Thursday, December 17, 2009

Standard-Examiner Letter: "Godfrey's Contributors 'Wanted Success' In Ogden"

In our view, the current Emerald City "pay-to-play" system needs a stake driven through its evil heart

An interesting Standard-Examiner letter to the editor popped up on the SE Live! Edition website this morning, in response to Dan Schroeder's earlier letter, which was published in the SE hard-copy edition on December 11. As we stand mired within yet another S-L-O-O-O-W Emerald City news day, we invite our readers to have a look:
Godfrey's contributors wanted success in Ogden
We gotta snarkily say, if you read between the lines, the headline truly does encapsulate the gist of the story. The headline truly says it all.

The author, presumably Ogden landscape contractor Rich Combe, apparently finds no problem with a situation where sweetheart contracts are routinely awarded to "paid in full" Friends of Matt (FOM). These folks constitute a highly-deserving "who's who" list of Ogden Boosters, and are thus deserving of certain special "advantages," Mr. Combe seems to suggest.

And if Mr. Combe's following paragraph isn't an outright, unabashed defense of the campaign donation pay-to-play system which seemingly exists under the governance of the Ogden City Administration, it certainly comes within spittin' distance," or so it seems to us:
Let's not start finger-pointing and attempting to stir up misconceptions about our local companies or administration. Why wouldn't anyone want the city to put as much money as possible right back into local businesses? These companies have almost always got to bid any work they provide and they get an advantage because they are local and we should want them to be doing the work. By contracting with local companies it means the money for purchases or projects stays right here in our community; they hire a larger local supplier chain and keep money moving within our area. [Emphasis added].
Mr. Combe warns that he hopes "...anyone who wishes that these companies discontinue support of Ogden has a lot of money to pick up the gaps." And in that connection we'll suggest that none of these All-star Ogden Boosters should cease "funding and contributing to events, teams, our schools, non-profit organizations and many other worthwhile causes." If these "special" individuals and corporate entities are sincere and community-minded Ogden Boosters, surely they'll keep on doing that, and there will be no reason to worry about any "gaps."

Special note to Mr. Combe: It's not the true community service efforts that the lumpencitizens are complaining about, but rather the obscenely bloated campaign warchests, coupled with with the special interest privileges and perks which seem to invariably flow to "paid up" FOMs, which cause severe lumpencitizen heartburn.

As a sidenote we'll add that we believe our city council did a fine job in amending Ogden's campaign finance ordinance this year, to provide reasonable individual campaign finance limits. As Gentle Reader Dan S. earlier observed, there's evidence that these ordinance amendments did level the campaign finance playing field in this year's Municipal Election; so in the future, we'll be lobbying the council for an outright ban on corporate contributions.

It's our sincere hope that folks with attitudes like Mr. Combe's will become a dying breed here in Emerald City, as we lumpencitizens carry on our quest for honest, transparent and ethical government. In our view, Bos Godfrey's current Emerald City pay-to-play system needs a stake driven through its evil heart.

That's our opinion; and we're stickin' with it.

Update 12/17/09 11:42 a.m.: For Dan Schroeder's most excellent retort to Mr. Combe on this subject, be sure to check out his comment in the SE article comments section:
Subtle Difference
So what say our gentle readers about all this?


Dan S. said...

For archival convenience, here's a copy of my response to Mr. Combe...

Dear Mr. Combe:

Thank you for reading my letter. Please note, however, that I didn't say the mayor's contributor list was a "who's who of Ogden"; I said it reads like a "Who's Who of companies doing business with the city." There are many, many Ogden-area businesses who undoubtedly want the city to prosper yet whose names do not appear on the list.

Let's take a closer look at the list of businesses that I named in my letter:

* Gadi Leshem ($10,000): Beneficiary of the city's secret, illegal program of buying options on properties in the River Project area on his behalf. Also benefited from the city's earlier efforts, on his behalf, to rezone the property that he sold to Walmart.

* R&O Construction ($10,000): Junction contractor

* Staker Parson ($10,000): Junction contractor

* Boyer Company ($9,000): BDO and Junction developer

* Larry Myler ($9000): Was proposing (unknown to voters at the time) to develop a major hotel complex at the Junction, to be subsidized by the city in various ways

* Cutrubus ($6000): contractor who provides vehicles to the city

* Fresenius ($5000): has received extensive tax increment subsidies

* Goode ($5000): was given virtually exclusive use of 21st Street pond

* Wadman ($5000): contractor for American Can building and other city-sponsored projects

* Earnshaw ($4000): was sold a prime parcel of Junction property for construction of a retail/condo building

* Total Fitness Center ($2500): Salomon Center lessee

* Dowse ($2000): wife of the head of Amer Sports which received several million dollars in incentives and naming rights to the Salomon Center

* Fat Cats ($2000): Salomon Center lessee

* Amcan ($1000): Now owns American Can building after complex, "barely-legal" transfer from the city

* Sonora Grill ($1000): Junction tenant

The mayor's full contributor list (from 2007) is here:

The pattern here is absolutely plain, yet the Standard-Examiner has never mentioned it in print--and that was the point of my letter.

If you believe it's ethical for the mayor to accept large campaign contributions from the companies he does business with, then you are in a small minority. The Standard-Examiner clearly believes this would be unethical if it happened at the state level, and has repeatedly editorialized in favor of contribution limits and restrictions on corporate contributions. I'm still wondering where they stand on this activity when it happens locally.

Big Sue said...

Nice work, Dan.


Danny said...

I remember right before Godfrey's last election, three local contractors wrote a long commentary endorsing Godfrey, and of course, the SE printed it.

In their editorial, Dave Wadman, Orluff Ophiekens, and Steve Kier were very up front about the fact that they were bankrolling Godfrey because he had directed a number of large construction project to them - essentially favoring them over "outside" business.

This was back in the day Godfrey was viewed by some as the "messiah".

Now that Dan and others have documented the hand washing and graft surrounding these contracts and so many other things, these local snakes have been keeping a lower profile, other than for Steve Kier's bankrolling of the Godfreyite candidates in the last election.

Given they can no longer paint themselves white, can no longer hide their crony deals, and the fact that their money in the last election bought them almost nothing, we can only hope this time when Godfrey goes back to his Crony Well for money he will find it to be relatively dry.

Dan S. said...

Rudi, although the news today was indeed slow, you haven't yet mentioned yesterday's article about Chris Bentley:

WSU student heads to the White House for internship

I got to know Chris when he was one of Smart Growth Ogden's most active volunteers during the Gondola War of 2006. He's also done an internship with Ogden City, and been very active promoting all sorts of good causes at WSU. As a WSU student government leader, he addressed the Weber Area Council of Governments in May 2008, urging them to move forward with the streetcar proposal. Only a few weeks later, Mayor Godfrey did an about-face and said they could go ahead with the alternatives analysis (now underway). Chris is an amazingly effective activist and we should all wish him the best during his well-earned stint at the White House.

Biker Babe said...

Since when is Leshem a local? place of business is:

8964 Oso Ave
Chatsworth, CA 91311



what would jesus say said...

If you call large amounts of debt, and empty nrw store fronts, bombed out river developments successful. I suppose they got what they paid for.

RJS said...

Hey Biker Babe! ! That address is 1 block from my childhood home, and coincidentally, right in the smack-middle of the global pornography industry.

That Chatsworth address is literally within money-shot distance of a dozen major adult studios.



althepal said...

Gadi gets to rub elbows with porn stars? With all his financial troubles, that ought to cheer him up.

Flunked English said...

8964 Oso
Selling the desks and copy machines, oh my!

Used office stuff, better hurry

Flunked English said...

Looks like the whole building is for sale too.
8964 Oso

Biker Babe said...

Omygoodness! Leshem split town -- I wonder if the mayor knows this. I wonder if that is what set him off about the stuff on the blog ... I wonder which other of his contributor/cronies are gonna abscond from the scene ... will Mayor Matt's head explode?


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