Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Morning Emerald City News Roundup

2009 City Council election preview; Ogden scores $ 1 Mil for the Ogden River Project

We'll highlight two news stories from the Standard Examiner this morning, both of which relate to topics regularly discussed here at Weber County Forum:

First, Ace Reporter Schwebke provides us partial preview of the upcoming 2009 council race, and pins down the present intentions of the four council incumbents whose terms will expire at the end of the year:
• Jesse Garcia - Intends to run for another term
• Doug Stephens - Intends to run for another term
• Dorrene Jaske - Undecided
• Blain Johnson - Undecided
Of the two undecideds, it seems to us that Johnson would be the most vulnerable to being knocked off, in the event he decides to make another run, for at least a couple of reasons.

First problem: The FNURE/Envision Ogden scandal. While Gary Williams refuses to prosecute, and Johnson is still playing it "cute," you'd better believe this as yet unresolved issue will be a heavy political burden for Mr. Johnson to bear during the short 2009 municipal election sprint.

Second problem: Johnson's dismal council meeting/work session attendance record. When Johnson was sworn in as our At-large seat "A" council member in January of 2008, we asked how a busy young practicing lawyer could manage to fulfill the duties of an Ogden City council member, in what amounts to a full-time job. The answer of course: he can't. In fairness to his Ogden constituents, (and to his own clients,) we thus call upon Mr. Johnson to step aside, and make room for another candidate with the time and energy necessary to properly fill the very demanding council role. In the event he does choose to run, he can well expect to be hammered hard on these issues, and in our view, his prospects for re-election don't look so hot.

As for Councilwoman Jeske, we're hoping she'll make the decision to run again, assuming her doctor gives her the green light. She's been a voice of council prudence and reason over the past 3-1/2 years, and a keystone for our current council of "grownups." If she runs, she'll win, wethink.

In other news, Mr. Schwebke reports this morning that Ogden City has made a significant "score," with yesterday's approval of a $1 million Water Quality Board grant, earmarked for the rehabilitation of a polluted mile long downtown section of the Ogden River.

Great news for Ogden wethinks.

It will be up to our city council of grownups, of course, to make sure that this money isn't blithely frittered away on some other "visionary" Godfrey project.

That's it for now, Folks.

Who will be the first to comment?

Update 6/25/09 8:50 a.m. MT: Be sure to also check out Dan's #1 comment in the lower comments section. He's highlighted several more morning news stories, and added significant new material to broaden this morning's discussion.

22 comments:

Dan S. said...

The grant for the river cleanup is indeed great news, but begs some questions. The city asked for $4 million, with a commitment that the city would provide an additional $1.9 million (mostly in-kind) and the property owners would provide $1.3 million. Presumably, the grant will now cover only a portion of the project. What is the city's financial obligation for this portion? Will the property owners (Leshem?) be contributing any matching funds?

And here are a couple more items to add to the news roundup:

1. A Standard-Examiner article about a failed wrongful death lawsuit against the city includes the unsurprising information that the city's insurance carrier "will likely increase the cost of the city's insurance premium next year", according to city attorney Gary Williams. Many of us have been wondering what the city pays in insurance premiums, and how this expense has changed over the years.

2. The New York Times reports on an interesting twist to the Gov. Mark Sanford scandal. It seems that South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, had evidence of Sanford's affair six months ago--in the form of emails between Sanford and the woman, sent by an anonymous tipster. Naturally, the newspaper was skeptical of the emails' authenticity. The Times reports that The State made unsuccessful attempts to contact both the tipster and the woman, then dropped the matter until a week ago. Now it turns out that the emails were authentic. There's a lesson here, I think, both for news companies and for anonymous tipsters. The newspaper should have confronted the governor himself with the emails and asked him whether they were authentic. If it had, the public might have had the facts six months sooner and the awkward events of the last week might have been avoided. The tipster, on the other hand, should have given the newspaper his/her name and explained how he/she obtained the emails, on the condition that this information not be printed. Then the newspaper would have had more confidence that the emails were authentic. In addition, the tipster should have sent the emails to a less scrupulous blog site. (The parallels to what happens here in Emerald City should be obvious.)

Danny said...

(Repost from lower thread. Works better here.)

There are some important happenings today.

Huge news is that Garcia will be running. This means the Godfrey candidate in that race will have an uphill battle. My sources had already told me Jeske might not run. But those sources tell me her seat will also be an uphill battle for the godfreyites because of who WILL run for it (name withheld, sorry). Thus, two seats should be safe from the forces of darkness. As for Doug Stephens – it’s good that he’s running. It will be interesting to see if Godfrey tries to unseat him with a Brandon-Blaine clone/crony/godfreyite of if Godfrey will decide he can control Doug when he needs to. I’d like to see someone run against Doug in the mold of Amy, Caitlin, Dorrene, Jesse who will differentiate himself from Godfrey , which would make the seat safer than it currently is. But all in all, I am encouraged that Godfrey is less likely to be controlling the council with a panel of his robots for what I hope is the last two years of his political career.

Also huge is that a local media outlet, the SE, used the words “standing up to big business developers.” Huh? I thought the three pillars of the Utah economy were 1. Gravel Pits, 2. Toxic Waste Burial, and 3. Conversion of Open Space Into Tract Houses and Condos. That the SE would take a position that “big business developers” might actually be adverse to the public interest is really big news. Thanks for finally beaming down from the mother ship, SE. It’s nice you have finally roused from your slumber and are opening your eyes.

Finally, the city council needs to be in loop on this $1.3 million river money. Godfrey will try to divert the money directly to Gadi Leshem in exchange for Godfrey's customary kickback. Then, he'll try to put the touch on the taxpayers for even more money. Also, with this river project, will the bike paths be preserved? It's an important issue to me.

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

IN re: Counselman Johnson's re-election probabilities. I don't think FNURE is going to matter a hill of beans in the election [unless some competent authority brings charges, which isn't going to happen]. FNURE will be very old news to most voters who are not policy-wonk Council watchers like us --- if they have any idea what FNURE was or why it matters at all. It's a complex issue that would take a lot of explaining, and I doubt it would sway many votes not already decided one way or the other. As a campaign issue, [again, absent charges being brought], FNURE is a loser.

However, Mr. Johnson's casual attendance at Council meetings and work sessions is quite another matter. He's become the "McCavity" of the Council. [McCavity's the cat in T.S. Eliot's poem whose claim to fame is that whenever anything significant happens, "McCavity's not there!"]

Doing the job of Ogden City Council member well is hard work and very time consuming work and for very little pay. Still, voters have a right to expect someone who asks them for the job to actually do it if they put him in office.

If Mr. Johnson concludes that he either cannot [because of work and family commitments]put in the necessary time, or even if he simply decides he doesn't want to [I wouldn't], he should not stand again. If he does, the lackluster attendance record of the Council's very own McCavity would be a potent campaign issue for opponents.

Steven R. said...

Both council members Jeske and Johnson are both undecided about running again, why did the Standard Exagerator single out Jeske in a huge headline that read "Jeske May, May Not Run". I'd like to ask the Exaggerator why didn't the headline read: Jeske, Johnson May, May Not Run."
By targeting just Jeske, it is clear that if she decides to run she will be running against just a candidate, but also against the negative image the Exagerator would report.

Councilwoman Jeske's concern for the citizens and honesty will be missed if she decides not to run. In that aspect, she has been a breath of fresh air in Ogden politics, especially under Godfrey's administration.

Danny said...

Stephen R.

You're probably right. It does seem to reflect bias on the part of the SE.

The optimistic view however, would be this:

Jeske is an important, involved council member. Were she not to run, it would be a loss for the city.

Blain Johnson on the other hand, never goes to meetings, and never does much of anything at all except show up once in awhile to vote with Godfrey 100% of the time. If he leaves, who cares? He does nothing useful anyway. In the mind of the SE, Blain Johnson does zero, and zero minus zero is not news.

saintstephen said...

Doreen Jeske has done a good job, has been a conscientious and involved representative.

Whether or not one agrees, or disagrees, with her votes, she deserves credit for her service.

I note.

Curmudgeon said...

Steven:

I think Danny got it mostly right. Councilwoman Jeske has been an outspoken presence on the Council from the day she was sworn in to today. Support her views, oppose them --- it doesn't matter. She's been a real presence and a player on the Council.

Mr. Johnson, has, so far, not been much of a presence on the Council, and has for much of his brief time there not been present at all.

And so, the news that Ms. Jeske is undecided about running again is more newsworthy, and more suitable for a headline, than the news that Mr. Johnson is. I don't see any bias in it at all.

Steven R said...

Curmudgeon,

You said that Councilwoman Jeske has been a presence on the Council, she went a step further and is the first council member who stood up to Godfrey and not cowered under his verbal attacks. Now Councilman Garcia has followed and stood up to Godfrey over the Marshall White Center. He is to be commended for the way he looked the Mayor right in the eye when the Mayor made accusations, attacking his integrity and tried to intimidate him.

If Councilwoman Jeske doesn't run, at least we'll still have someone on the council who will stand up to the Mayor.

I'm sure that Godfrey will do all in his power to remove Jesse from his council seat.

I had it on good authority that Councilman Johnson had said that he would not run again because of the public comments because of the funding source of a large portion of his campaign contributions in 2007.

Curmudgeon said...

Steven:

I am glad Councilman Garcia is running again, but don't count his seat certain just yet. The boxes in his district historically total very low numbers. It's a struggle to get his voters to show on election day. I'm glad he's running and I hope he wins big. But I wouldn't count his seat "safe" by any means.

Danny said...

Steven R,

Amy Wicks and Caitlin Gochnour both stand up to Godfrey routinely, as does Jesse Garcia.

But in my opinion, it was Jeske who showed them the way. Jeske has never flinched. While she does vote with the mayor on occasion, she is never cowed by him. She always does what she thinks is best.

She is a courageous woman. And she is so much so that she has shown others that being courageous is really not that hard, and bullies like Godfrey are mostly hot air.

occasional cc meeting attendee said...

Wicks had the guts to stand up to Godfrey long before Jeske came into the picture, you've noticed it now because what was a minority voice on the Council seems to be a majority voice as of late.

Curmudgeon said...

Guys, this isn't a contest to see who gets the most stars for "standing up to the mayor" or who did it first. I'm hard put to think of a discussion less likely to pay dividends at the polls in November than that one.

ALL members of the Council have voted "with the Mayor" on a number of occasions. And all members of the Council have voted against Administration-backed measures on some occasions --- yes, even Mr. Stephenson.

What separates a good Council member from those not so good is this: [a] is he or she effective --- meaning can he or she build coalitions on the Council to prevail on contested votes [b] does he or she have the judgment to discern most of the time which Administration proposals merit support and which do not [c] does he or she have the will to stand his ground come crunch time on hotly contested issues [d] is he or she willing to put in the time and work --- and it takes a lot of time and work --- to become very well informed on the issues, and an expert on Council and city procedures.

All that can not be summed up or simplified into a single issue, "will he/she stand up to the Mayor." Life and politics ... on and off the Council... is a lot more complex than that. Ogden does not need a Council united in unthinking lockstep "against the mayor in all things" just as it does not need a Council full of Stepehesons who blindly march in lockstep "with the mayor in all things" or nearly so.

I want Council members capable of exercising independent judgment on issues that come before them --- judgment that will lead them to support the Administration when it deserves to be supported, and to oppose it only when it deserves to be opposed. There are several members who fit that description [Wicks, Garcia, Jeske, Gochnour]. The independent judgment I like to see is indicated by the fact that they have not all agreed with each other, even on matters contested by some of them with the administration.

rosco pee ko train said...

To win a city council race? All you need to do is oppose Goofey and Greiner the wiener...

you can fool people to get elected said...

saintstephen,

Your not fooling anybody... We all know your Greiner the Wiener!!

Curmudgeon said...

Rosco:

No, you do not. In the last Mayoral race too many people, I think, treated it as an "anybody but Godfrey" race. I remind you he won it. A Council campaign that's composed exclusively of "I'll vote against the Mayor!" runs a great risk of being a losing campaign as well. Opposing the Mayor when his proposals were ill-advised [the flatland gondola; selling Mt. Ogden Park for real estate development; the ice tower; the MWC funding; etc.] and promising to do so if need be again can and should be a part, and an important part, of a candidate's election [or re-election] campaign, but it should not be the campaign. Not if the candidate wants to win.

Hard as it may be for WCF policy wonks to understand, there are many potential voters out there who do not follow the Council votes closely, or the Mayor's antics closely. Eavesdrop shamelessly in public places [and not just among people who already agree with you] and you'll hear people asking things like "Why does [Garcia/Wicks/Jeske] dislike the mayor so much? What's he done?" [Heard in a city coffee shoppe the morning the Garcia criticizes Mayor over MWC story broke.] Many voters need a reason to vote for a candidate, and will not look on the council races they vote in simply as a referendum on Godfrey. Some will, of course, but enough to win? Wasn't enough last time round.

Danny said...

Curm,

You are correct in the obvious and incorrect in the obscure.

Obviously, we need candidates who are thinking and independent and not simply anti-Godfrey, and candidates who are simply anti-Godfrey would not be popular. Duh!

You are wrong in stating that even Stephenson has voted against Godfrey. In fact, he voted against him only once - when Godfrey's behavior was so egregious even he could not stomach it. (But even in that case, Blain Johnson voted with Godfrey.) Voting once against Godfrey in his life hardly makes him independent. The real clones, the drones, the robots, are the godfreyites. If you've heard people asking why Garcia/Wicks/Jeske dislike the mayor, you were listening to godfreyites.

You miss the obscure in the sense that it does no good for somebody to be good and decent, but lacking in courage. The person MUST be ABLE to stand up to the dictatorial, Machiavellian mayor.

That's what people are looking for and talking about. Not opposing the mayor on all counts, but being able to stand up to him.

What good are values if the person doesn't stand up for them? Think Doug Stephens.

Curmudgeon said...

Danny:

1. At no point in the post you refer to, or any other, ever, did I suggest that Mr. Stephenson was a councilman of independent judgment.

2. In re: this --- "If you've heard people asking why Garcia/Wicks/Jeske dislike the mayor, you were listening to godfreyites." Danny, you need to get out more. The people I overheard are there quite often. They are not Godfreyites. They often talk sports, national news, particularly the economy and state news. They simply don't much follow Ogden city government. There are a lot like them out there, Danny. And if you define anyone who does not openly criticize the Mayor as "a Godfreyite," or understand why some others do, you'll be writing off and conceding a large chunk of the electorate. That is not a winning tactic.

3. In re: this --- "You miss the obscure in the sense that it does no good for somebody to be good and decent, but lacking in courage. The person MUST be ABLE to stand up to the dictatorial, Machiavellian mayor." Well, let me simply repeat for you my third point in my list of the qualities I think make for good, strong candidates for the Council. You seem to have missed it. Here it is again:

"[c] does he or she have the will to stand his ground come crunch time on hotly contested issues?"

Dan S. said...

Seems to be a slow day for local news, but here's one item: Mayor Godfrey has signed the new, improved campaign finance disclosure ordinance. I've emailed a copy of it to Rudi, hoping he'll post it for the benefit of curious readers.

Curmudgeon said...

Perhaps room of a chuckle too an a slow news day. Rush Limpaw yesterday explained the cause of Gov. Sanford's canoodling: President Obama made him do it:

"This is almost like, 'I don't give a damn, the country's going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'" said Limbaugh. "He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn't want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, 'What the Hell. I mean, I'm -- the federal government's taking over -- what the Hell, I want to enjoy life.'"

Josh Marshall has the story on the "Talking Points Memo" blog.

Ogden Dem said...

I am sure I will be looked down on by asking this question, but exactly what has Jesse Garcia done for Ogden City? I have seen in him 'action' in City Council meetings - Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. I know he attends a lot of events, but in regards to doing, I just don't see it.

I am impressed with Wicks. I am now impressed with Jeske, wasn't about three years ago when I was in a meeting with her and Glassman - I thought wow, did anyone have a meet the candidates before these two got on the council? But Ms Jeske has become a great asset.
Gochnour - jury is still out. Stephens - so far I have not seen a value for him on the Council. Johnson is done. Stephenson - he will be back, Ogden's north end seems to like him and the city leaders don't seem to offend the north end like they do south and central.
Just my observations.

Northsider said...

Ogden Dem,

You said that Stephenson seems to be liked by the north end of town. Since he ran for his seat again on the council a couple of years ago, he has been trying to smooth ruffled feathers by getting involved in Ron Clare activities. He has sold the north end of Ogden on Godfrey. There are still a number of people in the north end of town who don't like Godfrey, and a lot of his constiuents are unhappy with the way he votes on the council.

Blaggard Muck said...

No matter what the council slant as for votes, there will always clamor a gaggle of unhappy constituents.

In the battle for the center, and in the struggle to not commit offense, truth is distilled from fact.

Instance, I advocate for the city of Ogden to construct, partially taxpayer funded,, an ice-climbing, basejump sling-shot slinging, paraglider-launching, insane-downhillskate shredding, zip-line screaming... !AdventureCityOgden! Insane!Insane!Insane! Ice Tower: an ice tower the size of the Hotel Ben Lomand.

But, I side with the smartgrowth crowd, as regards most land use.

Of course, we also support closing most city streets, making Ogden the walk and bike capital of America.

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