Sunday, November 08, 2009

Standard-Examiner: Does a Post-Election Power Shift Loom For the Emerald City Council?

Will the SE Editorial Board recognize that fixing the admittedly abysmal state of Mayor-Council relations will require a substantial communications shift on the part of the Mayor and his staff, and not just on the part of the Council?

By Curmudgeon

This morning's Standard-Examiner has up an interesting story speculating on whether there will be a change in Council leadership when the new Ogden City Council meets in January.
Power shift possible / Does change loom for council leadership in wake of elections?
Here is the lede:
OGDEN -- Two veteran city councilmen may be ready for a change in leadership when the council reorganizes in January. Councilman Brandon Stephenson, who wasn't up for re-election Tuesday, didn't mention Chairwoman Amy Wicks by name but said the council needs more balanced leadership that doesn't constantly attack the administration.
There follows a lot of yammering from Mr. Stephenson about the Council leadership needing to communicate better with the mayor -- though nothing about the Mayor needing to communicate better with the Council. [By the way, asking Godfrey sycophant Stephenson for his opinion about the job Council Chair Amy Wicks has done, as Chair, is not unlike asking Glen Beck hows she thinks President Obama is doing as President.]

In his comments to the SE, Mr. Stephenson was merely reading the script Hizonnah prepared for him. Doubt that? Here's what Mayor Godfrey told the SE about a possible change in Council leadership:
Godfrey declined to say who he would like to see as council chairman, but added the individual should be willing to communicate with the administration."Open, free flowing regular dialogue would be ideal," he said.
Notice that Hizzonah's view is that all change must come from the Council side. Nothing by way of a shift toward honesty and openness from him is even hinted at.

The story includes comments from Councilman Stephens, who is seeking the job as Council Chair himself, and other Council members who dutifully intone the usual bromides in favor of effective communication and the like.

What those commenting do not discuss in the story -- and in Mr. Stephenson's case, it's plain why -- is why communications between the Mayor and the Council are so poor. Mr. Stephenson never so much as mentions the repeated dishonesty when dealing with the Council [remember the agreement he made with the Council regarding what the city's lobbyist would work on, which agreement he promptly broke to instruct the lobbyist secretly remove the Council's ability to replace him as head of the RDA? Just one example.], or withheld information from the Council he ought to have divulged [remember the administration's email cautioning against letting the Council find out the Administration was trying to wash grant funds through UTA to pay for a gondola consultant? Or when the Administration told the Council it had no right to even ask who the Administration intended to sell public property to? Just two examples]. Nary a word about the Mayor's long record of failing to communicate honestly or fully with the Council from Mr. Stephenson. Or Mr. Stephens, for that matter.

It was an interesting story, and a potential change in Council leadership is news. And Mr. Schwebke sought comment from many on the Council, and from Ms. Wicks [who alleged some duplicity on the part of the SE Editorial Board, which allegations Mr. Schwebke rightly included in his piece.]

The larger question the story raises is whether the SE Editorial Board will recognize that fixing the admittedly abysmal state of Mayor-Council relations will require, for openers a substantial shift in how it communicates on the part of the Mayor and his staff, and not just on the part of the Council.

20 comments:

OgdenLover said...

I was happy to see that Mr. Schwebke accurately reported on Ms. Van Hooser's past council experience and Mayoral race. In prior articles, he followed the Godfrey innacuracies which made it sound as if she'd abandoned her Council seat to run for Mayor.

wildcat said...

Curm, you wrote: "It was an interesting story, and a potential change in Council leadership is news." But who says there is a potential change in Council leadership? This would be news if members of the incoming council had indicated that they would not be voting for Wicks and Gochnour. This story, on the other hand, was generated solely by the SE. They created the story by asking the new council members if they thought a change would be/should be in the offing.
I agree with all the other stuff in your post about no consideration of whether a change from the Mayor is necessary. But as for this being news? Is it news when a "news"paper attempts to create a story on its own?

ozboy said...

It seems a bit interesting that the two main characters in the Scwepke created "news" piece - Stephens and Stephenson - are both jockeying for the leadership position on the council. Both are about the most piss pour choices that could be made.

Stephenson has shown himself time and again to be the unquestioning lackey of the mayor's. I don't think there has ever been a position or proposal the mayor has put forth, regardless of how stupid, that Stephenson has not fully endorsed. Blind obedience comes to mind when I think of Stephenson and the Mayor. This would certainly disqualify him for any leadership over an independent and sane council, which I hope we are finally getting.

Stephens on the other hand, nice and sincere guy that he seems to be, is a dunce. Plain and simple, he is just too plain and simple to be an effective leader of a group of strong minded people. The dumbest guy on the team just doesn't make for an effective leader.

Perhaps Wicks ought to switch positions with Gouchner as the leader and assistant leader. Maybe Wicks has become too much of a focal point for the mayor's lame excuses as to who is at fault. It seems that the ever so lame deciders at the Standard have bought into the mayor's propaganda and have determined Wicks is at fault.

I think whatever changes they make in council leadership, the true power contest vis-a-vis the mayor and the council, is going to be a showdown between Godfrey and VanHooser. She clearly is the only one in the upcoming council that has the cajones to take the mayor on - head-on. She is the only one with the courage and outspokenness to call bull shit on Godfrey! The good lord knows someone on that council has to do it before any sanity and integrity prevails again at city hall.

I think Wicks has done an outstanding job of keeping the council on track and out of the mayor's desperate power grasp. She definitely has his number, recognizes his dishonesty and incompetence and refuses to play his game. For that all citizens of Ogden can be thankful.

Curmudgeon said...

WC:

Some members of the Council have been talking with constituents about who would be chair after the election for a few weeks now, and some indicated who they would vote for in those conversations, and even that they were interested in the job. Reporting what Council members are talking about regarding Council business is not creating news, it's reporting it --- and they were talking about it. So the SE asked them about what its reporter knew they were already discussing.

And so I think it's a legit story. It reports, for example, Mr. Stephens' interest in becoming the new Council Chair in January. [I don't recall that being reported previously, though again he has been talking to people about it when asked.]

Curmudgeon said...

OB:

You're right, of course, about the embarrassing Mr. Stephenson. But I think you may be selling Mr. Stephens short. I think he sees himself, and often tries to position himself on the council, as someone who can broker a compromise, who can find some common ground on which agreement can be built when the Council is sharply divided. He bends too far sometimes for my liking, and at times compromise just isn't possible. But he seems fair-minded, and that's an important quality in a Council Chair.

I agree that Ms. Wicks has done a good job as Chair, and has kept the Council focused on doing its job --- moving administration proposals that deserve support, but submitting those proposals to critical and probing review first. And under her leadership, the Council has stood fast sometimes --- though not always --- when its own prerogatives and authority have been ignored by the Mayor. [E.g. the Council over-riding his veto on the MWC budget.] And she's had to deal with a Mayor who has no respect for the Council, or the Chair that leads it, or its authority or the role the laws require it to play in the Mayor/Council form of city government in Utah.

I haven't talked to Ms. Wicks about this, but I wouldn't be surprised if she decided she didn't want the job for another term. Being a lightning rod for the Mayor's petulance, funneled through the SE Editorial Board at times, gets old real fast, I imagine.

As for the true contest being between Hizzonah and Ms. Van Hooser: I hope not. Ms. Van Hooser will have but one vote on the Council The true contest will continue to be as it has been since the Mayor took office between the Mayor ---who has contempt for the Council and its proper role in city government, who dissembles, conceals and demeans the Council constantly, a mayor whose approach to the Council can be summed up as "My way or the highway" --- and the Council [collectively], which at last over the past several years has begun to act as the city's legislative body, and to recognize that its members, individually and collectively, were put into office by the voters and so are as much the representatives of Ogden city as the Mayor is.

The Mayor will try to turn it into what you expect the main contest will be -- a personal dispute between himself and Ms. VanHooser [just as he's convinced the SE Editorial Board that the current problem is a personal one between himself and Ms. Wicks]. I hope he will not succeed. We shall see.

Monotreme said...

As an outsider, and not privy to council deliberations, it appears to me that council chair is a rather thankless and weak position -- just a lightning rod for the Mayor's petulant attacks.

In that regard, those who are regarded by the Mayor as enemies -- by my count, four of the seven council members -- would be best served by staying out of leadership positions, because that just opens them to further criticism. It would be better to form a sort of coalition or caucus to shepherd important legislative initiatives through Council, and not have to worry about day-to-day demands like setting limits on debate.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

It's not an entirely powerless position, in terms of council procedures and agenda setting and communication with and tasking Council staff.

Another potential downside to putting a Mayoral sock-puppet like Mr. Stephenson in the job would be this: the rest of the Council would be dependent on Mr. Stephenson accurately and fully conveying to the Council whatever information Hizzonah deigned to convey to him at their private meetings. Should Mr. Stephenson gain the chair, I look for two years of other council members complaining, as the SE once did, that the Mayor had kept them out of the loop, told them nothing, played "gotcha!" with them yet again, only to have Hizzonah reply "Not so! I told the Council chair about that, kept him fully informed."

There's a reason the Godfrey Gaggle wants Ms. Wicks out of there. It is not a powerless position. An often thankless and difficult one, yes. Powerless, no.

Monotreme said...

Curm:

Didn't say "powerless". I said "weak". Maybe "weak" is too strong a word (snicker). I guess I meant "not as powerful as the chair of a board typically is".

I don't support Mr. Stephenson's candidacy for council chair, and I'm betting he'd have trouble garnering more than two votes for it. Dead letter.

I am more intrigued by Mr. Stephens serving as council chair. That might be an interesting way to go. Most of all, it ensures that Mr. Stephenson will not get a third vote, and not even get close to four.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

OK. Sorry. Then lets just say the root of our disagreement, to the extent that we disagree, which I suspect is not much, is that I don't think the office is quit as weak as you may.

Stephen M. Cook said...

Chair Wicks has performed admirably in a difficult situation.
Its like when one has an idiot who one must argue with, in accordance with ones position.

Not an enviable task, especially when the idiot you are duct-taped to thinks he is a smooth liar.

Its hard not to look bad, when you are duct-taped to an idiot; that would be our point.
Ms. Wicks does better than most would, in a similarly tight spot.

Bill C. said...

Just what's the problem here? Amy ran on an open government approach and was elected twice by a large majority.
The structure of how the system is supposed to work is in tact and working very well. Any administration proposals or ideas have to come to the whole Council in open meetings with minutes taken. This allows for no back room deals or undue arm twisting or quid quo pro, which is exactly why lying little matty and Patterson have been crying to Schwebke and the gondola examiner folks. It's hard to offer a carrot on a stick or threaten a Council member in public.
Curm, I disagree with you on this. The gondola examiner has been trying to make this an issue since this spring and quite frankly, we're not buying it.

Danny said...

With respect to the former council chair persons, Amy Wicks has been by far the best.

She has stood up to Mayor Godfrey and has enabled the council for the first time to fill its proper role as policy lead for the city. No wonder Godfrey and his suits are uncomfortable with her.

The voters have consistently chosen an independent council! Amy Wicks is the ideal chair person to carry forward the public's wishes.

Amy Wicks should be kept in the job if she wants it. And I hope she does.

And were I her, I would refrain from meeting one-on-one with Godfrey, as would also be the decision for any reasonable, thinking person.

Curmudgeon said...

Bill:

You wrote: Curm, I disagree with you on this. The gondola examiner has been trying to make this an issue since this spring and quite frankly, we're not buying it.

And you think this means we're disagreeing... why?

Bill C. said...

Curm, at this point this is not a news story. Every year Stephanson tries to secure a leadership position, every year he fails miserably. Stevens though likable, isn't cut from the right cloth for leadership as long as this lying crooked mayor is in.
I for the life of me don't understand how folks fall for someone that says compromize or find middle ground. These schemes this stupid mayor has tried to advance are utterly ridiculus, velodromes, icicles, urban campgrounds with pygmy pony riding trails. Ideas this stupid don't call for compromise, they need to be crushed, stamped out and terminated from the getgo.
This really isn't news to anyone that follows the workings of City government very closely. This is like reporting they grew corn in Iowa.

Curmudgeon said...

Bill:

Ah, ok. Well first of all, the real news was not that Stephenson wants to be chair. That ranks up there with "Sun To Rise In East" for news value. The real news was that Stephens does. I had not seen that in print before. And with two new Council members coming on board --- Garner and Blair --- who have never voted on a chair before, and with Council members evidently discussing this topic with voters, associates and each other, I think what the SE published absolutely counts as legit news.

Second, on compromise: again, we disagree. Last term, Hizzonah asked the Council for 200K for his ice climbing popsicle project. Councilwoman Gochnour brokered a compromise that worked: the Council offerd $100K for the project, half what the mayor wanted, but specified that it be the last money spent --- i.e. that funds sufficient to build the entire project, minus that 100K, be raised first. When as it turned out they couldn't be raised, the money returned to the city and no damage done.

Many advantages: the Council had not said simply "No!" to the Mayor's project. It offered some support but attached reasonable conditions to that support. You can say it would have been better to have said "No!" and offered not a penny. But I'm not so sure, particularly with an election looming during which the Godfrey Gaggle would try to sell the voters the notion that the Council said "No!" to everything Godfrey proposed because Godfrey proposed it.

Sometimes there are reasonable and worthwhile compromises to be made. Not every time but sometimes. And sometimes there is middle ground on which agreements can rest. Not every time but sometimes. And I think it's good for Ogden to have on the Council some people who actively look for those times.

Curmudgeon said...

About the SE but off topic. Tonight, the SE is running a headline over one of its picture features on top of its website that reads, in its entirety:

"Divorce rips families apart"

If there's a contest for headlines that state the obvious, that has to be in the finals.

Stephen M. Cook said...

Murder Kills People

Wm III said...

One armed man applauds the kindness of strangers ...

Godfrey Sucks said...

I think it is funny that constantly council members say that when they meet one-on-one with Godfrey he intimidates them to vote his way "or else" and then no one believes them. How many meetings must he have with people like this until he is considered the liar and they are all honest? I guess because he goes to church he's an honest man. So does Abe Shreeve, and we all know based on his video that he's a liar! Mayor Godfrey will do whatever it takes to get his way. People of Ogden, speak out against him.

ozboy said...

Headline

"One legged man in ass kicking contest"

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