Thursday, November 16, 2017


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?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Quick thought on thoughts and The Las Vegas shooting

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."  --Willie Nelson

Much has been said, and rightly so, about the power of positive thinking. But we typically apply that to thoughts about ourselves. Think about making the shot in basketball or getting the promotion at work. But what about the media we choose to partake of and how we think about it.

When a hurricane hits do we only focus on death toll and devastation or the thousand acts of heroism, selflessness, and service that follow.

When we follow news on politics do we only look for scandal, attacks and disagreement and avoid the news of the hundreds of men and women who work day in and day out in politics because they truely hope to improve our society.

I write a little about this and how it apples to the horrid and cowardly incident, that was full of wonderful and heroic men and women in Las Vegas. Here is the article

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chapter 3- The Blind Date

In case you missed the earlier chapters, I'd read them first. Here they are: Chapter 1 and
Chapter 2

Chapter 3- The Blind Date

The doorbell rang a few minutes before six o'clock. "Well, he's certainly prompt." Julie thought.

She opened the door to see Ricky, who looked older than she expected. His graying temples indicated years that Jill’s pictures had not shown. It wasn’t a bad thing; Julie actually preferred a man with some wisdom and experience.

"So, you must be Julie," Ricky said with a smile.

“And you’re Ricky."

He paused. “Well, I guess I am."

Julie furrowed her brow. It was pretty rare that people forgot their own name. Seeing her concern, he quickly said, "I'll explain on the way. Shall we?" He offered Julie his arm.

Julie was pleasantly surprised by his chivalry. She had never seen someone outside a movie offer his arm to a woman. She found it cute and was touched by how proper he was.

you," she said as she took his arm, and they headed for the car. He opened both the gate and the car door. He did it so naturally that Julie guessed he must date often, he was just too good at it to not be well practied.

they were seated in the car and on their way down the street, Ricky began to explain his pause at the door. “Ricky is my name, sort of, but I'm not used to being called that. Bry is about the only one who still does."

See, in high school, I thought Ricky sounded cooler than Rich or Richard, so I went with it. Once in college, I realized that being cool wasn't so important so I dropped it. But to Bry, I will always be Ricky."

"What would you like me to call you?" Julie asked.

"Oh, it’s up to you, but most people call me Rich."

"Rich it is,” she quipped.

"So what about you? Do you prefer I call you Julie or something else?"

This was a more difficult question then one might guess. Julie was already beginning to like Rich, and she would rather he call her “Jewels,” because that’s what her close friends called her. But would it sound desperate to ask for that kind of closeness so soon? Even though she was thinking tell him to call you Jewels, she said quickly, "Julie is fine."

“So what kind of music do you like?” He said, obviously using a preplanned chip at the ice.

Knowing that Larry was still anxious to take her to see Garth Brooks and fearing he may have her bugged, she went against country. "I like classical." That was a safe answer and made her look smart.

"Oh, I never could get into classical. I guess I've always thought only old people like it." Ouch, strike one, thought Julie. At least he's honest, I mean, who really is gutsy enough to admit they hate classical?

"Do you like monster ballads?" Rich offered.

"You mean, like guys with long hair, tights, and lipstick singing love songs?" Julie asked, with a hint of disgust.

"I guess I've never thought of them like that, but yeah."

"Here, let me see your CDs. I'm sure we can find something we both like." Julie reached for Rich’s CD case and began to flip through it.

Metallica, Led Zeppelin, ACDC... Clearly, if they had something in common, it was not going to be music. She was about to give up when she got near the end.

"Wait a minute, is this Celine Dion?” she said in a feigned surprise.

"Oh, is that in there?" he said, rather embarrassed. "I swear it was planted there by my enemies."

"Well, thank goodness for your enemies," she said as she popped the disc into the CD player.

His smile made it clear he was happy she had found something she liked.

"So, besides listening to bad music, what do you like to do?" he asked.

She remembered now why she didn't like first dates. What could she really say to that? The truth was, she liked to watch TV, but that was not a respectable response to impress a date. Talking to friends came to mind next, but that was not much better. A few lies crossed her mind, such as I like to run marathons, or I like to read scientific papers, but knowing that a lie might come back to bite her, she went with, "I like to cook." This was sort of true – she did cook on occasion.

"Really? What’s your specialty?”

“Oh, I try different things, but mostly I like to do Asian or Thai food.”

“Now there is something we can agree on. You are good at making Thai food, and I am actually quite skilled at eating it.” Rich gave her a sly smile.

Their conversation kept a steady pace all the way to Cheesecake Factory, where they were to meet with Bryan and Becky. Julie and Rich walked in to find that their friends had already been seated, which saved them an awkward wait for a table.

Becky greeted them enthusiastically. “Sit down, we have some appetizers coming!”

“Hey Ricky, did you drive the Mustang?” Bryan asked, excitedly.

“You know I won’t take that car out of the garage when I know I will be anywhere near you,” Rich replied.

“You could’ve picked me up in a Mustang?” Julie asked, trying to sound hurt.

Bryan added, “Not just any Mustang, but a ’67 Mustang. The same one we had in high school.”

We had? Bry is a bit mistaken by saying, ‘we had’. It is the Mustang that I had. I did make the mistake of letting him drive it once. That led to my having to put on the only non-original part that car has, the driver’s side door.”

“Oh, look, the food is here,” Bryan said, trying to change the subject.

“I want to hear the story,” Julie requested.

“It is not my husband’s proudest moment,” Becky said.

Rich settled in to tell the tale with a smile on his face. “Bry pulls up after taking it for a drive and sees Jill Schlesinger. He gets the bright idea to call out to her to give her ride. She doesn’t hear him, so he gets out to wave her down and leaves the door open without the parking brake on. The car rolls back past a gate at the school, and the door gets ripped off.” Rich chuckled. “And I couldn’t even be mad, because I was the crazy guy who let him borrow the car.”

More stories of Bryan’s and Rich’s past began to flow, and Becky added a few about Julie from their past. Time flew as the food came, and Becky got up and said, “I need to use the restroom.” She got up and stared at Julie. Julie looked back as to say, “what?” Becky gritted her teeth. “Julie, care to join me?”

Julie said, “Oh.” She had never bought into the companion restroom visits, but she knew Becky was not one to argue with, so she got up and said, “I’ll go too, just in case Becky forgets to wash her hands.”

Once out of earshot, Becky started in. “So, what do you think?”

Julie wanted to be coy but decided she wouldn’t be any good at it. “He is actually normal!”

“Wow, normal. Such a glowing review.”

“Okay, he is better than normal. I think I kinda like him!”

“What, did I just hear Julie, cold-hearted, man-eating Julie, say she thinks she kind of likes someone?” Becky teased.

“Speaking of glowing reviews, thanks for the cold-hearted, man-eating label!”

“Okay, you aren’t that bad, but I don’t usually hear you say you like a guy! I can’t wait for the wedding!”

“You just keep quiet and don’t ruin it for me,” Julie said, joking, but deep down she hoped Becky wouldn’t say anything that would ruin her chances with Rich.

The rest of the dinner date flew by in a whirlwind of laughter and chatter. The date plans had been restricted to only dinner, at Julie’s insistence. She was so used to blind dates going badly that she didn’t want to prolong the pain. Now, as Rich drove her home, she regretted this decision and wished the date could continue.

Once they pulled up to Julie’s house, Rich, as he had been all night, was the perfect gentleman and opened her door. They walked together toward the door, and Julie thought she better speak first. She didn't want to rush things, but she had to say, "Rich, I had a great time."

"Yea, it was a lot of fun." He said casually.

They paused at the doorstep.

"Well, it’s been a long time since I said good night on my door step. I think the last time I did, my parents were on the other side." She said with a smile.

"I guess it has been a long time for me too," Rich said.

There was a pause, and Julie hoped Rich would ask for a second date, but all he said was, "Thanks again, Julie," and he gave her a quick hug.

It was ending. The date would end, and she wanted to see Rich again. It looked like he was about to say good night, so Julie blurted out, "We should do this again soon!" She looked at Rich, hoping for a positive response. His facial expression quickly told her she had struck on a topic he wished to avoid and she instantly regretted saying it. If nothing were said she'd have hope but she felt that being suffed out as he spoke.

"Julie, I had a good time, but..." He paused. Oh, here we go, Julie thought.
Rich continued, "Bry asked if I would be willing to try a blind date. I thought I was ready but after tonight I'm convinced I'm not. That Celine Dion CD in the back of my case was Rachel’s. Tonight was fun, don’t get me wrong, but it made me miss Rachel too much. I'm not sure when or if I'd want to do this again." His voice trailed off as he finished.

Julie quickly jumped in, "I completely understand, that makes perfect sense."
There was an awkward pause, as neither knew what else to say. Rich broke the silence, "Well, good night, Julie, thanks again." He walked back to his car.

Julie watched as he drove away. Once his brake lights faded into the distance, she rushed inside, collapsed onto the couch, and began to weep. Part of her was angry at herself for crying. She had just met the guy! Earlier today, she had been happy, and nothing much had changed since then.

She hated that she had allowed her emotions to get wrapped up in a man she hardly knew. She hated that she had to keep lying to her mom, Larry, and Harold. Why couldn’t she just be happily single; why did she have to date? Her emotions were rushing through her, and she now found herself yelling and sobbing into the couch pillow. “If I were married, my mom wouldn't pester me all day! If I were married, Larry would leave me alone! If I were married, Harold wouldn't approach me! If I were married, there would be no blind dates, and if I were married I wouldn't have awkwardly messed everything up with Rich!”

With the last statement she broke out into sobs again. After a few moments, she began to calm down. She didn't think she believed half of what she said, but it felt good to get it out. She didn't really have any desire to be married. What she really wanted was to be single, and have everyone else think she was married.

As she sat up, her gaze went to the newspaper lying where she usually left it, half read, out on the coffee table. Her mind shot back to her earlier conversation with Becky and the strange ad that they had joked about.  She picked up the classified section, turned to the ad, and read it again. This time she had a very different perspective than she had had at lunch earlier that day.

No longer did she think this man was weird but very wise. This was likely a man in the same situation she was in. Of course, he was. Surely hundreds must be in their situation! He wasn't crazy, but courageous. He was brave enough to do something she wished she had the guts to do, even if it was not socially acceptable.

She grabbed the paper and headed for the computer. She had secretly speculated that, after the date with Rich, she might have a boyfriend. She now hoped, after this strange night, she might land a fiancĂ©. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You can vote... as long as you're not Mormon.

This week I wrote an article about Mormons and Boulder City Politics (Click Here).

In the article, I mentioned some of the early political and religious persecution that Mormons faced in Missouri in 1838. Among those that were driven from their homes in the freezing cold as part of Governor Boggs Extermination Order was one of my great grandfathers, John Telford. Below is an except from his history:

"At one time during this distressing period when he and all of his family except Robert were down in bed with chills and fever, the mob came and ordered them out of their home. The victims of this fever were very ill, but John and his wife were fortunate that their worst time occurred on alternate days so when one was too sick to get up it was possible for the other to help take care of the children. On the day that the mob came John was so helpless and ill that it aroused the sympathy of one member of the mob who objected to the heartless treatment imposed upon them by the mobbers and interceded for them, and got the mob to consent to let them remain in their home until the following day, but when the morning came conditions were even worse and neither John nor his wife were able to get up when the mob returned. This only added to the fury of the men and they threatened to burn the family with the house unless they would denounce Joseph Smith as an imposter. This they refused to do although the mobbers devised every means to get them to discredit the Prophet. When their efforts failed they prepared to carry out their inhumane threats, but the man who had interceded for them on the previous day defied the mob and carried the family out of the house, against the blasphemous threats of the mobbers. He helped them to get away in safety by marching with his gun between their wagon and the anger crazed mob for a mile while their home and their crops and all their possessions were consumed by fire, Even the great stacks of sacked wheat that was piled in the yard during the harvest was also burned by the infuriated mob."

Reading this account has always brought me grief for the suffering caused to my forefathers because of the fear and prejudice of these early frontiersmen, but it was discussing this with my Father that I discovered something that I had not known about Mormons and politics in his home state. Idaho's constitution specifically denied Mormons the right to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury.  It was in the year 1889 that Idaho drafted their constitution. In order to ensure that congress approved their petition to become a state they felt the need to distance themselves from Mormons. At the time Mormons were not very popular due to their practice of polygamy. In fact the United States had passed the Edmunds Act in 1882 that specifically bared polygamist, people cohabiting and anyone belonging to an organization that promoted polygamy or cohabitation from voting or holding office.  Since Mormons belong to an organization that promoted polygamy they all were restricted from voting, even though only 1% of them actually practiced polygamy. The Idaho constitution followed suit, except it added the word celestial marriage to polygamy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints officially stopped the practice of polygamy by an official declaration by Prophet Wilford Woodruff in 1890. At this point, under the Edmunds Act they could vote, however in Idaho it was still in question. In 1908, it was taken to the Idaho supreme court  in (Toncray vs. Budge) and determined that celestial marriage was not polygamy but anyone who had a monogamous marriage in the temple, and since Mormons encouraged people to marry in the temple, it applied to all Mormons. Therefore if you were Mormon, you could not vote. They even expanded that it applied to all who are, or ever were, Mormon. This was done because the fear that people would denounce the church, vote, and then go back. I could not find how extensively this provision was enforced and when exactly it stopped. (Some claim it stopped when the test act, the act relating to making people sign a statement that they were not Mormon, was repealed in 1892, however Toncray vs. Budge came after this time, so it clearly was still upheld, at least in the courts.) It was clear that the anti-discrimination laws passed in the 60's would have likely put an end to the practice, if it hadn't already stopped.

In 1982 a Mormon and Native American Larry Echo Hawk was voted into the Idaho State Legislature, it was by no means the first time a Mormon was elected, but what made it different was that also on the ballot was the Idaho Remove Voter Disqualification Amendment. It proposed removing the language that barred Mormons from voting. Part of the reason was that Mormons who served in the state always had a hard time promising to defend the state constitution that barred them from voting or holding office. It passed 65% to 35%, with over a third of the population voting to leave the language barring Mormons from voting on the books.

Sometimes I don't the fight for our freedoms as seriously as I should. The years where we didn't allow people to vote because of race, gender or religion seemed so far in the past that I have generally felt removed from those experiences, but 1982 or even the 1908, wasn't that long ago and we need to stay engaged to ensure it doesn't happen again to any group of people, no matter how small and strange or how large and influential they appear to be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Devastating debt

Tom and Keith-Tom is the older gentleman

Deciding on dinner when I’m out of town and alone can be tough. I get tired of fast food, and sitting alone in a sit-down restaurant is not my style. Once, while in Denver with my family, we all went to Casa Bonita, a restaurant full of interesting scenery and a big waterfall that performers dive into while patrons eat. I drove over to the restaurant, thinking I might go again, but I couldn’t bring myself to walk in alone. I begin walking down the street.

Colfax Street was likely at one time a nice road, but now it’s rundown and flanked with smoke shops, pawnshops, and tattoo and massage parlors. A few blocks down, Walmart has built up a very nice shopping center with a dry riverbed and bridge, set back a little from the road.
This is clearly a popular place for the homeless to gather. I approach two men and start a conversation. Keith came from Pennsylvania (an interview from earlier)

Tom is older and has been in Denver since 1985. He grew up in Helena, Montana, the youngest of 8 kids. He has lost track of all of his siblings. He heard that one of his brothers, who had been a Catholic Priest in San Francisco, had died of AIDS, but he didn’t find out about it until several years later.

In 1978, Tom graduated from high school and worked in Helena for 7 years. Then in 1985, he decided to come out to Denver for an ACDC concert. He never went back. “I loved the weather, the mountains, and the atmosphere, so I decided to stay. Shortly after that, I fell in love, got married, and had a daughter.”

“What did you do for a living?”

“Heating and cooling mechanic. I even went to school at Metro Tech for drafting, but that didn’t work out.”

“You ever see your kid?”

“I haven’t seen my daughter in 5 years. She’s 30 now and lives in Denver, or at least she did last time I saw her. See, when she was 8, I came home from work one day, and everything was gone—my wife, my daughter, and the furniture. I took 3 weeks off work to look for them. Turns out she had run off with her ex-husband. She took my daughter, and her stepdad raised her as her father. She even took his name.”

Tom is surprisingly void of emotion as he tells this tragic story. He shows no bitterness towards his ex-wife or this man who replaced him in his family. It is not clear if time has healed his wounds or if he really feels this was best situation for his daughter anyway.

I’d seen such family breakups be the catalyst for homelessness, so I ask, “Is that when you became homeless?”

“No, I went back to work and did okay for another 10 years or so. Shortly after my wife left, in 1991, I bought a home. It was a nice 3-bed, 2-bath home, and the payment was only $450. But I took out several home equity loans, and my payment became over $900, so I sold it so it wouldn’t get foreclosed on. That is when I found myself on the streets.”

We talked for over an hour as we ate a sandwich from Jimmy John’s. Keith and Tom told me how they avoided downtown because of crime, how they remove “no smoking” signs at bus stops, and how it’s only safe to gather in groups of less than 4 and not on the Wal-Mart side of the channel.
Homelessness is almost never to be blamed on a single cause it’s usually multi-faceted a broken home, addiction, mental illness, adventure, etc. But sometimes you can see a primary cause, and for Tom, it was debt. As Tom spoke, I could see and how crushing debt can be, and I felt deeply grateful for my parents and church leaders who regularly spoke out about the negative impact of debt.

His story also led me to ask myself, Do we make getting debt too easy? Do we do enough to discourage debt? Would the financial advisers call the loans Tom had taken out and that eventually put him on the streets, ‘good debt’?

As noted above, choosing where to eat when out of town can be difficult. If I had chosen to eat alone, I could have had a much nicer meal for what I spent that night, but I am certain it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or satisfying.