Monday, February 28, 2011

Disabled Continue to Get Short Shrift from City of Naperville

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...
It's tough being disabled in Naperville.
  1. In November, the Naperville City Council voted to reduce the number of on-street handicap parking places in downtown Naperville.
  2. Earlier this month, the city created 26 new parking spaces for the Naperville Train Station .  The Americans with Disabilities Act required that 2 of those 26 new spaces be configured with access aisles and handicap parking signs, but the city didn't bother to do so until the Watchman came calling.
This summer Burlington Northern will replace the platform at the downtown Naperville train station. This is a good thing.  The platform is full of cracks in the concrete that get wider every year.  It's something of a miracle that a woman hasn't caught a heel in those cracks and fallen under the wheels of an approaching train.  The Watchman has been advocating for that platform to be rebuilt for many years now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Chihuahua of the West

Ronald Reagan once called Moammar Qaddafi "the mad dog of the Middle East".  Well, today, the mad dog of the Middle East met the Chihuahua of the West. (h/t to Monica Crawley for the well turned phrase.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guilty Until Proven Innocent in D203

TO:  School Board, Naperville School District 203 

I found the superintendent's email this evening very disturbing, first due to the possibility that a student might have been sexually abused by an NNHS counselor, but also because the superintendent's email was heavily slanted toward an assumption that the employee was guilty.

Then I went from being disturbed to outraged when I read the principal's email, which does not even use the word 'alleged', but boldly speaks of "our student who was the victim of abuse". He goes on to apologize for his failure to protect a student from something that has yet to be proved ever happened. I'd like Principal Pobst to apologize to the community for failing to upload our nation's 235 year adherence to the presumption of innocence!

This employee could be guilty as sin. Or maybe he's innocent. But the Distrtict has no business maligning him in these emails until he is convicted in a court of law. If he is found innocent, you've opened the taxpayers up to an expensive slander law suit. Surely you tax us enough to have attorney's review press releases like these before you send them out.

Liberty Watchman

Principle Pobst's email to the community follows:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bill of Wrongs, Passed

Open Letter to:
The Naperville City Council

RE:  Smart Grid Bill of Rights

Last night was another example of a city council out of touch with the community.  You keep bulling forward despite strong opposition in the community.  Now personally, the Watchman thinks the people who spoke last night claiming there is a health issue with the smart meters don't have a compelling argument based on science.  Yet they should have a right to opt-out even if their rationale for opting out is misguided.  Freedom must include the right to make wrong choices or it is not freedom at all.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Smart Grid Bill of Wrongs

The Naperville Smart Grid Customer Bill of Rights (NSGCBoR) is one of those government promises that seems so reasonable, so well-intentioned, that no reasonable person could oppose it, when in reality it is an exercise in naivety and public relations, that no reasonable person can put any faith in.

First and foremost, a true Bill of Rights would be accompanied by penalties for violations of those rights.  Yet there are no penalties whatsoever in the proposed ordinance.  If the city violates the privacy rights of citizens, what happens?  Nothing.  If the city doesn't honor its promise to give citizens the right to make their own choices over the time and manner of their personal power consumption, what happens?  Nothing.  The Watchman challenges the city Council to include such penalties.  He doubts the city will do so because any such penalties would be levied against the city itself.  How about compensation for citizens whose rights are violated?  Those provisions are absent as well.

This ordinance is a paper tiger.  It can be ignored any time the city wants with no repercussions for the city.  Sure, you can make a complaint to the Public Utility Board (PUB), but that board has only met once in the last year and a half.  Maybe the board's acronym (PUB) explains why they don't meet very often, or perhaps it explains where they meet.  So highly regarded is the PUB that it has not been consulted for advice in drafting or overseeing the Smart Grid Initiative... ever.  Why should the public believe that board can be an effective arbiter of complaints?

But that's okay because the ordinance is so vague that the city could never be found in violation of it. Key terms such as "convenient access", "available through multiple channels", "convenient user interface", and "clear and transparent manner"beg for further clarification yet there is none in the ordinance.  What constitutes convenient access?  Who decides if the city is being clear and transparent?  Maybe the PUB can help sort it out.  Oh, wait...

There are a few bold promises in the NSGCBoR.  "The city will never ration electricity."  That should be comforting, right?  Let me tell you fellow citizens, once the city has the capabilitity to set electricity rates on a per device basis in your home, they can ration your electricity usage, just based on price.  They can say that electric lights have a base rate of X, while air conditioning has a rate of 100X. You will sure feel like your electricity is being rationed when you can't *afford* to have as much as power as you need, powering the device that you need, at the time that you need it.  It will be de facto electricity rationing.

"Wait, wait, wait," says the NSGCBoR, "Customers can select a billing rate structure that meets your needs. This includes the traditional fixed-rate pricing and time of use pricing programs. Customers will have the ability to change programs."  Here again, all the city has to do is set the "time of use pricing" to be X and the "traditional fixed-rate pricing" to 100X and you will drop the traditional fixed-rate pricing model like a live wire on a wet floor.  Once the city can use price to control when, where, and how you use electricity, they will have too much control of your life.

Whatever rights the NSGCBOR is alleged to confer are as ephemeral as a summer breeze and about as powerful. The ordinance is so vague as to be meaningless.  Worse, it gives citizens the impression that they have rights, which they most certainly do not.  The Watchman encourages you to read this ordinance, alongside of other existing city ordinances, and you will see quite clearly that it was written by a PR firm and not by legislators or regulators.  There was no public input into this so-called Bill of Rights.

The entire Smart Grid Initiative continues to roll on with virutally no public support.  Pretty much like Congress with healthcare.

But far be it from the Watchman to be only a naysayer.  The NSGCBoR would have real teeth if it included a provision that disallowed differences in electricity rates between traditional fixed-price models and time-specific or device-specific models of more than, say, 1%.  Is 1% the right number?  I don't know.  But the city should have the courage to pick a number, present it to the public, and live by it.

Plug into choice?  Really??  Only if your idea of choice is turning your decision making over to the city.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Hosni is History

Hosni Mubarak 2003
Image via Wikipedia

Two questions now come to mind.  First, is there really any difference between Mubarak being in control and the military being in control?  Mubarak was a career military officer and was formerly the head of the Egyptian Air Force.  His staying in power or leaving office was always at the nod of the military.

Second, if the military keeps to its promise of staying in power only during the 'transition', who or what will lead next?  Egypt does not have a history of democracy, so it's hard to imagine a Jeffersonian democracy springing up in the shadow of the Pyramids.

The transition to military rule was a violation of the Egyptian constitution.  When Mubarak stepped down, the Speaker of the Parliament should have taken over, not the military.  Absent the rule of law, what's going on in Egypt is a revolution, the outcome of which is entirely up for grabs.

It's great to see the joyous celebrations on the streets of Cairo and the Watchman wishes the protesters well.  Unfortunately, the odds that this will turn out well for Egypt, the US, or the world are very small.

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