Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free Speech Issues

Watch your words: they become your thoughts.
Watch your thoughts: they become your actions.
Watch your actions: they become your habits.
Watch your habits: they become your character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

- Frank Outlaw
This was on a poster I saw on a wall at Rocky Mountain Elementary School yesterday morning.
I was there for a health and safety fair. It seemed an appropriate way to start off some thoughts I've been having regarding recent events related to the concept of Freedom of Speech.

We've had quite the demonstration of Free Speech rights splashed across the popular media ad nauseam so far this week. Rev. Jeremiah Wright's display at the National Press Club has been talked about quite a bit, but as can be expected has been distilled into (sound) bite-size pieces.

I read most of the transcript of his remarks, and those which were prepared and that he made prior to the now famous Q&A were rather impressive. In his prepared speech, Rev. Wright comes across as an educated and articulate theological scholar, firmly committed to his mission, and highly cognizant of what he has been called to do. Witness these comments about the concept of reconciliation:

"Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans.

Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God’s children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.

Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals."

The good Reverend then came across as haughty, almost prideful, in his defense of his previous remarks when answering questions from reporters in attendance. The way he seemed to literally strut when the moderator was asking questions, so seemingly eager to pounce on the questions like a wounded animal, amplified the divisive nature of his responses. The body language people on the O'Reilly Factor were probably having a field day with it. Perhaps I should have just stuck to reading the written transcript, and watched the video afterward. There's a disconnect at work here that Rev. Wright will have difficulty reconciling.

I'm scratching my head as to how on Earth Rev. Wright feels that his remarks will help to achieve the reconciliation that he seems to feel so called to work toward and support. Perhaps he should heed the words of Dr. King when it comes to uniting what, despite our laws and protections, still remains a very polarized and divisive society, too often so along racial and cultural lines:
"True integration will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations."
George F. Will concluded his column yesterday with this unfortunate yet accurate statement about Rev. Wright:
"He is a demagogue with whom Obama has had a voluntary 20-year relationship. It has involved, if not moral approval, certainly no serious disapproval. Wright also is an ongoing fountain of anti-American and, properly understood, anti-black rubbish. His speech yesterday demonstrated that he wants to be a central figure in this presidential campaign. He should be."

There is a familiar passage in the Book of Proverbs that Rev. Wright may see fit to re-familiarize himself with. If he sticks to the truth he has in his heart, he'll be OK. Otherwise this is going to kick in but good:

Proverbs 16:17-19 (New International Version)

17 The highway of the upright avoids evil;
he who guards his way guards his life.

18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.


George Will's column on Sunday presented a different Free Speech issue that hits a little closer to home, that being the use of campaign fundraising regulations on a group of Metro Denver subdivision residents who were attempting to resist annexation. In short, here's a couple of things that Will wrote that are spot on:

"The First Amendment guarantees freedom of association, 'the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' The exercise of this right often annoys governments, and the Parker Six did not know that Colorado's government, perhaps to discourage annoyances, stipulates that when two or more people associate to advocate a political position, and spend more than $200 in doing so, they become an 'issue committee'."

"The two real rationales for laws regulating political activity are incumbent protection and the convenience of government -- discouraging the governed from activism. The proclaimed rationale is, however, the prevention of corruption or the appearance thereof. But corruption is understood in terms of quid pro quo transactions -- candidates corrupted by contributions. So, there cannot be corruption in ballot issue elections because there are no candidates to corrupt."

Will is absolutely right on this one. I wonder if the ACLU will push this issue, as it is a potential case pitting the framers of the Constitution against a more modern government seemingly bent upon preventing otherwise easily organized grass roots activism. Nothing on the state chapter's website about this, either.

Political speech is now becoming a commodity, as evidenced by the mainstream media focus on how much money each candidate is raising to support the continued battle. I wonder how long it will be before an anticipated Presidential address draws a price on the futures market.

The federal law that allows the states to resort to this kind of thing is the McCain-Feingold Act.
While the legality of most of this federal statute has already been affirmed by the Supreme Court, there is an opportunity to doing something with the wheels of a bureaucratic cart where the driver has clearly lost control of the reins.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Late Night Short Takes

I'm at the start of another weekend of 12-hour shifts, and I am kind of tired, but I need to get a few things off of my chest before turning in.

Rural Development I

The members of the Glade Park Volunteer Fire Department are a great bunch of people saddled with some pretty awesome responsibilities. They provide a vital service to a growing community, and fund it largely with the best summer family entertainment anywhere.

They're trying their best to equip themselves with what they need to properly protect not only the beautiful open space of Glade Park, but also an increasing residential and recreational presence, as well as a good chunk of the Colorado National Monument.

They deserve an opportunity to be able to do that. As a community non-profit, they aren't eligible to directly receive grant monies from government sources like DOLA. They have to go through the county to act as their agent, which may place the county in the position of owning the fire trucks until they're paid for.

Trying to create a taxing Fire District may be more trouble than it's worth; the election process is cumbersome and sometimes expensive, and the assessed valuation of the properties in the district may not generate enough revenue to accomplish the needed end. Not to mention the need to elect a board, set meetings, and formalize an organizational structure that looks suspiciously like yet another layer of government. That's precisely what many rugged individualists find attractive about present-day Glade Park.

Bottom Line: If it can't be protected, it shouldn't be built. Development should pay its' own way.

Rural Development II

Ralph D'Andrea's take on the Gateway power line controversy conveyed the essence of the conflict and of the problem. You go, Ralph. A word of advice, though; leave the expletives at home.

For a lot of people the use of swear words, even in print, distracts them from the main point, and at times results in the vilification of the author, for better or worse. After some of the zingers Ralph delivered yesterday, you'd have thought someone would have called all persons involved in Mexican immigrant labor "illiterate peasants" or something. Oh wait, that one's taken.

Bottom Line: Development should pay its' own way. Without the resort property, as well as the Hendricks mansion that came before it, there would be very little need for a new
$3 Million power line down in Gateway.

Broughton (a formidable manager) and Grand Valley Power should stand their ground.

Publication Review

After several painstaking attempts, I was finally able to magnify the article list of this magazine on a local home page, and did manage to get a sneak peek at some of this month's topics and issues:

Cover Story: A Terrible Thing to Waste

Can Back-In Parking and Roundabouts Cause Mental Illness?

-Conservatism and Organic Brain Syndrome:
The Connection Revealed

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SB 192 and the ACLU

Senate Bill 192 has garnered attention on several fronts in recent days. Reporting about the bill, which would limit picketing in residential areas, has been comprehensive and fair, with the exception of any mention in the Sentinel of the purported impetus for this particular piece of legislation. That would be the recent practice of anti-abortion protesters in the Denver area of picketing the homes of construction executives who are building a new Planned Parenthood facility over there.

In scanning the ACLU of Colorado website, I was at a loss as to why there was no mention of a bill designed to place limits on Free Speech in this manner. I contacted their office in Denver on Tuesday and spoke with Communications Assistant Erik Maulbetsch. He directed me to the Legislative Update on the site. By checking the most recent listing of bills introduced, I found that the ACLU's position on SB 192 was "Active Monitor", in contrast to "Active Support" or "Active Oppose".

I inquired of Mr. Maulbetsch in an email I sent later the same day:

If the ACLU is in favor of or is neutral to the legislation, how does one so engaged in the protection of First Amendment rights justify such a position, when the legislation attacks those rights, and by doing so attacks the core mission of your organization?
I also cited the bipartisan opposition of all of Mesa County's legislators, and the Sentinel editorial which cited a recent event where lawful dissent could be suppressed under the provisions of the bill.

To the ACLU's credit, I received a reply later the same day from Executive Director Cathryn Hazouri:
Mr. Linko, thank you for contacting the ACLU on this important issue. As you know, the ACLU of Colorado has been a long time supporter of freedom of speech. We remained neutral on SB 192 because of a U.S. Supreme Court, Frizby, that placed restrictions on targeted residential picketing. In that case, the court prohibited picketers from standing in front of one residence for the purpose of picketing one or all persons inside.

The Court required the picketers to keep moving so as to protect the privacy of the residents.With that court ruling, the ACLU could hardly oppose the bill as introduced. We made it clear to the sponsor and committee members that the sign size limitation could be problematic. That analysis would be determined by other, more numerous, cases that would determine whether the signs are sufficient to convey the picketers' message to the target.

On the floor, Rep. Stephens amended the bill to include signs carried on a truck and used to supplement the message of the picketers. This may be unconstitutional since it could be interpreted as content discrimination. The legislature adopted the amendment but also added a severability clause that means that if any part of the legislation is found to be unconstitutional, those parts passing constitutional muster will remain in effect.

I hope this explains the ACLU's position and that you understand why we did not oppose the measure. Please note that we did not support it. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

So the meat of this legislation already has Supreme Court precedent behind it. In case you're interested, the case in question is Frisby v. Schultz, which involved anti-abortion picketing in a suburb of Milwaukee.

With that information in hand, I'm still at a loss as to why the local ACLU chapter, while not actively opposing the primary sections of the bill because of the aforementioned precedent (and understandably so), did not seek to better inform its' membership about this bill as to the potential threats to First Amendment protections that it still includes. I'm guessing that to gain that insight will require closer access to the political inner workings of our local ACLU.

Considering that this bill has bipartisan support and sponsorship as well, with some questionable rationale coming from the Democratic side, the Sentinel's editorial assertion still begs for a response:
If Senate Bill 192 had been in effect on April 11, when Vice President Dick Cheney visited Grand Junction, the local peace activists protesting Cheney’s visit in a residential neighborhood might very well have been violating the law."
As much as I'm sure that some of Colorado's Democratic legislative delegation wants to sock it to the pro-lifers whenever possible, they need to remain cognizant of the law of unintended consequences here. Luckily, we have a representative in Bernie Buescher who looks at these situations objectively. He should be able to cite this as one of many ways he competently represents his local constituency. Now, like Ralph D'Andrea is known to lament, if only I lived in his district. I'm only two blocks away.

As the ACLU apparently doesn't feel this one is worth potentially burning any valuable bridges over, it's apparently up to We the People to get the word out to our legislators and to Governor Ritter that SB 192 is a bad idea. I hope you'll be joining me in that effort.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Desperately Seeking Focus

It's been a rough week.

This morning at the kitchen table with the usual day off breakfast (which means I get to sit quietly and eat it) of Cheerios, orange juice, and a yogurt, I was looking over some scribbles that I made on random pieces of paper and tucked away for the time when I would be able to sit down quietly and expand upon them. As it happens, even that was deferred until evening.

It's been difficult to focus this past week. Fatigue, frustration, and maybe a little bit of fear have clouded things over for the last few days. I got a fair amount of sleep last night, and thought I'd try to get a few things off my chest, if for nothing else than to try to move on.

April 19-20

These two days kind of represent a lightning rod for those who would seek to make a point by engaging in senselessly violent behavior or political uprising. Consider the examples:

April 19 -
Lexington and Concord
OKC Bombing
Warsaw Ghetto uprising

April 20 -
The Ludlow Massacre
Hitler's Birthday

I was aware of most of these significant dates, save for the Warsaw ghetto uprising, which may bear some significance to our family. My late wife was descended from Polish Jews centered around Warsaw, so it's quite possible that some of her ancestors lived in that ghetto during World War II.

The only incident possibly related to these events that I'm aware of was a prison riot that was reported to have been initiated by white supremacist inmates in honor of Hitler's birthday.
Sounds like we were fortunate this year.

Avalon Theatre

I contribute to Cinema at the Avalon, and have enjoyed some wonderful and unique film entertainment there so this year. Most recently was the collection of Oscar-Nominated live action short subjects for this year. It's a wonderful venue with great potential.

The recently reported price tag to renovate the Avalon to achieve its' full potential was
kind of shocking, and the comments on this article were less than complimentary. Included in one of these comments was a reference to an earlier Sentinel story which appeared over two weeks prior to the one linked above, which contained very similar information but didn't generate any of the interest that this past Saturday's story did. I wonder why...

I believe that a public-private fundraising partnership will need to happen in earnest to raise anywhere near the funds necessary to make the Avalon reach its' potential as a classic entertainment venue.

One idea I had that perhaps could be investigated now is trying to get A Prairie Home Companion to come here to do a show, with some of the proceeds to benefit the renovation project. Garrison Keillor has brought the show to other cities to support theater restoration projects, and the show's base of operations is itself the beneficiary of such an effort.

Perhaps Colorado Public Radio can be persuaded to use its' influence to help plead the case for a benefit performance here.

Senate Bill 192 (Limits on picketing in residential areas)

The Sentinel's excellent editorial opposing this legislation was well-written and thoughtful.
Kudos are also in order for all of our state representatives who are also opposing it, especially for Rep. Steve King, who reversed his position from an earlier committee vote.

As an ACLU member, I was very concerned about this group's conspicuous silence on the issue, so much so that I e-mailed one of the ACLU Colorado Chapter staff today to gain some clarification. I received a reply from the Executive Director, which I am reviewing and will have more about tomorrow.

Iraq Deployment, Part Deux

The Free Press had an excellent article on Page One this morning about a local mother of three being deployed to Iraq for a second time with the Army Reserve.

I know Rich Acree personally, and have always been impressed by his professionalism and determination through his work in one of the more difficult specialty areas at the Sheriff's Department. It's no surprise that this carries over into his personal life.

As his wife Carrie prepares for another deployment overseas, I wish all of them Godspeed in their travels and safe conduct in the war zone.

Time to finish the laundry and get ready for bed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bilbo Backs Down

"This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained – well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, 'The Hobbit'
I've been working on this post piecemeal through the weekend, and I'm kind of glad I waited after reading this evening's breaking news from the Sentinel.

My son was in the thick of the Bud Glover controversy at Grand Junction High School. I'm really not, and in my position all one could do was watch and evaluate what was being said. I've no personal knowledge of Mr. Glover or his abilities as a coach and teacher, but there seems to have been plenty of commentary online from people who do.

Based on the gregariousness of his supporters and the reticence of those who may have other opinions, I'm glad that Mr. Glover got his job back. If he didn't, I would have hoped he felt free to disclose what the school's difficulties with him actually were. That's about the only way any information would have come out, considering that with the reported resolution of the issue the involved parties will politely move on with things.

When this all started last week, School District 51 was on red alert with shields up, and Chief Information Stonemason Jeff Curtland (sic) had the spin machine at maximum warp when he put this gem out to the Sentinel's Anna Maria Basquez:

"'We can acknowledge that obviously we had a group of
students that reacted to a situation,' Kirtland said of Wednesday’s protest."

"Reacted to a situation". Kind of reminds me when the CAPCOM for the Challenger mission in 1986 called that a "major malfunction".

“The school made an attempt to provide information the best that they could. Beyond that, it’s really a situation between the principal and the coach. It’s a matter of how we support kids and stay focused on what we’re going to do next year.”

Translation: It's none of your business, and we'll be better off when summer comes and this all blows over.

The seeming success of those involved in attempting to influence Principal Bilbo's decision should be celebrated briefly, and then hopefully translate into increased collective resolve for the longer term. I've heard that the students still plan to wear the t-shirts they had made as a show of solidarity behind Mr. Glover.

I hope that those involved will consider this just the beginning of a renewed interest in the issues surrounding their lives and education. I can think of a few issues that the Class of 2009 can set the stage for addressing collectively at the end of this school year, and continue this on into their final year of high school.

Jon Bilbo will hopefully be forthright, gracious, and magnanimous in explaining his decision to the GJHS student body. Judging from the school district press release as quoted by the Sentinel, it looks as if he won't have to try too hard to say something meaningful in comparison to the doublespeak produced by the Curtland Spin Machine.

Mr. Bilbo can go a long way in helping to repair the relationship that was damaged by this episode. As Ralph D'Andrea said so well today, the students are his customers, and if he's not prepared to level with his customers about decisions that affect them, perhaps it would be best that he set himself along the path that he would have set Bud Glover on. Perhaps he can invite Jeff Kirtland along for company. Glade Park isn't necessarily Middle Earth, but it's close enough.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beauty, Democracy, Consumerism, Chaos, and 'Rightiness'

The Grand Junction Free Press has distinguished itself the last two days on a couple of different fronts.

First, they printed
two gorgeous photographs on the front pages of Tuesday's and Wednesday's editions; one of Dewey Bridge ablaze on Sunday night, and the other the winning photo from the MOG Outdoor Photo Contest.

Photo by Sean Davis

Photo by Jeremy Cooper

The contest photo was taken by one of my son's friends. I've seen some of his other pictures, and he's really got a talent. Best of luck to him at college next year.

These examples really don't do the pictures justice.
The layout of each day's front page in conjunction with these photos made for something that was mutually complementary.

Another interesting thing in the Free Press today was Marjorie Asturias-Lochlaer's column about the political process as it relates to the presidential election, her past support for Ralph Nader, and how she has difficulty understanding how a vote for Nader in 2000 or 2004 could be considered a "wasted vote" for a candidate considered a "spoiler". Her analysis was riveting:
"Since when did voting your conscience mean 'throwing away your vote?' I thought throwing away your vote meant not voting at all. If a voter feels that neither of the candidates on offer by the two major political parties addresses her needs, then why shouldn’t she be free to vote for a third candidate? Why should she be forced to choose one of the bigger names simply because that name is the lesser of two evils? When did voting become such a political calculation rather than a way to express one’s support for particular issues? Is that what our so-called democracy has become?"
Marjorie's column in the March 26 Free Press addressed the issue of conspicuous consumption in this country, specifically in relationship to one wr
iter's experience with attempting to buy just what was 'essential' for a year. This is something that has interested me for a long time. Marjorie summed it up quite nicely:
"The Grand Valley is a great petri dish in which to observe our rapidly reproducing materialism. Despite a crippling housing shortage that has seen rents and mortgages jump to unsustainable levels and salaries that — conversely — haven’t risen to meet the rising cost of living, companies offering premium services and products continue to open and thrive in this bubble economy. Storefronts offering hot tubs, Pergo flooring, granite countertops, private catering services, Botox injections and 8,000-square-foot McMansions are popping up all over the valley and doing quite a brisk business. We may not be able to find a doctor who can see us in less than six months, if at all, but we can at least enjoy our three-car garages while we wait."
I located Marjorie's blog. I'm sure that being prolific and fast on your feet are two of the benchmarks of a successful freelance writer, and she's got these both down pretty well.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading her posts. They made me feel as if I knew not the first thing about writing, especially about when you're trying to do it for a living. This was a good thing, though. I'm going to be reading it regularly from now on.

Check out Marjorie's blog, and her column, when you get a chance. The Free Press has got a good thing going with her. I hope she sticks around.


As of tonight American Airlines is canceling hundreds of flights to inspect wiring harnesses on their entire fleet of MD-80 aircraft. This has created a good deal of consternation among passengers and workers alike.

My brother Dave is a technical specialist for American, based at their maintenance facility in Tulsa. The MD-80 is his aircraft. I tried to call h
im today. I'm betting that he's up to his eyeballs in alligators right now.


In Rick Wagner's blog today his picture was changed to the following:

This reminded me of someone else:

Yes, in your heart you know he's right...extreme right.

Paging Stephen Colbert....Have a great day.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In Memoriam

She left us one year ago, right to the minute.

Over the last week or so there have been a couple of things that have presented themselves to me in a way that I find significant, and that I feel like sharing.

Gene Kinsey wrote something last week that made me think about exactly how we should commemorate loved ones who have left us. For me personally there is still grief and remembrance, but I'm also cognizant of Gene's admonishment:
"No one forgets. It is not necessary to rub the wound; the scar will remain and remind. The true homage is a life lived well."
That's quite true, and I have responded to what I feel are directions from God to move on with my life. A big part of this is assuring that our son can move on at a pace he is comfortable with, and that I am not losing sight of his progress as I make my own.

That being said, I have included a memorial tribute to Jan in the sidebar, and will leave it there the remainder of this week. The picture is how I remember her when we first met in 1979; athletic and attractive, with equal measures of joy, intelligence, perseverance, and mischief.

It's how I imagine that she is now, looking down upon us.

We are all making what I feel are strides toward living life well again. This doesn't mean that there isn't a need for change in different parts of our lives. I feel that God is directing me to explore new ways of fulfilling His plan for my life, and I am exploring those with care. In the meantime, I will continue to endeavor to walk what I believe is the path He has laid out for me.

Last evening after work I was driving to get groceries when Banjo Bob on KAFM played a bluegrass song that I had not heard before.
It was made famous by Flatt and Scruggs, but this version is by Ricky Skaggs and is very well done.

It struck me as timely, poignant, and beautiful. You can hear it by clicking here.

I'll leave you to the lyric, memories of those in your life who have 'gone home', and best wishes for blessed and fruitful days ahead.

Gone Home

All of my friends that I loved yesterday
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home
The songbirds that sing in the dell seem to say
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home

They've joined the heavenly fold
They're walking the streets of pure gold
They left one by one as their work here was done
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home

Life here is lonely since they've gone before
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home
The old weeping willow that stands by the door
Sadly says (they have gone home) gone home

The trumpet will sound on that Great Judgment day
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home
We'll see all our friends that have gone on that way
Gone home (they have gone home) gone home

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday Musings

It's a little late in the day, but I had a lot of things written down that were notable and needed mentioning.

Freshest in my memory is a most excellent NCAA basketball championship game. Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks. To the Memphis Tigers; better luck next year. Now get out there and practice those free throws. I'm sure that Jimmy V is smiling in Heaven, 25 years after his Wolfpack worked similar magic on a seemingly invulnerable Phi Slama Jama.

In the beating a dead horse department, Rick Wagner twice tried to resurrect a "controversy" about the City's choice of it's own Fire Department over private companies to provide Emergency Medical Services to the City and surrounding areas.

The first was a cheap attempt at equating the provision of EMS with that of trash pickup service. Rick has a background in law enforcement; unfortunately, sometimes he adopts an approach to public safety that belies his past experience. Briefly, my take on this is:

EMS is a fully vested partner in an active and responsive community public safety
system. It resides at a equal level with Police, Fire, and Emergency Management as a critical, baseline responsibility of government to provide for in a professional and accountable manner.

A profit motive is incompatible with the essential mission of public safety. When the focus is shifted from the needs of the citizen and the community at large, service delivery is negatively impacted and the system suffers.

Rick's second post seemed more of a target rant toward Jim Doody's commissioner candidacy.
A much more comprehensive and interactive version of this debate and its' key talking points is available on the Sentinel's Community site.

Pay particular attention to the comments from reader John B., who seemed to succeed rather well at defending the city's decision in the face of what degraded to name-c
alling by those who fail to see the essential role of EMS as a full, equal member of the public safety system, or can't see past the divisive rhetoric that is now a staple of the steady diet of hate present on many AM radio talk shows and news programs.

For anyone wishing a somewhat comedic, yet historic representation of the issues, click here.


Today's non-profit provider of Good Works is the Marillac Clinic.
This 20-year old resource, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity, provides health care services on a sliding scale fee basis to those who cannot afford this care elsewhere, and/or the health insurance that would otherwise cover it.

It's my understanding that a significant number of their clients are employed by one of the county's largest employers.
These employees have benefits, but the costs associated with this employer's group health insurance are too expensive for the wages that many of these workers are paid.

Excellent job, Marillac. Your efforts at providing reasonably-priced health care for those who need it helps in its' own way to keep down costs and hospital visits, including those who would otherwise go to the Emergency Room for care.

Another example of a good work is the excellent Sentinel column by retired judge Joan Woodward, in which we are all encouraged to make the time to make our voices heard in those public meetings and annual forums and discussions that impact the nature of growth in our community.

Going to bed. Tomorrow will be a day for reflecting, supporting, and remembering, and then to move forward.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Good Works

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are plenty of examples of great things going on in the Grand Junction community. Here are some examples of some things you may not know about that really help to enhance the collective life of our area. They help to give Grand Junction and Mesa County a soul.

It was very nice to see Bill Robinson on the front page of last Sunday's paper. I first met Bill at church. He was at first glance a rather unassuming, jovial person. I didn't know what he had accomplished with the Theatre Department at Mesa State until later on. I really enjoy the varied offerings of the department every year, even if I don't make it there very often. Quite the legacy.

Another person I met at church has also graced the media lately. John Mok-Lamme is the pastor of Sojourners Christian Fellowship. Their program to refurbish mobile homes, and rent them to individuals and families in need of inexpensive transitional housing, is an outstanding example of a vital community in action. John also wrote an excellent letter to the Sentinel last week about the presence of homeless people in Whitman Park.

John and his sons were featured on the TV news as well. I saw John today at KAFM (we both volunteer there), and congratulated him on the project. John's wife Christine is also active in an important non-profit, as Director of Child and Migrant Services in Palisade.

The good work being done by the religious communities of the Grand Valley will come together in a couple of weeks, when ShareFest happens the weekend of April 19 and 20. A total of 19 churches in the Grand Valley will cancel their services in favor of participating in a weekend-long effort to provide people in need of services with someone able to help.

A tremendous undertaking, and well worth our appreciation and support.

A recent Free Press column brought attention to the Loma Cat House. The home for feral cats is in need of volunteers and donations to help their efforts to make an impact in the feral cat population. My son Evan, who has inherited his late mother's love for cats and is always in the adoption area whenever we go to PetSmart, wants to visit there. I think I'll take him sometime.

Finally, today and tomorrow mark the last two days of the KAFM Spring Fund Drive. KAFM does great work by providing the community access to unique local programming that showcases some of the incredible talent, musical and otherwise, that is present in the Grand Junction area. The station's Radio Room venue offers some of the country's finest musicians, as well as live theatre and community presentations. KAFM is a vital, homegrown community resource that is well deserving of your support.

Today cannot go by without mentioning the 40th anniversary of a tragic moment in our nation's history.

I remember sitting in front of the TV with my brother when the bulletin flashed across the screen in stark black and white. Being 8 years old I did not have the fullest understanding of the issues at hand, but knew that something was going on and it was very important to lots of people.

We have made some great strides in this country since King's death, but recent events are helping to show how much more of a road we have yet to travel. We need to do so without fear and while recognizing that regardless of the material trappings or emotional walls that many of us surround ourselves with, that we are truly not alone, and to continue to thrive as a nation in an increasingly diverse and connected world we need to get past the esoteric and work together toward promoting peace and developing stability for all.

With that in mind it's time to get ready for the day. I'm answering phones at KAFM this morning. Keep these and the other local non-profit organizations in your thoughts when you have a little extra time or money.

Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I'm No Pundit

Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall.

- Proverbs 16:18 (NLT)

Greetings. I've decided to abandon a 25-year career in Public Safety to focus full-time on improving my writing, learning a different trade, and replacing Jim Doody on City Council should he somehow manage to unseat Craig Meis.

April Fool.

The recent sacking of E. Michael Ervin by the Free Press got me thinking more about my own writing. For a while I've been pressuring myself to try to write more, in a more timely fashion, about things that maybe I'm not so knowledgeable or passionate about. This would be great if I could do it for a living, but I don't know exactly how close I could be to something like that without more 'formal' education. That's something to explore someday.

Since the Sentinel has listed this blog the number of visits has tripled on average during the week. Ah, the power of statistics. This basically means that 30 people visit per day instead of the usual 10. Despite my efforts at producing more, which have been marginally successful, I don't get the traffic or readership that I think other blogs get. And that's just fine.

I'm the only local blogger listed on the Sentinel website (aside from Sentinel employees) who isn't self-employed, retired, or generally their own boss. This leaves me precious little time to write, especially during the work week. It also keeps me on tip-toes around sensitive issues that could leave me in a position of (more than usual) disfavor at work.

I try to avoid engaging in rhetoric that could be overly associated with the concept of hubris.
A lot of the other local bloggers let it all out at times, and end up sounding shrill and judgmental. For me, that's not in keeping with trying to be a good Christian.

I try to point out areas of disagreement, inaccuracy, inefficiency, oppression, and unfair behavior in as fact-based a way as possible. I endeavor to have a good time doing this at no one's expense, with the understanding that we all make mistakes, we all need advice, and we are all God's children.

I average 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and that's usually enough but sometimes not, especially when 12-hour shifts are the order of the day. I get two of those this week, and I'm sufficiently bogged down with paperwork that time in the office on at least one of my days off will be the norm for the next couple of weeks. So I'll get this out and keep on plugging away for the rest of this week, anyway.

I've known E. Michael Ervin for several years, way back to the night that we successfully lobbied City Council to add a PEG channel clause to their contract with Bresnan. Mike's a good guy, and even though lung disease has sapped him a bit, he remains informative, opinionated, and fun to converse with in case we run into each other, as was the case a while back in front of City Market Downtown.

Josh Nichols set the standard and principles for his opinion page when he sent Janet Rowland packing under similar circumstances. For Josh to do otherwise with Mike Ervin would have invited comparisons to Charles Foster Kane, and his adherence to a "Declaration of Principles".

What happened with Mike was unfortunate, but necessary. Perhaps we'll be fortunate enough to have an E. Michael blog soon. Mike, let me know if I can help with that.

Even with Mike's departure, Ralph, Gene, and Rick, along with myself and others, have all let the sneer show on occasion, some more often than not. Even so, I'm flattered to be listed alongside such a diverse group of insightful and talented "amateur" journalists.

It would seem that to be truly venomous and pointedly nasty takes a professional, and for that locally we have the Dean of Mean, Gary Harmon. Gary reminds me of a sort of half-baked H.L. Mencken in reverse, but I'll digress from exploring that concept further. I prefer to show respect for the dead.

To atone for that and other transgressions, this month I'll endeavor to focus on people and ideas that enhance the quality of life in Grand Junction and other places that I've been fortunate enough to call home. We have a storied history in this country of doing interesting things in April; maybe I can help to illustrate to many (as many as will endeavor to read this, at least) what the power of one person (or more) can do in a positive way, even when faced with overwhelming odds. I would appreciate any ideas you may have in bringing some of these examples forward.

Have a great month ahead, and thanks for visiting.