Saturday, February 27, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: Weekend Time Out

But first... several additional budding developments which have come to our attention since our last WCF posting on this subject

As we enter into the weekend, we'll temporarily put the Powder Mountain story to rest, until at least next week. Before we do that however, we'd like to inform our readers about several budding developments which have come to our attention since our last WCF posting on this subject:

1) Regarding the pendency of Rep. Froerer's HB 218, we received this voice message from Senator Allen Christen, the bill's Senate sponsor, which indeed confirms that the Powder Mountain Developer and the County Commission seem to be on the verge of a settlement deal:
The bill [HB 218] is stalled in committee. It's not dead; it's not gone. But we have at least temporarily,we have a letter from the developer saying that they will stand down, not try to to incorporate, run everything back through the planning commission, and essentially do the same thing. They just don't want to have this done to them. I've seen the letter; the Commissioners still have to agree to it, and if that's amenable to them, then everybody's going to back off, and hopefully let this thing go away.
We subsequently spoke with Senator Christensen by phone, who further confirmed, to our considerable initial disappointment, that despite its offer to "stand down," the Powder Mountain Developer has unfortunately not yet offered to permanently relinquish its right to later resume its action for Powder Mountain Town incorporation. Inasmuch as we've as yet been unable to obtain an electronic copy of this letter, we'll thus offer no commentary on whatever substantive terms may be contained therein.

2) We've been informed by a reliable source that the Weber County Commission had at some recent point set a public hearing for March 16, to discuss a mysterious "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU), but that this hearing has now been taken off-calender. Presumably it'll be returned to the calender for public hearing, once Commission and Developer legal eagles have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's.

3) We've also been informed by several independent sources, gentle reader Laura among them, that Senate Government Ops Committee members McAdam and Robles have responded to lumpencitizen persuasion, and are prepared to vote in favor of recommending that HB 218 be advanced to the Senate floor for deliberation and debate, in the event that the committee would re-convene to re-consider the matter. Of course that's all hearsay; so take it for what it's worth.

4) We also had a short conversation with Rep. Froerer late yesterday afternoon, wherein he reconfirmed that he remains ready to "pull the trigger" and continue, if necessary, to push his bill forward for a full Senate vote. In this context however he also offered the cautionary admonition that a sizable number of the key players in this battle, including some litigants in the Powder Mountain citizens lawsuit, are expressing concern about throwing the bill in front of the Senate, where strong opposition forces continue to oppose HB 218. Rather than taking the risk of a Senate "crapshoot," an influential faction of the prospective "Powderville" residents are therefore apparently leaning in favor of the "negotiated" settlement, an outcome which indeed appears to be in the works.

5) Last but not least, Ogden Valley Forum has an interesting guest commentary up on its blogsite this morning, speaking to the issue of the continuing "back room" negotiations. We accordingly invite all interested WCF readers to take a look:
Guest Post From Frank C. - HB 218 Questions
In closing we'll say that while we still maintain the position that the "Powderville" problem will never be permanently solved until the Powder Mountain Town Incorporation issue is unequivocally and irrevocably taken off the table, we'll nevertheless resist the temptation to forcefully editorialize on this point this morning, but instead defer, at least for the time being, to the hopefully sound judgment of those parties who are far more intimately involved in the negotiations than we.

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,"
as the old saying goes. So we'll recognize the possible wisdom in this old folk ax, cool our jets at this juncture and wait to see how it all shakes out in the days to come. The very last thing we'd like to see at this stage of this exceedingly fragile existing situation, would be to find ourselves being blamed for throwing a wrench into the works.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: Time For The Lumpencitizens of the "Demo" Persuasion To Unleash "The Full Court Press" - UPDATED

Its time to edumacate a couple of seemingly backward UTAH Demo Senators/Senate Committee Members who are seriously confused about the local "Powderville" issue, wethinks

For those readers who are just logging on to Weber County Forum right now, you probably haven't heard the bad news. As we reported in our earlier WCF article of this morning, Gage Froerer's politically bi-partisan HB 218 got stalled in committee today, when the two Democratic Party Senators on the committee, (of all people whom we'd assumed would would naturally "cross the aisle" and approve this bill in committee, and vote in support of Sen. Jon Greiner's motion to give the bill a favorable recommendation, and to move it forward,) inexplicably pulled the rug out from under the "Powdervillians, and stalled this bill with their mind-boggling "nay" votes.

Time's running short here, People. Rep. Gage Froerer informed your WCF blogmeister this afternoon that HB218 will again return to the the Senate Government Operations & Political Subdivions Committee for a new vote again tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.!

In this connection we'll urge all Utah Democrats amongst our WCF readership to chime in now on this subject... Yes RIGHT NOW. Be sure to trot out your official Demo credentials, especially if you serve as a Demo Executive Committee Member, or as a state or county DEMO delegate, or as any other Democratic party Mucky-muck.

Its time to edumacate a couple of seemingly backward UTAH Demo Senators/Senate Committee Members who are seriously confused about this local issue, wethinks:

Here are the contact links to Democratric Party Mssrs. McAdams and Robles, the ones who blindly missed (or ignored) the "Powderville citizens' call to action" in re today's committee vote, and in an extremely cowardly and "bootlicking" way, joined forces with neoCON GOP "develop at all costs" leadership"in taking the legs out from under" Rep. Gage Froerer's HB 218:
Ben McAdams (Democrat, so-called)
Luz Robles (Democrat, so-called)
Don't let the cat get your tongues, our Utah Democratic Party-affiliate friends.

Be sure to contact Mssrs. McAdams and Robles, and "splain to them exactly 'wha'sup.'"

Update 2/26/10 8:24 a.m.: We just received this somewhat cryptic missive from Rep. Froerer, re the scheduling of today's followup committee hearing, (for which we'd hoped to provide more live audio this morning):
Not on the agenda for this AM. We are expecting a letter from the Developers that would stay the litigation and the incorporation if this does not happen we will request to go directly to the Senate Board. I am waiting to hear from the County.
We'll have to confess we don't quite know what to make of this. Perhaps however, that heretofore elusive "settlement/development agreement" -- (the one which would "resolve" this whole kerfuffle) -- is hastily coming to fruition in some obscure Weber County Commission back room... even as we speak [wink].

Standard-Examiner Streetcar Double-Header

Some thoughtful commentary from one former Ogden City Councilwoman

By Dorrene Jeske

Scott Schwebke’s article in the Standard-Examiner this morning, “Dreams of two streetcar systems” generates a lot of unanswered questions, i.e., “How does the ‘$21.4 million 2.2-mile downtown loop circulator streetcar corridor’ qualify for federal funding without any feasibility and environmental studies being done? How is Godfrey able to push it ahead of the WSU-McKay Hospital corridor which has been on UTA’s and the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s drawing board for at least a decade? Can Ogden afford to do two streetcar projects simultaneously? If so, what are the fund resources?”

It is my opinion, that Godfrey’s immaturity (his childish traits of impatience and “I want it NOW!” attitude that he has demonstrated during his entire administration, is showing. I suppose that’s the price that Ogden has to pay for electing a child-mayor – one who had no administrative, executive and business experience before being elected mayor!

The logic given by UTA’S Gerry Carpenter for the Washington-36th street corridor in the article is pure bureaucratic hogwash! It is a prime example of the old saying, “You can make statistics say whatever you want,” and you can’t believe everything you read! His statement, “It best meets the purpose and needs of Ogden’s economic development goals,” merits much consideration and skepticism. One question that might be asked of him and the mayor is: “How is that true when: 1) South Ogden will benefit from a good share of the economic development and they have not contributed or even indicated that they would contribute ANYTHING to the project. 2) The past decade the city has worked hard and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to revitalize the inner-city neighborhoods and is still putting forth those efforts. It makes much more sense to run that streetcar corridor on one of the main eastbound streets (24th, 25th or 26th) where Ogden will benefit from ALL of the economic development created by the streetcar. The good people of that neighborhood have produced an excellent “neighborhood plan,” and need the help of the streetcar with its future economic impact to realize their goals. Since the neighbor plan is part of the City’s General Plan and promotes economic development, the Administration should support their efforts instead of fighting them. 3) The residents of the “Trolley District” have publicly stated their support of a streetcar system several times and promised the ridership support necessary for the streetcar’s success. The comments that I have heard regarding the Washington Blvd. corridor have not been positive and I question that it would be as successful as the routes being supported by potential customers of the Trolley District. 4) Washington Blvd. already has a lot of commercial development. I’m sure that the streetcar would add new businesses and rejuvenate Washington Blvd., but the economic development and neighborhood rejuvenation would be much greater and have more impact on Ogden’s economy. 5) Carpenter states in his quote for the SE that “potentially only 15 properties would have to be acquired by UTA.” Who is to say that they would be able to acquire ownership of all those homes without imposing eminent domain – not a good solution! While “only 15 properties” would need to be acquired for the 36th St. corridor, the number would be LESS for an inner-city corridor.

In reference to Charlie Trentlemen's article: Your dream may be realized someday. The Wasatch Regional Front Council has the streetcar corridor from North Ogden to Roy as you described in its long-range plans for Weber County.

I wonder when governments, and governmental agencies are going to learn that they need to listen to the people who pay their wages. Just as Utah is sending the federal government messages, it’s time the residents of Ogden to send their city and state governments some messages!

House Bill 218: Live Audio From This Morning's Senate Committee Session - UPDATED

Listen up , folks; and monitor the results of your handiwork, as Rep. Froerer's HB 218 bill appears as the first item on this morning's 8:00 a.m. Senate Government Operations and Political Subsdivisions Standing Committee agenda
UPDATE: Bad News... HB 218 stalls in committee by a tied 3-3 vote

For the benefit of those readers who'd like to listen in on this morning's Senate Government Operations Committee hearing, wherein Rep. Gage Froerer's H.B. 218 (Municipal Disincorporation Revisions) is item #1 on the committee calender, we're once again pleased to offer a live audio link. If all goes according to plan, the below audio link should automatically go "live" around 8:00 a.m.:
realPlayer Audio (Pre-recorded)
MP3 Audio (Pre-recorded)
(We've now replaced the "live" link with the above recorded copies, for those who'd like to listen in after the the hearing is completed.)

We'd also like to again thank our many readers who submitted their supportive emails to Rep. Froerer and SGOPS Committee members during the last few days. Thanks to your vigorous efforts, the a hefty volume of correspondence reached the desks of the six committee members.

Listen up , folks; and monitor the results of your handiwork!

Update 2/25/10 9:00 a.m.: Bad news, people. After considerable lengthy testimony and discussion, this bill has now stalled in committee. Senator Liljenquist's motion to hold the bill for further study failed, due a tied 3-3 vote. Senator Greiner's subsequent motion to pass the bill on to the full Senate then likewise failed by the same vote tally. According to Chairman Knudsen however, there will be one final opportunity to bring this bill back for further committee deliberation during the current legislative session, which means that we citizen-lobbyists have further work cut out for us.

The three Senate committee members who voted in opposition to moving this bill forward... Liljenquist, McAdams and Robles.

Looks like it's back to the drawing board, folks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gage Froerer's HB 218 is Finally Assigned to Senate Committee

If ever you are to chime in on the "Powderville" situation... the time should be NOW!

Okay, Gentle Weber County Forum readers:

Query: What do we like @ WCF more than hard-core political activism?
Answer: MORE hard-core political activism! Doh.

And speaking of that, here's the latest news about Rep. Gage Froerer's HB 218:

Gage's bill has now been assigned to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee, for 8:00 a.m, on Thursday, which committee hearing will be the last procedural hurdle before it's moved onto the Full Senate, for an up/down vote.

It's a pretty favorable committee assignment for Rep. Froerer, actually, we believe, with the likes of Weber County-friendly Senators Jon Greiner and Scott Jenkins sitting on the committee. But considering serious neoCON Senate opposition to HB 218, this committee assignment still remains far from a Gage Froerer slam-dunk.

Those of us who'd like to restore voting rights to the harried "Powdervillians" therefore can't take anything for granted, even at this juncture. The last thing we'd like to see would be to have this bill killed in Thursday's committee hearing.

So... we'll once again call upon our faithful readers, the Utah lumpencitizens, just as we successully did before, to once again chime in on this subject, and to lodge with this Senate Committee your ever-savvy comments on this subject.

In that connection, here's our new Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee contact link page which we've put together for that very purpose:
2010 Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee contact link page
Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle Ones. Even if you think you're sometimes internet tongue-tied... please don't hesitate to click on the link and throw in your own two-bits this go-round.

If we sit on our thumbs at this juncture, the "Powdervillians" will predictably be screwed.

If ever you are to chime in on the "Powderville" situation... the time should be NOW!

Have at it, O Gentle Ones.

Standard-Examiner: OWCAP's Management of Marshall White Center to Continue for 3 Years

All's well that ends well... as the old saying goes

Good news from the Standard-Examiner this morning, whereby Scott Schwebke reports that despite its tumultuous initial startup, private contractor Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership (OWCAP) is happily succeeding in its management effort at the Marshall White Center, and has even upped the ante, with a newly-inked three-year management contract:

OGDEN -- The city has extended a three-year contract to the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership for continued management of the Marshall White Community Center.John Patterson, the city's chief administrative officer, and George Garwood, chairman of OWCAP's board of trustees, signed the management agreement Monday during a ceremony at the center, 222 28th St., in conjunction with Black History Month.OWCAP, which has been managing the Marshall White Community Center for the city on an interim basis since June, has made the facility more vibrant and popular with residents, Patterson told dozens of spectators. "It's just enlivened this facility."
Read the full Std-Ex story here:
OWCAP's management of Marshall White Center to continue for 3 years
Regular readers will of course remember the OWCAP management runup, during which Boss Godfrey negotiated the original contract in secret, ran headlong into fierce community opposition, and was eventually thwarted in his efforts to close the pool and cut city funding to MWC by a city council budget ordinance which contained a council policy statement mandating that the pool would remain open and that MWC funding would continue to flow into MWC operations. And who can forget the ensuing further antics of the petulant Boss Godfrey, who vetoed the council ordinance, suffered a subsequent veto override, threw several highly-inelegant public temper tantrums and then vowed that he would not obey council policy directives and would instead see the city council in court?

Well... fast forward to February 23, 2010... from which vantage point it seems the OWCAP management operation is evidently running smooth as silk, funding is flowing from city coffers to keep MWC operational (No gentle readers, OWCAP never scored the $450 thousand federal grant it applied for), and Boss Godfrey sits back in his ninth floor throne room slowly digesting the nutritious dinner which was served up to him by the City Council grownups during the year 2009:

All's well that ends well... as the old saying goes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Powder Mountain Ink... This Time From the Deseret News

We don't know why some folks still don't "get it;" perhaps they just don't want to get it

The Salt Lake print media devotes more ink to the Powder Mountain Saga this morning, with this Deseret News story, which briefly summarizes the facts leading to the introduction in the legislature of Rep. Gage Froerer's HB 218, which (as DNews reporter Rebecca Palmer aptly notes) seems to be "held up on Capitol Hill [the Senate] despite hard lobbying by the local state representative and support from county officials":
Developers pushing to create town in Ogden Valley
While this morning's story in many respects reflects a respectable gum-shoe reportorial effort, with its sizable collection of presumably hard-gotten and pithy lumpencitizen quotes, we believe the Deseret News nevertheless misses the main point. Whereas Rep. Froerer has carefully framed his bill narrowly, as remedial legislation to cure a gross legislative error and to re-establish citizen voting rights, the tone of this morning's story not-so-subtly drifts back to that tired old theme, which seems to pop up so regularly in stories written by reporters who've only superficially covered the "Powderville Town" issues... i.e., that this is a garden variety "Developer v. Environmentalist" story.

Exhibit "A": Check out the photo in the center column, which carries this hopelessly misleading notation:
Jim and RuthAnn Halay are members of a group of approximately 120 home-owners and residents who are resisting the development of their Weber County area by Powder Mountain Resort.
We've said it before and we'll reiterate: Rep. Froerer's HB 218 is a voter rights bill, and NOT an anti-development bill! We honestly don't know why some folks (even hard-working reporters) still don't seem to understand the issues at stake.

Perhaps Ms. Palmer (and others who still don't seem to "get it") ought to check out the audio from the 2/5/10 House Government Operations Committee hearing wherein Rep. Froerer carefully spells it all out: most estimates, by most estimates I've seen, if this incorporation was to take place, and would require those citizens to wait two years, the infrastructure that would be necessary to be put in place, we all know the cost to set up city government, would increase the property tax burden on a very small group, approximately a hundred people, somewhere between fifty to seventy-five percent, unless some deal was made by the incorporator. So what you're saying, by forcing them to wait the two year period of time,you could very well see property tax averages for this small group of people, right now on their single family homes, that probably average between twenty five to three-thousand, to increase to five thousand to maybe up to seven thousand dollars for that same home, just because of that incorporation, not because of additional services that would be provided by that community.
Significantly, this morning's DNews story didn't even mention the economic issues which are ever so closely tied to the "right to vote."

Yes, it's all about voting rights, people; but we mustn't forget that voting rights stem fundamentally from the core American principle that there shouldn't be "taxation without representation." (This aforementioned principle is of course even more primarily derived from the common sense "core" American notion that "hapless property owners ought not have their tax bills capriciously jacked up 'between fifty to seventy-five percent' by their self-absorbed, greedhead neighbors, without at least having some say in the matter.")

We don't know why some folks don't "get it;" perhaps they just don't want to get it.

Take it away, O Gentle Ones. It's been uncharacteristically quiet here at Weber County Forum over the past few days.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Standard-Examiner Editorial: OUR VIEW: Secession, Anyone?

We gotta once again say that we're mighty impressed with the upgrade in quality of the SE's editorials, since Doug Gibson took over for Don Porter
We have a suggestion for Sen. Stephenson, or maybe Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, or Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, Or Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, or Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, or any of their ideological clones: secede from the United States. That would send a message to the federal bureaucrats. No longer would they say, "Oh, it's another resolution from those Utah pols!" They'd have to listen this time.

OUR VIEW: Secession, anyone?
February 21, 2010

Fantastic "tongue in cheek" morning editorial editorial from the Standard-Examiner (we're assuming it's tongue in cheek) criticizing the 2010 legislature's mealy-mouthed, piecemeal "Message Bill" approach to its apparent 2010 legislative project, i.e., thumbing its nose at the federal government:
OUR VIEW: Secession, anyone?
Yes Gentle Readers, "the silly season" is again upon us this election year, with the usual glut of half-assed "message bills," full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

So what say our Gentle Readers about this? So long as we're chafing under the heavy federal yoke, shouldn't our legislature stop merely nibbling around the edges... and just wholeheartedy go for broke?
But legislators, if you want to truly be independent of the federal government, stop taking so much of its money. It might be quite difficult to make up some of the lost cash, but hey, you'd be the inaugural Legislature of the new nation of Utah. You control the purse strings. You can make the legislative decisions.
And they won't have to be "message" resolutions -- they'd be for real.
Touche', SE Editorial Board... a hit! A most palpable hit! Why should our legislature limit itself to insipid political posturing, when it could could go for the whole enchilada?

We gotta once again say that we're mighty impressed with the upgrade in quality of the SE's editorials, since Doug Gibson took over for Don Porter.

So what say our gentle readers about all this?

Update 2/21/10 1:00 p.m.: While we're on the subject of 2010 "message bills," don't miss this morning's Deseret News column, wherein Mssrs. Pignanelli and Webb cheerfully opine on this topic:
'Message' bills: Are they important or a waste of time?
And who will be the first of our WCF readers to comment?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop the Presses: WCF Yellow Dog Democrat Regular Contributor Strongly Supports One Key Piece of 2010 State GOP Party Legislation!

GOP legislators should be applauded when they propose "good bills," says the ever-sensible Curmudgeon

By Curmudgeon

Lest it be thought that I cannot applaud Republican legislators when they propose good bills, I'd like to applaud Utah State Senator Peter Knudson (R-District 17) for sponsoring SB 52, "Voter Challenge Amendments." The bill "seeks to strengthen the integrity of the process by which voter eligibility can be challenged," says the Utah ACLU, which supports its passage.

From the Utah ACLU website's write-up on the bill:
Why do we need to improve this part of the voting process?
The ACLU of Utah witnessed first hand how Utah’s current voter challenge law was misused to wrongfully accuse a large number of Ogden voters of being ineligible to vote during the 2007 election.Additionally, this tactic has been used in other parts of the state, and against other groups of voters to dissuade eligible and lawful voters from exercising the right to vote.

How will SB 53 impact legitimate voter challenges? How will it affect the work of Election Day officials?
SB 53 will protect the ability for appropriate voter eligibility challenges to be made, but it will also give the challenged voter the opportunity to prove her or his eligibility (without missing out on the chance to participate in Election Day). In addition to assuring that the challenge process cannot be manipulated to exclude voters for political or other reasons, SB 53 actually streamlines the challenge process and free up election official time on Election Day to deal with real election issues.
Ed Note: All hard-core WCF readers alike (lefties and righties, lifties and smarties) are all invited to chime in at once.

Standard-Examiner Letter: C'mon, Governor Herbert; Don't Sell Yourself Short!

Nine days since Dan's letter was first posted online;and we're still ROFLOAO

We're pleased to briefly note that WCF regular contributor Dan Schroeder's very clever February 11, 2010 Letter to the Editor, which we previewed in this forum on the same date, has now made its way to the hard-copy Standard-Examiner editorial page, adding considerably, we're quite sure, to the SE general print readership's morning merriment and mirth. For those who'd like to add your own further commentary to the SE's article comments section, we helpfully re-link the web version of today's "dead tree edition" letter below:
Herbert can get more than $10,000 for political favors
We'll also note that it's now nine days since Dan's letter was first posted online, and we're still ROFLOAO.

And how'bout YOU?

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Powder Mountain - Let the Citizens Have a Say

Time for the State Senate to finish "cleaning up" the Powderville voter disenfranchisement mess
... HB466, passed with little discussion at the end of the 2007 legislation... "was a major screw-up."

Salt Lake Tribune
Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden
February 22, 2008

So far this [HB 218] is the only legitimate bill I've read about this year. Pass it immediately.

Salt Lake Tribune
Powder Mountain Editorial

Salt Lake Tribune reader comment #2
February 19, 2010

We're delighted to direct our readers' attention to this morning's strong Salt Lake Tribune editorial, urging the State Senate to finish the job of "cleaning up the mess" which the legislature created in 2007 with its "misguided" SB 466, and to relieve the civil rights injustice heaped upon the prospective Powderville" residents, "who were wrongly roped into the new town of Powder Mountain without their consent":
Powder Mountain -- Let the citizens have a say
We've remained mystified that this story has for the most part escaped the attention of the Northern Utah media over the past three years (the Standard-Examiner excepted); so we'll therefore offer a Weber County Forum Tip O' The Hat this morning to the SLTrib for devoting important editorial page space this morning to endorsing a bill which at least one SLTrib reader has characterized as "the only legitimate bill I've read about this year."

Nice work, Salt Lake Tribune.

Hopefully, most State Senators had a chance to thoughtfully consider this strong and persuasive editorial over a nice hot cup of breakfast cocoa
this morning, and that each of them will "choose the right," (just as their House legislative collegues already and unanimously did), now that this too-long-delayed remedial bill has been once again introduced for deliberation in the Senate.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deseret News: Senator Liljenquist Cuts Public Safety Employees a Little Slack

Sen. Liljenquist's SB 63 will be amended to allow public safety employees to continue retiring at full benefits before other government workers

Here's an interesting Deseret News tidbit, following on the heels of our 2/15/10 discussion, regarding State Sen. Dan Liljenquist's SB 63, once again reminding us that its a good idea to lobby your legislators when their proposed legislation isn't quite up to snuff:
Utah Legislature: Public safety may catch a break on retirement
Here's the lede from this morning's Deseret News story:
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill creating a new, less costly state pension system will be amended to allow public safety employees to continue retiring at full benefits before other government workers.
SB63 had called for all employees covered under the state retirement system to work 35 years to earn a full pension, even though police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees traditionally have been able to leave earlier.
Now, the bill will be amended to give public safety employees a full pension after 25 years. Other public employees, including schoolteachers and state workers, still would have to work 35 years under the bill.
Liljenquist said there's a policy argument to be made for a shorter retirement window for public safety employees. "Some of these professions are more of a young person's career," he said. [...]
We'll volunteer that we're in agreement with Sen. Liljenquist rationale respecting this proposed bill amendment, as we've been having trouble wrapping our brain around the concept of forcing geriatric cops and firefighters to stick it out for a full 35 years on the job, in order to draw their retirement.

Having said that, we'll also put the focus on another interesting quote contained within today's DNews story:
The head of the Utah Public Employees Association, Audry Wood, agreed. "I think we all understand, especially with firefighters, it's such a physical, high-demand job, and the burnout rate is high," Wood said.But Wood said she still opposes the dramatic overhaul being proposed and wants the state to take more time in redesigning the pension system.The change Liljenquist is making, she said, "just goes to show that moving so quickly reveals the flaws. Getting the extra year we're asking for, we can flesh out a lot of the issues."
So what about it, Gentle Readers? Is Sen. Liljenquist's late recognition that public safety jobs are essentially "...more of a young person's career," a step in the right direction for proposed legislation that was otherwise sound? Or is Sen. Liljenquist's bill simply "moving too fast," and in need of "further study," as Utah Public Employees Association spokesperson, Audry Wood suggests?

Our discussion of Sen. Liljenquist's proposed overhaul of the Utah public employee retirement system provoked a pretty good discussion
the last time around; so in the interest of stimulating a little more discussion on this topic, we'll ask out readers this:

What do you all think about this latest news development?

A Quick Reminder About Tonight's Streetcar-oriented Event

We hope you'll be able to attend tonight's streetcar event at Union Station and that you'll also contact your friends to spread the word!

As a follow-up to Monday's WCF article, we'd like to provide a quick reminder about tonight's Weber County Heritage Foundation and Union Station Foundation-sponsored event. Click the highlighted link for details:
A Desire Named Streetcar: A Community Forum Featuring Streetcar Visioning Expert J. Craig Thorpe

When: February 18th, 2010, 6-8p.m.
Where: Union Station, Browning Theater
We hope you'll be able to attend tonight's streetcar event at Union Station and that you'll also contact your friends to spread the word!

Needless to say, post-meeting comments and remarks are invited, as always.

Don't let the cat get yer tongues!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Jeff Lee Council Presentation Report

Current economic circumstances dictate that the Council must continue to be particularly wary of any "Blue Sky" proposal which could place Ogden taxpayers "on the hook" for further bond debt

Scott Schwebke provides a quite informative Standard-Examiner story this morning, reporting on last night's Jeff Lee Council presentation, during which he unveiled his proposed River Project Master Plan, which would involve the construction of "about 1,000 residential units, including 96 single-family homes," together with "300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space as well as open space" over a projected ten-year period:
Calif.-based firm's proposal for Ogden River Project includes 96 single-family homes
We're encouraged that Mr. Lee is approaching the council with full project details at the project's inception, and we appreciate the Mayoral Administration's apparent efforts to add uncharacteristic transparency to the process, even at this relatively early stage of the game.

Having said that, we're also keeping our fingers crossed that the council will not shirk it's obligation to conduct a proper independent "vetting process," to carefully examine Mr. Lee's company's financial capabilities and fitness for tackling an ambitious project such as this. There are some hard lessons which ought to have been learned from the Godfrey Administration's earlier blind commitment to Gadi Leshem as the project's would-be developer; and we wouldn't like to see history repeat itself in this instance.

We'll be additionally keeping our eyes peeled for any still un-mentioned "economic incentives" which Boss Godfrey may have up his sleeve to assist Mr. Lee in his pursuit of this project too, inasmuch as current economic conditions make taxpayer financing tricky at best. In the wake of the exceedingly disappointing performance of the Junction Project, we believe the Council must continue to be particularly wary of any "Blue Sky" proposal which would even potentially place Ogden taxpayers "on the hook" again for further bond debt. The days are long gone, we believe, when even the most naive Godfreyite would have the nerve to attempt to confidently assure the lumpencitizens that projects financed by tax increment financing "pay for themselves."

And while we're at it, we believe this is probably a good time to reprise one of our favorite, highly-instructive Econ 101-style videos:

We do hope our ever-attentive new city council is "listening up."

That's it for now, Gentle Readers. Howbout chiming in with your own commentary on this topic? We'd especially like to hear it from any WCF readers who sat-in on last night's City Council meeting, whilst in the illustrious company of the SE's intrepid Ace Reporter, Mr. Schwebke.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Valley Residents Complain About Heli-skiing Noise - UPDATED

Seems to us the Powder Mountain Developers may have borrowed their ham-handed public relations skills from the Boss Godfrey Administration

The Standard-Examiner reports that there's more friction between Ogden Valley residents and the Powder Mountain developers, as the Weber County Commission considers a proposal this morning to ratify a Planning Commission exception to conditional use permit requirements, to allow the resort developer and a local helicopter service to operate a helicopter shuttle to the Powder Mountain back country from Wolf Creek Resort's Red Moose Lodge:
Ogden Valley residents say noise from heli-skiing choppers annoying
Ogden Valley residents have been complaining about the noise and illegality of this new and already functioning heli-ski operation since it's start-up early in February, and at some point the Planning Commission did issue a cease and desist order, which was then subsequently rescinded by the issuance of an Planning Commission ex-parte exception last week. Our friends at Ogden Valley Forum have reported fairly extensively on this; and for readers who'd like to bone up on the operative facts, OVF offers a couple of informative articles here:
Helicopters In Ogden Valley?
Helicopters in the Valley Part 2!
Without offering our editorial comment on the merits of the heli-sking permit issue, we will note in passing that it seems that the Powder Mountain developers are once again providing an illustration of what lousy neighbors they've become since they moved into the neighborhood, and that we're yet again getting a preview of things to come if "Powderville Town" is allowed to come to fruition. The Powder Mountain developers couldn't possibly do more damage to the relations between themselves and their Ogden Valley neighbors if they'd intentionally set about to do that. It's as if they've borrowed their ham-handed public relations skills straight from the Boss Godfrey Administration, it seems to us.

We'll update this article of course, once the results of this morning's 10:00 a.m. commission meeting are available.

Update 2/17/10 11:00 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner reports this morning that the Weber County Commission formally ratified the aforementioned conditional use permit exception and scheduled a further hearing before the Ogden Valley Township Planning Commission for 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 23, 2010, in the Commission Chambers in Ogden:
Weber commission stands by exemption to ski helicopter service
We're encouraged that the Commission is moving cautiously and deliberately in re this matter, inasmuch as Gage Froerer's H.B. 218 remains pending in the State Senate; and we believe it's paramount that the Commission avoid taking any action which might be perceived within Senate ranks as even remotely hostile to the Powder Mountain developer's economic interests, while Rep. Froerer moves this bill forward for an up/down Senate vote.

Smart strategy on the County Commission's part, we think.

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Senator's Absence Let Retirement Overhaul Go Through

Ogden's part time police chief and part time state senator and full time retiree insists he was not dodging the vote

By Curmudgeon

Well, well, well... now it seems Ogden's part-time police chief [when the legislature is in session] is also a part time legislator. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Sen. Greiner [R-Ogden] missed key votes in a Senate Committee recently that permitted bills to drastically alter the state's public employee retirement system to pass by a 3-2 vote:
Utah senator's absence let retirement overhaul go through
Had Greiner been present and voted "nay" on two of the bills he is known to oppose, they'd have died in committee.

Why did Chief Greiner miss the votes? He missed one because he was instead attending a luncheon thrown by Utah Realtors. Here's the story's lede:
State Sen. Jon Greiner, the Ogden police chief who draws a public-employee pension, was notably absent from a pair of long and contentious hearings last week on historic changes to the state's retirement system.
Greiner said Monday he was unable to attend the meetings due to "previous commitments," including a Friday luncheon sponsored by Utah Realtors.
He missed the other vote because, he said, he was attending a meeting with constituents to discuss "excavation and blue stakes that mark underground lines." Ogden's part time police chief and part time state senator and full time retiree insists he was not dodging the vote. Uh huh. Right.

The committee's other five members were scheduled to attend the Realtor's lunch too... but they skipped it to show up at the committee meeting. Or to put that a little differently, they decided to do the jobs the taxpayers are paying them, as legislators, to do. Chief Greiner opted instead for a free meal.

And the beat goes on....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heads-up on An Interesting Item on Tomorrow Night's Emerald City Council Agenda

Seems we're about to hear a sales pitch from California contractor Jeff Lee

Thanks to a tip from yet another sharp-eyed WCF reader, we'd like to alert you all to an item appearing on tomorrow evening's Ogden City Council Calender:
5. Request to be on the Agenda:
a. Jeff Lee, Lee Homes.
We're going to take a wild guess and speculate that it's THIS Jeff Lee who's requested time on tomorrow night's council agenda... you know, the California contractor guy who's rumored to be Boss Godfrey's top pick to ram-rod the languishing Ogden River Project?

It appears to us that tomorrow night's council agenda has suddenly become potentially very interesting.

Readers who attend tomorrow's council session are of course cordially invited to chime in with their comments and observations.

Standard-Examiner Editorial: Retirement Reforms Needed

An invitation to our board "experts" to "edumacate us" on these matters

This morning's Standard-Examiner again carries another strong editorial, this time applauding State Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, for "his efforts in the Legislature to shore up Utah's state retirement system, which took a $6.5 billion hit from the recent recession":
OUR VIEW: Retirement reforms needed
Senator Liljenquist has introduced two remedial public employee retirement bills in the State Senate, SB43 and SB63; and we believe the Standard this morning does a pretty good job of boiling it all down to the basics:
SB43 ends the odious, budget-busting practice of double-dipping, where a state employee covered by the retirement system collects both a paycheck and a pension. That is costing our state about $900 million over 10 years. It must end. [...]
SB63 moves employees hired after July 1, 2011 to a retirement system that de-emphasizes pension benefits and instead shifts the future risks of retirement from the state to the individual.
We've railed against the "odoriferous" double-dipping practice endlessly on Weber County Forum of course; so for what it's worth, we'll naturally join with the SE foursquare in strongly urging the passage of SB43. This one certainly seems to be a no-brainer... at least to us.

As for SB63, which would, as we understand it, essentially substitute a defined contribution plan in place of the current budget-busting defined benefit retirement system for all "new hires," we're still sitting on the fence, but strongly leaning in the direction of supporting this latter bill too.

In that connection, we believe the SE makes a pretty persuasive point with this:
[SB63]... transfers an economic reality to public employees that most private-sector employees have been dealing with for years -- that it's up to us to have a secure retirement. The days of a pension taking care of us are nearing the end.
So what about it WCF readers? Is it time for our state public retirement system to fall into place with the economic realities of the private sector? Or are there hidden nuances that operate in favor of taking a little more time studying this... or in even perhaps preserving the current system?

And we already know current public employees are already
making lots of noise about this; but we're wondering what all the shouting is about, since these above Liljenquist-sponsored revisions would only ostensibly effect "new hires." We don't lay claim to having any particular expertise in matters concerning public employee retirement however, so we invite our board "experts" to edumacate us on these matters.

All WCF readers are invited to chime in, of course; but we'd particularly like to elicit come commentary from readers in the Utah public employment sphere.

Have at it, O Gentle Ones. The world-wide blogosphere eagerly awaits your ever-savvy comments.

Update 2/15/10 1:36 p.m.: Well, Lo and Behold, and in response to our reader invitation, we already have some extended commentary available (submitted via email) from retired Ogden Firefighter and former City Council Candidate Dirk Youngberg, who suggests that Sen. Liljenquist's SB63 needs a little more thought, and isn't quite ready for prime-time:
Knee Jerk Reaction to the Market?
We'd hoped to provoke a robust response to this afternoon's WCF write-up, and indeed that seems to be exactly what we're getting!

Who will be the next to chime in on this topic and further contribute to our online enlightenment?

Standard-Examiner: 36th Street Tank Closer to Reality

Yesterday's news today

By Dan Schroeder

For archival completeness I'll note that the Standard-Examiner finally reported on the council's water tank decision on the eighth day after the meeting, Thursday, February 11. The article is on the front page but isn't available through free portion of the S-E web site. Here's a link to the Digital Edition version:
36th Street tank closer to reality
Here are some excerpts from the article:
Standard-Examiner staff
OGDEN — Construction of a controversial 5 million-gallon water tank at the top of 36th Street is scheduled to begin in April.
After several months of study, the city council last week amended its Capital Improvement Plan to allow the installation of the tank, which will cost about $3.5 million....
The tank will replace two existing steel tanks, also on 36th Street, that are about 80 years old and can store 2.2 million gallons.
The old tanks will be removed and the site will be landscaped, said [City Engineer Justin] Anderson.
The Capital Improvement Plan amendment also allocates $100,000 for a design and engineering study for the installation of a 1.2 million-gallon tank that could be built at a location yet to be determined on the East Bench.
In addition, the amendment also earmarks $300,000 for a study involving transmission lines and potential property easement purchases to connect the new 36th Street tank to another tank on 46th Street.
Reader comments are invited, as always, even at this late date.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Emerald City Economic Development Question For A Slow News Day

What ever happened to Boss Godfrey's Manufacturers Outlet Stores That Dare Not Be Named?

By Curmudgeon

I have an economic development question. Driving this afternoon on Washington Boulevard headed for my clothier [Shopko on Washington and 12th], I passed the three city-rehabbed buildings across from The Junction. You recall them, I'm sure: the three buildings the Standard-Examiner was duped by Hizzonah just before the Council elections into reporting would soon house manufacturers outlet stores [none of which he would name]. Hoped they'd be open "within a month" (in time for Christmas), Hizzonah said and the SE meekly reported, even though at the time [Nov] the windows were not in, the back parking lots were holes in the ground surrounded by huge piles of dirt and sand. [I drove down to look after the SE article appeared.]

The same stores that, just after the election, the Godfrey administration announced "would not be done in time for Christmas" after all; and so The Manufacturers Outlet Stores That Dare Not Be Named would not be moving in until early 2010. Mr. Christopulos, I think, said the city was still negotiating the final lease details. Uh huh.

Passing the stores today [on which construction seems to be substantially complete], all three I think had signs in the windows saying they were available for lease.

Ah... available for lease? What happened to The Manufactures Outlet Stores That Dare Not Be Named that Hizzonah told the SE were coming and that the SE reported [press release journalism at its laziest] without doing even minimal fact checking?

Mr. Christopulos seems to be the front man for the Administration on economic development matters these days. Perhaps someone might want inquire of him how the [alleged] negotiations with The Manufacturers Outlet Stores Which Dare Not Be Named are going.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Ogden’s (Borrow and Spend) Economic Development Formula is Working"... or so sez Boss Godfrey

The Latest Godfrey Administration Water Bill Insert Propaganda

By Curmudgeon

"At Your Service," the Ogden City newsletter that arrives with the city utilities bill, contains the following write-up about the Administration's economic development policies. I thought it might prove interesting to those who do not get the newsletter:

Ogden’s Economic Development Formula is Working:
Ogden is better off financially than many other Utah cities.
According to recent sales tax revenue statistics published by the State of Utah, Ogden’s sales tax revenue comparison from fiscal year 2009 to 2010 is down 11.87%.
Though this is a decline, City officials are optimistic considering that during the same period, many Utah cities saw declines in their own sales tax revenue hovering around 20% and some as high as nearly 50%.
In fact, Ogden fared better than the state’s average which shows sales tax revenue down by more than 14% throughout Utah.
This was not the case after 9-11 when Ogden’s numbers plummeted more than the state average and we were slower to recover than the rest of the state. Statistics from fiscal year 2002 shows Ogden’s sales tax
revenue down (3.5%) by more than double the state’s average (1.67%). It took until fiscal year 2005 for Ogden, at an increase of 8.14%, to climb above the state average again of a 7.57% increase.
What this means for Ogden is our formula for economic development is working. The 7,000 added jobs, the hundreds of millions of dollars in new buildings, and scores of new companies within the Junction, along 25th Street, and throughout the downtown area, are all making a difference.
Though economic fear may be present in today’s consumers throughout the state, and even across the nation, Ogden area businesses are surviving and doing better than most.
As its fiscal year 2010 begins to wrap up soon, Ogden City looks forward to further economic growth and development in the next fiscal year as a proven formula for profitable success.
The full newsletter can be found online here.

Ed. Note: Differing reader opinions are eagerly invited, heheheh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gage Froerer's H.B. 218 Passes in the House By a Stunning 63-0 Vote

The next big battle (the biggest one yet) will be in the Senate, where the evil neoCON forces in the legislature have vowed to kill this bill in Senate Committee

Good news for the prospective "Powderville Town" residents today, as House Rep Gage Froerer's H.B. 218 passes in the House, by a unanimous 63-0 Vote!

So far, so good.

Check out the audio of today's House floor "debate" (such as it was):
H.B. 218 House Floor Debate Audio (realPlayer audio)
Having passed the bill now in the House, the next big battle for Rep. Froerer (the biggest one yet) will be in the Senate, where the evil neoCON forces in the legislature have vowed to kill this bill in Senate Committee.

It's time to gird up our loins right now, gentle readers. We'll be calling for another vigorous citizen email onslaught very soon, just as soon as we find out which particular Senate Committee will be considering this bill.

As we did before, we'll also post and circulate a bulk Senate Committee email link, once this bill is assigned to a particular Senate Committee.

Gage has promised to keep us up to speed on this; and he makes it no secret that he'll need our further "steely-eyed" help.

Heads-Up On An Upcoming Streetcar-Oriented Emerald City Event

A Desire Named Streetcar: A Community Forum Featuring Streetcar Visioning Expert J. Craig Thorpe

Submitted By: Shalae Larsen

February 18th, 2010, 6-8p.m.
Union Station, Browning Theater

With two ongoing streetcar studies, Ogden and Weber County are poised to make significant changes to the community landscape that will have lasting impacts. In an effort to promote public awareness and involvement, the Weber County Heritage Foundation and Union Station Foundation would like to invite all Ogden and Weber County residents to an open house and presentation focusing on the positive impacts that streetcars have as “place makers.” The presentation by J. Craig Thorpe will focus on defining what streetcars are, how other cities across the country are utilizing streetcar systems to promote revitalization, and how we, as a community, can plan our future using streetcars as a tool for success. The meeting will include a question and answer session, followed by a brief visioning exercise.

Mr. Thorpe is a rail and trolley artist/illustrator/designer who brings a unique perspective to his work in presenting and consulting on streetcar projects. He is also the communications representative for a start-up trolley line in Issaquah, WA, and brings this firsthand experience regarding historic preservation and streetcars.

Presented by: The Weber County Heritage Foundation and The Union Station Foundation

Mark your calenders, folks.

Big Tug of War Tonight Between Emerald City Cultural Types and Godfrey Meatheads

A little something tonight for all Emerald City Citizens, cultural afficionados and juvenile Godfrey meatheads alike

Hey people! Here's an upcoming Ogden City cultural event, which for unknown reasons, seems to have slipped through the Emerald City promotional cracks. According to this obscure blurb in last Friday's Standard-Examiner GO! Section, our downtown Union Station "will be inducted into the National Pioneer Hall of Fame, during a program that starts at 7:00 p.m. Feb 12 in the station's grand Lobby."
Hall of Fame Honors Station
This web page tells Ogden Citizens more about the choral performers who are scheduled to perform in celebration of tonight's Union Station event:
Voices of light
And here's the gist:
Voice of Light has been invited to Utah to perform a patriotic program at:
The Celebration of Ogden’s Union Station Becoming a National Museum
The event will be recorded and will be sent to the National Archives in Washington DC
This talented Sacramento, California choir will be performing the originally composed works of the at least equally talented David Hasson at Union Station tonight. And with tonight's elegant and righteous choral performance scheduled, what's the Std-Ex heavily promoting? This crap, to be exact:
Ogden streets prepare for Ogden Winterfest's manmade blizzard
Take your choice, Emerald City citizens. If you prefer to watch lame-brain entertainment like toboggan parades, human dog sled races, polar bear swims and snow bowling, all conducted on fake, trucked-in snow, be sure to attend Boss Godfrey's heavily juvenile faux winter events on Friday.

If you'd prefer a little more non-Godfreyesque, non-Harrisville Cherry Picker-style grown-up culture for the evening on the other hand, we suggest you make plans to take your family to the Union Station's National Museum induction/Voices of Light choral performance ceremonies tonight.

That's our take; and we're stickin' to it.

Contrary opinions are invited, of course.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Breaking News: Important Powder Mountain Update From Our Friends At Ogden Valley Forum

The folks of Ogden Valley are naturally keeping their fingers crossed that the "stakeholder" negotiators who are striking a percipient deal won't "give away the farm."

Here's something "Hot off the Press" From Ogden Valley Forum, via an article published a little over twenty minutes ago. Blogmeister "Valley" reports that the various adverse parties to the still-ongoing Powder Mountain Squabble have reached an agreement "in concept," apparently to settle the matter, and to remove Powderville Town incorporation from the table. Read Valley's brief writeup here:
Early Report From Capitol Hill - Powder Mountian Will Withdraw The Petition To Incorporate
Quite rightly, the folks of Ogden Valley who are not directly privy to the negotiations are keeping their fingers crossed that the "stakeholder" negotiators who are in the process of striking this deal won't "give away the farm."

That's it for now; but we''l try to keep you posted as the situation develops.

Standard-Examiner Letter: Herbert Can Get Lots More Than Ten Grand For Political Favors

In fact, $10k happens to be the going rate for a mere small-city mayor these days

Thanks to a timely tip from an alert WCF reader, we're delighted this morning to shine the spotlight on a freshly-posted Standard-Examiner Letter to the Editor, written by one of our very own frequent blog contributors. Check out Dan Schroeder's new online "outburst," which playfully springboards off last week's highly-revealing "political contributions" story, and ties in a few pertinent local Emerald City small-town facts and observations:
Herbert can get more than $10,000 for political favors
No doubt about it (as Dan S. aptly points out). Top-tier Utah politicians like Gary Herbert should never under-value their "services" in Utah's lucrative political marketplace.

As an added bonus, and for the benefit of other Utah politicians who don't want to sell themselves short, we link below Ogden Mayor Boss Godfrey's most recently published political contributions rate-sheet:
Godfrey Campaign Contributors, 2007
Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle Ones.

A Strong Standard Examiner Editorial; and Another Citizens' Ethics Reform Initiative Roadblock

The state government just declared war on the people... Sign the electronic petitions, folks

The Standard-Examiner again comes forth with another strong editorial this morning, condemning the half-hearted (and tooth-less) "ethics reform" measures being rammed through the legislature this year by legislative fat cats like Senator John Valentine, and further urging Std-Ex readers to sign the Utahns For Ethical Government (UEG) online petition. We link this morning's full Std-Ex editorial below:
OUR VIEW: Ethics = open government
And in conjunction with our reference to the above editorial, we'll also direct our readers' attention to a related story which appears in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, which has added some confusion (unnecessarily, we think) to the ongoing citizens' initiative signature gathering process. The headline sums it all up in a nutshell:
Lieutenant governor rejects online petition signatures
In short, it seems that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issued an Attorney General's opinion letter yesterday, which takes the (politically predictable) position that electronic signatures are invalid for purposes of the Utah citizens' initiative process, although they're entirely lawful for most other transactions in Utah under general statutory law. As reported in the article, the UEG lawyers were already prepared for this; and they'll soon be seeking declaratory relief in the courts. For the time being however, citizens' initiative sponsors are still urging Utah voters to continue to go online to affix their electronic signatures to the various petitions, pending a judicial resolution of this matter. In the event that these online petitions are ultimately ruled invalid (a low-probability outcome, in our opinion,) petition sponsors will still have your full contact information available, so they will be able to easily contact you to obtain a hard-copy signature.

Notably the UEG citizens's initiative group has posted this informative language on their petition signature web page, (which is pretty much a restatement of what we've said above):
February 10, 2010. The Utah Attorney General has issued an opinion that electronic signatures for initiative petitions will not be accepted as legal. We will challenge this opinion in court. Our lawyers are convinced that under Utah law such signatures are legal. In the meantime, please keep signing electronically. If we need to, we’ll locate you to obtain your manual signature on the printed petition. So be sure to enter your complete residence address and email for our possible future use.
As one particularly savvy reader remarked in a comment below this morning's above-linked Salt Lake Tribune story, "The state government just declared war on the people; " and we do believe that's an entirely accurate (although discomforting) statement.

And remember, people: an Attorney General's opinion letter does not have the force of law, and is in fact by its own nature no more authoritative than any other opinion letter which might be issued by any other licensed Utah lawyer.

Sign the electronic petitions, folks!
Pending Utah Citizens' Initiative Petitions
Let's keep the fire to the feet of our perk-laden and power-driven State Legislature.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Fed Cash For A Downtown "Streetcar" Loop?

Reader query: Is the submission of a federal grant application for a downtown streetcar loop a smart move at this time, in the big picture?

To kick off this morning's discussion we'll focus on today's Scott Schwebke story, which reports, straight out of the blue, that Ogden City (read the Godfrey administration) is whipping up a last-munute federal grant application, to help fund a "downtown streetcar loop." Here's Mr. Schwebke's lede:

OGDEN -- The city will submit a grant application today to the Federal Transit Administration for a proposed streetcar system, costing about $25 million, that would circulate downtown.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey briefed the city council on the application during a work session Tuesday night.
City officials only recently learned from the Utah Transit Authority that federal funding may be available for the streetcar line, and they have been rapidly preparing a grant application, he said.
That's right, folks; the Godfrey administration is planning to submit its application today; and it only informed the council about this last night.

The story goes on to report that such a grant would require the application of matching local funds, presumably derived from a one-quarter percent sales and use tax approved by Weber County voters in 2007. Notably, Boss Godfrey apparently hasn't yet informed the local governing body which administers this special tax, the Weber Area Council of Governments (WACOG), about this grant application either.

And this is interesting:

Godfrey told the city council it's important that they support the FTA grant application. "It shows that council is onboard with the project and will help WACOG understand this is not a half-baked idea," he said, [Emphasis added]
Frankly we don't know what to make of Boss Godfrey's proposed downtown streetcar loop. All we know about it is what we read in this morning's paper. Nevertheless it seems to us that there needs to be further public discussion about this proposed project, before the council or anyone else "gets onboard." Although Godfrey contends that such a system would be "complementary" to a genuine Intermodal Hub/McKay-Dee streetcar route, we don't know whether that's true at all. As a matter of fact we can well imagine a scenario whereby the awarding of this grant by the FTA could jeopardise future funding for a future east-west 25th streetcar corridor, which would traverse at least part of the downtown area already covered by this proposed downtown loop.

Don't get us wrong on this, gentle readers. We're not ready at this stage of the game to dismiss this idea off-hand. Nevertheless, given the meager information provided in this morning's story, Boss Godfrey's embryonic downtown loop proposal strikes us at present as not merely half-baked, but perhaps -- dare we say -- half-assed.

So how about it gentle readers? Seems to us it's now time for some robust discussion. Is the submission of a federal grant application for this downtown route a smart move at this time, in the big picture? There are numerous WCF readers who've demonstrated here in this forum a highly-specialized knowledge on the topic of urban streetcar systems... and of the intricacies of the financing of them too. Perhaps some of you folks with extra expertise on this subject will step up in our lower comments section, to enlighten us all on the true ramifications of this new "surprise" development.

Have at it, O Gentle Ones.

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