Monday, September 06, 2010

Rubber-Tire Trolleys, Downtown Business Loans, and Leshemville Demolition

Heads-up on this Tuesday’s City Council agenda

By Dan Schroeder

The Ogden City Council agenda packet for this Tuesday, September 7, contains some items that are sure to interest Weber County Forum readers:

1. Allocation of the $175,400 that WACOG granted the city last month to operate a rubber-tire trolley system circulating around downtown Ogden.

Officially this project is a “study”, to assess the feasibility of someday building a genuine streetcar along the same circulating route. The cost of such a system would be in the tens of millions of dollars, so it would compete for funding with the far more important transit line between downtown and WSU. The $175,400 grant comes from the 1/4-cent sales tax fund that we approved three years ago for “regionally significant” transportation projects. Because the downtown circulator is not a regionally significant project, it was actually illegal for the Weber Area Council of Governments to grant the funds for this purpose. It did so, in part, because the Wasatch Front Regional Council wrote a letter last April blessing the circulator project, and even calling it a “portion” of the WSU line. Anyone who doubts that Mayor Godfrey has political clout should consider how he coerced WFRC into telling this outrageous lie and thus got the money he wanted out of WACOG.

Now that the money has been handed to Ogden City, of course, it would be foolish for the council not to approve spending it. But it would be equally foolish for the council to hand it to the mayor with no strings attached, as they’re apparently about to do. At this time neither the city nor WFRC has any written protocol for how this “study” is to be conducted, or even a list of specific questions that the study is supposed to answer. We can be sure that under these circumstances, the mayor will declare the study a “success” no matter what the outcome. To make matters worse, the administration intends to outsource the vehicles’ operation to Downtown Ogden Inc., a nonprofit organization that is wholly controlled by the mayor but immune from public records requests.

2. Creation of a new Tenant Improvement Loan Program for downtown retail businesses, and allocation of $315,000 of BDO revenue to this program.

The high vacancy rates for retail space at The Junction and along Washington Blvd. are a continuing embarrassment for the city in general and for Mayor Godfrey in particular. This latest attempted remedy would provide incentives in the form of loans to tenants for finishing or improving the interior of retail spaces. Such a program sounds reasonable, though I question whether the administration can be trusted to award the loans fairly.

I also have a more immediate concern: Why is the loan program being created through a resolution, rather than by ordinance? Whereas an ordinance carries the weight of law, a city council resolution is merely an expression of opinion, with no teeth. Thus, if the loan program is created as currently planned, the administration would apparently be free to change the terms and conditions of the program at any time.

3. Allocation of $545,150 of BDO revenue for demolition of vacant houses in the River Project area.

Of course, the houses need to be torn down. But I seriously doubt that Mr. Leshem or his associates will ever reimburse the city for this expense, so we should chalk this up as yet another subsidy for this black hole of a project (over $7 million spent so far, and counting).

The good news is that the city council has put a restriction into the proposed ordinance, allowing no more than $25,000 of the funds to be used to clean up sites where the homes were intentionally burned. But it’s not at all clear that this restriction is sufficient. The administration could still use additional money to prepare houses for incineration, by removing the asbestos and so on. If the council wishes to stop the city from burning more of the houses, it should stipulate that no funds be used on sites of intentional burns, other than the two that have been burned already.

In summary, this city council meeting will be an important one—and there are plenty of reasons to lobby the council to improve these proposed measures before passing them.

To see the full city council agenda packet (10.7 MB), click here.

For an abridged version of the agenda packet, including all the items discussed in this article (2.4 MB), click here.

Update 9/8/10 8:00 a.m.: Both the Standard-Examiner and the Salt Lake Tribune report that the Council has allocated $545,000 in Business Depot Ogden lease revenues to demolish the derelict Leshemville residential structures, and that further "burns" are off the table:
Ogden won't burn other vacant homes
Ogden mayor: Halt plan to torch vacant homes
Unfortunately, there's no word on the Council's treatment of either the $175,400 WACOG grant or the proposed $315,000 Tenant Improvement Loan Program. Perhaps one of our readers who attended last night's meeting can help us out with these latter two issues.

24 comments:

OneWhoKnows said...

After reviewing the wish list for Little Mattie, Santa should bring him two Union Station requests, one Lorin Farr pool update and one big red shinny fire station. Other than that...coal in his stocking! He's not only been a bad boy this year, but for eleven years past and the little bugger needs a Time Out.....probably in prison with his friends.

These feel good High Adventure projects are only used slightly by few and the majority of the taxpayers would like to see money spent on paying down the debt he has created and on infrastructure of our city. Next November, the arrogant little prick will find this out finally. It's hard to believe that he has gotten away with his past deeds all this time. Just watch, when he is finally thrown out of office, watch all his so-called friends distance themselves from whats-his-name. Hopefully...sooner the better.

caddyhack said...

WTF? Why is there still talk of burning the Leshamville houses?

The fire department, who is supposed to protect us, will be poisoning us, during which, they will be polluting the river that is currently getting cleaned up? Taxpayers will pay firefighters to pollute the river, while paying contractors, to clean it up.

Am I wrong? Is this Bizarro world, or what?

Fireman Joe said...

caddyhack-not Bizarro world, it's Godfrey's world, his priorities are the only ones that matter, the rest of us can go to hell.

Curmudgeon said...

The rehab grant money request: "This latest attempted remedy would provide incentives in the form of loans to tenants for finishing or improving the interior of retail spaces."

Didn't the city apply a large federal grant to rehabbing the three retail properties on Washington just across from the Junction, on the assumption [and the Mayor's assurance] that the rehabbed shops would attract surely attract tenants? None of them did. They're still available for leasing. And the shops on Washington that are part of the Junction that stand empty certainly don't need rehab work. They've never been occupied and are starting their second year of brand-spanking-new vacancy, not to mention the shops at the Junction along Keisel which have never been leased either.

So, what I'm wondering is, with all the already rehabbed and brand new retail space standing empty on Washington and the Junction, what probability is there that these new rehabbing grants [which will produce yet more tenant-ready retail space in the same area] will in fact do what they're intended to do? Not to mention that Hizzonah's new RDA project in the same area will bring on line thousands of square feet more retail space [presuming that project actually is completed successfully in less than a decade: remember the River Project and how that worked out.]

Will this be a wise and prudent use of the public's money, or could it be put to better use improving public areas downtown instead?

oldguy said...

It should be obvious that being wrong bothers our favorite Visionary not even a tiny bit. He must thrive on it - why else would he continue to slam his slong in the door time and time again?

The pain must not bother him but the results sure as hell bother the good people of Ogden. Living in a city with a Mayor like Godfrey is a painful experience for all but the obsessive seekers of wealth who support the little turd.

Dan S. said...

Curm: Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. I'd heard a rumor that Godfrey wanted money for finishing interior space in the new Wells Fargo building, but this program, as described, wouldn't apply to office space. Perhaps he will change that after the toothless resolution is adopted and the money appropriated. Or perhaps there's some other space downtown that one of his buddies wants to refurbish.

ozboy said...

If the junction is costing the tax payers of Ogden six hundred grand this year alone, how much do you suppose these bond payments will ultimately cost? Does anyone hereabouts have a reasonable projection of just how many tens of millions Godfrey's incompetence will ultimately set the city back?

He will certainly leave his mark on the city's history, and not in the way he envisions!

Anon said...

I remember once while I was the Construction Manager for Ogden City Engineering, the wise mayor wanted a design and estimate for a sky bridge, three hundred feet in the air, that paralled the water pipe line at the mouth of Ogden Canyon for his trail system. When we told him it would cost between 15 to 20 million, he decided that a culvert and paint on the roadway might be better. Point is, we already knew and he didn't. Maybe that still applies today?

Viktor said...

A new take on an old joke:

Four surgeons were talking:

The first, a Salt Lake surgeon, says: "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."

The second, an Orem surgeon, responds: "Yeah, but you should try electricians. Everything inside of them is color coded."

The third, a Layton surgeon, says: "No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside of them is in alphabetical order."

But, the fourth, an Ogden surgeon, shut them all up when he
observed: "You're all wrong. Matt Godfrey is the easiest to operate on.
"There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, -- and the head and the ass are interchangeable. "

David S. said...

So Dan S says we should show up for city council meeting?

Time before last when I did the following city bureaucratic dreck attacked me at the meeting.

John Patterson
Alan Franke

A week later, after he had time to choose his words carefully, Bill Cook attacked me too, in an email he sent to a large number of people.

The last meeting I attended, Godfrey didn't bother with his Gestapo, but simply publicly attacked me himself.

So in exchange for sitting there listening to hours of lies and pure BS, I got my three minutes, then sat while Godfrey's henchmen ripped me a new one.

And I didn't get a chance to respond. I've seen Godfrey and his monkeys do this to others as well, while the council chair sits there quite politely.

So yeah, I wonder why nobody shows up for council meetings anymore.

I sure do like the new "conciliatory atmosphere" in Ogden City. And yeah, don't forget, they want YOUR input.

I tend to write letters now - takes less time and I don't have to deal with the bureaucratic horse flies that they let swarm the place these days.

The Lone Gunman said...

The Lone Gunman mentioned he might cover city council meeting tomorrow, but he is having second thoughts now. In addition, he is having second thoughts about always referring to himself in third person and so is switching for the time being, to first.

It’s a long way from Rock Springs, and besides, I’ve heard your mayor has a yen for getting people fired, or threatening them by going to their employers to try to have their throats cut, most prominently, to wit,

Kent Jorgenson
Mike Vause
Jason Wood

And the list goes on. And the last thing I need is having my boss at the pizza parlor going all crabby on me, especially since that nice dime piece I’ve been seeing lately turned out to be his daughter, which I didn’t know at the time.

Plus, Mother took my bus fare where I kept it under the cot where I sleep on her service porch. She said I’d been stealing her bourbon and cigarettes, which I hadn’t, being strictly an herb man myself.

So I’m a little light right now, and need my job. When mother moved me from my bedroom to the porch (claiming she was tired of all the noise), it was bad enough. If I can’t make the rent, I’ll be off the porch, with no cot, no TV, no refrigerator, no Redbook, no nothing.

I don’t want to mess with your mayor. I’m afraid I probably won’t make the meeting after all. Sorry.

ozboy said...

David S

Precisely why you should run for Mayor next time around!

Dan S. said...

David:

Of course, the reason they attack you is because they don't want you to come back. Surely you don't want them to win?

But you're right, in general, about letters and phone calls, in advance of the meeting, being more effective.

Dan S. said...

All:

I suggest we take up a collection and HIRE the Lone Gunman to come to Emerald City and live-blog our council meetings (and other major sporting events) on a regular basis. Heaven knows we need a Lone Gunman around here, given the sorry state of the Fourth Estate. And while I know Rock Springs has its attractions, surely he and his "dime piece" would rather make their home here in the Land of Oz.

Stephen M. Cook said...

I thought Godfrey had effectively disbanded the City Council?
Do we still call Godfrey's Pr Sessions "council meetings"?

Why?

RudiZink said...

"I’m afraid I probably won’t make the meeting after all. Sorry."

BUMMER!!!

Fireman Joe said...

No more houses will be burned, the cost of asbestos removal makes the savings insignificant.

caddyhack said...

Fireman Joe,

Thanks for the scoop. That's very good news. Stay safe, my brother.

Chad said...

How the world did Queen Gochnour get our money to resurface her backyard tennis court?

Biker Babe said...

what tennis court?

BB

Chad said...

The Mt Ogden Tennis court that is just got approved for funding in right behind her house. It is huge, 6 courts, but not one is up to Caitlin's liking.

Dan S. said...

Rudi: The dead-tree edition of the S-E reported, in a "brief" at the side of the page, that the council passed what appeared to be the full budget amendment. That would include funding for the Tenant Improvement Loan Program as well as the Rubber-Tire Trolley. The vote was 4-3, with Blair, Van Hooser, and Wicks voting against. I can't find this article on the free S-E site, but perhaps you can provide a link to the digital edition.

Dan S. said...

Too bad the Lone Gunman wasn't there to report on the meeting. The audio recording is posted already, but I don't have the bandwidth to download it, let alone the time to listen to it.

Biker Babe said...

Chad -- maybe she should try Pickleball?

js
BB

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