Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sign O' the Times 9

A girl in her late teens or early 20's was flying this sign last Friday at the Power Rd. entrance to the Albertson's shopping center on the Redlands. I spoke with her briefly. She said that her dog, which looked to be something akin to a Jack Russell Terrier, had sustained an injury to his leg when he had an encounter with the wheel of a small trailer that the girl pulls with her bicycle. The dog was running around the area with a lame back leg.

I initially thought that the girl was somewhat audacious and less than believeable with this approach, and still felt that way after speaking with her, even as I was handing her a $5 bill. Injured dog or not, the girl's situation and appearance looked to me as if whatever she collected over and above the verterinarian bill, she could probably use herself. Looking back, I think my decision was influenced in part by Smokey's death along with a concern for her and the dog's general welfare.

I was also aware of the initiative being spearheaded by Housing First! No More Deaths! concerning the impending arrival of colder temperatures and the potential effects on homeless families, particularly children. HFNMD's apparent focus here is to call attention to both the lack of shelter space for homeless families during the daylight hours, and the preponderance of abandoned buildings in the downtown area that the group believes could be improved sufficiently to meet some of these needs. Their protest at an abandoned storage building at 9th Street and D Road this past Saturday seemed to bring about some needed filler for the weekend broadcast news stations, but that appears to be all so far.

Jacob Richards and his group prefaced their activity with statement that appears absurd in its obviousness, but depending upon your perspective could be deadly serious; "Winter is Coming".

Let's hope that the little dog gets his help, and that the families in our community that are scrambling for shelter as the cold approaches get some form of relief from those who have a warm place to be this winter.

Have a good week ahead.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


 April 23, 1997 - September 23, 2010

Evan and I had Smokey at the Vet last week, after he started being short of breath and panting. We elected to try medications first, and they seemed to help for a few days. His usual pleasant disposition had changed, and last night it just seemed that breathing was a huge job for him. Another Vet appointment was set for next week, and I told Evan that I would call in the morning to try and get him in today.

God had other plans. I found Smokey in the front room around 8:00 this morning. Our other cat, Bandit, was up to his usual routine of in the house, out of the house, but saw the big guy this morning and is perhaps a bit more detached than usual. 

Smokey was not really graceful, but was altogether gracious, quiet, reserved, and loving. He was the imperial gray master of the house, and a friend to all who darkened its threshold - especially if you happened to be female. It was not uncommon to have Smokey on your lap if you were watching TV, or on your blanket or sleeping bag at night - especially the sleeping bag. 

That was the case last night as well. Evan thought it was better that Smokey left us in familiar surroundings, instead of the impersonal sterility of a Vet's office or emergency clinic. 

We're grateful for the great work done by Drs. Asmus and Kronkright at All Pets Center, as well as the staff of The Pet Spa including Leilani, who would groom Smokey there every few months. 

I'm hoping that Jan and Michaela have an old friend's head to scratch in Heaven today. 

Goodbye, Smokey - you'll be missed by everyone you touched on this earth.

You walk through my thoughts
With the same sure-footed command
You walked through the house.
Your pitter-patter of feet
Pounds like a drum in my head.
No bowl in your special corner;
You thrive on the meat of my mind.
No wrinkles on my bed
Where your purring body slept.
Just a heart, crumpled
By the weight of your absence.    

Gold-green eyes
That flashed warmth like a smile
Now brings hot tears
To my eyes in remembrance.
My lap is empty and cold -
It cannot hold memories
Full and warm,
Alive with your image
And the comfort you were.
You walk through my thoughts...
And the pain of your footprints will pass.

- Sandra M. Haight                              

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Score Another for Spehar and the Sheriff

Yesterday, commentaries from two prominent figures in our community hit the local printscape and blogosphere. The manner in which they address aspects of the current government budget difficulties is worth taking note of.
Former GJ councilman and County Commissioner Jim Spehar, writing in the Grand Junction Free Press, lamented the seeming disconnect between the decision by the current commissioners to refund over $450,000 of business personal property tax revenues, and the ability of county government to provide essential services during a period of budget difficulty. His focus was on the Sheriff's Department, and with good reason, as 27 employees of that fine agency are now faced with demotion or outright layoff as a result of budget trimming for next year.
Jim pointed out that the largest check being cut to businesses as part of the tax refund will be $533, and wondered out loud how much that average amount would eventually wind up stimulating the local economy, compared with other potential uses:
"I'd guess that $452,426.64 would pay the salaries of 8-10 of those trained and equipped deputies (Sheriff) Stan (Hilkey) will be axing. Their money would really be turning over in our local economy buying clothing, gas and groceries, and local services. That list of 450 businesses getting a maximum refund contains many Mom and Pops, but is long on names like Xcel, AT&T, Bresnan, Halliburton, and other outfits who'll ultimately be depositing their relatively paltry financial windfall in some out-of-town account. Many might rather have a timely appearance by a deputy when needed."
He went on to apply the same thinking to the money being spent by the City to construct public safety buildings, wondering out loud how many local construction jobs would be created by the $32 Million in project funds.
Mr. Spehar basically called out the commissioners, and their supporters in what he termed the "redneck right", for knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing in terms of how the average citizen can be helped by allocating available revenue toward ends that make sense.
Sheriff Hilkey continued to make excellent use of his department's independent website with a concise and personal comment on his approach to being asked for considerable reductions to an already-reduced operating budget. His comments included:
"When I was first asked to find $3.4 Million in next year’s budget my shock and disbelief was off the scale, which was part of my emotional response to the request. It didn’t take long however to be reminded by the news articles and stories about others going through this pain to realize that the public we are serving is also in pain and it is not unreasonable for them to add to their expectations of us the expectation of cutting back."
"There is little doubt that the armchair quarterbacking will commence on the changes we’ll make. That is inevitable within a community and agency of our size...Heck, even I lack total confidence that we’ve planned perfectly. We will have to make adjustments as we go and respond to problems as they occur, but isn’t that really the business we are in anyway?"
Public Safety is largely a reactive profession that has in recent years learned, especially since 9/11, the value of mutual respect, coordination, and planning. Still, things happen that can't be foreseen, and the Sheriff's Department, arguably the most important service provider that the County funds, does tremendous things and leverages considerable resources from the community to do them. This includes citizens giving of themselves and their life experience by serving a government agency as volunteers. 

Despite the Sheriff's admonition about 'armchair quarterbacking', I'm still tempted to wonder how many of his positions could be spared if the County Administrator and Solid Waste Director positions remained vacant for another year. That's almost $250,000 on top of the nearly half a million that Mr. Spehar pointed out.

Sheriff Hilkey and Mr. Spehar are and have been public servants that have made considerable contributions of their life capital to help assure that our citizens receive adequate services, and that those services are provided in a professional and financially responsible way. Their short comments on this particular issue reflect their understanding of the difficulties involved, and highlight the leadership qualities that each possesses. Many of us who write about local affairs, myself included, have a lot to learn in these areas.

In this turbulent economic and political climate, regardless of political ideology, perhaps what Mr. Spehar said about the Commissioners' recent actions is something we can all learn a bit from. We need to avoid becoming "long on political action and rhetoric and short on basic common sense."

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Of Safety and Stadiums - Part 2

Monday evening the Grand Junction City Council succeeded in passing a funding mechanism for one of the most necessary, yet contentious projects in recent history.

The proposed public safety improvements, changed substantially from the 2008 initiative that was defeated by city voters, will be funded through Certificates of Participation, which is essentially a lease-purchase arrangement that is supported by investor capital. I found a fairly lengthy but accessible explanation of this process here.

At the same time, Council approved the use of the same funding mechanism to remodel the City-owned stadium complex, to primarily accommodate the needs of the JUCO World Series.

These Certificates of Participation require some type of tangible asset to be placed with a trustee (usually a bank) as collateral for payment of investors should the City default on the annual lease payments. City Manager Laurie Kadrich advised City Council on Monday night that the collateral for the JUCO improvements includes Lincoln Park. This fact, while somewhat unsettling, is also an indicator to me of the City's resolve.

The response from the community at large is hard to gauge at this point, at least judging from the general alarm registered in places like the Daily Sentinel comment page and several local blog sites. There has been a lot of negative comment, some of which seems to target what is perceived as an end-around the will of the people, and ranging all the way to an overall indictment of the City government for years of alleged excess at the expense of meaningful projects like police and fire stations. Council and City Administration deserve much credit for tackling this issue in a such a volatile economic and political climate.

I believe that the new proposals are well thought out and mindful of the limitations the voters indirectly imposed on the project as a result of their 2008 disapproval. Ms. Kadrich also mentioned that there is thought of adding an additional floor to the existing City Hall (it was designed to accommodate the need for additional floors), and putting the Regional Communication center there. The stated rationale for this was placing the center more proximal to the City's IT brain trust and physical plant, but it will also help reduce those security and hazard mitigation concerns associated with the area of 6th and Ute.

Little mention was made in the local media coverage about the stadium project approval, and many online comments seemed to mirror that as well. I understand the reasons, stated and otherwise, for why fixing up Suplizio ranks up there with the public safety projects in terms of priority. The City's "We're Glad You Asked" page gives an great answer to citizen questions about the project, including the following:

JUCO has been a long-time, important partner of the City of Grand Junction. Partnerships are a key component of what makes this community the great place it is. There are numerous projects and initiatives across this community that could not have taken place were it not for partners coming together to create successes. Individually we can do much, but collectively we can do so much more.
Memo to the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless: The City appreciates the value of partnerships.

I was asked this week by an online commenter if I was ready to foist these "excesses" on my children and grandchildren in the form of an affront to their quality of life through increased taxation in the future. The short answer is yes - I don't think it will come to that, and the City will be better off for building these facilities now. You get what you pay for.

For those of you who think otherwise, Grand Junction's founding fathers left you the means to act on your convictions when they wrote the City's charter. Article XVI, Section 136 provides for citizens to protest the passage of an ordinance by collecting petition signatures during the 30 day period between an ordinance's passage and its effective date.

If signatures can be secured from City residents that are registered to vote equal to 10 percent of those who voted in the last election for Governor, the implementation of the ordinance will be suspended, and Council must either repeal the protested ordinance or put it before the voters at either the next municipal election, or a special election. The only exception to this is those ordinances passed under the charter's "special emergency" provision, which require a unanimous vote of Council and are effective immediately.

According to the City Clerk's office, those opposing an ordinance must currently collect 1,860 signatures of those who are registered to vote in the City to mount a protest via petition.

I'm mentioning this for three reasons:

  • If someone feels that strongly about a particular issue, they should know what mechanisms exist to address those issues before their government. Somehow I think that a good portion of these folks would rather just be an anonymous comment troll.
  • I don't think that opponents of Council's action will be able to obtain the required number of signatures in the allotted time frame. If there is such a thing as a silent majority, I believe they feel these facilities are needed as well.
  • This provision in the City Charter could become a factor again soon, as the result of another action Council approved on Monday night that evaded most of the reporting; setting a hearing date for the proposed ordinance to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. That date will be October 4. More about this soon.
Have a great day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sheriff's New Website Informs, Inspires

In a post this past May, I highlighted the website of Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. His agency's site, which is not hosted by Larimer County itself, contains some very unique and somewhat irreverent perspectives on the nature of conducting the responsibilities of a Sheriff in Colorado.

In a similar turn, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey has established a web presence independent of the Sheriff's page on the County servers. Mesacoloradosheriff.com, which launched in late August, contains several different pages with information on a few of the numerous activities of the MCSO. At present these include Search and Rescue (I am a volunteer for the Communications team), public information and news releases, crime prevention, and the traffic unit. It appears to be designed to effectively interface with the MCSO's already established presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Sheriff Hilkey's home page seems to be set up like a blog, offering a running commentary about issues of current interest to all county residents. It is here that the Sheriff has hit the ground running, with an excellent commentary on the upcoming county referendum on medical marijuana, and continuing with a strongly-worded, thought provoking post Thursday about the nature of public safety operations and the news media.

Titled "Consumer Alert", Sheriff Hilkey urged citizens, as consumers of local news media, to:
"Qualify what you hear knowing that early information must be filtered and balanced with the facts that will emerge in the resulting slower, methodical investigation conducted by those that are tasked with being accurate."
The Sheriff went on to chide Grand Junction's daily print and television media for their reporting of information related to the shooting death of 16-year old Troy Martinez in Clifton on Sept. 2:
"Specifically, they reported the circumstances and cause of the death before the coroner’s release of information. As a result, it was widely reported that this youngster was killed when a “bullet exploded as a result of him and another boy trying to take it apart.” As we now know, that did not occur. The boy was shot by another youth with a firearm. The circumstances of the tragic shooting have yet to be publicly released and are part of the on-going, fact-finding investigation."
This information was also reported by media outlets in Denver, based upon the local reporting that the Sheriff took exception to.

I saw Sheriff Hilkey at a volunteer appreciation barbecue last Thursday night, and congratulated him on the post. He passed along that at least one local reporter was less than pleased, and I can imagine the mood at many a newsroom in town being similar. The Sheriff was interviewed by KREX regarding Proposition 102 earlier that day, and KJCT also reported that the MCSO is facing layoffs of up to 27 employees. Stan had a busy day.

At the same time I can understand some of the frustration in the media when they don't get anything from official sources except "the investigation is ongoing". When the actions of law enforcement are being questioned, such
as in the case of Jason Kemp and his fateful encounter with the Colorado State Patrol, the length of time it takes to evaluate the facts prior to releasing information has just as much potential to cause what Sheriff Hilkey called a "delay (in) the movement through the steps of grieving and moving through a crisis".

On a very positive note, the Sheriff''s new website also
contains an extraordinary story of how three sergeants, two teams of patrol deputies, and the MCSO's volunteer coordinator came to make a difference in the life of "Jerry the Hitchhiker". Give this one a few minutes of your time; it will leave you with a much different perspective about law enforcement than the media has left many citizens with of late.

Best wishes to the Sheriff and his staff for continued success with the site. It's a privilege to be associated, even in a small way, with an organization populated by these kinds of people.

Have a good week ahead.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rally for Astroturf?

This morning and afternoon a Rally For Jobs is being held at Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction. The event will feature national and local speakers, as well as food and music.

According to reporting in the Daily Sentinel, the rally "will bring together Americans for Prosperity, energy-industry groups and two unions." As part of its pre-event publicity, the rally organizers exhort interested citizens to "stop new taxes and regulations that kill jobs in Colorado".

The website for Rally for Jobs clearly states that a co-sponsor of these events around the country is the American Petroleum Institute. Sentinel reporter Gary Harmon twice mentioned Americans for Prosperity in the first few paragraphs of the local story, but didn't elaborate more on it. A Google search told me a lot:
  • According to the group's website, "Americans for Prosperity™ (AFP) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) are committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. AFP is an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels."
Up until recently, I only knew of David Koch through his philanthropy, which is considerable. Part of this is providing major funding to some PBS programs, including Nova and the Ken Burns documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright.

A recent story in The New Yorker paints a more complex and comprehensive picture of Mr. Koch and his efforts, and last night Rachel Maddow focused some of this scrutiny specifically on the Relay For Jobs initiative. Ms. Maddow has a gift for making what would otherwise be a somewhat mundane and tedious investigative report (never mind that I like those) into something interesting and accessible, and for us in Grand Junction, rather timely:

When I read about these efforts that try to assert continued economic gloom if the energy industry isn't relieved of its regulatory and tax burdens, I'm increasingly drawn toward what's going on in the Marcellus Shale region (New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia), or in this case what isn't going on.

There are currently no Rally For Jobs events scheduled in any of the above states, even though drilling is ramping up there in the states where it can (New York has a moratorium in place), the regulatory and enforcement infrastructure is significant, and the Governor of Pennsylvania is (finally) advocating severance taxes on the natural gas that is extracted there. A columnist for the Post-Gazette put it nicely when he wrote:
"We're supposed to believe that companies are going to walk away from the Marcellus Shale bonanza if even the tiniest tax is imposed? Not on your autographed picture of T. Boone Pickens."
This week's Newsweek had a graphic that showed how little energy companies pay in fines in comparison to their gross revenue - something like 1 percent. Regulatory actions and taxes are just the cost of doing business to them. They will invariably be drawn to Western Colorado's bounty of gas and other energy sources as the cost of moving these resources to where they are needed is reduced through things like increased pipeline capacity. We need the jobs, but we also need to be able to safely enjoy where we live.

The lessons learned from incidents like Deepwater Horizon, the Massey mine disaster in West Virginia, and every rural resident's well that is contaminated by chemicals cannot be lost in the name of political expediency - especially when it's fomented by oil and chemical billionaires.

These astroturf groups that try to whip up political support behind issues like the Rally For Jobs are not truly focused on obtaining relief from regulation and taxation, although that would be a nice companion to their true goal - building support behind conservative political ideologies, including those that approach Libertarian viewpoints, which Mr. Koch has espoused publicly.

New York magazine also did a report about Mr. Koch recently, and followed the money and activities of Americans for Prosperity all the way to the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party is an actual political movement of debatable significance, it's somehow not surprising that it would have some connection to an astroturf group.

Maybe they want to make it look more like grassroots, but still be fake. Perhaps they should call it FieldTurf, which is similar to what they have installed over at Stocker Stadium.

Last weekend the temperature of that turf was measured at 173.2 degrees before a high school football game. I'd hate to see some of my fellow citizens try to play on that field and get burned - in more ways than one.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Backpacks for the Coach

This afternoon I attended John Fullmer's memorial service at Canyon View Vineyard Church. Aside from the church staff, John's wife Jennifer, and those from the small group I attended along with them, I really didn't know most of the literally hundreds of people who turned out. It was nonetheless a poignant and uplifting experience to see so many come to pay their respects to a man who impacted numerous lives in the Fruita area as a coach, parent, husband, Christian mentor, and friend.

Donations in John's memory have been suggested to the Kids Aid Backpack Program, a non-profit making a difference in the health of children in need in the Grand Junction area. I've known about the program through attending Canyon View, and knew that they were helping kids be able to eat something nutritious on the weekends by collecting food donations and sending them home in backpacks with the kids after school.

There are several pages on their website that detail the nature and scope of their distribution program, as well as the story of how they came to be. It's worth the time to read, not only because of what inspired Mr. Berry to do it, but also because he tried to emulate a very successful program in Metro Denver, the Totes of Hope program of Food Bank of the Rockies.
Message to those attempting to craft a plan to address our community's homeless problem; re-inventing the wheel is not always necessary.

It was coincidental and equally gratifying to see in today's Sentinel that Mike Berry, the founder of the Kids Aid program, is a finalist for national recognition by the charitable arm of a trade association for financial professionals. Congratulations are in order to Mr. Berry not only for the award, but for adapting a proven method of addressing a need to effective use locally.

There are several ways to help Kids Aid. I was tempted to pull out the checkbook, but I think I will try to donate some of whatever free time I have to help prepare and distribute, or whatever they need. I hope I can be consistent with this.

You can help too. If for no other reason, do it to honor the memory of a man who touched many local lives. Do it for Coach Fullmer.

Good night.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Criticism of Beck Brings Out the Weird

Happy September.

This past week I put my mother on a plane back to Pittsburgh after a 2-month stay, worked several fairly busy shifts at Cabela's, finished my share of this month's Words program, spent a lot of time on the phone with Leslie, and read a lot of interesting stuff online. My pockets had several little pieces of paper with cryptic notes, which I've finally started to piece into a kind of synopsis of the noteworthy for the next few posts.

I saw some great examples of commentary about Glenn Beck and his rally in Washington last weekend, from both local and national sources. I've enjoyed Kathleen Parker's writing ever since she made an eloquent defense of the passion of the late Senator Paul Wellstone after his death in 2002. This consistent quality earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary this year, as well as a show on CNN with Eliot Spitzer, scheduled against the Big Os (O'Reilly, Olbermann) starting next month. I hope that she can maintain her excellent outlook on things in spite of all this exposure.

Ms. Parker's latest offering looks at Mr. Beck's latest exploits in the frame of his recovery from alcoholism and other addictions. Knowing people in my life that have struggled with this as well, I can say from my experience with them that Ms. Parker speaks the truth about the nature of Mr. Beck's rhetoric. Read her column; it's not very long, and it gets the point across rather well.

Daily Sentinel columnist and retired Editor Denny Herzog also saw fit to comment on Mr. Beck's exploits in a commentary this week. Denny lamented the deterioration of journalistic standards that permits the sort of opinion masking as journalism to pervade the airwaves today. To be fair, Mr. Beck has co-conspirators on both sides of the political spectrum.

What cracked me up were some of the comments and letters to the editor accusing Mr. Herzog of exhibiting liberal bias, and being a "left-wing writer". If Denny Herzog is a left-wing writer, then Gary Harmon learned everything he knows from Noam Chomsky. Ridiculous..

One letter writer wondered out loud "how newspapers like The Daily Sentinel can continue to operate on the assumption that it is possible to have a sustainable business model while at the same time condescendingly insulting many of its readers and advertisers". The Sentinel will continue to operate, and even thrive, simply because it pursues to inform and enlighten without a particular bias toward one ideology or another.

The Sentinel tends to lean toward the right in most of their opinion pieces, but also strives to maintain a representative balance of Grand Junction, which appears to be moderating ever so slightly in some areas. Good job, Denny.


As I finish this post I am remembering John L. Fullmer III, who lost a son to a car accident in 2009 and was himself killed yesterday when his truck rolled on Broadway near the west entrance to the Monument. I knew John and his wife Jennifer from a small group bible study we were both part of. I'm thinking and praying for the family, which includes a son in high school.

Please be careful in your travels this Labor Day weekend.

Maddow: "Best Race Ever.."

Todd Transmeier over at Plumb and Square was lamenting this morning over what he called "one of the craziest political campaigns, I have ever seen in my life". I'm inclined to agree with him.

Rachel Maddow apparently agreed with him too. She spent some time on her show last night to give an overview of what's been going on so far, at least before last night's first debate, which by some accounts didn't have any of the pre-game excitement. Ms. Maddow very cheekily called the Colorado Governor's race the "Best.Race.Ever". I would have preferred if the word "Hickenlooper" would have made it out of her mouth once during the report, but it still chronicled the adventures on the GOP side of the equation pretty well. For those unfamiliar with our story thus far, or for readers from out of state, the whole thing is pretty interesting:

Ms. Maddow even gave the Western Slope a bit of a shout-out in the story as well. MSNBC's website has a pretty cool feature where you can highlight a transcript of the video clip and edit it.
So for all the locals with a short attention span or just no patience at all, below is a clip with just the local reference in it.

I'm wondering what Janet Rowland meant by the term "accidental nominee". Is it an accident for the voters in a particular party to decide who will represent that party in an election, through either the caucus process or a primary election? If the people at the top can't pull the strings somehow, and the 'wrong' person in their minds is nominated, does that make the nomination an 'accident'?

Enjoy the show, running now to November...