Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Public Safety Net

North Platte, Nebraska - I wanted to get further than this yesterday.

A later-than-expected start, combined with ski resort traffic returning to Denver, put us here at about 11:00 last night. The roads are in great shape so far, but I'm looking forward to seeing the monster snowdrifts that are rumored to exist further east.

A lead story in this morning's Denver Post is definitely worth reading if you're at all interested in the subject or profession of pre-hospital care. Those who have plied the trade are all too familiar with the "frequent flier". The reasons for people to use the EMS system for less than emergency situations can be as varied as the volume of calls themselves.

Putting paramedics into the role of a community health care provider seems to be an idea growing in popularity, in both urban and rural areas. I'm trying to think of problems and pitfalls, and all I can come up with is issues related to reimbursement, and along with potential territorial issues from the Home Health industry and the Nursing professions. In any case, it looks like lots of dialogue is happening out there, and I'm pleased that the Post took a look at the concept. The citizens of western Eagle County should also be pleased at the progressive nature of those in charge of their ambulance district.

Time to go. Have a great day.

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Community' Follow-Up

Bob Silbernagel replied to my e-mail today. He attached the notification made on the Community site sometime last week. His comments included, "It really was the degrading nature of the discussion and the time it took to police the site that led to the decision. There were days when I deleted more than half of the comments over a several hour period because they were personal attacks."

Here's the post from last week. Thanks to Bob for his quick reply.


Dear Posters:

Beginning Thursday, Community.GJSentinel.com will be no more. There are several reasons for this change.

One is that we have received complaints from a number of letter writers who have asked that we not post their letters to the editor on the Community site. They are upfront enough to attach their names to the opinions they express in their letters, and they believe it is unfair that anonymous posters can engage in personal attacks on them through the Community site. It’s a valid argument. Although a few posters use their own names, most hide behind fictitious Web monikers.

However, by far the most important reason for eliminating Community is the degradation of public debate occurring there. When we launched Community, we hoped it would become a sort of online coffee shop, where readers could engage in reasoned discussions about issues of the day, both locally and nationally. Unfortunately, too often the Community site has been more akin to a saloon at closing time, where patrons shout opinions at each other, engage in personal attacks and repeat the same opinions over and over. That does nothing to enhance public debate.

We know there are readers who eagerly joined discussions on Community, only to leave in disgust over the tone of the debate. Some have vowed never to return to Community. Others continue to try to engage in reasoned debate, and continually get frustrated by the personal attacks and repetitious arguments. To them we can only say we also wish the tone of the discussions was different.

We will still have many more letters to the editor than we can publish in the print edition of The Daily Sentinel. We will post most of them in a special letters page under the “Opinion” section of GJSentinel.com.

We launched Community.GJSentinel.com nearly two years ago with high hopes that it would become a lively online discussion place with many voices being included. Now, there are only a handful who visit regularly. It’s time to close the doors.


It's kind of what I thought. It made me think of the same quote from Shakespeare that Murrow used at the end of his most famous commentary. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves".

I'm hitting the road for a week or so. After the most recent exploits with airline security over the Christmas holidays, opting to drive was a good decision, even if there is a higher statistical risk attached to it. Gene Kinsey had some musings on it this morning. I don't have time to explore the issue further right now, but I found some excellent insight in a blog from Esquire:

What the TSA has set up since 9/11 is an illusion — "security theater," it's often called. Responding to every perceived threat (shoe bombs, liquid bombs, ass bombs) by banning the offending vehicles of terror looks, initially, like prudence. But, in fact, it's ridiculous. And it induces foolish political panic. Which costs us a ton of money that we then cannot spend on efforts that will actually make us safer.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sentinel Sends Curmudgeons Christmas Coal - 'Community' Canned

While navigating the Daily Sentinel's website a couple of days ago, I noticed that the Opinion Page had the return of Letters to the Editor listings. These letters were moved to the Sentinel's Community website when it was created in February 2008.

As it happens, these links appear to herald the quiet and unceremonious demise of the Community site itself. The link remains on the Sentinel's website, but directs readers to the main Opinion page.

I wrote about the Community site twice in 2008, when it launched and when Sentinel staff had to intervene to attempt to quell some commentary in the Forums section that had devolved into a flame war. I wrote back then:
The Sentinel and its' parent company (whomever that may be in the future) are keenly aware of how the manner in which the Community site is used is a direct reflection on the reputation of the Sentinel and the domain GJSentinel.com. I applaud their level of tolerance and restraint up to this point in time, but I also feel that their recent action was necessary. The challenge now is to put some consistency and accountability behind the rhetoric.
In the 14 months since that post, I didn't pay much attention to the Community site, save to review the Letters to the Editor. Ironically, I made a comment on one of those letters last week, the first time in a long while. My uneducated impression since last year was that the site was not growing, and the 'community' it was serving was just a niche group of heavily opinionated individuals. Not that there's a problem with that, but I can see the increased difficulty for the Sentinel to expend manhours to maintain a site in such a condition.

I sent an e-mail to Bob Silbernagel, who is in charge of the Sentinel's editorial content, asking for some insight as to why the site was disappeared without so much as a single-column obituary.
For those of you who may not follow Bob's online video series Over The Top, he's on a beach somewhere right now. I hope to hear from him when he returns.

The Community site's demise is not a matter of particular concern to me. The handwriting was on the wall a year ago. I'm more concerned about how these things affect mindsets and trends. I'm hoping that the mindset at the Sentinel in the Seaton era is not to back off of robust, interactive online content that affords the educated reader the ability to interact with those producing content, and that access to online content, and enhancement of the print experience through it, remains as available as it possibly can be. In other words, free.

I'm still a big fan of the YourHub site sponsored by the Denver Post, and the manner in which it allows members of numerous Metro Denver neighborhoods and communities to produce and moderate content specific to their areas. I still think that something like that has great potential for the Grand Junction metro area. End of sales pitch.

I feel bad that Community.GJSentinel.com didn't work out. I know there are better ideas out there that may make more sense in lots of ways.

Have a good day.

Christmas Blessings 2009

Christmas this year was a quiet and enjoyable time. Evan and I spent the day at home. We are enjoying our not-so-quiet Christmas gifts to each other. Mine is an Ipod Nano, the first Apple device that I have owned. As I write this the player is shuffling through the 48 hours of music that I uploaded to it, so I get all manner of favorite stuff, from Metallica to John Denver to "Uf Dem Anger" from Carmina Burana. I'm on a Mexican Radio. Destiny's Child's "T-Shirt"- a gift from Leslie. Oh yeah.

We put luminaria out on Christmas Eve again this year. I found better candles this time, and they lasted all evening and well past midnight. I went to the 11 P.M. service at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, a beautiful and joyous change of pace.

I made a turkey roast for dinner with stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole. Evan just toasted two pieces of french bread with butter and honey. A simple snack to cap off a decent day.
What would make it complete is the company of the woman I love.

Hitting the road next week for Pittsburgh and other places. I hope that everyone had a blessed Christmas, and that wherever you are you will be safe and in the company of loved ones.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bounty, Burden, and Blessings

I spent a good portion of this past Sunday at two events held in the Downtown area. My son quipped that I might just be the only one in town to attend both of these events. I'm really not sure about that, but I'm glad I went.

The first event was a potluck hosted by the Downtown Vineyard church, held at the Lincoln Park Barn. This meal was in lieu of a more 'formal' service, and was the second year the church has done this. Pastor Paul Watson gave a brief talk after everyone had eaten, and referenced Acts 2, specifically the section where "all the church gathered together, and all of their needs were met".

Pastor Paul added that one reason he loves the church is that people come together with both their gift
s and their needs, and as the church comes together they work as a community to meet those needs with their gifts. He concluded with a familiar admonition; "We are the church".

This was illustrated in a profound way later that afternoon, when the homeless advocacy group Housing First! No More Deaths! conducted a march remembering those homeless persons in the Grand Valley who have died in recent years. Many of the marchers carried crosses with the names of these deceased persons written on them.

In covering the activities of this group in the past, I have felt and sensed some uneasiness on the part of myself and others as to the seemingly militant approach of this group to what is by definition a community issue, one that must be solved by cooperation and consensus. This time around I got the distinct impression that, despite their symbolism, this group is committed to working with other, similarly-minded groups in improving the situation for those without homes in the Grand Valley, along with rousing sufficient rabble when called to do so.

The march went from Whitman Park in the heart of Downtown to Hawthorne Park near my house, and received a good amount of local media coverage, including an excel
lent photo on the front page of Monday's Sentinel.

After the march, the regular Sunday meal for the homeless was being set up at Hawthorne Park. Different churches in the community assist with t
he provision of food and manpower each week; members of Bookcliff Baptist Church were there this day.

Near the park's northwest corner, the annual memorial o
bservance for those homeless who have died was taking place at the tree and granite marker dedicated to that purpose.

There was a significant amount of a
ctivity in the park for a chilly winter afternoon, and I was impressed and humbled by the amount of dedication and organization present in the providing of collective gifts for those with needs to match.

There is always a place to do more to help those with similar needs in whatever area of the country or the world you may reside. I don't have much more to add in words, so I'll let some of the scripture that Pastor Paul was referring, and a few photos, do the rest.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he
had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Best wishes for safe travels and joyous moments with families and loved ones this week ahead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Uganda On My Mind

This past week there has been extensive coverage in some media outlets and familiar blogs of the proposed law in Uganda outlawing homosexuality.

Outside of what has been reported, I don't know much about this. My interest in the country of Uganda and the continent of Africa has admittedly been anecdotal, and largely detached from the realities of life there.

I know, or know of, people who have lived in Africa that have recently returned, including Doug and Suzan Scott, Assemblies of God missionaries to South Africa, and former KREX reporter Kate Renner, who has returned from 3 months in Uganda under the auspices of Light Gives Heat, which is based in Western Colorado. One of my former neighbors in the Pittsburgh area is an Episcopal priest, currently serving as Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University.

It's heartening to see the level of commitment and faith necessary to engage in something like this. The recent controversy concerning this proposed law led me to think a little bit about the nature of the gay rights movement outside of the US, and the inherent conflict that results from the challenges to established institutions by those who seek to legitimize their sexual orientation. No religious institution has been impacted greater in this area than the Anglican church.

Outside of this particular denomination, the furor that resulted over the Uganda legislation has also touched several evangelical and otherwise conservative Christian leaders here in the US. Most notable among these is Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, known in part for his best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life". Pastor Warren issued a statement last week condemning the Ugandan legislation, and attempting to distance himself from the efforts of those that have been associated with him in the past. From the looks of it, Pastor Warren's contrition is not enough for many gay rights organizations that are still seething over his support of California's Proposition 8 last year.

By far the most comprehensive coverage from the mainstream media came from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Ms. Maddow, one of the few openly gay members of the MSM, and her staff not only delved into the involvement of American evangelicals in mentoring those in Uganda who have put their weight behind the proposed legislation, but also a group of Americans who believe that homosexuals can be converted to a heterosexual lifestyle, or stop identifying themselves as a member of the gay community. Ms. Maddow interviewed one such individual on her show; I don't think he was too pleased with the outcome.

As a human being, and therefore a sinner, I am not comfortable passing any kind of judgment on an individual based solely on their sexual orientation. I can also see the disdain in our society toward granting civil-rights status to a particular group of people based solely on what they choose to do behind closed doors with a consenting adult. This, to me, is just another consequence of fear without understanding.

Instead, I believe that we need to focus on the actions
(or the lack thereof) of individuals in deciding for ourselves what we may think about them. Any number of us can find significant cause to doubt those who we may interact with daily. For me, that starts with the person I look at in the mirror every morning.

If we purport to live a life guided by faith, the tenets of many religions require that we look at our fellow man as God's children, equally deserving of love and compassion as much as anyone else. For Christians, there is plenty of scripture to support this.

The circumstances that we find ourselves or others in, and our level of responsiveness to others in time of need, helps to define who we are as individuals and as a community.

For those in Uganda that I will never know or understand properly, this attempt to label and vilify those first by the nature of who they are is unfortunate and wrong. Yesterday I read that the Ugandan parliament passed legislation outlawing the ritual practice of forced female circumcision. I'm hoping that this law, long overdue, is not just window dressing to try to appease certain people into believing that progress in one area equates to understanding in another.

This travesty is made even more of one when it has been spurned forward by the words and actions, both direct and indirect, of those in our own supposedly civilized country whose personal agendas here have been thwarted by common sense, the earthly rights conveyed to us and protected by our forefathers, and the influence of God's love in its purest form.


As it happens I have a lot of other things on my mind, not the least of which is Leslie's daughter Michaela, who as I write this is headed back to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh with a lot of abdominal pain and vomiting. Your thoughts and prayers for comfort and healing, as well as strength for Leslie and her family as Michaela continues the fight against cancer that has taken up half of her young life, are greatly appreciated.

Along with other struggles that seem trivial in comparison to life in an impoverished African nation, or in a fight against a deadly disease, I am nonetheless feeling a sense of hope and understanding that appears to be gaining a foothold in the battle against fear that I struggle with far too often. I hope I can be an instrument of God's peace in the face of these differences and obstacles.

May the Lord's peace be with you as we celebrate His presence in many different ways this month. Have a good week ahead.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Snow Observations

A lesson from Leslie: "Snow is beautiful. It is wonderful to walk through, to play in, to enjoy. Yet it can be an obstruction to where you want to go, and needs to be cleared aside so that you can. Even so, we tend to welcome it when it returns".

Judging from the ruminations of Grand Junction natives on Facebo
ok and elsewhere, this is the largest snowfall in GJ since 1986 or 1987. The weather service says anywhere from 6 to 9 1/2 inches have fallen, but I shoveled at least a foot off of all the walks and driveway this morning.

Like many other things in life, it is beautiful and interesting - I especially enjoy the muffling of the ambient noise so that things not normally heard come through loud and clear, like a conversation between two women over half a block away, or the class bell at Grand Junction High School.

And as Leslie pointed out, snow like today's needs to be managed as much as it is enjoyed. Too much of it can be an impediment to the appropriate progress needed to be made in one's life. Clearing it aside allows you to continue on the path that you need to follow, while still being able to enjoy the experience and the beauty of the surroundings.

The applicability of this to other things going on in life was not lost on me. Time to continue to make sure that there remains a clear path to my life, and that I can manage the obstacles to it just like I did this morning with the walk and the driveway.

The weekend in Pittsburgh was quiet, enjoyable, and too short.
It was cold but pleasant, with a few flurries trying to make their presence known. Considering what happened to Pitt and the Steelers while I was there (the Pens lost too), it was still a nice time.

Another interesting thing I noted today was this excerpt from a Daily Sentinel breaking news story this morning:

Public works spokeswoman Kristin Winn said crews began spreading magnesium chloride Monday afternoon in preparation for the late-autumn storm. She said a second crew came on at midnight this morning and that all eight city snowplows will be out 24 hours a day. City crews are working alternating 12-hour shifts.

She said snow plow drivers are concentrating on clearing major arterial roads and feeder streets and high-priority locations like hospitals.

Still, as of 9:30 a.m., several major roads in town, including Broadway, Riverside Parkway, Ute and Pitkin avenues and Seventh Street, appeared as though they hadn’t been plowed in several hours or at all. Many streets had so much snow and slush piled up on them that lines marking the lanes and shoulders weren’t visible.

“We’ve got a snow plan that we follow, but eight snowplows with the size of the city we have is a challenge,” Winn said.

(City Solid Waste and Streets Manager Darren) Starr acknowledged crews haven’t yet plowed downtown streets because they don’t have anywhere to put the snow. He said it’s usually better to plow downtown at night when crews can pile the snow in the middle of the street, then scoop it into dump trucks and haul it off.

He said he doesn’t expect the city to plow residential streets for some time.

“We don’t have the resources to be doing that,” he said.

I admire the level of coordination and response that the City puts forward in dealing with something that in all honesty is an infrequent occurrence, that being a snowfall of this magnitude.
I also admire their candor in stating very matter-of-factly what the limitations are regarding the ability to get to residential streets cleared, along with the main arterials that help to keep traffic volumes moving across the entire valley.

As I look at my own un-plowed street at almost 2:30 in the afternoon, I am in full understanding of the City's limitations in providing complete snow removal service in the wake of the priorities for traffic movement and public safety.

However, I am more than a little concerned about how that level of service would be impacted by large swatches of established residential areas of unincorporated Mesa County being annexed by petition, especially when the City, with equivalent candor, states in no uncertain terms the budget issues they have.

When "eight snowplows with the size of the city we have is a challenge", how much more of a challenge will it be to plow newly-annexed sections of Fruitvale and Clifton, when financial constraints may prevent the procurement of additional equipment or personnel?

The mandatory annexations under the Persigo agreement are bad enough. Council should reject any annexation petition until the financial resources necessary to procure infrastructure to provide additional services are solidly available.

Enjoy the snow. Have a great day.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thanksgiving Week in Review

Evan and I spent Thanksgiving at home this year. I cooked a complete holiday dinner for the first time; although most if not all of the fare was not complicated, it was rather satisfying. Nothing like green bean casserole, you know. BTW, if you like garlic, Campbell's also makes a Cream of Mushroom soup with roasted garlic in it. It makes the casserole that much better.

Prior to starting dinner I helped to deliver Thanksgiving dinners as part of Canyon View Vineyard's efforts to feed over 800 shut-ins and others in need of a meal that day. As was the case last year, the logistics of this effort appeared to go off without a hitch.

Sunday I attended church at the Downtown Vineyard, in their new location at the Avalon Theater. I'm still getting used to going to church in the same theater where I saw Towelhead, but the message is what matters, not the venue. And the message is a good one.

Pastor Paul Watson gave an excellent message around the concept of spiritual gifts, and how they can take hold of a church community to such an extent that the unifying and love-centered message of Christ can be corrupted and forgotten. This was the main theme of 1 Corinthians 13,
where St. Paul admonished the church at Corinth about the value, or lack thereof, of gifts such as prophecy or faith in the absence of love.

On the way out to the car I noticed the familiar red plastic bags covering the parking meters, meaning that the city has waived feeding the meters for the holiday shopping season. While I understand that the City and the Downtown Partnership want to do everything they can to encourage downtown shopping during what will likely be a lean holiday for retailers, I still feel that an opportunity was missed to provide better services for those without homes, or unable to provide for themselves or their families. I wrote about this earlier in the year. I hope they'll think about this for next year.

During the service my cell phone messaging kept going off. Afterward I read about the senseless killing of four police officers in Washington State. My prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic and truly evil act. In the context of this, and the fickle nature of the 24-hour news cycle, shame on those media outlets that made a spectacle of the misadventures of a billionaire golfer.

This week my co-producer Linda and I recorded 93 more students for the Words program. This was our second trip to the school in the last 2 months, and we got to see some of the fun that our first group of kids had with being part of the experience. A large wall display in the 7th grade section of Grand Mesa Middle School heralded some of this excitement.

It's been a good few days working with these kids. Speaking to them about their interests and favorite things to do, and helping to craft an experience that reflects who they are, has been enjoyable and
rewarding in an intangible way for the last 3 years. The staff at KAFM has been supportive and accommodating as well.

Airfares are interesting things to track. Sometimes all it takes is something to do in Denver to create an opportunity that is met by a favorable price. I have an interview in Denver on Monday, but have managed to parlay that into a long weekend in Pittsburgh, thanks in part to jetBlue and Southwest Airlines.

As a result, I get to see Leslie for a few days, and may try to get some cheap seats to see the Pens on Saturday night. I would like to see one more game in the Igloo before it goes away next season. The Pens host the Avs tonight. Enough said; there are still people around here that are a little sore over the Steeler victory in Denver almost a month ago.

Have a great weekend.