Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Absolute Power

President Obama urged GM CEO Rick Wagoner to resign. The request was complied upon.
Wagoner, 56, who spent 32 years with GM working all over the world, stepped down effective immediately. He was replaced as CEO by Fritz Henderson, the company’s vice chairman and chief operating officer.
Obama did so with out any advice from Congress, according to Carl Levin (D), Michigan’s senior senator.
“He didn’t ask us about it, he informed us,” Levin told reporters in a conference call Monday afternoon. “The president said he’d already decided.”
According to reports, Levin said he and three other lawmakers were informed of the decision in a phone call Obama made from the Oval Office. Obama told the members of Congress that Wagoner needed to resign so that his administration could show the public it was making an effort at a fresh start with the auto industry.
Does that not sound strange to anyone but me? Is the president supposed to be in the business of firing people whom aren’t in government?
Does that mean if your business receives money from a bank which received money from the government, Obama can have you fired?
Granted, Wagoner’s company had lost $82 billion the last four years and is a recipient of billions in taxpayer money, but shouldn’t he be judged by the board and shareholders?
In Wagoner’s defense, he was making a difference. He had cut GM’s U.S. work force from 177,000 to roughly 92,000; closed factories; shed the unprofitable Oldsmobile brand; globalized GM’s engineering, manufacturing and design; led a resurgence in quality and performance; and ushered in a more affordable $14-per-hour wage for new hires, about half that of a former wage. These measures saved the company billions.
What really sunk Wagoner was the GM’s focus on larger SUVs and trucks instead of smaller fuel efficient automobiles as fuel prices climbed.
By the way: GM’s stock was down $.92 Monday ... down to $2.70 a share. That’s a pretty good slip.
In fact, it’s safe to say the market reacted poorly to the Obama-Wagoner news. Investors are probably worried about the prospect of the president handing pink-slips out.
Here’s what worries me. The government is getting far too close to the private sector.
If a company is not viable, let it fail. If it is viable but needs to be restructured, let it enter bankruptcy.
What ever happened to the anti-trust legislation? They used to use it when a company was deemed too big. Anyone thinking that should have been the case with AIG?
Mr. President, I implore you, run the country, not businesses. Please protect our Mexican border, take out North Korea’s missile and make sure Congress spends OUR money WISELY!
If Obama wants to reach beyond his powers and start firing people, he should start with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank - as they know nothing about business but plenty about spending OUR money poorly. I bet the markets would react great to that news.
And before you Democrats get the rope for me and you Republicans begin praising me, here is something else to chew on.
At least there is leadership on the left. There is virtually no voice coming from the GOP. Where’s the leadership? Who is going to step forward and become the new face of this downtrodden party?
It’s a fact - one party rule in this country stinks. The GOP proved that and it cost them dearly. The Democrats continue to prove that point by spending like coeds on spring break with Daddy’s credit card.
Our current economic situation and the government’s reaction - dating back to the Bush Administration, make me want to puke.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What’s Another Trillion Amongst Friends?

Somebody needs to tackle the Obama Administration and Congress before they start spending my great-great-great grandchildren’s money.
Word out of Washington now says they are needing ANOTHER bailout bill to save the big banks. It may cost $1 trillion in addition to the trillions already spent according to Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
They say they need it to purchase bad assets off the balance sheets of big banks. Same thing they said months ago.
The only “bad asset” we need cleaned up is Washington.
The reality is the Democrats are on the largest spending spree this planet has ever seen. It is almost comical.
And what is their defense? Why it’s gripping publicly about a few hundred million in bonuses to AIG. Something top Democrats, including Geithner, have known about for months.
The Administration and Congress think by yelling about the bonuses, Americans won’t notice another trillion here and another trillion there.
I wonder what is going to happen when Americans in mass decide to stop paying taxes? What happens when we determine the U.S. Government is a poor investment for our hard-earned dollars.
Obama called the latest bailout “one more critical element” in a multi-pronged effort to revive the economy. I wonder how many “critical elements” it is going to take.
And what about transparency?
All during the campaign, Obama spoke of all of the transparency there would be in his administration. Where is it?
Why isn’t the proposed budget online for us to see? I would think a someone asking for $3.6 trillion in a budget would let us see how our money will be spent.
Guess what? No one outside Washington has a clue what’s in the proposed budget. Heck, most in Washington don’t have a clue either outside of their very own pet projects they had added to it.
If you’re not counting, the total is $160,000 per American family we are on the hook for. That is sad and pathetic.
Obama will try and get the rich to foot that bill. Guess what, they can’t. It will also take the middle class and the poor.
Mark my words - your taxes aren’t just going to increase, they will skyrocket. Maybe not for those out there cheating on their taxes by passing their children’s Social Security numbers around (a topic for another day), but for the vast majority of us.
I understand Obama won an election based on change, but this not the change people had in mind back in November.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Little Guys

My two sons, Jackson and Sutton, and I were eating dinner at home last night and Jackson, 5, said something that really upset me.
He said, “Daddy, you just want me to kill myself don’t you?”
He thought it was a joke. He was laughing when he said it.
I sat there shocked.
“Jackson, don’t you ever say that again,” was my first reply.
After sitting there a second, he followed that up with, “Dad, I was just joking.”
“Look Jack, that’s one of the most horrible things that can happen in a family,” I said. There is absolutely no humor in that thought whatsoever. In fact, I never want any thought like that to come out of your mouth ever again.”
I must say, I got a little hot about it and he was surprised by my reaction.
I tried to find out where he heard it, but he was unclear which influence it came from here.
Regardless, we spoke at length about life and how much love there is in our home and the importance of that love.
I think I nipped that situation in the bud.
Sutton, 3, ran off from my wife twice the other day at the store. He didn’t get far, but the fact is he knows better.
When I got home that evening, she told me he was in his room and what had happened.
He knew he was in trouble ... and he was.
I explained how important it was to stay with Mommy and Daddy - especially in a crowd, parking lot or street.
I said I was sad to tell him there were people in the world who would like to harm him. I told him how dangerous it was. I told him the truth as it is in today’s society.
He listened. His eyes got wide and he took it all in.
What a shame to have to tell a 3-year-old how bad the world is.
Jackson knows four phone numbers and can call them. Sutton is learning them.
I encourage any parent out there to begin a dialogue about these things if you haven’t already. Children are advanced and learn cell phones, computers and remote controls easily. Don’t think they can’t handle knowing your phone number because they can or will learn it shortly.
This parenting business can sure throw you some curve balls.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Small Business Attention

President Obama offered a fresh package of aid to small businesses Monday. A few weeks ago, I accused the president of dropping the ball on such matters.
“You deserve a chance. America needs you to have that chance,” Obama told small business owners at the White House.
The administration detailed various steps to get credit flowing to small businesses.
Glad to see President Obama addressing small businesses as that’s what we have here in Childress.
Obama said over the past decade, 70 percent of new jobs have been created in this sector.
One of the moves to get credit flowing to small businesses includes boosting bank liquidity with up to $15 billion aimed at unfreezing the secondary credit market, reducing lending fees and increasing loan guarantees, and easing the tax burden.
According to the White House, the goal is to help small businesses make payroll, buy equipment and maintain or even expand employment as the nation’s economy is bleeding jobs.
“As President I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that you have the opportunity to contribute to your community, to our economy and to the future of the United States of America,” Obama said.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also ordered the Internal Revenue Service to issue a series of new rules for temporary but significant tax breaks, meaning that small businesses:
• That earn up to $15 million will be allowed to claim losses for the past five years in the current tax year;
• May write off up to $250,000 in investments this year.
• Can reduce estimated tax payments to 90 percent of the previous year’s filing.
• Are allowed to take larger depreciation deductions within the first year of property purchases.
• And will see 75 percent of capital gains excluded for those who invest in small businesses.
The administration’s plan also includes $730 million from the stimulus package to immediately reduce small-business lending fees and to increase the government guarantee on some Small Business Administration loans to 90 percent.
Under the administration’s plan, the government will step in to buy SBA loans in the secondary market to help unlock the frozen credit market, using money from the recently passed bailout package in the range of $10 billion to $20 billion.
While the SBA typically guarantees $20 billion in loans annually, new lending this year is on track to fall below $10 billion.
While all of this news is good news for many in rural towns like ours, there are still those wondering about Obama’s proposal to raise taxes in 2011 on individuals earning more than $200,000 and on households earning more than $250,000. There are fears that those provisions also hit small businesses in the same category.
For now, it’s good to see small businesses getting the attention for a change.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Your newspaper is improving. It’s not where I want it ... yet, but it will be.
Behind the scenes of this publication are hard-working, dedicated individuals who have a goal. That goal is to give you the best product possible.
However, in order to accomplish this goal, we need input from the public.
I’ll give you an example: the good folks of Wellington and Hollis, Okla., are very good about getting club news to their respective newspaper. My friends in Childress are not. That’s my fault.
It is my job to see that my people are approaching the various civic clubs to ensure their hard work is reflected in our publications. Please consider this an open invitation or solicitation for such news.
If you’re a club secretary, please find an email address within this newspaper and share with us what your club is doing for your community. I know for a fact local Lions are serving their community. I think the public should know as well.
There are other things you can do to help us improve our product. For instance, I would like to see more feedback from our readers regarding what is going on locally.
If your upset about local government, stray dogs, vandalism or any issue, take some time and write us a letter to the editor. I’ve seen as much change come as a result of a well-written letter to the editor as anything else. All I ask is that you follow our policy, sign your name and stay away from slander.
Don’t be afraid to brag on the good things about your town as well. When a city employee reads about the good they do in a letter to the editor, it pumps them up. In other words, both positive and negative feedback from the public can be very beneficial.
Please don’t assume we know what’s going on. Sound crazy? While it is our job to know what is going on, sometimes we drop the ball. Don’t hesitate to call us with a story so we can get busy getting information ready for you.
It may sound strange for a newsman to admit, but the good stuff comes from you - the source. Did one of our graduates make the Dean’s List? Let us know about it. Do you have a neighbor growing pot? Tell us and the police or sheriff about it.
Work with us and we’ll be able to keep you informed completely and in a timely manner.
Since purchasing your newspaper, it has been an arduous task getting the publication the way we want it. That being the case, I have not been able to travel to the various communities and extend my hand to enough of you. I’d like to change that by hosting an Open House in several communities this spring. That way you can put a face to the nut you read each week.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for reading and/or advertising. Your time and money are precious and we appreciate your business.
We are changing many of the ways we do things in order to get to know and service our cliental the most effective way possible. In the coming months, you’ll see this difference reflected on the pages before you and this part excites me greatly.
Despite the fact that these publications are, at the very least, dozens of years old, we are just getting started.
I’m a very stubborn man and I’m determined to make this publication the best it can be. It’s not easy. In fact, it is the most difficult undertaking of my career. However, it is that important to me.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Understanding Open Meetings

I’m involved in a number of small towns and I’m asked on occasion about the Texas or Oklahoma Open Meetings Act(s) and laws governing how entities receiving tax dollars are to operate their meetings. In a nutshell, these governmental bodies must follow the law or face serious consequences.
Every once in awhile, I hear a complaint about this board or that board ... “they’re not playing by the rules.” I did some research and came up with the following regarding these rules. Now everyone has the opportunity to understand the information and use it as a guideline as this is a simple summation.
The information:
Under the Open Meetings Act (the Act), the general rule is that every regular, special, or called meeting of a governmental body, including a city council and most boards and commissions (depending on membership and authority), must be open to the public and comply with all the requirements of the Act. The Act does not apply to purely social gatherings or conventions and workshops, as long as any discussion of city business is incidental to the purpose of the gathering.
There are seven exceptions that generally authorize closed meetings, also known as “executive sessions.” The exceptions include discussions involving: (1) purchase or lease of real property; (2) security measures; (3) receipt of gifts; (4) consultation with attorney; (5) personnel matters; (6) economic development; and (7) certain homeland security matters. The governing body must first convene in open session, identify which issues will be discussed in executive session, and cite the time and applicable exception. All final actions, decisions, or votes must be made in an open meeting.
A governmental body must post an agenda that includes the date, hour, place, and subject of each meeting. The agenda must be posted at city hall in a place readily accessible to the public at all times for at least 72 hours before the meeting. In addition, for cities that have an Internet Web site: (1) a city under 48,000 population must post meeting notices on the site; and (2) a city over 48,000 population must post the entire agenda on the site. Emergency meetings to address imminent threats to public health and safety or urgent public necessity may be called with two hours notice that identifies the nature of the emergency. If, at a meeting, someone inquires about a subject not on the agenda, any deliberation or decision about the subject must be limited to: (1) a proposal to place the subject on a future agenda; (2) a statement of factual information; or (3) a recitation of existing policy.
Cities must keep written minutes (or a “certified agenda” for executive sessions) or recordings of all meetings, except for closed consultations with an attorney. The minutes must state the subject and indicate each vote, decision, or other action taken. Minutes do not have to be a verbatim transcript. Minutes of open meetings must be kept forever. Executive session certified agendas or tapes must be kept for at least two years, and longer if litigation is pending.
Penalties for violating the Act range from having the action voided to the imposition of fines and incarceration. Any action taken in violation is voidable and may be reversed in a civil lawsuit. There are four criminal provisions under the Act, including: (1) knowingly conspiring to circumvent the Act by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations; (2) calling or participating in a closed meeting; (3) participating in an executive session without a certified agenda or tape recording; and (4) disclosure of a certified agenda or tape recording to a member of the public. Upon conviction, fines may be up to $2,000, and incarceration may be up to six months.
An official can be convicted for participating in an illegal closed meeting, even if unaware of the illegality of the meeting. It is an affirmative defense that the member or the official acted in reasonable reliance on a: (1) court order; (2) written opinion of a court of record; (3) written attorney general’s opinion; or (4) written opinion of the attorney for the governing body.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

Friday, March 6, 2009

Well Represented In Austin

I was in Austin this week with a group of local and regional officials who care a great deal about this area.
The group, members of the Rolling Plains Community Partnership, which included several people from Childress, discussed rural issues with a variety of individuals and agency representatives.
It is an opportunity which can lead to additional opportunities.
For instance, a few years ago when the group was visiting with officials from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the connection was made which led to the Childress ATV Park, which is under construction.
This year, a bill was introduced which would end the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA). By virtue of local residents being in the right place at the right time, the bill is likely dead on arrival due to the immediate attention given to it by individuals within the group and our elected officials Rep. Warren Chisum and Sen. Robert Duncan.
Childress and area towns have benefitted greatly from ORCA programs as the organization is rural Texas’ largest supporter.
The trip also allows local individuals a chance to show off the way we do things up here.
For example, Childress Regional Medical Center Administrator John Henderson is very proficient on why that facility is as successful as it is. It is impressive to hear him speak on the topic of rural health in that arena.
Likewise, it is interesting to see how state officials react to the fact that the Childress Independent School District is on the cutting edge of technology in Texas. In fact, we lead the way in that regard and Superintendent John Wilson and Assistant Superintendent Toby Tucker were in high demand to address the topic.
I listened in on a conversation between Sen. Robert Duncan and City Manager Bryan Tucker and came away thinking how fortunate Childress is to have an asset like Bryan here.
Many residents take for granted the fact we have people here attempting to help the area. That’s okay, I don’t think any member of the group minds in the least.
The bottom line is we’re lucky to be in a position to be listened to and blessed to have caring individuals sacrifice their time and energy to ensure Childress is around for awhile.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008