Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Advice of Council: Boulder City Council Election 2007

Choosing who to vote for in the city council election is not simple for somebody like me who tries to always think rationally. At least with ballot issues you can read the text of the question and rationally evaluate what it says. With council candidates, you have to look at dozens of sources to get a feel for the positions of each candidate, along with determining whether that candidate has the smarts and temperament to serve in this position for the next four years.

And this election is particularly tough, with 22 candidates for 7 seats.

Of course, being me, I made a spreadsheet. On one axis, I listed each candidate, and along the other I listed each major issue and each major endorsement. Then I read the candidates' stated responses to the various surveys and forums and assigned them plus and minus points for each. I gave (or deducted) extra points for each endorsement from a major interest group.

So, here's where I ended up. These are not endorsements, just a statement of who I plan on voting for. Your selections may vary depending on your own spreadsheet.

The top six (in alphabetical order):
  • Crystal Gray
  • Lisa Morzel
  • Eugene Pearson
  • Susan Peterson
  • Larry Quilling
  • Ken Wilson
I highlighted Susan Peterson and Larry Quilling because neither has gotten as many endorsements as the others, but both seem very thoughtful and knowledgeable and deserve careful consideration by any voter.

My seventh vote will be one of the following, and I'll probably decide when I fill out my ballot:
  • Matt Appelbaum
  • Macon Cowles
  • Susan Osborne
Or I may just vote for six.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Something's Rotten in the State of Garbage

This is part three in a series of things you can do about global warming. Earlier, I suggested you not buy carbon offsets, but rather you buy local. But there are plenty of other things you can do to help.

Each pound of methane (CH4) in our atmosphere contributes about twenty-five times as much to global warming than carbon dioxide. There's lots more CO2, but methane is increasing more rapidly and its impact is significant. CO2 in the air has increased by about 30% since the industrial revolution, but methane has increased by about 150%. That means there's about two and a half times as much now than there was when this country was founded.

There's another difference between CO2 and methane that's important: methane last about ten years in the atmosphere, while CO2 lasts over a hundred. This means that if we can reduce methane now it will have a quicker impact. Eliminating a pound of new methane is roughly equivalent to eliminating seventy pounds of new CO2. So, though reducing CO2 emissions is important, reducing methane can give us a bigger bang for the buck.

More than half of the CH4 emissions around the world come from human activities. And of those human emissions, about 12% come from landfills. That's right, the organic garbage you throw away makes a significant contribution to climate change. When organic waste decomposes in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment, it produces landfill gas, of which CH4 is a major component.

What can we do to stop this major source of global warming? Well, one option is to burn landfill gas, and even create more energy in the process. Lots of landfills are doing just that. This may reduce the global warming impact (turning CH4 into CO2). But it also emits toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

A much better solution is to eliminate the source of the problem. Eliminate organic waste from landfills. It sounds hard, but as a society we have made big strides in pulling recyclables out of our waste stream. Doing the same with compostables would be just as noble of a cause.

That's right. Just like aluminum and glass, organic waste can be pulled from the waste stream and turned into something valuable. Reduce the need for landfills, reduce our contribution to climate change, and make something useful in the process!

The simplest thing to do is household composting. At our house, we've had a compost bin for many years, and we don't even have a garden. We just throw in kitchen and yard waste. We don't even care if it's the most efficient compost pile. We just dump stuff in. Miraculously, our compost bin never gets full.

Of course, there's lots of organic waste that is beyond the capability of our amateur compost bin. Our bin, along with paper recycling and the city's yard waste collection program, certainly keep our organic waste output small. But there are certain things that will never decompose in our bin and yet are not recyclable.

The City of Boulder is looking at implementing a compost collection program. This program, which has already been pilot tested in 400 homes here, knocked down the amount of garbage generated to about 30% (including the impact of recycling). The next step is to get this program in place for the city at large, and to evangelize the program to other locations.

So, to summarize, if you want to reduce global warming, start composting even if you don't garden, recycle your paper and cardboard, and encourage your local government to sponsor yard waste and composting collection programs.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boulder Ballot Summary 2007

It's an odd year (very odd, in fact), so the ballot is short. But there are a few local issues to figure out. I've gone through all of them so you don't have to (but please do so anyway.)

As usual, my advice is to vote NO on any issue you don't understand fully.

Boulder County Measures:

City of Boulder Measures:

  • NO on Issue 2A: Permit City Lease Up to Forty Years
  • YES on Issue 2B: City Council Compensation
  • NO on Issue 2C: Clarifying Circumstances That Cause a City Council Vacancy
  • NO on Issue 2D: Filling City Council Vacancies

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Forty Year Old Virgins in the Wilderness: City of Boulder Question 2A

Question 2A on the city's ballot is pretty simple. Should we grant the city council the right to lease public property for up to 40 years (instead of the current 20 years)?

Well, they already have the right to lease out public property. And it would require a 2/3 council majority. And it would free them up to better do their job.

However, one must ask, why are they asking for this now? Is there something coming up that we don't know about that will require leasing public property for 40 years? The things that come to mind are the Conference Center which has been proposed for the Farmer's Market area, and the Transit Village west of 30th Street. These are both highly charged projects that will require significant discussion. It appears to me that this change would allow the council to bypass some of that public discussion.

Vote NO on City of Boulder Question 2A.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

More Pay for More Crimes Equals Less Turnover: City of Boulder Ballot Questions 2B, 2C, and 2D

The Boulder City Council has been thinking about itself more than usual lately. Three out of four of the city measures on the upcoming ballot ask us to improve the way the city council works.

Question 2B gives council members a big raise. They could earn up to a big $1,000 per month for what amounts to about a half-time job. Plus, they'd get cost of living increases in the future. This is almost a 200% increase for someone that attends the usual two council meetings per month. Although the relative amount of the increase is large, the total compensation still doesn't make it a lucrative position.

It is interesting that, although the per meeting pay would almost triple, the pay would cap at two meetings per month, as opposed to the current four. This would provide some incentive to not schedule special meetings (which they occasionally do today.) That's probably not a big issue, but it does make me think twice.

Question 2C would change the city charter's clause that currently states council members can be removed when they are convicted of a crime or felony, to state that they will be removed upon conviction for a felony. Yes, it would clarify some ambiguous language in the charter, as nobody today knows exactly what's included in the phrase "crime or felony". However, it leaves a pretty big hole in that council members can no longer be removed after conviction for a serious misdemeanor. For example, if a council member is convicted of misdemeanor assault against another council member, he or she would still be allowed to serve out the term, with nothing short of a recall available to force him or her out. I say the council should go back to the drawing board on this one.

Question 2D would eliminate special elections to fill vacant council seats when there are only one or two vacancies. That's a good cost-saving goal. But the special elections are the result of a citizen initiative, and the council should not toss them out quite so radically. In this case, it would take three vacancies to trigger a special election. Under the proposed change we might have to go up to 16 months with a council short by one or two members. Again, the council is going too far to solve this problem.

Vote FOR Question 2B.
Vote AGAINST Question 2C.
Vote AGAINST Question 2D.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Find a 0.1 Penny, Pick It Up: Boulder County Issues 1A and 1B

It's October, and you know what that means. That's right, it's election season. And I'm here to help sort out what it all means.

Boulder County has two proposals on the ballot this year, appropriately named 1A and 1B. Each of them is an up or down vote on extending an existing sales tax, in both cases a tax of one cent on a ten dollar purchase.

Issue 1A is an extension of the county Open Space tax, which expires in 2009, for another 20 years. The tax will go to the repayment of bonds that will be used for acquiring open space property (or easements), to make improvements and build trails, and to manage and maintain existing open space property.

It's hard to argue against this one. It's only a penny on a ten dollar purchase, it's an extension of an existing tax so that sales tax won't increase, and it goes to support the county open space program. The program, along with that of the City of Boulder's is something that makes Boulder what it is today. Arguments against the proposal generally come down to lack of support for the value of open space to our community. Given that I believe it adds greatly to the value of the community, I strongly support a YES vote on measure 1A.

Issue 1B is similarly a 15-year extension of a one-cent-on-ten-dollars sales tax set to expire in 2009, in this case for transportation (or to pay for bonds, the revenue from which would be used for transportation projects). There is a long list of proposed projects in the write-up for the measure, so you can get a very good feel for how the money will be spent. Of course, there is no guarantee that the projects on the list will be the ones that actually get funded. The projects are proposed to be completed over the next 15 years, so it could also be a while for your favorite project to make the top of the list. It also counts on federal or other matching funds to get some of them done.

Of the total county expenditures under this bill, 36% would be for roadway improvements for safety and to reduce congestion. It looks like the big majority of these projects are in eastern Boulder County, and I guess that makes sense, as that is where most of the non-city traffic is. However, I do wonder about the lack of mountain projects on the list.

The next biggest chunk, 27% is for improving shoulders along existing roads, primarily to allow better sharing of the roads between motor vehicles and bicycles. As a cyclist, this is something that I wholeheartedly support, and I would think that drivers who are concerned about cyclists on the road would support it as well. I looked over the list of roads, and they are all places that are popular with cyclists. I don't want to wait 15 years to finish everything here.

16% of the total is to be spent on transit projects. This money will continue the county's support for the Eco Pass program, which provides low-cost bus passes. It will also provide continued and additional service on several county bus routes. Making it a bit easier for folks to take the bus seems like a good investment on traffic issues.

A bit less, 15%, would be spent on trails. This would include two of my favorites, the US36 bikeway (Boulder County portion), and the Boulder Reservoir Feeder Canal Trail all the way out to Lyons.

Last and least, the tax would also fund some pedestrian projects, primarily pedestrian underpasses at some treacherous spots. Each project is guaranteed to tie up traffic for a year while it's being built, but eventually we'll get over it and appreciate them.

So, with enough projects on the list that everybody should find something to love, along with the fact that this is nothing more than a renewal of an existing small sales tax, I encourage a YES vote on Boulder County Issue 1B.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Act of Congress or Sidetracked and Pompous?

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an ad by calling General Petraeus "General Betray Us." Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Senate passed a GOP resolution, sponsored by Texan John Cornyn, by a 72-25 margin, condemning the ad. Several of the Democrats who voted against that bill had earlier voted in favor of a bill condemning the ad along with several earlier GOP-originated attack ads.

This week, our very own Democratic Representative, Mark Udall, introduced legislation condemning Rush Limbaugh for comments he had made about phony soldiers. Colorado Senator Ken Salazar has publicly said he would support a censure vote against Limbaugh if one were proposed.

A while back, a group of kooks and rebels led an effort to try to interfere with the free speech rights of Cornyn, Udall, and Salazar. They weren't happy just arguing publicly against them. No, they had to try to amend the U.S. Constitution to make the Congress members' speech illegal.

Oh, these kooks and rebels had names like Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and James Madison. Their proposed rule was part of the very first Amendment, and it read, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of ... the press."

And the First Amendment was adopted.

So, apparently, Senators Cornyn and Salazar and Representative Udall, you don't get to do that. So, please go back to arguing about the war in Iraq or whatever it is you do when you aren't getting your feathers ruffled by what someone in the media says.

These guys have all vowed to uphold the Constitution, but apparently they haven't even read it!

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