Wednesday, January 20, 2016
JOURNEY TO CITY HALL
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, TO INSIDE LOOKING OUT
THE VIEW MAY HAVE CHANGED BUT VALUES REMAIN STEADFAST
As many of you know my journey to city hall has taken a dozen years to complete. I’d like to share with you some of my initial experiences since being elected. It is my hope that over the course of the next four years you will journey with me as I share my view from inside City Hall. After all without YOU and your support it would not have been possible to successfully reach the steps of city hall.
As many of you know, I ran on a platform that included TRANSPARENCY as an integral part of city government. Upon being elected the view began to gradually change with the stark realization that following the fanfare and kind words of congratulations it was time to prepare to serve. Two months remained before the official oath of office was to take place. A time to gather and organize materials, tools necessary to serve. This was made easier when the City of St. George hosted a Training Session on December 10th for those newly elected from throughout the county. This included city staff, in a position to oversee and be part of Public Meetings. Prominent attorney (David Church) enlightened those present on the provisions of Utah Code Annotated title 52, chapter 4, relating to open and public meetings. As expected this included a discussion of regulations governing Closed Meetings.
Folks, as mentioned I had committed to the citizens of St. George that I would do all I could within the law to bring forth greater transparency within city government. The scheduling of this training session was unexpected and unsolicited. I could not help but think The Lord works in mysterious ways as Mr. Church covered the topic of Deliberations and Decisions. I took note that a Closed Meeting as described under section 52-4-204 may only be held for: (1) (c) Strategy sessions to discuss pending or reasonable litigation; (e) Strategy sessions to discuss the sale of real property, including any form of a water rights or water shares, if: (i) Public discussion of the transaction would: (A) disclose the appraisal or estimated value of the property under consideration; or (B) prevent the public body from completing the transaction on the best possible terms. The scheduling of this training session prior to the new council taking the oath of office was, I believe, intended to show the level of importance given to understanding and complying with the rule of law as it relates to Public Meetings and the application of Closed Sessions. (Only a small portion of statute has been listed to give public a glimpse of restrictions placed on city government.)
On January 4th as prescribed by law the Oath of Office was administered by City Recorder Christine Fernandez. “I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR THAT I WILL SUPPORT, OBEY AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, AND THAT I WILL DISCHARGE THE DUTIES OF MY OFFICE WITH FIDELITY.”
THE CHALLENGE IS TO ACT WITHIN STATE AND LOCAL STATUTES THAT REGULATE CONDUCT OF ELECTED OFFICIALS AS THEY GO ABOUT DOING THE PUBLICS BUSINESS.
IT WILL REQUIRE DISCIPLINE TO ACT WITHIN STATED GUIDELINES AND YET SATISFY THE PUBLICS RIGHT TO KNOW.
On January 7, 2016 the newly elected council was called to order by Mayor Pike to begin the first City Council Meeting of the year. Immediately following the Flag Salute and Invocation, Mayor Pike announced his intention to issue a Proclamation……A new event starting this year. Memorial’s for Departed Love One’s. To be known as “Annual Remembrance Ceremonies”. Nina Heck came forward and articulated the reasons and justifications for submitting a request for the proclamation. The mayor proceeded to read The Proclamation. Upon completion the council approved a motion to approve the mayor to sign said proclamation. Comments were made reflecting the value of remembering the departed and those who provide service during the last days. Ms. Heck expressed her appreciation and in doing so mentioned that the first year ceremonies would be held at Hughes Mortuary. This prompted a comment by the Mayor as to a conflict of interest bringing to mind that this was Councilman Hughes Mortuary Business. To which Ms. Heck acted to dismiss and dispel any thoughts of conflict of interest by informing one and all that this being the first event arrangements had been made with Hughes Mortuary to host the first event. It was clearly announced that a rotation list would be established with other mortuaries to host future yearly events. Venues other than mortuaries are to be entertained. This put to rest any thoughts of conflict of interest. In the interest of full disclosure Nina Heck is an Independent Contractor providing service as Oh My Heck Marketing and is well known for community service and volunteer work.
My friends, serving as your new city councilman I look forward to meeting with you and listening to your issues of concern. As time permits and with approval of the Senior Sampler I will submit articles that you may find of interest in an effort to keep you well informed. Mayor Pike has acted to provide office space at City Hall that is now available for you to come and meet with members of the city council. Initially I will be available each Thursday between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. Please call City Hall Phone 627-4007 to schedule appointment. Thank you. ED BACA
Sunday, November 29, 2015
“THE LIBERTIES OF A PEOPLE NEVER WERE, NOR EVER WILL BE, SECURED, WHEN THE TRANSACTIONS OF THEIR RULERS MAY BE CONCEALED FROM THEM.” PATRICK HENRY
The sentiments expressed by patriot, Patrick Henry have been and will continue to be the guiding light throughout my tenure on the St. George City Council. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and humbly recognize the gift of trust and acceptance expressed by my fellow citizens. I am grateful to my parents for having instilled in me the recognition of what it means to be part of the American Family here in St. George and give thanks to my Heavenly Father for this blessing.
There are of course many who over the years supported and encouraged me to continue in my endeavor to educate and inform the public of the workings taking place in city and county government. One person in particular was a veteran of the undeclared Korean War. His name was F. Garry Bedingfield who served in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1963.
Garry and I crossed paths twelve years ago when we were both candidates for city council and soon learned that we shared similar values especially as it pertained to transparency in government. We decided to join forces to meet our mutually shared objective to inform and educate the public. It seemed an uphill battle that could only be won by successfully working together. Each of us exercised our Agency differently, and only on two occasions did we discuss religion. We respected each other’s differing positions and in doing so learned that our common values overcame our religious convictions. In doing so we became good friends and remained so until Garry’s death on January 3, 2008.
I believe public service in a free society allows for airing of differing points of view on many topics. I anticipate issues concerning City Golf Courses, Adequate resources for Police and Fire, Water and Power availability, Roads and Highways, Securing Open Space, Air quality, and yes even the rebuilding or relocating of the Sun Bowl will surface. Sure, misunderstandings and criticism are to be expected from friends and neighbors for none of us are perfect in all that we do. The important thing is to engage and constructively contribute to the general good and wellbeing of our country and our city. I have come to realize that decisions made for the benefit of St. George residents also impact the quality of life in neighboring cities, i.e. Recreational Matters and the growing demand for Public Transportation. Fiduciary responsibilities cannot and should not be forgotten or neglected. They are an integral part of the decision making process either as a source of revenue or the expenditure of public funds. There is a lot of work to be done and we can and will reach our objectives by putting our shoulders to the wheel and acting responsibly. It can be done. We can do it.
I wish to express my gratitude to all of you who came out and voted and encourage those who were unable to vote for whatever reason, to make every effort to do so in the future. My greatest thank you and expression of gratitude is directed to my wife, Karen, who over the past 55 years has been an active missionary, and continues to be my personal missionary as I remain a work in progress striving to improve my life in this temporal world. I will be eternally grateful for her undying loyalty in keeping her covenants. Thank you all and Merry Christmas! ED Baca
Sunday, November 15, 2015
A PROFOUND AND HUMBLE THANK YOU
IMAGINE….. The excitement felt by an old man such as myself to finally hear the magic words uttered by Melanie Abplanalp, the deputy election clerk for Washington County , as she uttered the words naming the top three vote getters in the St. George City municipal elections.
To be included with the prestigious leaders of the Great City of St. George made this old man’s knees buckle and brought tears to my eyes. Just imagine the thoughts going through my head having been given the opportunity to sit at the same table with a young and upcoming mortician like Jimmie Hughes. Well, I honestly must say I saw a twinkle in Jimmie’s eyes as he looked across the table at this old man……soon to be the oldest member of the city council. But alas, not to worry…..I found comfort in the knowledge that my burial arrangements are to be concluded with Metcalf Mortuary and therefore Jimmie’s expectations of my demise will bear no fruit for him as he plies his trade. After all is said and done, our methodology as it pertains to public service is sure to be noted by the public we serve. I am sure that the exuberance of Jimmie’s status as the most senior member of the council and Mayor Pro tem will include a polite and mutual respect for our differing points of view on how we are to deliver public service.
Tonight’s meeting passed quickly as the Election Results were recapped, approval of an addendum with Bud Mahas for the All Abilities Park. Approval of the Land & Water Conservation Grand for Millcreek Park passed, by a unanimous vote. The council then voted to move into a closed session to discuss a Property Item and possible sale thereof. Unexpectedly I was invited to remain by Mr. Esplin. Due consideration having been given to Election Results, this was considered appropriate and in keeping with established precedence. Prior to ANY discussion taking place Councilman Hughes wished to be satisfied that I understood that the contents of the discussion was not for public consumption. City Manager Esplin clarified that items heard prior to and following a closed session could be discussed and made public. The meeting proceeded and unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss contents. The meeting having been concluded I moved to depart.
Councilwoman Betty Arial, the other successful candidate asked me to join her and Councilwoman Randall for a discussion of issues in which they wished to voice their concerns. Folks, quite honestly I was feeling a chill from the cold shoulder I received from council members Almquist, Bowcutt and Hughes. Therefore my immediate reaction was a sense of relief. I had not been extended a friendly welcome or congratulations from my fellow Christian brothers or sisters from any council member. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not want to sound like I am crying in my beer but I did expect a civil and courteous if not respectful recognition. However, I did receive a warm handshake from Mayor Pike and I felt a warm sense of recognition from Gary Esplin, City Manager. What followed was anything but a warm welcome or anything resembling an act of acceptance or friendship. Both ladies expressed their concerns about past articles I had written and that were printed in the Senior Sampler. Following a brief discussion I sensed that Councilwoman Randall was genuinely interested in having a forthright discussion of issues and was willing to put misunderstandings behind us and move forward in a positive way. I thank her for that. I was impressed with her sincerity and feel that we can work well together to better serve the citizens of St. George.
Councilwoman Ariel however was of a different mindset having felt empowered to speak on behalf of other council members. She proceeded to rebuke and criticize the wording I used in describing my observations of other council members in past articles placed in the Senior Sampler. Councilwoman Ariel indicated that she did not wish to be present in meetings where she would have to be concerned with what she said or how she acted that might be put in print. Clearly Councilwoman Ariel was attempting to dissuade me from writing articles for the Senior Sampler. I felt this was very poor timing and unseemly. Frankly I was insulted that on this momentous night an attempt to censor me would be made. As I sat and listened to the censorship Councilwoman Ariel was attempting to impose upon me, my mind flashed to the wording in a Primary Song. “If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do”? If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say”? Admittedly I do not possess the intellect of Councilwoman Ariel nor do I profess to be accepted or part of the social class in which Councilwoman Ariel resides among high level politicians and the Art World. I am, a simple man given to expressing myself at a blue collar level. Ironically, knowing that Councilwoman Ariel is employed by U.S. Senator Mike Lee, who is identified as an expert in Constitution Law and a strong advocate of the Constitution of the United States that clearly spells out in the First Amendment…..Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; “OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS.” How in a clear conscience can Councilwoman Ariel seek to deny me the freedom to write articles and place them in the Senior Sampler for public scrutiny? Councilwoman Ariel surely must know that censorship in any form flies in the face of an open and free society.
Is it any wonder our country is in the mess it is in when you have an elected official feeling empowered to censor the words used by another or attempting to influence and deny publication in a free press. My friends, I can only say that this old dog will not roll over for my peers and be denied the rights and privileges extended to every American. My first loyalty is to citizens of St. George and I will not surrender my freedom to speak on their behalf so that I might be accepted and praised by them. I have but one Master and I plan to use my Agency as He leads me to do. You should know that upon conclusion of our exchange we parted company as friends with slight and distant hug. There are no hard feelings on my part. We merely have a difference of opinion and I hope the public will find it refreshing to know that all those serving the public do not feel compelled to walk in locked step and that freedom of expression is alive and well. If we allow and condone censorship of what takes place in Public Meetings, where will it end? I fear for our Republic and what will happen if we fail to stand up and protect our liberties as outlined in the Constitution of the United States. ED BACA
Friday, October 23, 2015
HOW I SEE IT – 3
BIGGER ISSUES THAT NEED FIXING
The manner in which the St. George Municipal Election is shaping up, it appears to me, that the smart money has concluded the two incumbents have their re-election locked up. Perhaps this is as it should be. Only the voters can make that final determination. This being the case, only the third person is really at issue. Assuming this to be true one has to consider, what issue is to be used by the political powers that be, to enhance the image of the individual they feel will fill the bill for the third and final spot, mesh nicely with their way of thinking and doing things.
It now appears this issue may very well be The BLM Resource Management Plan. Most all of us connect this with the Northern Corridor and Turtle Reserve, located within the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas. Comments have been made by the Mayor and other prominent people that this BLM Plan appears to be a Land Grab by outsiders and not in the best interest of the community. They may be right but this certainly makes the BLM out as the Bad Guy and the way the Federal Government has been acting concerning western land it is understandable.
Whatever the case may be it has certainly diverted public attention from many other important and meaningful issues that Municipal Government should be paying closer attention to and attempting to resolve.
The City Council Work Meeting held today, October 22nd turned out to be most illuminating by the presence of Brian Tritle, Field Manager of BLM’s St. George Field Office. It was arranged for Mr. Tritle to be present by none other than the City Manager, who explained that it would be beneficial to the city. Underscored was the importance for having improved communication and interaction between City Hall and BLM on what is developing into a catastrophic situation, striking fear into the heart of those concerned with future development. It was learned that meetings dating back 20 years in which the City Manager had participated and thought to have produced an understanding that a NORTHERN CORRIDOR was virtually assured turns out to NOT to be the case today.
My fellow citizens this OPEN Public Meeting has made it possible for me to inform you that the previously thought to be, done deal on the Northern Corridor could NOT be verified with written documentation. As of this writing public records or minutes could not be produced to establish the validity that such an arrangement had been made. Rather frightening to learn at this late stage that the BLM may very well be able to select anyone of four alternatives only one of which may include the building of a Northern Corridor. Mr. Tritle informed the council that BLM was required to obtain approval from the Fish and Wildlife Department on the selection of anyone of the proposed alternatives. It appears the Northern Corridor is up for grabs and this will require full disclosure and documentation of how public interest is represented.
Please remember to VOTE on November 3rd. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Edmond Burke. Vote for ED BACA to be your Eyes, Ears and VOICE on the City Council. VOTE on November 3rd.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
HOW I SEE IT - 2
Bigger Issues That Need Fixing
The citizens of St. George know that we live in a desert and that we need a steady and reliable source of water to survive and grow. This is as true today as it was when the city was established. When you look closely at our great city and surroundings you can’t but feel good knowing that our founding fathers and those that followed have done a pretty good job. It’s why we choose to live here and why people continue join us.
City Government works in concert with County Government on such matters as The St. George BLM Plan with the County taking the lead role to insure our interests are identified and protected. Currently the County Attorney is acting to represent our concerns and I believe doing an excellent job of coordinating an appropriate response to the BLM Plan. I wish to publicly thank my wife, Karen, for staying up past midnight preparing a written outline of issues we care about and forwarding them to BLM in support of the County Attorney.
It seems to me that each time new candidates for city council gather with incumbents to run for office we all join as in a choir and sing out the most important item facing us is Growth and Water. OK, I get it and I believe the voters get the point. Sure the BLM Plan is sure to impact Growth, Water and Highways/Roads. Yes, St. George City contributes to this process. It is a work in progress and has been since the city was established and will be as long as we occupy this beautiful part of the world.
I believe that members of the city council have to dedicate their time and energy to address the everyday issues that we all confront and that impact our quality of life each and every day. That we are able to breath clean air, drive on roads that are safe and well maintained, look out to see the skyline and white clouds, open the faucet and get clean drinkable water, turn on the switch and enjoy lights and air conditioning, and be able to call the Police and Fire Department when we need help and protection.
The Council Meeting held on October 15th resulted in the approval of a conditional use permit to construct a 4 Story, 58 Foot High apartment complex to be located at the bottom of Foremaster and Riverside Drive. This means a greater number of people and cars in the same area the council recently approved a large commercial development and other high rise apartments. Folks, you tell me. How does this impact protection of skylines and views of open space? How about air quality and traffic gridlock problems?
Thank Goodness IHC had the good sense to not build a 7 Story hospital building and instead opted to build two, or more smaller buildings, that will not have a negative impact on the clouds and skylines we now enjoy.
When do we get to hear the thought process and exchange of ideas between council members so that we have a better understanding of what they value? Wouldn’t it be nice to know how a council member felt about protecting the Virgin River prior to their approval of a commercial development at the water’s edge?
What needs fixing is our ability to hear and understand the reasoning process our council members go through. We need to know more than what schools they attended and where they were born. Please remember to vote on November 3rd and Vote For ED BACA.
Monday, October 12, 2015
HOW I SEE IT
Bigger Issues That Need Fixing
City of St. George is blessed with a vibrant growing economy that brings with it an ever increasing population. Challenges and opportunities are ever present in a developing city such as ours.
I believed we are challenged to live within our means requiring our Council Form of City Government to exercise judgment that reflects on current issues and demands. Soon to come before the city council is the decision to permit consumption of Wine in city buildings to enhance the presentation of Art, inside The Electric Theater and perhaps other venues.
I believe issues of greater importance like, Public Safety and a Supportive Infrastructure should head the list of priorities that are deserving of greater council attention. Our City is our home requiring that the necessities of life be satisfied. Like any home the status of the family is impacted by the arrival of friends and guests who have come to visit. In the City’s case we receive visitors that at times may be as many as 30 to 40 thousand during the peak time of the tourist season and those seeking recreational activities and the enjoyment of the Arts.
Organized events intended to accommodate our guests has and continues to place increased demands on Police – Fire – and Leisure Services Department. The added costs can no longer be carried within the annual budget of each department thus requiring budgetary adjustments. We are arriving at a time when sales tax revenues are not able to keep up with financing items on our NEEDS List….. This is sure to have a negative impact upon our ability to provide for our Police, Fire, and Roads and Highways. We are in effect like an army that has outrun our supply lines. This has been made evident by the vote of council members to seek immediate financial relief by the issuance of bonds to provide immediate relief for the Arts and Recreational WANTS LIST.
Bonds for Infrastructure…..Roads and Highways appear to be following the same path set for Arts and Recreation.
I have been prompted by Elder David A. Bednar’s General Conference Address earlier this month to humbly suggest that voters consider that our political needs share a similarity with our spiritual needs in that it is indeed wonderful to have older men of maturity and judgment serving in leadership positions.
In doing so please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, I ask for your continued support. Vote ED BACA on November 3rd. Thank you.
Monday, June 1, 2015
WANTED WORTHY CITIZENSCONTACT: SG CITY RECORDER, Christina Fernandez
JUNE 1ST THRU JUNE 8TH FILING DATES FOR CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATESCITY HALL 175 East 200 North, St. George, Utah – PHONE 627-4000
May 28th City Council Meeting was Highlighted with a discussion on the 2015 – 2016 fiscal budget. This was to conclude presentations by each Department Head in which a Public Presentation of the goals and objectives of their respective department are made…..In effect justification of expenditures in this budget year. I must say that each and every department did an admirable job of doing so…..Save the City Attorney’s Office which had been saved for last. I can honestly tell you that in all the years of monitoring and reporting on County and Municipal Government …..I have almost always walked away from meetings impressed with the job performance of Department Heads….Especially given budget constraints and limitations.Folks, in my many years of public service I have had the opportunity to observe and work with numerous government agencies…..And I can categorically state that SG City Employees stand at the top of the job performance list…..Including and not to be overlooked is our City Attorney, Shawn Guzman. In my professional career I have worked with and interacted with countless lawyers…..And none have I found more deserving of admiration and respect than Mr. Guzman…..Whom I believe (For a long period of time) has and is now working with limited resources…..Especially when considering the rapid and at times uncontrolled growth rate of the city. I have come to recognize Mr. Guzman as…..A really good man and an excellent City Attorney.
As I mentioned the Legal Services Department was to be heard last in discussing budget needs this night. When it came time for Mr. Guzman to make his Public Presentation I could not help but to take note of his facial expression in which I detected a genuine concern for what he was about to say. Mr. Guzman stated…..I find it necessary to request a “Closed Session” to present the Legal Services Department Budget. Litigation Issues exist, that have an impact on what may be said concerning Legal Services budget needs. In recognition of what I considered an unusual declaration by Mr. Guzman…..The mayor called for a motion to move to a Closed Session and the Council immediately and without discussion voted to close the public meeting and shut the door of transparency.
Folks, as we approach the filing period for those who may wish to throw their hat in the ring and run for City Council I feel it is important to considered how easy and routine it has become for our elected officials to vote for a Closed Session…..The ever increasing number of Litigation Issues confronting the city…..That may or may not reflect on the performance of Elected Officials…..Action in which the Public is systematically excluded from knowing what is taking place is troubling. It’s kind of what is going on in our national politics. We elect U.S. Senators and Members of Congress who promise to carry out the public’s wishes and when they get to Washington they conveniently turn their backs to the public. At the local level City Council candidates promise Transparency and when they get in office they tend to forget about transparency and systematically and without discussion routinely vote for a “Closed Session”…..Even, when it involves fiscal budget discussion.I know, there is, a time and a place for everything…..Just like when it’s appropriate to have a Council Person declare a conflict of interest. Having declared a conflict of interest the Council Person may still take part in the discussion and even vote on the issue……But it sure is nice and informative for the public to know, what is taking place…..Absent the appearance that those in authority may be hiding what they are doing. It makes it possible to evaluate job performance does it not? I have to take my hat off to Councilman Hughes, who when representing the city before the County Commission Hearing…..Held to discussing curbside recycling, allegedly declared a conflict of interest when it came time for him to give input that ultimately helped to decide who was to be given the contract to pick up the trash. Reportedly the Councilman’s brother got the contract but isn’t it nice to know Jimmy was straight forward about it?
At this meeting Mayor Pike reported “I don’t know what is going to happen concerning City Curbside Recycling”. The cost may be $3.82. The, opt out plan which is what we will do. We need to know what we are doing….take extra steps or what? Administrative costs….50 cents? The Curbside Recycling will probably not be acted on till possibly September. Folks, this will be right in the middle of elections for City Council Seats…..3 of them. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that transparency is alive and well when SG City Council votes on who is to be awarded curbside recycling contract? As a point of interest the Municipal Primary Election is to take place August 11th and the General Election will be on November 3rd.FOLKS, I wish to thank the Senior Sampler and Pete and Barbara Leadenham for the kindness extended to me in allowing uncensored freedom of expression as I endeavor to inform and educate the public on what I see taking place in City Government. The Senior Samplers undying support for Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment was unwavering. Even during trying times when threats were made that spelled out the financial ruin of the Senior Sampler…..Pete Leadenham refused to surrender citing the importance of protecting and preserving the Constitution of the United States. Pete chose not to publicly identify the source of the threats and instead offered to print counter points of view. Invitations fell on deaf ears and attempts to force a cessation of Freedom of the Press did not prevail.
Friends, as this election cycle approaches…..Mr. Leadenham and I believe it is now time to voluntarily bring to an end our humble approach to having an informed electorate. Pete had it right when he explained that it was not enough to elect individuals with shared principles but that we should be vigilant of STANDARDS kept while in office.Conflict of Interest cannot and should not be ignored by those elected to public office or those who may seek to hold public office. I have chosen to make public, instances where the perception of wrong doing is as damning as the act itself. Therefore, as I may join other candidates, seeking public office…..I feel obligated NOT to write articles while candidates are actively campaigning. To do so would give the perception of a potential Conflict of Interest on my part. More importantly it would not be fair to my fellow citizens. We of course know that incumbents have a distinct advantage that is derived from the power and authority of the office they hold. How incumbents go about influencing others for support is a decision to be made by incumbents. Their actions will be judged by the voters. At the conclusion of the election process I will be free to comment on the performance of those elected. Candidly I hope to see new faces sitting on the City Council. I believe there are many gifted and qualified individuals capable of making significant contributions to SG City.
Pete and Barbara a profound thank you for the example of courage you have given me. May the Lord bless and keep you safe. ED BACA