Friday, July 28

No Fresh Content Here

Been too busy to post for a few weeks, and now just trying to catch up with the pile of )(*& on my desk. I won't say that there will not be any posts here in the coming weeks, but check back in the Fall ...

Friday, July 14

Posting Should be Light Until Next Week

The family and I are heading up to Canada for my Grandmother's unveiling, so posting should be light or nonexistent until next week. I am getting so that I dearly love being away from computers.

Anyway, in my mind I have been mulling over a few posts about what I think thould be issue number one for Great Falls residents, the proposed Highwood Generating Plant. I have been reading as much as I can from both sides in this issue, and I believe we need to properly frame this debate.

In previous posts, I have talked about the economic impact of the plant and the "alternative" IGCC technology. I think it is also worth investigating the technology behind the proposed CFB plant. Another discussion that has been lacking is one about the costs to build this plant as contrasted to its economic impact. After all, while Great Falls taxpayers may only be on the hook for 20% of the expenses to build this thing, we are talking about a big number. Talking about the business plan to build this plant is very relevant.

On to Canada! More later ...

Wednesday, July 12

Ummm, Perhaps We Should Hire Someone Serious about the Position Next Time?

This just in ... the brand new director of the Business Improvement Director (BID) resigned today after just one day on the job. Apparently, a better opportunity came up.

Look, I can't blame a guy for looking out for himself. However, if BID is going to succeed we need to have an interested, engaged and committed person in the job. Back to square one?

Tuesday, July 11

New Restaurant Opening Supports Local Causes

The grand opening for the Rio Ranch Grill, a new southwestern restaurant, is on Monday, July 24th from 5-9 p.m. $2 from every meal will be donated to CASA-CAN, the volunteer Guardian ad litem program, and the Great Falls Children's Receiving Home. Both organizations work with abused and neglected children in the community; CASA volunteers advocate for these children in court and the Receiving Home serves as an emergency foster care shelter.

The Rio Ranch Grill is located at the corner of Central Avenue and 3rd Street South. This is a wonderful opportunity to eat great food and support a good cause.

Library to Show Anti-Meth Films

The GF Public Library will be showing two movies pertaining to methamphetamine. Each begins at 7 p.m. and is 1 to 1-1/2 hours in length, as follows:
September 7, 2006--Dark Cloud Over the Big Sky
September 14, 2006--Methamphetamine on the Navajo Nation

Sunday, July 9

My Answers to the City Pool Survey

When filling out your City Pool survey, please consider entering comments similar to these below. I checked the " that made the following improvements:" box, and entered the following comments:

I am not really qualified to judge at what value the bond issue should be pegged. Please ignore the number listed, as I only listed a figure because your computer system would not process my comments without a number in that field. However, please consider the following:

* At least one of the neighborhood pools should be maintained.
* No frills (hot tubs, etc.) should be purchased for the Nat.
* $934k for repairs to the Mitchell is an extremely big number. You need to detail exactly what repairs are necessary.
* Innovative solutions must be found to stop the flow of red ink from the Flow Rider. Among those solutions may be analyzing the pricing structure at the facility to ensure that revenue is being maximized.
* No bond issue should shift the Flow Rider debt from the aquatics budget. Pretending that this debt does not exist by shifting the liability to a general obligation bond is just a dishonest accounting dodge. We bought the thing, and its financials should reflect the drain that it represents on our aquatics budget.

Tribune Admirably Lays out Pool Issues

Tribune reporter Richard Ecke has a series of stories in today's paper, admirably laying out many of the issues facing our city's acquatic facilities. He even found the time to quote me for one of the stories. I leave you to decide whether or not those quotes improve or denigrate the quality of the reporting.

I will have more to say about the pools later. However, I suggest that we have some hard decisions to make about both the nature, quality and quantity of the facilities our community is to provide for itself. I support keeping the neighborhood pools open, but I also do not think that the city should perform non-essential services in anything less than a break-even position. I suggest that pools are non-essential services.

In the 1960s, when Anaconda was going strong, we built four city-owned acquatics facilities. In the intervening decades, we have lost both population and jobs. It makes sense to debate what quantity of facilities are appropriate for our our size and ability to afford.

Deplorable State of the Practice of Medicine in the Electric City

I am a consumer of medical care. I am not involved in the industry in any way other than occasionally purchasing services from doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies. I say this because the providers of those services have been involved in a very public and acrimonious argument. They need to stop arguing and find ways to work together.

The Clinic and the Hospital don't like one another. I get that. The argument is all about money and control. I get that too. However, the consumers of these services are caught in the crossfire, and I suspect that the end result is that the quality of care in Northcentral Montana is suffering. That I don't get.

In the past decades, there has always been some bad blood between the Clinic and the Hospitals. That situation only worsened in 1996, when the Deaconess and the Columbus merged to create Benefis.

However, I have never seen the situation as bad as this. I have never seen a situation where doctors are leaving town because of what some are calling a poisoned work environment.

Some doctors I know are telling stories of cleanliness and stock conditions at the hospital that are just plain scary. Today we read that next month, our community of about 60,000 people will be without the services of ANY ear, nose and throat specialists. Double up on those zinc pills, because you certainly don't want to get a serious cold for the next few months.

Great Falls medicine needs to get its house in order. The stakeholders at the Clinic and Benefis management have to work through their petty turf war and find a way to work together. Both parties need to learn to compromise. One possible solution; allow the Clinic's MontanaCare HMO to cover Benefis procedures in return for guaranteed hospital privileges for Clinic doctors. Maybe that is just naive, but it seems that such a solution answers many of the criticisms that each party have for one another.

In any case, a solution must be found. Otherwise, it is the health-care consumers in our town that suffer.

Movie Review

So, this space isn't usually used for anything like a movie review. However, my blog, my pontifications. So, here goes ...

This weekend, the family and I went to the new Superman movie. My son was very excited to see Superman on the big screen. He went to the movie wearing a red cape.

I found the movie to be an insipid waste. Why? Because the actors did not make the parts their own. Kevin Spacey was not playing Lex Luthor. He was playing Gene Hackman. Brandon Routh was playing Christopher Reeve. To a lesser extent, every other actor in the movie was playing the actors that portrayed those roles in the 70s and 80s.

The director, Bryan Singer, didn't so much make a movie as he did an homage to the Richard Donner films. That is nice, but it really handicapped the film. For that they spent more than $200 Million and made me sit in a theatre chair for more than two hours? Ick.

Friday, July 7

Help Support Diane Long

Diane Long is good people. She was the principal of Whittier Elementary for years. Last year, she decided to retire after over two decades in school administration. This Fall, a few short months after retirement, she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

The cancer treatments have exhausted the Long's family savings. To help cover these expenses, the community has organized a garden tour on July 16 from 1-5 p.m. Tickets for the tour cost $10. There will also be a raffle.

If you are interested in helping out, I would be glad to sell you a ticket. aaron AT weissman DOT com.

Where is the Follow-Through?

I was very pleased to lap swim at the Mitchell Pool this past Wednesday. However, when I arrived at the pool, I was surprised to find out that pool staff had not been told that there was now to be a lap swim period scheduled. No schedules have been changed, and no one had been informed. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.

No one will swim during that period unless people are told of the opportunity. Accordingly, I have made up this flyer. If you are interested, please post copies in prominent places in our fair city.

Thursday, July 6

Pool Survey is in YOUR mailbox

Check your water bill; the city is using it to gauge your opinion.

This survey was in my water bill today. It asks whether I support:

a) Repairing the Mitchell, repairing the Neighborhood Pools and adding a spray park for $2.35 million;

b) Repairing the Mitchell, demolishing the Neighborhood Pools and adding three spary parks;

c) No further spending on aquatics; or

d) Providing my own list of necessary repairs, at a cost I can specify.

This is a good first step. The city should make more efforts to communicate with the people in this way. However, the city seems to be deliberately making it difficult to come up with innovative solutions.

"D" seems like a good choice, but most of us don't have all of the information we need to provide the city with useful opinions. It would be very nice if the city had written up a point paper with this survey that spelled out some details, including:

1) What repairs need to be made to the Mitchell. What are the cost of those repairs?
2) What are the repairs that need to be made at each of the neighborhood pools? What are the costs, per pool, to make those repairs?
3) What would be the cost of keeping one neighborhood pool open and shuttering another? Could the cost savings of closing one pool pay for the cost of keeping that other pool open?
4) What is the cost per spray park? What are the annual maintenance and staffing costs of a spray park? Whatever the city says, it isn't zero; maintenance and continual testing of the water system for contamination will have some costs.

Also, can I assume by this survey that the city has shelved ideas for installing a hot tub at the Nat.? If so, I salute the city for cutting back on an unnecessary luxury.

Firefly Asks About White Water Elephant's Ad Budget

Firefly asks about the advertising budget for the flow rider. Unfortunately, I don't have a good answer. The city's budget for its aquatics program, available here (application/pdf Object), lists some general expense categories for the Mitchell Pool.

For the 2006 adopted budget, the city is to spend $363,497 on the Mitchell Pool (which includes the WWE). Of those funds, $173,808 are to go for "Personal Services" (which I assume should be personnel services, or payroll for pool employees). $72,900 is to go for supplies and meterials. $26,688 is to go for internal services (which I assume pays for city management salaries).

Finally, $90,101 is to go for "Purchased Services." I don't know what services are being purchased, but I assume that any advertising dollars are being taken out of that pot.

Back from Vacation, Maybe Back to Posting As Well?

The family and I just returned from a well-deserved vacation, camping and hiking at Glacier Park. I would venture to say that there is not a prettier place on our planet than Glacier Park, and it is always a real treat to spend time there.

The kids were only up to small hikes (the oldest is only eight, after all), but we made the most of them. The photo to left was taken just past the Hidden Lake overlook, about two miles from Logan Pass.

We camped just West of the park. I am now very enamored with using a double handled wok in a campfire. I made a stir-fry beef dish, and have never had a stir fry work out so well. The key is getting the wok really hot, which is impossible on a traditional stove. I stuck the wok right in the fire. The food was cooked and on plates within a few minutes of starting the cooking.

I also had never made rice over a campfire. Also worked out well.

Ah well, I will have more to post after I finish finding my desk ... Posted by Picasa