Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday Morning Emerald City News Roundup

Two items: A fine Dan Schroeder guest commentary; and a David Smith letter encore

Two editorial page items in this morning's Standard-Examiner hard-copy edition which are well worthy of note:

1) Be sure to check out this excellent and timely Dan Schroeder guest commentary, which hits the nail squarely on the head regarding the seriously flawed campaign finance disclosure ordinance revision which is on the agenda at tonight's city council session:
Ogden needs tough campaign finance disclosure rules
2) The Standard has also published this David Smith letter, which was an earlier topic of discussion here at Weber County Forum on May 29th:
We need strong Ogden council candidates
Kudos to the Standard-Examiner for providing this important material for the enlightenment of its general print edition readership.

Our ever-savvy readers know what to do.

Do it in the WCF and Std-Ex comments sections.

43 comments:

Dorrene Jeske said...

Dan’s article on campaign finance points out very clearly the deficiencies of the proposed ordinance. I hope other council members are as concerned as I am about how much it cost to run a campaign for a council seat in 2007. As Dan pointed out Chair Wicks spent only $25. for the filing fee in 2003. My campaign cost $7,000. (as I recall) in 2005. Peanuts compared to what was spent by Mr. Johnson in 2007. Our three seats are the “At-large” council seats.
Because there are no limits on campaign contributions, an unfair battle ground has been created which puts the ordinary citizen who may desire to serve on the council, and removes them from filing and running for a council seat.
The proposed campaign finance ordinance now under consideration by the Council was patterned after Salt Lake City’s campaign finance ordinance. However, there is a big difference between Ogden and Salt Lake City in the political arena. I believe the political environment in Ogden borders on the unethical for some candidates because of the Mayor’s penchant to have his way on questionable and at-taxpayer-expense projects.
We need a well-defined ordinance that closes all the loopholes and delivers a fair and level playing field for all candidates who wish to run for the city council. One that citizens may freely peruse and question the campaign donations of candidates and one that clearly defines the contributors of PACs and PALs when donations exceed $1,000. I agree with Dan that these political action committees and organizations need to register with the City and file a report with the City. This is required by the State and Salt Lake City. Ogden should also require it.
Downgrading the penalty for disregarding campaign finance laws to an infraction with a maximum penalty of $500. does not serve the citizens of Ogden well. With a campaign war chest of more than $20,000. of questionable contributions, a $500. fine is a slap on the hand and a drop in the bucket compared to the tainted contributions that they receive.
David Smith’s letter to the editor portrayed the true political picture that exists under the current administration in Ogden.
Godfrey very graciously accepted praise for the completed projects started under Mayor Glen Mecham’s administration confusing the picture of what he has really accomplished. Projects that have been started and completed during his time as mayor can be counted on one hand.
David missed one attempt by Godfrey to further plunge Ogden into debt and that was his desire to add two more floors to the Wells Fargo Bank Building. That contract obligated the City to pay $400,000. annually to Boyer for space that was not leased – not just on the two additional floors that he wanted, but on ALL office space on all five floors! It also made the city responsible for obtaining lessees. The way he intended to meet that obligation was to have the Council turn all the Business Depot Ogden’s revenues over to him! We know that Boyer has been unable to lease the office space and has put the building up for sale because they are losing $250,000. a year. This project was very narrowly defeated thanks to then Council member Safsten’s vote. He told me that was the hardest decision he had had to make.
The Council is involved in several controversial issues right now which do not serve Ogden well as David has pointed out. We do need very strong council members with common sense who are not afraid of Godfrey and above his attempts to influence them.

Curmudgeon said...

Good post, Dorrene. I'd forgotten just what arrangements the Mayor wanted to Council to sign off on to cover the two extra floors on the office building. Good to be reminded. Didn't know Boyer was trying to dump the property.

Your post goes to one of the most frustrating things dealing with Godfreyistas, which is their belief [wholly unsupported by the evidence] that the Mayor has good business sense and makes good business decisions on behalf of the City. If Godfrey Inc. was a property development and management company, not backed by the full faith and credit of Ogden City and its tax revenues, it would have gone bankrupt already.

Dan's op-ed piece on what's needed by way of a revised campaign spending ordinance and why the one on the table will not only not improve things but make them worse is, as you note, excellent. I hope you will prevail on this.

Ozboy said...

Mr. Curmudgeon

Although we do not agree on everything, we sure do on the point you made about the mayor's business acumen.

For the five years I have been observing him I have always believed he was incompetent at any business decision. He also has surrounded himself in that period with equally incompetent people. The result is an enormous financial hole that the citizens of Ogden will have to struggle with for many years into the future.

I have said all along, and I repeat here, that Mr. Godfrey is not competent to hold even a middle manager job in a small company let alone direct hundreds of millions of public money. The only thing he really seems to be any good at is designing and building failures which cost the tax payers many many many millions of their hard earned dollars. On top of that he is hubris laden to the max and is an extremely unpleasant individual.

Dan S. said...

At the moment I'm sitting in a transit planning meeting where the mayor is pushing a downtown circulator loop. The experts say that such systems usually don't work well but he's convinced that none of that applies to Ogden.

RJ Svengali said...

Why do supposedly intelligent people not listen to the experts on a particular given subject?

Ego. Plain and simple.

blackrulon said...

Dan S. It appears that the mayor only hears the experts that he can control. Past history or studies that contradict him are not part of the master plan. I hope that the city council will ask tough questions and ask for examples that have been successful when listening to the mayors ideas.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

I recall he didn't listen to the city's paid consultants, the Boyer Co., when it [rightly] recommended NOT adding two additional floors to the office building on the SE corner of the Junction development.

I also recall he refused to listen to the mall development consultants the city hired first to advise it on re-developing the old mall site. Those experts told him that a project based on the games palace he wanted at the center of it would not be economically viable. They bailed rather than go forward with the Mayor's preferred plan, and Boyer got hired instead.

He's got a long record of ignoring expert advice that the city paid to get. And as a rule, the consultants have been right and the Mayor has been wrong.

And the beat goes on....

citation said...

Trolley experts? Where would one find your source of such information Dan? It appears that many cities are doing circular routes according to my experts.

Is this anything like paid experts in a court of law???

If that is the case, cars work best.

RJ Svengali said...

A little street car going around all of the major stops of ogden would be cool.

Lets put one in as soon as the Climbing Tower is complete.

Al said...

Common sense would tell one that two circulators (one downtown and one around the WSU campus) attached to a point A to point B and places in between system would not be an effective transit system, especially if you are trying to make the system efficient (of time) to attract new riders. It has to be efficient and convenient to get people out of their cars.

Most people would not need a consultant to make them aware of that.

Circulators work on their own, no tied into what should be a simple point A to point B project. Will the Mayor's proposed add ons (WSU and downtown loops) be enough to sink the project before it even takes off?

It seems that common sense is not so common in the current city administration. That's unfortunate, as all citizens of Ogden may miss out on a fantastic opportunity to move Ogden forward in a sustainable way.

Dan S. said...

City council report: proposal to apply for $300k in fed stimulus funds to benefit some retail space but they're not saying where. FOM?

Dan S. said...

Wicks says property owners are delinquent on taxes.

Curmudgeon said...

However much Hizzonah tries to make us, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Ogden streetcar plan was envisioned... and still should be... as a mass transit project. A circulating downtown streetcar, designed to move people around downtown, would not serve as a mass transit system, and --- more to the point from the POV of downtown merchants, restaurant operators, etc., it would not serve to bring people to and from downtown from the rest of the city. A streetcar aligning along a route within one block N. or S. of 25th street to Harrison then to WSU and McKay Dee would.

So long as the recommending committee keeps in mind that they're considering ... or should be ... an expenditure for mass transit, the downtown circular route should not gain much traction. If the committee forgets that it's considering a mass transit system for Ogden, then who knows what doomed-to-failure system might result.

Dan S. said...

Godfrey says if we don't do this the builings will sit vacant for a generation.

Dan S. said...

The plot thickens: Johnson just disclosed that one of the building owners is his client, though not in this matter. Williams advised him to recuse himself and leave the room during the discussion.

blackrulon said...

Dan S. How long have the buildings sat vacant now? This is just a attempt to displace the blame for failed plans started by the current mayor. As I travel throughout Ogden I see many buildings that have become vacant since the current occuptant took office.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Is this another "sprung on the Council at the last minute with no proper notice" Godfrey special? Sounds like it might be.

As for this: "Godfrey says if we don't do this the buildings will sit vacant for a generation."

You mean like the River Project?

Dan S. said...

I guess the buildings are on the east side of Washington somewhere near 23rd.

Dan S. said...

Curm: I doubt that this conflict on Johnson's part would fall under the state law that requires advance written notice.

Dan S. said...

Mitch Moyes is speaking, pointing out that we were promised that the $50 million investment in the Junction would reinvigorate the east side of Washington.

Curmudgeon said...

Ms. Curmudgeon and I just back from The Junction [the Sonora Grill for "Taco Tuesdays" --- which is a deal by the way]. Noticed that so far only one of the the storefronts on Keisel under the condo units seems to have been leased. It's another sports bar/restaurant I think, called "Wing Nutz." Sign up and they're taking employee applications. No other new action on the Junction condo block of Keisel that I could see.

This puts four eateries around the little plaza across from that monument to architectural bad taste [the movie theater at The Junction]: Sonora Grill, Iggys, Santa Monica Pizza and now Wing Nutz.

Dan S. said...

Godfrey denies that there was any such promise.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Sorry. I wasn't clear. I meant did Hizzonah spring the proposal on the whole Council without much notice as another Godfrey "Last Minute Special." Didn't mean to question Johnson and the conflict rules specifically. My bad.

Dan S. said...

The motion passed, with only Wicks opposed--based on the delinquent tax issue.

Curm: The council had obviously discussed this previously at a work session or study session. I don't know how long ago. There was some urgency due to the funding source.

Next agenda item is to put restrictions on accessory buildings. Without having the ordinance in front of me I can't tell much about details. The problem sounds genuine. Passed unanimously.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

OK, thanks. Not a Godfrey "no notice" special then. Happy to know that, since I now won't suggest that it was.

Dan S. said...

Now they're taking input on a $4/month sewer rate increase. The council doesn't have much choice since it comes from the sewer district. I got up and showed a graph of how my bills have gone up over the last 10 years.

Now the mayor is calling me a hypocrite and blaming the rate increase on environmentalists.

Passed unanimously.

The Lovely Jennifer said...

Dan S. said:

" ... the mayor is pushing a downtown circulator loop. The experts say that such systems usually don't work well but he's convinced that none of that applies to Ogden."

I have come to think the mayor takes LSD then dreams up schemes.

BlackRulon said:

"It appears that the mayor only hears the experts that he can control."

If they were smart/intelligent enough to be experts, they would easily avoid being controlled by Godfrey.

Dan S. said:

"Mitch Moyes is speaking, pointing out that we were promised that the $50 million investment in the Junction would reinvigorate the east side of Washington."

Who had the crystal ball that time, and did he/she have the authority to grant promises based on its prediction?

Curmudgeon said...

Ah, what a class act Hizzonah, Mayor Godfrey is. Citizen gets up, speaks at the public input section of a Council meeting, and gets called names in response by the Mayor.

Class act all the way, that Godfrey is....

Dan S. said...

After a good, lengthy discussion, the council has tabled the campaign finance disclosure ordinance until next week. I'll post details later.

Dan S. said...

Now the mayor is calling Mitch Moyes a hypocrite for something he just said. As Curm said, he's a class act.

Dan S. said...

Mayor says MWC pool will close at end of 2009. He's looking for other places for people to swim.

He's now accusing Garcia of lying about MWC negotiations. Raising his voice. Of course he uses the royal "we".

Garcia says emphatically that he was kept in the dark about the zeroing of the budget. Godfrey is arguing with him. Heated exchange. Godfrey wants the last word. Wicks finally cuts off debate.

Gochnour speaks up on behalf of MWC pool.

Adjourned!

Curmudgeon said...

So, now it's clear. Under the contract to lease the MWC the Mayor intends to sign, the NGO operating it will NOT be obligated to continue all existing MWC programs at current levels once the Ogden City $30K subsidies end at the end of 2009.

Interesting that Hizzonah lost his cool at the meeting. He's usually in complete control of himself as I recall at public sessions. Could this be a sign that his grip on city affairs is unraveling, that the chickens of his decisions and ham-fisted approach to city management are coming home to roost, and he knows it? Could it be the previous Chamber of Commerce business community genuflectors at the Altar of Godfrey's Business Genius have at last realized the graven image has feet of clay?

[I'm opening a business called "Mixed Metaphors-R-Us". Watch the Standard Examiner for grand opening special offers.]

RJ Svengali said...

Mix away. Thanks for the updates, Prof.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Let me add my thinks for the live updates of the Council meeting. Looking forward to accounts by other eye-witnesses and to Mr. Schwebke's story on the morrow.

I wonder if Mr. Smart was there to cover the fireworks for the SL Trib.

Ozboy said...

A big thanks Dan for the "live" reporting from the council meeting.

It is too bad that those meetings are not telecast on the city's very own TV station - channel 17. I can only guess that the reason why they are not is the mayor's penchant for secrecy. It seems like he just does not want the public involved in the public's business.

It is also interesting that the mayor has the unmitigated gaul to call you and Mitch "hypocrits" when that seems to be one of his very own defining features. As I recall from Psych 101 that is called "projection", projecting your own mental irregularities and faults onto others in the form of an attack. Just like calling Garcia a liar when the mayor himself is likely the most prolific liar in Ogden government history.

What is your guess Dan, is the council going to grow a pair of cojones and save the Marshall White Center? Are they ever going to have the courage to face down the rampant corruption in the mayor's office?

BAT_girl said...

RE: What the SE will cover tomorrow......NOTE that the SE does not post comments on letters, like Mr. Smith's of last week, when those comments are posted a few days later. TODAY.......12 hrs later, they have not posted mine.

I will continue to draw people's attention by commenting, in all SE articles or letters comment sections, that the real reporting goes on over here, on WCF.

Thank you Dan S. for such a great job of on-the-spot posts on WCF. What a great addition to WCF!! Keep it COMING!!!

I seem to remember that the entire Ogden Municipal Building has FREE WIFI! So now anyone can report on an OGDEN City Council meeting, or Council work session in real time. Brilliant.

Dan S. said...

Regarding the campaign finance disclosure ordinance:

* Someone recently discovered that the state legislature, in the most recent session, passed a bill that broadens the definition of a political action committee to include organizations that are involved in local elections. This means that from now on, local PACs must register with and report to the Lieutenant Governor's office. So the city doesn't really need to require any additional disclosure from PACs.

* Council member Gochnour brought up the question of contribution limits, and most of the council members seemed to concur that limits would be a good idea. The consensus was to adopt the same limits as SLC: $1500 per contributor per election cycle to each city council candidate, and $7500 to each mayoral candidate. (I say these limits are too high, especially the second one.)

* Gochnour then raised the question of reporting large last-minute contributions. There was a general agreement on this as well, although there was also a worry that it would be burdensome for the candidates and for the city recorder. Godfrey later said this was the one aspect of the proposal that he had reservations about. (My response: Then tell your contributors to get their checks in sooner! If you have time to accept the contribution and spend the money, you have time to report it.)

* Williams defended lowering the penalty for violations from a misdemeanor to an infraction, saying 99% of all cities are now doing it that way. (My response: If we had a strong, independent media that would hold candidates accountable for violations, then perhaps the criminal penalties would be superfluous. But in a "company town" like Ogden, we can't rely on the traditional media to do their job.)

* Williams also defended the definition of "personal use", saying it's based on federal case law. (I need to research this but I'm skeptical that his definition has any teeth.)

* There was no discussion of the removal of the city attorney's obligation to respond to violations and complaints within 10 days, or of some of the other ways in which the law would be weakened.

Bottom line: The council is on the right track to make some major improvements, but they're still neglecting some important details.

Dan S. said...

Scott Schwebke's writeup of the Godfrey-Garcia spectacle is already posted on the S-E web site.

Oz: I'm not following the MWC issue closely enough to make a prediction on what the council will do.

Bat girl: I actually posted those live updates from my iPhone, so I didn't even need WiFi.

BAT_girl said...

Jeebus Dan. From your iPhone!! Absolutely Brilliant. Lets hope others post what they see while they attend future Council Meetings or work sessions.

Was there an Ogden City Council meeting tonight? Did anyone here attend it??

BAT_girl said...

As a test, I just commented on the SE Scott Schwebke's article on Mayor Godfrey v Jesse Garcia dust up. So if comment #3 is not mine, by tomorrow am, we will know they edit too.

Curmudgeon said...

BG:

I put up a comment to the article, critical of the SE's news judgment and critical of the Mayor's shameful performance [indulging his temper and descending to name-calling], moments after the article appeared on the paper's website. It was quickly posted, so I doubt they're editing out comments critical of either the paper or Hizzonah.

Sometimes, when I have a comment "swallowed" up by the SE that never appears, I forgot to check the little box agreeing to the paper's posting rules, or I've made a small error in typing the code series. The smallest error there --- e.g. inadvertently putting a space between letters or numbers --- and the whole comment disappears into a black hole.

Since the SE quickly posted my comment critical of it and the Mayor, I wonder if perhaps you inadvertently didn't check the box agreeing to the posting terms, or you made an error in the code box? I've done both on several occasions [which is why I always block and save my comment before I hit the "post" button.]

Just wondering....

BAT_girl said...

Curm:
Thanks for above. It is possible I forgot something.

I just posted to SS/ SE article from last night. Again I listed link to this article and all comments. SE posted my comment right away. However, I stated just the facts. I left out any editorial opinion:

"An interesting discussion of this article and facts related to it can be found on:
Weber County Forum
http://wcforum.blogspot.com/2009/06/tuesday-morning-emerald-city-news.html

In the comments (41 at this time) an on-the-spot report of this meeting was posted by a WCF regular."

I prefer Rudi's preview feature on WCF. Linking WCF to SE, in relevant articles/ letters SE publishes, seems critical to me.

Tom said...

I have to hand it to the Standard as far as their posting of comments policy is concerned. I know they have serious shortcomings as the only news paper in Ogden, but they do seem to post all comments of mine regardless of how snarky they may be or how critical I am of the Standard and their fair haired boy Matt Godfrey.

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