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 25, 2009

Letter to the New Council

Dear City Council,

You will be meeting soon with at least two new members. Welcome to this thankless position. As if you weren't getting enough, here's a bit of advice.


Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unsocial Media

The wave of the future is supposed to be social media. You know, tweets, Facebook friends, etc. But for some people it seems to be the opposite.

You probably know what I'm talking about. If you know me or read my blog, you know I write a column for the Daily Camera, our local newspaper here in Boulder. (Yes, we still have one!) The online version of the paper, like many, allows readers to comment.

But most of the commenters use fake names. Most of them specialize in the clever put-down, the snide remark, the single-issue rant. Many like to push right to the edge of what is socially acceptable. If they go over the edge, no big deal. When they get banned from the site they can just create a new login with a new fake name. But you always recognize them, because it is the same style, the same rant, the same misspellings.

If you don't use your real name, you can't be held responsible for what you say.

Recently, there was a story in the Camera about one of these unsocial types. It seems this nameless person had infiltrated a Facebook group page, using the name of one of the city council candidates, and had been making rude comments about other candidates and commenters.

Well, the perp was banned from the group and his account was removed from Facebook. You'd think the story would end there. It didn't.

The person who created the Facebook page entered a comment on the Camera online story. Anonymously. Satisfied that the problem had been resolved, because the impersonator had been removed. And urging people to join the group (but using their real names) to discuss local politics.

I was, of course, curious. I like to talk about local politics and I have a Facebook account, so I quickly became a fan of this group.

If you are familiar with Facebook, then you know that their usage policy requires every account to be associated with a real person and to use that real person's name. So it was surprising to me that several of the commenters were using obvious pseudonyms. In fact, the organizer of the group was using his pseudonym to make comments on the page as well. There was no clue as to who the organizer was.

The comments were generally negative insinuating comments about certain council members/candidates. These people were using social media to make anonymous attacks on public figures. They were telling people it was in the spirit of public debate, but obviously they had an agenda.

As a fan of the page, I had the ability to post comments as well, so I started asking questions. Questions like, "Who are you?". And, "What is your source?".

It was not very long before I got de-fanned from the group and my comments deleted. So much for this group being formed for open political debate!

On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog. But they sure as hell can tell if you are a jerk!

(Anonymous comments are welcome here, but comments with real names are even more welcome.)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is that a Pumpkin on your Head, or are You just Happy to be Naked?

Here in Boulder, starting in 1999, some of our local crazies have been getting together on Halloween night, taking their clothes off, putting pumpkins on their heads, and streaking through the streets. Originally in South Boulder, then University Hill, in 2003 they moved this goofiness to the downtown mall.

Every year, the group has gotten bigger, and with it the publicity. Last year, the police were waiting, and ticketed several of the pumpkin runners, charging them under the state's indecent exposure law.

Unfortunately for the police (and fortunately for the runners), they were unable to get the charges to stick. Not one of the runners was actually convicted.

So, what will happen this year? Police Chief Beckner has promised his officers will be out again this year, and he promises to not just issue tickets but to arrest naked runners.

Beckner recently went on record saying that indecent exposure is not an appropriate charge for people participating in naked events like this. Yet, he has promised to arrest people under that law, because "we want to stop that kind of activity." In other words, he doesn't think these people are breaking the law as it exists, but he is going to arrest them anyway, because he doesn't like what they are doing.

I guess if I were the attorney of one of the folks Beckner promises to arrest, I'd love to be able to present that contradiction to the judge and see if that doesn't get the case thrown right out.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yes, the Election Can Impact Global Warming

The smallest things can have a butterfly effect. If you are concerned about global warming, vote YES on 1A, 1B, 1C, and 2B, and vote for Barry Siff!

Also, check out

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Boulder County 2009 Ballot Issues

This year's county issues are pretty straightforward.

Issue 1A would extend a current 0.25% sales and use tax dedicated to open space acquisition, improvement, and maintenance. Without this ballot issue, the tax will expire in 2019. If this issue passes, that will be extended to 2034. This issue also authorizes the issuance of bonds, to be repaid from the revenue from that tax, and to be used for those purposes. I support the county's open space program, and this would allow it to continue. Some opponents question renewing this tax 10 years before it expires. But the fact is that the money from that tax has already been spent, by virtue of bonds already issued. The county's open space program cannot continue to grow without this additional revenue. Vote YES.

Issue 1B would authorize additional bonds to extend the ClimateSmart program. This program allows county property owners to use the county's credit rating, to effectively cosign, on loans to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. There is no cost to taxpayers. I supported this program when it was first implemented, and I continue to support it. Vote YES.

Issue 1C would authorize new bonds to pay for energy efficiency improvements in county buildings. Some or all of these bonds would be very low interest federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, authorized under the recent stimulus bill. This is a smart long-term investment, takes advantage of a short-term opportunity, and is smart from an environmental point of view. Vote YES.

Question 1D would extend the term limit for the county DA from two terms to three. Several other county offices have already had this change approved. In general, I believe that term limits are anti-democratic. Having the option to suffer the overhead of a new DA every twelve years instead of eight would be a benefit as well. Vote YES.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2009 Boulder Ballot Issues

I discussed the city's ballot issues in my column in the Camera this morning. My specific recommendations were not in that column, so that there is no confusion between my endorsements and theirs. So, here are mine.

Issue 2A, Vote YES, for the reasons stated in that column. We need the revenue from continuing the sales tax at the current level to maintain services at the current level.

Issue 2B, vote YES. Yes, there is a risk that the city will have to raise property taxes if they miscalculate and issue too many open space bonds. But even if that happens, in the meantime we will have been saving money on those bonds from the better terms we have negotiated just by having the possibility of those taxes.

Issue 2C, vote YES. Honor our commitment to our retired firefighters and police officers.

Issue 2D, vote NO. This is a big change in how taxes are collected for this fund, and I haven't seen the kind of analysis from the city to justify the change. Perhaps between now and when I mail in my ballot they can change my mind.

Labels: , , , , ,

City of Boulder 2009 Ballot Issues

City Council approved four issues for the 2009 ballot, all related to taxes and debt, and all deserve careful consideration before voting.

Each ballot issue is defined in an ordinance that includes a summary of council`s findings on the issue - good for letting voters know council's rationale. But each ordinance also specifies that these findings are not to be printed on the ballot - bad for deciding how to vote.

Voters who want to know more can find these ordinances on the city's Web site and in the county election pamphlet. But for additional information about the issues voters need to know at which council meetings they were on the agenda, search for meeting notes, and hope that the discussions were actually documented.


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Boulder City Council Election 2009

There are five open seats on council up for election. I'm not going to endorse five candidates, because I don't think there are five outstanding candidates.

The ballot tells us to vote for up to five candidates. I've asked several people who they are supporting, and usually they can rattle off two or three or four names. But they're not sure who they are going to add to make up their five choices.

Here's what I tell them: Don't do it. If you really like three candidates, vote just for those three. If you also vote for two candidates you think are okay but not great, those two votes are votes against the people you support. Your second tier candidates may win against your favorites because of your votes and the votes of others who also just included them to get up to five.

There are many specific issues on which to evaluate the candidates. But I don't think this is about specific issues. I think this is about principles, and about the kind of person.

Here are some of the things that I think are important for council, and candidates should be on top of these:
  • Council needs to learn to run this city without micromanaging. Council meetings cannot go until 2:00 AM just because they can't get through all the issues.
  • Council needs to set direction, and staff needs to be on board and held accountable. Today there are too many rogue departments and rogue department heads who are interested in turf building, rather than supporting the direction defined by our elected representatives.
  • Council needs to lay down the law with the City Manager to make sure she is enforcing this principle with all departments.
  • There is no real understanding of business principles in the council. As far as I can tell, some departments don't even understand which aspects of their programs make money and which ones lose money. Council can't make sound fiscal decisions without this kind of information, and nobody on council seems to have the background to understand what is necessary.
  • Fitting in with the national mood, it seems to be common belief that you have to be either pro-environment or pro-business. Yet our leaders need to embrace both in order to properly represent our interests and serve us.
  • The relationship with the county government is good, and the relationship with CU is improving. But the relationships with Boulder Valley School District and RTD are dismal. It is critical that the city be able to work well with these other government agencies.
  • It is a PR nightmare when the city moves forward with big, unpopular capital projects while cutting back library services. The city needs to better figure out how to remain flexible in its budgets and responsive when needed.
  • In fact, in general the city government needs to work on its PR. They makes lots of decisions that are controversial, and the reasoning behind the decisions is only evident to the people who stayed to 1:00 AM at the council meeting at which the topic was discussed. Currently, the public discussion is often controlled by the opponents to these decisions, who make their own one-sided emotional appeals. There's nothing wrong with one-sided appeals to the public, but the council needs to figure out how to get its story out too.
  • Make it a high priority to make information available and to make it easy for people to actually find that information.
  • Be willing to drop an idea if the public is obviously opposed. For example, whether or not council deserves a raise, they should have dropped the idea once the public voted it down the first time.
So, who am I endorsing?

I've known Barry Siff for several years, so perhaps I'm biased. But he is taking his council bid so seriously that it is impossible to ignore him.

When Barry started considering the run for council, he started going to every single council meeting, and he stayed until the bitter end. He even sold his booming business to be able to concentrate on this effort.

Barry has been in business for years and has business savvy. He understands all aspects of running a business, having been in senior management at a large company, as well as owning and running a small local business. He understands the bottom line, and he knows the value of having the best people working for him -- without that nothing can happen.

Barry is excited about changing the way council runs, stopping this crazy business of running meetings until the wee hours of the morning. After all, the way things are now, citizen participation is a joke.

Barry took a small local triathlon, and built it into a successful business that ran several races every year. So successful, in fact, that he had several suitors when he was ready to sell. He picked the buyer that would be best for the sport and best for Boulder -- Ironman is the biggest brand in the sport and is well-known outside the sport, and bringing that brand to Boulder without the city having to court them is a huge coup.

While running 5430 Sports, Barry did something he didn't have to. He turned his races into an environmental example for the entire multisport community around the country. It wasn't just having Eco-Cycle come in and collect recycling and compostables. It was actively pursuing what he called tri-sustainability. Using solar power at the races. Encouraging alternative transport. Even finding ways to recycle water bottles, bike parts, and energy bar wrappers. This shows that Barry is not just talk, that he can not only do the right thing, but also show the way to the rest of the world.

Everyone talks about having good relationships with other government entities. However, Barry called up Bruce Benson, the President of CU, made an appointment, and sat down with him. Our current council members are not doing that, much less the other candidates.

Barry has put a huge amount of effort into supporting low-income children in Boulder. He just doesn't talk about it, he does it.

Barry has more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I know. He's a former adventure racer, and so has unique qualifications to make it through marathon council meetings. He is also a huge Boulder booster.

Look at who is backing Barry. It's everyone from the most conservative to the most liberal. He doesn't have the biggest name recognition, but he is becoming well known all around town.

I say, when you make your city council selection(s) this year, include Barry Siff. I'm convinced he will make a huge contribution to the city. I don't agree with him on every issue, but on the guiding principles he is a perfect match.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mid-Day Sea

Here is the long-awaited third video in my Galapagos series. Underwater video and music by Jaden!

Mid-Day Sea from Mike Ellis on Vimeo.

In case you missed them, here are the previous videos in the series.

Galapagos Free Bird from Mike Ellis on Vimeo.

Leon Dormido from Mike Ellis on Vimeo.

Labels: , , , ,