Monday, September 28, 2009

Mendocino Measure A! Democracy……and idiots….in action.

Just outside of the city limits of Ukiah there is an empty piece of property formally owned by the Masonite Company.  In 2001, the company left town leaving a probably toxic parcel for some entity to swoop down and purchase. 

Enter the Diversified Realty Corporation (DDR).  After hassling with the county about rezoning the land (it is heavy industrial now, they want it mixed use), they have managed to get a ballot measure to the voters in the November that let’s the people decide about the rezoning issue.  The ballot measure is called Measure A.

Needless to say, both sides of the Measure A issue have made plenty of noise.  The “Mendocino Crossing” project (DDR) is the name of the “Yes on Measure A” group.  They are the “corporate big-box bad guys”.  On the other side we have the “No on Measure A” crowd, a group of no-growth advocates, anti-corporate types, and local business owners.  It’s over a month away and already I’m  tired of both sides’ aggressive tactics in getting people to vote.  I’ve been called twice by both sides and been solicited by a “Yes on Measure A” promoter.  The media hype surrounding the “No on A” is so annoying and hypocritical that my wife and I are considering voting “Yes” on the measure because we are so turned off by the anti-corporate faux-rage.  Here’s a list of arguments from both sides, and why I’ll probably end up voting “yes”.

1)  Measure A goes around the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with a loophole regarding the initiative process.  My take:  It does, although much of the environmental impact studies have already been conducted in a report that DDR released.  In addition, the development still has to go through the county for permits, water issues, and still have to pay local impact fees.  Mind you, a lot of this would have been taken care of if the county wasn’t such a bitch to deal with.  Meaning, this is a growth issue.

2)  It will kill good jobs.  My take:  What good jobs?  The town has been losing jobs for the last nine years, and I haven’t seen a whole lot of development spring up that offers high paying positions.  While I agree that the box store model of employment isn’t the best, that land has been sitting idle for almost a decade with nothing going on, with no attraction for industry and no job growth.  I’ll gladly get some money pumped into the local economy by having locals work there. 

3)  It will be a traffic nightmare.  My take:  If it is planned correctly, it won’t be.  And if the city and county actually become involved, they could work on being a model for rural public transportation planning.  Instead, they backed out of the whole shebang and have left it to the will of DDR.  It might not be too late to get involved and make the process work.  By the way, the area that will be developed is in strong need for repair.  The roads and conditions of the area are sub-par at best.

4)  It is big-box urban sprawl that will make downtown Ukiah a ghost town.  My take:  Most local businesses I’ve dealt with are; A)  too expensive, and B) too full of themselves.  I’ll gladly shop at Rainbow Ag, Oco Time, Schat’s, Ellie’s, and Dorsey’s Auto Repair.  But way too many businesses in Ukiah expect the consumer to feel like they owe the business something by being local, and they become petulant.  The perfect example is Dave Smith, owner of Mulligan Books here in Ukiah.  I’m sure Dave is a nice guy, but his store is open a total of four hours on the weekend, and his stock of “gently used” books are not as cheap in many cases as a brand new one at Amazon.  Oh, and Mr. Smith can’t have many employees, if any.  Amazon.com employs around 20,000.  And yes, those cheap prices allow me to eat more Oco Time.

5)  Public services are crippled due to lack of taxes.  My take:  If the city got off its ass, it should attempt to annex the land now.  If they had a brain, it should have been done years ago.  It really doesn’t matter because I don’t see it as true.  The city could easily collaborate with the county for tax revenue, and let's remember that the development will attract more people to shop in town, and eat in town, and play in town.  The tax revenue will go up.  And of course, DDR still needs to pay impact fees.

6)  Big corporations don’t need to be in small towns.  My take:  If the big corporations do better for the small town, so be it.  I have no problem with a Costco in Ukiah (the rumor).  Small businesses revolve in and out of the downtown area not because of Wal-Mart, but because they aren’t very good.  Wal-Mart has helped keep costs down in this town and allowed for people to spend money on other things like going to the evening races, bowling, eating out, or going to the Ukiah Player’s Theater. 

I’ll probably end up voting “Yes” on the measure, although I have serious questions about logging haul road that is next door to the development, and the overall aesthetics of the project.  This town needs good growth, and people bitching that it needs industry only are the same people that often complain that marijuana needs to be legalized, a major reason that we can’t get industry into the area in the first place.  Who the hell wants to raise a family in a town that smells like a pot garden every morning?  Fix your social issues and the good development comes.  In the meantime I want Costco, I want Best Buy, and I want Barnes & Noble.     

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Milking some recognition

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Those of you that read this blog know that I’m pro-gay rights, including marriage. I think that it’s a Constitutional issue that reeks of segregation.

Now we have a bill on Governor Schwarzenegger's desk called SB 572, or the Harvey Milk Day bill. For those that don’t know, Harvey Milk was a controversial gay rights activist that eventually became the first gay politician voted into office. Milk, along with Mayor Moscone (above), were assassinated in 1978.

This bill would provide that the Governor proclaim May 22 of each year as Harvey Milk Day, and would designate that date as having special significance in public schools and educational institutions and would encourage those entities to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that date.

It’s fun watching people squirm over this. All those “family values” groups are acting like the day of recognition will create some new wing of the public education sector that pushes kiddies into becoming the next member of the cast of Queer Eye. Like teachers sit around and figure that somewhere between the Principles of the Constitution and Basics of Congress, we need to give a damn about sexual orientation. One parent said that if the bill passes that she’ll pull her kids out of the local public school and home school them. Let me be the first to say, good.

Those that actually think that these days of recognition are a big deal are sorely mistaken. “Encourage (public schools) to conduct suitable commemorative exercises”? Let me tell you what happens on the other “days of recognition”. In California, there are three.

-Second Wednesday in May: Day of the Teacher. Law says: “exercises commemorating and directing attention to teachers and the teaching profession”. On most years I’ll get a piece of paper thanking me for being a teacher. Sometimes I’ll get a carnation from Student Government. I think we had a BBQ for teachers from the admin one year. Student involvement: Next to none. Oh, and it is important to note that on this day, I did attempt to indoctrinate any students into the teaching profession. I swear.

-April 26: John Muir Day. Law says: “exercises stressing the importance that an ecologically sound natural environment plays in the quality of life for all of us, and emphasizing John Muir’s significant contributions to the fostering of that awareness and the indelible mark he left on the State of California”. I didn’t even know this existed. Student involvement: I think that in my nine years of teaching that one student might have said the name John Muir at some time during the year, but I can’t confirm that. Oh, and I did not attempt to indoctrinate anyone into the Sierra Club on this date either.

-April 6: California Poppy Day. Law says: “exercises honoring the California Poppy, including instruction about native plants, particularly the California Poppy, and the economic and aesthetic value of wildflowers; promoting responsible behavior toward our natural resources and a spirit of protection toward them; and emphasizing the value of natural resources and conservation of natural resources”. Ok, I do believe that at one time a few years ago I admitted to picking a California Poppy when I was six years old, and went through a horrid period of guilt. Student involvement: I think I’ve seen students doodle Poppies when bored with a lecture, but it could have been a different wildflower. Oh, and I might have pushed kids towards liking wildflowers. I think they’re pretty.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think that Milk should have a day named after him because I think there are others that might deserve it more. Milk was gay and elected to office and fought for civil rights. That should be applauded. Was he the most important Californian this side of John Muir? Probably not. And to be really narcissistic, I think that Milk is getting more attention from the State and Federal governments because it appeases those that support gay marriage, and takes attention away from the real issue.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Lie!

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Yes I saw it.

Yes it was bad form and made the party look bad (par for the course these days).

No, it wasn’t THAT big of a deal.  Try looking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the United Kingdom, or any number of parliaments around the world.

Yes, all these morons feigning shock at the “disrespect at the office of the President” irritate me.  This kind of behavior has been going on since before the Clinton Administration.  Now the Democratic Golden Child is in power and is immune to a single lowlife Congressman’s heckle?  Please.

Yes the speech was good.  He spoke well and got his point across.  It might have been the best since Denver.

No, I don’t think he outright lied. 

But yes, he said those comments about illegal immigrants knowing that the health care burden of those that use the system will burden society.  And he conveinently passed right over it.

Yes, I think he’s totally bungled this entire health care issue by leaving it to Congress.  This speech should have been made two months ago.

Yes, I think Joe Wilson is an idiot.

Yes, I think health care will be reformed, although not using the Obama plan.

And finally, yes, the best part of the night was watching Nancy Pelosi’s face when Wilson spoke out.  She looked like she was about to stage dive into the House rows and beat the man with her shoe.  Now that would have been Must See TV.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ho Hum

 

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The President gave a speech, and surprise, the hammer and sickle did not appear in my classroom.

I showed the speech to my one class of Juniors, and all my Seniors, and the response was mixed. 

A good portion of students felt that the speech motivated them a little bit, although many said that they were already motivated anyway.  This was especially true in my AP classes. 

Another sizable portion of students felt that they had been hearing the same lecture for years (“Sounded like a student handbook speech”), although it was cool that the President said it. 

No one thought that the speech was overtly political, although when asked “Did you notice anything in the speech that might seem like a call to re-elect”, many noticed the “I am working had to fix your classrooms” etc.  However, many also know that in a democracy, you are almost always running for re-election. 

Some students felt like they had a greater responsibility to the country.  The quotes “I feel a greater weight on my shoulders” and “I feel a little more stressed about my education” were used a couple of times. 

Most students believed that the President’s speech would have limited impact on kids that it “needed” to target, meaning those it was really meant for.  In the eyes of my kids, if a kid their age doesn’t want to pursue an education, the President won’t change that.

The ability to relate to the kids was a big issue.  Some students don’t like the President, but nearly all of them admit that his use of language and themes that they can relate to makes them play attention more.  Remember, this is the generation that watched George Bush Jr. stumble all over the podium for eight years, so it shouldn’t be surprising that youth and vitality, and the ability to enunciate, are important. 

Overall, the reception of the speech was positive.  Only two students seemed to drift (one seemed sick, the other had seen it earlier), and the only time the attention was taken away was when office attendants came in to deliver messages.  I know of only two other teachers in the school that showed the speech to classes.  I also know that the school received parent phone calls with concerns over the President’s speech, although none of them were parents of my kids (I don’t think).  I gave my students the option to leave the classroom, with no one taking the offer. 

I’d like to congratulate elements of my political party for completely choking away any sense of legitimacy for another news cycle.  While plenty of issues need the attention of the loyal opposition, you managed yet again to show that you care more about tearing down the Commander in Chief than governing our nation.  Get to f-ing work and stop bitching. 

Friday, September 04, 2009

The President's Education Speech

This might be the single most idiotic controversy in history. 

Let me get this straight.  The President wants to address students around the country and tell them the importance of getting educated.  Now, because of the lesson plans to elementary schools happened to have the instruction that students should....

"write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."

......then it must be obvious that President Obama is creating a cult of mindless commie followers?  Are you serious?

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This is Oklahoma State Senator Steven Russell.  He becomes the Dumb Bastard of the Week with this quote.

"As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education—it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality.  This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Mr. Russell, along with the completely mind numbing Sarah Palin, are the exact reason why the Republican Party is far, far, far from being legitimate.  And I'm a Republican.  The quote oozes so much ignorance that it is embarrassing to consider that the people of Oklahoma actually put this idiot in office.  North Korea?  No Senator, you'd be dead by now in North Korea, and the only "cult of the personality" is the one you are trying to create by lame attempts at insulting the patriotism of the other party.  My idiotic party can't seem to focus on being the rational opposition, and instead continues to swing at pitches that are not in the dirt, not way outside, but pitches that are in a different freaking ballpark.  Terry Shiavo anyone? 

If you didn't hear ,the language was changed to,

"write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals"

which was what was implied in the first place until those with way too much time on their hands decided that it was an issue.  I'm showing it not to one class, but to all my classes.  You know why?  Here's a list:

1.  He's the President.  Your president has asked to talk to kids about the importance of education.  Duh?

2.  I have four Government classes and one AP U.S. History class.  I don't know, I might be able to find some relevance to the curriculum.

3.  Hey kids, analyze Obama's speech and let's talk about the following:

-How does it relate to Federalism?

-Does the President succeed at motivating/informing the citizens of the country?

-Is the message partisan propaganda or a legitimate attempt to address the nation?

-Is the furor over the speech legitimate? 

-How might the speech impact public policy?

Get over it and grow up.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh, on a much happier note

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I’m having a great week in the classroom!

Ukiah Teacher’s Association.

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Name something that functions like the North Korean Cabinet filled with the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Wow, I really miss Johnny Carson.

Seriously, I got my paycheck today. Because of step and column, I received a raise of nearly $2,000. The main reason for that was the wise decision to get as far over on “column” portion (the number of units) as quick as possible. It has made my income go up substantially. Only I won’t see a penny of that raise. It is already gone to my health fees that more than doubled. Oh, but I shouldn’t go to the doctor either since I still need to pay off a cool thousand deductable before those “benefits” kick in. Someday, my union will put some serious effort into lowering health fees.

Then I get the report from the first Ukiah Teacher’s Association meeting. You know, I’ve written nice letters, mean letters, begged, cajoled, cursed, and I’ve come to realize that our union leadership is lead by power hungry people that might just be, well, on the same floor as Nurse Ratchet. Rude you say? Mean spirited and uncalled for you add? Not when a teacher that pays dues to an organization is lowered to two choices; one, sit back and watch near criminal negligence occur, or two, do what I’m doing now.

I just want Ukiah to know that if something occurs with Ukiah teachers because of the union, that not everyone is on board with it. In fact, a lot of teachers that teach at the high school (though I speak for only me) are really focused on teaching kids through this tough economic time, not “fighting the power” when more unity is necessary. The things coming out of that meeting do not represent me. How can someone represent me that when asked, “So you aren’t here for the best interest of the kids?” responded, “No, we’re here to represent what’s best for teachers, and you are anti-union”? Oh really. I’m a firm believer of a fair days work at a fair days wage, just like I’m a firm believer that teacher’s are underpaid.

But get this.

I’m also a firm believer that when two sides sit down and actually negotiate, things can get done. And I’m a believer that when one side becomes petulant, that you never lose your cool and absorb that mentality. I’m a believer that the CTA knows jack shit about the state of our school district, and that teachers, administrators, and parents are infinitely more qualified to address issues regarding education in this town, and yes, even about teaching. I’m a believer that you never refuse to sit down with your employer, or lose sight that they are your employer. I’m a firm believer in reasonable thinking, logical solutions, and a clear understanding that this community, one that is suffering from massive economic decline, will not support a bunch of prima donnas that refuse to sacrifice for the good of the school as an institution.

By the way, let me remind the high and mighty of the UTA that refusing sacrifice will mean that young, inspiring teachers will be the first to go because you won’t sit your ass across the table and talk. Don’t give up the house by any means, but realize that economic conditions are going to necessitate some serious financial considerations. Furloughs are not giving up the house. Reality check. Look around and tell me what you see. You have a job and some security. Why don’t you do that job on the UTA and work out solutions for the good of the teacher AND the kids.

I don’t like how things are going, especially during a tough time at our school. Teachers are really trying and succeeding in teaching with the current economic and social distractions. This union crap makes me nuts. People are digging in for a fight that does not and should not take place right now. And unless my district asks for furlough days AND wage cuts AND a rise in health fees AND my first born child, I better not hear the word “work stoppage” anywhere. I have kids to teach, bills to pay, and a greater commitment to my craft than to a bunch of ego-maniacal yahoos. I’m crossing that line the first day and the first person that gets between me and my classroom door gets fed my laptop.

Guess I’m not important enough for Piggy Flu vaccine

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I got out of my faculty meeting today with one message clearly stuck in my head. I’m not going to get an H1N1 flu virus vaccination any time soon.

While at the meeting, we were told the usual (sanitizer, cough techniques, websites with info), with the cherry on the cake top being that the Mendocino County Public Health Department has chosen not to consider teachers among those most important to receive inoculations against the Oink Attack.  Never mind that I’m around 150 kids a day, and never mind that I’m the perfect age (30-50) to get Swine Flu.  I guess that those two factors just don’t really matter.  I know, even if I get it, I’ll probably be fine.  Let’s remember, more people die of the regular flu every year, and all signs point towards H1N1 doing the same thing unless the strain really mutates.  Still, I don’t like the idea that teachers, public servants that are constantly around germ factories, are not considered in the same vain as other professions that deal with mass amounts of people.  Not only is it insulting, but if our school were to experience a 40% absence rate among students and teachers (the quote that was stated in a variety of documents to prepare for), the town becomes severely impacted. 

Not that I’m worried.  I have my hand sanitizer already in place and I’ve discussed things with my kids.  You get it, you hunker down and get better, then you go back to school and clean up the mess your sub will probably leave. 

Another thing to look forward to.