Thursday, September 10, 2009

River Project Developer "Could" Be Chosen Soon

Then again... maybe not

By Curmudgeon

How to explain Thursday's odd River Project story in the SE's "Top Of Utah" section... If in fact it is a news story. News stories, after all, ought to actually contain some... well, some news, shouldn't they?

Even the SE seems a little confused about what, exactly, the story is. It's print edition headlines it this way: River Project Could Start In 2010. [Note: not will start but could start.] But the on line edition headline is different: River Project Developer Could Be Chosen Soon. Not exactly the same thing, is it.

The piece is one long string of conditionals. "A developer may be selected by the end of the year...." [But Ogden's business development manager, Tom Christopulos, refused to name any of the thee developers allegedly contending for the job.]

What else did Mr. Christopulos have to say? That if in fact a developer is chosen by the end of the year, then "a master plan should be updated with city council input." Should. Not will. The orginal master plan for the project [nearly ten years old now] the story reports --- and this may be the only real news in it --- will have to be thrown over the side. It's no longer viable. Too many residential units in it, it seems now. But that's not all. The city will also have to decide "which components of the project should be undertaken first" and "the number of phases needed to complete the work." That too from Mr. Christopulos.

But that's not all. Mr. Leshem of California is listed as owner of 60% of the River Project's properties. However, the story reports, "it hasn't been determined if Leshem will sell his parcels to a developer or participate in construction within the River Project," Christopulos said.

So, what are we left with? Maybe a developer will be selected by the end of the year. Could happen. And the former development plan is now kaput and an entirely new one will have to be agreed upon. Maybe that will happen by the end of the year too. Or maybe not. And before a developer can go forward, if and when one is selected, to work under a new development plan [which does not yet exist], someone will have to figure out if Mr. Leshem will sell his property to another developer, or take part in the development himself. And what does Mr. Leshem have to say about this not inconsequential matter? From the story: "Leshem could not be reached for comment Wednesday."

Other than that the existing development plan is now, the administration concedes, a non-starter, I'm hard put to find any real news in the story, as replete with "coulds" and "mays" and "shoulds" as it is.

This is pure speculation, but I suspect something like this might have happened and might explain why the story appeared [happily, given its gossamer thin news content, not on the front page]. I suspect Hizzonah had a hissy-fit over the SE's front page story about the River Project's problems yesterday, and told his business development director to get out there and say something positive to spin and counter. And Mr. Christopolus did, being careful to salt his remarks will all those conditionals, since I suspect he knows just how iffy things regarding the River Project are. Or something like that.

If I were teaching in a J-School, I think I'd use today's piece in the SE as an example of a non-story: something that appears to report news but actually doesn't. Or not much of it anyway.

28 comments:

Moroni McConkie said...

I can't believe the Standard-Examiner wasted so much newsprint on today's "might happen -- one of these centuries" river story. Godfrey government has made itself a laughing stock on all things Leshem and riverfront. No one with an I.Q. in double figures will take them seriously on this.

Blaine Carl said...

Nice article, Curm. You analyzed the piece as good as Sherlock, not missing a beat or a word. "Could," "should," "would."You went through this like Sherman went through Georgia, a "scorched earth" policy if ever I saw one.

A couple of questions:

(1) Why would a possible developer be identified at this time, when the project is up for bid? Anyone who knows business would not reveal the bidders as that would effect the other's bids and prejudice or bias them. The identity of the successful developer is revealed at the end of the bidding process, especially within a municipality (the reason-many think a municipality has deep pockets).

(2) This project has been on the drawing boards for about 10 years (so claims the Standard Ex), long before this blog came into being and most of us had anything to do, or say, about City politics (assumption-maybe there were some of you who were activists back then, but I'd venture not too many). Now, much of this process is being tied up due to guys like Wes Ward and others who are charging rediculously high rates for their either the easements and/or their properties ($500,000 per acre-down there--hmmm?). I wonder why? Maybe because they think the City will pay those prices. How do we expect anything to get done with an attitude like that? The river will stay polluted and Gadiville will stay uninhabited, falling deeper into decay.

This is a valuable project for the City, and for the people. If and when it's completed, it will enhance the downtown and increase revenues, traffic, residences, businesses, etc.

Yep, Lehem ran into trouble but that isn't the only thing that's slowed this project down. These are incredibly complex matters and as yesterday's and today's stories have pointed out, much is involved. I really wonder, however, if the Mayor can call the newspaper and have them run a story that contradicts the one it ran the day before?

It seems the blog has either hung Schwbeke out to dry (Ace reporter or crack reporter Scott Schwebke as he's been mocked in the past) or nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize (like he was yesterday for his article criticising the River Project and its lack of progress). Yesterday Schwebke used the words of property owners, people who have inflated the price of their land, and he and the newspaper was praised; today both are, TO A DEGREE, vilified, because the source comes from Christopulos, of the BD. Ironic and conflicting, if you ask me.

Whatever, the River Project needs to gain momentum and realize completion. It will be a tremendous asset to our city.

Anonymous Employee said...

Another "should" for you from The Standard almost 6 years ago.

"Construction on the ambitious river project, in the works since early 2001, should begin in 2005, with the recent approval of a developer's agreement between the Ogden Redevelopment Agency and Cottonwood Partners Management LTD. "

Curmudgeon said...

Anon Employee:
Thanks! Nice catch.

Curmudgeon said...

BC:

In re: naming the developers. The point I was making was that since the Administration does not have a developer chosen, and is not ready to announce who it will sign with, and will not or cannot announce the three it is negotiating with, there really wasn't any news being reported in re: that, particularly since this isn't the first time we learned that three of them are supposedly seriously interested. I included "not named" as another indication that there wasn't much news included.

Second: The River Project will be a great boon to Ogden if it emerges as an area with viable businesses and desirable abodes. If. Given the record so far, I don't see a reason for particular confidence that this Administration [given past performance --- that valuable guide to those who play the ponies] can carry it to successful completion. Perhaps it can, but this latest list of might coulds [to use an old Southernism] doesn't particularly inspire much confidence.

Third: one of the questions raised for some time now about the River Project concerns the way the Administration plans to develop it: One Big Plan with One Big Developer. [Again, the first choice for One Big Developer, Mr. Lesham, does not inspire confidence in the administration's judgment.] Some here, and elsewhere, have suggested that the area would be much further along by way of housing new businesses had the city simply offered the lots for sale [rather than acting as an oh-so-quiet purchasing agent for Mr. Lesham] to allow lots of individual entrepreneurs to get going on their own. It's the One Big Developer with One Big Plan aspect that seems [particularly now] iffy.

And, BC --- though I don't know if you were here for this --- we had the spectacle of the Administration blocking at every turn the attempt by the former owner of the motel across the Ogden River from Pelotons to develop and open a new restaurant on his property. The Administration's line was that the restaurant would not succeed there, so it was really protecting the property owner by not permitting him to go ahead with his plans. Talk about a nanny state!

But, BC, in the end, my comments above were really about the SE's news story, politely so called, not about the River Project per se. Other than the bit about the original plan being tossed, there just was no news in it.

Rube Goldberg said...

If tyhe city had envisioned less "project" and the more "river", we would have the banks cleaned up, an asphalt bike-way poured, and a couple of dozen Rotary Club and Toastmasters benches installed, years ago.
Its about the river, not about a bunch of new "development".

Oomans solutions to problems: burn it, dig it, pave it, raze it, repeat.
Dinosaurs, the lot of you.

wildcat said...

Curm, it was plain to me as I opened my SE this morning. After yesterday's story about the River Project being in trouble the SE was given a press release by the admin. My main problem was with the teaser at the top of the front page. Coming in 2010 Project could begin in Spring. The first part is not a could, should or might but a plain statement of fact: Coming in 2010. When in 2010? Might start in Spring. Anyone who doesn't take the time to read the article but who saw the teaser is left with the impression that the River Project IS coming in 2010.
And BC, are you really blaming the slow progress of the River Project on the greedy property owners who are asking more than market value for their property? Does the City even have the $ to pay fair market value for those properties? I know the Mayor could just move money that Council appropriated for something else to make the purchases. After all, once Council hands the $ to him it no longer has any say in how he can spend. He is the Mayor, after all.

Ray Vaughn said...

blaine Carl; You are amazing. You focus on the reported asking price of a riverfront landowner. The real question and concern is this fact. The administration lied about landowners participation in the project. The city wants their land for free but they still have to maintain the property. Apparently, since the mayor gives away property, everyone else should do the same. If a project involves tax money or resources it seems the correct thing to question the process. This is just one more example of the current administration talking big but not doing any real work to involve the stakeholders or craft a proposal to make it actually acceptable to all involved. It must be tiring to have to come up with the excuses and reasons to cover the incompetence or sheer stupidy of the current leadership. Why can't the city try to work with people and think its proposals through before making a public announcement.

Curmudgeon said...

Wildcat:

I'ts a sad fact that many people scan a headline, maybe read the lede sentence of a news story, and then, satisfied they have the gist of it now, move on. Which is why the art of headline writing --- and it is an art, if it's done well --- is such an important one.

RudiZink said...

Don't do it Blaine Carl!

We know life is depressing for you right wing socialst Godfreyites who believe its perfectly OK to coercively take taxpayers' hard earned tax money (yes; any system of taxation is inherently coercive), and risk this citizen plunder on hare-brained ventures wherein nobody in the BD Department has any skin in the game.

Whatever you do Blaine...

Don't do this!

Anonymous Employee said...

Blaine-
What makes these projects more complicated-a few private property owners holding out for more money or the Ogden City administration and its ham fisted approach to these projects?

Danny said...

Well, a day after he showed us all how to write an article, Scott Schwebke slouched back into a hackneyed show-us-how-not-to job.

No fact check. No investigation. He just parrots what the Godfrey administration told him, even thought most of it was clearly a lie.

When the mayor said there were three developers, Schwebke pointed out that Godfrey would not name them. He should have stopped there, instead of quoting the mayor, "We are very excited, given the real estate climate, to have this much interest in the project," he said. "It speaks very well of Ogden."

That was pure campaigning, and it was a pure lie.

What happened was Godfrey called the paper and somehow bullied them. "Hey, why the negative article about the river? Get Scott over here and I'll show him what's going on!" Then, Godfrey sat him down for an hour of lies.

Scott, with all his learning, must understand the concept of courage. He should have told Godfrey, "Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I'll file this article as soon as I have the chance to check out some of your statements."

Curmudgeon said...

Danny:

Well, there are advantages to winning elections, one of which is, when you are Mayor, what you say is accorded a kind of honorary status as "news." Were I the news editor of the SE, I'd have printed the Mayor's comments, but not as the lead story of the TOU section.

If Mr. C. had announced the names of the three companies, that would have been news. Had he announced a new overall plan for the River Project, that would have been news. Had the city announced a developer had been chosen, and named him, that would have been news. Had Mr. C. announced that Mr. Lesham was selling his River Project properties, that would have been news. None of that happened.

The only way I'd have given the story the prominence the SE did, top of the TOU section, is if I'd made the lead this: "Administration Says River Project Plan Cannot Work; New Plan To Be Drawn Up; Council Input Sought."

Now that was news... the only news in the whole story, IMHO.

Bill C. said...

It must be close to an election!
Just when was the last time lying little matty or his dishonest scum at the BD followed the law and actually had open bidding for any of his crooked schemes?

disgusted said...

curm brought up a good point.

that being the administrations insistence that there be only one developer for the entire project. this is not necessarily in the best interests of the project or the existing property owners or the city. this will only slow down the development of the river project and exclude those in ogden that would otherwise participate.

for example an industrial shop next to the river project would see more value in turning their property into commercial property if they could make more money as a commercial operation. thus solving some of the issues the administration is now dealing with. nothing is wrong with allowing the existing property owners to participate in the up side is there.

with proper zoning and a good master plan for that area the city the would be better served to let those enterprizing business people develop according to the community master plan that they find to be viable when they build and according to and consistent with the master plan.

success breeds success.

COULD, COULD, COULD, said...

OK here is the truth.
Godfrey said when we build the gondola it could bring in 500 million to Weber state. When we build the High tech center it could bring in 1,000 new jobs. When we build the new hotel it could bring in new business. I wish I had the Crystal ball the Godfrey was looking into.
I know when the police go to Godfrey's house, He could go to jail. I would believe the last statement before I believe the others.

But really I wish we were not part of this dream world of could's.
This I know for sure is that the river project will go to Boyer corp. because Stewart Reed is going to see that it happens and besides he needs some money for his condo's, I mean really this could Happen now couldn't it?

Curmudgeon said...

comment bumped to front page

Blaine Carl said...

Rudi, funny stuff. I'd call that "a leap of faith." But I think I'll stick around awhile just to keep you guys honest. That, and I have more faith in good old "terra firma," than flying through the air as Warren Miller's para-gliders do. But damn, that do look fun!

Curm, that was a very hospitable, logical and well written response. I agree with your second point, so enough said on that. As to your first point, the fact that there are three developers interested, especially in this economy, PLUS this sort of leaves Gadi flapping in the wind, doesn't it, seems somewhat newsworthy to me. And thirdly, ALL of the lots in Phase I of the River Project are for sale, and, they are listed. Gadi is the owner of many of the old houses, but the River project takes in much more than just Gadiville. But, I agree, Gadi should dispatch those properties as soon as possible so that THAT hurdle at least is cleared.

As to the ironicism of both stories, I repeat, the first story, which was basically anti-administration, received much praise and elevated Schwebke as a terrific reporter. I found that amusing in that this blog has mostly belittled Schwebke's articles for years, regardless of claims of "endearment." Also, most posters took as fact what the property owners were saying. If anyone has dealt with Ward or
Berrett, you might feel quite differently. And their prices ARE very inflated. Most property owners are for themselves when it comes to the sale--rarely are the sellers going to bend over for the buyer. If you've ever sold your house, you know that. You make a few concessions, but the price and terms you absolutely want in your favor.

Anyway, as to my point:

After the first article came the "no news" article, the second one, which leaned toward the adminsitration; and here again, Schwebke took some shots, as did the article.

I just found the whole thing amusing and ironic. If it's anti-administration, the Pulitzer. If it's pro-administration, it's a no news story and Schwebke's hung out to dry.

Curmudgeon said...

BC:

That the administration says three developers are interested had been reported earlier, I think. As had the indeterminate status of the Lesham properties. Those are indeed interesting matters, but both having been revealed earlier, neither was news... or at least not new news. So to speak.

twobitter said...

If the newspaper published a big article on every unverifiable claim by Godfrey and his minions, it would be a much fatter newspaper.

Curmudgeon said...

BC:

On Mr. Schwebke: the favorable comments on the previous article had to do with his checking out the Administration's suggestion that the riverbank property owners were on board with the grant-funded river project, including the conservation easements. He discovered that they were not, or at least not all of them.

I think criticism of him for the second article was off target, because the administration remarks he reported in it were not, most of them, fact-checkable at all because they were expressions of opinion and hopes [the "might coulds"] rather than claims of fact. [The Administration has learned to phrase things more cautiously it seems. Wise.] "Work on the river project could start next year." There's no claim subject to verification in that statement. Ditto "a developer could be chosen by December." That Lesham-has-to-decide has been obvious for a while, so, given Lesham's unavailability for comment, there was nothing more to be done there either.

The "three developers are interested" is a statement of fact, but without the administration providing the names, it would have been very difficult to verify one way or the other, if at all.

I wasn't criticizing the reporter for the second story. I had some questions about the editorial decision to run it as the lead story of the TOU section when [as it appeared] it contained so little news.

The one thing it told me I didn't already know was that the administration now recognizes that the original master plan needs to be scrapped and that it will work on a new one, and wants the Council's input. That was the real lead, and the SE buried it.

BC said...

Curm, I think we pretty much agree on this whole, bloody mess. And it's too bad the River Project is in the state it is because it could be a very vital renaissance for downtown, not to mention Ogden as a whole.

Again, you're comments are articulate and I understand your position and appreciate the way in which you respond.

Danny said...

BC,

I think you intended to say ". . . your comments are articulate . . ."

Irrespective of what I will grant as your typo, your comments are not.

Your mind seems shot. Your comment that the River Project could be a vital renaissance for downtown overlooks the fact that there is no River Project whatsoever. If you know of one, please show me.

If Godfrey said he was planning, someday, to drill deep into the earth for geothermal energy, people like you would hail it as a wonder. And yet, that too, would be only so much hot air.

You place a high premium on hot air, don't you?

Frank said...

Danny

Kind of interesting that you would choose the example of "If Godfrey said he was planning, someday, to drill deep into the earth for geothermal energy, people like you would hail it as a wonder" to point out BC's inanity.

Fact is, that is exactly what the mayor and his minions were proposing just a few months ago as a way to supply the energy for the ice tower and adjacent buildings, and yes - there were some like BC who hailed it as genius.

Apparently it wasn't all that great of an idea for we haven't heard a word about it since.

Danny said...

Frank,

Thanks for warning me. The next time I try to satirize the Godfrey administration by suggesting something really dumb they would do, I'll have to try harder.

googlegirl said...

Ice Tower Goes Back to Designers:

OGDEN — City officials plan this week to return $200,000 in Weber County RAMP tax funds that were to be used for construction of an iceclimbing tower but insist the controversial project isn’t dead.

John Patterson, the city’s chief administrative officer, said Wednesday the RAMP money is being returned because efforts to secure additional funds from private sources for the $1.8 million project have been unsuccessful.

“We want to maintain the credibility and integrity of the RAMP program,” he said.

However, that doesn’t mean plans for the ice tower at the corner of 25th Street and Kiesel Avenue have been abandoned.

The ice tower will be reconfigured to include a geothermal component that would cool and heat the adjacent Key Bank and MarketStar buildings, Patterson said.

Curmudgeon said...

Google Girl:

Maybe instead of "It's All Within Reach!", this should become the new slogan for Ogden under Mayor Godfrey: "Ooops! Back To The Drawing Board!"

Danny said...

I note in Googlegirl's article that the city plans to ask for $400,000 RAMP funds next year for the geothermal holographic ice tower.

(Too bad it doesn't collect donations the way it collects adjectives.)

I toyed with the idea of campaigning against federal funding for the "river cleanup", since I knew it would be used corruptly, as simply a sop for Gadi Leshem.

Perhaps somebody should ask the RAMP committee to reject Godfrey's request for ice tower money. It would save us another blast of cold air flowing down from "Mount Crony".

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