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Monday, April 7, 2014

GOOD NEWS


 COMPREHENSIVE RESPONSE TO MAYOR’S CALL FOR MASTER PLAN

CITY MANAGER INSTRUCTS COUNCILTO IMPROVE ADMINISTRDATION OF CITY BUSINESS

March 25th City Council Workshop Meeting marked the implementation of Mayor Pike’s call for MASTER PLAN….. Delineated planning….. A teaching moment put forth by City Manager for benefit of Council and City staff.
City Manager up to challenge…..Begins with basic review of where city has been and moved forward to new items….. Seeking to establish the foundation for the building of what can be called the First Phase of the Long Term Plan envisioned by Mayor Pike.
The Council, Department Heads and Key Personnel were in attendance and appeared eager to gain the knowledge necessary for implementing a fiscally responsible budget. City Manager outlined sources of revenue…..Detailed How and Where money comes from…..How it MAY and IS to be used….. How it is DISTRIBUTED and MITIGATING circumstances and conditions that come into play from various City Departments…. that in totality make up the City Budget.
It became apparent to me that….. City Mgr. Esplin had Changed/Matured in his acceptance/understanding of the benefits afforded by greater TRANSPARENCY in budgetary planning and in his approaching in EDUCATING new Council Members on how to successfully achieve City Goals.
In discussing which FUND does what IMPACT FEE’S/CAPITAL PROJECTS moved to center stage. Mr. Esplin cited the importance of knowing plans for the next 5 to 10 years…. And the effect these items have on the budget(s) that are to be introduced.
Mr. Jason Burningham was introduced as the City’s Financial Advisor and he proceeded to present the most interesting and comprehensive explanation of IMPACT FEE’S and how they are regulated…..Utah Code Title 11 Chapter 36A
Each City Department was identified……Current and Future financing for each Department was touched upon and the In’s & Out’s on how IMPACT FEE’S are distributed to each Department was discussed.
Each Department may/should project future growth for 6 to 10 years and should consider a population increase from 3 to 6 percent. It becomes a real balancing act that we can all appreciate. The importance of IMPACT FEE’S and RESERVE FUNDS (Important for getting Bond money) cannot be overstated.
Can you imagine that building a large Supermarket…..say 30,000 square feet can cost the builder in excess of $100,000 in Impact Fee’s.  (You have to look at each category that a particular Department may come under to see how much money it may draw from set IMPACT FEE’S) That is why it is so important to know that State Legislation sets the frame work and City establishes number of categories in determining Impact Fee’s…. City is required to have a Public Hearing prior to enactment of established Impact Fee’s. (Percent of Impact Fee’s to go to Fire, Police, Transportation-Roads-Bus, Water-Culinary-Sewer-Storm Drain-Treatment, Energy, Parks, Trails, Recreation, etc.)
Clearly Mayor Pike’s influence is being felt as he seeks to establish Long Term Planning Mechanism for the City and more firmly establish an open door….. Team Approaching in receiving and discussing issues of importance. (Much yet to be done on Code Enforcement Issues)
NOTED PERFORMANCE: The steady hand of Councilman Bowcutt is becoming more apparent as he asks pertinent questions……Councilwoman Arial is revealing her broad knowledge and understanding of Administration/ Public Service issues…..Councilwoman Randall is doing well with Veteran issues.
City Manager Esplin knocked it out of the Ball Park with this Budget Discussion for year 2014-2015. By far the best presentation and training session I have seen and heard over the last 10 to 12 years. 
Please continue to forward your thoughts and concerns. 
Thank You, Ed Baca

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Coming Together- City & County Share Human Resources

March 20th City Council agenda restricted…..Thus showing respect, to those wishing to attend Republican Caucus. I expect County Commission did likewise on preceding Tuesday for those wishing to attend Democratic Caucus.
This brings to light the close working relationship that exists between local government agencies and political parties that draw from the same pool of Human Resources…..that feed the political appetite in Washington County and drives the hungry beast who seeks Power and Authority…..Often concealed by (Some) as he or she may claim….. A sole desire to SERVE the public…..Rejecting any thought of personal gain or considerations that may benefit political supporters. Sounds Pretty Good Doesn’t It? But how true?

TONGUE IN CHEEK

The community candidate pool comprised of Democrats, Republicans etc. and Non-Partisan candidates may of course, be trusted to act solely in the public interest. It is comforting to know that that all candidates are True Blue because we know them to be Honest in All of their Dealings. We Know This! because we depend/trust the 4th Estate (Press) to perform investigative reporting which we expect to be publicly shared….. Just as we expect the City and County Attorney to act (Giving First Priority) to public interest…..Free of conflicts of interest whereby….. Those Holding Public Office are relegated to Secondary Priority Status…..When it comes to reporting investigative results of acts alleged to have been committed by a person holding public office.

In this regard the Public anxiously awaits the results of the Investigation of Wrong Doing, alleged to have been committed by a City Council member……That was first referred to Law Enforcement Authorities within the City of St. George (Chief of Police) …..And subsequently referred/transferred to the County Attorney. Where do we stand on this issue? Surely the City Attorney must have standing on this issue? Who is he paid to represent? What did he have to say? Who did he say it to? Where is City Manager?

Several months have passed. It is time that the public be made aware of the findings of the investigation assigned/referred to the County Attorney. In the Interests of Justice the Council Member should be cleared or absolved of any semblance of wrong doing and the evidence uncovered should support the inappropriateness of pursing the matter further. A finding of insufficient/lack of evidence to establish a violation of the law should be stated by the facts uncovered. Likewise further prosecution of this case should be based on substantiated evidence/facts that warrant further action. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. The public has a right to know and the Office of County Attorney should not be tainted during the political process of this upcoming election. (City Council Should Stop Hiding Behind Closed Session Door).

CAUCUS results are in. County and State Delegates have been elected and are preparing to select party candidates. Being a past and present County Delegate for the Republican Party and Close Observer of City Council….. I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention the Golden Opportunity presented to voters to elect a Democrat and/or a Republican to the County Commission so that voters might see in play what can happen when opposing views are routinely presented before the voters…..In the spirit of cooperation.

I am of course referring to Dan, former mayor and advocate of Lake Powell Water and Paul Van Dam, opponent of Lake Powell Pipeline. Playing the devil’s advocate who do you think….. Of the two, who do you think might be more inclined to desire and seek Power and Authority?

There are other Democrats and Republicans to consider and I am sure you and I will give due consideration to values brought to the table by those running for office. I look forward to hearing from each candidate prior to placing my mark on the ballot.

Please forward your thoughts and concerns to


Thank you, Ed


Child Safety for Westside of Town- Council Willing to Listen

March 13th Council Meeting: ONLY Three of Five Council Members were able to be present however this did not deter Mayor Pike from moving the ball forward in conducting city business. Looking at the agenda put forward by City Manager my initial reaction was that this was to be a Humdrum…..Going through the motions type of meeting. Mayor Pike is actually enthusiastic and you can see that he enjoys interacting with people…..He is not defensive or afraid to listen and learn…..Not afraid to share the spotlight with those who show a desire to contribute…..Regardless of what may be considered minimal or time consuming ideas. 
PROMPT ACTION RESULTS: Last week’s standing invitation for public input resulted in expressed concern for pedestrian/vehicle Public Safety on Sunset Drive as you travel to Snow Canyon High School.

Having lived through years of a long/methodical dragged out process in which CODE ENFORCEMENT has been delayed and denied/ignored……I was Startled to see and hear an almost immediate reaction/solution coming forth from the city on the public safety issue made known only a week ago.

What a remarkable turn of events to be able to witness a Council short of two of its members (Almquist and Randall) actually move to a solution that will shore up Public Safety demands…..BROUGHT forth by the force of public statements in an open meeting issued by a concerned citizen.

Kent Perkins, Director of Parks and Recreation (City Wide Trail Systems) was called by City Manager to present what can be described as a Quick Fix in terms of (Council Action Time) to the Public Safety issue highlighted at last week’s council meeting. A Bridge/Pathway or Trail extending across a future City Park Site located between Lava Flow Drive and Tuweap Drive …..Providing relief to pedestrians wishing to access Snow Canyon High & Middle School…..Can be accomplished before the beginning of next school term. Mr. Perkins and Esplin provided a budgeting formula ($172,000 including upgrades) for achieving this goal in systematic way. Isn’t it REMARKABLE what can be accomplished when there is a WILL to do right…..Not necessarily politically expedient or self-serving interests that appear prevalent in prosecuting City Ordinance’s and executing Code Enforcement.

SUBSTANTIATING EVIDENCE on what is meant by a WILL to accomplish raised its head when Greg McArthur, Chamber of Commerce President and son of former Mayor McArthur stood before the Council seeking City support for developing Chamber goals….enhancing business community interests that parallel City interests…..Increased Tax Revenue.

Greg expressed Chamber appreciation for use of the Old Court House building owned by the City and rented by the Chamber for an exorbitant fee of $1.00 per year. Greg proceeded to extend his hand asking that the City rent the old Water Conservancy District building to the Chamber (Located across the street from current Chamber Office) also owned by the City at a similar fee. The Chamber would be willing to refurbish (Spend 50 to $80,000) on the Old Water Conservancy building and at the end of the lease walk away leaving the city with a remodeled office building. WHAT A DEAL….. How many of the other city owned buildings of which there are many…..are leased at such prices? City Manager Esplin was quick to recognize the potential benefit to the city…..Suggested that other mitigating issues such as bringing the Visitors Center to the Old Court House (State Line Visitors Center to be closed) might enhance tourist attraction and compliment Chamber goals….. Councilwoman Arial supported concept of National Parks/Visitors Center and Chamber working together whenever possible to serve public interests.

CLEARLY the City is able to act boldly and decisively when it has a vested interest in doing so. WHY then does the City continue to Drag It’s Feet……Remain Silent and Immobile on the issue of CODE ENFORCEMENT. The silence is almost DEAFENING as the public wait to hear the outcome of a requested investigation of one of its own (Council Member) ALLEGED to have violated a City Ordinance. Is there a DOUBLE STANDARD in how the City seeks to administer JUSTICE? The public has a right to know and to be secure in the knowledge that ALL elected officials are honest in ALL of their dealings.

Does doing the right thing in such matters trump the city’s fear of exposing a Conflict of Interest? What do think? Forward your comments.
Thank you,  Ed

Monday, March 17, 2014

Public Safety- Water & Zoning- A Challenge to Quality of Life

March 6, 2014 Council Meeting: A resounding theme continued to be heard from the public concerning Public Safety ….. Fast and Dangerous Traffic in the area of Sunset and Tuweap Drive…… A ¾ of a mile area with a posted 40 MPH Speed Limit….. Which East and West bound traffic reportedly exceeds on a daily basis…… Particularly, During School Hours…..This ongoing condition endangers CHILDREN walking along the roadway. A TRAGEDY waiting to happen….. Not to mention traffic attempting to enter onto Sunset from Tuweap Drive where limited visibility exists.

Thanks to Mayor Pike’s efforts to allow a block of time at the beginning of regular scheduled council meeting, Mr. Brooks, a member of the community was able to make this condition known…..Not only to the Council and City Staff, but to the public at large.

With a continued emphasis being made on Traffic Enforcement throughout the city this begs the question on how this City Council sets priorities for the expenditure of funds when it comes to Public Safety….. Installation of needed Signal Lights…..Cross Walks…..Adequate Number of Police Personal assigned to Traffic Enforcement. GOOD questions and one that needs to be publicly addressed as tax revenues continues to increase/ improve.

Expectations exist that the Mayor and City Council are to LEAD, Guide and Direct the City Manager on acceptable levels of application of city resources especially when it comes to Public Safety and to hold him accountable for the implementation of Council/Public values.

ZONING…..LAND USE DISIGNATION followed on the heels of Public Safety and will undoubtedly impact the quality of life of St. George and Washington City residents. This was assured when the City Council approved an amendment to the General Plan Land Use Map changing the land use designation from Professional Office and Business Park to Commercial and High Density Residential on approximately 47.5 acres located on both sides of the proposed extension of Mall Drive just south of Riverside Drive and north of the Virgin River.

This will allow for Commercial Development on about 31 acres which I believe may very well allow for a grocery store ….. Perhaps a Smith Food King Market that will be easily accessible to Washington City residents once the completion of Mall Drive Bridge takes place in August or September of this year. You can expect a City Park to be located near the LDS Church and a High Density Residential Development just east of Mill Creek High School. Approximately 92% of development will be outside the 100 year Flood Plain.

The approval of Zone Change did not come without public input in which local attorney, Jinks Dabney most eloquently expressed his opinion and made the suggestion that the city adhere to its own policy/rules concerning development on Flood Plains. Mr. Dabney admonished “look at your own rules, change them or throw them out” suggesting, don’t ignore them.

City Manager Esplin responded by clearly articulating the actions and care the city has exercised in complying with efforts to protect the environmental concerns for the Virgin River and Open Space area we all take pride in.

WATER….. It goes without saying that without a sufficient quantity and appropriate quality of water our life style would forever be drastically altered. Without water we would not have to worry about the Quality of Life for without WATER there would be no life. Just as we need to manage water and traffic safety perhaps we need to consider long term planning for Managed growth.

Keeping this thought in mind I wish to thank Ron Thompson, General Manager, Washington County Water Conservancy District for his insightful presentation to the Council and Public as to the status of our current drought situation and the ongoing efforts to obtain and preserve our water resources.

We must be diligent in our efforts to preserve, protect and perpetuate our way of life. To do so we must need be vigilant in holding our government representatives accountable. Please forward your interests and concerns.
 
Thank you, Ed

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

City Council Reaches Out. Caring, Kindness Dispels Stigma of Oppression Attached to City

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.

I believe this open and frank discussion presented by Mr. Solomon highlights the True Character of the people of St. George.

(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



Property Rights & Jiffy Lube / Relief in Sight for Little Valley

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%.

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

Council Workshop Showcases Ability to Listen & to Report - Decisive Action Results

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