ON Kilter: Never mind the airport, is that carousel running yet?

OPINION – There is a timeless bit of wisdom that says what a person does screams so loudly in our ears that we can hardly hear what they say.

When it comes to the $550,000 federal grant awarded the City of St. George for the municipal airport or, to be exact, to help the community “enhance its air travel needs,” I would assert the saying would apply rather acutely. Never mind what they are saying, what have they done and what will they do with our money?

In an article in St. George News last week, it is made quite clear, citing Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen, that the City Council will have the final say-so in how any and all of that “airport stimulus” money is allocated.

Sounds appropriate right?

Unless of course you take into account how they have handled your money in the past in situations like, say, the now safe to call “occasionally operational” carousel.

Last year, quite a commotion was made over the City Council’s unanimous decision to spend close to $300,000 of specially allocated taxpayer dollars on the project.

In and of itself the decision was questionable, but not nearly as much as the somewhat less than upfront way it was made.

To recap, on June 30, 2011, the City Council voted unanimously retroactively to purchase and install the carnival ride when, in point of fact, it had already been purchased at the time of that vote and was near completion. That is, concrete pad poured, ticket booth built, electrical complete, and ride ready to go for the big Fourth of July grand opening.

When asked about the appearance that the cart had been placed before the horse, so to speak, Mortensen told St. George News that a special meeting had been held on June 16 whereby the City Council voted to amend the budget for the project, that after that meeting the project was completed, then the decision was ratified in the June 30 vote.

That he could keep a straight face when he told me this is a testament to his political savvy and future as a career politician.

At present, the minutes on that special session have not been published for the public, so we’ll have to take Mortensen’s word that it actually happened and that the city was able to procure funds for or had the funds for, plan and develop, purchase and install a $300,000 project in less than 20 business days.

Perhaps they could give instructional classes to the rest of the state and federal agencies on how to expediently waste taxpayer money because they sure set a record here.

The ride has been riddled with problems since its opening and although the city reports a profit in its first year, it still hardly passes the “ends justifies the means” litmus test.

It is appearing more and more like a rush decision was made to make an impulsive purchase of a sub-par piece of pretty equipment that was not worth much more than the scrap it would sell for.

Now, grant money is not taxpayer money, to be true. It is as good as free money for the city to do with as it sees fit. But if the carousel scenario depicts – with any measure of accuracy – the mindset of our elected leaders towards their constituency, i.e. how gullible they think we are, then we can count on a little frivolous spending, folks.

It is worth mentioning in matters involving the airport that at least three of your elected representatives in St. George were awarded lucrative contracts on the construction of that airport.

A feat that somehow manages not to be considered a conflict of interest in St. George; in most areas of the country, this would be considered tantamount to insider trading, wouldn’t it?

Just because it is legal, is it ethical?

I often say that correlation, while not causation, is frequently indicative. This recent award of a large sum of money to the city, “you” are the city, will be a grand opportunity to observe with much scrutiny how your city officials spend your money on your behalf.

By the way, is that carousel up and running this week? My kids keep asking to ride it.

Get involved St. George. Question your leaders and demand honest, forthright answers. Regular City Council Meeting is this Thursday.

See you out there.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: dhyland@stgnews.com

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

 

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32 Comments

  • Jon Martin August 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Perhaps they’ll use it to purchase another carousel for the airport so the little kids will have something to keep them entertained during layovers. Oh wait, the airport does have flights right?

  • Ed Kociela August 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Minutes from a meeting conducted more than a year ago are not published yet? Retroactively approving an expenditure of $300,000 without a public meeting? City council members profiting from a municipal project? PETA needs to open a new group: PETT…People for the Ethical Treatment of Taxpayers.

    • Steve Ducks August 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      OMG heck has froze over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am in agreement with Ed Kociela!!!!!!!!!! Will miracles never cease!LOL

  • Tyler August 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    First of all, not to be rude, but take some typing classes, Dallas, some of your style of writing is confusing and/or missing words. While I totally disagree with the whole idea of the carousel, I’ve heard it was already funded by some special grant put aside for Town Square, I don’t know, just what I heard, either way, isn’t it old news now? As far as the airport goes, according to KSL 5 news, added flights to Denver would be funded? I just think this whole $555,000 federal grant is ridiculous all together. Still to this day, not enough people fly in and out of here to need all this funding, and especially in this stagnant bad economy, a grant this hefty could have gone to something of much more priority. I personally think Suntran mass transit would have been one important item to be further funded for expansion for the citizens of the area who want better public transit. The area is still growing, yet one still cannot ride the bus to either Walmart hubs, through Bloomington/Little Valley?Sunriver. Priorities in this town are constantly off and the pinheads in office are just as stagnant as our economy.

    • Just an Observer August 21, 2012 at 5:09 am

      “First of all, not to be rude, but take some typing classes,”

      Perhaps you meant for the writer to take some English classes? His typing looked fine to me.

      “some of your style of writing is confusing and/or missing words”

      For instance…

      “While I totally disagree with the whole idea of the carousel, I’ve heard it was already funded by some special grant put aside for Town Square, I don’t know, just what I heard, either way, isn’t it old news now?”

      The writer covered this in the article and does seem to know. It appears he researched it pretty thoroughly and infused the reporting of facts in his op/ed, not just assertions he was not sure of or “did not know”. It was a timely and relevant comparison.

      Tyler, perhaps you should read the article again. This time, slowly.

  • Barbara Walters August 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Obama is always getting bashed by this state in general, yet we are willing to take every cent he has to offer. Aren’t you Utah conservative republicans b**ching about him always spending money, further putting the country in debt? But, oh boy, funding for something as useless as the dead “ghost town” airport out in BFE, to add more flights to more cities is just fine, even though the majority of flying residents either take the shuttle to McCarran or take the short drive down there to fly. I give up on the trust and integrity of the leadership both local and national.

  • -Mike- August 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Sorry, Barbie, I’m pretty sure Ol’ Obama has never even heard of St George, nor did he have anything to do with choosing the recipients of the grant. Also, it’s not like grant money just appears from nowhere… Everything in this country is run off taxpayer dollars in one way or another. MY taxpayer dollars, and YOUR taxpayer dollars.

  • Big Bob August 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Agreed, Ed, you hit that nail right on the head! Just since when does a city council go over the public and approve projects?

  • Susan Poophe August 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Where the hell is all this money coming from, people???

  • Langer August 21, 2012 at 7:28 am

    At this day and age, the purchase of a carousel for $300,000 was really not necessary. What is done is done however a while back it was noted that it had made a profit in the first year. Surprisingly, I never heard how much was spent on the medical bills for the injured person who was hit by a panel that fell. Was that deducted from the total “profit?” Also, how much was paid to avoid a future lawsuit for those injuries?

  • DoubleTap August 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Great article Dallas. It is a shame that we probably won’t know exactly how that $550,000. will be spent. There seems to be unseen forces (Skywest?) in play to make sure there WILL NOT be any other flights and/or airlines that will be able to use this taxpayer waste of an airport. It is apparent the the local city council considers itself above the ethical norm in not publishing council meeting minutes a year after the meeting. Approving and purchasing and installing this carousel BEFORE actually voting on it WITHOUT public notice/discussion goes against the grain of what should be very transparent for the community to see and comment on. And to find out that three of the council members actually profitted from the construction of the airport through contract arrangements is very disturbing. And to think, the time will come again that these councill members will want your vote again. Get ready for the lies about how they want to do what is right for the City. Seems like they all want to do what is right for their wallets, regardless of what the citizens of St. George want. The same citizens who allow these individuals to get re-elected again and again to line their own pockets. Any guesses where that $550,000. will end up at?

  • Matt August 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Just another reason why we need to completely rid ourselves of the current city government. Can I get an amen?

  • Robert August 21, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I would gladly attend a council meeting, but since they are held at 4PM I am unable to attend as I work 8am to 5pm. How do we change this? If council meetings were held at 6pm rather then 4pm I think you would see a much larger turnout and the citizens of this city would have a say in the council’s dealings. It is also interesting that the city boasts about how the carousel is turning a profit, but doesnt mention operating costs. How much power does this carousel use? What kind of money are they paying the ticket booth operator, do they receive benefits? If you figure in the opportunity costs of this project I am sure that it is still in the red. Council members, you should be ashamed for your actions, I for one think a petition is needed to change the meeting from 4pm to 6pm, we need to take action against these fatcat pigs who line their pockets with dirty cash

    • Alvin August 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Sounds like you are a motivated citizen. I hope you vote on a regular basis. In fact, you sound like a good candidate for Mayor or City Council. Then you could take all these ideas and with a motivated attitude change everything to your liking. Also, public hearings are at 5 PM so most folks can be there to comment if they choose to. Or if you are really concerned about a particular item, take off work early and be there at 4 PM. The Council agenda is posted in advance on the City website so you’ll know if there is something that needs your comment. But of course you already knew that.

      • Tyler August 22, 2012 at 12:39 am

        Alvin, I think most folks are either stuck in traffic or just getting off at 5.

      • Robert August 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

        Again, 6pm or even 630 would be a reasonable time, it shouldn’t be a burden or a loss for an individual in this town to get their word in on a subject, why should I have to lose an hour of pay and inconvenience myself and my employer to get a word in Alvin? Also, I have morals and values that I wouldn’t compromise for a buck so I would make an ill St.George council member

  • Susan Poophe August 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    AMEN MATT!!!

  • Susan Poophe August 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Robert, holding the city council meetings before 5pm when people are at work is the whole idea. Then the damn good ol’ boys don’t have to deal with a potential audience questioning or disagreeing with their (explicit) decisions.

    • DoubleTap August 22, 2012 at 9:32 am

      Susan, you are 100% correct. It is by design that the meetings are held at 4 pm. These council members DO NOT want the citizens involved in their City’s dealings. This is how they were able to get the carousel done without the citizenry asking proper questions of them. This council does not care one bit about the citizens of St. George. Their sole purpose of being on the council is to push their own agenda while lining their pockets at the expense of the citizen taxpayer. And I am willing to venture that they will be re-elected again. Voters should remember this come election time. To the St. George City Council: Pay attention to what the voters want…you work for the citizens!

  • DUH! August 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    If more than an embarassing 12 percent of the city’s population cared enough to vote, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion!

  • Ken August 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    This city and county are ran by a few for the benefit of a few! The majority of voters drink whatever is served by our elected officials. Sadly too many people just don’t vote, the officials in office now know this and can baffle the majority with BS. Going to city councils meetings is a true waste of time because if you haven’t made large cash contributions then your comments are in one ear and out the other. The council is extremely arrogant and condescending!!!

    • Jorge August 22, 2012 at 6:32 am

      I seriously doubt there are any “large” cash contributions going around City Hall. The real issue is the failure of the people to vote. Last election was 12% or so of the people voted. Now of the 12%, some spread that vote out to various candidates. So the winners got 6% or so of the vote of the people who voted. Now that’s the sad part. The elected officials really only need to answer to 6 or 7% of the total voters!

  • Ken August 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

    @Jorge Thanks for proving my point! People either don’t care or don’t want to understand how politics are driven by money for the benefit of those with the money!

  • Robert August 22, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I am seriously considering starting a petition to change the time from 4PM to 6PM, talking on a message board is one thing, taking action is another one all together, I’ll have to type one up, anyone know the minimum number of signatures needed for something like this??

  • Save the horse, ride a cowboy August 22, 2012 at 11:33 am

    More people need to be involved with the political atmosphere in St George. The city is faced with an unemployment rate of over 10%. Yet, it takes taxpayer money to buy a carousel (then raises taxes) rather than focusing on ideas for downtown growth and job creation. The city has antiquated ordinances that restrict business operation (i.e. dance clubs).

    St George seems to have a mayor and council that only asks their kids and grandkids what they want (splashpad, carousel, funding the wagon train & fireworks) rather than addressing the populace and businesses on what they feel is needed for this city.

    By the way, St George, quit raising my taxes for your socialist expenditures.

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