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.


althepal said...

Perhaps the Powderville citizens need to tighten up their talking points, Rudi. None of the citizens quoted by Ms. Palmer mentioned the economic factors either.

Curmudgeon said...


Well, we know none of the citizens were quoted as mentioning the voting rights/tax matter directly. But we may not know everything the citizens said to the reporter. We only know what was quoted in the story. People interviewed by reporters often complain that the resulting story ignored the most important things they had to say. [The complaints are sometimes justified, sometimes not.]

I did find very interesting the comments at the end of the article:

For Haley, though, the developers are "just greedy."

"A developer comes in. He buys land, plus the existing development rights. But he keeps asking for more and more with nothing in return," he said. "He's trying to negotiate for more free things by giving us our rights back."

Ogden Valley resident Steve Clarke agrees, pointing out that the county could be tempted to give Powder Mountain development rights it doesn't deserve in exchange for dropping the incorporation petition.

"That puts a stick in my craw," Clarke said.

Mr. Haley and Mr. Clarke have it exactly right.

Jeremy said...

Powder Mountains Sucks!

Ski Snow Basin!

Tiny Britches said...

I can tell you from first hand knowledge that Ms. Palmer was provided the entire spectrum of information including the start of the PM issue (before the incorporation) through present day.

The Civil Rights issue was discussed with her along with the property tax information. In fact, she and her photographer drove with escort through the entire subdivision and she commented "Is this all of it?" We pointed out that the taxes for this few homeowners would be so high, it would be a terrible burden on such a small group.

I must tell you that she did not seem to be very interested in some of the details. I asked her if she wanted a written summary of the entire issue, and she declined.

Danny said...

Bottom Line:

I often read the SL Trib. But the Deseret News? Never.

I hear that paper may go belly up. Good riddance. Gosh, how people like that can go to work in the morning for what little they do.

Geez, how people that lazy and stupid can even live.

Rebecca Palmer, check out a pair of eyes before you undertake to write your next article.

This one was pure claptrap.

It is simple. Powder Mountain is trying to run roughshod over the county and its citizens. They are applying the law in a way that was never meant. This was a solid story. You made cream of wheat out of it.

Get another job.

Duh said...

Would have helped if the legislators and the news reporters at the Des News had not skipped out on Civics classes in favor of LDS Seminary.

Perhaps then they would understand the basics of our Constitution and its Amendements.

Something about a recent poll of some 12,000 college graduates which shows 30% could not even name the three branches of Government.

These Utah educated people mostly, could not have understood basic Constitutional rights and have passed HB 466 which started this whole thing.

Isn't it time to "term limit" these creeps and make certain the qualifications of new candidates include no connections to the Real Estate or Developer or Mortgage Banker interests? LDS?


Curmudgeon said...

Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it. Now you're going to make me defend the DN, and that sets my teeth on edge almost as when you guys make me defend Hizzonah. Stop it.

Back in the olden day,s when daily newspapers were the source of news, they generally had beat reporters. The advantage of that was over time, the police reporter or the school board reporter or the city hall reporter, or the Ogden Valley reporter because he or she covered their beat nearly exclusively and all the time, worked up [if they were any good] a good understanding of the players, the stage, and the context for what was really going on. And of necessity, they developer for their beat an increasingly finely honed s**t detector. So when they did interviews, and wrote a story, they knew the context, the background and the players. Or as the old traveling salesmen used to say, "ya gotta know the territory."

I went to the DN and searched for Ms. Palmer's tem most recent stories in the DN before this one. The datelines were Hyrum, West Valley City [5], Sandy [2], SLC and Cottonwood Heights. Eden/Powderville is not her beat. She did a drop in, drive out story.

Given that, it's not too surprising that she didn't necessarily think the most important element to include was the cost of taxes to the dragooned residents. Or that she saw it as, in important ways, a developers-vs-anti developers tale. And she did include important [I thought] elements from the interviews that fit that framework for the story, like the two at the end pointing out that the developers were trying now to sell back the residents their liberties [like the vote] for the price of massive concessions on development from the County.

One of her critics above wrote this: "Powder Mountain is trying to run roughshod over the county and its citizens. " Yes, it is, and that was precisely what was emphasized in the two interviews she quoted at the conclusion of the story. Nor did Ms. Palmer ignore the constitutional questions involved. She brought them up in two places:the first Haley quote, and then this:

But changing the rules to allow a basic right like voting is only fair, according to many town residents. "We do not want a town at all," said Marv Knudtson, who fought in the Navy from 1950-54. "This is Eden. It's our home. We don't want to be taxed without representation. We want to be able to represent ourselves."

No, it was not the story I would have written, nor, probably, would it have been the story of someone whose beat was Ogden's Hole [oooops... excuse me Utah Realtors Association. I meant of course The Upper Ogde Valley.] But the story hardly justifies damning the reporter as incompetent, stupid, a hack, etc. etc. She got the constitutional issue in, twice. She highlighted the developers holding the dragooned residents hostage to win concessions from the County. The criticism is over the top, I think, and largely unfair.

Dan S. said...

I don't mind defending the Deseret News one bit. True, they don't cover Weber County much at all, and true, you can nit-pick the Powder Mountain story.

But here's something other readers may not know: A few years ago the Deseret News sued Salt Lake County for not releasing its internal investigative report on a sexual harassment allegation. The lawsuit was expensive and time-consuming. It went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which finally issued a sweeping decision in favor of open records that has now set a precedent that benefits us all. (Well, all except those government officials who like to keep secrets.)

It's interesting to look at which media companies are willing to fight on behalf of open records and which aren't. The Salt Lake Tribune has taken numerous appeals of open records cases to the State Records Committee, where it frequently prevails. And the City Weekly has recently brought a few appeals as well, as have some of the Salt Lake television stations.

And what about our own beloved Standard-Examiner? As far as I know, the last time they fought to obtain government records was in late 2006, when the Ogden City Council refused to release the applications of the finalists to fill Bill Glasmann's vacated seat. That case was settled out of court, but not before the lawyers got involved. Since then the S-E has huffed and puffed about open government on its editorial page, but they haven't exactly been in the forefront of the fight.

Curmudgeon said...


I'm afraid the DN of some years ago and the DN today are different papers. Some years ago, for example, it had as its editor a newspaper guy. But a couple of years ago, its current editor, who had zero newspaper experience but much experience in Church office administration, I think, was installed. The results have not been good from a journalistic POV. Though, to be fair, the DN is suffering from reduced ad revenue and thus operating revenues, just as the SLTrib and SE are. I'm sure that has something to do with it as well.

The DN does some good stories now and then, and their sports coverage isn't half bad, so long as all you're interested in is SLC and Provo sports. But it's not the paper it was, and it's no longer, I think, a serious competitor of the SL Trib as a straight newspaper. But then, the Trib isn't what it used to be either [witness its virtual abandonment of regular Ogden coverage].

Your point about the SE not being nearly aggressive enough regarding public records and access to them is, of course, right on the money. The SE's reluctance to use the GRAMA statutes as a matter of course to ferret out what Ogden and, sometimes, Weber County officials, would rather not have widely known is one of the most disappointing current characteristics of Our Home Town Paper.

Dan S. said...

Curm: I'll defer to you regarding the day-to-day content of the DesNews. And its efforts on behalf of open records may also have declined in the last few years.

The case that went to the Supreme Court began around 2004, and was decided in 2008. Scanning through the recent decisions of the State Records Committee, I see lots of appeals brought by the Trib and none by the DesNews (although there might be some in which only the reporter's name appears in the heading). But the very most recent decision, in a case brought by ABC News to obtain the dash-cam video of Killpack's DUI arrest, mentions that both the Trib and the DesNews joined in the appeal. So I think it's fair to say that the DesNews is still doing more on behalf of open records than the Standard-Examiner.

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: I think it's fair to say that the DesNews is still doing more on behalf of open records than the Standard-Examiner.

Wouldn't be hard, would it....

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