Sunday, August 21, 2005

Political spectrum

At the last City Council meeting, I was asked why I was there and why we do Concho Info. I said I was there to gather information and insight, and then present information and analysis not done by the regular media. My questioner said "don't you mean the liberal media?" I said no, I meant what I said but before I could explain, council was called back into session. I think an explanation is needed here.

I don't think politics can be looked at a just left or right, liberal or conservative. A better approach is that taken with the Nolan chart as found at the Advocates for Self Government web site. It expands the field into social or personal and economic freedom. A strong case can be made that what we normally call liberal is a belief in personal freedom at the expense of economic freedom, and what we normally call conservative is a belief in economic freedom at the expense of personal freedom. This is still too simplistic, but it does emphasize that politics and the problems it addresses are not one dimensional. Trade offs happen all the time, but the current practice of trading one set of freedoms off against another, and then calling it liberal or conservative distorts the view. Kind of like looking at a map and only paying attention to the scale of miles at the bottom.

When you look at local reporting from a multi-dimensional perspective, you will see that it is all over the map. The map coverage just happens to be pretty thin. There are lots of reasons for that. Resources including time and people are limited. I understand why the local reporting businesses can't cover everything. They hit the high points on this map. I even understand why they don't cover somethings the way I would like. They have their reasons. What we at Concho Info are trying to do here is take some points we find interesting or important on this landscape, and draw circles and arrows to them on the map. Point out some rough terrain people didn't even know were on the map. Point out some trails out of box canyons. Highlight the cliffs before someone falls off.

That is why it's not us vs the "liberal media." These are not one dimensional issues, and we aren't after one dimensional solutions. Read what we have been writing, take the Worlds Smallest Political Quiz, and see if you don't agree.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Regional Solutions for a Regional Problem

San Angelo leaders will soon be focusing on long term water supply options. A lot of groundwork has already been done. The city commissioned three studies of our options, specifically looking at desalination of brackish groundwater, access to Hickory Aquifer water, and reuse of our own waste water for lawn and irrigation use.

In addition to these, the Region F Water Planning Group made their latest study available in late July. Reading the material made public so far, it is evident we need to adjust to some new water realities, some of which will seem to be 180 degrees from the water discipline we have taken for granted for a lifetime.

First among these realities is that for the first time in my lifetime, San Angelo is in a surplus position on water supply. Most city ratepayers felt justifiably betrayed when, after conserving water, as requested by City Council, they were rewarded with a 23% rate hike. What actually happened was, we did not sell enough water. Most people have not grasped that our connection to the Ivie Pipeline put us in a whole new world. We still anxiously watch the local lake levels and fret about running out of water.

Truth is, as nice as full lakes would be for skiers and fishermen, that which comes out of your tap has not come from local surface water since 1999. We contracted, take or pay, for 15,000 acre feet annually from the Ivie pipeline. When the deal was negotiated and we were using nearly 23,000 Ac/Ft, that seemed a very reasonable number. Since then, a number of factors have combined to drop our usage to a 2004 level of 12,500. Conservation measures from low-flow toilets to drip irrigation to two inch main replacement have reduced a lot of profligate use, and it is hard to argue that we should go back to wasting a precious resource.

The hard economics however, are that last year San Angelo paid for over 70 million gallons of water we never took delivery of or sold, and THAT is the primary cause for the water fund shortfall. Actually, 2000 was the last year we used the 15,000 Ac/Ft we buy. Add to that two unusually cool and wet summers, and water use is plummeting, an item which will be on tomorrow's Council agenda. I suspect our use is lower now than at this point last year. (By the way, temperatures in mid-August are staying in the high 80's, mid-90's range and I am off today due to being rained out with flood watches all over the Concho Valley. Got to be that there Global Warming.)

We know better than to count on a climatic fluctuation being a permanent feature of the water landscape. The long term decision we make will probably cost over $100 million and determine our access to clean water for at least 40 to 50 years. This is a time for careful study. While we no longer live or die on local surface water, the Ivie Pipeline is itself a surface water reservoir supply, subject to curtailment over a lengthy period of drought.

We have read the available studies and have suggestions to make based on them. The city spent over a million on its studies and the Region F work brings to the forefront the possibility of looking outside the city for long term solutions. We could help our smaller neighbors with their problems and in the process sell part of our current surplus. The advantage of the Region F study is its broader scope, looking at everybody from here to Brady as a regional group.

We are accustomed to looking at electric power as a grid system. There is merit in looking at water the same way. Imagine a regional distribution system with multiple sources and customers. I contend that if we do not invite our neighbors to sit with us in these deliberations on water, we will regret not having done so, maybe 10, 20 years down the road, but we will wish we had not missed this chance.

It will require, just for a start, a diplomacy new to us. San Angelo has an unfortunately well deserved reputation as a water bully. Had not Representative Campbell performed a minor miracle, we would be paying twice what we are for a watermaster.

In later posts, I will have more specific suggestions, but I urge in strongest terms that we approach water issues as a regional problem, one where we and our smaller neighbors share similar interests with possibilities for mutually beneficial solutions. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and set up a stand.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Lakeview Chiefs: Endangered Species?

Last weeks news brought us a fine example of political correctness gone mad. The NCAA ruled that American Indian mascots would no longer be allowed, at least in post-season bowl games. At least 18 major colleges now use mascots the NCAA calls "hostile and abusive".

Perhaps the most famous, certainly the most sucessful of these is the Florida State Seminoles. It matters not a whit to to the mavens of manners at NCAA that Florida State went to the Seminole tribe and sought permission, or that the real Seminoles have stated it is a use of their image they are proud of.

If the Texas UIL were to follow the lead of NCAA, Lakeview would find itself in need of a new mascot and logo. I know a good many people in our area who proudly claim full or mixed Indian geneology, used to be married to one, but if there has been any local protest, I missed it. The visual representation used is that of a strong, proud, warrior Chief, anything but an insult.

Texas is full of strange, sometimes almost silly mascots. We have Horned Toads and Owls and Rams. I have always been puzzled by Steers, why one's rough, tough lads of the gridiron should be represented by an emasculated meat animal escapes me. Next act, PETA will demand all animal mascots be banned as "speciesist".

If UIL does go in this direction, what should Lakeview go with? The Lakeview Inclusionary Multiculturalists just doesn't trip lightly off the tongue, and besides a matching logo would be a real bitch. Can't say a particular image pops to mind. Still, it would show a lack of foresight for us not to prepare for such a ruling. I have a mental image involving a tombstone for the First Amendment, having trouble with a short mascot name though.

I leave this as an excersize for the reader. Feel free to reply by clicking on "comments". Suggestions will be forwarded to Lakeview and the winner (to be fairly judged me me) will receive two ataboys and a Grand Huzzah.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Why we are here

This weekend, Conchoinfo will be one year old. Over that time we have expanded beyond our original single political issue purpose. This site and BLOG strives to focus on the important issues of the Concho Valley. We try to provide information, analysis, and opinions from a variety sources including the internet, print media, and personal contact, research, and observations. So far this has been done mostly by Jim Ryan and me - Jim Turner. We have put a lot of time and resources into this site.

So why are we here? This site exists because we believe that truth is necessary for a man to be free. Having all the facts, and getting the truths behind them won't guarantee the best outcome, but without the truth and the facts to arrive there, we are all bound up in comfortable chains. I believe that you can't have good government unless the government process is open and the citizens informed. I believe that too little accurate information is available to our local citizens. Our purpose is to provide an information and knowledge source for the Concho Valley. It's a big task. Its so big, we need help.

We need additional information and writers for Concho Info. All public issues are welcome. Agreement with me or other writers here is not a requirement. There are some rules here, like keep it clean and no ad-hominem or personal attacks. Try to keep it accurate and factual. Keep it non-partisan. Don't get mad if someone disagrees.

So give us some input. Add comments on current articles (you can be anonymous.) Email me feedback, content or articles. Become a member of our publishing team (you do have to ask, but thats about it.) Help us make this an even more valuable resource for the Concho Valley

Jim Turner