Monday, March 20, 2006

March 20, 2006 Money for Nothing

Consider This for March 20, 2006—Money for Nothing

That ain't workin'. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin'.

The famous refrain from the Dire Straits song.

When I was working in construction in the 1970s, there was a term for the fellow who had the job that did not require too much work. Everyone called him “Easy Money” because his money was easy to make.

I thought of that song last week when the Denver Auditor’s report came out about the workers at Denver International Airport getting paid for not working. Easy money.

In the 1960s, when I was a New York City police officer, one of the hundreds of scandals involved several police officers and firefighters who were being paid but who had never worked one day on the job. In fact, they had other full-time jobs, so they were getting two incomes while only working one job.

Apparently it involved supervisors in the police and fire departments who were signing time sheets for them and then getting a cut of the take.

I wonder if they were given retirement parties by the department after twenty years of not working.

It is about government and the inherent inability to pay attention to detail.

I have worked several places where there was a resistance to time cards. A resistance to creating a system of accountability. I am sure that they still do not have them in the New York police or fire departments, but I would hope that they would do something at DIA.

We just passed a bill that will allow the Colorado Department of Corrections to put global positioning satellite equipment on persons on parole. That will allow the officers to track the clients without having to run all over the place looking for them.

Maybe we could do this with employees? (Before you write your nasty letter, I am not serious.)

I think the issues are much greater, and it gets into something I have written about before.

We have two choices. We can do things right, which means following a rule or a procedure, or we can do the right thing, which means doing what is moral and ethical.

The people who do the right thing do not need a GPS system or a time card system. They show up early and leave late.

The people who do things right are always pushing the envelope and coming to work as late as possible and leaving as early as possible. If there is not a written rule or procedure, they feel they are not accountable.

I tell my students that 98% of our population is normal, and 2% are sociopathic and incorrigible. That group does not know the difference between right and wrong. Our jails and prisons are full of these folks because their rule in life is there are no rules. They can even commit murder and never feel any remorse. They will often go through life blaming the other person and never accepting any responsibility for their own behavior.

The truly sad part of this story is there are some highly co-dependent people in our society who spend their entire lives trying to fix these people. Of course, the bottom line is the sociopaths end up taking everything they can from the co-dependents and then going merrily down the path of life whistling a happy tune.

In the case of the police officers, firefighters, and DIA workers, there might be some redemption. Maybe they do know the difference between right and wrong. Maybe they will not blame the system for letting them get away with their crimes. Maybe they will not blame their supervisors for not doing a good job and letting them get paid for work they did not do. Maybe.

Monday, March 13, 2006

March 13, 2006 I am mad because they are selling my land

Consider This for March 13, 2006--I Am Mad Because They Are Selling My Land

“I am mad, and I’m not going to take it anymore” is a famous line from the movie “Network.” Well, I’m mad too, and I’m not going to take it anymore either.

The United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Forest Service are proposing the sale of my land, my forest, to pay for schools and roads in local communities. What a rip-off. What a major case of smoke and mirrors.

The USDA and the USFS are merely managers of my land and my forest. It is your land and your forest too. It belongs to all of us. It belonged to President Roosevelt when the Forest Service was created. It belongs to the fisherman in Key West, Florida. It belongs to the storekeeper in Bangor, Maine. It belongs to the surfer in Hawaii. It belongs to my children and my grandchildren. It belongs to everyone who has ever lived in the United States or ever will live in the United States.

We should never dispose of any public lands. Period. Not for any reason. We have X amount of public lands today, and 100 years from now we should have the same amount of public land. Not one inch of it should ever be disposed of.

Will Rogers once said, “Invest in real estate. They are not making any more of it.” That says it all. Once it is gone, it is gone. Never to come back again.

This past Wednesday I cosponsored House Joint Resolution 06-1018, “Concerning the proposed sale of United States forest lands to provide funding to reauthorize the federal ‘Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000,’ and in connection therewith, urging the United States Forest Service to rescind the proposal for the sale of these lands.”

The sponsor of the joint resolution is Representative Robert Witwer of Evergreen. As he introduced the measure, he told the body that over 300,000 acres of forestland are up for disposal. In Colorado alone there are over 21,000 acres on the block. That is over 7% of the total. Any percent is too much.

The whole relationship between schools, counties, and the Forest Service is very difficult to understand. Even though I spent almost ten years dealing with it, I am not sure I fully understand it today.

Around 70% of Summit County is public lands. Public lands do not pay property tax. Years ago Congress created the PILT program. PILT stands for Payment in Lieu of Taxes. What it means is the federal government will pay counties and school districts money to mitigate impacts of the federal lands. I remember the last time I checked Summit County government was getting about $200,000 a year, and the school district was getting about $40,000 a year.

The county also gets some money from contracts with the Sheriff’s Office to provide patrols of the lake and campgrounds.

The ski areas pay the Forest Service money for their permits on forestland. I have never known how much is collected, but I do know that money does not come back to the counties.

I heard Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Mark Rey on National Public Radio discussing the sale of forestlands, and he was trying to tell the audience what a great deal it was. He said these were inholdings and surplus lands that were difficult to manage and needed to be sold off. He used one example of a portion of a parking lot in a shopping center that was owned by the Forest Service that could be disposed of.

The Forest Service does not own it. You and I own it. I don’t disagree with disposing of it in an exchange where land could be acquired next to the forest, but I don’t agree with selling it. We should never allow any net loss of land. One acre could be exchanged for another acre but never sold.

Mark Rey’s argument does not pass the smell test.

We need to do everything we can to protect this important national legacy for our children and their children.

Monday, March 6, 2006

March 6, 2006 On the Road Again

Consider This for March 6, 2006--On the Road Again

I decided last year that I would not live in Denver during the session this year, so every morning around 6:00 a.m. I am on the road again. I keep hearing song lyrics. “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. “It’s Quarter to Three, There’s No One in the Place Except You and Me” (on I-70 headed east).

Living in Denver last spring I was reminded that I moved from New York City to Denver in 1970 to get away from the city and not to live in the city. I moved to the mountains in 1974 because I did not like living in the metro area.

I commuted for a long time to my job in Lakewood just so I could wake up in the most beautiful place in the world. I did find out that the sun does not come up until after 7:00 a lot of the time and would go down before I left Denver.

The most beautiful place in the world was dark most of the time. I guess I could rationalize everything by being able to breathe clean air as I slept. Yeah, that’s it.

This year I have been reminded that there are many people who commute to Denver every day from Summit County. I could almost tell you their license plate numbers because I see them every day at 6:00 a.m. It is almost a Le Mans start from the Frisco interchange.

I also found out how terrible I-70 is between here and the tunnel. It is fine on the east side. I have always thought that CDOT put a ton of money into Clear Creek County because that county complains a lot about CDOT.

The funny thing is that the people in Clear Creek County could care less about the money put into their highway. They are more interested in getting the attention of CDOT on how the highway will be improved to increase capacity.

I have found out that the big trucks will not drive in the right lane going to the tunnel. They are smarter than that. The right lane is literally falling apart. The bridge over the Blue River in Silverthorne is very rutted and will shake your fillings loose as you drive over the holes in the road.

And yes, I have brought it to the attention of CDOT many times. I will assure you that they know about it.

The tunnel is the same way. All the traffic drives in the left lane to avoid the ruts and holes in the surface of the road. It looks like half the tunnel got a new overlay recently, and maybe they are waiting for asphalt season to do the other half.

During the election two years ago, I bought a brand-new Honda Accord because of the high mileage on my red Cadillac Eldorado. I am very happy with the Accord and can manage to get good mileage if I hold my speed down.

I read an article recently that alleged that if you drive 60 miles per hour instead of 65 miles per hour you will save about 21 cents a gallon. That is a lot of money. Right now I am paying about $2.05 a gallon for gas in Golden. If I drive 65 miles per hour, the cost would go to $2.26 a gallon.

I have checked the difference in time from Breckenridge to Denver, and slowing down 5 miles an hour adds about ten minutes to the drive. Cheap at half the price.

Last year a piece of ice hit the front bumper on my Honda and put a hole in the fiberglass. I drove it that way until the weather changed and then got it fixed.

A couple of weeks ago a chunk of ice fell off a truck in front of me and hit the front of the car. I did not think that it did much damage, so I drove on to the Capitol. As I was pulling into the parking, one of the staff people looked at the front of my car and screwed up his face.

A bad sign.

I got out and found that the chunk of ice had taken the entire front of my car off. It now looks like a sixth-grader missing two front teeth.

I think I will wait until spring again to fix it.