Monday, January 31, 2011

Rep. Dixon Pitcher - What he is working on?

As many of you know, Rep. Dixon Pitcher is our newly elected representative for Leg. District 10.  Since the legislature has now started I was eager to learn what he is working on.  Some of you may remember this is not Mr. Pitcher's first time in the legislature and so we can expect him to hit the ground running.  Fortunately I was able to have a good discussion with Rep. Pitcher on Friday about his goals and upcoming plans.

Through our discussion Rep. Pitcher explained some of the long range infrastructural programs that will be coming up.  There are some potential new highway projects and sign ordinances that are in the works.  Unfortunately due to the 7 percent budget cuts most of the programs will be way down the line.  But the ground work will be set now.

One piece of legislation he is working on is the potential for new Greenbelt Tax laws. This could be huge for tax payers and give cities more open space. We will look for more in this in the future, but he has some good ideas on the topic.  We also discussed new school bullying laws and contributions controls.

In the end it sounds like he has some good things going.  He is very excited about his committee assignments, especially his leadership position.  Realize it is very rare for a new legislator to receive a leadership position, but because he has served in the past he was granted seniority and given the vice chair position on the House Business and Labor Committee.  This is huge for our Leg District and I am looking for good things from Mr. Pitcher.

Here is Rep. Pitcher's Legislative Profile: Profile

We will keep you posted on his progress and what he brings to South Ogden.

SB 44 and Growing Government - Utah Style!

Senator Margaret Dayton wants to make major changes to our independent advisory boards in the state of Utah.  Her proposed Senate Bill 44 (See Here) wants to eliminate the core functions of some of our boards and put them under direct control of the Legislature.  Essentially growing our government and increasing its ability to control opinions of how it is managed. (...Kind of Big Brotherish, don't ya think?)

For example, The Utah Tax Review Commission is an independent advisory board that
"...shall establish an ongoing and comprehensive review of tax laws of this state and the political subdivisions of this state; and all issues related to revenue and taxation; and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on specific tax issues..."
However if Miss Dayton's bill goes through she would delete the following:
"...shall establish an ongoing and comprehensive review of tax laws of this state and the political subdivisions of this state; and all issues related to revenue and taxation; and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on specific tax issues..."
Then she would add - "AS REQUESTED"  making it say the following:
...shall make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on specific tax issues as requested...
Meaning, she no longer wants independent advisory boards giving advise to the Legislature.  She only wants info when requested and therefore will make these advisory boards subject to the Legislatures beck and call.  Kind of defeats the purpose of having an independent advisory board and for a Republican from Happy Valley seams a lot like we are increasing the size of government. It is nice when we can do it on a state level, but if the federal government did that to us, all hell would break lose.

Leave the independent boards alone, specifically the Utah Tax Review Commission and the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission.   They should not be subject to your demands and should advise independently as designed.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ogden Tweetup - Great First Meeting

Last Thursday was our first Ogden Tweetup.  What is a tweetup?  Well for those who are not on twitter, let me explain. A Tweetup is a meeting of twitter users that follow each other.  These are people you have not usually met in person, but only via twitter.  It is a great chance to network, connect and discuss the world.

A few weeks ago Mike Brice, aka @MikeBrice on twitter, contact me and asked if there ever had been an Ogden Tweetup.  I told them there was a few back in 2009 but nothing since.  He suggested we get one going.  Before we knew it we had an event planned and invited all our tweets.

Here is the group from the Tweetup
We met at Roosters on 25th Street and had a great time.  It was a great chance for all of us to meeting discuss the world of twitter, blogging and Ogden in general.  Though everyone at the meeting was very interesting, I wanted to spotlight a couple of the bloggers that were there.

  • Indie Ogden - This is a local blog about everything Ogden.  She focuses on local music, musicians and events.  But she blogs about everything in between. A fun blog to read.
  • Jason and Jeffrey Dutcher - This is cool blog that spotlights local business, individuals and anyone who is passionate about something.  It is a cool blog and really brings out the passion in our community.

There were more people there and I will spotlight them at another time, but look out for the next tweetup and if you are not following me on twitter you can at BenJoeM2.  Thanks Mike for setting it up.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holly on The Hill Elected to Replace Rep. Craig Frank in District 57

Whether you agree or not with the situation that put Crag Frank out of office or if you agree or not with the special election that took place tonight, you have to stand in amazement that a political blogger has been able to rise to legislator.

Holly Richardson, writer of the Holly on the Hill Blog, has successfully been chosen by delegates to replace Rep. Craig Frank in district 57.  She began her political blogging in 2009 and has quickly risen to blogger stardom in Utah as one of the top political bloggers.  Her blogging has helped her draw a large following and prepared her for this opportunity to be chosen.

The legislature and the Governor will still need to ratify what the delegates have done tonight.  Eitherway this is a huge move forward for political blogging and bloggers in general.

Congrats to Holly, I wish you the best of luck,

...maybe now I can get a link on her blog.

Read more here:

Bank of America charges a fee for not having an account.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Bank of America Mortgage.  I normally do not receive emails from banks, but because my mortgage is with Bank of America, I of course was very interested.  This particular email was informing me that beginning February 14th if I pay my mortgage during the grace period (1st through the 15th) after the 9th, I will now have to pay a $6 fee.   Well that isn't exactly correct, my fee is charged only if I pay online.  Shocked by this fee, I quickly called Bank of America and found out the following:
  • If I pay my mortgage using a Non-Bank of America Checking Account after the 9th day of the Grace Period then I am Charged a $6 Fee.
    • This includes, the online website, or ACH (Bill-Pay).
  • I can call each time this happens and they would consider reversing the fee. (Yeah right)
  • I can avoid the fee by mailing a check to Bank of America. (Wouldn't this cost them more?)
  • I can avoid the fee by going into a local Bank of America Branch and making the payment. (But there isn't one even in the state of Utah)
After receiving this information I ranted about my new found hatred for Bank of America on Twitter.  Bank of America Twitter agents quickly contacted me and called me.  They were quick to tell me the following:
  • The $6 fee has always existed (LIE! I checked, I have never been charged this fee and I paid my mortgage every time online via ACH, 5 times after the 9th)
  • I can now pay on the 25th to the 8th of the next month. (Oh great I have now received permission to pay my mortgage 5 days early, that really makes up for it)
MSNBC's Red Tape Blog had a nice post about this same issue I found very interesting (SEE HERE)

Bob Sullivan posted:
"...the bank is creating two tiers of service, and giving advantages to mortgage consumers who switch their bank accounts to Bank of America. If the idea catches on, that could lead to a maddening situation for homeowners who are already frustrated by the number of times their home loans are bought and sold by banks."
Bob is right!  In fact if you think about, Bank of America knows most people will not be able to up and refinance.  So they now charge a fee many will most likely have to pay.  Making them millions in new fee income and leaving the rest of us out in the cold.

If your mortgage lender or broker wants to work with Bank of America, tell them - NO WAY!

Comments Welcome.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

South Ogden turning around budget woes with $82,000 reduction | Standard-Examiner

As many of you know I am a debt-free geek.  I hate seeing even local government in debt.  So when I hear the city is looking to pay down it's own debt, I get very happy.  Last weeks city council meeting, Steve Liebersbach explained to the council how South Ogden has been able to reduce their budget by $82,000 and they are still pushing for more.  The shortfall is now looking at 2.2 percent and hopefully things will get better.  Gentry Reinhart, Standard Reporter, has a nice synopsis of the meeting in today's Standard Examiner (See Here). This is great news! However the one item I wanted to bring up was the infamous Gym Facility.  Apparently we came in under budget on the construction, so a little money is left over.
Regarding the agreement the city entered into for the gymnasium at the new South Ogden Junior High, Liebersbach informed officials that payments to the school district were complete with $80,000 to $100,000 remaining in the construction fund the city set aside for the new facility.
The city plans to apply those funds toward debt service on the initial bonds issued for the project, which in turn reduces the amount that would be transferred from the general fund to the debt service fund.
"This will also help out the city in regards to moving forward for this year and for next year," Liebersbach said.
What Mr. Reinhart failed to mention in his article, is the city isn't planning to really pay down the debt.  They are paying down so they can skip or make lower payments than originally scheduled.  Meaning we are actually robbing Peter to pay Paul.  We are taking left over cash, paying down a debt so we can skip a payment.  That is like taking one credit card and paying off another to avoid making that months payment.  In the end you still have to make the payments in full.  So we are really no where closer to paying of this revenue sucking gym facility aka basketball court.

Nice. Gotta Love Debt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

House Bill 219 - State Firearm Designation - Honor, Show Boat or Waste

Rep. Carl Wimmer is preparing his House Bill 219 which will make the Browning M1911 Handgun Utah’s State Gun.  The Standard Examiner featured the handgun and Browning’s accomplishments in their front page article. (See Here)  Though I have no problem in honoring Mr. Browning for the amazing things he has done, nor do I discount the affect the M1911 has had on America.  But to create a piece of legislation to honor the gun in my mind is a waste of time and Mr. Wimmer’s attempt to show off and get his name in the news.

Rep. Wimmer states in the article he knows there are concerns when he said:
 “Some people don’t like this bill because they say it’s glorifying a symbol of death. We are glorifying a symbol of freedom.” 
However he is wrong, that is not why people are worried about this bill.  We are worried about this bill because of a $313 Million deficit we are facing and the “waste of time” this bill represents.  How are we going to spend quality time cutting budgets by 7 percent if you are wasting it with new state guns? Though no one will really stand up against this bill because it is not worth ruining a relationship with Rep. Wimmer, His constituents and Utahans a like should know what a waste House Bill 219 is. During the House Political Subdivision Committee Meeting, House Bill 219 received few opposition.  In fact Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem gushed over the bill and paid homage to Mr. Wimmer when he said, “I think John M. Browning has single-handedly saved more American lives on the battlefield than any other American.” Our very own Rep, Dixon Pitcher, did call out Mr. Wimmer and questioned what this bill would do for us.  Mr. Wimmer admitted this would do “NOTHING” for Utah.  Yes that is right, he said it would do “NOTHING” for Utah.

Mr. Wimmer says this won’t cost a thing and it is simply a little notation to code.  But don’t forget he spent nearly 40 minutes discussing this bill just in the first meeting.  That time in itself cost us all money.  There’s 40 minutes we could have been discussing something of real value.  The fiscal note to the bill states the enactment of this bill likely will not result in direct, measurable expenditures by Utah residents or businesses, state budget or the government.  But are we looking at the missed opportunities to work on real pieces of legislation.  This bill represents the real waste of the legislature. 

I applaud Democratic Reps. Jennifer Seelig and Marie Poulson for opposing this bill, but they have no favors to earn with Mr. Wimmer so it was easy for them to vote no.

See My Posts Here for more info

Let’s get to the real issues Mr. Wimmer. – PLEASE!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cheating on Your Spouse with Money

Another Savings Saturday feature, this time brought to you by  They had a great article on Financial Infidelity. See the Article Here.  In my career and life I often talk to people who are struggling financially and with their marriages.  Often the two are connected, where one person is spending the money while the other doesn't know.  When one spouse finds out, the other is most often upset.

KSL's article talked about some of the causes for this infidelity from AAA Fair Credit Foundation President Preston Cochran:
  • The one who handles all the finances. Cochrane says when one person has no input into the family's bank account, the other person has a clear path to sneaking away with extra money. He gave an example of one person going to the store to buy groceries, then sneaking $40 out of the account when asked if they want cash back. The person who doesn't look over the bills might not notice the fact that not all of the money they spent actually went to buy groceries.
  • The main breadwinner. In some instances, Cochrane says the person who makes the most money for the family feels a sense of entitlement to spend it.
What are my solutions to the problem? Well here are just a few:
  1. Stop saying..."my money or your money."  "It is our money," no matter who makes it.  
  2. Have a weekly budget meeting.  At the beginning of each week, you must sit down and discuss your finances together. You may still argue about what to do with the money, but at least you know when to do it.  At this meeting discuss every expense and every bill.  Review it weekly to make sure you know where your money is going.
  3. FULL DISCLOSURE!  You must talk together about where your money is going and trust each other.  This can not be done if you are not open.  
  4. NO SECRET ACCOUNTS!  Nothing hurts people more than to know they have a secret stash.  You are in this together, so join your accounts together and keep each other honest.
  5. Set up E-Alerts.  Either through or your financial institution. Goldenwest Credit Union offers their E-Alerts for free.  This sends text alerts and balance info to both spouses when ever money is spent.  This REALLY keeps you honest.
  6. Be willing to compromise and change.  This new method of thinking will be hard at first, but the rewards are amazing.  You just have to be willing to change and work together.
We personally have gone through this transformation.  My wife and I did not communicate well about money.  But three years ago we made the switch and it has been amazing for our marriage and finances.  I promise you it is worth it.  

I welcome your comments and other tips.

Savings Saturday - Start Saving for Christmas

Now is the time to start saving for Christmas.  Every year I speak to people in my industry about Christmas and how it snuck up on them.  Folks I am hear to tell you Christmas is the same day every year.  It doesn't move.  The fact Christmas doesn't move gives you a deadline and a target date to save for Christmas.  A recent article feature this very topic and I have saved it for a Savings Saturday feature.

The article had this quote that really stood out to me:
Chuck Newton, with the Utah Chapter of the Financial Planning Association, says, "Guess what. We're going to be having this same conversation in 365 days from now because, if you don't change your habit now and you don't break the cycle now, you're going to be right back to where you started."
Chuck is right!  We need to break the cycle and start saving now!   So how do you do this.  Well I have three recommendations:

  1. Start a savings plan.  Open a separate account just for saving money.  Many credit unions, like Goldenwest Credit Union, have a FREE Christmas Club account.  A separate savings account just to deposit money for Christmas. Then in November the money auto rolls into your checking to get you ready to buy. Putting away simply $50 a pay check would give you nearly $1100 for Christmas come December.
  2. Try using your Flex Spending account at work.  If you have a Flex Spending or Cafeteria Plan at work.  don't cash in those medical receipts until November.  Then you get a tax free savings account of Christmas money that you don't even have to look at.  It is already deducted from your check each month.
  3. Start buying early.  The best deals start showing up in the Spring.  Santa brought "Pillow Pets" for my kids that were bought at nearly full price.  But my neighbor got them at half off in the spring.  Start looking now. Subscribe to website like,, and other bargain blogs and websites. is a great one too.  You get to hear about great deals before everyone else.

Start now and break the cycle.  Do not allow Christmas to sneak up on you this year.  I promise you it will be on December 25th.

Comments and other suggestions welcome.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Traffic School in South Ogden

The Standard Examiner last Friday had an article regarding the traffic school changes from our past City Council meeting.  It gave the quick over view of the changes I mentioned in my blog post from the meeting on January 4th.  But what no one has really discussed is the potential controversy this traffic school change brings.

Is changing the law to allow people every two months to return to traffic school really just a money making system to bring more revenue into the city and justify the high costs of our current policy system?  Are we essentially allowing people to pay every two months to keep their records clean but really learn nothing from the system?

Personally I had to learn this the hard way.  Traffic school wasn't around when I got a ticket.  I eventually amounted enough points to grant my a license suspension and had to make a decision.  Learn to obey the speed limit or stop driving.  I am happy to say I have now gone 5 years with out a moving violation.  I paid the price in high fees and going through the process.  However I am beginning to feel we may be moving to a "Pay to Play" system.  Where no matter what you do wrong, every two months you can pay to clear your record.

Yes this will increase revenue but will this cause a bigger social problem in the future.  Drivers who never really learn to obey the law because they know in two months they can pay.

Something to ponder.  I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

City Council Meeting Tonight

Tonight is another exciting City Council meeting for South Ogden.  We invite all to attend.  If you can’t make it, I will be tweeting live and I will be blogging the aftermath.


Tonight’s Agenda:


·         Approving a settlement agreement with Chimney Hills HOA

·         Extending the City Manager’s Employment Agreement (This is good)

·         Final Approval of the Multi- Jurisdictional Towing and Dispatch Policy


·         Also some discussion will take place with regards to future mission and vision of the city.


Sounds action packed!



Monday, January 17, 2011

Good News for South Ogden Homes Sales

South Ogden saw an increase in sales last December compared to the previous year.  Looks like people were look for great deals!  This increase amounted to 33.33 percent, making December one of our best months in all of 2010.  Once of the causes for this can be the drop in housing prices.   Last month median home sales price went down 19.27 percent over December 2009.  Median price registered at $160,000 last month lower than of what it was a year ago at $198,200  My home alone has lost nearly $20,000 in value over the past 12 months, this according to Also a lot people could have been out shopping for a mortgage over Christmas.  However if you are looking for some great deals, I am sure it can be found in South Ogden.  More info can be found on the Weber County Real Estate Blog: Link

Contact Phill Wright if you want to know more about 40 year low mortgage rates.  He is one of the best in the business.

One thing I do know, January is always very slow for mortgages; so I am interested in seeing January's numbers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Urban Forestry Commission - First Meeting

This past Thursday I attended my first Urban Forestry Commission meeting.  I felt great to be more involved with the process of making South Ogden an amazing place to live.  Essentially this commission oversees the tree populations of our city.  The ideas and decisions regarding our urban environment most often originate with this group.

Our commission consists of the following members:

  • Ken Paur - Chairman
  • James Pearce - Vice-Chair
  • Cindy Gill
  • Evelyn Bertilson
  • James Carley
  • and me - BenJoe Markland
We work directly with Jon Anderson and his staff from the public works/parks and recreation department to help accomplish our goals.

The main topic of discussion for our group was the completion of an urban forestry database.  The city is working to finish a database of every tree on city property.  This would include species, size, and location.  Most of this work has been done by hand but eventually will be computerized.  Once the database is completed the commission and the parks and recreation department will have a greater understanding of what South Ogden has with regards to urban forestry.  This in turn will help us assess costs for replacement, insurance for certain types of trees, diagnose hazards and pinpoint issues quickly.  

In the end our commission deals a lot with Arbor Day as well.  We have a huge goal of helping promote this day and the need for more trees in our area.  Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.  We have in the past gone to schools but are finding this less affective.

Overall it was an interesting meeting and I have a lot of studying to do.  I will keep you posted on our progress.

Monday, January 10, 2011

CSN Stores $20 Winner

Thanks to all those who read my blog post about CSN Stores and their moving to Ogden.  This is a great thing for our community.

As promised I would give away a $20 Giftcard to CSN Stores for one of my readers. 

That winner is TealWren – Thanks for the post and I hope you enjoy your exercise ball.

Friday, January 7, 2011

CSN Stores coming to Ogden - Free $20 Giveaway!

One of my new favorite online stores is now moving to Ogden, Utah.  This means 800 more jobs for our area.  As you may know from a previous Savings Saturday post, I have recently done a review of CSN Stores, there products and have loved what they have to offer.  In fact I gave my kids a toy, I bought from their store, for Christmas. They are third largest online retailer and has a little of everything, from toys and luggage to wall art and decor. Because of this great occasion, the folks at CSN Stores have authorized me to give away a $20 Gift Card to their stores.  Keep reading to learn how to win!

The Standard Examiner reports they will be located in a 75,000-square foot facility and will be hiring nearly 800 people from our area.  It is projected to generate $47 Million in payroll in its first year alone.

Why are they coming here?  Well they say our area is beautiful and spectacular, but also the cost of living and our educated workforce are very appealing to the CSN Stores.  Also the Governor's Office of Economic Development issued a post-payment tax incentive of over $548,000.

All of this combined brings a great company to Ogden!

So how do you win that $20!  Well go to the website either using the link above or, then post back here on what you would do with your free $20.  Remember there are over 200 stores to choose from. I will announce the winner on Monday morning.

Good luck and have fun!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

South Ogden City Council Meeting 1-4-2011

Last nights city council meeting was filled with a few interesting points worth mentioning. Skipping over the Class A Beer License for the Mt. Ogden Grill, there were a few resolutions that brought a number of new faces to the meeting.

First was resolution 11-01.  There was a lot of tow truck drivers at the meeting for the Towing Services Agreement for South Ogden.  A new system is being put into place to allow South Ogden to choose who is used for towing in the city.  The current system puts all the eligible towing companies into a rotation system with all of Weber County.  This new system would allow South Ogden to set its on criteria and run its own rotation.  In addition this would allow South Ogden to decide who not to use for towing services.  Councilperson Porter asked if preferential treatment would be given to local towing companies. Which is a valid question. Chief Shupe responded by saying no preferential treatment would be given and all are encouraged to bid.  Hopefully this new system will open it up for more people.

The second resolution of note is the changes to traffic school.  Under the old system if you got a ticket and had not had one in the past six months you could go to traffic school.  Now South Ogden will change the month requirement to two months.  Chief Shupe explained this opens up more opportunities for people who have had moving violations.  At the same time, I think this opens up the door for more money.  I am glad to see the change but also realize this is now a potential revenue generator.  Not a bad idea.

A lot of discussion on where to put our focus for potential RAMP funds in 2011.  Jon Andersen laid out a number of projects South Ogden is in need of or is working on.  There was much debate on which should come first.  It came down to continued work on the nature park, new light posts at Club Heights Elementary and a new bathroom for the new gym facility and ball fields.  Unfortunately I felt South Ogden City Council was backed into a corner and not able to full research the problem.  Instead they were presented with the issues and asked to make a decision quickly on the spot.  I wished they could have taken some more time to make this decision.  In the end the nature park takes priority due to time and already allocated funds.  Sorry Club Heights.

Last but not least, I was appointed to the Urban Forestry Commission.  I am excited to participate more in the process and I hope to do some good with the commission and the city.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

City Council Meeting Tonight - Appointment to the Urban Forestry Commission

Tonight will be South Ogden’s City Council Meeting at 6 pm. Three resolutions are on the table that will have limited affect on the regular resident; however there should be some good discussion worth noting.

Some of you have noticed my name is on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.  Mayor Minster will be recommending my appointment to the Urban Forestry Commission.  I submitted an application a few months ago and it is now time to re-appoint the members of the commission and fill an open seat.  If all goes well I will be on the commission by the end of the night.  I am excited for a chance to serve more in the community and work with city officials a little more closely.  I have wanted to be involved with this commission since I started my blog and decided to keep my 70 year old maple in front of my park strip.  Thanks for all the comments and emails I have received regarding this.

I will be blogging more after the meeting.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Credit Predictions for 2011, Part 1 from (@mint)

Another great blog post about 2011 and the drop of housing values. 2011 could be a big rebound year, but most likely it will not be a rebound year for our housing values. See post here: Credit Predictions for 2011, Part 1 from Which is my budgeting website of choice!

In a nut shell, our homes will continue to lose value. This will make it harder and harder to sell our homes or even refinance. Fortunately South Ogden does have something going for it--we don't have room to grow. Building of new homes will be extremely limited; therefore the supply will still be limited simply to the homes that are already here. New homes will not flood the South Ogden market, and as long as people only want to live in here the values should go up some.

Now we just have to get people to only want to live in South Ogden.

2011 has lots of potential...but probably not for our homes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Savings Saturday - CSN Stores Review

Each Saturday I try to find something you can use to save money in your home or life.  Sometimes I am contacted by people to share things.  If I feel my readers would benefit I am happy to share it with you.  I call this posts Savings Saturday Posts. A couple of weeks ago I talked about a website called CSN Stores. (See Blog Post Here).  I told you I would buying a Kids race car set for under $20.  I purchased it just in time for Christmas so I gave it to my kids as a present from me and they loved it.

Not only does it fold up into a box like in the picture, but it also collapses into a race car pad.  It is made of a waterproof sturdy material that is sure to be bonus with my messy kids.  The box top has a place for ten cars to be stored, plus room inside the box when it is folded up.  Immediately my kids began pulling cars out of their presents to put them in the box.  They have had a ton of fun playing with it and it is well worth they $18.00 I spent on it.  In fact I am surprised it didn't cost more.

Here are my kids playing with their new race car set from CSN Stores.

Thanks to CSN for giving me $20 to spend in their online stores.  My kids received a great Christmas present.  If you are looking for great presents or something for yourself, these guys have some of the best prices around.