Thursday, October 07, 2010

Standard-Examiner: UTA Consultant Stands By Her Ogden Transit Study

Among other things, Mr. Schwebke has allowed Wikstrom and UTA to lead him astray with all this discussion about sales tax

By Dan Schroeader

Here's Schwebke's lousy article on how UTA still hasn't released the details of the Wikstrom economic impacts study:
Consultant stands by her Ogden transit study
And for the archival record, here's the comment that I posted under Schwebke's article:

What a confusing article. Anyone who wants to understand this had better read the article in the Trib:
Where’s data for Ogden streetcar analysis? asks green critic
And here’s a link to my original letter, sent on September 20:
Dan Schroeder 9/20/10 Letter
Mr. Schwebke has allowed Wikstrom and UTA to lead him astray with all this discussion about sales tax. I carefully explained to him on the phone that I never requested that part of the data--I’m asking only to see the details of the property value calculations. The sales tax data is indeed confidential but guess what? Wikstrom’s study showed no significant difference (only 15%) in increased sales tax revenue along the different alignments. That’s well within the margin of uncertainty. And even that, as far as I can tell, is really a projection of what will happen without a new transit project rather than with one.

I also explained to Mr. Schwebke that UTA has been promising to get me Wikstrom’s raw data since August 17, and that they didn’t even offer the “sales tax data is confidential” excuse until September 28. It still isn’t clear whether they will allow the public to see any of the details of Wikstrom’s calculations. At the very least, they’ve stalled so long that it’s now impossible for the public to scrutinize the calculations before the Alternatives Analysis report is written.

Finally, Mr. Schwebke fails to mention that on September 30, Wikstrom ordered me to remove my 9/20 letter from Weber County Forum or I would be hearing from her attorney. This incident seems indicative of her attitude toward public involvement in deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars. [link added - Ed.].
Ed. note: Special thanks to Dan Schroeder for offering his own commentary regarding this morning's Scott Schwebke story.

21 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Stonewalling, plus smoke and mirrors in response to questions. It's the UTA way!

Stephen M. Cook said...

Her attitude is institutionalized within government bureaucracy as regards citizen input and involvement at the planning stage.

The decisions get made during power lunches and phone conferences, all the while making sure that the paper trail of email and official memos suggest no decision will be finalized until there are legally required public input meetings.

During these on-the-clock meetings the bureaucracy usually sits with hands folded, with concerned and engaged countenances, fielding questions and giving answers carefully crafted to suggest the public is welcome and the the questions will be taken under advisement.

It is becoming increasing rare for a professional to act in the way of Ms. Manicure mcPoofyCoif, threatening to sue, and ruffling feathers. You can be sure she heard about her slip, off the record of course, later on that week.

It is also becoming increasingly rare for citizens such as Prof. Schroeder to take the time to gather facts, run the stonewall gauntlet with persistence, in order to have Jane Q. Citizens voice make a difference in these projects that affect local citizens. Oftentimes, the decision makers live in the next community over, and have no real stake in what occurs.

Civic infrastructure planning needs to occur based on realistic projections from people looking at all of the facts regarding the projects proposed, not some always-rosy scenario dreamed up by persons with political stakes and vested interests.

In my opinion, that should include less automobiles being used to commute to and from work, and much, much more emphasis on high-tech futuristic people movers for work place commute purposes.

Did anyone else have to breathe the air during thew last inversion? Does that suggest "widening Harrison blvd" to you?

RudiZink said...

It seems to me that this study should be ignored simply because of the secret and unverifiable data; but there are a few more equally glaring flaws. Turning to the executive summary at the top of the Ogden Weber Transit Corridor (Wikstrom) Analysis, we find this revealing information:

"The evaluation of economic development opportunities along each alignment was based
on:
• Developability of land
• Transit supportive land use policies..."
...

"This (36th Street) alignment is projected to attract a greater level
of investment because it has:
• A higher percentage of non-residential parcels
• Higher ratios of land-to-improvement value
• Appropriate zoning designations
• Redevelopment areas within ¼ mile of the alignment
The higher level of economic development investment will also result in higher property
and sales tax revenues from the new development."
...

The additional flaw in the analysis is that none of these factors are static. The City Council will no doubt creatively amend applicable zoning ordinances in the event that a 25th Streetcar corridor is placed in the pipeline. Likewise it's reasonable to assume that a central city corridor would actively stimulate significant Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in and around a central city corridor, which is exactly why 25th street streetcar advocates are pushing for a central city leg.

Inasmuch as Wikstrom et al. have entirely ignored the above two dynamic planning factors, it's painfully apparent that the "Wikstrom Study" is even worse than useless, and that it should play no part the Streetcar planning process.

Val Holley said...

The Transit Study, as you know, cites 145 public comments on whether the alignment should be on 25th Street or elsewhere. The names of the commenters are given.

Except mine, that is. Long ago I submitted a lengthy comment favoring 25th St. on an email form the UTA provided on its website. It was not a canned, pasted-in comment. If the UTA doesn't count my comments, how many others were swept under the rug? I believe 145 didn't represent the true number of commenters.

The temple-recommend holders who run the UTA and promulgate studies under red-herring confidentiality agreements do not embody ideals we should aspire to.

Ozboy said...

It seems to me that those who are forcing the 36th Street alignment through are mostly concerned with providing transportation back and forth to downtown for those lily whites who live in Shadow Valley and well off areas around Weber State (those who need it least) - as well as students along the same route. It also occurs to me that the transportation needs of those poorer and browner folks in central Ogden (those who need it most) are of very little concern to these naybobs in charge.

Could it be that Godfrey and Company just don't want those lower income folks moving around outside their ghetto, and especially doesn't want them cluttering up his utopian dream of a high adventure center in mid town?

Curmudgeon said...

I have a question: has the Standard Examiner gone after the data UTA is hiding? Has it filed a GRAMA request for that data? If the UTA claims in response to the GRAMA request that it doesn't have the data [has it has said elsewhere], certainly that would be worth reporting. Either the data will be produced, or the SE will have a good story about the extent to which the cover-up extends. [UTA DENIES HAVING DATA ON WHICH TROLLEY ROUTE RECOMMENDATION IS BASED!.] Has it made any effort to dig out the facts that UTA doesn't want dug out?

Or is it relying, yet again, on a private citizen to do the digging our home town paper should be doing?

RudiZink said...

Good one, Curm. But after a denied SE GRAMA request, this might be the more enticing headline:

UTA ADMITS HIDING DATA ON WHICH TROLLEY ROUTE RECOMMENDATION IS BASED!

Something tells me a headline like that would sell a whole helluva lot of Ogden Hometown newspapers.

Just a thought, just in case our pals at the SE actually decide to follow up on this.

Standard-Examiner Fan said...

UTA ADMITS HIDING DATA ON WHICH TROLLEY ROUTE RECOMMENDATION IS BASED!

This could be Ace Reporter Schwebke's route to his First Pulitzer Prize!!!

Go for it, Schwebke!!!!

National reportorial notoriety us just few steps away!

Whee!!!!!

Gotta love that Scott Schwebke guy

Oboy said...

Sorry folks, but Schwepke is a very incurious and mediocre reporter working for a bush league and out of state owned newspaper. They both cater to the advertisers and powers that be in City Hall. Neither has an inclination to informing the public on the truth of any matter which might conflict with those holding the reins on the power and money. Both are a disgrace to the past glories of the Standard and the forth estate.

Snarly said...

dont we graduate like a 100 jounalism students a year? from thee local college? it being a reporter a tough job to get? couldnt the standard do better with a 1/2 dozen low paid interns? why do not they hire from the community people who could do as gooder of a job as Shweaty?

Obey Your Corporate Masters! said...

Hay! if you want to know what's gone wrong with America, especially with the Sanduskey newspaper syndicates' ownership of the Standard-Examiner, buy and read this book:

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

fence sitter said...

I think Ozboy nailed it in the last paragraph of his first post. It has all come down to The Junction and the routes impact thereon.

However, I must concur with Ms. Wikstrom that the Sales Tax portion of this so-called study is significant, as the higher the Sales Tax is, the more dollars were necessary to put it in that high position. And I doubt, knowing that Ogden is basically a hamburger town as opposed to a gourmet town, that those dollars were a few coming from the many, which suggests to me an increase in traffic (numbers).

No part of the study should be ignored over political beliefs and personal desires lest we become guilty of taking the same position we're so critical of the other side being in.

As for the UTA, even though its going through some rough patches, at this time, many considerations come into play as to location, positioning, et al that we, as lay persons, don't understand or know about. It's good to call them to task, and to have them include the public on there R & D, an so on, but to arbitrarily dismiss them, and the individuals who comprise them and do the leg work, puts us in the same category as we put them.

As for the Standard relying on the private citizen to do its digging, so what? Today's Standard is not an investigative rag (it doesn't have the budget or the man power), it's a report, a purveyor of news, simply speaking. And what that means is that we bloggers get to do what we want-dig up the facts, report them, criticize the politics, the politicians, and the newspaper on the blog, something that is necessary for our lives to percolated onward. Can you imagine how boring things would be if not for that? So, people, keep hoping that all stays as is, and the government, from the federal level to the local level, gives us our daily fix. It's needed, regardless of whatposition either takes. One only has to open the WCF to see that.

Not Joking said...

At least this route leaves the GC (gondola corridor) open!

read between the lines said...

Good point. Not Joking.

As we already know, these corrupt UTA bastards played ball with Godfrey back in 2007, when he and they unsuccessfully tied to conceal a $250 k federal grant, and shuffle it off to FOM Chris Peterson:

Shining the Light on the Roaches at City Hall

I wouldn't put anything past these people.

And yes, a 36th streetcar preference DOES protect Boss Godfrey's Downtown Gondola link, which Godfrey even now considers to be his top priority.

Curmudgeon said...

Fence Sitter:

Interesting take, overall, and an arguable one in these parlous times, but not compelling, I think, for several reasons.

In re: UTA. We shouldn't forget its history in the recent past of making decisions without any public input from the people who actually ride its vehicles [e.g. moving the buses off Historic 25th Street], nor its history of colluding with the city administration to find ways to conceal expenditures for Hizzonah's gondola obsession so the city council would not find out what the public money was being spent for. [Dan S. ---not the SE --- turned up the emails from city officials stressing the importance of having UTA shunt money out of another grant to pay for the gondola study so that the expenditure of city money for that purpose would not become known to the Council.] Given that record of acting without so much as a by-your-leave to the system's users [riders] and its collusion to keep the City Council from knowing how the city's money was being spent, I'd say a heightened sense of skepticism regarding its involvement with the city over the 36th Street route [which the Mayor has been supporting for a long time, and which does preserve his preferred gondola route] is certainly justified.

Second: it is sadly a frequent characteristic of a long-entrenched bureaucracy [think UTA and UDOT in this case] that its decision makers tend to make decisions that serve the interests and convenience of the bureaucracy, the institution, first rather than, sometimes, serving first the interests of the public they are supposed to be serving. An attitude of "What's good for UDOT [or UTA] is good for the city" can all too easily evolve. [E.g. not wanting a trolley route on "its street" [Harrison Blvd] which has been reported by some as being behind its opposition to that alignment for the trolley.]

Now about the SE: Sorry, but I have a very different understanding, and perhaps an old fashioned one, of what a local urban daily, if it's a good one, ought to be doing by way of covering City Hall. And it's not merely passing on news others develop or uncover. A good urban daily ought to consider it part of its core mission to hold all public officials' [elected and appointed] feet to the fire of public disclosure and oversight, to ferret out things that don't add up or are not fully explained, and especially things that those in positions of authority don't want revealed. There's an old cliche that goes along these lines: "What they want you to know is a press release. What they don't want you to know is news." Oversimplified, yes, but there's still a kernel of truth in there.

Yes, bloggers have broken significant stories, nationally and locally. But that newspapers should resign the job of digging past the press release and the "no comments" and the stonewalling and obfuscation is unacceptable. It's the kind of surrender of their core identity as newspapers that we sadly saw recently when the Deseret News announced its intention to rely on "citizen journalists" for much of its content. [John Saltas in his column in this week's City Weekly has an acerbic and, I think, right on target comment on that.] If your view of the role of what urban dailies should be prevails, Fence Sitter, they will become simply news aggregators and little more. I think more of the profession -- and of the SE --- than to resign it to that fate with little more than an "oh, well, c'est la vie!"

Curmudgeon said...

The John Salta's column in the City Weekly I mentioned above can be found here. Salta's comments on the DN begin about a third of the way down, with paragraph 5 I think.

Ozboy said...

Off subject here, but just read where some window company has announced opening a new plant in Ogden that will provide 400 or so jobs. It ain't high adventure but it is good news none the less.

http://www.standard.net/topics/economy/2010/10/07/newell-moves-415-jobs-ogden-industrial-park

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:
Excellent news. Hope it proves out.

ozboy said...

OK Mr. Curmudgeon

Here's some more - well not good news - but interesting news from KSL TeeVee concerning the whole UTA modus operandi:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"UTA chief on national list of overpaid officials
October 7th, 2010 @ 4:48pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- The head of the Utah Transportation Authority has made a nationwide list of government officials who make too much money.

CEO John Inglish came in at No. 11 out of 20 on the MSNBC list.

Inglish earned a $350,000 salary last year, topping the pay of transportation bosses in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

UTA has long said Inglish's pay is reasonable, given his duties. Others disagree.

"I think it is surprising that at a time when not just cities but state governments are crying poor, that the people in many of the top positions are being paid very, very well," said Mike Brunker of MSNBC.com.

Topping the list of overpaid government employees was Phoenix's retired police chief, who gets a $90,000 a year pension and has been re-hired as the city's Public Safety Manager at $193,000 a year."

- - - - - - - - - - -

I don't think this Phoenix guy has much over Ogden's own Chief Greiner - does he? Seems like Greiner is up in the six figures hisself and double dippin to boot, eh? Anybody know Greiner's numbers? Maybe Ogden can kick Phoenix's ass on this, you know how much being number one means to the little big guy on nine.

fence sitter said...

Curm, I think you used 5 paragraphs to my one, and you were much more eloquent than I, to bolster my premise. My point was that more often than not, the beauracracy serves itself more than the public it is supposed to serve (I think we both agree on that) and as that happens, people like Dan S appear, do the proper homework (research) and report it on a blog. That's not surprising to me.

I do think, however, that if the blogsters aren't careful, and don't adhere to certain journalistic ethics, going off on a rant backed by bias and/or prejudice, then the blog itself can turn into the same creature that it rightfully criticized to begin with.

Also, even though many of these so-called studies, reports, etc. that the beauracracies do that so raise our hackles, there are portions of same that are accurate to a fault and should not be ignorned nor sneered at. Reporting is all in context and proportional, and we should guard against an arbitrary dismissal of ALL just because of overall past problems and the occassional dupe that presented said research.

It's like the bishop who had an illicit affair-do you condemn the whole church or do you condemn the bishop?

ozboy said...

fence sitter

I think it is the pubescent girls and boys that should be condemned, not the Bishops.

Interesting dialogue going on between you and Mr. Curmudgeon about the role of the press in modern society. You both make some pretty interesting points on both sides of this issue.

What came first, the lazy ass pseudo reporters like Schwepke, or the facts and truth digging bloggers like Dan?

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