Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Boulder Cities New Rates

Boulder City has new utility rates. I write about some of my thoughts on the new rates in my article for the Boulder City Review and you can read it here. I am very grateful for a chance to write for the paper and appreciate my editor, but once and a while struggle with the titles they give me. I don't think water rates are the answer to attract families. I think our current rates might not encourage families but I digress.

But in addition to what I wrote I have had a few additional thoughts. One, while I do believe our rates need to be sustainable, I think the new rates are too aggressive. I think the city needs to run on a little bigger picture and see if we can't both be sustainable and maintain our status of lowest rates in the valley. The current rates seem very hasty and aggressive. I hope the new council will reconsider and look into new possibly lower rates.

The second thought is any family budget has two variables, income and expenditures. Most of us like to solve our financial woes by focusing on income. Meaning we'd rather get a raise then spend less money. I hope City Council is looking at both ends of the equation not just looking for a raise, so to speak, by increasing rates. I say this realizing that we do have real needs for infrastucture improvement. But I wonder if there couldn't be other cost savings as well. Something I have not had time to investigate just hope and trust those we elected are.

Friday, July 21, 2017

This is great...reminds me of jail.


I approach the front desk at the hotel and ask, "So where do the homeless hang out in town?"

After an odd stare, he said, "Try the 99 cent store." This was the first time I had gotten this advice and it would prove valuable on several occasions, (Here is a story of someone else I met at a 99 cent store) not just in Redding California.


Upon arriving at the 99 Cent store, I did not see any homeless but did see two security guards. I approached them and asked, "Don't homeless people tend to hang out here?"


"Not any more." They laughed, clearly proud of having done their job.


"Do you know where they do?"


"Try down by the safeway...and tell them the 99 cent story guards say hi." They laugh again but then add, "Just kidding, don't tell them that."


On my way to the safe way I see what appears to be a homeless man with a small dog. I walk fast to catch up. "Do you know where the safeway is?" I ask. I really wanted to ask, ,"Are you homeless?" but it's a bit of an odd question, so I stick to directions to the store.


"Yea, right there." He points across the street, and we both begin to cross. I introduce myself and learn his name is Carlos Perez.


"Where you from?"


"Florida."


"What are you doing in California?'


"Just trying to find work."


At this point I am very confident he is homeless and decide I'll take him to dinner and find out more then. "You hungry?"


"Yeah."


"You want to get something to eat?"


"Yeah," he says with a smile.


"You have time to sit down?"


"I got nothing but time."


He is drinking what appears to be beer from a Nalgene bottle as we walk.


"So you're looking for work?"


"Yea, I had a job, but I blew that because I didn't have a phone to call in when I didn't show up. I did work on a farm up the highway a ways, but they pay me in weed."


He says it so casually that I assume I misheard him. "Did you say weed?"


"Yeah, weed and wax."


"What's wax?"


"Its made from the oil of the stock. See weed is like 24% TCH and wax is like 84%. It gets you high way faster. But it's too common in California, so it is not worth anything, but if I could send it to Florida it would be worth tons of money. Then I could go home with some real money."


It amazed me how casually he would discuss multi state drug trafficking with a total stranger. But not having much use for the ins and outs of weed dealing I moved on to another topic.


"Why'd you leave Florida?"


"Me and my girl wanted to travel. I'm a traveler, not a hobo who stays in one place. But my girl and I got in a fight and she left last night."


"Where do you stay?"


"We are lucky, we have a car. I'm not licensed or registered or anything but we get around. It is an old truck with no windows and shakes violently when you go over 25, but that is usually where we sleep. But I can sleep anywhere, after all it's just sleep. You do need to know where it's okay to go. Wal-Mart is the best. I've never been kicked out of a Wal-Mart. They let you sleep around the fence or in the lot."


"What about when it gets cold? Do you go to a shelter?"


"No way, I hate shelters. I just bundle up with lots of clothes or put my dog on my chest. If I need gas to run the heat I just sit on the corner with a gas can and people will get me some."


"So how long have you been in Redding?"


"Too long. I hate it here. Everyone is on drugs. This is the meth capitol of the world. That's part of why me and my girl fought, she has been clean for a year but has slipped back 3 times and it's hard here. I've never done that stuff. I don't want any part of it. It's just too addictive. Alcohol is bad enough. " He says, gesturing to his Nalgene.


We enter the Black Bear Diner and stand by the, "Wait to be Seated" sign. We are standing there for several minutes while we continue to talk. Several waitresses walk by. Finally after uncomfortably long I stop one and say, "Table for two." Carlos has his small dog with him. The dog has a vest that has a patch sewn into it that says, "Service animal." The waitress does not ask about the dog, but does lead us to a side room that has a few guests finishing their meal and puts us in the far corner.  It appears that this is the portion of the restaurant that they close earlier than the rest but decided it would be a good place to put us.


"So did you grow up in Florida?"


"I grew up all over. My Dad left when I was 5 and my Mom kept going back and forth between Puerto Rico, Massachusetts and Florida."


"How long have you been on the road?"


"For 4 to 5 years now. I love being a traveler, it is so eye opening not being a slave to work. I'm not lazy, and I like to work, but the rules don't apply to me." He stops, gets very serious and point to himself says, "For me, this is a choice. Some people are out here because they lost their parents or were abused and run away, but not me. For me, it's a choice. My family are still back in Florida, my Mom and my boy."


"You have a son?"


"Yeah, he is 16 years old, lives with my ex. I love my ex, we had our differences but we get along and she lives by my Mom and brother, all in Daytona. I also have a 22 year old daughter but I don't know where she is. She is a rebel like her Mom. I hate that woman. I was 15, had sex for the first time and found out she was pregnant. I stayed with her for 5 years, but she went crazy and disappeared."


I couldn't help but see my own 5 year old little girl and couldn't stomach the thought of never seeing her again.


"So do you see your boy?"


"Oh yea, he lives down the street from me." He speaks of his Mother's home as if it is his own, and even though he hasn't been there in 5 years, considers it so. (I wrote about his idea in How Many Ways is He Homeless?)


"Yeah, I was a Mason in Massachusetts making like $1,200 a week but I needed to be close to my boy so I moved to Florida and was only making $290 a week as a cook. But it was worth it to be by my boy."


It get's silent and I don't want to ask follow up questions because they will all lead to the obvious question of, "why did you leave then?" So I change the subject.


"What's your dogs name?"



"Her name is Black Dog."


Black Dog has been quietly, obediently sitting this entire time.  I realize I have been now waiting longer then I have ever waited at a restaurant. We are now the only ones in this room and I finally get up, find the lady who sat us and tell her we are ready to order.  She apologizes profusely and says she will  quickly send someone.


Shortly after I get back, someone comes to take our order. Carlos gets a Reuben.


"So why California, I ask?"


"I started traveling a little bit at a time. Each time I would get a little further from Florida. Then one day I met My Girl at a rainbow gathering and we decided to try California.  See, at the time, I had this really cool RV. It was the total party bus. I liked to paint and do like body art and tag. So my bus was tagged inside and out. We finally made it to California and a guy come up to us with a garbage bag and I say, 'What's in the bag?' He throws it down and it's full of weed--10 lbs. of it. And he gives me a little handful. I was like, 'I don't have the money to pay for this.' He said, 'No need, welcome to California!' So we decided to stay in California."


"What's a Rainbow Gathering?" I ask, again trying to get off the weed topic.


"They are where woods people gather and have festival. It comes from the ancient nature prophecy that said when the world is falling apart that it will be saved by the rainbow children who will bring back unity. There is some really good rainbow groups on Facebook and stuff. I can show you how to get involved. They are really good people."


Again I realize it has been really long, and I have to get up again and find the waiter. He again apologizes, and shortly after, our food shows up.


Carlos looks down at his Reuben and with a huge smile says, "This is great! It reminds me of jail."


"The sandwich?"


"Yeah, there was this jail in Keystone Colorado. It had the best food! I loved it there. I wanted to stay but got out. Actually I was surprised they caught me. I had just tagged this police car with a Sharpie, and some officers came up and said they knew it was me. I totally denied it, but then they asked to see my pockets and found my Sharpie markers. I should have thrown them in the dumpster. The jail was awesome, but the officer was such a jerk that I told him I would never come back to his town."

The irony of this statement was thick.

"Are most jails okay?"

"No, just that one. The one I spent a few weeks in Florida for having some weed was the worst. They gave you like one hard boiled egg, and that was your lunch. The conditions there were awful."


We get back to talking about the Rainbow People and he notes, "If you go on Facebook and type 'Rainbow Family' and request friends they will let you know when the next gathering is. I always tell people a gathering is like the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner when they go into the woods. I told you  about the prophecy and it totally makes sense, who knows how to get by without electricity? The rainbow people.


"Do you have Facebook?" He asks.


"Yeah, I just got it. I had avoided it for a long time." I admit.


"That's good. Most divorces today are because of Facebook. That is part of why my girl and I fought. I saw her phone and read some of her Facebook messages to other guys. She got all mad saying she is allowed to have friends. I was like, 'friends don't say that to each other.'"

By this time I had long since finished. Carlos had only finished half his sandwich but it was clear that was all he was going to eat. I again went into the restaurant to find someone to get us a check. Again, a profuse apology.


After we had paid, we walked out and Carlos asked if I wanted to hang out. I told him I had better get to bed, but at the stop light before I crossed he told me one more story. I wrote about it earlier and you can read it here. Anyone can see Carlos's life was full of contradictions. His decisions to travel versus his desire to be by his son. His disdain for drugs, and his love of Marijuana. His divorce vs. his love of his ex wife. His love of Keystone jail and his determination to never return. We all have contradictions in our lives and Carlos's contradictions made the Serpentine Stone story all that much more poignant. If you have not, I hope you read it.


But I cannot leave the story of Carlos and not address the mistreatment at the restaurant.  I do not think the restaurant purposely mistreated us. My guess is the lady put us in the corner of our own room because of our smell. Carlos's smelled about how one would expect a guy who had been sleeping in an old truck for weeks without a bath to smell. And Black Dog probably wasn't helping the smell much either. Given this, maybe the back room wasn't a bad place. After that, the total neglect, I think, was because they were busy and forgot about us. It was a room they didn't usually use that late, so to get to us was out of the routine. But purposeful or not, it was neglect.

I think most of our neglect of the homeless falls into this category. We don't mean to hurt, ignore or put them down, but to help them is out of our routine. Especially to really help them. So they get put in the back room, the homeless shelter, the bad part of town, and we get busy and forget about them. If we want to really help the homeless we have to get out of our routine, we have to step out of the day to day busyness of our lives, call a personal timeout and remember the back room.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Interviews

Several years ago, I made a goal to, once a month, find someone whom I wanted to emulate and interview them. I have not been as diligent at this as I originally intended, but those I have interviewed have brought me great insight.

One day in Sunday School we were talking about marriage and a gentleman raised his hand and told the class about something similar he had done. Years previous he had been through a divorce and was looking to remarry. He wanted his marriage to be successful so he began interviewing couples that had been married for a long time. (I think it worked he has a great marriage). I encourage all to do the same. Whatever you wish to improve or learn about, find someone who knows or who has been there before and go have lunch with them.

Most recently, I had lunch with the man who made that comment in Sunday school, our retiring City Attorney. You can read about it Here. Special thanks to Dave for taking the time to meet with me, it was great.

On a final note, don't delay the chance for such meetings. I had a wonderful interview with Bruce Tschuntz just last year. In many ways that interview changed my life. He was a key player in the Carter Administration in drafting the first Dam Safety Guidelines, and the first Cheif of Dam Safety for FEMA. I am so glad I met with him. I just found out he died a few weeks ago.

I highly recommend taking the time to interview great men and women and highly recommend you start today.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Chapter 1

Eye contact is a powerful thing. Empathy, love, passion, confusion, distress, panic and a plethora of other emotions can all be conveyed between our nose and eyebrows. Pure disdain is another one of those fun emotions that eyes can send from one person to another. That message was coming over loud and clear from Mr. Johnson to Dr. Lewis from the moment he had walked into the office. But, to ensure the message wasn't lost in translation, Mr. Johnson sent it over and over and over again. The forced presence of husbands in their office was something every marriage counselor was accustomed to, but in his experience with Mr. Johnson, this usually was exhibited in simple indifference. No, something was clearly on the man's mind beyond just his disintegrating marriage and the regular contempt any man has for another man who keeps asking him, "How does that make you feel?" No this was clearly something more. As Mrs. Johnson told a story about how Mr. Johnson totally ignored her during their last assignment, which was to discuss why she was originally attracted to him, Mr. Johnson did a very good job of reenacting his indifference to her and instead was focused completely on the doctor. Dr. Lewis himself was usually a very conscientious listener but it was hard to focus on Mrs. Johnson's words with Mr. Johnson’s glare demanding so much attention. Dr. Lewis tried to press on, "So, Mr. Johnson, why do you think Mrs. Johnson feels you weren't listening?" Mr. Johnson paused and, in a rather supercilious way, remarked, "I'm not sure. Does your wife ever assume you're not listening?" Dr. Lewis was used to clients trying to get him to interject his personal life as an example, some were innocent, but increasingly they were less about curiosity and had more of a sinister nature. From the tone, Dr. Lewis feared this was more likely the latter. But, treating it as innocent, he calmly said, "It's important we focus on your situation. There is no value in looking at mine." "Oh, okay. Well, since you don't want to talk about your situation," Mr. Johnson's tone had not improved, "we will only talk about mine. So, why didn't she think I was listening. I may have not had good eye contact. Isn't eye contact important?" His eyes continued to pierce into Dr. Lewis, proving that at least under certain motives, Mr. Johnson's aptitude for eye contact left nothing to be desired. "Yes that is important, but could it have been more that?" The doctor was doing everything in his power to avoid what he knew would turn into an awkward situation, but deep down knew what was coming. "Or maybe I was stressed. You ever have a stressful day?" Dr. Lewis at that particular moment was very prepared to answer this question, but before he could tell himself to hold his tongue, Mr Johnson added. "What do you do when you get home all stressed and your wife wants to talk?" "Again, Mr. Johnson lets focus on your situation." "Good, I want to know what you do when you are in my situation." Directly trying to maneuver away from his personal life was clearly not going to work so he tried the old, answer the question they should have asked, "Your wife deserves open, honest conversation. So if you need a break to de-stress be open about it." Mrs. Johnson at this point began to interject, "But this was on a Sat.." "How would you know?" Mr. Johnson cut her off, demanding all the attention the little office could offer.
"What?" Dr. Lewis was beginning to expect some confrontation but this was more aggressive than he could have imagined. Recomposing himself a little, Mr. Johnson clarified, "How would you know? Have you tried it?" Dr. Lewis was now getting a bit defensive and his response was not his usual tranquil tone, "I have a doctorate from the University of Connecticut, worked for one of the most prestigious clinics in America, counseled hundreds of couples. I am very qualified to discuss these situations. Mr. Johnson was pleased to see he had gotten under the Dr's skin, and it was with a smile that he sat back in his chair and said, "And yet with all that, no real experience. Come on Jen, lets get out of here." He stood and did the only thing he ever looked forward to doing from the first day he had walked into this office, walked out for the last time. Mrs. Johnson was conflicted, she looked at the doctor in a panic, but the heap of mangled ego that was left of him was far from the pillar she would have needed to help secure her decision. The only strength was leaving the room and she followed it. It was not the fact a disgruntled client walked out that left Dr. Lewis in such a worn state. He had faced it before and would face it again. It was the increased frequency of such occurrences. It was no mystery to Dr. Lewis where Mr. Johnson had discovered the fact that in manners of love, the Dr. was a bit of a novice. A client several months ago,who blamed Dr. Lewis for his failed marriage, had used his knowledge of Dr. Lewis's bachelorhood to flood the internet with scathing reviews like, "Why does a man who has never said, 'I do' get to tell me what to do in my marriage." If Dr. Lewis hadn't been so devastated, he would have had to admit that one was pretty clever. Since these had picked up, his clients had dropped off. There were always men who were looking for a way to get out of counseling, but Dr. Lewis had always prided himself on the fact that if they just gave him a little chance, he could help. He had saved so many marriages that had started their counseling with reluctance. Now he was worried no one would give him a chance. They had their out. Inaction was not something Dr. Lewis ever accepted. Every problem had a solution, and suddenly it was crystal clear. The solution was easy. "Yes, it wasn't mainstream, but that doesn't make it wrong," his mind quickly countered. He always counselled his clients not to make life changing decisions under the duress of hurt feelings, and although that same counsel echoed in his mind as he now found himself rationalizing what he would have described as an irrational life choice in a counselling session, he felt himself dig in his heels against his own good advice for the same reason many others had ignored his counsel: because he wanted to. The only question was the method to deliver the message. The internet made the options and reach almost unlimited. Foreign market was fairly good. No, better keep it close to home. It took only a few minutes to create a new hotmail account and, surprisingly, no one had taken the handle yourhusband@hotmail.com. Next, to the Gazette Classifieds. Local professional seeks wife.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Myth #2- You Should Live Within Your Means


Living within your means is the mantra of the conservative side of the financial world.  I know all those who say this mean well. I have even said it, but the problem is many see this as the financial ideal.  And here in lies many of Americas financial problems.  Living within your means is not a wonderfully lofty goal.  In fact, it is a clear way to financial stress and ruin. 

The problems with the “Living within your means” philosophy is multifaceted and I will seek to dissect a few of these facets.

The first problem is that is sets the bar way too low.  We see our goal in life to get to this great time when we will live within our means.  Since that is the goal we always see it as okay to postpone.  It’s the goal not the necessity. So, we get ideas like, “I will live within my means when I am done with school, when I get my next promotion, when I get my professional license, when my kids move out, when my kids get out of college or when my wife goes back to work.”  We are always one raise away from the great goal of “Living within our means”.  Which ties closely to myth #3- Making more money will improve my financial situation.

I wonder when this phrase came along, because you don’t have to go too far back when living within your means wasn’t a goal, it was a necessity. It wasn't, "you should live within your means." It was, "Thou shalt live within your means." For so many what was the floor of our grandparents is now our ceiling.  The idea of “I don’t have the money, so I won’t buy it” has turned into “someday I will have the money to afford what I’m currently buying”.

The second problem is what many define as “Living within their means”.  For many people living within their means is another way of saying, “living paycheck to paycheck.” See many people say, “I live within my means but I had to take debt because my car broke down, I needed a root canal, or I got furloughed from work.”  To these people the concept of living within their means is that their fixed expenses equal their fixed income.  Living within your means should not mean your fixed expenses equal your fixed income because that leaves no room for emergencies which will eventually happen.  Because living includes all those things they are part of your living, the problem is many of us don’t make all our living part of our financial plan.  This leads to excessive stress whenever these unplanned instances occur.

But even if you do include some for emergencies you are not necessarily fully “Living within your means”.  Why? Because you may be living within your means for this week or this month but let’s take a much bigger view to think about what truly “Living” is.  See, life starts at birth, I know this likely doesn’t surprise anyone.  But once you are born your life starts and lucky, for most of us, someone else, picks up the tab for the first 18, 20, 25 or even now sometimes, 30+ years.  At some point most of our parents will have enough and we either leave or are escorted to the door.  For many of us that means some form of education or training.  Rather than work to pay for this, or all of it, most Americans choose to have someone else pay for this period in their lives too, promising that someday when they’re making the “big bucks” they will pay it back.  So now you’re 25, 30 or 35 depending on how much education you got or how much you dragged your feet, and are prepared to live on your own/pay your own way.  Most Americans at this point do not start “living within their means” because after all they are just getting started but let’s say for argument that you do.  

You are 25 years old and you now have a point where you can earn equal to what it cost to sustain yourself.  So you do this until 65 or in other words you put in a good long 40 year career.  You decide to retire and have Social Security, Medicare and a pension pay for your expenses until the day you die at 90 years old.  So in our circumstance you lived 90 years and worked for 40 to pay your own way and let others cover you for the other 50.  “Wait a minute”, you’re thinking.  I paid into Social Security and all those other things so I am covering myself.  Yes and No.  Yes you paid into them, but if you live 80-90 years you will take out far more than you put in, that’s why those programs are going broke.  The same great math minds that want to work for 40 years and get supported for 50 set up those programs and are finding they don’t work. 

So what’s my point? If you truly want to live within your means then you need to earn and put into society as much in the 40 or so years you work as you took out in the 90 years you lived.  And I don’t know about you, but I hope to put more into society than I get out.  I realize just because you’re not working full time doesn’t mean you’re not giving anything to society and money is only one measure of contribution, but you get my point.  Truly living within your means does not mean that you earned as much this month as you spent.  Truly live within your means, means earning far more than you will spend, especially during your most productive years.  Also, hopefully you have enough to do what your parents did for you and pick up the tab for someone else for the first 18 to 30 years. 

So, by most people’s definition we need to be living far below our means, that is the real financial goal. I believe that is the secret to success and low stress in your financial life.


Myth #3- Making More Money Will Improve My Financial Situation

Coming soon.

In case you missed it
Myth #1- A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

and
Myth #2- You Should Live Within Your Means

Thursday, June 22, 2017

We Don't Want Your Kind

Tony and I at Taco Bell in Sacramento

As I drive up to Taco Bell I see three people, covered in dirt and ragged clothes, dash across the street with large garbage bags. I assume the bags are their belongings but I have no idea why the rush to the smoke shop they now approach. I park and begin to walk a little.

I walk a block or so and am on my way back when I run into Harlin, one of the runners. As he approaches I can hear the bag is not his belongings but cans, hundreds of smashed cans. I approach him as he approaches me, cigar bouncing in his lips. "What you up to?" I ask.

"Just trying to trade someone for these cans, so I can get something to eat."

"I'll buy you something to eat."

"Awesome, how about some chips and a beer? Want the cans?"

"That's okay, how about we go to Taco Bell or Subway?" I was hoping to have more of a conversation with him.

By now his friends are caught up and clearly curious about why I was talking to Harlin. "Who is your friend?" they ask.

"He's getting me something to eat."

"I'm happy to get you all something. Do you want to go to Taco Bell?"

Harlin quickly chimes in, "No, just a beer and chips at the gas station would work for me?"

By the look on the other two faces, I can tell they are more interested in some real food. I know Taco Bell may not qualify, but it beats the gas station. Harlin is more interested in a snack. So, I get Harlin a few items at the gas station and I then head to Taco Bell with the young couple, Tony and Stacy.

They too had a large bag of cans and I had to ask, "So why were you running to the smoke shop with the cans?"

Bag of cans they collected as it sat outside Taco Bell while we ate.

"They pay 5 cents a can but turns out you have to get there before 5 o'clock, so we will just come back tomorrow."

"How much will you get for all that?"

"I'd say we have 300-400 cans, so $15-$20 bucks."

We order, and as we wait, I begin to get to know Tony and Stacy. They've been on the streets or couch surfing at friends for the past 8 months after being kicked out of Stacy's mothers home in San Francisco. "Right now we have a friend that lets us keep our stuff at their place and stay from time to time. That is really nice because when we have a cart our stuff gets stolen all the time."

"Is this your first time on the streets?"

"No we were homeless before when Tony's Mom kicked us out." I turn to Tony, "You see your mother any more?"

The mood quickly changes, Tony didn't get mad or unwilling to share but extremely contrite. He began to share very openly some things that clearly brought him intense pain.

"My mother is in Arizona, but I don't know where. I haven't seen her in 9 months. I wish very much I knew where she was."

He continues to explain that he was trained as a chef and had worked in some very high end restaurants, earning $15-$18 dollars an hour. During that time, about 7 years ago, he got into drugs with the girlfriend he was dating at the time. Stealing became a way to feed the addiction and he wrote bad checks, stole identities and credit cards. In time, he was caught and spent 9 months in jail, did community service, went through a rehab program and spend 4 years on probation. "Given what I did, they were very lenient on me. It could have been much worse." It was during this time that he met Stacy, got his old certificates current and landed a job at "The Rose Garden" in Portland, Oregon. By the way he said it, you could tell he thought I would know about his restaurant. He was planning to move and come back later for Stacy but they found out she was pregnant and decided to ask for an extra week before he started to get things in order and bring her along. They agreed and he prepared to move. The day before he left they called him and told him that they would not be giving him the job, due to his background check and the past issues it turned up. "No real restaurants will hire me."

That was a couple years ago and since them they had a baby boy. He's now 1 and they have not seen him in 9 months because when Tony's mother left to Arizona she took the baby with her. I now understood why admitting he didn't know where his mother was brought so much pain.

He cheered up a little as he said, "but in three months it will have been 7 years since my conviction and my record will be clean. I can't wait to get a job."

"Have you been able to stay off drugs?"

He and Stacy said they had and I believed them. However being on the streets, drugs are never far away. "Heroine is a real issue in Sacramento. We had a friend overdose last week."

"So no one will take you with your background?"

"I could probably get a job at a place like this, but it's hard to take a job for $8 an hour when you were a chef in a nice place that made $18. I know that's a bad attitude to have, but it's hard."

They shared a few more stories about her siblings, she has a sister at Sacramento State and a brother who is in high school back in San Francisco. Shortly after, we finished our meals and I headed out.

I thought of a story I had read online  a story about a homeless man who turned down a job because he made more panhandling, and the car dealership used the opportunity to shame the homeless man.  I realize that Tony's story was very different, he was not panhandling but like the man in the story he had a hard time taking a job. Many of us are quick to assume such men don't want to work, but in Tony's case he had just worked an 8-10 hour day in 108 degree weather to get a $15-$20 pay check. Clearly he was willing to work.

But something keeps him from a job. What he described was pride. Being too proud to work a lowly job for lowly wages. But again I am not sure one would consider collecting cans much above fast food worker. I sense it may have more to do with that call he got from Portland. After he had paid his debt to society, done community service, probation, went through rehab, re-earned his certificates, applied for a job and got an offer, he got a call that said, "Oh wait, you are not good enough, we don't want you, we don't need your kind here.

I recently tried to take my wife to a restaurant, one that I'd been to many times before. I called ahead and they didn't answer, so I went, assuming I could get in. Once there, they said, they no longer took reservations without a tee time (it's connected to a golf course). It might sound silly, but even that felt awful, and it had nothing to do with me personally. It felt like they were saying, "you are not good enough for our restaurant." I hated that feeling and would avoid any place that I thought might bring a similar experience.

He said Taco Bell might hire him, I think, at least partially, he's scared to find out it that's true. He's happier believing they, lowly Taco Bell, would accept him, rather than apply and risk finding out that they wouldn't.

I thought of a man in my last ward, Lynn Goodfellow, who runs a business on the edge of Boulder City. He often employs men who may not be able to find employment because of their background. I thought of the homeless Bishop who told me he had to know which employers would be willing to consider those he works with. Such employers are hero's of mine. It made me think, in what ways do we send the message, "we want you to be a part of us" or  conversely "we don't want your kind?"

I am not sure why many able bodied, homeless men do not work. Perhaps sometimes it is that they are lazy, but I think a lot of the time it's far more than that. I am not condoning able bodied men choosing not to work. Tony knew and was correct that this is a "bad attitude", but maybe we can do things to make it less hard. Perhaps after we spend thousands of dollars "rehabilitating" an individual with court, lawyers, jail, rehab and all the work and money it entails, we can offer them less rejection and more encouragement, less shame and more praise, less disdain and more love.




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Financially Different


My blog has mostly been about two major topics, Boulder City politics and encounters with the homeless. In order to make a successful blog it is important to be cohesive and there is nothing too cohesive about Boulder City politics and homeless people. In fact, an overwhelming percentage of people involved in Boulder City politics have homes.

So, I have had plans to break off into two different blogs, but this would require too much effort, so I am doing the next best thing. I am adding new things to write about so as to make my blog more eclectic than ever. The only cohesiveness will be in the lack of cohesion. Although, the new topic is money and homeless people usually lack money and politicians overspend it, so now it all ties together.

The first addition I will make is on the topic of financially different, or looking at finances differently. Money is something we all deal with and something I have written about a lot in my own journal and have decided to add to the blog.

The first set of post’s (who knows how many I will get to) will be on financial myths.

These include:
                A penny saved is a penny earned
                You should live within your means
                Things are so expensive now a days
                If I earned more money I would be better off financially
                You should purchase as much home as possible
                Always carrying a payment on your home is a good idea 
                Pay yourself first is the secret to wealth
                If I had more money I would be less stressed/happier


Hope you enjoy.

Here's a link to myth #1  "A penny saved is a penny eared"

A penny saved is a penny earned...Myth?


A penny saved is a penny earned. There is perhaps no more common a financial expression/advice in the English language as this. The problem is, it is simply not true. Not only is it not true but it is so oft repeated that people actually believe it and believing it can lead to some very destructive financial behavior.

This myth is tied to several other myths including, if I earned more money I would be better off financially. I will write about that one later.

So, what is wrong with this cliché? A penny saved is far more than a penny earned. In fact, the two are not even close. Many people say it takes money to earn money. This too, at least, in its intent is a myth. (again, for another day). The more appropriate wording would be it costs money to earn money. The biggest reason for this is our current taxes. For most Americans, federal income tax takes 15% to 34% of everything they earn. That is only income tax, then you have Medicare and social security. If you own a home you will pay property tax and wherever you chose to spend that money you will likely have another approximately 7% on sales tax. Depending on what state you live in you may also have state income tax. I am religious and pay 10% in tithing to the Lord (best financial decision I ever made, again, for another time).

Therefore, depending on who you are, based on simply the math a penny saved could easily be worth as much as two times a penny earned.

But that is just the beginning. The true power in saving is restricting our life style. Once we spend money or expand our lifestyle it is very hard to pull the reins back. Simple example, yesterday I had an all-beef hot dog, it is going to be hard to buy those half chicken, half pork, half cat hot dogs again. So, once we expand to a certain life style we are setting ourselves up to stay at that life style. Especially if that life style involves payments (car, home, phone etc…). That means for many purchases that spending that penny means you are setting yourself up to need to spend it again and again and again. By saving or restricting your lifestyle you are avoiding potentially years of further financial pressures. I will expand on this in many other of my myth posts.

So, who cares? After all the slogan, a penny saved is a penny earned is encouraging you to save. Your point is saving is way better. So what, it’s off, but isn’t it a step in the right direction? The problem with the phrase is by equating the two we can say, a penny earned is as good as a penny saved. We hold the penny and think, “should I spend, or save? Since a penny saved is a penny earned, if I choose to spend this penny all I have to do is earn another one…. right?” This is the core of financial ruin. This leads to getting to $1,000 bonus and spending $1,000, when you will only every see $500-$800 of it. This leads people to say, “why do I earn more and get further behind?”

So, next time you hold that penny. Realize that, for most of us, a penny saved could be worth two pennies earned, and perhaps even more.

Next Myth #2- You Should Live Within Your Means

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

General Elections-How I did



So as always, I want to follow up my predictions with how I did. (Here are my predictions, If you want to reread them).

First question 2. I, like everyone else, guessed this would not pass, and it did about how I predicted.

I wrote that I thought question 1 would not pass. So check 2, got it right. However I was way off on it being close. I felt question 1 supporters were gaining ground. They gained nothing and lost in a landslide. This loss was so bad that I don't think there will be any stomach for making any changes moving forward. It is clear the people of Boulder City, at least for now, feel the growth ordinance should be left alone. The fact that this was on the ballot had impact on everything else. It also showed the limits of the "Woodbury" influence. A great man, who will continue to have much influence in this town, but the feeling of inevitability around issues he backs is gone.

Next, the hardest loss for me, Cam Walker. I noted that it would be close and a tough win for Cam but I felt he would get reelected. I was wrong. It was fairly close with only a few hundred votes between him and reelection. He was able to pull votes that also went No on 1 but 1 had to be closer for this to give him the win. I feel Cam has served us well and his presence will be missed. I don't know what is next for Cam Walker but I hope he will continue to be involved, as he has done much good for this town. Maybe we will see his name on a ballot again?

John Milburn also lost, which I predicted, but for the wrong reasons. I had thought that his indifference would hurt him but rather I think his votes were swept up in the anti-growth fever. He had publicly opposed 1 but was connected to it none the less. While I hope John will continue to be engaged in the community, because he really is a great man, I think ,we will not be seeing his name on a ballot again.

Warren Harhay or now Councilman Harhay, I totally got this one right. I guessed his win and that he would pull more votes than McManus. His style is well liked and it really is an amazing story to go from complete unknown in the town to the man with the most votes. I think Councilman Harhay will end up being a surprise in many ways and will actually lead in a fairly centric fashion. This will please many who voted against him and anger some who voted for him, but overall will be good for the town.(more on this below)

I think nothing showed the power of the Alliance's influence like Councilman McManus's win. He was very quiet the last few weeks, was not that outgoing, but won even without a smile. And I will note, I did see after the election that he is capable of smiling. While I was wrong on the outcome I think he will add some powerful insight to the council.

So what now? I predict that good things are in store for Boulder City. I'm an optimist. I think McManus will be less centrist than Harhay but I don't think either will be obstructionist.  There will be pressure from the extreme side of the Alliance to be just that. And it will be tempting. Being obstructionist could make a clear and easy articulation for the next election. "We have 2 votes but are hopeless because the majority of the other 3 votes. If you help us win the mayor and another seat we could have 4 votes and finally really make a difference." As I said this is tempting and the easy way to go. This is the, "us versus them" model. It will require avoiding true compromise, so you are free to always vote against the issue. The model is employed in DC all the time and does. 1. Energize the base and 2. Make arguments easy (true compromises can be intricate, take a lot of work and be difficult to explain/sell to the public.) The down side to this path is we will have two years of getting little to nothing done, angry meetings and strained relationships inside city hall that will seep into every area of our town. Which in a town like Boulder City means every area of our life.

However their is another path, and I believe all on the council, including Harhay and McManus will follow it. It is a path of working together, finding compromise and realizing that the balance both McManus and Harhay bring can be a good thing. Such compromises will mean a lot of votes that will offend the hardline base, on both sides, that don't want compromise. Such votes will take time,  leadership and courage. It means proposing new ideas that might end up being unpopular. This path is harder, it takes engaged Councilmen and Women willing to take risk. It takes engaged citizens willing to study and look at new ideas. It takes understanding the opposite side instead of insulting them. It is the path I believe in. It is the path we in Boulder City can and I believe will follow.

I am grateful for all who ran both those who won and those who did not. I am grateful for all who were willing to speak their mind whether their issue was accepted or rejected. Let's believe these next two years will be the best years Boulder City has ever seen and then let's work to make it so.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Improving Elections

Elections seem, by their nature, always to divide. They are a great thing, that I wish united us. How could we make elections less divisive? How much is on the candidates? The media? The people? I wonder in a effort to drive out turnout, or getting our side to win , if we don't overstate the importance of elections? This is almost sacrilege if you listen to RNC, DNC or talking heads. Such talk may lower turn out. But, by overstating the purpose of elections we get disappointment and voter fatigue that leads to long term lower voter turn out.

I explore how to be less disappointed after elections in my most recent article. (Here is the link). Keeping some of this in mind, may help us stay more positive and less divisive during elections. What ideas do you have?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

General Election Predictions

Image result for boulder city city hall

In only a few days Boulder City’s election will have come and gone but before it does, I would like to put forth my insights and predictions.  

I said after the primary that as goes question 1, so goes the election (My post here). I felt that if question 1 passed then Walker and Milburn would be our councilmen and if it failed then McManus and HarHay. I no longer feel that way. Walker nor Milburn have tried to make question 1 a defining issue and I believe they will pick up many votes that will vote No on 1 but Yes to them.

So, let me tackle question 1 first. As a supporter (I write why here), it is hard for me to say, but Question 1 will not pass. I think Question 1 is gaining supporters as education about the issue increases but while the supporters are well funded and have good advertising it was too little, too late. The mayor may have been well intended but he should have released earlier exactly what changes he hoped to make and why. It felt rushed and it fueled those opposed to question 1, who while less funded are very passionate and hardworking and will prove successful. But if this is close and I think it will be, look for a better worded proposal that changes the amount of homes per developer to 60 or 70 instead of just eliminating the 30, soon.

Cam Walker is having a very difficult race after running unopposed the last cycle. I feel that this race is so tight that I almost hate to make a prediction. But incumbents are hard to topple. Especially when most people are happy with the city. Cam has served us well and most people are happy and while it will be close, I think Cam Walker will win reelection.

Conventional wisdom states that if Cam wins then John Milburn also wins but I don’t buy it. John has a wonderful, long history in Boulder City. He is a good man and everybody who knows him, loves him. One would think, this is a pattern for a win in a small town, but I just don’t feel the passion. I am glad he doesn’t take the election too seriously but I almost get the feeling that win or lose he’ll shrug his shoulders and say, “okay.” Maybe I miss read him but I think many will have my same read and he won’t be our next councilman.

So, if Cam wins and John Milburn doesn’t, who will get those extra votes? Warren Harhay. Warren has proven a far better candidate than I ever thought he would. He was completely unknown coming into this race. He has not been involved at all prior to the election that I know of. While this bothers me, I don’t think it will bother most voters. Usually he comes off happy, funny and very personable. He has a charm that people relate to and we are all drawn to his, “I’m no politician,” line. After doing all he needed to lock up the hardline Community Alliance vote by convincing them he stood with them in principal, even though he did not sign their pledge, he didn’t stop there and shook hands, knocked doors and did the, "in the trenches" work. I think many votes may get cast for Walker and Harhay.

That leaves Kiernan McManus. Kiernan has been engaged in local politics for some time. Early on he was endorsed by the Community Alliance. I was at the meeting when the Alliance debated whether they should support two candidates or just McManus fearing that any support may take away from McManus. He was the tried and true candidate to their causes. In fact, it was interesting in the recent forum Harhay stood up for property rights over a historic preservation law patterned after Connecticut’s. A key issue for many on the Alliance who felt such a law could have saved the hospital. So why does their leading candidate fall behind to the new guy? I have a great respect for Kiernan. His level of engagement is impressive. I think he really is a deep, independent thinker that would add much balance to the council but I think he will lose. Why? As Annie said, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” He is sour faced in photos and when you meet him. I don’t know if I have ever even seen a smirk on the man and that matters.

Lastly question 2. Have you seen any signs supporting question 2? Me neither. It has no champion and without one, people will not vote for it. It will be a decisive No.

Did you want to yell at your screen and say, “You are crazy.” Question 1 will pass with flying colors and Milburn and Kiernan will win in a landslide. Then get out and prove me wrong. Voting is in a few days and nothing would make me happier than a high turnout that makes me wrong on all counts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How many ways is he Homeless?



Small Diner where I enjoyed dinner with Mike

Twelve years ago an extremely intoxicated man walked out of a shell gas station with a 30 pack of beer, knocking a young German girl on her back. It’s hard to find a better beginning to a love story than that, but thus began what would become, Mike and Angel.

A month later the two decided to elope against their parent’s wishes. They were married for 12 years when Angel was diagnosed with cancer, and a few months later died. Mike decided to deal with his grief in an unusual way. Packing up a few pairs of clothes, a mat, and a sleeping bag in a travel pack he began to walk. At the time, he was in Maine and decided to walk from Maine to Florida, onto California, up to Washington, and then back to Maine.

“Why?” was the obvious question, when he told me his plan.

“I didn’t know how else to cope and because people kept sayin’ I couldn’t do it.”

I met him in Yuma, approximately two months after his departure. He was out asking people for cigarettes. He was clearly hungry and we headed for a place to eat, finding a great looking diner.
 After ordering a Reuben, just like Carlos (my friend with the serpentine stone), we continued our conversation.

“So you mostly hitchhike and walk?” I asked.

“Yea, mostly short rides.”

“What was the longest ride you’ve had?”

“From Texas to Arizona. It was this real nice lady trucker.”

“Most rides from truckers?”

“Yea, just go to truck stops and tell them your next destination.”

“Any cool stories on your journey?”

“Nah, not really. I did walk 26 miles out of Tucson, when an officer picked me up for walking on the highway and drove me back to Tucson. So I started again, and got by him the second time. Officers really bug me. They call me a druggy and I say give me a cup and I’ll pee in it. They always back down. My only addictions are cigarettes and coffee, I don’t know why they think they can just assume I do drugs.”

“Where do you sleep?”

“The streets.”

“Do you prefer certain type of place, like a park?”

“No, I avoid parks. That’s the first place the cops look.”

“Have you lost weight?”

“I started at 240 lbs. and am now about 190.”

Perhaps we could market this as a hot new weight loss program. We take all your money and Identification, put you on the streets and pick you up in a few months.

“Do you keep in contact with anyone?”

“No, my parents disowned me when I married, and I’m an only child.”

“Do you ever travel with a dog or companion?”

“No, it’s hard enough to take care of myself.”

“What will you do when you get back to Maine?”

“Not sure, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

“So are you from Maine?”

“No, I grew up in Ohio but moved around a lot. I’ve always had trust issues so don’t stay somewhere very long.”

Of all the things Mike said this struck me the hardest. For one thing his trust issues were obvious. Rarely did he make eye contact or look in my direction, and the fact that his trust issues led to frequent moves really made me think. Mike made me realize that there are several ways to be homeless. There are those with no roof over their heads, as we usually think of with homeless. But what other types of home are there? Our home town, is a home for so many of us. Lori was homeless because she had no roof but she referred to Colorado Springs as home. Raymond too was out in the cold, but Ventura was his home.

Lastly home is even more than a town or building, but as the throw pillow on your grandma’s couch says, “Home is where the heart is.” This is perhaps the most important and powerful definition of home. And those I have called homeless, most are not homeless when it comes to this definition. Most had those around them they cared for, even if it was an animal, and in that love they had, in perhaps the most important way, some home. What was so sad to me was that in every way Mike was homeless. He had no house, no home town and no one or nowhere to place his heart.

I have always wanted to be some rich guy who could say, “My summer home.” Because anyone with two homes qualifies as, some rich guy. As I thought of Mike, I became very grateful for the many people who make me rich, rich with homes where my heart is.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Homeless or undercover?

The fifteen of us left the hotel walking towards downtown Fort Collins. We had spent the day together on Colorado State University (CSU) campus planning for an upcoming conference. Except for the wind, the weather was nice. Still, several of my kind, newly found friends, most of them I had met that day, offered me a jacket. It was still warm and I hated to inconvenience them for my error of having left my own on the plane. They wisely predicted that the wind would bring in cold and possibly snow, but I stayed firm.

We reached the vibrant downtown, found a sports bar, and ordered some appetizers. The Sweet 16 had started and one of my colleagues was anxious to cheer on his Alma Mater. After watching a little basketball, not feeling overly social, I decided it was time for me to see if Fort Collins had many homeless. Excusing myself, I headed towards what has been deemed hobo park. Due to some construction, hobo park really isn't a park anymore. The lot was sold and a restaurant is being built in its place. This has pushed the homeless further into the downtown area causing no shortage of stir in the local community.

I pass a beautiful old building with no roof and supported walls.

Clearly the town is willing to put up considerable money to preserve some of its history. Across from this is the Fort Collins Rescue Mission, a small building that I would find out later never has enough beds to meet demand. Several groups of homeless men sit around and joke outside waiting for the shelter to open its doors. Across the street, under a blanket next to a shopping cart, sits a huddled mound.


I cross and as I walk by an elderly women peers from under the blanket and asks if I have some change. I sit next to her and ask if she has time to talk.

"Sure."

"What's your name?"

"Lori."

Lori grew up in Fort Collins, got married, and a few short years later, got divorced. After the divorce, she found herself with too little to get by and was on the streets. At the time, Fort Collins had little support for the homeless, and it was too cold, so she went to San Francisco.  For the next 32 years she would be on the streets there. Those years had taken their toll, and as she spoke, she smoked a cigarette between the partial remains of the only two teeth she had left.

"Why'd you come back?" I asked.

"After a while, I just had to come home. This is my home." This reminded me of what I learned about what we call home when I met Mike.

"Can I take a picture with you?" She said she'd rather not. She has a brother she hasn't seen in years who might still live close by. She'd love to see him, but doesn't want him to see her homeless. I am sorry not to have her picture, never have I seen a women more closely resemble a Walt Disney portrayal of an elderly witch and yet underneath you could see beauty coming through. I find it hard to describe and regret I could not get her photo.

I said goodbye, and she politely tells me to have a nice day as she wraps her blanket more tightly around her. My colleagues weather forecasts appear to be accurate.

My walking was rather aimless as I continued downtown. You may think that finding and speaking to homeless people would be easy, but it has proven more challenging than I ever expected. They are often in groups, and unless one of them introduces me to the group, I do not feel welcome. Not regularly having people want to speak to them, they are justifiably suspicious of me and don't desire to talk. And sometimes I just loose my nerve. Most embarrassingly, I will admit I often avoid those that appear to have mental illness. Why? I don't know what to say or how to approach them, and I fear I will only embarrass them and myself.

It was this exact fear that kept me avoiding a man now. He was at a park bench that sat on a corner of the street, sorting clothes, lots of clothes, bags and bags of them. I don't know why but I assumed he had mental illness and moved on.

I found a beautiful Catholic Church full of stained glass windows.


Focusing on enjoying them was difficult as my mind could not ignore the dropping temperature, and I decided to start back toward the hotel. Again I passed by the gentleman with all the clothes. I was about to leave when I remembered an article my Mother-in-law had sent me. It was about a woman in Texas who helped a homeless man with mental illness. It was beautiful story.  This thought made me realize it would be worthwhile to approach this man, mental illness or not.

Nervously I walked up to the bench, he was kneeling behind it still sorting clothes.

"Hello!"

He looked up smiled and said, "Hello."

"How are you?" I continued.

"Good, and you?"

"Good, How are you?" My nervousness had me repeating my introductory question. He looked at me as if I might be the one with the mental ailment. I tried to move beyond my blunder.

"Can I speak with you?" I said taking a seat on the concrete next to him.

"Sure."

From that moment I had an amazing time getting to know Colonel Stephen Wildgen.

"The Colonel" by his clothes and bench where I met him. 

The man had some amazing stories. 32 years of his life were in the army, flying helicopters in Vietnam and elsewhere. At one point he told me about the time he was part of team that flew through in Columbia as a diversion why the military took down Escabar.  He was an MD that had classes in electrical engineering and spent a time as a stage magician. His current project is writing a book with professor, Franciso Leal, on a book titled "Signs of the Times" about the homeless. It took rummaging through several of his bags, but he was able to find an article that CSU had published about homeless issues that had a photo of him in the snow protesting some of the new laws related to the homeless. The fact that it was shredded and barely legible did not lesson his pride in the article.



Curiosity led me to ask about the bags and bags of clothes.

"I get some from Catholic Charities and others people bring to me to pass out among the homeless. I get blankets, jackets, clothes, sleeping bags, you name it."

The streets are his home for weeks at a time, then he goes to his home which is in a nearby town. He noted his military retirement is more than sufficient for himself to live on.

"Why do it?"

"A few years back I lost my last child. I had three children, two adopted and one biological. Two died in car crashes and one from kidney failure, all in their forties. After that, I realized I was the last Wildgen around and decided I needed something to do."

We cross the street and get some hot chocolate."Don't worry about my stuff no one touches it. The police all know me around here and will keep it safe." He continues, "I did lose my kids, but some of the men who served under me are my children. Particularly those that I lost. I remember all the men who died beside me. I remember them and their families. I still get cards from some of their families and those who survived to this day."

After getting our drink we head back to the bench. "I have lots of stories after my oversees missions but I only tell the funny ones. Let me tell you about stealing the admirals beef." His eyes lighten up and he laughs with the thought of the story. "We had been stuck on Vietnam for days with orders to remain put. We had copters but were told to wait. Mangoes were everywhere, and we were all sick of them and only ate them because they beat our rations. I knew the aircraft carrier sitting out in the bay had a great cafeteria full of food. Finally I was sick of it, I took the copter and went out to the carrier. When I landed the marines were busy loading rockets and ammo so they wouldn't let me board. So I was stuck on the deck. While sitting on the deck I saw a box that sounded like it had a compressor inside. I opened it up and it was a freezer."

He continued to explain that inside of the freezer were two larges slabs of beef. By removing some ammo boxes from his helicopter, he made room for the beef, then put the ammo in the freezer so it wouldn't be sitting on the deck and headed back to camp. Once he landed, he and his men used chain saws to cut up the beef and began to cook them in some 55 gallon drums they had.

A short time later an Admiral landed, all dressed in white. The Colonel continues his story, "He had more egg splattered on his hat then I'd ever seen. So I stood as best as I could at attention."

"Did you take the beef?"

"What Beef Sir?"

"Do you mind if we search your copter?"

"No Sir."

They left, frustrated, having not found the beef. His commanding officer came to him once the Admiral left and asked, "Where's my share?"

This story later got written up in Stars and Stripes.

By now it was getting late and dark and I needed to get home. By this time I was freezing. He asked if I wanted a shirt or a jacket. I ended up with a lovely Estes Park sweatshirt and walked home feeling very warm.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Whose policy matters? Yours or Trump's?

I know I already wrote about refugees, but I found it so important that it is the topic of my article in the Boulder City Review.

Many have been up in arms about Donald Trump and refugees, but my question to you is, What is more important, your policy on refugees or Donald Trump's?

To the country, maybe Donald Trumps, but to you and your life, it is your policy that will matter most. So have you been so busy worrying about Trump's policy that you have failed to establish and operate your own?

Using my good friend Doug Brodbent's example, I hope I encourage everyone to find and embrace the idea of providing refuge for those who so desperately need it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How I did and What's Next? Boulder City Primary Analysis

Unofficial results from 2017 Primary in Boulder City
So I promised I would do an update once the election came. Yesterday was the day, and the results above, while unofficial, are likely to be the final outcome. So how did I do?

Predictions:
1. No one will clinch a spot in the primary.

As predicted the field was too crowded and no one got it locked in the primary.

2.The Boulder City Alliance will play a part but will not have a huge impact.

This one I got way wrong. I noted that if they got both candidates in, Harhay and McManus, then I had greatly underestimated their impact, and I did. There are several reasons I think I was wrong. In the analysis I predicted McManus would make it and Harhay would not. Clearly Harhay outperformed expectations more than anyone else. One reason is that Harhay ended up being a far better candidate then I gave him credit for. While he did not raise much money, he did take the time for face to face outreach. A much smarter man than myself told me Harhay would outperform expectations. I asked why, and his reply was, "He is at the credit Union, knocking doors and getting face to face. You cannot underestimate looking someone in the eye and talking to them."

Another thing that I believe impacted the outcome was the adding of question one. I think the fact that the "growth" question is to be on the ballot in June drove turn out for those who are opposed to this idea. This really helped Harhay and McManus.

3.Mayor Lungaard will get in the general almost purely on the back of his door to door, putting up signs effort.

I was also off on this one. Several people informed me later that some of those signs went up without permission. I don't know if that is true, but it definitely hurt him that his door to door efforts were early and then done. I think after the signs he just stopped, assuming, like myself, it was enough. He and I were both wrong.

4. Loudin and Stuckey will not make it to the general.

As predicted, their efforts were just not enough.

5. Councilman Walker will move on to the general election, but it will be closer than he would like. In fact, he may not get the most votes of any candidate.

I nailed this one. Look at the totals: he came in third and was less than 20 votes from coming in fourth. The crowded field and the growth issue definitely hurt him as I predicted they would. The question remains: in a less crowded field would he fair any better?

6. Milburn will move on and McDonald will not.

Another one correct. Milburn's longtime in Boulder City was the clincher, and this is closer than even I would have predicted, but in the end McDonald, who did a great job, won't be on the ballot. I hope he's willing to give it a third run because we could use a guy like him in the future.

So 4 out of 6. Not bad, I'll take it.

What's Next?

Clearly the story of the night is Harhay and the Alliance. The great news is they showed that good old fashion, knock doors, speak to your neighbor, encourage people to vote, drive them to the polls etc.. still can beat out big money. Also in the good news for them: it looks like question 1 will be on the ballot this election. This will be a rallying cry for those who are worried about growth, which many are.

But they better not celebrate too soon. There are two big things that could really hurt them and having them looking back on tonight saying, "what could have been?" See, the general election for this group, I believe, will be an all or nothing. The primary was a very uniform voting block when it came to Harhay and Mcmanus, more than I would have guessed. Therefore, as goes question 1, so goes the council. We will have either, 'no' on 1 with McManus and Harhay as our council men or 'yes' on 1 with Walker and Milburn. I don't think there is middle ground. The reason this should concern the Alliance is they won tonight but much because it was a divided field. Their best candidate had approximately 36% of the people vote for him. That means 64% did not. Those that cast votes for candidates that are not moving on, most for Mcdonald, some for Loudin and Lundgaard, are those more naturally people who would have voted for Cam and Milburn? I think they are.

Also, we can say that the Alliance mostly went unopposed this primary. Many may call this crazy as there were 6 other good men running and lots of money spent. But what I mean is, because there were so many good men running, there was the sense of, "lets see how this plays out before we get engaged." That was not the case on the Alliance side. They were engaged when others were not. But that ends today. There will be big push from many who were on the sidelines for the two other candidates and for voting yes on question 1. Look for the same great minds who came up with "Debt Free BC" to be out in force on question 1. Maybe they will say "Boulder's Might is by Growing Right" or "Save our Schools and Get New Pools." Okay, hopefully they are better at slogans than I am, but whatever it is, they will be out in force.

The real question will be who can win the Question 1 battle. Because I think most in Boulder City are like myself, I am worried about growth, and I like our small town, but am not opposed to listen to proposals to change the 30 home limit. I have been studying Question 1 and am currently undecided. Unless the Alliance can get ahead of Question 1 and convince voters like myself, I think they may say, "I thought we were winning" as they look up at a scoreboard that says 0-3.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Boulder City Council Elections, My Rankings, Predictions, and Endorsements

Local political sign for the incumbent, Cam Walker 

Many people have assumed that nothing could compare to the romance associated with being married to a man like me. Just to prove how true this assumption is, I will tell you what I did on my most recent date with my wife. We drove up and down the streets of Boulder City and counted election signs...practically Paris in springtime.

The reason was, I was interested to see how my very unofficial street sign poll compared to the actual results of the election. With next week bringing early voting our way, I figured the time was now or never. For those who wonder how the poll operated. I gave 1 point for a sign no matter the size, no points for duplicate signs in the same yard and no points for signs I did not see. So yes, this polls accuracy is limited to the accuracy of my eyesight. I did not get to every street in Boulder City but attempted to hit every neighborhood and got to most streets.

The results are given below in the Table 1.

Other factors that political talking heads follow is fundraising and online presence. To that end, I include two more unofficial rankings. Table 1 also shows the amount raised, the amount spent, and the number of hits the candidates interview on youtube got.


Figure 1: Candidates, money raised, money spent, number of YouTube hits and number of signs.


Predictions

So I write all this to state that based on my own knowledge and very limited, informal rankings I predict the following items. Why should you listen to my predictions? The election four years ago when Councilman Walker and Councilman McCoy won, my predictions were 100% correct (of course, that could be because they were the only ones running, but that is immaterial).

1. No one will clinch a spot in the primary

I think we have a good set of candidates. They are good men who are well connected, they will pull the vote in too many directions and therefore no-one will clinch a spot in the primary,sending four of them onto the general election.

2. The Boulder City Community Alliance will play a part but will not have a huge impact.

The alliance as so many people call them is a grass root group that has gone from non-existent to a major part of BC politics in only a few months. They were out in front, being the first to publicly have the candidates speak and have been getting large groups at their meetings. Many times more people come to alliance meetings than are at city council meetings. They have endorsed two candidates. One, McManus, is well spoken, well connected, has been very involved in BC politics for many years and ranks well on all three of my rankings. Except for the fact that he never smiles, he is, by the classic definition, a great candidate. The other, Harhay, is trying a new route. He is little known, has decided to raise virtually no money and is truly doing things his own way. He is anything but a great candidate and relishes in that fact. His one high point is YouTube views but that may be because so few know who he is.

McManus, I predict will be in the general election and Harhay will not. If, Harhay and McManus, both make it to the general election then I have underestimated the Alliance's influence. If Harhay goes onto the general, it will be entirely on the backs of this grass roots group and it will show just how organized and influential they are. If neither, McManus or Harhay, make it to the general election, I have overestimated the Alliances influence and the blow will lesson any future impact the group may hope to have.

3. Mayor Lungaard will make it to the general election almost purely on the back of his door to door/ putting up signs effort.

Lungaard has a great resume but from a long time ago. The only reason everyone knows his name right now is signs, signs and more signs. He quickly worked by going door to door to get a sign at every corner home and was very effective. I don't know how he did it, all I know is that if anyone is looking for a door to door salesman...I know your man. The unfortunate defacing of his signs will actually help him, as it gives him more name recognition and the teenagers who think it's funny don't vote. Lungaard has raised little money, not been that involved directly in local politics for years, refused to speak at the Alliance meeting, and is the only candidate that does not have a YouTube interview. His only public speaking event that I know of was on March 7th and while he was able to push his strong resume his responses were not very direct. Overall he did not perform well. Signs are about all he has going for him, but he has a lot of them and I think it will take him into the general election. Not sure it will be enough to take him any further.

4. Loudin and Stuckey will not make it to the general election.

I have yet to meet someone who has met Loudin or knows him that doesn't like him. His performance on March 7th was hilarious and everyone was happy he had come that night, because he lightened the mood. But I don't think it won him many votes. I think he would be a wonderful councilman, but he has raised some but not significant amount, put up few signs and generally doesn't convey that he really wants the job. It comes off as if he would be willing, but doesn't really care too much. I don't see him moving on.

As for Stuckey, he is little known, and I can't find if he has raised a dollar or put up one sign. I have spoken to him a few times and he is well intentioned and I am glad he is running, but I doubt if he will get many votes in this election.

5. Councilman Walker will move onto the general election but it will be closer than he would like. In fact he may not get the most votes of any candidate.

Councilman Walker is well connected has raised significant money, has a good campaign and a great resume.  Overall people are pleased with where we are as a city and Walker has used this to his advantage. His draw backs are that he does not appeal to the anti-growth groups, having openly showed a willingness to look at some growth options. But the bigger issue hitting him is the fact that the mainstream, well connected votes that usually would be his are being split up. I will write about them next but Milburn and McDonald as well as Lungaard and Loudin to a degree, will take a significant amount of these votes because there are also serious candidates, that are fairly mainstream and in line with his voting block. These four will take votes that would otherwise go to him. However he will survive and once the votes are less split up in the general election he will do well and will once again serve us as councilman.

6. Milburn will move on and McDonald will not.

As noted above these are the two most serious "mainstream" candidates on the ballot outside of the incumbent, Walker. They are both sensible, even minded men. Both are well connected and loved in this town. I give Milburn the edge. He is raising more money, doing more advertising, putting up more signs and has had more years for people to get to know him. The one area that McDonald has Milburn beat is in public speaking. I have seen several people torn between these candidates and after hearing both speak have decided to go with McDonald. He defiantly conveys a passion for city politics. But in the end I don't think this will be enough and Milburn will move on and McDonald will not.

My Endorsements (In case you care)

I have had a difficult time deciding for myself, but have come to the conclusion on who I will vote for. Before I do I want to reinstate something Milburn has said and I agree with. We have 8 great candidates and all 8 would do a good job in City Council. I think all love this town and would do their best to serve us, the people of Boulder City.

My endorsements go to Cam Walker and Fritz McDonald.  I believe Cam has served us well as a councilman. His goal to help us become debt free as a city are very important and he has stayed the course on this item. He has been a good advocate for this city and worked hard for us on the solar leases and other items. I do not always agree with his votes but I find that he thinks through situations and is always well informed. I have only approached him a few times with questions but he is always open to discuss and listen. I think it would be a mistake for us not to re-elect him.

Fritz McDonald is passionate about Boulder City and making it a better place. He has served well on the city planning commission and is well versed with city issues. He is willing to do his homework and at the March 7th meeting clearly had done more digging, and investigating than the other candidates. He will serve us well and he has my vote.

Conclusion

Whomever you support I hope you will go out and vote for these great men who are giving so much of their time and effort to serve us. Thanks to all the candidates. I will do a follow up to review how close or far I was off.