This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10, 2011 - it pays to watch the region

A few weeks ago I wrote, "The Internet, a global communications network, completely bypasses the control of a national government. It also bypasses traditional media controls."

I didn’t anticipate that this premise would be immediately tested in Tunisia and Egypt.

In Tunisia, a profound challenge to an autocratic regime was launched, sustained, and to some extent coordinated through the Internet.

On the other hand, no one believes the Internet was the primary factor in the revolt. Longstanding corruption, repression and widespread unemployment had a lot more to do with it.

Nonetheless, Egypt, facing similar unrest, sought to shut down Internet, and to a lesser extent, cell phone access for the whole nation. This is, incidentally, much easier to do when you have only four Internet providers in a country. (On the other hand, the subject has come up here, too. See this. Should the U.S. have a “kill switch” for the Internet?)

If the idea in Egypt was to stifle citizen anger, it didn't work. In fact, a lot of young people weren't happy about being denied access to Twitter and Facebook, even if they hadn't been particularly engaged in protests before. So they took to the streets.

I'm guessing that this wasn't quite what the government intended.

At this point, it’s difficult to say how things will play out in either nation. But clearly, we have a far more nuanced state of international affairs than many Americans believed to be the case.

It's really not about radical Islamic fundamentalists versus Christian advocates for democracy, however much our media and political leaders would like to frame it that way.

Like youth in the United States, young people in Tunisia and Egypt are more concerned about making a living than they are about political and religious ideologies of any stripe.

I maintain my belief that a steady stream of social contacts and information from around the globe makes it much harder for leaders to lie to their people about what’s really happening.

And that’s a good thing.

Speaking of what leaders say and how things actually are, I’d like to take a moment to talk about a significant difference in the approach taken by different municipalities in the county: Lone Tree and Parker on the one hand, and Castle Rock on the other.

Many years ago now, Lone Tree and Parker voted to join the Rapid Transit District authority, which, back then, shared boundaries with the Science And Cultural Facilities District.

Castle Rock did not vote to do so, arguing that it could invest the same amount of money and have its own public transportation system and cultural activities. Why, they said, should we give our money to Denver? So Castle Rock elected to go it alone.

Let’s take a look at the consequences of those choices.

Parker has long had the Mainstreet Arts Center, and will soon open its Parker Arts and Cultural Events Center. Lone Tree is opening a new center, too. They both have commuter bus (and Lone Tree has light rail) service, which many people use to go to work in the metro area.

I'm not saying that either of these programs (RTD or SCFD) is perfect.

But Castle Rock recently eliminated its award-winning Clean Air Shuttle service altogether, and has no funding for arts facilities at all.

So it sacrificed the demonstrated contribution to the economic life of a town of both public transportation and the arts.

To state this even more clearly: the failure to participate in regional investments in transportation and culture saved Castle Rock residents some modest contributions of sales tax. But despite what leaders said at the time, as recently as 2004, no enduring alternatives were ever created.

Of course, those who care about such things may not live in Castle Rock anymore.

Lone Tree and Parker’s more forward-thinking and pragmatic approach is creating and keeping jobs.

And residents.


LaRue's Views are his own.


  1. Two posts in one, Jamie! Clever!...

    Interesting contrasts in approach, and consequences, between what CR did compared to developments in Parker & LT. Some still argue that the latter two town councils have overreached their authority, budgets and collective wisdoms in funding their respective Cultural Events Centers.

    The proof of their puddings will be seen in the results (utilization for the communities, success of events and concerts, etc.) that each ultimately obtain... time will tell. For now, it's easy for critics to carp about digging holes in the ground for new construction (yet the benefits of some folks being employed, again, can't be bad!).

    I'm no fan of taking the bus, but given that the relationship between various community agents and efforts can be complex and long-reaching, it's hard to argue, convincingly, against beneficial progress of this sort.

  2. As for the notion of a presidential/congressional kill-switch for the Internet -- well, the 'Net will manage to route itself around idiots too.

    One can only admire and encourage the net effect of the more liberal, free-minded citizens of Egypt and Tunesia, and wish them luck and success.

  3. I know that the issue of arts expenditures is sometimes controversial. But arts and transportation have led to very different economic environments in Parker and Castle Rock. My point was just to say that people arguing against them, because they can do better stuff more cheaply, turns out to yield nothing at all. Worth tracking, I think.

  4. I agree that Castle Rock voters and most of its politicians missed the boat (bus) by rejecting inclusion in the RTD district. It's the same old story with Castle Rock voters when it comes to taxes and public services: "Penny wise and pound foolish."