Libraries: Palaces for the People

I realize that some may roll their eyes when I pontificate about the importance of libraries and its transforming role in our society, but I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to discover the “Palaces for the People” episode in the 99% Invisible podcast.

Check out the “Palaces for the People” episode of 99% Invisible

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg discusses the diminishing amount of truly public spaces, available for all, and the need for communities to invest in their Social Infrastructure the same way we’d invest in other types of infrastructure. He goes on to illustrate the way libraries are changing their role and need such changes in their architecture to accommodate the shift.

I would challenge those that are skeptical about the importance or relevancy of libraries to listen to this episode and take it into consideration when talking about the need for communities to invest in Palaces for the People.


Colorado state Democrats are destroying the Electoral College

Colorado lawmakers are sparring over a plan to bypass the Electoral College. Here’s what’s at stake.

I don’t know what’s more appalling: that this is being done at the state legislature, or that no one really seems to be covering it all that much. I’m not a fan of knee-jerk, reactive legislation to begin with, but no amount of state laws that you pass will put Hillary in the White House. To make the Electoral College a petty partisan issue betrays the republic and displays a level of partisan toxicity that further erodes our societal foundation.

The irony is that proponents are pushing for making every vote count, but the reality is that laws like this will all but nullify the constituency of anyone not living in an urban setting. All you have to do is look at a population density map to see the disparity between the major cities in our country, and everywhere else.

Any area that starts to look green can simply be ignored by any presidential candidate. For every 1 person you reach in the 20-to-88 zone, you can reach 200x the amount of people by just staying in the cities. Why would you go there to campaign? What would stop a presidential candidate from pandering only to those people? Does your vote even count anymore?

Go look at this list of states by population density, and you’ll find that electoral power would be concentrated into 14 states, with Colorado falling to #21 on that list. Our ballots would now become blank checks to these populous states.

What’s worse is that voters aren’t even getting a voice. This isn’t being part of some national dialog, but rather is being rammed through, state by state, at the legislature level. If our state representatives really cared about voters rights, they’d let the voters actually make the decision.

To those who aren’t fans of President Trump (and I’m one of them), the lesson from 2016 should not be to abolish the Electoral College, but rather that we should avoid elevating the office of the Presidency as a de-facto king of our country. Rather than using our state legislatures to cry “sour grapes”, we should be pushing for our national legislatures to take back their constitutional power. Instead, we seem content to do irreperable harm to our state and country.

Reflections on attending the DQSH Protest

Last Saturday I attended the Clearview Library Drag Queen Story Hour as a counter-protester. This was my first time ever making a political sign and exercising my First Amendment rights in this way, and was quite an interesting experience.

The story hour itself was a registration-required event, and had filled up in the prior week. Apparently there was a 200 person waiting list (the largest room in the library had a max occupancy of 80). Outside were about 100 people in the designated “free speech zone” – an area 30 feet from the entrance to permit library patrons and story hour participants to arrive. Of the 100, it was about a 1/3 to 2/3 split between protesters against the event and supporters/counter-protesters.

Protesters seemed to fall into two large camps: people protesting on religious/moral grounds, with signs citing biblical verses and various religious and moral messages about corrupting children, as well as conservatives there that were “fighting the Left”. It was questionable as to whether some of the protesters were part of the Alt-Right, but some of the protesters seemed to be part of some larger conservative-based movement.

As for the supporters, there were also 2 segments: those drawing attention to the LGBTQ issues, counter-protesting the intolerance, as well as those generally supporting the library, freedom of speech, and general opposition to the protesters. I would count myself among the latter group, but my nuanced position seemed to confuse people on both sides at some point.

When I got there at 9:45, it wasn’t clear where people were standing, so I just stood on the corner and held up my signs. A lot of people who would later stand with the “against” protesters told me they liked my signs and were conversing with me. Apparently, some event supporters yelled obscenities at me as well, but I didn’t hear them. Then when the lines became apparent and I saw someone I knew, I went and stood next to her, at which point I had a bunch of supporters come up and apologize to me. A lot of the protesters suddenly had problems with my signs. As the morning progressed, a few supporters from the back came up to me and said they liked my signs.

The protests were mostly civil, both sides chanting back and forth. There were a few minor confrontations, but the police did an excellent job making their presence known without interfering or infringing the free speech rights of everyone. Truth be told, I think both sides had some chants and actions that were bad looks. Protests are a blunt instrument, and when you remove nuance, you give way to stereotypes to take hold. You could see the protesters demonize the supporters as religious heretics that were enabling child endangerment, while the supporters generalized the protesters as religious nuts and Alt-Right hate groups.

I didn’t take part in any of the chants and mainly stood silently unless someone directly yelled at me about my sign, at which point I would engage back with them. One of the protesters that engaged with me finally said he couldn’t disagree with my points, so that was kinda cool. At the end of the event when the supporters disbanded, I walked back to my car past the police chief who shook my hand, then by a few of the “Don’t tread on me” protesters. I told them to have a good day and they said: “you too”.

In the end, I think this was a worthwhile event for our community. Diverse programming was offered at the library unimpeded, and there was a lively conversation about culture, morals, and freedom outside of the library. I realize that people may feel uncomfortable about social disruption, but protests (and counter protests) and demonstration are integral parts of our American heritage. Just because conversations don’t happen in the public square doesn’t mean that they’re not taking place, these events just enable communities to bring these views into the light for all to see.

An open letter to John Vazquez

Re: John Vazquez: To the taxpayers of Clearview Library District

Dear Mr. Vazquez,

I was disheartened in reading your opinion piece in the Greeley Tribune regarding Clearview Library District 6C, not because you oppose the measure – of course, every private citizen is entitled their stance – but because you base your assertions on premises that are not accurate.

You stated that this ballot initiative appears again unmodified but perhaps didn’t realize that the request is an 8% reduction from the previous year, reducing the mill request by 0.515 or 17%.  Years ago, in a cost-cutting measure, my company cut employee pay by 5% and I can personally attest to hard decisions that even a single digit reduction prompts on a budget. Like you, I support school districts, which is why I understand why Greeley District 6 tried 3 times before their Mill Levy increased. The need persists, despite ignoring warning signs.

The new location is more central to residents of Severance and West Greeley (who are also part of the Windsor RE-4 school district), on a roadway more convenient for all residents. I was also surprised that as the former mayor, you are not aware of the Windsor Lake Trail that already has an exit to the proposed library site. This trail unlocks safe access for residents north of Main Street while adding connections for those south of Main Street through stop lights and crosswalks. My 5-year-old just rode to the new proposed site from the current library last weekend, which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/CLDCycling

The proposed temporary Mill Levy in 6C (6.131) is still 1.5 mills lower than the Fire District mill and bond, still lower than what residents pay for Aims Community College. These services, each with their own missions are all equally important, preserving and enhancing the quality of life in our town. The increased amount will drop 75% after the building is paid off, to a point that’s three mills below the current Fire District.

Your assertion that 5% of community library use is simply not true. 69% of Windsor residents have a library card, and in 2017, the library logged over 247,000 visits into the building using a door-counter sensor. I’d invite you and all residents to view a timelapse of a video I took of the library entrance just last Wednesday: http://bit.ly/CLDTimeLapse

As for what services will be offered that aren’t offered now? Visit the Clearview Library website and see that the dedicated maker space, dedicated children and teen sections that isolate noise from the rest of the library, a computer lab, and meeting rooms for groups of all sizes are all part of the new location that aren’t available at the 3rd Street location.

I know this is a big decision for all of our residents, and respect that we all may not arrive at the same conclusion, but as a former public official, I’m sure you can appreciate the need for accurate information when basing important decisions.

Your neighbor,

Jeromey Balderrama

Why Google Chat won’t fix messaging

Exclusive: Chat is Google’s next big fix for Android’s messaging mess

The fact that they’re looking to fix Android’s messaging mess and not everyone’s messaging mess is why this will probably fail yet again.

Real-time messaging (be it SMS or real-time chat) is an absolute cluster, not for lack of innovation, for an inability to reconcile the needs of the users over each company’s own goals, resulting in some very draconian restrictions.

I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts for well over a decade, in daily conversations with my wife and family.  We have a basic set of needs:

  1. Enabled for real-time chat
  2. Ability to receive and respond to notifications across both desktop and mobile phone
  3. Group chat capability
  4. Ability to share pictures and other media
  5. Have a large user base and a lower barrier to entry for new users

Hangouts has been solid but also is neglected by Google.  Now their latest focus is to shift Hangouts for Enterprise use and deprecate it for consumers.  Supposedly they were steering everyone to using Allo, and I remember being very excited its pending release – and then it came and underwhelmed.  What made Allo fail out the gate was the fact that it was tied to your phone number and only one device, so you couldn’t use it from a tablet, let alone a desktop.  Over a year later Google came up with this jenky workaround to have your phone forward chat notifications to a desktop, but worked unreliably and required you to have the app open on your phone.  Given they hampered a key feature of Hangouts, it all but wrote it’s failed destiny and is why it hasn’t been adopted.

I don’t see much difference with Chat. From the article, it seems to be driven by whether carriers will pick up the protocol. That’s well and good to get Android the same features that iMessage enjoys on iPhones, but does little for anyone else on the desktop or using an iOS device. By limiting their goals, Google will once again doom themselves to failure.

I’ve looked a lot of other messaging tools, but each one has its own set of problems. iMessage is designed to promote the sale of Apple devices, which is why you won’t ever see a Windows or Android client (removing #2 and #5). Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp are all great apps with a lot of functionality but don’t have a big userbase and it’s hard to compel people to switch (with the caveat that WhatsApp is big for my international friends).  Facebook Messanger comes closest in terms of offering all the features, but feels really slimy and intrusive to use – and yes, I know that Google reaps the same benefits from inputting my personal information, but you’ve seen a lot more callous coming from Facebook lately.  Skype has been pivoting more into the messaging space, but they’ve had a bad spam problem and I’m not convinced people’s Skype contacts reflects all of their everyday chat contacts. The only time I go to Skype is to make a video call.

If Hangouts vanished overnight, I think I’d reluctantly migrate most of my activity to FB Messager.  It’s frustrating that Google is one few companies that has the clout and wherewithol to tackle this problem, but they’re hampered by their own blinders.  Until then we’re just confined to the ticking clock of neglected consumer Hangouts.