Thursday, October 9, 2014
AWESOME – FANTASTIC – INSPIRINGSeptember 25TH City Council Meeting presented the opportunity for the City to place its best foot forward…..Finally, something Tangible and Positive to place before the Public other than…..Recent Character Descriptions of City Council members……Placing on the Backburner BEHAVIOR PRACTICES that detract from the Great Work of City Staff. (I am referring to the need to keep you informed on my take of the Character Traits of Council Members…..Most notably Councilman Almquist and his Sidekick, Councilman Hughes. It is not my intention to offend those having blood ties to Councilman Hughes who seem to make up a great portion of the population….I merely wish to honestly call them like I see them….Exercising my 1st Amendment Rights…..Which I believe and expect both individuals and the public at large support.)
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS IN FORM OF UPDATE
My friends this Council Workshop Meeting began with a tour of The Tonaquint Data Center. Appropriately referred to as, The Server Hotel for Data Service. A state of the art…..High Tech. Fiber Optic Tier 3 Facility located in our fair City. It started in 2007 and opened in 2008 providing Interlink & Fiber Optics to a reported 16 million clients. Kudos to Gaye, and his willingness to commit and invest in St. George.
AWESOME – FANTASTIC – INSPIRING…..I could think of no better words to describe the “All Abilities Park” and the St. George Resource Center now known as “Switch Point”. It is difficult to find words that adequately express how valued these two Social Service Projects are to the City and Washington County.
All Abilities Park was best described by Kent Perkins, Director of Leisure Services saying “Open to All, Regardless of Physical Impediments from Special Needs”. Still in development stage All Abilities is located adjacent to Tonaquint Cemetery, access off of Dixie Drive. Land has been acquired…..Towards the end of last year Interested Parties input was solicited seeking a Theme and Elements to be featured. #1 THEME received was DINOSAURS. #1 ELEMENT was a Train circulating around the Park with a Tunnel. Based on what Public was saying a JURASSIC THEME, sites with different elevations…..A new experience at each site with a different perspective providing an Educational Experience with Excitement. Imagine a Train on 2,700 feet of track, Water Features, a Bridge to carry patrons overhead. A VISION, that serves as “A Memorial for kids who may not be around very long”. Mr. Perkins summed it up connecting the human, charitable aspects “The whole idea is to provide a venue where ALL can come and PLAY TOGETHER” and much more. WOW!
SWITCH POINT closely supervised by Mayor and City Manager and under the immediate direction of Carol Hollowell who appears to me as Wonder Woman having an endless supply of energy and dedication to the service of others has made great strides in providing food, clothing and shelter for those in need. Long term goals educating, training and preparing one to be gainfully employed now and forever is becoming a reality. Carol reported receiving $232,000(Private Funds) $1,900.000(Federal Government) $6,800.000(State Utah) $82,000(Church of Jesus Christ of LDS) and approval of 4 out of 5 Grants submitted with more expected. Even City Mgr. Esplin joined in by bringing 4 young men to the facility as volunteers resulting in a Teaching Moment for them. Already City has experience benefits from this pilot program for the Nation and the Grand Opening has yet to take place sometime in October 2014. City Councilwoman Arial capped off the support and accomplishments by stating “I like the feeling This City has Class”. All Abilities Park makes a Huge Statement there is not a Park like it. She qualified her feelings based on travel and public service experience. I join Councilwoman Arial in her evaluation of our City.
Mayor Pike provided an update on Lions Rodeo Grounds and Elementary School. An optimistic view on the potential to satisfy the interest of all involved, State University, Washington County School District and City. The consensus is that it is doable. Work has yet to be done but in the spirit of cooperation a positive outlook appears on the horizon. Councilman Hughes joined in with what has become his moniker(Dog and Pony Show) on how all parties and interest cannot be satisfied and presented his deep rooted culture interest(Born and Bred here) in retaining the Rodeo at this site.(He knows where the votes are. Feels comfortable saying if you don’t like our decision you can vote us out at the next election). City Mgr. Esplin placed him under his wing saving him from further embarrassment.
This is my report. Thank you, Ed Baca
Monday, September 22, 2014
September 18, 2014 City Council Meeting began with what can be described as the Feel Good…..Opening Exercise which I call the Public Relations Segment. Before getting into the details of the hot button issue I must say I was most moved by The Boy Scout, Alex CUTLER, who led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America. His demeanor (Humble)…..His appearance (Clean and Wholesome)…..His genuine sincerity (Expressed Innocence)…..The act of Service this young man conveyed (Being a good example)…..Describes what he caused me to feel….. The heart felt love of country and what it stands for. Thank you.
The SERIOUS Business side of the Council Meeting…..was likened unto the voice of Thunder…..A call to consider approval of a resolution re-appointing Brad Young as the Administrative Law Judge.(Hear City Cases) In comparison to an Honorable Boy Scout…..The gall of the Mayor and City Attorney, to entertain and justify this Agenda Item…..Smelled of Chicago Politics. (City Attorney “Attorney’s like to pick their judge”.) Is that happening here?
This is not intended to reflect on Honorable Brad Young…..But on the Institution of City Government…..Where it appears that a number of key…..Elected and Appointed individuals have gone Past Feeling (Knowing Right from Wrong or Good from Evil) that they no longer Feel the Words (From a Still Small Voice)…..I am of course referring to the circumstances and conditions that led to a Class Action Law Suit filed against the City…..The disturbing, tainted image OUR CITY has come to be associated with…..As it is applied to Code Enforcement.
Tonight we heard Councilman Almquist say…..When considering re-appointing Brad Young….. “It is logical to do”(Who benefits?) We even heard the Mayor say…..When considering Young’s past history and involvement in City Code Enforcement “that’s why he is qualified to serve”. (Rather short sighted). NO MENTION of the Role Mr. Young played in the investigation of allegations of wrong doing by Councilman Almquist.
Absolutely No consideration given to RIGHTEOUS BEHAVIOR.
If it were not for Councilwoman Randall and Councilman Bowcutt having the courage to question the wisdom of re-appointment by seeking the answer to pertinent scenarios you would have thought the City’s value system had gone to Hell in a hand basket. (Both voted NO).
Mr. Almquist who has been named in allegations of wrong doing….. You’d have thought would have moved to recuse himself from voting on any motion bearing upon his past association with the Honorable Mr. Young and Code Enforcement. (Has he gone deaf?) Had he done so the Mayor would have had to cast deciding vote. Instead he voted Yes.
As to Councilman Hughes he appears to remain lost in the Field of Property Rights and therefore is unable to see the forest for the trees….. Appearing aimless in trying to understand and appreciate the need for Code Enforcement. He does however appear intent in representing his constituents and his personal interest and I was not surprised to see him vote with Councilman Almquist in favor of Young, who in all fairness judging from what was said is seeking for a way to terminate his service to the City. My hat is off to Mr. Young for his candor in writing his report on the allegation of wrong doing by Councilman Almquist. (Given enough time Jimmie may still find his way).
It was nice to see Councilwoman Arial return to the Council Chamber, who appeared to me to have returned in time to carry the water for Mayor Pike…..Content to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Councilwoman Arial put forth the motion to re-appoint Brad Young and voted with Almquist and Hughes. (What a disappointment).
As a side note it was interesting to see City Manager Esplin position himself on this issue by stating he was “Seeking Direction” from the City Council. Well he got it and look who he got it from. (Woe is me).
Councilperson Randall and Bowcutt should know I am grateful they are able to hear that Still Small Voice. I am also grateful to that young Boy Scout who proudly performed a service by being a good example to all of us.
Thank you, Ed Baca
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Council Meeting Ends With Motion to Move to a Closed Session: Public Barred from Hearing Property Issues & Potential Litigation Issues
City Council Meeting for September 11th CANCELLED…..Last week Council Meeting ended with a motion to move to a Closed Session……Again…..The Council supported City Manager Esplin’s call to BAR the PUBLIC from hearing Property and Potential Litigation Issues.
Whatever is going on behind closed doors the public appears destined not to ever know what City Government is doing on our behalf…..How are responsible citizens expected to hold our City Government accountable for their actions when we can’t even find out what they are doing or have done?
Perhaps that is the end objective…..Keep the citizens in the dark and they will continue to elect those responsible for taking care of us……based solely on the fact (Not all, but a great number of us react this way)…..That they are members of The Church and we can entrust our City/Honesty/Integrity to them…..Especially those that hold a position of trust…..And are themselves in a position to ask that very important question of others…..Are you honest in ALL of your dealings……When they themselves…..Repeatedly vote to Bar the Door and keep the Public Out by having an inordinate number of Closed Session Meetings…..And in effect avoid answering to the public? (Do their words match their Deeds?)
This begs the question…..Do City Council Members have to rubber stamp every request for a Closed Session?……Or are they at liberty to vote for Transparency? Have we as American Citizens become so complacent that we…..Without question go along with this Form of Representation?
Have we not been admonished not to do business with individuals solely on basis of Church membership…..Should we not apply sound business principles in determining the degree of trust we place in those elected to public service. Are they keeping their word on transparency when they operate in secrecy?
HOW many of you know the results of the lawsuit filed against the City by a construction company building the New Airport? Our former mayor claimed that the lawsuit was unfounded and that taxpayers would not be paying any money to the construction company based on this lawsuit. How was this lawsuit settled? Did the construction company received $100,000 or more in the form of a payment settlement? If so where did the money come from and who approved settlement? (By their fruits they shall be known).
If the public is to be denied presence during the discussion/notification of a litigation issue…..Is it not right to notify the public of the Disposition of a lawsuit so that those elected can be held accountable……Admonished or Given Credit for a job well done?
A class action lawsuit filed against the City remains in the hands of the court. Are we to be denied hearing the disposition of this lawsuit as well? Is it not time to lift the veil of secrecy by putting transparency into practice?
I believe all members of present City Council have publicly supported and committed to Transparency……Yet not one has ever opposed a motion for a closed session nor has one stood before the public and reported on the final settlement of a lawsuit. To be enlightened by the spirit of the truth would be a most welcome experience…..Would it not? Especially if it was to come from a City Council that led the public to believe it supported transparency. Sadly it appears….. Those elected to lead appear resigned to act as rubber stamp….. To continue the practice of secrecy as called upon by the City Manager to do. What do they have to hide? Is it not right that he public at least be informed of the disposition of such matters?
If this not be so……Where is the transparency promised…..Where is the Ordinance/Code Enforcement Reform? Where are the Citizen Boards and Commissions promised? Are promises made to voters not to be kept?
It is time to reign in and reform the autocratic form of City Government we are currently experiencing. Operating in Darkness and Secrecy/Closed Door Session…..Is not conducive to maintaining a free society.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Council Meeting of September 4th cast a beam of light…..illuminating those in attendance and city government. Excessive pride in individual accomplishments may be seen to be unseemly and unattractive…..but when it reveals the true character of a community…..one has to pause and say…..this is good, and I am proud to be a small part of it.
And so it was at this council meeting…..The mayor assumed his role as head cheerleader and was happily joined by those present…..and hopefully by those watching on television……Nothing to be ashamed of…..or embarrassed about, just plain and simple pride when hearing the pledge of allegiance and opening prayer…..and today when hearing the beautiful singing of a Barbershop Quartet extolling the virtues of community pride.
Proclamations were read which featured the upbeat side…..The Lions Club and its 80th Roundup which has helped to provide a quarter of a million dollars to needy organizations. When you attend the upcoming Rodeo you are sure to feel the hard reality that the Rodeo began in 1934….. by the concrete seating arrangement…..but this discomfort will be made to go away by the Patriotic Atmosphere you are sure to enjoy…..We Can All Take Pride In Living In This Great Country. American Pride can be felt and enjoyed when you attend the Lions Rodeo. God Bless America!
On the more sobering side of Proclamations was acknowledgement of Suicides……The State of Utah leads the nation in this unwanted distinction and you may be startled to know that in the last 7 years……suicides doubled. Utah ranks 5th in Youth Suicides….. Ages 10 to 17. The City stepped forward on this issue proclaiming “Suicide Prevention Week”. (Sept. 7 thru 13th) . Imagine…..39,000 Suicides reported last year. Suicide is everyone’s business.
The City also acknowledged “Recovery Day Celebration” for those suffering from addiction by granting a fee waiver for use of Town Square for the Southwest Utah’s Recovery Day Celebration.
My friends, we as a community may not be perfect but it is heart- warming to know that that we, as a people do not give up…..We continue to exercise hope and care for those in need. Kudos to those who practice kindness as they go about their daily lives…..Helping to identify St. George as…. City with a heart.
On the Business Side of the agenda:
The Council was asked for approval of a final plat for Jiffy Lube at River Road. I thought this to be most revealing of the Character of Individuals alluded to earlier. This being the third consecutive meeting that Council Woman Ariel was declared absent….. Gave greater attention to Councilman Almquist as he had the presence of mind to recuse himself from voting…..stating he contracted to install landscaping for Jiffy Lube site. Councilman Almquist walked away from the remaining 3 Council Persons…..I thought this the honorable thing to do. What was interesting was the comment made by Councilwoman Randall who seeing Councilman Almquist walk off stage said something to the effect…..This Puts The Pressure On, Doesn’t It?.....This gave birth to the title of this article and caused me to focus on the Character of our Council.
For you see, I recall that Councilwoman Randall and Arial had voted NOT to approve the permit to build Jiffy Lube on the initial vote. So when I heard Councilwoman Randall say, “Hey its Built” and then proceeded to vote with Hughes and Bowcutt to approve the final plat…..I chose to believe that Councilwoman Randall acted on her belief that it was in the best interest of the City and not merely an act of support (Payback) to Councilman Almquist….. Who had endorsed Randall as a candidate for City Council…..I recall a representative of Jiffy Lube saying before the original building permit was issued that the company had spent $450,000 just acquiring the property. I chose to believe that Councilwoman Randall took the High Ground in displaying her true character……and voted to do what she believed was the right thing. I hope she did the right thing for the right reason.
It is fair to state that Jiffy Lube Landscaping exceeded expectations for a commercial business of this type. It is pleasing to the eye and blends well with the Virgin River.
Thank you, Ed Baca
Thursday, September 4, 2014
The week of August 25th proved to be interesting for reporting on City Council Activity as it turned out to be….. A report on the Questionable Inactivity of the Council…..Dating back to 1993 when Utah State Ordinance was presented to ALL Cities ……Most notably St. George.
I am referring to State of Utah Chapter 13.12……Intended to provide for the administration of a continuing program of backflow prevention which will systematically and effectively prevent the contamination or pollution of all drinking water systems. (Ord. 2-9-93 s 1.1,1993) Who was mayor and on City Council at time ordinance was put into effect?..... What action is our current City Council taking to protect drinking water?
13.12.010 Purpose of Chapter.
A. To protect the safe drinking water supply of the city from the possibility of contamination or pollution by requiring compliance with state and local plumbing codes, health regulations, OSHA and other applicable industry standards for water system safety within the internal distribution system(s) or private water system(s). Compliance with these minimum safety codes will be considered reasonable vigilance for prevention of contaminants or pollutants which could backflow into the public drinking water systems:
313.12.020 Definitions. “Approved backflow assembly” means accepted by the Utah Department of Health Bureau of Drinking Water/Sanitation and the city water department as meeting an applicable specification or as suitable for the proposed use.
13.12.030 Role of City Outlined.
A. The city shall be responsible for the protection of its drinking water distribution system from foreseeable conditions leading to the possible contamination or pollution of the drinking water system due to the backflow of contaminants or pollutants into the drinking water supply.
B. Drinking water systems surveys/inspections of the consumer’s water distribution system(s) shall be conducted or caused to be conducted by individuals representing the city. Survey records shall indicate compliance with the aforementioned health and safety standards. Such records will be reasonably maintained by the city.
My friends, I am now raising this issue as part of continuing effort to get the current City Council to pay attention to the need for Code Enforcement Reform and Review of all Ordinances…… Why now?.....Because while engaged in an effort to stay young and healthy I had occasion to be on an exercise bike at Summit Heath Club when I was contacted by a fellow member (Another Senior Citizen) who asked for my take on the letter issued by the City Water Services. (I have since been in contact with other citizens who have received similar letters). The letter dated August 13, 2014….. read in part…..The Utah Division of Drinking Water Cross Connection Control Program requires Backflow Assemblies to be tested annually. Tests are to be done by a State Certified Backflow Technician.
City of St. George will not accept failed or illegible test reports. If an assembly fails the test, please have the necessary repairs made. Upon completion, request the Technician send a copy of the Report to the St. George Water Department by October 12, 2014.
This begs the question……How many of you are familiar with this very important issue pertaining to Health and Safety? HOW many of you know if your property is equipped with the Required Backflow? MORE IMPORTANTLY does the CITY know which homes are in compliance with the 1993 State Ordinance? The individuals I have spoken to reside in homes built within the last two to four years. HOW ABOUT the thousands of other homes…..Especially those ten years or older? WHAT action has the City taken since 1993 to comply with State Regulations? WHAT are the penalties if ANY for non-compliance?
State of Utah Ordinance 13.12.080 Violation-----Discontinuance of service.
If violations of this chapter exist or if there has not been any corrective action taken by the consumer within ten days of written notification of deficiencies noted within the survey, the public water purveyor Shall deny or immediately discontinue service to the premises by providing a physical break in the service line until the customer has corrected the condition(s) in conformance with the state and city statues relating to plumbing, safe drinking water supplies and the regulations adopted pursuant thereto. (Ord. 2-9-93 s 3.2, 1993) (Does City Piece Meal Approach Really Satisfy State Requirements?)
So my friends what are we to expect from the City on implementation of oversight responsibilities. Do we have reason to be concerned about Code Enforcement Reform? Perhaps we can gain a better understanding from Certificate of Occupancy requirements and the time frame for implementation of inspection sign off requirements as it relates to Water and Backflow…..What are the financial implications for new and past home buyers?.....Who gains from vague and ambiguous city policy?
Included in the City information letter was a list of 15 Certified Backflow Technician Companies…. Transparency permits public to know….. That Almquist Testing…..Jill Almquist/Gil Almquist are listed as one of the 15 companies. ( Councilman Gil Almquist may have the opportunity to declare a conflict of interest when voting on pertinent issues.
Disclaimer Included…..City of St. George does not endorse nor recommend any Backflow Technicians or Company. This list has been provided for your convenience only. Check with all companies for information regarding pricing.
City Council should know that “Pass the Buck” means passing responsibility to someone else. More is expected from the City on this very important issue. City can run but it can’t hide need for Ordinance and Code Enforcement Reform.
Thank you. Ed Baca
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
August 21 Council Meeting was unusual in that the Mayor and two Council Members were absent. Mayor Pro-tem Almquist informed us that the Mayor was off welcoming his daughter home from her mission. The importance of Family was duly noted on this special occasion for the Pike family.
Having the opportunity to speak to the Mayor earlier in the week I was impressed with the pride the Mayor had for his daughter’s missionary accomplishments while serving in the State of Louisiana. The Mayor was visibly proud of his family and it was gratifying to see that he set family as a priority. The mayor is to speak with his daughter this coming Sunday before Church members.
Council members Arial and Hughes were reported off on assignment on matters not identified. We look forward to hearing the nature and details of their service on behalf of the city.
Today, presented with the absence of half of our elected officials…..And a light Meeting Calendar…..Following on the heels of a week of non-reporting to YOU…..I would like to play catch up by refreshing your memories…..And do so by playing off of the Family Theme I started this article with. Let us agree that we have a City Family of which we are all a part of and that there are spin offs……Relatives if you will…..City Council Family, City Employee Family, All Denomination Church Family, Stake Family, Ward Family et cetera. As Families do…..They set around the dinner table and discuss mutual concerns and issues. In our City Family the discussions take place in Council Meetings, or in Public Newspapers…..Or perhaps Public Television…..You get the idea. In any event, discussion should be conducted in a civil non-threatening manner. We respect 1st Amendment Rights…..Honoring Freedom of Speech and expression of opinions.
I have been given the opportunity to express my evaluation on the performance of City Government and Elected Officials by the Publisher of the Senior Sampler. I receive no compensation nor am I obligated to express opinions other than my own based on my observations.
While my understanding of issues and opinions may not be universally shared by everyone within the City Family I have to date felt no forms of censorship. Sure, I get the expected peer pressure from various sources within the community, but I also get the thanks from many of my fellow citizens for discussing issues they feel need to be publicly addressed.
The issues I bring forth for discussion are done without malice towards any individual……Seeking only to enlighten and inform the public and seeking redress of grievances thought to be in the public interest.
My friends, I want you to know that it has been brought to my attention that an individual holding public office has on two occasions contacted the publisher of the Senior Sampler expressing dissatisfaction with the contents of my articles seeking to influence the printing of said articles.
It is my understanding that this individual has been invited to present written testimony on issues of concern to the publisher of the Senior Sampler for public printing. To this date the invitation has gone unanswered. I remain committed to civil and non-threatening discourse for myself and those representing the public press.
Thank you, Ed Baca
Monday, August 11, 2014
August 7th City Council Meeting REVEALED what City has been doing behind closed doors at what is called an Executive Meeting….. Now referred to as a Request For Closed Session……Prohibiting Public Presence. For those not familiar with City practice……Any time Civil Litigation or the Purchase or Sale of property is to be discussed…..The City routinely bars the public from being present by declaring a need for an Executive Session as State Law permits.
As a point of interest this prevents COMPETING BUSINESSES from being present and being privy to what is going on within the local market place. To better illustrate the point and to give a sense of how big an advantage this may be to someone….. Someone with Inside Information will have the opportunity to build a personal relationship with a prospective client and be prepared to address clients concerns…..Using Councilman Almquist as an example and discounting the time he spent as Chairman of the Planning Commission…..An advisory board appointed by the Mayor and City Council his sphere of influence is immense.
Please take note…..Councilman Almquist may make a motion to move to a closed session and he gets to vote for a Closed Session….. Knowing that he can be present and privy to information that his competitors cannot access. Councilman Almquist may also vote to approve or not approve an applicant’s request for a building permit….. Commercial Building Permits usually dictate Landscape Requirements that are usually provided by a local Landscape Business…..Councilman Almquist Owns and Operates a Landscape Business…..A reasonable and prudent person may conclude that an applicant, seeking approval would know who is empowered to approve the request for a building permit and be in a position to influence the outcome.
This may explain the recent phone call I received inquiring if I was aware that Councilman Almquist’s Landscape Business was putting in the Landscape at the recently approved Jiffy Lube adjacent to the Virgin River…..The caller believed Councilman Almquist had cast the deciding vote in a 3-2 Council Decision approving the building of the Jiffy Lube. The perception of a conflict of interest is what it is…..A perception. Only the public can decide if Perception Equals Reality in public’s mind.
In order to clarify the issue I responded to the Jiffy Lube construction site and was greeted by the Project Manager of Westbrook Construction Co. I was asked the reason for my presence and I explained that I wished to confirm if Councilman Almquist’s Landscape Business was indeed providing the Landscape Services for the Jiffy Lube Project. It was confirmed that once the building permit had been approved and issued businesses were asked to submit their bids and Councilman Almquist’s Landscape Business submitted the low bid and was awarded the job. I opined that Councilman Almquist was in the Landscape Business and perfectly within his rights to bid the job.
The Sale of City Property: The City Council approved the sale of 4.176 acres of City Property (Lots 1 & 3 of the Confluence Commercial Center – Phase 1) adjacent to the Dixie Center for $12.00 /sq.feet. City Manager, Esplin reported that the City would receive $2,182,572,00 and that Two Hotels would be built on the site. The first hotel will consist of 130 rooms and the second hotel would have 95 rooms. The money received is earmarked to complete the remodeling of the Electric Theater – Performing Arts facility owned by the City located on Tabernacle just east of Main Street.
A Little History of Property In Question: Several years ago the City acquired approximately 93 acres of land adjacent to the Dixie Center. 16 acres were purchased at a cost of 2.5 million dollars and the remaining acres were donated to the City. The Crosby family received what is believed to be a one million charitable gift tax write-off for the donated property. The land located in the Flood Way I am told cannot be built on. The land considered to be on the Flood Plain can be built on if raised above the required level from the Flood Way. Crosby Park now sits on a portion of this land and is located just south of the Dixie Center for the enjoyment of citizens and compliments the City’s Trail System. The City is destined to benefit financially from its role as a Developer as may the business interest of those elected to serve.
Thank you, Ed Baca