COLUMN: Logan City’s Crooked, Dirty Deal

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at [email protected]His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees. 

For over a year, Logan Mayor Craig Petersen has been lobbying for a new public library to be built at the downtown location still known as the Emporium. With practically no collaboration with other elected city officials, Mayor Petersen ordained this location on Main Street, near Center Street as a place for a brand spanking new library. The city already has purchased the building and ordered the few remaining tenants to vacate the premises.

Problems are apenty.

Mayor Petersen has acted as if this plan was simply a matter of decree. The Logan City Council does have a say in this. And the rock solid reliable information I have received in the past year strongly suggests the mayor’s modus operandi of going to the media before locking up support at City Hall is bewildering to many in a position of political power.

One high ranking city official stated the mayor went “off the reservation” with his library announcement. Another vexed city official said the mayor “forgets how city government works”.

And then the people spoke.

An unscientific reading of comment sections on social networking coupled with multiple conversations I have engaged in with fellow Loganites (Loganers?) compels me to summarize that a new library is not overly wanted; and the Emporium location is decidedly rejected as imprudent.

This column is not meant to discuss the proper location for a new library; or, if a new library is even necessary. I have offered opinions about this <a href=”” target=”_blank”>not once</a>, <a href=”” target=”_blank”>but twice</a>. 

What brings this issue back from the dead—like an ‘80’s movie ax murderer—is the news that broke Tuesday night at the Logan City Council meeting. Mayor Petersen went public with three sites that a commissioned steering committee recommended. One was the Emporium. The other two, the abandoned gas station on the corner of 100 West and 100 South and the abandoned retail store on 300 North Main, are both owned by the Needham family.

Eugene Needham III is currently a member of the Logan City Council. His son, Eugene Needham IV is a member of the steering committee.

Read this next paragraph a few times slowly and contemplate its content:

Two members of a prominent Cache Valley family are highly influential actors into the decision where to put a new, taxpayer-funded library, and this family stands to directly profit by having one of the chosen sites being property they own.

This is scandalous. This is politically unethical. This may well be illegal.

There is no way that Mayor Petersen or the four elected Logan City Council members not named Gene Needham should have expected that the residents of Logan would be capitulating sheep to this obvious conflict of interest.

But what do the four other Logan City Council members think of this openly corrupt proposition? As of this writing, they have not made any public comments. I believe Councilpersons Herm Olsen, Holly Daines, Tom Jensen and Jeannie Simmonds should publicly comment on this…and soon.

Mayor Petersen has already responded to me on this issue. I will give the mayor credit for corresponding with me on multiple occasions about the library issue. Any mayor willing to engage in a civil manner with a dissenting resident is worthy of respect. But his exasperation that I would think something is afoul does not hold up. I simply refuse to believe that two members of the same family having an influence over a decision that can make them a huge profit is ethical and unbiased.

And all of this is coming with a municipal primary just days away.

Later today the multiple candidates for the two open council seats, as well as the four people running to replace the retiring Mayor Peterson, will be at a forum at the Logan Library (IRONY ALERT). The forum starts at 6 PM. I will be there at 5:30 to find out how the candidates feel about this. And since my primary ballot is laying on my desk unopened, their answers maybe very well determine whom I vote for in two weeks.

It is an entirely right and proper thing to be a single-issue voter if that one issue is protesting elected officials making a profit out of the pockets of their constituents.

I am right to believe something is amiss. It is sign of intelligence to see a father and son have influence over a decision that makes them money and openly suggest that this looks wrong on the surface and most likely will be wrong in application. I refuse to listen to testimonies of civic virtue and integrity regarding those involved in this process. Anyone can be corrupt.

The residents of Logan should not be treated like children who are ill-equipped to understand the complexities of how their taxes will go into the coffers of a wealthy family as a necessary step in building a library very few Loganites are clamoring for.

This is a dirty deal. The suggested sites should be thrown out and a new commission should be sanctioned. The Needham family should be recused from this process. And the current members of the Logan City Council, and those wishing to be paid, elected officials in Logan in the immediate future should be asked to give an emphatic statement on their opinion of this subject.

Two members of the Needham family are involved in a process that will allow them to profit from a taxpayer-funded library. Yes, I have typed that out three times. I want that to penetrate my readers. It is up to my fellow Logan residents to raise their voices about this embarrassingly unethical process. If they do not protest, then they have forfeited their right to ever demand clean, transparent government for the rest of their lives.

And that is how politicians think they get over on the people that elected them. Because history says they can.

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