Reality Distortion Field
After what seems like months of discontented grumblings about the proposed Rec Center project, it appears someone is finally doing something about it.
LJWorld user "just another bozo on this bus" posted a link this morning to a petition to hold a public vote on the issue, and I've been trying to bring more exposure to it since then, posting on reddit and facebook.
The petition asks for the City Commission and the current crop of commissioner candidates to hold a public vote on using tax funds for the proposed recreation center project at the corner of 6th St. and K-10.
As noted in the article this morning about the candidates' views on the project, current Commissioner Mike Amyx had this to say:
"On the issue of whether the project should be put to a citywide vote, Amyx recently voted with his other four city commissioners against the idea. But Amyx voted with the caveat that if the public were to present a sizable petition asking for a vote, he would support placing the issue on the ballot."
Candidate Scott Criqui echoed Amyx's sentiments, saying,
"On the issue of a citywide vote, Criqui said he’s not yet ready to call for one. He said he would support a vote if citizens started a significant petition drive calling for a vote.
'If a group gathered 3,000 signatures or something like that, it would tell me that there is some concern out there,' Criqui said. 'But I haven’t heard of anyone who has done that yet.'"
Well, there you have it, folks-- the Commissioners might be willing to listen to the public's views on the matter, but only if we can show that enough people have concerns about the project. From spending the money at all on the project to the manner in which bidding will be done, I know that many people out there don't agree with the way this project is moving forward.
If you're one of those people who wants to have a voice in this matter, sign the petition here:
I haven't seen this reported in the mainstream media yet, so I wanted to share this positive story with all of you.
Today, hundreds Libyans of all ages came together near the site of the burned-out US consulate in Benghazi to honor Chris Stevens and the others killed in yesterday's attack, chanting and holding signs with red and blue lettering, reading slogans like:
"Sorry America, this is not the Pehavior [sic] of our Islam and Profit [sic]"
"Benghazi is against terrorism"
"RIP Christopher Stevens"
"Thugs and Killers don't represent Benghazi nor Islam"
"Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans"
Many others held signs written in Arabic. Posters at the popular news aggregator site Reddit have translated them as follows (probably not a complete list):
"No, no, no to Al Qaida"
"No to Al Qaida, no to terrorism; this is a young people's revolution"
"Arrest the killers [lit. armed men] today"
"No place for Al-Qaida here"
"The flavor of terrorism is not for Libya"
"Enough retaliation, we want [cut off, probably "peaceful"] reactions"
"Islam is innocent, the traitors are spoiling our [cut off]"
"Do you reward for good [deeds] with anything other than good [deeds]?"
"Whoever has no conscience, remember that Allah is patient with you but does not forgive the sins of unrepentant wrongdoers."
I'd like to point out that the actions these people took by protesting the terrorism is not the same as a picketing line in Chicago-- these folks put themselves in real danger by speaking out against violent factions that would be just as happy to kill THEM as us. As we move forward from this tragedy, I think many of us can agree that actions like the Libyans took today are beneficial to the healing process. My favorite sign is perhaps this one:
Following the spirit of my blog post about prejudice yesterday, I think "This does not represent us" is a sentiment we can all agree with.
Thank you to the Libyans who took part in this demonstration today, condemning the actions of killers and showing compassion for those who were slain.
I originally posted this comment as a reply to a family member on facebook today, to no response (not surprisingly). I figured "Screw it, might as well post it on the LJW-- where I'd at least get some feedback, and maybe make some people think."
9/11 Never Forget
How many times have you seen ^THAT^ sentiment today? Of course, we want to remember the victims of the tragedy that occurred 11 years ago today. We want to remember how that day affected us, both personally and as a nation. However, I vehemently object to the "Never Forget" sentiment when it is accompanied by a statement and/or implication that what we should never forget that "The Muslim Terrorists are still out there and want to kill us." (<< actual quote from facebook.) This is a sentiment I've seen repeated several places today.
Learn from our past?....Nah.
For some perspective on that statement, replace 9/11 with Pearl Harbor and this is what you get: "Never Forget Pearl Harbor..... The Japanese terrorists are still out there and want to kill us." Ridiculous to think about in this day and age, right? But that is the exact sentiment that was prevalent during the last Great War, so much so that we imprisoned thousands of innocent people in internment camps, simply because of their nationality.
Or how about we take it back even further, to the Revolutionary War? "Never Forget Bunker Hill..... The British terrorists are still out there and want to kill us." Now that one just sounds silly, I'll admit. But it's a great example of impermanence with regards to the "enemy" of the hour. An empire that once was our most mortal enemy during the birth of this country, is now one of our greatest allies in the world. My, the times, they are a'changin. I'd like to think that as a country, we can learn from our mistakes, but there are many people out there that I think would jump up and down at the thought of locking up all the Muslims in America.
This should be common sense, but sadly, it's not
What we should "Never Forget" is this: 9/11 should serve as a reminder as to what happens when intolerance (such as the intolerance Osama & Co. held for America) gets to a level where it turns into murder. It's a reminder to us all that we shouldn't paint a group of people with the same brush (as Al Qaeda did to the US). Prejudice leads to resentment, which leads to hate, which leads to killing. Look at what just happened in Wisconsin, where a white extremist committed an act of terror against a group of Sikhs, because he thought they were Muslims. Or the Joplin mosque that has been burned down TWICE this summer.
Not all asians are horrible drivers, not all blacks are criminals, not all catholic priests are child molesters, not all gays have AIDS, not all republicans are corporate shills, not all democrats are communists in disguise, and not all muslims are terrorists. Judge the individual, not the demographic.
I just can't stand this vitriolic culture that has evolved since 9/11 where nobody trusts anybody else. 9/11 should have brought us TOGETHER as a nation, made us a group of individuals reminded that black, white, jew, muslim, christian, gay, straight -- we all bleed and die the same on the battlefield or when targeted by those who kill for their hate. In the immediate aftermath, it did bring us together-- for a short while. But now, we're back to our old ways-- more anger-filled and distrustful than ever before.
We're a nation deeply divided and focused on emphasizing differences instead of similarities. We're a nation where many of our leaders fuel the flames of these divides, especially politically-motivated ones. We're a nation where people are discriminated against and even murdered by their own co-citizens for their politics, their race, their religion, their age, their gender, their disability, or their sexual orientation. And it makes me want to cry.
After listening to the catch phrase "Are you better off?" over and over during the last few weeks, I started to wonder what the answer to that was for Lawrence residents. I know that I personally can answer "Yes" to that question, but what about the average Lawrencian?
So I hit the books, studying the budgets from the City of Lawrence for the last several years, which have lots of great information-- not just on the spending of the city, but also on demographic and employment numbers of it's residents. The results are telling. I plan to break down several major categories, including taxation, housing, unemployment, crime and income. I will compare numbers from 2009 (when the economy crisis hit rock bottom for most of America) to the most recent numbers that are available from these budgetary reports.
Taxation - Mill Levies 2009
Taxation - Mill Levies 2012
So, mill levies have increased 5.2% in the last several years. This is from all sources combined, including the State of Kansas, Douglas County, USD 497 and the City of Lawrence. The schools and the City in particular have raised their rates over the last three years, and the city of Lawrence is asking for another increase for the 2013 Budget, for Police equipment and a pavement marking project. In a promising change, USD 497 has decreased their mills for 2013 by two-tenths of a mill to 59.263. Many of the City's increases over these last three years appear to have been for projects and improvements that the commission has approved, and not as much to cover budgetary shortfalls.
Taxation - Sales Tax 2009
State of Kansas 6.30%
City of Lawrence 1.55%
Douglas County 1.00%
Taxation - Sales Tax 2012
State of Kansas 6.30%
City of Lawrence 1.55%
Douglas County 1.00%
So, while these numbers are completely unchanged in that time, change is on the horizon. The state will drop sales tax rates by six-tenths of a cent in July 2013, and Mayor Schumm has proposed a half-cent increase to take effect also in July 2013, to fund the police facility improvements, among other things.
Taxation - Verdict: No, we are not better off in regards to taxation. With cuts to education from the state, USD 497 has had to compensate by increasing its levy in the last three years. The adopted reduction for 2013 from the school district is a good sign that finances are changing for the better in our local education system. The city has consistently raised mill levies every year since 2009, and has earmarked much of that money for improvement projects. It's my opinion that some of this tax burden could be lessened if not so many of these pet projects had been approved by the Commissioners.
Housing - New Residential Permits 2009
In 2009, 141 new residential (single, duplex and multi-family) building permits were issued by the City.
Housing - New Residential Permits 2012
The most recent report for 2012 is from June. As of the end of June 2012, the city had issued 87 new residential (single, duplex and multi-family) building permits. Based on the pattern of 2011 building permits, 57% of the residential permits for the year were issued Jan-Jun. If that pattern holds true, then 43% of the residential building permits for the year will be issued Jul-Dec. Based on this assumption, I project that the city will issue an additional 65.6 residential permits this year, for a total of 152.6 permits.
Housing - Property Valuation 2009
The assessed value of all of the property in the city was $853,676,870.
Housing - Property Valuation 2011
Valuation numbers for 2012 are not yet available, but in 2011, the assessed value was $856,611,007.
Housing - Verdict: Yes, we are better off in terms of housing. New building permits for 2012 are being issued at a rate I project to be an 8.2% increase compared to 2009. Valuation of the property in the city has increased $2.9 million dollars when 2011 is compared to 2009, or a growth of $1.46 million per year. If that rate holds steady, Lawrence will be worth $4.4 million more by the end of 2012 than it was in 2009. This may be a drop in the bucket, but it IS an increase in value.
Unemployment - 2009
City of Lawrence: 5.4%
State of Kansas: 6.7%
(2010 was actually the peak of unemployment rates in the city and our state, at 6.2% and 7.0% respectively.)
Unemployment - 2012
City of Lawrence: 5.2%
State of Kansas: 6.1%
Number of Jobs at Major Local Employers - 2009
The Top 10 largest employers in Lawrence provided at least 18,875 jobs. (I did not include the duplicate count for DCCCA that is on the budget. I counted the remaining 10 on the list, however.)
Number of Jobs at Major Local Employers - 2012
The Top 10 largest employers in Lawrence provided at least 18,148 jobs.
Employment - Verdict: Yes, we are better off. While the number of jobs provided by the top 10 Lawrence employers has not changed significantly (mostly due to the downsizing of the World Company), the unemployment rate for Lawrence overall has gone from 5.4% in 2009 to 5.2% in 2012. Again, that is a small difference, but it is a hopeful sign that more recovery is on the horizon. Another good sign is the new call center opening in the former Affinitas location at Riverfront Mall. This company will provide an additional 300 new jobs to the Lawrence economy, which alone will account for another future three-tenths of a percent reduction in Lawrence unemployment (based on 2010 census numbers).
Crime - 2009
Violent Crime Index 4.6
Property Crime Index 57.6
Total Crime Index 62.2 (the 2009 budget incorrectly lists the total as 72.2)
Crime - 2012
Violent Crime Index 4.2
Property Crime Index 38.4
Total Crime Index 42.6
Crime - Verdict: Yes, we are better off in terms of criminal activity in Lawrence. Despite little to no change in the size of our police force (142 patrol officers in 2009, 144 in 2012), both violent and property crimes have dropped, with overall crime decreasing by 29.6%. The real telling number is the number of property crimes (theft, etc) has decreased by a third in the last three years.
Income - 2009
The average income per capita in Lawrence was $23,070.
The average household income in Lawrence was $40,547.
The average family income in Lawrence was $61,776.
Income - 2012
The average income per capita in Lawrence is $34,305.
The average household income in Lawrence is $41,290.
The average family income in Lawrence is $65,673.
Income - Verdict: Yes, we are better off in terms of income. Personal income has increased by 48.6%. Household income has increased by 1.8%. Family income has increased by 6.3%.
On the whole, the average Lawrencian is better off than they were in 2009. While taxation has increased, housing is being built at a higher rate, property values are higher, unemployment is lower, crime is lower, and average incomes are higher. Growth in these areas is a positive sign that life is coming back into our economy, albeit slowly. While you still might need to answer the question of whether YOU are better off, and if that should affect your decision when you go to the polls in November-- you should be aware that on average, your friends and neighbors are doing better than they were 4 years ago.
For many of you, the following might seem an all-too familiar scenario: After careful clothing and hair preparation at home, you drag your child(ren) to the portrait studio for "picture day". Your dreams of pictures filled with smiling, beautiful kids are dashed when your 5 year old spills grape juice on his oxford shirt, your 2 year old throws an absolute tantrum when she can't have her blankie in the pictures, and your newborn sleeps through every photo. As a studio manager for a major retail portrait chain (name withheld to protect the innocent), I see variations on this ugly scenario every day. I also see parents who end up with a very successful portrait experience. I decided to compile a list of tips on how to make your "picture day" go as smoothly as possible.1) Prepare where it counts.Make a checklist of items you need to bring with you to your appointment. Don't forget your coupons, change of clothing, or checkbook. Smart items to also bring include backup clothes in case of an unexpected mess, your child's favorite toy, makings for a bottle or other drink (and I don't mean a flask for yourself!), and snack items for camera-room bribing (when all else fails). 2) Dress for success.If your child is under the age of 2, or particularly accident-prone, do NOT get them dressed at home. You will inevitably end up in the bathroom frantically trying to clean juice/spaghetti sauce/gummi bear residue from your child's best outfit. Bring them to the studio in their grubbies, then change them before the session starts. The only exception to this rule is if your child HATES changing their clothes. In this case, change them at home and wrap them in Saran Wrap (or put a bib on them) until you arrive at the studio.3) Arrive early.Get to your appointment 10-15 minutes early. This will ensure you go into your shoot right at your appointment time, not 10 minutes after it. There will be information that the photographer will need to get from you, like your contact information, who will be in the pictures, and if you have any background or posing preferences. If your studio of choice has a website, check it out ahead of time and you might be able to see your background choices before you set foot in the studio. 4) Request the best.Ask your friends and family if they have a favorite photographer from the studio you are going to. If you hear the same name a few times, then request that person when setting up your appointment. Be prepared to be flexible; not every associate works every day. If you cannot get any recommendations from your circle of friends, simply request that a manager shoot your portraits. The managers (usually) have the most experience at getting great photos.5) Know what to expect.Policies at different studios vary. Find out in advance how many outfits you can bring, how many poses will be taken, and how long your appointment time is. If your appointment (read: camera room time) is for 15 minutes, then don't expect to fit in 4 outfit changes and 20 poses. If that many changes of clothes is what you need, then be prepared to pay for multiple appointment slots.6) Be a helper.In most situations, your photographer will be working with your child solo. As such, they really need to be able to focus on the important parts of the picture, like setting up the pose, framing and focusing the shot, and getting your child to show those pearly whites (or baby pink gums). Be ready for them to ask you to help with: keeping your child in place in front of the backdrop, wiping up droolies, and even getting smiles if your child is the type who only smiles for people they know. These things will help your photographer do their job better and you will get better pictures for it. 7) Bring a friend.After the photos are taken, you will need to work with your photographer or another employee to pick out what sizes and poses to order. This process goes much easier and faster if you don't have children climbing in your lap begging for snack/juice/a nintendo wii. Bring your partner, a relative, or a friend to help keep your child entertained and happy so you can get the ordering process done quickly.8) If at first you don't succeed....Sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, the magical pictures of your little snowflake just aren't happening. Work with your photographer to try and figure out the cause. Most studios will be more than happy to let you take a break for feeding/diaper/etc if their schedule allows it. If you feel that it might be a personality clash, ask the photographer (kindly!) if there is another photographer in the studio who could try their wiles on your little one. I have had children scream at the top of their lungs at me, then when another person walks in and tries, they are giggling within moments. And sometimes, no matter what you try, you are just not going to get the photos you want that day. Don't let it stress you out, it happens frequently. Your studio should be more than happy to save any good pictures that they have taken so far, and set up a new time for you to come back and try again.Hopefully these tips will help you get the photos you want, and make your picture day the best it can be. May all of your pictures be as great as this one:http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...
So, we are six months in and I finally decided to write about my "pregnorant" experiences so far. Having a baby wasn't something that we were planning on ahead of time, so unlike many women who come prepared to motherhood, I feel like I have been running around like the proverbial headless chicken. As my due date approaches the flapping and clucking are getting more frantic, but at least I feel a little bit more knowledgeable as to what I am in for.Here is a short summary of what the first 24 weeks have been like.Week One: Take test. 2 pink lines, oh jeebus what does that mean? Take test again. Yep, still 2 pink lines. Now what?Week Two: Buy every book on pregnancy, parenting, breastfeeding, and cranky toddlers that the Lawrence Public Library book sale and Half Price Books have to offer. Set myself the goal of reading every single one in the next week. Fail miserably.Weeks Three-Eight: Life almost normal--eagerly anticipating first prenatal appointment where I am sure I will be told all I need to know about being pregnant.Week Nine: First doctor's appointment gives me a healthy dose of reality. After an hour of poking and prodding, I leave with lots of paperwork about childbirth and breastfeeding classes as well as a prescription for prenatal vitamins "guaranteed to make the restroom an adventure". Weeks Ten-Fifteen: I remain blissfully immune from morning sickness; but mood swings, fatigue, back pain, and a need to eat every 15 minutes more than make up for it. I manage a portrait studio, and this time span is the peak of our Christmas busy season. I begin to hate my life.Week Sixteen: Congratulations, you're having an alien!http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... Seventeen-Twenty Four: With the return of my energy, I enter the stage of "FRANTIC WORRIER". Why haven't I gained more weight? Will the baby be too small because I can't gain more? Will I be able to handle labor? Have I forgotten anything for my "baby list" of stuff to buy? How are we going to afford all of that stuff on the list in the first place? What hospital should I choose to deliver at? Ad infinitum...this mantra of worries, combined with pummeling of my tummy by the unknown lump, keeps me up at night....as well as the need to use the restroom every 30 minutes. That brings us current, twenty five weeks. I have managed to finagle a studio closer to home, so that I am commuting only 30 minutes instead of an hour and a half (1 way!) Sciatica was making the drive a nightmare, so I am happy about the switch in locations. Maternity photos will be done this week, so fat belly pictures will be on the way soon.Although this exchange with strangers on a daily basis has grown rather amusing:Random Person: Oh, look at you! What are you having?Me: A Baby.Random Person: . . .oh. . .kay. . .We are having a 3-D ultrasound in two weeks, which I am excited about. In addition to being able to see the little bugger squirming around in amazing 3D action (without the need for silly glasses, even!), we will finally know what the ninja in my tummy is smuggling between its legs. Speaking of the little one, it has chosen this moment to use my bladder as a trampoline. Until next time!