Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 New Years Eve Special!

Have Great Fun tonight... And don't get busted!

A few selected items presented in no particular order, to contemplate while we open up a New WEBER COUNTY FORUM New Years Eve Open Topic Thread.

Unusual but highly creative guitar work, ostensibly performed to celebrate the New Year, Botswana-style? Jimi Hendrix's long lost cousin, perhaps?:
Botswana Music Guitar - Ronnie -"Happy New Year"!
And for the sentimental amongst us, here's fairly heady choral version of "Auld Lang Syne" :
Auld Lang Syne - "Happy New Year
This latter one's definitely a New Year's "classic" too, BTW... Thus we display thus highly intense celebatory video which still remains a tough act to beat (with French subtitles, no less) :
Jim Carry Goes Wild on New Years Eve
Chime in, people.

Have Fun tonight.

Whatever you do as you celebrate the advent of the new year 2011... Don't get busted by Chief Greiner's OPD!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Found: Rottweiler Type Puppy

If you've lost a Rottweiler type puppy... or know somebody who has, please contact your blogmeister via the contact link in the upper right sidebar

Estimated age: 12-13 weeks.

Found in the vicinity of the "Proudfit Compound" (24th and Polk Avenue - Ogden)

She's obviously been well cared for to date, although she's wearing a collar without any identifying tags. Your blogmeister suddenly acquired this dog while walking his own dog, from a hispanic man who admitted he'd "stolen her," handed her to me and then ran off.

Can't get her checked for a chip right now, inasmuch as Weber County Animal Services are closed til Monday.

If you've lost a Rottweiler type puppy... or know somebody who has, please contact your blogmeister via the contact link in the upper right sidebar, to identify this sweet little pup.

Update 12/30/10 5:02 p.m.: For those who might believe that Weber County Forum doesn't have a community-wide reach... word got around... and now we're pleased to announce that we just returned that sweet little puppy-dog back to her human Mom and Dad.

Case closed within a couple of hours, to our great delight, and with hugs to go all around.

Standard-Examiner: Meeting Facebook Challenge Could Help Feed Ogden's Hungry

In the spirit of competition we'll urge all Weber County Forum readers to navigate to the Walmart site and click on the "Like" button for the "Ogden-Clearfield" area

Unusual story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, calling upon Ogden area citizens to cast their online votes in a national competition between 100 U.S. cities for a serious amount of Walmart Foundation loot which is being donated to help the hungry. Here's the lead from this morning's SE writeup:
OGDEN -- Want to help feed the 18.8 percent of people in Ogden who go hungry every day? Then get online and vote.
The Walmart Foundation launched the "Fighting Hunger Together" Facebook campaign last month.
It has listed 100 cities across the nation facing the worst hunger hardships. Ogden is one of the highest in the nation with an 18.8 percent food hardship, compared with the national average of 9.2 percent.
Anyone can log on to the website at and click on the "Like" button for their community. The city with the most votes will receive $1 million. The next five in the vote will each receive $100,000.
"Up until this week, Ogden was in 15th place, but a 10,000-vote increase Tuesday night bumped the city up to fifth place, and the votes are still coming in," said Jessica Pugh, public relations manager for the Utah Food Bank.
The voting ends at 5 p.m. Friday. The winners will be announced Wednesday on Facebook.
Read the full SE story here:
Meeting Facebook challenge could help feed Ogden's hungry
The Salt Lake Tribune carries a version of this story too:
Utah Food Bank asks for votes in Walmart contest
In the spirit of inter-city competition we'll urge all Weber County Forum readers to navigate to the Walmart site via the link below and click on the "Like" button for the "Ogden-Clearfield" area:
Help Fight Hunger in Your Community
Looks like an effort well worthy of the coupla seconds it will take to lodge your vote.

Can't hurt... might help.

Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky in Ogden for once.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Gay Advocates Want Enforceable Anti-discrimination Ordinance in Ogden

In a scenario where local governments all over Utah have already adopted similar anti-discrimination ordinances, proponents of this proposed Ogden measure accuse Boss Godfrey of "dragging his feet."

Interesting Scott Schwebke story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, reporting that Utah lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocates have scheduled a Jan. 7 meeting with Mayor Matthew Godfrey "in the hope of resolving legal issues, allowing the adoption of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity":
Gay advocates want enforceable anti-discrimination ordinance in Ogden
Although this morning's story reports that local governments in Salt Lake City, Park City, Logan, West Valley, Taylorsville, Murray, Moab, Salt Lake County, Summit County and Grand County (among others) have readily adopted similar ordinances, proponents of this particular proposed measure accuse Boss Godfrey of "dragging his feet," and jockeying for some kind of weak "nonbinding resolution."

Of course human rights advocacy has never been Boss Godfrey's strong suit, has it?

Seems to us that this issue is straightforward, and that the council ought to adopt an ordinance with teeth, if for no other reason than to bring Ogden City municipal policies into the 21st Century and into alignment with those of more progressive and humane Utah communities.

If you're in favor of having our City Council bring this matter forward on its own initiative, be sure to contact your City Council representatives, via this handy link:
Ogden City Council Contact Link
And if you would like to publicly express your opinion on this matter, the comment section below is just the place to do that.

The floor is open for a discussion on this topic, WCF readers.

Who will be the first to throw in their own 2¢?

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Belated Heads Up On Tomorrow Morning's Weber County Commission Meeting

"Discussion and/or action" on the proposed conference center expansion is at the tail of the Commission agenda

Hey folks! Thanks to Sunday's tip from gentle reader ND, we'll provide a heads up about tomorrow morning's Weber County Commission meeting, during which the Commission has the following item on the agenda:
PUBLIC NOTICE is hereby given that the Board of Commissioners of Weber County, Utah will hold a regular commission meeting in the Commission Chambers of the Weber Center, 2380 Washington Boulevard, Ogden, Utah, commencing at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the 28th day of December 2010.

The agenda for the meeting consists of the following:

E. Action Items...

5. Discussion and/or action on the proposed conference center expansion.
Presenter: Commissioner Bischoff
Those readers who've been following developments in re the Downtown Ogden Fieldhouse Boondoggle might want to mark this meeting on tomorrow's calenders, inasmuch as Boss Godfrey has been working like the demon that he is to rope the County Commission into "partnering" on this latest crackpot $30 million Boss Godfrey scheme.

We'll keep the lower comments section open of course, for anyone who might wish to comment on this topic before, during or after tomorrow morning's County Commission meeting.

Update 12/29/10 7:00 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner carries a story this morning, reporting that "the Weber County Commission took the first step toward the possible expansion of Ogden Eccles Conference Center on Tuesday by adopting a memorandum that details exactly what the county is looking for in the development process":
Eccles center to expand to Kiesel Building?
We'll post a copy of the referenced memorandum here on Weber County Forum as soon as an electronic copy is available.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Standard-Examiner Editorial: OUR VIEW: Council Adopts Bad Idea

The Standard-Examiner is exactly right... this mendacious "secret straw poll" procedure, sneakily crafted to sidestep the technical requirements of Utah's Open Meetings Act, amounts to nothing less than an audacious violation of the spirit of the law

It's important that the council consider the straw poll system. This is an effort to depoliticize the election process and strengthen the working relationships of Ogden City Council members.

Council Chair Caitlin Gochnour
Secret ballots on Ogden City Council's agenda
December 20, 2010

It [secret balloting] makes the election of officers less political ... and gives the council ability to vote how they believe. It allows less animosity and keeps those elections from being a polarizing event that keeps us from being able to do the work of the council.

Councilman Brandon Stephenson
Secret ballots on Ogden City Council's agenda
December 20, 2010

It's never a good idea to try to reduce council animosity by taking away from the public decisions and rationales that they have a right to hear about. In other words, the secret straw polls should not be used as anger-management therapy.

Standard-Examiner Editorial
OUR VIEW: Council adopts bad idea
December 26, 2010
Tip-top editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, joining with Weber County Forum in condemning last Tuesday's 5-2 Council decision to "switch operating procedures to allow secret, anonymous straw poll balloting for nominating and selecting its chairman and vice-chairman each January":
OUR VIEW: Council adopts bad idea
The Standard-Examiner is exactly right. This mendacious procedure, sneakily crafted to sidestep the technical requirements of Utah's Open Meetings Act, amounts to nothing less than an audacious violation of the spirit of the law.

Weber County Forum Tips O' The Hat go all around this morning... to Council members Van Hooser and Wicks, who voted against the amendment... and to the Standard-Examiner editorial board, for publicly saying what needed to be said.

And to the rest of the council (Blair, Garner, Gochnour, Stephens & Stephenson), who decided to hide their council leadership votes behind a veil of secrecy... a very nice bronze "consolation" trophy:

Clearly there are five council members who just don't "get it."

Don't let the cat get yer tongues, O Gentle Ones...

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Silent Night {Christmas 1915} - Gerry Lynch

"Oh silent night no cannons roar... A king is born of peace for evermore"

Legendary Irish tenor Gerry Lynch singing "A Silent Night {Christmas 1915}", written by Cormac MacConnell, about the "1915 Christmas Day truce" on the Front Line, World War One:

Maybe we 21st Century Americans can learn something from this. Work, people, for Peace on earth... and good will to all men... So sez yer blogmeister, Rudi, with best wishes to you all for this year's holidays... and during the year to come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden to Use $1.5M to Hire 7 Officers

It's refreshing to see the Godfrey Administration at least occasionally devoting itself to the real fundamentals of running a city, innit?
Ogden officials are optimistic the city will receive a federal grant by the end of the year that will enable [7 police officer] positions to be filled.

John Arrington, Ogden City Finance Manager
Ogden preps for $500K shortfall
October 12, 2010

The [$1.5 million] grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will pay wages and benefits for the [7 police] officers, who may be hired starting Jan. 1.

Tracy Probert, Ogden City Assistant Finance Manager
Ogden to use $1.5M to hire 7 officers
December 23, 2010

Good news for Ogden City this morning, as the Standard-Examiner reports that "The Ogden Police Department has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant over three years to hire seven new [police] officers." As our regular readers will recall, way back in October, the Standard reported that a projected "$500,000 shortfall in sales tax revenue for fiscal 2011" had prompted the Ogden City Council to give those Ogden Police Department positions the budget ax.

Amazing what a little well-placed Godfrey Administration optimism and persistence can accomplish.

And it's refreshing to see the Godfrey Administration at least occasionally devoting itself to the real fundamentals of running a city, innit?

Of course even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, right?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Secret Ballots On Ogden City Council's Agenda

Lets make a special effort today, Weber County Forum readers, to ensure that secrecy-minded elements of our City Council don't begin dowsing the light of government transparency tonight

On the heels of Sunday's Weber County Forum article, which focuses on matters concerning tonight's Council consideration of Kevin Garn's Hot Tub Hotel project, this morning's Standard-Examiner shifts our attention to yet another important item included on the Council agenda this evening, namely "whether to switch to secret straw poll balloting to nominate and tentatively choose its chairman and vice chairman." Read Mr. Schwebke's full story here:
In our view, this is but one of two troubling items under consideration by the Council, as it sets out tonight to tinker with the body of procedural rules know as "Rules of Procedure and Council Norms." For a brief but incisive explanation of the two items which we find to be objectionable, we'll incorporate the text of a Dan S. comment lodged on Sunday under our previous Council meeting article, with which arguments we are in 100% agreement:
There's another very troubling item on the council agenda. They're proposing to revise their own procedural rules in several respects. Some are innocuous, but two of the revisions would establish procedures for unnecessary and undesirable secrecy:

1. The council is proposing to elect its chair and vice chair by secret ballot, rather than through open nominations and votes. Nominations and votes would be by anonymous written ballots, conducted during a study session prior to the meeting. After the new chair and vice chair have been identified by a majority of these anonymous votes, a final yes/no ratification vote would be taken during the formal meeting. This procedure would deprive the public of knowing the preferences of their elected representatives for these crucial leadership positions. Secret ballots are appropriate only for public elections, not for votes taken by elected representatives.

2. Council members would be prohibited from disclosing the content of legal opinions provided to them by the city attorney's office or by outside attorneys. This rule would deprive the public of knowing the legal basis of many city council decisions, and would allow the city to keep a great deal of information secret under the guise of "attorney-client privilege". The proposed rule is a perverse corruption of the concept of attorney-client privilege, which actually imposes confidentiality requirements on attorneys, not on their clients. Even in a lawsuit, while an attorney cannot share legal opinions with anyone except his or her own client, it is perfectly permissible, and often advantageous, for the client to share these opinions with the opposing party. Mayor Godfrey has released legal opinions to the press in the past, most notably in July 2009 when he released a legal opinion outlining his alleged authority to use his line-item veto on policy language in the FY 2010 budget regarding the Marshall White Center and other city recreation facilities. If the mayor has the discretion to share legal opinions with the public when he feels this is strategically advantageous, then city council members should also have that discretion. But more importantly, there are many instances in which the public deserves to know what legal advice the city council is getting.

Let's hope the council members come to their senses on these items by Tuesday.
For a full recitation of all proposed amendments to our Ogden City Council's "Rules of Procedure and Council Norms," follow this link to tonight's City Council packet:
In recent years our city council has plainly made significant strides toward increased public transparency; and in our view, the Council's proposed adoption of these two procedural amendments, which would place deliberations about council leadership votes and attorney opinions under a disturbing cloak of secrecy, represent a significant step backwards. As Dan S. aptly remarks, we can only hope that our council members (namely Council members Gochnour and Stephensen) "come to their senses on these items by Tuesday."

If you'd like to chime in on the subject, and to join us in voicing your objections to these two ill-conceived procedural amendments, please contact our council members, via the contact link below:
It's been a short four years since Councilwoman Dorrene Jeske "concentrated on the need to make Ogden City Government accessible to the citizens, and, as she put it, "let some light in." And to this end... produced flashlights for all the council members, to remind them that the local government's dealings should be out in the light."

Lets make a special effort today, Weber County Forum readers, to ensure that secrecy-minded elements of our City Council don't begin dowsing the light of government transparency tonight.

We'll leave the lights on in our lower comments section of course, for any Weber County Forum readers who'd like to comment on this topic before, during or after tonight's City Council/RDA meeting events.

Update 12/22/10 3:40 a.m.: Both the Standard-Examiner and the Salt Lake Tribune carry stories this morning reporting on the results of last night's Council/RDA meetings:
 Update 12/28/10 8:00 p.m.: View the full Council and RDA videos, via the Ogden City website:
12/21 City Council-RDA Special Session
12/21 City Council Regular Session

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Meetings Tuesday Evening As the Council /RDA Lurches Toward Approval of the Junction Hotel Project

We're posting this info early, in order to afford WCF readers a full opportunity to digest and discuss all elements of the this proposed project, well in advance of Tuesday's Council/RDA sessions

An examination of Tuesday's upcoming Council/RDA agendas reveals that the Administration us still tweaking the details of the Junction "Hot Tub" Hotel project financing. Here's where the proposed financing stands at this latest juncture:
Proposed Project Financing
The $13 Million Hotel project will be funded using several different
financing mechanisms:
$8.7 Million – Facilities Bonds: The City will act as a conduit
for the tax-exempt bonds. The Developer will be responsible
for the debt service.
$1.5 Million – Tax Increment Bonds: The RDA will issue tax
increment bonds. The City will pledge the City’s Franchise
Tax as additional collateral for the bonds. Debt Service will be
derived from the tax increment generated by the development.
$2.2 Million – New Market Tax Credits (Federal Allocation):
The Developer is still hopeful that there will be New Market
Tax Credits available for the project.
For a little background on the above-mentioned New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program, by the way, check out this link:
New Markets Tax Credit Program
There are four main items on Tuesday's Council agenda (5:30 p.m.):
Public Parking Assessment Area No. 2010-1
- Designation Resolution #2010-23
- Assessment Ordinance #2010-41
1. Pull Designation Resolution from Agenda
2. Pull Assessment Ordinance from Agenda
(A Parking Structure Is No Longer Part of the Junction Hotel
Project. These Actions are Unnecessary)
Contribution Agreement Resolution. Pledging Franchise Tax as Security for RDA Junction Hotel Tax Increment Bonds.
Determination: Table to January 11, 2011 for Final Consideration.
Addenda to Development Agreement - The Junction Hotel
Determination: Adopt/Not Adopt Resolution
Industrial Revenue Bonds Qualified Recovery Zone Facilities Bonds - Authorizing Resolution
Determination: Adopt or Not Adopt Resolution
View the full Council packet here:
12/21 City Council/RDA Joint Session
The RDA Board will also consider "approvals" relating to the operative project documents (as amended) in a Special RDA Session (6:00 p.m.):
Reports from the Administration. Junction Hotel Development Agreement Addenda, Amended Promissory Note, and Substitute Trust Deed. Proposed Resolution 2010-15 approving and authorizing two addendums to the Development Agreement between the Ogden City Redevelopment Agency, Kevin Garn, and Western States Lodging, L.L.C., pertaining to the development of a hotel structure on parcel 01-099-0004 at The Junction in Ogden City, Utah, including approving an Amended Promissory Note and Substitute Trust Deed. (Adopt/not adopt resolution – roll call vote)
View Tuesday's RDA packet here:
12/21 City Council-RDA Special Session
Lots of interesting nuances here, not the least being the apparent abandonment of a plan for an underground parking garage, and the Special Assessment District which was originally "envisioned" to help finance its construction.

Another interesting element? The administration and other principals seem to believe they'll be able to "close" this highly-complicated (some would call it "Rube Goldbergesque") transaction no later than December 28, even though "final" Council consideration of the Franchise Tax pledge ($1.5 million) as additional security for RDA Junction Hotel Tax Increment Bonds has been "tabled" to January 11, 2011.

We're posting this info early, in order to afford WCF readers a full opportunity to digest and discuss all elements of the this proposed project, well in advance of Tuesday's Council/RDA sessions.

All WCF readers are therefore invited to post their savvy comments before, during or after Tuesday night's Council/RDA events.

Update 12/22/10 3:40 a.m.: Both the Standard-Examiner and the Salt Lake Tribune carry stories this morning reporting on the results of last night's Council/RDA meetings:
Ogden City Council votes to make legal advice off-limits to public
Ogden OKs changes scrapping underground parking at hotel
Update 12/28/10 8:00 p.m.: View the full Council and RDA videos, via the Ogden City website:
12/21 City Council-RDA Special Session
12/21 City Council Regular Session

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Magical Unveiling of the Mystery Dome

Mayor, CAO, and architect proudly present new sketches.

By Dan Schroeder

The atmosphere was cold but festive at the downtown Ogden Amphitheater last night, with families coming to see the Christmas Village while children’s choirs sang on the stage.

And, as promised, the Field House “open house” piggybacked on the festivities with foam board displays on either side of the amphitheater entrance.

There were four displays in all, each guarded by a high-ranking city official (mayor, chief administrative officer, public works director...). But the displays were mostly redundant, each dominated by the same pair of fresh architectural sketches of the Wonder Dome’s upper and lower levels.

To the side of each set of these large illustrations was a separate board listing the amenities for a prospective user group: “Athletes”, “School kids”, “Families”, and “Senior’s” [sic].

There were also two tables full of iced Christmas cookies, inexplicably failing to attract much attention.

Attendance was dominated by a handful of true believers and a smaller handful of skeptics. City Council members Gochnour and Garner were there, rubbing elbows with administration members and constituents alike.

I made no attempt to interrogate the mayor, but I did ask quite a few questions of the architect, Dan Van Zeben. He explained that the sketches are oriented with north upward, so 24th Street would go across the top and Grant Avenue (to be vacated) would go right up the middle. The east side of the Wonder Dome would wrap around the Berthana Building, while the west side would displace the vacant building on the southwest corner of 24th and Grant as well as some land belonging to the Marriott Hotel.

According to Mr. Van Zeben, parking for the Wonder Dome could be provided by adding more levels to the existing parking structure to the east, and building a new parking structure on the city’s parking lot behind the Marriott.

I asked Mr. Van Zeben if he had made any cost estimates for the Wonder Dome and he said yes, his current ballpark estimate of the construction cost is $28 million. This includes demolition of existing buildings but not land acquisition or parking. Council member Gochnour said she had heard a somewhat higher cost estimate, but it wasn’t clear whether that estimate might have included some items that Van Zeben was omitting.

Mr. Van Zeben also confirmed that he has received no compensation for his services related to the Wonder Dome over the last three years. I asked whether he has other contracts with the city and he said not at the moment, although he did do some work related to the renovations on the east side of Washington Blvd. Then he mentioned that he has recently been hired as the architect for the Kevin Garn Hot Tub Hotel. Although his client is Western States Lodging, he is hoping to be hired by the city as well to design the parking portion of the building. He is unsure whether the city will have to go through a competitive bidding process to hire its architect.

There was no mention of any results from the $38,000 study of the Wonder Dome proposal that the council agreed to pay for last month.

Update 12/17/10 5:30 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner carries its own morning story too:
Ogden field house plan reviewed
Update 12/17/10 7:40 a.m.: Here is a very rough overlay of the Wonder Dome footprint on an aerial photograph of downtown Ogden. It appears that the building's eastern wing would reach all the way to Kiesel Avenue. The city would have to acquire property whose total assessed value is about $1.8 million, from five different owners (Pingree, Alvey, Cutrubus, Century Investments, and H & P Investments):

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Salt Lake Tribune: Ogden Mayor Seeks Feedback on Sports Facility

Bundle up, folks, as it appears that it's gonna be a mite chilly tonight, down in the Ogden City Municipal Gardens

Thanks to a tip from Gentle Reader Ray, we'll shine the spotlight on yesterday evening's Salt Lake Tribune story, reporting, among other things, that Boss Godfrey's Magical Mystery Dome (Fieldhouse Project) Open House, originally set for the Council Chambers, will be held outdoors this evening instead, at the Ogden Amphitheater. Read Cathy McKitrick's full writeup here:
Ogden mayor seeks feedback on sports facility
If you're planning to attend tonight's Dog & Pony Show, be sure to bundle up in your woolie-woolies, as it appears that it's gonna be a mite chilly tonight, down in the Ogden City Municipal Gardens:

As per usual, we'll leave the lights on in the lower comments section for any of our readers who'd like to lodge their remarks before, during or after tonight's Dog & Pony Show event.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weird Op-Ed Piece From the Standard-Examiner

Odd advice from another green-behind-the-ears Ogden realtor, who hasn't even served a single day in the State Legislature yet.

Weird Op-ed editorial on the Standard-Examiner website today, from newly-elected GOP Utah House District 9 Rep. Jeremy Peterson, who somehow got elected to Neil Hansen's House Leg District 9 slot, during a really weird time, when asleep at the wheel Central City Ogden Democrats inexplicably failed to show up at the polls:
Standard wrong about repeal amendment
Gotta say it's WAY TOO FUNNY to have this 35-year old novice House Member, lecturing us suddenly on legislative policy, since he hasn't even spent a single day in the State Legislature yet.

We await our readers' ever-savvy comments with abated breath.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A 12/14/10 RDA/Council Meeting Heads-up

Will tonight's work session presentation be used as a "dry run" for Thursday's Magical Mystery Dome (Fieldhouse) Public Dog and Pony Show? That's our educated guess

Here's a heads up on tonight's Council/RDA meetings, which will be conducted in the following order (click the highlighted links to view the respective council packets):

1) Redevelopment Agency Meeting (6:00 p.m.). Looks like this one will be mostly held in closed session (out of public earshot, in other words).

2) City Council Meeting (follows RDA Meeting). The chief item on tonight's Council agenda will be a vote on a resolution and ordinance approving a Junction Hotel special assessment area. This one looks to be a likely slam dunk, inasmuch as the council already approved the primary hotel bonding ($9 million) just last week.

3) City Council Work Session (follows RDA & Council meetings). This is a meeting which might be worth a close look, as the council packet is littered with photos of velodromes, water parks and fieldhouses, "gleaned" by an obviously eager Boss Godfrey during (taxpayer paid) junkets to Kansas City and Carson, California over the course of the past month or two. Will tonight's work session presentation be used as a "dry run" for Thursday's Magical Mystery Dome (Fieldhouse) Public Dog and Pony Show? That's our educated guess.

We'll leave the lights on in the lower comments section as per usual, in the event that any of our WCF readers would like to post their pithy comments or snide remarks, before, during or after tonight's RDA/Council meeting events.

Update 12/19/10 6:38 a.m.: View the full Council amd RDA videos, via the Ogden City website:
12/14 City Council Regular Session
12/14 RDA Special Session

Monday, December 13, 2010

How Many of You Radicals Out There in WCF Land are Feeling Disappointment in the Ongoing Antics of Our Ogden City Council?

Kind of like a judas goat - da mayor - leading the poor council dumb sheep toward infinity

By: Donk

How many of you radicals out there in WCF land are feeling disappointment in the ongoing antics of our Ogden City Council?

It used to be that we could count on three or four on the Council to act like they had good sense; but those days are gone apparently.

We're down to one now and it seems that the rest are cowering behind their titles in abject fear of little old what's-his-name.

Kind of like a judas goat - da mayor - leading the poor dumb sheep toward infinity (bankruptcy is a better word).

Oh well, live and learn I suppose. We can't pick winners every time, seems like.

Standard-Examiner National Commentary: Must-see Court TV

Added Bonus: a link to C-SPAN's Monday Proposition 8 appeal oral argument

Excellent national commentary editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner by Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten, arguing in favor of "the camera's indispensability" in U.S. courts in general, and touting "the high seriousness of the three judges" and their lack of politicization during the hearing for oral argument on the appeal of the Proposition 8 lower court judgment in particular, which hearing was heard by a three-judge panel last Monday in San Francisco's U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal:
Must-see court TV
The SE headline characterizes this as "must see court TV," and we believe that's exactly what it is. So to pick up where the Standard left off, and for the benefit of WCF readers who may have a little extra time on their hands this morning (2.5 hours, to be exact), we'll helpfully link Monday's recorded C-SPAN broadcast, which represents in our view an example of a highly diligent U.S. District Court of Appeal, which is clearly running on all cylinders:
Perry v. Schwartzeneger Oral Argument
It may be a slow news day in Emerald City, but that doesn't mean there's nothing interesting for our gentle readers to contemplate for hours on end.

And yes. This will be on the test.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Standard-Examiner: LDS Church Buys Ogden Motel, Closes the Doors

Maybe it's just us, but this whole situation seems a mite cold-hearted

Although we took the day off yesterday to attend to pressing personal business, there's one disheartening Standard-Examiner story from yesterday's edition that stuck in our craw, and which we'd like to belatedly highlight this morning, as we stand upon the cusp of the Christmas Holiday season:
LDS Church buys Ogden motel, closes the doors
Yeah, we've read Ogden stories like this before...
Sledge-Hammer Solutions to Fly-Swatter Problems?
Windsor Hotel Residents Told to Hit the Road
But we don't recall any story where down and out Ogdenites were being kicked out of their homes within a coupla weeks of Christmas...

A few quick questions for the real estate moguls of the ecclesiastical organization which officially goes by the moniker Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

Is this What Jesus Would Do? What's the rush? Wouldn't it have been more "Christian" to have provided "these poor brothers and sisters" a full thirty days' notice before tossing them out on the street? Will the LDS church even lift a finger to help these displaced folks find alternate digs?

Maybe it's just us; but this whole situation seems a mite cold-hearted.

So what say our gentle readers about all this?

Just axin...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Salt Lake Tribune: The Envison Ogden Money Laundering Scandal Ain't Quite Dead Yet

Makes one wonder if the powers that be are intentionally running the clock out on this official criminal conduct so as to not embarrass a bunch of their own crooks

By: Ozboy

Another article by Cathy McKitrick in the Tribune today about the Envision Ogden crimes and how the statue of limitations might be about run out on prosecuting them:
State probe into Envision Odgen still active as deadline approaches
Makes one wonder if the powers that be are intentionally running the clock out on this official criminal conduct so as to not embarrass a bunch of their own crooks.

Standard-Examiner: Ogden OKs $9M Bond for Hilton Construction

Lets all keep our fingers crossed that Garn is in better financial shape than Gadi Leshem

The Standard-Examiner finally gets around to providing a writeup on the outcome of the bond approval issues which were on Tuesday night's Council agenda, with this morning story which reports that the council approved "$9 million in facility bonds to help finance construction of a four-story Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at The Junction development downtown." Mr. Schwebke also reports that a vote on the the $2.8 million in special assessment bonds has been scheduled for next Tuesday (December 14), and that a decision whether to issue up to $3 million in tax increment bonds has been set for Dec. 21:
Ogden OKs $9M bond for Hilton construction
It looks like Mr. Garn's Junction Hotel is a fait accompli, as the council jumps through all the formal public notice hoops, and increases the taxpayers' indebtedness by another $16 mil.

Mr. Schwebke carefully notes that "Garn will be responsible for repaying the facility bonds." With that in mind, lets all keep our fingers crossed that when the smoke clears on all this that Garn turns out to be in better financial shape than former Godfrey Moneyman, Gadi Leshem.

And to existing hotel operators like Susan Cross, assistant manager of Ogden’s Comfort Suites Hotel, who warned that " Ogden is not ready for an additional 125 rooms" ...

Tough Luck!

What the evil Boss Godfrey wants, Evil Boss Godfrey gets.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Field House Public Open House Set For 12/16/10

Gotta say we're feeling the buzz already, as the Godfrey Administration prepares to shove another multi-million dollar boondoggle down the lumpencitizens' throats

Thanks to a tip from Gentle Reader Jennifer, we're able to provide some interesting new information from Ogden City CEO John Patterson's Facebook wall. I looks like the big push for Boss Godfrey's Magical Mystery Dome (Fieldhouse Project) is well underway, with a public open house scheduled for Thursday, December 16:

Gotta say we're feeling the buzz already, as the Godfrey Administration prepares to shove another multi-million dollar boondoggle down the lumpencitizens' throats.

Be sure to mark your calenders, folks.

Update 12/15/10 3:30 p.m.: We now learn that the Magical Mystery Dome (Fieldhouse Project) Open House has been moved outdoors, to the Ogden Amphitheater of all places:
Field House Open House

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Big Meeting Tonight As The Council Considers 25th Street Building Heights & Another $16 Million in Bonding - UPDATED

Batten down the hatches, folks, as Boss Godfrey spends every single dime he can borrow, and puts the city in hock unto your grand-kids' generation
Update: SE reporter Schwebke graces us with a glimpse of another ungentlemanly Boss Godfrey temper tantrum

To kick the discussion off this morning we'll provide a quick heads-up about tonight's Council/RDA meetings, wherein consideration will be given to approval of the following items, which have been topics of discussion on Weber County Forum over the course of the last several months:

1) Historic 25th Street Building Height Limit Amendment (three options):
a) Adopt Ordinance Option A as recommended by the Planning Commission
b) Adopt Ordinance Option B, which includes the Planning Commission recommendations plus additional language regarding roof top additions
c) Deny the Petition

2) Junction Hotel Project:
a) Facility Bonds of $9 Million—The City will act as conduit for the purpose of hotel construction. The developer is fully responsible for paying back the bonds.
b) Tax Increment Bonds of $2.25 Million—The RDA will issue these bonds, with backing from the City, for hotel construction ($1.5 Million) and public parking ($750,000).
c) Assessment Bonds of $2.25 Million—The City will issue these bonds to construct the public parking.
(The proposed hotel project will cost an estimated $16 Million, with $13 Million being used for the construction of the hotel and $3 Million for a parking structure.)
For those readers who plan to attend tonight's meetings, here's a link to the full Council/RDA Board packet:
12/07 City Council Regular Session Packet
Weirdly enough, Ogden City appears hellbent for another massive spending spree, even in a national economic atmosphere in which "the finances of some state and local governments are so distressed that some analysts say they are reminded of the run-up to the subprime mortgage meltdown or of the debt crisis hitting nations in Europe":
Mounting Debts by States Stoke Fears of Crisis
Batten down the hatches, folks, as Boss Godfrey spends every single dime he can borrow, and puts the city in hock unto your grand-kids' generation.

We'll leave the lights on as usual, for anyone who'd like to comment before, during or after tonight's meetings.

Update 12/8/10 7:30 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner reports on the disposition of the heights limit amendement petition this morning:
Historic 25th can reach greater heights
Standard-Examiner reporter Scott Schwebke informs us that "the city council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to stretch height limits from 45 feet to 55 feet for new buildings on Historic 25th Street," with a provision "that prohibits existing buildings on 25th Street from being increased in height through rooftop additions or additional stories unless":
• Documentation is presented establishing that additional height is within the limits of the building's historical construction.
• The addition is not visible from the front of the building or from the sidewalk on the same side of the street or across the street.
As an added bonus, Mr. Schwebke graces us with a glimpse of another ungentlemanly public temper tantrum, whereby Godfrey rudely lambasteded one Utah Heritage Foundation historical preservation expert who'd had the audacity to speak in opposition to the height ordinance amendment:
Kirk Huffaker, executive director of Utah Heritage Foundation, said that while the height amendment has some benefits, the city hasn't provided enough hard data to show it would have a significant economic impact on Historic 25th Street.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey described some of Huffaker's comments as ridiculous and derided a suggestion that the city should work more closely with Historic 25th Street businesses to help them prosper. Godfrey said the municipality is already doing that.
"You think we don't do this day in and day out and that we have never done this before?" Godfrey asked Huffaker. "Give me a break."
Hopefully Council Leadership will quickly issue an apology to Mr. Huffaker for our petulant mayor's bad manners.

Unfortunately, Mr. Schwebke provides no word on the City Council's treatment of the Junction Hotel bonding matters.

Update 12/14/10 8:00 a.m.: View the full council video, via the Ogden City website:
12/7/10 Council Video

Monday, December 06, 2010

Emerald City Monday Morning News Roundup

Plenty to talk about this morning; so don't hesitate to chime in with your own 2¢.

Several interesting pieces online this morning via the Northern Utah print media:

1) Here's an informative Cathy McKitrick story this morning from the Salt Lake Tribune, reporting in detail some of the planned improvements on the slate for the new St. Anne's Shelter:
Current Ogden shelter too cramped, new digs in the works
Once again the Tribune is the johnny on the spot to report the more interesting developments in our town.

2) For those readers who don't subscribe to the Standard-Examiner, here's David Smith's letter to the Standard, which was published in the hard copy edition this morning on the editorial page:
Envision Ogden antics resemble money laundering
It's encouraging, we think, for the Standard to accept and publish public criticism for its dawdling on the Envision Ogden story. Kudos to David Smith for helping to keep the story in public view.

3) And last but not least we'll shine the spotlight on this Stephen M. Cook letter (available online only), which will provide regular WCF readers a strong sense of deja vu:
Downtown trolley doesn't run as advertised
Another of our gentle readers had urged Livin' Downtown to submit his disappointing faux trolley experience to the Standard; and we're delighted to see WCF regular Stephen ditched his anonymous handle and followed up on this.

That's it for now gentle readers.

Plenty to talk about this morning. Don't hesitate to chime in with your own 2¢.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Standard-Examiner Editorial: OUR VIEW: Ogden's Roadmap

To lead off the discussion we'll just say that this is the most disappointing SE editorial we've read in years

Ogden has a roadmap toward its downtown plans for the future. While it cannot be assumed that all of these goals will be fulfilled, we applaud city officials and employees for understanding that it is necessary to be working on several projects at once to have a better chance to achieve long-term success.

Standard-Examiner Editorial
OUR VIEW: Ogden's roadmap
December 5, 2010

It's like gambling somehow. You go out for a night of drinking and you don't know where your going to end up the next day. It could work out good or it could be disastrous. It's like the throw of the dice.

Jim Morrison
Famous American Rocker
December 8, 1943 — July 3, 1971

Patently ridiculous Standard-Examiner editorial this morning, prompting us to wonder whether the SE editorial board went out on a bender on Friday night with Jim Morrison's ghost. In the midst of current dismal economic times, it's difficult enough for the Council to keep Ogden's finances on an even financial keel; yet here come the cheerleaders on the SE editorial board egging on the council to engage in another round of risky bonding:
OUR VIEW: Ogden's roadmap
Chime in with your own comments, gentle readers; but to lead off the discussion we'll just say that this is the single most disappointing SE editorial we've read in years. A strong voice for fiscal prudence in Ogden City Government? You'll evidently not find that voice at the Standard-Examiner. This is the kind of drivel we'd expect to hear from the Chamber of Commerce, but not from a conscientious home town newspaper. We're also embarrassed for the normally astute Doug Gibson, who probably got assigned to write up this mindless pap.

Standard-Examiner: Ogden's Berthana May Gain Night Club

Is Commissioner Bischoff singing a different tune now?


It looks like the County is onboard with the Berthana project:
Ogden's Berthana may gain night club
Is Commissioner Bischoff singing a different tune now?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The New Republic: How the Tea Party Is Wrecking Republican Foreign Policy

Those who think Sarah Palin speaks for the Tea Party on foreign policy haven’t been paying attention

In the midst of the annual holiday Emerald City red meat news lull, we'll direct our readers' attention to this morning's thoughtful New Republic commentary, which examines the uneasy foreign policy disparity between establishment Republicans and members of the fledgling (but politically muscular) Tea Party Movement. Here's the lede:
Now that the midterm elections are over and voices of the Tea Party will soon be established in Congress, the movement’s views on foreign policy will come under closer scrutiny, and the results may prove surprising, not least to the Tea Partiers themselves. Those views are far from Republican orthodoxy. On some issues, the Tea Partiers will predictably line up with the Republican leadership, but on others they may find they have more in common with Democrats. They may even provide Barack Obama with unexpected support. Those who think Sarah Palin speaks for the Tea Party on foreign policy haven’t been paying attention.
Read the full article here:
How the Tea Party Is Wrecking Republican Foreign Policy
"Chewy," as Gentle Reader Curmudgeon would say.

Who will be the first to chime in with their own 2¢?

We'll definitely be watching the lower comments section with great interest.

Salt Lake Tribune: Anti-affirmative Action Amendment Needs No Scrutiny, Sponsor Says

Newly elected District 18 GOP Senator-elect Reid expresses an opposite viewpoint...imagine that!

Interesting story in this morning's Deseret News, discussing GOP House Rep. Curt Oda's Friday statement that his proposed anti-affirmative action amendment to the Utah Constitution "doesn't need any more scrutiny."

Read the full DNews story here:
Anti-affirmative action amendment needs no scrutiny, sponsor says
Tantalizing quote from Ogden's Senate District 18 Senator Stuart Reid, the former life-long Democrat who was elected in November under the Republican Party banner:
Sen.-elect Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said Friday he hasn't made up his mind on the amendment but definitely will vote against it if there is not a thorough review by the commission.
"The public expects that," Reid said. "Amending the constitution is serious business, and we shouldn't be treating it as if it was just another piece of legislation."
Reid pointed out it would take only two GOP votes to block the amendment in the Senate if all the Democrats vote against it as expected. He said he's already told a backer of the amendment he needs more information.
"Certainly, for me to support changing the constitution, I would need to have specifics about what the issues are that they are concerned about and how this amendment would address them," Reid said. "Let's be sincere. If there is a problem, let's discuss it openly.
Yeah, it's probably a little early in the game to conclude that Sen. Reid is a GOP maverick in the works, but we're encouraged at this juncture to observe that Senator Reid seems inclined to think for himself, and appears to be equally UNinclined to slavishly march in lockstep with the herd.

Discussing controversial proposed constitutional amendments out in the open... what a novel concept... imagine that!

So what say our WCF readers about this?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Selective Godfrey Administration Enforcement of Sign Rules in Emerald City?

It does really seem that anything labeled hi-tech or outdoor recreation is exempt from the standard enforcement of city rules and regulations

By Blackrulon

I noticed something interesting today. The city made certain that the sign board advertising of a local coffee shop was not placed on city property:
Another Boss Godfrey Cheap Shot: Ogden City Cites Kaffe Mercantile For a "Sign Violation"
I drove past the new Ogden location for Recreation Outlet and noticed a sign in the street telling where to find additional store parking:

It does really seem that anything labeled hi-tech or outdoor recreation is exempt from the standard enforcement of city rules and regulations.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Salt Lake Tribune: Campaign Cash

One more reason for enactment of UEG Ethics Reform Citizens Initiative in November 2012

From the Weber County Forum back burner we'll focus in this eye opening 11/29/10 editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune for those readers concerned about the corrupting influence of special interest campaign donations on the Utah legislative process. Here's the lede, which breaks out some startling figures:
To many Utah legislators, local is better — except when it comes to campaign donations. One-third of the lawmakers who will take their seats on Capitol Hill in the next general session didn’t raise a dime in campaign donations from their own district. Half raised less than 1 percent from constituents.
Overall, only $1 of every $20 in campaign donations came from the folks in the district. That means all the rest came from corporations, labor unions, political action committees, individuals outside the district, political parties, lobbyists, other politicians. In other words, special interests.
This is worrisome because these contributors don’t give money out of the goodness of their hearts. They give it to buy influence.
The editorial goes on with several recommendations to "encourage candidates to raise money from more sources, making them less beholden to any one."

Read the full editorial here:
Campaign cash
As regular WCF readers are well aware, the UEG Ethics Initiative, which would impose reasonable individual campaign contribution limits for our state legislature, and would ban corporate contributions entirely, among other things, has technically qualified for the ballot for November of 2012. In the meantime however we believe the above-linked SLTrib editorial provides one more reason for enactment of this important citizens initiative.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

More Disappointment In Re the Goofy Godfrey Downtown Faux Trolley Route

Downtown Trolley Loop? Fail , says one WCF Reader

By: Livin' Downtown

I stood out in the snow at 160 25th Street, waiting with my toddler son for a much-anticipated trolley ride to the Tree House Museum;

And waited, and waited...

At 55 minutes, I prevailed on the crestfallen boy, and we arranged other transport to the Children's Museum.

We called the City, and were connected with a Mayoral Representative, who politely informed us that the Trolley DOES NOT ALWAYS run the copiously posted hours, nor does it always run every 15-20 minutes.

It seems, without updating the informational signage, the city has decided to only run one trolley, and if we plan on using it, sometimes it will come in a few minutes... sometimes it will come in a hour... maybe...

No way I am standing in the snow for 45 minutes again, not when we are waiting for a child-pleasing ride, one that we could walk in half the time.

And especially, no way we are going to use it in the snow.

I am sure there are great reasons, bus changeover, driver lunch, whatever...
Try telling that to a three year old who is shivering, and wondering what dad means when he says, "The trolley will be here any minute".

Downtown Trolley Loop? Fail.

A Belated Heads-up On This Afternoon's WSU/Ogden City Event

The entire WSU community is invited to attend and provide feedback

By Wildcat

It looks like the mayor is trying to sell Weber State University on allowing a water line through their property. Here's a notice of today's meeting, via WSU's Facebook page:

Ogden City staff will make a presentation to the university community regarding a new water transmission line they are proposing to build across university property along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail area. The presentation will be today, December 1st at 2 p.m. in Ballroom A of the Union Building. The entire WSU community is invited to attend and provide feedback.

Ed. Note: We'll leave the lower comments section open for any meeting attendees who'd like to report to fellow WCF readers WTF happened at today's meeting.

Update 12/2/10 7:42 a.m.: Scott Schwebke clears up the mystery regarding yesterday's Ogden administration sales pitch event. It turns out that the Boss Godfrey is belatedly seeking an easement for "24-inch transmission line from 46th Street north to Beus Drive, where it would zigzag across Weber State property and connect to a 5 million-gallon water tank under construction at the top of 36th Street," according to this morning's SE story:
Ogden seeks pipeline on WSU campus

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Standard-Examiner: WSU An Ogden Field House Booster?

Matthew Godfrey's Magical Mystery Wonder Dome changes, grows and becomes even more wondrous every time the SE asks about it.

By Curmudgeon

The Standard-Examiner has another story up on its website about the proposed Matthew Godfrey Wonder Dome [aka "velodrome," aka "field house"] which reveals considerably more detail about the plans, and which does some fact checking of Hazzonah's claims about it. And lo and behold, not all those claims are standing up to the fact-checking. For example this from the story:
Godfrey's characterization of Weber County as a partner in the field house is a bit of a "stretch" because no funds have been pledged, but the commissioners are supportive of the project in principle, said [Weber County Commissioner] Bischoff.
A bit of a stretch. How tactful of Mr. Bischoff.

And it seems, while WSU and the Ogden School District do support the proposal, both have been very careful to make it clear that support is rhetorical only, and includes absolutely no commitment of money to pay for construction.

And it seems Matthew Godfrey's Magical Mystery Wonder Dome changes, grows and becomes even more wondrous every time the SE asks about it. The story reveals for example that now the field house project involves adding two floors of parking to the Eccles Convention Center. [Didn't the city give away the existing parking structure, or a major part of it, to a private company about a year or so ago?] The new SE story reveals that the Wonder Dome --- in addition to hosting bike racing, tennis, jogging, soccer, swimming and "water park" activities [?] --- will also provide exhibit space for the Convention Center, to which it will be tied via corridors tunneling through the Berthana and Kiesel buildings leading to a skywalk bridge to the Center.

This is so exciting! What new wonders in the field house project will be revealed the next time the SE asks about it? A helipad atop the Wonder Dome for sky divers? I can hardly wait!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Perfect Christmas Gift For Our Weak Ogden City Council

As Christmas approaches, we know everyone wants to buy the perfect gifts for those we love

Hey, Weber County Forum readers! Here's something we can give this holiday season to our Ogden City Council, who've recently become sodden and brain-dead clones of the 2004-05 Gang of Six Council, which rubber-stamped every dumbass idea that Boss Godfrey proposed, just before the Emerald City Lumpencitizens sent the same council into political oblivion. Here's a fine x-mas gift for the current council, which seems to have forgotten that they were elected as a bulwark against Boss Godfrey's BIG SPENDING practices. Every current council member except Amy Wicks deserves the "Yes Man" trophy, we believe:
Yes Man Doll
Here's a YouTube sample of this clever battery-powered "political doll" in action:
Yes Man doll
Perhaps the whiny alternative "whipping boy" doll would be an appropriate gift for Ogden CAO John Patterson when Boss Godfrey's grand plans and schemes go awry, as they always do, even though Patterson is also plainly deserving of the "Yes Man" doll award.

Order them up folks, so we can present them to the week-kneed Caitlin Gochnour et al., before Christmas, in time to rustle up a slate of new fiscally prudent city council candidates, well in time for the November 2011 Municipal election.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Standard-Examiner: A Brief Summary of City and County Downtown Ogden Plots and Schemes

Added bonus: a snazzy interactive map of proposed future improvements of downtown Ogden

The Standard-Examiner carries two Ogden economic development stories this morning which are likely fodder for morning discussion.

First, there's this Scott Schwebke story, which briefly encapsulates all of the various pet projects which Boss Godfrey more or less has on the front burner, including Boss Godfrey's Grant Avenue-straddling "Field House/Wonder Dome":
What's next for Ogden?
As Dan S. noted last night, this story is "a bit of a disappointment: mostly a summary of what we already knew about a whole list of projects, with only tidbits of new information about each. Still, it's a useful summary for the vast majority of readers who don't keep careful track of such things." "Regarding the Wonder Dome, it says Godfrey is promising to solicit private donations, but no potential private donors are named. He claims WSU and Weber County "have expressed interest in partnering", but no attempt was made to contact spokespersons for either of these potential partners. There's no mention of the school districts."

Secondly, this morning's Standard also carries this Scott Schwebke companion piece, which reports that even our normally frugal Weber County Government is considering getting into the Big Spending downtown economic development act. Unlike the above-linked SE story however, this latter Scott Schwebke writeup does include much new detail about proposed funding for this project, a skywalk, new clubs, restaurants for the Berthana Building, etc.:
Weber County looking at Eccles Conference Center skywalk
And for those readers who'd like to see a visual representation of all the downtown plots and schemes our city and county governments have on the drawing board, here's something you're not going to want to miss: a snazzy Standard-Examiner interactive map of proposed future improvements for downtown Ogden, complete with a little trolley, zipping around Boss Godfrey's proposed Downtown Trolley Loop:
Flash Player interactive downtown Ogden map
Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle Ones.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Envision Ogden and the Standard-Examiner

The facts aren’t so simple.

By Dan Schroeder

In the aftermath of the ill-considered Facebook post by Standard-Examiner reporter Scott Schwebke, perhaps now is a good time to review the role that our local newspaper has played in uncovering the Envision Ogden scandal. How often have Ogden’s professional journalists been on the ball, and how often have they been out to lunch? The truth isn’t as simple as some people (on either side) would like to believe. Here is a chronological account...

12 February 2007: The Standard-Examiner announces the formation of Envision Ogden with a front-page article, four days after the fundraising dinner where EO raised about $50,000. The paper asks a lot of good questions (Who are EO’s leaders? What are you going to do with the money? What’s your position on the Gondola?), but gets few answers (Abraham Shreve and four anonymous “business leaders”; we don’t know yet; we’re not taking a position). Verdict: On the ball!

24 June 2007: A special “Road to Prosperity” section in the Standard-Examiner features a puffy article about Envision Ogden, with glowing commentary about EO’s web site, its two fundraisers (the February dinner and the June 15 Salomon Center grand opening), and the prospects of attracting more recreation businesses to Ogden. The article makes no attempt to explain the legal status of Envision Ogden, or to disclose the names of any of its leaders besides Shreve. Verdict: Out to lunch.

September 2007: The Standard-Examiner receives documentation that Envision Ogden is a 527 political action committee, and that the city had allowed it to use the Salomon Center for the June 15 event before that building was leased to Gold’s Gym and Fat Cats. The Standard-Examiner decides that these facts are not newsworthy. Verdict: Out to lunch.

16 October 2007: The Standard-Examiner prints a front-page article reporting that City Attorney Gary Williams has written a letter to mayoral candidate Susan Van Hooser, accusing her of violating the prohibition on use of city-owned equipment for political purposes. Her crime? One of her campaign volunteers sent out a mass email to a publicly available list of Chamber of Commerce members, and this list included several Ogden City email addresses. Verdict: Out to lunch.

Late October 2007: The Standard-Examiner learns that Envision Ogden has contributed $1500 to city council candidate Blain Johnson, but decides that this isn’t newsworthy, even though this money may have been raised at a city-owned facility (the Salomon Center). When asked why this is different from the Van Hooser email incident, Managing Editor Andy Howell explains that it’s a matter of whether anyone has taken “official action”: Obviously Gary Williams (who reports to Mayor Godfrey) has not taken any official action to challenge the use of the Salomon Center by Envision Ogden. Verdict: Out to lunch.

14 December 2007: The Standard-Examiner publishes its final article on the 2007 municipal election candidates’ financial disclosure statements. For the city council races the article reports only the total amounts raised by each candidate, with no mention of the astonishing fact that Blain Johnson and Royal Eccles received a majority of their funds from the previously unknown “Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate”. Verdict: Out to lunch.

23 February 2009: The Standard-Examiner refuses to print a guest commentary by yours truly, in which it is explained that Envision Ogden actually “spent $26,884 on the 2007 election, including some direct expenditures in support of the mayoral campaign and several large contributions to another entity that immediately forwarded the money to city council candidates.” Howell explains that the commentary is being rejected because it was written partly in response to an editorial, which apparently isn’t permitted except from authors who are the subject of the editorial. Nobody in the news department picks up on the tip that the allegations are documented in publicly available IRS records. Verdict: Out to lunch.

3 March 2009: Weber County Forum publishes full documentation showing how FNURE laundered over $20,000 of campaign contributions from Envision Ogden to candidates Johnson and Eccles. WCF also publishes a list of Envision Ogden’s major contributors, which include banks, hospitals, and the State of Utah. The Standard-Examiner takes no notice. Verdict: Out to lunch.

31 March 2009: After learning that City Attorney Williams has allowed Johnson and Eccles to amend their disclosure statements, and has thus pronounced the FNURE problem “cured”, and after a Salt Lake Tribune article on the same subject appeared on the web the previous afternoon, the Standard-Examiner covers these events in its first article on Envision Ogden since June 2007. Verdict: On the ball!

5 April 2009: The Standard-Examiner publishes an in-depth article on Envision Ogden, focusing on how several of its contributors were unaware that their donations could be diverted to political candidates. (This is the article that prompted the Attorney General’s office to open a criminal investigation.) Verdict: On the ball!

20 April 2009: The Standard-Examiner receives an emailed news tip (from yours truly) that the mayor’s office was involved in soliciting contributions for Envision Ogden. The tip is never acknowledged or acted upon. Verdict: Out to lunch.

23 April 2009: In its fifth article on Envision Ogden in less than a month, the Standard-Examiner reports that according to EO leader Abraham Shreve, “it was always the organization’s intent to support political candidates....” Verdict: On the ball!

28 April 2009: The Standard-Examiner publishes the second of two articles on a totally frivolous election complaint by Bob Geiger, intended to divert the public’s attention away from Envision Ogden and toward alleged campaign finance violations by former city council candidate Dirk Youngberg. Then, having trivialized the issue, the Standard-Examiner drops the Envision Ogden story for the next year and a half. Verdict: Out to lunch.

28 May 2009: When asked (by yours truly) why the Standard-Examiner has never reported on Mayor Godfrey’s connection to Envision Ogden, Executive Editor Andy Howell says he thinks “everybody knows” about the connection already, and therefore it’s not newsworthy. Howell also says he believes that the Envision Ogden story has run its course, so the Standard-Examiner won’t be printing any more articles on it unless there is some further official action. Verdict: Out to lunch.

10 November 2010: After the Salt Lake City Weekly tips them off to the state investigation, the Standard-Examiner prints a new article on Envision Ogden in which they finally inquire into Godfrey’s role. Godfrey admits that “he raised funds for Envision Ogden that he knew could be given to political candidates....” Verdict: On the ball!

16 November 2010: After obtaining the state investigation report through an open records request, the Standard Examiner prints an article summarizing the report and emphasizing that the investigation was “sparked” by the Standard-Examiner article of 5 April 2009. Verdict: On the ball!

So in summary, the Standard-Examiner deserves credit for printing quite a few articles about Envision Ogden over the last four years. They’ve broken essential new ground in several of these articles, most notably when they interviewed Envision Ogden’s contributors. At other times they’ve been just a short step behind the Salt Lake newspapers.

But on multiple occasions, the Standard-Examiner has refused to follow-through on its own reporting. Its initial article in February 2007 failed to answer the obvious questions about Envision Ogden’s purpose and leadership—yet the Standard-Examiner never asked those questions again. Its uncritical coverage during 2007 undoubtedly played a role in misleading contributors about Envision Ogden's true purpose. The 2009 coverage laid bare the organization's fraudulent activities, and raised the obvious question of how an unknown, unregistered organization was able to raise so much money so quickly—yet the Standard-Examiner never asked contributors who it was that had solicited their contributions. Even this month, rather than looking into the possible felony charges that Envision Ogden’s leaders might face, the Standard-Examiner chose only to ask the Lieutenant Governor’s office about possible minor violations of election laws.

The Standard-Examiner has also been consistent in its refusal to act on the basis of news tips from private citizens, or on the basis of reports on Weber County Forum—no matter how well documented. And now we know that some of their staff even hold us in contempt. Therefore, new developments in this story must apparently include “official action” before the Standard-Examiner considers them newsworthy.

This apparent policy is especially troubling because the Attorney General’s office declined to open any investigation into Envision Ogden until after it saw evidence of fraud in a Standard-Examiner article. If public officials won’t act until something appears in the newspaper, while the newspaper won’t print a story until public officials act, we have a serious chicken-and-egg problem. On more than one occasion, the Envision Ogden story has nearly died because neither the prosecutors nor the press wanted to be the first to stick their necks out.

But the story isn’t dead yet, and neither is the investigation. Whatever happens next, I’m confident that we’ll see further coverage in the Standard-Examiner.

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