Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Be afraid, be very afraid...

I'm unable to verify the rumor that the above is an artists' conception of the last McCain campaign strategy meeting.

In any event, stay safe, be nice, and have fun.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The War of the Worlds - 70 Years Later

Tonight marks the 70th Anniversary of a legendary event in the history of broadcasting - the night that Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater on the Air scared the bejeezus out of a whole lot of people with their production of The War of the Worlds.

There are numerous websites chronicling the broadcast, the events that it spawned, and the fallout resulting from the intermittent mass panic in the Northeast US and elsewhere. Google to your heart's content.

There are also several radio stations around the country that will re-broadcast the program. Locally, KAFM will air it at about 7:30 tonight. Shameless plug and full disclosure..I produced the introductory content.

XM Radio will air the broadcast tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 local time, and in addition will air the press conference that occurred the day after the broadcast, as well as an interview with Orson Welles and H.G. Wells that occurred in 1940.

Indiana Public Radio is doing a complete on-air re-enactment tonight, streaming live on the Internet, something I'm sure both Wells and Welles would have been fascinated with.

What interests me the most about the broadcast is how the performers became news themselves, and how this helped in large measure to catapult Orson Welles to status as star and creative genius. This enabled him to secure a contract with RKO Pictures in 1939 that gave him complete creative control, something unprecedented for someone who had never directed a feature film.

Welles leveraged this control to bring together his Mercury Theater company of actors, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, noted cinematographer Gregg Toland, and his Mercury Theater composer and conductor Bernard Herrmann, to create what is considered by many critics, as well as the American Film Institute, to be the greatest movie ever made.

One could say with relative certainty that without The War of the Worlds, there would be no Citizen Kane.

Collegiate Speech and Sign Silliness

Mesa State is trying to defend an old regulation with a lame excuse, in an attempt to keep students from expressing themselves politically from their dorm room windows. C'mon, someone is going to think that the College supports a particular candidate just because some students have signs in dorm windows?

Please. That's like saying that people will think that the College has Klan sympathies because they named the soccer field after Walter Walker.

These kinds of attempts at curtailing speech have cropped up on several campuses this year, including one at the University of Texas that involved the exact same issue as what's happening at Mesa. The two students in Texas were actually facing expulsion from the school, until the University President caved to significant pressure and suspended the sign policy, pending review.

Several advocacy groups have weighed in and generated significant attention on similar attempts to curtail speech at the Universities of Illinois and Oklahoma, the latter going so far as to attempt to restrict political speech in e-mail.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with the Student Press Law Center, are two organizations spearheading the effort to challenge speech codes and other restrictions on free and responsible expression at college campuses. This is particularly odious when it occurs at publicly-owned colleges like Mesa State.

I went looking for more detailed coverage of the issue in the student newspaper, the Criterion, but their most recent issue makes no mention of it. They did, however offer extensive sports coverage and an endorsement of John McCain. Kinda got me longing for the Crite when Mark Borgard, or Megan Fromm, were at the helm.

President Foster, you're behind the curve on this one. Perhaps you should drop back ten and punt, unless you like the potential attention that your policy action will bring from advocacy groups, along with the national college and mainstream media. Several institutions with a much bigger reputation and pedigree than yours have already been through this, and came up on the losing side.

In the meantime, best wishes to Jenna Creighton and Anna Johnson. Your courage and conviction is admirable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Protest Postscript

As a follow-up to recent posts about the protests surrounding last week's visit to Grand Junction by Gov. Palin, as well as the resulting fallout, there have been a couple of national-level stories that have some bearing on protests and protesters in general that should have all citizens concerned.

The ACLU Blog reported last week that the US Army has recently stationed an active-duty military unit within the United States, for the purpose of response to emergent needs within US borders. This unit, called the "Consequence Management Response Force" or CCMRF, is specifically charged with the following:
" provide support for civilian law-enforcement branches like local police and rescue personnel: it may be called upon in situations involving civil unrest, crowd control, or catastrophes like chemical, biological, or nuclear attack, and it will be trained in skills like search and rescue and crowd control."
The concern among civil libertarians is not only this unit's placement on American soil so close to a hotly contested election, but also the gradual erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 that this action contributes to. This act largely prohibits the use of active duty military for the purpose of civilian law enforcement, except where authorized by the Constitution or by Congress.

The ACLU has made an FOIA request to several federal departments asking for an explanation for this deployment. This gives one pause as to the potential for citizens engaged in lawful protest to be monitored by military personnel, let alone how those personnel would deal with unlawful and/or dangerous displays such as the one here a week ago.

Speaking of 'monitoring', the Maryland State Police is in a bit of hot water over the surveillance of several members of anti-war, anti-death penalty, and now environmental groups, and the entering of those members into a federal anti-terrorist database. The Attorney General there has disavowed the surveillance as 'wrong', and the 53 targets of this activity are pushing for access to the information gathered.

This is interesting on a few fronts, especially given the Free Press reporting on the motorcade disturbance, which included the following:
"Grand Junction Police Officer Colin Daugherty stood in the median in front of Stocker Stadium, snapping photos of various protesters. 'There was no directive or anything like that issued,' Daugherty said of GJPD’s photography activity Monday afternoon at Palin’s rally. 'Just some counter surveillance, in case something happens.'”
This is a little too close for comfort to the reported quote from the former head of the Maryland State Police, while trying to defend the actions of his troopers conducting surveillance, and even infiltrating, groups with no history of violence or other criminal activity:
"These organizations may be extremely well-meaning," Hutchins said. "But the fact of the matter is there are times when fringe people try to tag on to legitimate advocacy groups. ... Volatile demonstrations can erupt quickly and can cause harm to demonstrators and to law enforcement."
Well, "fringe people" may be annoying to some, but so long as they are not committing crimes they have the same rights as any other law-abiding citizen. Period.

I would hate to see a class organization like the GJPD get embroiled in an investigation surrounding surveillance and intelligence gathering involving local protest groups, especially in the wake of the Denver Police Spy Files controversy from several years ago, and the allegations made by some of the protesters cited for last week's misadventure.

There are concerns being expressed on several fronts regarding the potentially chilling effects of "precautionary" deployments of police to Election Day activities or polling places. I believe that the threat of some form of civil unrest is real, that some form of protest is inevitable. As a result, the tough job of law enforcement will likely be made even harder.

I would hope that those involved in protesting their perceived injustices do so within the boundaries established for safe and responsible expression, and that those charged with keeping the peace do just that.

Have a good week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Of Protests...

In the interest of showing all viewpoints of an issue or event, enjoy... Additionally, here is an excerpt from a recent post to Colorado IndyMedia about Monday's protest at the Palin rally:
"All three protesters being charged in Monday’s act of civil disobedience have experienced harassment and intimidation from the GJPD in the days since the event, including visits to their homes and workplaces. Three patrol cars followed (Jay) Sanstedt on Tuesday as he skateboarded seven blocks from his home to a friend’s residence downtown, and another four patrol cars parked outside his home for more than an hour. On Wednesday, the GJPD made multiple visits to the workplaces of both Mallory Rice and Jacob Richards, unnecessarily endangering their employment. 'Having the police harass me at work puts my job at risk,' stated Rice, a Youth Mentor for at-risk children."
Several years ago, I had the privilege of sharing a table at the old Ying Thai restaurant on Orchard Mesa with Jacob Richards and his mother, Rachel, who was on Aspen City Council at the time and is now a Pitkin County Commissioner. Wow..Pitkin County has 5 commissioners.

We had a lively discussion about the events leading up to what we now know to be the war in Iraq, as well as the activities of what has become Grand Junction Alternative Media, and its' publication The Red Pill.

Jacob's been a busy guy this year, getting arrested during Dick Cheney's visit to Grand Junction this summer, and being one of three protesters (so far)
issued summonses for their stunt during Sarah Palin's visit this past Monday.

Jacob, I sympathize with some of the stuff you're upset about. You're 27 now; older than a good portion of the college age young adults that you're inspiring and motivating to get involved in the world around them. Don't you think it's time to start focusing on more constructive and articulate ways of getting your message across?

You're on the right track with the focus on alternative media, but eventually you're going to have to get serious and learn to get your way by playing the game better than the next guy. That means sweating the details, reading ahead, getting involved, and embracing the reasonable mainstream just a little bit. Run for office and encourage reasonable debate and discourse. Stand up in front of elected officials at public meetings, instead of in front of motorcades.

What did you think your little stunt on Monday evening was going to accomplish? I can't think of anything but attention to yourself and your cohorts. Your message was lost in the scuffle. You might call it courageous, but a good portion of us who may have sympathies to your message are just shaking our heads.

In your defense, if you or any of your cohorts are truly being followed or subject to workplace harassment or stakeouts in front of your residences, then
that needs to stop.

Jacob, if you need a guidepost, there's a
good poem that you're probably familiar with.
The 60's were 40 years ago. Please grow up...soon.


If you want an example of some interesting, if not courageous behavior, maybe go pay a visit to
Palisade High School. The walkout by more than 100 students there yesterday was to protest a policy that restricts those with tardiness, grades, or attendance problems to the school campus at lunch time. Not too much of a big deal, some would say, but some of the kids thought enough of the matter to take up a petition drive and walk out of class over it, so it's got to mean something.

One of the main organizers of the protest alluded to concerns about privacy; I'm guessing that means the privacy of their difficulties in school that have them relegated to campus at lunchtime. An interesting concept to explore further, along with the student's assertion that those who must eat at the school do not have enough time to do so because of the lines involved.

If the school is going to restrict students to campus for lunch, then they must make sure that enough time and resources exist for those students to eat. If the student body at Palisade is truly interested in making a point about this policy, perhaps they should all stay at school for lunch, and document the impact on the system.

Cassie Hewlings' reporting did not delve further into these concepts, nor was the Assistant Principal who was interviewed appear to have been asked about these issues. I'm wondering if Cassie was pressed to cut the article down due to space considerations; there are paragraphs at the end of the web version of this story that were omitted from the print edition. These are:

The walkout was scheduled for 9 a.m., Jacobs said, and he was pulled out of class before the protest and had his cell phone confiscated for sending text messages about the walkout.

Bollinger said students that were caught walking out were suspended, and the Palisade Police Department was called in by the school.

One student was detained for knocking over John McCain campaign signs on private property, Police Chief Carroll Quarles said, and other students were trespassing on private property and asked to leave.

“It was all pretty laid back,” Quarles said. “But it was an interesting situation.”

In any case, I think the kids have a point. Grand Junction High School has implemented a tardy policy this school year that punishes students more for being late to class than if they did not show up for class at all, and uses some very fuzzy math and Mark Twain-inspired statistics to try to justify it.

I see the need to show up for school and be on time. I've told Evan that he is responsible for making sure he is at school and doing the work. His privileges to drive and do other things are at stake. I believe that I'm being a responsible parent in trying to make sure that my child does what is necessary to succeed in school and prepare for his future. I've tried to set that example in my daily living as well.

As one of Evan's teachers said today at parent-teacher conferences, "this is not a prison". Nor is it a free-for-all, but there has to be a middle ground, and it seems that the Principals at Palisade and Grand Junction are having difficulty locating it.

Best wishes to those who think, speak their minds, and stand up for what they believe in. Make sure that you can do the walk behind your talk.

...and Pilots

I was working at St. Mary's yesterday when the report came in of the mid-air collision between two small planes over Whitewater, with one plane making it back to GJT and the other going down somewhere in the Kannah Creek area.

The operator that handles CareFlight operations got the helicopter headed that way, and I logged into the local online scanner to listen to the other public safety traffic. This was a decidedly unique incident that involved both the urban and rural response community. From the sound of what I heard, everything was well-coordinated and effectively communicated across those intangible boundaries that the City and County sometimes build around themselves.

The people aboard the two aircraft are extraordinarily fortunate. God was looking down upon them and said 'it's not your time". For me there's no other plausible explanation, other than the extreme skill of the two pilots involved to navigate their damaged craft safely to the ground.

I'll keep an eye on the NTSB accident reports site for additional information (this is very interesting reading for folks so inclined), as I'm sure the local media will.

Speaking of the local media, they should be commended for providing comprehensive and informative coverage of the incident, which was made even more newsworthy by the act that one of the involved aircraft belonged to the Sheriff's Department, and was doing a prisoner transport.

The broadcast side seemed to present their visuals with factual information that eschewed sensationalism. The print side did what they should do, and that's dig into the story further. The Sentinel coverage focused on eyewitness accounts and issues related to air traffic control.

The Free Press highlighted their reporting with analysis of the costs associated with transporting prisoners by air, and the preliminary activities of the investigators. I was particularly interested in the reported candor of the NTSB investigator about some of the difficulties he was encountering in doing some interviews.

This is the third big event in the valley this week to attract national media attention. Let's hope this doesn't become a trend. In the meantime, we're very thankful that everyone is safe and unhurt.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Memory Quilt

Last week Evan and I received a wonderful gift from friends of ours who have been very helpful and supportive of us in dealing with illness and loss.

The quilted wall hanging shown above was given to us by Phil and Dodie Roger
s of Grand Junction. Dodie was a friend of Jan's. Jan had seen a similar quilt hanging in Dodie's house while visiting a few years back.

According to Dodie, Jan expressed an interest in having one of these made for myself and Evan. After Jan passed away, the project began. I chose the photographs used in the quilt. I tried to make sure that all of Jan's life was somehow represented, including her childhood, parents and siblings, her mutual affinity with many cats, her own family and friends, and her love for her son as he grew up.

Dodie's daughter-in-law Lauren Rogers operates a quilting shop in Billings, Montana, and completed the quilt over the summer. Phil and Dodie brought it back to Grand Junction, and had the quilt blessed at their church before presenting it to us. This photo is of the Rev. Nature Johnston of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity blessing the quilt at a recent service. Dodie Rogers is in the foreground.

I really can't express my appreciation enough
for this. Two weeks ago today would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. While our lives continue to move forward, Evan and I will cherish this beautiful reminder of someone who touched our lives and the lives of many others.

Thanks again to Dodie and Phil for your love and support.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the Road Again...

Grand Junction Free Press - Paul Shockley

On the Road Again,
let's paint a banner and risk life and limb,
with any luck we'll get our butts on CNN,
and that's really why we go on the road again.

On the Road Again,
like a bunch of idiots we're blocking the highway,
We're the best of friends,
but we're acting stupid 'cause we can't get our way,
and our way...

- (Apologies to Willie Nelson - Hank Jr. can't hold a candle to you)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Short Takes

Rum Bay closed on Saturday night. No tears from this corner. One of the security people there predicted problems at other bars as the Rum Bay crowd migrated in search of thumping techno and hip hop music, a cheap beer buzz, or a liaison that would probably not be approved by eHarmony. No great loss.

Maybe if the folks who would normally spend their money going to a place like Rum Bay spent an evening reading a good book or a couple of newspapers over coffee at Borders, we might make some progress as a society.

I've decided that hands down, without a doubt, Palisade High School has the coolest looking football uniforms of any school in the area. One heck of a game and a tremendous effort, guys. You should be proud.

Daily Sentinel photo (Christopher Tomlinson)

"Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there is nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. And for us to say that that makes you a socialist, I think is an unfortunate characterization that isn't accurate."
- Colin Powell, remarking on criticism of Barack Obama while endorsing his candidacy

There was a most engaging speaker this weekend at Canyon View Vineyard Church. Lynn Green is one of the International coordinators for Youth With a Mission, and briefly described his group's efforts to establish a dialogue and understanding with Muslims around the world. One or two things he said stuck out in my mind:
"We have to realize that the world is 1/3 Christian and 1/5 Muslim, and if we don't establish some common ground and understanding, the world is going to explode."

"Our enemies are not God's enemies."
His ministry attempts to reach out to Muslim groups by recognizing and showing remorse for the acts of Christians during the Crusades.

We need to have a leader who will help us to re-establish respect among other leaders around the world. Isolationism (one reason McCain uses 'Country First' instead of 'America First') and Manifest Destiny are ideas long gone for those who realize that we must collaborate to thrive.

The new Grand International Buffet at 25 Road and Highway 6 & 50 is a trough of the highest order. Not only a vast hot food selection along with salads, fruit, and desserts, but an included Mongolian grill and sushi bar. A nice treat to read the newspaper by this morning after church.

Even though I am lamenting tonight's loss by the Red Sox, I am solidly behind the Tampa Bay Rays in their upcoming World Series battle with the Phillies. There is a parallel of sorts between the Rays' run this year and the improbable path the Red Sox took to the championship in 2004.

Red Sox fans before that season would chant "YANKEES SUCK" at every home game, regardless of who the Sox were playing. Bumper stickers and t-shirts bearing that sentiment were plentiful outside Fenway Park after games.

I noticed during several trips to Boston in 2004 that these things were much harder if not impossible to find, replaced instead with "REVERSE THE CURSE" or other slogans not as geared toward enmity of the Evil Empire (earned or not).

This is the first season that the Rays have played after dropping the "Devil" from their name. They were officially known as the Devil Rays before this season. Perhaps adjusting focus and energy from a perceived negative or other distractions, and toward the goal at hand, is a key to success that both the Red Sox and Rays share. Paging the McCain campaign....

Tomorrow should be a fun day for many of us, with the arrival of Governor Palin and Bocephus.
I hope that many of you can navigate the organized chaos with a sense of grace and tolerance for others.

If someone unfurls a banner at the top of the bleachers behind home plate at Suplizio Field (on the northwest corner) that says RUSSIA IS THIS WAY, it wasn't me.

Have a good day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

St. Mary's Tops Off

St. Mary's Hospital topped off their new building today with a ceremony and barbeque on top of the hospital parking garage. It was a very nice event, held without a great deal of pretense, just a good lunch followed by a simple blessing from one of the Sisters of Charity and the hoisting of the final beam to the top of the new building, where it was secured in place.

This felt to me a bit like another baby step toward Grand Junction's growing into a very nice medium-sized city. There was a palpable air of op
timism and excitement, as the anticipation continues to build toward the building's completion.

That's very important, because if there's one thing I've learned along my career path it's that a best practice, or the road to excellence, goes a lot longer past the completion of any great infrastructure change or technology migration.

That success truly rests evenly balanced between the infrastructure, the processes used to optimize it toward fulfillment of the organization's mission, and the people that efficiently apply the necessary skills to achieve a synergy with the processes and the technology.

As the clamor builds for additional infrastructure to properly address other needs of our growing community, those charged with meeting those needs must keep all of the elements of a best practice in mind when planning to put those system improvements in place. I'll have more to say about this later.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of today's event. Congratulations to the people of St. Mary's, and those who depend upon the care they deliver every day.

St. Mary's staff and others were invited to sign the beam before it was hoisted by a crane into place atop the new 12-story tower.

The beam begins its' journey toward the top of the building. St. Mary's CEO Bob Ladenburger was reportedly at the controls of the crane. Well, I saw him climb down afterward.

Workers prepare to secure the beam in place as it is lowered to them.

The beam and attached flag secured into place.

In the background are balloons released when the beam was secured.

Udall(s) for All

I didn't know until today that our Mark Udall has a first cousin, Tom Udall, who is also running for a Senate seat in New Mexico. In fact, the possibility exists that three first cousins could be in the U.S. Senate in January. Heck, that's almost a whole team for Family Feud against the Salazars, or better yet, the Bushes.

In any case, Tom Udall has a great ad writer. I apologize in advance to those of you at places where I work (or used to) whose IT departments see fit to firewall YouTube. I'll include links to each one for when you get home.

It appears that Tom Udall is also running against an oil company shill, just like his cousin. This ad not only addresses those issues, but also the issue of negative campaigning in general:

This leads me to the latest ad from the Tom Udall campaign, released yesterday. This is one of the most poignant and potentially effective ads that I've ever seen, more so because Mr. Udall's opponent is never mentioned:

There's not much more I can add to that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Speech and Responsibility - Bill Pitts Edition

I watched online the portion of last night's Council meeting concerning now-former Planning Commissioner Bill Pitts. In reviewing this morning's coverage in both the Sentinel and the Free Press, in combination with what I was able to observe, I came away with a mixed bag of feelings toward the whole affair. I'll just list them as they arrived to me.
  • To some extent, I can see the City's argument, and to some extent they are overstepping their bounds in relationship to the rights of citizens who choose to volunteer their time to participate on City Boards and Commissions.
  • I believe that Mr. Pitts has the constitutional right to express himself freely, but with that free speech comes certain responsibilities. I could express myself as a citizen while working for the City, but just as there are reasonable limits on free speech for all citizens, there are limits on what I could publicly opine about as well. I could not publicly advocate for a candidate for City elected office, for example. Maybe Mr. Pitts will be able to make a greater impact from outside than he did from inside.
  • The City is extremely sensitive (emphasis on 'extreme') toward the appearance of bias or favoritism in their operations. The City is also very careful about how it deals with employees (or volunteers) with whom they are having difficulties. It appeared that many in attendance at last night's meeting were indignant about the manner in which Mr. Pitts was being portrayed in a public forum. Knowing the City and how it operates, last night's hearing was likely the last procedural recourse they had to deal with their difficulties with Mr. Pitts.
  • What the City was trying to get across to Mr. Pitts last night was this; if you want to be able to speak your mind about an issue and represent the City in an authoritative capacity, you'll have to be elected to that position by the people. Maybe Mr. Pitts will run for Council next year. Maybe Planning Commission members should be elected by the people.
  • The City resolution that addresses conflicts of interest may be subject to additional legal scrutiny in the coming months, as may the City's actions in living up to their commitment to the residents of Mr. Pitts' neighborhood that they made in 1995.
  • Regardless of what you may think of his actions in representing the City, John Shaver is an exceedingly competent and honorable public servant, who discharges his duties in a highly efficient and professional manner.
The ACLU has yet to reply to my inquiry. I think that I may not need it. Every time I listen to John Shaver present a subject in detail, I learn something. I learned a lot last night, and while I may not like it, I do understand it.

In the meantime, I congratulate Mr. Pitts for standing his ground, even if it resulted in a Pyrrhic victory of sorts.

Off to the Avalon to catch a movie. Have a good night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's the Pitts

There's a tempest brewing in the local political teapot tonight, and while it may pale in size and noise level to events in national politics in the same general time frame, it is nonetheless very potent in its' potential for damage if not given the community attention it deserves.

City of Grand Junction Planning Commission member Bill Pitts gets a hearing before City Council this evening regarding alleged 'malfeasance', and his continued tenure with the Planning Commission as a result. This hearing date was established at the October 1 Council meeting.

As with the Council agenda on October 1, the packet for tonight's Council meeting offers no insight into the City's difficulty with him, only that "information will be separately provided".

There have been at least two eloquent defenses of Mr. Pitts by several of his neighbors; one appeared in this morning's Sentinel, and the other in yesterday's Free Press. These letters not only express concern as to Mr. Pitts' potential removal, but also bring light to some of the 'rest of the story' in the form of possible duplicity on the City's part with regard to a commitment made to Mr. Pitts' residential area regarding residential zoning and housing density. An excerpt from one of the letters follows:
"In 1995 the City Council ruled with Ordinance 2842 that a 151-acre tract within our neighborhood could be developed with no more than two homes per acre, totaling no more than 220 homes. A later letter from the city manager in 1995 reaffirmed these limits. The neighborhood has remained rural to the present, at 4.3 acres per dwelling. But early this year the development plan was approved by the city. More than 400 residents signed a petition opposing this plan, which grossly dishonors Ordinance 2842 by including 40 percent of the housing at eight homes per acre, totaling 361 homes. Recently, the city quickly and quietly approved another development plan that is clearly a commercial enterprise within our rural neighborhood."
So aside from the existence and application of a Council resolution which appears to have chilling and questionable effects on the ability of volunteers who apply for and serve on certain City boards to exercise their free speech rights, there now appears to be some question as to the City living up to a commitment it made to an entire neighborhood upon their being annexed 13 years ago.

Two weeks ago I sent an email to Cathryn Hazouri, Executive Director of the Colorado ACLU chapter, with some background information and a request for their impressions regarding the issue. I sent her another email this morning, in hopes that if Council elects to remove Mr. Pitts from the Planning Commission, there will at least be some research in progress of the legality of Resolution 79-06 as it relates to the ability of certain volunteer board and commission members to exercise their First Amendment rights as private citizens. Ms. Hazouri has replied to me that she will have a response prepared and sent later today, and I'll share that when it comes.

When I was a City employee, I approached Council as a private citizen on numerous occasions, often with commentary on issues that may have had an effect upon the job that I was doing at the time. While there are restrictions in place on the political activities of those employed by the City (I could not be a candidate for City elected office), I don't understand the City's actions in attempting to silence someone who applied for and serves on a volunteer citizen board, and wishes to express himself on an issue important to him, especially after taking the necessary legal steps to separate himself, and his opinions, from the board and its' deliberations.

Anyone interested in the transparency and accountability of our local government, especially in the contentious arena of annexation, zoning and development, might see fit to tune in or show up. I have to work tonight, or else I would be at the meeting. I'll try to watch online.

Best of luck to Mr. Pitts. What I said in my previous post on this subject still applies. Let's hope that openness, transparency, and the free ability to engage in intelligent discourse is respected this evening, and that Mr. Pitts receives a fair and impartial hearing within the public forum required.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An American Tune

I love The Writer's Almanac. Hosted by Garrison Keillor, the 5-minute radio program delivers a daily poetry reading, along with pertinent historical events for the date in question. There is an emphasis on events in the world of literature and the arts, but occasionally there are historical points which carry a certain relevance to the events of the day. Today's edition was one of those, on two counts. Here's an example:

It's the birthday of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, born in Grantham, England, in 1925. She said, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't." (emphasis mine)
This quote has got me thinking about our future as a nation, especially as it relates to dealing with others. I believe that we can present ourselves in a position of strength without having to resort to the kind of foreign policy that has sullied our reputation abroad for the last 8 years.

Mrs. Thatcher's quote reminds me of the West African proverb put to use so effectively by Theodore Roosevelt; "
Speak softly and carry a big stick". The Wikipedia entry for the policy associated with this proverb referenced issues with Venezuela and Cuba during TR's presidency; Interesting given contemporary issues in the same places.

The second entry today was coincidental to hearing from a former co-worker and blogger, who lives in California. I made him a CD when he moved back there from GJ, and one of the songs on that CD crept into my head and wouldn't go away. Then came today's Writer's Almanac, which said:
It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Paul Simon, born in Newark, New Jersey, (1941). In 1964, he and his friend Art Garfunkel recorded a folk album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM. It was a flop, and Paul Simon moved back in with his parents. But without telling Simon and Garfunkel, a producer added electric guitar, bass, and drums to the song "The Sound of Silence" and released it as a single. It went to No. 1 on the pop charts.
Simon and Garfunkel were one of my earliest musical influences; my mother liked them, and I played Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water on the stereo over and over again, fascinated with the harmonies and lyrics that you just didn't hear anywhere else.

The song in my mind is one that is still relevant 30 years after it was written; it goes a long way to describe how many of us feel today. I found a good video of it, and will let the song do the talking.

Time for me to get some rest, too. Have a great day.

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
But I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it's all right, it's all right
We've lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we're traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what went wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the ages most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest

Monday, October 13, 2008


Cold, wind, and the occasional spitting rain settled into the Grand Valley this weekend, and what follows tonight is the first real cold snap of autumn. Yesterday and into last night the wind became constant and bitter. My yard and walk were littered with large branches this morning.

The weather is unsettled, and some of the human dynamic that accompanies it has been unsettling as well.
Arianna Huffington summarized some if it in her Sunday Roundup:
"The party of Lincoln has gone from appealing to "the better angels of our nature" to evoking the darkest demons of our nature. Nevertheless, it was Cindy McCain who accused Obama of having 'waged the dirtiest campaign in American history' -- a breathtaking display of projection."
Attendees at McCain political rallies have taken a decidedly ugly turn of late, although to McCain's credit he came to Obama's defense.

People have a right to be upset and angry, but not at one side of this race. Both sides of the aisle have significant culpability issues for the financial turmoil that we find ourselves in. Emotion needs to be put aside; a calm examination of who is best prepared to lead, and how they expect to lead us through our current situation, needs to be the focus now.

This weekend was decidedly unsettled and tragic on several fronts. I arrived at St. Mary's to work on Saturday morning, only to be greeted by security at every entrance and the hospital in lockdown, in response to the shootings that brought 4 innocent victims to the hospital. I rounded the ER toward the one entrance that was open, just in time to see the GJFD unload the shooter from an ambulance and wheel him inside. He died earlier today.

The parallels to the 1999 Eastgate Shopping Center shootings (I was working at that scene for a short while) started to gather in my head, and the Sentinel saw fit to recall that event as part of their coverage today. I had no problem with it; I hope that Sarah Anderson's family and her two sons are OK.

I was a little concerned about the reported reaction of one Chestnut Drive area resident to this tragedy. This resident was quoted as saying, "Yo
u just don’t expect this to happen. You expect it in downtown.”

Uh, right.

As a somewhat educated observer, I've been impressed with the calm professionalism and transparency that has surrounded both the response and the investigation into what is a highly unusual occurrence for the Grand Junction area (and yes, that includes Downtown). As with the Eastgate shootings, the GJPD and the Sheriff's office appeared to work together well, with little confusion or duplication of effort.

Bottom line: May God's peace that transcends all understanding be upon the Fine and Gallagher families, as well as the residents of that neighborhood. Any small tribute that I could provide pales in comparison to Nancy McCarroll's post today. My heart is also drawn to the family of the two-year old child shot and killed in Denver this morning.

I pray that cooler heads and civil tongues will prevail as the bluster of this weekend gives way to more stable conditions, as it did at 3:00 this morning (I couldn't sleep). The winds were calm, the air was cool, the neighborhood quiet.

One sign that things were normalizing today; it was a great day for football. I watched the upstart Arizona Cardinals hold their own against the Dallas Cowboys in overtime. No anger or overtly emotional behavior was present on the Arizona sideline, with the exception of after they scored the winning points by blocking a punt, of all things. Well done.

Let's hope for more civility and humility in the days ahead, with a touch of the resolute. Here's to a better week for all.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Reunion Trip

A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead
We'll get a table near the street

In our old familiar place
You and I - face to face..

- Billy Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" (1977)

This is the beginning of a song from Billy Joel's album The Stranger, which was released during my senior year of high school. The song deals with old friends and classmates getting back together and recounting how life has changed them and others.

While the song ends up painting a somewhat dismal picture of life changes and of growing old, that is highly dependent upon an individual's perspective. I had the chance to expand upon that perspective when I went to Pittsburgh over this past weekend for the 30-year reunion of my high school graduating class.

This gathering was part and parcel of how the world has grown up along with us, and how we've kept up (or not). One of our more intelligent and industrious classmates established an Internet presence for our class, and as the site took off more and more classmates were located, contacted, and before you knew it a reunion weekend was set up.

I attended this high school for only two years, but felt much more at ease and at home with this group. I was a band geek and a troublesome academic with a penchant for being a bit too self-righteous for my own good, but I still had some friends, many of whom also came back for the weekend.

I attended the Saturday evening dinner gathering. I brought Leslie with me, which made for some interesting exchanges because we were recognized more for our siblings at times; "Hey, it's Dave's brother and Rhett's sister!" Leslie graduated from the same high school 3 years after me. She has held onto her good looks a lot better than I have.

There was good barbecue, sufficient libations, great conversation, and a moderate to large bonfire going outside all evening. The live band that was booked couldn't perform, but that seemed more of a blessing to the events at hand.

As the evening wore on, some were inside, some were out by the beer, but most of us were around the fire. A couple of guys pulled their cars close and turned on the stereos. The fire was warm, and those around it commiserated, contemplated, and in some cases appeared to be trying to capture perhaps a glimpse of what it was like to sit around a fire 30 years ago.

It was a good time, then and now. Having Leslie at my side was an added blessing. She is one big reason that this weekend felt more like a renewal for me than just a chance to reunite and reminisce.

It looks like the Internet presence will facilitate contact and future gatherings for many years to come. Those who set up the site and assisted with the reunion have earned the thanks of many for a job well done.

On a related note, the trip was very smooth and surprisingly affordable, even when booking plane tickets about 10 days out from the trip. We flew out of Montrose, which was about $120 cheaper than a round trip out of Grand Junction.
Kayak is an invaluable resource for locating these kinds of deals.

Have a good rest of the week.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Much More than a Traffic Cop

It was nice to see the Daily Sentinel cover the retirement celebration for GJPD Officer Paul Frey. Paul has had a long and fruitful career in many aspects of Public Safety, and stands to continue to contribute to this most essential service of government in many unique ways.

In working with Paul for over 13 years, I can personally attest to the width and breadth of the specialized knowledge that he possesses, from motor vehicle enforcement and accident investigation, search and rescue and remote area operations, to radio system operation and administration.

I had the pleasure of working with Paul for several years in the planning and design of improvements to the county's public safety radio resources. I'm now working with him as a volunteer on the
Mesa County Search and Rescue Communications Team. Outside of the technology and processes, I'm essentially a city boy, and have a lot to learn.

Paul has also been very instrumental in developing additional radio resources for Mesa County's EMS system, and competently represented Mesa County's EMS providers for several years on the board of at least one
statewide EMS organization.

Paul Frey is one of a rare breed of Public Safety professional, with diverse knowledge across multiple disciplines and a mastery of communications and incident management principles. His shoes will be difficult ones to fill, but if he's true to his word he'll still be active in other arenas, from Clifton Fire to teaching young drivers. We as citizens and fellow professionals will continue to reap the benefits of his involvement.

Congratulations, Paul, and best of luck.