Tony Ryan says his organization has an effective tool in the war on the War on Drugs: a T-shirt.

It reads: "Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why." And people do.

Ryan served 36 years in Denver, Colorado's police department before retiring in 2003. He's now a member of the board of directors of LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP.cc). The 10-year-old organization, he said, has 50,000 members, ranging from current and former law-enforcement officers to prosecutors to judges.

The former cop (who retired as a lieutenant) said that although he never worked in narcotics, he watched the effects of drugs - and drug enforcement - firsthand in Denver's poorer neighborhoods. "I saw a lot of drug activity," he said in a phone interview last week. "I saw the damage that is done by drug use and drug addiction, but I also saw the damage that's being done by the country's policy - in those days the War on Drugs. ... I'm of the mindset ... that the damage that has done ... is worse than what the drugs themselves cause."

Ryan will speak at and participate in an August 1 forum organized by Iowa state-representative candidate Mark Nelson. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Central Perk (226 West Third Street in Davenport).

Hilltop Campus Village Director Scott Tunnicliff. Photo by Joshua Ford (JoshuaFord.com).

Walking through the commercial area of Davenport's Hilltop Campus Village last month, Scott Tunnicliff picked up trash. The garbage far outstripped his ability to carry it - two hands and a few pockets - but Tunnicliff persisted.

Similarly, the Hilltop Campus Village organization (of which Tunnicliff is director) has over the past three years spiffed up its neighborhood in lots of little ways that seem mostly cosmetic: crosswalks, banners, and decorative streetlights.

There are nine new streetlights on Harrison and 16th streets (installed in the past two years and funded by grants), and they and the crosswalks do serve a safety purpose, designed to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. But these improvements, along with 50 banners on Harrison and Brady streets, are nonetheless modest changes.

Still, said Kelly Wallace - owner of the two-year-old Estate Sale Shop in the old McKay Music building at 1326 Brady Street - they hint at renewal. "The little amenities that we're seeing make a big difference," she said. "That type of visual as people drive through gives the impression that it is something that's being revitalized. Many times, it starts with a flower pot full of beautiful flowers."

Merv Habenicht (1935-2012)Our community lost one of its treasures, former Bettendorf football coach Merv Habenicht, on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, after a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis. For many of us, we lost a surrogate father and/or lifelong friend.

Nearly 45 years ago, when I left private school to attend Bettendorf Middle School, I was befriended by its most popular cheerleader, Nan Habenicht - Merv's and Eveyln's firstborn - and was unconditionally inducted into the Habenicht family from day one. I wish I had a nickel for each time I bravely huffed out on my own family to brave the cold, cruel world for the several blocks to the Habenichts, where I nestled in until I wore out my welcome.

Most of the time, I had to get in line, literally, because Merv and Evelyn had an open-door policy for their children's friends, and Merv's students and team members. It has remained so until this day. They truly are like second parents to me and to many others who had the incredible good fortune to find their fold. I could not love them more, and losing Merv is a blow that no amount of time will ever completely heal.

Jaimy GordonThere are few people in the arts who admit to being concerned about either their fame or their place in history. Jaimy Gordon is one of that rare breed, but she doesn't need to fret anymore.

Over the past decade, she said in a phone interview last week promoting her April 19 reading at Augustana College, she wondered whether "I was going to be swallowed up in the oblivion of people who are just mildly well-known in their own lifetimes and then forgotten about."

Since 1981, she has been on the faculty at Western Michigan University - in a creative-writing program that doesn't have the cachet of, for example, the University of Iowa's. Her 1974 novel Shamp of the City-Solo is considered a cult classic, and her 1999 Bogeywoman was a Los Angeles Times "best book of the year."

She had the respect of her peers but said she remained a nonentity in the publishing world. "I had what I would have called a career," she said. "But to my surprise, the New York Times among other places didn't even recognize it as existing. It wasn't even on the map until I suddenly became famous with this book."

Matt Hart

Philosophy wouldn't seem to lead naturally to poetry, but it can if you find the right philosopher. For Cincinnati-based poet Matt Hart - who will be reading from his work on Saturday at Rozz-Tox along with poets from the Quad Cities edition of the national journal Locuspoint - it was the 20th Century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Hart fell in love with poetry as an undergraduate at Ball State University, but he studied philosophy. Pursing a graduate degree in the subject at Ohio University, though, "I really bought Wittgenstein hook, line, and sinker. As a result, I quit doing philosophy. One of his main ideas is that philosophy is a sort of mental illness; if you understand him, you quit doing it."

And Wittgenstein offered an alternative to philosophy's relentless rational argument, writing that "philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry."

State public-employee pension systems are grossly underfunded in general and are financial time bombs for most states. According to the 2010 paper "Are State Public Pensions Sustainable?", 31 state pension systems will run out of money by 2030 at current benefit and funding levels. (Illinois topped the list, going broke in 2018; Iowa is in better shape than most states, with an estimated expiration date of 2035.)

What's happening in cities across Iowa with police and firefighter pensions, though, shows the flip side - the short-term budget pain that accompanies a well-funded system when investments perform poorly.

In Davenport, the cost of police and firefighter pensions will increase from roughly $3.3 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to $5.5 million next fiscal year and an estimated $6.6 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to city Budget Director Alan Guard. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, Guard said, the cumulative additional cost is $7.75 million.

In Bettendorf, the cost of police and fire pensions increased from roughly $747,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 to $1.22 million next fiscal year and an expected $1.36 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to City Administrator Decker Ploehn. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, the cumulative additional cost is $1.62 million.

Back in the fall of 2008, we opened our photo contest to pictures of babies and pets. We had previously held themed contests but in a rare generous mood offered a reprieve, with the threat that our next one would feature the categories "ethos," "riboflavin," and "Kierkegaard."

Lucky for you, the powers that be have memories like sieves; when we brainstormed ideas for the resurrected photo contest, those were strangely omitted.

Instead, our three categories for the winter 2011-12 contest are "attraction," "resistance," and "ambivalence." The deadline for entries is February 6, and the rules are below. We plan to publish the winners in our February 16 issue.

(Oh, what the hell: If you want to enter something in "ethos," "riboflavin," or "Kierkegaard," be our guest.)

For many years, we asked our readers to fill out surveys to determine the best of the Quad Cities. We gave them categories and lines on which to write, and we tallied the results, and the winners were the top vote-getters in each category.

Our approach this fall was different. We reduced the categories to 20 and asked people to submit Tweets, videos, and short essays in support of their nominations. The aim was to give voice to individuals over the masses, and to allow people to argue for their favorites instead of merely noting them. The ultimate goal was to get past the obvious and automatic responses that seemed to often rise to the top in past surveys - to spotlight hidden gems in the Quad Cities.

(Editor's note: This is one of three articles on Ron Paul in the December 8 issue of the River Cities' Reader. The package also includes Kathleen McCarthy's "Ron Paul Personifies Iowa GOP Party Platform" editorial and Dave Trotter's "Electability: Ron Paul Soundly Defeats Obama for These 11 Reasons" cover story.)

Voters memories' are getting shorter and shorter, emboldening the mainstream media (MSM) to utterly fabricate information in order to manipulate public opinion regarding Ron Paul's popularity and electability.

At the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference - an annual multi-day event of speakers presented as quintessential conservatives (Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Donald Trump all spoke at this year's convention held in February in Washington, D.C.) - Fox News edited the footage it broadcast by inserting booing during the announcement that Ron Paul had won the straw poll (for second year in a row), when in reality he was getting loud cheers. Fox was called out quickly by direct observers and had to issue an apology, stating, "It was clearly a mistake; we used the wrong videotape." Said Fox's Bill Hemmer, "It's an honest mistake. We apologize for the error. We look forward to having representative Paul back on our program very soon." (RCReader.com/y/media1) How is deliberately altering footage, replacing fact with fiction, an "honest mistake"? What possible explanation could there be for altering any news footage in the first place? It begs the question: How much of this "editing" is going on in other parts of the news?

Emergency-response dispatching console, located inside the Scott Emergency Communications Center building at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport.

Leaders in the consolidation of Scott County emergency dispatch and record-keeping claim a number of benefits: that it has been and will be a good deal for taxpayers; that it has resulted in better interdepartmental communications between emergency responders; and that it will eventually reduce the amount of time between when an emergency call is made and when appropriate personnel are dispatched.

But is it, as originally advertised, saving money?

The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, but for property owners in Scott County, the bottom line is that their tax rates are higher as a direct and indirect result of the consolidation.

The Scott County overall tax-levy rate rose by 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Fiscal Year 2011, as the levy for emergency management rose from 5 cents to $1.05 - nearly all of which is funding consolidated emergency dispatch. Scott County dropped its levy rate outside of emergency management, and Davenport and Bettendorf have also lowered their property-tax rates, but the net financial effect of consolidation has been property-tax rates that are anywhere from 65 cents to 90 cents higher depending on where one lives.

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