Wednesday, March 08, 2006

3/7/06 Ogden Council Meeting Notes

By Dian Woodhouse

This was a Good city council meeting. Missed the first part of it,
arriving at the end of the awarding of arts grants. Raymond Van Mason
was speaking when I came in. In case you don’t know Ray, he is the
founder of Imagine Ballet Theatre, a ballet company which currently
resides in the Egyptian theatre, I like this company--it functions in
a truly professional setting and the dancers, although young, exhibit a
technique and professionalism I have previously found breathtaking. I
was therefore glad to see that IBT received some funding. Van Mason
thanked the Council for the funds, and made one request---that
something be done about the streetlights on Washington. The IBT
dancers sometimes have to leave the theatre very late, and evidently it
is quite dark downtown lately and this is very unsafe.

When public comment began, some members of SmartGrowth Ogden spoke.
Mary Hall began, stating that many rumors have been heard about private
meetings between the mayor and council members and the possible sale of
Mount Ogden Golf Course and park to Chris Peterson for an upscale
housing development. Hall urged the council to make this process a
public process. She spoke of previously made neighborhood plans, and
emphasized that the Mount Ogden neighborhood was one of only two
neighborhoods in Ogden that did not have a finished plan, and urged
that that plan be finished and made public. Speaking eloquently and
always prefacing her requests to the council with the word “please,”
she advocated: presenting the gondola/resort plans to the public,
completing the Mount Ogden neighborhood plan, performing a feasibility
study regarding the resort and gondola, and taking all of this to the
public for input.

Sharon Beech then spoke on the streetlight issue. She too had been
downtown when the lighting was nonexistent, and she and her husband had
almost hit a pedestrian because he was so hard to see. She too
requested that Ogden’s downtown lighting be looked into.

The next SG member to speak was Sandy Crosland. She began by saying
that many rumors are abounding regarding the golf course being sold for
high-end development, and that there were two groups that would be
affected by this development--the neighborhood and the community.
Crosland asked, “Are we really going to sell the Mount Ogden golf
course to fund(?) an urban tram?” She voiced concern about a remark
she had heard from a city official, which was, “You just float an idea
out, over and over, and it becomes a fact accomplished.” Crosland also
urged getting everything out in the open and making it public.

Mikel Vause then spoke, first thanking the Council and the city for the
work they had made possible on Ogden’s trails and pathways. He then
stated that he had attended the Weber Chamber of Commerce dinner and
had seen the promotional DVD the mayor appears in touting the hub
concept, and said that the gondola, etc., were being presented as if
they were “a done deal.” Vause went on to say that he saw nothing
wrong with Ogden being a ski hub, in fact, it was the perfect place for
one, but, “I don’t want to see businesses come to Ogden under false
pretenses,” and said that there was an ethics problem with that.

Matthew Mossbarger spoke next, and the subject of his remarks was that
city ownership and intervention in the private sector limited
opportunity. Therefore, Mossbarger said, the premise that Ogden City
Government was for growth and development was in his opinion a false
one. In fact, RDA projects stifled capitalism, limiting or entirely
stopping growth instead of encouraging it. “We have everything we
need,” Mossbarger said. “The only thing we don’t have is a city
government that will remove itself from the process and provide
infrastructure and realistic transportation. We don’t need gimmicks
and gondolas to attract tourists. Everything is here already except
for one thing...opportunity.” Mossbarger ended by asking the city to
examine these projects that: limit opportunity, that provide service
to only a small segment of the society, that are closed bids, and that
increase government and place it in competition with the private

Then---the council and John Patterson responded. Patterson began by
stating that there had been problems with the lighting on Washington
and that he would look into it. Councilman Glasmann stated that this
is the second or third time this downtown lighting issue has been
brought up, and also stated that he would like to look at these
neighborhood plans Mary Hall had mentioned in her presentation.

Councilman Safsten then spoke, stating that he felt he needed to defend
RDA projects, that they did have a place and that he did not view them
as stifling capitalism. He stated that he appreciated the comments
from SmartGrowth, and agreed that there was a need to begin publicly
discussing these things that are currently in the realm of rumor,
referring to the golf course, gondola, development, etc. “Many trees
will give their lives...much oxygen will be consumed,” Safsten said,
emphasizing what a tremendous task this was. He made it clear that
neither the Council nor the RDA had received any proposals about them.
“We cannot legislate based on rumor,” Safsten said.

Councilwoman Wicks asked John Patterson when plans would be made
available to the Council/RDA, and the response was that work was
ongoing on them, and that if all went according to plan, it would
sometime toward the beginning or middle of April.”

Councilman Stephens then spoke, stating that he was supportive of
citizen involvement in all these things.

Councilwoman Wicks stated that the process “needs to be an open and
transparent process.”

Chairman Garcia stated that the council needed to be “very careful of
what we do. I am a firm believer in public process.” He then also
went on the record stating that he was disappointed in the decision to
not continue pre-budget work sessions.

Councilwoman Jeske then said that she wanted all proposals to be public
and stated: “I will not be a part of the closed door process.”

Jeske then produced some newspapers that had been sent to her by the
delegation from Hof, Ogden’s sister city, which had attended the
Winterfest this year at which Scott Sneddon was honored. The Hof local
paper had an article about this, which cited “bratwurst, beer, and good
music,” mentioned Amy Wicks and Jesse Garcia greeting the delegation,
and then mentioned an incident that was first thought to be a fire
drill until the Ogden City Fire Department showed up and put out the
fire. (Whatever and wherever it was. I do not recall this making Our
local news.) Herr Hoermann had written a thank you note to the Council
that spoke of leaving Ogden with gifts “that made our suitcases heavy
and our hearts full of joy.”

So there you have it. I was somewhat elated at this meeting, because
there was an actual exchange between members of the Council and of the
public that was consistently courteous on the part of both sides and
enabled them to have their positions made part of the record in a
respectful manner. This is the way that this is supposed to work.
Like I said, good meeting.

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