Monday, October 12, 2009

Be Honest, Fair, and Conservative

An open letter to the Ogden RDA Board (aka City Council)

by Dan Schroeder

Dear RDA Board members:

I write concerning your agenda items for Tuesday, October 13, which call for extension of tax increment collection for the CBD Mall District and for associated mitigation payments to certain taxing entities. My concerns fall into three categories.

1. The RDA is breaking a promise.

Please refer to the attached “Ogden City Update” newspaper ad that appeared in the Standard-Examiner on May 31, 2007. In this taxpayer-funded advertisement, the city repeatedly promised that starting in 2015, the various taxing entities (including the library, school district, county, city, and smaller entities) would “begin receiving the full benefit of the tax income from The Junction.” If you pass Resolution 2009-6, you will be breaking this promise to your constituents (Click to enlarge image).


You might object that the promise was made not by you but by the mayor’s office. However, in RDA matters the mayor is actually acting as the RDA Executive Director, and answers to the RDA Board. The Board could have ordered the Executive Director not to make promises that could not be kept, or to publish a correction the following month, rescinding his unrealistic promise. Because the Board took no such action, the Board bears a portion of the responsibility for the mayor’s promise to the citizens.

2. The mitigation payments are grossly unfair.

The proposed “mitigation payments” are plainly being used to buy a bare minimum of the needed votes on the Taxing Entity Committee. In effect, these payments allow some entities to receive tax revenue from the Junction while others receive none. This redistribution of legally prescribed tax rates violates the fundamental principles of property tax collection, and sets a disturbing precedent whereby a coalition of taxing entities can “gang up” to increase their own tax receipts while decreasing that of the other entities.

In the present instance, the mitigation payments would go to the Ogden School District and three of the smaller taxing entities. No mitigation payments would go to the Ogden City general fund, Weber County, the library, the Paramedic Fund, 911 service, or the Weber/Morgan Health Department. As a result, all of these entities will either have to cut services or raise everyone’s taxes.

3. This revenue will merely encourage more debt.

If the purpose of this action were to help pay down the existing debt associated with the Junction, there would be no rush. The RDA district is not set to expire for another five years, so there is plenty of time to negotiate the terms of the extension after we have a clearer picture of the Junction’s financial situation and how much tax revenue is at stake.

However, according to the minutes of the June 25 Taxing Entity Committee meeting, this issue is coming up now because the administration wishes to use the additional revenue as collateral for additional debt. Apparently the administration is still trying to facilitate construction of a major new hotel on the vacant Junction parcel east of the Salomon Center, despite the fact that market conditions are inadequate to make such a hotel financially viable. Rather than respecting these market conditions, the administration apparently wishes to subsidize the hotel with a new taxpayer-financed parking garage and perhaps other incentives. The proposed tax increment extension would allow the RDA to borrow several million more dollars, on top of the $34 million of existing debt associated with the Junction.

Conclusion

While it might seem irresponsible for the RDA Board to turn down free money, the Board must also remember its ethical obligations as public stewards. For too long, the Board has passively allowed the administration to dictate the terms of its dealings. Now is the time for the Board to take control and direct the administration to keep its word, treat everyone fairly, and plan conservatively for the future.

47 comments:

Danny said...

Unfortunately, Dan's suggestions to vote down the tax increment would almost certainly require a tax increase for Ogden City residents.

Moreover, it would hold the council open to the charge that they were turning down free money, that the payers had already agreed to give.

Nonetheless, were I on the council, I would vote to reject the tax increment as Dan suggests.

Then I would point out that Godfrey's incompetence and fraud got us into this mess, and his charges against the council are lies, which is fundamentally true.

Then I would wait for the inevitable barrage of slanders from Godfrey and the Standard Examiner. And I would sleep during those days even better than I usually do.

Danny said...

Well, well.

It looks like after candidate David Phipps posted on his blog that he only just moved to Ogden last fall, and it was revealed here, Phipps has closed his blog!

Too bad I already downloaded it! Something tells me it will be re-appearing on the Internet, here on the WCF.

Does the SE consider the fact that Phipps only just moved here, as newsworthy?

Rockford J. said...

Thank you Mr. Schroeder for you public service in the gathering analysis, and propagation of this information.

If the Mayor made poor decisions regarding city funds, the solution is
to pay the piper, and move on, preferably with more fiscal discipline.

Playing games with numbers doesn't solve a thing except to put off the inevitable bill, and pave the way for more of this "fuzzy math".

AWM said...

Phipps hasn't proceeded down the campaign trail 50 yards and he's already damaged goods

Ray Vaughn said...

Danny, The mayor does not believe in tax increases. He does however believe in reducing city services and implementing what he refers to as additional fees.

Dan S. said...

Danny,

I should clarify that my recommendation, at this time, is not merely to vote down the proposed resolutions.

Many compromises are possible. The simplest would be to postpone this decision and revisit it in five years, shortly before the tax increment collection is scheduled to expire. At that time, perhaps an extension will be deemed necessary--or perhaps not. Another alternative would be to collect less than 100% of the tax increment over the additional 12-year period, or to collect the tax increment only on new Junction projects (if any), not on those that are already built. Or the council could extend the tax increment collection but for less than 12 years, and simultaneously require an accelerated schedule for paying down the debt.

Whatever is done, it should be done openly and with fair treatment of all the taxing entities. This trick of buying votes through mitigation payments is unfair and unethical.

I want the truth to be known said...

Dan,
Your right and The mayor will continue to say that the $5,000,0000.00 lawsuit was because we didn't give woodbury the tax funds. No matter that he tore down their building that the city didn't not own. He will lie and keep spinning those lies until the truth is finally ask for. I will keep him in the hot seat till he does tell the truth. Just watch and see. I may take me a little while but I will happen.

Rockford J. said...

Screw Truth; it's always a pack of lies. Go instead with Facts, and then make your own intelligent assumptions.

Danny said...

Dan S.,

You are right.

David Phipps, expect to see your confession, about when you moved to Ogden, back on the Internet.

BTW, I watched Phipps on his sham Godfreyite Channel debate (love fest). This guy is a true steaming, stinking pile of it. No honesty at all. I wonder when Godfrey is with this clone of himself, does he get excited, or nauseated?

Either way, Phipps is Godfrey by another name - an appalling, lying personage.

south bench said...

I don't have time to check out blogs and facebook stuff. I need to know if he really did just pull down or change data on his personal pages after the facts became known about his residency? I am back after lunch to Teleperformance, and I need to get my facts straight before I share this with my trainees.

Biker Babe said...

He just blocked access to the family blog site. you need to be invited to view the blog entries, which were mostly written by his wife, it seems. Nothing has been changed. Take my word for it.

but there's always a way ...

just sayin

BB

ozboy said...

I hereby nominate Dan S for the Noble Piece-O-Pie award for 2009.

I have said it before and I will say it again - Dan S is an Emerald City treasure of the first order. All citizens of the great land of Oz owe him a large debt of gratitude for his tireless work on bringing forth the light in a dark and disingenuous political climate that the Godfreyites have foisted upon our fair and wonderful abode.

Biker Babe said...

I second that nomination, Ozboy!

just sayin

BB

wildcat said...

Dan S., I believe it is a stretch to say that the RDA broke its promise. While I have no doubt that future Junction revenues and tax base were over sold, I'm not sure that you can actually call revenue projections a promise - even if the word was used. Fact is, future economic projections are uncertain. No one can promise what kind of revenue stream something will produce 10 years down the road. And any one who accepts such a thing as a promise is being rather naive, don't you think? Again, I'm not defending the Mayor here. Just saying that I wouldn't call this a promise. I promise not to seek another term in office. That's a promise. I promise it will rain tomorrow. Well, that's not in my power to promise. Neither are economic forecasts. Furthermore to say that the board should have ordered the Mayor not to make such promises makes them culpable is a bit of a stretch as well. Was the mayor speaking as ED of the RDA board or as Mayor? Or that the board should have rescinded his promise? it wasn't their promise to rescind. Fact is the Mayor wears two hats here. Did the RDA ever make this "promise"? Fact that the Mayor did doesn't mean the RDA is responsible.

Biker Babe said...

promises, schmomises ...

wildcat,
fact is, betting the whole ball of wax without having the foresight that something MIGHT not work out - for the very reason you give, YOU CAN'T PREDICT ECONOMIC OUTCOMES - should have led the mayor and/or the RDA to make contingencies for such problems, provide a cushion and not rely so much on the pie in the sky. They just left it too tight and things didn't work out -

It might rain tomorrow, so I have my umbrella in my car, JUST IN CASE. Good common sense, good business sense

just sayin

BB

read carefully said...

wildcat, the add doesn't say "Based on these projections we anticipate that after 2015 the tax will go to the entities." It says after 2015 the tax will go to the entities, period. Besides, they knew at the time the projections were bogus.

25th street PI said...

Tomorrow is the 256th street association meeting, and all of the candidates are invited to come and meet and greet the people who have invested their money into downtown.

Rumour has it that Susie VH will be a no show, as she has nothing to say that the mostly Godfrey Camp of 25th Street merchants has not heard from her.

As I am going to be a fly on the wall at that meeting, I will report back hear what transpired.

Danny said...

Regarding the promises made by the RDA - this is standard practice of liars - you make the promises with great assurance, then when you can't live up to them, you equivocate them after the fact.

The problem is if the RDA votes with Godfrey, he will be making liars out of them too. Their only moral option is to vote against Godfrey, then tell him fess up to, and fix, the mess he has made.

Dorothy Littrell said...

Nothing changes when Mayor Godfrey wants to subsidize a private business to come to town. He pulls out all the dirty tricks in his "Give It To The Taxpayers" file..

I have absolutely no confidence that Ogden's RDA Board will do their job either which should be to vote down his proposal to ignore their agreement previously made on the tax increment..

I hope the RDA Board members realize their integrity is being put on the line for this. Mayor Godfrey has none of that quality but some of the Board members still have their integrity. I urge them to consider that factor.

Godfrey will continue to try to use semantics to influence the Board to increase more RDA public debt for taxpayers to shoulder.

There is NO legitimate reason for my paying more taxes so that the School District can get the funds they want and that Ogden's RDA can subsidize another private entity to come to town because the Lord Mayor says it will be a success.

I want to emphasize again the financial precipice we are all facing as individuals, as U.S. citizens and as taxpayers in Ogden.

There is a debt crisis in this nation which is a long way from being resolved. The Ogden RDA would be most foolhardy to consider creating more debt at this time for local citizens to have as an additional obligation..

Mayor Godfrey is a fool to try to ignore these facts.

wildcat said...

I agree, the projections put forth by the Mayor were ridiculous. All I am saying is that it doesn't sound all that great to say "but you promised us ..." We're smarter than that, aren't we? We knew he couldn't promise such things. And second, while the ad in question is worded like a promise, it comes from the Mayor, not from the RDA. So to try and say the RDA bears some responsibility for the Mayor's idiot "promises" doesn't cut it for me either. All that aside, the real issue is one that many of you have already adressed - what do we do now?

Dan S. said...

wildcat,

Actually, the promise (that the tax would revert to the taxing entities in 2015) was perfectly realistic, and there was no reason to disbelieve it. Even as recently as a couple of months ago, we didn't know whether the Taxing Entity Committee would go along with the extension. Had they refused, the tax increment would expire in 2015 and the promise would be kept. Even now, the RDA Board could reject the extension.

What was unrealistic was to assume that there would be no subsidies to the Junction from BDO. But I can't document that that promise was ever made in writing.

You sound like you don't believe me when I say the mayor, in his capacity as RDA Executive Director, answers to the RDA Board. The Board has every right to give him orders. They just never do so.

What to do now? I listed several options in my comment above.

the real 25th street p.i. said...

i guarantee you ms van hooser will be at the 25th street association meeting tomorrow

she will not be intimidated by fischer, buttschard, conlin, and that group

she has many 25th street merchant supporters

what will it cost us said...

When will the City Council demand an audit of all the revenue collected by the city, including the water fees? I don't see where the additional water fees have gone towards improvements. Are our water fees dumped into the city general fund? I do feel this is part of the cash cow the the administration dips into whenever more funding is required for projects that don't perform.

The administration comes up with money for Information Train renovation over budget and other pet projects. We keep hearing about the mayors discreationary funds, where does he get these taxpayers funds from?

Ogden Resident said...

It’s always fun to look back at what a real winner like Godfrey has said in the past. That’s why most intelligent people hedge when predicting the future but not our mayor.

It’s amazing how his little camp spin the story to fit their needs. How many of us have gotten sick of hearing that Ogden never recovered when the railroad left town. Yet in this article that story line didn’t work so instead the mayor reminisces over the good old day in the 80s and 90s when the mall was an icon that was attracting people from SLC and Idaho while generating a substantial amount of revenue for the city. I do remember Ogden being a viable town at that time and frankly I do not blame the railroad for Ogden’s demise but rather bad management decisions similar to what we are seeing today from the administration today.

In the inset that Dan included the administration states that much of the revenue (at the junction) will come from outside patrons. This has not proven to be the case and the reasons are obvious. No one comes from SLC or Idaho to go to a gym or a bowling alley or a penny arcade. The only unique attractions are the I-fly which lasts only as long as you can afford to spend $20 per minute and then find you have no money left over for anything else or the wave machine that has absolutely no appeal to middle aged audience. Of course this older crowd isn’t who is attracted to these two attractions but they are the ones that might want to try a nice boutique restaurant which we don’t have either. What we have are middle of the road local chain restaurants. Yes sir, I’ll tell you, I would sure drive 50 miles to eat at a buffalo wing joint or a Costa Vida.

I also noticed in the flyer that the mall property was valued at $47 million during its hay day and today I would say that that value of the Junction is not much different except that today were not getting any tax revenues off that property value and if Godfrey gets his way we wont for a long long time. By the way if we indexed for inflation we probably would still have a long was to go to match the value of the mall property back in the 80s and 90s.

I was here in the 60s 70s 80s and 90s and I think the town started going down hill when two things happened. One, when the mall lost its anchor tenant Norstrom’s because of poor mall management and the city failed to apply pressure on the management to solve the issue. Thus the whole mall started to collapse on to itself. Two when the city planning department turned a blind eye on the increasing number of homes in central city Ogden that were being converted to rental units instead of enforcing the single family home standard. By the way I think Greg Montgomery was with the planning commission back then too.

Hopefully the City Council will not dig us into a deeper whole.

get er' done said...

If the council ask for an audit, they better not go with that schimt group. they are clearly in Godfreys administration and they are the ones that were suppose to audit the Davis education foundation and didn't catch the embezzlement so make sure they get someone they can count on. no pun intended.

south bench said...

"...the city planning department turned a blind eye on the increasing number of homes in central city Ogden that were being converted to rental units instead of enforcing the single family home standard..."

Great comment. People making more money off their income property than the market would allow, and doing by so by renting to persons not in the country legally, or by becoming the just-released dumping ground for the state parole board.

We support seizing the property of anyone who rents to illegal aliens as it is a profit making criminal enterprise; we also support turning basement apartments back into single family homes, or tearing the homes down.

The influx of illegal aliens into a area this small created a attitude of lawlessness that trickled down to the children of legal immigrants.
Any adult who cannot speak clear English should be given ample opportunity to prove citizenship, or be arrested and jailed for 5 years. 85 percent of brown-skinned non-English speaking adult Ogdenites are using forged and stolen documents.

I could solve 75 percent of Odgen's woes with one week, I would just need the issue to be declared a state of emergency because of the slow invasion.

Just another Democrat for wiping the board clean.

AWM said...

South Bench "You live with what you tolerate"...and apparently Ogden is willing to tolerate quite a bit

south bench said...

Yeah: Ogden, where it is easy to feel good about your self!

Curmudgeon said...

SB:

You wrote: "85 percent of brown-skinned non-English speaking adult Ogdenites are using forged and stolen documents."

And your source for that statistic would be... what? Anything at all outside your own imagination?

You recommend "seizing the property of anyone who rents to illegal aliens as it is a profit making criminal enterprise." Since you also think many people here are using forged documents, how exactly do you propose proving that someone renting an apartment or house to a tenant who is not here legally knewthe tenant was not here legally? Or do you just propose confiscating the property anyway, whether they knew it or not? Which will be difficult in light of "due process" clause, I think. Or did you mean any landlord knowingly renting to illegal aliens should have their property confiscated? If so, that's not what you said.

And this: "Any adult who cannot speak clear English should be given ample opportunity to prove citizenship, or be arrested and jailed for 5 years." Where to begin listing the problems with that idea? Well, let's just focus on two: (a) right now, we're having to release prisoners early because of prison overcrowding. If you jail many thousands of illegals for five years, where are you going to put the murderers, rapists, etc. who are citizens and who make up most of our prison population?

And (b) your plan would inevitably involve, in Utah alone, thousands of Americans being stopped and having authorities demand they prove their citizenship. You may be happy with that. I'm not. Sounds way too much like a police state to me. You may be happy giving police the authority to just walk around and suddenly demand of a brown-skinned pedestrian [with or without accent]"Hey, Pedro. Yeah, you. Prove you're an American citizen, right now, here, on the street. Yeah yeah, drivers license. I see a dozen of those forged every day in bars near the campus. Prove you're American, beaner. Right now. Can't? Well, I'm running you in then until you can." That's what will happen, South. Bank on it. [And what makes you think the demands will be limited to brown-skinned people?] And many so run in will be American citizens. Our great grand children will still be paying off the damages from the resulting lawsuits.

I've still got the image of all those WWII movies I grew up watching in my brain, the ones in which the bad guysin a trench coat stopped people on the street and demanded "Your papers! Mach schnell!"

Illegal immigration is a large and serious problem, and a complex one. And one that won't be solved by simplistic easy fixes such as you propose.

On enforcing the single-family ordinances and shutting down houses carved into multiple apartments in basements and attics illegally, we agree.

ozboy said...

Mr. Curmudgeon

You got perilously close to violating Goodwins Law with that "Mach schnell!" line! Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Because I am not on the same literary or intellectual level as you, I can just come out and say it - "South Bench" came across as a friggen Nazi!

Dan S. said...

How ironic that "south bench" posted that anti-immigrant rant on Columbus Day, when we celebrate how the immigrants took over the continent.

Rockford J. said...

Didnt read like an anti-immegrant rant to me. It read like a anti-lawless immigration rant.
Big difference; a difference that seems to be lost on Dan and Curmudgeon.

Curmudgeon said...

Oh, lord.... No, Dan. On Columbus Day we do not "celebrate how the immigrants took over the country." Not even ironically. The day is to commemorate the European discovery of North America by right of a feat of considerable courage and navigational skill by Columbus. For his time, he did a remarkable thing, that had immense historical consequences.

I'm all for teaching American History warts and all, highs and lows, and including the scoundrels and the statesmen. But seems to me we've lurched from Columbus-the-plaster-saint to Columbus-the-personification-of-evil. Neither picture is historically accurate.

Sadly for those who prefer their American History as morality play, most of those involved in making in were neither wholly saints nor wholly sinners [culturally speaking], and Columbus was no exception. Pointing out, as we should, his brutal treatment of the Caribbean tribes he came in contact with diminishes in no way the courage and technical innovation of his voyages. And loading blame on him for matters over which he had no control or knowledge goes too far. [There was no germ theory of disease, so blaming Columbus for carrying over pathogens no one in his day and age had the slightest knowledge of is a-historical, regardless of how good it may make the politically correct feel now. What it implies is that Columbus and the rest should never have sailed west on voyages of discovery because they should have known they were carrying old world pathogens that new world peoples they did not know existed had no immunity to them. That's nonsense.]

This sort of retaliatory historical extremism can be found in lots of areas of current history. Some appears, for example, in news stories and some books that present native Americans as peaceful children of the forest and America's First Conservationists --- as "Sierra Club Indians." [Sorry, Dan.]

Nice, feel good image, but it doesnt' fit the facts. When I was editing text books, I kept having to remind authors who wrote about native Americans using "every part of the buffalo but the grunt" about buffalo jumps, for example. And about why many of the tribes were where they were when Europeans arrived in America: it's because they'd driven other tribes out.

American history --- all history --- is complex and downright messy, and the people who make it, the great men and women and the common, are as mixed a bag of noble and base as any of us. Inconvenient for the mythmakers, I agree, but there it is.

And so we do not, on Columbus day, "celebrate how the immigrants took over the country." Not even ironically.

Curmudgeon said...

RJ:

My problem with South Bench involved his unworkable solutions which seemed to me to involve a greater danger to this country than illegal immigration. And his simply making up statistics to support his ideas. If you read what I posted carefully, you'll note that I agreed, absolutely, that illegal immigration is a serious problem. It's his simplistic [and dangerous] solutions I took issue with.

Rockford J. said...

Curm: agreed.
When two civilizations who previouly have had no contact bump into one another, one almost always absorbs the other; there is always a percieved winner, and a percieved loser. To blame one or the other, when the two civvies have never interacted, is like blaming the tide for coming in and burying your sand castle. Civvies, like castles made of sand, come and go.

My extended family immigrated from South Africa a few decades back; costly, time consuming, confusing, and bold.
To look the other way, and just claim that those who do not approve of such a wholesale flaunting of the law are "prejudiced" makes a mockery of those who approached the new world legally.

Dan,
It sounds like if we are down on our luck we should come and set up house in your living room; and surely, when you discover us there, you will just look the other way, and actually plead that it is your own fault for erecting a door in the first place. You might even call the ACLU to petition for our right to kick in your door and set up camp.

And, no. we do not have a political solution for the problem of lawless immigration; not having a solution but searching for one is different than just blaming Columbus aka "the white man", and doing nothing out of affluent liberal guilt.
'Says the most liberal of the bunch!

Dan S. said...

Curm, you wrote: On Columbus Day we do not "celebrate how the immigrants took over the country." Not even ironically. The day is to commemorate the European discovery of North America by right of a feat of considerable courage and navigational skill by Columbus. For his time, he did a remarkable thing, that had immense historical consequences.

Of course you're free to personally celebrate (or not celebrate) whatever you like. But I would argue that we as a nation are not really celebrating the feat of courage and skill; we're celebrating the historical consequences. There have been many equally courageous and skillful people throughout history, and the vast majority of them do not have federal holidays. Of course I don't dispute that Columbus was courageous and skillful (though he was also quite mistaken about the size of the earth, which he could easily have measured accurately for himself using his great navigational skill, yet for some reason didn't).

So we're celebrating the historical consequences. And what were the historical consequences? Exactly what I said: the taking over of the continent (actually two continents) by European immigrants. The extent to which Columbus was to blame for the eventual takeover is irrelevant. It happened, and we celebrate it, and we attach Columbus's name to the holiday because he played an early pivotal role.

ozboy said...

To be fair I suggest we incorporate into this debate, between primarily Dan S and Mr. Curmudgeon, a subject pertaining to physics. We do like level playing fields here in the great land of Oz.

Maybe we could get into the nitty gritty of the many different physical forces the Columbus ships were subjected to in the voyage? Or maybe how modern "String Theory" actually got its start with the strings Columbus strung between the three ships so that they wouldn't get separated during the long voyage.

Dan S. said...

Oz,

I also teach introductory astronomy, and measuring the size of the earth is one of the many topics covered in that course. It's not very relevant to the main argument, but I couldn't resist bringing up that blunder on Columbus's part when Curm was saying how skillful the guy was.

south bench said...

This Dan S. person has absolutely no idea what he is talking about as regards "big picture" historical analysis.

He is actually comparing a situation where two sovereign nations have lived sis by side knowingly for a few hundred years, with hundreds of treaties agreed upon by both sides, with two completely different civilizations colliding for the first time.

A patently-nonsensical position, from someone who otherwise seems reasonably intelligent.

Dan S. said...

south bench,

I never said the two situations were identical. But both involve immigration (in large numbers), so there is a similarity and I thought it was ironic. That's all.

wildcat said...

South bench and Danny, so ol Columbus lands on an island and finds that people are living there. What does he do next? He claims that they belong to Spain. A few years later, John Cabot (Giovanni Cabato) sails under the flag of England with explicit instructions to lay claim for England to all non-Christian lands he should encounter. He lands in either Maine or Newfoundland, Cananda and does the same thing.
Two culture collide. yes. That did happen and it was significant. One culture claims it has the right to claim control over the other. Sure, that was justice wasn't it? Imagine that the situation had been reversed? Some Pequot Indians land in England in 1500 or 1600s and claim that it belongs to the Pequot tribe ...

wildcat said...

Oops. Didn't mean to implicate Danny in this. My bad. Apologies, apologies. Gee maybe Columbus could have done the same. Didn't realize people were living here. No right to lay claim to your lands. Sorry.

Rose said...

I think that if the Pequot landed on an "undiscovered country" and did not declare it as their own, they soon would have found themselves assimilated into what they discovered. Culturally specific idealism gets trumped by human nature most every time, I think.

Curmudgeon said...

Wildcat:

You're using 21st century American sensibilities and definitions about ownership, property, rights thereto, "savagery" and "civilization" and complaining that a fifteenth century European man didn't possess them. Helpful for feeling superior, but just a tad a-historical. Columbus was as incapable of thinking the heathen non-Christian "salvages" of the new world owned their land and had a right to it he was bound to respect than, say, the Sioux bands were capable of understanding that the plains tribes they pushed out of the northern plains well before European arrival had a "right" to the land the Sioux bands were moving onto. [Or the Iroquois who pushed the Huron out, etc. etc.]

People tend [we do to] to live in the time and within the assumptions of their own cultures [as if they had any choice in the matter]. Denouncing them for not living in another time and for not incorporating the assumptions of another culture seems pointless to me.

History [capital H] is neither good nor bad, moral nor immoral, nor is it the working out of some god's [or gods'] plan. It just is. Period. Full of fascinating stories [if well told], tales both inspiring and appalling. Worth understanding and learning from, I think. But complaining that Columbus didn't have the sensibilities of Barak Obama or Mother Theresa or Sojourner Truth makes no more sense than denouncing Oook The Cave Man for "rape" when he captured and took a woman from another band. Different worlds, different times, different imperatives, different assumptions.

connie said...

One of the great things about the Weber County Forum is that you can come here looking for political warfare and get really cool history and physics lessons as well as some comic relief instead!

Thanks Curm, Dan and the other very bright people who post here.

wildcat said...

Sorry Curm, I disagree that Columbus was incapable of thinking differently. Others at the time did. Las Casas thought differently than Columbus. And Roger Williams thought differently than Gov Winthrop. And of course, if everyone is simply a product of their time, then no change would ever occur. Also, to say, well that was the view at the time is too much of an excuse for past injustices.
You are correct, however, no one is innocent. Everyone came from somewhere else, no people can accurately lay claim to having lived in one place since the beginning of time. This is why Edmund Burke suggested we not delve too deeply into our past ...

Reality said...

Sure, Oprah. There are always those who think and differently than the norm of their society. These people, historically, were ostracized if they were lucky, burned if not. They certainly would not gain the favor of a ruler to the point of being allowed to use the tall ships in an adventure of discovery and conquest.
In all human interaction, there is a winner and a loser; a good interaction is when both think they won. However, one of them is deluded. The history of the world is not the group singing of Kumbaya. It is a story of war and conquest.

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