Monthly Archives: November 2011

[VIDEOS] Black Friday Madness

Here’s a brief list of Black Friday videos making the rounds on the internet today (click links or video boxes).

CROWD STORMS BEST BUY IN PUERTO RICO -CLICK LINK 

Urban Outfitters in California:

CNN VIDEO OF TAZERING AT A WALMART -CLICK LINK.

WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO OF A MAN TACKLED BY POLICE-CLICK LINK

Here’s some madness at an unknown Walmart.  Uploaded today:

More Walmart madness in California:

E-470′s Perception

E-470 is a "political subdivison of the State of Colorado."

If E-470 was such a private entity, I likely would not have been granted access to its financial records showing toll money went to massages, bonuses and trips.

What private enterprise would give such documents to an investigative reporter?

There is definitely a perception in Denver that E-470 is a 100% private company.   I thought so too when I first moved to Colorado in August.

Even E-470 describes itself as a political subdivision of the State of Colorado.  E-470 employees also drive vehicles with government license plates.

Behind the business-looking logo is a very public board that is called the E-470 Public Highway AuthorityHere they are….all of them are public officials.

The authority is subject to the Colorado Open Records Act and the Colorado Sunshine Law.   A CORA records request I filed last month yielded the financial documents from E-470.

I spent a lot of time reading through the public meetings the board has about once or twice a month.

I found, looking at board meeting notes, there has only been ONE person to comment during the public comment portion of the meetings over the past year.

I was the second one, as you’ll see in my Sunday night broadcast.

These meetings are held on Thursdays at 9 in the morning.   Any member of the public has the right to go to these meetings, make public comment, and observe.

The perception that E-470 is an absolute private enterprise may be keeping people from asking questions.

In the end, perhaps E-470 can be characterized as a quasi-government entity.

Whatever the case, the tolling agency is open to public scrutiny and beholden to the people of Denver who pay its tolls.

Toll Money Covered Massages, Bonuses and Stays at Luxury Hotels

The tolling agency expects to collect more than 100 million dollars this year.

When was the last time you got a massage and a bonus at your company?

How about a stay at a Ritz Carlton?

E-470 employees enjoy some perks that most people haven’t enjoyed in quite a while.

Considering I’ve read countless angry emails from viewers complaining to 9News about E-470’s billing issues, I decided to look at where your toll money is going.

I didn’t think I would get far, because I assumed (I just moved here to Denver) E-470 was a private company that wouldn’t have to give me anything if I asked.

Behind E-470’s business operations is a government agency called the E-470 Public Highway Authority which describes itself as a political subdivision of the State of Colorado.

The board that manages E-470 is subject to open meetings laws and the Colorado Open Records Act.

So I filed a records request last month.

I found expenses that went to massages, a luxury hotel, and trips to all over the country and Europe for conferences.

E-470 employees, who are considered government workers, also received bonuses.

Keep in mind this is a government agency with a far different revenue system that is not based on taxes.

The system is based on your toll money and fees you pay when you register your car.

And the board just raised tolls again this month.

I sat down with the executive director of the agency about the expenses.  He defends the spending.

My story airs Sunday at 9pm and 10pm.

The Drug War – My Experience on the Border

My Last Visit to Mexico: An Interview with former Juarez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz

There’s nothing like seeing the brutal face of the drug war up close as a 20 year old reporter.

Often I would cross into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico while on assignment for KTSM-TV in El Paso to cover water issues, border issues, and sometimes the gruesome aftermath of assassinations.

I remember visiting a Mexican police station and seeing a collection of SUVs riddled with bullets.

That was 12 years ago when I thought the drug war couldn’t get any worse.

It’s definitely gotten worse.

It’s been reported there are now up to 5,000 drug-related killings in Juarez every year.

Some of those killings have been journalists.

As a reporter, I feel for my colleagues who brave the streets and continue to gather news in a city that is considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

The last time I set foot in Juarez was two years ago as a reporter for KOB.   I was quite nervous rolling around the city with a large news camera.

For my report then, I had a brief on-camera encounter with former Juarez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz (see screen shot) who’s been repeatedly targeted with death threats.

Being a police chief or a mayor in some parts of Mexico comes with an unwritten job description of probable death, especially if you speak out publicly against cartel violence.

I remember being scrunched in among other reporters in his office as Mayor Ferriz bravely spoke about cartel violence.  I couldn’t ignore the potential danger zone I was in, just standing next to the man.

While there are people who call for the legalization of drugs in an attempt to neutralize the cartels, and as the US continues to militarize the border, suppliers continue to get even more aggressive and territorial.

There is literally a lot of money on the line as demand for a high on this side of the border remains constant.

We can only guess what will be said about the drug war 12 years from now.

I can only hope things don’t get worse.

Got a massive E-470 Bill? Frustrated? Send us a YouTube Video

It’s quite clear when people get a massive bill in the mail from the E470 tolling system, they’re angry and frustrated.

I’ve only been here in Denver for a few months and I can’t tell you how many angry emails I’ve received about this topic.

I’ve heard from people who have bills greater than $10,000!

Some people say they were never sent an invoice until they got a surprise letter from a collection agency.

Other folks are upset claiming they paid their tolls but still got a collection notice.

I’d like hear your story.

Send me a simple YouTube video.  Hold up your bill to your web camera and say what you want to say for as long or short as you want to say it.

Perhaps your video and story will make air for a report I’m working on.

You can send the YouTube link to Jeremy.jojola@9news.com or blowthewhistle@9news.com.

Brockman’s Children

Alivia Rainn Ramirez and her brother Timothy Joseph Ramirez died in a fire. Their mother is accused of leaving them home alone.

Tonight I can only wonder how Danielle Brockman feels in her jail cell.

Pure anguish, I imagine.

This evening, I cannot pause my own mental image of her suffering.

I see Brockman dressed in a jumpsuit, sobbing uncontrollably in a cold corner alone, as she begins her own personal hell of guilt and loss.

I hate writing down that description, but as many of you know, writing for me is cathartic, especially when I cover stories involving the death of children.

I can only imagine what first responders deal with.

I spent some time today scrolling through Brockman’s facebook profile page with the intent of giving our viewers a better understanding of who she is and what she’s like.

Of course, on facebook, we put words and images online of what we want people to know about our lives.

Almost every single post and every single image was about her children.   Brockman wanted her friends to know she was proud to be a mommy and she made it clear she loved her children.   She certainly came across that way.

She seemed honest even as she expressed typical frustrations of being a mom.

In one status update, she wrote about her son getting something stuck up his nose.   He had to be taken to the emergency room, she wrote.

After reading that post, I suddenly remembered a long forgotten event in my own life that was very similar.

When I was around the same age, my mom had to take me to the doctor after I stuck a pine nut up my nose.   A story I haven’t thought of for a while…something we used to joke about a lot in my family.

Briefly, I found humor in the post and I smiled because of the similar boyhood experience this little boy had.

The humor was fleeting as I reminded myself that the children smiling back at me through that facebook page are gone.

Despite the artificial connection of a computer screen, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss.

I’ve covered plenty of death through my career as a reporter.  Stories involving children never get easy to cover.  Never.

After seeing several dozen photos of Brockman’s children, the image of their mother locked up in jail came flooding into my head.  Her kids seemed so alive on the screen…..so happy.

Brockman is accused of leaving her children home alone when the fire broke out.  What exactly she was allegedly doing is unclear.

The criminal affidavit remains sealed.