Sunday, November 27, 2005

Let the Man Teach

A mini controversy brewing over a Vermont social studies teacher who likes to engage his students in debate over the Iraq war and other issues. He also uses some "over the top" questions on his tests.

When I was in high school, I loved the social studies classes that allowed us to discuss...well, "social" issues. I always thought that was what our education was supposed to be about. Learning to think issues through. Making the hard bound books come alive with conversation on contemporary issues.

That Mr. Chenkin is a liberal, is of no matter. I'd be as happy if he were a right long as he can engage the minds of his students and allows for debate.

These are high school kids. Only a year or so away (if that) from possibly BEING in Iraq. Are we so afraid that they can't think for themselves that we won't allow them to HEAR a different point of view.

It appears to me Mr. Chenkin is one of those teachers that goes beyond just reading a few pages from the text and giving a pop quiz. He actually wants to get his student's minds working.

And now he comes under attack.

Is it any wonder we are losing good teachers?

(The right-wing bloggers-- in what I'm sure they think is really "cute" --have posted Mr. Chenkin's e-mail and ask people to let him know what they think. I did. I told him I appreciate a teacher who actually engages his students and asked him to keep up the good work. Maybe you'd like to do the same.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Happy Holidays

The holidays have begun. It's my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving is here and that means family gatherings, turkey, and football. Then it's the wonderful Christmas Season.

As a Christian, I believe the "reason for the season" is to celebrate the birth of Christ. But I also know that the "season" is more than that. There is the "holiday season" that includes Santa, Rudolph, shopping, and parties. There's nothing wrong with that.

Which is why it doesn't bother me a bit when someone wishes me "Happy Holidays". It's a warm and wonderful time of the year and I hope they are indeed happy for us all.

When a store clerk says "Happy Holidays" after I buy something, they're really saying "thanks for buying". If they said "Merry Christmas", frankly, it would often be blasphemy. They wouldn't be making a heartfelt statement about the Birth of the Son of God. It is almost like taking the Lord's name in vain.

So, celebrate the season. Enjoy Jolly Old St. Nick. Trim a tree and have a cup of egg nog. Then make sure, if you're a Christian, you set aside time to thank God for the Gift of His Son.

Season's Greetings.

And Merry Christmas.

I mean it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No Need

Wheeling Council has tightened regulations for video lottery parlors in town. Councilman Seals says it will cut down on "nuisance activites" such as "late hours", "fighting and drinking in public".

Of course, the new regulation will do no such thing.

Those nuisance actitvities happen in bars and taverns, licensed by the state ABCC. The so-called "lottery lounges" that have been proliferating are in coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries and the like. The new ordinance grandfathers all existing video parlours into compliance, exempts the downtown area, all industrial zones, and "redevelopment" zones. Current zoning already prohibits them in residential areas.

What MIGHT happen, however, is that the one area of Wheeling that is relatively video-slot-free could see new ones coming. "Out the Pike", through parts of Woodsdale, Edgington Lane, there are only a handful of such places (compared to other parts of the City). If someone wants a piece of the very lucrative lottery pie, they might find it hard to open up in Warwood, Elm Grove, or elsehwere where there are already a lot of lounges. But there are some good sites within the "Out The Pike" area that are NOT within a thousand feet of another such lounge. That's where I would go if I wanted in the business.

Council is well meaning in this effort. They are responding to the perceived unhappiness of the public with the video parlor proliferation. But I have said for months, that the problems are PERCEIVED and not real in Wheeling. I have yet to see a single piece of evidence that there is more crime, more drunkeness, more loitering around the lottery lounges. There ARE such problems around taverns that have the machines....but it is the TAVERN not the machines that create the difficulty.

It's feel good legislation that probably does no harm, but does no real good either.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


President Bush has repeatedly told us that he will keep us safe. We have been told over and over that since 9/11 his administration has worked mightily to be prepared for disaster. We undertook the largest reorganization of government in decades and allocated money as much as was needed.

And the administration failed.

There isn't any "nicer" way to say it. They failed. Utter and abject failure.

With several days (at least) warning that a gigantic storm was heading New Orleans' way, there was ample time for disaster preparation. With decades of knowledge that NO's levees were not prepared to deal with a storm of this size, there was ample time to prepare for the "worst case scenario".

Yet, when Katrina hit and the levee's broke....and a disaster that had been long known to be possible happened....the federal disaster experts seemed to be caught unaware. The President's hand picked administrators for disasters claimed they "didn't know" how bad the problems were and "weren't aware" of many of the horrible after-disater problems. As Ted Koppel asked FEMA director Mike Brown this week, if you didn't know in your "official" capacity as a disaster official "DON'T YOU WATCH TELEVISION??" And yet, the President blithely praises Brown's efforts and says he's "satisfied" with the federal efforts.

State and local officials, to be sure, are also partly to blame. But when a disaster of this proportion occurrs, it is the federal government that we look to to lead the way.

And they failed.

From within his own party even Newt Gingrich wonders out loud " if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

The President can't blame the Democrats, or the liberals, or the Muslims, or the press, or Bill Clinton. This is HIS Homeland Security Department and FEMA. These are HIS hand picked administrators. And this is HIS issue. The one he has spent his administration telling us to trust him with: our safety and security.

And he has failed.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

There's Work To Be Done

For over a decade in West Virginia, public school teachers have been getting only minimal pay raises. Following the walkout in 1989 and Governor Caperton's reform plans, teacher pay slowly began to inch out of the basement in state-by-state rankings, but they have now worked their way down near the bottom again. And each year the refrain goes something like: "You deserve more and if we had more money, you'd get it."

Well, now there IS more money and it's time to do what's right.

Many Republicans are urging a repeal of the food tax (if we don't need the money let's give it back to the people). Behind the argument is a basic premise that government should be "starved" of money so it will get leaner.

What that arguments forgets is that GOVERNMENT IS SUPPOSED TO DO THINGS. We expect them to build and maintain roads, train and dispatch law enforcement, collect taxes, and yes, educate our children (the ONLY resposibility of state government actually mandated by our constitution). To do those things requires money. To do them well requires more money. Of course, as in any business, there is some waste and inefficent. There are people who don't pull their weight. But at heart, the state's teachers do an exmplary job.

Classsroom-by-classroom, school-by-school, county-by-county, teachers prepare our children for the future. How dare we tell them the time still isn't right! You don't think teachers work hard--BECOME one. You think they have summers off? Check the seasonal employment list at your local park system or see who's on the roof painting houses.

And if you only see "bad" teachers in your kid's school, ask yourself where did the "good" ones go? Chances are the answer is: somewhere where they can make more money.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Who's the nuisance?

Wheeling Council is way off base when it tries to declare Bud's Club a public nuisance. The club has been in Centre Wheeling for 6 decades and it's been in the same family the entire time. Current owner Joey Gorayeb has been running the place for 15 years.I am willing to accept Wheeling Police Chief Kevin Gessler's claim that the place has been a haven for drugs and possibly prostiution. But whatever problems there are are attributrable to a single owner and in fact a single family for generations.

Gorayeb wants to sell the building and the business to a new owner. The new owner should be given a chance to prove that he can run a "clean club". There already are several nearby business people who think a tavern in that area is a good idea. I agree. It's a neighborhood of antique shops, restaurants, a used book store, art gallery. A pleasant pub makes a pleasing addition. As a member of the City Planning Commission, I can tell you the entire area is properly zoned. In fact, with several store fronts available in that specific block, a new tavern could easily open up within a matter of a few hundred feet.

A piece of property is not possessed by demons. A building on its own is not a nuisance. If there is prostituion in the area, crack down on it. If Mr. Gorayeb or others have committed crimes inside that building, arrest them. And if Mr. Goryeb wanted to continue operating the bar himself, oppose it.

But to to deny a new owner a chance to make a go of a new neighborhood bar in that location is unfair to the new owner, unfair to those who would like to see a pub, and frankly unfair to Mr. Gorayeb in denying him the chance to sell his business and building to a willing buyer.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Leave the Runaway Bride alone

Why can't we disappear?What ever happened to the truly American right to be left alone? To be rude, crude, obnoxious. To treat your family poorly and--yes--to chuck it all and vanish if you want.

It may not BE right, but I thought we HAD the right.

Jennifer Wilbanks left her groom at the altar. For whatever reason, she decided to go. She didn't leave debts behind, or legal issues untended. She didn't desert a family or abandon children. She didn't ask anyone to come looking for her and she sure as heck didn't ask the media to make her front page news.

Now the outcry is to make her pay! And all she did was exercise that bedrock right to be left alone and do as she chooses.

But the media has made paranoia a national pastime. Although only a small percentage of missing children are really the victim of foul play and the Scott Peterson case is the exception not the norm, the 24-hour news channels whip up our fear, officials catch the furor...and we waste thousands of dollars looking for a woman who we had absolutely no reason to believe was in trouble.