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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Have you left the Comfort Zone?

Today I wrote about the wonder of a local amateur choir (read it here).

My point is part joy in this particular choir and sorrow in the shrinking number of community choirs, theaters, bands and other forms of amateur entertainment. My article focuses on one aspect that may be a cause in limiting this, access to very cheap, high quality entertainment. But I wanted to write about another one...our comfort zone.

This week I had ample opportunity to think more on amateur entertainment. My kids performed in five different, stage, choir, recital or other performances. Weather it's public speaking, a test, a recital, or sporting event we give our children ample opportunity for these type of events.We encourage our children to do these kind of things because it stretches them.  It forces them out of their comfort zone. But such opportunities seem to become more and more limited for adults, partially because we don't like getting out of our comfort zone, it's uncomfortable.

I noticed an interesting post on Facebook today. It was Councilman Harhay attending his sons music concert. One comment was how much music, that had started at school bands for someone else had enriched their lives. I thought of my own mother, she dragged me kicking and screaming to addition for my first play, The Nerd, (I played a bratty kid, a part my mother new I would be qualified for). After that I acted in several plays and films, it was a very rewarding part of my life.

But without a mother to drag us do we still challenge ourselves...go out of our comfort zone. Do we practice the piano and force ourselves to perform? Do we challenge and push ourselves to do something we have never done before?

When was the last time you left your comfort zone? Doing so can lead yourself and those around you to amazing, wonderful and rewording things.  So again, I salute Red Mountain Choir for giving so many a chance to expand their comfort zone and in so doing providing amazing entertainment for all of us in this community.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Principles vs. Compromise

Today I wrote about Boulder City finding the right balance in negotiations with a developer. (Read here)

But it hints at a larger issue in politics and that is principles vs. compromise. We all want principled politicians, and talk of the need for people to stick to their principles. To ensure they do we often ask them to sign pledges. One, may be a pledge that they won’t raise taxes or a pledge to protect social security. But we also say politicians need to be able to compromise. Be willing to give a little. These two ideals often seem to conflict and people often use them to their own benefit.  They say that a politician has no principles when they compromise something they would not, and get upset the politician won’t compromise when it would better align with their views.

Truth is, I respect someone who will not compromise on core principles but find that most political issues do not fall under core principles, no matter how much we want them to. Taxes, social programs, and zoning laws are all important policies that can be guided by our principles but the specifics of the policy is not a core principle that cannot be compromised.

One of the Boulder City Council Candadites was asked to sign a pledge and replied that the only pledge he would agree to was the pledge of allegiance to our flag. That was Councilman Harhay and that position was wise, not necessarily politically wise but simply incredibly sage.  My respect for Councilman Harhay has grown and his decision to compromise that I wrote about this week led to many online critics but I think he and others on our council are successfully finding that they can indeed both compromise and stay true to their principles.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Taxes?

This week in my article I tackle my views on  taxes and the evil 1%. (Read it here)

But in reality this is more focused on us as individuals than it is on congress. I generally feel what we do is far more important than what congress does. So, what are my views on what congress should do?

I am very concerned with deficit spending and our debt. Everyone I talk to is. And every person, and for that matter, every president has a solution. The solution everyone always has is to do exactly what their side of the isle wants. What do I mean? When a Republican wins election he says he will get rid of deficits by slashing domestic spending, slashing it so much that he will be able to lower taxes, increase military spending and still eliminate the deficit. Democrats will get rid of the deficit by raising taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. They will raise taxes so much that they will have more money for increased domestic spending and still be rid of the deficit.

These are always their campaign promises, yet what really happens. Without a willingness to compromise, Republicans can somehow find the political fortitude to cut taxes, but somehow lack the political capital to meaningfully cut spending. So, the debt only goes up. Democrats seem to muster the political strength to increase domestic programs and spending, but somehow can't seem to actually effectively raise taxes. So, the debt also goes up. So what do we get? More and more deficits, more and more debt. (This is aptly shown in one of my favorite Studio C skits) They all say the deficit is a huge issue and cry foul when the other party wants to raise it, but somehow become blind to it when their own party wants to raise it. The same democrats who will moan that the deficit will increase under current GOP tax cuts didn't seem too worried when the ARRA was being passed, knowing full well it would raise our deficit. Similarly many Republicans who said it was immoral to even consider ARRA given what it would do to the deficit, now somehow feel that a tax plan that massively increases deficits is okay.

I would like to see a congress and president finally embrace the fact that this issue is so important that they have to be willing to do things unpopular with their party in order to compromise and move the needle. That means Republicans willing to raise taxes, and cut military spending and Democrats willing to cut domestic spending. Could such heretics of their parties sacred cows get elected? Probably not. And that is why we will continue to get each president promise a way out of deficit spending only to see it go on.

(In my lifetime the only time we got close to truly having true surplus was in 2000 when the debt was raised by a meager 17 Billion dollars, very minor compared to most other years. How was this accomplished. Clinton both raised taxes, had a booming economy, cut military spending and yes, cut domestic spending. He, a democrat, worked with a republican congress to actually cut a domestic program. But did any President since follow suite, work with the other side and really take a hit to find a decent compromise? No, push only what their side wants and the debt has done nothing but climb.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Paralegal to Prostitute

Jennifer and Myself in Denver



Jennifer was only 12 years old when she first found herself living on the streets. Mom demanded she attend school and she just wanted to goof off. "Most nights, I would find someone’s couch to crash on," she remembers. By 13, she was into drugs and in and out of juvenile detention. At 19, she was pregnant, and she gave birth prematurely to a boy who came out heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs. Not surprisingly, the state took the child. But finding foster care for such a high needs infant can be difficult (see my post on Doug Broadbent).

The state was lucky. A nurse with all the right background and knowledge had recently decided to foster. This would be her first and last foster child because after 6 months they were sick of being foster parents and simply wanted to be parents. The couple approached Jennifer and asked that she give up any rights to the child to allow them to adopt. While it was hard, she agreed, "They were going to give him a much better chance at life than I was prepared to give."

Since the birth, her personal life had not improved. Drugs still ruled her every action, and shortly after the adoption was finalized she again found herself in jail. However jail proved exactly what she needed. She went straight from jail to a rehabilitation facility. She was released at age 22 and that is when she began to get her life back. After acquiring her GED, she entered school at University of Colorado Denver to work on a Political Science degree. She married, got a job as a waitress, and most importantly, stayed sober. As she neared graduation she began to feel maybe Political Science was a mistake and took side classes to get a certificate as a paralegal. As she neared graduation she began an internship in her new field.

Then it happened. It had been 7 years of sobriety, but avoiding drugs doesn't guarantee an easy life. Her marriage was hurting and it ended in an ugly divorce. "After the divorce, I felt like a failure and just lost all my motivation." She lost her internship, dropped out of school and returned to drugs, streets and crime. That was five years ago.

I saw her near a Wal-Mart holding a sign that said, “Trying to pick myself up by going lower." When asked to explain, she said that she was trying to get a job as a sign flipper which many considered low, but any job would be higher for her. She said she was guilty of anything to get the drugs, but had finally decided that stealing and prostitution weren't worth it and that she had stopped those. She recounted how even begging was a step up from those.

As I thought of the lessons I learned from Jennifer, I thought of Oswaldo, another person dragged into a life of addiction at a young age. I also thought of how hard it would be to give up your only son. Even though the state had taken the child, if she hadn’t given up rights, he could be bouncing around in our legal system from foster home to foster home to this day. She did exactly what someone who loves their child should do, give him the best chance for happiness in a home with a loving father and mother. She said it better than I could: "I am proud of myself for giving him up, no matter how hard it was, and I'm grateful for the great parents who are raising him."

But the other thing I can't get out of my mind is the night 5 years ago when she felt so empty. When the failure of her marriage made her feel a failure at life to the point that she was ready to reenter the hell of addiction she had left seven years before. Why couldn't someone have been there to take her to dinner that night? To help her see how far she had come and how much she had to keep fighting for? If she had not slipped back into the darkness of her past that night, where might she be today?

Who around us is struggling today? Who is about to fall? Those in the depths of despair won't usually call out for help. Rather, we need to be in touch with their needs and call them up, seek them out, and rescue them before they surrender to whatever hell is closing in.

I wasn't there for Jennifer that day, but who can I be there for today?




If you liked this check out my last Homeless post: Devastating Debt

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Improving Historic Preservation

This week I write about how Boulder City could work together to improve historic preservation. (Read Here).

I try to layout things I would want to see if I were going to vote on a measure that increases the strength of our historic preservation laws. But truth is, what I want to see is not nearly as important as what the council wants to see, and is willing to vote for.

It is clear that Councilman McManus is the easy vote on this. He has brought up items in the past that would strengthen historical preservation. The problem is, it was always seen as too limiting to property rights and was voted down.

So the focus needs to be on the other four votes, if historic preservation change is going to occur. In the most recent election Councilman Harhay made it very clear that he believes in, and would protect property rights. With that said, I believe, all on the council believe in, and see the value in historic preservation. What is needed is to find language that strikes the proper balance between preservation and property rights. A great place to start is by conversing with Councilwoman Leavitt, Councilman Schuman and Harhay, as well as the Mayor to find a balance they could support. Then a good balance could be found and something might pass. This will take compromise, work and working with those we don’t always agree with.

However, if those trying to get this to pass, simply move forward with crafting the language, and constantly paint the council as outsiders working against them, with language such as, “We got to show them they must vote for this or ruin their political careers” or  “ We crafted something great but they and their crony’s are probably going to vote it down...recall.” Then we will have an, “us vs. them.” and it won’t pass.

I sure like the first option much more. And truthfully feel it has the best chance of success. What about you?