Thursday, February 28, 2013

Common Sense State House "Zion Curtain" Liquor Law Fix Poised to Suffer "Senate Leadership" Fatal Blow

“We don’t want restaurants looking like bars,” says Utah Senate Leadership (so-called)

In encouraging stories breaking yesterday, Salt Lake City Weekly, The Tribune and Standard-Examiner all gleefully reported on a pending Utah House of Representatives bill, HB 228, aimed in pertinent part (see lines 764-791) to eliminate Utah's quirky "Zion Curtain" statutory provision, which refers to "the permanent structural barriers" required of restaurants to shield underage patrons from the morals-corrupting sight of wine being poured and cocktails being mixed.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox R-Ogden, said during testimony yesterday before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee "that after significant study, there was no evidence of any kind to be found showing the walls were helping to prevent underage drinking."

“An uneven playing field that’s the first strike, we haven’t been able to show it encourages underage drinking and the third one is that we get fun headlines [about the Zion wall] in The New York Times, USA Today and even The Economist,” Wilcox also told committee members.

For our readers' convenience we'll helpfully provide the above-mentioned northern Utah print media stories via the links below:
Sadly however, it appears that Wilcox's common sense and intelligently researched legislation is poised for failure, and that Utah's downright comical Zions Curtain Law won't be further dragged into the 21st century anytime soon, as this morning's Standard-Examiner reports that GOP Senate leadership (so-called) is already positioning to deal Wilcox's bill an all-too-predictable lethal blow:
In a news briefing, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the bill has little chance to pass the Senate in its current format. He said he will work with Wilcox and other House leaders to find a potential compromise. He suggested any offset would have to address public safety concerns.
“We don’t want restaurants looking like bars,” Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said of the bill.
Check out this morning's discouraging S-E story for the full lowdown:
While it's obvious that Ogden's own House Rep Wilcox has done his homework and that this fact-based proposed legislation would succeed in a more rational state legislature, it's time for Wilcox to adopt a more forceful and precise lobbying approach, wethinks. Perhaps in fact it's time for Wilcox to a appeal to a higher Utah legislative authority with something appealingly Reaganesque, maybe a Gipper-like message like this, que no?
President Monson, tear down those walls!
The floor's open for your ever-savvy comments, O Gentle Ones.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Council Resolves to Give $100,000 to Mobile App Lab

Money falling from helicopters in the sky?

By Smaatguy

According to this morning's Standard-Examiner, it looks like the Ogden App Lab is getting another $100k, from Busness Depot Ogden (BDO) retained earnings:
What started out as an $800k project is now $2 mil. Interesting... money falling from helicopters in the sky... Makes ya think Ben Bernankster was in town.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dan Schroeder Responds to Sunday's Charlie Trentelman Column

Hopefully with the publication of this letter, the Standard will at long last "remove its blinders" and assign one of its own reporters to cover this important story in depth
But what the Ogden Police Department gets from each of us isn’t very much: $73 a year from me works out to 23 cents a day. Would you protect me for 23 cents a day? I’m not even sure I would.
Charles Trentelman - Standard-Examiner
Pondering pepperoni pizza and the price of providing police protection
February 23, 2013
Mr. Trentelman, in any case, is paying considerably more for police protection than he thinks. Besides the $73 share of his property tax, he’s paying roughly another $45 out of his utility bills for police service. The police also get a share of the franchise tax he pays on his other utilities, and of the sales tax he pays on his purchases.
Dan Schroeder - Standard-Examiner Letter to the Editor
Money from Ogden utility bills also helps fund police
February 25, 2013

In response to Sunday's Charlie Trentelman "Wasatch Rambler" column, wherein the Standard's venerable and intrepid "shorttimer columnist" calculates that his own "bargain" share of the cost of Ogden "police protection" amounts merely to the cost of a measly "two family pizza dinners," Ogden City political activist Dan Schroeder contributes the below-linked Standard-Examiner letter to the editor, publicly exposing, for the first time in the Standard-Examiner, the "hidden tax" which Ogden City secretly "rakes off" Ogden City utility fee revenue:
So far the Standard has been "sitting on its thumbs," and has remained completely oblivious to Dan's prodigious ongoing efforts to expose Ogden City's mendacious utility rates boondoggle.  Hopefully with the publication of this letter, the Standard will at long last "remove its blinders" and assign one of its own reporters to cover this important story in depth. These are YOUR hard earned utility dollars, folks; and it's the Standard's journalistic duty, we believe, in the continuing and troubling absence of open Ogden City public disclosure, to dig in and report exactly how city bureaucrats and elected officials ever-so-quietly misappropriate or otherwise mis-shuffle these funds.

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ogden City Business Development Division Video: Welcome to Ogden, Utah

Video-wise, the situation's definitely looking up

In the midst of another Sl-o-o-o-w Ogden City news day, we'll direct our readers' attention to a notable Ogden City video tout piece which just caught our attention on the Ogden City Business Development Division website:

Things are definitely looking up, video-wise, since the last time we provided an Ogden City development-topical video on our home town Weber County Forum blogsite, don'tcha thimk?

So who'll be the first to chime in with their very own savvy film critique?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Two ‘Institutions’ Soon to Bid Farewell to Journalism Careers

An unfortunate and disconcerting "double whammy," as far as your blogmeister is concerned.

Bad news for Standard-Examiner readers this morning, as managing editor Andy Howell announces the imminent retirement of two of the Standard's most accomplished staff journalists, Charlie Trentelman and Dave Greiling.
"Kind of an out with the old, in with the new passing of the baton," says Editor Andy, with carefully chosen words of consolation.

Actually an unfortunate and disconcerting "double whammy," as far as your blogmeister is concerned.

For die-hard Standard readers, these two fellas will be impossible to replace, of course.

Happy trails, Charlie and Dave. Thanks for your multitude of  important contributions to the local lumpencitizen discussion, in which regard you'll both be sorely missed.

Greg Bell Local/Federal Investigations: Here Comes the Damage Control - Updated

Sadly for poor old John Swallow however, he's not "feeling any GOP love" at all

In the wake of yesterday's disturbing Standard-Examiner story, revealing that Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell is under investigation by local and federal prosecutors for abusing his executive power concerning a Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS)  child-welfare investigation, here comes the predictable damage control, via the Salt Lake Tribune (of all places):
State senators on Friday were vouching for the honesty and character of Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, a former Senate colleague who now finds himself ensnared in a federal probe after intervening in a child-abuse investigation and pushing for an audit of the case.
"If I were to put it in transportation terms, I believe that Greg Bell is so straight, you could use him as a template to stripe the freeways with," said Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who succeeded Bell. "I hope there’s no foundation to these allegations."
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Bell was an "outstanding" senator and "was one of the top people as far as doing the right thing."
The senators’ vocal backing of Bell echoes supportive comments Thursday from Gov. Gary Herbert, who called Bell "as honest as the day is long."
Read up, folks:
Sadly for poor old John Swallow however, he's not "feeling any GOP love" at all:
It also presents a stark contrast to the lack of support received by new Attorney General John Swallow, who is also the target of a federal investigation for his involvement with a Utah businessman, who was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, and for other campaign fundraising issues.
"We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with Greg Bell," said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. "We don’t have that same relationship with John Swallow."
A cynic (like us) would suggest that Utah GOP insiders are circling the wagons around Lt. Governor Bell, and getting ready to throw Attorney General Swallow under the bus, que no?

And there's more. Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said Friday that he was "merely trying to get to the bottom of "conflicting claims" in a child-abuse case with a performance audit he ordered in 2011," (when he unleashed the intimidatory power of the State Auditor's office in an alleged attempt to derail the subject DCFS investigation):
And why was the Utah Lieutenant Governor meddling in this single DCFS investigation?
Friday evening, state Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, criticized any comparison of Bell to Attorney General John Swallow — who also is under investigation by the FBI — because "what Greg is accused of doing is trying to help a friend and neighbor."
Suggested new theme song for "friends and neighbors" of Utah GOP elected officials:
And the beat goes on...

Update 2/23/13 12:00 p.m:  There's more on this story from the Standard-Examiner.

For the first time, Bell's purported "retaliation" against DCFS is explicitly mentioned:
And the Standard provides more on the above-mentioned GOP legislative faction's "Greg Bell Love-fest":
Something's definitely rotten in the State of Denmark, wethinks.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Greg Bell Audit Under Investigation

On a brighter note, 3 out of 5 Utah Constitutional Officers are NOT known to be currently under investigation by the FBI

At risk of coming off as arriving late to the party, we'll note that the Standard-Examiner reported this morning that yet another Utah GOP elected official has landed in the legal hotseat, as the Davis County Attorney and the FBI look into allegations that Lieutenant Governor Bell had a "personal interest" in a Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS)  child-welfare investigation and improperly "tried to derail it with an audit of the way the case was handled":
And now there's more breaking news from the Standard, datelined Friday, 02/22/2013 - 4:02 p.m., reporting that it was one of the Governor Herbert's own cabinet members who ratted out Bell:
Oh my. Taking Utah Attorney General John Swallow's legal troubles into account, all signs point to a banner year and a full employment economy for Utah defense counsel (and government prosecutors) this year, no doubt.

On a brighter note, 3 out of 5 Utah Constitutional Officers are NOT known to be currently under investigation by the FBI.

Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle WCF Readers.

Salt Lake Tribune: Brigham City Mayor Escapes Another Call to Resign

Recklessly frittering away taxpayer dollars has become Brigham City's most recent claim to fame, of course

More "action" in the philandering Brigham City Mayor affair, (or perhaps we should more properly label it inaction) as the Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that the gutless Brigham City Council couldn't muster even enough votes last night to pass a nonbinding resolution seeking disgraced Mayor Dennis Fife’s immediate resignation:
The Council's already"clipped his mayoral wings" and "stripped him" of "of his powers to hire, fire, supervise and discipline city officers and employees;" so for all intents and purposes he's nothing but Brigham City "dead wood." Nevertheless, the majority of the BC Council believes it's apparently just fine for him to be still drawing a salary for doing essentially nothing. Recklessly frittering away taxpayer dollars has become Brigham City's most recent claim to fame, of course.

We'll think about the Brigham City Council the next time we contemplate labeling our own Ogden City Council as "spineless," we suppose.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dan Liljenquist: It's Time for Swallow to Resign or Be Impeached

Will we finally be hearing more of the same from other heretofore reluctant and timid GOP politicians and party apparatchiks anytime soon?

Amidst the ongoing public turmoil surrounding the raging John Swallow attempted bribery scandal, Swallow's GOP insider colleagues have remained, unfortunately, on the fence. Perhaps (we hope) this morning's Deseret News guest commentary will finally break that log jam, as former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist leads by example and delivers his "wise counsel" to his GOP comrade Swallow this morning... with both barrels:
As one D-News reader sez, "Swallow supporters are tolerating a level of unethical conduct that they would use to absolutely crucify a political figure they opposed."

So what do you say, folks?  In the wake of Mr. Liljenquist's "good example," will we finally be hearing more of the same from other heretofore reluctant and timid GOP politicians and party apparatchiks anytime soon?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One GRAMA Dispute Settled, Another Tabled

Caldwell administration’s obstructionism continues

By Dan Schroeder

During the previously scheduled hearing of the Ogden Records Review Board yesterday afternoon, assistant city attorney Mara Brown agreed to provide me with a copy of the city’s line-item budget, though only in hard-copy format and at a cost of 25 cents per page (approximately $168 total).

In a second hearing, the Board postponed a decision on whether to grant access to water use data and other utility customer information, which the city administration has refused to provide.  The Board will reconvene at 1:00 pm next Tuesday, February 26, to deliberate and reach a decision in that matter.

The city’s position regarding the line-item budget continues to baffle me, but in the interest of resolving that dispute I elected to accept the settlement offer. During the hearing Ms. Brown stated that even though it might be easier for the city to provide the 672-page document in electronic form, the administration is unwilling to do so. The reasons she gave for this position made so little sense that I hesitate to try to repeat them until I’ve listened to a recording of her words.

Of course, a hard copy of the line-item budget will be much harder to redistribute. Still, I intend to scan it and post a copy online. It should really be posted on the city’s own web site, right next to the official, much less detailed, budget document.

During the discussion of the line-item budget, Ms. Brown and Comptroller Laurie Johnson portrayed this document as something that few eyes have ever seen. They stated that even the city council staff are not provided with a copy of it, although the administration staff keep a copy at hand, for their personal reference, during the council’s budget meetings. It seems likely, therefore, that the unveiling of the line-item budget will be educational not just to the public but also to the city council itself. I expect to have it within a couple of weeks.

Ms. Brown offered no concessions, however, on the utility customer data. First she attempted to mischaracterize my request, claiming that I was asking not for the data itself but for a specific compiled report made from it, which does not exist. With considerable effort, I think I managed to clarify my request and convince the Board that the data itself is a genuine public record. But they seemed hesitant to require the city to extract the data from the database, believing either that GRAMA doesn’t require this (which is false) or that the extraction process would be too difficult (which is also false, as well as irrelevant).

I’ll provide an update after the Board reconvenes next Tuesday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ogden Parking Enforcement Officer Hassles an Ogden City Lumpencitizen

Sodden Question:  Are there any other Ogden Lumpenitizens who are having problems with our "roving and officious" Ogden City "Parking Enforcement Cops?"

 While we're busy discussing the topic of recent possible Ogden City official misbehavior, here's an eye-opening video brought to our attention by one of our online WCF pals:

We'll post this video without comment, except to ask:  "Are there any other Ogden Lumpenitizens who are having similar problems with our "roving and officious" Ogden City "Parking Enforcement Cops?"

Thanx in advance, folks.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Caldwell Administration Withholds Budget and Utility Records

Appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon

by Dan Schroeder

In a move reminiscent of the previous administration, Ogden city officials are refusing to grant access to two collections of city records: the city’s line-item budget, and the city’s data on water use by utility customers.

In both cases, the city’s principal rationale for denying access is that the records are stored in electronic databases.

I requested these records as part of my ongoing effort to understand the city’s budget in general, and utility operations in particular. Readers may recall that a year ago I immersed myself in the utility rate revision process. Among other things, I discovered that the city has been using the utility operations as cash cows, funneling several million dollars each year from the utility funds into the general fund. I also projected that the utility rate increases approved last May would bring in somewhat more revenue than needed to cover infrastructure upgrades and operating expenses.

But it was hard to be precise about these projections, because I had only incomplete data on current revenue and expenses. For example, it appeared that additional money was being funneled into the general fund for “services” that were never itemized. I also wanted to understand a mysterious payment of $111,300 made to Pineview Water in February 2012. Most importantly, I needed better data on the number and classification of city utility customers, and on how much water they typically use.

Over much of the last year I tried to get answers to these questions through informal channels. After repeated nagging, I did get some partial answers from Chief Administrative Office Mark Johnson, and later from Mayor Mike Caldwell. Eventually, however, both Johnson and Caldwell refused to answer any further questions. And so, reluctantly, I resorted to filing formal requests under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

In December I filed a request for all records documenting or justifying the payments for “services” mentioned above. In response, the city indicated that there were no records to document how the amounts of these payments (which now total about $1.8 million per year) were determined. However, the city did provide me with five pages excerpted from a lengthy line-item budget document, showing a line for each category of such payments.

Up until then, I had naively assumed that the “budget” consists of the document that the city council approves every June, which is posted for all to see on the city’s web site. But that document doesn’t have anywhere near as much detail as the five pages that I received in December. Delighted to learn that such a detailed line-item budget document exists, I filed a formal request for the whole document in early January. And much to my surprise, even though they had already given me five pages of the document, the city refused to give me the rest of it. Apparently the complete Ogden City line-item budget is a secret.

Meanwhile, because the 2012 calendar year had just ended, I filed a separate request for utility customer and water use data (with names and addresses removed) for the year 2012. I already had similar data files for 2010 and 2011, which had been compiled and provided to the consultants during last year’s water rate study. But those files don’t have enough information about the customers to calculate revenue precisely, and of course, a third year of data would provide more accurate and up-to-date statistics.

Knowing that it would require some effort to extract the utility data from the billing database, I offered to pay up to $100 for the staff time required. After two and a half weeks, however, the city recorder told me that the estimated cost would be $700, computed as three full days spent by a programmer who earns $32/hour. When I tried to ask why the process would be so complicated, the city changed its position and denied my request outright.

According to the official denial letters, the city’s denials are based on a provision of GRAMA saying that, in response to a request, the government is not required to “create a record” or to provide it “in a particular format.” Apparently, the city interprets this provision to mean that when records can’t be provided in the same format in which they are stored (e.g., cumbersome database files that are ordinarily accessed through proprietary software), they needn’t be provided at all.

This interpretation completely ignores other provisions of GRAMA that require the government to segregate private from public records upon request, and that prohibit the government from using “the physical form, electronic or otherwise, in which a record is stored to deny, or unreasonably hinder the rights of a person to inspect and receive a copy of a record.”

Ever since the first denial, on January 9, I’ve been trying to resolve these disputes through informal channels. I’ve asked to speak to the city employees who maintain the records, and received no response. I’ve gone to the newly appointed Utah GRAMA Ombudsman, and asked her to facilitate an informal discussion. After she tried for two weeks to set up a meeting, the city refused to participate.

I’ve therefore appealed both GRAMA denials to the city’s Records Review Board, which will hold a public hearing on the matters this Tuesday, February 19, at 3:30 pm, in the City Recorder’s conference room on the second floor of the Municipal Building. I look forward to finally discussing these matters with city officials face to face, and I am optimistic for a speedy and successful resolution.

For those who are interested in all the gory details, here is the complete hearing agenda packet, including my GRAMA requests, the city's denials, and my appeals.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: Swallow Must Go

An invitation to roll up your sleeves and actively engage in the political process, by affixing your electronic signatures to one or both of the petitions below 

For those readers breathlessly following the white-hot John Swallow attempted bribery scandal, here's the latest from the Salt Lake Tribune, another scathing editorial pulling no punches and demanding Swallow's immediate resignation. "The professional reputation and political capital of Attorney General John Swallow have been so severely damaged that it is hard to see how he can effectively carry out the duties of his office," sez the Trib editorial board... and that's just the tip of the editorial iceburg, so to speak. Read up, folks:
At least one Trib reader boils it all down nicely, wethinks:
Even if we give Swallow the benefit of the doubt that he did nothing illegal, he still was either incompetent or stupid enough to do things that looked bad. Simply put, a man in his position should have known better.  And, not knowing better shows a weakness and vulnerability we don't need in an AG.
And for those WCF readers who'd like to hasten the result which this morning's Trib editorial strongly urges, we submit for our readers' perusal not one, but two online petitions aimed at nudging Mr. Swallow into doing "the right thing," O Gentle Ones:
So once again, as we've done many times with many other issues in the past, we urge you all to roll up your sleeves and actively engage in the political process, by affixing your electronic signatures to one or both of the above petitions, folks.

It can't hurt and might help, as far as we're concerned. 

Looks like a "no-brainer" to us.

Fox 13 News: Mayors Urge Utah Lawmakers to Deal with Dirty Air

Hopefully Mayor Mike will keep the pressure on Governor Herbert and the Utah Legislature to get off their derrieres and do something about Utah's toxic air, which, sadly, is among the worst in the nation

Breathe much?
A hearty Weber County Tip O' the Hat to Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell for joining with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and going public with a plea to the state legislature to do something about our increasing Wasatch Front air pollution. According to Fox 13 News, "[on] Thursday, the mayors of Salt Lake City and Ogden unveiled a list of proposals to deal with Utah’s air quality, including more emphasis on people to drive less and use more mass transit. The mayors also pushed for legislative and regulatory actions to improve the air":

Here's Mayor Mike's comment on this issue, urging a bi-partison legislative and regulatory approach:
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the air quality is an issue that affects both Republicans and Democrats, and it’s bad for business.
“I’ve certainly heard from a lot of those businesses that have relocated in the outdoor industry and say, ‘Hey this is a real issue. It needs to be given serious attention,’ and that’s the business side,” Caldwell said. “But there’s the regular resident that wants to get around and they may have asthma and breathing problems or they just want to go out and exercise.”
As an added bonus, we embed below yesterday's full Fox News video story:

We'll also delightedly remark in passing that it's great to finally have a mayor in Ogden who's truly worthy of high praise, for the first mayoral term of office during the nearly eight years of Weber County Forum's web publishing existence. Granted, Caldwell's predecessor did set the performance bar at a dismally low level.

Hopefully Mayor Mike will keep the pressure on Governor Herbert and the Utah Legislature to get off their derrieres and do something about Utah's toxic air, which, sadly, is among the worst in the nation. As Mayor Mike sez, bad air is bad for business, especially when we're touting ourselves as an outdoor recreation mecca. Our supposedly business-oriented Utah elected officials should immediately write this down so they don't forget it, no?

Great job, Mayor Caldwell. We're proud of ya's.

Update 2/15/13 4:33 p.m.: More on this story from the Salt Lake Tribune:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ogden Shootout Suspect Matthew David Stewart Gets 2014 Trial Date

What a shame it is, we think, that so many lives have been forever altered, and that so many public resources have been (and continue to be) squandered, over sixteen stupid (and relatively harmless) marijuana plants 

Both the Standard-Examiner and the Salt Lake Tribune report on the latest development in the Matthew Stewart homicide case, with stories detailing events at yesterday's 2d District Court Status Conference:
According to both stories, the court heard oral arguments on the defense motion challenging Utah's death-penalty law, (which the court took under advisement); and as the headlines indicate, tentative trial dates have been set for April 16 through May 16 April 23 - May 23 of 2014 .

Additionally, Judge Hyde "set a May 22 status conference for this year, as well as a July 31 deadline this year for expected defense motions," along with a September 18 date "for likely oral arguments."

As for the prosecution's pending motion seeking a DNA sample from Stewart, Stewart's defense team "did not dispute the request during Wednesday’s hearing," so that motion will no doubt be granted by the court.

And the "wheels of justice" continue to grind ever so tediously, as the defendant Matthew Stewart continues to cool his heels in the Weber County Hoosegow.

What a shame it is, we think, that so many lives have been forever altered, and that so many public resources have been (and continue to be) squandered, over sixteen stupid (and relatively harmless) marijuana plants.

Update 2/14/13 10:51 a.m.: A couple of corrections from one of our sharp-eyed WCF readers: "Gurrister is wrong (like usual) on the trial date.. its April 23 - May 23."

We've made the appropriate date correction; and at least the Trib got it right.

The same reader further points out that "Gurrister  may also need reminding Matt didn't distribute, and is not charged with it."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: Swallow Suggested Cash in Exchange for Protection, Sources Say

Suffice it to say that Utah Lumpencitizens are keeping their fingers crossed that federal prosecutors will continue digging into this grubby can of worms with the utmost vigor
That’s straight-up pay to play; and I don’t see any way that a prosecutor could consider that to be a legal, legitimate transaction or discussion.
Former GOP Legislator and SLC Attorney David Irvine
Swallow suggested cash in exchange for protection, sources say
February 12, 2013
Just from a smell test, it’s something that a prosecutor is going to have to look long and hard at.
Former Federal Prosecutor Brett Parkinson
February 12, 2013

"Honest" John Swallow
There's more devastating news for beleaguered Utah Attorney General John Swallow, as the Salt Lake Tribune delivers the blockbuster news this morning that three 2009 Mark Shurtleff campaign contributors have stepped forward suggesting that the Utah attorney General's Office has been running what looks suspiciously like a protection racket.  Here's the lede from this morning's SL-Trib story:
Three Utah businessmen say John Swallow suggested they would have protection in the Attorney General’s Office if they were willing to contribute to Mark Shurtleff’s campaign fund.
The three men independently tell strikingly similar stories. In separate 2009 meetings, Swallow indicated that donors would get special consideration if the Attorney General’s Office ever had to pursue complaints against their businesses.
Read the whole mind-boggling story here, WCF readers:
"Two of the three have been interviewed by the FBI, which is investigating Swallow," Trib columnist Robert Gehrke also reports.

So just as the Deseret News reported yesterday, it becomes clear that the ongoing federal investigation has expanded beyond a mere attempted bribery probe to investigating misconduct more broadly resembling racketeering.

Adding insult to injury, these so-far anonymous allegations, if proven true, could also amount to a violation of  Utah Code Section 78-8-105, which prohibits "soliciting campaign funds with the promise of any official action," thus raising the additional question of whether Swallow's inherent conflict of interest, as both Utah's top prosecutor and a public official accused of this statutory violation, disqualifies him to continue serving as Utah Attorney General.

It thus appears that even former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff might quite possibly be drawn into Swallow's mess, which might explain why Shurtleff is now scrambling to distance himself from Mr. Swallow.  And this tidbit is also most interesting, wethinks:
In 2009, state Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, took his concerns to the U.S. attorney and met with federal agents to discuss his suspicion that Shurtleff was protecting big donors.
Suffice it to say that Utah Lumpencitizens are keeping their fingers crossed that federal prosecutors (and the Salt Lake Tribune) will continue digging into this grubby can of worms with the utmost vigor.

"That Sinking Feeling" Via Pat Bagley (Salt Lake Tribune)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: Mark Shurtleff Asked Feds to Investigate His Successor, John Swallow

Turns out that it was former Utah A.G. Mark Shurtleff himself who "dropped the dime" on John Swallow
Obviously, I’m very upset by it. I was upset enough to go down and talk to the U.S. attorney and the FBI on a couple of occasions. This is my friend, my chief deputy. Am I [feeling] somewhat guilty? Am I betraying him? But I felt that the proper authorities needed to know.
Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
Mark Shurtleff asked feds to investigate his successor, John Swallow
February 11, 2013

Fascinating new information  from the Salt Lake Tribune concerning the ongoing federal John Swallow Bribery probe, as the Salt Lake Tribune reveals that it was former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff himself who "dropped the dime" on his hand-picked successor, John Swallow:
"Right now, the concern is it casts a cloud not only over John and me, but over the whole office." "There are some good employees who do their jobs there and this reflects on them, too," sez Mark Shurtleff.

"With friends like Mark, who needs enemies," as the old saying goes.

"Et Tu Brute?" mutters John Swallow.

Update 2/12/13 1:00 p.m.:  The Deseret News is all over the story too:
Interesting new revelation from the D-News story:
Shurtleff said he understands that the federal investigation is now focusing more on campaign promises Swallow might have made in exchange for donations.
Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle Ones... 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Breaking: Wayne Ogden Guilty on 6 Fraud Charges

Looks like Wayne's gonna have plenty of time to quietly contemplate his next career move, no?

After spinning his wheels in Federal Court last week with this utterly boneheaded defense, The Standard reports that notorious ponzi schemer Wayne Ogden struck out "big time" in federal court this afternoon.  Here's the S-E lede:
A jury has found former Weber County swindler Wayne Ogden guilty on six federal charges.
The jury came back with their verdict at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Ogden was found guilty of one count of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud.
A sentencing hearing is set for 3:30 p.m.  June 19th where Ogden could be sentenced to serve up to 20 years per count of conviction.
Read the full writeup here:
Tough luck for an old dog who couldn't learn new tricks, we suppose.  With a potential consecutive 120-year sentence hanging over his head, looks like Wayne's gonna have plenty of time to quietly contemplate his next career move, no? Something tells us that Judge Waddoups won't let Ogden off the hook with simply writing a 500-word essay.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deseret News: Donations, Actions Raise More Questions About John Swallow's Judgment

While the D-News  hasn't yet joined the Tribune, Spectrum and Herald in asking for Swallow's resignation or removal, it appears they're logically edging pretty close to that posture, no?

After being hammered by the Salt Lake Tribune with near-daily expose'-style stories for a little over a month, our ethically-challenged Attorney General John Swallow now takes a broadside from what we'd expect to be his natural ally, the Deseret News, with a top-notch Dennis Romboy hard-copy edition story this morning, summarizing the litany of errors and missteps which raise questions about "whether he can survive in office," or whether he'll soon be indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office:
While the D-News  hasn't yet joined the Trib, Spectrum and Herald in demanding Swallow's resignation or removal, like the Standard-Examiner, it appears they're logically edging pretty close to that posture, no?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Bike Park in Ogden Gains Momentum

Ogden City's contribution to this proposed venture appears to be thus far limited to a measly thousand bucks

Chirpy story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, breathlessly announcing Ogden City's newest proposed high-adventure recreation attraction. Mitch Shaw's lead paragraphs provide the gist:
OGDEN — A plan to bring a new bike park to Ogden is quickly gaining speed.
With some help from Ogden city, a volunteer committee made up of local off-road bike enthusiasts will begin constructing a multidimensional bike park early this spring.
Shannon Nutley, an Ogden resident who has had a hand in the organization effort, said the park will be located in the foothills above Ogden, between 9th and 12th streets.
The park will feature three one-way trails, all varying in degree of difficulty.“There will be something for everyone,” Nutley said, “from the novice to the expert.”
Check out the interesting full article here:
Don't miss the additional conversation in the S-E comments section, folks, where Gentle Reader Dan S. inadvertantly provokes a "spirited" discussion with this legitimate-enough early a.m. remark:
This article is frustratingly vague about who is actually in charge of the bike park. The land is owned by Fife, and I think (?) the city has some sort of contract with them for use of the land. The article says no city general funds will be used, but the Facebook page for the 2/22 event   says the city will match all funds raised. And who's handling the money--the city or someone else?
There's plenty of enthusiasm from the promoters of this project, so it seems to us, judging from the SE comments generated to date. Whether the same will be true of the owners of residential properties abutting the foothills above Ogden (between 9th and 12th Streets) is still anybody's guess, of course.

And in the interest of throwing our own WCF contribution to this developing discussion, here's a link to a copy of the City's "interim" contract with Alpine Trails for the "design work," (miraculously obtained by Dan S. this morning via GRAMA request), which appears to indicate that Ogden City's contribution to this venture is thus far limited to a measly  thousand bucks.
Gotta say we don't yet know what to make of this project at this early juncture, although we'll definitely be keeping a close eye on it as the story develops.

The floor's open, O Gentle Ones, for anyone who'd like to throw in their own 2¢ here, of course.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: House Moves to Keep Fireworks Legal in Utah Cities That Banned Them

We’ll all sleep better knowing that our access to fireworks is finally being protected, no?

Thanks to the effort of one Republican State representative, folks, liberty-loving Utahns who cherish the God-given right to endanger their neighbors' homes and frighten the bejeebus outta their neighbors' pets with crude incendiary devices are one step closer to observing the slapping down of fireworks prohibitions imposed by their "local" governments.  The Salt Lake Tribune provides the gist:
Some pesky cities and towns have banned fireworks that the state law says are legal — so the Utah House advanced a bill Wednesday to stop that.
It voted 73-1 to pass HB289 and send it to the Senate.
Bill sponsor Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said when he asked some cities and towns why they banned fireworks that were made legal by the Legislature in recent years, "They said because it says fireworks may be discharged. It doesn’t say we have to allow it."
His bill would reword state law to make clear (with certain exceptions) that local jurisdictions cannot ban fireworks allowed by state law.
Get the full lowdown here:
As one Trib reader remarks, "I’ll sleep better knowing that access to my fireworks is finally being protected." It's a "Utah Freedom" thing, we guess.

Sodden queries posed by one reader under a companion D-News story on this topic:
  1. This is coming from the same legislature that screams bloody murder at big government interfering with Utah?
  2. What financial interests does Mr. Dunnigan have in the fireworks industry?  
Now that the legislature's back in session, it's nice to see that our legislators are keeping their priorities straight, no?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Ex-congressmen Tell WSU Students Voting, Public Service Keys to Making Democracy Work

Mystery Congressman... No NOT  Rob Bishop

By: OneWhoKnows2

Hay! Any former Bonneville High Alumni recognize their old American History teacher  who later went on to become a US Congressman, and it's not Rob Bishop?
I liked his class, howbout you?

More Bad Newz for Attorney General John Swallow

More bad newz for Attorney General John Swallow as the reality of his hopeless "defense" sinks in:
Sodden Challenge: Two minutes in an MMA ring with this weakling Swallow is all the lumpencitizens of Utah ask, LOL!

And what say you about all this, WCF Readers, LOL?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: GRAMA WATCH Keeps Light on Utah Legislature

A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to the Utah Media Coalition for their continuing efforts to keep our ultra-secretive Utah legislature firmly in check

Encouraging editorial in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, mirroring last year's editorial, and announcing that for a second year in a row, a coalition of  "[steely-eyed] newspaper editors, together with First Amendment attorneys and legislative lobbyists" (the Utah Media Coalition) will once again implement GRAMA WATCH, a formalized web-based project to "examine [and rate] bills coming out of the Utah Legislature for their effects on open government."  Read up folks:
A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to the Utah Media Coalition for their continuing efforts to keep our ultra-secretive Utah legislature firmly in check.

For our readers' convenience, by the way, we've also added the helpful GRAMA WATCH link to our government toolkit within in our WCF right sidebar.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Proposes Un-banning Banners in City Sign Ordinance

Fascinating story in yesterday's Standard-Examiner.  Fascinating we say, because it's possible that our long suffering Ogden Planning Commissission, upon the heralded departure of foamy-at-the mouth projects guy Mayor Matthew "Boss" Godfrey, and following the advent in the near-invisible Mayor Caldwell, may have, in its recent idleness, bitten off more than it can chew.  Here's the S-E article link, O Gentle Ones:
Here's the problem, people.  The existing sign ordinance provides a blanket ban on“a business sign made of fabric, vinyl, plastic, mylar or any nonrigid material.” Significantly though, it's apparent that this ordinance has never been enforced by Ogden City.

Now the planning commission wants to change the rules and make "fine [and flexible] distinctions" amidst and between the above-referenced "nonrigid signage," in the interest of who knows what?

 Sodden query, O Gentle Ones...  We hereby incorporate a photo of some of the currant and existing Ogden signage from yesterday's S-E piece:

Banned?  Or Unbanned in Ogden?

So what about it folks? Who'd like to comment about the Ogden City Planning Commission's view of Ogden City aesthetics?

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