We can solve problems without federal grants

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:35 PM

John H. Thompson

One of the great things of being alive is the mysteries and wonderment of things I don’t understand. Like why are the Wasatch mountains east of my home greener than the lawn west of my home?

Another mystery is the Ogden United Promise Neighborhood project. This newspaper recently ran major-length articles concerning this project.

It’s basically a continuation of a federal program that awarded Ogden $500,000 to study ways to transform the community.

Different sponsors are joining along with some seven committees to address health and wellness, early childhood, K-12 grades, college and career, youth development, financial stability, revitalization housing and employment. The study area is roughly from Harrison Boulevard to 1900 West and from 9th to 12th streets and to 36th to 44th streets.

This chunk of Ogden has some 40 percent of Ogden households, 75 percent of Ogden students, and the area is designated “of most need” in Ogden. How this “most need” is defined is not explained. It’s also stated that the project’s core is primarily geared towards improving education. Really?

Let me be clear here; I’m for education, clean, safe, and attractive neighborhoods, and involved citizens. What I question is that all the questions here have been asked before, the same answers have been given before, and the same solutions are known as before.

I read nothing new or surprising in the series here on how to improve student performance.

We just agreed to raise local taxes for two educational proposals (county library and community swimming pools). How, with the federal sequestration hanging over our heads, the Utah motto of “Industry” for the state, our good old pioneer self reliance and our want to cut all ties and regulations that the big, old mean federal government burdens us with, we now are chomping at the bit for some possible $35 million over five years to do something we caused or at least let happen to ourselves. I don’t understand?

Dan Schroeder’s recent Standard-Examiner viewpoint was right on when he wrote that legitimate reasons exist to direct development into certain neighborhoods (“Not all of new tax will go to libraries and pools,” July 2). I’ve always advocated (and campaigned) that if ever a city leader, my priority would be neighborhood development, redevelopment, revitalization and renewal over economic development.

It’s more valuable and long lasting to have people owning and living in Ogden over just being employed here. Permanency among residents — a great, but old, idea.

All the information in the series isn’t new. Why we now think — or worse the person at the federal level that has the decision to grant this $35 million thinks — that it’s a breakthrough revelation that children learn better when they are fed, get enough sleep, have a safe home and neighborhood to live in, have active parents that ensure their homework is done, and are valued in safe and stable communities, amazes me.

This is not rocket science. Why a federal bureaucrat believes Ogden is on the edge of a great transformation is one thing. Has anyone thought to locate a city that already has a top-level education designation and just try to emulate that city? Sounds like something we could share with those nine other cities and save $35M federal dollars at the same time.

Another question to be raised is what have the city council and school board been doing? Shouldn’t they be the ones reviewing, asking questions, studying trends in regard to safe neighborhoods, crime levels, types of crime, etc.? Why is the municipal building right in the center of the area being studied?

Shouldn’t the school board be looking at ways to improve education every year, increase graduation rates, and develop and implement new methods to better educate our children?

I refuse to believe we need federal grants to study our own problems. I refuse to believe that our council and school board are not smart, dedicated, and resourceful enough to solve our own problems.

I refuse to believe that we don’t have local assistance available (Weber State, Granite School District, OWATC, etc) to find ways now to implement known solutions to known problems.

To paraphrase the ending of a favorite saying, “perhaps we are so good at studying, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by restudying; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

It’s time to stop the studying, quit applying for the grants, and just do what we know needs to be done.

Thompson lives in Ogden.

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