison? Banks: Harrison is good enough as long as the travel time isn't too long between McKay-Dee and downtown. They also don't want their property used as a park-and-ride lot.

Dan S. said...

Banks has just handed out a big table with cost estimates. Biggest variations are in WSU area alignments. (Well, BRT is much cheaper, of course.)

Some examples for total cost, for streetcar, would come in at $107M to $151M. BRT costs are around $45M.

Dan S. said...

Jeske is asking why South Ogden is playing such a big role in the planning process. Also, what are the economic development tradeoffs among the cross-town alignments?

Cardon (UTA): The community has to decide which area is more important to redevelop.

Jeske: Washington is already pretty well developed.

Banks: Most of the economic development benefit will be in downtown and north of downtown. For the cross-town alignments, the main concern isn't economic development; it's travel time. But we will analyze alignments through east-central neighborhood. Our only concern with 25th/26th is what to do with Harrison. Weber County's representative on management committee has been adamant about not impacting Harrison.

Wicks: Will UDOT tell us what they will and won't allow?

Answer: Yes, they've given detailed specs in terms of traffic modeling requirements.

Dan S. said...

Consultants: Modeling is currently underway and results will be shared with management committee at next meeting (June 30).

UDOT will be the ultimate judge of whether impacts to their roads are acceptable.

Again, Banks doesn't want to do major environmental study and believes that would be needed for double-track option on Harrison due to property takes.

A hybrid system (part rail, part bus) might be possible, but we don't want passengers to have to transfer between vehicles to get from downtown to WSU. One option would be to terminate the line near NW corner of WSU campus, then have a bus circulator to connect that point to Dee Events Center and McKay-Dee. A down-side is then Dee Events Center couldn't be used as park-and-ride for residents who want to ride the system to downtown.

Dan S. said...

The transit presentation is continuing, but I need to leave so I'll sign off now. Thanks for reading!

RudiZink said...

Thanks again, Dan!

Your real-time reporting was awesome.

Curmudgeon said...

Thanks, Dan.

One of the most telling comments in re: the city's selling [apparently not simply leasing the operations to,but selling the MWC to a private operator] was, I thought, this:

"MWC is a place not just to swim but to socialize. We have a community."

It's a city facility and open to all, of course. But it is also a community center. A community exists around it and the MWC has become an integral part of that community. It is not simply a city-run business, to be evaluated in the same terms as a burger joint or gas station. It's a city property that provides city services to a variety of Ogden residents in general, and provides a community center to the immediate neighborhood.

It seems to me the Administration is looking at it purely in terms of revenue generated and revenue expended, that it's applying a business model appropriate for the operation of a for-profit enterprise, but not one appropriate for a public-owned facility providing public services. But I fear the Mayor is going to apply to the MWC the same rigorous business judgment he applied when he assured the Council and Ogden taxpayers that it would be OK for the construction bonds to be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of Ogden City because the city would never actually have to pay the principle and interest on the bonds. But we're shelling out hundreds of thousands now to make those bond payments.

And it's plain, now that the Mayor has finally deigned to release to the Council and public the contract he arranged behind closed doors with the NGO that wants to buy the center, that the new owner will not be obligated to continue existing hours of operation and services.

What's next, I wonder? Putting "For Sale" signs on the smaller parks and playgrounds in Ogden? Having Channel 17 run an "Ogden Park or Playground Weekly Special" show highlighting each week a softball field here, a soccer field there, soliciting buyers? "No reasonable offer refused! Contact M. Godfrey-designated sales agent under 24th Street viaduct at midnight. Come alone. No lights, reporters or council members, please."

disgusted said...

ogden should keep the mwc and the current services provided.
there are plenty of empty buildings through out the city that the head start programs could use. why the mwc at the expense of all of the other programs that make this city a community.

dorenne thank you for holding your guns on the issues of punishment for politician that break the election campaign laws. i just wish the other members of the council had joined you.

Dan S. said...

The campaign finance article is now up on the S-E live site: http://www.standard.net/live/news/175565/

Dan S. said...

Up above, "Only in Godfrey's Ogden" makes an excellent point. To highlight it a little further, let's consider what some serious violations of the campaign finance ordinance might reasonably look like:

* Mayoral candidate has $80,000 in left-over campaign funds and decides to keep this money for personal use.

* Business owner wants to get around the contribution limits so he gives $5000 to each of 10 employees with directions to forward this money to a mayoral candidate.

* City council candidate accepts an illegal $10,000 contribution from a single contributor, and doesn't disclose it until after the election.

All of these things could easily happen in Ogden, and in all cases, the maximum penalty would be a $500 fine.

Yet if you let your grass get too long, the maximum penalty is $500 PER DAY.

Dan S. said...

Two comments merged and moved to front page

Curmudgeon said...

Comment moved to new article

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