Friday, November 13, 2009

Lifties and Smarties

Ogden's two-party political system

By Dan Schroeder

It’s time to admit it: Ogden has a two-party political system.

One party includes Mayor Godfrey, his department heads, city council members Johnson and Stephenson, and majorities of the Chamber of Commerce, local realtors, and the Standard-Examiner management.

The other party includes council members Wicks, Gochnour, Garcia, and Jeske, as well as majorities of the firefighter’s union, WSU faculty, and contributors to Weber County Forum.

These political parties need names, so I propose that we bring back a couple of names that I heard during the 2006 Ogden Gondola War (when Ogden’s political divide became especially apparent): Lifties and Smarties.

“Lifty”, of course, comes from “Lift Ogden”. But I don’t mean to imply that every Lifty has endorsed the specific Lift Ogden proposal to build two gondolas and sell off our foothills for commercial development. Most of them did. The rest, I’m afraid, will just have to suffer from guilt by association.

“Smarty”, similarly, comes from “Smart Growth Ogden”, the organization that was formed in reaction to Lift Ogden on a platform of preserving open space, fiscal responsibility, and open government. But today’s Smarty Party is a much broader coalition.

Although the Gondola War subsided in 2007, both parties grew and consolidated during the municipal election campaign that fall. The parties were equally visible in the just-finished city council campaign. Candidates Van Hooser and Blair, plus incumbent Garcia, were the unofficial nominees of the Smarty Party; candidates Hains, Phipps, and Garner were the Lifty nominees.

Fascinatingly, the Lifty/Smarty split seems to be completely uncorrelated with the Democrat/Republican split in state and national politics. Matthew Godfrey and Susan Van Hooser are both registered Republicans, and both are supported by prominent local Democrats (e.g., Allens and Halls).

Like the national parties, the Lifties and the Smarties don’t disagree on everything. The vast majority of city council votes are unanimous. Lifties and Smarties work side by side every day to improve our city. A few politicians (e.g., Doug Stephens and Patrick Dean), plus a large number of voters, have no strong leaning toward either party.

And like the national parties, both the Lifties and the Smarties are really coalitions of multiple interests. Over time, these coalitions will undoubtedly shift. Since no laws recognize or support a two-party system in local elections, it’s quite possible that Ogden’s current parties will prove to be ephemeral.

For now, however, both parties are held together by one man: Matthew Godfrey. Over the last ten years our mayor has pushed large numbers of Ogdenites squarely into one party or the other, by rewarding loyalty and punishing dissent at every opportunity. He strongly believes that everyone in Ogden is either with him or against him, and his actions have increasingly made that belief a reality.

Is it good or bad to have a two-party system? This system has served our nation pretty well for the last century and a half, and it’s hard to imagine a strong democracy without it. At the same time, it exacerbates polarization in our government, our communities, and sometimes our homes.

Similarly, in Ogden, the Lifty-Smarty split is both good and bad. It seems to be increasing the level of interest and participation in local politics, giving voters clearer choices. Yet just as in national politics, the increased polarization often gets in the way of progress.

Whether we love it or hate it, Ogden’s two-party system is a reality that we might as well acknowledge. It won’t go away until at least 2011.

33 comments:

sticky residue said...

what a load of BS, just go teach your classes without putting your students to sleep

Curmudgeon said...

SR:

While I think "party" in this context is a little strong, and I'm not sure I'd line up the two factions' membership as Dan has, he has offered evidence [fact, illustration, example] in support of his argument.

You don't like that argument. Fair enough. But I notice in reply to Dan's argument and evidence, you offered... nothing. No argument, no evidence, no fact, illustrations or examples in support of your claim. Nothing.

If you've got an argument supported by evidence to make, let's hear it. But retreating to a form of argument much more common to middle school playgrounds at recess ---"Are too!" "Are not!" "Are too!" "Are not!" etc. --- isn't likely to convince many, or any, who frequent WCF.

Whether Ogden has two municipal parties or not [I want to think that one over a little], Dan's point that Mayor Godfrey has had a polarizing effect on the city, and his insistence that any opposition to what he wants, when he wants it, is illegitimate and driven by "naysayers" who "are against everything" has certainly made effective compromise on disputed matters, and on city business in general, much more difficult than it has to be. As has is serial dissembling and dishonesty when dealing with the Council, whose members are also [our Mayor seems often to forget] as much elected representatives of the people of Ogden as he is.

Ogden Res said...

Dan,

I seem to remember who came up with the names "Liftie" and "Smartie". It seems there was a letter to the editor.

Your post is valid.

I would add that Godfrey could have had, and perhaps could still have, a successful political career if he’d quit reading Machiavelli, or at least turn away from the methods of manipulation, condescension, fraud, insider dealing and self dealing, as well as every other diabolical practice which he has honed to the degree his talents allow . . .

. . . and turn to honesty, inclusiveness, mutual respect, integrity and the other things he’s supposed to be for, being a Mormon.

But he never will. He has become one hell of a man, literally.

Monotreme said...

Sticky Residue:

Wow, what a well-thought-out and closely reasoned argument. I suspect you're one of this blog's detractors. Way to make that vision a reality, dude! Arguments like this certainly elevate the level of discourse.

Dan S.:

Thanks for your article. It makes apparent something that I've been thinking about for a long time. The polarization of local politics is a shame, I think, but it's a shameful reality. I wish there were coalition and consensus. My wishes are not fulfilled.

Stephen M. Cook said...

By this measure, we find ourselves to be a Independent, one who mostly votes with the Smarties.

Nice analogy, btw.

Bill C. said...

Dan, although I might concur with much of your analogy, what's truely and sadly more apparent is the amount of apathy thru-out the community. So many don't care and stay completely uninformed.

ozboy said...

Sounds like "Sticky Residue" (what an appropriate handle by the way!) was one of those students that had a hard time staying awake in school, thus the admonition to Dan to "teach your classes without putting your students to sleep".

Great article by the way Mr. Shroeder. Can I humbly suggest however that the "Lifty" party be renamed the "Farty" party? I think this change would be appropriate given that these Godfrey sycophants are well known for smelling up the environment with noxious gasses, the most notorious of which was FANURE which was aptly named after its odoriferous cousin MANURE.

This change would give Ogden the much more discriptive and poetic - Smarty -vs- Farty parties.

BAT_girl said...

Thanks Dan for this article. I have heard your classification of Ogden parties before. But not read them in WCF.

I like the rhyme of SMARTY v FARTY. But LIFTY reminds newcomers like me, who do their research, that the GONDOLA idea has been around in Ogden for over 100 yrs. And there continue to be reasons why it's not: SMARTgrowth.

As far as coalition building, I would like to thank Rudi, once again, for articles like OGDEN STREET CAR.........update below. Nice to feature on WCF some of the grass roots groups, like Trolley District.org, who are taking up where others (Smart Growth) have left off. The more inclusive you get, RZ, the more I like you.

Keisha said...

Howbout "the Smarties" Vs. "The Morons"?

Sounds about right to me.

Stinky Hains said...

I got robbed!

Ogden said...

No, there was no coercion. It was a crime of your own volition, this alleged robbery.
What happened to you, Mark, was you got served.
Next?

Curmudgeon said...

Not entirely off topic, since the matter raised in this NY Times story is one of the ones separating at least some of the elements of Dan's two parties.

In the now infamous Kelo decision, the US Supreme Court, held that increasing a city's tax base was a sufficient "public interest" to justify using eminent domain powers to force people out of their homes so their property could be made available to a private developer with A Plan. The case came out of New London, CT where the city wanted to use eminent domain powers to force middle class homeowners out so a huge commercial development could go in on the land, including a big new Pfizer pharmaceuticals plant.

Guess what? Pfizer is now leaving New London. Pulling out. And much of the big new development that was coming that the city forcibly took private homes for never got built at all. From the story:

From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use....

Mr. Bullock, who represented the landowners in New London [in the Kelo case], said Pfizer’s announcement “really shows the folly of these plans that use massive corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain for private development.”

“They oftentimes fail to live up to expectations,” he added....

The [Pfizer] complex is currently assessed at $220 million, said Robert M. Pero, a city councilman who is scheduled to become mayor next month. The company pays tax on 20 percent of that value and the state pays an additional 40 percent, Mr. Pero said. That arrangement is scheduled to end in 2011, around the time Pfizer, which is currently the city’s biggest taxpayer, expects to complete its withdrawal.


In light of the Godfrey Administration's stumble-footed management of the now moribund River Project, perhaps the Godfrey Gaggle should move to change Ogden's name to "New London West."

Interesting story. Worth a read.

Monotreme said...

I'm not a historian, but I'll bet that when the history is written, the Kelo decision takes second place on the "worst SCOTUS decisions of all time" -- right behind Dred Scott.

Stephen M. Cook said...

Along with the early blight on freedom of allowing all human activity to be deemed "interstate commerce", this recent decision was derided at the time, and is an example of the fallibility of the court.
It will not stand; another case will come before that will render this decision all but moot, by its narrow applicability.
All but.

Biker Babe said...

Stick it, Sticky.

...

Color me Smarty Party, Dan!

js,

BB

collie said...

Thanks for the link to the NY Times article, Curm. Fascinating. Way too much short-sightedness in today's world (having huge consequences on our communities).

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

Not second. Plessy gets that honor. Probably not third either. Korematsu is third. But in the top ten somewhere is a good bet.

googlegirl said...

Argument Clinic

Conductor said...

Bat Girl,

I think you'll find that there are many differences of opinion about many different topics within our Trolley District group. We have come together over the 25th Street Streetcar, and the issue of Harrison Boulevard.

I think it's time to start healing the divide in this community. Let's not use Lifty-Smarty terminology because it perpetuates old-lines. Let's start a new dialogue. Beginning with the one between ALL of the community and UDOT/UTA!

democrat said...

The Street Cars and the Gondola are a waste of tax dollars. Ogden City can't even afford paying it's Police Officers a fair livable wage.

Elected official said...

Democrat...
I agree with you. Lets quit wasting time and money on transportation issues and lets get back to the basics of serving the public.

Dan this is the other thing that is really strange is the both Allens and the Halls being democrats should have been behind Hansen who is very much the middle of the road type of person, yet they went all the wayyy to the other ex streams of going for the republicans. funny isn't it.

collie said...

Dem and Elected Official-
Wasting money on transportation issues? The fact is money is going to be spent on transportation (always has always will). What needs to be done is to steer that money towards transportation projects that makes sense! Transportation and other officials who make these decisions need to realize the impact they are having on communities by getting single occupied vehicles from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Lets do something radical and start thinking about the future here. Look at what Ogden has potentially lined up for them in the future: A streetcar that goes along Washington up 36th Street (largely neglecting the core of the city), a 7-lane highway along Harrison Blvd (can't even begin to list the problems associated w/ this), and a North Legacy project that will divert people even farther away from Ogden and encourage further development on the county fringes. Conductor is right, let's work together to make things right.

Curmudgeon said...

EO

Ah... some folks --- quite a few, as a matter of fact --- consider providing urban public transit to be serving the public.

[Full disclosure: I'm one of them.]

Monotreme said...

Curm:

Have to concede Plessy to you. That was a bad one (but see below).

Korematsu v US (and Rasul v Bush) were really, really bad, but I think the judgement of history will mitigate the blame on SCOTUS somewhat because in both cases, the government lawyers lied through their teeth.

In Kelo, on the other hand, they simply decided on the wrong side of the law, in spite of the facts in front of them. Even in the Plessy and Dred Scott cases, there was the weight of common practice and history. They should have decided on a new path, but didn't. The use of eminent domain for so-called "economic development" is relatively new and was unproven and was never envisioned by the Founding Fathers. That, in my mind, makes it particularly strange.

Conductor said...

Our petition is doing well, but it could be doing a lot better! Please visit the site if you haven't already - and tell your friends. There's some pretty good background information on the site as well. We'll need more voices if we're going to get through to UTA and UDOT!

OgdenLover said...

The agenda for next Tuesday's RDA meeting includes approval of using eminent domain for River Project property. It's unclear whether this involves taking footage from existing properties (which has been resisted by the landowners because Ogden wanted them to be responsible for its maintenance), or it it means taking the neglected properties owned by Leshem for non-payment of taxes.

Wanna bet which it is?

Curmudgeon said...

OL:

Maybe I ought to send a link to the NYT article to the Council members....

Jennifer Neil said...

Interesting to note: having just read the approved minutes of the June 6, 2009 Council Meeting - the Mayor is quoted in response to public comment about the MWC ...

"Mayor Godfrey commented that there are accusations that Administration does not care about the Marshall White Center. He stated that is untrue and asked that the politics of this matter be thought about. There is an allegation that he is doing this only for OWCAP, but pointed out that OWCAP did not fund his campaign."


Is this an admission that he DOES stuff for the people that contribute to his campaign?

TLJ

Pat Dean said...

Good Morning All,

The Conductor is correct we need to get signatures and a lot of them in a short amount of time.... Please use what ever resources that are at your disposal to get people to WCforum or the Trolleydistrict site so they can participate in this grass roots movement

Let your voices be heard, Loud and Proud...!!!!!

Trolley's through Ogden not Around!!!!!!!

Don't be shy all you folks that read but not write..... you too can be a prt of this movement... go sign the petition...

Curmudgeon said...

This weekend, all around the US, a new film is opening. It's called "Pirate Radio." It's been enthusiastically, even exuberantly reviewed by the Standard Examiner, the Salt Lake Trib and the City Weekly this week. And so surely it will be showing in one of Ogden's two megaplex theaters [Larry Miller's downtown and Cinemark's at the mall], right?

Wrong. To see this major release this weekend, you will have to travel to the true cinematic heart of northern Utah, Layton. It's not playing here, adding to a long list of interesting films that either never played here, or opened here weeks after they opened in America, films we've had to travel to Layton or Salt Lake City to see. Instead, we have the two Ogden megaplex complexes running the same films against each other, yet again.

Ogden wants to sell itself as an urban entertainment center, its theater operators might put some effort into trying to catch up to Layton. [And Jaysus, doesn't that speak volumes....]

monotreme said...

Comment bumped to front page

Curmudgeon said...

Comment moved to new article

Pat Dean said...

Good Point Monotreme,

If my memory serves me right, the reasoning behind the strong Mayoral form of government was that the Mayor would infact be our City Manager.... What would happen to the 34 people in Ogden City that today make more money than the Mayor... Just for what we pay Mr. Patterson, we could hire two very qualified individuals to assist the Mayor. Not to say that they don't earn their salaries but really, we live in a town of 70,000 If you took all the Employees that work for Ogden City and divide them into the number of citizens. the number will shock you..............

78,000 residents divided by 854 Employees = 1 employee to every 91.33 residents. Simply put about every 22.8 home in Ogden we have 1 employee. Do these statistics seem to concern you?

Well Here are some statistics from other local cities:

Roy 37,112 Residents divided by 153 employees = 242.5 residents to every 1 Employee

Layton 68,017 Residents divided by 349 emplyees = 194.8 residents to every 1 employee.

This seem to be the norm through out the State. Ogden just seems to have quite a high number of employees to residents, equal to twice the state average.... Just a little bit of information for you all to ponder.....!

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