It’s Super Bowl time again. My favorite team made it deep into the playoffs but didn’t quite make it to Big Show this year.
My favorite pro sports team is the Green Bay Packers. It’s not because of what they do on the field or their star players. I’m not even much of a football fan (I’m more into baseball and basketball.)
The Green Bay Packers are awesome because they are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. They are owned by 360,000 shareholders, and no one is allowed to own more than 4% of the shares.
Packers shares are passed on to by family members, and sale of the stock is forbidden. This unique structure ensures that the team remain in Green Bay, Wisconsin despite having the smallest market in North American pro sports. (The city of Green Bay has a population of 104,000 and the metro area has 312,000 residents.)
Flint, Michigan has a crisis that needs immediate attention.
You’ve heard about the lead that has been leaching out of the pipes of the homes, schools and businesses in Flint. Let me summarize the facts, and then I’ll propose a solution.
In April 2014, Flint chose to draw the city’s water from the Flint River as a cost-cutting maneuver, rather than continuing to use the Detroit water supply.
The water from the Flint River was highly corrosive to the lead pipes found throughout the city of Flint and its homes, allowing the lead to be released into the tap water.
After a year and a half, the city switched back to Detroit water after unsafe levels of lead were found in Flint children.
Even though the corrosive Flint River water is no longer used, the lead from the pipes continues to seep into the drinking water. The pipes cannot be made safe.
The amount of lead detected in Flint tap water is deadly. Some levels are so high, the water meets the EPA classification of “toxic waste.”
Let me be clear about this – the level of lead in the Flint water system is like deadly radiation. It’s beyond the level that one can ignore or take steps to work around. Here’s an article from the Washington Post which illustrates the toxicity.
There is no safe amount of lead exposure. It lowers a child’s IQ and adversely affects nearly system in the body. The effects cannot be reversed and are lifelong.
Water quality superstar Professor Marc Edwards (winner of a McArthur Genius grant for his work on our water infrastructure crisis in the U.S.) stated in an NPR interview, “The damage that was done to Flint’s children and to the pipes cannot be undone. The price tag to just replace the city-owned pipes completely would be $1.5 billion.” He also noted that it’s usually a 30-year process to replace an entire distribution system.
The situation is clear. Flint cannot be made safe in the foreseeable future, and we cannot expect Americans with this threat to their health and life.
The only solution is that Flint must be abandoned.
What’s going on with the 2016 Presidential race? Voters are rallying behind political outsiders, both Republican and Democrat. Campaign front-runners have never been so extreme in their views, leaving the more mainstream candidates scrambling to connect with the voters.
It’s easy to think that we’re seeing something unusual, that this is some sort of perfect storm of voter frustration and fear. Actually, this year’s unprecedented political maneuvering is a logical continuation of economic trends that started over 40 years ago.
I was doing a study for Universal Studios, looking into how Americans are working more and taking less vacation time. I noticed that when average wages were adjusted for inflation, the American worker had actually been earning less and less each year since 1973.
After a good night’s sleep, we hit the road early for the long haul to Kansas City. We got some lunch fixings in Hays, Kansas and drove hard and fast to KC, hitting town about about 7 pm. We wanted to have some genuine Kansas City barbecue, and we got a tip that we had to have the ‘cue at Joe’s Barbecue. Joe’s has several locations, and we chose their original spot which was in a gas station.
We got an early start out of Loveland, CO, on our way to Boulder and Denver.
I got the feeling that Loveland and Longmont are still somewhat challenged by the most recent economic downturn and still in the state of recovery.
Boulder, on the other hand, is very robust and healthy. I actually mean “healthy” in two ways, both economically and in the physical health of its residents. Whenever we do a study involving health measures and health habits (eating, exercising), Boulder comes out as #1 in the U.S.
Ok, we didn’t make it to Denver. We stopped short in Loveland, Colorado, since it was getting late. We had spent some time knocking around Laramie, Wyoming after being menaced by a few snow flurries at the pass.
The rocks and cliffs were spectacular leaving Salt Lake City and we climbed steadily with snowy peaks around us. There were ghostly old mining operations by the highway left to rust, and towns like Evanston and Rock Springs with fresh development. We fueled up at Little America in Wyoming, which at one point billed itself as the world’s largest truck stop.
Day Two started with a visit to Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro on South Capitol Blvd., which is located in the increasingly hip downtown area of Boise.
Goldy’s delivers the solid hipster breakfast experience, which includes long lines and no reservations. Food-wise it pretty good, but personally I’m a little hipstered-out right now. Gretchen’s meal included Hollandaise sauce, and it was really well done – very light and fluffy. However, it did lack flavor and needed some lemon juice and salt.
With ourselves and the car fueled, we enjoyed the drive past snow-covered mountains to Boise, Idaho.
Boise is the state capital, with big domed building in its downtown area. We arrived on a Sunday around 7:30 pm and I was surprised that the joint was jumping. Boise’s downtown has several streets (not just a strip) of restaurants, clubs and interesting stores that were packed with people.
It had been a while since we’d been to a nice restaurant, so we found a highly-rated one a few blocks from the downtown, Richard’s Café Vicino. It was really excellent, with an innovative take on Italian food without getting cutesy or overdone. Café Vicino seems very comfortable with what it’s doing, and it’s doing it very well. We thought our meal ranked among the best we’ve had in the last two or three years. Highly recommended for a special night out.
Day One of our road trip was a nice Oregon spring day, meaning that it was dry though overcast. We headed out a little late, just after 10am, Eastward on I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge.
The Gorge is one of the most beautiful spots on earth, and it’s no wonder it has been designated a National Scenic Area. It seems the Gorge always shows up in car advertisements, showing the vehicle perched majestically above a huge river flowing far below.
This Sunday the Gorge was utterly calm, which is really rare. Even the numerous wind turbines were completely still. This phenomenon allowed wisps of low-lying clouds to cling to the valleys lining the gorge, which was a unexpected treat to see.
We wanted to cross the country as quickly as reasonably possible, so there was no time for side trips. We had lunch in Pendleton, Oregon at Dickey’s Barbecue. This is a Texas-based chain of stores, and as much as I try to steer clear of chains, I’ve got to say Dickey’s is pretty darn good. When you’re hungry for ‘cue, it’s a solid alternative for a grab-and-go meal.