Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Night Madness

Just got through sweating out the Cowboy's Monday night debut; by sheer luck they covered a Dallas and under parlay. Newman got lucky or Big D fails to cover the spread. Dallas defense better step up, or it's repeat of last year in a tough division.

I couldn't help but notice: the commentators mentioned several times the wonderful $1.3 Billion facility in Irving which has replaced the old Texas Stadium. They even mentioned the potential $50 million problem of a low scoreboard punters have no problem hitting. I have been a Cowboys' fan since before they started winning, but if I were a metroplex resident, I don't care if the resurrected ghost of Tom Landry were for it, I would have oppossed the use of tax money to build this sports palace.

OK, sports events stimulate spending. Problem is, most of that consumerism would be locally generated and locally spent anyway, just on other things. Perhaps the same family goes to Red Lobster and a movie instead of the game. I did not notice a huge contingent of the 105.000 faithful fans present who had travelled from Carolina. I'm sure there were some, but how far did their money on motel rooms and eats go towards covering a $1.3 Billion tab?

Jaws mentioned the stadium was employing about 7,000 people as ticket-takers and concessionaires. Let's see; 7,000x $7.50/hr/x 5hrs, throw in tips and slop, be generous and call it half a mil a game, the economic impact of the new stadium will pay for itself in roughly 2,000 years.

Folks, I am a big sports fan, but I also believe people should pay for their habits. Tennis fans should pay for tennis courts and lights. Hockey fans should pay for ice to play on. Verging on the heretical here, high school football fans should pay for the suits of armor our local players battle less than successfully in, not to mention their less than successful coaches salaries.

Old saying, slightly twisted, "Money's tight and times are hard, pay for your own kickoff card". Another old saying; "You want to play, you gotta pay".

Monday, September 21, 2009

Choke that Chicken! Updated

In my last missive, I mentioned at the end my concern over raising fighting cocks in town. Unfortunately, for me this is not hypothetical. I live Eastside, just off Bell St, a neighboorhood of quarter-acre lots. Mostly blue-collar, good working folk, pay the bills, mow the grass, responsible folks doing our best to take care of business, a little older demographic than the "late-night party" crowd.

Now comes one rudely inconsiderate bloke who thinks this is a fine venue in which to raise gamecocks. We are not talking here an egg-and-meat flock of mostly hens, but 14-16 fighting cocks. With Louisiana finally making chicken fights illegal, nowhere in the US is it legal to fight chickens for fun and profit, as it should be. As a nation, we take cruelty to animals seriously enough that a top rank quarterback in the NFL served over two years for fighting dogs.

At least the dogs, typically Pit Bulls, have another purpose than fighting. One neighbor has 4 Pits, but they are truly pets. I suspect his kids would revolt were he ever inclined to fight them, which he does not do.

As to gamecocks; they are born and bred for one purpose alone: to slaughter one another immediately anytime two roosters find themselves in reach of one another. At $50 to $150 each, they are not being raised for Sunday fried chicken dinner, and they sure don't lay eggs for breakfast.

What they do is, in frustration at being unable to fight the rooster in the adjoining cage, they indulge in crowing contests. All night long, every night. Perhaps the single rooster in a flock of hens might crow at dawn, but these rascals are at it 18 hours out of 24. Heat of the day they get in the shade and rest, so they can keep me up all night crowing at 3:30 in the AM. The 100 foot distance now in ordinance does nothing to alleviate the noise.

I have nothing against the egg & meat flock of hens, maybe A rooster to keep the flock self-sustaining. My grandmother raised chickens and quail when I was a kid, had an incubator and taught me the art of "candling" eggs to determine fertility. One of my chores was collecting eggs and plucking Sunday dinner sometimes. Frankly, the eggs ARE tastier than supermarket eggs, and the clucking of hens keeps no one disturbed at night, hens coop up and stay silent.

Over several months we have established that my rude neighbor cares not a whit for my inconvenience. SAPD kicks me over to Animal Control. Our noise ordinance gets enforced if an apartment-dweller cranks his stereo at 2:00 AM, but mention "birds" and SAPD backs off, tells me to call Animal Control, which has done all it can under current law. I'm not really chewing on SAPD here, our existing noise ordinance is loosely written, I can see not looking forward to making a rooster noise case in court.

Wednesday I will present to Animal Services Board a proposed new ordinance limiting roosters in town. Noon at the Convention Center. If you have a similar problem, or for that matter, wish to defend your right to keep your neighbors awake, be there. This is how things get done.

Update: It turns out the Wednesday meeting had to be canceled. Seems city staff forgot to post the agenda on the city hall bulletin board 72 hours before the meeting, as required by the Texas Open Meeting laws. They also failed to post it on the city website as required by the last city charter changes. This issue should be on the agenda for the next meeting which is currently scheduled for October 15th. Hopefully they will be ready next time.

I realize that there is some confusion now because they have a new health director, and they are losing the current animal services director, but this is not the first time that the ball has been dropped for this board. We finally have a board that is involved, active, and paying attention. They need to be better served by the city staff.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Ups and Downs

Labor Day has an interesting history. While New York City celebrated the day as early as 1882, It became a national holiday in 1894 under one of my favorite Presidents, Grover Cleveland. The Pullman Strike had just ended. This rather ugly event had seen a number of deaths of strikers at the hands of police and even military personel. Cleveland was anxious to ease the discord with a growing labor movement and Congress was only too happy to go along, making it a national holiday in short order.

Had it not been for Chicago's Haymarket affair, Labor Day would probably have been set on May 1. At Haymarket, Chicago police were moving in to disperse a peaceful pro-labor rally when anarchists tossed bombs, killing 8 police, with a number of civilians shot in the ensuing gunfire from the surviving officers. Probably good fortune for American labor unions. Though it hadn't come to pass in the 1890s, Mayday would later become inextricably tied to the Communist celebration of that name.

Being in a good mood, let's start with good news. City Council last week passed a budget that gives us another one cent reduction in property tax rate. Staff turned in a really good piece of work here. They had been given two weeks from the prior Council meeting to come up with savings to permit at least a half-cent reduction. Frankly, I went to last week's meeting thinking perhaps that half-cent was all we would see, but they had managed to scrounge over $330,000 and permit another full cent. That makes five years running. Not that we want to get too comfy; our tax rate is still on the high end of Texas cities. For instance, Tyler, a city about our size, has been at this since the mid-90s and with some creative use of its 4B sales tax has a rate of about 25 cents, I believe the lowest for a city above 25k in the state. Still, we didn't get here overnight, we can't undo it overnight, but we are steadily moving in the right direction. I hope Staff and Manager Dominguez are enjoying this fine day off, you guys earned it.

Nice rains across the Concho Valley. Save the applause, but I'll take credit for that thank you. See, I finally broke down and spent all night last week soaking my thirsty pecan trees. Donations to cover the water bill I will be afraid to open...Ah well, it was for the good of the community.

It wasn't such a good week for SAISD. They did pass a reasonable budget, but then came the now infamous Obama speech decision. Board member Max Parker was right, there simply was not time to convene a Board meeting, which might have allowed for a more thoughtful response. Not to be unduly harsh, indeed, overall I am still glad we have Bonds as Superintendent, but it looks as though in this case, she allowed a small vocal group to sway the decision not to air the President's comments where possible.

I do not recall a topic that generated the volume of posts on the Standard Times gosangelo site, overwhelmingly against the call. Even arch-conservative Charles Krauthammer of Fox News was saying that with the essay assignment, "How I can Help the President" struck from the package, he had no problem with having our first black President give American students a "Stay in school and study hard" message. You never know, it might actually help some of the kids.

It's hardly a secret that I did not vote for Obama, BUT..I've seen his short prime-time ad on the "stay-in-school" message, and it is just that. Nothing partisan, it isn't "stay-in-school-and-learn-how-to-be-a-good-Democrat", just stay in school and learn. I would be very surprised if this TV address is anything other than that message expanded. If even a small percentage of kids, especially disadvantaged kids react well to hearing that message from the man who proved even black children can grow up to be President, that will be a positive.

It is a fact of political life that the negative side of any topic will be expressed more quickly and noisily than the positive, thus the one-sided e-mails and calls the Superintendent fielded at first. For all the complaints about "negative campaigns" they are still widely used for one reason only: they work. Pure fact, a campaigner is more likely to stir an otherwise complacent voter off his duff to vote against something than to vote for something.

I dissent from Trustee Tim Archer's comment that this is not a "big deal". True, it will not be dominant in the context of a full year's education. Still, the symbolism, especially in the minority community that did vote heavily for the President, the symbolism is huge, and it will be remembered like a thorn in the side or a burr in the saddle. I have dabbled in matters political long enough to know, politically, symbolism IS reality. 'Nuff said on that.

Overall, I see a pretty good Labor Day for San Angelo. Economy is a bit down, sales tax revenues show that. Not quite boom time, but San Angelo has fared better than much of the country. We still have new construction going up, not the least the joint Martifer/Hirschfeld wind turbine tower plant.

I am thrilled about the turnout for the Mayor's race. Whatever one may think of him, J. W. Lown proved that though the Mayor is just one vote on Council, if someone is willing to work full time at this basically unpaid job (we need to correct that BTW) and build a city-wide coalition of support, the position can be quite effective. Conchoinfo does not, will not endorse candidates, but... I know some of the candidates, I intend to get to know the rest. I can say, we have a good field of qualified people running, the best I can recall. My thanks to all who have been willing to step up to the plate and run.

I will go this far out on a limb: I will not support any candidate who thinks people ought to raise fighting cocks in town. Another topic for another day.