Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Notes from the Road

A little overnight trip through rural Minnesota gives one time to think.
by Charlie Leck

Here are some notes from the road as I travel in a section of Minnesota that leaves very little to do. I’m a little too far south of Redwood Falls to take a side trip to the casino up there. I brought along my golf clubs in case we got a dose of Native American Summer, but we haven’t. A little motel doesn’t have cable or dish so I won’t even be able to watch Monday Night Football – the Falcons and the Saints (could be a good game). I do have a couple of good books, but I’m having a hard time reading because thoughts of tomorrow’s election at home keep invading my mind. So, I spread open this laptop computer and begin to tap out notes (perhaps I’ll find some wired establishment where I’ll be able to go on-line and post these for you). Far less editing and proofing will occur out here in the wilderness, so forgive the little typos and errors that I might make.

Baseball in November?
There is probably a lot of baseball to play yet between the Yankees and the Phillies. It makes me think the world’s gone mad. What? One of my favorite movie scenes is that of Tom Hanks in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN when one of his players, a young, sweet girl, begins to cry. Hanks, the manager of this professional team of women, is left incredulous. So, he screams out:

“Crying? Crying? There’s no crying in baseball.”

The contemporary baseball season makes me want to cry out: “November? November? There’s no baseball in November.”

As much as I love baseball, I can’t bring myself to watch baseball in November. It doesn’t taste good in November. It doesn’t feel right. It’s like hunting deer or going ice fishing in July. It’s like trying to fly a kite underneath high power electrical transmission lines. It’s like taking your girl friend down by the shores of Lake Itasca to enjoy a romantic picnic in December. Baseball in November is just all wrong.

But, while I'm on the subject of the women's professional baseball league (A League of Their Own) that was formed during the second world war when so many of the major league's male players were off fighting, let me crank open my memory a bit.

Lois "Tommy " Barker was a woman in my town who was highly respected by all athletes. There's no question but that she was a "tom girl" and she took some teasing for it; but could Tommy play the game of baseball and our whole town respected her for it. In 1950, she went off to play for the Grand Rapids Chicks. If you want you can read this interview of her shortly after the league folded. My goodness, it's fun to have someone like her popping back into my mind after all these years. How I remember watching her play on the ball fields back in Chester.

Opponents’ reaction to my election blogs!
An anonymous soul responded to one of my blogs last week with scorching anger. The comments seems to have the voice of woman, so I’m going to refer to the commenter as a woman.

“You are lying, and embellishing. I have been to far more council meetings than you so I know of what I speak. You are a foolish old man with a personal aggenda [sic].”

Now, she was responding to my comments that our opponent councilmen don’t treat people who speak up and disagree with them at council meetings. Here’s what I wrote!

“From our point of view this election is all about behavior and communications. We believe that a resident ought to be able to appear before a town commission or the City Council and be heard out in a polite and receptive manner. These guys who want to sit on the council are angry, brash and basically impolite. They’d rather ridicule those with whom they disagree. They laugh at and scorn people who take sides that oppose them on an issue before the Council. We don’t think town councilpersons ought to be gruff and rude. These guys are known for their boorish snicker.”
To that she wrote back that I was “a foolish old man!”

I rest my case. It is a perfect example of how these folks treat people who disagree with them. I’m tired of being polite to them, they don’t deserve it.

Voter turnout for a city election
I was despairing over the 50 percent turnout we get for the city election in our little town and this morning, unable to sleep, quietly opened by laptop and brought up the New York Times. There is a city election in New York today, too. They expect a turnout of “fewer than a third of registered voters.”

One of our goals in Independence was to increase the voter turnout. The rabid, angry, frustrated voters on either end of the political spectrum turnout in extremely high percentages – even in little towns. The question is whether they should be allowed to control the election and, therefore, the city. To get sensible and moderate people elected to office, the sensible and moderate people must turnout to vote. Today’s vote will hang on whether we increased turnout this year by even a few percentage points.

The story in the NY Times is about whether voting should be mandatory for citizens, as it is in some nations. Frankly, I think it should. I know, however, that no such mandate would ever become legislation in America because the right would argue that it is the government invading private lives one more time and forcing people to do things. So, I will roll on with the system we have.

Saving and Protect this town!
I am in great anguish over my community. I hold this dream that our town will someday lay out a wonderful master plan for itself that will lay out how the community shall unfold and develop over the next twenty years. Some claim it is already done in the Comprehensive Plan that has been submitted to the Metropolitan Council (a regional governing body here in the Twin Cities). No, that’s not the kind of plan I’m thinking about. I would like to see something more specific dealing with protecting the beauty of the land, our wetlands, our creeks and our lakes.

Take the example of the major highway that passes, for six miles, pretty much through the center of our community. Towns just to our west and east have developed pretty significantly and the highway, as it passes through, those towns is so ugly. Gas stations, car dealerships, small shopping malls and fast food establishments line the road, with the signs and lights and parking lots that come with them. Except for a short, little stretch on the eastside, our town has prostituted its highway yet. We need now to lay out a plan for how we’re going to keep that road attractive and pleasant to drive along. Anyone who builds any kind of facility or residence along the highway ought to be required to do protective landscaping with attractive plantings and berming to hide whatever is placed along the road. Small and unobtrusive signs could direct drivers into the those businesses or homes, who’s parking areas would be hidden from sight by the landscaping. Lots of communities in Virginia and Maryland have adopted such a policy along their main roads and highways and it’s worked really well.

We also ought to look into a more extensive trail and park system. I’m not talking about anything massive and I’m not talking about requiring any land own to give up a penny’s worth of land or to even sell land if he doesn’t want to. We have a really nice city park on the east end of the community. We need to seek something in the southwest or western edge of the community.

Affordable housing is a real requirement in our community also. We need to designate some areas for high density housing so apartments and town houses developments could be built. People who work here, or in the surrounding area, ought to be able to afford to live here. Such housing does not have to be unattractive. Good landscaping, solidly planned, can work wonders.

There are great community planners in our region, who could help us with such a community master plan. Sure they’re expensive, but they could be paid for without residents needing to cough up a buck. There are dozens of foundations who would offer funds up to a community that really gets serious about planning its growth and development. Too many communities didn’t (like the one just to our west) and now they’ve become terrible eye sores and unpleasant places to visit.

I’m not opposed to development.
Neither are the candidates I support in this election. I just want careful, well planned and attractive development. If a solid plan were in place to protect the community as it develops, I’d throw my support to allowing the community to grow. I’d want such development to improve the tax situation in our town and not make it worse. We need to figure out how to recruit business and industry into our community, but we can’t let them just sprawl out wherever they want to, hanging up ugly signs and lights and building massive parking areas in clear view.

Gophers Football
The University of Minnesota football team managed to sneak by Michigan State University (the Spartans) on Saturday. I’m pleased they won. Hurrah for them! Duane Bennett looked terrific at running back. The defense made some big and wonderful plays. The weakness, however, that was revealed on Saturday was the 17 penalties that were called against the Golden Gophers. Over the last several decades I have always been told that penalties in football reveal a great deal about coaching and preparation. We’ve got a head football coach at Minnesota who is learning on the job. The good part of that statement is that he is learning. He’s learning how to check his temper, watch his tongue and also how to coach. I think he’s maturing. He’s not the same arrogant, cocky and foolish fellow he was in his first days on the job here. I frankly think he’s going to make a good coach if given time. Just check the hype, coach, and calm yourself down when you talk to us.

Halloween on Copeland Road
We had no Halloween visitors again. A pile of candy sat on the chest inside the front door. I was prepared to give it away as treats rather than face the possibilities of juvenile tricks; however, no one came again this year. We’re kind of lost down here in Sheepy Hollow and it’s a long way for a kid to venture here.

I got to watch the Packers and Vikings go at it yesterday. Brett Favre amazes me; yet I feel it is almost adulterous to win with him at the helm. Doesn’t it say we couldn’t do it without him – that it took a “contribution” of sorts from the great enemy rival to succeed as we are this season? Hmm!

My take on President Obama
At a gathering of folks the other night, in a beautiful home in our town, a nice lady told me that she read my blog pretty regularly and liked it; but, she said emphatically, "you should take it easy on our nice President."

Let me review. The proudest vote I ever cast in my life was for Barack Obama to be the President of the United States. No single vote ever gave me greater pleasure.

It has hurt to now criticize him for the weakness he is exhibiting in office. I call it a lack of leadership and a lack of courage. He has not, I think, the courage to fail – to try his best and succeed or fail as the case may be.

I agree with something Tom Friedman said this week in the opening of one of this NY Times columns, More Poetry Please:

“More and more lately, I find people asking me: What do you think President Obama really believes about this or that issue? I find that odd. How is it that a president who has taken on so many big issues, with very specific policies — and has even been awarded a Nobel Prize for all the hopes he has kindled — still has so many people asking what he really believes?”
The great communicator in the campaign is failing as a communicator in the White House. It’s a correctable problem for so talented a man and I hope we see that rectification soon. Where are we going, Mr. President? You've got to start showing us your game plan.

Notes from the road and from a disheveled mind
Well, this, you see, is what happens when one is on the road in a place where there isn’t much to do. But, it’s a great place and time to think, read and write.

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