Today I will be giving a guest lecture in an upper division Construction Management class at CSU-Pueblo about optimizing the supply chain for construction materials.
Here’s a link to the presentation: Construction Supply Chain Optimization
A few of my students asked if I plan to write a blog post about the election. I think many of them are trying to understand why the American electorate has chosen someone they consider to be a racist as President. It’s not an easy topic to cover in a classroom. It’s difficult to find the right words.
I want to tell them not to worry too much and everything will be okay. But I can’t yet. I’m still trying to convince myself.
My family and I lived in Michigan for 7.5 years before moving to Colorado in 2012. I think I know and understand the voters in the Rust Belt and the upper Midwest who, essentially, elected Donald Trump. I know the overwhelming majority are not racists. They’re good people who have been hit hard economically and they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. They feel compelled to shake things up in DC and if electing a repulsive clown like Trump is what it takes to “drain the swamp” they figure so be it. They’ve lost patience because neither political party has made a meaningful effort to correct the outrageous economic injustices we’ve witnessed in the past 2-3 decades.
But I also know the bigotry is real. Worse, the population of Americans who, essentially, favor racial discrimination is shockingly large. Real life characters depicted in movies like “Mississippi Burning”, “American History X” et al actually exist…today. The incidents of overt racism I’ve seen and read about since the conclusion of the election are frightening. I think I understand how the protesters feel. I think I understand how my students of color feel. I think I understand the fear. But maybe not. I am, after all, a straight middle-age white man so I haven’t been on the receiving end of the hateful discrimination they know all too well.
I voted for Hillary Clinton. She may not have been a great candidate but I think she would have been a good President. At the same time, I have to admit feeling disgusted with the Democrats who were complicit in allowing Wall Street banks to steal an entire generation worth of prosperity from the American working class. Who was punished? What has changed to prevent another economic meltdown? We have a fully re-inflated stock market and housing market, but what have we done to correct these injustices?
We have a few new capital requirements for banks but we haven’t re-gained critical provisions from the Glass-Steagall Act. The $550 trillion (yes, with a T) derivatives market remains almost entirely unregulated. The Fed is still clueless and full of Greenspan/Bernanke disciples who learned to drop money from helicopters but somehow managed to overlook regulatory lessons from the Great Depression. We still have a handful of too-big-to-fail banks who should have been broken up 7 years ago. The Fed still gives these banks free money to use for speculation and executive bonuses. Wall Street CEOs still make more in a month than a working class family can make in a lifetime. The entire financial sector produces very little of value while exerting extraordinary financial pressure on publicly traded businesses to think short term, even when it’s not in their long term interest. These pressures, just as much as NAFTA or any other trade agreement, have led to offshoring of American jobs and the elimination of middle class incomes.
While the GOP leads the charge to deregulate and enable exploitation of the working class, Democrats are only interested in increasing tax rates for the rich and increasing entitlements for the poor. These are band-aids. We’re treating the symptoms. But we’ve done nothing to bring about a cure.
What’s the cure?
The economic playing field must be level. This doesn’t mean socialism and a return to huge marginal tax rates but it does mean financial re-regulation. Wall Street has been encouraged to gamble recklessly with a robust safety net while the working class has been asked to compete globally without any meaningful safety net. Tax breaks for the rich have been handed out in the name of stimulating small business growth while simultaneously protecting monopolies and making it nearly impossible for small businesses to compete in many industries. Students have been saddled with crippling debt while the architects of the mortgage meltdown have been handed golden parachutes.
In other words, we’re being asked to play a game of Monopoly on the big board. But we don’t get $1500 to start the game, we aren’t allowed to buy railroads, utilities or properties and we can’t draw a Get Out of Jail Free card from Chance or Community Chest. All we can do is hope for lucky rolls of the dice so we can Pass Go and live to fight another day. The rules must be changed.
How do we get there?
We have to take back government one seat at a time. For me it starts in the House of Representatives and in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Republican Scott Tipton must be defeated in 2018. We can’t cry about gerrymandering or make other excuses. We have to win elections.
Marching and protesting in the streets will get people’s attention but it’s not enough. Maybe the protests will force Trump to disavow white nationalists who now feel emboldened to openly express hatred and threaten violence. I hope so. But that won’t be enough either.
The rise of racial discrimination has its roots in economic injustice. The fix must involve an effort to reconstruct the regulatory scaffolding that once protected the working class from the Banksters and Corporate Pirates who have fleeced all of us for far too long. Only then will we be able to isolate and defeat the racists and move toward a more prosperous and harmonious society.
So, to my students who feel betrayed, it’s time to grit your teeth and get ready to fight. The next battle will take place November 6th, 2018. Enlist in the political process. Vote. Take political power away from the bigots. That’s what they just did to you.
Fri, Nov 11
Data Analytics for Cyber Security
I received my ballot yesterday. I can’t wait to move beyond this bizarre election. November 9th can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, I feel compelled to speak out against a pair of misguided local ballot measures.
Ballot Question 200
Shall the Pueblo County Code be amended by Ordinance to prohibit all licensed Retail (recreational) Marijuana Establishments in all areas under the licensing jurisdiction of Pueblo County, by requiring all existing Retail Marijuana Testing Facilities, Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facilities, Retail Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities, and Retail Marijuana Stores to close by October 31, 2017 and by immediately prohibiting Pueblo County from approving all new licenses for these Facilities? ______YES/FOR __X__NO/AGAINST
Question 300 (Prohibition of Marijuana Establishments)
Shall Chapter 11 of Title XI of the Pueblo Municipal Code be amended by the addition of a new Section and the adoption of Ordinance No. 9009 prohibiting new Retail Marijuana Establishments and ceasing the operation of all currently licensed Retail Marijuana Establishments by October 31, 2017?_______YES/FOR __X__NO/AGAINST
Here are eight reasons to Vote NO on Ballot Initiative 200 and 300.
I know many people in Pueblo who are on the other side of this issue. I respect them. And I think I understand their point of view. They’ve been told their whole life marijuana is bad and wrong.
But clearly Marijuana is no more harmful than many legal substances. Scientists and physicians know this is true. The public has figured it out too. It’s game over for the prohibitionists. Legalized cannabis in the U.S is now inevitable. We can either prosper thanks to the head start we’ve been given in Colorado or we can let other communities reap the economic rewards.
If you’re on the fence on this issue, at the very least give it more time before succumbing to baseless fear mongering from the political conservatives fighting a culture war. Don’t chop down Pueblo’s first shoots of economic growth in a generation before we even see what sort of flower might bloom.
Vote NO on 200 and 300.
Thanks for reading.
One of the most contentious issues for voters in Pueblo this election season involves the future of retail marijuana.
A group associated with the 2 major hospitals in Pueblo, calling themselves Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo, have stated adamantly, as if it were proven fact, that crime has increased substantially since marijuana legalization.
Well, despite superior scientific training in medicine, these citizens seem to know nothing at all about data analysis.
Let’s look at crime statistics published by the State of Colorado to explore whether claims of dramatically increased criminal activity are valid. I downloaded all data presented below from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on the State of Colorado’s official web portal. You’ll see reports from both the Pueblo Police Department and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office are included in each chart.
There are eight major crime categories reported by law enforcement agencies: arson, assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, murder/manslaughter, rape and robbery (in alphabetical order). I’ve compiled data for the time period 2009-2015 illustrating 7 years of reported crimes with 2009-2013 data reflecting crime rates prior to marijuana legalization and 2014-2015 showing crime rates after legalization went into effect.
There are two anomalies worth noting in these data.
- First, reports of rape by the Pueblo Police Department skyrocketed in 2013 (before marijuana legalization). My best guess is there was some sort of change in reporting criteria or some other irregularity since I don’t recall hearing about an explosion of rape incidents. Perhaps someone from the Pueblo PD can explain the eight-fold increase between 2012 and 2013?
- Second, 2012 appears to have been an extraordinarily quiet year for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office. To me, it looks like only a portion of crime data was reported for 2012. Perhaps the County Sheriff’s office could clarify?
I have no expertise in criminal justice so maybe I’m missing something here. That said, I do have expertise in data analysis and in my opinion there’s absolutely no justification whatsoever for claims of an increase in crime since marijuana was legalized in January 2014.
In fact, you might more convincingly argue crime is down looking at the assault, larceny/theft, and robbery categories. If you look at data reported by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office you can see crime rates trending down in nearly every category since 2013. Good job Sheriff Taylor!
So, since all retail marijuana outlets are currently located outside Pueblo city limits, should we conclude retail marijuana has reduced crime? Well, no. I don’t see that either. Concluding crime is down due to marijuana legalization would be a dishonest interpretation of the data….sort of like violating the Hippocratic Oath.
Now who would stoop so low to deceive the good citizens of Pueblo?
I answered, “I don’t hate Pueblo West. What makes you think I do?”
He replied, “You say so on your blog.”
Well, I don’t think I’ve come right out and said explicitly “I hate Pueblo West” anywhere on my blog. But I acknowledge I’ve written a few blog posts that aren’t terribly flattering. One post in particular (Funding the City of Pueblo) in which I suggest setting up a toll booth for inbound traffic on Highway 50, later published by the Pueblo Chieftain, even generated some hate mail from PW residents. So, I guess my student has a point.
The truth is I don’t feel any hatred toward Pueblo West. And I understand the appeal of living there for people who want a more quiet, serene version of Pueblo. Thanks to the ridiculous costs involved in building within city limits (courtesy of the difficult-to-work-with Pueblo Regional Building Department) Pueblo West is also the only place where you can find a reasonable supply of newer housing with modern amenities. I get it.
The problem is Pueblo West has become too densely populated. I don’t know who was in charge of zoning decisions during the housing boom but at some point developers were given the green light to build on relatively small parcels. If we could go back in time and enact an urban growth boundary, forcing residential developers to build on a minimum lot size, say 2-5 acres, things would be completely different. And much better.
The result of loads of people relocating to Pueblo West is a smaller tax base in the City of Pueblo combined with an expansive and more expensive infrastructure. This is why we don’t have enough money to hire sufficient numbers of police officers. This is one of the reasons District 60 is struggling. This is why my idea to set up toll collection for inbound vehicle traffic from Pueblo West makes sense to me.
It probably also makes sense to Joe Minicozzi, the architect and urban planning expert from Asheville, North Carolina who addressed the Colorado Downtown Inc conference at the Pueblo Convention Center this week. He analyzed land use data in Pueblo County and pointed out the negative economic impact of the sprawl in Pueblo West.
Please read the story by Dennis Darrow published in today’s Pueblo Chieftain. The Chieftain buried it on page 5A but it should be above the fold on page 1, instead of the Von Miller story, for all Pueblo residents to read.
We must become more intelligent and data-driven when it comes to financing government in Pueblo. Our only solution to budget challenges seems to be a never-ending parade of sales tax initiatives. Sales tax increases are the wrong approach because they unfairly burden low income city residents and create incentive for many businesses to locate outside the city limits. We must be smart enough to reward businesses and residents for using existing infrastructure rather than stretching our already tapped public budgets.
There must be more incentive to invest in Downtown Pueblo. And, there should also be disincentives for increasing the footprint of our infrastructure.
I still like my idea for a toll booth.
Earlier this month the Pueblo Chieftain published a story indicating 95% of Pueblo Police Officers have No Confidence in Pueblo Police Chief, Luis Velez. Of the 99 Pueblo Police Officers who completed the survey 94 indicated they have “No Confidence” in Chief Velez.
Wow. Velez is about as popular as a root canal….without sedation. If he were an Animal House character he’d be Douglas C. Neidermeyer, killed by his own troops.
In addition to their lack of confidence in Chief Velez’s leadership they launch very serious accusations of cronyism, aimed primarily at Pueblo City Manager, Sam Azad. The following letter was released by IPBO Local 537, the local union of Police Officers. Our community’s Police Officers have spoken clearly. They need new leadership. I hope City Council is paying attention.
January 8, 2016
The recent release of the response by Chief Velez and City Manager Sam Azad in reference to the survey conducted by IBPO Local 537 has solicited a rebuttal by the Union E-Board.
Based on Chief Velez’s response, it is clear that he believes the frustration of his officers is a new problem. He states that 2015 had problems not seen before, such as gang violence, not enough manpower, forced overtime and the condition of police equipment.
We would like to point out that the gang problem in Pueblo has been here since the early 1990’s. However, we agree that recently the problem has become worse. The decision by Chief Velez to reduce the four man gang unit to a single Detective in the Pueblo Police Department Gang Unit has certainly not been in the best interest of public safety.
Nor has it been in the public safety interest to eliminate the ten beats that patrol officers used to be responsible for and essentially turn the ten beats into basically two beats referred to as North and South Sectors. When the Police Department had beats, there was a higher potential of the same officer responding to the same address for the same type of calls. The officer immediately knew the history of problems in the neighborhood and would have a better idea as to how to correct the issue.
By enlarging the area of responsibility to half a city, the chances of the same officer responding to the same address for the same type of call has decreased substantially. That puts the responding officer in the poor position of trying to be brought up to speed on what the history of the problems are. The officer is not aware of what tactics were used before and therefore is at a loss as to which tactic might work better.
As far as the manpower shortage, this is also not new. For the past several years, the department has been limited to 193 officers after City Manager Sam Azad froze fourteen positions. That brought the Department down to 193 total officers. That number includes 1 Chief, 3 Deputy Chiefs and 7 Captains. This actually leaves 182 officers on paper, but in reality there are only 164 officers. The 13 newly graduated officers, will not hit the streets on their own until the summer of 2016. The addition of 7 more officers, which were only hired due to an outcry by the public, is merely a drop in the bucket to where we should be.
The Union does agree that the forced overtime issue was a larger problem this year than in years past. However, it should also be noted that the Patrol Captains initiated a minimum staffing requirement that is the same for every day of the week, disregarding the days where fewer officers may not be needed and adding to days where they are needed. Again, the Union pointed out during contract negotiations that we were then at 1.7 officers per 1000 citizens when the state average was 2.4. So instead of having 264 officers, we only had 164. So even with the influx of 20 officers over the next ten months, we will still be 80 officers short.
Chief Velez mentions problems with police equipment, primarily the vehicles. This has been a problem for years, and a problem he said would be addressed during his first year as Chief. He has been able to purchase several new patrol SUV’s which have helped incredibly. We will give him that one.
Regarding the Departments ongoing partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s SAFE Streets Program, this partnership includes a single FBI agent working with the Pueblo Police Department. It isn’t as huge as the citizens have been led to believe.
Chief Velez also states that the Department is going to undergo an overtime audit completed by an outside agency. It is our understanding that this was ordered by the City Council and was to be conducted by an independent organization. We have since been told that KRW will be the independent organization to conduct this investigation.
The “K” in “KRW” stands for Loren Kramer, the former Chief of Police in Colorado Springs. Chief Kramer was instrumental in turning the reins of Chief of Police over to his long time friend, Luis Velez, in Colorado Springs. Chief Velez received a vote of no confidence by the officers in Colorado Springs and resigned.
Approximately five and one half years ago, KRW was hired by Pueblo City Council to conduct an internal investigation into the Pueblo Police Department. KRW’s recommendation was to bring in former Colorado Springs Chief Luis Velez to run this department. It is not very comforting now to see that KRW is once again going to be the independent organization to determine whether or not the overtime issues within the department are based on management’s mismanagement of staff or rather to deflect the blame to the Police Union instead.
The citizens of Pueblo need to be aware that the City Attorney’s Office has had numerous qualified attorneys working for them for over half a century. During that time period, countless numbers of contracts were ratified between the employees and management. Coincidentally, upon the heels of the KRW report five years ago, the City of Pueblo hired one of the largest national law firms, Fisher & Phillips, to annually negotiate bargaining agreements with the City’s three Unions.
Fisher & Phillips not only specialize in contract negotiations, but also in decertification of Unions. We would be surprised if the City of Pueblo admitted that was their reasoning for hiring extremely expensive additional legal counsel during a time period when the city is also saying they have no money. If that isn’t the reason, why then do they still have a City Attorney sitting next to a Fisher & Phillips attorney making $450 an hour telling us the city has no money. It seems to us that the City Attorney could tell us the same information at a substantially cheaper cost.
Chief Velez has been here now for nearly five years. We admit he has done some positive things, but crime is up, morale is down and we have fewer officers now than when he started. Was that the 5-year plan or is there a new one because the first 5-year plan didn’t work? Or did it?
Chief Velez recently told us that he is thinking of placing a public safety initiative on the November ballot. Interesting since the Union supported an initiative 2 years ago that he publicly was against because he didn’t feel the fire department deserved half the money. He informed us that the “fire department deals with property, but we deal with people” therefore he deserves more of the pie.
Sam Azad is the former finance officer of the Colorado Springs Police Department and worked directly under Chief Velez in that capacity. Again, it is probably only coincidental that Sam Azad is now the Pueblo City Manager and Chief Velez works directly under Sam.
For the past three and one half years the Police Union has pointed out to Sam Azad that our manpower is substantially under manned and the crime problems are increasing. Nothing we have told Sam or Chief Velez again recently is anything new. It is the same issue that we have been bringing up for several years now and it has been falling on deaf ears.
We can appreciate the fact that both Sam Azad and Chief Velez have been looking forward to their not too distant retirements but assure you that the employees of the City of Pueblo, specifically the Police Union, can only say, “Godspeed, and the sooner the better.”
Based on comments, the majority of readers are most interested in online graduate programs and several new players have emerged just in the past year. So, for my 2016 rankings, I’ve decided to focus on online Master’s degree programs in GIS/Spatial. To keep the task manageable I will not include any Certificate programs, only programs offering graduate degrees.
As I’ve cautioned in previous posts (see 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 rankings), the programs I consider to be the very best may not be the best for you. Graduate education is an individual decision; there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That said, I’ve ranked the programs according to my perception of quality and relevance for students wanting to pursue a Spatial Career.
Other programs worth investigating (in alphabetical order):
Well, there you have it! I hope this provides some direction and insight for those of you shopping for an online GIS graduate degree. I would have liked to include tuition information but for many programs it’s very difficult to figure out actual costs. It’s not clear how in-state/out-of-state tuition comes into play nor how additional fees might impact total program cost in some cases. You’ll have to investigate on your own. Obviously cost is a huge consideration so as I learn more I’ll try to keep you posted. Thanks for reading!
Check this out.
I’ve posted an image of the papers served by the City of Pueblo. And I mean tacked on the door, not mailed (according to my tenant). The official date on the paperwork signed by Gina Dutcher at the City Clerk’s Office is November 11th, Veteran’s Day. I would love to hear from any Veterans who were indeed notified in the same manner on Veteran’s Day.
And when I say “make up for the City’s own incompetence” I mean the City of Pueblo’s Finance Department did almost nothing to collect on these liens from the owner of record at the time of the code violation. I didn’t even own the property when this occurred. But that didn’t really seem to bother City officials I spoke to. I was told the “liens follow the property” so I’m financially responsible.
More on that later.
Last week, on Veteran’s Day, I received notification from the City of Pueblo ordering payment of $1,588 for trash and weed abatement at a rental property I own on Polk Street in the Mesa Junction neighborhood. Apparently I’m one of the lucky winners thanks to City Council’s recent decision to seek payment for old liens.
At first I thought my current tenants might be at fault but then I looked at the notification again and realized I was being billed for a City Code Violation that occurred in August/September 2011 before I bought the property out of foreclosure. The owner of record at the time of violation was the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, better known as Freddie Mac. Remember them? One of the Government Sponsored Entities (GSE) that helped facilitate the mortgage/housing bubble and ensuing financial crisis.
As I investigated the assessment I was being asked to pay it became clear that no one in the City’s Finance Department made any serious effort to collect the assessment from Freddie Mac. They mailed a few invoices and then gave up when a check didn’t magically appear. What a shame. As I recall the City really could have used that money in 2011 when the economy hit bottom. Maybe City employees were too busy drinking vodka and driving around town topless at the time.
In any case, what really bothers me is the thought that some of our military veterans who reside in Pueblo probably also received an assessment on Veteran’s Day. Sort of like having someone spit on your face as a birthday present.
It makes me wonder if Pueblo is really the Home of Heroes or if it’s actually a place where the Homes of Heroes are used in a public extortion scheme.
Where were you and your tough talk when it was time to hold the big banks and mortgage lenders responsible?
Shame on you City Council.