Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Relative Calm in the Emerald City Council Chambers

Notes on Ogden City Council Meeting Tuesday 3 April 2007

By Curmudgeon

Following the usual opening rituals [flat salute, moment of silence, approval of minutes, etc.], the Council proceeded to Mayor Godfrey’s reading of an joint proclamation declaring April “Fair Housing Month.” Mayor Godfrey began by recognizing Mr. Dwight Peterson of HUD, and several of Ogden’s staff involved in the city’s Fair Housing initiative. He then presented a citation to Mr. Peterson. Following that, Mr. Peterson introduced a representative from HUD’s regional office in Denver [Ms. E. Meninger] , here to give Ogden an “Exceptional Leadership Award” to Ogden City for its fine work on fair housing over a long time, and particularly for developing its own fair housing initiative. She congratulated Ogden for the high quality of its reports and grant proposals, particularly Karen Thurber and those who worked with her, and noted that Ogden was one of only two cities to receive a particular grant in the region this last grant period. Apparently, Congratulatory remarks from Council members followed, and applause. The joint Proclamation signed by the Mayor and Council Chairman Garcia was then approved by the Council without objection.

Next, Ms. Jo Packham gave the report of the Christmas Village committee and asked that the ordinance regarding the committee and Christmas Village be renewed without change. Christmas Village begin in 1962 with 12 cottages. In 2006 it had 48, and Ms. Packham said the goal is to have 100. The target for next Christmas is to see that every cottage has animated displays, some movement within, and to increase the size and number of static displays visible from the surrounding streets. She thank the council and particularly Mayor Godfrey for their efforts in reviving and growing Ogden’s Christmas Village. She discussed the Village as a business generator and mentioned, briefly, plans in a year or two to bring in one big name act per weekend, in hopes that people would travel to Ogden for a weekend, to see the show, take in the village, etc. The Council unanimously approved extending the Christmas Village Ordinance.

By unanimous consent, the Council set a public hearing on 17 April for the City Capital Improvements plan, set a public hearing on 15 May regarding vacating city ownership of a portion of Jackson Avenue, and approved reappointing 11 members of the Christmas Village Committee and appointing three new members to it: Bryce Draper, Janet Southwick and Nikki Lovell.

The Council then accepted the recommendation of the Planning Commission, presented by Mr. Montgomery, to ignore its previous recommendation [which was to change zoning on a property on 24th Street from Central Business District [commercial] to residential. The Council voted 6-1 [Mr. Stephens dissenting] not to change the zoning on the property.

Then the Council moved on to the always [of late] public comments portion of the meeting. Six people spoke.

1) Mr. Chip Anderson, recently from Maui, rose to tell the Council what a beautiful place Ogden is, and how excited he is about “all the things happening here.” He’s renovating two homes in Ogden, and he wanted the Council to know that “I support the mayor and his vision for the city,” and that he’s very excited about the River Project, the Junction “and also the gondola” which he thinks “will be a wonderful thing for the community.”

(2) Mr. Mitch Moyes rose to urge the council that “we need to move forward with the streetcar project, “ and in particular need to get started on the “next step,” an “alternatives analysis” [basically a preliminary environmental impact statement] regardless of what happens with the gondola proposal. The initial feasibility study was done two years ago. The alternatives analysis will cost 350 to 400 thousand dollars, but UTA is willing to help. He urges the Council and Administration to work together to find 150 to 200K in the fY 2007-8 budget so “we can proceed with the next step that has to happen.” Said the Federal “small starts” program will pay as much as 80% of construction costs [up to $75 million] for trolley projects, but we can’t even begin the process of applying without starting the alternatives analysis first.

(3) Ms. Tamara Anderson, wife of Mr. Chip Anderson [speaker No. 1] rose to explain that she was honored to be able to address the Council tonight, that people asked her constantly “why Ogden?” Said it’s a spectacularly beautiful place, with people who she has found extraordinarily kind an generous.. Thanked the Council for creating a positive affirmative attitude in Ogden and assured the Council of her commitment to help make Ogden “a place people want to come to.”

(4) Ms. Virginia Hernandez Reza rose to congratulate the Ogden Fair Housing people. Said she was at the last meeting, with others, from the Marshall White Committee, and they had not gotten to speak. She was here tonight to speak for herself and on behalf of all those at the earlier meeting who had not gotten to speak. Thanked the Mayor for allowing her to serve on the Marshall White Committee. People on the committee had businesses in Ogden, professions or were students. And are “all your constituents” and she said again she wished to speak for them since they had not gotten to speak the previous week.

(5) Mr. Rulon Yorgason then read to the Council a letter by one Dave Smith that had appeared in the Standard Examiner earlier. The letter attacked Mayor Godfrey’s administration of the city, an in particular his plan to sell Mt. Ogden Golf Course to Mr. Peterson. “Tyrant’” excesses, the letter said, often lead communities to “economic collapse.” It complained that money squandered on ill-advised schemes could better have been used to repair Ogden’s “collapsing infrastructure” and said Mayor Godfrey reminded him [the letter writer] of “every dictator of the 20th Century.” Then Mr. Yorgason went on, asking on his own behalf “what is going on at DaVinci Academy,” adding that he’d been there just the other day, there were no students in sight, only “two black SUVs out front,” and he wanted to know from the Mayor what was going on with DaVinci. [At this point, Chairman Garcia informed Mr. Yorgason that there were no students at DaVinci this week because they were on Spring Break.]

(6) Mr. John Lune said he’d complained to the Council weeks ago about dangerous unrepaired potholes on Monroe Blvd, and had been told repairs would happen when the asphalt plant opened for the season. It opened three weeks ago and the holes were still there. “Why are they not filled!” He repeated the question several times, and asked if the city would be liable for repairs and/or medical bills resulting from the unrepaired potholes.

There being no more citizen commentary, the Mayor explained that emergency repairs [like street dig ups caused by water main ruptures] got priority, but that his aide had just contacted by phone Mr. Louder and been told the potholes on Monroe had been fixed. [Laughter from Mr. Lune.] The Mayor told Mr. Lune to get him or his staff the specific locations “and they will be taken care of..”

Then Chairman Garcia asked for Council Comments. Mr. Stephenson led off congratulating the city’s fair housing staff, noting that HUD had given its award to the city’s leadership, but it was the staff and housing activists who the leadership relied on to get things done and who deserved the greatest thanks. He then addressed Mr. Yorgason’s comments, noting “Boy, um... I couldn’t disagree more.” Stephenson said he believes the economic development of Ogden is of critical importance. That there was no money available that could have been used for infrastructure repair, that the growth of the city and business projects are what will generate the revenues that will make infrastructure repair possible. He said the Council and Administration are working now on plans to deal with infrastructure problems. That the downtown area “had been dead” for a long time, but was now showing signs of growing interest and development. Being “proactive” was making something happen downtown at last and being proactive was a better alternative than “doing nothing.” Ogden now has “a vibrancy we haven’t had for a very long time.” It’s unfortunate, he said, that “some whose neighborhoods appear to be in good condition can overlook having a dead area downtown.” Fortunately, Ogden no longer faces that.

Mr. Stephens began his remarks by congratulating Standard Examiner City Hall reporter Scott Schwebke on his recent award, and then immediately criticising the SE for publishing yesterday’s front page story about divisions between the Council and the Mayor. He said the Council and the Administration have been working on improving communications for a long time, and he did not like it that the article gave the impression of a “line in the sand” having been drawn between the Council and the Mayor. He thought the article was “detrimental” for Ogden and he criticized the SE for running it. He also listed matters he thought of great importance [preserving open space, public education, public safety and law enforcement, drug problems] that he believed the Council and Administration must cooperate on in order to find solutions.

Ms. Wicks echoed Mr. Stephenson’s praises for the Fair Housing people in Ogden. Councilwoman Jeske concurred [and mentioned a pot hole she thought needed fixing]. Mr. Safsten was not happy about references to “shadow government” and “crony deals” in the letter Mr. Yorgason read. Finally, Chairman Garcia addressed Mrs. Reza’s repeated references to Marshall White committee people not having had a chance to speak at last week’s meeting. He noted that at that meeting, he had read out the same call for public comment that he read out tonight, and no one had stepped forward. So the Marshall White contingent had had an opportunity to speak last week, they had just not availed themselves of it.

The Council then adjourned to retire to a work session regarding a pending revision to the sensitive area overlay ordinance.

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