Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Live Blogging From The Ogden City Council Chambers

Check the comments section below to catch Dan's live reporting

We've just received word from Dan Schroeder, who informs us that he'll be live blogging from tonight's Ogden City Council/RDA meetings, where the Council will discuss BDO Bond refinancing, a revamp of the rules governing capital improvement expenditures, and Ogden City's still under construction anti-discrimination ordinance, among other agenda items.

Check the comments section below, as the Council meeting is about to be called to order.

47 comments:

Dan S. said...

The special RDA meeting is already over; resolution on redoing BDO bonds was approved unanimously.

A council members are present, along with mayor, CAO, city attorney, and council staff.

Currently hearing proposal for firefighters' memorial in municipal gardens, to be installed by a firefighters' group with financial help from John Gullo.

Dan S. said...

Resolution approving fallen firefighters' memorial passes unanimously.

Next is an ordinance on "repeal of airport area special regulations". Greg Montgomery explains it to the council on behalf of the planning department.

Dan S. said...

This airport ordinance seems to be a housekeeping item, repealing something that's already made obsolete by other ordinances. (Sorry I was distracted and didn't hear everything Montgomery said.) Ordinance passes unanimously.

Now they're back to the redoing of BDO bonds, which apparently requires separate action by the RDA board and council. Laura Lewis (consultant) is presenting, but doesn't have anything to add to prior presentation. Lewis says that the obligation to pay out of general fund (if tax increment falls short) is already there, so that's nothing new. Again, it passes unanimously.

Dan S. said...

Next: Consideration of override of mayor's veto of dangerous dog ordinance. Council staff is presenting. By the way, this item is the subject of a new article on the Tribune web site.

Dan S. said...

Godfrey explains his veto: This started as a problem with a "specific breed" (he doesn't say "pit bulls"). Bites are severe: scarring and killing. Wants to address this problem with a "scalpel" that wouldn't impose a burden on all dog owners. Animal control staff know best so we should listen to them. But the ordinance just pass could "go after grandma's poodle". This is an axe where a scalpel was needed.

Now we have to redo this section of the code anyway, with the new consolidated animal shelter. (So basically, the mayor wants to start over but hasn't said anything specific about what he wants other than breed-specific language.)

Stephenson asks what would be our common ground, if we don't go along with breed-specific language.

Godfrey says there may be such common ground but doesn't offer specifics.

Gochnour: The council has already spent two years on this, and has shown great willingness to find common ground.

Godfrey responds and they're getting into an argument. Godfrey says "we" (administration) weren't involved; council says yes you were; Godfrey basically means that they didn't get their way.

Dan S. said...

Stephens: Residents are confused. What wording would clarify the issues but not be breed-specific? Is this a possibility?

Godfrey: "I'm sure it is possible."

Stephens: When will the administration bring us a comprehensive revised animal control ordinance? My understanding was March.

Godfrey: That's correct.

Dan S. said...

Gochnour reminds everyone that administrative staff were involved in the many meetings.

Patterson argues back. (Why is he even sitting on the dais and allowed to participate in this discussion?) Again, he basically says they didn't get their way.

Stephenson: I thought the administration's position was pretty much set. My concern is that the administration is so set on what you want but now it sounds like that's not the case.

Godfrey: We were flexible on some of the details (signing, fencing). But the insurance part was important to us.

Dan S. said...

This is getting repetitive so I won't try to type it all out.

Garner says he often sees the results of dangerous dog bites and they're not all from the same breed, so he doesn't want breed-specific language.

Godfrey again assures the council that a new ordinance can be drafted quickly. (Of course, everyone knows that he always speaks under the assumption that he will get his way.) Williams (city attorney) says his office will need a few weeks to draft precise language.

Wicks: I'm not willing to revisit this if we're going to go back to breed-specific language.

Council Director Bill Cook: Scheduling is all a matter of priorities. So far, the administration has always said it wanted breed-specific language.

Dan S. said...

Discussion has wound down. Nobody wants to make a motion.

Van Hooser also says she would not support breed-specific language.

Van Hooser moves to override veto, saying she understands that there will be further changes in the near future.

Blair seconds the motion.

Wicks votes aye (sick of it); Stephens and Stephenson vote no. Garner and Gochnour vote aye.

KB said...

Godfrey is interested in being able to target specific pit bull owners, i.e., gang-bangers, so that they can enter property to deal with gangster breeds.

Its all about using animal control to circumvent the warrant process.

Dan S. said...

Public comments:

I spoke against the proposed changes to the capital improvement ordinance, which would reduce transparency and allow more money to be spent on projects without prior public knowledge.

Now the Baptist minister is preaching to the council about homosexuality. He's not making sense to me so I won't try to paraphrase.

Dan S. said...

James Humphries says he was hoping not to speak but now responds to the Baptist guy.

Comments from administration: Godfrey whines about the veto override. "Really strange. Terribly awkward."

That's it, adjourned!

Stay tuned for the work session (following a closed session).

Dan S. said...

Oh, no! They never came back into the council chambers to formally adjourn the meeting after the closed executive session. I was sitting in there grading exams and missed the whole discussion on the CIP, I guess. Now we're in the work session, with City Attorney Gary Williams presenting the issues on the anti-discrimination ordinances.

Dan S. said...

Williams: Religious groups are wondering if they'll be free to speak freely about their beliefs.

Williams: "If you want to protect expressions of moral and religious beliefs, you have to write that into the ordinance." (My question: What about the First Amendment?)

Dan S. said...

Ah--Williams raises my question. "Freedom of religion has proven very weak in workplace situations."

Wicks: So how do you prevent everyone from using that defense? You've just gutted the ordinance.

Williams: With this clause, you will then let some hurt feelings go without a government sanction. The question is whether the moral debate is over, or still being held.

Wicks: But you're treating this type of discrimination different from others.

Williams: Correct.

Stephenson: I'm not homosexual so how does anything protect me?

Wicks: Nobody can discriminate against you based on your gender or race.

Godfrey: You can now discriminate against a Caucasian now. It's not a protected class.

Godfrey: This is a moral issue. Other types of discrimination aren't a question of moral issues.

Dan S. said...

Williams: Gay rights are still a moral debate in the community, unlike rights of other minorities and groups.

Williams tells horror story where workplace notice of "family values" event was torn down as being homophobic. Professors and counselors terminated over violations. Employees terminated for posting certain Bible verses.

Van Hooser: What about freedom of speech?

Williams: Your speech could violate an antidiscrimination ordinance.

Gochnour: Why isn't the first sentence of the proposed language enough?

Williams: It may be enough but... (He just reads it to them.)

Dan S. said...

Van Hooser: What if I say something religious repeatedly? Isn't that harassment?

Williams: Your point is well taken. There will be some areas of offense that don't have a sanction.

Dan S. said...

Stephenson throws Godfrey a softball: "Is the administration aware of any discrimination problems that have arisen in Ogden?"

Godfrey: No.

Stephenson: Then why are we creating an ordinance to address a problem that doesn't exist, for the benefit of a special interest group?

Dan S. said...

Van Hooser: There are so many people who are afraid of making public their sexual orientation.

Stephenson: Afraid of what? People in Ogden are very open and tolerant.

Gocnhour: This is one of those cases where it's just the right thing to do.

Stephenson: Blah blah blah special interest group blah blah moral choice.

Dan S. said...

Stephenson: Race discrimination in the 60's was a real issue. Where's the real issue here?

Gochnour: I don't think we'd have this level of interest from the public if there weren't real issues.

Dan S. said...

Stephens wants to know how much it will cost the city to implement this. Williams doesn't know. There would be some cost but apparently not much.

Dan S. said...

Williams is now spinning some of the issues that came up a couple weeks ago, regarding the exemption for landlords when tenants share a dwelling unit.

Dan S. said...

Cook asks for direction on what to put on the agenda for a future meeting.

Van Hooser suggests just passing the same version as in Salt Lake City.

Stephens immediately objects.

They're again repeating arguments from two weeks ago. Yawn.

Godfrey essentially threatens to veto any version of the ordinance that doesn't include the "expression of religious beliefs" exemption.

Dan S. said...

Sounds like multiple versions may be on the future meeting agenda. (Why can't they just handle this with floor amendments? Because the council doesn't know how to handle amendments.)

Now they're done and it sounds like they're going on to the CIP agenda item so I guess I didn't miss it after all.

Dan S. said...

Godfrey ha now left, as have a few from the audience. Williams is still here, as is Patterson and a few other staff.

Council staff: There's a gondola study in the plan. How can the council keep that from being funded?

Williams: We could try to specifically exclude that but let's not write language that's too general.

Williams claims that ordinance changes would improve transparency. Right now, the administration is in a catch-22, because you don't want to fund a project until there's a study to prove it's feasible. This will enhance transparency.

Cook: Currently, [secret] projects are scrapped together with funds from various accounts. Under this ordinance, all the money would come under one account so it will be easier to keep track of what's being spent.

Dan S. said...

Janene Eller-Smith: $10,000 doesn't buy you very much. In Salt Lake the limit is $50,000. It's hard for the administration to comply with the $10,000 limit.

Dan S. said...

This is an incredibly Orwellian discussion, with all the staff including Cook arguing that giving the mayor more freedom to secretly spend money will improve transparency.

Dan S. said...

Williams says no other city has an ordinance like this at all except Provo which doesn't enforce it, so the Ogden council has far more control than others do over capital improvement expenditures.

The council seems to have been bullied into accepting the CIP ordinance changes.

KB said...

Did you say there is a gondola to Chris Petersen's property still being floated?

Why doesn't this "ill-gotten-gains" suit just pay for the whole damn field house his self?

Dan S. said...

The council has been discussing the ranking of specific CIP projects. This is an ongoing process and final funding decisions won't be made until the budget is adopted.

Council business (i.e., discussion of items not on the agenda):

Stephens introduces proposed regulations for parade watchers using sidewalks.

Dan S. said...

KB: The administration's CIP wish list includes $57,000 for a proposed feasibility study for a gondola between downtown and WSU.

Ugh said...

Oh my . . . quote of the freaking century: "You can now discriminate against a Caucasian now. It's not a protected class." --Mayor Godfrey.

Ha! ha hahahahaha ha haha ha ha ha ah ahhahaha ah ahahah ahaha hahahahahahha.

What a moron. Who voted for this idiot?

Dan S. said...

Ugh: Sorry about the double "now" in the Godfrey quote. That was probably my error, not his. But the sentiment is accurately conveyed. It might be fun to get the audio recording of the meeting...

Dan S. said...

As I sit here, bored by the discussion of whether dogs should be allowed at the Pioneer Day's Parade, let me speculate a bit...

Could Godfrey be planning to run for a higher partisan office some day? If so, his first obstacle might be getting the Republican nomination which these days means establishing one's credentials as a pretty extreme fiscal and social conservative. Perhaps some of his recent public statements should be interpreted with this possibility in mind.

Dan S. said...

Work session is finally winding down. Next week will apparently be a work session but no regular meeting. March 1 no meetings at all. March 29 will be work session on open space plan.

Good night!

RudiZink said...

Thanks for the live report, Dan. Your stalwart efforts are greatly appreciated!

blackrulon said...

Dan S.- How could Godfrey ever qualify as a "fiscal conservative"?

Ray said...

Wow! If this steller example of goverment in action is the norm... we're in a heap of trouble. Sounds as if instead of Roberts Rules of Order to run the meeting Bubbas Rules are being used. If it wasn't so scary it would be funny...

Dan S. said...

blackrulon: Obviously Godfrey isn't a fiscal conservative. But he bragged about lowering property taxes in the last campaign, and got away with it. So my speculation is this: If he does ever want to win a Republican primary in Utah, he knows his opponents will have plenty of ammunition if they look at his record so he doesn't want to give them another issue to point to, and he wants some conservative feathers in his cap that he can point to when the time comes.

Still, pure speculation on my part. He may have completely different motives here.

Dan S. said...

Good morning, everyone. I realize that the blow-by-blow from last night's meeting doesn't make for the best reading, so here are a few highlights:

* BDO bond refinancing approved unanimously.

* Dog ordinance upheld with only Stephens and Stephenson voting to sustain override. Godfrey whines about it during end-of-meeting comments.

* Anti-discrimination ordinance fight continues, with Godfrey implicitly threatening to veto any version that doesn't allow harassment phrased as an expression of one's religious beliefs. City Attorney Williams also bullies most of council into accepting exemption for landlords when multiple tenants share an apartment.

* No serious objections from council to proposed CIP ordinance changes that would allow mayor to undertake many more projects without council authorization.

* As usual, council badly out-gunned in debates with mayor and city attorney. As I've already said elsewhere: There's something fundamentally wrong when one side gets to bring its attorney to a debate and the other side doesn't. That's what happened last night and that's what happens routinely at council meetings and work sessions. Nobody on the council has the legal authority or debating skill to take on Williams. Add Godfrey to the mix and there's the additional constant threat that he might interrupt in his snide tone and turn a civil debate into a belligerent argument.

Tired said...

I thought this was a city council meeting not a city council / mayor meeting. When is the city council leadership going to tell the mayor to butt out because of their meeting?

Dan S. said...

Tired:

State law says the mayor is always allowed to participate in council meetings and discussions. The chair could still prevent him from interrupting and otherwise being disruptive, but basically he has the same rights in this regard as any council member.

donk said...

Dan S.

What is your take on the Council's position on the CIP Ordinance changes? Surely they must realize that without checks and balances the mayor has a blank check.

Dan S. said...

donk:

A sociologist could spend a lifetime studying the interactions among council members, their staff, the mayor, and his staff. Typically, when the mayor wants something, he ends up getting it. He has a very reliable vote in Stephenson and a usually reliable vote in Stephens. At the other extreme are Wicks and Van Hooser but neither has the time or energy or stamina to fight him on everything. Even when they do fight him, the other three votes are often up for grabs and none of those three enjoy controversy any more than Wicks or Van Hooser.

On the specific issue of the CIP ordinance changes, Godfrey seems to have the council staff squarely on his side as well. But that probably means that the council leadership (Gochnour and Garner) are leaning that direction. If the vote were held today, I'm virtually certain that the changes would pass (possibly with two votes against). So it becomes a question of how hard someone is willing to fight to win over at least a couple more council members. And it's not just a matter of votes--at least one council member will have to suggest alternative language for the ordinance, and fight to get it into the version that gets put on the agenda. Godfrey will be fighting back at every stage, usually through the city attorney who effectively has control over any language that goes into any ordinance.

The problem, in other words, is that Godfrey has an incredible amount of power over the council already and this enables him to take even more.

KB said...

Delivery man was nearly eaten by two nice pit bulls yesterday in West Valley.

Meanwhile, granmas poodle is still sleeping under the sofa.

Curmudgeon said...

Back in town, so missed much.

I presume the price exacted for the increased "no council vote needed" limit was elimination of the "anytime waiver" clause, which amounted to a retroactive waiver rendering the rest of the ordinance on spending a nullity.

They did at least exact revocation of the "anytime waiver" didn't they?

Robert said...

The Ogden City Council does not use Robert's Rules of Order to conduct it's meetings. I forget the name, but the CC uses the other form for conduct.

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