Monday, April 30, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune: Patrick Henry Caucus Founders All Lose — But Claim Higher Victory

Are we possibly witnessing the death throws of the Tea Party movement in Utah and the political demise of five "goofy politicians with overblown senses of self-importance?"
"I’ve been waiting for somebody to write a story about how our defeat was the death of the Patrick Henry Caucus," said Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. "But even though the four of us lost, I feel very strongly that we drove the agenda. ... Regardless what happened, we were a success."
"Their guys got beat. And losing is not good," Thad Hall, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, said. "Losing is ultimately a bad outcome, and I think the next time around, they’ll just have less say in the way the world works."

Interesting Salt Lake Tribune story this morning concerning the 2012 GOP Convention defeats of four out of  five of our Utah legislature's founding Patrick Henry Caucus members.

Check out this morning's full Trib story here:
You remember the video of these original PHC founder guys of course... the Fab Five, whom Trib columnist Paul Rolly described thusly?
You at first will get the impression this is a Saturday Night Live skit parodying goofy politicians with overblown senses of self-importance.
Here's the referenced YouTube video, for those who missed it the first go-round.  It's definitely a doozy:
So what about it, O Gentle Ones? Will the PHC snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and succeed in  "retooling the caucus a bit," and to effectively "push it more nationally"?

Or are we possibly witnessing the death throws of the Tea Party movement in Utah, and the political demise of five "goofy politicians with overblown senses of self-importance?"

The world-wide-blogosphere is sitting on the edge of its seat, waiting to find out what our readers think about this.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Judge Weighs Arguments on Ethics Initiative

It'll be fascinating to find out  whether 3rd District Court Judge Shaughnessy will be willing to tell 130,000 Utah Citizens Ethics Petition signators to "go to hell," wethinks

As a followup to our 4/15/12 article, wherein we reported that Utahns for Ethical Government's (UEG's) court case had been assigned to 3rd District Court Judge Shaughnessy for oral argument on 4/27/12, we learn from the Salt Lake Tribune this morning that this case was indeed argued yesterday as scheduled.  Read the full SL-Trib story here:
Naturally we'll be keeping a close eye on this, and will be johnny-on-the-spot to report on Judge Shaughnessy's ultimate ruling in this matter, once this decision is issued.

According to this morning's story, UEG attorneys seem to be hanging their hats on the constitutionally-based principal that "[i]f there is a question, it should be read liberally in a way that furthers the citizens’ right — their constitutional right — to petition their government for redress."

It'll be fascinating to find out  whether 3rd District Court Judge Shaughnessy will be willing to tell 130,000 Utah Citizens Ethics Petition signators to "stickit in their bottoms" wethinks.

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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Ogden, Weber State Team Up in Opening of App Lab

Sodden Query:  What happened to Ogden Rox?

Good news for Ogden City this morning, as the Standard-Examiner announces that "[t]he city is teaming up with Weber State University to bring one of the world's fastest growing industries to Ogden." Here's the basic skinny:
Ogden's Community and Economic Development staff has been working with representatives from the WSU Research Foundation to create a program that will develop mobile application software for electronic devices like tablets, iPads, iPhones, and other smartphones.

"With mobile application development, you have an industry that is growing faster than almost any other," said Terrence Bride, Ogden's assistant business development manager. "And it brings with it high-paid jobs. The median salary for these types of jobs in this area is about $80,000 a year."

The program will provide mentoring, training, legal services and even small-business loans for mobile app entrepreneurs.

"We would be taking in those that have a good, marketable concept and provide mentoring and funding to turn that concept into a real business enterprise that employs people," Bride said.
Read the full Mitch Shaw story here:
According to this morning's story, both Ogden City and Weber State University will be providing "seed money" to kick start this new business venture, which will be located, judging from the accompanying S-E photo, in the downtown building formerly occupied by Ogden discount retailer Ogden Rox.

The Standard provides further details about the project financing:
The city will kick in $285,000 for the purchase and renovation of a building at 2314 Washington Blvd. Another $145,000 will go into a loan fund that will be used for business loans associated with the program.

The city also will be proposing an additional $70,000 in funding in the fiscal year 2013 budget for the loan program.

WSU will also contribute $50,000 to go toward the building.

The funding is contingent on Ogden acquiring a grant, which (surprise of surprises) has not been locked down yet.
As regular WCF readers will recall, Ogden Rox was also the recipient of Ogden taxpayers' "seed money" back in September of 2010, when it was one of the first businesses to take advantage of the city's then-new $315,000 tenant improvement loan program:
Sodden query, as posed by community activist Dan S. in a comment beneath this morning's S-E story:

What happened to Ogden Rox?

Is there anyone out there in the world-wide-blogosphere who can help us out with this question? Shall we all just treat the original Ogden Rox "seed money" as just more Ogden City taxpayer money flushed down the drain?

Final, final followup question: When if ever, we ask, will these extravagant Ogden City taxpayer subsidies stop?

Update 4/27/12 9:20 a.m.:  Over on Facebook one gentle WCF "regular" provides this positive spin: "It seems that the days of the adminstration's treating WSU as an enemy or at least an invisible entity are over." 

Good point, wethinks...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Burden of Proof - State Should Defend Air Quality

So what about it folks? With another Utah General Election coming up in November, isn't it time to consider candidates who don't "sport" a capital "R" next to their names?

In the aftermath of yesterday's WCF article, which revealed that five Wasatch Front Counties had received a failing grade for air quality by the American Lung Association, the Tribune carries an informative editorial this morning, focusing on the formal difficulties of establishing more stringent air quality standards in Utah.  Here's the lead:
The good news is, people worried that air quality and public health could suffer as a result of the planned expansion of the Tesoro refinery in Salt Lake City now have until June 7 to raise objections to that project.
The bad news is, the mere fact that the public comment period has been extended matters little, given that state laws new and old make it all but impossible for anyone to hold either the refinery’s owners or state monitors to any standards other than those set a long time ago and far, far away.
 Check out the full editorial here:
According to this morning's editorial, the obstacles are two-fold:
  1. Despite their usual whining about how the federal government holds too much power, Utah lawmakers have long forbidden state agencies from setting down air quality standards more stringent than those established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. Placing real controls on big-time polluters is made even more difficult by a new Utah law, Sen. Margaret Dayton’s SB11. That statute places the burden of establishing scientific or engineering reasons why a permit should not be granted squarely on the shoulders of any opponents. Not only that, opponents have to raise, and document, their objections within the limited public comment periods set by law.
Yesiree, folks, Senator Dayton's 2012 Senate bill, which we groused about mightily back in November, with its tight requirements for the production of highly technical data within ridiculously short time frames, pretty much rules out political action by the average Utah Lumpencitizen.

The deck's stacked in favor of the polluting industries, folks, and there isn't much any of us can do about it.

Although the Trib calls for the State of Utah to devote its own resources to defending Utah air quality, even the Trib Editorial Board forthrightly recognizes that there isn't even a glimmer of hope for that:
In a proper system, it would be professional staff in the employ of the state that would not only raise objections, but document and support them with detailed filings.
But that won’t happen in Utah, where state government is prohibited from doing any governing that might interfere with the wishes of polluting industries.
We're stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place folks, with air pollution that's the worst in the nation continuing to sicken and kill our fellow Utah citizens; and yet we continue to re-elect irresponsible nit-wits like this over and over again, botched people who are perfectly willing to sacrifice "a few human lives," in exchange for short-sighted "economic prosperity," mainly for the benefit of her "Pollution Industry" campaign donors, of course.

Perhaps Professor Einstein said it best:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So what about it folks? With another Utah General Election coming up in November, isn't it time to consider candidates who don't "sport" a capital "R" next to their names? Isn't it time to be a little more selective, and seek out candidates who are even marginally supportive of Utah Public Health? Shouldn't Utah air quality be a major 2012 election issue?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Wasatch Front Counties Get An 'F' For Air Quality

Sodden query: What is Ms. Spangler's Utah Department of Air Quality agenda?

Another Day in Paradise
Discomforting story on the Standard-Examiner front page this morning.  We'd suppose however that for those readers who suffer from lung ailments or heart conditions... or otherwise struggle breathing our Wasatch Front air, there are really no big surprises here at all:
According to this morning's story, "Donna Kemp Spangler, spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Air Quality (UDAQ, was quick to attack the report as politically motivated." The numbers are "skewed" and the American Lung Association "has an agenda," sez UDAQ flak-catcher and air pollution industry apologist Ms. Spangler.

Yesiree folks, the American Lung Association does have an agenda.  Ms. Spangler's entirely correct. We know this of course, because we checked their website, which spells out their "evil" agenda in black and white:
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through Education, Advocacy and Research. With the generous support of the public, we are "Fighting for Air."
For over 100 years, the American Lung Association has led the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air. Today, our fight is more important than ever.
Whether it's searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco or fighting for laws that protect the air we all breathe, the work of the American Lung Association helps to save lives every day.
That's the ALA agenda, folks. Scary, innit?

Sodden query: What is Ms. Spangler's own  UDAQ agenda? Kissing up to her boss Gary Herbert, perhaps?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WSU Head Football Coach John L. Smith Departs WSU For "Greener Pastures" - Updated 3X

Loyalty & Honor: Two words you'll find only in the dictionary in these greed-head modern times, we guess
“Wow, just when you think the pieces to the puzzle are all in place, something big happens to create chaos and the picture changes. Ouch!” — Jerry Bovee, Weber State athletic director
Arkansas replaces wandering Bobby Petrino with a guy who left his alma mater before coaching his first game.
Gregg Doyel,
Arkansas hire of Smith so bad, a vacation is torn asunder
April 23, 2012
There are many reasons why Smith would take the Arkansas job, but none of them makes it the right thing to do. His departure from Weber State is an insult to his alma mater.
Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune
Kragthorpe: John L. Smith’s move an insult to Weber State
April 23, 2012

Bad news this morning for Weber State University football fans.  After a mere five months on the job as WSU head football coach, John L. Smith has resigened, and is headed off to "greener pastures."  The Standard-Examiner carries the discouraging front page story this morning:
Here's a followup column from the S-E's Roy Burton:
Loyalty & Honor: Two words you'll find only in the dictionary in these greed-head modern times, we guess.

The Trib's sports columnist Kurt Kragthorpe is suggesting that WSU officials try to hire back Coach Mac.
So what about it WSU football fans?  Could former WSU Coach Ron MacBride be lured back?

It would also be fascinating to find out how Smith managed to weasel out of his WSU contract, a story angle which is being entirely ignored by the internet sports media.  A sneaky buy-out clause, perhaps, which rendered Smith's contract less valuable than the paper it was printed upon?

We'll also express our sympathy for Coach Smith's freshman recruiting class, who've essentially been tossed out like yesterday's trash. Once again it's the unpaid athletes who generate all the college athletics revenue who get sacrificed on the alter of college football's almighty dollar.

Who'll be the first to chime in?

Update 4/25/12 7:30 a.m.: In the wake of yesterday's news, the Standard is all over this story again this morning. Check out Roy Burton's S-E Sports Blog, where he provides a robust news roundup, concerning the national media attention swirling around this story:
Among other things, the resourceful Mr. Burton also answers our questions regarding Smith's WSU contract terms, which will minimally require the Arkansas Razorbacks to cough up a cool $25 Grand to satisfy Smith's buyout clause provisions (just for starters, we hope): 
Seems that Smith also violated a contract provision requiring 30 days advance notice, according to Mr. Burton's story. We'll be interested in finding out whether WSU officials will demand that Smith "sweeten the pot" further for this willful breach of the terms of his written contract.  Our view?  WSU officials should stick it to Mr. Smith to the maximum extent the law allows, although it does appear from Mr. Bovee's quoted comments that WSU is likely to "go easy" on the Despicable Turncoat Coach.

It also looks like the re-hiring of Coach Mac won't be in the cards.

Update 4/25/12 8:00 a.m.:  The Standard-Examiner editorial board jumps on the bandwagon this morning with the rhetorical query, "Is there anyone left in the NCAA willing to choose integrity over a pay hike and more time on ESPN?"
Of that, we have our doubts.

Update 4/27/12 7:30 a.m.:  The Standard-Examiner  provides a happy interim ending to this week's troubling situation, with a Roy Burton story reporting this morning that "On Thursday, [Jody] Sears was named Weber State’s interim football coach, mere days after Smith bolted without warning Monday to take the Arkansas job vacated by Bobby Petrino":
Sears, 44, will be the head coach for the 2012 season and will be re-evaluated afterward, Bovee said. The rest of Weber State’s staff remains intact and Sears will try to add another assistant soon, according to this morning's story.

Despite this week's turmoil, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that the WSU football program will land on its feet for the 2012 season. Congrats to Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee and the WSU athletics department, for making the best of a very bad situation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Salt Lake City Weekly: Sierra Club Releases Scorecard for 2012 Utah Legislature

Open the links to find out how your local State Senator and House Representative fared in the Sierra Club scorecard ratings

With the 2012 Utah General Election creeping up a little more that six months from now, Salt Lake City Weekly carries an informative story this morning which might be of interest to the "environmentalist" readers.  Here's the lede:
Ten legislators from the 2012 session earned their green stars and received 100 percent scores for voting with the environment, according to scorecards released by the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.
One legislator, Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, who passed a bill this session to allow the state to try and take over 30 million acres of public land from the federal government, not surprisingly did not fare well, earning the group’s only 0 percent ranking.
The scorecard ranked legislators based on their voting for or against key pieces of legislation including the public-lands bills. The card also evaluated other bills like Senate Bill 21, which changes the makeup of environmental advisory boards, and Senate Bill 245, which appropriates $750,000 in ongoing funds by increasing the bounty for those who exterminate coyotes.
Read the full story here:
For a complete list of legislative bills considered by the Sierra Club in compiling these ratings, click the link below:
Open these links to find out how your local State Senator and House Representative fared in the Sierra Club 2012 scorecard ratings:
As Utah Sierra Club Chapter Manager Mark Clemens sez, “As you are probably aware, when [Republicans] go back to their caucuses, if it appears they are too supportive of [the environment] then it can actually get them in trouble;” and that knuckle-headed bias certainly shows in the ratings, dunnit folks?

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Election Post Convention Results

Convention results in contested races which have Weber County ballot implications

In the aftermath of yesterday's Utah Democratic and Republican State Party Conventions, and as a followup to Friday's WCF writeup, the Standard-Examiner and Salt Lake Tribune carry stories this morning reporting on yesterday's results. We'll break these down by individual races and highlight the candidates in contested races who survived the conventions, either by being nominated outright, or by being forced into a June primary runoff.  These are the the results which have Weber County ballot implications.  For our readers' convenience, we've also provided links to each of these candidates' campaign websites:

U.S. Senate
1st Congressional District
Utah Governor
Utah Attorney General
Utah Legislature
Survivor (Senate District 19)
Survivors (House District 29)
 As an added bonus, whe'll also link this interesting Utah GOP Convention story:
That's it for now, O Gentle Ones.  We'll be cheerfully updating our 2012 Election Module to reflect these latest developments over the course of the next few days.

So who'll be the first to throw in their own 2¢?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Standard Examiner Pre-convention News Roundup

The full panoply of pre-convention S-E morning stories on the races which impact Weber County residents

On this morning's hard-copy edition front page, Standard-Examiner subscribers find this tantalizing headline: INSIDE: A closer look at the candidates before Saturday's conventions.  For the benefit of S-E non subscribers, and in the interest of implementing our expanded Weber County Forum coverage of the 2012 Utah Election, we've rounded up from the S-E website the full panoply of S-E stories provided in this morning's edition, in advance of tomorrow's Democratic and Republican State Party Conventions.  Gotta say the Standard has done a danged good job this morning. Here, gentle readers, are those S-E pre-convention morning stories on the races which impact Weber County residents:

U.S. Senate Race:
District 1 Congressional Race:
Utah Governor's Race:
As an added bonus, here's a related story from the S-E digital edition, addressing the peculiarities of the Utah convention nominating process:
That's it for now, WCF readers. We'll be anxiously sitting on the sidelines, of course, champing at the bit to report on tomorrow's convention results.

Standard-Examiner: Survey Seeks Input on Ogden Water Rates

If you don't forcefully speak out now, our elected decision makers will be perfectly justified in believing that you don't give a hoot what they do

As a followup to yesterday's WCF article, and for the benefit of those Ogden residents who haven't yet offered Ogden City elected officials their formal input regarding Ogden City's ongoing water rate study, The Standard-Examiner carries a story this morning reporting that a survey is now available for residents on the Ogden City website:
Supplementary info is available via this web-based pdf file:
Here's the link for those Ogden residents who'd like to take action and participate in this survey, which will remain open for your online input until April 27:
The Mayor and council seem hellbent to ram further water rate increases and an additional $12.9 million in expensive bonding down Ogden City residents' throats. Water conservation incentives have remained entirely ignored. If you don't forcefully speak out now, our elected decision makers will be perfectly justified in believing that you don't give a hoot what they do.

Fill out the survey.  It only takes a couple of minutes, folks.

It probably wouldn't hurt to follow it up with an email, too... you know... to address the issues the survey left out:
Comments, anyone?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Final Results For Our April 9, 2012 Poll

If you continue to sit on your thumbs in re this matter, it should come as no surprise when you get another round of hefty round of water rates increases shoved down your throats

Final results are in for our April 9, 2012 poll, in which we inquired of our Weber County Forum readership about their priorities in re economic development and water utilities improvement issues:

As Dan S. reported on April 11, The Council has tentatively declined to consider any reductions in the Water Department’s operating costs, proposed new water system bonding in the amount of $12.9 million, incorporated water rate increases for nearly all customers and has for the most part ignored contrarian public sentiment in this matter. Water conservation incentives? Fuggaddaboudit:
And adding insult to injury, according to this S-E story ($650,000 airport expansion), ambitious economic development projects  obviously remain on the Ogden City government front burner:
The next Council meeting on this issue is scheduled for May 1. Contact your Mayor and Council Critters, folks:
If you continue to sit on your thumbs in re this matter, it should come as no surprise when you get another round of hefty round of water rate increases shoved down your throats.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Video Shows Officers Scrambling for Vests as Shots Ring Out

All that's missing is a decent soundtrack, it seems to us

Another public reporting development in the Matthew Stewart Shootout case this morning, as the Standard-Examiner releases "a new dash-cam video Monday of a deadly Jan. 4 shootout that provides [among other things] a closer look at patrol officers scrambling to retrieve bulletproof vests from their vehicles while gunfire rings out around them":

All that's missing is a decent soundtrack, it seems to us.

Check out the full S-E story here:
So what about it, O Gentle Ones? Does this newly released video help or hurt the prosecution's case?

Standard-Examiner: Dew Tour Will Not Return to Snowbasin

Gotta wonder about the wisdom of scheduling a winter "mountain" venue in Breckenridge or anywhere else in the Mountain West for the second week of December

Bad news for Ogden City "high recreation" branding this morning, as the Standard-Examiner announces that "The Winter Dew Tour is finished in Ogden and Utah":
Snowbasin Resort officials confirmed Monday that the popular freestyle skiing and snowboarding event will not be held at the resort in 2012.

“It’s not coming to Snowbasin next winter,” said Snowbasin spokesman Jason Dyer. “The whole tour is kind [of] going through an evolution right now.”

The Summer Dew Tour, which has been held in Salt Lake City, also will not be returning.

Read this morning's discouraging S-E story here:

There's more:

On Monday, Alli Sports, a division of NBC Sports Group, announced a four-year renewal of its partnership with Mountain Dew, along with next winter’s schedule for the new Dew Tour.

According to a news release from Alli Sports, the two groups are cutting the number of stops on the tour from seven to three.

Touting a “beach, city, and mountain” marketing theme, next year’s tour will be in San Francisco, Ocean City, Md., and Breckenridge, Colo.

The mountain portion of the tour will be in December, which Dyer said was part of the reason Snowbasin was left out of the loop.

Sadly, this development occurs just as the tour was developing into a big deal for downtown Ogden. Mayor Caldwell hits the nail on the head:
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the tour would be missed as it complemented Ogden and was in line with some of the city’s initiatives and branding goals.

“They were a great event and a good partner to us,” he said. “It will be sad to lose them.

Gotta wonder about the wisdom of scheduling a winter "mountain" venue at Breckenridge or anywhere else in the Mountain West for the second week of December. Howbout you?

So what about it, O Gentle Ones? Is the Dew Tour "kind [of] going through an evolution right now," as Snowbasin spokesman Jason Dyer suggests, or are we merely witnessing the slow death throws of another poorly-managed series of sports events?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Utahns for Ethics Reform Update

UEG hearing date established; National study gives Utah low ethics grades

By: Kim Burningham, UEG Chair
Dixie Huefner, UEG Communications Chair

Court hearing scheduled for April 27th. We thought that you would want to know that Utahns for Ethical Government's (UEG's) court case has once again been reassigned to another 3rd district court judge--from Ryan Harris to Todd Shaughnessy. We do not know why the reassignment was made, but we now have an April 27th hearing date with Judge Shaughnessy. We hope that we will have his ruling not too long after the hearing, and, of course, we hope that our citizens ethics initiative will be on the 2012 ballot. We will keep you posted.

National study gives low grades to Utah ethics laws and practices. In the meantime, the Center for Public Integrity has issued its 2012 report on integrity standards and enforcement of those standards by the 50 states. The report is based on information collected in 2011 and reflects relevant laws as well as practices to enforce those laws. Utah's overall grade, along with 17 other states, was a D. Eight states received Fs. Nineteen states got Cs, and 5 states received Bs. No state received an A. To be in the bottom half of the states is not something of which to be proud. On ethics issues of major concern to UEG, Utah's scores were dismal. (On other issues like "internal auditing" and "procurement," Utah's grades were higher--A and B+, respectively.) For more information, you can visit the Center's website.

Among Utah's worst subscores were the following areas of special interest to UEG:
  • Political Financing - F
  • Legislative Accountability - F
  • Lobbying Disclosure - D
  • Public Access to Information - D+
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies - F
You can see that, in spite of various bills passed by the 2010 Legislature, which the legislative leadership asserted took care of their ethics problems, the Center for Public Integrity concluded that Utah's ethical standards and practices remained extremely poor. We agree and hope that UEG and the public will be able to do something about this appalling record.

Added Bonus: Gentle Reader Ozboy has transmitted to us the below-linked speech transcript, in pdf format, submitted with the introductory comment, "I thought you and your WCF readers might be interested in this speech by David Irvine, the ethics in Utah major drum beater, given to the league of old broad voters in Salt Lake the other day."

Mr. Irvine also happens to be UEG's "silver-tongued" lead attorney, the lawyer who'll be arguing UEG's case before Judge Shaughnessy on April 27, btw. Check out Mr. Irvine's most recent public statement, which addresses the pending lawsuit, and eloquently describes the pathological ethical morass which continues to infect our Utah body politic even unto this very day:
That's it for now, O Gentle Ones. We'll definitely keep you posted as this case progresses.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Science Saturday Special: Latest Science Story Updates

It's been a few weeks since our last Science Saturday News Roundup; so in the midst of another tediously slow political news day, here are a few science and technology stories we rounded up or otherwise stumbled upon since our most recent Science Saturday installment.

1) Interesting technology story from Slate:
From Inspector Gadget to Back to the Future, we’ve imagined cars that can help us circumvent traffic. And now, we may be getting closer; two different companies have unveiled—yep—flying cars.
In Holland, the new Personal Air and Land Vehicle claims to fly for distances of over 300 miles. And Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia Inc. is set to roll out it’s own version—the Transition—at this week’s New York Auto Show.
Read up:
Just what we need, right? Three dimensional traffic jams?

2) One of our favorite "science journals," the Mail Online, reports that our little blue planet dodged a bullet earlier in the month:
Earth had a near-miss on April 1 from an 150-foot asteroid that was detected only two weeks ago, it was revealed [on 4/2/12.]
The space rock, 2012 EG5, flew past earth closer than the moon, at a distance of just 143,000 miles.
The asteroid has a diameter of around 150 feet - and would have exploded with the force of an atomic weapon had it hit our planet.
Check out the full story:
A 150 foot diameter school bus? That's some school bus, wethinks.

3) Huff Post science writer Chris Mooney ponders the question of "how we can come to understand the denial of science, on issues like global warming, by examining the underlying psychology of political conservatism itself," in the context of Stephen Colbert's groundbreaking "truthiness" formulation... you know, "the problem of people making up their own reality, one just "truthy" enough that they actually believe it."

Read Mr. Mooney's thoughtful writeup here:
"Frankly, it now seems to me that in some ways, Colbert was ahead of the science on this matter -- anticipating much of what we are only now coming to know," Mr. Mooney sez.

4) Added bonus:

An ancestor of Utah State Senate President Mike Waddoups, perhaps?

That's it for now WCF Science Buffs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Judge Won't Sign Gag Order

Ruling: Extrajudicial statements are already governed by the provisions of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct

As a followup to the 2/11/12 story, reporting that the prosecution had requested a gag order in the Matthew Stewart shootings matter, the Standard-Examiner reports that 2d District Court Judge Hyde has finally gotten around to ruling on the prosecution's motion:
Judge Hyde's ruling is spot-on, wethinks, inasmuch as (just as we opined on 3/7/12), extrajudicial statements are already governed by the provisions of Utah Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.6.

And while we're at it, let's not overlook Rule 3.8, which also imposes special obligations upon the prosecutor's office.

Comments anyone?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Morning Ogden City News Roundup - Updated

Two special public events... and a link to a chirpy "good news" story, for good measure

There's not much happening on the red meat news political front this morning folks; but as far as we're concerned, that's no reason to sit on our blogmeister thumbs. In that connection, we'll kickstart the discussion with reminders of two special events calendered for this evening, and throw in a link to a chirpy good news story, for good measure:

1) Tonight's the night for the Weber County Republican Party Nominating Convention, where there's one particularly interesting nomination item on the agenda. Squaring off for Weber County GOP delegates' approval this evening for the Weber County Commission Seat "C" nomination are current Weber County GOP Chairman Matt Bell, and a familiar WCF face, our old WCF pal, former OPD Police Chief/State Senator Jon Greiner. Ace Reporter Schwebke provides the full lowdown with this morning's Standard-Examiner story:
For those WCF readers/GOP delegates who may be still sitting on the fence, we'll wholeheartedly give warhorse Republican Matt Bell our enthusiastic endorsement, for what that's worth. If that isn't good enough however, we'll link this 4/9/12 Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson endorsement letter, with which sentiment we agree 100%.

Unlike some crankier folks, it's not that we have anything in particular against Chief Greiner. We just happen to believe that Chairman Bell is the superior choice. Besides, after an illustrious 38-year law enforcement career... we believe that Jon Greiner deserves to begin enjoying his several retirements and spend a lot more pleasurable time on the golf course improving his stroke.

2) As a followup to our earlier public announcement, we'll again remind our civil rights-minded WCF readers of tonight's public event at the Weber County Main Library at 7:30 p.m., where Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's David Goddridge will present an informational workshop/seminar. Salt Lake City Weekly provides the story:
For those interested in learning more about the problems with our state and nation’s drug laws and policies, be sure to check out this event.

3) Good news from the Standard this morning for our Ogden City Schools, who always seem to get a bad rap:
Ogden High School is your blogmeister's own alma mater folks, so with considerable OHS Tiger pride, we'll hand out a Weber County Forum Tip O' The Hat to Ogden High School administrators and teachers, for working their butts off to promote academic excellence.

That's it for now, folks.

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

Update 4/12/12 11:50 p.m.: The both Standard and the Tribune carry reports on tonight's LEAP informational event:
Update 4/13/12 6:30 a.m.: The results are in from last night's Weber County Republican Convention:

Matt Bell 70% Jon Greiner 30% But the delegates gave Greiner a standing ovation for all his hard work in the community. Read this morning's S-E story:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Council Gives “Direction” on Water Rates

Plan includes $12.9 million bond; rate increase to take effect July 1.

By Dan Schroeder

In a work session that ran until nearly 11:00 pm, the Ogden City Council informally agreed last night to the outline of a financial plan and rate structure for the city’s water utility.

Among the major capital improvements proposed for the water system, the council chose to proceed with replacement of the Ogden Canyon filter plant in 2014, at a cost of $13.1 million. However, the council chose to postpone several pipe replacement projects. This change to the administration’s schedule reduces the proposed bond from $20 million to $12.9 million.

The council did not consider any reductions in the Water Department’s operating costs, which have increased by more than $3 million since 2007. Nor did the council consider drawing on any of the water fund’s $6 million cash balance.

Under the tentative proposal, the Water Department’s revenue is supposed to increase by 29% over the next four years. After that there would be only cost-of-living increases, according to the plan.

The proposed rate structure, however, appears to incorporate larger first-year rate increases, for nearly all customers, than would be needed to generate the required revenue. For residential customers, the average additional increase would be about 5.3%. I pointed out this discrepancy in an email to all the decision makers over the weekend, but nobody brought it up during the work session.

Not all customers will see the same rate increase. The council chose to raise rates by a higher percentage for customers who use less water, and by a lower percentage for customers who use more water.

An ordinance to codify the rate increase will be drafted during the next two weeks and presented to the council at its meeting on May 1. A public hearing will then be held on May 15. It is difficult, though not impossible, for the council to amend the ordinance after the hearing.

The new water rates are scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Video Shows Chaotic Scene at Fatal Raid, Shooting - Updated

Sodden Question: Where are the helmet cam videos?

In connection with the 1/4/12 Ogden shootout incident, the Standard-Examiner provides this morning a Scott Schwebke story and a pair of videos "obtained Monday by the Standard-Examiner through a state public records request [which] shows the chaotic scene Ogden law officers encountered when they arrived at 8:42 p.m. outside the home of Matthew David Stewart, 3268 Jackson Ave":
Unfortunately these videos add little probative value to the facts of the case, inasmuch as they're shot from a police car dash cam parked down the street from defendant Michael Stewart's home. The display of these videos in fact raises additional questions which Mr. Schwebke leaves entirely unanswered:
  1. The Standard reports that these videos were produced in response to a GRAMA request. Did the Standard request all crime scene videos?
  2. Did the Standard specifically request helmet cam videos? If not, why not?
  3. Assuming the S-E request broadly included merely a general demand for all videos, where are the helmet cam videos?
  4. Assuming helmet cam videos do exist, did government authorities specifically deny the S-E's request for this important documentary evidence? If not, why not?
  5. Do helmet cam videos exist at all? If not, why not? Mr. Schwebke offers no information whatsoever on this important question.
So many questions... so few answers...

Update 4/10/12 10:30 p.m.: The Standard is now carrying a new story, along with a video, showing the suspect, Matthew Stewart, being removed from the crime scene and transported to the hospital:
Comments, anyone?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Ogden City Projects Update... Time for a Priorities Reset

Time for a change of tune from the Mike Caldwell Administration?

Here are a coupla Ogden-related items which we'll just post here, if only for archival consistency.
Granted, both of these Mayor Caldwell projects involve fairly unambitioous projects, compared to those of the previous Administation. But the public cost of these projects still adds up a little short of $ 1 mil anyway, in truth and fact, right?

Natural followup question: Should the Mike Caldwell Administration (and the Ogden City Council) abandon any further economic development projects altogether, whilst turning their attention to accumulating the necessary cash for the most pressing item of all, i.e., Ogden City water infrastrucure improvements?

In re this question, howbout chiming in with your vote in our new poll?

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

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Standard-Examiner Guest Commentary: Why Ogden's Utility Rates Continue to Rise

Get involved... "If you snooze, you lose," as the old saying goes

Without explanation, the city has padded its projected operating expenses to make the water fund's finances look worse than they actually are. If we correct for that error and prioritize carefully, we can pay for the new projects with cash rather than bonding. This will save millions of dollars of interest over the long term, keeping rates as low as possible. If we can also reduce the city's tax on the utility funds, so much the better.
Government officials always have a tendency to raise taxes and fees, because they always want more revenue for what they do. The only check on this tendency is public opinion, so I urge all Ogden citizens to get involved in the utility rate-setting process.

Dan Schroeder - Standard Examiner Guest Commentary
Why Ogden's utility rates continue to rise
April 7, 2012
On the heels of Thursday's WCF article and live-blogged Town Hall Meeting comments, the Standard-Examiner carries an informative Dan Schroeder guest commentary this morning, enlightening its S-E print edition readership concerning the realities surrounding the now-pending utility infrastructure upgrades currently proposed by the Mike Caldwell Mayoral Administration:
As Dan has repeatedly pointed out, "Ogden's water and sewer rates are higher than those of almost any other city in northern Utah." If you're in agreement with Dan that any major repairs and upgrades undertaken in the future ought to be prioritized and financed to the greatest extent possible through cash resources, rather than by means of another round of expensive and massive bonding, we're sure Ogden City officials would love to hear your views on that subject. For that purpose, we helpfully provide the following contact link:
If you're opposed the the administration's proposal to incur "more bonded debt and enact an additional 44 percent water rate increase over the next five years," and you're tired of watching Ogden City officials mendaciously milk the utility services "cash cow" to offset property tax shortfalls, now's the time to take action, folks, and to "get involved in the utility rate-setting process," as Dan suggests.

Get involved... "If you snooze, you lose," as the old saying goes.

You know what to do.

Do it NOW.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Town Meeting Tonight on Utility Rate Proposals - Updated

Lengthy presentations to precede citizen input.

By Dan Schroeder

Citizens who care about their ever-increasing Ogden City utility bills should be sure to attend tonight’s long-awaited “town meeting” in the city council chambers on the third floor of the Municipal Building. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.

Just don’t expect to have any in-depth dialogue with your elected officials. You won’t get to speak longer than three minutes, and you’ll have to sit through some lengthy presentations first.

According to the published agenda, the meeting will begin with the presentation (presumably by the city’s consultants) of various “scenarios” for the timing and funding of roughly $50 million in new infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, according to city council staff, these scenarios will not be available for viewing before the meeting.

Then city staff will present their answers to a long list of “frequently asked questions” that they’ve compiled over the last several weeks. They’ve promised to post this document on the city council’s web site by noon today, but as of this writing, the FAQ document is still a secret.

The city council discussed the FAQ document at its public work session Tuesday night, while refusing to provide a copy to myself or to the Standard-Examiner reporter who attended. Listening to that discussion was a bizarre experience, as staff insisted that council members read the document in silence and comment only on the changes they would like to see. Still, based on what I heard, it’s clear that this document is intended to explain to the public why their ideas, questions, and concerns are invalid; the bureaucrats know best.

In some cases, I actually agree. For instance, some citizens seem to feel that the city should somehow provide them with unlimited irrigation water for a nominal flat fee of only $150 per year. That’s just not going to happen, for excellent reasons. It’s a simple fact that those who already have access to unmetered secondary water can keep a large lawn green more cheaply than those who don’t. Life isn’t always fair. (The best the city can do is provide a modest discount during the summer to those who must irrigate with culinary water.)

I’m also convinced that most of the proposed capital projects really are necessary, although there are a couple of exceptions and I also think some of the projects could be delayed a few years without harm.

I’m even convinced that a modest water rate increase is probably necessary, to pay for all the needed infrastructure upgrades over the short and long term.

Where I part company with the consultants and the bureaucrats is over the need for additional bonded debt. The consultants love bonds, because they get to charge additional fees for serving as the “financial advisor” in the bond issuing process. And the bureaucrats love bonds, because they can then build lots of big projects immediately, forcing rate payers to pay for them over the next 30 years.

The problem with bonds is that we all end up paying substantially more in the long run after we’ve paid all the accumulated interest. To keep utility rates as low as possible over the long run, we should be paying for our capital projects with cash rather than debt. I’ve run some numbers and I’m convinced that this is mostly possible, but it’s not clear that the consultants are making an honest effort to formulate such a scenario.

In any case, the suspense is certainly building as we await the unveiling of the scenarios at 6 p.m. tonight. Then, after the presentations and the public comments, the agenda says that “direction will need to be given by the council.” In other words, the staff are telling the council to assimilate the scenarios and the public comments on the fly, then immediately make their decision. We’ll see soon enough what the council actually does.

Update 4/5/12 12:57 p.m.: Via Dan Schroeder: "Here's the "FAQ" and Fact Sheet...," which is now revealed a few five hours short of tonight's "Town Hall Meeting." Actually folks, it now appears that there are not one, but two of these suddenly unveiled and formerly "secret" documents:
So what about it WCF readers? Are the Ogden City Council and the Mike Caldwell administration coming up a day late and a dollar short in re this issue? Has Mayor Mike Caldwell, or the City Council, for that matter, been even slightly transparent about the multi-million dollar issues which are coming up at tonight's "Town Hall Meeting"?

You be the judges, taxpaying Ogden lumpencitizens.

Update 4/5/12 6:06 p.m.: Dan Schroeder is now live blogging from the Ogden City Council Chambers. Click the comments link below to follow his real-time posts.

Update 4/6/12 8:oo a.m.: Here's Mitch Shaw's Standard-Examiner post-meeting writeup:

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Stewart's Newest Lawyer Files Another Motion Against Seizure - Updated

Added bonus: April 12 Law Enforcement Against Prohibition educational seminar

As a followup to our 3/30/12 WCF writeup, the Standard-Examiner reports this morning that Ogden 1/4/12 Shootout Defendant Matthew Stewart's civil attorney, Emily Swenson, has now filed a second Motion to Quash in Stewart's pending asset forfeiture civil case:
According to this morning's Tim Gurrister story, Attorney Swensen has expanded her allegations that service of process was defective under applicable Utah law:
Swenson’s new motion claims new irregularities in the serving of the forfeiture notice on Stewart. The first motion claimed the seizure notice was not served by the right person under the law and that proper paperwork was not included.
The latest motion claims the officer who served the notice was doubly disqualified from doing so because he was a strike force member, therefore a party in the case and not the proper person to be serving the notice. And it notes the papers missing initially were subsequently filed late.
Once again turning to the apparently applicable code section within the operative Utah Forfeiture Procedures Act (UFPC), we find this express language, which is quite specific as to who has the authority to serve papers in UFPC property forfeiture actions:
24-1-4. Civil Procedures.
...(3) (a) Within 60 days of any seizure, the prosecuting attorney shall file a complaint for forfeiture in the appropriate district court and serve a summons and notice of intent to seek forfeiture with a copy of the complaint upon all owners and interest holders known to the prosecuting attorney to have an interest in the property. Service shall be by one of the following methods:
(i) if the owner's or interest holder's name and current address are known, either by personal service by any person qualified to serve process, by a law enforcement officer, or by certified mail, return receipt requested, to that address...
On the surface, it would thus appear that even with the amended filing, Ms. Swenson's allegations may lack merit. The new filing does present an interesting legal issue, however. Inasmuch as the police officer who served the civil forfeiture papers was allegedly a member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, an entity which would be a direct beneficiary of any net proceeds which would flow from a seizure and sale of Stewart's home, that WMNSF officer might be deemed by the court to be a real party in interest, (or an agent of a real property in interest) , which would arguably make him ineligible to serve such process under general provisions of Utah law, e.g., Utah Code Section 78B-8-302 Process servers, which provides, "(1) Complaints, summonses, and subpoenas may be served by any person 18 years of age or older at the time of service, and who is not a party to the action or a party's attorney." Yes, the argument is a bit of a stretch, but it'll be fascinating to see how 2d District Court Judge Decaria treats this issue once it's argued in court, wethinks.

As to the allegation that the supporting affidavits were filed late, odds are that the Weber County Attorney's office will successfully argue that such late filing should be excused by the court under general legal principles related to excusable neglect. You'd be amazed folks, about how often little screwups like this are "cured" under grounds of inadvertance/excusable neglect ("It's my secretary's fault, Your Honor") in courts all over the land.

Who knows however? If Judge Decaria takes an extra cautious approach to this property rights matter he may well rule that the government should just "man up," and serve the papers all over again. A Utah District Court Judge can do pretty much whatever he wants, after all.

Whatever happens in this matter, we'll be watching closely of course.

Added Bonus: As a side note we learn from one Matthew Stewart supporter this morning that Stewart's support group has scheduled an April 12 public event at the Weber County Main Library at 7:30 p.m., where Law Enforcement Against Prohibition panel speaker (and ex-L.A. cop) David Goddridge will conduct a seminar, "in an effort to educate the public, the media, and policy makers, to the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition; and, To restore the public's respect for law enforcement, which has been greatly diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition."

This ought to be an interesting venue for those WCF readers interested in learning a little more about the disastrous forty-year old "war on drugs," and what some dedicated folks from the U.S. law enforcement community are trying to do about it.

Update 4/5/12 7:00 a.m.: We've obtained Ms. Swenson's opposition papers concerning the above matter, which we've uploaded to our storage site and hereby provide the links below:
Significantly, these papers reveal that the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force (WMNSF) has been assisting in the prosecution of this matter in its own name, as an identifiable separate entity, thus strengthening Ms. Swenson's argument that the WMNSF is a proper party in this matter, and adding weight to the possible legal conclusion that the process server in this matter, an agent of WMNSF, was ineligible to serve the government's forfeiture papers under authority of the code sections cited above.

Monday, April 02, 2012

WIRED Magazine: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) - Updated

Although we're not quite ready to don our tin-foil hats in re this project, we believe all liberty minded American citizens should keep this situation on their radar screens.

To kickstart the Monday morning conversation, we'll shine the WCF spotlight on a fascinating internet media discussion breaking out concerning the federal government's Utah-situated $1.5 billion National Security Agency data center, which was locally billed in the below-linked 1/6/11 Deseret News story as both a propitious congressional exercise of a Senator Orrin Hatch earmark and "important in the short term for construction jobs and important in the long term for Utah's reputation as a technology center":
As construction continues on this massive project, which was originally touted as a facility designed to protect the government's computer infrastructure from cyber attacks, several online sources are now suggesting more sinister motives, specifically, an unprecedented government invasion into every American citizen's personal privacy.

In that latter connection, here's the lede from last week's Fox News story (of all places):

WASHINGTON – What would you think if someone told you personal emails, voicemails and web searches, basically your electronic footprint, could be viewed and stored by a government official?

The feds say that would never happen but some say it is, and by 2013 it will all be funneled into the Utah Data Center.

A more formal description of the center is the First Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative Data Center.

And it’s huge. One million square feet, all to be filled with more technology and data storage than you could imagine.

It is not a stretch to say Utah is quickly becoming the data center capitol of the U.S., especially now that the state will be home to what some say is one the largest spy centers in the nation.

Plans for the facility are nothing new. Construction has been well underway for a year, and brainstorming for the facility began a decade ago. The NSA has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the estimated billion dollar data center.

So why is it making headlines now?

In a bombshell article published this month in WIRED Magazine, author James Bamford interviews a whistleblower claiming the NSA has software that searches domestic folks.

This software can reveal everything from target addresses, to web searches to social media sites to email and phone calls.

It claims any communication that looks suspicious are automatically red flagged. Basically, we’re all at risk for being watched.
Read on:
Cutting to the chase, here's the article which sparked the current controversy, i.e., James Bamford's above-cited 3/15/12 WIRED Magazine expose:
This one's a a real eye-opener, innit?

Although we're not quite ready to don our tin-foil hats in re this project, we believe all liberty minded American citizens should keep this situation on their radar screens.

And remember, folks, in the midst of this year's Sagebrush Revolution, wherein our wacky Utah Government has vowed to throw off the shackles of federal government tyranny once and for all, Senator-for-Life Hatch characterizes this cyber-security boondoggle as the "largest military construction project in recent memory," and the Utah economy becomes even more dependent on the federal dole.

Go figure.

Update 4/3/12: And there's now more interesting internet media discussion emerging on this topic:
No need to worry about unchecked government surveillance, unless you've done something wrong, right?

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