Monday, March 5, 2018

One arm? Homeless? No problem.

Between the San Diego airport and the bay is a thin strip of land that is filled with trees, grass, beach and rocks. It’s called Spanish Landing Park. It’s beautiful and many people walk along this preserved area. I walked down the park, the Sun had set but there was yet light enough to see, as I beheld a man running a piece of drift wood down the rough side of his skateboard.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

A common and truthful response to such a question may be, “none of your business.” But his first response was to look up and smile. What the smile lacked in teeth it made up for with contentment and acceptance.

“I’m remaking some tools. See I live on a sail boat and recently some of my tools for mending the sails and nets were stolen, so I am fashioning new ones. I made this earlier today.” He pulls out a much smaller piece of wood with a hole in one end. “That will act as my needle when I use a hemp thread to mend nets. This larger piece I’m workin’ on now is for the sails.”

Both pieces look very impressive but was is both most noticeable and adds to the richness of what he is doing is his obvious handicap. One is nothing but a stub and the other has a hand with a badly misshapen thumb and only three fingers.

“So, what is our name?” He asks.


“Mine’s Will. Nathaniel is the mane of my oldest son.”

“How old is he?” I ask.

Let’s see he was born in 1986. So, he’s 31. I always remember the year he was born because that was the year I met my friend the Bull Shark. He was very friendly and wouldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t want to dance. In the end, he died but it cost me an arm, a few fingers, and a hole in my side.” He lifts up his shirt to reveal a large scar and missing section on his right side. I was living in Florida, working as a carpenter. It was shortly after I recovered that my son was born.” I was ready for him to tell me that, this was it, shortly after this horrible accident and having a young family he was driven to homelessness. But I was wrong and he continued, “And then in 87 my first daughter, and then my second daughter in 88. That was the year my wife was killed by a drunk driver.” Now, that had to be it. Three young kids, disability and his wife is killed, that was the trigger.

But I was wrong again. “I took the three young kids and moved to the middle of no where Kentucky, It as where my parents had retired and I needed their help with the small children. I worked at a Harley dealer and owned a tattoo parlor with several employees. We stayed there until all my kids graduated High School and were off to college. That was when I started trying new things.

“What do you mean new things? I asked.

“Well the first thing I did after they all graduated was give the tattoo parlor to my employees and took a job working at the salvation army. My kids thought I was crazy, they still do.”

It was clear he was very proud of his three kids that he had with his first wife, and very proud that each had attended college. As the story continued it came out that he actually had six kids. The last three he noted, “I loved so much he gave them each their own mother.” It is clear that he was much more involved in the lives of his first three. The youngest of which is now in the Navy and it was following her that brought him to San Diego. When he came he had no place to stay so spent the first few weeks on a park bench. Eventually with the money he had coming in from social security he had saved enough to purchase an old dilapidated boat and moved in.

Since then he has been living partially on boats, either his own or others he helps fix up or partially on park benches. He recently got back from Ventura California. He sailed solo on a 40-foot boat that he borrowed from a friend in England, it was part of a plan to save on dock fees.
Will was very colorful, full of energy, jokes and advice, “Why does the Easter Bunny hide eggs?” He asked. “Because he doesn’t want people to know his girlfriend is a chicken.”

Some of his advice included: “Is the glass half full or half empty? If you have a glass and something in it, you simply don’t know how lucky you are.”
“Don’t buy your own bull, and never ignore what your core or gut is telling you.”

Will was happy, hardworking, tenacious, not a victim and…homeless. Here is a man who had his arm ripped off by a bull shark and now is spending his time sailing solo from San Diego to Ventura.
Will in many ways remined me of Job, not so much for his hardship as because of his faith and hope.  Through loss of limb, wife and all else he kept his head up. Before I left him, he asked, “Do you believe in God?”

“I do.”

“I do too, but my one issue with most people’s view of God is that they think God is a man. I think God is a woman. No man could be as loving, nurturing and kind as God has been to me."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Utility commission and Chickens?

Today I wrote about Cynthia Olsen and her work in getting Boulder City to have Chickens. (Click here to read it).

One of the things Cytnhia told me as she recounted her story was that she was not the only one working on this effort. She mentioned that others were working at the same time to get the Chickens law changed.  She was one of several that came together at the right time to make a change.

I feel this is happening again with the Utility commission. I give a lot of credit to many that are making this happen. Dale Napier may not have been the first but I remember distinctly his October article calling for a utility commission (Read it here). Warren Harhay has met with citizens to begin to get things in line to make this happen. I went to the last meeting he held on February 5th, and he, Councilman Mcmanus and many others began to do the very monotonous work of filling in details of how this commission will be set up. And this week our local paper editor, Hali Saylor, added her voice to those supporting this idea. (Read her article hear). Others have worked on this as well. I think these little side, non-noticed efforts are some of the most important work in community government. Long before the first city utility commission meeting is held, and before they can make their first controversial decision there will be hundreds of hours of work just to bring them into existence.

Just as the work paid off for Cynthia Olsen and many, like myself, get to enjoy our Chickens. I hope city council will do the right thing and set up this commission. I think they will and the utility commission will happen, and will be a great benefit to our city.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mayor Harhay or Woodbury?

Today I wrote about why I think Warren Harhay should consider running for mayor. (Read it here).

One of the concerns I have heard is how can I write to support Councilman Harhay. After all, didn't I just write awhile ago about why I would like to see Mayor Woodbury run? (Read it here).

The truth is, I think there are several reasons why these two would be a great together on the ballot.

1. I think if these were the two options we couldn't go wrong. Both of these men love this city and would do what they feel is best. If they were the final two on the ballot I would eventually choose which one I felt would be best, but would be confident we would be in good hands.

2. These two offer different visions of the city and would offer the citizens a choice. Competition and options are good for our town. People shouldn't feel that there is only one choice or that they are stuck. Many people feel strongly that Mayor Woodbury is not a good option and these people have concerns and deserve a voice. I think Councilman Harhay would provide that and still be a strong, productive leader.

3. They both are true leaders who are willing to tackle the tough issues even if in the end it leads to them loosing power. Too often we base our vote on if we feel someone agrees with us weather or not they have true leadership qualities. (If you follow National politics today you can see the outcome of this.) I do not always agree with either Mayor Woodbury or Coucilman Harhay but I think they both care more about this city then their personal power, no quality is too be more desired in a true leader.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Getting out of...or back in "the system"?

Rob and Me and Jack in the Box

Being a single Mom is never easy. There is never enough money, time, or energy to get done what needs to get done. “My son would be better off without me,” often went through her head and when he turned 16 years old she left and he became officially part of “the system”. He did “okay” in the new life but his mothers ability to cope did not improve and by the time he was 17 she had not only left his life, but had taken her own.

By 18 he had graduated and the state funded group home he was a part of helped him land a job as a seasonal fire fighter. While he was working, they also helped him find a room in a shared apartment. At 18 with a job and a place to live, the State of Oregon was able to declare victory and clear the books of one more successful candidate who had left, “the system.”

A few months later the seasonal fire job ended, however he was undeterred and quickly found a job at Taco Bell. It was less pay but with the roommate sharing the bills, it was enough to get by. With work and a place to rest, he could sleep peacefully. That is until one morning at 2 A.M., when someone burst through his bedroom door yelling at the top of his lungs. Half asleep and sure someone was breaking in to attack him, he grabbed a small wood post that he kept near his bed, swung with all his might and heard a mighty crack that knocked the intruder both on his back and out. Fumbling in the dark, he turned on the light and saw his drunk, unconscious roommate lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Rob grabbed some of his clothes as his roommate began to regain consciousness, within a few seconds Rob heard the return of the yelling, only louder and he was glad to be half way out the door before his roommate fully grasped what had occurred. The next morning, he returned to get the rest of his things. The bruised roommate apologized and asked Rob to stay. “I could have killed you.” Rob replied, “There is no way I am staying.”

A friend let him put his things in his garage, but after a few weeks of couch surfing, at the young age of 19 he spent the first nights of many on the streets. Taco Bell was enough to pay a portion of a room but not enough to get his own place, especially not when it required a deposit. A few weeks after being on the street he lost his job. “That first winter I would have froze, if it wasn’t for the truck stop. They’d let me stay inside. I get enough change for coffee and they would give me left overs and stuff. I had never tried coffee and by the end of the first winter I had lived off so much coffee that I vowed never to have it again. To this day the smell makes me sick.”

“I’d get a job for a while, get a place to live, loose the job, get a few months behind and by the time I found another job I would be back on the streets. That’s kind of the cycle I have lived for the last 22 years. Now at 41, I kind of found it easier just to embrace it.”

Running down the list of jobs he mentions a lot one might expect, waiter, construction worker, harvester, but building computers stands out.

“Yea, I built PC’s in Washington for a while. That’s what got me into gaming.” He gets very animated as he shows me his favorite game he plays on his phone. He is clearly very into it and by the sound of it plays most of the day. It’s a war, medieval, build castles, grow wheat, raid the neighboring village type game. He speaks of his guild mates, those he plays online with, as his family. “They are great, I look out for them, and they do the same for me. I have time to build up gold and food and I often give it out. They are very appreciative.” The symbolism of this last point is hard to miss.

“How do you afford the cell phone?” I ask. Oh, I have WIFI and power at 3 or 4 locations in town. I can always hang out at the library or here outside.” He was sitting with his cell phone plugged into an outside wall socket at Jack in the Box, when I first met him.

“How do you get by?”

“I get food stamps that I reapply for every 3 months. If I get sick the ER will see me.”

I am not sure now to ask the next question but fell compelled. “Do you have a plan to get off the streets or have you accepted it just part of your life?”

“I have narcolepsy, but since I’ve never injured myself it’s considered stage I. At some point I’ll fall asleep, hit my head, go to the ER, and get declared to be in Stage II, then I can get social security and finally have a steady paycheck and get off the streets.”

I was struck by the fact that, “the system” took a child abandoned at 16 who’s mother killed herself a year later, helped him get a job and room at 18 and then took him off the books, declared him prepared to live on his own. Now 23 years later the only path he sees to get off the streets is to once again through “the system”.

No one wants people to have to be on lifelong welfare. Everyone hopes people can get out of “the system,” and be on their own. But perhaps Oregon’s victory was premature? If you had Robs background would you have been ready to be on your own? Was a seasonal job and a roommate a recipe for success? Do our welfare programs at times simply shift the problem? Or hope to simply check a box next to someone’s name so they can be called rehabilitated?

Do we personally at times do the same to those who have been placed in our life, who truly need us the most?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Police power

From the time I was young I was taught to have respect for the police. In fact I remember saying that I had seen a cop. My father quickly corrected me and said that we did not call them cops, it was disrespectful, they were police officers. However, as I have aged I have realized that police are human and that the uniform does not necessarily make men and women good. Not only that Power in all it's forms can be abused.  In a revelation given to Joseph Smith it was stated, 

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." 

None of us are exempt from this. But despite this issue most men and women in the force effectively handle the power and really serve us very well. Trying to show the necessary respect for our officers and still hold them accountable for when they abuse the power they have been given, can be a difficult balance. My article this week in the paper (Click here to read), deals with this issue and with the fact that I believe departments can do much to help their officers maintain the trust of the people they serve by promoting clear and transparent policies.

I hope we all find the right balance and can hold our offices accountable for the power we have entrusted them with all while still showing them the very deep respect they deserve, for putting their lives on the line everyday.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why would anyone be mayor?

Today I wrote an article mostly about our mayor (click here to read).

Truthfully, I started writing this article with the idea being, "why would anyone want to be mayor?"

I have known the current and past mayor fairly well and it seems the headaches far outweigh the benefits. It takes a lot of time. People generally spend more time complaining about what your doing rather than giving any credit or praise. So why do it?

Honestly, some of it would be the prestige. I love the musical Les Miserables and there is a moment when Jean Valjean comes out and is singing and to show how far he has come and how great he is states, "I am the Mayor of the town." But whatever prestige comes with the job has to wear off fairly quickly.

I think the best reason to do it would be because you enjoy it. You enjoy the interaction with the public and the staff. You enjoy seeing what goes on behind the scenes and participating in committees you serve on. You love reading about past laws and local policy. You enjoy feeling like you make a difference. As I stated in my article, I plan to write several articles about those I think should and, if I get to it, some I think shouldn't run, both for Mayor and City Council. If you have anyone you recommend that I write about let me know.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Avoiding the bitcoin bubble.

I have had thoughts on bitcoin for sometime and finally decided to write about it. (See article here)

However there was a lot of things I didn't get a chance to write about because of limitations with getting it to fit on the printed page, so I will elaborate a little on this post.

I give several reasons in the article for not investing in bitcoin, at this time. The first is security. I mention the fact that there are direct scams but do not go into perhaps the biggest scam, ICO's. That stands for initial coin offering. ICO's have been popping up. The idea is that you get to purchase a new cryptocurrency coin right at the beginning, so you can reap the rewards when it explodes, just like bitcoin is doing. This is the old, getting in on the ground floor, idea. The problem is most of these simply to take you from the ground floor to the basement by running off with your money.

There is also the potential to loose all your bitcoin if you personally store it on a personal computer and that computer crashes. I mentioned, in the article, that you  could have others store it for you but those can be hacked. Mt. Gox was the most famous story and I mention it, but they are not the only bitcoin exchange that has been hacked and had millions of bitcoin stolen from those who store their bitcoin with them (here is a great article on some of the hacks). Many now believe that such hacks are being done by North Korean hackers. North Korea is under extreme sanctions from the US and other countries and is in desperate need to get cash to continue the arms race they are in. Bitcoin is one way the North Korean government has used to get around such sanctions and to directly steel the needed money. The more bitcoin increases in value the more we will see hackers and scammers doing whatever they can to get access to your money.  With credit cards and many other forms of financial exchange you have many built in securities, bitcoin does not. If you get swindled out of your bitcoin, or out of your money trying to buy bitcoin, you can kiss it all goodbye.

Regulation is the next point I make. Silk Road, the ebay of drugs, was shut down by the FBI in October of 2013. The story of how FBI agents were able to capture the administrator of the site will be told for years and is well worth reading if you have not (here it is). The site ran almost exclusively on bitcoin. As the story points out, bitcoin provides a certain level of anonymity that criminals love, but crime fighters do not. They will find a way and criminals will move onto something else. The fact that them vacating the currency will crash it's value will mean nothing to them, but will be to you if you  happen to buy it when it was high.

The next thing is competition. Recently bitcoin itself went through what they are calling a "hard fork".  Bitcoin insiders, (whomever that is) realized that bitcoin could not handle the amount of transactions that were occurring in a timely manner. So they came up with an improvement, the problem was there was arguments about how to deal with this and that is what led to the two currencies. But as I note this is not really the competition that I think could lead to a bitcoin crash. I note in my article there are 900 different currencies. Each I am sure has pros and cons but what this really points to is the fact that these are not difficult to make. Bitcoin does has the advantage of the first big one to market but it doesn't have the backing of the big financial players. What would happen if cryptocurriencies got big enough? What would stop a JP Morgan Chase from creating one? Visa? The United States Government? And at that point which one would people gravitate to? I don't know, but I would defiantly not say bitcoin is for sure the future even if cryptocurrency is.

Lastly I point out that why bitcoin is sold as a currency, most people are buying it as an investment, creating a false demand. I would never invest in something I didn't understand, and that is bitcoin for most of us. And I would never invest in something that is not what it claims to be. (This is true of Whole live insurance, it suffers from an identity crisis of trying to both an insurance and an investment and it does do both, just really poorly.) For bitcoin that is a currency. How is it not a currency? Well most people who trade for it do not use it to exchange for goods, rather they hoard it. I think we are all better off when we use currencies for currencies, insurance for insurance and investments for investments. Trying to mix these usually leads to poor currency, bad insurance, and low return investments, and that is exactly what I think will happen with most people who buy bitcoin.