Times-Call graffiti backpedaling

Over the last month, the Longmont Daily Times-Call has had a few front page stories about graffiti in the city. These included large color pictures of the “artwork” and bio’s of the “artists”. There has also been no shortage of Open Forum letters and TC-Line comments about their coverage, mostly negative. I’m going to have to stand on the side of the people claiming that the Times-Call has glamorized this behavior and the people who do it.

What was May 6, 2007’s editorial? ” Vandalism does not make you glamorous.” Really? You don’t say. But wait, you did say, in so many words the opposite with your earlier coverage. So which is it, and why the change of heart? A little heat from the police? Getting the message from your readers? Has graffiti increased since your exposé’s hit the stands?

I don’t have a lot of sympathy here for a couple of reasons. First, these huge front page stories were not necessarily on slow news days. These seemed like pieces put together earlier sitting around waiting for a dull time to throw out there. Second, after numerous negative letters pointing out the obvious (except to the paper apparently), they put out another story making these graffiti artists seem like misunderstood saints. More negative letters followed.

Now they start their latest editorial blaming vandalism on the weather! It starts out with vandalism at a construction site, but also mentions spray paint and graffiti. It puts the “onus” on law abiding citizens to try to make vandalism harder on the criminals that commit it. How about a little onus on the criminals? How about some more onus on you, the Times-Call, to be a little more responsible with your reporting and commentary?

It gets really rich with the editorial staff asking that these “vandals should take a little pride in their community”. Among other things, isn’t that what makes them criminals and vandals, a lack of pride in their community? Before you point your finger at law abiding citizens, and even the vandals you’ve essentially glamorized, take a look in the mirror. You’re part of the problem.

Blinded By The Light, Pt 1

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save energy. You have a menu of reasons to pick from to suit your belief system. It can be energy independence, either on a large scale as independence from foreign oil, or on a smaller scale, sometimes referred to as “off the grid”. It can be a way to save money on your utility bills. It might be a way to avoid energy delivery companies from having to build new facilities. If you think you are adding to global warming, energy conservation might slow that down. The question becomes what is a realistic way of doing it in a meaningful way.

With that in mind, let’s talk about compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFL’s. They’ve become much more popular recently, but like a lot of you, I’ve been using them on and off for years. The lure of the packaging promising longer life and less energy are enticing. Wal-mart has an aggressive sales campaign on CFL’s and other large retailers like Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco are offering them in 10-packs or more at pretty attractive prices. How could they, and many environmentalists be wrong? Right? Wrong.

Anyone who’s used them enough knows their shortcomings. The light they put off isn’t anywhere on par with incandescent or halogen. The vast majority, in other words the cheap ones, are not dimmable. They’re not “instant-on”, and they take a while to reach full brightness. GE’s own website states that the bulb must be left on at least 3 minutes to reach the point of most efficient operation and they don’t recommend you leave it on for less than 15 minutes. They also don’t recommend you use them in items that vibrate, like ceiling fans or garage door openers. They’re alluding to the grim possibility of breakage. Grim? Read on.

Straight from GE’s website: What should I do if I break a CFL bulb?Fluorescent lamps contain mercury. Mercury at atmospheric pressure is a silver colored liquid that tends to form balls. Mercury is a hazardous substance. When one lamp is broken, the best thing to do is to wear chemical resistant glove to clean it up. The gloves can be vinyl, rubber, PVC, or neoprene. The gloves you buy in the supermarket for household cleaning are sufficient. The gloves protect your skin from absorbing mercury and from getting cut by the glass. The remains of one lamp can be disposed as normal waste since the amount of mercury is small. However, for future reference, when large quantities of lamps are being disposed you must follow your state and the federal regulation for disposing of mercury-containing lamps.”

Now, back to the meaningful and realistic part I was talking about earlier. Great, you saved some money at the store and on your electric bill and shaved off a few kilowatts. Any environmental advantage has been wiped out by a couple of broken CFL’s (probably in a landfill by now), and who knows on what magnitude. Net environmental loss, and it’s possibly happening in households all over the world, especially in countries that are or are near mandating their citizens use these CFL’s. The best of intentions blinded by ignorance.

So there’s the dilemma. You want to do the right thing, but don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot in the process. In Part 2, some solutions.

A Tax By Any Other Name

Part of the problem of trying to stay as topical as possible (as in matters of current interests, not a cream), is that as time goes by, it may become less relevant. Keeping that in mind, here is an issue in the upcoming (4/10/07) Longmont City Council meeting: Revised Airport Rules and Regulations by Code.

I was watching a recently Tivo’d council meeting when the idea of charging Mile Hi Skydiving (MHS) a $1 per jumper fee came up. The councilmember for my ward, Doug Brown, is a nice guy that I’ve had numerous occasions of having friendly conversations with. His eyes lit up with the possibility of this fee, he was doing some fuzzy math figuring out the thousands of dollars that could come the city’s way. Continue reading…

Freedom of Speech, Unless You Teach

Attached is an image of the Bill Of Rights. I know, some of you have to turn your heads or cover your ears and yell “la la la la”, but here, in part, is the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”
How might this apply to the recent story of a Longmont teacher under fire? (Daily Times-Call 3/23/07 ” Global warming on trial“) The newspaper was exercising their “freedom of the press”, also part of the First Amendment, in reporting the story. The students were expressing their freedom of speech, in a lively debate and mock trial on this issue. The teacher and CSU student aide were expressing their freedom of speech and agreed that they presented both sides equally. The teacher even explained his neutrality in the classroom on the subject to a parent. So far so good.

The teachers freedom of speech, apparently, has its limits. Even though he threw in the disclaimer ” What I think is not the issue. It’s what the students dig up and how they present the case“, it was the following statement that got all of the attention: ” I don’t believe in Darwinism…” First thoughts that came to my mind were the lines from a song:” I don’t believe in Bible / Jesus / Kings / Elvis / Kennedy.” To many, these words are inspired, enlightened phrases, and artists should be protected enough to utter such things freely. Others may find these words, dare I say, religious or spiritual, equally worthy of encouragement and protection. The above citizen was exercising the full range of his First Amendment rights. But this was British subject, non US Citizen (at that time), John Lennon. A true genius, but not a PhD, and definitely not a grade school teacher. Double standard? But I digress.

With that one comment, this teachers detractors pounced and threw out the baby, the bathwater, the bathtub, and the bathroom. The vitriol is beyond belief as it’s escalated way past civil disagreement. Are these detractors First Amendment rights covered when it drifts into libel and slander? I won’t repeat some of the vile namecalling and attacks on this teacher and his family, you’ll just have to trust me or look it up yourself. Oddly, these are the same people that usually scream the loudest for their right of freedom of speech, but you better not disagree with them. I’ll also point out that much of this started before the second article ran (Daily Times-Call 3/27/07 ” Debunking Darwin“), where the teacher probably sent these people right over the edge.

The attack then switched to a book (and its cover art) the teacher wrote totally outside and separate from his school work. “District standards” (an oxymoron worthy of another discussion) being what they are, make it pretty clear what can and cannot be taught in our government schools. Has there been any evidence that this teacher has brought his outside opinions into the classroom? Appears that he’s gone pretty far not to bring his beliefs into the teaching environment. Which brings us back to the First Amendment. Above and beyond these so-called district standards, after covering the material required, are teachers barred from exercising any First Amendment rights? Namely speech and religion? Don’t give me the “wall of separation” nonsense, unless you can find that in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or Bill of Rights (you can’t, it’s not there).

The question is which example do we want taught to our children: Keep your mouth shut and follow the rules no matter if they’re fair or just? That only certain free speech is acceptable (not including yelling “fire” in a theater of course)? Or that you should get multiple sides to the story, question and debate, and draw your own conclusions? The last example is pretty close to what was reported in the 6th grade debate. It is ironic that this whole episode sprouted from the topic of global warming, only in that many call it the “new religion”. Or is that debate also closed for discussion?

Personally, I see a possible First Amendment battle in the making. If not here by this teacher, perhaps somewhere else with another one. First, harm has to be shown to get that ball rolling. Since this teacher is soon retiring, his firing is unlikely. Keep your eye on this subject, it’s far from over.

Oops, They Did It Again

I do my own investigative journalism. I don’t get all my facts or quotes from a newspaper, I often go right to the sources and email or speak to them directly. I also on occasion will send the Daily Times-Call a news tip. It’s usually something I put a lot of work into, but think it’s worth them possibly digging a little deeper with the resources they have, and possibly printing it. The only thing I ask in return is partial credit if they use some of the work I’ve done. I don’t think they’ve actually run one of my news tips, and that’s fine, it’s their paper.

On March 24th, 2007 I wrote a piece about “Kids’ Nite Out”, I then posted it around 1am on March 25th to YourHub. I was surprised to see it on the front page of the Longmont section online, even more surprised that it went on the printed edition on March 29th. I had a couple of conversations with Kids’ Nite Out Managing Partner Eileen White on March 25th and 26th, and based on some new information I updated the story on YourHub, although the printed version was the original.

I then noticed the Times-Call repeatedly visiting my site between the 28th and 30th via an IP tracker. This doesn’t even count the visits to my YourHub story and site. Then on the 31st this story ran on the front page of their paper: Kids can come and go, Program at recreation center forced to change strict policy, by Rachel Carter. They quoted the same source I contacted, which was not the same name found on the original letter given to us by Kids’ Nite Out. Also, this policy change happened back around January. It was never reported until I wrote about it over 3 months later. Then coincidentally, within a week, it shows up on the Times-Call?

My write-up on this wasn’t just an opinion piece. I researched state law and interviewed the above mentioned person. The Times-Call interviewed the same person and others, and did a fairly decent job in reporting it. They also have staff that do this for a living. I do this as a sideline, I don’t get paid, and I don’t have subscribers. I do like beating them to a story, and wouldn’t mind if they used some of it in their own reporting, as long as credit is given. I once beat them by two weeks on some work I was doing on railroad noise and regulations, another front page story. Since it was mentioned in a city council meeting I couldn’t verify they got the idea from me.

Some history: A few years ago I was given permission to republish parts of the Times-Call on my website, as long as proper credit was given, which I’ve always done. I was also told that on occasion at least one reporter would check out my site, possibly to see what else was going on or what might’ve been missed. I’m flattered, but never asked for anything in return, not even a free subscription, which I pay for twice a year. But when I research and write, I’m not anonymously giving to a charity. I give credit where it is due, and I only ask for the same in return.

Need more offsets!

In a free society, we’re free to choose to be efficient or wasteful. There are those out there that want to regulate and tax that freedom of choice, basically taking the choice away. Hypocrisy arises when these people demand we be more efficient, yet are wasteful themselves and justify it with so-called credits or offsets. Here’s the lighter side of this nonsense, Longmont style.

We often look at the crime map in the paper and the various police beats. While we are glad our beat is fairly crime-free, we are willing to sell our ” crime credits” to those beats that are less fortunate.

Snow in front of mailboxes was a much discussed problem, we used our snowblower to keep ours clear (a few houses down and across the street) to keep our mail coming. We could sell part of our ” snowblower/mailbox credits” to the unlucky, or lazy.

I bought a four-wheel drive truck with high ground clearance to lessen the chance of being at the mercy of the city’s road clearing, or lack thereof. I could sell my ” four-wheel drive credits” to those low-ground-clearance, rear-wheel-drive COLORADO drivers.

Traffic is a problem in some parts of the city, but that’s okay because those pot-holed or less traveled roads can be looked at as ” traffic congestion offsets” to make up for Hover or Main.

Some schools are fairly overcrowded, doesn’t help when the benchmarks are arbitrarily increased. But those schools that parents wouldn’t send their worst enemies kids to can sell their ” undercrowded school credits” to the other schools.

All those complaints about the loud, long, and somewhat unnecessary train horns need to accept ” noise offsets” from quieter neighborhoods, or those with thick walls or earplugs.

Got it? If not, I have some ” sarcasm and exaggeration for humor credits” to sell you.

This is only a test, or is it?

It’s springtime in Longmont, time when a mans fancy turns to…nevermind. It’s time for the Outdoor Warning System testing. Yes, that time honored tradition of scaring the bejeezus out of you as you oversleep from a hectic weekend. The first test will be Monday April 2nd at 10:00am, and every first Monday of each month through August.

That’s right, emergencies take the winter off. They’re migratory that way. Continue reading…

Tampering with Kids’ Nite Out

<<CLICK HERE for a related story>> Like many of you Longmont parents (and probably other communities), we take advantage of “Kids’ Nite Out” at our local recreation center. We felt comfortable leaving our kids there for a few hours with their counselors, and how it would be tough for our kids to just wander out, or worse, be taken out by the wrong person. That has now all changed. We received this letter…

Continue reading…

Public NOT invited to be heard

There was no love coming from the City Council on Valentines Day ’06. Here is the document (dead link now) limiting your access to locally elected officials. The normally accepted procedure was to have 5 minutes at the beginning and end of each meeting for “Public Invited To Be Heard”. As an occasional speaker, it took time to whittle it down to fit that time frame in some meaningful way. Then somewhere along the line they decided to cut that time. My personal opinion is that this came about from all the Walmart protesters that would go one after another for quite some time, usually repeating each other, and may have pushed the limits of what the councilmember’s would tolerate. I waited for it seemed about 30 speakers, all about Walmart, just to get my airport issue addressed. I could’ve gone between them but didn’t want my point lost in a subject that the city had already made their mind up about.

So down came the hammer. The first step was a 5 minute limit on the first 12 speakers, but #13 on only had 3 minutes, so much for planning out your comments to fit the time allowed. Now you get 3 minutes, period, 1st, 10th, 20th, doesn’t matter. In the old days you didn’t have to put your name on the sign-up sheet, now if you don’t you don’t get your turn until the end of the meeting (regular session only, study session there is no public invited to be heard at the end). Here’s my problem with this: I usually did not put my name on the list for one reason, if someone else already spoke to my issue, I didn’t waste councils time and repeat them. If no one else did, then I’d raise my hand and speak, usually last. But now, if the only way I or anyone can be heard is to sign up, then we all will and possibly waste more of council’s time that could’ve been saved by avoiding duplication.

The bone thrown out by council was this 30 minute chitchat with a couple members of council before the session. This was to be done on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. You have to sign up for it, and the member may spend 1 minute listening to you, or 29 minutes listening to someone else, in no order and at the discretion of the council member. Recently they cancelled a meeting, cutting these 30 minute get-togethers down to ONCE in March. They point to the possibility of contacting members via phone or email, I’ve done that plenty in the past, results are spotty. Try it for yourself.

I usually agree with Mayor Pirnack on most issues, but this is one I’ve never agreed with. One of her main goals was more public involvement in city issues, something I took to heart, hence this blog/site, etc etc. But this change in procedures (technically known as R-2006-12) goes totally against the Mayor’s stated goal, which I believe is a worthy goal.

I share that goal with my encouraging people to get involved and follow what goes on in their community. Instead of trying to have all the answers, I’d rather nudge you to ask more questions. You’re paying for it in one form or another, get your moneys worth.
UPDATE: According to the Times-Call “City Talk” section, City Council members face-to-face meetings are now only on the fourth Tuesday of every month. The above resolution still says “twice a month”. Watch for it to totally disappear.

How They Voted: Okinawa Pork aka HR-1591

This is the first of many “How They Voted” editions. It’s an expansion of the limited space the local paper gives to how your local representatives voted in issues of interest. I plan on limiting it just to the Longmont and East Boulder County area representatives at the local, county, state, and federal levels.

First up, HR-1591 “Making emergency supplemental appropriations for fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes”. Others have come up with catchy names for it, I came up with “Okinawa Pork” without putting much time or thought into it. This is the House bill to fund (or defund or underfund) the war in Iraq, but added in are all kinds of things that have nothing to do with it, like spinach, shrimp, peanuts, and shellfish. It’d make me angrier if it didn’t make me so hungry.

My take, and others you’ve probably read as well, is it’s an insult to our troops laden with earmarks (pork) to garner enough votes to pass. A little something for constituents back home, you know, the kind of thing that many congressmen were (rightly) lambasted for prior to the last election. Once again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So how did our reps vote? Mark Udall (Dem-Dist2) voted YES. Marilyn Musgrave (Rep-Dist4) voted NO. It passed 218-212 mostly along party lines, far from being veto-proof. I visited both of their websites to see if they had any comments on this bill. Rep Musgrave did not (site could be more current), Rep Udall did, here are some excerpts and some random comments: ” Many Americans are frustrated and angry because we are four years into a war the president assured us would be short and decisive”…I have swampland to sell you if you buy into assurances of ease and timeliness when it comes to wars or police actions.” So long as our troops are in the field, we must provide them what they need”

Apparently, what they need is “… scaling back our military mission in Iraq”. This has been called the “slow bleed” and “redeployment” bill, depending on which side you sit. Now here’s the pork: ” I am pleased that the Colorado delegation was successful in persuading the House leadership to include financial assistance for farmers and ranchers” I’m not sure who was part of the delegation, it doesn’t state, but we at least know Mr. Udall was part of adding unrelated earmarks.

I’m all for helping out those in need, whether it be from blizzards to natural or manmade disasters, but why as part of this bill? These are the kinds of games that tick off the general public. Politicians wonder why there is such disdain and apathy out there, here it is.