Thursday, August 31, 2006

Feedback received on August 31 column

As included in each column and on this page, I offer an email address as well as a telephone voice mail line for reader feedback. Here is one message I got today about today's column.

Audio file of message

August 31, 2006 column

I have enjoyed writing this column so far. I am grateful for the opportunity and love it when I hear or read feedback from you. It shows that you are reading, for which I am again, grateful. Whether feedback is positive or negative, it is just plain glad to see.

I want to clarify a few things that were brought up in reader feedback, specifically in the letter to the editor in last week's paper. When writing a column such as this, I can not target specific businesses, nor do I intend to do so. By definition, antiques mean old stuff, hence the word. I am not critical whatsoever of the concept of an antiques store, but rather of the concept of a town having created and maintaining the motif of an entire town's downtown business district as an antique dominated theme. This business model, in my opinion, deprives the local citizenry of a diverse downtown that would better attract the very people who live here.

I, too, was here a decade ago and remember what "uptown" was like. Poor planning and practices contributed to the plight of Selma's downtown, not the lack of antiques. There were then and are now, long standing businesses in town. Antique shops are not the savior concept for Selma. Business friendly practices were and are. I spoke out about it then on the radio, so no, I am not a little late with my comments. I have written extensively about this on the internet, as well.

Going back to my column in question, I commented favorably about the business friendlier practices the town is adopting, and am hopeful for more diversity in our downtown business district. I do believe that a more diverse business district will attract a more local, repeat customer base, rather than being dominated by out of town or state visitors.

I have not claimed that I don't go downtown at all, but only that there are not a lot of shopping interests for me. How do I know? I have visited "uptown" regularly for years, seen the stores and the merchandise offered. I am not in the market for old furniture or house wares, ergo there is little reason for me (or your average citizen in Selma) to visit many local businesses. This is not by any means a "slam" to those businesses. I encourage and applaud the entrepreneurship. Just remember that a business will either attract or deter visitors based upon the type of business. When a particular type of business dominates a downtown, that will in general, attract a niche type of customer and repel those not so interested. That was my point and is fact.

One part that gets personal in the letter to the editor deals with getting involved versus just talking about things. Well, in the interest of fairness and truthfulness, I do recall volunteering several times to serve on town committees under two different mayors and two different town managers, both in private, as well as in open council meetings. It is a matter of public record as well as published on the internet. I also seem to recall running for election to the Selma Town Council last year, which only four out of 6,600 residents of Selma were willing to do. I have also been writing regularly on the internet and now for this newspaper. I serve on a county committee and I contact some of my locally elected representatives regularly about issues. If that is not working to be one of the "some that do", I guess I don't know what would be considered to be so.

I do thank you all for reading, for your feedback, and encourage you to all become the "some that do". Make yourselves heard. Contact your local media outlets, your elected officials, and civic groups. If you disagree with a policy, program, or issue, speak out. I am glad that Ms. Wagaman spoke out and wrote to the editor. I can only assume that she is the same individual who left me feedback on my reader comment line. I encourage all of you readers to exercise that same freedom and speak out about the things that spark passion within you.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Column for August 24, 2006

Anyone who has read any of my writings knows that I am a strong supporter of liberty. I tend to follow in the footsteps of the "founding fathers" and often look back to many of their writings. It is no different for this column.

The Town of Selma is going to condemn numerous properties in town. These properties are largely abandoned, dilapidated, and neglected. If someone wants to allow their property to sit in such a condition, it is their right to do so. In our Declaration of Independence, we read the familiar phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

That "pursuit of happiness" was nearly "estate", "property", or another synonym. John Locke wrote before the Declaration about "life, liberty, and estate". That is how highly the regard for personal property was held in the country's early days. As a matter of fact, the phrase "life, liberty, and property" was actually included in the Declaration of Colonial Rights, adopted by the First Continental Congress on October 14, 1774.

However, with rights comes responsibility. John Locke also wrote "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions". If someone wishes to abrogate that responsibility and the property therefore becomes a public nuisance or danger, then the property rights cease.

I remember during the 2005 town council election season when a property owner approached me, a candidate, and expressed to me his dismay about the town enforcing an ordinance requiring tall grass within the town limits to be kept mowed. He, too, believes in private property rights. When someone's property affects mine because of vegetation overgrowth, debris, vermin, odor, or dilapidation, there is a dividing line between where his rights end and mine begin. When my property value is affected by someone else's misuse of property and abrogation of responsibility, it becomes the responsibility of a local government to step in.

The idea of an ordinance, building code, or governmental standards pertaining to property is not a new concept. In 1790 to 1750 or so B.C., the ruler of the Babylonian empire, Hammurabi, instituted a building code of sorts. Within "The Code of Hammurabi" were laws governing property damage and construction. They were obviously nowhere near as elaborate as today's code, but the need to address such issues is certainly nothing new.

I don't know many people who strongly support personal liberty as I do. This is in a theological sense as well as in the secular world in which we live. I learned a long time ago to deviate from legalism in its various forms. However, along with that freedom, I also always preach responsibility. The two are seldom preached in couplet.

It is a lack of personal responsibility that claims that one's rights are being infringed upon when restrictions are placed upon those rights by reason of personal action (or lack thereof). I take that same position when it comes to topics such as abortion and freedom of the press. When television networks complain about governmental censorship over irresponsible language, sexuality, and behavior, I have little sympathy for their cause. When women use the guise of personal liberty to abrogate responsibility caused by a lack of responsible behavior and choose to slaughter the life of an innocent child, I have little sympathy for their cause.

I am glad to see that the Town of Selma is attempting to make this "A Charming Place to Be". Issues such as substandard properties that affect not only the neighboring properties but the entire town are being dealt with. As mentioned in one town council meeting, some property owners have requested town assistance for compliance with the reasonable request of maintaining their own property. Rightly stated by Mayor Hester, it is not the town's responsibility to provide funds to that end. It is, however, the property owners' responsibility to maintain their own property in order to maintain their rights to that property.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Feedback received on August 25, 2006

I am glad that people are taking the time to read my column. I occasionally get personal phone calls at home or emails from people who wish to comment on the column. I got
this feedback today. It is an audio file that you can either listen to by clicking on the link or downloading it and playing it on your computer.

Here is my response and SPOILER NOTICE if you have not already listened to the clip!

I do not agree with the caller's assertion that without the antique shops, downtown Selma would be "dead". That would only be true if there were no other businesses in the world. "Uptown" Selma can be a triving business district if there are continued business friendly policies that encourage business growth and development. Punitive or discouraging policies do not help businesses grow.

For decades, there were and continue to be businesses that grow in Selma. Restaurants like Sweetwater's, The Anderson Street Soap Company, Selma Jewelry, Creech's Pharmacy, Seller's Auto Parts, and Short's Grill continue to operate successfully in Selma. Parrish Oil was around for a long time before Mr. Parrish passed away. The fact is that other businesses can be successful in Selma, not just antique shops.

Making Selma into a downtown centered around antique shops does a disservice to the local citizens who would normally patronize a wide range of businesses. As it is, I only go to a restaurant, to the soap company every few months, town hall, the jewelry shop a few times a year, the pharmacy once in a while, and the post office. Other than that, there is little in "uptown" that attracts me.

Antique shops do not attract locals. They attract visitors from out of town or out of state. In case you have not seen, Selma's downtown is almost dead, anyway, in regards to regular traffic of customers. There is little repeat business for buyers of old furniture compared to other businesses. There is certainly little reason for me to visit antique shops unless I am looking for antiques.

By the way, this is not meant to be a slam to owners of antique shops. I commend them for being entrepreneurs. For that, they deserve my kudos. It is a slam to the policy of alienating the very people who pay the taxes in Selma and are potential customers by the maintaining a downtown motif that does not serve the greater good.

It is not true that without the old furniture stores that Selma would be dead. It would just be filled with other types of stores to fill the void.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

August 17, 2006 column

Here I am listening to my new iPod and debating which way to go with the column. I finally entered the yuppie techno world. I have a list of worthy topics on which to comment. I also realize that timeliness of the topic is important. So I have elected to comment on a few of the recent local happenings in the town.

I try to attend as many town council meetings as possible. I usually hear after the fact that the occasional one I miss always seems to have been great for entertainment value. This past meeting was entertaining to me personally, but at the same time, it was positive for the town.

One of the items handled was the council's decision to put off pursuing a railroad "quite zone" in Selma. I have written rather poignantly about this in previous months on the internet and in letters to the editor of this paper.

Since Selma is in a stage of budget constraints, staff reductions, and the like, pursuing the issue would be inappropriate at this time. There are other issues about this particular matter that I have addressed already and won't take up valuable print space for again. However, it will suffice to say that our mayor and two councilmen made the right decision to stop wasting time and nix this issue right now. Mayor Hester, Councilman Jackson, and Councilman Weaver, you have my personal gratitude for putting this matter to rest and not drawing it out any further.

Another issue that you will find reported in this week's paper is the decision by the Town Council to amend the business customer utility deposit policy in Selma. If Selma is going to recruit and keep businesses in town, this is the right direction for us. The idea behind the policy change is to encourage business growth and entrepreneurship in town.

Quite honestly, I have considered opening a shop in Selma. Hefty utility deposits would contribute to making me consider other options. Oh, that and the fact that I don't have the capitol budget needed. We give big breaks to big business to lure them to town. We also need to consider the small business owners who make "uptown" a destination place, as well as any other areas serviced by our utilities. The idea of being punitive in deposits for utility service for property and business owners because of the patterns of customers who are residential renters is unfair and just bad business. I am glad to see that the Council is heading in the right direction.

I personally don't go into "uptown" for much for shopping, since I am not in the market for old furniture or house wares. For the average citizen in Selma, the concept of keeping an "Antique Mecca" is not the most useful one. I may support my local pharmacy and restaurant. Other than that, I don't shop in "uptown" much. It is my sincere hope that the utility deposit coupled with a paradigm shift that I can only wish for in Selma will help this town develop into a thriving business community.

Almost but not quite changing topics, here is something for the town's consideration in the quest for the continuation of finding places to save money while working on the town's image.

Christmas is a special time of year, and the town usually decorates the town with utility pole ornamentation and strings lights throughout town. Most people take down Christmas decorations following the holiday. It is a stereotype that "rednecks" and "undocumented workers" (to use the politically correct term) leave their Christmas lights running all year long.

If we are trying to save money and create a positive image for the town, why is Selma spending money on Christmas lights all year? We seem to be taking away from the special time that we consider Christmas to while perpetuating a stereotypical image for Selma. It is a bad public relations move to lay off workers, cut budgets, levy hefty "fuel surcharges" on our utility bills (undisclosed rate hike) and then spend money on unnecessary Christmas lighting all year long.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Column for August 10, 2006

Just within the past few days, I was accused of spouting "the party line" in one of my opinions. Usually, my views run contrary to both major political parties. Occasionally, they align. Rarely do I agree with Democrats on anything. Over the past few years, I have noticed one issue with which we are in agreement. Yes, I know, it may be a sign of the Apocalypse, but I actually agree with the liberals on aspects of The Patriot Act.

There are some provisions of The Patriot Act with which I agree. I don't mind interception of phone calls originating outside the country from known terrorist regions or enemy states. We did the same during the Revolutionary War, just low tech style. There are some major provisions with which I disagree. One with which I strongly disagree is turning librarians and other librarians into spies and servants of the Federal Government's intelligence gathering efforts.

The town of Arcata, California gets it right, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, I do believe that here in the town of Selma, we should adopt an ordinance similar to theirs, with minor revisions. Ordinance 1339 in Arcata states, "No management employee of the City shall officially assist or voluntarily cooperate with investigations, interrogations, or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, that are in violation of individuals’ civil rights or civil liberties…" With that, I wholeheartedly agree. The problem I do see is with another part of the ordinance, "No management employee of the City shall officially engage in or permit unlawful detentions or profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or religious association that are in violation of individuals’ civil rights or civil liberties…" I would love to see an ordinance in Selma with that segment amended.

The fact is that the United States has been attacked by certain groups of people. Part of The Patriot Act is designed to access library records in an effort to provide intelligence on terrorist organizations. Honestly, your average "soccer mom", grandma, or student is not the problem, and we all know that. To make their library habits and activities available to the federal government is absurd.

Racial profiling is not a politically correct term or activity. But let's face it, all the alleged hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 were from a particular area of the world. So were the attackers on the USS Cole, and the first Trade Center attack. The list goes on. So, unless a librarian observes young males checking out books on explosives while studying maps of Selma's pipeline terminals and speaking in Middle Eastern accents, why should anyone care what library activities are going on?

That is the "unreasonable search and seizure" aspect that the town of Arcata, California decided to address. They made it a violation of the town's ordinance to comply with such provisions of The Patriot Act.
I am all for that, since not all laws are legal, nor are they necessarily moral.

About ten years ago, two men, myself being one of them, took a stand when a group of people were being discriminated against here in Selma and vocalized objections to the discriminatory policies that were being enacted in town. I worked at the town's only radio station, back when we still had a radio station. It was unpopular, but it was the right thing to do.

Homeland security begins just as the term says, at home. It is all of our responsibility as citizens to be vigilant about our own protection and that of our fellow human beings. But we must be equally vigilant about protecting the rights of all men. For that reason, I believe that the town council should consider an ordinance similar to Arcata, California's Ordinance 1339. Sometimes, liberals do get it right.

I will put the text of Arcata's ordinance on, or you can search for it online. It is well worth our consideration.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 3, 2006 column

OOOOPS! "The Selma News" punted my column this week. Sorry about that. I didn't know until I didn't see it in the paper, asked about it, and got a reply. Look for the column next week.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The text of the Arcata, CA Ordinance 1339

Troy's foreword: I am putting the text of the referenced ordinance here for your reading pleasure. I highlighted the most important parts in red. Note that the ordinance takes the stand that the Constitution should actually be enforced.



The City Council of the City of Arcata does ordain as follows:

Section 1: Title II: Administration, Chapter 2: Officers and Employees, Article 5: Defending Civil Rights and Liberties, Sections 2190 - 2194 are hereby added to the Municipal Code as follows:


SEC. 2190: Purposes.
The purposes of this ordinance are as follows:
A. To protect the civil rights and civil liberties for all and to affirm the City's commitment to embody democracy, and to embrace, defend and uphold the inalienable rights and fundamental liberties granted under the United States and the California Constitutions, as set forth in Resolution 023-32, A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Arcata to Defend the Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties, adopted by the Council on January 15, 2003; and
B. To ensure that local law enforcement continues to preserve and uphold residents' freedom of speech, assembly, association, and privacy, the right to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings, and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, even if requested or authorized to infringe upon such rights by federal or state law enforcement agencies acting under new powers created by the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), Homeland Security Act (Public Law 107-296), related executive orders, regulations or future enacted laws, executive orders or regulations.

SEC. 2191: No Unconstitutional Detentions or Profiling.
No management employee of the City shall officially engage in or permit unlawful detentions or profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or religious association that are in violation of individuals' civil rights or civil liberties as specified in the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

SEC. 2192: No Unconstitutional Voluntary Cooperation.
No management employee of the City shall officially assist or voluntarily cooperate with investigations, interrogations, or arrest procedures, public or clandestine, that are in violation of individuals' civil rights or civil liberties as specified in the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

SEC. 2193: Notification.
Management employees of the City shall promptly notify the City Manager when, in the course of City employment, the following occurs:
A management employee is contacted by another law enforcement agency and asked to cooperate or assist with an investigation, interrogation, or arrest procedure under provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), Homeland Security Act (Public Law 107-296), related executive orders, regulation or future enacted laws, executive orders or regulations, where such procedure is in violation of an individual's civil rights or civil liberties as specified in the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Upon such notification from a management employee, or upon such contact directly, the City Manager shall promptly report to the City Council specifying the law enforcement agency seeking cooperation or assistance and the actions requested of the management employee.

SEC. 2194: Defense.
The City shall provide legal defense to any management employee who is criminally charged by another entity for his or her actions in compliance with this Ordinance.

SEC. 2195: Severability.
If any section or sections of the ordinance is or are held to be invalid or unenforceable, all other sections shall nevertheless continue in full force and remain in effect.
Section 2: This ordinance will take effect thirty (30) days after the date of its adoption.

DATED: April 2, 2003.
s/ Dan Hauser
City Clerk, City of Arcata

s/ Robert J. Ornelas
Mayor, City of Arcata

Clerk's Certification
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and correct copy of Ordinance No. 1339, passed and adopted at a regular meeting of the City Council of the City of Arcata, Humboldt County, California, on the 2nd day of April, 2003, by the following vote:
AYES: Conner, Meserve, Stewart, Ornelas.
NOES: Machi

s/ Dan Hauser
City Clerk, City of Arcata