1) THE RIGHT TO SAY "NO"
Everywhere you turn today, there's another news story about a policy that could end up in court.
In Fargo, for example, authorities are cracking down on panhandlers. Standing on a streetcorner with a sign asking for money is already banned in the downtown area. Now the city commissioners want to expand the no-begging zone, the Fargo Forum says:
Fargo commissioners want city attorneys to draft a revised ordinance that also bans panhandling in any residential area; any area within close proximity to an intersection, crosswalk or bus stop; and along any roadway or median that separates traffic.
"I don't know, I'll probably go without eating, without paying bills," Mindi Thompson tells WDAY.
Her fiance, Calvin Norman, says he can't get a job because he has a criminal record."Where are they going to leave us to stand if this is the only way we can get anything?" he asks.
He says he stops panhandling each day when he gets $50, enough for food. He's not greedy, he says.
In Coon Rapids, meanwhile, there's a simmering controversy over whether a kid should be allowed to wear rosary beads to school. Jake Balthazor doesn't wear them for religious reasons, a fact that many national news organizations are burying -- it makes a better headline if it's an assault on religion. He wears them to honor his grandmother, who is battling breast cancer.
But rosary beads are worn by some gang members and school officials have added them to the items banned by the school's dress code.
That's too much for the Star Tribune editorial team, which rails against the practice today...
The Anoka-Hennepin dress code policy says that administrators may take action to restrict "[s]tudent attire and/or personal grooming which creates a danger to health or safety; creates a disruption to the educational process, or violates common standards of decency as they apply to a community school setting, and/or any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which ... denotes membership in an organized gang."
That rightly gives individual school administrators plenty of discretion. But we'd hate to see too many items that have perfectly good, nongang uses make the list. Some gang members are known to wear plain white T-shirts, for example. Could those be banned?
They came for my rosary beads, and I said nothing. They came for my pandhandlers, and I said nothing. Then they came for my four-letter words.
In Middleborough, Massachusetts last night, officials voted 183-to-50 to impose a $20 fine on people who swear in public.
Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, the Associated Press reports, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.
All of these issues set the boundary defining where one person's rights end, and another's begin.
Writer Jim Hines says people need to respect the word "no" more...
Your confusion, your hurt feelings, the fact that you don't like someone telling you no, none of that gives you the right to violate someone else's boundaries.
Whether it's someone trying to pressure you into bed or someone who keeps pushing their homemade cheesecake at you, you have the right to say no.
I've lost friends because I had the gall to set boundaries in my own space, online or in real life. This happened a while back with an editor I considered a friend, and I still don't understand why things immediately went to hell when I said I wasn't in a space to have this conversation. Maybe I wasn't nice enough about it? Maybe I didn't adopt the proper tone? I don't know.
How often do we teach people that they have the right to take care of themselves? Why don't we teach that it's okay to set boundaries? And why the hell don't we teach people to respect them?
(h/t: Stasia Gilday)
2) HAPPY PEOPLE, HAPPY MORNINGS
Good morning! Chances are you're happier than the kids who are still sleeping, a new study says.
"Past research has suggested that morning-type people report feeling happier than evening-type people, and this research was only on young adults," study researcher Renee Biss, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, tells LiveScience.
The researchers studied two populations: a group of 435 adults ages 17 to 38, and a group of 297 older adults, ages 59 to 79. Both groups filled out questionnaires about their emotional state, how healthy they feel and their preferred "time of day."
Even if you were a "night owl" as a kid, by age 60, most people are morning types, the researchers found. Morning-type people said they felt healthier than did night owls in the research. They were happier.
It's also possible, though, that they reported feeling happier because they weren't young people anymore.
3) DO WE CREATE OUR OWN LUCK?
Michael Lewis, who wrote "Moneyball," has the latest viral commencement video as a result of telling the Princeton kids that "luck" is a key part of success.
Lewis said success is "always rationalized" because successful people don't want to acknowledge that they were actually just really lucky. He told the Princeton grads that if they become successful, "You owe a debt, not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky."
Using the Public Insight Network, PBS is asking its audience whether "we create our own luck." Do we?
4) GETTING EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED
Someday, professional journalists will understand that detachment shouldn't be an ethical standard. Michael DeMocker, a photographer for the dying New Orleans Times Picayune, penned an article this week describing his emotions as he photographed a shooting scene where a 5 year old had been shot at a birthday party:
All attention seemed focused on a white house with cheerful green trim and tables filled with food set up out front. Colorful star-shaped birthday balloons twisted in the wind, tied to a railing. At the top of the steps, bathed in the evening sun, was a little girl in a white party dress decorated with a large, pink flower. A man, who I later learned was her father, gently cradled her head in his hands.
I raised my camera and through the zoom lens realized with dawning horror that 5-year-old Briana Allen did not have a large pink flower on her dress. A bullet had emptied the contents of her abdomen. I continued to shoot the first responders desperately trying to save the girl and the police officers fighting to control the chaotic scene. As I shot, I realized that this was the worst crime I'd ever witnessed, and I fought tears.
I felt ashamed at my lack of professionalism, yet in retrospect, I suppose it made sense to break down. In the days afterward, I heard from paramedics and police officers who said this was the most difficult scene of their career.
I've pointed this out before but this is a good time to point it out once again. When the late Ed Bradley aired this piece from Malaysia, the ethicists said he shouldn't have gotten involved.
Journalism doesn't have a problem of too many people caring about the stories and people they cover.
5) IT WAS 25 YEARS AGO TODAY
The speech went more than 25 minutes, and it's regarded as one of the key presidential speeches of our time. But most people only know 5 seconds of it.
Supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul wielded great influence at the state Republican Convention. Many of them are running for state and local office in November on the strength of his libertarian-style appeal. Today's Question: What do you think of Ron Paul's libertarian philosophy?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: How will he Common Core State Standards Initiative change education? And why is Minnesota one of only five states that have not adopted the measures?
Second hour: Science fiction literature.
Third hour: The rising use of pain meds.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Three Minnesota business leaders discuss the effect of immigration on economic growth and American jobs.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - First Lady Michelle Obama
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - DJ Diplo sees his job as breaking new music. And the globe-trotting, taste-making DJ has been doing just that, NPR will report. He's been mining dance scenes from Rio to Washington DC, and Amsterdam to New Orleans. The world traveler has also produced songs for some of R&B and hip-hop's biggest names.
Where is Michael Bratlie and the plane he was flying to Duluth on Friday?
The mystery is intensifying as another day of searching for the missing Lakeville pilot is underway. Air and water searches since he disappeared have turned up nothing. Civil Air Patrol pilots have been unable to spot any sign of the the twin engine Piper PA-31 Navajo.
Authorities have no choice but to assume the worst, that the plane has crashed somewhere.
How can planes disappear like this? Easy. There's no real requirement that their movement be tracked.
If a pilot flies under "instrument flight rules," then air traffic controllers can pretty well monitor a plane's known location. But most general aviation flights are operated under "visual flight rules" (VFR) that do not require a pilot to be in contact with any air traffic control facility.
There are methods to allow families and authorities to track a plane's under VFR, but with a few exceptions, it's up to the pilot.
Emergency Locator Transmitter -- This is required on all aircraft but they are unreliable. Many pilots believe the order mandating them was a "feel good" directive after some high-profile aviation mysteries. The FAA recently ordered airplane owners to ditch the ELTs that operated on a 121.5 radio frequency and install more expensive -- around $1,000 -- ELTs that are monitored by satellites, but the reliability is still questionable. They depend on antennae and although they're designed to activate whenever a plane goes down, there's no guarantee the antenna will end up in a position that does any good.
Flight following -- Pilots are encouraged to use this voluntary service in which they can ask air traffic control facilities to keep an eye on them as they fly. But air traffic controllers are not required to provide it if their workload doesn't permit it, radar service can be spotty in some areas, and pilots mostly are reluctant to use it. Many just don't like talking on the radio.
This reliance on the "system" is a broader topic than what's allowed here, but it's also part of the debate over whether general aviation pilots should be required to pay "user fees" when using the air traffic control system (an Obama administration proposal calls for a $100 fee per leg of a trip for turbine powered aircraft). Faced with paying to use ATC services, many pilots will not.
Commercial products -- The SPOT satellite messenger is an example. For about $150 for the unit and another $100 a year for the service, the device allows others to track progress, allows communicating by satellite, and can send automatic text messages in the event of an emergency. It's often used by hikers, and climbers but it hasn't penetrated the aviation market in a way some had suggested. It costs money.
APRS -- This is a home-brewed method which is gaining popularity, especially among the experimental aircraft crowd, which has more freedom to install equipment in their airplanes than owners of production aircraft.
Ham radio enthusiasts developed APRS (automatic position reporting system) that transmits GPS coordinates. Amateur radio fans who are also pilots, brought the system to aviation which allows anyone to track an airplane and display its location and progress on Google maps. It's not expensive at all, but it does require a ham radio license.
In 2012, there's no legitimate reason why more pilots don't spend a couple of bucks for cheap-and-easy insurance, if only for the benefit of a loved one. Why don't they? Relatively few planes disappear, and most pilots don't think it'll ever be them.(2 Comments)
I admit I've always been fascinated by milking parlors. There's a flow -- no pun intended -- to the work that is symphonic. So when I found this video, uploaded yesterday, about the Krueger farms of Jordan, Minnesota it seemed perfect. Farms are orchestras.(1 Comments)
Since I wrote last week about the first test flight (flown by a test pilot) of an airplane I built, people have been asking, "when are you going to fly it?"
There's now an answer. Today.
I took her out for the first extended test flight and all went well and we both lived to blog another day.
Thank you for being so flat, Dakota County.
(If you really can stand one more word about this, you can find it -- and others -- on my aviation blog, which is not affiliated with Minnesota Public Radio.)(12 Comments)
There are days when it seems every other vehicle on the road is a semi-trailer truck. The economy is picking up and things are on the move.
Trucking firms are having a difficult time hiring enough truckers, even though it's steady work. It also could shorten your lifespan, the World Health Organization said today. So can any job, around diesel fuel.
The WHO today added diesel exhaust as a definite cause of cancer. Diesel exhausts are now in the same group as carcinogens ranging from wood chippings to plutonium and sunlight to alcohol, the BBC reports.
It is thought people working in at-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Dr Christopher Portier, who led the assessment, said: "The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.
"Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide."
The impact on the wider population, which is exposed to diesel fumes at much lower levels and for shorter periods of time, is also unknown.
If you've ever been behind a belching truck and started gasping for air, you can made an educated guess, however.
In 1989, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said diesel exhaust was "probably" a human carcinogen.(8 Comments)
Anoka County commissioners today voted 4-to-3 to pull out of the Northern Lights Express project, which sought to bring passenger rail service from Minneapolis (via Coon Rapids) to Duluth, an idea which is pretty well dead without Anoka County's support, its commissioner says.
"We are an integral part of the completion of that line; us pulling out I think will, ultimately, kill it," Commissioner Matt Look, chair of the county's regional rail authority, told the Pioneer Press.
Look told the paper he's worried about the amount of money Anoka County would need to hand over for the $1 billion project. It's expected to be about $10 million, although he thinks it could be as much as $100 million.
His concerns echo those voiced by taxpayers in counties other than Anoka, who -- in March 2008 -- ponied up an additional sales tax beyond the gas tax increase approved by the Legislature.
Most Much of the money in transit-poor counties like Washington County was diverted to places where there were mass transit projects on the table -- Hennepin and Anoka, with projects like Anoka County's Northstar commuter rail project (update: And Ramsey, of course, with the Central Corridor).
But that line has been a disappointment from the start. Its projected ridership is down, and Metro Transit is reducing fares to try to get people out of their cars and onto the train.
Conceptually, Northstar was supposed to run from Minneapolis to St. Cloud, but there wasn't enough money to extend the line past Big Lake. And the reality is: Not many people -- or at least enough people -- want to go to Big Lake.
By "pooling" its sales tax money from other counties, Anoka County unloaded the Northstar project from its property tax payers. Anoka County's pullout from another mass transportation project exposes the reality of such dependency in transit planning: You can't always
trust depend on your partners to reciprocate when it's your turn.
Update 2:15 p.m. 6/14/12 - Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look, mentioned above, called to say the original post contained "a significant failure to relay correct information." He indicated that this is passenger rail, rather than commuter rail. In rereading the post together, it was clear that he objected to the last paragraph, which he believes said his board could not be trusted.
That's not what I wrote and while I can't defend words I didn't write, I can further explain the ones I did. One of the funding mechanisms in building a mass transit system for Minnesota was an increased sales tax in certain counties; five of the metro counties voted to impose the sales tax, two did not -- the goal was an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state. The Northern Lights project is not funded by that tax, and I regret the impression that it was.
In the buildout of transportation solutions, "partners" -- counties, in some cases -- are obliged to subsidize transportation projects in other counties. Those projects may be under the control of any number of agencies and boards, several of whom may have been created after the vote to increase the sales tax. (Note: NLX funding presently comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, bonding money from MnDOT, Congress, the Federal Railroad Administration, and local cities and counties.)
Why did I bring up the sales tax increase in five counties if the money doesn't go for Northern Lights? Because an overall vision for a mass transportation infrastructure in the state necessarily comes back to the contentious gas-tax legislation. It's the last time a public engaged itself in the question of "what's my role in developing a transportation infrastructure that may primarily benefit someone else?" (For the record, the previous contentious debate was just a few years earlier when voters approved a constitutional amendment dedicating a percentage of the motor vehicle sales tax to transit projects.)
As the link above shows, when Anoka County approved an increase in the sales tax for transit, it did so to get the Northstar rail project off the property tax, and at least one commissioner -- the late Scott LeDoux -- did so with the idea that outsiders (visitors to the National Sports Center in Blaine) would shoulder some of the burden for a project that benefited primarily Anoka County residents. It's under that vision for the responsibility for paying for transportation projects, that I invoked the sales tax increase in the overall transportation system funding question. It renews the same question last asked during that contentious debate.
The debate in several counties when the expanded sales tax and gas tax increase was pitched did not center around the role of one board or another board, or even one project or another project, it centered on a single question: What do we get out of this?
The same perspective that Commissioner Look provides in deciding not to put more money into passenger rail, sounds pretty familiar to the refrain of those who didn't benefit from light-rail asking why they should pay for Minneapolis or St. Paul's exploits in that arena. The commissioner's question isn't unreasonable now; it wasn't an unreasonable question then. What's the answer?
The structure of financing for many transportation projects comes under the direction of several boards, agencies, and partners. There is no guarantee that any one of them will agree with any other board, agency or partner on any component of that buildout, when it comes time to deliver on a specific mass transportation project. So while a transit-poor county, like Washington County, used as an example above, has agreed to be part of the metro-wide transit solution, it did so very much on faith.
Some people are disappointed by the decision in Anoka County. Some people aren't. It doesn't matter to me what side of that people are on. My observation is simply that articles of faith in matters of mass transportation projects in Minnesota sometimes go unrewarded. Anoka County isn't obligated to help with a project that may be of benefit to, say, St. Louis County, just because it got some help easing a taxpayer burden for Northstar from some outsiders. And if you're thinking about an overall transportation system for Minnesota, it would be a mistake to think it does.
Commissioner Look's concerns are principled, which is why I've asked him to write an addition to this post which states his position. He has declined to do so at this time.
Update 2:46 p.m. 6/15 Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin has submitted this response:
This blog post seems to overlook the willingness and leadership of five counties to help create a stronger transportation system in the metro area. The fact is that every investment decision regarding the five-county sales tax has been a unanimous decision of the Counties Transit Improvement Board. These decisions supported a project that was consistent with the Metro Council's transportation plan for the region. So I'd like to address the specific concerns of what has been written in Tuesday's blog post and Thursday's update.
· Blog Post: "One of the funding mechanisms in building a mass transit system for Minnesota was an increased sales tax in certain counties; five of the metro counties voted to impose the sales tax, two did not -- the goal was an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state. The Northern Lights project is not funded by that tax, and I regret the impression that it was."
Fact: The goal of the five-county sales tax was not "an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state." It was to expand high level transit in the participating five counties. That's why bringing the sales tax into a discussion of NLX is grossly misleading.
· Blog Post: "So while a transit-poor county, like Washington County, used as an example above, has agreed to be part of the metro-wide transit solution, it did so very much on faith."
Fact: CTIB has guaranteed Washington County an annual grant of 3% of all the revenues generated by the five-county sales tax. The guaranteed annual grant is more than half the money generated in Washington County (less than 6% of the five-county sales tax is generated in Washington County).
· Blog Post: "By "pooling" its sales tax money from other counties, Anoka County unloaded the Northstar project from its property tax payers. Anoka County's pullout from another mass transportation project exposes the reality of such dependency in transit planning: You can't always trust depend on your partners to reciprocate when it's your turn."
Fact: None of the original capital investment for Northstar came from the five-county sales tax. CTIB funds have been used for the Fridley and Ramsey Stations, added or being added after the counties' portion of the original capital costs have been paid using property tax dollars. The five counties are now paying for 50% of the operating costs of Northstar. That responsibility has been "unloaded," but not all of the investment for Northstar.
· Blog Post: "Most Much of the money in transit-poor counties like Washington County was diverted to places where there were mass transit projects on the table -- Hennepin and Anoka, with projects like Anoka County's Northstar commuter rail project (update: And Ramsey, of course, with the Central Corridor)."
Fact: Even the corrected statement is misleading. Cedar Avenue busway, a project of Dakota County, has also received significant funding from the five-count sales tax. So, that means that Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, and Dakota, have received significant funding. That would be four of the five counties. And Washington County has not only received a guarantee of receiving more than half it contributions, it also was permitted to use the funds for planning and subsidization of express busses, something only projects in Washington County are permitted to do. This was designed specifically to respond to the fact that Washington County didn't have projects that were as ready to go as other counties.
Is there a risk in joint multi-county efforts? Yes, but these five counties have seen fit to work together and invest almost a half a billion dollars in transit expansion. In the process, working together, they have helped bring over half a billion dollars in federal investment into the region, investment that would otherwise have gone to other regions with which we compete each and every day.
The issues associated with passenger rail are different. Moreover, the system is under the leadership of MNDOT, not Met Council. The mixing of the two systems, as this articles does, is terribly confusing at best.