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Monthly Archives: July 2011
I find that customer service in Boulder is consistently excellent and that business owners and their employees go the extra mile as a matter of course. I wonder, though, at the way some customers behave. Today my family and I went for frozen yogurt at a place we had not tried before–Aspen Leaf in Table Mesa. The store was sparkling clean, the toppings and yoghurt fresh and attractively presented, and the employees were friendly and professional. So far, so good. Then three “customers” stopped in to sample the yoghurt. Each got three sample cups and proceeded to reuse each cup several times. Not only was it unappetizing to watch, but this surely must be a violation of health department rules. No one can reuse their plates at buffets because it might spread germs and I am guessing the same principle applies here. Who is supposed to pay for all the “samples” being consumed–the small business owner? Paying customers who will absorb the cost? I am all for finding bargains, but going overboard like this crosses the line from frugality to theft.
Boulder Continue reading
Remember service businesses Xcel, trash services, the Federal Government, the State of Colorado, the City of Boulder, Boulder County ARE SERVICE BUSINESSES.
They exist to provide services with the commodities and personnel they can arrange to take care of the customer base.
The governments will never be profit making, lucky to break even, and they shouldn’t be profitable. And they shouldn’t lose money…so they have to change budgets to fit the possible revenues all the time. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for them to be flexible with all parts of the budget.
Trash services and Xcel are for-profit businesses…arranging services for communities of customers. The US auto industry ignored this and created a 40 year fiasco in production, without change of gas consumption, requiring governmental assisance in financing. Until they get the messages that customers need variation in services…like the change to improved mpg auto design, in energy production, or the flexibility in trash services…customers will be underserved…on purpose.
In Boulder, can the utility provider business fit the energy program flexibility being requested by a government?
A business policy which requires the customer to pay for a service not progressive, not flexible, not needed is bad service, and bad business.
A variation in utility service is needed for the goals of the City of Boulder. The expert providers can accommodate the customer with flexibility. It takes thinking.
Boulder Continue reading
I read with disappointment that Volunteer Connection has been ‘acquired’ by Foothills United Way. Brian Gallagher is still President and CEO of United Way, and currently earns $1,037,140 a year, (American Institute of Philanthropy, Dec 2010). I am sure Mr Gallagher has plenty of perks, fully paid health insurance for life and other benefits. How repugnant it is for United Way, a volunteer organization, to compensate it’s CEO to such a degree. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Foothills United Way does not provide any compensation to its Board of Directors. Hey guys, you’re missing out some cool cash!
How nice to know your donations to United Way are being handled responsibly to people in need, especially to Mr Gallagher.
Boulder Continue reading
U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner put his finger precisely on the problem
when he said that he writes 80 million checks a month. What is most
astounding about this arrangement is that 43% of it is done with borrowed
money. Obviously if this is allowed to continue it can only lead to default.
Politicians are clearly not up to the task so what is needed is a clear
market signal to change course before a default occurs. I think the least
painful way is to send an unequivocal market signal through a downgrade of
A downgrade will of course cause some damage to our economy as we struggle
to adjust but is that really a bad thing? One obvious adjustment would be
that people will look for alternative ways to invest their money other than
in government bonds. What are government bonds anyway? It is money that is
lent to the government with a promise to repay based solely on their ability
to tax and print more money. Nothing there that is very tangible or real
towards building a better future.
We need a re-alignment of our economy and I think Warren Buffet offers the
best advice how to do it. Stick to basics and invest our money in what is
real and in what people really need. I think it is good advice, not only for
our own financial security but for the country as a whole as well.
Boulder Continue reading
In “Epa seeks greater pollution control over small waterways,” I read
about what’s going on with our rivers and pollution. Right now, all
small rivers and streams aren’t protected by the clean water act.
That includes Boulder Creek. I run by the creek at least once a week
and I love how beautiful it is. I’ve seen people tubing and little
kids playing in it. From what I understand, if we don’t restore
protections on the smaller streams, we can’t protect Boulder Creek.
This story is true across our great state. And this doesn’t even
include all the jobs that come from the tourism economy. We need to
protect these. That’s why I want everyone to call our congressman to
say that we need to protect these rivers for our economy and for the
beauty of our state.
boulder Continue reading
In the EPA Seeks Greater Pollution Control over Small Waterways, I was shocked to find that many of our streams are not protected. I love taking walks by the Boulder Creek and I am appalled to find that companies have the right to pollute in our rivers. We need to protect our environment to protect our future. 3.5 million Coloradoans could be at risk for unsafe drinking water due to companies dumping toxins in our waterways. Our rivers are our access to drinking water and outdoor activities such as fishing, swimming, and rafting. We should not be scared of the EPA, we should support them. The EPA should have power to protect our rivers. Everyone should let their members of congress know that we care about the environment and want safe water.
Boulder Continue reading
I read in “EPA seeks greater pollution control over smaller waterways”, that the EPA has little jurisdiction over many of the smaller rivers and streams in Colorado, leaving them susceptible to pollution by private enterprises. So environmentalists along with many people from the recreation industry took to the streets to gather support from Colorado voters. They gathered over 20,000 voices calling for stricter regulations. However, the opposition believes that if the EPA were to enforce stricter guidelines it would put an unnecessary strain on the economy. If businesses aren’t allowed to pollute where they want, jobs could theoretically be lost—this is a short term concern, but the consequences of polluting our waterways are long term and potentially irreversible. Companies must find safer ways to dispose of hazardous materials. We cannot continue to ignore the root of the problem. We must support the EPA’s efforts to protect America’s waterways.
Boulder Continue reading
The letters condemning the Tea Party and the “far right” for threatening the well being of the Country and indeed everyone’s financial security going forward have become an almost daily ritual in the Camera as the so called debt limit crisis plays out. It is ridiculous that those writing put blame on the citizens that are demanding responsibility and accountability from the very government and investment banks that actually have already collaborated to destroy the economy and now still believe they have the right to run the show. Most of those in both the Senate and House, regardless of party, should have resigned after they failed so miserably to manage a situation that was actually no surprise to those paying attention. After their failure to regulate the corruption, they turned around and gave 16+ trillion dollars to the very same corrupt Wall Street banks as well as several foreign banks and no one went to jail or lost their phony baloney government job. After running deficits for years, they simply piled more debt on top to try and prop the collapsed economy back up. Well, it won’t work.
The best thing that can be done now is to repeal all “free trade” agreements, withdraw from the WTO, reimpose appropriate tariffs and duties on foreign goods including those made by American companies abroad and shipped back here including all imported oil. We need to stop pretending that we are engaging in “free trade” when many of our trading partners have one tenth the labor costs and little of the regulation involved with manufacturing here. The income tax needs to be abolished and the Federal Reserve Bank that protects the interests of these investment banks needs to be dissolved. The letters condemning my “radical” proposals may be forthcoming but since most writers only parrot the words of their party leaders and aren’t really interested in solving the long term problems of the country so be it. What is obvious, however, is that more money in future interest payments to the international banking establishment only further enriches that corrupt element and bankrupts our Nation.
Erie Continue reading
Give us our Aprils Back!
With all the squabbling between Congress and the White House over the debt ceiling, this might be an excellent time to seriously consider the “Fair Tax”. Instead of letting the government ruin our beautiful springtimes, abolish the IRS and add a federal sales tax to the local & state taxes we now pay on all purchases.
A Fair Tax could have special tax-exempt provisions for the poor but it would democratically tax every purchase made, by rich and middle-class alike. It would make it impossible to claim an offshore home address or pay a staff of tax lawyers to find loopholes and deductions to evade taxation entirely (like GE).
The sticky part is setting what tax percentage should be paid. Would it be different for different types of purchases (ordinary everyday vs. luxury, etc.)? Would it include big, less often, purchases like homes and cars?
Let Congress squabble over the percentage tax figure and what to tax, but once that’s decided upon, it should be set so that the government could only spend the exact revenue created and no more; i.e., the iron-clad balanced budget amendment that we’ve needed for decades. Let our great country become solvent again and bring back decent interest rates (which the Fed has dropped to almost nothing to afford the interest on our horrendous debt).
Think about it and write your congressman if you agree.
Now I feel better.
Broomfield Continue reading
“I’ll ruin your home/business/reputation if you don’t do what I say.” We have a word for that: extortion.
Boehner said, Obama “wants a $2.4 trillion blank check that lets him continue his spending binge through the next election”, a claim that packs three lies into a mere 17 words. 1) the debt limit is not a check. It allocates no new funds. Rather it authorizes the US to borrow enough to cover the deficit already approved in the 2011 budget. 2) this non-check is not blank. The amount of the deficit was specified in in the Congressional budget. 3) It’s not Obama who is asking for more borrowing. Congress approved the deficit in a hotly fought compromise last April in Public Law 112-10, a bill which was approved by Mr Boehner himself with a “yea” vote. Therefore Congress, Mr Boehner included, is primarily responsible for the need to raise the debt ceiling.
Only three months later, the Republican Party has conspired to manufacture a crisis, holding our economy hostage to political and economic demands that are biased to benefit corporations, the financial elite, and the very wealthy. Such provisions include repeal of the new Healthcare Act, cutting of Social Security and Medicare to finance corporate and high-end tax reductions, and retaining tax breaks for financiers. This agenda is one the Party lacked enough political support for to push through during the legitimate budgeting process, but one which they might now achieve by threatening to damage the creditworthiness of the United States. For a major political party to threaten the economic health of our country in order to impose their minority agenda surely marks a new low point for US politics.
No one will deny that we need to address our ongoing budget deficits. But to do so under threat, in secret, at the last hour, in order to impose a radical minority political agenda is bound to result in a terrible outcome for everyone. I can only hope that, on both sides of the fence, we Americans still despise being blackmailed and will let our elected officials know it.
Boulder Continue reading
When a political group — our tempest-in-a-teapotters — openly seeks to cripple, dismantle and render our government ineffectual in carrying out our collective responsibility as a people to strengthen the common good and keep our nation and our society strong, . . . how is that not Treason?
Lafayette Continue reading
I was happy to see the Sunday front page article (Boulder Valley’s preschool expansion aims to fill gaps, 7/16/2011) highlighting the importance of closing the achievement gap by increasing access to preschool. While the article focused almost entirely on the need for affordable options to serve our community, it left me wondering how to measure achievement in a preschool setting. Surely there will not be standardized tests for three-year-olds.
Research shows that very young children need to be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover. Two studies in the journal Cognition–one from a lab at MIT and one from a UC Berkeley lab–were recently released confirming that direct instruction makes children less curious and less likely to discover new information. In fact, scientists have been exploring how we could design computers that learn about the world as effectively as young children do.
When I was deciding where to send my boys to preschool, I was lucky enough to find a a mud-caked, rich, stable, safe, and affordable school, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups. My boys are exact opposites and thanks to New Horizons Cooperative Preschool I learned to provide them with an environment where they could explore the spiciness of our community and rejoice in being an individual. As they walk into adulthood, they carry this same zest for learning at Boulder High and Harvard. Perhaps BVSD can learn from a preschool that has been leading the way for over 40 years, recognizing that providing vast opportunities for exploration and play is vital to closing the achievement gap.
Boulder Continue reading
I must respond to the sensationalistic and fear-mongering letter in Wednesday’s Camera (“A possible future for Boulder?”) concerning municipalization.
The letter’s author paints a bleak picture of brownouts, high rates, and unresponsive management under municipalization. This bleak picture, while unrealistic, would actually be more likely if we don’t municipalize:
Brownouts: Municipal utilities have a better record for reliability and response time on average than the large investor-owned utilities.
Rates: First, consider that Boulder’s municipal water utility has rates competitive with those in neighboring communities (while supplying top quality water). Second, if we don’t municipalize we are subject to Xcel’s rate increases. Already in the first half of 2011 their fossil fuel costs have increased about 7%, twice the rate of inflation. Additionally, under the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, Xcel will invest nearly $400 million in upgrading its coal plants, for which Xcel ratepayers will have to pay. Third, a municipal could maintain competitive rates while using about twice the percentage of renewables as Xcel. The higher percentage of renewables would further protect us from rate increases caused by the inevitable rise in the cost of fossil fuels (while also reducing our CO2 emissions by over 60%).
Management: Which management form would be more responsive to the interests of Boulder citizens and businesses: an unelected governing body meeting in Minnesota or a governing body meeting here in Boulder with representatives from local citizens and businesses?
I am excited about the potential benefits of municipalization—stabilized rates, reduced carbon emissions, and the opportunity for Boulder to become a world leader in energy innovation.
Boulder Continue reading
In his Monday guest opinion, Chuck Wright’s very selective quote from Jefferson, suggesting that he’d approve of giving corporations the same rights as citizens, must have our founding father turning over in his grave – and he’s not the only one.
Here’s Jefferson to George Logan in 1816: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
Then there’s Lincoln to William Elkins in 1864: “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”
We should all be feeling so – much more deeply – these days. The City of Boulder may look ridiculous to some for supporting a constitutional amendment to revoke corporations’ “human rights,” but I think in the future it will be looked upon as prescient for doing so. I don’t always agree with the City Council, but we do need elected leaders with the wisdom to do what our last president’s father derided (and W certainly had no talent for) as “the vision thing.” As it says in Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And so will “the land of the free,” if we continue on our present course.
Boulder Continue reading
As elected leaders of both parties fail to reach any of their stated goals, and as the government drifts towards default, we voters gnash our teeth. We blame the opposing party for its intransigence, and/or our own party for its weakness. In doing so, we miss a fundamental lesson of this moment: that the rules of our democracy are ill-suited to conditions of scarcity.
When budgets rise, we generally believe in sharing the benefits of increased wealth. Politicians argue over who gets the most, but there is wide consensus that all constituencies should get some part of the increase. In such times, our political system operates relatively smoothly to apportion – fairly or not — the spoils of growth.
But when budgets must be cut as resources become scarce, our rules are different, and our results are dysfunctional. Rather than spreading sacrifice broadly, we scramble to target some “other” constituency, in a ritualized search for weak links reminiscent of “Survivor.” Every interest group mobilizes in self-defense, and competing visions of the public interest become distorted by that lens. Our body politic becomes paralyzed, unable even to heave its carcass off the tracks as the train of financial disaster screams in.
I would like to see us try something new. Let’s impose across-the-board spending cuts, and across-the-board revenue increases, in exactly the same percentage across all taxpayer groups and in every area of government, to achieve the $4 trillion deficit reduction that both parties seem to think is desirable. We could agree that this is the time for ALL taxpayers to share sacrifice by paying more, and for ALL areas of government, regardless of priority, to operate with less. We would thus apply some approximation of the norms that we use in times of growth to our present circumstances of contraction.
Simplistic? Yes – but preferable to our “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle of failure, blame, and paralysis.
Boulder Continue reading
> We are a Republican and a Democrat, respectively, and have somewhat different views as to what’s best for our country. But we agree on one important aspect of the coming campaign season.
> We are not giving money to political candidates running for office. Instead of giving $500 each to political candidates, we have decided to give $1,000 to charity. We urge people of all political persuasions to do likewise. No party will gain an advantage because of our decision.
> Money is not the mother’s milk of politics. Money is the crack cocaine of politics. Millions of Americans decry the influence of big money in politics today. We may not be able to stop corporate contributions, but we can stop individual contributions.
> Estimates of the cost of presidential campaigns alone run to $1 billion or more. Think of the good this money could do for those who are less fortunate. Hundreds of millions of dollars will go to media outlets to create messages that are often half truths, deceptions, and sometimes outright lies. This madness is demeaning to American voters and American citizens alike.
> We’re urging everyone to, “Just say no” to solicitation letters, phone calls, and invitations to fund-raising events, and to enlist others in the refusal to support a corrupt system. An added benefit is that a candidate of any party who is elected will have to govern with limited resources. Campaigning with fewer dollars will be excellent experience for the job.
Boulder Continue reading
We are in the final week of a seven month buildup to a debt ceiling deadline with no clear end, except we know the losers are a public held for ransom. In the partisan atmosphere which characterizes American politics, it should be no surprise that the tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives would remain steadfast to their pledge to avoid increasing revenues at any cost, in stark contrast to the requirements of a Constitution which mandates compromise as a necessary element of self governance.
Of course, anyone can hide behind a pledge in order to avoid responsibility for his or her actions. I assume few parents would be impressed if, when their high school sophomore son was told to comply with a midnight curfew, informed his parents that he and his friends had decided to take a pledge to ignore curfews, and that no compromise on the subject would be forthcoming. Here, the tea party pledge is to Grover Norquist, and somehow, sixty or so members of Congress feel comfortable holding America hostage, and damaging our economy in potentially irreparable ways, unless the rest of the country abides by their pledge. In other contexts, with lives as opposed to an economy at stake, we would call this terrorism. Somehow, a not insubstantial minority in this country calls such action “patriotism”, even though the failure to raise the debt ceiling involves no analysis of future economic policy, but rather is simply a decision to stiff creditors.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. But suppose the tea party Republicans get away with this. What will stop them refusing to vote to raise the debt ceiling in the future unless, for instance, all illegal immigrants are deported, or a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is adopted, or mosques are banned throughout America? Or, to the horror of my tea party brethren, House Democrats during a Republican administration decide that the ceiling will not be raised unless we also adopt a tax increase upon the highest income Americans. Who will fight for the rich then?
Boulder Continue reading
I too am a “shooter” –a hunter, really, who must shoot to have a gun worth hunting with. Since the Boulder Rifle Club has a 7 year waiting list to join, I’m left to find some place to shoot. This leaves National Forest land where I can legally and safely shoot.
I also know that my shooting must be done in a responsible manner, which in my mind includes:
-Safety (direction and backstop)
-Leave little or no trace (removing casings, targets, etc.). I don’t litter where I’m hiking, camping, fishing, etc., I certainly don’t need to do it where I shoot. If your planned target will break into small pieces, plan on spending the time to clean it up, or don’t bring it to begin with.
-Do not disturb the neighbors while shooting. This is the tough one –the gray area between the fanatical black and white. Shooters must admit: Some guns are VERY loud –especially big game rifles. I pick my shooting locations with thought, not only to safety but to who might be inordinately disturbed. I pay attention to how close I am to trails and homes, and to topography. The sound while absorbed by topography can be amplified by it too. I also limit the timing and amount of shooting I do at a given location. I don’t WANT to disturb neighbors and it just so happens that there are things I can do about that.
Guns also worry people. When there is shooting nearby our first thought is, “I hope they are being safe.” I’ve been shooting a long time and I can say that the vast majority of shooters and hunters I’ve met know their guns well and operate them safely. At the same time, the vast majority of any real fear is not often founded in real experience.
The majority of people I’ve known or lived near allow for quite a bit of liberty. Recognizing that, I wish to return that outlook. If I feel I am disturbing neighbors than it’s not OK with me. I recognize that while I have a legal right to shoot firearms on National Forest land, I also feel there are self-imposed limitations too –just as there are when we fish and hunt; No one is watching so you’ve gotta bring honor with you.
-Leave little trace
-Do not (inordinately) disturb your neighbors. Pick your locations with care, and be thoughtful about your timing.
Gold Hill Continue reading
Using recent Boulder municipal management theory as a guide, let’s fast-forward to about nine years from now. We’re in 2020, and rolling brownouts around the city have become part of our daily routine because the recently-municipalized electrical grid is so far behind in maintenance. It turns out that the unionized personnel working for Boulder Sticker Shock Electric have negotiated a three-day work week and just can’t quite seem to get to those backlogged projects. The top managerial salaries are approaching $300K, yet, executives are often difficult to pin down because they’re traveling to attend Team Building and Best Practice seminars. Meanwhile, the Customer Support Hotline that makes callers give up by the sixth level of options to select from and the inability to talk to a real person has led to so many complaints that City Council has had to reduce the citizen speaking time at their meetings to 15 seconds. A recent letter to the editor pointed out that many leaders, municipal staff, and consultants from the 2010-2012 era are somehow gaining financially through the new Sticker Shock arrangement, implying that the battle was all about power, just not the electric kind. But, what really has everyone puzzled is that Boulder still has almost no renewable energy in its portfolio because hundreds of millions were spent on a system that didn’t come with an owner’s manual. This has required additional millions to be spent on support equipment and convoys of “Two Sustainability Coordinators and a Truck” scrambling around town with their voltmeters trying to figure it all out. The reports coming into Council from Sticker Shock are blaming Xcel for everything and describe how none of these problems could have been predicted, and that, unfortunately, another rate hike is necessary. Hey man, this is how we roll in Boulder!
To the editor:
I am frustrated and perplexed at the limited number of options being looked at by the Congress for reducing the US deficit. Why do we hear so little about Pentagon spending? Experts agree that reducing the cost of our military can save billions without jeopardizing security. Gen. Colin Powell, Rep. Ron Paul and the Cato Institute join Rep. Barney Frank, the Center for Defense Information and Taxpayers for Common Sense in calling for rethinking US military policy. Cutting Pentagon spending does not have to reduce its effectiveness and may force a healthy re-look at US military policy.
It is actually not difficult to find savings of $1 trillion in the next ten years. We don’t need to spend $194 billion to beef up the nuclear weapons arsenal, including a new class of Trident submarines and continuing plans for the militarization of space. We could reduce the presence of US troops abroad: we now have more than 135,000 soldiers stationed at bases in non-combat countries. 227 bases in Germany alone. These bases will cost $1.2 trillion over the next ten years and can easily be cut by 1/3. Reducing the Navy fleet from 286 to 230 can save $127 billion over ten years. Procurement of unneeded and overpriced hardware could easily be reduced. It is unknown what additional savings and waste would be found if the Pentagon were subjected to simple audits. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee just cut funding for State Department diplomacy, development assistance to fragile countries, climate change adaptation, US peacekeeping and other programs that promote peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. These contribute far more to our security than a bloated Pentagon budget. Where are our priorities?
Senator Mark Udall has been active in the discussions about deficit reduction and is in a unique position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to promote Pentagon savings. I urge him, Senator Bennett and Rep. Polis to advocate strongly for the Pentagon to do its part in deficit reduction. Specific ideas for making the US economically and well as militarily secure can be found at http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1006SDTFreport.pdf in the June 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force.
Boulder Continue reading