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With the Sept. 13 primary election about six weeks away, one of Ogden's eight mayoral candidates has organized the first forum for residents to informally quiz this season's hopefuls.
Thursday's "Meet Your Next Mayor" event will be held at the Ben Lomond Hotel, 2510 Washington Blvd., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Mayoral candidate Steven Van Wagoner, president of Ogden's Historic 25th Street Association, organized the gathering but said it has no connection to his campaign. The Ben Lomond Hotel is furnishing the meeting space at no cost, Van Wagoner added.
"It's important to me to have all the community involved in the process of voting and getting to know who their candidates are," he said.
Ogden is one of two Utah cities hosting a mayoral race this year, and its seat is in full play with three-term Mayor Matthew Godfrey not running again.
Along with Van Wagoner, the candidate roster includes Ogden Community Development Manager Jonny Ballard, Weber County Public Information Officer Mike Caldwell, Ogden residents Jason Goddard and John Thompson, former state Rep. Neil Hansen, and City Council members Brandon Stephenson and Susie Van Hooser.
Ballard and Caldwell are unable to attend Thursday's event, Van Wagoner said.
The Ogden Ethics Project, a grassroots group, has asked the candidates to forego corporate campaign contributions and avoid loopholes allowing donors to exceed current caps of $1,500 to council candidates and $5,000 to mayoral candidates.
Stephenson, a two-term council member, said he objected to "the absurd suggestion that business campaign contributions are unethical."
"I dislike the premise that somehow businesses are a problem in local campaigns," Stephenson said in a recent statement to the news media.
But activist Dan Schroeder, who helped found the Project, said he feels Stephenson mischaracterized the Project's position.
"There are so many ethical pitfalls involved with those donations," Schroeder said, "that the only practical way to avoid them is to just say no."
Van Wagoner has pledged to not accept business or corporate contributions regardless of what other mayoral candidates may do. "I don't know how you can effectively lead when you owe favors," he said.
In late August, the Ogden Ethics Project will host two debates, one for council candidates and the other for mayoral hopefuls.
In the meantime, the group has posted all of Ogden's approved City Council minutes since 2000 in a searchable mode at ogdenethics.org/councilminutes.html.