Wednesday, April 22, 2009

City Council Meeting 4-21-2009 / Standard Examiner and Illegal Skateboarding

Yesterday was our usual city council meeting here in South Ogden.  Before the meeting began a number of council members mentioned to me there was a larger than usual crowd for such a small agenda.  I was positive all of these kids were not there just for vote on the sale of the bond for the new gym facilities. I suspected they were hear to talk about skateboarding.  

 The majority of the days agenda was filled with the regular topics of ordinances and resolutions.  The sale of the bond for just under $2.1 million dollars at 3.9% rate was interesting but not nearly as interesting as the discussion at the beginning of the meeting.  When the time came for pubic comment a number of kids stood up to complain about the ridiculous law on skateboarding.  

See these posts:
Adam Peek, the owner of Decade Snow and Skate stood up to make some great arguments for removal of the ban.  For example, there are more kids moving towards skateboarding these days than are playing little league baseball.  As you can see from this August LA Times article, the World Series of Little League Baseball has seen a huge decline in baseball play to sports like skateboarding. Now kids are forced to skateboard only on sidewalks in our fair city. Because of the cracks in the sidewalk, skateboarding is now more dangerous for the bumps and cracks can cause the board to catch and tip over.

Super reporter Jamie Lampros, from the Standard Examiner, paid us a visit and spent some time with the skateboarders during and after the meeting.  Her top notch article can be found on the front page of today's Standard-X.  She is doing a great job shedding light on this topic and how silly this law is.  She reports a number of people are using their boards to get to school and work.  But because of the ban this is no longer a choice.
 “If I miss the bus, my only way to school is on my skateboard or longboard,” said South Ogden Junior High School student Slone Jensen-Vail.

   “I live in lower Uintah, and on my board, I can get to school in 30 minutes. If I have to walk, it’s going to take me two hours.”
The mayor has mentioned in previous meetings his motives for such a ban came from two sources.  First he was once flagged down on Glasman Way by a longboarder who wanted to grab on to his bumper.  Second a number of concerned citizens came to him and said they frustrated with skateboarders.  I wonder if it was the one concerned citizen from a previous city council meeting on August 26th 2008 (See Here). Well he has had nearly four visits from concern citizens regarding lifting this ban, he has showed no signs of change.  In the end, the mayor has mentioned before this is just a fad and it will all go away.  However this is not just a fad; skateboarding has been around for years and will continue to grow.  

Why can we not require skateboarders follow regular traffic laws like bicyclers and if they violate these laws cite them for reckless endangerment, etc.  But a complete ban on skateboarding is wrong and should be overturned.  Anyone and everyone who skateboards needs to come to every city council meeting and voice their concern.  Email all our council members here: Email City Council

Help to overturn this silly law!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Economy, South Ogden, Keynes vs. Friedman

South Ogden's economy has been on mind a lot lately. Recently we talked about the deficit spending South Ogden is headed for. Though most people are saying we are headed for better times and it may appear that is true. There is still much debate on the two schools of thoughts in economics. For those who took Econ 202 you will remember the ideas of John Maynard Keynes vs. Milton Friedman. In the previous years we have been attempting to follow the free-market ideas of Friedman. We are now following a Keynesian model of thinking. I have been in support of a mixture of these ideas for sometime but looming in the back of my mind has been the future consequences of our actions today. What will these be?  If what we are doing doesn't work, what will be the result?  The following article was in Bloomberg yesterday and got me thinking:

"Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is siding with John Maynard Keynes against Milton Friedman by flooding the financial system with money.

If history is any guide, says Allan Meltzer, the effort will end in tears. Inflation "will get higher than it was in the 1970s," says Meltzer, the Fed historian and professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At the end of that decade, consumer prices rose at a year-over- year rate of 13.3 percent.

Bernanke's gamble that the highest jobless rate in 25 years and the most idle factory capacity on record will hold down inflation is straight out of the late British economist Keynes. Should late Nobel-prize-winner Friedman's dictum that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" prove right, the $1 trillion or more in liquidity Bernanke has pumped into the financial system by expanding the Fed's balance sheet may leave him to cope with surging consumer prices.

So far, investors and economic data both back up the Bernanke-Keynes view. The market in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities as of April 6 indicated long-term inflation expectations of 2.5 percent, below the 2.8 percent average inflation rate of the past 10 years.

Again, it appears we are headed for success, but I am scared we could go too far and end up worse than before. How will this all turn out? I am personally preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I am excited that South Ogden city has a lot of reserves left, nearly 18 percent. But the worst may yet have come. Spending our rainy day funds should not be done now. Instead we should trim our budget to balance.

Looking back to nearly five months ago, Councilman Bradley talked about how we are doing well and how we are on budget. Now we are headed for deficit spending. I am scared to death to see inflation of 13+ percent. I am hoping for the best; but now is not the time to spend our rainy day funds.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

South Ogden City Council - Working Session

It has been nearly 20 days since I last posted to the blog. We have had a number of crazy things happen with our family, but I am glad to be back and post a little. Tuesday night was the South Ogden City Council Working Session. Olive Garden was offered to all in attendance. Since I was the only one there besides the council, I enjoyed some Alfredo Pasta in the back.

As for the meeting, the discussion of topic was the 2009-2010 fiscal budget. A number of interesting things came out of the preparation of the budget. First of all South Ogden has finally caught up with the recession. Sale Tax Revenue is down 2.8 percent, since a major portion of our budget is Sales Tax, that makes things very hard. Scott Darrington, city manager, commented we are now in uncharted territory. Therefore a number of cuts will need to be made. Here are some of the potential cuts for South Ogden:

  • Already South Ogden has cut their budget by 5 percent, but now we are looking at an additional 7 percent cut. Total will be a 12 percent cut to the cities budget starting in July. The goal is not cut personal or services.
  • A soft hiring freeze is now in affect, positions that open up will be evaluated and decided if they are needed.
  • The average salary increase will probably only be 1 percent this year. But a lengthy discussion took place on whether this should even be paid at all. Instead the idea presented by some would be to forgo any pay increases and instead cut some of the cost to health benefits for city employees. We will see how this goes.

Overall we are looking at $444,000 deficit headed into the next fiscal year. When I first heard this I was shocked. Mr. Darrington was then quick to point out our city has a rainy day fund of 18 percent of our budget. In fact we have had too much money in the fund in the past and have been cited by the state auditors. This fund has us nearly $1.6 million to help us in tough times. South Ogden should be just fine for awhile. The one thought I have is if the state legislature didn't dare use their rainy day fund because of a potential fall in the economy. Why are we so quick to use ours?

Finally the Rec Center. Apparently costs are coming in lower than expected. South Ogden Jr. High will now be about $5 Million under budget for a monster amount of $17 Million. Therefore our bond will now only need to be $2.1 Million. The only other good news was the idea of doing a 15 year bond instead of a 20 year bond. The cost would be the same, but we will now pay off the bond faster saving us all $190,000 a year. The cost to the average family will be $36 a year in property taxes. Still way too high of an increase in my mind.

Election year is upon us...who will run?