Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Standard-Examiner: River Project Not Flowing Smoothly (To Say the Very Least)

Another delightful illustration of the Godfrey administration's "three stooges" style of management

Delightful story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, which once again clearly illustrates the "three-stooges" style of management which is so typical of the Boss Godfrey administration. Regular Weber County Forum readers will recall that Ogden City qualified for a $1 million state Water Quality Board grant in late June, which funds were designated to rehabilitate a polluted mile long stretch of the Ogden River. During the application process, the Godfrey administration apparently represented to state Water Quality Board authorities that property owners with parcels adjoining the river were "onboard" with the project, and willing to donate easements along the river, to accommodate the project. According to this morning's story however, that's not, well... quite true.

Interestingly, important elements of the story vary, depending upon whom Mr. Schwebke managed to interview. Whereas Caroline Bradford, a spokesperson for RiverRestoration.org, (the outfit who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of these grant funds,) represents that 85% of the property owners are all lined up, Ogden City Engineer Justin Anderson frankly admits the number of property owners who have actually donated necessary easements is exactly zero. And when the ever-diligent Scott Schwebke dug in deeper, to seek out property owners who might verify Ms. Bradford's statement, all he apparently could come up with were three obviously disgruntled riverfront property owners who said, "hell no." Of course regular readers of WCF already knew that. Here's Mr. Schwebke's full morning story, for those folks who'd like to read up:
River project not flowing smoothly
Inasmuch as there's reportedly a mid-November drop-dead deadline for commencement of this project, it appears that Ogden City and RiverRestoration.org will need to do some fancy footwork, and do it soon. Encouragingly however, Mr. Anderson exudes the same brand of confidence that typifies the Godfrey administration any time it's confronted with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle:
If Ward, Berrett and other landowners refuse to provide easements, the river restoration project can be reconfigured around those properties, said Justin Anderson, the city's engineer.
Perhaps Mr. Anderson is contemplating moving the river?

And the beat goes on...

(Nice work, Mr. Schwebke, by the way.)

Who will be the first to comment?

25 comments:

Moroni McConkie said...

I'm no property-rights Nazi, and I believe the river restoration would be a fantastic boon to Ogden. But I think Mr. Ward, Ms. Berrett, and the other balking riverfront property owners are quite right to demand compensation from Ogden City for their easements. (I also hope they go to the polls.) It seems clear the Godfrey administration authorized River Restoration to lie about property owners' plans on the application. This isn't just public relations, it's fraud.

tell the truth said...

This story only begins to tell the truth of the River Restoration. Ms. Bradford has claimed to some property owners that the other property owners are "on board" with this project. That could not be further from the truth. I have in my possession a copy of the "agreement" that has been sent to the property owners by Ms. Bradford. It goes much further than just donate the land for the river. It also contains language that will require the property owners to MAINTAIN the project after its' completion at their own expense! The owners of Ogden Chrome were mislead into believing that property owners were in favor of the project and are now seeking legal counsel. So called "staging areas" are needed to complete this project and in true Ogden City fashion they want that donated also. The Water Quaility Board has been misled into believing that property owners are in favor of this project,they have been lied to.
I personnally would like to see the letters that Ms. Bradford has from willing property owners and have yet to see those. That's because ther aren't any.
In closing I would just like to say that by misrepresenting the participation of the property owners, pilfering money from the Central Weber Sewer District and diverting bonding funds earmarkes for storm water improvements, it appears to me that once again the Mayor's pet projects will overtake the welfare of the citizens he claims to serve, by driving businesses out of the city.
Question: Where will the water come from for this "improvement" and when will the citizens of Ogden stop bowing to His Highness?

Cantugi said...

This is another example of the " we can do anything we want" culture rampant in Utah governments and they also exude the feeling they have the right to stomp all over average citizens.

I hope these people are properly compensated for their land or left alone.

Curmudgeon said...

And the "Schwebke and the SE are nothing but Godfrey tools" argument takes on still more water....

Just sayin'....

Curmudgeon said...

Cantugi:

The City could precede by eminent domain, I suppose, but that would mean (a) it would have to compensate owners for what was taken, and the grant funds can not be used to acquire land or easements and (b) it would take a lot of time, more time than the city has to act under the grant rules I think, and (c) the public relations blow-back would be [and rightly so] fierce.

The Godfrey administration has, apparently, never quite mastered this complex and arcane city management principle: "Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you announce that they are."

And the beat goes on....

City worker said...

Lets just push the project in to the river, it is so polluted now anyway.

Danny said...

This was a great article by Schwebke.

He recorded the comments from the government people, then asked for supporting documentation from them. When he did not receive any, he reported that.

Then, rather than just take the officials at their word, he went to those involved and asked them personally, and reported what they said.

There was no sense of bias. Only dispassionate reporting and a sense that he did a thorough job.

I would suspect Scott is feeling better today about his work than the way he feels after simply summarizing whatever the Godfrey Administration tells him and filing his report without further work on his part.

This was classic reporting. If we could see more of this, I believe the public's opinion of the SE would rise considerably.

Ray Vaughn said...

Oh you people of little vision. Not only will Ogden soon have an overhead Gondola to the foothills we will have the opportunity to have river Gondolas. Money is not a problem since we have lots of city parks for the mayor to sell. Why we could divert the river to the 21st pond. What a golden chance to make Ogden a combination of a Swiss ski town and a Venice water town.

Moroni McConkie said...

There's an unexplored backstory here. Why are the property owners reacting so truculently toward a project for the public good? The city's prior dealings with them have probably been conducted with the arrogance and menace we have come to expect from Godfrey government.

TLJ said...

Tell the truth - may we have a look of the agreement by Ms. Bradford in re: the donation/maintenance of easement for the project?

Since the money is coming from The Water Quality Board, and has certain guidelines, I imagine the money may have to be returned (think: RAMP funds for ice tower) because of not following the funding entity guidelines and protocol ...

Wait and see, I say. But if these property owners say no now, what is going to change their minds between now and November? Bribery and a G-Gotcha? Or intimidation and an Or-Else? Or complete misappropriation of grant funding which will have to be returned.


TLJ

Danny said...

Moroni,

You say this is a project for the public good?

These private property owners are expected to effectively donate a portion of their land for public access, then continue to maintain the land they donated after it has been fixed up, under a set of rules dictated by the gummint.

These individual property owners give up their exclusive use of their land, while maintaining liability and subjecting themselves to a whole new set of requirements and regulations for it.

Thus, it is these individual property owners who pay the price - just like the people who were kicked off the river properties for Gadi Leshem.

It's a classic case of the gummint expecting private persons to pay for a large portion of the project that could benefit the public.

Who would take a deal like that?

Plan on seeing the gummint money returned.

And Ogden will be out $275,000 for another useless study.

The idea this project is a public good only applies for you and me - it is certainly not for the good of the affected property owners.

09-09-09 said...

I live in the middle of Ogden and since Mr. Anderson has agreed that the city will find a way to make it work, they are more than welcome to divert the river to run along my backyard. I'll take care of it just like everything else the city is telling me to do with my property.

Blaine Carl said...

I wonder of Mr. Ward's property is worth $500,000 per acre? The going rate is about $16-20K for improved land in that area I suppose he thinks he can "steal a deal" or hold the project hostage until he gets his inflated price.

Besides, I think all of the junk cars and garbage pits that line the Ogden River look much better than the Renaissance Village and River Project would.

And here's Scott Schwebke, mostly reviled and suddenly turned hero and ace reporter. Wonder how that happened, overnight. Or would there be more to this story than what the newspaper published? Naw, just thinking out loud.

RudiZink said...

And here's Scott Schwebke, mostly reviled and suddenly turned hero and ace reporter."

Go play with yourself, BC.

The "Ace Reporter Schwebke" moniker is a term of endearment. of you're curious abot that happened, I'd be happy to fill you int.

And here's the deal with Schwebke:

When he bears down and does his own diligent research, like today, he's one of the best reporters in the business.

And when he compromises himself and adopts and publishes re-hashed press releases, he's one of the worst.

We saw Scott Schewbke at his best today; and for that reason we offer our kudos.

If he screws up tomorrow, you can bet your ass we'll be all over him. But if he follows up today's most excellent article with more of the same, you can bet your boots we'll be touting Schebwke yet agin.

It ain't all that compicated, "Blaine."

Try to keep up.

Ray Vaughn said...

Blaine Carl; Nice try to divert from the real problem/question. This is not about how much a landowner wants for his property but the less than truthful response of the city. The property owners are not all on board with the city. The city wants them to give away their property but still have to maintain the same property. How long until the mayor and his other loyalists, such as youh start to badmouth anyone who does not blindly agree to everything the mayor desires. While I think the project would be good for the city the administration has absolutely no idea on how to win the support of the involved property holders or the citizens of the city. Where will the money come from if the city if forced to pay fair market value? Matthew Godfrey has lost the trust and support of the taxpaying citizens of Ogden.

Curmudgeon said...

BC:

ON SE reporting:

For a long time, many of us have criticized the SE for a tendency to take the announcements of elected officials or their appointees at face value, to print them unvetted and unchecked. Some years ago, that happened often enough that it seemed to be the policy of the news department. For a long time, some of us have been urging the SE to make it a matter of news policy for reports to automatically check the statements of public officials against the available record --- and this means more than just "he said/she said" reporting.

Mr. Schwebke's piece to day is a good example of what I think has been a growing tendency in the newsroom [newsroom, dammit, not "content center"!] to do just that. [Others here disagree with me about that.]

Where Rudi and I occasionally disagree about the reporting is over this: I don't think every story can be, should be, treated in the same way. Different kinds of stories make different kinds of reportorial treatment appropriate.

But this story was a good one in particular because it checked out the claims of the city officials, and when it found something different than they had been saying, that became the story, and that made it a lead story. And the SE and its readers benefited.

Danny said...

Blaine Carl does not recognize that

1. There is no plan for any Renaissance Village.

2. There is no plan to covert any of the existing businesses he calls "garbage pits" to anything else.

The only plan is to turn a channeled river into one lined with what we used to call "swampland", then force the owners of the new swampland to maintain it.

If the city wanted to buy all the land and covert the river into a natural riparian district I would favor that, higher taxes and all.

But there is no plan for that, nor any plan for anything. Therefore, expect to see the federal money returned.

Blain Carl, you are what Rudi refers to as a "faith based" person, not meaning you are a person of faith, but are a person of intellectual blindness.

Bane Carl said...

Honestly, I think we should just trust our mayor in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

Bill C. said...

Danny, I have two contracts between the City and Leshem, one is with a Miri Leshem, his wife I believe, and the other is with a Mori Lesham, a typo or another family member. No legal documents I have come across as of yet name Gadi Lesham. Isn't this somewhat peculiar? Why isn't the heat and ridicule directed at the proper person? And why would the City go overboard getting into bed with a guy that for whatever reasons won't put his name on the line?
Does this show that the City was fully aware of not only his legal problems at the time they entered these agreements, but also that their efforts could be subject to the Court in California?
One big black eye for the idiots at the City BD dept. Now they have lied in an effort to get fed money for this guys personal benefit and in all likelyhood made liars of River Restoration LLC as well.
Typical of this administration, this little grant is just the initial step in what is planned to be an eleven million dollar river restoration effort, bet you didn't know that, and they've all ready screwed up the first step.
The clandestine underhanded lying little matty way of doing things is always so exciting, you gotta love it.

ozboy said...

Blaine

You wrote:

"I wonder of Mr. Ward's property is worth $500,000 per acre? The going rate is about $16-20K for improved land in that area"

Generally you've been known to write some pretty interesting, accurate and informative stuff herein. However, I think you are up in the night with this statement. If you and your pals at the BD think riverside property in a down town area, even a slum like Ogden, is only worth $16K to $20K per acre, it is no wonder that a lot of people think you, and they, are clueless.

I will buy, for cash, every square inch of this riverside property that you can deliver for the price of $20K per acre. I will even give you a 50% commission for arranging such purchases.

It would be difficult to determine just what property in the whole down town area is worth on the free and open market because the city and RDA involvement has distorted it so grossly, but my guess is that it is worth at least $300 grand an acre and very possibly $500 grand if the economy turns around and the ill fated project ever does take off.

disgusted said...

i like the idea of the river parkway but i find the citys intentions inconsistent with actions to date.

specifically the close proximity of the bingham bike store to the river. i hope that the city plans on being consistent from this point going forward in its application of how the project is developed and the distances from the waters edge that building are placed. hopefully the bike shop is not an indication of what it planned for the river parkway. imho i think that buildings should be no closer that 100 to 150 feet from the center line of the river and that trails and green space should be between any buildings and the river.

i too think that the city should pay the landowners for their property and at fair market prices. and that is not 16 to 20k for improved land. i personally tried to buy in anticipation of the project and know of one parcel that went for over 200,000 for an approx acre. i did not get it and that was 3 years ago.

also the city was buying and optioning up 1/4 acre lots and smaller with those houses that have been getting tourched for as much as 125,000 apiece.

if the city buys the property then the city should maintain the property. any access points to the river should be via city owned property not private.

its a good idea unfortunately it was once again poorly executed. youd hope that some day the bd dept and the administration could figure out how to do something right.

Dan S. said...

Off-thread but of great interest: The first set of campaign disclosure statements is posted on the city's web site. Here are the total amounts raised (first number) and spent (second number) so far:

Municipal Ward 1
Garner: $2658; $883
Garcia: $600; $195
Pate: $40; $31

Municipal Ward 3
Stephens: $2397; $1843
Dean: $575; $575
Hansen: $500; $387
Wolfgram: $100; $458
Thompson: $0; $0

At-Large Seat A
Hains: $2023; $5663
Van Hooser: $1950; $963

At-Large Seat B
Phipps: $4500; $3950
Blair: $2415; $1277
Morris: $992; $888
Neil: $626; $496
Roma: $100; $84
Poulter: $0; $55
McNamara: no report posted

There's some inconsistency in whether candidates have reported contributions and loans to their own campaigns--hence the negative balances for some candidates. The itemized contribution lists are also pretty interesting, but I don't have time to type them all here. The biggest single contributor is the Realtors Association, which is supporting Hains, Phipps, and Stephens.

Anonymous said...

TLJ, I would be more than happy to provide the "agreement" from Ms. Bradford if someone would tell me how to do that.

Curmudgeon said...

Comment bumped to front page

BC said...

Easy now....the 16-20K was a typo. Most land in that area is 160K-200K per acre.

Sorry.

Didn't mean to hose down the hornet's nest like I did. Appreciate you're pointing that out.

But 300K to 500K an acre--doubtful. On top of that comes the clean-up costs and improvement cost. Talley it up and see what the lands worth....it's usually the market value of the land LESS the demolision and/orclean-up.

And I still don't buy this "Term of Endearment," "Rudi." You've been chastizing this reporter ever since he took over for whathisname.

My thoughts are that this WAS a good article, but I found it somewhat disingenuous to see the blogster glorify Schwebke for telling the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." If he did, then THAT'S a good story.

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