The Richmond News Review

This blog post is serving as a bookmark for the recently deactivated podcast and website at RichmondNewsReview.com, which I used to produce and maintain.

In 2006 I created a podcast called The Richmond News Review.  It consisted of 15-30 minute shows where I commented on news and events in and around Richmond, Indiana, sometimes interviewing newsmakers, politicians and members of the local media.  The show ran weekly at first, and then less frequently, until the last episode in 2008. After leaving the website dormant for a couple of years, in the fall of 2012 I decided to take it down.

Producing the show was an incredible amount of fun for me.  I got to blend my writing and blogging about news and politics with my interest in audio and video production.  I gained a new appreciation of the time and effort that goes into creating a podcast that people would actually want to listen to (let alone content that is compelling).  I added a new voice and perspective to some interesting community discussions.  And based on the feedback I got from listeners around the community, I provoked some useful dialog.

I still have the final published MP3 files from the podcast, if there's an episode you're interested in hearing.

A pretext for violence

I'm reading with sadness the news coming out of Norway.  Apparently, 32-year old Anders Behring Breivik decided that his Christian beliefs were so threatened by cultural shifts, minorities, immigration and multiculturalism that he needed to bomb and shoot people in order to address that threat.  The killings were politically motivated: the bomb was detonated at the Primer Minister's office and Breivik then stalked and shot at close range people at a political retreat.

Some will talk about the dangers of having weapons of various sorts and sizes available to individuals like Breivik and passionately implore for tighter controls and regulation of firearms or other weapon-making materials.  Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about when, where and why we create weapons designed to kill other human beings, and how we allow them to be used.

Some will talk about how this is a clear cut example that acts of terrorism are an ongoing threat and need to be safeguarded against using increased governmental or military power to fight terrorists and prevent attacks.  Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about whether current efforts to prevent acts of terrorism are effective, and what else could be done.

Some will speak of a lone madman who was mentally ill, and how we must find better ways to diagnose and treat mental illness of this sort before an individual's darkness can turn into violence.  Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about how those among us who suffer from mental illness are treated and how they are helped.

But we must not forget that behind all of these interrelated paths to such awful acts of violence, there is a singular cause that no amount of weapons control, military might or psychological analysis can predict or prevent:

Somehow, this man was able to construct a worldview for himself in which it was permissible to murder other people because of their political views.

Continue reading A pretext for violence

Blight in Richmond

Burned Out BuildingThe Palladium-Item has an extensive look in today's paper at the issue of blight in Richmond, Indiana, including a companion article about how local residents can help address blight.

The article does a good job of summarizing the challenges of blight as amplified by rough economic times: property owners who might already struggle with maintenance and upkeep are even more at risk of letting a given structure or piece of land fall into disrepair when finances get tight and layoffs and foreclosures are looming.  With such a high percentage of Richmond's residences being rentals, there's possibility for further disconnect between the state of the property and the owner's involvement in it.

My impression from the article and from the conversations I've had with city leaders is that Richmond is generally doing what it can to respond to the impact of decaying properties.  But it can be discouraging to know that the process of getting a blighted property owner's attention is often drawn out over a long time and a lot of paperwork, not to mention expenditure of taxpayer dollars: wait for the property to be reported as blighted, flag it, mow it or repair it and bill the property owner, wait for the bill to go unpaid, place a lein on the property, and THEN there MIGHT be a financial incentive for some action.  This routine may bear the customary government trademarks of caution and glacial due process, but it doesn't recognize very well the shorter-term impacts (financial and social) of a property falling into disrepair, and the ripple effect it can have on other areas nearby.

Continue reading Blight in Richmond

47374.info: scanning for local news so you don't have to

As a fun project a few weekends ago, I created the website 47374.info.  It automatically pulls together news and headlines from a variety of different news sources in the Richmond/Wayne County Indiana area.

The site has a simple display of those headlines that's automatically updated as they're made available throughout the day, and you can click on them to go read the original content on the source site - that's about it. There's a mobile-friendly version at http://m.47374.info/ and you can also easily see some recent local tweets from Twitter.  The site's still officially in beta but I've gotten some great feedback from test users so far.

I created 47374.info because I was tired of looking in a lot of different places to see what's making news in my community, or wondering if I'd missed something that was only announced on the very transient Twitter.  Some news sources have lots of content but make getting to it hard or leave certain key things out.  Other sources have a few juicy nuggets of relevant content once in a while but don't make updates available via RSS feeds, so you never quite know how often to check back.

So with the magic of WordPress plus some custom Perl scripts, I've restored some sanity to my news-reading time.  For the first time in a long time, I've set a website (instead of a blank page) as the default "Home" page that opens when I launch my browser.  Over the last few weeks, it's meant I'm more aware of community news, and I spend less time per day getting there.

Thanks to all of the local news/headline/event publishers that work to keep our community informed!

If you try out 47374.info and have feedback, drop me a line.

I'm running for office

I've blogged before about my political aspirations, and now I'm happy to announce that I'm running for a political office.  Earlier today, I filed for candidacy for an At-Large seat on Richmond, Indiana's Common Council.

I've spent much of my time and energy over the last decade of my life investing myself in Richmond in one form or another.  I've written many words in this space about what I see as Richmond's opportunities and challenges, and I've always enjoyed observing the local political scene.  Now, I'm taking my involvement to what I think is the next logical step given my talents and passions.

I don't expect to write much about the campaign here; this blog will continue to be for my personal and unofficial musings on a variety of topics.  I have a campaign website setup, and I've got the twitters and the youtubes and the facebooks all ready for you to liketweet if that's your thing.  If you're interested in the campaign, my positions on various issues affecting the community, and how you can help move Richmond forward, please check it out.  Even a few words of support will mean a lot!

Teachable moments in textbook errors

Educators in Virginia are wondering what to do with the thousands of copies of an error-ridden history textbook that the school districts there have purchased:

A panel of historians has found an "appalling" number of factual errors in a new fourth-grade history textbook used in many Virginia school districts, one of the experts said...The historical inaccuracies "are appalling in number,"...the book needs more than 140 corrections.

I hope they don't throw them away.  This seems like a great opportunity to teach students in Virginia and beyond some important lessons about education (things I wish I'd been more cognizant of in the early days of my education):

Continue reading Teachable moments in textbook errors