Thursday, May 31, 2007

Letters: Complaint dept.

In today's mailbag, Henry Wamboldt doesn't get why Commodore Springer needs a westside highway to feed customers to her developer pals -- come on Hank, get a clue -- Jack McGowan will fight to preserve his right to a high-speed T-boning, and Phyllis Meyers thinks the rodeo is icky.

Cartoon: Estados Unidos

Oh, fer chrissake! What's wrong with you people?

Editorial: "Sometimes people must bend the rules"

This piece is so incoherent I'm having a hard time parsing it, but I think the unnamed Courier editor may be trying to find a way to sympathize with Van Bateman's deflection of guilt for burning up over 400,000 acres of forest and a couple of small towns. Following the law here is "acting against common sense"!? Someone in the editor's office is smokin' crack.

Talk of the Town: "Drivers must get used to photo radar"

Shorter Margaret Brown: If you don't like photo radar, you must be a criminal.

I get the argument. It's the same one the Current Resident uses to justify warrantless wiretaps. But let's not get all slippery-slopey, now.

I'd rather set this in context next to the roundabout debate. Here we have two quite different approaches to the same problem, that of reducing injuries at intersections. One maintains the 'traditional' method for handling the traffic while threatening more uniform enforcement -- in fact enforcement by machine. The other alters the traffic pattern and maintains the 'traditional' enforcement regime.

Based on the numbers we're seeing in the Courier, both seem to be working to reduce injuries, primarily because both systems are slowing traffic. In the first case drivers are reducing speed out of awareness of the higher probability of a fine, in the other because the configuration makes it impractical to do otherwise.

The Glassford Hill Gauntlet actually does nothing to prevent a high-speed T-boning, it rather relies on the effect on marginal drivers to produce a statistical reduction in injuries.

The roundabout, on the other hand, sets a physical barrier across the intersection, which is far more effective in changing the behavior of even the most impaired driver. I'm not saying a T-boning is impossible in a roundabout, but it is statistically negligible.

In a way this difference of approach can be framed as conservative vs. progressive. One preserves a system that doesn't work well and calls for tougher, depersonalized enforcement. The other studies the problem as a system and adjusts the system to work better, reducing the need for enforcement.

Both approaches are drawing huge amounts of criticism, probably from different kinds of people. For me it comes down to a question of what sort of community I want to live in.

A1: "The good and bad of roundabouts"

Mirsada Buric brings in some numbers to put beside the raft of complaints about the roundabout at Willow Lake and 89.

Which number do you think is more significant, the larger number of fender-benders because unqualified drivers are freaking out, or the fewer injuries (and no deaths) despite all the freaking out?

Update: 6:40am: The graphic page is up now, with a graph by Tim that adds some perspective we don't see in the story. Check that rising trend at the Prescott Lakes intersection.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Editorial: "Tim's Toyota shares its success with PV"

Call us back once the bloom is off the rose, the promoters are done losing money on half-attended events, and the public is sick of shelling out big bucks for flat soda and dealing with snarled traffic. Say five years. At least three, anyway.

I'm sure the Fains are doing great from it, but it's a little early to declare the Albatross Arena a success for the rest of the community.

Letters: Feet to fire

Ed Kahn backs me up on asking harder questions of the county departments for the ongoing series, and another whiny golfer gets his comeuppance from the editors, who hang a lame pun in his headline. Poor slob.

Cartoon: Don't Tread on Me


Update: 6:47pm: Link fixed, thanks Lefty.

Thomas: "Leaving Iraq equals a win for jihad"

Originally titled "Unending War" (May 30), the nutbar right's favorite junkyard dog continues to remind me of Monty Python's Black Knight, four limbs missing but still cursing us as cowards for refusing to shred him further. Sort of pitiful, really.

The Courier editors ran this more or less full-length and expunged his occasional passive voice without too much damage, with one important exception: where the Courier wrote "People make mistakes" in war, an admission you'll never find in the administration talking points he uses in place of a brain, Thomas wrote "Mistakes are made," keeping him more in line with the amnesiac obfuscators currently facing Congressional inquiries.

This was a mistake, of course. The Courier consistently treats radical-right voices with clear respect, in contrast to its rather less consistent treatment of moderate and progressive writers.

Update, 3:30pm: I forgot to mention Cal's wacky take on Japanese culture. For the record: completely wrong.

A1: "Prescott Valley mayor announces new narcotics unit"

PV is assigning two officers as a new narc team. The Courier breathlessly characterizes this as "War on Drugs" in a shouter headline and the lead. Pathetic.

The subject of addressing the social problems related to illegal drug use, distribution and production deserves an adult conversation about reality rather than mindless rhetoric.

Online: "Blogs! Prescottonians voice their opinions online"

I'm running a little late this morning, and I've already seen a bunch of hits from this story by Shari Lopatin (and I'm sure John Kamin deserves a mention as well).

There's a bigger list here that I expected to see, nicely done.

Shari was professional and assiduous on the phone, and seems like a nice person. That makes it harder to whine about the details of the coverage. Regular readers here will probably know what I'm talking about, I'll just bitch about one easy thing: no space in "Courierwatch."

I was under the impression that this story was being done for print, however. Could happen?

Update, 5:35pm: 23 clicks in from, not bad! Thanks, John.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Editorial: "So far so good this wildfire season"

The unnamed Courier editor seems to put an awful lot of store on luck to keep our town from burning down. I'd prefer to rely on informed and alert citizens, good preparation and our fabulous fire-fighters.

Sure, it's a manner of speaking, but it promotes a certain passivity about everything, and I'm sorry, I'm just not down for that, guys. You'll go to any length to eliminate the passive voice from a paragraph, how about from your own thinking?

Wiederaenders: "Never forget what Memorial Day means"

I remember: people died under civilian orders.

It seems to me we're pretty good about celebrating the heroic dead, but we're a little lean on remembering that we civilians sent them to die, and our record of handling that decision well is more than a little spotty. Tim.

A1: "Meeting about plan to restore forests is Wednesday"

Joanna Dodder gives us a cogent heads-up on an opportunity to be involved in fire-related planning and why it's important. Good use of space.

Letters: I did not shoot the deputy

Among three letters on the deputy story, Linda Hunt writes, "It takes great courage for a law-enforcement agency to root out suspected criminal behavior within its ranks," and I have to wonder why in the world this might be accepted as conventional wisdom. If it is, it's pathetic.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Amster: "Citizens need to make opinions clear"

Randall admits, "I generally try not to be prescriptive in these columns," and my question is: why? Up to near the end here I think you're doing pretty well, Randall. This is progress, keep it up!

Letters: Life's a beach

Earl Burden is back, still whining for sand between his toes, as he did on April 27. Do you get the feeling no one's listening?

Editorial: "Veterans deserve our thanks today and every day"

And promise them we'll never again send them into harm's way for anything less than a real threat to our lives and freedom. We can do better than this.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Weekend off

The weather's great, working folks have a three-day weekend, who needs to sit around reading about the Courier? Check back in a coupla days. Open thread in comments here if you feel the urge.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A3: "Ellen Simon drops out of Distict One race"

Hmmm. Maybe Ellen really has a more compelling focus. Or maybe she discovered that local Dems don't much like her. It sure looks like she's a little disorganized about it, in any case.

Update, 2:31pm: Headline typo

A1: "Chino council ready to look at roundabout"

Apparently the Chino Valley Council isn't scared of roundabouts either. Maybe they're just more scared of signal-controlled T-bonings.

Talk of the Town: "Bad outweighs the good with illegal immigrants"

With this I think we might surmise that the debate has played out and there's nothing new to be said about immigration, at least on one side. The same tired arguments made in the same tired way, from people who have no credentials for special insight, makes for awfully dull reading. Why is this here?

Letters: Councilcritter toots horn

I've known Jim Lamerson for years, and I've got used to his iconoclastic style. But it's a little unseemly even for him to write something like this. That should be a job for a happy constituent, and if you're not getting that sort of help, it's a clue.

For the record, I think he's got a point -- people are always more willing to bitch than praise, and as voters we need to be more aware of what's not going wrong. I don't necessarily agree with him about what's going right, however.

Did Jim call up the Courier seeking an interview for a feature on Council's point of view about its various controversies? Might not that have been a good idea, editors?

A1: "Sheriff’s office check turned up Aryan link"

The fascination with this sensational story is understandable, but I'm getting a little uneasy about it.

The meat here is in how old Buck didn't seem to care much about who he was hiring and is getting defensive about it; that Sheriff Waugh didn't know, but now he did know and it didn't matter, but now it matters. And John K's got a good angle on how this might throw some doubt on certain cases. None of this is really at the focus of the story, though.

It's getting irritating to repeatedly read, "a usable amount of cocaine and drove to a convenience store," as if a visit to the Circle K rates a few days in the clink. But that's just a minor aggravation.

My civil-libertarian alarm is going off about the Aryan Nation (no, not "Nations," guys) focus in general. Distasteful as it is, there's nothing illegal about involvement in any such group, and the story is pulling most of its horsepower from what may be nothing in terms of reality right now. There's going to be a jury on this, and how will this information affect them? Will he receive harsher treatment because of an ugly but not unlawful political affiliation in his past? How would we feel if, rather than speaking stupidly about race, he had spoken stupidly, for example, about the rights of animals when he was in college?

I'm not saying that I know he's not an evil bastard, but I sense this could easily turn out into a railroad job, perhaps in part to cover up slack practices inside the YCSO.

I'm asking the Courier to be very careful about this.

Update, 9:15: Today's editorial throws more fuel on the fire, demanding new procedures to screen out "extremists." What's important, guys, is not really what the guy did before, but how he feels about it now and what he's likely to do now. Maybe he's still an awful racist, but maybe he's not; in America we're allowed to learn, change our minds and do things differently without permanent stains from the past. Or we should be. A hiring system should be careful enough to sort that out, rather than respond reflexively to how a past mistake might look.

'Extremist' is in the eye of the beholder, and a certain editor has thrown that word at me as well.

Wiederaenders: "Roundabouts leave a lot to be desired"

I'm sorry, I have no sympathy for this at all. Roundabouts are very simple -- you just have to understand what a 'yield' sign means. If you can't handle it, I'd suggest you should probably turn in your license. But the simple truth is that anyone who can handle a freeway merge can easily handle a roundabout, as long as you don't turn your mind off when you see something that looks new.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Editorial: "Roundabouts work, but require a learning curve"

The unnamed Courier editor gets it -- the traffic moves and you won't get T-boned by some drunken yahoo doing 90 against the light. Duh.

Talk of the Town: "Development is a natural, beneficial human trait"

Greg Sober, huh? Sort of smells like a nom de plume. Could anyone really be so naive and thoughtless beyond the third grade? That's it, isn't it: the small boy's fascination with toy trucks.

The best bit, though, is the spurious anthropology, imagining the ancient Pueblo peoples in the role of Del Webb. I'd laugh harder, but it's really kind of embarrassing to think that this person somehow managed to get through public school. Sheesh.

Is the Courier spike really so empty? Bill O'Reilly would be better. Words fail me.

Cartoon: The phones don't work

More space wasted on Paris Hilton. Gag me.

A1: "Couple watches lion kill deer in yard"

Oh, this must have been fun to write. How often does a writer get to use 'catamount,' after all? Joanna Dodder seems to relish the opportunity. Plain ol' straight news, no one hurt unless you count the deer, and the sidebar is a nice, informative touch. Here's a cookie. I love living here.

A1: "Contract non-renewal causes peaceful protest"

It's a drag that this otherwise interesting story doesn't include the other side of the conflict, although the 'call me on Tuesday' quote is arch, if uninformative. This hits an important voter-interest story, that of charter-school management and funding, and it would be easy to infer from the photo box at lower right that we may have a theme building. I'm wondering whether the Courier has considered covering the board meetings where this conflict has been apparently playing out, and if not, why not? In any case it's good to see something on these usually invisible education experiments.

I had some direct experience with Kestrel some years ago, and I have to say I met some great people there, but management problems have dogged it. I hope it gets better, because it offers a great mission.

A1: "Former deputy was once head of the Washington state Aryan Nation chapter"

Oy. I hear he's a bass player, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A1: "City moves forward with roundabout study"

Councilcritter Suttles goes to school on roundabouts, and I hope she'll be able to borrow Cindy Barks' notes, she'll need them for the quiz. Voters should take a few notes here, too, for the coming election.

A1: "Police arrest second PUSD teacher"

We don't learn why it took two months between taking him out of his classroom and the actual arrest, but Mirsada Buric covers this ugliness pretty well. I'm thankful for the quote from Kapp at the end in defense of all the good teachers whose reputations are indirectly besmirched by this. And for anyone thinking of putting their kid in private school to get away from this, bear in mind that PUSD has a program in place and caught the guy. You don't hear about the ones who don't get caught.

Cartoon: Memorial Day protest

Protesting the war to take our troops out of harm's way equals spitting on our veterans. Uh-huh. The mind that can buy into this drek is pitiable, but the minds that conceive this message and abet its distribution are the real serial abusers, taking advantage of those who are too weak to defend themselves.

Letters: Inattention edition

Leaving aside the standard nonprofit thank-you letter, today's mailbag is about missing the boat: Suzanne MacGowan thinks we can just tax the underground economy, Peggy McCauslin agrees with me but didn't quite read the material, and Reb Satterfield, while doing wonderful things for the troops, remains confused about the war.

Editorial: "Minutemen need to reveal secret identities"

While the unnamed Courier editor goes a bit over the top in referring to wannabe vigilantism as "noble work," his central point is correct, even if its motivation is a bit venal. (He really wants to print the vigilante rant sitting on his spike, but with no name on it, he can't.) The writing is all original, the idea is good for the town, that's enough to rate a cookie. Too bad he couldn't resist the gratuitous cowboy reference.

Talk of the Town: "Yavapai officials mustn’t keep us in the dark"

Georgene Lockwood, a friend of mine, lets the Queen Bee have it with both barrels. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye on the issues and tactics going on in Williamson Valley, but here she stays on track and I think she's right on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A6: "Davis, Thurman support Prop. 207 land use stipulation"

Okay, this is different from what I was thinking on Sunday. The Supes voted against the Queen Bee to allow the county to revoke land-use changes requested by owners if they subsequently sue under Prop 207 rules. I'm just having a hard time figuring out when that might happen, since you're supposed to invoke 207 if a state or local authority does something that impacts your land value. Very interesting that Springer invokes the 'will of the voters' (not unlike the 'will of the hypnotized subject to bark like a chicken') and makes a big deal about what looks pretty basic to me. There's a very bad smell in the room.

Editorial: "Time has come for use of photo radar"

The unnamed Courier editor again repackages page one and -- surprise! -- comes to the same conclusion pushed in the uncritical coverage. At least there's no cowboy-movie reference, thank Cthulhu.

Talk of the Town: "Everyone has the right to protect themselves"

Most readers won't make it through the first graph of this academically styled bumble through Beside-the-Pointland, so it might be unfair to ask that the Courier editors recruit a street lawnforcement officer to reply to Tony Imbronone's ultimate point, that the government has neither the capacity nor the inclination to protect you from crime, so you'd better get a gun. That seems a mighty sweeping indictment of our peace officers, not to mention the whole concept of civilization, capping his massive naivete about the likely effectiveness of the strategy.

A1: "Sheriff's office arrests one of its own"

In the comments, Carlos Gaines gives the expected instant judgment, and things look bad for the deputy. I hope the reader will resist the urge to infer this or that, and bear in mind that using drugs recreationally doesn't make you evil.

A7: "Court of appeals ends Henson’s extradition battle"

Mirsada Buric follows up on her story from Saturday with the expected news that Arizona will send him back to California and the death threats against him. I can understand the journalistic rationale for "a misdemeanor conviction involving his threats against the Church of Scientology," but given the facts of the case it would have been nice to see 'purported' or 'alleged' in there somewhere. And I expect we'll never know whether YavCo jail personnel really withheld his drugs or kept him from his lawyer. I hope he makes it through the ordeal OK.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Herron: "Big Mess in Iraq getting worse daily"

Al gives us a nice basic summary of the issues our soldiers are facing down in Iraq. Of course, we knew all this four years ago, only the numbers of dead and maimed have changed, so it's a little late. He promises a second part to this, and I hope it will include a clear and forceful position on what we should do about the 'big mess.'

Editorial: "Why rush now on immigration bill?"

The unnamed Courier editor raises the bloody effigy of Ted Kennedy over his head to scare his tiny audience, but he collapses under the weight of his own rhetoric. Failing to mention that the other main sponsor of this bill is John Kyl and that it's supported by both St. McCain and the Current Resident puts the editor squarely in the center of the hooting platoon led by Russell Pierce. After stoking the fire for "immigration reform" for several years in a pathetically transparent attempt to stampede voters toward the Rs, suddenly now there's no hurry. Blaming the current Congress for the Preznit's massive deficit-spending rates a chuckle, as well.

Guys, you've been pandering to this reactionary put-up job for so long you've bought into the gag. The vast majority of Americans know that the situation is both complex and not an emergency, and so do you. Put a sock in it and let the adults get something done.

A1: "County workers keep buildings looking good"

I remember doing a story a lot like this for my high-school paper about our custodial department. Paula Rhoden gets the byline, but this is another in what we can expect will be a regular series of utterly uncritical features that could have been written by departmental PR flaks. Again we learn nothing about the quality or relative value of the services we're all paying for.

I've dealt with Pat Kirshman professionally, and the sooner he shuffles off to obscurity the better I'll like it. There's plenty of stink to investigate here.

A3: "Copper Basin Road project, water availability top agenda "

Another regular Monday agenda story from Cindy Barks. If there's going to be no analysis or background to the issues that the councils and boards are preparing to discuss, it seems to me that this sort of information would be easier to access in a regular, dependable notice box shared by the various government authorities. Consider how the agenda information can best serve the voter, and what the paper could include to facilitate and encourage public participation.

Update, 9:47: Page number corrected, thanks Jared.

A1: "Group recreates war for History Channel"

Joanna Dodder has a little wander through Prescott history to pad out a puffer about our local military dress-up club. I suppose it's no surprise that she doesn't mention the actual subject of the documentary, America's first unprovoked, aggressive war of expansion and conquest.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Compassion for day laborers has its limits"

Dan Pederson makes some good points about what it's like for the business neighbors, and writes with some intelligence and sensitivity. Overall I think he's got the wrong end of the stick, though. Do the would-be workers deserve the blame, or should we be looking more closely at ourselves for creating the conditions that force them into an underground economy? Are we looking at causes here, or consequences?

There's another response to Dennis Duvall in the letters section, too.

Editorial: "Hambrick's actions don't pass smell test"

The unnamed Courier editor crawls further out on his limb, trying to get the rope in the right position to hang Vic Hambrick. This follows up on his May 8 offering, "Link with Townsend doesn't pass 'smell test'," demonstrating a stunning level of creativity with headlines, if nothing else. (I know, I used it too -- but only once, and first.)

Just to sum up one more time: Hambrick may be as dirty as the editor seems to think, but so far he hasn't shown us the goods on that, and for that reason I think the editor is way ahead of himself on calling for the assessor's removal by whatever means. The Courier also took a position against Hambrick in his election, and that should be mentioned. By using the editorial page in this unwise manner, the paper has made itself part of a story that could unfairly damage professional reputations and erode confidence in elected officials. Whatever the underlying truth is, more care is warranted here.

A3: "Supervisors to discuss budget, centennial, Prop. 207"

Uh-huh, here it comes. The Supes will be voting on a new policy of backing off from any land-use regulation if the landowner threatens to sue for compensation under Prop 207 rules. This will effectively prevent any land-use regulation change that does not favor development. And who was the local mouthpiece for this touch of evil bought and paid for by radical New York libertarian Howie Rich? The Queen Bee herself, that's who. Why can't the Courier say so?

A1: "Adult Center scrambles to meet high demand"

Sometimes I feel like I'm looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Cindy Barks tells us -- first time I've read this, as far as I can recall -- that the 'ultimate goal' for membership in the Adult Center has been about 1,000. Yikes, for all the money and hassle the City has pumped into that facility, it ought to be serving a whole lot more people than that! I'm all for public partnerships with nonprofits, but Adult Center has historically been afforded sacred-cow status that deserves a little more skeptical inspection.

Outside the body copy: The headline hints that the new name for the place isn't sticking, and somebody please get control of the captions!

A1: "Water, sewer rates will not increase next fiscal year"

Here's the followup on the meeting previewed on May 16. Turns out staff decided to hold the line on rates. Hmmm. It feels like something's missing here, but it's probably inside stuff between Council and staff.

A1: Photo radar

PV declares victory with its Glassford Hill gauntlet, and Ken Hedler covers it in a three-angle feature here and here. Chunks of this are clouds of numbers that might have been better done as comparison tables, so it's a bit of a challenge to sort out.

What Ken's focusing on is all pretty obvious -- it's no surprise that people learn where the cameras are and change their behavior accordingly.

I've been hoping that the Courier would provide a little transparency on the corporate side of this system, though, and here I'm largely disappointed. We get a per-ticket rate of $70 and a total of 97K-odd bucks that PV has sent to Redflex so far, but no overall income number for comparison. Ken also describes Redflex as "Scottsdale-based," which is plain wrong -- it has a satellite operation in Scottsdale, but it's based in Australia, and some voters might consider that significant. This gives me some pause about whether to trust the rest of Ken's coverage.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Letters: More on prop tax-dodging

Marian Littel gives us a little more (couldn't resist, sorry) on the tricks available to large property owners for paying less than their fair share. Interesting, and yet another gift to the Courier editors that so far goes unaccepted.

Kamin: "Ron Paul was right, Rudy was wrong"

It's getting to be that I look forward to John K's columns. I'm not sure that the headline was the best choice, but the piece is good stuff, and not just because I happen to agree with his points, but rather that they're made with precision and strength, and a voter might profit from reading them.

Talk of the Town: "CPA stands up for Hambrick, Townsend"

Vic Hambrick's accountant is annoyed that he's being implicated in alleged hanky-panky, and barks back, at one point comparing the Courier's research skills unfavorably with those of a fifth-grader and its reporters of a certain lack of sense. He goes on to ask some pointed questions about how this story has been covered. In case you're keeping score, here are some answers.

"ROI Land Management & Development Company owes her $295,000." Did your reporter verify this statement or ask to see a copy of the note or agreement?
This refers to the May 6 story, and Joanna's balancer came in the same paragraph: "He denies owing her any money." That was the end of it, no mention of proof. Is that the reporter's job? It may be, when they're already stringing you up on the editorial page.
"Did your reporter question how the transfer of real property could have anything to do with solving anyone's tax problem? Or did they confirm Victor Hambrick even had a tax problem before printing this statement?
There's no telling what questions Joanna asked, but there is certainly no answer to this in any of her stories. This was an allegation made by Townsend, though, not the Courier. Should the Courier have printed it without followup or fact-checking?

I also notice that he has to do this on the opinion page, rather than have his viewpoint and assertions of innocence covered in the original story.

It's exactly this sort of sticky complexity that keeps most papers away from investigative work, and I don't mean to criticize Joanna or the editors for going after the story, that's a good thing. You have to mind your Ps and Qs, though. If this accountant really is innocent -- and everyone is until proved guilty, right? -- the Courier may have unfairly screwed up his business and professional reputation. We'll see as the story continues to develop what's just. What we know so far is that the Courier's actions have made it an important part of the story, always a dangerous play for the press.

A1: "Six new roundabouts up for review"

It seems the roundabout idea is working just fine after all. I seem to recall that the Courier, along with a horde of letter-writers, predicted a massive failure back when this was approved. Anyone got a relevant link?

A1: "Chamber opposes sales tax initiative"

Dave Maurer is a pretty smart guy, and knows a boondoggle when he sees one. I'll bet the unnamed Courier editor would not have imagined that he'd wind up on the other side of the issue from the CofC when he rashly wrote in support of the initiative to kill off funding for open space back on April 18.

I love this bit at the end: "... the Chamber suggested that the city, the initiative group, and other interested parties get together to "develop a plan that can be supported by everyone."" That's exactly what Norwood should have got in gear as soon as he heard that Behnke was out for bear -- and you can bet he heard about it long before the initiative effort started.

A1: "Henson gets another stay in Arizona as he fights extradition"

I understand that lawyers have to make whatever argument might work, but I can't see how Henson's lawyer is doing anything useful with this desperate rearguard action that sacrifices his client's credibility.

This is a low-level international story taking place in our jail, and there's a local angle to it that the Courier has so far missed or skipped over, in that there are widely circulated allegations that Henson is being mistreated in the YavCo jail, including denial of necessary medications and impeding contact with legal counsel. Whether any of this is true or not, it's at least a factor in the story that deserves reporting and at worst an issue with our local authorities that needs fixing.

Editorial: "'Just showing up' offers ample rewards"

Yeah, yeah, it's wonderful that a kid decides to go to school every day. Does anyone else think that giving a 15-year-old a car is a bizarre indulgence?

Friday, May 18, 2007

A1: "State is looking into assessor dealings"

Joanna Dodder adds a sighting of AG Terry Goddard to the Hambrick story, along with something from the Arizona Department of Real Estate, indicating that state-level officials are looking into it. Most of the body copy is review, but there's a stronger track on how Vic thinks land changes value depending on whether he's buying it or selling it. OK, we all do that, but we're not all the assessor.

Editorial: "New teen driving law is a good move"

The unnamed editor makes a good call and writes an informative piece about the new law. I'm afraid I missed the bit where the editors urged legislators to carry and support the bill while it was in process. What other good in-process bills might deserve support when it could make a difference? Leaving out the Paris Hilton bill, of course.

Talk of the Town: "Data leads to new inconvenient truth"

Terry Lovell is back with a flailing response to actual climate scientist Tim Crews, whom we read last week in this space. Lovell's original piece came in on April 15.

Lovell's arguments blather for themselves -- he maintains cluelessness about the carbon cycle, for example. My question is this: OK, we're having a real debate on the editorial page -- why did the first piece sit for a month unanswered, while the redirect comes out in a week? It's perfectly plausible that Crews took a while to get around to it (I wouldn't be surprised if he's busier than Lovell at work), but it's also plausible that it sat on the spike for a while. Just askin'.

Update, 7:15pm: Ever wonder where this stuff comes from?

Kamin: "Arsenic: How Bush and Clinton left Prescott holding the bag"

A big cookie and latte for John Kamin, who's done some homework and come up with a solid think piece on the arsenic problem. Go, read. Now, will this make it into print?

Update, 8:20: Link fixed, thanks, John!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Pumping will harm the Upper Verde River"

John Zambrano lays out chapter and verse on what we all know to be true. I'd like to say that it will end the chaff-tossing on this and allow us to start moving forward on a reasonable solution, but that would be more than optimistic.

Even the most ardent pumping advocates agree privately that their plan is unsustainable, but they think they can buy time for technology to provide the solution. Everyone at the top of this issue knows what the solution is: a massive solar-powered desalination operation on the Gulf of California providing water for the entire Sonoran region. Up here in YavCounty we're fighting over table scraps when we could be planting the farm that will feed us all. It's pathetic.

Update, 7:15 May 18: We interviewed ADWR Director and way cool cat Herb Guenther today, and without prompting he laid out the solution exactly as I have above. Listen on 89.5 FM Saturday or Sunday at 2pm -- it's in two parts, the first this weekend and the second probably week after next.

Editorial: "Yavapai County: Rural in name only"

I saw this headline and first wondered whether I was in for another inadvertent rerun on the op-ed page, but no, it's not the same as yesterday's. Just the same idea, lamenting our loss of innocence and bucolic bliss, applied over a list of county budget requests related to lawnforcement. And my response is the same: y'all think growth is good, don't bitch when you get what you want.

Seriously, guys, we could use some deep, integrative thinking from people who closely watch the flow of events in our area about where we're headed and how we can shape our progress to build and maintain the community we all want. That's the sort of leadership an editorial can contribute. This sigh-and-surrender-to-the-inevitable BS is totally counterproductive.

Letters: Brass tacks

Today we've got more outrage about the Prescott East Strip Mine -- editors, here's another gift from your readers of an idea for a hot story -- as well as a dope slap about teacher pay and a whiny golfer.

Here's my idea for golf courses: restore the land and unspoil your good walk, boys.

A1: "Copper Basin could be under construction by June"

There's something sort of endearing about this Council-meeting report by Cindy Barks. Under a straight, boring headline, this very straight story about the road-work bid veers off into backroom-deal territory toward the end, where we get hints of contractors and city staff stabbing each other in the back. In a bigger town that part might have been the whole story, with an investigation of shoddy work and corner-cutting, maybe a sniff test around conflict of interest or collusion. But in Prescott it's deemphasized and made polite. Very nice.

A1: Bleeding leads

Yikes, we've got a lot of gore today. Sentencing for the guy who supplied the gun for a head shot, two dead in a high-speed head-on, another guy stabs his girlfriend 80 times. It's coincidence that this all comes up on the same day, but it's bound to reinforce unreasonable fear of crime and mayhem. This might be a good reason to pull out some of that "community journalism" stuff to provide a little balance, but -- well, check the editorial above.

A1: "Plate covers may not keep motorists from getting a ticket"

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, Mirsada Buric (today with the '-Adam' reattached, for some reason) brings us some straight news, that DPS is undertaking tougher enforcement against photo-obscuring plate covers. On the other hand, she provides brand names and pointers to those covers and a particular spray-on glosser. That seems awfully close to the line for aiding and abetting, and I'm not sure the paper ought to be helping spread the idea that evading traffic enforcement is a legitimate sport. I think the whole camera-enforcement thing is pretty dumb, but let's not pile stupid on stupid.

Update, 9:25: Oh yeah, and let's not forget number agreement in the headline.

Cartoon: Updated food pyramid

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I got so scared I forgot what I was supposed to be scared about last week. Somebody remind me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A1: "Commission recommends plan for Indigo Resort"

A private franchisee wants to build another hotel in PV. No big deal, no particular controversy over it, and it seems like it ought to be on the business page. But I keep coming back to the lead, and wondering why the story starts with the franchisee's country of origin.

I know, my PC-addled brain is just overly suspicious of any reference to non-white people. But I gotta think that if the franchisee were British, it wouldn't be in the lead. I also wonder whether Ken Hedler wrote it that way, or maybe the editor moved that bit.

A1: "Spending package going to the Senate"

I guess there was a severe shortage of space left over from ads today. There's a lot of important information in this story, but it reads like it was edited with a Veg-o-matic. I'm familiar enough with most of these issues to figure out what's going on, but a less informed voter will likely be awfully confused. No blame for Joanna Dodder, I know she writes better than this.

A1: "City prepares for 'physical availability' application to state"

OK, tell me what I'm getting wrong here: the city is so far along with its pipeline plan that it was ready to put it out for bid, but only now "appears ready to seek a more official determination" on how much water the ADWR will actually let us suck out of Big Chino. Does this seem backward to you?

Another cookie for Cindy Barks.

Editorial: "Rural area, big-city confrontations"

Yup, it's tough to be a cop in PV. I get the impression it can be tough to be a resident of PV too. So the unnamed Courier editor not only repackages page one, he repackages several page-one stories -- gotta hit that illegal-alien angle again -- and leaves us with ... well, nothing.

If it were me I might make a mental connection along the way to the population growth that the Courier has always defended as both inevitable and good for us. But that's just me, I'm sure.

A9: "Recommendations in on revised PV utility rates"

In this interesting nugget, buried pretty deeply in the section, it appears that the PV Council is moving forward on another rise in utility rates, closely following a new rate schedule that just went into effect in October.

This is the regular council-agenda story. The agenda stories for Prescott usually run on A1 or A3 and make the free site. Is there a reason that the PV agenda runs farther back?

A3: "Moore likely edges Schmidt for CV Council final seat"

Doug Cook gets all the numbers in order, I'm just a little confused about their meaning. First, the distinction between the candidates is really vague:

Schmidt touted a conservative “smart growth” plan based on private industry paying infrastructure costs for building new homes and businesses. Challenger Moore advocated shopping locally while luring more small and big businesses to town.
Maybe I'm thick, but I don't get how this delineates a "hot-button issue." Then we read that "Moore barely beat Schmidt" by 3.7%, which would be a pretty decisive split in any other election, particularly the defeat of an incumbent. Near the end we learn that Schmidt drew more votes than Moore in the primary, making this the sort of come-from-behind horse race I'd expect would play in the lead. It sure feels like something is being soft-pedaled here.

Cartoon: Say "mnff"

The artist makes a statement that is highly relevant to our community -- that Big Pharma is controlling the debate -- and one I wouldn't dispute. What bothers me is that the piece also accuses doctors and Congress of acceding to this manipulation because of money, implying venal corruption across the board.

We'd do better to understand that Pharma's money has been carefully targeted, favoring certain classes of politicans it sees as reliable, and coopting medical organizations rather than 'doctors' broadly.

No one expects a cartoon to provide nuance. But let's also recognize that while broad-brushing of this sort puts a sharp point on the message, it also unfairly erodes our trust in people who are generally working in good faith for our benefit.

Talk of the Town: "Lovell’s use of science was misleading, irrelevant"

Now this is really interesting and weird. This piece ran last Thursday in the same space, but under a different headline. It's been very slightly reedited, with no content changes. What the heck is going on down there?

I like the new headline a whole lot better.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A1: "City pushes off projected date for Big Chino water pipeline"

Surprise! The Big Chino project is bigger and more complex than city staff expected. Cindy Barks plays it straight, as usual.

A1: "Suicide attempt results in officer-involved shooting"

A third barricade situation in PV results in suicide by cop. Mirsada Buric restates the police report and quotes the police spokesperson. We get the facts, and learn nothing.

Letters: Mixed bag

Candace McNulty applies the wry eye, Harry Hebden feels insulted, Al Berkowitz likes his house and Lawrence Lopez serves some snark -- or does he?

Wiederaenders: "Honors, new moms reveal weekend of joy"

This feels a bit like Tim's thinking of giving up newspaper work in favor of a cushier spot on an airline magazine -- or maybe taking over Jerry's breezy B1 column. Harmless.

Editorial: "Not everyone learned Indian Fire lesson"

Shorter unnamed Courier editor: people who flick butts are stupid. Funny, I thought I knew that already.

In looking over that first draft, try this test next time: Does this editorial make voters any smarter about this issue?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Two Views of the Verde

The cover story in the May 14 High Country News provides an overview of the Verde Basin water war that we're all involved in.

Amster: "We need reasoned arguments, not rash acts"

These are all great sentiments, Randall, but after my third read, I still can't quite figure out exactly what you're advocating in terms of "a union of theory and practice, a coincidence of words and deeds." Make a stand and say what needs doing, my friend, preferably right here in Tiny Town.

Editorial: "Prescott's fire luck may not hold out"

Duh. Waste of space.

Letters: Illegals and cookies

Among today's letters, Victor Holm makes a few points, none of which seem to match the Courier's headline for his letter, "Illegal workers create problems for all." Farther down, Joan Johnson gets down to what our troops really need.

Goodman: "Mothers face a unique set of workplace challenges"

In what looks like a hopeful trend, the Courier only lightly bruised Ellen's column this week, originally titled "You've Been Momified," from May 10. But it was a shade too long for the space available, so the copy editor went to work. You have to be really careful about this if you want to maintain the integrity of the piece.

Here's an example of an editor turning nuance into nonsense:

Goodman: "Mothers are still treated as if they were a third gender in the workplace."

Courier: "Mothers are a third gender in the workplace."

The original headline is a tipoff that we're going to see some entertaining agony over the passive voice, and our copy editor does not disappoint. Here's one of many:

Goodman: "Then they tucked a little telltale factoid into some of the resumes with a tip-off about mom-ness. It described her as an officer in a parent-teacher association. And -- zap -- she was mommified."

Courier: "... It described her as an officer in a parent-teacher association. And - zap - mommified her."

By changing the voice arbitrarily, the editor reassigns the subject of the sentence, moving the action -- zap -- from the implied hiring officers to the factoid, serving us a plate of instant gibberish.

A1: "Legislators angry about transport allocation"

Joanna Dodder chats with our various state reps about one of the issues that will probably drag the annual budget fight through June again. We don't get anything like enough about what goes on at the capitol, and this piece gives us both the issue and some insight as to who's doing what. A cookie for Joanna.

How it's done

My optimism that the Courier will do more than run the odd wire story on Richie Rich Renzi, either on the news side or the editorial side, has been so far unfulfilled. Just so you know that some local media are on the job, here's a recent column from the New Times offering both heat and light.

Editorial: "Thank your mom; she deserves it"

The unnamed Courier editor tells us to be nice to Mom because of all she's done for us. Okay, fine, but he also slips in a couple of digs at pop-culture, "family values critics," who are apparently saying otherwise. Who are these people and where are they speaking? Maybe the Courier could give us an example. Or maybe the editor has been watching too much Fox News.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Coming: Another contender for AZ-1

I'm a little late hearing about this -- busy weekend -- but I'm sure we'll see something soon in the Courier.

Editorial: "Economic ripples are not tidal waves"

Today's sermon shows that the unnamed Courier editor buys into the idea that a less-steep curve for revenue growth is a scary thing -- hence his stentorian reassurance. This confirms some of my suspicions from yesterday that the editor doesn't really understand what the bureaucrat is telling him.

Thanks, editors, no one's panicking here, we're OK. Looks like you could use a Valium, though.

Letters: More love for Hambrick

The cards and letters keep pouring in.

Reagan: "Dems fine with being 'surrender monkeys'"

You might like to think that the Courier carries this moron to prove there's someone the editors can point to who's so far out to the right that they, by comparison, appear centrist. Then you look at the original ("Going Wobbly," May 10), compare it against the Courier's changes and the choice of headline, and it's hard not to conclude that the editors think Mike Reagan isn't quite right-wing enough and they need to punch him up a bit.

What's interesting is that Reagan's tortured-pretzel logic and bug-crazy hysteria is so easy to see for what it is, you gotta wonder why the Courier editors don't see it as well.

There are plenty of sane writers on the right to choose from, and that's the path to credibility for the Courier. Do the editors care?

A1: "Chino Valley approves pipeline"

There's something funny about this story. I have it on pretty good authority that Chino Valley has been working public process on building this pipeline for some time, although perhaps not the part involving the contract to actually build it, an area that is normally handled confidentially. A whisker-thin margin on the agenda for the vote, that's another matter, but it seems very odd that Mayor Simmons is saying this blindsided him. Perhaps someone at City Hall is not doing his homework. In any case we're given the impression that Chino Valley is pushing something through underhandedly, and that seems to be more in the editing than the facts.

A1: "Program forges bonds between troops, students"

Another nice little inside feature makes it to the front page.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I remember when a "care package" was a CARE package.

A1: "Armed standoff leads to arrest"

Given recent history on this page, I'd just as soon not conclude that this represents anything like reality just yet. I'll keep an eye out for the followup, and see what we get.

A1: "Push is on for city pool"

Cindy covers the meeting just fine, but in introducing a public issue like this, I'd like to hear from the other side. It wouldn't surprise me that no one at the meeting was standing up to say, "we don't need to spend money on this."

There seems to be a certain amount of keep-up-with-the-Joneses thinking in Council's consideration of Emperor McCasland's recommendation. The crux of the issue seems to be competitive swimmers. How many of those live here compared to the five to eight million clams the project will eat?

Friday, May 11, 2007

A thought for the weekend

Mother's Day Proclamation
by Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Talk of the town:"Global warming science incomplete, but adequate"

Tim Crews, a scientist who's actually involved in climate science, does a point-by-point and mops the floor with Terry Lovell, a scientist who isn't. I can't see why it took him a month to get this done, it seems pretty straightforward, but it's here at last, overcoming the editor's mushy headline.

Editorial: "Retail growth is natural and reflects community"

The unnamed Courier editor genuflects to his god and professes his true faith.

Letters: The Queen Bee has history

Curt Cowell kindly reminds us of the background of the SuperSpringer's position on water legislation.

NB: Rep Mason didn't just accept the amendment to her bill, she embraced it.

A1: "Sales tax growth slows"

I like to see coverage of things like municipal economics, it's important information for making voters smarter. What bugs me is that it usually comes with weird spin, most of it inadvertent, I'm sure, because arcane subjects tend to carry the shorthand thinking their practitioners employ.

The fact here is that sales-tax revenues in Prescott are up by five percent over last year. But the story we get is that sales-tax growth is down by seven percent against last year. So most readers who've suffered the indignity of a public-school math education will walk away with the idea that the City has less money this year. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Check this out:

"This year is nothing like last year," Norwood said of ongoing budget deliberations. As opposed to last year's 15-percent jump in the total operating budget, Norwood said he expects this year's total to be up by about 10 percent.
Uncareful readers, and there are lots of 'em, will conclude from this that this year's City budget will be five percent smaller than last year's rather than 25% greater than two years ago.

The story here is that the City has been spending like there's no tomorrow, betting on temporary, freakishly high revenue increases. One might expect that a conservative newspaper would respond to that with a little more skepticism and take some pains to clarify the situation.

A1: "Local man travels in style, by land and air"

We've had pretty good use of the page-one photobox lately, but this is serious backsliding. A guy flies a plane and drives an old car. I can make a phone call and get you ten like him in a couple of hours. Who cares? There isn't even enough here for a decent inside feature, let alone page one.

A1: "Church of Scientology critic fights his extradition"

Mirsada Buric updates us on Keith Henson's fight to stay out of jail -- from jail, unfortunately. Check out the backstory here if you're unfamiliar with it.

Interviewing lawyers is always a mine field, and Mirsada doesn't manage to cut through the fog. To complicate matters it looks like the editors were watching a ball game at work: "He alleged numerous violations that violations his client since his arrest." and "the Uniformed Extradition Act" are the most egregious errors.

A3: "Ellen Simon says she’ll try again for Renzi’s seat"

Maybe A3 is the Courier's place for late-breaking news -- the kind where it broke and the editors are late. Simon's press release went out last Thursday, and there's nothing here that wasn't in it to explain this tardiness. I'm no particular fan of Ellen Simon, but I know filler treatment when I see it.

A3: "Prescott City Council approves final plat for Enchanted Canyon"

Well, the Dalke land is finally gone, the 'dozers are on their way. Bob Luzius put up the last protest vote, and Council said, "go on, take it."

We knew this was coming. I have to wonder why, though, the story that culminates years of public contention appears in the Courier two days late and on an inside page.

(The courieraz site is a mess this morning. Maybe John K has the day off?)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Editorial: "Low DUI arrests are a sign of success"

Mostly harmless.

A1: "City begins tower construction to eliminate communication 'dead spots'"

Another good use of the page-one photobox, featuring a dynamic photo and a fine straight-news story by Mirsada Buric.

Letters: Blowback

More reaction today for Bob Shimizu and Vic Hambrick. Also check out John K's collection of comments on the assessor stories.

Talk of the Town: "Developers must pay their fair share"

CV Town Manager Bill Pupo makes his case against the A1 story that bugged me on April 30. He implies in his second graph that the developer planted the story, and obliquely calls out the Courier for sloppiness. He then goes on to state pretty clearly the town's position.

This is the second time in recent weeks we've seen a municipal manager responding on the opinion page to questions the Courier should have answered on page one. Whether or not you trust the word of the bureaucrats, they should get their say up front in controversies involving them.

A1: "Charlie Orme, founder of famed school, dead at 88"

The page-one obit is usually reserved for true community leaders, and given his contribution to education in our area, I expect Charlie Orme qualifies. Teachers matter.

A1: "Liquor licenses continue to generate city debate"

Cindy Barks writes it pretty straight, but I expect your reading of this story will vary with your point of view on the issue.

I have a certain amount of learned sympathy for Councilcritter Luzius here, as I spent many years working to get a public board of directors to work in a more professional manner. There's a culture of slack that may be endemic to Americans generally, leading people to minimize the importance of process, precision and showing up on time. You can go overboard in the other direction too, of course, and that will be the other reaction to Mr Luzius here. But rather than arbitrary bureaucratism, I can see that what he's working on may be the good-ol-boy insiderism that we dislike in other areas. If you want your staff to act professionally, you need to be as sharp at the top.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Verde Independent: "Renzi, Hambrick could have dodged current spotlight"

Here's an example of how an editorial related to this breaking news can express disapproval while maintaining journalistic integrity and credibility. Contrast this with yesterday's Courier editorial.

Talk of the Town: "Day laborers deserve compassion, not persecution"

At last the Courier allows someone to stand up and tell the truth about the day-labor non-problem. Dennis Duvall writes with clarity and strength, an adult walking into what has been a kindergarten howl. How refreshing! The idea that the Council might reverse course and designate the Lincoln Street wedge as a day-labor sanctuary is over the top, but it also throws a high-contrast light on just how nasty this business has become.

Letters: Strip-mining Prescott

Steve Courteol and Boyd Johnson state the obvious in today's letterbox. We also have Ken Coleman desperately wanting to believe that there are two equal sides to the climate crisis, and Louis Peters complaining about the lack of curbside glass recycling.

A1: "Springer reported assessor concerns to attorney"

Joanna Dodder's third installment in the Hambrick-Townsend story focuses on what the Queen Bee knew and when she knew it, partially answering my question from Sunday . It looks like there may be a little buck-passing going on at the county building. Check those final quotes from Mr Hunt -- do you smell something?

A1: "Park West rezoning gets council approval"

Solid, balanced reporting on what happened in the meeting, with enough background to knit it together. Another cookie for Cindy Barks.

A1: "Local vets build area's first equine hospital"

I've patronized Prescott Animal Hospital and I think it's a great bunch of people. There's clearly a news story here, but I think Paula Rhoden or the editors may be a little too used to writing local-business puff pieces, and so got hold of the wrong angle.

The lead is in the fourth graph, where we learn that Prescott has "the first all-equine hospital north of Phoenix." Starting there, the story would have focused on the benefit to the community and less on the advertising value.

A1: "ERAU chancellor steps down, leaves legacy"

Standard inside-feature stuff.

A3: "Prescott Valley police arrest five suspects after assault probe"

Okay, today Ken Hedler turns in something more informative, following up yesterday's A1 notes dump on the brouhaha in PV. Take a look at the mug shots and you've got a pretty good idea of what motivates the mayhem.

This is becoming a rhythm. Fur starts flying, usually in PV, the reporter gets some of it but really has no idea what happened, and page one goes to press. In the next day or two the rest of the story comes out, and the followup usually looks completely different from the preliminary.

It seems the editors are trying to compete with local radio on breaking news, which is a mug's game. Better to hold the story until you can tell it intelligibly.

Editorial: "Hotel heiress getting what she deserves"

It ought to be immediately apparent to the unnamed Courier editor that this topic has absolutely no relevance to our community, and the prurient few who might be interested don't read.

Waste of space.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cartoon: Afghan torture

"The torture of Afghan detainees continues."


It's supposed to be funny.

I suppose I should feel better about our country imprisoning and torturing people without legal basis or protection for them.


Assessing the assessor

Joanna Dodder adds some details and a correction to her previous good investigative work on the connections between Elise Townsend and Victor Hambrick. The unnamed Courier editor weighs in with the conclusion that Mr Hambrick is dirty enough to vote out if he doesn't resign. That might seem a bit intemperate to readers who favor innocence until guilt is proven. It also might seem a bit self-serving in that the editor favored Mr Hambrick's opponent in the election.

Guys, you have an opportunity to build some credibility here. Let Joanna do her job and don't screw it up with self-important tantrums.

Update, noonish: A thought: If the smell test is a proper criterion, why are the editors not calling for the resignation of Richie Rich Renzi?

Wiederaenders: "Hints give new meaning to Big 4-0"

Tim studies his moustache and adds a stanza to the Courier's paean for Gheral Brownlow. I looked for the "meaning" promised in the headline, but I couldn't find it. Don't fret, Tim, you'll know the midlife crisis when it appears.

Update, 9:20: Name fixed, thanks anonymous.

Jackson: "‘Crown jewel’ getting needed accessories"

Jerry turns in a pretty well-structured column celebrating downtown development. You can argue with his point of view, but he writes it clearly and with some style.

A1: "Asking for more"

Shari Lopatin gives us the perspective of PUSD teachers and school staff on the pay issue, with a little bit of excuse-making from an assistant superintendant and an informative sidebar comparing other nearby districts. What I hoped to see was some tracking of the money the legislature has been adding to school spending in recent years specifically, they say, for teacher pay. That gets into what's happening at the board and upper-administrative levels, of course.

A1: "Police arrest man hiding in PV home"

Ken Hedler's barricade story suffers primarily from hasty writing and absent-minded editing. Beyond the usual kitchen-sink rundown of the police reports, Ken talked to some of the bystanders, and that's good, but the quote from Jim Gibbons, for example, makes no sense. The whole thing just feels slapdash.

A1: "Crash victim remains critical"

On a slow news day you have to promote something to page one, and today the editor picked a standard police-blotter piece by Mirsada Buric. But it appears there wasn't enough in the story to fill the space, so the staff (Doug Cook?) doubled its size by adding some feature boilerplate about motorcycles -- little of which would appear to relate to this story.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Herron: "Shimizu's anti-gun control stance goes too far"

That's what I'm talking about, Al. Take a stand and write with vigor.

I like that he includes Ben's Email address as a reply contact as well, making a cute little statement.

Editorial: "Congress isn't concerned about the crucial issues"

Isn't it interesting how closely the "crucial issues" here track with Republican campaign talking points?

I have no doubt that the Congress would be working on truly crucial issues if it felt that the Current Resident could be persuaded to allow the legislation to become law -- crucial issues like: our broken health-care system; the climate change that threatens our economy, our food supply and, as in Kansas this weekend, our lives; our public infrastructure; our suspect voting system; pick your issue. As it is, the Congress is concentrating on the public issue that voters clearly agree is most crucial right now -- getting our troops out of Iraq. That is responsive representation, exactly what our system is designed to provide.

Does the editor simply neglect to mention that the single person most responsible for creating a "Social Security debacle" is the Current Resident, who is spending our Social Security trust fund in Iraq far faster than any previous administration has dared? Or is that a conscious choice?

But his real goal here is to criticize the extension of hate-crimes protection to the disabled and sexually different. He fails to understand the difference between a crime and a hate crime -- or perhaps he wants to make the reader dumber in that regard. It's really pretty simple. If you assault a black person, it's an assault. If you assault a black person because she's black and a prosecutor can prove it, it becomes a hate crime and additional penalty is applied. Saying "the government will prosecute crimes against certain classes with greater enthusiasm than crimes against every-day folks" with this is evil demagoguery.

This goes beyond opinion, folks. These are lies.

Letters: Property taxes

Kathy Lopez offers a clue to people who are up in arms about their property assessments. Turns out there's no reason to panic. Surprise!

The address she provides isn't what you really want, though. Here's a link to the actual presentation, in PDF format.

Why are the readers (in this case, I suspect, a county employee) doing the work the Courier should be doing to inform voters on this? It would be so easy! One might conclude that the editors are happy to have people ignorantly agitated about property taxes.

A1: "Holistic medicine for animals gaining acceptance"

I've met Todd Metcalf, he's a great person and very good at what he does. That doesn't make him news. Again, as in the piece below, also by Paula Rhoden, we have a puffy, uncritical profile more suited to a slick Chamber of Commerce magazine than a newspaper. I'd really like to know the thought process behind this assignment.

Then there's the headline, an assertion completely unsupported by the text. That's a high-school mistake, guys.

A1: "County health department provides services from womb to tomb"

This profile of Yavapai County Community Health Services by Paula Rhoden is done well enough -- for a magazine. I'm not clear at all what makes it page-one news. The public-information angle makes a certain amount of sense as a B1 feature. But there's exactly zero information from any outside perspective on how well the agency is doing its job or handling its budget, things voters need to know to evaluate this public service. I would like to know that the Courier is looking out for the community. Uncritical puffery bodes otherwise.

A1: "New Elks' manager brings the show back home"

Lorin McLain's introduction of Joe Place is meant to highlight policy changes for the facility intended to make a difference in its success. The answers are pretty vague, however -- not necessarily the fault of Lorin, of course.

I interviewed Joe last week, and information I got is at odds with some of this. I plan a followup with him this week for the Read It Here piece.

Now here's what really ropes me off: Why can't the Courier figure out how to write the theatre's name? People are so frequently writing this wrong, and the Courier should be helping, not making it worse. It's not plural possessive as we have in the headline (Elks'), it's not singular possessive as we have in the photo caption (Elk's), its a simple plural: Elks. This ignorant apostrophe-tossing is just ludicrous. Lorin apparently got it right, everyone else messed up.

Update, May 9: Joe has never conducted a symphony or managed a theatre. His relevant experience is entirely church-based, as a musician, music director and producer.

A1: "Magazine scammers back in Prescott"

This alert by Mirsada Buric is proactive, well targeted, well placed in the paper and, we hope, timely. I'd be awfully surprised if the tactics and target areas remain the same after this morning, of course, and if the reader is expecting a scammer to mention Walter Cronkite and she doesn't, the reader may decide to go along with the gag anyway. But what can you do?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A3: "Ayers takes over as county administrator at supervisors meeting"

Don't be fooled by the headline, the meat in this agenda report by Paula Rhoden is way down, where we find out that the county wants to spend another $42,000 of your money to further study what we already know about the Verde base flow.

Cartoon: Reining Him In

Surprise! -- reality. And you thought it couldn't happen.

A1: "County assessor had close ties to Townsend"

Joanna Dodder follows up on her April 22 piece, turning in what looks remarkably like some real investigative reporting. I'm liking this. I hadn't heard that the Queen Bee and Mal Barrett were involved in getting Townsend to back out of running for the Senate, and the connection to Assessor Hambrick is all new to me. So far it seems to be all about appearances, and small-town life inevitably involves a lot of cross-connections, but it sure doesn't pass the smell test. I have to wonder how many prominent people in town have known about this and kept quiet, which did no favors for Mr Hambrick, whether he's dirty or not.

A1 "Density, access highlight new plan"

Just what the people of D-H want: another new plan. In wandering this fog of numbers I find that the public open space along the riverbed offered in the previous plan has mysteriously disappeared in favor of a private park for the gated enclave. Who'd have thought?

Goodman: "Hypocrisy aside, morality programs not working"

Here is the second Goodman column in a row (the last was on April 25) that the Courier has run full-length and largely unmolested. It originally ran as "Hoisted on His Own Pizza" on May 3.

The following will be real inside baseball, so if your eyes glaze over feel free to move on. I'd like to highlight a few of the specific changes to the text, to illustrate what I mean by arbitrary edits and introduced errors.

Goodman: "A for abstinence, B for be faithful, and C for condoms only if you belong to a high-risk group that flunks A and B."
Courier: "A for abstinence, B for be faithful, and C for condoms if you belong to a high-risk group that flunks A and B."

Here it appears that the copy editor wanted to tighten the paragraph a bit to eliminate what we used to call a tail-break in my shop, half a word on a line by itself. This also helps fit the copy into the available space. The way to do this is to substitute a shorter word or eliminate one. The editor's blue pencil chose 'only,' a nice, short word. But it also removed an important nuance from Goodman's sentence. The editor could have eliminated 'George' a little earlier in the graph without harm. In context the specific choice seems to be an attempt to 'correct' Goodman's thinking.

Goodman: "Joining a dishonor role that includes anti-child predator predator Mark Foley and anti-homosexual homosexual Ted Haggard ..."
Courier:"Joining a dishonor role that includes anti-child predator Mark Foley and anti-homosexual homosexual Ted Haggard ..."

In this example we may have a similar tail-break situation, and again the editor could have elided "Randall" farther down for no foul. Instead s/he arbitrarily deflated Goodman's perhaps too-cute but nonetheless intelligible parallel construction in favor of gibberish. Perhaps s/he didn't understand the sentence.

Goodman: "The $1.5 billion that has been thrown into teaching abstinence-until-marriage has made no difference in delaying the onset of sex."
Courier: "The $1.5 billion Bush has thrown into teaching abstinence-until-marriage has made no difference in delaying the onset of sex."

The bosses have decreed that no passive construction shall be left unmolested, and the copy editor dutifully applied the blue pencil. But an active construction requires a subject, so s/he had to invent one, in this case "Bush." Perhaps Ms Goodman reserves her displeasure exclusively for the Current Resident on this score, but she didn't write it that way, and the change injects a nuance that she expressly avoided.

Goodman: "... abstinence-only earmarks on AIDS prevention funding are undermining success."
Courier:"... abstinence-only earmarks on AIDS prevention money are undermining success.

I have no clue why the copy editor made this change.

Editorial: "Hope for the best, plan for the worst"

The editor writes what no rational person will dispute. But what should we do about it? Close the forest early, maybe? The Courier could assist in moving public opinion to support an always-unpopular Forest Service decision. No position.

Letters: Guns are good, really!

You know the drill.

Coming: A new Courier site

Among the many cool people at yesterday's Blogfest I met John Kamin, the Courier Web editor, who told me that he's working on a new version of the paper's onlne presence that will refocus on the free site, eliminating the registration hassle and design complaints related to the subscription site. Soon we'll be able to see the entire paper unhindered in one place. I don't know that this was John's idea -- I should have asked -- but it's all good and warrants a special cookie. Good meeting you, JK!

John's put up some summaries and links to other local bloggers on his blog, and promises more. (According to my notes, Sadie is aka Sadira Conley.) Check 'em out.

Day of rest

I'm still bushed and brain-dead from last night's gig. I'll try to get some new stuff up after dinner.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Reagan: "Candidates are shying away from Fox"

Mike thinks that if you discover the game is rigged, you should not only stay in it, you're a coward if you walk away, nyah nyah. Did he have a previous career as a carney barker? I dunno. Blindingly stupid stuff.

Originally "Profiles in Cowardice" from Thursday, carried more or less verbatim with a couple of edits to stamp out the evil passive voice and make the piece look up-to-date.

Editorial: "Mass transit may not break the bank"

Sorry, unnamed Courier editor, Cindy Barks already turned this story in, and she wrote it better. What works is to consider stating an opinion before sitting down to write an opinion piece.

I know, it's as hard for you to admit you've been wrong all along as it's been for the Queen Bee, perhaps harder, since you've devoted so much ink to trashing the concept and the people who've advocated it for so many years. There's opportunity here, though, if you don't dawdle too long, to get out in front of the issue and help make it happen.

Letters: The hits just keep on comin'

Five short ones today: Lou Harris agrees with me that it was evil, Dorothy Williamson wonders what the parking garage is for if not this, Bill Sonsin warns that our Congresscritter isn't convicted yet (well, not much), Glen Brose nails the tried-and-true method we can expect to see used here to kill off bus service, and non-scientific type Don Wallace thinks Terry Lovell should get another 99 climate-crisis-deniers together and smack down Al Gore. (Here's a clue, Don: he can't.)

A1: "Surgery forces Brownlow to miss marathon"

This is a nice little love-letter for the former supervisor, perfectly suited to a very-small-town paper. I'm sure there are some people out there who think of GB fondly and long for a return to his reign as king of the Supes. No one should have to deal with cancer, particularly with our horrible health-care system. Not sure why it's page-one material, though.

Which reminds me, we heard awhile ago that Bob Bell was getting surgery, but not whether he got better.

More coming

Check back in a few hours for more, we're recording the show early today.

A1: "Death penalty trial is on track"

The death penalty can always be expected to cause a certain amount of breathless drama, and I wonder whether this was a factor in Mirsada Buric's court-beat story. The coverage is fine, I just tripped over the lead and fell flat on my face.

"The David Aggas trial scheduled for summer appears on track, unless the state settles his death penalty case stemming from ...."

On first read I took this to mean that if the state settles a death-penalty case, a trial of the same person on a different matter will not go forward -- which makes no sense. In this situation the writer's (or editor's) knowledge of what s/he means to say allows ambiguity to slip in. If I read it with extra emphasis on "settles," I can hear the intended meaning. The editor could have cleared this up quite simply:
"The death-penalty trial of David Aggas appears on track for summer unless the state settles his case, which stems from ...."

A1: "City looks to beef up recycling"

This story by Cindy Barks puzzles me. We have a contract with a company to take our recyclables at cost to us of $30 per ton. We put that contract out for a new bid and the same company wins it at $10 per ton. There's no indication in the story of whether the specification in the contract has changed. Excuse my cynicism, but it's difficult to believe that the company is giving up two-thirds of its revenue on this deal without some balancing factor.

When they removed glass bins around town, requiring us to take our glass to the transfer station instead, City staff created a recent history of arbitrarily cutting back on recycling services without public input. In covering this story, answering a couple of basic questions would either inform the reader of what we'll be giving up in the deal or assure us that we're not.

There's a cute juxtaposition of this story with a an evocative photo by Jo Keener showing PV residents dealing with tons of trash. Page-one irony, perhaps?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Editorial: "'Immigrant rights' is a true oxymoron"

The unnamed Courier editor gives himself a star today, apparently for throwing rocks in all directions at once. Big rocks, that don't fly far before thudding into the dirt.

We have a rock aimed at immigrants, lots of rocks for illegal immigrants (the editor forgets the difference), a rock for Dems, whom he thinks want "a ready-made dependent class" that can vote but can't vote, a rock for Republican labor exploiters, a rock for amnesty, another for people who don't speak English well enough for the editor to get his lawn done properly, a rock for the Feds for failing to employ the magic alien technologies they've been keeping secret that would seal the border, and a big fat rock for Thomas Jefferson, who held certain truths to be self-evident.

Luckily, no one was harmed.

Robinson: "Traffic-stop searches follow racial lines"

Again, we suffer some arbitrary editing and introduced errors, but today's non-right-leaning Courier offering, originally headlined "Pulling Over for Prejudice," is full-length and only lightly bruised by our editors.

I should add that it's not actually today's column, but rather yesterday's. Today's Robinson column is "Lost in the Fog With Commander Guy."

Letters: Smackdown Friday

Today we have three cogent responses to various letters and opinions appearing in the Courier, including one to Terry Lovell's April 15 ToT from an actual meteorologist. Editors, maybe Dale Meyer can write the balancing opinion we've all been anticipating for most of a month, since the expert you did ask is just not getting it done.

The fourth letter, from an unhappy customer at the ZZ Top concert, I could swear I've seen before. Is this a repeat?

A1: "PV police arrest three boys for arson"

I hope we all appreciate that three little kids with a lighter accidentally setting a bush on fire rates six inches of page one in our local paper. No snark here, I mean it.

A1: "Petroglyph fence to remain in subdivision plans"

Today's page-one photobox highlights what seems a good-news story on a subject of broad concern to Prescott residents. We couldn't save the Dalke land as open space, but we can at least hold back the bulldozers and put a little fence around some of the above-ground archaeological treasure that we know about.

I'd better stop there, I'm starting to get depressed.

A1: "Springer reverses course on public transit"

Now this is news: The Queen Bee inadvertently reads the proposal and discovers she's been wrong all along. Personal growth is a wonderful thing, innit?

Good work, Cindy, including the bit at the end from Norwood, who will be the real problem child.

A1: "Hampton Inn to come to ‘downtown’ PV"

Nice of the Courier to print this little promotion for the Fains -- they need so much help to make any money, you know. I do like the quotes in the headline, indicating a downtown only so-called.

This should have been in the Business section with the other press releases, guys.

A1:"Custom car show rides into town"

Nice to see some advance coverage of an old-car charity show. I haven't been tracking this for the last couple of years, but when I was doing this regularly we could always count on the Courier ignoring us, even with events that took over the square for a weekend. It's a press release, but it's got a picture and it's placed prominently, all good.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Coming: Dems back Renzi on DOJ probe

Via AZ Congress Watch (great work over there), today the Arizona Democratic Party issued this statement:

“Rick Renzi’s assertion that the Justice Department is trying to influence elections in Arizona is extremely serious and should be investigated,” said David Waid, Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. “Over the last two weeks, the FBI has raided Renzi’s family business and he has been fined by the FEC for violating campaign finance laws, Arizonans deserve to know whether these are legitimate investigations.”