Wednesday, March 29, 2006

“We Are Happy There.”

City Council Notes, 29th March, ‘06

By Dian Woodhouse

This had to be one of the more interesting City Council meetings I have ever attended, almost to the point of information overload. One thing that really became apparent during this was how the agenda order makes for a disjointedness in the proceedings that, in my opinion, has a muddying effect. We have discussed this before on this forum.

For instance, the main issue was the Marshall White Center. The presentation was given, and the council asked questions. The vote was run, and the advisory board was extended for the next three years. Then the agenda went on to other business.

After all other business was concluded, the public spoke on the Marshall White Center issue. During this, some members of the public asked questions. These were not immediately answered, as this was the public comment portion.

After the public comment portion, the council made some comments, and then the mayor, and the questions ultimately were answered, although there was much in between the asking of them and the response.

I personally, since I write about these things, would prefer to deal with one issue at a time, and in that portion of what I write, put everything having to do with the issue. This I think is more clear. However, it would not be representative of the meeting. I am therefore going to present it the way it happened, but would like to hear everyone’s views on this.

The meeting began with us being led in the Pledge of Allegiance by a boy scout, one of three attending from Troop R4 who were working on their Citizenship in the Nation badge. They were warmly welcomed by Chairman Garcia, and invited to stay for as long or as short of a time as they wished.

Then came the ceremonial part of the meeting, in which a joint proclamation was issued deeming April Prevent Child Abuse month. Amy Wicks read the proclamation, stating that the issue was very near to her heart, since she has worked in that field since 1998, and a plaque of the proclamation was presented to two representatives from Prevent Child Abuse Utah, Anne Freimuth and Karen Coleman.

This meeting was very well attended, with the majority being individuals interested in the future of the Marshall White Center. The issue on the table was that all advisory committees come up for council review every three years, and the term of the current Marshall White Advisory committee was expiring on the 31st, and therefore the council’s duty was to determine whether or not to renew it. The goals
of the center were presented as follows:

Create opportunities for low income residents
Enable these residents to advocate for themselves
Promote respect for all people
Development of more playground equipment
Keep and renew the amenities the center now has.

It was emphasized that that with these goals, fewer funds will be needed. However, in the presentation made by the Marshall White Center, some very interesting things transpired.

There are talks going on regarding a possible acquisition of the Marshall White Center by the Salvation Army, whereby the Salvation Army would take over the Marshall White Center and Ogden City would take over the property of the Salvation Army on Washington Boulevard. The advisory committee had met with a representative of the Salvation Army to discuss the Salvation Army’s proposal, which included:

The Salvation Army would operate and expand the center. A performing arts center was discussed, as was the need for more space. The proposal was currently in draft form, and the Salvation Army representative wished to get the reactions of the advisory board to the whole idea.

The advisory board was left, it was said, with more questions than answers and one particularly deep concern. This was that one of the entities that partnered with the Marshall White Center would no longer be able to participate in it because their charter did not allow them to partner with faith based organizations, which the Salvation Army is. (Later, in public comments, this entity was revealed to be the Boys and Girls Clubs See what I mean about the disjointedness of this order?)
Furthermore, the Salvation Army representative gave an example of what would happen during this partnership, which was recounted as follows:

If a child were on the playground, and were upset, or withdrawn, or distant, or crying, or anything of that nature, the Program Director under the leadership of the Salvation Army would be expected to go get the child, counsel him, and ask if he wished the Program Director to pray with him.

This was of deep concern to the advisory board, which believes proselytizing of any kind to be contrary to their stated goal of respect for all people.

Other concerns, some of which came to the board from the community, were that it was said that the state of the Salvation Army’s property was currently not in the best condition, and there was a concern that the Center would not be kept up well. Also, there was concern about the possible proselytizing that might go on. In looking at the situation, the advisory board perceived that there were “more deal breakers than deal makers” in the proposal, and because of the gravity of the situation, the board did not feel that it alone should make the decision without community input. The Salvation Army representative was therefore asked to give his proposal, when it was complete, to the community at large instead of just to the board. The presentation
ended with a request to the Ogden City Council to please support such a community forum.

The council then asked questions. Doug Stephens mentioned that he had seen that there were several vacant positions at the Center, and asked if there were plans to fill them. The response was that names of people to fill those vacancies had been submitted to Mayor Godfrey for approval, but there had been no response as of yet.

Rick Safsten wanted to know the difference between the Happy Hour senior program at the center and the program offered by the Golden Hours center. The response was that the programs were pretty much identical. Those who attended the Marshall White Center had transportation problems, however, and the center was therefore more
accessible to them than the Golden Hours one is. Furthermore, and this is a crucial difference, the Marshall White Center has a pool where Seniors can participate in water aerobics classes.

Amy Wicks asked if the Marshall White center was the only place where Seniors could participate in exercise programs of that nature without having to buy a membership, and the response was yes.

Dorrene Jeske remarked that she knew of an individual who had orders from a doctor to attend such classes to prevent further deterioration of health.

Bill Glasmann spoke of his previous involvement with the Center, characterizing it as “very much in my heart,”and made a motion to extend the advisory board with the caveat, if allowed, that a public process would be undergone regarding the Salvation Army issue.

Chairman Garcia stated that the inclusion of such a caveat in the motion was not possible, and the motion was then stated to be solely to extend the term of the advisory board. It passed unanimously. There was applause. Chairman Garcia admonished the crowd not to applaud.

Doug Stephens then interjected here that he had noticed that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Advisory Board had terms of only one year, and suggested that they be extended to two years.

The agenda then moved to correction of minutes. When this was accomplished, a public hearing was set for May 2nd, 2006, concerning, (and this is from the agenda:)

“21st Street Vacation. Resolution #2006-7 approving the vacation of a portion of 21st Street between Harrison Boulevard and Van Buren Avenue, quitclaiming the property within the vacated portion of said street to the abutting property owners as their interest may appear subject to the reservation of a public utility easement over and under said portion of such street.” (Odd use of the word “vacation” here--had to read it two or three times. Perhaps vacating would have been better.)

Then Chief Greiner spoke to the next issue, a “request to appropriate Custodial property for public use.” It seems that when the Ogden City Police Department acquires stolen property and cannot locate its owners, it places the more enticing items in vehicles parked around the city, waits for car thieves, and then arrests them. Uses the property as bait, in other words. (I will not list the property in question here in the interest of deterring crime.) Chief Greiner gave the statistics that 6,000 people a year are arrested for one thing or another in Ogden City. Of these, 4,500 are adults, and 1.500 are juveniles. Chief Greiner was then authorized to use the property in question as crime bait.

Then came public comments:

Highly in favor of the Marshall White Center. Stated that 40 to 50 people attend the water exercise classes three times a week, and that this was not only physical exercise, but a social and emotional enhancement to the lives of these members.

Question as to how the Salvation Army expects to expand when Head Start is in the building. Statement that the Boys and Girls Clubs cannot be under a religious group. Requests that the Center be notified of any meetings held by local government concerning itself.

Commendation of Marshall White presentation by Mrs. Keeling, with special mention made of the video portion and upbeat music. Statement that it was wonderful to see all those in attendance, and wish for the day when all in Ogden could watch meetings on Channel 17. Spoke in favor of maintaining the center, especially during April, Child Abuse Prevention month.

Statement of being “deeply concerned and upset.” Question: “Is this really a done deal? It is said that the Mayor contacted the Salvation Army--is this true?

Question regarding the statement that the center is “under used.” What constitutes under use, and what numbers would be satisfactory for adequate use. Note that not too many more people can fit in the pool as it is.

Rep. Neil Hansen spoke in favor of the center. He stated that decisions in government always had to be made in terms of cost-effectiveness and related issues, but to him, the bottom line was the question, “What is this government for?” His answer to this was that it was for the people, and for the betterment of the community. Our area, he said, was the most diverse in the whole state, including 29 different nationalities. Providing services, to him, is more important than the
cost. He ended with a reminder that most of the Council had supported the Marshall White Center during their campaigns, and a hope that they would honor their campaign pledges.

Statement from member of the center that she is no longer confined to bed with chronic pain because of attending the classes at the center. Stated that there is a petition to keep the center open with 2,700 names on it.

Statement from member of the center who has spoken to many community members and reports that Ogden High School students attend the center regularly and would have no other place to go. Mentioned an individual who needs the physical exercises, but is unable to do them out of the water. Mentioned a 98 year old woman who attends the center for social interaction. Said that all the participants are happy in the center, that the children are smiling when they go in and smiling when they leave. “We are happy there,” she said.

Statement from member of the public----I am concerned about the priorities in this city. There is no money for this, but there is money for trips to Italy. Why aren’t we spending the money on human beings? We don’t have any money for this, but we have money for a lobbyist. Please do your job and represent the citizens of Ogden and our tax dollars which I consider sacred.

Statement from member of public that museum pieces from the Union Station have been destroyed for scrap. Question to Mayor Godfrey---Do you want the Union Station to be a museum, or do you want it to be a strip mall?

Response from Mayor Godfrey that the Chair does not wish him to answer questions at this time.

Statement from member of the public that during the evening of the Shupe Williams fire, entrance was effected to the building, a fact that we had not heard before. Purpose of entrance was to disable pesky alarm that kept going off. No search of the building was made, and the person wished these things to be a matter of public record.

Statement by member of public regarding the fact that the insurance claim for the Shupe Williams Building greatly exceeded the selling price of the building. Reading of an e-mail sent to the city council inquiring about this.

Mayor Godfrey then spoke, mentioning that he had noted that those present went from concerns of the acquisition of the Marshall White Center by the Salvation Army to resistance against shutting it down. He saw familiar faces from the last time the issue of shutting it down was raised. He stated that “We would not close the center
down....There is no proposal to shut down the Marshall White Center. I want to make that perfectly clear.”

In answer to the question---Is this with the Salvation Army a done deal, Mayor Godfrey stated no, it was not. There is no contract, nothing in writing.

In answer to the question as to who called whom regarding the Salvation Army’s proposal, Mayor Godfrey stated that the Salvation Army had approached him.

Mayor Godfrey stated that it was good to hear the concerns of those present, although he did not hear anything he hadn’t heard before. He stated that he likes to hear from people and know what their thoughts are.

He mentioned two instances in which city funded organizations have been privatized---the Union Station and the Pioneer Days Parade, and stated that these are now much better than they were before. “It behooves us to listen to people in the community,” he said.

In answer to the question as to whether he wanted the Union Station to be a museum or a strip mall, he answered that he wanted it to be a wonderful museum.

Doug Stephens then read the article from the March 28th edition of the Standard Examiner concerning the Lift Ogden meeting tonight. He stated that he was concerned that this was discussion of public land in a private meeting. It must be understood that Peterson owns that property and can talk to whomever he likes, but we need wise use of our trails and natural resources. We need a win/win, not a win/lose. We
need to inform the citizens of Ogden, and not just a select group of people.

Bill Glasmann stated that city government as a moral responsibility to provide community services. He too is concerned about the faith based aspect of Salvation Army involvement, and stated that the Council and Administration need to focus on people and public process.

John Patterson then spoke about the Salvation Army proposal, stating that the Marshall White Center was “underutilized.” Stated that it could have more programs there, (this was evidently what was meant by the term “underutilized,” not particularly not enough people, but not enough programs.) He stated that in doing some internet research, Boys and Girls Clubs, especially in the South, were affiliated with the Salvation Army, and wondered about this “lack of desire” for such affiliation on the part of ours here.

Brandon Stephenson then stated that he was in favor of community services.

Rich Safsten then spoke about the gondola issue, and asked that people “balance the issues.” He explained this as meaning that those against the gondola should also take into account the lack of money in the city, the low tax base, and the need for capital improvements. Whereas those for the gondola should also take into account the beauty of our trails and mountains, our green space, and our vistas that would be destroyed by this project.

Chairman Garcia affirmed this approach.

Dorrene Jeske then affirmed the need for the local government to notify the Marshall White Center of meetings concerning it, and asked also that the Council be as well.

So there you have it. There was more on some of these issues, but as you can see, this is already extensive.

Questions, comments, and corrections, if necessary, are more than welcome.

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