Monday, May 29, 2006

May 29, 2006 The Greatest Generation

Consider This for May 29, 2006-The Greatest Generation

He was part of what is now referred to as the Greatest Generation.

He was born in Iowa in 1909 to a railroad worker from Sweden and an Irish girl from Iowa. He was one of eight children. Seven boys and one girl.

He dropped out of school early to help the family pay for life.

He eventually went to work for Western Union putting in telegraph lines along the railroad tracks.

In 1933 he married a local farm girl from a family that was land rich and money poor. They lived in town and he worked for a local grocery store...

When the war broke out in 1941 he left to go to Kansas to build air bases for the Army. He was a carpenter on those projects.

In 1940 he became the father of a daughter. In 1942 his son was born.

Married with two children he thought that he would never be drafted but he was.

I think about that a lot when I hear about certain politicians who were able to avoid the draft because of the influence of their money or their parents. Where is the justice?

He entered the Navy and completed basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. He was selected to receive training as a Navy Medical Corpsman at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City.

He often talked about having to give “short arm” inspections to military personnel in Times Square. If you don’t know what that means ask your grandfather or someone over the age of 70.

He enjoyed riding the military ambulance on calls in New York City. A far cry from rural Iowa.

He was transferred to Terminal Island near San Francisco for a while. He was also at San Pedro, California.

He had a certain look in his eyes when he talked about riding troop trains across the United States. He always loved trains and was amazed at how many military personnel they could jam on one train traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast.

He marveled at the West and how the train would stop in northern New Mexico to allow everyone to get off for a while.

He still loved trains the day he died. He loved Colorado and came here many times.

Navy medical corpsmen were often assigned to a Marine unit. He was no exception. While in San Diego he was assigned to a Marine Battalion scheduled to move to the South Pacific islands.

Apparently there was a mix-up in his orders and his ship left without him. He began a long journey to catch up to his unit.

He hitched a ride to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii where he was billeted in the Royal Hawaiian for a period of time. He would often talk about how the troops would do their laundry in the room and the windows were full of “skivvies” swinging in the breeze outside the windows.

He had a Navy issued sea bag and listed all of his ports of call as he traveled the South Pacific. I can’t remember all of them but it was like a geography lesson to read the notes on the bag.

At one point he was assigned as the medical officer on a destroyer escort. He always thought that it was such a great honor to be in charge of everyone’s health on board that ship.

He jumped from island to island arriving just after the Japanese had been defeated in that particular battle.

He never saw combat but many of his friends and fellow medics did. Medics were not allowed to carry weapons and were marked by red crosses on their helmets and armbands. Unfortunately bullets and bombs can’t see red crosses. Many Medal of Honor recipients were medics who had gone in to save our soldiers on the battlefield without any protection.

He came back to his family to work as a plumber for several years and finally retired as a school custodian.

I think that of all the things that he ever did, he was the most proud of being a custodian. He knew that what he did had a positive impact on the education of children.

This member of the greatest generation was my father. He died in 1986 in the same home that I lived in growing up.

He was the finest, bravest man I have ever known. And I honor him and all of the other members of his generation on this Memorial Day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

May 22, 2006 American Heroes

Consider This for May 22, 2006--American Heroes

Four Denver firefighters were hurt fighting fires in the past week. One remains in the hospital in critical condition as I write this.

I have always had a huge amount of respect for firefighters.

Anyone who runs into a burning building when everyone else is running out of the same building deserves all of our respect.

Many of the thousands of people killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, were New York City firefighters. Some had actually gone into the building, performed rescues, left the building, and then returned to do it all over again. Many died after they had gone back into the building for the last time.

For most of us, the most dangerous thing we do all day is drive to and from work. Considering how stupid the average driver is today, that is a life-threatening event. But we do that with a high degree of never being hurt. We do that as the price of doing business, assuming that everyone else is as smart or careful as we are.

Last week two young men had left a softball game and ended up dead and having killed a 20-year-old new bride when the men’s car landed on top of her car. The accident is being investigated as having alcohol involved. Softball plus alcohol plus an airborne car plus gravity equals three dead young people.

Just remember that our firefighters do these death-defying acts for a living. They go to work knowing that they might not make it home at the end of their shift.

They are American Heroes.

When I was a New York City Police Officer in the 1960s, I spent a lot of time with firefighters. The NYPD had an arrangement with FDNY. The firefighters would go out on a call, and the police would stay in the fire station protecting their belongings and their food.

It was a nice arrangement because if it happened at the right time of day, the cop would get a great meal. Firefighters in addition to being American Heroes are also great cooks.

When I worked in the South Bronx, the crooks would actually pull a fire box or call in a fire just to get the firefighters out of the station so they could burglarize it. Sometimes they would even steal the food that was being prepared when the alarm came into the station.

Imagine having to run out of your house for an hour or two and leaving all of the doors open with all your valuables in full view. Even in sleepy Summit County it would not pay to do this. Eventually someone would figure out that everything was free for the pickings.

I get upset every time I hear someone complain about the fire truck in the grocery store parking lot. You know that they are shopping for their meal. They eat a communal meal because it is not like they can go to McDonald's or Wendy's or Burger King. When the alarm goes off, they have to be ready to go. Even if they are in the produce section of Safeway.

Many work a Kelly shift too. That normally means they will work 24 hours on and 24 hours off for three days and then be off for four days. People get upset about that because the firefighters get paid to sleep. That is true, but they sleep with one eye and both ears open.

The people who complain about the shifts or the grocery shopping should all have to wait 30 minutes when they have a coronary at 2:00 a.m. some morning. Call 911 and have the operator tell you that she will have to run down the crew because they are all home sleeping or that they all decided to go to eight different restaurants to eat.

I personally think our fire service, in Summit County or out in the real world, is a bargain for what we pay in taxes. We get more than a dollar’s worth of value for one tax dollar.

The next time you see a group of firefighters in the grocery store shopping, walk up to them and thank them for taking the time and consideration to shop together and bringing the fire truck along so they are always ready to come save your life.

And the next time you hear someone complain about the fire department, give them a piece of my mind, or, if you feel like it, give them a piece of yours.

The next time you see a fire truck going down the road, don’t think of it as being filled with firefighters. Think of it as being filled with American Heroes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

May 15, 2006 Sine Die

Consider This for May 15, 2006--Sine die

Sine die does not mean that you will die for your sins. Although there might be some kind of relationship in this case.

In Latin it means “without day.” The dictionary defines it as “without any future date being designated (for resumption). Indefinitely (the meeting date not being determined).” Actually that is not true because one of the last bills we passed was to set the first meeting date for the legislature in 2007.

Sine die is actually the last day of the Colorado State Legislature for the year and this year for the session.

At the end of business the Speaker of the House designates three members who go to the office of the governor to let him know. This year that happened at 11:22 p.m. on Monday night.

When the committee came back, they reported that the governor was well pleased and that he gave each of them a small bottle of wine. Hopefully it was Colorado wine.

It is actually in the Constitution. It is the day business comes to an end. It is the day the Senate and House report to the governor that the work of the legislature for the year is finished. There are 120 calendar days defined as starting on the second Wednesday of January and ending the second Wednesday of May.

This year as well as last year we finished on Monday, two days early. One source says it saves the state $70,000 a day. Another source says it saves $30,000 a day. One is probably the pro-tax economist and the other one is the anti-tax economist.

Most of you know that I have decided not to run for another term. I was appointed in July 2004, and I will start my third year in July. I have really enjoyed working with all the people in the legislature. They are all true public servants and truly care about their responsibilities regardless of their political party.

I was told before my first session that most votes are nonpartisan. That is very true with the exception of about six legislators. They always vote against the prevailing vote. One even has a reputation of not having an operating “yes” button to vote. Nearly all of his votes are “no” regardless of the issue.

I have always wondered if his constituents knew that his goal was to prevent anything from happening. I wonder how many actually think he comes to the capitol every day to improve the lives of the people of Colorado. He is now running for the Senate, so we might get to have him do the same thing for eight more years on that side of the building.

Coming from a public safety background I found it interesting how many legislators actually oppose improving our laws as they relate to law enforcement. I found a negative attitude evidenced by immediate arguments that the laws would create greater “profiling” of minorities. I spent a lot of time arguing in favor of stronger laws only to be defeated by people who had a bad taste in their mouths about law enforcement.

I also found this attitude about fire departments. I heard over and over again that fire departments did not need any new laws to help them do their job. Privately I would hear complaints that fire departments got a disproportionate amount of tax dollars.

Then I heard the same complaints about our schools. They would complain that over half of their property tax bill went to local schools and then the state got the Amendment 23 dollars on top of that. Lots of anger over that.

The reverse was that there were many who were in favor of school vouchers that would be paid to the detriment of public schools.

I will say that the advocates of public schools and the advocates of private schools were the two most articulate and long-suffering groups at the legislature. I know that I aged about ten years just listening to a couple of the debates. They went long and hard, and in the final vote public schools always won.

I always thought we should fine people who argue unwinnable things. Yes, I do know they have that right, and I would never take it away from them.

The true libertarians are very happy that we did not make wearing a seat belt a primary offense even though 500 people will die in the next year without the law. But they are very unhappy that smoking is banned in all bars and restaurants in the state. There are exceptions for restaurants that sell over $50,000 a year in tobacco products, for casino gaming floors but not their restaurants and bars, and most important for the entire smoking lounge at Denver International Airport.

I did not even know there was a smoking lounge at the airport. Did you

Monday, May 8, 2006

May 8, 2006 Canadians

Consider This for May 8, 2006--What About the Canadian Immigrants?

Canadian immigrants. They are pouring across our northern border, coming here to steal our jobs and our ski areas. Thousands of Canadians have come here posing as world-class hockey players, actors, singers, and ski area executives to steal jobs from Americans.

Where are the Minutemen along our longest border? Why aren’t they trying to keep the Canadians out? Is it the cold weather? Are they fair-weather Minutemen?

One of the arguments against the people coming in from Mexico is the threat to homeland security. What about the terrorists coming in from Canada carrying long hockey sticks ready to hit people in the back of the head?

On a serious note, the 9/11 hijackers came in from Canada and not from Mexico. On another serious note, none of the hijackers were from Iraq. None. Most were from Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar has a house in Aspen. Maybe we should attack that? Just kidding.

Back to the funny stuff.

There are four ski areas in Summit County. All four are either owned or operated by Canadians. What is being done about this attack by a foreign nation on our ski industry?

This problem is so serious that these invaders from the north have now taken control of Winter Park. It was owned and operated by the City and County of Denver for nearly all its existence, but now Canadians operate it.

So what is the State Department doing about this intrusion in our precious ski industry?

So what is up with all the plaid that Canadians wear? It is like gang colors. Are some Crips and others Bloods, and they can only tell each other apart from the type of plaid that they wear?

What about this “eh” thing that they put at the end of their sentences? Is that a secret language that only Canadians understand? Could it be a code? I think that the government should look into this.

A week ago today there was a rally at the capitol called, “A Day Without Immigrants.” I work there. I spent an hour and a half outside the capitol watching the rally. I did not see one Canadian. Not one. Where were they? Aren’t they immigrants too? Are they ashamed of being immigrants? Where was their rally?

I think that we should plan immediately to build an eighty-foot-tall wall along the entire length of our border with Canada. I don’t think we are doing enough. I run into Canadians almost every day, and they always talk about how easy it is to get into the United States.

They pull up to the border in their SUVs, and when the Immigration official asks where they were born, they reply “Cleveland.” The official smiles and mentions something about Drew Carey or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and waves them through. A slam-dunk. They are here to do whatever they want.

They can wash dishes, wait tables, work in the fields, and clean bathrooms just like their counterparts from Mexico. The sky is the limit for opportunity.

Many just point their cars to the nearest hockey town or Nashville or Hollywood.

When you check on the Internet, the number of Canadian hockey players living and working in the United States is phenomenal. I personally think that it is out of hand. All of these positions are being stolen from American hockey players, and no one is doing anything about it. I think the federal government should investigate this theft of jobs by foreigners.

Many actors and singers and others in show business were born in Canada. The long winters in Canada have borne fruit as a ton of very talented people are coming south to steal jobs in show business from Americans. This flow of great actors and musicians must stop. There are all kinds of Americans in show business out of work. There are a lot of great actors in the State Legislature who could go to work in theaters if there were no Canadians stealing those jobs.

Hundreds of American musicians are literally begging for money as they play on sidewalks in cities all over America. If it weren’t for the Canadians, we would not have to play in the streets and beg for money.

Just imagine “A Day Without Canadians.”

Monday, May 1, 2006

May 1, 2006 Constitutional Amendments

Consider This for May 1, 2006—Constitutional Amendments

Constitutional amendments. You either love them or hate them, but when it comes down to it, amending the Constitution of the State of Colorado is a silly and lazy way to govern.

I know you all slept better last night knowing the bear-hunting season is in our Constitution. Or maybe the bears slept better. You did not have to wake up in the middle of the night worrying whether leg hold traps were in the Constitution. They are so you can sleep well.

Tax restriction is in there under TABOR. Tax spending is in there under Amendment 23, which guarantees funding for schools. It is illegal to be a homosexual under Amendment 2 that passed a few years ago but then the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

It is much more difficult to amend the Federal Constitution. Take the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that was passed by congress and several states a few years ago. It was never ratified by enough states so it died before it became part of our Constitution. I supported it but not enough people did and it failed.

Two years ago part of my campaign was based on opposing any and all amendments to the Constitution. It was difficult to explain my position on some issues because I supported the issue but did not support the proposed solution: amending the Constitution.

It was like trying to answer the question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” Regardless of my answer the only thing that was crystal clear was that I was opposed to amending the Constitution.

Then last year I worked very hard for about three months traveling all over the Western Slope asking people to support Referendums C and D to fix the state’s budget. It was not an amendment to the Constitution but it was a ballot issue to allow a short term change to TABOR which was an amendment to the Constitution.

Confused? Then you can understand why this is a bad way to govern the State of Colorado.

I read recently there is a possibility of more than 130 ballot proposals amending the State Constitution for the general election in November.

One day last week I read there were four ballot amendments on marriage alone. At the same time we have a state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Is that overkill or pandering for votes? Let’s take care of the same issue over and over again until we know that everyone understands our positions. Something like a real life example of beating a horse that is already dead.

There might be a ballot issue making it easier to put things on the ballot while, at the same time, there might be a ballot issue making it harder to put things on the ballot. Dueling ballot issues. How much fun can we have?

There is also a proposal to have a constitutional convention to clean up our Constitution from all of the silliness. The problem with that is one person’s silliness is another person’s personal passion.

It is no wonder that my political science students scratch their collective head when I try to explain all this to them.

I think the real issue is political will. Political will on the part of state representatives and state senators. Political will on the part of the governor. It is about the amount of intestinal fortitude of your elected officials to take an unpopular stand and then fight to see it happen.

In July I will enter my third year in office as your state representative. One thing I have learned is you can’t even get all the people in your own party to agree, much less the 65 representatives and 35 senators.

It could be a bright, sunny day outside and you could not get agreement if you wanted to vote on it. Some members would say it is raining regardless.

I kind of like the Weissmann method. Representative Paul Weissmann is the sharpest person in the state legislature. He was a state senator for a while, ran for congress and lost and is now a state representative. He works in a restaurant in Louisville.

Paul thinks we should have car dealerships and liquor stores open on Sundays. Both groups oppose any effort to change the Sunday laws.

Paul will wait until there is a heated discussion on a subject and everyone is blinded by his or her own position and then he will slip in an amendment to the bill that will allow car sales or liquor sales on Sunday. Everyone is wise to his ploy and the amendment always fails.

Earlier this year he slipped an amendment to legalize marijuana in the State of Colorado on one of my bills. I agreed it was a “friendly” amendment and it was approved. Paul and I legalized marijuana for about one hour and fifteen minutes until the amendment was voted off.

Maybe we should clean up the whole process and revert to the Weissmann method. It sure would be more effective and a lot more fun.