Thursday, July 27, 2006

Patriots for Peace and their $4.20 Fundraiser

I was out of town yesterday and missed the big presidential visit for Shelley's fundraiser, but thanks to DowntownWV I got to see some of the Patriots for Peace protest close up.

After the protest the crowd proceeded to Davis Park for a fundraiser of their own. Looking at the photos in this post I formulated a definite opinion as to how they arrived at the unusual price point for their event; $ four-twenty.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

OK, It Passed 3:1 Now What?

According to today's Gazette story,

Jones said he wasn’t really surprised with the results because he did some
polling on the issue last December. People’s attitudes on the fee tended to
correspond with their feelings toward him as mayor, he said.
“The places where I did strongest it did better. A person who is not in favor of my administration did not like the fee,” Jones said. “I would hope the fee would carry every precinct but my strength would be in the hills. We would be weaker in the flats.”

Always the astute political observer, Mayor Jones. Of course it just might be that for people in "the flats" this fee represent a whole lot more to them than those in "the hills." Except for Kanawha City, median income in "the flats"is about $20,000. The fee for those folks represent about a one-quarter of a percent tax. The median income in "the hills" is probably well over $100,000, which means the tax rate for them is less than .052%. Not surprising then how people voted. Disproportionate taxation, when it favors the wealthy, usually gets the vote out in South Hills.

Now what? Here's my prediction. Mayor Jones said last night on Channel 11 news that he definitely would not seek an increase "in this term" as mayor. When the anchor pointed out he only had one year left in his term the mayor quickly corrected him saying "eleven months." In the paper he is quoted as saying “ I don’t know what will happen next year. Fees do go up.”

I would listen for noises about raising the fee to at least $2 in about twelve and a half months.

Monday, July 24, 2006

User Fee Passing

As I write this it looks as if the user fee is passing handily. A few thoughts:

1. I hope the fee passes but by a slim margin that communicates to the Jones administration that we are OK with it but not terribly pleased. This might keep them from immediately making plans to increase it to 2 or 3 dollars per week.

2. After seeing the enormous ballot for myself, I realize that Thornton Cooper cost the City a heck of a lot of money for nothing. It was his lawsuit's insistence that forced the City to have the entire bill printed on the ballot.

3. I'm glad this chapter in our city's history is over.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Window Dressing Symmetry

The curtains in these windows above Steve Blackwell Designs on Summers Street used to have perfect symmetry, but I noticed as I was leaving the library last week I noticed a change. I wonder if there is a significance in the difference between the two floors? You think it's a political thing? May the folks upstairs are centrists and the downstairs people lean to the right?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Driving While Black

I apologize in advance for the heavy subject on what I intended to be a light-hearted blog.

This story in today's Charleston Gazette points out a reality in our city. I'm not sure if this is a reflection of the culture of our police department, or maybe just our culture in general but I know it is a reality. Anyone who will open their eyes around town can't help but see that race matters when it comes to the way motorists are treated on traffic stops by police. Some folks call this phenomenon "DWB" -Driving While Black.

Nine times out of ten, when I see a traffic stop where there are two or more police cars present, the driver of the stopped car is black. I have seen with my own eyes that officers have a different body language when they are dealing with a black driver. A different tone of voice. A different attitude. In my observation it doesn't matter much if the officer is white or black either. I have seen black officers act exactly the same way as the white officers. It is puzzling, but it is true.

In this case, Mayor Jones publicly apologized to Mr. Johnson and his family. The mayor knows Mr. Johnson and his family personally and so he got involved, but there are many more Mr. Johnsons out there who have been treated the same way and never had an apology. Many folks in the black community simply accept this reality and never make waves about it. The unique circumstances of this case - that Mr. Johnson was a former police officer, that he worked for the Human Rights Commission and that the incident happened right in front of his workplace - it was those circumstances that made this a public incident. The same kind of thing happens every day to less notable people in less notable places.

I'm not singling out police officers. They certainly have every right to be as cautious as they feel they need to be when out there enforcing the law on our behalf. This racism is part of our culture and I just wish we'd face up to it. It is apparent in other arenas as well. For example, I frequent a West Side bank where the racial makeup of the customers is probably close to 50/50 black vs. white. I have seen over the years that the tellers consistently will require ID from black customers who wish to cash checks and I've never been asked for ID once. I have seen black customers turned away when they didn't have "proper" ID and then the same teller who doesn't know me from Adam will cash my check without any question. It is real, folks. It is all around us.

As for Mr. Johnson's case, it seems that he was certainly in the wrong and was indeed driving with tags that had been reported as stolen. As a former police officer he should have know better. But I know in my heart that if it had been me, a middle-age white man, driving the same car in the same location I would not have been hand-cuffed or treated so rudely. I think we all know it. If we don't then we are blind.

Mayor Jones is quoted as saying, " I just want to nip this in the bud.” Way too late for that, Mayor Jones. This thing has gotten way past the bud stage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Local TV News Reporters

As Oncee reports, the Daily Mail has the story about Jessica Ralston being named "looker of the week" by She is obviously worthy of the title but I find her to be a very competent reporter as well. She's one of my favorites.

But I've noticed a difference between local TV newswomen and those who have made it on the national networks: Local reporters seem to think they have to force themselves to look grim most of the time. They suck in their cheeks, tighten their lips and just generally look as if they are in pain when they are on camera. Most come across like they have some physical impairment that makes them act this way. Anchors are usually a little more relaxed, and speaking of Jessica Ralston, when she is in the anchor chair she is like a different person. She has a dynamite smile that she almost never shows when she's in her reporter mode, but it comes out when she reads the headlines.

There are exceptions to the anchor corollary, one being Brooke Baldwin who anchors the morning show on WOWK. She is an absolutely gorgeous woman but she seems so tense when she speaks on camera that it changes her looks completely. Every time I watch her I just want to tell her to relax and be herself (of course, she might be that tense all the time, I don't know).

Women who report for national TV networks are much more relaxed and loose. Even when reporting on grim stories or dealing with hugely important stories they are much easier to watch. I'm not sure if it's cause or effect. Perhaps it's that less experienced people are more likely to work locally and the stiffness wears off with experience. Whatever it is, my advice to any woman newscaster that might read these words is "lighten up!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

OK, Now What?

Just when I'm ready to post an interesting picture this confounded thing won't let me! What is up with Blogger?

Oh well, I would like to draw your attention to the streets of Charleston. In fact, I want you to look down. At the pavement. All over downtown and Kanawha City you can see the painted direction signs, arrows and mileage markers for various and sundry running races. The Charleston Distance Run's course is well known and you can see its markings pretty much all year round, but a slew of other 5K's races and other walk-a-thons have sprung up around every festival and chili cook off on the calendar. So the asphalt around town is covered with these signs and arrows.

I would think it would get confusing for runners. It would be perfectly understandable if some poor sap takes a wrong turn or two during an upcoming 5K and ends up running a half marathon or more through the streets of our fair city.

What we need is a really big eraser.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quirky Weatherman Tony Cavalier

While not a Charleston figure, per se, he does invade our living rooms on a regular basis. Tony Cavalier seems like a nice person, and I'm sure he is very knowledgeable about weather forecasting, but sometimes he just tries to do too much. The result is often hilarious.

Since WSAZ TV-3 began their split Huntington-Charleston weathercast several years ago, Tony has tried his best to make it sound like he is Mr. Charleston by saying things like "The temperature over at Celebration Station will be about 68 degrees by eleven-o'clock." It might be but I, for one, am not going to be walking around at Celebration Station at eleven PM. I would not recommend it to anyone.

Another oft-repeated Tonyism is "The brown baggers over at Slack Plaza will enjoy the lunchtime sunshine." While this is probably true, Charlestonians know that most of the people with brown bags at Slack Plaza are usually enjoying pretty much everything about life by noon, if you get my drift.

Tony has his own blog, although it is mostly a collection of weather articles. I would prefer reading his personal observations on the world. That would be much more entertaining.

Just as a final observation about Tony: The photo above is the actual official publicity shot from WSAZ's website. I didn't modify it; it is really that out of focus. Fitting, I think.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Oh good, new people to complain to!

Thanks to my old friend Stanton I am now a real live blogger! I feel like I've pledged a fraternity. No hazing, please.

I love Charleston. It has been my home all my life. I love the size, the shape, the tastes, the sounds; just about everything (except for that smell that seems to accompany the hottest days of the summer). I also enjoy the cast of characters and the props that are part of the theater of reality that plays daily around town. It is my bemusement with some of these little quirky dramas that I'd like to write about here.

I have a list of ten or so topics I'd like to start with, but I know I like blogs that have pictures and I don't have any interesting pictures to go with my topics, so I will wait until I have some before I get started. Until then, see you around town. - Charles

New Direction for Charlestonian Blog

I've really ignored this blog in favor of WV Hot Dog Blog for the past six months. Rather than let it set idle or shut it down I asked a good friend of mine to help out for a while. He's excited about the prospect but he wants to lighten things up a bit. His name is Charles and he's been a citizen of Charleston for over forty years. He and I will be sharing duties here for a while I take care of the hot dog biz.

Have fun Charles!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

User Fee Election

Just a remider that Charleston will be holding its special election on the infamous user fee on July 24th. Vote your conscience or your wallet, but vote.

See the spirited discussion about the user fee on Will Stewart's blog.