Friday, May 06, 2011

Standard-Examiner: Agenda Item in Work Meeting Puzzles Ogden Officials

Boss Godfrey characterizes Tuesday night's council fiasco as "dysfunctional;" and it seems to us that the little feller is right about something for once

Can we see by a show of hands how many Emerald City political wonks have checked out a published City Council agenda at one time or another and found themselves entirely unable to decipher with any particularity -- or even remotely -- what was calendered to be discussed at an upcoming meeting? For example, here's Wednesday's Standard-Examiner public notice concerning yesterday's Ogden City Council work session, which sets forth the council's "agenda" thusly:
"Discuss city needs and council business"
Although published Ogden City Council agendas have never been a model of deeply descriptive and craftsmanlike specificity, it's our opinion that under current council leadership, the standards for public meeting agenda notices have descended to a level where serious misunderstandings have been absolutely certain to occur. Lo and behold, Scott Schwebke provides a story in this morning's S-E edition illuminating 2-1/2 hours of confusion at Tuesday's City Council work session, where nary a City official in the entire Council Chamber had the slightest clue what the meeting's agenda, (reportedly phrased in language similar to that set forth above) was supposed to be all about:
Boss Godfrey characterizes Tuesday night's council fiasco as "dysfunctional;" and it seems to us that the little feller is right about something for once.

It's Council Chair Gochnour's council leadership roll to formulate and approve the council agenda, by the way, and her responsibility to keep the discussion on topic as the meeting progresses. Taking Mr. Schwebke's morning story into account, it seems to us that Chairman Gochnour almost completely ducked out of the the opportunity to assert herself as Council Chair, first by allowing to be published an agenda phrased in hopelessly vague terms, and secondly, by failing to take charge of Tuesday's discussion when the meeting spun out of control.

Maybe somebody needs to send her a copy of Robert's Rules.

Maybe she needs to step down and let Council Vice-Chair Garner take over.

Maybe a few of our gentle WCF readers will offer their own takes on this.


Dan S. said...

The whole idea of council work sessions has always seemed strange to me. Usually that's were they discuss proposed legislation informally and try to reach a consensus so that when a final draft is brought to a regular meeting, it will pass. But this process doesn't work well unless they already have a draft that's reasonably complete. Ninety-nine percent of the time that's the case, because the legislation originates with the administration. Meanwhile, the council has no formal process for proposing new legislation of its own initiative. And in this case, it isn't even clear that their goal is to eventually pass legislation.Perhaps they should switch to a system in which individual council members can introduce whatever legislation they want. (That's how Congress and the State Legislature do it, not that they're to be emulated in every respect.) Staff time to draft legislation would be allocated according to how many cosponsors a piece of legislation has, and the chair and vice-chair would have some say in what legislation comes up for a vote. No work sessions, and no discussion during meetings unless an actual motion is on the table, but make a rule that each piece of legislation must be discussed at two different meetings before being voted on, and adopt Robert's Rules or something similar as a process for making amendments during meetings.

blackrulon said...

Relying on a Scott Schwebke story for full and factual information is risky at best. It appeatsd that Godfrey and Goch

blackrulon said...

Relying on a

Schwebke story for complete factual infoirmation is iffy at best. The mayor and Gochnour do not want to refine the process of giving and receiving information from the mayor to the council. There are many cases when the administration gave incomplete information or left out important information. A deliberate confusion by Godfrey and Gochnour suits there purpose. Godfrey likes to wait until the last possible time to submit information aand then demand a immediate answer. The lack of trust between the administration and the city council can be laid at the feet of the mayor. Don't be rushed.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan's comments, suggestions are right on the money.I'd add only this, in re: Hizzonah's comment that "this" was clearly dysfunctional ["this" being it seems the process by which the Council should provide input to the administration during the planning stages of major administration projects being prepared for presentation to the Council... I think]: It seems that Hizzonah, after three terms in office, treated the Council with his usual contempt as he developed plans for the Godfrey Wonder Dome project: he ignored the Council on the whole until late in the process. And it also seems that Hizzonah's administration is having as much trouble "communicating" with the Gochnour-led Council as it did with the Wicks led Council. Which might suggest to anyone other than Hizzonah that the problem may lie, to no small extent, in his office.

Bee in my Bonnet said...

revised new 11th edition:

Bee in my Bonnet said...

Ernie the attorney said...

The purpose of assembling council agendas and publishing them in the local newspaper is not to merely satisfy annoying technical statutory "notice" requirements, but rather to let interested parties know what's coming up for discussion in government meetings, especially where such discussion might affect and/or impair individual citizen interests.

What's really hilarious is that the importance of this whole "Constitutional Due Process" democratic concept concept not only completely escapes the attention of this Caitlin Gochnour Person, but also appears nowhere on the radar screen of her apparent "Council Puppetmaster," Bill Cook, as well.

An election's coming up in November; and we can kick this "Caitlin" person to the curb then.

The real question of course... How can Ogden Citizens "FIRE" this idiot Bill Cook?

Dorrene_Jeske said...

If Godfrey was surprised at the level of disconnect between the administration and council, he is blind or slow -- everyone else in Ogden is aware of the disconnect. As Curmudgeon and Blackrulon indicated above, it starts with Godfrey.
I was on the council a little over two weeks and in a meeting with two of his directors and another council member when they both told us that Godfrey had told them that they were NOT to give the council any information on the Ernst group. For those new to Ogden, in January 2006, three new council members were sworn in, and at our first RDA meeting, we were to meet a vice president of Ernst who wanted to build a rehabilitation facility in the River Front project, and they were receiving a lot of Godfrey-styled benefits. We asked for information about Ernst, but when there was none in our packets for the upcoming meeting, some friends helped us during the weekend conduct research on the Web of the Ernst company. We felt we were doing our job as council members when we asked routine questions about their finances and questions concerning the mother company who had been taken to court by the SEC in D.C. and sued by the State of Texas over Medicare fraud. Godfrey has continued to give us as little information as possible concerning issues with which we were dealing during my four years on the council. Except for his ego and being so self-absorbed that he doesn’t see anything but his projects, can I imagine that he wasn’t aware of the disconnect between himself and the council.
In defense of Bill Cook, he is very methodical and organized. While I was on the council, he gave us several needed processes to use in dealing with Godfrey and his bullish ways.

Danny said...

Dorrene mentions when she was on the council.

My comment: Yes, those were the days, my friend. Those were the days.

And we also remember the other side: Leshem, Hitzig, the Geigers, Blake Fowers, Mel Kemp and all the other self important losers who for awhile called Ogden their golden teat.

Good and evil, vividly, in the arena.
Those were the days.

blackrulon said...

I seem to remember a editorial in the S-E being very ctitical of the council for questioning Ernst about their finances. Events proved the council was correct. I do not seem to recall a apology from the paper.

oldguy said...

Given the situation, i.e., our present form of city government, a bully like Godfrey has a hayday. As for Council Chair Gouchnour, I don't think the harsh criticism is justified. The way things are set up, Godfrey pulls the chesnuts out of the fire and it's the Council's job to say yay or nay - preferably yay as far as G. is concerned. Obviously, it's in G's. best interest to make the Council as disfunctional as possible They're easier to manipulate that way.

Dan makes an excellent point - one of several shortcomings with our present system of local government. Dorrene says that Bill Cook has had positive impact and she is in a position to know. I've heard much the same from other
council members. With a part-time Council (at best) to work with there is a limit to what he can accomplish.

rudizink said...

Hey don't get me wrong, Old Guy. I know Caitlin personally, and I think she's one great gal. Problem is, she's way too nice to be chairing the Council during the mayoral administration of an aggressive and nasty feller like Godfrey, who's in truthbeen making war on the City Council for almost twelve years.

As for Bill Cook, yes he's a nice guy too, and no doubt about it, over the years every sitting council member I've talked to really likes him. The problem with Bill, I think, is that he's never quite gotten a grasp of how a conflict-oriented legislative body like the city council is supposed to work under Utah's Mayor-Council system. If Bill would fully get over the idea (which he brought to the job) that the City Council is part of the mayor's management team, I think Bill's got the smarts to help the council avoid being the mayor's rubber-stamp. Whether he'll ever gain a true understanding of how the "conflict oriented" Mayor-Council form of government is supposed to work is a different question entirely, methinks.

GEIG said...

The discussion item was calendared by Godfrey so he could talk about his loser fieldhouse that will never get off the ground.

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