Monday, May 31, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Divided Opinions on Plans for Powder Mountain

Tomorrow's Weber County Commission public hearing could well turn out to be the most important County Commission session in the history of Ogden Valley; and we trust that all meeting attendees will be well prepared

We'll let this morning's Di Lewis story serve as a reminder of tomorrow's Weber County Commission public hearing, which could well turn out to be the most important County Commission session in the history of Ogden Valley. Here's Ms. Lewis's lede, which nicely frames the issues which have recently split the Ogden Valley citizenry down the middle:
OGDEN -- As a public hearing with the potential to resolve the incorporation issue and development of Powder Mountain approaches, opinions are divided about the proposal between the Weber County Commission and resort developers.
Although many residents are hopeful that the memorandum of understanding could take the town incorporation out of the running, others feel that does not outweigh concerns about traffic, pollution and resource allocation.
Being privy to private communications, we are unhappy to observe that the formerly united Ogden Valley citizens, who've together fought a valiant fight over the past four years, are now literally at each others' throats, as the prospective "Powdervillians" look for a quick and relatively painless way out of the prospectively expensive Township mess, while the balance of Ogden Valley activists lobby the Commission to stick to the General Plan and preserve the Valley's rural atmosphere.

Sadly, it appears that the seeds of division which were planted in Ogden Valley by a rabidly real estate development-partisan Utah legislature will inevitably yield a decidedly sour fruit, which will no doubt continue to rot in Ogden Valley for many years, regardless of how the MOU issue finally shakes out.

Concerning tomorrow's Council hearing, we'll also note an important new development on the technical front. According to new information posted on the County website, the original proposed MOU has now been revised:
Revised Memorandum of Understanding
Significantly, among other things, this revised document addresses the "impossiblity of performance" problem with the 1.5% transfer fee provision which we mentioned in our 5/24/10 article on the subject, and adds a provision establishing a "trust or other mechanism" in the event that the prohibitive terms of S.B. 161 cannot be avoided by corrective legislation.

Also, the revised document both strikes out references to the "Eden Heights" parcel and also removes an "escape clause" tied to the proposed inclusion of that parcel in the original MOU.

For those planning to attend tomorrow night's meeting, we urge you to download and carefully study the new proposed MOU. In many respects it drastically differs from the original.

And for those who'd like to fully "bone up" in advance of tomorrow's meeting, we've taken a little time this morning to assemble on our archives storage site a broad array of the most significant comments and documents which have been featured in various articles on the subject over the past few weeks:
June 1, 1010 Weber County Commission Meeting Cribsheet
Read up, Gentle Readers! Tomorrow's Weber County Commission public hearing could well turn out to be the most important County Commission session in the history of Ogden Valley; and we trust that all meeting attendees will be well prepared.

And now... who will be the first to comment?

Update 5/31/10 10:54 a.m.: Our friends at Ogden Valley Forum have also opined on this latest Std-Ex story and issues related thereto:
Divided opinions on plans for Powder Mountain
And while you're visting the OVF site, don't forget to vote in their new "straw poll," which is planted in their right sidebar.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Criminal Investigation of Independent Political Consultant Expands in Davis County

Mr. Minson's mouthpiece claims to be taking the high road in defense of his client... after smearing those investigating his client first

By Curmudgeon

My my my. While I always enjoy watching Utah Republicans roil around in the slingable mud that seems to be their natural environment, beyond that, this story raises some interesting questions. Can it really be illegal in Utah.... the home of Karl Rove!... for campaign workers to knowingly circulate false rumors about their candidates' opponents? Lying illegal in campaigns? A criminal offense? In Utah?
Criminal investigation of independent political consultant expands in Davis County
And is this a First Amendment matter, as Mr. Minson's mouthpiece, Attorney Jay T. Jorgensen, claims, trying to shield his client by draping him in the Bill of Rights? Does the First Amendment protect a consultant's right to knowingly circulate false rumors to benefit his candidate? Can campaigners lie with impunity in the pursuit of office, safe from criminal prosecution for so doing? And if the First Amendment does not protect dishonest statements in campaigns, what exactly would be the mechanism for determining what was a false rumor, what was a lie? Would passing on rumors labeled as rumors, not established fact, be enough to shield the consultant from prosecution? Who would decide and by what standard?

And if the First Amendment does protect a campaign consultant who circulates false rumors, is there no way the public can protect the integrity [such as it is] of the electoral process?

This could be a very interesting case to watch.

And forgive me if I am a little leery of Mr. Minson's mouthpiece's claim to be taking the high road in defense of his client. He states that "neither he nor his client will comment further at this point." Uh huh. But he said that only after making sure he smeared those investigating his client first: "We wonder if it's a political vendetta, " he told the Standard Examiner. Then he clammed up. Imagine that....

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Couple of Blog Articles Which Might Be of Interest to WCF Readers

Update: The Ogden Sierra Club throws in its own 2¢ regarding the proposed Powder Mount Memorandum of Understanding

As the Utah print media winds down going into the Memorial Day Holiday, there's not much to sink our teeth this morning. However our friends at Ogden Valley Forum have been posting at a pretty good pace over the past couple of days, so we'll take advantage of the current lull in the red meat news to link to a couple of blog articles which might be of interest to WCF readers.

First, for those readers who are planning to attend next Tuesday evening's Weber County Commission meeting, wherein the proposed Powder Mountain Mountain Memorandum of Understanding will be a chief agenda item for public discussion, OVF has some new informational material available, including a link to a fairly robust Weber County Planning Division staff report, which blogmeister Valley aptly refers to as a "26 page masterpiece." Take a side tour over to Ogden Valley Forum to check it out:
Details of the Great Ogden Valley Sellout
And speaking of the Weber County Commission, those of you who are eagerly looking forward to the 2010 County Commission races might want to take a look at this second Larry and Sharon Zini article, which reports on commission candidate Amy Wicks's guest appearance at the Ogden Valley GEM Committee meeting at the Huntsville Town Hall on May 26:
Amy Wicks meets the GEM Committee
As one OVF reader remarked in the OVF article comments section, "What a breath of fresh air. No Real Estate connections, no reference to business as usual. Amy may be the one we are looking for that cares about what happens in the Valley and is willing to stand up for the Valley residents." Needless to say, Ogden Valley citizens are pretty much fed up with real estate developers and their money-grubbing fellow travellers.

That's it for now. Address either of the above topics, or treat this as an open topic thread. We don't care what you say; but do say somethin.' It's been awfully quiet around here lately.

Update 5/29/10 7:20 a.m.: The Ogden Sierra Club throws in its own 2¢ regarding the proposed Powder Mount Memorandum of Understanding, with this letter to the Commission transmitted to us yesterday by regular WCF contributor Dan Schroeder:
Comments on Powder Mountain Draft MOU

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Standard-Examiner: UTA Board Defends Its Salaries For Top Managers

These are not the actions of an ethical and professional executive and agency

By Dorrene Jeske

“UTA board defends salaries for top managers.”
Headline for a well-written article in today's Standard Examiner by Mitch Shaw:
UTA board defends its salaries for top managers
There is no way that the subject salaries can be justified in Utah! Although well-written this article lacks any insightful research or comparisons of other top executive salaries. Several of these “top managers” make more than the Governor of the State!

The UTA is a public agency funded with taxpayers dollars and should have some controls on it set by the State Legislature who provides the funding for the UTA. The UTA handles federal and state funds for transit and transportation projects in the state. What is so disgusting is their strong-arm methods for obtaining taxpayer-approved taxes for projects. Remember last year when they threatened to cut back on the service provided by the FrontRunner to Weber County unless a transit tax was passed by our commissioners? The UTA is ALWAYS threatening to cut back service to the handicapped because they didn’t get the funding that they wanted. Never do they say that they’ll freeze the salaries of their top managers or their annual bonuses which equal their salaries. (Except this year when it came to light how much the bonuses are, did they say that there would be no bonuses paid.) Can you imagine an income of more than a half a million dollars and living in Utah?!

I used to do payroll for a division at Defense Depot Ogden. Personnel included engineers and firefighters whose salaries were tied to a nation-wide pay scale. So I know of what these special pay scales are comprised. One of the components considered was the cost-of-living for the area in which these special employees lived. This criterion was not mentioned in the article about UTA salaries or by Jill Carter, a human resource consultant who conducts UTA’s compensation audits. It is ridiculous that one employee received a 32 percent salary increase in one year, especially when so many are without a job, and numerous people are struggling to make ends meet.

I think that the Legislature needs to be more involved in determining the salaries and bonuses received by UTA employees since they are paid with taxpayer money and the public is often held hostage by the agency to gain the funds that they want. I would like to suggest that the Standard monitor and investigate the more of the activities of the UTA. An agency with the status that UTA enjoys nationwide, should not succumb to the pressure of a tyrannical and mean mayor as they did in 2007 when one of their employee’s supported a mayoral candidate opposing this tyrannical mayor. Also the new Chief Executive Officer John Inglish signed a contract with this mayor without the city council’s knowledge and approval for a gondola study using $63,000. of federal funds that they had received for Ogden’s transportation needs. These are not the actions of an ethical and professional executive and agency.

Standard-Examiner: Godfrey Seeks $1 Million Taxpayer Bucks For A Friggin' Ogden Bicycle Track

In the current tough economy, does Ogden City have enough loose change layin' around to throw another million bucks down another Boss Godfrey project rat-hole?

OK, folks. Here we are mired in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with arguably much more economic bad news on the way, and then we stumble upon this morning's Scott Schwebeke story, reporting on the latest knuckleheaded development being cooked up down at Ogden City Hall:
Godfrey seeks funds for velodrome in Ogden
That's right, folks. Mr. Schwebke informs us this morning that Boss Godfrey is moving forward with another crackpot taxpayer funded scheme and that the Godfrey administration will soon be "asking the city council to set aside $1 million in future capital improvement funds for construction of a velodrome and field house in downtown Ogden."

Our ever-confident Ogden CAO John "Pureheart" Patterson assures us, of course, that this is actually a terrific idea:
The earmarking of $1 million will help leverage private donations for the facility slated to be built on about 11 acres west of Wall Avenue and 21st Street, owned by developer Gadi Leshem, said Patterson.
Patterson is confident funds will be obtained from donors, enabling construction to start in spring 2011 and conclude in 2012.
Seems we've heard that same old line before, no?

Yeah! Right here... in this 4/24/08 WCF story!
The city has already received $200,000 in Weber County RAMP tax funds and a pledge for an equal amount of money that would be raised by Jeff Lowe, a renowned ice climber and executive director of Ogden Climbing Parks, which would manage, operate and maintain the tower, John Patterson, the city’s chief administrative officer, said during the work session. [Emphasis added].
(The upshot of course, is that once Ogden City had a little "skin in the game," a torrent of private Ice Tower donations would follow.)

But now, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we know how that all worked out, don't we.

Over on the Std-Ex website, Std-Ex reader Ogdenite also asks a couple of very good questions and makes a couple of savvy observations:
• Why are taxpayer dollars even being used on this asinine project?
• How many people do you know that would even use a velodrome track?
• Mayor Godfrey needs to quit playing fast and loose with public money and work on actually leading Ogden City.
• Monuments to his ego and projects for his construction company buddies do not serve the citizens of Ogden well.
Howbout it gentle readers? Would any amongst our WCF readership address Ogdenite's concerns? Amidst an economy where most individuals and governments are scrambling to make ends meet, Does Ogden City have enough loose change layin' around to throw another million bucks down another Boss Godfrey project rat-hole?

More questions...
• Will our City Council fall for the same old Administration con game a second time around?
• Will the Little Lord on Nine, who still remains afflicted with a bad case of Peter Pan Syndrome, ever grow up?
So many questions... so few answers...

And the beat goes on...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Plans for 5 Million-gallon Water Tank

Preparations for the construction of Boss Godfrey's controversial 5 million-gallon 36th Street concrete water tank will start next month

Just to kickstart this morning's discussion, we'll zero in on this eye-opening story in the Standard-Examiner, wherein Scott Schwebke reports that the administration is moving full steam ahead toward construction of Boss Godfrey's coveted 36th street water tank, which many Ogden residents believe will be the next key step toward the launch of an ambitious administration plan to bulldoze and redevelop Ogden's heretofore pristine east bench:
OGDEN -- Preparations for the construction of a controversial 5 million-gallon concrete water tank at the top of 36th Street will start next month.The first step in the $2.8 million project will include clearing of brush and additional site preparation, City Engineer Justin Anderson said Tuesday.Work on the tank will be completed in summer 2011.
In a mind-bending display of administration alternate reality, City Engineer Justin Anderson says, with an apparent completely straight face, that he is "unaware of any planned development along the foothill."

Anderson obviously doesn't get out much, we guess; and unlike those of us who've been following this boondoggle over the years, he evidently reads neither the Standard-Examiner nor Weber County Forum. Hard to believe that this Boss Godfrey boondoggle somehow slipped by our otherwise sharp-eyed City Engineer.

Although the administration boasts it's saving $700,000 on this project, we'll never really know how many taxpayer dollars (bonded taxpayer dollars) could have been spared, if only the council and administration had looked at other less costly alternatives or asked for a second engineering opinion.

Alas, that's not how it works here in Emerald City, where our conflict-averse City Council remains mostly asleep at the wheel, and Boss Godfrey ultimately gets dang near whatever he wants.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Quick Rebuttal to My Friend Laura Warburton's Shallow and Ill-considered Anti UEG Ethics Petition Hit Piece

Punchin' holes in the arguments (so called) contained in Laura's anti-UEG petition gibberish

We gotta give our GOP friend Laura Warburton credit. As a convirmed diehard Weber County Republican lemming who's plainly committed to toein' and obeyin' the pre teaparty era Bob Bennett era Utah GOP party line, she's tryin' hard... real hard... to be a loyal trooper. Nevertheless, we're compelled to punch holes in the flimsy arguments contained in this anti-UEG petition gibberish that's she's circulating around the internet, even whilst intellectually honest, ethics-minded folks like we are busy circulating the UEG Ethics Reform Petitions all around Weber County.

Just to give credit where it's due, we came upon Laura's anti-UEG Petition screed, thanks to our good friends at Ogden Valley Forum:
Say no to the UEG Petition? Local resident says we need to
We'll examine Laura's "points" one-by-one, and make every effort to remain respectful whilst we do this, since she's a friend of ours, (as we said):

1) a) Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG) Officers – The power players behind the petition... Evil Schoolteachers
b) Where was the petition first introduced? A Convention of Evil Schoolteachers, who are are planning a political Coup

Here's our first quick rebuttal. It's the same old "schoolteachers are evil" wacko real estate industry ad hominem meme. Many hardcore GOP operatives still haven't gotten over Utah citizens' killing of "School Vouchers." And I'm sure many of us remain mystified about how, exactly, the "Evil Schoolteachers" could somehow pull off a "coup" by the passage of this much-needed, and politically neutral ethics reform legislation. Sounds like paranoia is running amuck here in Utah, and that some extremist GOP operatives need to sit back and take a VERY deep breath.

"Just a few of the most questionable aspects of the petition", sez our pal Laura.

Here's another "good one":

1. Petition claims and accusations – The petition makes many erroneous damaging claims without offering one reference for verification. For example: Utah is ranked 47th worst in the nation in ethics. (Pg 2)

Here's the online reference, Laura. Read up!
Louisiana, Mississippi Movin’ Up; 20 States Still Flunk
2. Money – The petition states there are no monies appropriated for this bill yet on the last past it calls for $472,000 dollars each year to pay for support staff and a lawyer. In addition, the petition states that the 5 commission members will receive a per diem. (Pg 1 & 21)

Hate to break it to ya's Laura, but the reason there are not any appropriations yet is because the citizens's initiative hasn't been made into law yet. If the initiative is eventually enacted into law, the appropriation(s) that you mention will only then become the obligation of the legislature.

3. Formation of the independent ethics commission – The petition calls for a 5 person independent commission. The commission is to be chosen by the two leaders in both the House (1 Republican, 1 Democrat) and the Senate (1 Republican, 1 Democrat). They must agree on 20 people who are qualified to serve on the commission. Then, on a specified date, those twenty names are put on separate pieces of paper and put in a hat. Then, 5 names are drawn from the hat creating the first 5 members of the commission. Members serve varying lengths of time.
When their term expires, they are replaced by the same process.
But, what if these four opposing leaders can’t decide? Pay careful attention. This is the most alarming aspect of this petition.

First off, Laura, do you actually believe the leaders of both legislative majorities and minorities won't be able to pick 20 qualified nominees? The reserved appointment power of the petition sponsors is a wonderful "catch 22" which guarantees that the system will never have to resort to "plan b," in our never humble opinion.

4. Can a lobbyist serve on the commission? ... So, the answer is YES.

Wrong. For all intents and purposes, Laura, the answer is no. In truth, a five year "cooling off period" is a pretty good guarantee that a retired lobbyist has given up his "old ways." Most states limit the cooling off period to two years.

5. Who does the commission answer to? – No one.

Wrong, Laura. The "independent commission," would be a mere fact finding and advisory body, (with no prosecutorial powers of its own), which would directly answer to the legislature, which means there would be an ideal and direct "check and balance." If you'd read the proposed legislation a little more closely, you'd recognize that the legislature would retain the power either to adopt or reject the evidence and recommendations presented by the "commission." Sorry, Laura... with all due respect, you're hopelessly wrong about this.

6. Where are the defined rules? – There are only a few defined rules for the independent commission. The petition actually relegates rule making to the commission, again making them a law unto themselves.

Wrong again, Laura... there are robust ethics rules set forth in the body of the document. Of course the ethics commission would also have to abide by general "due process" rules, which are amply set forth elsewhere within the body of rules governing Utah and American jurisprudence.

7. Swift or lengthy process? – The petition grants the commission contradictory time limits to bring a case to a close. Legislators might find menacing accusations hanging over their heads during the campaign season giving opponent’s added ammunition. What if the accusations are not true?

That's actually the beauty of it, Laura. All evidence and investigatory results will be held confidential, unless and until the Ethics Committee's accusation is made. This protects the unjustly accused from having accusations tried in the press. It's a wonderful safeguard for the unjustly accused. We're frankly astonished, Laura, that you don't recognise this.

8. Consequences – “(3) Any conduct which violates the code of conduct shall be deemed in every instance to be one or more of the following: (i) a felony; (ii) a breach of the peace; (iii) an action outside the ordinary course of legislative business; (iv) an action beyond the scope of a legislator’s official duties.” A felony? There is nothing written in the petition that states this is only a suggestion to a higher court. What an easy way to circumvent the voting process and remove unwanted legislators from office not to mention greatly damage a person’s life. (Pg 14)

Any referral to law enforcement would be independently weighed by prosecutors. And during the investigatory phase, it would rightly all remain confidential. This is how it works in the criminal justice system. And are you arguing that possible criminal cases ought not be forwarded to appropriate law enforcement authorities?. If no crime has been committed, there will be no prosecution. Would you have it any other way, Laura?

9. How can the commission gather information about a claim? – “The commission may gather information by any appropriate means, including the issuance of subpoenas in order to compel the production of documents and the attendance and testimony of witnesses, and for any purpose under this Act.”. And….. “Testimony may be taken at public hearings or closed….” Closed door investigations? Subpoenas? (Pg 10)

The beauty of the system would be that the commission would have all necessary investigative tools at its disposal, just like an analogous "Grand Jury." Proceedings would not of course be "secret" to individuals under investigation, yet proceedings would not be made public, and thus reputations will not be impaired in the event that the ethics commission brings no accusations. Just like any other preliminary investigation, the privacy rights of investigated individuals would not be violated under the new proposed system.

10. Who can be a legislator? – No one that owns a business or is a control person in a business. (Pg 10)

Wrong again Laura. That's pure B.S. Referring to the text of the Citizens' Ethics Initiative, here's the actual language:

i) Beginning January 1, 2013, no legislator, while serving in office, may be a control person of any corporation where (A) status as a legislator was a contributing factor in such selection as a control person and (B) being a control person in such corporation furthers any personal interest of the legislator.
By no means does this provision generally prohibit a business owner from being elected or serving as a legislator. The provision merely guards against corporate insiders furthering private interests by virtue of their elective status.

And so on and so forth, et cetera.

We could definitely go on... but why bother?

We think you all got the point.

Just sign the petition. folks. Once again, here are the places where you can affix your signatures, provided you're not creeped-out by all the knuckleheaded scare tactics:

Weber County
• Joyce Wilson (Senate District 18) 979 27th Ogden, UT 801-941-1613
• Ogden-Weber UniServ (Senate District 18) 939 25th St Ogden, UT 84401 801-399-3746
• Lou Shurtliff (Senate District 19) 5085 Aztec Dr Ogden, Ut 84403 801-479-028 lmshurtliff@comcast.net
• Dr. Ed Allen’s office 3860 Jackson Ave. Ogden, Utah

Let's get this issue on the ballot folks, and let the people decide.

That's how it's supposed to work in America, no?

Salt Lake Tribune: ACLU Joins State Ballot Access Case

UEG also plans to file an Amicus brief in support of electronic signatures

For those lumpencitizens still wondering whether the ACLU is relevant in Utah, we find evidence that the Utah ACLU Chapter is indeed alive and well. This morning's Salt Lake Tribune reports on a fascinating legal development which will no doubt affect the ongoing UEG citizen's ethics reform petition drive, which has been a topic of discussion on Weber County Forum over the past six or so months. Here's the lede from this morning's Cathy McKitrick story:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah will represent aspiring candidate Farley Anderson as he takes his electronic-signature battle to the state Supreme Court on June 2.
In March, Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell rejected Anderson as an independent candidate for governor because a small portion of his required 1,000 signatures were gathered online.
Anderson initially planned to represent himself, but Attorney Brent Manning of Salt Lake City-based Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC will now argue his case before Utah's high court on behalf of the ACLU.
"I took this case with the ACLU to support and affirm the proposition in this state that access to the ballot should be fair and equal to all -- not just the powerful who are affiliated with political parties," Manning said during a Monday news conference at the ACLU's Salt Lake City office.
Karen McCreary, executive director of Utah's ACLU, said the case raises significant legal issues that impact every Utah voter.Lt. Gov. Bell based his rejection of Anderson's candidacy on a written opinion from the state Attorney General's Office, maintaining that Utah's petition process is solely paper-based.Manning will argue that Bell overstepped his authority.
In the interest of efficiently marshalling their own legal resources, UEG lawyers have so far refrained from filing their own lawsuit to challenge Lt. Governor Bell's stated policy of rejecting electronic citizens' initiative petitions; but it appears now that the pendency of the Anderson matter has forced the UEG's hand:
Utahns for Ethical Government -- backers of a broad ethics initiative aimed at reforming conduct of state lawmakers -- plans to join in by filing a friend of the court brief in support of electronic signatures.[...]
"We will tailor our arguments specifically to the initiative statute," said Alan Smith, an attorney who helped draft UEG's measure.
According to Ms. McKitrick's story, the appellant in this matter will tackle Lt. Governor Bell's position head-on, and will rely upon provisions of Utah's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, which broadly authorizes the use of electronic transactions as substitutes for paper ones:
In 2000, Utah lawmakers enacted the Electronic Transaction Act to allow electronic signatures to be used for a multitude of government services. Statutory definitions were also amended to allow electronic writings to substitute for those on paper.
"The process we followed with the lieutenant governor was all electronic," Smith said. "The AG's opinion ignores that reality."
We've been standing by eagerly waiting for the legal fur to start flying on this issue; and it appears that the action starts on June 2.

We'll be following developments in this case closely and will report back as this case moves along. But in the meantime forks, we're furnishing a link for those readers who'd like to put their signatures on a hard-copy petition, while the issues surrounding the electronic versions are sorted out in court. Straight from the UEG website, here's a list of locations where you can affix your signature to a paper petition:
Weber County
• Joyce Wilson (Senate District 18) 979 27th Ogden, UT 801-941-1613
• Ogden-Weber UniServ (Senate District 18) 939 25th St Ogden, UT 84401 801-399-3746
• Lou Shurtliff (Senate District 19) 5085 Aztec Dr Ogden, Ut 84403 801-479-028 lmshurtliff@comcast.net
• Dr. Ed Allen’s office 3860 Jackson Ave. Ogden, Utah
Oddly enough, we'll note that this is the first time within memory that we've ever been in agreement with Ed Allen on any significant political issue, by the way. So just for kicks, why not drop by Dr. Allen's office this afternoon to sign a petition... and tell him Rudi sent ya's?

Update 5/25/10 6:12 p.m.: We're delighted to flesh out the above writeup with this UEG press release, received via email a few minutes ago:

Utahns for Ethical Government Supports ACLU of Utah in Electronic Signature Issue Before Utah Supreme Court

Monday, May 24, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: The Standard Examiner Sez "Compromise Appears Close"

A cursory examination of the three chief provisions of the preliminary "MOU compromise agreement," with a few offhand editorial observations of our own

We'll direct our readers' attention this morning to an informative Di Lewis writeup in this morning's Standard-Examiner, which delves into the intricacies of the Powder Mountain Memorandum of Understanding which is set for public discussion before the Weber County Commission on June 1. (We do hope you've all marked your calenders, folks.)

Ms. Lewis identifies what we consider to be the three chief provisions of this preliminary "compromise agreement," which we'll examine one by one, while spicing it up with a few offhand editorial observations of our own:

1) "The memorandum allows for 2,800 dwelling units, 1,600 more than the planning commission recommended."

According to Commissioner Dearden, the number "is down significantly from what developers wanted two years ago." Unfortunately we can't confirm the accuracy of Commissioner Dearden's statement. Our own examination of the December 10, 2007 Planning Staff Report reveals that the Powder Mountain developer (Western America Holding, LLC [WAH]) proposal initially called for the approval of "2405 dwelling units, plus 385 hotel sleeping rooms, plus 60 rooms located within 5 corporate retreats/community clubs." Whether the developer kicked up its demands during the litigation phase of negotiations we don't know; but based on the original proposed numbers, it would appear to us that the only compromising that's occurring with respect to the original "density" proposal would be on the Weber County Commission's part.

2) "To develop to full build-out, the owners would have to donate $1.35 million to the county for open land preservation."

This provision is pretty straightforward, we believe. Under terms of the Memo of Understanding (MOU), this $1.35 million "donation" would be accomplished in three phases:
I) upon completion of the 1st unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $100,000; ii) completion of the 1000th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $250,000; ii) upon completion of the 2000th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $500,000; and iii) upon completion of the 2800th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $500,000.
What's obvious here is that this provision is intended as a "compromise" on the developer's part to mitigate the increased resort density, beyond the 1218 Planning Commission dwelling unit recommendation set forth in item #1 above. In a nutshell, WAH wants to do a little "horse-trading," and proposes to swap high density up-mountain for open space in the down-mountain Ogden Valley. Whether $1.35 million in compensation will be sufficient for this, we don't know. But inasmuch as the Commission is reportedly vowing to keep their ears open to lumpencitizen concerns, we're pretty sure we'll find out, on or about June 1.

3) A 1.5 percent real estate transfer fee, to be applied toward open land purchase and road improvements

As to this provision, which would impose a 1.5% fee on all real estate and condo transfers into perpetuity, and plow these funds back into roadway improvements and open space purchases, the negotiators have already run into a probable legal log-jam, as Ms. Lewis duly notes. Last legislative session the legislature passed SB 161, which for the most part banned real estate transfer fees, except in instances where the proceeds from such fees would flow directly back into the projects from which they originated.

Concerning this issue, we'll agree with Deputy County Attorney Dave Wilson: The argument that the MOU transfer fee provision falls within the permissive provisions of the new statute is pretty thin. Accordingly we have to wonder whether the legislature, which over the course of the past four years has wilfully failed to lift a finger to resolve the Powder Mountain Mess (a mess of the legislature's own creation), would deign to enact the necessary amendments to solve the problem once and for all. And failing that, would the legal impossibility of enforcing this provision be a deal breaker all its own? Keep in mind, gentle readers, that the "transfer tax provision" should be regarded as another negotiated "compromise" from WAH's point of view, inasmuch as the existence of this provision reduces the marketability of the properties within the developer's proposed project.

That's it for now gentle readers. And yes, we understand there remains a plethora of other issues, other than the three we've singled out above.

Have at it, gentle ones. Let's use Ms. Lewis's morning article to launch a further reader discussion of these issues.

Please don't forget the public hearing on June 1; and remember what Commissioner Zogmaister says:
Although Weber commissioners are hopeful a compromise can be reached between county and developers, they say public input will weigh heavily on their decision."I really am at a wait-and-see point," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister."I've watched the whole thing progress for a couple years, so I am willing to hear it, but I also really would like to hear the input from the citizens who will be directly affected by this. ... The whole thing has been to represent the citizens in this agreement."
That's "code" folks, which means the Commission is challenging the lumpencitizens to pack the house.

Snoozers will be losers.

See's ya all in the Commission Chambers on the 1st of June. If you can't be there, please bring along an excuse here on Weber County Forum from either from your Doctor, Your Mom or Your Mortician.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Greiner Ruling Defended in Hatch Act Case

Who wants to lay odds on the prospect of Greiner and Ogden City prevailing on appeal?

Mainly for archival purposes, we will make note of this morning's Scott Schwebke story, which reports that the Office of Special Counsel has filed its responsive pleadings in the Merit Systems Protection Board Hatch Act administrative law appellate matter, Office of Special Counsel v. Jon Greiner and Ogden City. Here's the lede:
OGDEN -- An appeal of the ruling that Police Chief Jon Greiner violated the Hatch Act should be rejected, attorneys for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel argue in a 57-page response filed with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board.
After a three-day hearing in October 2009, Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke found that Greiner violated the Hatch Act because he signed off on a half-dozen federal grants to the police department worth about $1 million that were in place during his successful 2006 campaign for the State Senate.
Greiner and the city filed their appeal last month with the Merit Systems Protection Board to overturn Parke's ruling.
Greiner's appeal states that he was not allowed to call several material witnesses. Among the witnesses were Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and former state Senate President John Valentine, a Republican from Provo, who would have testified they advised Greiner his Senate bid did not violate the Hatch Act.
Among other things, Ace Reporter Schwebke carves out this enlightening and possibly dispositive argument from the Office of Special Counsel Appellee's Brief:
However, Parke's ruling should stand because Greiner failed to heed warnings from the OSC that he was in violation of the Hatch Act and instead sought advice from Valentine and Shurtleff, the OSC contends.
"It is remarkable that Greiner ignored OSC's warnings and chose to rely on advice from Utah officials with no authority to enforce, and limited knowledge of the Hatch Act," the OSC's response states.
The federal government's lawyers make an excellent point, we think. As a state legislator who's served in the State Senate since 2007, Greiner ought to have been painfully aware that Attorney General Shurtleff's advice can often occasionally be "wrong -- horribly, embarrassingly (and laughably?) wrong":
A word of consolation to Mark Shurtleff on vouchers
Twenty/twenty hindsight's not always the best of course, but we'll betcha a brewski at Brewski's that Chief Greiner is wishing he'd consulted with a REAL LAWYER prior to signing off on those "half-dozen federal grants to the police department worth about $1 million that were in place during his successful 2006 campaign for the State Senate," rather than just relying on the free advice of his political pals on Capitol Hill.

And who wants to lay odds on the prospect of Greiner and Ogden City prevailing on appeal?

Whatever you do, don't let the cat get your tongues.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Standard-Examiner Flinches On Herbert Campaign Finance Headline

To be fair, under whatever headline, it's a good story

By Curmudgeon:

Yesterday afternoon, the Standard-Examiner put up a story on line reporting on how much money realtors are pouring into Gov. Herbert's re-election campaign. Here is the headline and story that went up around 3:25 p.m.:
"Realtor donations to Utah Gov. Herbert reach $100K"
But when I checked back this morning on the story, the headline had changed. It now reads:
"Herbert defends disclosure over campaign caps, accepts $25,000"
All mention of the realtors gone from the headline. Imagine that.

Can't help wondering what happened between the posting of the first headline about realtors pouring money into Herbert's campaign coffers, and the second, much muddier headline, from which the realtors magically disappeared. Did the advertising department start getting annoyed calls from the Utah Realtors Association, go into cardiac arrest, and then demand of the editors that the headline be changed? Inquiring minds want to know!

To be fair, let me add that under whatever headline, it's a good story. And in the print edition, the realtors sneak back in as a sub-head ["Realtors' total to Utah governor reaches $100,000 since August"].

But the paper's flinching on the initial headline was, I thought, interesting and worth noting.

Utah Governor's Mansion- Up for Grabs in 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Standard-Examiner Editorial: Utah's Concealed Weapons Classes Stress Safety, Defense

Former Ogden City Councilwoman now safely "packs heat," due to a disturbing incident after a city council meeting

By Dorrene Jeske

There was a very good editorial by Doug Gibson this morning, regarding the "Concealed Weapons" training classes being conducted by Representative Curt Oda and his team:
Oda: Utah's concealed weapons classes stress safety, defense
As an attendee and graduate of one of Rep. Oda’s Concealed Weapons Training classes, I want to confirm that the classes are conducted as he describes. I took the class more for the education than for obtaining the license because owning a firearm was frightening to me. After taking the class and a disturbing incident after a city council meeting, I decided I wanted the CWP and a small pistol.

During the class which was over six hours long, we had the opportunity to learn some self-defense strategies, how to safely handle a firearm and a chance to shoot one on the shooting range “to get the feel” of a gun. Different types of hand guns were available to handle and shoot.

The responsibility of owning a gun was drilled into us and was so impressive that I wondered if I really wanted that responsibility with the legal consequences.

Years ago when my boys wanted to own guns, I attended the “Hunters Safety” classes with them. Both classes offer excellent training in the safe handling of guns and I heartily support them.

I want to thank Rep. Oda for the opportunity to attend one of his concealed weapons classes and for the self-defense training we received. It was because of this training that I had the confidence to purchase a small Lady Wesson 38 caliber hand gun. Along with the training though, one must practice shooting his/her gun and become comfortable with it. Also, Rep. Oda has offered the graduates of his classes, the invitation to attend another class to refresh the training concepts. Thank you, Rep. Oda for providing such excellent training!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: The Mysterious and Heretofore Secret "Powder Mountain Memorandum of Understanding" Is Now Online

For the moment at least, we'll let Frank C. set the pace

Quick note for WCF readers who are following the Powder Mountain Corporate Landgrab Debacle. On the heels of our 5/17/10 WCF announcement that the Weber County Commission has calendered a VERY Important June 1 Meeting on the topic, we now learn from our friends at Ogden Valley Forum that the Commission has now posted, wonder of wonders, the below-linked mysterious and heretofore secret "Memorandum of Understanding" document right there on the County website. We accordingly invite our readers to have a look:
Binding Memorandum of Understanding
We haven't had the time today to even slightly digest this information; but for those readers who'd like to make comparisons, here's a link to the page on the County website, dated December 10, 2007, wherein the developer's pre-litigation original proposal is set forth, along with the 19 point recommendations of the Ogden Valley Planning Commission. Howbout this for a little trip down memory lane, eh folks?
Powder Mountain Rezone - Planning Staff Report
That's it for now, gentle readers.

Don't hesitate to get back to us with your own comparisons and analyses though, people.

And as an added bonus... here's some analytical material and commentary, in raw form, which we already received on this topic from Gentle Reader Frank C. via email earlier today:
Frank C. comments 5/20/10
For the moment at least, we'll let Frank set the pace.

Have at it, O Gentle Ones.

Who will be the next to comment?

Breaking: Bob Bennett Declares He Won't Run a Write-in Campaign In the June Primary

So far as we know, the Standard-Examiner is the first amongst the Utah media to report this blockbuster story:
Bennett won’t run as write-in candidate
Here's the word from the old geriatric swayback's mouth, hisself:
Bennett said his constituents and colleages urged him to run as a write-in, but he decided against it.
Bummer, huh?

Okay WCF readers... here's the final tally from the poll we put up several days ago:

Ooops!

Here at Weber County Forum we always love a good political scrap.

Too bad we're not going to get one of those in the Utah Senate race this year, we guess.

Bummer?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden City Council Blissfully Absorbs More Blue Sky Godfrey Administration Propaganda

A glaring example of why government officials should NOT meddle in the economic marketplace!

Sorry to be so slow on the uptake on this, Weber County Forum readers, but the Standard-Examimer has an article up today which aptly illustrates why real estate development amateurs like Boss Godfrey in the instant case, have no business at all meddling in the local real estate development development arena:
Ogden Council briefed on river project proposal
Remember People, Boss Godfrey has already had River Front properties tied up for over eight years, leaving anyone who still own properties in that area in complete economic limbo.

Now we learn that the Geniuses Of Godfrey's "A" team "may" or "may not" have a proposal from Jeff Lee, president of Lee Homes, possibly or not, maybe by the end of the year, maybe.

And how stupid is this airhead comment from airhead Ogden City Council Chair Caitlin Gochnour?
City Council Chairwoman Caitlin K. Gochnour said it is important that the project protect the value of the river.
Well... Doh. Our confidence in Council Chair Gochnor wanes with her every idiotic utterance.

And assuming that Gadi Leshem contractor referral Jeff Lee gets the nod from the council to take on the job...
It could take seven to 10 years to complete the river project, which will be built in phases
Okay people, so let's sum it up:

Early in Boss Godfrey's administration he targeted people in the River Front Area, and decided, just like a botched LDS Ogden version of Joseph Stalin, that he knew better than these property owners and residents how to use and enjoy their own properties in that area. As the smoke clears we now still have (literally) firetrap properties in the River Project Area... and instead of having the previously existing "functional but not fancy" tax-paying residential/commercial neighborhood along the Ogden River, as it was before Boss Godfrey put his iron hand upon the area, we now have have instead an economic no man's land, which generates zero timely payments to the Ogden City tax base, just as it probably will remain so for most of the next decade, at least.

This example of government intermeddling people, is of course a glaring object lesson about why government officials, especially morons like Boss Godfrey, should NOT meddle in the economic marketplace!

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Breaking News! Ron Paul's Kid Wins Kentucky GOP Primary By a 2/3 Margin!

Now who are those Tea Party Guys, again?


Added bonus:
Arlen Specter's party switch and subsequent fall
Too funny, no?

Comments?

Standard-Examiner: Gullo Won't Get His 63 Grand Back

For reasons unknown, Mr. Schwebke entirely wanders "off-track"

Late last week we reported that Boss Godfrey's Crackpot Ice Tower Project had gotten the City Council ax, and been removed from the Ogden Capital Improvements Plan "wish list." In the course of our report we asked this question, "Will Godfrey crony John Gullo be demanding his $63 thousand donation/bailout back?"

Thanks to Ace Reporter Schwebke, we now have the answer to our query; and the answer is a resounding "No":
Ice tower donation won't be returned
Strangely however, Mr. Schwebke allows his reporting to wander off-track. Oddly, this morning's story provides this off-tangent quote from Mr. Gullo, which would likely lead casual Std-Ex readers to believe that his generous July 29, 2009 donation was designed to help an ailing Jeff Lowe extricate himself from a troubling financial scrape:
Gullo said Monday he never expected to get reimbursed for the donation.
He donated the money to take the financial burden off Lowe, who has multiple system atrophy, a neurodegenerative disorder.
"I did this for Jeff, and I wasn't approached by the city to do it," he said. "It was gesture on my part because I believe I need to do stuff like that."
In point of fact however, anyone who followed this story in 2009 knows that Mr. Gullo's donation didn't benefit Mr. Lowe at all, inasmuch as Mr. Lowe never had any financial skin in the game to start with. Rather, Mr. Gullo's funding was used to replenish Ogden City's Capital Improvements Account, from which Boss Godfrey had pilfered misappropriated an identical sum earlier in the year.

For reasons unknown, Mr. Schwebke entirely left that part out.

As Scott Schwebke stories go, we're sorry to say this isn't Mr. Schwebke's greatest journalistic moment.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: Big County Commission Meeting Set For June 1

Possibly the most important planning meeting to ever be scheduled affecting Ogden Valley

Thanks to this 5/14/10 blog alert from our friends at Ogden Valley Forum, we'll inform our readers of an important new development in the Powder Mountain Legal Stalemate. The Weber County Commission has set a public hearing "on June 1, 2010 at 6 p.m. to consider and/or take action on Zoning Petition #18-2006 involving a request to rezone property located at Powder Mountain Resort. The hearing will include consideration of a proposed Memorandum of Understanding as a precursor to a more comprehensive development agreement."

You can review the Commission's full Public Hearing Notice here.

We also encourage our readers to peruse an auxilliary article from Ogden Valley Forum's archival storage site, wherein Ogden Valley resident Kirk Langford speculates on the true purpose of the June 1 Commission session, and strongly urges citizens who are interested in protecting Ogden Valley from a possible Commission sellout to show up at the meeting en masse. For starters, here's the lede from Mr. Langford's most magnificent rant, which provides the gist:
Regarding the hearing scheduled for June 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm in the commission chambers -- this may be the most important planning meeting to ever be scheduled affecting Ogden Valley.
It is likely that the commissioners will be handing out and approving additional free entitlements for Powder Mountain over and above what the entitlements were when the developers purchased the land. It is likely that this will be presented as a compromise, as compared to what the developers ask for, and therefore justified. It is further likely, that these entitlements, along with other development agreement proposals, will result in, a quid pro quo, the de-facto release of the hostage homeowners from the proposed petitioned town, as the developers will withdraw their petition.
Nothing will be more important than showing the commissioners how powerful our community involvement is in local government decision making.
Read the rest of Mr. Langford's article here:
Kirk Langford Citizen Call to Action
Be sure to mark your calenders folks. This is most certainly one Weber County Commission hearing that pitchfork and torch-totin' steely-eyed lumpencitzens are DEFINITELY NOT going to want to miss.

Power to the people, right on!

Reader comments are invited, as always.

Have at it, O Gentle Ones.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ksl.com - May 16: Sen. Bennett and the Tea Party Movement

Reader Query: Will Senator Bennett run as a write-in candidate for his senate seat in November?

At risk of engaging in overkill on the Bob Bennett GOP Convention ouster story, we'll link this three-part video series from this morning's KSL "Sunday Edition" broadcast, which includes a nine-minute interview with old "Beltway Bob" hisself, along with another five minutes from Utah Tea Party organizer David Kirkham:
ksl.com - May 16: Sen. Bennett and the Tea Party Movement
Having listened to Bennett's cagey comments, and looking into our trusty crystal ball, we're getting strong psychic vibes that our Utah Junior GOP Senator's race ain't quite over yet by a longshot, in which connection we thought it might be useful to put up a new reader poll:
Senator Bennett Write-in Poll
For our readers' convenience, we've also installed the poll in our right sidebar.

We'll leave this poll up for the next few days, and then compare our readers' reactions once Bennett gets around to making his "yea or nay" announcement. In the meantime, don't be shy about logging your votes.

Just what the doctor ordered for yet another tediously slow news day, no?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happy Birthday To Us

And special thanks to our gentle readers

Weber County Forum celebrates its fifth anniversary today.

Way back on May 15, 2005 we issued a few predictions (and a subtle challenge) to the citizens of Weber County, in our very first introductory post:

Introductory post -- Welcome to Weber County Forum

In the interim, we've seen all of these predictions come to amazing fruition.

For instance, we now have a whole panel of smart guest bloggers... and we've seen our readers respond to the challenge of setting the political agenda on their own community blog.

And our readers have met the reader challenge... we've become one of the most robust and vibrant political blogs in the Utah Blogosphere.

We offer our thanks the citizens of Weber County Forum for the great response to our humble backwater blog over these past five years.

We thank you all for your support, and for your abundant and ever-savvy comments. As we've always said, our gentle readers have always been our greatest strength. As we've repeated so many times before, WCF is NOT Rudy's personal soapbox. We couldn't have accomplished what we originally set about to do -- and what we've done -- without YOU.

All-in-all, that's what's brought us to the top of the Utah political influence blog heap, i.e., YOU... OUR GENTLE READERS.

Don't mess with Weber County Forum, we say: Best danged community blog in the whole danged Blogosphere.

Happy Birthday to all of us!

Tim Bridgewater: In Utah's Vote, a Wake-up Call for Washington?

Does Bennett's ouster signal the the initial stage of the dismantling of the national congressional leviathon?

Amidst the great flurry of commentary which has emerged over the past week, regarding the ouster of three-term Senator Robert Bennett during last week's Utah GOP nominating convention, we stumbled upon this interesting Op-ed piece in yesterday's Washington Post, wherein Tim Bridgewater, top finisher for Bennett's Senate seat, heading into the June Utah primary, offers his own explanation of the political forces which will ultimately transform the political posture of Utah's federal legislative delegation. Here's the lede:
Last Saturday, delegates to the Utah Republican Party convention retired a three-term incumbent, Sen. Robert F. Bennett. With so many people jumping to conclusions, I'd like to explore what that vote -- in which I finished first, with 57 percent -- means.
Check out Bridgewater's full op-ed here:
In Utah's vote, a wake-up call for Washington
So what about it gentle readers? Does Senator Bennett's ouster signal the beginning of national movement toward a new era of "a little humility" in Washington, as Senate candidate Bridgewater suggests? Are we witnessing the initial stage of the dismantling of the national congressional leviathan?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Roosters Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Brew pub epitomizes downtown revitalization

By Dan Schroeder

Today’s Standard-Examiner has a feature article commemorating the 15th anniversary of the opening of Roosters. For the record, I’d like to state that I consider this occasion well worth celebrating.

More than any other single business, Roosters epitomizes the revitalization of Historic 25th Street. It’s always busy, attracting many dozens of people to downtown every day. It brings us together: locals and visitors, drinkers and non-drinkers, Lifties and Smarties. And its owners, Kym and Pete Buttschardt, have contributed enormously to the greater community through organizations like the GOAL Foundation and Weber Pathways.

To be sure, the opening of Roosters was just one of many small steps in the slow recovery of 25th Street that followed the end of the railroad era. Earlier businesses, including the Buttschardts’ own Union Grill, were the true pioneers. Many of the newer restaurants (including my favorite, Two Bit Street Cafe) serve more interesting food. Nearby venues like the Egyptian Theater, Eccles Conference Center, and Lindquist Field have helped supply the restaurants with hungry customers. The embarrassing gap on the south side of the 100-block of 25th Street has now been filled.

But Roosters was a necessary step, and arguably the most important step. 25th Street needed a brew pub, and the instant success of Roosters showed other downtown entrepreneurs what was possible.

The transformation of 25th Street has been so dramatic that some folks have come to believe that it happened overnight. Others, for their own political reasons, would have us believe that downtown Ogden was “dead” before our current mayor took office. In fact, the revitalization of 25th Street began more than two decades ago and there are many, many people who deserve credit for it. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Roosters, let us also raise a toast to the many others who have contributed to this transformation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ice Tower Project Gets the Ax

Public Services Director Lowder politely declines to describe the failed project as the dumbest proposed boondoggle in the Godfrey Administration's ten-year history

There has been a lack of funding to come in because of the bad economy.

Jay Lowder, Ogden City Public Services Director
Ogden's ice tower dreams melted?
May 13, 2010

May I be the first to propose that we change the name of the ice climbing tower to the Fortress of Mayoral Ego? I think we're getting some valuable insight into deep-rooted psychological issues here.

Gentle Reader Monotreme
The Fortress of Mayoral Ego
April 10, 2008


The Standard-Examiner reports this morning that on Tuesday night the Ogden City Council unceremoniously dumped Boss Godfrey's hare-brained "Fortress of Mayoral Ego Project" from the Ogden City 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan.
Ogden's ice tower dreams melted?
Ever-loyal Godfreyite department manager to the end, Ogden City Public Services Director attributes this action to "the bad economy," politely declining the opportunity to describe this knuckleheaded project for what it really was... possibly the dumbest proposed boondoggle in Boss Godfrey's ten years at the Emerald City mayoral helm.

As the smoke clears on this now deep-sixed project, only a single lingering question remains, or so it seems to us:

Will Godfrey crony John Gullo be demanding his $63 thousand donation/bailout back? Or will he be content to let this tidy sum permanently disappear down the Ogden City money hole?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Standard-Examiner Guest Commentary: Is the ACLU Relevant in Utah?

Where the hell has the Utah ACLU been during the entire several year pendency of the Powder Mountain matter?

After a two-month lull, the Powder Mountain Legal Stalemate is back on the Standard-Examiner editorial page this morning, with this probing Larry Zini guest commentary, which asks the question many of us have been asking, as the ongoing Powder Mountain lawsuits have languished in the Utah Supreme Court for the past six months or so:
Is the ACLU relevant in Utah? Powder Mountain plight beckons
Although Mr. Zini suggests that the ACLU ought to at least file an Amicus Curiae brief in this matter, we'll observe that it's probably too late for that, inasmuch as final briefs were due in the Utah Supreme Court by January 29 of this year. Nevertheless, Mr. Zini's question remains a good one. Where the hell has the Utah ACLU been during the entire several year pendency of this matter?

Looking at the situation objectively, it would seem that a voter rights case like this would be right up the ACLU's alley, yet the ACLU has been entirely silent on the matter. Still, the organization has been recently involved in at least one other voter rights case in Weber County, so the question remains... why are they sitting this one out?

Mr. Zini does speculate as to the reasons the ACLU may have declined to get involved in this case; but for the moment at least we'll refrain from offering our own additional speculation on the subject.

But here's what we will do, gentle readers. We'll forward a copy of this article to the ACLU Utah chapter this morning. Perhaps we can get an answer straight from the horse's mouth.

If we're fortunate enough to receive anything tangible back in reply, our readers will be the first to hear about it.

Update 5/12/10 10:13 a.m.: We now discover that Blogmeister Valley has published his own writeup on this morning's guest commentary on Ogden Valley Forum:
Is the ACLU relevant in Utah?
Have at it, O Gentle Ones.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Los Angeles Times Editorial: The Robert Bennett Message

Having grown tired of business as usual, we believe Utah GOP delegate grownups simply took matters into their own hands
It's certainly plausible that the GOP is tacking too far to the right, but that rightward shift is a natural and healthy response to the sudden — and largely unpopular — leftward shift of Washington since 2008. In Washington, the coin of the realm is "seniority and connections," and it is that currency that bought us the calamitous state of the country. Ironically, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama were elected promising to "change the way Washington works." For the powers that be, the more frightening and tangible lesson from Utah is "this time we mean it."

Los Angeles Times Editorial
The Robert Bennett message
May 11, 2010

Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Northern Utah print media this morning, as the various newspaper editorial boards do their postmortem analyses on Saturday's Utah GOP Convention, in which Utah GOP delegates showed Senator Bob Bennett the door, ending Bennett's 18-year stint on Washington's Capitol Hill:

The Salt Lake Tribune rages that the "candidate selection system is hopelessly broken," urges Utah voters to lobby for a direct primary system and even suggests that "Sen. Bennett might want to consider a write-in campaign."

The Standard-Examiner laments Bennet's ouster, and suggests that "[t]he activist, more extreme base of both parties seem to have an undue influence."

This morning's Deseret News editorial is slightly more pilosphophical in its analysis, and does pose this interesting question:
Was it merely a local oddity — the product of a nominating process that isn't inclusive and that doesn't represent the state at-large — as some suggest? Or was it the beginning of a wave that will sweep the nation as an angry electorate ousts incumbents of all stripes?
Nevertheless, it's apparent that even the Deseret News editorial board is unhappy with Saturday's convention outcome, as it suggests that the nomination process was at least in part tainted by irrational anger:
Democracies flourish when they periodically refresh themselves by ousting entrenched politicians and electing people with new ideas. The strength of the United States remains the fact that, ultimately, the people are in control. But in politics, as in personal relationships, anger is seldom a good motivator.
In that connection, we googled up a west coast newspaper opinion piece this morning within which we believe commentator Jonah Goldberg got it exactly right:
The Robert Bennett message - Utah Republicans aren't crazy in rejecting the GOP congressman; they just mean what they say that they're tired of politics as usual
Whereas the above-cited Utah newspapers (and various national news pundits) in their various ways clearly regard Saturday's outcome as the byproduct of a dysfunctional candidate selection system, Mr. Goldberg interprets it as a sign of rational political action... "a natural and healthy response" to a "leftward shift of Washington since 2008."

For our own part, we'll side with Mr. Goldberg on this. Having grown tired of business as usual, (and unfulfilled political promises), we believe Utah GOP delegate grownups simply took matters into their own hands. After all, that's how it's supposed to work in American politics, isn't it?

That's our take; and we're stickin' with it.

So what say our gentle readers about all this?

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