27 February 2007

Sneak Peek 28 February 2007

Oh my, oh my, oh my. What an issue.

There's so much to talk about that I'll save most of it for another posting and only talk about one thing right now (I have to leave in 30 minutes for a volleyball game.)

Our two big stories this issue are on the proposed new ordinances for Clark Fork.

Currently Clark Fork has 9 pages of ordinances but, if city council has its way, that's going to increase to a 75 page document.

What a difficult two stories to write. (I wrote one, Jinx wrote the other).

First, I'm impacted by this. If these ordinances are adopted, my property value will likely decrease, because I'll be a non-conforming lot and will be unable to make improvements without becoming conforming. Which I won't be able to do as I don't have the 125 ft of public road frontage required. So I'm not thrilled with some of what's proposed, even though a number of the ordinances are certainly needed.

But I'm less thrilled with the attitudes of city council. I mean, forgive my French, but they're all pissed off 'cause people are upset. And, of course, they're either not happy with me, or won't be when they read our stories. Never a fun place to be in.

But city council needs to pay attention to what the residents of town are saying they want (and don't want) or they're gonna deserve the recall petitions that are already circulating.

Mayor Tommy Shields is one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and I can't believe he would do anything to hurt this community - but he was so un-in-favor of the questions I asked for our story that he told me he didn't think he should talk to me any more without consulting the city attorney. (The Mayor's the go-to guy as far as getting an official statement from the council. Individual council members can only speak for themselves, not for the whole. That's why Tom had to hold the bag on this one.)

I guess I can't blame him because I suggested the council had held illegal meetings. See, I had Jinx go in and request copies of minutes from the meetings where they developed these ordinances. And the city clerk told her (in front of Mayor Shields) that they didn't keep any minutes. Tommy didn't say a word (as in, wait, Jonelle, you're wrong, of course we kept minutes.)
Without minutes, it's an illegal meeting.

I called Idaho Rep. George Eskridge about this and asked him to get an opinion from the Attorney General's office. See, if they held illegal meetings there's a question about how they remedy that. The "remedy" under law is they have to go back and do those meetings legally. But what does that mean? They met for a year and a half talking about this. Would they have to meet for another year and a half - legally - to remedy the situation? Or could they do that in one legal meeting?
Well, Tommy didn't like me pointing that out to him, I guess. And he responded that minutes were certainly kept of every meeting they have. He didn't offer any explanation of why we were told no minutes were taken.

I got this email from him on Sunday around noon, and I told Jinx we had to be there first thing on Monday morning to get minutes - because every cynical bone in my body (which is most of them) didn't like this inconsistency.

9 am on Monday and... there was a note on the door that City Hall was closed. I heard the clerk was sick. I don't know if that's true or not, but the crud is certainly going on.

By Tuesday morning they had minutes (I was told), though when requested they said it would take a few days to provide them.

I'm not feeling really good about this.
If there are good reasons for each and every one of those new ordinances (and I would expect that to be the case for most of them) then the council shouldn't hesitate to be willing to explain to the public just what those reasons are. There's no way the public will support new ordinances without an understanding of why they're necessary. I had hoped to get some of that information for our article, but the response from the Mayor was that ordinances were selected based on what the council felt would be good for Clark Fork. I asked a second time for any objective criteria that had been used, but by then the Mayor wasn't talking to me anymore. And the Mayor is the designated 'voice' of city council.

Anyway.... check out our supplementary blog on the ordinances (www.cforkord.blogspot.com) and see what you think about what's proposed. And we'll keep you posted on the other end of this.
(This posting was modified from the original in order to clarify a few points.)

21 February 2007

What Part of Government Don't They Understand?

Our next River Journal will include a story covering the city of Clark Fork's desire to increase zoning regulations and ordinances from the currently-existing nine-page document to a 78-page document (and hold your hats when you find out the kinds of things they want to regulate!). So I won't belabor the points here. But I do want to look at a related issue here, so consider this a sidebar story.

Over 80 residents showed up at last night's "workshop" on the new proposal. In a town of 530 residents (including children) that represents a substantial portion of the public. And city council expressed dismay and resentment at the public's concern.

"Where have you guys been in the year and a half we've been working on this?" is a paraphrase of their attitude.

You hear the same at almost every governmental meeting when something's going on that the public doesn't like, from school boards to planning and zoning to county commissioners. "Why didn't you come to meetings before this? Why didn't you get involved?"

There's a lot of answers to those questions, and, in a perfect world, all people would be interested, informed and involved in every aspect of governmental regulation of their lives. In fact, we'd all "do government" like New Hampshire or Maine or whichever state it is that votes in "town hall meetings."

In the real world, right here in Idaho, people don't have the time and generally don't have the interest or the specialized knowledge. They're more than content to let the people they've elected to make those decisions make those decisions.... until the people they elected make decisions they don't like.

That's life. When will people in government understand that? Quitcher whining already - you knew it was this way before you ran for office and if you didn't like it, you shouldn't have run!

The truth is, all governmental entities struggle with how to get information out and public participation in (though some, it must be said, would prefer not to have the public participation at all). And another truth is, they rarely do much of anything to accomplish that that takes the slightest bit of effort on their part, unless they've decided beforehand that they want to nip any public outroar in the bud. (Which is why you see lots of heavily advertised public meetings right before levies are run.)

Take Clark Fork, for instance. They say they post meeting notices on the wall of the post office. And they said they put a notice in with the water bills. (although it was pointed out that the notice in the water bill said only a meeting would be held, while giving no date, time or location for it).

Clark Fork is served by three newspapers - The Spokesman Review, The Daily Bee, and the River Journal. I'm not sure about the Spokesman, but the Bee and the RJ both post calendar notices at no charge. And speaking for myself - the River Journal - not only have I never received a calendar notice, I've also never received a phone call saying, "Hey, Trish, we'd really like to get some information out on this and get some people involved. Could you do a story on what we're doing?" And I LIVE in Clark Fork!

Never once have I seen a city council member hanging out at the gas station or the grocery store or the local restaurant saying "we've got something in the works and I'd like a little feedback." They've also not approached the school and asked "can we put a meeting notice on that huge, new reader board you've got right in the middle of town?" (I don't know if the school would say yes, but the point is, you don't know if you don't ask.)

The truth is, one little sign posted down at Hay's gas station (or even on the post office wall) saying "ATTENTION CLARK FORK RESIDENTS! Your city council would like to increase our nine pages of ordinances/covenants by an additional 69 pages and we want your input!" would have gotten them all the public attendance they wanted.

It's time for government officials to grow up and quit their caterwauling about lack of interest/involvement. If you truly want public involvement, it's really not that hard to get.

19 February 2007

Follies Success

"The best one yet!" That's the comment I heard over and over again after this year's Follies - the fifth for the Angels over Sandpoint.

Some numbers... well, the Panida was a sell-out of course. MickDuff's was selling 100 tickets for their live simulcast down the street. I heard they sold out too, and when we did our "walk-through" after our act was finished, the place was certainly packed. The 'nasty nuns' (see picture) collected $1,084 in donations for the Angels, and I think they sold about $800 in raffle tickets. And the bar did a booming business.

This is all great news because the Angels over Sandpoint do some pretty important things for our community. They give out scholarships to students, provide school supplies for students who need them, and provide meals/support/transportation for area cancer patients. The Angels are a wonderful addition to our community, and it's great to see their show be such a success - not just in terms of audience enjoyment, but in the ability to fill the coffers up in order to do more good work in our neighborhoods.

I had a blast with the Snews and people seemed to laugh at all the right parts. I'll have to wait for the video to know how well it went over, though. I do think the audience was surprised and entertained by my special guest - Mayor Ray Miller, who hammed it up perfectly on stage. Jinx was awesome singing "There's Lightnin' in These Thunder Thighs." Gail Fendly was her regular awesome self and Ernie had an extra act (reading literature) that I heard had the audience in stitches . (I was downstairs changing at the time so didn't get to see it). Susan Daffron was a gorgeous Egyptian princess. So all in all, I think we showed that the River Journal features some of the area's most talented people - and not just in writing!

17 February 2007

It's Mardi Gras!

Drove into Sandpoint last night to co-emcee the Mardi Gras parade with Dan Young at Dan's invitation. I told him that standing in the truck bed next to him with a mic in my hand kinda made me look for the punchline. You know... "a conservative and a liberal were standing in a truck bed..."

Truth is, of course, that while we tend to look for what makes us different from other people, it's kind of like the DNA of humans and chimps. We have more in common than we do that's different.

It was a fun experience, though I think our biggest audience was when a group of seven people or so gathered on the corner in front of Panhandle State Bank. I think the parade-watchers were all on First Avenue. And I hear through the grapevine that Dan and I just might be asked to co-emcee another event coming up in the not-so-far future. Seems like people think we complement each other well.

I wish our conservatives and liberals in state and federal offices got along as well as Dan and I do.

I'll be leaving shortly to head into dress rehearsals for the follies this morning, with the performance set to kick off around 7 pm tonight. Ernie and I managed one (yes one) practice of our material prior to today. So keep your fingers crossed for us.

I'll be driving into town with Jinx this morning, who's also performing in tonight's show. If you've never heard Jinx sing before, then you've missed a treat. This woman has a voice like an angel.

Oh, my beautiful oldest daughter was in the parade last night, and I got a picture! I won't put it up here, though, 'cause she was doing something weird with her lips and she'll kill me if I share that pic with anyone. She's gonna be a nun in tonight's performance, though, so I'll get some pics and post them of that. Probably not a nun like you would expect to see, however, so be warned if you check this blog in the next few days.

I hear that tickets for the follies sold out in six hours (not the ten I reported previously) so if you don't have one, you're out of luck for seeing the show up close and personal. But as far as I know, there's still room down at MickDuff's on First Avenue (used to be the Whistle Stop for those of you who've been around for a while) and they'll be presenting the show as a live simulcast on their big screen TVs. So stop in and pay the cover charge if you want a glimpse of the hottest show to ever hit Sandpoint. (Okay, those guys from Seattle who danced while taking their clothes off at the Big Boy Ballet were pretty hot - but they weren't locals). Bear in mind, this show is R-Rated (and some parts should probably be X-rated) so don't go to see it if you're easily offended.

Lessez les bon temps roulez, folks!

16 February 2007

River Journal 14 February 2007 - Sneak Peek

Better late than never, right?

The latest issue of the River Journal is off the presses and out on racks from Paradise to Coeur d'Alene and points between.
If you're wondering why the text on this issue looks a little dark... the answer is, it is. I had to use a new font for the body text because of my new layout program and, now that I see it in actual print, I can safely say that Cushing was not a good choice. We'll look for something a little less... full for our next issue.
Couple of empty spots on the pages too and I'm not sure how that happened, but that seems to be the only glitches I've seen so "GOOD JOB TRISH!" I can't believe I put this whole thing together using completely unfamiliar software.
By the way, don't read Marylyn Cork's story (Don't Eat the Meat) during lunch. Or breakfast. Or dinner.
Not only is this issue of the paper put to bed, I have my "Snews" script fully written for the Follies, and Ernie and I will be performing it live tomorrow night at the Panida. We've rehearsed it once, so I'm sure we're ready for this. :0)
I'll be heading out shortly to downtown Sandpoint's Round Red Square to emcee the Mardi Gras parade. I know of one entry that will knock your socks off - 'cause it's my own Misty. I'm not sure if she'll be wearing her 'nasty nun' outfit that she'll be debuting on the Panida's stage tomorrow night; but if so, I'll make sure to put up pictures.
So lessez les bon temps roulez! folks. It's Mardi Gras time.

10 February 2007

The Wrong Kind of High?

I woke up about 1 o'clock this morning when the fire had burned itself almost completely out. Staggering around half asleep I got more wood, and got the heat going again, then laid back down on the couch, where I sleep when I want to make sure I'm not gonna let the fire go out.

Somehow, with eyes barely open, I was at exactly the right angle to notice that the top of my chimney was no longer connected to the piece that leads through the roof and out of the house.

I said a bad word and wondered how long the chimney had been disconnected. And while there was no visible smoke coming out of the rather large gap, I thought about carbon monoxide and how I've been sick this week and how Amy comlained that every time she sat on the couch to do her homework she fell asleep, despite getting plenty of sleep every night.

I said another bad word and, still half asleep, pulled myself off the couch and over to the stove.

Did I mention I had just gotten the fire going again?

The chimney was merely very warm but the stove itself was pretty hot and it wasn't possible to brace myself upon it to get the chimney reconnected. And because the telescoping pipe that leads from the stove to the roof got a little bunged up during installation, bracing was a requirement.

After ten minutes I gave up, opened the window next to the wood stove, shut down the fire and took myself off to bed.

Come morning, of course, there was a stove to deal with, so I worked on the computer for a while, and mopped the kitchen floor. Finally, there was nothing left for it but to tackle the chimney.

First, I took it all apart, because the reason it had come unhinged was because every piece of it was unhinged. The chimney consists of a collar, a small pipe at a 45 degree angle, another small pipe at the opposite 45 degree angle, the telescoping piece that doesn't telescope, and the final run that goes through the roof. All of these were packed with cresote that had to be cleaned out because, if you're gonna move chimney pieces around, every bit of creosote that's in them will fall on your head.

That will happen when you clean them out, too, of course, so by the time I was ready to put it all back together again, I looked like the little match girl.

I took a break to clean myself up, and vacuum up all the creosote that had made its way throughout the living room, and to mop the kitchen floor again where I had tracked soot over to the sink.

I began to put pieces together, but at the end, the telescoping pipe MUST telescope up to the final connection. I couldn't make it do it, no matter how hard I cussed. I waited for Amy to come home.

Amy was thrilled to learn that she was gonna get to help me pull the telescoping pipe apart, and she made sure to garb herself in one of MY sweatshirts before doing so.

We still couldn't do it. Darn thing acted like it was welded together. "Mom, why don't we put some butter on it?" she asked.

NO, I didn't put butter on it. I did that the first time I had to try to get the pipe to telescope, and I learned my lesson as the butter smoked and cooked itself off of the heated pipe. Wax doesn't work, either (second time I took it all apart), nor does baby oil (third time). By the way, the only way to clean the chimney is to take it all apart - this is why I do this so frequently.

And why I never put the screws back in to any of the pieces.

As Amy's strength was not quite enough to help me pull the telescoping pipe apart, it appeared I was going to have to screw in each piece so that I had a strong base to pull against for that final step. This is easier said than done.

You see, from the collar at the stove to the receptacle at the ceiling, the pipes have to match up EXACTLY.

And that's where I'm at now. Screwing pipes in, getting to the end, and discovering I'm off just a quarter inch or so to making it fit.

I think it's time to work on the computer for a while. That way, I don't end up throwing the pipes out into the front yard.

Progress is Being Made

By this Saturday morning, I have over half of the 20 pages of the next River Journal completed, and completed in my new layout program, InDesign. As I said before, the learning curve is steep, but I'm loving this program.

Thanks must go to Sandy Compton, who not only nagged me half to death to use a professional design program for layout, but who took the most miniscule noises of agreement as aquiescence, and ordered the program for me. Of course both Laura Wahl and Susan Daffron, some of the best designers around, have told me for quite some time that I needed to move 'up' in the layout world, but there is that small issue of me and change.

Of course, the paper's only half done, and I might change my mind about how beneficial this particular change will be before deadline rolls around Tuesday afternoon.

07 February 2007

The Sweet Smell of Success

Let me say, first, that our River Journal/Keokee volleyball team won TWO GAMES last night! Yay! Combined with our one game win on the first night, we have now surpassed our own own record for last year. Let me give full credit to the coaching given us Monday night by Myra Lewis, former volleyball coach extraordinnaire. Yes, I AM squatting down to make the pass, and the ache in my thighs today proves it.

The success I'm celebrating this morning, however, has to do with writing the final script for the Snooze, the skit Ernie Hawks and I perform for the Angels Over Sandpoint production of the Follies each year. Special thanks to Susan Daffron, who helped by adding in some VERY funny stuff to my basic script. And as a heads up... there's going to be a "Special Guest Appearance" this year during our skit.

Didn't get your tickets to the show? You're not alone - tickets sold out ten hours after the "box offices" opened. But don't despair! Velma, Queen of Fun, has come up with a special attraction this year - the show is going to be broadcast live from McDuff's, just down the block from the Panida Theater. I also hear performers might be making walk-throughs of this Irish bar during the night. Should be a good time for all.

I think my script is pretty darn funny. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I'm right.

06 February 2007

Follies February 17

In just short of two weeks, the Follies (a production of the Angels Over Sandpoint) will be performed on the stage of Sandpoint's Panida Theater. It's the fifth year for this annual, Mardi Gras performance, and the word is out - the show is hot! Ticket sales began at 8:30 am last Friday, and were sold out just ten hours later. This is an adults-only show by the way. The Angels say it's rated R - for Racy, Raunchy and Ridiculous. And it usually is.

For five years, Ernie Hawks and I have performed a skit in the Follies called "the Snooze." Think of the Saturday Night Live news broadcasts with a local flavor (though Ernie has refrained from ever saying "Trish, you ignorant bitch.") (Actually, Ernie missed the first year)

Eleven days 'til performance... and I still haven't written the skit. This is not unheard of - I generally don't get it written until ten days before the show, but I have to tell ya, I'm getting a little nervous. To write that kind of comedy you have to enter into a different wavelength... and I haven't found it yet. I'm hoping I'll hit on it soon. Lucky for me, Ernie spent 20 years in Coeur d'Alene Little Theater so he's fairly calm about performing with little or no rehearsal.

I'm gonna be looking for those 'perfect waves' the next few days, and am happy for any suggestions that come my way about local happenings in the last year that just beg to be satarized.

If you didn't get your tickets, stay tuned. The Angels have some plans up their (wings?) that just might make your Saturday night an R-rated experience after all.

05 February 2007

What I did on my Vacation

It was a vacation week for me last week, and what I did on that vacation is probably less notable than what I did NOT do. Because I didn't work. Not really.

I had plans to work. I was going to print off the relevent financial information for last year and take it to my accountant so he could file my corporate and personal taxes... but I didn't. I was going to write my skit for the upcoming Angels Over Sandpoint Follies production... but I didn't. I was going to clean and organize my office... but I didn't. I was going to sort through my clothes and take to goodwill everything I don't wear... but I didn't. I didn't even post on this blog. (Sorry, Marianne.)

I did read and re-read a number of books, some quite good (make sure to check out Thunderstruck, a non-fiction book about the late 1890s and the lives of Guglielmo Marconi and Harvey Crippen. And Laurie Garrett's Betrayal of Trust is a perennial favorite for me). I watched a tournament of 10-12 year old girls playing club volleyball in Spokane. I attended the Erika Luckett concert at DiLuna's (AWESOME!). I played our second game of volleyball (losing both matches and thereby continuing our dead last position). I watched my favorite football team get creamed in Superbowl, and competed in Karaokee competition with my beautiful girls. I watched the last home basketball game in Clark Fork for our girls (again, awesome. Rayna Allen went out with a blaze!) and I visited with my son, who was down in our area for a week.

I also worked... a little bit. I taught my classes at Clark Fork (their newest newspaper should be out this week), and organized a meeting on our extra-curricular programs for the Booster Club. I did my bookkeeping work for the mad scientist. And I bought a new design program to do layout on the River Journal, and then lost myself playing with it on the computer for a couple of days, learning how to use it.

If I can figure this program out, it's going to save me a lot of time when putting together the pages for the paper, but until I do, the learning curve is going to be costly in terms of time spent. For example, it took me 35 minutes one day to figure out how to center text in a frame. And I still didn't actually figure it out - I mean, I didn't learn where the software stores that information. But I did find out a keyboard shortcut that works.

I have been putting together template pages for the next issue of the paper, and hopefully I'll be able to put those pages together without too much difficulty and in time for meeting my next deadline (next week). Keep your fingers crossed for me.