Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Editorial: Those nasty solar panels again

In today's "Solar panels cloud homeowners' futures," the unnamed Courier editor makes clear that he agrees with the slant in Jason Soifer's story yesterday (see below).

I have to wonder why the headline isn't "Neighbors cloud solar plant's future." Open land inside the town limits -- there's a lot of that in Chino Valley -- is to be the site of the kind of energy-production facility that every community in the country needs to secure the future. The owners are promising to put serious money into preventing the neighbors from seeing a clean, low-traffic, emissions-free facility. The setbacks are huge. Still, the neighbors are able to raise the specter of "reduced property values" and grind the whole process to a halt.

This is the same town that last week voted overwhelmingly to allow a KOA campground into another residential neighborhood, with its attendant traffic, noise, waste and water draw.

The editor concurs with the property-value argument, based on exactly zero research. Maybe there are people who would be put off by the idea of living next to a solar plant, but it seems awfully likely to me that they're far outnumbered by people who would prefer it. I'll happily put my name on that list.

The editor goes on: "it's unclear just how much of the 20 megawatts of power expected to be generated will stay local," implying it would therefore be worthless and clearly indicating that he has no clue how grid power works. (In a given electrical system, the power is everywhere at once, so it's both never "local" and always "local.")

In the end he dourly warns, "It could be your backyard next." First, editor, it's not their backyards. It's adjacent property. It's clear the editor would prefer to have the property adjacent to his occupied by random people, but for me the prospect of a solar plant behind my property says peace and quiet -- no barking dogs, no midnight screaming matches, no revving engines or gangster rap, no creepy drums full of unknown liquids, no crop spraying, no industrial noise or dust, no screaming children, no crazy teenagers, no target practice. I'd love to see a line of trees.

The arguments against it are so nonsensical I have to consider that some see solar power as a political threat. We're on a sinking ship, and these people want to toss the lifeboats overboard. And here we see the editor, the supposed champion of renewable energy, pitching in to help them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's chuckle

First comment on today's traffic-related editorial:

"The solution is obvious. Radar activated machine guns. It would slow people down and it would be totally awesome. I have suggested this already, but the council doesn't care about what the voters want."

Solar farm casts shadow

Jason Soifer covers the inevitable conflict between a proposed Chino Valley solar-farm project and NIMBY neighbors. But rather than just tell the story, he gets in a few editorial characterizations to fuel the silly fire.

Starting with the head and subhead, we get a decidedly dark view of the project. The first adjective Jason applies to the project is "sprawling," carrying firmly negative connotations compared to, say, "large." Later he writes,

"The plans includes a 41,000-square-foot substation, water tank and tower, communications building, fencing topped with barbed wire around the farm, and trees between the fence and the roughly 70 properties that will eventually watch their serene backyard views turn partially to black."
Leaving aside the idea that "properties" can "watch" anything, notice the contrast between "serene" and "black," even though he's just described a screen of trees that will clearly improve the view of treeless hardpan that we see in the photo. Maybe he thinks they'll be black trees. The graf should have ended with "70 (bordering) properties."

Jason runs two different versions of the "ram it down our throats" quote, but apparently never asks town officials to reply to this characterization of their actions. He also gives a lot of ink to a letter from a purported prospective property buyer that happens to agree with the homeowner. Clue, Jason: one opinion does not constitute a survey, and you didn't verify the letter was genuine. The faked letter from the assessor should raise red flags about how far people are willing to go on this, and should have been more carefully followed up.

People have a right to concern about what happens on the other side of their property line, and the paper has the right to publish an editorial opinion. But keep the editorials out of the news pages, please. This sort of thing is bad for the community and bad for the paper.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Finagling 401

Former Council candidate Mike Peters gets in a letter today about Council's work to "clarify" the successful initiative to require a vote of the people before approving expenditure on any project to cost more than $40  million.

The commenters variously want to go back and debate the value of the pipeline, the value of the initiative process, the venality of Council, and the qualifications of Mr Peters to speak. Another random food fight, in other words.What most seem to be missing is that this is an important issue of process.

I didn't favor the initiative myself, but it became law fairly and we have to respect that. The initiative didn't demand the end of the pipeline project. It requires a vote on it, that's all.

If we hold an election on the pipeline plan and it wins, it validates the value of the project and the process to get us there. It would put the issue permanently to bed -- or at least until it bankrupts us or gets us stuck for years in lawsuits over easements, etc.

But by dragging its feet on the clearly mandated election process, Council is only casting further doubt on the public value of the project as well as its own integrity. They may find a legal workaround, but that will inevitably lead to more court battles, citizen anger and delays. It may be tactically astute, but it's strategically stupid.

The developer combine pushing the pipeline seems to be  underestimating its ability to sell voters a bum steer -- we did wind up electing John Hanna, after all. That tells me that they really don't think they have the goods to win a popular vote, and need to try to get what they want the old-fashioned way: weasel tactics.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gosar Goes Progressive

Heads exploded yesterday in Tusayan when Rep Paul Gosar (R-American Association of Reactionary Dentists) called the New Deal WPA model a "really good" idea for addressing our unemployment and infrastructure problems, volunteering that "the CCC is another one." The sound is pretty bad, but someone got it on video:

Evoking a stopped clock, Gosar is correct. It worked before and it could work again. But forgive me if I'm a little skeptical of his sincerity. For Republicans these days, talk like this can get you a visit from the reeducation squad.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wiederaenders: Schools should already be 'real creative'

Tim takes the PUSD Facilities Manager to task for his expression, "Short of a bond, we are going to have to get real creative," inferring from the comment that the school district is talking about borrowing money before "creative" options are explored. And I thought I was Prescott's most annoying pedant.

This my be a class-related idiom, but when a working man says to me, "we're gonna have to get real creative," I take it to mean that the next step is cutting corners and skirting good practice. In certain situations it can mean going around the law. It's sarcasm, Tim, and it bodes an ugly result. The college-guy translation would be, "Without bonding, our services and facilities will suffer unacceptably." Make a note.

I'll bet if you dusted off your old reporter's hat, showed up at the PUSD Facilities Department and asked a few questions, you'd be surprised at how creative our public employees are and have been in dealing with their diminishing budget. You may also notice that though you deserve it, they don't take a poke at you for insulting them so ignorantly and publicly.

Tim was a bit less clear with his anecdote about fundie Xtian Dave McNabb (an old radio colleague of mine) asking the school board to stop teaching evolution as fact. If I take the section at face value, Tim seems to be smiling smugly about his advanced knowledge that evolution is (just) theory. I've long known that Tim believes in the Big Guy In the Sky, but I shudder to think that our local print monopoly might be run by someone no smarter or better informed than your average Afghan Taliban.

Note to Dave: What do you care? You're lifting off tomorrow.

We also learn that until the recent school-bus crash, Tim didn't know that our local districts go out and pick up kids in adjacent districts if their parents want them to attend a different school, they do it at no cost to the parents and they've been doing it for years. This is just one of many silly results of kowtowing to the god of competition in public services.

I happened to be talking about this at dinner the other night with one of our local school bus drivers, who offered one fascinating story after another about the ridiculous contradictions drivers deal with on a daily basis, starting with the lack of seat belts and other basic safety measures for the kids. Again, Tim, consider asking a question of a working stiff once in a while.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Casserly again

Today JJ turns in a column that might be marginally useful in the Vitality section, but is of course completely out of place on the Op-Ed page.

It's always a slog to get through JJ's turgid and often incoherent style, and what he's saying was already well covered thirty years ago, but I'll try to say something positive about this one: other than it's placement in the layout, it's mostly harmless.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amster: Shall we wall in the entire nation?

Great column by Randall today -- erudite, well reasoned, well written, passionate and persuasive. Just go read.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Editorial: Teachers can't seem to get a break today

The unnamed Courier editor gets it right today in calling the HUSD Board on its egregious disrespect for the retiring teachers it put on the agenda to honor. It's fine as far as it goes.

What bugs me is that he can get exercised over whether the board got the ceremonial pins right, but he can't get interested in improving teacher compensation and working conditions, what we most need to attract and keep those great teachers he claims to appreciate. That's the kind of "break" our teachers -- and our kids -- really need.

Good point:
"Tri-City Educator" comments --

If the Courier is so concerned about the recognition, then why haven't they honored these tremendous individuals in the newspaper?

Rooting for Rapture

They tell us that devout and carefully vetted Xtians will float off the planet on Saturday, and I'm all for it. It'll wipe out our unemployment problem, taxpaying businesses will be able to move into the abandoned church real estate, and we'll be able to replace half our Legislature with representatives who are better grounded, so to speak. It may also relieve us from letters like Holly Schrader's today.

PS: The word "rapture" derives from the same Latin root as "rape," originally meaning to be carried away. Need I say more?

Update, Saturday: Drat. It appears that either the math was off again, or perhaps the Big Guy in the Sky looked down and decided that we're all gonna have to go through the Tribulation together. (What if you gave a Rapture and nobody qualified?)