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.


althepal said...

"The days are long gone, we believe, when even the most naive Godfreyite would attempt to confidently assure the lumpencitizens that projects financed by tax increment financing 'pay for themselves.'"

Fools us once, shame on Godfrey; fool us twice, shame on us.

Dora said...

Back in the good old days before the Great Recession this project was over-ambitious on Ogden's part. Now, it would be preposterous if Ogden were to spend a nickel furthering this project. Good idea on paper, but will never pan out. A 1,000 new residential units? In an already over-supplied housing industry, in Ogden nonetheless? More commercial and retail space when there's already an abundance. This is not how cities responsibly grow. It's about time the City get down to real planning and tackling real issues.

Elevated said...

What does Ogden's Master Plan say about such a project? Or any other project that the City has been pushing? Is the city's planning shop on board with this?

Curmudgeon said...

OK, the key questions are these, seems to me:

1. The River Project to date has been bungled badly, primarily by Hizzonah and his cherry-picked developer, the troubled Mr. Lesham, but aided and abetted at key points by Councils for the last seven years or so. As a result, a large area of central Ogden remains a bulldozed wasteland or dangerously deteriorating empty homes while the city's code enforcement office looked [and continues to look it seems]the other way.

2. It will not be good for the City to continue to have 60 or so acres looking like downtown Beirut after a mini-civil war.

3. Given those two facts, it is important that some development happen on the mostly vacant lot that is the River Project RDA. Mr. Lee is Hizzonah's current Golden Boy tapped to make it happen. And it is important that something good happen on that property, so it would be foolish to oppose Mr. Lee's plans simply for the sake of opposing him because he's the Mayor's choice.

4. However, given the train wreck the River Project has been as an RDA project from the git go, it would also be foolish for the Council to rubber-stamp the Lee proposal/development agreement when they finally get it [which it has not yet]. In the words of the noted film actor Ronald Reagan, the course of wisdom is to "trust, but verify." The Council needs to satisfy itself that it will not be approving Lesham Redux in approving this project. And it needs to make sure that no more of Ogden's future is mortgaged to the promise of a developer to perform on a speculative project by providing large financial subsidies.

5. That means the Council members, individually and collectively must ask questions and, if they don't get sufficient answers from the developer or the Mayor recommending him, they must dig on their own for the answers. And it also means the Administration this time round needs to drop its faux outrage when the Council dares to ask a question the Mayor would prefer not have been asked. [Think Ernest Health.] The right stand for the Council is: "There are no questions we cannot ask." And, presuming Hizzonah has learned anything from his disastrous performance on the River Project RDA to date, his stance should be "Ask whatever you like, and I will find the answers you want." And then do it.

Going to be interesting to see what happens next. I am a little encouraged by Mr. Lee's noting that it will take a decade, maybe longer, for the project to be fully built out. That's some evidence perhaps that he, unlike Hizzonah, lives in and works in the real economic world.

Another reckless credit card spender said...

Magnificent New-age philosophy, Rudi! While I've personally lived in a world where Credit Cards are "a must;" I have to confess that I'm now "treading water," putting all my income revenue into paying back all the money that I recklessly charged up on my credit cards during the past five years.

Let's just say that I identify with Boss Godfrey.

Despite his well documented failures while he's been Ogden's Mayor...

Maybe it's time to give him ONE LAST CHANCE.

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