Tuesday, March 4, 2014
February 27th Council Meeting provided the opportunity to address the stigma of “OPPRESSION” described in local news articles following the last municipal election….. This, I believe unjustly painted an ugly and false picture of the people of St. George.
Recognizing that the city is NOT perfect….. Acknowledging we have detractors…..who through IGNORANCE or PREJUDICE act inappropriately and who’s behavior the majority of us find to be unacceptable and undesirable does not justify painting the entire community as not caring or insensitive to the needs and concerns of those deemed not to be a part of the cultural majority.
It is fair to say that we….. The majority of us ….. Individually and Collectively….. Strive to represent the City of St. George as a respecter of Human Rights…..regardless of Religious or Political affiliations.
In rebuttal to the heartfelt feelings of “Oppression” I commend the forward thinking and actions of Mayor Pike…..Who in his effort to do the right thing may have unknowingly showed the true picture of our community. Mayor Pike moved the city forward….. Established a Committee to listen to the needs of American VETERAN’S…..Just as we should listen to all those who may feel “Oppressed” by circumstances beyond their control.
Validation of City’s True Character:
Lead off Agenda Item featured Bruce Solomon, Readjustment Counselor at the local Veteran’s Center. Mr. Solomon made it abundantly clear that he appreciated speaking to Veteran Issues and was grateful for the newly formed City Veteran’s Committee which made it possible to speak publicly not only as a surviving Viet Nam Veteran but also as a victim of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Seeking to create public awareness of psychiatric (PTSD) issues by describing the mind-set of soldiers and the consequences of war…..Mr. Solomon explained that soldiers are taught….. Do Your Job…..Take Care of Your Buddy…..Be Hyper Vigilant….. Instinctive Survival Reaction….. All of which come home with them when returning to civilian life. These traits may be manifested in interaction between veteran and law enforcement.
Mr. Solomon touched on the difficulties of veterans returning to living with normal folks, marriage and family issues exacerbated by alcohol or substance abuse. Excessive time spent in video gaming, seeking to experience combat like challenges. Situations which cause withdrawal and avoidance of family and public contacts….. PTSD…..the walking wounded. Mild to Severe cases fearing death from anywhere.
Mr. Solomon stated “PTSD” does not make you a killer, the biggest threat to veterans is themselves”. Mr. Solomon candidly shared that he had been saved while receiving treatment when he revealed to caregivers that he had scheduled for himself a suicide date two days from his date of treatment.
The Veterans of our community are to meet with local judges to address the issues of Driving under Influence and Domestic Violence. These efforts are supported by newly formed City Veterans Committee.
(Epitomized by city’s commitment to serve mankind).
A person may choose to be….. “Oppressed” or Offended by the actions of misguided individuals but I prefer to be grateful for the opportunity to live among people who share my values of service and kindness to others. I fully expect Mayor Pike to continue with efforts expressed by the Veteran’s Committee and the future formation of Citizen’s Community Relations Council that will allow for expression of differing points of view as we seek to improve the quality of life in our community.
Please forward you concerns on city issues.
Thank you, Ed
February 20 Council Meeting created a lot of public interest. Property Rights and building of a JIFFY LUBE….. In close proximity to residential housing and the Virgin River proved to be the main topic of interest. The Chamber was filled to capacity…..Those living close to the intersection of River Road and 1450 South gathered their forces in hope of seeing the new council….. Which many helped to elect …..Make a decision in their favor….. To DENY the request for approval a Jiffy Lube….. Which many believed would place Property Rights in direct conflict with the will of a selected few.
However, prior to this important issue being addressed ….. A positive and bright light was shinned on the city budget. We were all happy to hear that City Revenue was exceeding expenditures and the GOOD news was that sales tax revenue was up 6.25%.
However, prior to this important issue being addressed ….. A positive and bright light was shinned on the city budget. We were all happy to hear that City Revenue was exceeding expenditures and the GOOD news was that sales tax revenue was up 6.25%.
The second piece of good news was that the council approved the 2nd phase of 3000 East….. A most important thoroughfare for Little Valley residents who find themselves, suffering from inadequate roadways, jammed tightly behind the uncontrolled growth taking place. The approved expenditure of $853,292.50 was below estimate and reflected a savings of $40,000.
(Perhaps, enough to warrant expenditure of funds for Air Quality Monitoring Equipment and addressing Health Issues).
The third piece of good news was council approval for completion of the Hela Seegmiller Park- Little Valley. This project has been on the drawing boards for a number of years and has slowly, step by step moved forward, designed to reflect the pioneer spirit. In keeping with appropriate period design Mayor Pike suggested that paved parking be eliminated and appropriate fencing be installed. Trails are to include access for those with disabilities.
Forth, the expenditure of $740,307 for Little Valley road improvements was cited. 4 way stop signs on Little Valley Road intended to slow speeding traffic and provide greater child, pedestrian traffic safety…..Even widening for Horse Traffic concerns and slowing of traffic in area of Gooch-Iverson homes was discussed.
Councilwoman Arial expressed her understanding of the growing pains taking place and cited the need for Builders and Residents to be considerate of each other as the city moves forward to improve public safety issues.
City Manager brought attention to the large amount of money approved for road improvements (15 million for this fiscal year) which included the Mall Drive Bridge and asked the public to be patient as completion was expected by August 1st. This caused a gasp to be heard from the mayor and council who suggested that he at least give the city until the end September as a completion date. The bottom line is that progress is being made.
FINALLY….. The issue of approving a Zone Change from R-1-10 to Planned Development Commercial on 0.66 acres north of River Road and 1450 South was to be heard. Jiffy Lube located next to Maverick Gas Station? As both sides of the issue paraded their position before the council it was time for a vote. Councilwoman Randall clearly stated “I agree with Property Rights” and then proceeded to vote for
(Homeowner Property Rights) and those who brought her to the dance by voting NO for Jiffy Lube. Councilman Bowcutt…..true to his principles voted YES for (Business) Property Rights…..He was joined by Hughes and Almquist and Arial voted with Randall.
BUSINESS Property Rights questionably won the day….. BUT…., THE RIGHTS OF HOME- OWNERS…… To have, equal consideration given to protecting their Rights….. TO, KEEP….. Property Values/Quality of Life from plummeting….. Due to vacillating Zoning Laws and Failing Code Enforcement….. Remains muddled, although being an intricate part of the equation.
ZONING means nothing when in RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES you are allowed to rent (Day by Day or less than Monthly) often times to 4 or more unrelated occupants…..To have WORKERS/DELIVERIES coming to residential homes where Construction/Repairs, Storage of Appliances/Equipment etc. is taking place.
WHERE DOES ONE PERSONS PROPERTY RIGHTS BEGIN, AND HIS/HER NEIGHBORS ENDS? DOES THE CITY HAVE A DUTY to act RESPONSIBLY or are we to continue with arbitrary/selective enforcement. Should Ordinance Work be HASTENED? Please forward your comments.
Thank You, Ed
Thursday, February 20, 2014
February 13 Council Workshop Meeting began at 4PM and for me ended at 8PM…Council members and city staff remained in CLOSED session. (Not Open to Public). I suspect Civil Litigation and Property Purchase issues were to be discussed. (Wouldn’t it be Good for Public to know how much taxpayer money has been paid to those filing claims against the city, and why? Enable Public to intelligently gage job performance of Council and City Staff thus securing accountability).
My friends, while meeting was long, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this meeting… Not only because I found it to be productive, but in the way it was managed and directed… Mayor Pike drew in community participants and City Manager blended in (Not Dominating)… Sharing years of experience and knowledge of city issues…Resulting in decisive action being taken by COUNCIL. (By his demeanor, City Manager clearly affirms that COUNCIL is RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE for decisions made. City Manager’s execution of decisions can/should be open to Public Scrutiny… Especially Law and Code Enforcement Issues. The BUCK stops at Council’s feet).
I was impressed…because no one person dominated the issues or discussion thereof…It really appeared as a joint effort to administrate city business. Items approved related to building of Seegmiller Park and Dixie Care and Share… Expansion and property site purchase and proposed arrangements.
IF… WE CAN WORK SO WELL TOGETHER FOR HONORABLE CAUSES… WHY? ... Cannot cohesive implementation of Code Enforcement (That does not encourage/result in the City being sued and which often is described as Good Old Boy Activity… Favoritism peddled for Money or VOTES … Continue to thrive?) … And the very establishing of Ordinances (The fact that such chaos is perceived to be in-acted for votes or monetary gain… Boggles the mind… to be practiced openly in a city of honest men and women engaged in city government. Political Cronyism appears alive and well as evident by pending law suits and investigations). WHY? Has this been allowed to fester for so long a period of time… Who profits from such behavior and WHO is ultimately responsible? DO YOU see a similarity between those that run the Federal government and Local government practices. Has St. George become a mirror image of the country… Get what you can for yourself and disregard the greater good of the city by ignoring implementation of righteous behavior?
Perhaps it is true that Power Corrupts…But does it follow, that citizen’s should join in the chaos by ignoring what is going on before their eyes as it pertains to Law and Code Enforcement ? Let us be part of the solution. Demand accountability by those entrusted to govern and manage our city.
STEPPING OFF THE SOAP BOX… I am pleased to report to you that Tom and Patsy Lamb, representing the Mountain Meadows Massacre Association presented a beautiful quilt that depicted a difficult period of Mormon history. The desire to make amends to Family and Descendants of those who lost their lives was supported by the LDS Church. The council approved the Quilt to be displayed at Pioneer Court House. Kudos to Tom and Patsy Lamb for all their community work.
The City Council joined by members of the press traveled by bus in an old and rickety looking bus (Good to see Council being frugal…perhaps they will be able to find funds for air monitoring equipment) to Little Valley and toured the area which featured a stop at the future Hela Seegmiller Park. The kind and generous donation of land by the Seegmiller family will highlight Pioneer Era accomplishments. Council ok’s.
City Manager’s recognition of the imposing needs in the Little Valley Community did not go unnoticed. Main concerns of residents are for public safety (Speeding Traffic) and road construction. Seegmiller Park is sure to increase the flow of traffic as it moves to becoming a Major Regional Park. How high on the priority list the council will place on a 24hr. Fire Station, Water considerations and Density issues remains to be seen. The city appears to be trying to catch up with building permits issued and meeting public safety issues brought by uncontrolled growth.
Adam Dunn and Tim Martin, representing Dixie Care and Share presented a proposal to purchase 3 acres of land north of Highway 15 in the Industrial Park area…..well within city limits and transportation needs. The cost estimated to be between 2.5 and 3 million dollars is expected to meet future growth. Year Around Shelter, Transitional Housing and Soup Kitchen needs will eventually be accommodated at this new site. The Old site will be turned over to the city who has up to now been the main contributor to Dixie Care and Share. The LDS Church will be asked to contribute $800,000 and surrounding cities will be asked for $300,000. While St. George remains the major contributor the State of Utah and other assets are to be brought into the process of caring for the poor and needy of Washington County. Council approved moving forward.
Please continue to forward your concerns on city issues.
Thank you. -Ed
Thursday, February 13, 2014
TIME appears to have run out. The 120 day period allowed for the City to negotiate out of Court settlement of issues of ALLEGED violation of 4th amendment rights appears to be coming to a head with anticipated amendment to the lawsuit moving forward to a PUBLIC day in court.
NO question that allegations cited in the form of a class action lawsuit against the city reflects poorly on City Administration and its inability to remedy a long standing need to reform City Ordinance and Code Enforcement practices. (A situation Mayor Pike has promised to correct).
CLEARLY the ALLEGED and/or perceived hardship inflected upon citizens depicts an inert description of City Administration. Code Enforcement, ALL Law Enforcement should be free of political influence when it comes to administering justice and protecting the rights of people to be secure as outlined in the Constitution of the United States.
WE cannot…we must not…allow City Administration to remain fallow in cultivating constitutional protection for its citizens. Adequate training and supervision of Law Enforcement efforts requires constant attention in good times and in bad times.
It is evident that during a period of civil litigation City Administration must of necessity remain silent on efforts being taken that may have a negative impact in defending against a lawsuit. However, this does not mean that the Mayor and City Council should refrain from holding City Administration accountable from its duty to enforce ALL laws and ordinances and to do so in an acceptable way. The public should be able to review policies and procedures that outline how public service is to be performed. (Make it easy to do so).
The old guard at City Hall must change its ways and join the Mayor and City Council in its efforts to bring transparency into city government.
I believe it is in the city’s best interest to be proactive in establishing and publishing what is an acceptable job performance so as to prevent costly law suits and disputes, which reflect so poorly on our city. (City Administration must not fail to provide adequate training and supervision for all employees).
WHAT DO YOU SAY? Do we allow City Administration to remain idle or do we stand up and support Mayor Pike’s efforts and raise the bar for acceptable administration of city government and reform Ordinance and Code Enforcement efforts?
Thank you for your attention and participation in monitoring city government.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
February 6, 2014 City Council Meeting began with the timely arrival of all elected officials and city staff. The new starting time of 5:00 P.M. brought with it the appearance of a sincere and genuine effort on the part of Mayor Pike to incorporate a time for Public Comments. I may have detected the appearance of discomfort by a high ranking staff member (who will remain un-named) but apprehension appeared to wash away as the fear of actually allowing the public to respectfully present issues and seek answers proved to be constructive and edifying.
Prior to beginning, the point was made that issues raised may be adversarial in nature with opposing sides not being present to state their positions on unannounced topics. However, the Council and Staff being present would be in a position to articulate the city’s views and legal considerations. This being the maiden voyage of public comments care would be taken to insure fairness in presentation of issues.
As the process unfolded, one could surmise that while each presenter was serious about his or her particular issue the level of importance was readily apparent. Yet the act of actually listening to each presenter seemed to dissipate the cloak of oppression and inequality expressly felt by some and the fear of opening the door to criticism felt by others, slowly melted away. A feeling of unity of purpose in the democratic process appeared to take hold.
It was nice to see and hear city staff respond to issues presented in a constructive and informative manner. It was time to put defensive practices aside and to address issues on the merits of each topic. All were made to feel welcomed; a true act of Public Service.
Many issues were raised that can be deemed to impact on the Quality of Life in St. George. My Friends, upon conclusion of Public Comments each agenda item was addressed and clearly the BIG MONEY issues brought forward by Zoning and Code Enforcement came to the forefront. GROWTH and DEVELOPMENT and how we manage it, dominates and consumes Council and Public Attention.
I noted and appreciated the fact that Public Comments were allowed to be made on important agenda items. It was impressive to see the Council NOT get bogged down, by approving Road Construction in the Little Valley Community and by moving forward on Animal Care and Shelter issues. The open and frank discussion of the General Plan and Zoning/Ordinance issues that included an explanation of FLOOD WAY vs FLOOD PLAIN in the proposed commercial development at 1450 South and River Road was informative.
THIS brings attention to last week’s article in which I reported submitting a GRAMA request to the city in order to receive WRITTEN documentation from the city that could be shared with you to further enlighten and inform on the matters pertaining to ACCOUNTABILITY on the issue of Zoning and Code Enforcement.
WELL, I received a letter from the City in response to this request which I concluded was authorized and approved by the City Manager and City Attorney which reads as follows: I am in receipt of your GRAMA request received January 30, 2014, and would like to respond thereto. The information you are requesting can be found on the City’s website. Please visit www.sgcity.org and click on “City Codes and Ordinances”. Additionally, the zoning zones are shown on the City Map which can also be found on the City website by clicking on “Sgcitymaps application”.
It goes on to state, “You may appeal this decision by filing a notice of appeal with the City Manager, Gary Esplin”. SO MUCH for trying to keep you better informed with the spirit of cooperation and public Service received from City Hall. This attitude appears on its face to be counter-productive from events described in the city council meeting described above. Folks, try and navigate through the City website and Utah Codes, Chapter 9 Records Access and Management Act. (1-9-1 adopted by reference.) PERHAPS given enough time the defensive posture of the Old Guard at City Hall will give way to the true meaning of Public Service. “Attitude is a small thing that makes a BIG difference”. Please forward your concerns for city issues.
Thank you, Ed
Sunday, February 2, 2014
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SEEING THAT EQUAL AND FAIR TREATMENT IS GIVEN TO ALL
January 30th Council Meeting brings forth a request to consider approval for amendment to the City Zoning Regulations, section 10-10-5: K to modify the requirements for MIXED USE projects in C-4 zone. (This may change the face of our city). Continued for further study and final version.A request to consider approval to hire an architect and engineer for the design and engineering of the Electric Theater Restoration/Renovation project. (Does this answer Performing Art’s Needs)
UTAH ZONING LAW- Introduction States: Within . . .zoning districts, the (local) legislative body MAY regulate and…..restrict…..the erection, construction, reconstruction…..alteration…..repair…..or use of buildings and structures, and the use of land. (What and HOW has our City regulated?)
Utah Zoning Law empowers cities to divide or “ZONE” the territory within their boundaries into DISTRICTS and to regulate land uses therein. Code Enforcement is an integral component of how CITY regulates and keeps OUR house in order in a fair and impartial way. HOW is YOUR immediate residential area represented……SHOULD the city be identified by DISTRICTS and should/or would your neighborhood benefit by having Elected District representation (City Council) to INSURE YOUR neighborhood/community is getting the attention it needs and deserves?
ALL TO OFTEN we hear that the Rich and Powerful…..those with “Influence” are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease……DO you or SHOULD you have to be an office holder within a Political Party…… An active participant in the local Chamber of Commerce……. An active member of a Civic Organization to get attention to zoning…..And enforcement of City Ordinances?
Do we expect…..LAWS ……That are on the books to be enforced when violations are clearly evident to Police, Code Enforcement Officers, City Manager, City Attorney, Mayor or City Council? Who IS held accountable?
…..For example Businesses Conducted in a residential area that are not ZONED for such activity…… Businesses that fail to comply with lot or building requirements. Does this impact YOUR property values or business interests?
LET US TRY and get a handle on this issue by referring to St. George City Ordinance 1-7A-6: Powers and Duties: (2/1/05 3:50PM)
The city manager shall be the administrative head of the government of the city under the direction and control of the MAYOR and CITY COUNCIL, except as otherwise provided in this article. He shall be responsible for the efficient administration of all affairs of the city which are under his control. In addition to his general powers as the administrative head, and not as a limitation thereon, he shall have the powers set forth in the following sections:
I will list only section A. Law Enforcement: It shall be the duty of the city manager to enforce ALL laws and Ordinances of the city. (2/1/05)
Does a conflict of interest exist in having City Attorney direct/supervise Code Enforcement efforts knowing that he may be called to prosecute cases under his supervision……on Zoning and Ordinance that his office has written….. Perception matters…..Both Politically and in Business interests of city.
Our Federal Government is often criticized for inaction (Selective Enforcement by Attorney General and IRS), but who in Local Government has statutory authority to suspend or arbitrarily prevent Code Enforcement without due process of law? Are we in effect giving permission to violate ordinances by inaction? (Looking away, choosing not to see.) If we can’t control local government how can we be expected to do any better with Federal Government.
NOW my friends in order to better understand our zoning and city ordinances I have filed a GRAMA request for city records….. that will shine a light on this issue. So that we might have a feeling for the impact upon a residential section of our city, let us look back to last week’s Planning Commission Meeting in which an applicant for a Commercial Business seeks approval to build at the intersection of 1450 South and River Road.
Would YOU like to see….. A Giant Smith’s Food King Grocery Store, A Jiffy Lube, A McDonalds Hamburger, or any assortment of commercial business located at this site. Is this important only to those who live immediately above this commercially zoned site or does this correctly impact the entire surrounding area?
However you may feel about the issues of Zoning and Code Enforcement it is important that citizens be made fully aware of the legislation enacted by the City as authorized by Utah Zoning Laws and to standardize Enforcement efforts. The light at the end of the tunnel is the Mayors stated goal…..To review and update all city ordinances and improve upon enforcement efforts.
Forward your concerns to ED BACA.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
January 23, 2014
The Council Chamber was full and a business like atmosphere was felt in keeping with the character of our new mayor. Council Members appeared to have fallen into step with the direction mapped by Mayor Pike. A change in methodology was taking place, a comfort zone had been found in the upcoming appointment of Bette Arial as the new council member.
Perhaps the most telling sign of change was the transfer of power taking place. Ever so slight the large ship of city government is beginning to turn. As I walked towards the Council Chamber I passed City Manager Gary Esplin, who appeared somber and tired as he walked away. I was somewhat saddened, yet I knew that this day was inevitable. A meaningful change was in progress. A positive change of how business is to be done.
The excitement and apprehension was immediately felt upon entering the packed Council Chamber, not only the usual humdrum of activity but you could also feel the serious nature of what was to take place.
I was fortunate in that I was able to sit next to Tara Dunn whom I have come to know and appreciate and who like many others I have come to recognize as a good friend, one with courage and ethics that I admire.
Slowly and methodically the process of revealing the identity of Mayor Pike’s replacement on the council moved forward. Due diligence having been applied, all requirements having been satisfied. BETTE ARIEL was appointed and sworn into office. A GREAT CHOICE!
Bette is a woman with proven credentials of competency and a person who represents high moral values. A person I am sure we will all come to appreciate.
I believe Bette is a good fit as she has worked side by side with Mayor Pike on Dixie State University Board of Trustee’s and they appear to be able to work well together and share a conservative approach to governing.
It will be interesting to see how our new council addresses the pressing issue of overseeing how City Code Enforcement issues are addressed. Perhaps Conflict of Interests and Ethics will be included in the process and the findings be made known to the public…TRANSPARENCY IN BLOOM.
YES, the next few years will be interesting as we watch the political future of Mayor Pike unfold and watch the behind the scenes activity of the supporting cast.
Many issues and challenges confront the developing City of St. George and we look forward with great anticipation on how we are to conduct ourselves if we are to succeed.
The issue….. Raised by Tara on the oppression of those…..Not of the Mormon faith in City Government will most certainly not go away. The solution may be found in VOTER turnout and in how we as individuals treat our fellow man.
Please forward your concerns on how our city is governed and what your section of the community may be in need of to me.
Thank you, Ed